Posts Tagged ‘St. Teresa of Avila’

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, February 23, 2015 — “We cannot be sure if we are loving God, but we can know quite well if we are loving our neighbor.”

February 22, 2015

Monday of the First Week of Lent
Lectionary: 224

Jesus entering the desert as imagined by William Hole, 1908

Reading 1 Lv 19:1-2, 11-18

The LORD said to Moses,
“Speak to the whole assembly of the children of Israel and tell them:
Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.“You shall not steal.
You shall not lie or speak falsely to one another.
You shall not swear falsely by my name,
thus profaning the name of your God.
I am the LORD.“You shall not defraud or rob your neighbor.
You shall not withhold overnight the wages of your day laborer.
You shall not curse the deaf,
or put a stumbling block in front of the blind,
but you shall fear your God.
I am the LORD.“You shall not act dishonestly in rendering judgment.
Show neither partiality to the weak nor deference to the mighty,
but judge your fellow men justly.
You shall not go about spreading slander among your kin;
nor shall you stand by idly when your neighbor’s life is at stake.
I am the LORD.“You shall not bear hatred for your brother in your heart.
Though you may have to reprove him,
do not incur sin because of him.
Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
I am the LORD.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 19:8, 9, 10, 15

R. (John 6:63b) Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The decree of the LORD is trustworthy,
giving wisdom to the simple.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart.
The command of the LORD is clear,
enlightening the eye.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever;
The ordinances of the LORD are true,
all of them just.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
Let the words of my mouth and the thought of my heart
find favor before you,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.

Verse Before the Gospel 2 Cor 6:2b

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

Gospel Mt 25:31-46

Jesus said to his disciples:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory,
and all the angels with him,
he will sit upon his glorious throne,
and all the nations will be assembled before him.
And he will separate them one from another,
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the king will say to those on his right,
‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father.
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.’
Then the righteous will answer him and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you,
or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’
And the king will say to them in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Then he will say to those on his left,
‘Depart from me, you accursed,
into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
a stranger and you gave me no welcome,
naked and you gave me no clothing,
ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’
Then they will answer and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty
or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison,
and not minister to your needs?’
He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you,
what you did not do for one of these least ones,
you did not do for me.’
And these will go off to eternal punishment,
but the righteous to eternal life.”
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Commentary on Matthew 25:31-46 from Living Space

Both of today’s readings deal with the way we ought to behave towards each other. The First Reading tells us the kinds of things we ought not to do while the Gospel emphasises more what we should be doing.

The Gospel is the great scene of the Last Judgment when all will face their Lord Jesus. We will be divided into sheep and goats – those who are with Jesus and those who are not. The criteria on which we will be judged are interesting. Nothing about the Ten Commandments (normally the matter of our confessions). Nothing about the things mentioned in the First Reading, which more or less reflect the contents of the Ten Commandments. There is nothing about what we normally call ‘religious obligations’ (e.g. being ‘at Mass’ on Sundays and holydays).

The test will be very simple. Did we love all our brothers and sisters or not? There is some discussion as to the identity of these ‘brothers and sisters’. Does it refer to all who are hungry, thirsty, in need of clothes, in need of medical care or in jail or to a particular group? The passage may primarily be thinking of Christians, and especially Christian missionaries whose preaching brought them suffering and persecution. These were more likely, too, to end up in prison. To reject and abuse these people and their message is tantamount to rejecting Jesus himself.

However, we have traditionally extended the passage to include all who suffer in any way because of our neglect and we recognise Jesus as being present in these people in a special way.

And the things we are supposed to do are so simple: give food to Jesus hungry and drink to Jesus thirsty; to clothe Jesus naked; to visit Jesus sick and Jesus in jail. And naturally people will ask: “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or naked or sick or in prison?” And the Judge will answer: “In so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it to me.” Whether we realise it or not, every time we spontaneously take care of a brother or sister in need it is Jesus himself we are serving.

Notice: You did it TO me, not FOR me. Jesus identifies himself especially with the person in need. Every time we neglect to help a brother or sister in need, we neglect Jesus himself. Our worst sins, our most dangerous sins will be our sins of omission. We can keep the 10 Commandments perfectly and still fail here. The next time we examine our conscience let us think about that.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/l1012g/

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From The Abbot

The Gospel from Matthew brings us to the image of the judgment. Using this image, Matthew makes clear that it is a judgment based on our love and care for others. This is where we are to focus our attention in this life: love and care of others, especially for those who have most needs.

http://christdesert.org/News/Abbot_s_Homily/

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites . Reflection

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The Son of man:

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The Son of man is a Semitic expression that simply means a human being (see for instance the parallelism between “man” and “son of man” in Psalm 8:5). The book of Ezekiel often uses this term with this meaning when God addresses himself to the prophet as “son of man” (2:1, 3, 6, 8; 3: 1, 2, 4, 10, 16+) in order to emphasize the distance between God who is transcendent and the prophet who is but a man. However, in Daniel 7:13-14 the expression acquires a special meaning.

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The prophet sees “coming on the clouds of heaven, one like a son of man” who receives from God “sovereignty, glory and kingship”. This text is still talking of a human being who, however, is introduced into the sphere of God. The text has been interpreted both in a personal and a collective sense, but always in a messianic sense. Thus, whether we are dealing with one person or with all of the People of God, the Son of man is the Messiah who gives rise to the Realm of God, an eternal and universal realm.

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The application of the term “Son of man” to Jesus as it is used in Daniel 7:13-14 is very common in the Gospels. We also find it in Acts 7:56 and the Apocalypse 1:13 and 14:14. Scholars think that Jesus gave himself this title. In the Gospel of Matthew this term is attributed to Jesus especially when he speaks of his passion (17:12, 22; 20:18, 28)), his resurrection as an eschatological event (17: 19; 26:64) and his glorious return (24:30 and 25:31, the beginning of our text).

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Jesus king, judge and shepherd:

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Matthew also gives Jesus the title of king (1:23; 13:41; 16:28; 20:21). The kingship of God is a theme very dear to the Bible. Because Jesus is the Son of God, he rules together with the Father. In our text the king is Jesus, but he exercises his royal power in close relationship with the Father. The elect are “blessed of my Father” and the realm to which they are invited is the realm prepared for them by God, as the passive form of the verb indicates. This form of the verb, called the divine passive, is often found in the Bible and always has God as its implicit subject. In this text, the realm points to eternal life.

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As in Daniel 7 (see especially verses 22, 26 and 27), in our text also the royal status of the Son of man is connected with the judgement. The king, especially in ancient times, has always been considered the supreme judge. The judgement that Jesus exercises is a universal judgement, a judgement that involves all peoples (see v.32). And yet it is not a collective judgement. It is not the peoples that are judged but individual persons.

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In the same way, the pastoral symbolism is connected with the royal status. In ancient times, the king was often presented as shepherd of his people. The Old Testament too speaks of God, king of Israel, as shepherd (see for instance Psalm 23, Is 40:11; Ez 34) and the New Testament also applies the title to Jesus (Mt 9:36; 26:31; Jn 10). The shepherds of the Holy Land, in the time of Jesus, shepherded mixed flocks of sheep and goats. However, at night they were separated because sheep sleep in the open while goats prefer to sleep under shelter. In our text the sheep represent the elect because of their superior financial value over goats and because of their white colour that often stands for salvation in the Bible.

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The least of my brethren:

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Traditionally, this Gospel passage was interpreted to mean that Jesus identified himself with the poor and marginalized. Jesus will judge everyone, and especially those who have not had the chance to know his Gospel, according to the mercy they have shown towards the needy. All have the opportunity to welcome or reject him, if not personally, at least in the person of the needy with whom Jesus identifies himself.

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Modern exegesis tends to read the text in a more ecclesiological sense. It is placed next to Matthew 10:40-42 and exegetes insist that it is not a question of philanthropy but of a response to the Gospel of the Realm that is spread by Jesus’ brethren, even the most insignificant of them, not by the leaders of the Church only.
The nations, that is the pagans, are therefore invited to welcome the disciples of Jesus who preach the Gospel to them and suffer for its sake, as if they were welcoming Jesus himself. Christians on their part are invited to practise generous hospitality towards their brothers who are itinerant preachers of the Gospel and who suffer persecution (see 2Jn 5-8). In this manner they would show the authenticity of their commitment as disciples.

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In the context of Matthew’s Gospel, this latter interpretation is probably more accurate. However, in the context of the whole of the Bible (see for instance Is 58:7; Jer 2:1-9; 1Jn 3:16-19) the first interpretation cannot be set aside entirely.

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Psalm 72

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The Messiah-King promotes justice and peace

Give the king thy justice,
O God, and thy righteousness to the royal son!
May he judge thy people with righteousness,
and thy poor with justice!

Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness!
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the needy,
and crush the oppressor!
May he live while the sun endures,
and as long as the moon,
throughout all generations!

May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
like showers that water the earth!
In his days may righteousness flourish,
and peace abound, till the moon be no more!
May he have dominion from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth!

May his foes bow down before him,
and his enemies lick the dust!
May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles render him tribute,
may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts!
May all kings fall down before him,
all nations serve him!

For he delivers the needy when he calls,
the poor and him who has no helper.
He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the lives of the needy.
From oppression and violence he redeems their life;
and precious is their blood in his sight.

Long may he live, may gold of Sheba be given to him!
May prayer be made for him continually,
and blessings invoked for him all the day!
May there be abundance of grain in the land;
on the tops of the mountains may it wave;
may its fruit be like Lebanon;
and may men blossom forth from the cities like the grass of the field!
May his name endure for ever,
his fame continue as long as the sun!
May men bless themselves by him,
all nations call him blessed!

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
who alone does wondrous things.
Blessed be his glorious name for ever;
may his glory fill the whole earth! Amen and Amen!

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Closing prayer

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Lord God, you have set Jesus, your Son, to be universal king and judge. He will come at the end of time to judge all the nations. He comes to us every day in a thousand ways and asks us to welcome him. We meet him in the Word and in the broken bread. But we also meet him in our broken brothers and sisters, disfigured by hunger, oppression, injustice, sickness and the stigma of our society. Open our hearts that we may welcome him today in our lives so that we may be welcomed by him in the eternity of his realm.
We ask this through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

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http://www.ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-jesus-christ-king-universe

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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CHARITY AS THE SOUL OF HOLINESS AND HOLINESS AS THE PRE-REQUISITE OF MISSION

SCRIPTURE READINGS: LEV 19:1-2.11-18; MT 25:31-46
http://www.universalis.com/20150223/mass.htm

The first four days of Lent immediately after Ash Wednesday give an overall orientation to the whole season of Lent.  There are actually two parts to the celebration of Lent.  The first four weeks of Lent are concerned with the deepening of the Christian’s spiritual life.  It is only from the fifth week of Lent and the Holy Week that the Church begins to focus on the passion of Christ.  This is important as it gives us the right perspective to approaching Lent.

But what is the purpose of deepening our spiritual life?  Today, the liturgy touches on the fundamental calling of every Christian, which is the call to holiness. Indeed, this is what spiritual life is all about.  The goal of Christian living is holiness.   But why is holiness our goal?  As the first reading tells us, we are called to be holy for God is holy.  “The Lord spoke to Moses; he said: ‘speak to the whole community of the sons of Israel and say to them: “Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.”  So the call to holiness is fundamental to every Christian.  If we want to find fullness of life, then holiness is the only way.  To be holy is to be like God, as the Lord told Moses and the Israelites.

To be holy is to recover the likeness of God that we have lost through sin.  Because of sin and the lack of holiness, we live not as children of God but as slaves of Satan and his works.  Necessarily, striving for holiness should be a priority in our hearts.  Indeed, if we are to present the face of Christ to others, being the other Christ, then holiness is for us to reflect Christ in our lives.

How do we know we have grown in holiness?  Lest we think that holiness is something purely vertical and sentimental, the liturgy reminds us that holiness is essentially the perfection of charity.  The measure of holiness is not by how much time we spend in prayer, but how much we have grown in love for the Lord, which is measured by our love for others.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “charity is the soul of the holiness to which all are called: it ‘governs, shapes and perfects all the means of sanctification.’”  St. John of the Cross reminds us that we will be judged on the degree and the quality of our love for God and for man.

St. Teresa of Avila says that the Lord asks only two things of us: love for His Majesty and love of our neighbor.  However, she cautioned that the surest way that we know we are loving God is when we love our neighbors. She said, “We cannot be sure if we are loving God, although we may have good reasons for believing that we are, but we can know quite well if we are loving our neighbor.”

Furthermore, she assures us that when we increase in our love for our neighbors, we will love God even more, and He will increase His love in us.

This charity however must be seen in three dimensions.  The fundamental level of charity is justice.  In the first reading from Leviticus, charity is explained in terms of justice, what we must not do to our neighbors, like cheating, stealing, swearing falsely, slander and jeopardizing their lives and happiness.   Of course, charity is not to be seen in terms of not doing evil but not omitting the good we should do.  Furthermore, charity must not be confined to love of our friends and people whom we know.  Loving and caring for those whom we know is still on the level of human love.  True charity requires that we go beyond extending help to our friends and loved ones to those whom we do not know as well.  This is the height of charity that the Lord invites us to in today’s gospel.

That is why the third dimension of charity which is extended to those whom we do not know is intimately connected with mission.  The call to holiness is closely connected to mission.  It is a call to reach out to everyone regardless of race or religion.  Pope John Paul II reminds us: “The universal call to holiness is closely linked to the universal call to mission.  Every member of the faithful is called to holiness and to mission.” There is no genuine holiness apart from the mission to care for the spiritual and material good of others.

Consequently, Christian charity is more than just social work. Rather, it is to bring Christ to others.  The parable in today’s gospel underscores that Christian service is not simply charitable work but rather, the service of our neighbours is performed with a supernatural motive, which is for the love of Christ who lives in our neighbours.  In doing good, we are called to meet Christ in the needy and at the same time, to bring Christ to those whom we serve.  This presupposes that we can see Christ in others.  This is our spiritual goal in life.

When we apply this to our own lives, it is important that we reflect on which level of charity we are at.  I suspect many of us are still only living out the level of justice and love for our neigbours, meaning our friends and loved ones.  On the level of justice, we are respectful of the privacy of others.  We do our part in the community.  In this way, we do justice to the Church.  On the level of charity towards others, we are kind and helpful to those who are closer to us. We feel with them and help them.

But if our charity remains on these two levels, then we have not arrived at the heart of charity, which is to reach out to those who are complete strangers to us.  The truth is that it is in strangers that Christ is most present, especially if that stranger is in need.  It is perhaps this level of charity that we need to reflect for ourselves since Christ died for us sinners and for all.  But more importantly, how often do we forget the purpose of our mission, which is ultimately to bring others to Christ by inviting them to a life of holiness.

Let us seek inspiration from a story in the life of Martin of Tours.  He was a Roman soldier and still seeking the true faith.  One day, he met a man in the freezing cold without clothes begging for alms.  He took pity on him, cut his coat in two and gave half to the stranger. That same night he dreamt of Jesus appearing with a torn cloak.  When one of the angels asked him, “Master, why do you wear that battered cloak?”  Jesus replied, “My servant Martin gave it to me.”  After this vision, Martin got baptised immediately.

– See more at: http://www.csctr.net/reflections/#sthash.mKVRVHbH.dpuf

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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, February 17, 2015 — “Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear?”

February 16, 2015

How much faith have we got in God’s care for us? Do we believe in miracles?

Tuesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 336

Reading 1 Gn 6:5-8; 7:1-5, 10

When the LORD saw how great was man’s wickedness on earth,
and how no desire that his heart conceived
was ever anything but evil,
he regretted that he had made man on the earth,
and his heart was grieved.So the LORD said:
“I will wipe out from the earth the men whom I have created,
and not only the men,
but also the beasts and the creeping things and the birds of the air,
for I am sorry that I made them.”
But Noah found favor with the LORD.Then the LORD said to Noah:
“Go into the ark, you and all your household,
for you alone in this age have I found to be truly just.
Of every clean animal, take with you seven pairs,
a male and its mate;
and of the unclean animals, one pair,
a male and its mate;
likewise, of every clean bird of the air, seven pairs,
a male and a female,
and of all the unclean birds, one pair,
a male and a female.
Thus you will keep their issue alive over all the earth.
Seven days from now I will bring rain down on the earth
for forty days and forty nights,
and so I will wipe out from the surface of the earth
every moving creature that I have made.”
Noah did just as the LORD had commanded him.As soon as the seven days were over,
the waters of the flood came upon the earth.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 29:1a and 2, 3ac-4, 3b and 9c-10

R. (11b) The Lord will bless his people with peace.
Give to the LORD, you sons of God,
give to the LORD glory and praise,
Give to the LORD the glory due his name;
adore the LORD in holy attire.
R. The Lord will bless his people with peace.
The voice of the LORD is over the waters,
the LORD, over vast waters.
The voice of the LORD is mighty;
the voice of the LORD is majestic.
R. The Lord will bless his people with peace.
The God of glory thunders,
and in his temple all say, “Glory!”
The LORD is enthroned above the flood;
the LORD is enthroned as king forever.
R. The Lord will bless his people with peace.

Alleluia Jn 14:23

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Whoever loves me will keep my word, says the Lord;
and my Father will love him
and we will come to him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mk 8:14-21

The disciples had forgotten to bring bread,
and they had only one loaf with them in the boat.
Jesus enjoined them, “Watch out,
guard against the leaven of the Pharisees
and the leaven of Herod.”
They concluded among themselves that
it was because they had no bread.
When he became aware of this he said to them,
“Why do you conclude that it is because you have no bread?
Do you not yet understand or comprehend?
Are your hearts hardened?
Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear?
And do you not remember,
when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand,
how many wicker baskets full of fragments you picked up?”
They answered him, “Twelve.”
“When I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand,
how many full baskets of fragments did you pick up?”
They answered him, “Seven.”
He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”
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First Thought from Peace and Freedom
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Jesus speaks to the disciples the same way we might expect him to speak to us.  “Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear?”
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God expects that we understand that we are not animals — that we are different, we human beings. Americans might recall their own “Declaration of Independence.”
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“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…”
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We are “endowed by the Creator.” We have some spark of God within us. God has given us rights and responsibilities. Our lives have a purpose. Our lives have meaning. We have work to do. We are not blind or deaf — we can see God’s plan for us if we want to listen and see. Or we can just as easily only listen to and see the goodies of this world: “sex, drugs and rock and roll.”
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It is up to us to listen and to find God’s plan for us — not the plan of the serpent in the garden! Any dog can find that.
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The readings also remind us to put aside our anxieties and to trust in the all giving and all forgiving God. We need not be worried and afraid once we find what God wants us to do and how he wants us to do it!
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Over and over again in the scripture we see the words “do not be afraid.” God expects us to know and believe that he has our back!
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This little “anti-anxiety” prayer was a part of every Catholic Mass for centuries:
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Deliver us, Lord, from every evil,
and grant us peace in our day.
In your mercy keep us free from sin
and protect us from all anxiety
as we wait in joyful hope
for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
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Another anti-anxiety prayer is this one:
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God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help
of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!
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Related:
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Praise Jesus for St. Teresa of Ávila who gave us one of the simplest and finest prayers, “Let Nothing Disturb You” –
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Let nothing trouble you,
let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing;
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
He who possesses God lacks nothing:
God alone suffices.
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Nada te turbe;
nada te espante;
todo se pasa;
Dios no se muda,
la paciencia todo lo alcanza.
Quien a Dios tiene, nada le falta.
Solo Dios basta.
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Teresa of Avila
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Related:
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Commentary on Mark 8:14-21 from Living Space

Yesterday we saw the blindness of the Pharisees in asking Jesus to give some sign of his authority from God.  Today we see the blindness of Jesus’ own disciples.  This, of course, is pointing to our blindness in not recognising the clear presence of God in our own lives.

The disciples are travelling across the lake in the boat.  They had forgotten to bring food with them and there was only one loaf between them all.  As they cross the lake, Jesus is talking to them.  “Keep your eyes open; be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.”  For the Jews yeast was a corrupting agent because it caused fermentation.  That was why at the Pasch they ate unleavened, incorrupt, bread.  And Paul tells the Corinthians: “Get rid of all the old yeast, and make yourselves into a completely new batch of bread, unleavened as you are meant to be” (1 Cor 5:7).

Jesus is telling his disciples to avoid two opposing kinds of corruption.  That of the Pharisees which is based on narrow-minded and intolerant legalism and that of Herod, which is based on amoral and hedonistic pleasure-seeking.

However, the disciples are not really listening to their Master.  They latch on to the word “yeast” and link it with their present obsession – not enough bread.  Their lunch is the only thing on their minds.  Jesus, of course, knows what is going in their minds.

He scolds them: “You are worried about having no bread?  Do you not understand?  Have you no perception?  Are your minds closed?  Have you eyes that do not see, ears that do not hear?  Do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves among the 5,000, how many baskets of leftovers did you pick up?”  “Twelve,” they answer.  “And when I broke the seven loaves for the 4,000, how many baskets of leftovers did you collect?” “Seven.”  “And you still do not understand?”

Five loaves for 5,000 with 12 baskets over, seven loaves for 4,000 with seven baskets over, and they, a mere dozen people, are worried about being short of food when Jesus is with them?

Mark tends to be very hard on the disciples.  They cannot see, they cannot hear, they fail to understand what is happening before their very eyes.  But they are learning gradually, as we shall see.  Of course, Mark is firing his shots not at the disciples but at you and me.  How much faith have we got in God’s care for us?  Can we hear, can we see?  Are we also without understanding?

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2063g/

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection
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Yesterday’s Gospel spoke of the misunderstanding between Jesus and the Pharisees. Today’s Gospel speaks of the misunderstanding between Jesus and the disciples and shows that the “yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod” (religion and government), had, in such a way, taken possession of the mentality of the disciples to the point of hindering them from listening to the Good News.
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• Mark 8, 14-16: Attention to the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod. Jesus warns the disciples: “Look out for the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod”. But they did not understand the words of Jesus. They thought that he spoke like that because they had forgotten to buy bread. Jesus says one thing and they understood another. This ‘clash’ was the result of the insidious influence of the “yeast of the Pharisees” in the mentality and in the life of the disciples.
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• Mark 8, 17-18a: The question of Jesus. In the face of this almost total lack of perception in the disciples, Jesus rapidly asks them a series of questions, without waiting for an answer. Hard questions which express very serious things and reveal the total lack of understanding on the part of the disciples. Even if it seems unbelievable, the disciples reached the point in which there was no difference between them and the enemies of Jesus. First Jesus had become sad seeing the “hardness of heart” of the Pharisees and of the Herodians (Mk 3, 5).
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Now, the disciples themselves have “hardened their heart” (Mk 8, 17). First, “those outside” (Mk 4, 11) did not understand the parables because “they have eyes and do not see, listen but do not understand” (Mk 4, 12). Now, the disciples themselves understand nothing, because “they have eyes and do not see, listen, but do not understand” (Mk 8, 18).
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Besides, the image of the “hardened heart” evoked the hardness of heart of the people of the Old Testament who always drifted away from the path. It also evoked the hardened heart of Pharaoh who oppressed and persecuted the people (Ex 4, 21; 7, 13; 8, 11.15.28; 9, 7…).
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The expression “they have eyes and do not see, listen but do not understand” evoked not only the people without faith criticized by Isaiah (Is 6, 9-10), but also the adorers of false gods, of whom the Psalm says: “they have eyes and see nothing, have ears and hear nothing” (Ps 115, 5-6).
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• Mark 8, 18b-21: The two questions regarding the bread. The two final questions refer to the multiplication of the loaves: How many baskets did they gather the first time? Twelve! And the second? Seven! Like the Pharisees, the disciples also, in spite that they had collaborated actively in the multiplication of the loaves, did not succeed in understanding the meaning.
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Jesus ends by saying: “Do you still not understand?”
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The way in which Jesus asks these questions, one after the other, almost without waiting for an answer, seems to cut the conversation. It reveals a very big clash. Which is the cause for this clash?
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The cause of the clash between Jesus and the disciples. The cause of the clash between Jesus and the disciples was not due to ill will on their part. The disciples were not like the Pharisees. They also did not understand, but in them there was malice. They used religion to criticize and to condemn Jesus (Mk 2, 7.16.18.24; 3, 5. 22-30).
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The disciples were good people. Theirs was not ill will. Because even if they were victims of the “yeast of the Pharisees and of the Herodians”, they were not interested in defending the system of the Pharisees and the Herodians against Jesus. Then, which was the cause? The cause of the clash between Jesus and the disciples had something to do with the Messianic hope.
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Among the Jews there was an enormous variety of Messianic expectations. Secondly, the diverse interpretations of the prophecies, there were people who expected a Messiah King (cfr. Mk 15, 9.32). Others, a Messiah, Saint or Priest (cfr. Mk 1, 24). Others, a Messiah, a subversive Warrior (cfr. Lk 23, 5; Mk 15, 6; 13, 6-8). Others, a Messiah, Doctor (cfr. Jn 4, 25; Mk 1, 22-27). Others, a Messiah, Judge (cfr. Lk 3, 5-9; Mk 1, 8). Others, a Messiah, Prophet (6, 4; 14, 65). It seems that nobody expected a Messiah, Servant, announced by the Prophet Isaiah (Is 42, 1; 49, 3; 52, 13).
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They did not expect to consider the messianic hope as a service of the people of God to humanity. Each one according to their own interests and according to their social class, expected the Messiah, but wanting to reduce him to their own hope.
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This is why the title Messiah, according to the person or social position, could mean very different things. There was a great confusion of ideas! And precisely in this attitude of Servant is found the key which turns on a light in the darkness of the disciples and helps them to convert themselves. It is only in accepting the Messiah as the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, that they will be capable to open the eyes and to understand the Mystery of God in Jesus.For Personal Confrontation
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• Which is for us today the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod? What does it mean today for me to have a “hardened heart?
• The yeast of Herod and the Pharisees prevents the disciples to understand the Good News. Perhaps, today the propaganda of the Television prevents us from understanding the Good News of Jesus?

Concluding Prayer

I need only say, ‘I am slipping,’
for your faithful love, Yahweh, to support me;
however great the anxiety of my heart,
your consolations soothe me. (Ps 94,18-19)
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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IGNORANCE AS THE CAUSE OF OUR DOWNFALL

SCRIPTURE READINGS: GENESIS 6:5-8; 7:1-5, 10; MARK 8:14-21
http://www.universalis.com/20150217/mass.htm

One of the most heartbreaking feelings in life is to see someone whom we know, especially our loved ones, taking a path that we know will lead to their perdition.  More painful still, when we see the writing on the wall, and yet they are so blind that they cannot see the price which they will have to pay for their folly, if they do not give up their wrongdoing and walk a righteous path.

Understandably, we will seek all ways to help them come out of the situation.  We offer them our advice, but most of the time, it seems to fall on deaf ears and hardened hearts.  Instead of being thankful for being their watchmen, they avoid us or even condemn us for interfering in their lives.  This is particularly true when it comes to extramarital affairs or infidelity in relationships.  Sometimes, it involves honesty and integrity in work and business dealings.  They are too blind or willful to listen to our advice.  They are not ready to face the outcome of their actions.

Wasn’t this how God felt for His rebellious and incorrigible people in the scriptures?  In the first reading from Genesis, we read of God’s grief over His people who were destroying themselves by living in sin. “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that the thoughts in his heart fashioned nothing but wickedness all day long.”  So disappointed was God with His people that He even “regretted having made man on the earth, and his heart grieved.”   No one can imagine how much pain God suffers for us when we sin, because of His total love and concern for us.   If we feel saddened when our loved ones continue to walk the path of destruction, how much more would God feel when we continue to disobey His Law, which is His wisdom?

Similarly, Jesus felt that same pain of His Father in His heart too.  In spite of His preaching, teaching and miracles, even His own disciples failed to understand His message and recognise His true identity as the Son of the Father.  When He warned them of “the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod”, their minds were focused on food instead.  They were as dumb as the deaf man the Lord healed earlier on.  They could not perceive what Jesus was telling them.  Hence, Jesus reprimanded them, saying, “Do you not yet understand? Have you no perception? Are your minds closed? Have you eyes that do not see, ears that do not hear? Or do you not remember?”

What prevents such people from seeing?  Firstly, it could be because of their preoccupation with the things of this world.  In the case of the disciples, they were concerned that they might not have sufficient food to eat themselves, since they “had forgotten to take any food and they had only one loaf with them in the boat.”  This was the situation of Noah and the people of his time as well.  They were eating and drinking without any thought for God.  We, too, can fall into the same trap.  Due to our desire to achieve more power, wealth and things for ourselves, we can be blinded to the means we use to attain our ends.  And when we are caught up with material things or with our ambitions, we make use of people and neglect them as persons, even our loved ones.  Some of us have no qualms in using unscrupulous and dishonest means to get what we want, even to the extent of destroying people’s character and life.

Isn’t this the sin of Herod that Jesus is warning us about?  What is this yeast of Herod if not the fact that he was a man who did not follow his conscience?  He knew, for example, that John the Baptist was right in reprimanding him for his adulterous relationship with Herodias.  Instead of doing the right thing, he allowed Herodias to use him to kill John the Baptist.  He was a man without scruples and not receptive to the Word of God.  By indulging in his pageantries and luxurious living, he could not listen to the voice of God, for he chose to live in sin and allow his selfish desires to have a better hold over him.

The other reason why we could be blind to the wisdom of God is because of pride. This would be the yeast of the Pharisees. The latter wanted to find justification based on their strength.  Externally, they sought to observe the laws so that they could feel justified before God.  But because they did not know the mercy of God, they could never experience His love and compassion.  Furthermore, deep in their hearts, they knew that they could not always observe the laws.  Even if they did, it was not done in the spirit of the laws.  So exteriorly, they were upright people but interiorly they were far from God.  They became proud and self-righteous.

Jesus wants us to avoid falling into the sin of hypocrisy.  This sin is rooted in pride, the yeast of the Pharisees.  A proud person cannot listen to God’s voice and would follow no other way than his way.  He thinks he has the answer to everything and would listen to no one, regardless of who they are.  Pride ultimately destroys us because we are left to our folly and ignorance.  By not listening to the wisdom of God spoken through His prophets and the Church and the Scriptures, a proud person, who is so confident of his intellectual prowess, will destroy himself, just as Adam and Eve did, for they too wanted to be like God without God.

The third reason why we are slow to perceive the wisdom of God and His truth is because we fail to remember the works of God.  This was what Jesus said to the disciples.  ‘“Or do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves among the five thousand, how many baskets full of scraps did you collect? And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many baskets full of scraps did you collect?”… Then he said to them, “Are you still without perception?”’ Truly, how often do we forget what God has done for us!  How often do we forget how God rescued us from dangers, distress and even death!  How often do we fail to remember that without His grace, we would have been destroyed by our sins, the silly mistakes we made and the tragedies of life!  Indeed, we are no better than the disciples because we have the faith imparted to us in the last 2000 years through the apostles, the wise guidance of our Holy Mother Church, the witnesses and testimonies of the lives of the faithful.

Yes, remembering the goodness of God is the way to walk in the truth and to live a righteous life.  When we remember how someone has loved us, we want to return that love, not because we have to, but because we want to.  Forgetting the love and mercy of God is the reason for our ingratitude and the loss of faith.  For this reason, the Mass is called a memorial.  Every time we celebrate the Eucharist, we remember to give thanks to God for our redemption in Christ who, by His precious blood shed on the cross for us and through His resurrection has given us His Holy Spirit, making us one in union with Him.

Not only should we remember God’s forgiveness and merciful love, it is also important to bear in mind the consequences of sin.  When God said, “I will rid the earth’s face of man, my own creation and of animals also, reptiles too, and the birds of heaven; for I regret having made them”, it was said not out of vindictiveness.  Rather it is an expression of His suffering with us in our sins.  He knows that we would have to bear the consequences of our actions.  What we sow is what we will reap.   Being aware and with our eyes wide open, as Jesus advised us, will help us to be on guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Herod.  In whatever we do, we must ask ourselves whether we are ready for the consequences ahead of us.  Have we thought through carefully and considered the risks and harm that will happen to us and our loved ones especially?  Jesus foresaw the dangers ahead for His disciples and so He took the occasion to warn them.  The flood during the time of Noah is but an expression of the consequences of the wrath of nature on a sinful world rather than the revenge of God.

Nevertheless, we need not fear if we turn to God and rely on His grace.  The psalmist assures us that God is on our side the moment we acknowledge Him.   He invites us to  “Give to the Lord, you sons of God, give to the Lord glory and praise, Give to the Lord the glory due his name; adore the Lord in holy attire.”  Indeed, even when God threatened to destroyed sinful creation, He did not actually carry it out.  His compassion for humanity is manifested by the very fact that He saved humanity by choosing Noah to begin a new humanity.  Again and again, man has failed God.  To ensure that His divine plan would be a success, Christ, who is the Alpha and the Omega, the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation, the Head of the body, the Church, and the New Man will ensure that we, who are in Him, are reconciled with His Father and that the fullness of God’s love and peace dwell in us.  Through Him, we find peace and become His adopted sons and daughters.

– See more at: http://www.csctr.net/reflections/#sthash.OMHvAslS.dpuf

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Above: Simon of Cyrene assists Jesus

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Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, February 11, 2015 — Evils come from within and they defile

February 10, 2015

Wednesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 331

Art: The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon’, oil on canvas painting by Edward Poynter, 1890

Reading 1 Gn 2:4b-9, 15-17

At the time when the LORD God made the earth and the heavens
while as yet there was no field shrub on earth
and no grass of the field had sprouted,
for the LORD God had sent no rain upon the earth
and there was no man to till the soil,
but a stream was welling up out of the earth
and was watering all the surface of the groundB
the LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground
and blew into his nostrils the breath of life,
and so man became a living being.Then the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east,
and he placed there the man whom he had formed.
Out of the ground the LORD God made various trees grow
that were delightful to look at and good for food,
with the tree of life in the middle of the garden
and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.The LORD God then took the man
and settled him in the garden of Eden,
to cultivate and care for it.
The LORD God gave man this order:
“You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden
except the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
From that tree you shall not eat;
the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die.”

Responsorial Psalm Ps 104:1-2a, 27-28, 29bc-30

R. (1a) O bless the Lord, my soul!
Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD, my God, you are great indeed!
You are clothed with majesty and glory,
robed in light as with a cloak.
R. O bless the Lord, my soul!
All creatures look to you
to give them food in due time.
When you give it to them, they gather it;
when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
R. O bless the Lord, my soul!
If you take away their breath, they perish
and return to their dust.
When you send forth your spirit, they are created,
and you renew the face of the earth.
R. O bless the Lord, my soul!

Alleluia See Jn 17:17b, 17a

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Your word, O Lord, is truth:
consecrate us in the truth.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mk 7:14-23

Jesus summoned the crowd again and said to them,
“Hear me, all of you, and understand.
Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person;
but the things that come out from within are what defile.”When he got home away from the crowd
his disciples questioned him about the parable.
He said to them,
“Are even you likewise without understanding?
Do you not realize that everything
that goes into a person from outside cannot defile,
since it enters not the heart but the stomach
and passes out into the latrine?”
(Thus he declared all foods clean.)
“But what comes out of the man, that is what defiles him.
From within the man, from his heart,
come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
All these evils come from within and they defile.”
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Commentary on Mark 7:14-23 from Living Space
After defending himself against the accusations of some Pharisees and scribes, about his not observing the traditions of the elders, Jesus now turns to the people. He enunciates what for him is the main principle:
– Nothing that goes into the body from outside can make a person ritually or religiously unclean.
– What makes a person unclean is the filth that comes from inside their mind and spoken through their mouth or expressed in action.

This was a major issue in the earliest days of the Church and was dealt with by the Council of Jerusalem. The story is told in the Acts of the Apostles. The first Christians were all Jews who continued to observe Jewish customs. But when non-Jews began to be accepted into the Christian communities, should they also be obliged to follow these laws and customs? It became clear that, from a religious point of view, no food could be called unclean. This helped to break down the barriers between Jew and Gentile. It has been pointed out that, immediately after this (cf. tomorrow’s reflection), Jesus entered Gentile territory, something he did not often do in his own ministry.

Even Jesus’ disciples seemed shocked by Jesus’ teaching (probably reflecting the reactions of some of the early Jewish Christians). Jesus repeats what he says in the light of the Kingdom he was proclaiming. No food that goes into a person from the outside can make a person unclean. Food does not go into the heart but into the stomach and ultimately passes out as waste. Real uncleanness is in the heart, in the mind. Real uncleanness comes from inside people in the form of “evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly”. This is real uncleanness and the source is in ourselves and not in what we eat.

As Christians, we do not normally worry about clean and unclean foods on religious grounds but we can sometimes judge people’s religious commitment by their observance or non-observance purely external things – a nun not wearing a habit, not taking holy water on going into the church, taking communion in the hand/in the mouth.

We may have got rid of the problem of unclean foods but there are many other ways by which we focus on trivial externals while ignoring the real evils, the places where real love is absent – in ourselves.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2054g/

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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When the queen of Sheba goes to see Solomon, she admits that she did not believe all she had heard about him. She needed to see for herself, saying,  “Though I did not believe the report until I came and saw with my own eyes.
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This meeting and the Queen’s words remind us of Jesus saying, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)
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In out high-tech world today, we trust that the Internet and our cell phones will work — even though most of us don’t know how they work.
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Yet in spiritual matters today, we seem to have many “Queens of Sheba” or new manifestations of “Doubting Thomas.”
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In today’s Gospel, we get a reminder that it isn’t our environment or all the evil that corrupts us. Each and every human being has free will to decide for himself, to choose if he will live closer to God or further away.
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“But what comes out of the man, that is what defiles him. From within the man, from his heart, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.”
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A young man recently said to us, “But I have no faith.”
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Many of the saints said, “If your faith is not strong, pray for faith.”
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Many of us like to use this simple prayer to keep our sights on God’s will for us in the present moment:
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God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!
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Book: Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean-Pierre de Caussade
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Here is another very simple prayer:
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May nothing disturb you.

May nothing astonish you.

Everything passes.

God does not go away.

Patience

can attain anything.

He who has God within,

does not lack anything.

God is everything!*

Above prayer by St. Teresa of Avila is usually called “Nade de Turbe”

http://www.ewtn.com/spanish/Poems/Santa_Teresa_1.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teresa_of_%C3%81vila

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Doubting Thomas by Caravaggio
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection
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The Gospel today is the continuation of the themes on which we meditated yesterday. Jesus helps the people and the disciples to understand better the significance of purity before God. For centuries, the Jews, in order not to contract impurity, observed many norms and customs bound to food, to drink, to the dress, to hygiene of the body, to contact with persons of other races and religions, etc. (Mk 7, 3-4), for them it was forbidden to have contact with pagans and to eat with them. In the years 70’s the time of Mark, some converted Jews said: converted Jews said: “Now that we are Christians we have to abandon these ancient customs which separate us from converted pagans!” But others thought that they had to continue with the observance of these laws of purity (cf. Col 2, 16.20-22). The attitude of Jesus, described in today’s Gospel, helps us to overcome this problem.
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16: Jesus opens a new way to try Nothing that goes into someone from outside can make that person unclean; it is the things that come Mk 7, 15). Jesus overturns things: what is impure does not come from outside to the inside, as the Doctors of the law taught, but what comes from inside to the outside. Thus, nobody ever needed to ask himself if this or that food is pure or impure. Jesus places what is pure and impure on another level, not on the level of ethic behaviour.
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He opens a new way to reach God, and in this way realizes the most profound design of the people.
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23: In the house, the disciples asked for an explanation. The disciples did not understand well what Jesus wanted to say with that affirmation. When they reached the house, they ask for an explanation. The question of the disciples surprises Jesus. He thought that they had understood the parable. In the explanation to the disciples he goes to the very bottom of the question of impurity. He declares that all food is pure! That is, no food which from outside enters into the human being can make him become impure, because it does not go to the heart, but to the stomach and ends in the septic tank. But what makes one become impure, says Jesus, is what comes out from within the heart to poison human relationships. And then he enumerates some: prostitution, murder, adultery, ambition, theft, etc. Thus in many ways, by means of the word, of the life together, of living close by; Jesus helps persons to attain purity in another way. By means of the word he purified the lepers (Mk 1, 40-44), cast out unclean spirits (Mk 1, 26.39; 3, 15.22 etc), and overcame death which was the source of all impurity. But thanks to Jesus who touches her, the woman excluded and considered impure is cured (Mk 5, 25-34). Without fear of being contaminated, Jesus eats together with persons who were considered impure (Mk 2, 15-17).
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The laws of purity at the time of Jesus. The people of that time were concerned very much about purity. The laws and the norms of purity indicated the necessary conditions to be able to place oneself before God and to feel well in his presence. One could not get before God just in any way, because God is holy. The Law said: “Be holy because I am holy!” (Lv 19, 2). One who was not pure could not get close to God to receive the blessings promised to Abraham. The laws of what was pure and impure (Lv 11 to 16) were written after the time of slavery in Babylonia, toward the year 800 after the Exodus, but had its origin in the ancient mentality and customs of the people of the Bible. A religious and mystical vision of the world led people to appreciate things, the persons and the animals, beginning from the category of purity (Gn 7, 2; Dt 14, 13-21; Nm 12, 10-15; Dt 24, 8-9).
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In the context of the Persian domination, the V and IV centuries before Christ, before the difficulties to reconstruct the Temple of Jerusalem and for the survival of the clergy, the priests who governed the people of the Bible increased the laws relative to poverty and obliged the people to offer sacrifices of purification for sin. Thus after child birth (Lv 12, 1-8), menstruation (Lv 15, 19-24) the cure of a haemorrhage (Lv 15, 25-30), women had to offer sacrifices to recover purity. Lepers (Lv 13) or people who had contact with impure things or animals (Lv 5, 1-13) they also had to offer sacrifices. Part of this offering remained for the priests (Lv 5, 13).
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At the time of Jesus, to touch a leper, to eat with a tax collector or publican, to eat without washing the hands, and so many other activities, etc. everything rendered the person impure, and any contact with this person contaminated the
others. For this reason, it was necessary to avoid “impure” persons. People lived with fear, always threatened by so many impure things which threatened life. They were obliged to live without trust, not trusting any thing or anybody. Now, all of a sudden, everything changes! Through faith in Jesus, it was possible to have purity and to feel well before God without being it necessary to observe all those laws and those norms of the “Ancient Tradition”.
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It was liberation! The Good News announced by Jesus took away all fear from the people, and they no longer had to be all the time in a defensive situation, and he gives them back the desire to live, and the joy of being children of God, without the fear of being happy!.
Personal questions
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In your life, are there any traditions which you  consider sacred and others which you do not? Which ones? Why?
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In the name of the Tradition of the Ancients, the Pharisees forgot the Commandment of Jesus.  Does this also happen today? Where and when? Does it also happen in my life?.
Concluding prayer
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The upright have Yahweh for their Saviour, their refuge in times of trouble;Yahweh helps them and rescues them, he will rescue them from the wicked, and save them because they take refuge in him. (Ps 37,39-40)
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Our Lady of Lourdes — The rock cave at Massabielle, in Lourdes, where Saint Bernadette Soubirous claimed to have seen the Blessed Virgin Mary
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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MARY STAR OF THE NEW EVANGELIZATION

SCRIPTURE READINGS: ISAIAH 66:10-14; PS JUDITH 13:18-19; 1 COR 10:31,11:1; JOHN 2:1-12
http://www.universalis.com/20150211mass.1.htm

What is the greatest challenge facing the Church at this time of our history?  It is the speed of secularization which threatens to destroy humanity and transform society into a lawless and amoral society without values.  We are not only fighting against materialism and individualism but we are defending the universal values of truth and love which are being undermined by those who promote a counter culture of death, self-centeredness, and the redefinition of marriage and the family.

If we do not wish to destroy the future of our children and our society, then we need to be involved in the work of the New Evangelization.  Once we remove God from society, we no longer have the foundation to work for truth and love.  The future of humanity remains dim and we are lost when we forget our identity and calling in life.   This entails that we be renewed in our faith in the first place.  We must recover the faith that we have lost.  This faith is more than just saying that we believe in Christ but it must be a real conversion to the person of Christ.  This faith must be fervent and alive.  Secondly, we need to go out to proclaim and share the gospel in joy.  The New Evangelization calls for proclamation, witnessing, dialogue and humble service.

It is within this context that we must turn to our Blessed Mother Mary.  She is not just our mother but truly the Star of the New Evangelization.  The prophet Isaiah says, “For thus says the Lord: Now towards her I send flowing peace, like a river, and like a stream in spate the glory of the nations.  At her breast will her nurslings be carried and fondled in her lap.  Like a son comforted by his mother will I comfort you.  (And by Jerusalem you will be comforted.)  At the sight your heart will rejoice; and your bones flourish like the grass.  To his servants the Lord will reveal his hand.” 

What can we learn most from Mary, the Star of the New Evangelization?  In the first place, we learn from her the primacy and power of grace.  In Mary, we see the power of God’s grace in her life.  This is what this Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes is all about.   When St Bernadette was told by Our Lady that she was the Immaculate Conception, it was an affirmation that Mary’s holiness is truly the work of God’s grace.  She was immaculately conceived not by her merits but by the mercy and grace of Christ’s death on the cross.   The healing graces that she bestowed at Lourdes show the power of God’s grace at work through her intercession.   This is what the responsorial psalm says, “May you be blessed, my daughter, by God Most High, beyond all women on earth; and may the Lord God be blessed, the Creator of heaven and earth.  The trust you have shown shall not pass from the memories of men, but shall ever remind them of the power of God.”   In all things as St Paul says, we must give glory to God.  “Whatever you eat, whatever you drink, whatever you do at all, do it for the glory of God. Never do anything offensive to anyone – to Jews or Greeks or to the Church of God.”

Secondly, from Mary, the Star of the New Evangelization, we can learn the need to be in touch with the lives of people.  We cannot evangelize unless we feel the sufferings of others.  Evangelization is not the proclamation of doctrines, morality and rituals.   It is not indoctrination but it is to make a difference in the lives of our people by bringing God into their daily life situations.  This is why Pope Francis reminds us that we need to smell our sheep.  We need to go to the battlefield to meet the wounded and not wait for them to come to the hospitals.   We do not wait for people to come to our churches but we go out like the Good Shepherd to meet them on their own terms and in their own ways.  We must not act from a high moral ground and expect people to submit to us.  Rather, like Mary, we must mix with the people, the crowd, those celebrating and those in mourning so that we can bring Christ to them.

Thirdly, we are reminded of the importance of selfless charity, sensitivity and observation.  Mary was not concerned with herself even whilst enjoying herself with the rest of the wedding crowd.  She was also sensitive to the situation, the needs of the wedding couple, the dilemma of the hosts.   She quietly, without seeking any credit or recognition, told the servants to do what the Lord tells them to do.  And when the situation was saved, she did not announce to the whole world what she had done for the couple.   Her love for the couple was selfless and genuine.  She did not call attention to herself but did everything for the good of the couple and the joy of everyone at the celebration.  This is what St Paul wrote also in the second reading when he said, “just as I try to be helpful to everyone at all times, not anxious for my own advantage but for the advantage of everybody else, so that they may be saved.  Take me for your model, as I take Christ.”

Fourthly, from Mary, we learn the most important thing in life, namely, complete faith in Christ.  The Lord performed the miracle not out of pressure from Mary.  On the contrary, Mary did not even tell Jesus what to do.  She just highlighted to her Son that they had no wine.  And then went ahead to instruct the servants to obey Jesus.  She did not give any instructions to her Son as to how He should help.  She trusted that He knew how and what to do.  Her total faith and trust in her Son shows her tremendous faith in the Lord even before His full revelation as the Son of God at His death and resurrection.

The New Evangelization requires that we surrender everything to the Lord and trust that He will give us the grace to change lives and to touch hearts.  Only the Lord can perform the miracle of transformation.   Just as Jesus could change water into wine, bring joy to the joyless, give hope to the hopeless, life to those who died, the Lord can renew our faith and our lives.   All we need to do is to give our Lord the opportunity to perform His miracle, not in changing water to wine but in transforming us.

Before we can speak of the New Evangelization, what is most critical is the realization of our need for conversion.  This is the same message of our Lady in all her apparitions and her message at Lourdes is no exception.  We need conversion of heart and a renewed spiritual life, a life of holiness.  Everyone without exception must recognize the hardness of heart in them, especially priests, religious and those active in Church ministry.  Very often, those who really need conversion are not only those who are outside the Church or living in sin but those who have lived self-righteous lives, thinking highly of themselves and fallen into the sin of the Pharisees.  We are all sinners and therefore we need to ask the Lord for the grace of humility, conversion, forgiveness and reconciliation.  The most important healing we need is not physical healing, because we will eventually fall sick again.  The healing that is most needed in our times is spiritual healing of the soul, of the heart and especially of failed relationships between spouses, parents and children, and friends.  To come to our Lady of Lourdes for healing is to pray primarily for spiritual, emotional, psychological and then physical healing.  This should be the order of our prayers.

Very soon, we begin the season of Lent, which fundamentally is the call to conversion.  The aids to conversion is what Mary, the Star of the New Evangelization would invite us in all her messages in her apparitions.  She urges us to pray, go for the sacrament of reconciliation, attend Mass regularly, fast, do penance and mortification for our own conversion and the conversion of sinners.  Let us pray for the work of the New Evangelization.  Pray for me, your bishop, that I have the wisdom, the fortitude, compassion and holiness to lead the Church of God in Singapore.  Pray for us priests and for yourselves.  In the final analysis, only the grace and mercy of God can transform humanity and the world.  So let us together invoke God’s grace upon us as we begin the path of conversion and renewal.

– See more at: http://www.csctr.net/11-february-2015-wednesday-feast-of-our-lady-of-lourdes/#sthash.8Nq4z2ea.dpuf

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God, Thank you for reminding me today that I am on a journey toward eternity with you….

St. John of the Cross with skull

Art: St. Francis of Assisi and skull By Filippo Vitale

Prayer and Meditation for Friday, September 26, 2014 — The Saints Talk To Us About Humility — Discovering the work which God has done

September 25, 2014

Friday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 453

Reading 1 eccl 3:1-11

There is an appointed time for everything,
and a time for every thing under the heavens.
A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to tear down, and a time to build.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them;
a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away.
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to be silent, and a time to speak.
A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace.
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What advantage has the worker from his toil?
I have considered the task that God has appointed
for the sons of men to be busied about.
He has made everything appropriate to its time,
and has put the timeless into their hearts,
without man’s ever discovering,
from beginning to end, the work which God has done.
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Ecclesiastes 3:11 By Michelle Greene Wheeler
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Responsorial Psalm ps 144:1b and 2abc, 3-4

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R. (1) Blessed be the Lord, my Rock!
Blessed be the LORD, my rock,
my mercy and my fortress,
my stronghold, my deliverer,
My shield, in whom I trust.
R. Blessed be the Lord, my Rock!
LORD, what is man, that you notice him;
the son of man, that you take thought of him?
Man is like a breath;
his days, like a passing shadow.
R. Blessed be the Lord, my Rock!
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Gospel lk 9:18-22

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Once when Jesus was praying in solitude,
and the disciples were with him,
he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”
They said in reply, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah;
still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’”
Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter said in reply, “The Christ of God.”
He rebuked them and directed them not to tell this to anyone.He said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.”
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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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Ever wonder why so many saints talk about humility?
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Because without God, we wouldn’t be here.
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You were made from dust, and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:19)
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He has made everything appropriate to its time,
and has put the timeless into their hearts,
without man’s ever discovering,
from beginning to end, the work which God has done. (Ecclesiastes 3:11-12)
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To be taken with love for a soul, God does not look on its greatness, but the greatness of its humility.
–St  John of the Cross, OCD

“There is something in humility which strangely exalts the heart.”
–Saint Augustine

“It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.”
–Saint Augustine

He who wants to learn true humility should reflect upon the Passion of Jesus. (267)
— St Faustina, Divine Mercy in my Soul

The soul’s true greatness is in loving God and in humbling oneself in His presence, completely forgetting oneself and believing oneself to be nothing; because the Lord is great, but He is well-pleased only with the humble; He always opposes the proud.
— St Faustina, Divine Mercy in my Soul

Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.
–Saint Augustine

We should let God be the One to praise us and not praise ourselves. For God detests those who commend themselves. Let others applaud our good deeds.
–Pope St. Clement I

‘If humble souls are contradicted, they remain calm; if they are calumniated, they suffer with patience; if they are little esteemed, neglected, or forgotten, they consider that their due; if they are weighed down with occupations, they perform them cheerfully.’
–St. Vincent de Paul

‘The first degree of humility is the fear of God, which we should constantly have before our eyes.’
–St. Louis de Blois

The most powerful weapon to conquer the devil is humility. For, as he does not know at all how to employ it, neither does he know how to defend himself from it.
–Saint Vincent de Paul

Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.
–Saint Augustine

There is more value in a little study of humility and in a single act of it than in all the knowledge in the world.
–Saint Teresa of Avila

“It is no great thing to be humble when you are brought low; but to be humble when you are praised is a great and rare attainment.”
–St.Bernard

Humility is the mother of many virtues because from it obedience, fear, reverence, patience, modesty, meekness and peace are born. He who is humble easily obeys everyone, fears to offend anyone, is at peace with everyone, is kind with all.
–St Thomas of Villanova

Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.
–Saint Augustine

Indeed a humble rustic who serves God is better than a proud intellectual who neglects his soul to study the course of the stars.
–Imitation of Christ

A proud and avaricious man never rests, whereas he who is poor and humble of heart lives in a world of peace. The humble live in continuous peace, while in the hearts of the proud are envy and frequent anger.
–Imitation of Christ

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Book: The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a’ Kempis

It is a virtue and a prize to listen patiently to and put up with insults for the sake of God
–Revelations of St. Bridget

Humility does not disturb or disquiet or agitate, however great it may be; it comes with peace, delight, and calm. . . . The pain of genuine humility doesn’t agitate or afflict the soul; rather, this humility expands it and enables it to serve God more.
–St Teresa of Avila

“Speaking absolutely, humility excels virginity.”
–St. Thomas

‘As patience leads to peace, and study to science, so are humiliations the path that leads to humility.’
–St. Bernard of Clairvaux

“No one reaches the kingdom of Heaven except by humility”
–St Augustine

” There never can have been, and never can be, and there never shall be any sin without pride.”
–St Augustine

“Humility, which is a virtue, is always fruitful in good works.”
–St. Thomas

“You cannot attain to charity except through humility.”
–St. Augustine

“I make bold to say that it is profitable for the proud to fall, in order that they may be humbled in that for which they have exalted themselves.
–St. Augustine

The highest point of humility consists in not merely acknowledging one’s abjection, but in taking pleasure therein, not from any want of breadth or courage, but to give the more glory to God’s Divine Majesty, and to esteem one’s neighbour more highly than one’s self.
–St Francis De Sales

‘There is no doubt that God will never be wanting to us, provided that He finds in us that humility which makes us worthy of His gifts, the desire of possessing them, and the promptitude to co-operate industriously with the graces He gives us.’
–St. Ignatius of Loyola

Humility makes our lives acceptable to God, meekness makes us acceptable to men.
–St Francis De Sales

http://whitelilyoftrinity.com/saints_quotes_humility.html

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“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.”

From: “Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence,” (also sometimes called “The Value of the Present Moment), by Jean Pierre de Caussade, TAN Books edition, 1987.

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection

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• The Gospel today follows the same theme as that of Yesterday: the opinion of the people on Jesus. Yesterday, beginning with Herod, today it is Jesus who asks what do people think, the public opinion and the Apostles respond giving the same opinion which was given yesterday. Immediately follows the first announcement of the Passion, death and Resurrection of Jesus.
• Luke 9, 18: The question of Jesus after his prayer. “One day, while Jesus was praying alone, his disciples came to him and he put this question to them: “Who do the crowds say I am?”
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In Luke’s Gospel, on several important and decisive occasions, Jesus is presented in prayer: in his Baptism when he assumes his mission (Lk 3, 21); in the 40 days in the desert, when, he overcame the temptations presented by the devil Lk 4, 1-13); the night before choosing the twelve apostles (Lk 6, 12); in the Transfiguration, when, with Moses and Elijah he spoke about his passion in Jerusalem (Lc 9, 29); in the Garden when he suffers his agony (Lk 22, 39-46); on the Cross, when he asks pardon for the soldier (Lk 23, 34) and when he commits his spirit to God (Lk 23, 46).
• Luke 9, 19: The opinion of the people on Jesus.
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“They answered: “For some John the Baptist; others Elijah, but others think that you are one of the ancient prophets who has risen from the dead”. Like Herod, many thought that John the Baptist had risen in Jesus. It was a common belief that the prophet Elijah had to return (Mt 17, 10-13; Mk 9, 11-12; Ml 3, 23-24; Eclo 48, 10). And all nourished the hope of the coming of the Prophet promised by Moses (Dt 18,15). This was an insufficient response.
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• Luke 9, 20: The question of Jesus to the disciples. After having heard the opinion of others, Jesus asks: “And you, who do you say I am?” Peter answers: “The Messiah of God!” Peter recognizes that Jesus is the one whom the people are waiting for and that he comes to fulfil the promise. Luke omits the reaction of Peter who tries to dissuade Jesus to follow the way of the cross and omits also the harsh criticism of Jesus to Peter (Mk 8, 32-33; Mt 16, 22-23).
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• Luke 9, 21: The prohibition to reveal that Jesus is the Messiah of God. “Then Jesus gave them strict orders and charged them not to say this to anyone”. It was forbidden to them to reveal to the people that Jesus is the Messiah of God. Why does Jesus prohibit this? At that time, as we have already seen, everybody was expecting the coming of the Messiah, but, each one in his own way: some expected a king, others a priest, others a doctor, a warrior, a judge or a prophet! Nobody seemed to expect the Messiah Servant, announced by Isaiah (Is 42, 1-9). Anyone who insists in maintaining Peter’s idea, that is, of a glorious Messiah, without the cross, understands nothing and will never be able to assume the attitude of a true disciple. He will continue to be blind, exchanging people for trees (cf. Mk 8, 24). Because without the cross it is impossible to understand who Jesus is and what it means to follow Jesus. Because of this, Jesus insists again on the Cross and makes the second announcement of his passion, death and resurrection.
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• Luke 9, 22: The second announcement of the Passion. And Jesus adds: “The Son of Man is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and Scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day”. The full understanding of the following of Jesus is not obtained through theoretical instruction, but through practical commitment, walking together with him along the road of service, from Galilee up to Jerusalem.
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The road of the following is the road of the gift of self, of abandonment, of service, of availability, of acceptance of conflict, knowing that there will be a resurrection. The cross is not an accident on the way; it forms part of our way. This because in the organized world starting from egoism, love and service can exist only if they are crucified! Anyone who makes of his life a service to others disturbs those who live attached to privileges, and suffers.
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Personal questions
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• We all believe in Jesus. But there are some who understand him in one way and others in another way. Today, which is the more common Jesus in the way of thinking of people?
• How does propaganda interfere in my way of seeing Jesus? What do I do so as not to allow myself to be drawn by the propaganda? What prevents us today from recognizing and assuming the project of Jesus?
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Concluding Prayer
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Blessed be Yahweh, my rock,
who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle,
my faithful love, my bastion, my citadel, my Saviour;
I shelter behind him. (Ps 144,1-2)
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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EMBRACING THE MYSTERY OF LIFE IN CHRIST, THE MYSTERY OF GOD 

SCRIPTURE READINGS: ECCLESTIASTES 3:1-11; LK 9:18-22
http://www.universalis.com/20140926/mass.htm

“Lord, what is man, that you notice him; the son of man, that you take thought of him? Man is like a breath; his days, like a passing shadow.”  Surely, there is much truth in the psalmist’s words.  Life is so fragile.  We all have to go through the vicissitudes of life, the ups and downs of daily living.   Nothing is definite in life and nothing lasts.  Everything is transient, even human life itself.  Qoheleth in the first reading sums up the changing nature of life by saying, “There is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven.”  Indeed, there is a time for birth and dying; healing and building; tears and laughter etc.

However, instead of accepting the imperfections of this world and the unfolding of history, we become impatient with the pace of growth.   Living in this fast speed world, where everything must be had within a click of the mouse or the push of a button, we are intolerant of the slow speed of change in our life and in society.  We cannot wait for our promotion to a higher level of office, the conversion of our loved ones, or the social and structural changes needed in our society, in our office, and of course in the Church.  So used to speed and efficiency, we want a quick fix solution, a shortcut, the on-the-spot solution. We want to hear a sermon, attend a seminar or have an experience that will instantly resolve all our problems, remove our temptations, and release us from growing pains.  The danger is that when we get used to things done the way we want, we begin to take things into our own hands.

The truth is that life is a mystery.  As Qoheleth says, “What does a man gain for the efforts that he makes? I contemplate the task that God gives mankind to labour at.  All that he does is apt for its time; but though he has permitted man to consider time in its wholeness, man cannot comprehend the work of God from beginning to end.”  Although a mystery, everything is in accordance with the plan of God for humanity.  Indeed, we must trust that God is in charge of the world.  Everything is in God’s time and in His wisdom, even though it may not be comprehensible to us.  That is why we must be patient.  Man proposes. God disposes!  We cannot determine everything, even though we should cooperate with His plan.  But after doing all that we could, we must wait for God to bring about His purpose.

Most of all, faith tells us that Christ is the plan of God revealed to us in His incarnation, passion, death and resurrection.  This is what Jesus said in today’s gospel, “The Son of Man is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.”  Peter’s logical faith however could not allow him to conceive how the Messiah could suffer and die for God’s work of redemption to be accomplished. So we can imagine how scandalous the prophecy of Jesus’ death must have been for the apostles.

Indeed, how different are God’s ways from ours!   Who could ever imagine that the death of Jesus would be the means by which sin and death is conquered? Who could ever have thought that the way to conquer the world is not through power but powerlessness, not wealth but poverty, not revenge but forgiveness, not hatred but love, not wanting my way but obedience?  Without faith we cannot accept the workings of grace in daily life.  Peter faced a mental block in his thinking and hence could not accept Jesus’ suffering.

In the light of Christ’s death for us, we who want to share His victory over death, must also carry His cross, or rather, our crosses as well.  The daily cross of life refers to the inconveniences, the drudgery of life, the sacrifices we need to make each day in work, at home or in relationships and the tolerance of each other’s failures.  But most of all, it is to accept the failures and the success, the mistakes and the achievements, the pains and the joys of life.  We must understand that growth is a gradual process.  No one becomes a saint overnight.  It is through struggles, mistakes and sins that we prefect ourselves.  So, accepting the crosses in life is to learn obedience through suffering, love through sacrifice and trust through the capriciousness of life.

Thus, the psalmist asks us to place our total trust in God who in His mercy reveals Himself in Christ.  Yes, he prayed, “Blessed be the Lord, my rock, my mercy and my fortress, my stronghold, my deliverer.”  If we have faith in Jesus as the Christ, then He will give us the strength to endure whatever comes.  We need to confess our faith in Jesus as the Christ of God, just as Peter did.  But we must also go beyond Peter in acknowledging Him as the Christ.  We must realize that the Christ we confess is a Crucified Christ, a scandal to the Greeks and a folly to the Jews!  So even if we find ourselves struggling, have confidence that the outcome of the battle is certain.  He will overcome all things.

This is possible only if our faith in Jesus is not from hearsay but a personal faith through divine revelation and personal conviction.   Jesus invites us to give a personal response of faith in Him.  He is not interested in what others think of Him.  He wants to know from each one of us what we think of Him.  Without hesitation, we must say, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  This is the rock of faith that helped Peter to withstand the vicissitudes of life and most of all, in defending the Church from the wiles of Satan and his enemies.    Let us therefore endeavor to deepen our faith in Christ each day so that what we profess in faith and in doctrine will be translated in the way we live our lives, a life that is lived in total trust and surrender to the Father, knowing that He who raised Jesus from the dead will also win the victory for us.

– See more at: http://www.csctr.net/26-september-2014-friday-25th-week-in-ordinary-time/#sthash.bnoUMUxG.dpuf

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, September 25, 2014 — Happiness is already ours when we begin to live life authentically

September 25, 2014

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

Reading 1 eccl 1:2-11

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Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth,
vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!
What profit has man from all the labor
which he toils at under the sun?
One generation passes and another comes,
but the world forever stays.
The sun rises and the sun goes down;
then it presses on to the place where it rises.
Blowing now toward the south, then toward the north,
the wind turns again and again, resuming its rounds.
All rivers go to the sea,
yet never does the sea become full.
To the place where they go,
the rivers keep on going.
All speech is labored;
there is nothing one can say.
The eye is not satisfied with seeing
nor is the ear satisfied with hearing.What has been, that will be;
what has been done, that will be done.
Nothing is new under the sun.
Even the thing of which we say, “See, this is new!”
has already existed in the ages that preceded us.
There is no remembrance of the men of old;
nor of those to come will there be any remembrance
among those who come after them.
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Responsorial Psalm ps 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14 and 17bc

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R. (1) In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.
You turn man back to dust,
saying, “Return, O children of men.”
For a thousand years in your sight
are as yesterday, now that it is past,
or as a watch of the night.
R. In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.
You make an end of them in their sleep;
the next morning they are like the changing grass,
Which at dawn springs up anew,
but by evening wilts and fades.
R. In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.
Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Return, O LORD! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
R. In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.
Fill us at daybreak with your kindness,
that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days.
Prosper the work of our hands for us!
Prosper the work of our hands!
R. In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.
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Gospel lk 9:7-9

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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.
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection

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• 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.
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• 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!
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• 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.
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• 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).
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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.
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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.
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Personal questions
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• 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?
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Concluding Prayer
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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)
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The Spirituality of Imperfection: Storytelling and the Search for Meaning [Book] By Ernest Kurtz, Katherine Ketcham
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Nada Te Turbe
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Let nothing disturb you.

Let nothing make you afraid.
All things are passing.
God alone never changes.
Patience gains all things.
If you have God you will want for nothing.
God alone suffices.

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Prayer by St. Teresa of Avila:

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teresa_of_%C3%81vila

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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PESSIMISM OR REALISM TOWARDS LIFE 

SCRIPTURE READINGS: ECCLESIASTES 1:2-11; LUKE 9:7-9
http://www.universalis.com/20140925/mass.htm

Both readings of today sound rather pessimistic.  Both express undertones of regret, disappointment and failure.

In the first reading, Qoheleth offers us two reflections about the reality of life.  On one hand, there is the vanity of success.  After all the years hankering after wealth, the taste of success is flat.  And so he said, “Vanity of vanities. All is vanity! For all his toil, his toil under the sun, what does man gain by it?”  What do we gain? Are we really happy?  Isn’t it true that many of us seek to accumulate wealth and fame?  The irony is that after we have acquired so much wealth, we find that we do not need all that money, or we cannot spend them as we are either too sick, too busy with making more money or too old to do anything with it.  This is true even for those who seek power. To think that power and wealth can give us happiness is a delusion.  The more power and wealth we have, the more worries and burdens we carry in trying to preserve our assets and position in life.

Secondly, history is a cycle of ups and downs.  Hence, despite all the effort and passion we may put into changing and improving society and the Church, others will come and undo all those years of hard work. Humanity does not seem to have changed much.  It is a cycle of progress and decadence, growth and decay, success and failure, peaks and valleys.  And so it seems, for as Qoheleth remarks, ‘No man can say that eyes have not had enough of seeing, ears their fill of hearing. What was will be again; what has been done will be done again; and there is nothing new under the sun. Take anything of which it may be said, “Look now, this is new.”’  If we think that what we are doing is new, it is because we have forgotten our past.  Yes, he said, “Already, long before our time, it existed. Only no memory remains of earlier times, just as in times to come next year itself will not be remembered.”

Perhaps many of us might not have come to this stage of our lives and therefore do not understand what Qoheleth is saying.   Only those who have arrived at the prime of their career in life can identify themselves with him.  Therein also lies the danger that we may be so preoccupied with our goals and achievements that we fail to see all these in perspective.  So focused are we on making our mark in society that we often do so at the expense of losing our loved ones, our spouse and family.  By the time we arrive, it would be too late to regret. To know that we have sweated our blood for nothing can be so disheartening.

Does it mean then that we live a carefree life?  Does it mean that work and human achievements are irrelevant and meaningless?  Of course not! By failing to live responsibly, we too cannot find fulfillment because we fail to reach our potential and maximize what has been given to us.  This will only cause us to regret, like King Herod when he “heard about all that was being done by Jesus; and he was puzzled, because some people were saying that John had risen from the dead, others that Elijah had reappeared, still others that one of the ancient prophets had come back to life.”  And his conscience pricked him, as he had beheaded John.  Herod’s irresponsibility and the lack of fidelity to himself haunted him.

So what then should be the right attitude to life?  The psalmist invites us to recognize the shortness of life when he prayed, “For a thousand years in your sight are as yesterday, now that it is past, or as a watch of the night. Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.”  Truly, our life on this earth is short.  We must therefore make the most of it while we are still here on this earth.

We must not ask the wrong questions, as Qoheleth did when he said, “For all his toil, his toil under the sun, what does man gain by it?”  Life must not be seen in terms of what we can get out of it, but what we can put into it.  It is not in getting that we find fulfillment, but in giving.  As we give our time, resources and energy to what we are doing for the earth and humanity, we find ourselves, our identity and self-worth.  If life is seen from the perspective of service and love, then mere temporal or monetary rewards are inconsequential, because the joy of service and love will give us more than sufficient satisfaction, compared with any earthly rewards we can receive.

Secondly, we should not simply work for this world, but do so in the light of eternity.  We must not think that salvation is found in this world.  Rather, salvation is from God. We do not live only for this life but for the life that is to come.  In this life, we make use of the opportunities to perfect our love for God and for our fellowmen.  When we grow in love and virtues, we are already preparing ourselves for the new heaven and the new earth.  Indeed, through the exercise of love here on earth, we will learn how to love so that at the end of time, the Kingdom of love, justice and truth will prevail.

For now, instead of worrying too much about the future, let us cooperate with His grace and trust in His Divine wisdom.  What is important is that each of us must fulfill his or her vocation on this earth.   It is fidelity to our vocation in life, which is the vocation of love and service that, in the final analysis, will give us true fulfillment and joy in this life.  So long as we do not see life in terms of an accumulation of achievements and pursuit of one goal after another, then life will not be lived in vain.

Whilst it might be true that life seems to be a routine and a cycle, the routine does not make life burdensome; it is when we go through the motions of life and events without being in them fully, that makes life drudgery.  In the words of Martin Heidegger, the existentialist philosopher, there is a great difference between being and being there.  Life is not merely about existing, but living.  Those who exist are simply being there, but those who live their lives authentically by living fully, enjoying whatever they are doing, find themselves.

The truth is that happiness is not to be found at the end, but happiness is already ours when we begin to live life authentically.  The biggest mistake is

to think that we can be happy only when we arrive.  Nay, the arrival only signals that it is time to begin again and move to another level of growth, but the arriving fills us with meaning and enthusiasm.  Yes, following the psalmist, all we can do is to live each day fully, enjoying all that comes each day, the joys, the sorrows, the challenges, the friendships, the love and the pain of growth.  Like the psalmist, after doing all that we can, we commend everything to the Lord saying, “Fill us at daybreak with your kindness, that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days. Prosper the work of our hands for us! Prosper the work of our hands!”

– See more at: http://www.csctr.net/25-september-2014-thursday-25th-week-in-ordinary-time/#sthash.p68Rw7IA.dpuf

Catholic Recovery: AA and The Sacraments

May 22, 2014

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The Best Cure for a Sick Human Being May Be Prayer 

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The “Big Book”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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There’s that thought again: spiritual awakening.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“The scales fell from our eyes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Now a few thoughts on prayer:

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

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

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

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“Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.” — St. Pio of  Pietrelcina (“Padre Pio”)
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For thousands of years, human beings have been praying. We modern Americans may need to give it a try too. I know it’s not cool but being cool won’t keep me sober or get me to heaven!

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Related:

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

Padre Pio

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 (Padre Pio)
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 (“Stay in the present moment.”)
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Prayer and Meditation for Monday, March 24, 2014 — The greatest obstacle to faith is pride — The antidote to fear is faith

March 24, 2014

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Jesus teaching in the synagogue by Greg Olsen

Monday of the Third Week of Lent Lectionary: 237

Reading 1 2 kgs 5:1-15ab

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Naaman, the army commander of the king of Aram, was highly esteemed and respected by his master, for through him the LORD had brought victory to Aram. But valiant as he was, the man was a leper. Now the Arameans had captured in a raid on the land of Israel a little girl, who became the servant of Naaman’s wife. “If only my master would present himself to the prophet in Samaria,” she said to her mistress, “he would cure him of his leprosy.” Naaman went and told his lord just what the slave girl from the land of Israel had said. “Go,” said the king of Aram. “I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman set out, taking along ten silver talents, six thousand gold pieces, and ten festal garments. To the king of Israel he brought the letter, which read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you, that you may cure him of his leprosy.”
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When he read the letter, the king of Israel tore his garments and exclaimed: “Am I a god with power over life and death, that this man should send someone to me to be cured of leprosy? Take note! You can see he is only looking for a quarrel with me!” When Elisha, the man of God, heard that the king of Israel had torn his garments, he sent word to the king: “Why have you torn your garments? Let him come to me and find out that there is a prophet in Israel.”
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Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. The prophet sent him the message: “Go and wash seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will heal, and you will be clean.” But Naaman went away angry, saying, “I thought that he would surely come out and stand there to invoke the LORD his God, and would move his hand over the spot, and thus cure the leprosy. Are not the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be cleansed?” With this, he turned about in anger and left.
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But his servants came up and reasoned with him. “My father,” they said, “if the prophet had told you to do something extraordinary, would you not have done it? All the more now, since he said to you, ‘Wash and be clean,’ should you do as he said.” So Naaman went down and plunged into the Jordan seven times at the word of the man of God. His flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
He returned with his whole retinue to the man of God. On his arrival he stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel.”
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Responsorial Psalm ps 42:2, 3; 43:3, 4

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R. (see 42:3) Athirst is my soul for the living God. When shall I go and behold the face of God? As the hind longs for the running waters, so my soul longs for you, O God. R. Athirst is my soul for the living God. When shall I go and behold the face of God? Athirst is my soul for God, the living God. When shall I go and behold the face of God? R. Athirst is my soul for the living God. When shall I go and behold the face of God? Send forth your light and your fidelity; they shall lead me on And bring me to your holy mountain, to your dwelling-place. R. Athirst is my soul for the living God. When shall I go and behold the face of God? Then will I go in to the altar of God, the God of my gladness and joy; Then will I give you thanks upon the harp, O God, my God! R. Athirst is my soul for the living God. When shall I go and behold the face of God?
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Gospel lk 4:24-30

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Jesus said to the people in the synagogue at Nazareth: “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place. Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But he passed through the midst of them and went away.
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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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Many Christian spiritual travelers suggest we constantly seek the will of God — or God’s will for us.
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One of my favorite writers in Catholic Spirituality is  Jean-Pierre de Caussade, who constantly reminds us to be humble and seek God’s will. He is also known for his strict focus on the ‘present moment.” In fact, Father de  Caussade called “the now” the “sacrament of the present moment.”
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Many of us like to use this simple prayer to keep our sights on God’s will for us in the present moment:
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God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!
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Book: Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean-Pierre de Caussade
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Here is another very simple prayer:
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May nothing disturb you.

May nothing astonish you.

Everything passes.

God does not go away.

Patience

can attain anything.

He who has God within,

does not lack anything.

God is everything!*

Above prayer by St. Teresa of Avila is usually called “Nade de Turbe”

http://www.ewtn.com/spanish/Poems/Santa_Teresa_1.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teresa_of_%C3%81vila

Related:

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

“Pain and suffering are the touchstones of spiritual growth.”

– Henri Nouwen

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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HUMILITY AS THE PREREQUISITE TO FAITH IN GOD’S LOVE THROUGH CONVERSION   
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The greatest obstacle to faith is pride.  It is the attitude of one who thinks he knows everything and can do everything by his own strength and effort.  This is the context of today’s gospel.  The Jews could not accept Jesus because He was only the son of a carpenter and one of their own kind.  They could not accept that someone so ordinary like Jesus could teach them anything new.  This made Jesus remark, “I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.”

Indeed, Naaman, an “army commander to the king of Aram, was a man who enjoyed his master’s respect and favour.”  But he failed to realize that it was the Lord who had granted him victory to the Aramaens.  He became proud of his success.  He thought that his success in battles was primarily due to his might, ingenuity and strategy.  His over self-confidence was evident in the way he approached the King of Israel to help him.  We are told that he brought with him “ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten festal robes.”  His arrogance was displayed when he did not even bother to come down from his chariot to meet the prophet.  And when told to bathe in the river seven times, he was indignant and became angry with the prophet for not coming out to receive him or perform some spectacular miracles as he had imagined.

Yet the fact remains that he was a leper.  To suffer from leprosy must have been a crippling experience then.  No one could heal him, not even the king with all his powers and wealth.  The truth as the gospel tells us is that life and everything else is a gift from God.  Indeed, at the beginning of the first reading, we read that it was the Lord who gave Naaman the victory over his enemies.  So there is nothing to boast about.  If there is anything to boast about in life, it is the mercy and love of God.  In the face of death, Naaman showed himself to be powerless.  Only God could heal him for He is the author of life and death.  Even the king of Israel admitted his limitations for after reading the letter from the king of Aram, he tore his garments in dismay saying, “Am I a god to give death and life, that he sends a man to me and asks me to cure him of his leprosy? Listen to this, and take note of it and see how he intends to pick a quarrel with me.”

At any rate, Naaman was given a lesson in humility both by God and by Elisha.  It was a necessary lesson or else Naaman would have been destroyed by a greater sickness, not just by leprosy which is merely being alienated from man but by sin, which is to be alienated from God. It was important that Naaman learns that Yahweh, the God of Israel is truly the powerful One on earth.

As we enter the third week of Lent, the promise of new life is ours provided we are humble enough to recognize our need for God and we have a change of heart.  The gift of His love is only given to those who are humble of heart, repentant of their sins, especially pride and who desire Him.   We cannot buy or earn God’s love and gift of life.  This is particularly true in the case of baptism which is a gift from God.  Grace is a gift from God that cannot be bought by presents or bribery, hence Elisha refused to accept any gift from Naaman after he was healed.  Indeed, the cleansing of Naaman in the river prefigures the Christian baptism whereby sins are forgiven and new life is given.

Indeed, humility is the prerequisite for faith in God.  The Jews were self-righteous and could not accept Jesus.  This explains why they were incensed when Jesus pointed out that miracles were performed for the Gentiles, whom they felt were undeserving of God’s love.  Yet, Elijah was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town when there was a great famine and “then in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman.”  They held that salvation was only meant for the Jews since they were the chosen race.

Today, we are called to be open to the Word of God, as in the case of the servant girl who prompted Naaman’s wife to tell her husband to seek help from the prophet Elisha.  Only through the intervention of a slave girl could Naaman be healed.  We need not think that it must be someone great, such as a theologian, preacher or healer, before we listen to him.  If we have faith and humility, then God can work and speak through anyone, especially members of our community, our loved ones and those whom we meet each day.

The obstacle to God’s grace is our pride.  We think too highly of ourselves.  We are not open to hear from others especially if they are our peers or our subordinates.  Do we get angry, especially when someone junior to us corrects us?  Are we humble enough to hear the Word, come to repentance and act accordingly like Naaman?  This is what we are called to in order to receive the grace of Easter, the gift of new life.

How then can we overcome our pride?  God comes to us through ordinary ways.  So let us make use of the means given to us in Lent.  Just as God healed Naaman through the waters of Jordan, so too let us make use of ordinary means of prayer, fasting and almsgiving to grow in humility. Let us learn from the widow cited by Jesus in today’s gospel.  Elisha was sent to help her because of her generosity.  She shared the little food and oil that she had with him, trusting in God alone, leaving nothing for herself.   Her hospitality and faith in God and in the prophet empowered her to give of herself completely.  May we too learn to trust in God’s love and surrender our lives in faith like her through whatever means the Church has provided for us to grow in holiness and through the people we meet each day in our lives.

http://www.csctr.net/24-march-2014-monday-3rd-week-of-lent/

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites

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Reflection

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Today’s Gospel (Lk 4, 24-30) forms part of a larger part (Lk 4, 14-32) Jesus had presented his program in the Synagogue of Nazareth, using a text from Isaiah which spoke about the poor, the prisoners, the blind and the oppressed (Is 61, 1-2) and which mirrored the situation of the people of Galilee at the time of Jesus. In the name of God, Jesus takes a stand and defines his mission: to proclaim the Good News to the poor, to proclaim liberation to prisoners, to give back their sight to the blind, to restore liberty to the oppressed. After finishing the reading, he updated the text and says: “Today this text is being fulfilled even while you are listening. !” (Lk 4, 21). All those present were astonished (Lk 4, 16, 22b). But immediately after there was a reaction of discredit. The people in the Synagogue were scandalized and did not want to know anything about Jesus. They said: “Is he not the son of Joseph?” (Lk 4, 22b). Why were they scandalized? Which is the reason for this unexpected reaction?

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Because Jesus quoted the text of Isaiah only to the part that says: “to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord”, and he omits the end of the sentence which says: “to proclaim a day of vengeance for our God” (Is 61, 2). The people of Nazareth remained surprised because Jesus omitted the phrase on vengeance. They wanted the Good News of the liberation of the oppressed to be an action of vengeance on the part of God against the oppressors. In this case the coming of the Kingdom would be only a superficial change, and not a change or conversion of the system. Jesus does not accept this way of thinking. His experience of God the Father helps him to understand better the significance of the prophecies. He takes away the vengeance. The people of Nazareth do not accept that proposal and the authority of Jesus begins to diminish: “Is he not Joseph’s son?”

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Luke 4, 24: No prophet is ever accepted in his own country. The people of Nazareth was jealous because of the miracles which Jesus had worked in Capernaum, because he had not worked them in Nazareth. Jesus answers: “No prophet is ever accepted in his own country!” In fact, they did not accept the new image of God which Jesus communicated to them through this new and freer interpretation of Isaiah. The message of the God of Jesus went beyond the limits of the race of the Jews and opened itself to accept the excluded and the whole humanity.

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Luke 4, 25-27: Two stories of the Old Testament. In order to help the community to overcome the scandal and to understand the universality of God, Jesus uses two well known stories of the Old Testament: one of Elijah and the other one of Elisha. Through these stories he criticized the people of Nazareth who were so closed up in themselves. Elijah was sent to the foreign widow of Zarephah (1 Kg 17, 7-16). Elisha was sent to take care of the foreigner of Syria (2 Kg 5, 14).

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Luke 4, 28-30: They intended to throw him off the cliff, but he passed straight through the crowd and walked away. What Jesus said did not calm down the people. On the contrary! The use of these two passages of the Bible also caused them to get more angry. The community of Nazareth reached the point of wanting to kill Jesus. And thus, at the moment in which he presented his project to accept the excluded, Jesus himself was excluded! But he remained calm! The anger of the others did not succeed to make him change his mind. In this way, Luke indicates that it is difficult to overcome the mentality of privilege which is closed up in itself. And he showed that the polemic attitude of the Pagans already existed in the time of Jesus. Jesus had the same difficulty which the Hebrew community had in the time of Luke.

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Personal questions

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Is Jesus’ program also my program, our program? Is my attitude that of Jesus or that of the people of Nazareth?

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Who are those excluded whom we should accept better in our community?

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Concluding Prayer

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My whole being yearns and pines for Yahweh’s courts, My heart and my body cry out for joy to the living God. (Ps 84,2)

On Thanksgiving: Do Yourself a Favor, Start Anew By Shedding Your Old Skin

November 28, 2013

The First Thanksgiving by Jennie Brownscombe

“Just as a snake sheds its skin, we must shed our past over and over again.”

— Attributed to Buddha

“Live every act fully, as if it were your last.”

— Attributed to Buddha

There are thousands and perhaps millions of quotes attributed to Buddha and other great spiritual teachers. My Vietnamese wife reminded me of one of those we all need now and again: “Just as a snake sheds its skin, we must shed our past over and over again.”

Today is Thanksgiving: A day we reach deep inside ourselves for gratitude.

Imagine how difficult this might have been for the first American Pilgrims. Living on a new and seemingly endless and wild new continent, a land of plenty (and plenty of challenges) populated only by themselves and “Indians” with very strange ways, the Pilgrims decided to declare a Day of Thanks To God.

The Pilgrims knew suffering and hardship. They didn’t run away from it. They welcomed it. They embraced it! They fled from religious persecution into the wild unknown willingly, even eagerly!

Cultures have celebrated their food at harvest time for centuries.  But because most of us don’t harvest any more — and can easily buy a frozen turkey and a ready made pie, we don’t have the necessary ingredient that gives suffering meaning. Because we, at least many Americans, live amid a super-abundance of food, wealth and excesses, and very few of us work up a sweat by toiling in the fields in back braking effort — we find it difficult to appreciate what is all about us.

We sacrifice little — and that only grudgingly. We want to do away with suffering so much that many Americans take a handful of pain killers or anti-depressants at least once a day. I have a friend who takes fifteen prescription medications every day — and he is a zombie barely able to walk and talk. We have actually turned our entire society upside down in an effort to do away with pain and suffering — with the promise of a nirvana of endless healthcare just beyond our grasp….

Food. Wealth. Prosperity.

We have more food, wealth and prosperity ever available to any previous culture or civilization on earth.

We are the More Society. The More People!

Even while we have record numbers unemployed: we also have record numbers of people making a sacrifice of food, money, time, effort, clothes and goodies to help out others more in need.

But one thing has faded a bit: and that is our true awareness of, and  thanksgiving to, God. The central element of the Pilgrim Thanksgiving wasn’t a big bird,  a pie made from roots, or the almighty self.

It was God.

So here’s the best self-help challenge we’ve heard lately for this Thanksgiving: “Like a snake, shed your old skin, your old self, and start anew this Thanksgiving.”

The 20 Things You Need To Let Go To Be Happy

The 20 Things You Need To Let Go To Be Happy

http://elitedaily.com/life/20s-things-you-need-to-let-go-to-live-happy-life/

6 Things You Should Quit Doing To Be More Successful

http://www.forbes.com/sites/glassheel/2013/10/01/6-things-you-should-quit-to-be-more-successful/

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Not too long ago while I was assisting a homeless man, he looked me square in the eyes and said:  “We have everything we need.”
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Actually, this man travels around the neighborhoods near where I live with no possessions most of us would care anything about. He has few articles of clothing and he often cuts up old trash bags to make himself a hat, a cap, or a kind of serape. He never begs or asks for anything.
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I offered him a crisp new twenty dollar bill on Easter Sunday morning. He rushed inside the first convenience store and gave that money to the charity collection jar!
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Indeed I have experienced what Jesus tells the disciples: “We have everything we need.”
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A homeless woman seemed to be a messenger from God to me a short time later when she said, “Cherish what you have.”
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Many of us in our modern world have way more than we need. We have lots of toys and possessions. We sometimes seem wedded to our possessions or in love with them.
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A neighbor of mine used to spend so much loving car while washing his car each Sunday that the other men in the neighborhood used to say, “Jim can’t come to the game, he’s making love to his car!”
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Jesus also instructs us, and the disciples, to carry the message of his love, his care for us, and the redemption he earned for us on the cross. We need to be evangelists — and to do that well we need to be unencumbered!
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People who are already unencumbered have every reason to trust in God. Actually some of the poorest people I know in terms of material good are the richest in their faith.
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When we have nothing else, God will suffice!
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Sometimes I tell people I took a vow of poverty, which was easy because, “I was already poor!”
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So each day I try to keep in my mind — “Cherish what you have” and “We have everything we need.”
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One final thought: I believe “we cannot keep it unless we give it away.”
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But you knew that if you kept reading to here…..
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John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom
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“John is on a spiritual path but he’s no saint….”

Experts say it matters little what we follow while seeking  God — as long as we keep seeking Him and His will for us…..

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Praise Jesus for St. Teresa of Ávila who gave us one of the simplest and finest prayers, “Let Nothing Disturb You” –
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Let nothing trouble you,
let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing;
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
He who possesses God lacks nothing:
God alone suffices.
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Nada te turbe;
nada te espante;
todo se pasa;
Dios no se muda,
la paciencia todo lo alcanza.
Quien a Dios tiene, nada le falta.
Solo Dios basta.
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God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!
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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, September 24, 2013 — Does Our Spiritual Life Bear The Fruit of Charity? Abundant Life?

September 24, 2013

Tuesday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time Lectionary: 450

Madonna in Sorrow  by Sassoferrato 17th century

Reading 1 Ezr 6:7-8, 12b, 14-20

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King Darius issued an order to the officials of West-of-Euphrates: “Let the governor and the elders of the Jews continue the work on that house of God; they are to rebuild it on its former site. I also issue this decree concerning your dealing with these elders of the Jews in the rebuilding of that house of God: From the royal revenue, the taxes of West-of-Euphrates, let these men be repaid for their expenses, in full and without delay. I, Darius, have issued this decree; let it be carefully executed.”
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The elders of the Jews continued to make progress in the building, supported by the message of the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, son of Iddo. They finished the building according to the command of the God of Israel and the decrees of Cyrus and Darius and of Artaxerxes, king of Persia. They completed this house on the third day of the month Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius. The children of Israel –- priests, Levites, and the other returned exiles -–  celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy. For the dedication of this house of God, they offered one hundred bulls, two hundred rams, and four hundred lambs, together with twelve he-goats as a sin-offering for all Israel, in keeping with the number of the tribes of Israel. Finally, they set up the priests in their classes and the Levites in their divisions for the service of God in Jerusalem, as is prescribed in the book of Moses.
The exiles kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month. The Levites, every one of whom had purified himself for the occasion, sacrificed the Passover for the rest of the exiles, for their brethren the priests, and for themselves.

Responsorial Psalm PS 122:1-2, 3-4ab, 4cd-5

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R. (1) Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord. I rejoiced because they said to me, “We will go up to the house of the LORD.” And now we have set foot within your gates, O Jerusalem. R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord. Jerusalem, built as a city with compact unity. To it the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD. R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord. According to the decree for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD. In it are set up judgment seats, seats for the house of David. R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
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Gospel Lk 8:19-21

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The mother of Jesus and his brothers came to him but were unable to join him because of the crowd. He was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside and they wish to see you.” He said to them in reply, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.”
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Lectio Divina from The Carmelites
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Reflection• The Gospel today presents the episode in which the relatives of Jesus and also his Mother want to speak with him, but Jesus does not pay attention to them. Jesus had problems with his family. Sometimes the family helps one to live the Gospel and to participate in the community. Other times, the family prevents this. This is what happened to Jesus and this is what happens to us..Luke 8, 19-20: The family looks for Jesus. The relatives reach the house where Jesus was staying. Probably, they had come from Nazareth. From there to Capernaum the distance is about 40 kilometres. His Mother was with them. Probably, they did not enter because there were many people, but they sent somebody to tell him: “Your Mother and your brothers are outside and want to see you”..According to the Gospel of Mark, the relatives do not want to see Jesus, they want to take him back home (Mk 3, 32). They thought that Jesus had lost his head (Mk 3, 21). Probably, they were afraid, because according to what history says, the Romans watched very closely all that he did, in one way or other, with the people (cf. Ac 5, 36-39). In Nazareth, up on the mountains he would have been safer than in Capernaum..Luke 8, 21: The response of Jesus. The reaction of Jesus is clear: “My mother and my brothers are those who listen to the Word of God and put it into practice”. In Mark the reaction of Jesus is more concrete. Mark says: Looking around at those who were sitting there he said: “Look, my mother and my brothers! Anyone who does the will of God, he is my brother, sister and mother (Mk 3, 34-35). Jesus extends his family! He does not permit the family to draw him away from the mission: neither the family (Jn 7, 3-6), nor Peter (Mk 8, 33), nor the disciples (Mk 1, 36-38), nor Herod (Lk 13, 32), nor anybody else (Jn 10, 18)..

It is the Word of God which creates a new family around Jesus: “My mother and my brothers are those who listen to the Word of God, and put it into practice.”

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A good commentary on this episode is what the Gospel of John says in the Prologue: “He was in the world that had come into being through him and the world did not recognize him. He came to his own and his own people did not accept him”. But to those who did accept him he gave them power to become children of God: to those who believed in his name, who were born not from human stock or human desire, or human will, but from God himself. And the Word became flesh, he lived among us; and we saw his glory, the glory that he has from the Father as only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. (Jn 1, 10-14).

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The family, the relatives, do not understand Jesus (Jn 7, 3-5; Mk 3, 21), they do not form part of the new family. Only those who receive the Word, that is, who believe in Jesus, form part of the new family. These are born of God and form part of God’s Family.

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The situation of the family at the time of Jesus. In the time of Jesus, the political social and economic moment or the religious ideology, everything conspired in favour of weakening the central values of the clan, of the community.

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The concern for the problems of the family prevented persons from being united in the community. Rather, in order that the Kingdom of God could manifest itself anew, in the community life of the people, persons had to go beyond, to pass the narrow limits of the small family and open themselves to the large family, toward the Community.

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Jesus gives the example. When his own family tried to take hold of him, Jesus reacted and extended the family (Mk 3, 33-35). He created the Community.

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The brothers and the sisters of Jesus. The expression “brothers and sisters of Jesus” causes much polemics among Catholics and Protestants. Basing themselves on this and on other texts, the Protestants say that Jesus had more brothers and sisters and that Mary had more sons! The Catholics say that Mary did not have other sons. What should we think about this? In the first place, both positions: that of the Catholics as well as that of the Protestants, start from the arguments drawn from the Bible and from the Traditions of their respective Churches. Because of this, it is not convenient to discuss on this question with only intellectual arguments. Because here it is a question of the convictions that they have and which have to do with faith and sentiments.

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The intellectual argument alone does not succeed in changing a conviction of the heart! Rather, it irritates and draws away! And even if I do not agree with the opinion of the other person, I must respect it. In the second place, instead of discussing about texts, both we Catholics and the Protestants, we should unite together to fight in defence of life, created by God, a life totally disfigured by poverty, injustice, by the lack of faith. We should recall some phrase of Jesus: “I have come so that they may have life and life in abundance” (Jn 10, 10). “So that all may be one so that the world will believe that it was you who sent me” (Jn 17, 21). “Do not prevent them! Anyone who is not against us is for us” (Mk 9, 39.40).

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http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-luke-819-21

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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In the first reading, we read of the return of the Jews from exile in Babylon.  The first thing they did was to rebuild the Temple.  For the Jews, the Temple was what gave them a sense of identity, namely, that they are the people of God.  Indeed, for the Jews, the Kingdom and the Temple were sacred to them.  That is why many of the psalms are devoted to the king and to Jerusalem where the Temple of God is.  Similarly, we regard ourselves as the New Temple of God and each individual as the Temple of the Holy Spirit.  We call ourselves Christians and are proud to be known as Christians.   Yet, for many, they are just Catholics or Christians in name or but not in fact.  Just being called “Christians” or going to Church will not change us or give us life.  This was what happened to the Israelites and Jews. They were clinging to their race and status as the People of God. But Jesus warned them “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.”  Only such people belong to the people of God.

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Secondly, we note that the Jews progressed from founding their identity in the Temple to the Word of God.  In the Old Testament, the Israelites were deeply ritualistic people.  They were meticulous in offering sacrifices at the Temple of Jerusalem.  Their lives were centered on the Temple. This explains why they felt so lost without the Temple.  Their only thought was to return home to rebuild the grandiose and magnificent Temple once built by King Solomon when Israel was in its glory.  Hence, we can imagine the joy of the people when the Temple was at last restored, as we read in the first reading, even though it was not as grand as before. “The Israelites – the priests, the Levites and the remainder of the exiles – joyfully dedicated this Temple of God; for the dedication of this Temple of God they offered one hundred bulls … Then they installed the priests according to their orders in the service of the Temple of God in Jerusalem, as is written in the Book of Moses.”

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Nevertheless there was a gradual, subtle shift from focusing on the Temple to the Word of God. This was because during the period of exile, without the Temple, their only worship was focused on the Word of God.  Thus, by the time of Jesus, the Synagogue grew in importance.  God wanted to teach the people that true worship is more than just offering sacrifices and rituals.  The temptation for offering such sacrifices, which were certainly meaningful if properly interiorized’ at the same time caused those who reduced these sacrifices to mere rituals to become extraneous participants.  This is true also of many Catholics attending Church services as mere spectators, or “out-standing” Catholics, who do not fully participate in the service.  These have reduced faith to the performance of rituals and fulfillment of some obligations.  But their hearts and minds are far from the celebration.  To be sure, one of the reasons for the new translation of the Mass is to bring about a greater and more solemn participation through a more accurate translation of the original texts, aided by chanting. It is hoped that in time to come, everyone, regardless which church they attend, can worship, pray and sing as one community, rather than be mere observers.

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Yet, our spiritual life cannot be reduced to mere worship and vocal prayers alone.  This accounts for the apparent dichotomy of those who attend daily mass and community prayers and worship, yet live lives that have not changed much over the years.  Why is this so?  Why is it that their lives produce no fruits even though they are daily communicants of the Eucharist?  Such people are really people of good will.  They come for services regularly, attend retreats, help out in Church, etc.  But like many of our Church volunteers and members in organizations, their spiritual life is weak. And so is their moral life.  Many are in fact living a double life, apparently very active in Church activities but living a sinful life outside the Church.  We do not see an increase in virtues, in a change of lifestyle, in compassion, humility, forgiveness, tolerance and charity.  The truth is that spiritually they have not grown.  Indeed, the warning of Jesus is pertinent.  “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.’  St Teresa of Avila reminds us that progress in prayer life must be seen by the fruits.  Regardless of whatever spiritual exercises we do, if we do not bear fruits of charity, it means that we are not praying rightly or fervently.

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Consequently, in today’s gospel, Jesus spoke of one’s true identity as those who hear the Word of God and keep it.  Just as we find our family identity through the family, so to find our spiritual identity, we must be rooted in the Word.  No progress in spiritual life is possible if we abandon daily and diligent meditation on the Word of God.

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When we speak of meditation, we are not even referring to discursive meditation on the Word of God alone.  There are some who might have realized the importance of meditation on the Word of God for spiritual growth.  But quite often, they only use their head to attempt to penetrate the meaning of the Word of God.  They are keener on gaining insights into the Word of God to understand themselves better, which is certainly noble.  But of course there are some who fall in love with their “insights” so much so that they feel intellectually superior to others.

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For this reason, discursive meditation must move towards the level of affective prayer and ending with the prayer of simplicity.  All spiritual writers and mystics invite us to arrive at the prayer of simplicity in order that our wills are moved by the intellect.  Otherwise, it remains merely a cerebral exercise.  The purpose of meditation is not solely to gain insights. This could be done by attending a course, a seminar or just reading some theological and spiritual books.  The ultimate goal of meditation is to enlighten the intellect so that it can then offer to the will something good to acquire.  So the intellect is to activate the will to desire the truth as good.  In other words, discursive meditation is but the first step to help a person to surrender his will to the Lord so that he can then experience the love of God and make a real commitment to Him, a commitment that comes not from the head but from a heart that is so in love with God as a person.  Only affective prayer that engages in a colloquy with the Lord can effect such a transformation of the heart.  And when the heart and mind coalesce, knowledge and love are united in the prayer of simplicity; one experiences the joy of being one with God in mind, heart and soul.  This prayer of simplicity is but the first step towards mystical prayer.

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Finally, when all is done, we must make some resolutions at the end of the meditation. Without making resolutions, we are in danger of falling either into intellectualism or sentimentalism.  As St James warns us, “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man, who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it–he will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:23-25)  Hence, it is necessary for us to conclude all our meditation with resolutions that spring not from some intellectual conclusion after the meditation, but from a heart so moved to desire to live out the truths revealed to us by the Lord about ourselves or the needs of people around us.  Not only do we make resolutions but we must, throughout the day, pause at least once or twice, to reexamine ourselves by periodic examen.  Without these frequently recollections it would be difficult to put what we meditate into practice.  Most of all, we must not simply contemplate on the Word, but put it into practice whenever the opportunity arises.  

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Indeed, we cannot find our identity simply by worshipping in the Temple of God.  Rather, we are called to be the Temple of God.  We are all called to be who we are, namely, as the people of God.  God dwells in us only when we abide in His Word.  This is what Jesus promised us.  He said, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” (Jn 14:21)  Again Jesus reiterated, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”  (Jn 14:23)  Truly, if we abide in Him, He will abide in us and the Holy Spirit will transform us into the Temple of God.  In this way we no longer just worship in the temple or in church, watching the priest offering the Eucharistic sacrifice, or even just hearing the Word of God; we become active participants of the sacrifice, offering ourselves in union with Jesus as a living sacrifice to the Father.

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The gospel presents to us Mary as the exemplar of one who has truly become the dwelling place of God.  Indeed, Jesus said, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.”  It is therefore appropriate that God sees it fitting to bestow on Mary the honour of being the mother of the Son of God.  She, as the gospel says, was full of grace, for she has always meditated on the Word of God, pondered over it and lived it out in her life.  So with the psalmist we pray, “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord. I rejoiced because they said to me, “We will go up to the house of the Lord.” And now we have set foot within your gates, O Jerusalem.”  This house of God is no longer a physical place alone, but truly the heavenly Jerusalem where God dwells.  We are now the dwelling place of God because God lives in us.

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http://www.csctr.net/reflections/

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Abundant Life? How do we “Attract Abundance”?

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See:

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http://www.beliefnet.com/Wellness/2004/03/How-To-Attract-Abundance.aspx#

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How do we get closer to God ?

July 15, 2013

Mt friend Henri Nouwen said “We are here for others.”

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
―     Henri J.M. Nouwen,     The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey

http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/4837.Henri_J_M_Nouwen

Fred  Bartels takes this theme a little further….

We do not get closer to God by living as materialists whose lives are spent seeking pleasure, comfort and ease.

During the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself to “the mystery of Jesus in the desert,” where Christ, led by the spirit to be tempted by the devil, fasted for forty days (Mt 4:1-11). The penitential aspect of the Lenten season is “particularly appropriate” for various spiritual exercises, including voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving (See CCC Nos. 540, 1438).

Yet we live in an age in which the above words in reference to the teaching of our holy Catholic Church are nearly entirely foreign to the modern mind; an age in which voluntary self-denial is not only far removed from thought but a practice looked upon as an “antiquated silliness” that ought be crushed; an age in which secularist “wisdom” holds self-denial´s opposite, self-gratification, as a type of false “virtue.” There are numerous examples we could cite. Let it suffice to say that the important physical and spiritual benefits of self-denial are often either forgotten or ignored.

This situation is particularly unfortunate; for we also live in an age in which there is an immense hunger for God. Yet what so often goes unrealized is the importance of combating this strong tendency we have toward enslavement by the senses; that is, the overemphasis placed upon feeding the many desires of our material body, our flesh and blood, is rarely seen for the danger that it is – often to the detriment of our spiritual soul.

Frank Sheed wrote that man is often forgetful of the fact that he is both body and spirit: he belongs essentially to both these realities, those of the world of matter and the world of spirit. “In both worlds [man] has the closest and most vital contacts: it is a pity that he is so much more keenly aware of the lower one, and so sketchily and intermittently aware of the upper, for both are realities, and realities that affect him profoundly” (Theology and Sanity, p. 163).

Over-emphasis of the flesh and de-emphasis of the spirit is a grave mistake.

The Doctor of Prayer, St. Teresa of Avila, observes that we often fail to understand ourselves: “It is no small pity, and would cause us no little shame, that, through our own fault, we do not understand ourselves, or know who we are. Would it not be a sign of great ignorance, . . . if a person were asked who he was, and could not say, . . . though that is great stupidity, our own is incomparably greater if we make no attempt to discover what we are, and only know that we are living in these bodies, and have a vague idea, because we have heard it and because our Faith tells us so, that we possess souls. . . . All our interest is centered in the rough setting of the diamond, and the outer wall of the castle – that is to say, in these bodies of ours” (Interior Castle, p. 4).

Our Lord Jesus Christ´s life presents us with countless examples of self-denial. We can be certain that at Nazareth he, along with his Mother and Joseph, lived a quiet, ascetic life of simplicity and prayer; a life which was intently focused on the spiritual, on the love of God. As mentioned above, Christ went into the desert to fast and pray – an act of self-denial – in order that he would become not only hungry but be severely tempted. After leaving the desert, Jesus “returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit” (Lk 4:14) where he taught in the synagogues. Luke seems to imply that Jesus was strengthened by his actions of self-denial. And, in the ultimate act of self-denial, our Savior gives his life on the Cross for the love of men, many of whom mistreated him and uttered hateful words against him.

But why is self-denial so important for us? For the simple fact that we do not get closer to God by living as materialists whose lives are spent seeking pleasure, comfort and ease, while our immortal soul, which will live on into eternity, is starved. Second, due to the fact that the flesh is weak, it is easy to fall into sin; therefore the body must be forced to subject itself to the spirit. The flesh must be trained, subdued in order that the intellect and the will are able to rule over it more easily.

“The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

St. Paul tells us that “the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would” (Gal 5:17). And Christ warns his disciples in Gethsemane that “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mt 26:41).

The spirit must exercise self-control over the body: “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor 9:25-27).

One critical aspect of self-denial is almsgiving. Note that while wealthy people were putting their offerings into the treasury, our Savior “noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins.” He brought this to the attention of his disciples, saying, “I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood” (Lk 21:1-4). It is certain that our Master notices when we deny ourselves of some convenience or entertainment and instead give those funds we would have otherwise used for our own pleasure to the poor.

Another element of self-denial is self-sacrifice; for there can be no true denial of self apart from sacrifice. We are not, of course, speaking of the type of sacrifice which seriously injures, rather we are speaking of those sacrifices we make which show God we cherish him as the greatest and highest Good – those fragrant flowers which pass from our acts of selflessness into the heavens where they are gathered by angels´ hands, made into wreaths for our loving Savior who willingly poured his blood upon the Cross for our sake, and preserved in order that we may one day clearly see the full splendor of every good deed.

There is a great and unexplainable immenseness in the mystery of sacrifice. Who can plumb the depths of the sacrificial sorrow our Blessed Mother contained within her pure heart has she stood in docile quietness before the foot of the bloodied Cross? And who can comprehend the full dimension of Christ´s sacrifice of eternal, infinite worth? We may contemplate these things until the Sun passes across the furthest reaches of the sky, yet they will, for now, remain a mystery. Nevertheless, it is certain that every sacrifice we make for love of God becomes a fragrant rose of eternal sweetness which our Lord gathers in his own glorified, loving hands.

St. Teresa, on the day she took the habit at the Convent of the Incarnation outside the walls of Avila, wrote of the wondrous kiss of love Christ presented to her as a result of her willing self-sacrifice: “When I took the habit the Lord immediately showed me how He favours those who do violence to themselves in order to serve Him. No one saw what I endured, . . . At the moment of my entrance into this new state I felt a joy so great that it has never failed me even to this day; and God converted the dryness of my soul into a very great tenderness” (Interior Castle, p. 33).

This Lent, let us go forth into the desert with Christ, where, along with him, we deny ourselves out of love. Let us prove to God we love him above all else. Let us engage in acts of voluntary self-denial, training our body, nourishing our spirit that, in prayer, we may begin to truly see the unfathomable value and riches of giving ourselves entirely over to God. It is about cultivating a love for Love. It is about, as our Savior showed us, commending our spirit unto God. For then, when at Easter we celebrate Christ´s resurrection on the third day, we may enter more fully into that wondrous plan of salvation our Savior himself has given us with such great sacrificial love.

By F.K. Bartels

F. K. Bartels is managing editor of catholicpathways.com. He is a contributing writer for Catholic Online.


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