Posts Tagged ‘St. Teresa of Avila’

Prayer and Meditation for Friday, June 17, 2016 — “But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal.”

June 16, 2016

Friday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 369

Reading 1 2 KGS 11:1-4, 9-18, 20

When Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah,
saw that her son was dead,
she began to kill off the whole royal family.
But Jehosheba, daughter of King Jehoram and sister of Ahaziah,
took Joash, his son, and spirited him away, along with his nurse,
from the bedroom where the princes were about to be slain.
She concealed him from Athaliah, and so he did not die.
For six years he remained hidden in the temple of the LORD,
while Athaliah ruled the land.But in the seventh year,
Jehoiada summoned the captains of the Carians
and of the guards.
He had them come to him in the temple of the LORD,
exacted from them a sworn commitment,
and then showed them the king’s son.The captains did just as Jehoiada the priest commanded.
Each one with his men, both those going on duty for the sabbath
and those going off duty that week,
came to Jehoiada the priest.
He gave the captains King David’s spears and shields,
which were in the temple of the LORD.
And the guards, with drawn weapons,
lined up from the southern to the northern limit of the enclosure,
surrounding the altar and the temple on the king’s behalf.
Then Jehoiada led out the king’s son
and put the crown and the insignia upon him.
They proclaimed him king and anointed him,
clapping their hands and shouting, “Long live the king!”

Athaliah heard the noise made by the people,
and appeared before them in the temple of the LORD.
When she saw the king standing by the pillar, as was the custom,
and the captains and trumpeters near him,
with all the people of the land rejoicing and blowing trumpets,
she tore her garments and cried out, “Treason, treason!”
Then Jehoiada the priest instructed the captains
in command of the force:
“Bring her outside through the ranks.
If anyone follows her,” he added, “let him die by the sword.”
He had given orders that she
should not be slain in the temple of the LORD.
She was led out forcibly to the horse gate of the royal palace,
where she was put to death.

Then Jehoiada made a covenant between the LORD as one party
and the king and the people as the other,
by which they would be the LORD’s people;
and another covenant, between the king and the people.
Thereupon all the people of the land went to the temple of Baal
and demolished it.
They shattered its altars and images completely,
and slew Mattan, the priest of Baal, before the altars.
Jehoiada appointed a detachment for the temple of the LORD.
All the people of the land rejoiced and the city was quiet,
now that Athaliah had been slain with the sword
at the royal palace.

Responsorial Psalm PS 132:11, 12, 13-14, 17-18

R. (13) The Lord has chosen Zion for his dwelling.
The LORD swore to David
a firm promise from which he will not withdraw:
“Your own offspring
I will set upon your throne.”
R. The Lord has chosen Zion for his dwelling.
“If your sons keep my covenant
and the decrees which I shall teach them,
Their sons, too, forever
shall sit upon your throne.”
R. The Lord has chosen Zion for his dwelling.
For the LORD has chosen Zion;
he prefers her for his dwelling.
“Zion is my resting place forever;
in her will I dwell, for I prefer her.”
R. The Lord has chosen Zion for his dwelling.
“In her will I make a horn to sprout forth for David;
I will place a lamp for my anointed.
His enemies I will clothe with shame,
but upon him my crown shall shine.”
R. The Lord has chosen Zion for his dwelling.

Alleluia MT 5:3

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

Gospel MT 6:19-23

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,
where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal.
But store up treasures in heaven,
where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal.
For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.“The lamp of the body is the eye.
If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light;
but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness.
And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be.”

Pacific ocean waves crash the rocky beach coast by the Pigeon Point lighthouse in California by the Cabrillo highway US 1. It is California’s most-photographed light house and the tallest one on the Pacific Coast

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Commentary on Matthew 6:19-23 from Living Space

This short passage contains two related teachings.

The first may seen as a commentary on the petition in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Give us this day our daily bread’. It is a teaching about the things which are really valuable, which really count. We live in a highly materialistic world where a very large number of people seem to believe that material wealth is the solution to every problem. There is nothing that money cannot buy, no problem it cannot solve. This belief prevails even though every day it is shown to be false.

Jesus urges us to put our trust and our security in something less perishable, something more lasting. To ‘store up treasure in heaven’ is not just to pile up a whole lot of ‘good works’ which will be to our credit in the next life. That credit too can be very quickly lost. It is much more a question of growing more and more into the kind of person who is steeped in the values and the outlook of the Gospel. It is less a question of doing than of becoming. We also build treasure by what we give away, by sharing with others whatever gifts we have, especially those most in need. “As long as you do it the least of my brothers you do it to me.”

And, as Jesus so wisely says, ‘where your treasure is, there will your heart be also’. Obviously, the question for me to ask today is: Where is my treasure? What do I value most in life? And how do I reveal that in the way I live?

And that brings us to the second part.

“The lamp of the body is the eye.” That is to say, what I see with my inner eye determines everything else about my life. “If your eye, that is, your vision is sound, your whole body, that is, your whole being will be filled with light. But if your eye is diseased, your whole body will be all darkness.”

It is that light which we need in order to have a clear vision of what is most valuable in our lives. The person who cannot see beyond money, status, power, or fame is truly in darkness. Life is not about getting these things. Life is about who we are; it is about love and relationships.

Let us pray today for vision and light and to be able to discern what are the real treasures, the most precious things of human living. Our Christian life is above all a vision of life.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2116g/

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection• In today’s Gospel we continue our reflection on the Sermon on the Mountain. Two days ago and yesterday we have reflected on the practice of the three works of piety: alms giving (Mt 6, 1-4), prayer (Mt 6, 5-15) and fasting (Mt 6, 16-18). Today’s and tomorrow’s Gospel presentsfour recommendations on the relationship with material goods, explaining clearly how to live the poverty of the first Beatitude: (a) not to accumulate (Mt 6, 19-21); (b) to have a correct idea of material goods (Mt 6,22-23); (c) not serve two masters (Mt 6,24); (d) to abandon oneself to Divine Providence (Mt 6,25-34). Today’s Gospel presents the first two recommendations: not to accumulate goods 19-21) and not to look at the world with diseased eyes (6, 22-23).• Matthew 6, 19-21: Do not accumulate treasures on earth. If, for example today on TV it is announced that next month sugar and coffee will be lacking in the market, we all will buy the maximum possible of coffee and sugar. We accumulate because we lack trust. During the forty years in the desert, the people were tested to see if they were capable to observe God’s Law (Ex 16, 4).

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The test consisted in this: to see if they were capable to gather only the necessary manna for a single day, and not accumulate for the following day. Jesus says: “Do not store up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moth and woodworm destroy them and thieves can break in and steal. But store up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where neither moth nor woodworm destroys them and thieves cannot break in and steal. What does it mean to store up treasures in heaven? It is a question of knowing where I place the basis of my existence.

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If I place it on material goods of this earth, I always run the danger of losing what I have stored up. If I place the basis one God, nobody will be able to destroy it and I will have interior freedom to share with others what I possess. In order that this may be possible and feasible it is important to reach a community life together which will favour sharing and reciprocal help, and in which the greatest richness or the treasure is not material riches, but rather the richness or the treasure of fraternal living together born from the certainty brought by Jesus: God is Father and Mother of all. Because there where your treasure is, there is your heart.

• Matthew 6, 22-23: The light of your body is the eye. To understand what Jesus asks it is necessary to have new eyes. Jesus is demanding and asks very much; do not store up (6, 19-21), do not serve God and money together (6, 24), do not worry about what you are to eat or drink (6, 25-34). These demanding recommendations have something to do with that part of human life where persons are more anguished and worried. It also forms part of the Sermon on the Mountain, that it is more difficult to understand and to practice. And this is why Jesus says: “If your eye is diseased ….”.

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Some translate this as diseased eye and healthy eye. Others translate asmean or poor eye and generous eye. It is the same, in reality, the worse sickness that one can imagine is a person closed up in herself and in her goods and who trusts only these. It is the sickness of being stingy! Anyone who looks at life with this eye lives in sadness and in darkness. The medicine to cure this sickness is conversion, the change of mentality and of ideology. To place the basis of life on God and in this way our look becomes generous and the whole life becomes luminous, because it makes sharing and fraternity emerge.

•Jesus wants a radical change. He wants the observance of the Law of the sabbatical year, where it is said that in the community of believers there cannot be poor (Dt 15,4). Human living together should be organized in such a way that a person should not have to worry about food and drink, about dress and house, about health and education (Mt 6, 25-34). But this is possible if we all seek the Kingdom of God and his justice first (Mt 6, 33).

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The Kingdom of God means to permit God to reign: it is to imitate God (Mt 5, 48). The imitation of God leads to a just sharing of goods and of creative love, which brings about a true fraternity. Divine Providence should be mediated by the fraternal organization. It is only in this way that it will be possible to eliminate any worry or concern for tomorrow (Mt 6, 34).

Personal questions

• Jesus says: “There where your treasure is, your heart is also”. Where is my richness found: in money or in fraternity?

• Which is the light which I have in my eyes to look at life, at events?

Concluding Prayer

For Yahweh has chosen Zion,
he has desired it as a home.
‘Here shall I rest for evermore,
here shall I make my home as I have wished. (Ps 132,13-14)

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-matthew-619-23

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“Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Matthew 19: 24

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore — The lamp of the body is the eye
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17 JUNE 2016, Friday, 11th Week in Ordinary Time
BLINDNESS IS THE CAUSE OF OUR FOLLY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 Kg 11:1-4, 9-18, 20; Mt 6:19-23 ]

Jesus said, “The lamp of the body is the eye.  It follows that if your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light.  But if your eye is diseased, your whole body will be all darkness.  If then, the light inside you is darkness, what darkness that will be!”  This warning of our Lord is indeed so true.  The eye is the window of the soul and the body.   What we see will determine how we think and what we think will be conceived in words and actions.  Hence, if we see things both in the physical sense and in the intellectual sense wrongly, then our hearts will be skewed into desiring the wrong things.  This will lead us to our ultimate destruction and even that of our loved ones. So if we were to ask why are we so shortsighted to seek the things of the world just to satisfy the flesh and allow our soul to die, then it is simply because we are blinded by pride, fear, prejudice, envy and greed!

This was the case of Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah.  She was obsessed with power and even had her grandchildren, the children of Ahaziah, her son, killed so that she could grab power. Indeed, power and glory and perhaps fear of her enemies consumed her, so much so that anyone who was perceived to be a threat to her power was murdered.  She was so blinded by her thirst for power and control that she would even kill her own loved ones.  This is unthinkable, but that is the truth of obsession.  As Jesus says in the gospel, “for where your treasure is, there will your heart also.”   The prophet Jeremiah says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9)

This desire for power is so real, both within and without the Church.  The thirst for power exists not only in the secular, corporate and political world.  It is present very subtly even in religious life.  Often, the Church is divided because priests, religious and the laity fight for power and control over their organizations.  In the name of God, all kinds of sins are committed, such as, slander, distortion of facts, false accusations, manipulation and even the use of threats and coercion.  Everyone is purportedly working for the good of the Church but in truth it is for their own glory and security.  They desire power in their hearts but their eyes are so blinded that they cannot recognize their true desire.  It is sad, but politicking is a reality in Church life and this is entirely against the gospel values where the Lord asks us to choose the lowest place and be a humble servant of all.

Perhaps we are not consumed by power and fear like Athaliah; but we could be consumed by material things and worldly pleasures.  This is what Jesus warns us in the gospel, “Do not store up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moths and woodworms destroy them and thieves can break in and steal.”    We think that worldly pleasure is sufficient to keep us happy and satisfied.  The truth is that nothing in this world can fill the vacuum and the desire of the human heart.

What is it that moths can destroy if not the beautiful clothes that we wear?  When we buy and hoard all these beautiful fine silk clothes, moths will destroy them.  They do not last.  Such things cannot bring us lasting happiness.  Clothes will get old and out of fashion and we will have to discard them.   This is why we are never satisfied with material things.  When we move into a big bungalow, we are happy for a few months, but soon we take it for granted and tire of it.  It is true for those who buy big luxury cars as well.  Initially they feel great driving it, but the happiness wears off after some time.  Likewise, we get tired of our tech gadgets, TV, our mobile phones, etc.  For this reason, we keep on changing them because they cannot satisfy us any longer.

What are those things that woodworms can destroy if not our food?  Those who are obsessed with food and pleasure will left dulled once they reach satiation point.  Food has a diminishing pleasure.  The more we eat, even of the best foods, the less pleasurable it becomes.  Indeed, the things of this world cannot sustain our pleasure for long.  We go for better and newer foods.  After some time, we get so sick of good and rich foods that we go back to the simple food of the ordinary folks, such as porridge and a bowl of noodles.  This is true for sex and wine.  There is a certain limit after which we lose our interest and our desire.  When the climax or saturation point is reached, we quickly sink into the doldrums.  This is what Jesus meant when He referred to the woodworms that eat up the corn and wheat in the barns.  Indeed, those who are consumed by lust, gluttony and sloth are reduced to the level of animals.

What are those things that thieves can steal?  People can steal our things, property and intellectual rights.  But the most devious thieves are those who can rob us of our peace, joy and love.  When we allow pride, anger and envy to consume us, we lose our peace because pride, revenge and envy will eat into us.  There is no joy in our hearts but only bitterness. When we allow lust and greed to consume us, we lose our joy because we cannot love others or share our love with them.  A man can lose many things in life, but when he loses himself, he has lost everything.  That is what Jesus meant when He remarked, “what good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”  (Mt 16:26)

The wisdom of St James’ advice is timely when he remarked that even those in the religious world can use spiritual powers for earthly gains, but to their own destruction.  He wrote, “There is great gain in godliness with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world; but if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content.  But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs.” (1 Tim 6:6-10)

So what treasure should we seek in life if not the treasure that is kept safe for us in heaven?  When we seek heavenly things, we will never get tired of them and always hunger for more. When we seek heavenly things, we experience joy, peace, love, generosity, goodness and kindness in our hearts.  (Cf Gal 5:22)   Indeed, when we spend time basking in the love of God or our loved ones, we just want to be with that person forever.  When we read something inspiring and uplifting, like the Word of God, we want to keep on reading because it nourishes our soul and keeps us hungering for more.  When we are generous with the poor and serve unconditionally in love, the joy that we receive in touching the hearts of others is so much greater than what we can receive from our worldly success and the honours bestowed upon us by the world.

So let us store treasures not in our houses or in the banks but in our hearts.  If we build ourselves up and have a good character, no one can steal from us.  If we increase in knowledge, wisdom and understanding, no one can take them from us.  They can rob us of material things but they cannot take what belongs to us. That is why cultivating a life of virtue, a life of wisdom, love and compassion is the best treasure that we can store in this life.  Such treasures will also see themselves into the next life because these are the only things we can bring with us when we die.  Only charity and its fruits that constitute the life of the “Kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice and peace” will last.  (GS 39)  Let us therefore humble ourselves before the Lord and seek His wisdom and love by focusing our eyes on the Lord and seek guidance from Him, for as the psalmist says, “From Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  (Ps 119:104f)

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
 
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Dark nights provoke deep questions

These seasons of confusion can be a scary experience, for laypeople and pastors alike. The fifteenth-century Christian writer John of the Cross described this experience; he called it la noche oscura, or dark night, that difficult invasion of God’s astringent grace that opens us to new realms of spiritual experience. However, it’s easy to miss this moment of grace, especially if we fail to ask deeper questions about what God might be up to.

Consider this scenario: a 38-year-old pastor called me for advice. His church wasn’t growing. His prayer lacked passion. His preaching seemed to fall on deaf ears. Previously helpful spiritual practices no longer delivered. And growing temptations to look at pornography or lose himself in Fantasy Football were worrying him and his wife. Feeling helpless and depressed, he wondered if he’d hit a ministry wall. I told him that I sensed an extraordinary moment of grace and growth. As I often do, I told him that he needed to talk to a psychologist to evaluate therapeutic issues and possibly the need for medication.

His story, and countless others like it, raises tough questions about how we should view the dark night. Is there a difference between depression and the dark night? What practical steps can we take to move through it and grow spiritually and emotionally?

Dark nights are both spiritual and psychological

St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila envisioned the dark night as a time of spiritual purging and illumination, but they also understood that psychological dynamics are often at play in a dark night experience. Though they lacked modern categories and definitions, they were some of the most adept psychological minds of their day. St. John taught that melancholia, or depression, would often accompany the dark night. For him, it wasn’t an either/or, but more often a both/and. The spiritual and psychological are interconnected.

Unfortunately, we’ve failed to learn this valuable lesson. Often psychologists see depression merely as a neurochemical problem that needs to be fixed. And too often pastors spiritualize psychological maladies that may require further expertise. On the other side, I find that many therapists (Christian therapists included) have little insight into employing spiritual disciplines, or challenging clients to avail themselves of the spiritual benefits of worship, the liturgy, and the sacraments. This divide would have been completely foreign to St. Teresa or St. John.

Dark nights provide opportunities for growth

One lesson we can learn from the ancient mystics is that dark nights are not problems, but opportunities. Grasping this reality moves us beyond “How do we fix this?” to “What might I learn in this?”

In our North American context, failure and struggle are often viewed as problems, jagged detours on what is supposed to be the smooth, straight road of life. It’s a distinctly Western phenomenon, but one that subtly impacts our Christian perceptions. Thus, many pastors feel as if depression, doubt, or distance from God amount to obstacles to ministry, rather than opportunities for it.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2015/february-online-only/3-truths-of-dark-night-of-soul.html

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, March 9, 2016 — The counterintuitive propositions of the Gospels

March 8, 2016

“Whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation.”

“The Son cannot do anything on his own but only what he sees the Father doing”

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Lectionary: 246

Reading 1 Is 49:8-15

Thus says the LORD:
In a time of favor I answer you,
on the day of salvation I help you;
and I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people,
To restore the land
and allot the desolate heritages,
Saying to the prisoners: Come out!
To those in darkness: Show yourselves!
Along the ways they shall find pasture,
on every bare height shall their pastures be.
They shall not hunger or thirst,
nor shall the scorching wind or the sun strike them;
For he who pities them leads them
and guides them beside springs of water.
I will cut a road through all my mountains,
and make my highways level.
See, some shall come from afar,
others from the north and the west,
and some from the land of Syene.
Sing out, O heavens, and rejoice, O earth,
break forth into song, you mountains.
For the LORD comforts his people
and shows mercy to his afflicted.But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me.”
Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
I will never forget you.

Responsorial Psalm PS 145:8-9, 13cd-14, 17-18

R. (8a) The Lord is gracious and merciful.
The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The LORD is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.
R. The Lord is gracious and merciful.
The LORD is faithful in all his words
and holy in all his works.
The LORD lifts up all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.
R. The Lord is gracious and merciful.
The LORD is just in all his ways
and holy in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call upon him,
to all who call upon him in truth.
R. The Lord is gracious and merciful.

Verse Before The Gospel Jn 11:25a, 26

I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord;
whoever believes in me will never die.

Gospel Jn 5:17-30

Jesus answered the Jews:
“My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.”
For this reason they tried all the more to kill him,
because he not only broke the sabbath
but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God.

Jesus answered and said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you, the Son cannot do anything on his own,
but only what he sees the Father doing;
for what he does, the Son will do also.
For the Father loves the Son
and shows him everything that he himself does,
and he will show him greater works than these,
so that you may be amazed.
For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life,
so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes.
Nor does the Father judge anyone,
but he has given all judgment to the Son,
so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.
Whoever does not honor the Son
does not honor the Father who sent him.
Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word
and believes in the one who sent me
has eternal life and will not come to condemnation,
but has passed from death to life.
Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here
when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God,
and those who hear will live.
For just as the Father has life in himself,
so also he gave to the Son the possession of life in himself.
And he gave him power to exercise judgment,
because he is the Son of Man.
Do not be amazed at this,
because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs
will hear his voice and will come out,
those who have done good deeds
to the resurrection of life,
but those who have done wicked deeds
to the resurrection of condemnation.

“I cannot do anything on my own;
I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just,
because I do not seek my own will
but the will of the one who sent me.”

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom

The counterintuitive propositions of the Gospels.

Society tells us: be strong. Seek money. Show off your skills. Rise to the top.

Jesus tells us: be humble. Become totally dependent upon the father. Seek out and do service for the marginalized.

Embraces all his creatures.

Eat my body. Drink my blood.

Can we follow him? Can we imitate him? There is little in the way of reward here on earth…..

Do not be afraid…

Related:

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“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

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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Commentary on John 5:17-30 From Living Space

Let us not be afraid or cast down; God is on his way in the person of Jesus

Today’s Gospel follows immediately on yesterday’s story of the healing of the crippled man by the pool. That passage had ended with the words: “The Jews began to persecute Jesus because he did this [i.e. the healing] on a sabbath.” We might point out, as with some other sabbath healings, that there was absolutely no urgency to do the healing on a sabbath for someone who had waited 38 years. It is just another indication of the divine authority with which Jesus works.

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So Jesus’ reply is direct and unapologetic: “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.” Because Genesis speaks of God resting on the seventh day (the origin of the Jewish sabbath), it was disputed whether God was in any way active on the sabbath. Some believed that the creating and conserving work of his creation went on and others that he continued to pass judgement on that day. In any case, Jesus is claiming here the same authority to work on the sabbath as his Father and has the same powers over life and death.

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The Jewish leaders are enraged that Jesus speaks of God as his own Father. They want to kill him. They understand by his words that Jesus is making himself God’s equal. Jesus, far from denying the accusation, only confirms it.

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“A son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing; for what he does, his son will also do.” This saying is taken from the model of an apprentice in a trade. The apprentice son does exactly what his father does. Jesus’ relation to his Father is similar. “For the Father loves his Son and shows him everything that he himself does, so that you may be amazed.” And “just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes” – and whenever he wishes. And such giving of life is something that belongs only to God. As does the right to judge, which Jesus says has been delegated to him.

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Jesus is the perfect mirror of the Father. The Father is acting in him and through him. He is the Word of God – God speaks and acts directly through him. God’s Word is a creative Word. Jesus, like the Father, is life-giving, a source of life.

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The right to judge has been delegated by the Father to the Son. And to refuse to honour the Son is to refuse the same honour to the Father. In everything Jesus acts only according to the will of his Father and does what his Father wants.

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Jesus, then, is the Way, the Way through whom we go to God. For us, there is no other Way. He is God’s Word to us and for us.

Source http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/l1044g/

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I cannot fathom what it must have been like for You Lord. Most of our hearts cried out for salvation while others could not, having been bound and gagged by Sin.

Your love for us was so great that You promised to come save us, prepared us for Your coming and then fulfilled Your promise to us. What did we do? How did we welcome You? We turned our backs on You, We mocked You, plotted to kill You and eventually did.

Knowing all this You still came seeking out Your lost sheep. You brought light into our darkness, living water to quench our thirst, bread from heaven to nourish bodies and souls. With Your precious blood You washed us so that we can stand spotless before our heavenly Father. How great is our God!

Our lives are nothing without You and without You there is no relationship with our heavenly Father. All love, peace and joy comes from You for in You is life eternal. May we always seek to do our Father’s Will. Amen

Source http://catholicjules.net/2014/04/01/on-todays-gospel-395/

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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 Reflection

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• The Gospel of John is different from the other three. It reveals a more profound dimension which only faith is able to perceive in the words and gestures of Jesus. The Fathers of the Church would say that the Gospel of John is “spiritual”, it reveals what the Spirit makes one discover in the words of Jesus (cf. Jn 16, 12-13). A beautiful example of this spiritual dimension of the Gospel of John is the passage which we are going to meditate on today.

• John 5, 17-18: Jesus explains the profound meaning of the healing of the paralytic. Criticized by the Jews for having cured on Saturday, Jesus answers: “My Father still goes on working, and I am at work too!” The Jews taught that no work could be done on Saturday, because even God had rested and had not worked on the seventh day of creation (Ex 20, 8-11). Jesus affirms the contrary. He says that the Father has always worked even until now. And for this reason, Jesus also works, and even on Saturday. He imitates his Father! For Jesus the work of creation is not finished as yet. God continues to work, unceasingly, day and night, holding up the Universe and all of us. Jesus collaborates with the Father continuing the work of creation in such a way that one day all may be able to enter into the eternal rest that has been promised. The reaction of the Jews was violent. They wanted to kill him for two reasons: because he denied the sense of Saturday and for saying he was equal to God.

• John 5, 19-21: It is love which allows the creative action of God to shine and be visible. These verses reveal something of the relationship between Jesus and the Father. Jesus, the Son, lives permanently attentive before the Father. What he sees the Father do, he does it also. Jesus is the reflection of the Father. He is the face of the Father! This total attention of the Son to the Father makes it possible for the love of the Father to enter totally into the Son and through the Son, carry out his action in the world. The great concern of the Father is that of overcoming death and to give life. It is a way of continuing the creative work of the Father.

• John 5, 22-23: The Father judges no one; he has entrusted all judgment to the Son. What is decisive in life is the way in which we place ourselves before the Creator, because it radically depends on him. Now the Creator becomes present for us in Jesus. The plenitude of the divinity dwells in Jesus (cf. Col 1, 19). And therefore, according to the way in which we are before Jesus, we express our position before God, the Creator. What the Father wants is that we know him and honour him in the revelation which he makes of himself in Jesus.

• John 5, 24: The life of God in us through Jesus. God is life, he is creating force. Wherever he is present, there is life. He becomes present in the Word of Jesus. The one who listens to the word of Jesus as a word that comes from God has already risen. He has already received the vivifying touch which leads him beyond death. Jesus passed from death to life. The proof of this is in the healing of the paralytic.

• John 5, 25-29: The resurrection is already taking place. All of us are the dead who still have not opened ourselves to the voice of Jesus which comes from the Father. But “the hour will come” and it is now, in which the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who will listen, will live”. With the Word of Jesus which comes from the Father, the new creation begins; it is already on the way. The creative word of Jesus will reach all, even those who have already died. They will hear and will live.

• John 5, 30: Jesus is the reflection of the Father. “By myself I can do nothing; I can judge only as I am told to judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me”. This last phrase is the summary of all that has been said before. This was the idea that the community of the time of John had and diffused regarding Jesus.

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Personal questions

• How do you imagine the relationship between Jesus and the Father?

• How do you live faith in the resurrection?

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Concluding Prayer

Yahweh is tenderness and pity,
slow to anger, full of faithful love.
Yahweh is generous to all,
his tenderness embraces all his creatures. (Ps 145,8-9)

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Source http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-john-517-30

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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09 MARCH 2016, Wednesday, 4th Week of LentRECLAIMING OUR SONSHIP IN CHRIST

SCRIPTURE READINGS: Isaiah 49:8-15; John 5:17-30

The whole season of Lent is to prepare Catechumens to share in the divine sonship in Christ, and for those already baptized, to renew their filiation with God as their Father.  Although we are the Chosen People of God, yet we, like the Israelites in the first reading, have lost our identity and freedom as God’s people.  Through our sins and infidelity, we have become prisoners of our passions and our enemies.   But God is bountiful in mercy and compassion, as the psalmist declares, “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness. The Lord is good to all and compassionate toward all his works.”

Truly, God wants to set us free by helping us to recover our dignity as His children.  He wants to restore us to wholeness.  This is what God spoke through the Prophet, “Along the roadway they will graze, and any bare height will be their pasture. They will never hunger or thirst, scorching wind and sun will never plague them; for he who pities them will lead them, will guide them to springs of water. I shall turn all my mountains into a road and my highways will be raised aloft.”  When we become conscious that He is our God and Father, and we are His people and His children, we will regain all that we have lost.  There will be joy and freedom in our lives.

In these tender words of assurance to His people in exile who were feeling abandoned and about to give up hope, God reveals not only His fatherhood but motherhood for us all. Hence the prophet of hope exhorted the people, “Shout for joy, you heavens; earth, exult! Mountains, break into joyful cries! For Yahweh has consoled his people, is taking pity on his afflicted ones. Zion was saying, ‘Yahweh has abandoned me, the Lord has forgotten me.’ Can a woman forget her baby at the breast, feel no pity for the child she has borne? Even if these were to forget, I shall not forget you.”  So, if we are feeling burdened, abandoned, alone in our problems and imprisoned by our past, crippled by sin and anger, then let it be known that God has not abandoned us.  He is with us even during such dark periods in our lives, when everything seems so hopeless and forlorn.  God, who is our Father and our Mother, will never abandon us.

What is needed is to have faith in Jesus who came to give us back our sonship.  Jesus is the Suffering Servant, as prophesied in Isaiah.   “At the time of my favour I have answered you, on the day of salvation I have helped you. I have formed you and have appointed you to be the covenant for a people, to restore the land, to return ravaged properties, to say to prisoners, ‘Come out,’ to those who are in darkness, ‘Show yourselves.’” Jesus is the One who will lead us prisoners out of our dungeon of darkness and misery.  To come out of this hell, we must first “show ourselves”, that is, make ourselves available to Him.  What does showing ourselves entail?  Simply, it means that we must learn from Jesus what and how one can become the son of the Father.  Only in Jesus can we be restored to our sonship, since we are sons of the Father only in the Son.  We are sons and daughters by adoption, not by nature. To be sons and daughters in the Son, we must deepen our knowledge of Jesus’ relationship with His Father.

In the gospel, Jesus tells us that the Father loves Him and has given everything to Him.  “For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he does himself, and he will show him even greater things than these, works that will astonish you.”  In claiming this love of His Father, Jesus made it clear that He is the Mediator of the Father.  He came to reveal to us His Father’s love and mercy in His teachings, and especially in His works, particularly of forgiveness and in setting people free from sin, illnesses and the bondage of the Evil One. Most of all, His passion, death and resurrection will reveal the greater things that God does.

It is true for us too.  If we want to learn how to be children of God, we must learn from Jesus who Himself learnt from His Father.  To be a son implies having full knowledge of the Father. Sonship is the corollary of Fatherhood and vice versa.  Every child must therefore represent the Father and become one with the Father who is the source of his life.  Indeed, in another text of the gospel Jesus says, “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Mt 11:27)  Knowledge of the son is at the pleasure of the Father, who communicates Himself to His son.  All parents would like to hand down their values and traditions to their children, especially their skills and trade.  They hope that their children will perpetuate the values of their fathers and race as well.  In the case of God our Father, He entrusted everything to the Son without reservation.

To His Son, He gave Him the power to give life.  “Thus, as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son gives life to anyone he chooses; for the Father judges no one; he has entrusted all judgement to the Son, so that all may honour the Son as they honour the Father.”  Jesus therefore is our life-giver.  He is the source of life and light for everyone.  This life however is only ours if we accept Jesus as the Son of the Father.  Faith in Jesus is paramount and the ultimate criterion in finding the fullness of life.

Faith in Jesus, therefore, is more than mere trust in Him but to believe in Him so that His life is reflected in ours.   He assures us of fullness of life if we listen to Him, a life that begins the moment we accept Him.  “Whoever listens to my words, and believes in the one who sent me, has eternal life; without being brought to judgement he has passed from death to life. I tell you most solemnly, the hour will come – in fact it is here already – when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and all who hear it will live.”  What a wonderful promise from the Lord; that without being brought to judgement, we have already passed from death to life.  In other words, even before we face the final judgement at the end of our life, this life of God is already ours, if we share in the life of Jesus.

This life requires that we do the will of the Father as Jesus did.  “I can do nothing by myself: I can only judge as I am told to judge, and my judging is just, because my aim is to do not my own will, but the will of him who sent me.”  To be a true son and daughter, like all good children, we endeavour to please our parents.  Children always seek approval and the love of their parents for whatever they do, because they owe their origin and life to them.  Similarly, if we are called to be God’s children, it will not be to the approval of man that we seek, but only God’s.  This was always the attitude of Jesus towards His enemies, and the people as well, for His one and only desire was to serve His Father and to do what the Father would have done. Identified with the Father fully, He gives life to all who comes to Him.

We must also bear in mind that sonship is ultimately spelt out in servanthood.  This explains why Jesus considered Himself as the Suffering Servant of Isaiah.  He took upon Himself as the One His Father had chosen to be the light of the Covenant and set His people free.  As we come closer to the passion and death of our Lord, let us continue to walk in this path of servanthood too.  Life is ours as we give ourselves more and more to Christ and His people.  We who have been chosen as His sons and daughters are called too, to bring others into God’s family.  So the concrete way for us to participate in the sonship of Christ is the way of humble service and self-emptying for the good of humanity.  As Jesus assures us, “Do not be surprised at this, for the hour is coming when the dead will leave their graces at the sound of his voice: those who did good will rise again to life; and those who did evil, to condemnation.”  So let us not wait till Easter to live the resurrected life, but this life is already ours as a foretaste, if we imitate Jesus in being the instrument of God’s love for others.   Following Jesus, let us be life-givers by our words and actions.  Let us be people of hope and be like God who assures those who are depressed and alone or lost, that we are with them and there is hope in God.  Giving life to others is the way to find life ourselves.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, March 5, 2015 — Life is not measured by wealth but by relationships

March 4, 2015

Thursday of the Second Week of Lent
Lectionary: 233

Reading 1 Jer 17:5-10

Thus says the LORD:
Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings,
who seeks his strength in flesh,
whose heart turns away from the LORD.
He is like a barren bush in the desert
that enjoys no change of season,
But stands in a lava waste,
a salt and empty earth.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose hope is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted beside the waters
that stretches out its roots to the stream:
It fears not the heat when it comes,
its leaves stay green;
In the year of drought it shows no distress,
but still bears fruit.
More tortuous than all else is the human heart,
beyond remedy; who can understand it?
I, the LORD, alone probe the mind
and test the heart,
To reward everyone according to his ways,
according to the merit of his deeds.

Responsorial Psalm PS 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6

R. (40:5a) Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
Blessed the man who follows not
the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on his law day and night.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
He is like a tree
planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever he does, prospers.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
Not so, the wicked, not so;
they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
For the LORD watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the wicked vanishes.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.

Verse Before the Gospel See Lk 8:15

Blessed are they who have kept the word with a generous heart
and yield a harvest through perseverance.

Gospel Lk 16:19-31

Jesus said to the Pharisees:
“There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen
and dined sumptuously each day.
And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,
who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps
that fell from the rich man’s table.
Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.
When the poor man died,
he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.
The rich man also died and was buried,
and from the netherworld, where he was in torment,
he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off
and Lazarus at his side.
And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me.
Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue,
for I am suffering torment in these flames.’
Abraham replied, ‘My child,
remember that you received what was good during your lifetime
while Lazarus likewise received what was bad;
but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.
Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established
to prevent anyone from crossing
who might wish to go from our side to yours
or from your side to ours.’
He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him
to my father’s house,
for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them,
lest they too come to this place of torment.’
But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets.
Let them listen to them.’
He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham,
but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
Then Abraham said,
‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets,
neither will they be persuaded
if someone should rise from the dead.’”
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And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores … Dogs even used to come and lick his sores
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Commentary on Luke 16:19-31 from Living Space

Here we have illustrated in parable form two of Luke’s beatitudes: “Happy are you who are poor, you who are hungry now!” and “Woe to you who are rich, who are filled now!” The links with the First Reading are also obvious.

On the one hand, you have a rich man dressed in purple and fine linen, both signs of great wealth. He also has a good table and enjoys the choicest of foods every day. (He is sometimes called ‘Dives’, which is simply the Latin word for ‘rich’.)

At the same time you have a poor man called Lazarus. (The rich man is nameless. In spite of all his money, he is a Nobody.) He was hungry and longed, like the dogs, to pick up the scraps that might fall from the dining table. The dogs even licked his sores. Dogs were abhorrent to Jews so this was a particularly degrading thing to happen.

What is striking about this scene is that nothing seems to be happening. The rich man is eating; the poor man is sitting and waiting. There are no words between them. The poor man is not abused or chased away; he is simply ignored as if he did not exist. “As often as you neglected to do it to the least of these brothers of mine, you neglected to do it to me.”

Then both men die. Lazarus is brought by angels to the bosom of Abraham; the rich man is condemned to an existence of great suffering in Hades, the place of the dead. The rich man now begs for even the slightest relief from the man he ignored in his lifetime. But it is now too late.

The rich man had his chance and he blew it. He had his life of “good things”; he now knows just how “good” they really were. It is now Lazarus’ turn to have the really good things, the companionship of his God.

The rich man begs on behalf of his brothers that they be warned. “They have Moses and the prophets [the whole Jewish religious tradition],” replies Abraham. “But if only someone would come to them from the dead, they would change their ways.” “If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”

Surely a reference to Jesus himself and to the many Jews who refused to believe in him even after his resurrection. There are people today who want some special signs from God in order to believe. We have the Good News of the New Testament and the living, experienced presence of Jesus among us; we do not need any more. We have all the guidance we need to lead the kind of life which will ensure we spend our future existence in the company of Lazarus.

And that life is measured not by wealth, status, or power but in a life of caring and sharing relationships. In a world of extreme consumerism, hedonism and individualism, today’s readings have a very important message. Those are truly rich who enrich the lives of others.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/l1025g/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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INDIFFERENCE AS THE REAL OBSTACLE TO CONVERSION

SCRIPTURE READINGS: JER 17:5-10; LK 16:19-31
http://www.universalis.com/20150305/mass.htm

The general theme during the second week of Lent is conversion.  This theme takes its cue from the gospel of the 2nd Sunday of Lent, which speaks of the Transfiguration of Jesus and the transforming experience of the apostles.  The motive for conversion, according to today’s scripture readings, is that there is some kind of continuity between this present life and the next; between now and the future.  Indeed, as Jeremiah prophesied, “I, the Lord, search to the heart, I probe the loins to give each man what his conduct deserves.”  We all know that this is certainly true.  But in spite of such warnings, how is it that we are still not responding to the call for conversion?

Where, then, is our heart?  What kind of heart do we have?  Are we a compassionate and merciful person, or are we indifferent towards those who suffer, be they human beings or even animals?   Very often, conversion, seen as metanoia, is a change of life, from one form to another.  It is supposedly a radical change.  We understand conversion as a change from an evil, worldly and selfish life to a good, godly and selfless life.  Why is it that some of us continue to live in a selfish manner towards other beings? How could we, in the face of human suffering, especially seeing our fellowmen suffering either from injustice, poverty, hunger or discrimination, turn a blind eye to their pain or worse still, be the cause and perpetuators of their suffering?  What is the cause of a hardened heart?

If conversion is difficult, it is because indifference has entered into our lives. This is the real obstacle towards conversion of heart.  Why? Because indifference is worse than hatred.  Between love and hatred, there is only a thin line.  Thus those whom we hate are really those we love.  But when love is spurned, hatred sets in. Indifference is the worst of all sins because it is the sin against the Holy Spirit.  It is when one is numb to the pains of our fellowmen, and of course to the pain of God, who showed His love for us in the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Being oblivious to their pain is what makes us commit sin since what we do not see, we do not feel and therefore do not care.  Seeing, of course, is more than physical sight, but the seeing of the heart.  So if we find ourselves not only sinning against our fellowmen but against God, it is because we do feel with them and certainly not with God, since He seems to be an invisible and absent figure.  No wonder, fools in the bible are those who think that God does not see.

This sin of indifference is exemplified by the rich man in today’s parable.  His real sin was not his hatred for Lazarus, but selfishness and worldliness expressed in his indifference.  He was so filled with himself, consumed by his wealth and the pleasures of life, that he did not even notice Lazarus outside his door.  As far as he was concerned, anyone outside his house was not his business.  He was totally oblivious to the predicament of Lazarus.  As the proverb says, there is none so blind as those who would not see.  Possibly, for the rich man, he could not stand the sight of Lazarus and so he mentally closed his mind to Lazarus’ presence.  It was not because he could not see but that he did not want to see.  Isn’t it true for many of us?  We see injustice and scandals all around us, but we turn a blind eye to the reality.  We are afraid to take action or champion the cause of truth and right, especially the voiceless, marginalized and the poor, for fear of falling out of favour with the powerful and the rich in society.   We try to soothe our conscience by suppressing it and rationalizing it.  Most likely, the rich man must have tried to justify why he should not help Lazarus. But as Jeremiah says, God knows the depth of our hearts.  We cannot deceive Him!

Ironically, only the dogs were sensitive to the presence of Lazarus and they attended to him by licking up his wounds.  Indeed, the dogs were more present to Lazarus than human beings.  This situation echoes the first reading when we are told, “A curse on the man who puts his trust in man, who relies on things of flesh, whose heart turns from the Lord.”   This is always the mistake of man, trusting in their fellowmen more than they trust God.  When we rely on the things of the world like the Israelites, tragedy befalls us. The Israelites trusted in their military might and their strength instead of being faithful to the Lord.  The rich man trusted in his own wealth, failing to realize he would not be able to take them to the next world.

Thus, those who have hardened their hearts to the needs and sufferings of their fellowmen, and continue to hurt and harm them or fail to assist when they can, will hinder themselves from finding true peace and joy.  Within this context, we can understand why Abraham told the rich man, “between us and you a great gulf has been fixed, to stop anyone, if he wanted to, crossing from our side to yours, and to stop any crossing from your side to ours.” Indeed, indifference is the worst sin against ourselves and our neighbours.  Indifference is worse than hatred, for if we are hated by our enemies, at least they acknowledge our existence.  But not so when people are indifferent to us because we do not even exist in their sight.

When we apply this truth to our personal and spiritual life, we can say that the real obstacle to conversion is not simply because we are sinners.  The real problem is that we have become indifferent to our sinful situation.  Like the rich man, we have grown used to the state of misery that we are in, so much so that we think that is the best kind of life to live.  Losing sensitivity to sin is the worst of all sins.  At least if we are aware that we are sinful, there is still an opportunity for conversion.  But when we have become identified with our sinfulness, there is very little hope of conversion.  As a result, sin, like cancer, grows gradually in us until we become totally indifferent to what life is all about.

But the most serious consequence of indifference is that we cannot hear God anymore.  We are unable to see the signs from God, like the Pharisees implied in today’s gospel.  The rich man symbolized the Pharisees who refused to change their lives even after hearing the gospel message of Jesus.  Like the rich man who implored that Lazarus be sent to warn his brothers of their impending destiny but was told that they would not listen to him; a time will come too when we who are so full of ourselves, our luxuries or our hurts that we cannot hear God’s promptings anymore.  Not even, as Jesus rightly said, “if someone should rise from the dead.”  To be incapable of love, of feeling with those in pain, is as good as being dead.  When the heart no longer feels, one ceases to be a real person.

Indeed, today, we are called to heed the advice of Jeremiah.  We must trust in God.  God knows our hearts, devious as they may be.  He knows our fears, our hurts, our attachments, and our slavery. He knows that perhaps these could be the reasons why we are too numbed to hear the invitation of Jesus to repent and live the life of the gospel.  Let us pray that God will soften our heart so that we can be docile to hear His Word and allow ourselves to melt in His love and so be able to love again.  Until that happens, conversion cannot yet begin.

But if we do not harden our hearts, then Jeremiah assures us that if we place our security in Him instead, relying on His strength, love and mercy, we will bear fruits of love and joy in our lives.  “A blessing on the man who puts his trust in the Lord. With the Lord for his hope. He is like a tree by the waterside that thrusts its roots to the stream: when the heat comes it feels no alarm, its foliage stays green; it has no worries in a year of drought, and never ceases to bear fruit.”  The psalmist confirms these words when he said, “Blessed are they who hope in the Lord. He is like a tree planted near running water, that yields its fruit in due season, and whose leaves never fade. Whatever he does, prospers.”

– See more at: http://www.csctr.net/reflections/#sthash.Bpi5XpED.dpuf

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The rich man and Lazarus

See also:

http://www.smokeybarn.com/the-sunday-post-november-16-2014/

Related:

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

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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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 selfevident, 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 

By John Francis Carey

The “Big Book”

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s that thought again: spiritual awakening.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The scales fell from our eyes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” So as I look at the Twelve Steps and the Ten Commandments, 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.

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

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

Now a few thoughts on prayer:

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

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

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

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

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

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Related:

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

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)


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