Posts Tagged ‘suffering’

Where Do We Place Our Trust? — Listen To The One Who Created You and All Things

February 13, 2019

Many of the first Christian monks had glimpsed a connection between the experience of hardship and an enhanced spirituality is evident in the writings of the early Church. And in the neighborhood of that perceived connection were other sources of the resolve to enter on a monastic life. There was, for instance, the belief that, given the right conditions and preparation, a man may even in this life work his passage upward into the actual presence of God; and there, if God so chooses, he can receive a direct and intimate knowledge of the Divine Being.

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Such knowledge is not automatic or the guaranteed conclusion of a process. It is not like the logical outcome of a faultlessly constructed argument. There is no assurance that a man will come to it at the end of a long journey. But to many it was a prize and a prospect so glittering that all else looked puny by comparison; and, besides, there were tales told of some who, so it seemed, had actually been granted that supreme gift of a rendezvous.

— From “The Ladder of Divine Ascent” by St. John Climacus (Also Called “Saint John of the Ladder”)

Something of what was meant is found in a section of The Confessions of Augustine:

“Imagine a man in whom the tumult of the flesh goes silent, in whom the images of earth, of water, of air and of the skies cease to resound. His soul turns quiet and, self-reflecting no longer, it transcends itself. Dreams and visions end. So too does all speech and every gesture, everything in fact which comes to be only to pass away. All these things cry out: ‘We did not make ourselves. It is the Eternal One Who made us.’ And after they have said this, think of them falling silent, turning to listen to the One Who created them. And imagine Him speaking. Himself, and not through the medium of all those things. Speaking Himself. So that we could hear His word, not in the language of the flesh, not through the speech of an Angel, not by way of a rattling cloud or a mysterious parable. But Himself. The One Whom we love in everything. Imagine we could hear Him without them. Reaching out with speeding thought we come to Him, to the Eternal Wisdom which outlasts everything. And imagine if sight of Him were kept available, while all lesser sights were taken away. Think of this encounter, seizing, absorbing, drawing the witness into the depths of joy. Eternal life would be of a kind with this moment of understanding.’ (Confessions ix, 10, 25)

Saint Augustine is talking of a one-to-one encounter with God. That anyone should dream of such an encounter in this life may seem bold and surprising to a believer from the 20th century, surrounded as he is by countless men of goodwill unable to accept that there is a God at all. But the dream was clearly there, and there was much to keep it alive.

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Message from the Monastery of Christ in the Desert for Wednesday, February 13, 2019

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

As consumers, we think about buying more or better or new.  If one has the means, one can buy his or her way into a state of satisfaction, even happiness (although short lived).  Our consumption patterns can redress our deficits and doubts about our self-esteem and public image:  Am I physically attractive?  Do people look up to me and respect me?  Do people perceive me as strong and confident? We rely on the material things of the world as if that is all that there is to retain.  Will the Lord condemn people who have money and food? Are those people who laugh and those about whom we speak well condemned, too?  Conversely, we hear about the blessings for all who are poor, all who do not have food, those who mourn and those who are disparaged for the sake of the name of Jesus.  The pressing question is: where (and in Whom) do we place our trust?

The Prophet Jeremiah believes that anyone who trusts in human beings, meaning anyone who trusts in flesh (in human power, not divine) and who turns his heart away from God, damages his soul.  Internally, this denial of God’s supremacy replaced by the notion that man is creator of unlimited goods forms an unfruitful and vain outcome within people.

So, do we have to believe that anyone who has more than sufficient money or even just enough money will not enter the kingdom?  Do we have to believe that anyone who has sufficient food cannot enter the kingdom?  Do we have to believe that all those who laugh are not going to enter the Kingdom?  Probably not!  Our Lord aims precisely at the inner attitude of putting things and people before God that all of us have within us.

God is All-knowing, All-loving, and All-powerful as well as our most loving Creator and Father.  Therefore, it is most fitting to put our complete trust in him.  No other person or thing deserves the trust that we place in God. Paul cries out to the wayward Corinthians: If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.  Christ is not the means for us to get what we want.  Christians desire Christ, and Christ will provide.

Cutting against the age old common pursuit of more rather than less, the Apostle Luke warns that those who enjoy an excess in earthly pleasures may experience a temporary or fleeting joy only to ultimately find life empty and without meaning. The temptation–and it is a temptation for all of–is to get what we need and forget about others.  This is an inner attitude that is against the Gospel.  There is a tendency to think about self-preservation rather than self-sacrifice.  Quite often, it is the generosity of the poor that shames the rich.  Recall the story of the widow with her two mites.

It is when we begin to hope for eternal life that we can embrace the idea of giving to others and helping others.  It is in hope that we can fast so that others might have food.  It is in faith that we can cry when we see the misery of our sisters and brothers and subsequently, hopefully with immediacy, find the compassion and mercy to help them.

May we trust in God, not His creation, to lead us all into His kingdom and to keep us on His path.

From The Monastery of Christ in the Desert

 

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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, February 5, 2019 — Enduring: In order that you may not grow weary and lose heart

February 5, 2019

I will fulfill my vows — To Him alone shall I bow down — Do not be afraid

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Daughter: your faith has saved you

“May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord let his face shine on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord uncover his face to you and bring you peace.”

Memorial of Saint Agatha, Virgin and Martyr
Lectionary: 324

Reading 1  HEB 12:1-4

Brothers and sisters:
Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us
and persevere in running the race that lies before us
while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus,
the leader and perfecter of faith.
For the sake of the joy that lay before him
Jesus endured the cross, despising its shame,
and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God.
Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners,
in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart.
In your struggle against sin
you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 22:26B-27, 28 AND 30, 31-32

R. (see 27b) They will praise you, Lord, who long for you.
I will fulfill my vows before those who fear him.
The lowly shall eat their fill;
they who seek the LORD shall praise him:
“May your hearts be ever merry!”
R. They will praise you, Lord, who long for you.
All the ends of the earth
shall remember and turn to the LORD;
All the families of the nations
shall bow down before him.
To him alone shall bow down
all who sleep in the earth;
Before him shall bend
all who go down into the dust.
R. They will praise you, Lord, who long for you.
And to him my soul shall live;
my descendants shall serve him.
Let the coming generation be told of the LORD
that they may proclaim to a people yet to be born
the justice he has shown.
R. They will praise you, Lord, who long for you.

AlleluiaMT 8:17

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Christ took away our infirmities
and bore our diseases.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
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Image result for Jesus Raising of Jairus’ Daughter (1885) — painting by George Percy Jacomb-Hood at Guildhall Art Gallery.

The Raising of Jairus‘ Daughter (1895) by George Percy Jacomb-Hood at Guildhall Art Gallery.

Gospel MK 5:21-43

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side,
a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea.
One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward.
Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying,
“My daughter is at the point of death.
Please, come lay your hands on her
that she may get well and live.”
He went off with him
and a large crowd followed him.
There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years.
She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors
and had spent all that she had.
Yet she was not helped but only grew worse.
She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd
and touched his cloak.
She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.”
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Picture: Art from the catacombs: “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.”
Immediately her flow of blood dried up.
She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.
Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him,
turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?”
But his disciples said to him,
“You see how the crowd is pressing upon you,
and yet you ask, Who touched me?”
And he looked around to see who had done it.
The woman, realizing what had happened to her,
approached in fear and trembling.
She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth.
He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you.
Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”
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While he was still speaking,
people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said,
“Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?”
Disregarding the message that was reported,
Jesus said to the synagogue official,
“Do not be afraid; just have faith.”
He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside
except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.
When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official,
he caught sight of a commotion,
people weeping and wailing loudly.
So he went in and said to them,
“Why this commotion and weeping?
The child is not dead but asleep.”
And they ridiculed him.
Then he put them all out.
He took along the child’s father and mother
and those who were with him
and entered the room where the child was.
He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,” 
which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”
The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around.
At that they were utterly astounded.
He gave strict orders that no one should know this
and said that she should be given something to eat.

For the readings of the Memorial of Saint Agatha, please go here.

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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05 FEBRUARY, 2019, Tuesday, Lunar New Year

LIVE EACH DAY TO THE FULLEST

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ NUM 6:22-27PS 90JAMES 4:13-15MT 6:31-34 ]

Every New Year is an auspicious day.  It is welcomed with great joy and celebration.  All are invited to celebrate and be happy.  Every New Year gives hope to humanity that the New Year would be better and happier than the previous year.   This is particularly true for the Lunar New Year.  In Asia where Lunar New Year is celebrated by different nationalities and races, it is celebrated with great festivity.  The newness of the New Year is signified by the wearing of new clothes and making everything new.  Houses are swept thoroughly and new curtains and decorations are put up.  The food items are all symbolic of the hopes of humanity – fertility, progress, prosperity, peace and happiness.

However, the New Year cannot bring real happiness and give a new beginning unless we are willing to leave the past behind.  The irony is that the things and customs that we do on Lunar New Year contradict what is happening in our lives.  If we want to be receptive to the newness of the New Year, then we must be ready to let go of our past, especially the mistakes that we have made and others have made.  So long as we continue to live in the past, condemning ourselves for our failures and our mistakes, regretting and lamenting our past, or blaming and holding resentment against those who have hurt us, disappointed or betrayed us, we will not be able to find real peace and happiness in the New Year.

The other group of people that cannot receive happiness and start a new beginning in the New Year are those who live forever in the future.  They are always worrying about tomorrow.  They live their lives in anxiety about the future.  They worry each day until they die.  When we keep worrying about the future, we cannot live the present fully.  This is what the Lord said.  “Do not worry; do not say, “What are we to eat? What are we to drink? How are we to be clothed?” It is the pagans who set their hearts on all these things. Your heavenly Father knows you need them all.”  We do not trust in God who will provide our needs.  Hence, such people are called pagans because they do not know that God is their heavenly Father.  As such, they only depend on themselves, and knowing how limited and fragile they are, they cannot but live in fear of the future, the unknown and the unseen.  There is no peace and security in this life.  So they try to hoard and build up their security nest, only to realize that nothing is predictable in life.

Indeed, there are two days in a year where nothing can be done, yesterday and tomorrow.  Yesterday is gone and will not come back again.  Tomorrow is yet to come.  We have only today.  That is why the Lord invites us to just focus on today.  He said, “Set your hearts in his kingdom first, and on his righteousness, and all these other things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

But what did Jesus mean when He instructed us to live just for today?  Living just for today does not mean that we are to live irresponsibly without any thought for tomorrow.  This is precisely the attitude of worldly people today.  They just live only for themselves.  They want to enjoy as much from this world as possible.  They want to grab as much as they can because they believe that when they die, they will vanish from the face of this earth.  They have no responsibility towards the future generation, their country and their community.  Life is about themselves and not about the future of humanity.  So they live from day to day, enjoying all that we can each day.  They seek all the pleasures that this life affords.  They spend all they have and leave nothing for others.  This is an irresponsible life.  This is not what Jesus meant when He says that we should not worry about tomorrow but just live for today.

We must not forget the all-important command of Jesus when He prefaced this saying by reminding us to set our hearts “in his kingdom first, and on his righteousness”, and all these other things will be given to us as well.  In order to live responsibly day by day, we must first set our hearts on His kingdom of righteousness.  This is to say that we must be intent on building the kingdom of love, justice and peace on earth.  This involves right relationship with ourselves, with others and with God.  Unless we live a just life, a life that is honest, just, compassionate and gracious, we cannot say that we have live the day well.

When we live a just and honest life each day, then every other day will take care of itself.  Truly, if each of us would to act responsibly according to our vocation and state of life, according to the talents and opportunities that God has blessed us with, then why should we be worried about tomorrow?  If we have been studying diligently, why should we be afraid of exams?  If we have been preparing our projects, why should we be afraid of failure?  If we have been honest in our ways, why is there a need to be afraid that one day our crimes would be exposed?  If we have been faithful in our relationships, why should we be afraid when others gossip about us?

Indeed, if we live our life as faithfully and responsibly as we should, there is nothing to worry about tomorrow.   When tomorrow comes, we will be prepared.  We should only live for 24 hours each day.  However, we must make full use of this time given to us.  We must ensure that we live a holistic life, have a balanced lifestyle, time for work, for play, for relationships, for service and for God.  If we live every moment of our day fully and meaningfully, using it for our good and the good of others, then each day will provide us with joy and meaning.  By living today well, tomorrow will already take care of by itself.   The only reason why we should worry about tomorrow is because we have not lived fully for today.

Indeed, life is short.  Therefore, we must not squander our time, days, and opportunities for life away.   The psalmist says, “You turn men back into dust and say: ‘Go back, sons of men’. To your eyes a thousand years are like yesterday, come and gone, no more than a watch in the night.  You sweep men away like a dream, like grass, which springs up in the morning.  In the morning, it springs up and flowers; by evening, it withers and fades.  Make us know the shortness of our life that we may gain wisdom of heart. Lord, relent!  Is your anger forever? Show pity on your servants.”   Indeed, when we look at the butterfly, its lifespan is very short, but yet it flies joyfully everywhere, delighting the eyes and hearts of many.  So too, in the final analysis, it is not how long we live but how well we live.  Each moment in life when lived fully and joyfully is already enough for the day.

Our future is in the hands of God.  We do not have full control of our lives.  Man proposes, God disposes.  This is what St James told his people.  “Here is the answer for those of you who talk like this: ‘Today or tomorrow, we are off to this or that town; we are going to spend a year there, trading, and make some money.’ You never know what will happen tomorrow; you are no more than a mist that is here for a little while and then disappears. The most you should ever say is: ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we shall still be alive to do this or that.’”  Doing His will is what will give us peace and joy.

So we should ask God to bless us as the Lord instructed Moses.  “May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord let his face shine on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord uncover his face to you and bring you peace.”   Unless the Lord shows His face to us, we do not know how we should we live.  God has revealed His face to us in Jesus who shows us how to live each day of our life in faith and in love.  Like Jesus, if we simply learn to trust in our heavenly Father, we will be more at peace with ourselves.   “Spread love everywhere you go.  Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier, says St Teresa of Calcutta.   Indeed, the best medicine for humans is love.   If someone says, it does not work, then simply increase the dosage.  Let us therefore spread love and joy to everyone, and we will receive them as well.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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What Science Can Learn From Religion — Empathy, Compassion, Facing Suffering and Self Control are Not All About Science

February 4, 2019

Virtues such as gratitude, humility and kindness are unproven in science

Hostility toward spiritual traditions may be hampering empirical inquiry.

By David DeSteno

Dr. DeSteno is a psychologist.

Science and religion seem to be getting ever more tribal in their mutual recriminations, at least among hard-line advocates. While fundamentalist faiths cast science as a misguided or even malicious source of information, polemicizing scientists argue that religion isn’t just wrong or meaningless but also dangerous.

I am no apologist for religion. As a psychologist, I believe that the scientific method provides the best tools with which to unlock the secrets of human nature. But after decades spent trying to understand how our minds work, I’ve begun to worry that the divide between religious and scientific communities might not only be stoking needless hostility; it might also be slowing the process of scientific discovery itself.

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Religious traditions offer a rich store of ideas about what human beings are like and how they can satisfy their deepest moral and social needs. For thousands of years, people have turned to spiritual leaders and religious communities for guidance about how to conduct themselves, how to coexist with other people, how to live meaningful and fulfilled lives — and how to accomplish this in the face of the many obstacles to doing so. The biologist Richard Dawkins, a vocal critic of religion, has said that in listening to and debating theologians, he has “never heard them say anything of the smallest use.” Yet it is hubristic to assume that religious thinkers who have grappled for centuries with the workings of the human mind have never discovered anything of interest to scientists studying human behavior.

Just as ancient doesn’t always mean wise, it doesn’t always mean foolish. The only way to determine which is the case is to put an idea — a hypothesis — to an empirical test. In my own work, I have repeatedly done so. I have found that religious ideas about human behavior and how to influence it, though never worthy of blind embrace, are sometimes vindicated by scientific examination.

Consider the challenge of getting people to act in virtuous ways. Every religion has its tools for doing this. Meditation, for example, is a Buddhist technique created to reduce suffering and enhance ethical behavior. Research from my own and others’ labs confirms that it does just that, even when meditation is taught and performed in a completely secular context, leading research participants to exhibit greater compassion in the face of suffering and to forgo vengeance in the face of insult.

Another religious tool is ritual, often characterized by the rigid following of repetitive actions or by engagement with others in synchronous movement or song. Here, too, an emerging body of research shows that ritualistic actions, even when stripped from a religious context, produce effects on the mind ranging from increased self-control to greater feelings of affiliation and empathy.

Ritual can also play a part in strengthening beliefs. Research on cognitive dissonance has shown that publicly stating beliefs that we don’t initially endorse leads to a psychological tension that is often remedied by altering our beliefs and behaviors to match our public pronouncements. Thus the religious practice of repeatedly stating beliefs as part of prayers — as in the Catholic Mass — may enhance devotion to a creed.

What findings like these suggest is that religions offer techniques — or “spiritual technologies,” in the words of Krista Tippett, the host of the radio show “On Being” — that help people endure difficulties, change their views or move them toward action. These techniques seem to work by nudging our behavior subconsciously. Ms. Tippett stresses that the specific religious traditions from which such techniques are borrowed should be understood and honored on their own terms. But when I spoke with her recently, she also agreed that the techniques might work even when separated from their religious trappings, as meditation and elements of ritual have been shown to do.

If this view is right, religion can offer tools to bolster secular interventions of many types, such as combating addiction, increasing exercise, saving money and encouraging people to help those in need. This possibility dovetails with a parallel body of research showing that by cultivating traditional religious virtues such as gratitude and kindness, people can also improve their ability to reach personal goals like financial and educational success.

When I broached this body of research with the cognitive scientist and religious skeptic Steven Pinker, he emphasized that it was by no means a vindication of religion as a whole. He made a point to differentiate between what he called religious practices and cultural practices, with religious ones being those more likely to have doubtful supernatural rationales (like using prayer to contact a deity for favors) and cultural ones having more practical justifications (like using ritual to foster connection and self-control).

While I can see Professor Pinker’s point — and I agree with him that religion as a whole must be judged by its full set of positive and negative effects — the dividing line between cultural and religious can be blurry. The Jewish practice of Shabbat, for instance, stems from a divine command for a day of rest and includes ritualistic actions and prayers. But it’s also a cultural practice in which people take time out from the daily grind to focus on family, friends and other things that matter more than work.

My purpose here isn’t to argue that religion is inherently good or bad. As with most social institutions, its value depends on the intentions of those using it. But even in cases where religion has been used to foment intergroup conflict, to justify invidious social hierarchies or to encourage the maintenance of false beliefs, studying how it manages to leverage the mechanisms of the mind to accomplish those nefarious goals can offer insights about ourselves — insights that could be used to understand and then combat such abuses in the future, whether perpetrated by religious or secular powers.

Science and religion do not need each other to function, but that doesn’t imply that they can’t benefit from each other. Rabbi Geoffrey Mitelman, the founding director of Sinai and Synapses, an organization that seeks to bridge the scientific and religious worlds, told me recently that science can help clergy better aid those they counsel by showing which types of social and behavioral practices are empirically most likely to foster their emotional, moral and spiritual goals.

A yearning for a science-religion synergy is growing in some circles. Ms. Tippett cites as an example the Formation Project, an initiative designed by a group of millennials who are looking to cultivate their inner lives and form a community by combining ideas from psychology and neuroscience with practices from ancient spiritual traditions. In doing this, she points out, these young people are not blindly accepting any doctrine. They are asking questions and choosing what works based on evidence. In short, they are doing exactly what I think the communities of scientists and clergy need to do in a more rigorous way and on a much larger scale.

Will it work? That’s an empirical question. But if we choose not to investigate it, we’ll never know. And I suspect we’ll be the poorer for it.

David DeSteno, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University, is the author of “Emotional Success: The Power of Gratitude, Compassion, and Pride.”

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A version of this article appears in print on , on Page SR12 of the New York edition with the headline: What Science Can Learn From Religion.

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, February 4, 2019 — Out of weakness they were made powerful

February 4, 2019

God had foreseen something better for us

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The promise of liberation of all men and women from their fears, poverty, injustices, ignorance and slavery to sin addictions and selfishness

Monday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 323

Reading 1 HEB 11:32-40

Brothers and sisters:
What more shall I say?
I have not time to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah,
of David and Samuel and the prophets,
who by faith conquered kingdoms,
did what was righteous, obtained the promises;
they closed the mouths of lions, put out raging fires,
escaped the devouring sword;
out of weakness they were made powerful, became strong in battle,
and turned back foreign invaders.
Women received back their dead through resurrection.
Some were tortured and would not accept deliverance,
in order to obtain a better resurrection.
Others endured mockery, scourging, even chains and imprisonment.
They were stoned, sawed in two, put to death at sword’s point;
they went about in skins of sheep or goats,
needy, afflicted, tormented.
The world was not worthy of them.
They wandered about in deserts and on mountains,
in caves and in crevices in the earth.

Yet all these, though approved because of their faith,
did not receive what had been promised.
God had foreseen something better for us,
so that without us they should not be made perfect.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 31:20, 21, 22, 23, 24

R. (25) Let your hearts take comfort, all who hope in the Lord.
How great is the goodness, O LORD,
which you have in store for those who fear you,
And which, toward those who take refuge in you,
you show in the sight of the children of men.
R. Let your hearts take comfort, all who hope in the Lord.
You hide them in the shelter of your presence
from the plottings of men;
You screen them within your abode
from the strife of tongues.
R. Let your hearts take comfort, all who hope in the Lord.
Blessed be the LORD whose wondrous mercy
he has shown me in a fortified city.
R. Let your hearts take comfort, all who hope in the Lord.
Once I said in my anguish,
“I am cut off from your sight”;
Yet you heard the sound of my pleading
when I cried out to you.
R. Let your hearts take comfort, all who hope in the Lord.
Love the LORD, all you his faithful ones!
The LORD keeps those who are constant,
but more than requites those who act proudly.
R. Let your hearts take comfort, all who hope in the Lord.

Alleluia  LK 7:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
A great prophet has arisen in our midst
and God has visited his people.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
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Gospel  MK 5:1-20

Jesus and his disciples came to the other side of the sea,
to the territory of the Gerasenes.
When he got out of the boat,
at once a man from the tombs who had an unclean spirit met him.
The man had been dwelling among the tombs,
and no one could restrain him any longer, even with a chain.
In fact, he had frequently been bound with shackles and chains,
but the chains had been pulled apart by him and the shackles smashed,
and no one was strong enough to subdue him.
Night and day among the tombs and on the hillsides
he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones.
Catching sight of Jesus from a distance,
he ran up and prostrated himself before him,
crying out in a loud voice,
“What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?
I adjure you by God, do not torment me!”
(He had been saying to him, “Unclean spirit, come out of the man!”)
He asked him, “What is your name?”
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Jesus encounters the men with unclean spirit, by James Tissot

He  replied, “Legion is my name.  There are many of us.”
And he pleaded earnestly with him
not to drive them away from that territory.

Now a large herd of swine was feeding there on the hillside.
And they pleaded with him,
“Send us into the swine.  Let us enter them.”
And he let them, and the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine.
The herd of about two thousand rushed down a steep bank into the sea,
where they were drowned.
The swineherds ran away and reported the incident in the town
and throughout the countryside.
And people came out to see what had happened.

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As they approached Jesus,
they caught sight of the man who had been possessed by Legion,
sitting there clothed and in his right mind.
And they were seized with fear.
Those who witnessed the incident explained to them what had happened
to the possessed man and to the swine.
Then they began to beg him to leave their district.
As he was getting into the boat,
the man who had been possessed pleaded to remain with him.
But Jesus would not permit him but told him instead,
“Go home to your family and announce to them
all that the Lord in his pity has done for you.”
Then the man went off and began to proclaim in the Decapolis
what Jesus had done for him; and all were amazed.
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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04 FEBRUARY, 2019, Monday, 4th Week, Ordinary Time

HALL OF FAME – HEROES OF FAITH

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [Heb 11:32-40Ps 31:20-24Mk 5:1-20  ]

Chapter 11 of the Letter to the Hebrews could be entitled as Hall of Fame – Heroes of Faith. Just as there is a Hall of Fame for celebrities and illustrious individuals, the Church also has a Hall of Fame celebrating our saints and martyrs for the faith.   Today’s first reading is a conclusion to chapter 11, which describes the heroic faith of our forefathers in the Old Testament.  It was because of their faith in God and their struggles in realizing the plan of God in their lives that the Christian Faith was born.

Indeed, when we reflect on the faith of the Old Testament Fathers, we cannot but be inspired by their faith and vision.  Abraham was truly the Father of Faith because he obeyed God to set out to a land that he did not know.  He was a rich man already and old in age, 75.  He was childless.  Yet, upon the call of God to build a nation, with a promise of descendants, he set out in faith to Canaan.  And when asked to sacrifice his only son, he surrendered in faith without delay or hesitation.   Moses was equally exemplary in faith.  He was enjoying a good life as a prince of Pharaoh, and later comfortably married and settled in Midian.  Yet, when the Lord called him to deliver the Hebrews from slavery and lead them to build a nation in the Promised Land, he set forth.  Against all odds, he fought the huge army of Pharaoh and later on fended off the tribes that sought to harm the Israelites on their way to the Promised Land.  Joshua who took over the leadership from Moses also managed to subdue all their enemies and brought the Hebrews into the Promised Land.

The beginning of the foundation of Israel was weak and the situation was tumultuous.  The tribes were divided and were often harassed by their enemies.  God raised prophets and leaders for them, such as Gideon, Samson, David, Samuel who helped Israel to be delivered from the hands of their enemies.  These leaders with deep faith in God and focused in their vision, were steadfast in upholding their allegiance to God and His people.   The scripture reading of today also alluded to the great Prophet Elijah who raised the widow’s son back to life, Daniel who was put into the lion’s den but was not killed; his three friends who were put into the furnace but were not burnt.  Some prophets or leaders of course were hurt, imprisoned and killed, like Samson whose eyes were dug out by the Philistines.

What was important was that all suffered for God and for their faith and for the people. They did not however merely work for the present but for the future as well.  “These are all heroes of faith, but they did not receive what was promised, since God had made provision for us to have something better, and they were not to reach perfection except with us.”  Although they did not realize the vision they had for themselves, they remained hopeful.  They never gave up their dream to build the Kingdom of God.

This dream to build the kingdom of God continued in the lives of John the Baptist, our Lord Jesus Christ, the apostles and the early Christians.  In our time, we have missionaries who came from Europe to share their faith with people in the East.  Beginning from the 15th Century onwards, Europeans from Portugal, Spain and France came to the East to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Many left their homeland, suffered and died in the East.  Some of them died as martyrs for their faith.  We have read about the Korean and Japanese martyrs.   Many were cruelly tortured to death for their faith, they and their loved ones.  Many missionaries too were tortured and executed mercilessly as the peoples of the land felt that they were betraying their ancestors and bringing foreign elements into the country.  In our time, closer to us, many Catholics died for their faith in Cambodia during the reign of terror under the Pol Pot communist government when many were tortured to death.

Of course, not all missionaries died such cruel and tragic death.  Many had fruitful ministries in the lands where they were in.  In our country, we have MEP Fathers from France who started the local Church in Singapore.  Without the French Fathers, the local Church would never have been born.  Then other congregations and institutes came, like the Jesuits, the Franciscans and then lately the Carmelites.  Following them, we also have the entry of the religious brothers and sisters.  We have the sisters from the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus who came to support the poor in education and social needs.  Then we have the La Salle Brothers and the Gabrielite Brothers that started schools for the boys.  Besides them, we have the Canossian Sisters, FMDM, FMM and Marist brothers.  These are our modern heroes of faith because they gave up their lives for the service of God and our people.

Having received the gift of faith from them and the blessings of their service in nurturing our faith, giving us good education and providing for our material and physical needs, we too must now ask ourselves how we should in turn become heroes of faith as well.  In the gospel, Jesus healed the man who was then a pagan living in the country of Gerasenes.  He was possessed by an unclean spirit, lived alone in the tombs and was extremely violent.  However, Jesus casted the evil spirit out of him.  Thereafter, “the man who had been possessed begged to be allowed to stay with him.  Jesus would not let him but said to him, ‘Go home to your people and tell them all that the Lord in his mercy has done for you.’  So the man went off and proceeded to spread throughout the Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him.  And everyone was amazed.”  We too were once without faith, as St Peter said, “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”  (1 Pt 2:10)  He continued, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”  (1 Pt 2:9)

Like the man who was delivered from the evil spirit, we are called to announce the Lord and His good news to all so that they too can inherit the good news and share in our joy.  It is with gratitude that we should continue the good works that our forefathers had done for us.  Without their sacrifices and love, we would not have been able to be what and who we are today.  And there are many people under bondage today, from their fears, resentment, hurts, betrayals, hatred, anger and illnesses, poverty and injustices.  Like him, the Lord does not ask us just to witness to our own kind, that is Catholics alone, but to all men and women who have not met the Lord Jesus, His mercy, compassion and love.  We do this by simply announcing what the Lord has done for us and then concretely expressing our gratitude by doing for others what He has done for us through our forefathers, our teachers and leaders who continue to sacrifice their lives for us and for the country.

For us to continue what our forefathers had done, we must first be imbued with their faith in God.  Without faith, we will not be able to persevere in our mission.  Like them, we will not be spared from trials, opposition and challenges.  We will easily give up unless we have the faith of Abraham, Moses, the prophets and the apostles.  We need to strengthen our faith in Christ before we can be missionaries for Christ.  Secondly, we need to buy into their vision, the plan of God for humanity.  They were clear and focused on their mission.

The vision was simple, namely, to establish the reign of God’s love and mercy.  The mission is varied, depending on the charisms, whether it is in teaching, social involvement, especially among the poor, marginalized, the hungry, the refugees, spiritual formation in catechesis or spiritual growth.  Regardless, we are to help everyone to grow into the manhood of Jesus Christ.  This mission is therefore holistic, all embracing, involving the whole person, his intellect, will, affective, spiritual and physical needs.  It involves not just the individual but also his relationship with the rest of humanity and with the cosmos at large. There is only one vision but the mission is towards the realization of the Kingdom of God.

So with the psalmist, in all our trials, we must take courage and be firm.  “Let your heart take courage, all who hope in the Lord.  How great is the goodness, Lord, that you keep for those who fear you, that you show to those who trust you in the sight of men.  You hide them in the shelter of your presence from the plotting of men; you keep them safe within your tent from disputing tongues.  Blessed be the Lord who has shown me the wonders of his love in a fortified city. ‘I am far removed from your sight’ I said in my alarm. Yet you heard the voice of my plea when I cried for help.”  Let us not act like the inhabitants and owners of the pigs at Gerasa who, out of fear at either the supernatural power of Jesus, or loss of their livelihood, pleaded Jesus to leave them alone.  We must welcome Jesus and with Him, we must continue the work of liberation of all men and women from their fears, poverty, injustices, ignorance and slavery to sin addictions and selfishness.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Morning Prayer for Thursday, January 31, 2019 — God’s plan for my spiritual growth may include suffering

January 31, 2019

I believe that all sacrifice and all suffering are of value to me. When I am in pain, I am being tested. Can I trust God, no matter how low I feel? Can I say, “Thy will be done,” no matter how much I am defeated? If I can, my faith is real and practical. It works in bad times as well as in good times. The Divine Will is working in a way that is beyond my finite mind to understand, but I can still trust in it.

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Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may take my suffering in my stride. I pray that I may accept pain and defeat as part of God’s plan for my spiritual growth.

From Twenty Four Hours a Day

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Morning Prayer for Monday, January 14, 2019 — Obey God and Walk With Him

January 14, 2019

I will learn to overcome myself, because every blow to selfishness is used to shape the real, eternal, unperishable me. As I overcome myself, I gain that power which God releases in my soul. And I too will be victorious. It is not the difficulties of life that I have to conquer, so much as my own selfishness.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may obey God and walk with Him and listen to Him. I pray that I may strive to overcome my own selfishness.

From Twenty Four Hours a Day

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Related:

(Includes What Drives This Alcoholic: A Life Mission)

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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14 JANUARY, 2019, Monday, 1st Week, Ordinary Time

MOTIVATED BY A HIGHER CALLING IN LIFE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  HEB 1:1-6PS 97:1-26-79MK 1:14-20 ]

Christmas and New Year celebrations are over.  Students are back to school and we are back to work and the daily drudgery and humdrum of life.  As we begin the first weekday of the ordinary liturgical year, the Church wants us to see everything in perspective, lest we live an unreflective and fragmented life.  We need to ask what direction we are taking in life.  What are we living for and what are we supposed to do?  This was the case of the apostles.  Peter and Andrew, like the rest, were just casting nets to catch fish.  So too were James and John.  They were mending their nets.  They were doing mundane things.   They did not have a higher vision and calling. They were just going through life. Like many of us, they were just surviving, not living.  When we do things for the sake of doing, we will not live life to the fullest.  When we just go through the mundane things of life, we cannot live with excitement and passion.

The scripture readings today provide us with a higher calling for each of us.  Yesterday, we just celebrated the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.  Today, the scripture readings provide us with a clearer vision of what our baptismal calling is all about.  At His baptism, Jesus revealed to us the higher calling of life.  He came to show us the way to live our life to the fullest.  He could do it simply because, at His baptism, it was revealed that He was truly God and truly man.

The first reading from the letter to the Hebrews confirms that Christ is the revelation of our calling in life.  This is because He is the revelation of God.  He is greater than the angels.  He is God’s first born Son, that is to say, He holds the highest privilege, rank and honour, just like all first-born.  Indeed, Jesus as the Word of God shows us what life is all about and what our calling is.  This is what the first reading tells us. “At various times in the past and in various different ways, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets; but in our own time, the last days, he has spoken to us through his Son.”

He is not only truly God but truly man.  For this reason, He wanted to be baptized by John so that He could identify with us in our humanity and most of all, to suffer the pain of sins.  For this reason, immediately after His baptism, He was led to the desert to be tempted by the Evil One.  “And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.  He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.”  (Mk 1:12f)  St Mark inserted this event between the baptism of Jesus and the proclamation of the Good News in order to assert that Jesus could identify with us in our struggles against the Evil One.  But more than just being identified with us, He wanted to show us that it is not impossible to overcome the temptations of the Devil.  Rightly so, the author of Hebrews testified that “he has destroyed the defilement of sin, he has gone to take his place in heaven at the right hand of divine Majesty.”

Vatican II in the Constitution of the Church underscores Jesus as the One who could give us meaning and direction.  “Nevertheless, in the face of the modern development of the world, the number constantly swells of the people who raise the most basic questions or recognize them with a new sharpness: what is man? What is this sense of sorrow, of evil, of death, which continues to exist despite so much progress? What purpose have these victories purchased at so high a cost? What can man offer to society, what can he expect from it? What follows this earthly life?

The Church firmly believes that Christ, who died and was raised up for all, can through His Spirit offer man the light and the strength to measure up to his supreme destiny. Nor has any other name under the heaven been given to man by which it is fitting for him to be saved. She likewise holds that in her most benign Lord and Master can be found the key, the focal point and the goal of man, as well as of all human history. The Church also maintains that beneath all changes there are many realities which do not change and which have their ultimate foundation in Christ, Who is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever. Hence under the light of Christ, the image of the unseen God, the firstborn of every creature, the Council wishes to speak to all men in order to shed light on the mystery of man and to cooperate in finding the solution to the outstanding problems of our time.”  (GS 10) 

Christ continues the work of salvation.  God is not just the creator but He is also our Redeemer.  Through Christ, He created the world and through the same Christ, He will redeem us.   Hence, the author wrote, “He is the radiant light of God’s glory and the perfect copy of his nature, sustaining the universe by his powerful command; and now that he has destroyed the defilement of sin, he has gone to take his place in heaven at the right hand of divine Majesty.  So he is now as far above the angels as the title he has inherited is higher than their own name.”

What, then, is the higher vision and mission of life?  What is His message of salvation? Jesus began His mission by proclaiming the Good News from God.  “‘The time has come’ he said ‘and the kingdom of God is close at hand.  Repent, and believe the Good News.’”  In other words, Jesus wanted us to know that God’s reign of love, mercy and justice is here.  He is the light of the nations and the hope of humanity.  This world is not under the reign of Satan and his angels but He has come to restore creation under the rule of God’s love and mercy.

With the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we too share in His calling and mission.  We are called to share in His mission of proclaiming the Good News.  What does this mean?

Firstly, in all that we do, our focus is on humanity and people; not on work and things.  Peter and Andrew were simply catching fish day in and day out for their livelihood, but they never lived.   Jesus called them to a higher purpose of life, which was to catch men. Jesus said, “Follow me and I will make you into fishers of men.”   Indeed, whatever we do, especially in our work and jobs, we must not forget the objective of what we are doing.  If we work, it is to contribute to the development of the world and of humanity.  In our work too, we want to earn money to support our family and our loved ones so that they can have a happy life.   In whichever vocation we are in, the end target is not simply getting things done or performing well but to offer the best service to those people whom we are serving.  Ultimately, we are serving God by serving humanity.  So we must not do our work and only see it as work but rather to give a better life to our fellowmen.

Secondly, our mission is to heal and mend lives.  We read that James and John were mending nets in their boats. “He called them at once and, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the men he employed, they went after him.”  Instead of simply mending nets we are called to mend lives, to put lives in order, to forgive and to heal.  This is what our work is all about.  We want to let sinners know that they are forgiven and that Jesus loves them still, so that knowing they are loved by God, they will repent on hearing this Good News that they are loved and forgiven.  Our ministry is one of healing and restoration, whether as parents, bosses or workers.  We must show the mercy and compassion of the face of Christ in the world.  

Realizing that this is our call, what is demanded of us is a decisive response.  Why?  Because it is the Lord who calls!  This explains why the first disciples of Jesus left their work and their nets, that is, their possessions and even their loved ones, in this case, the father, immediately and followed after Jesus.  When the Lord calls, we cannot tarry any longer.  The answer must be a decisive “Yes” like Mary, and it must be immediate.

Of course, this following of Jesus is an ongoing process because it appears that the disciples were called a few times later.   We have other stories of Jesus calling the apostles in different ways.   In other words, following Jesus begins with a decisive response but it is an ongoing process of growing in faith in Jesus.  We need to search and clarify our call daily.  So as we work and live each day, we need to ask how faithful are we to our call to “catch men” and “heal lives” so that they fall in love with God and with us.  Make your vocation and all that you do to bring people to Jesus so that they can live their lives meaningfully and purposefully.

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

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, January 9, 2019 — If we love one another, God remains in us

January 9, 2019

Fear is one of the most crippling emotions of human beings

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Wednesday after Epiphany
Lectionary: 214

Reading 1 1 JN 4:11-18

Beloved, if God so loved us,
we also must love one another.
No one has ever seen God.
Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us,
and his love is brought to perfection in us.This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us,
that he has given us of his Spirit.
Moreover, we have seen and testify
that the Father sent his Son as savior of the world.
Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God,
God remains in him and he in God.
We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.
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God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.
In this is love brought to perfection among us,
that we have confidence on the day of judgment
because as he is, so are we in this world.
There is no fear in love,
but perfect love drives out fear
because fear has to do with punishment,
and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 72:1-2, 10, 12-13

R. (see 11)  Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.
O God, with your judgment endow the king,
and with your justice, the king’s son;
He shall govern your people with justice
and your afflicted ones with judgment.
R. Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.
The kings of Tarshish and the Isles shall offer gifts;
the kings of Arabia and Seba shall bring tribute.
R. Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.
For he shall rescue the poor when he cries out,
and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.
He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor;
the lives of the poor he shall save.
R. Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.

Alleluia  SEE 1 TM 3:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Glory to you, O Christ, proclaimed to the Gentiles.
Glory to you, O Christ, believed in throughout the world.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
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Art: Jesus walks on water  by Ivan Aivazovsky (1888)

Gospel  MK 6:45-52

After the five thousand had eaten and were satisfied,
Jesus made his disciples get into the boat
and precede him to the other side toward Bethsaida,
while he dismissed the crowd.
And when he had taken leave of them,
he went off to the mountain to pray.
When it was evening,
the boat was far out on the sea and he was alone on shore.
Then he saw that they were tossed about while rowing,
for the wind was against them.
About the fourth watch of the night,
he came toward them walking on the sea.
He meant to pass by them.
But when they saw him walking on the sea,
they thought it was a ghost and cried out.
They had all seen him and were terrified.
But at once he spoke with them,
“Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!”
He got into the boat with them and the wind died down.
They were completely astounded.
They had not understood the incident of the loaves.
On the contrary, their hearts were hardened.
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The most often repeated instruction to man in the Holy Scripture is: “Do not be afraid.”

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

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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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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09 JANUARY, 2019, Wednesday after the Epiphany

PERFECTING IMPERFECT LOVE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 JN 4:11-18MK 6:45-52  ]

We all know the two great commandments that Jesus gave us.  Jesus said, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’  The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”  (Mk 12:29-31)  St John in the first reiterates this when he wrote, “No one has ever seen God; but as long as we love one another God will live in us and his love will be complete in us.”

But the truth is that our love of God is imperfect.  How many of us can say that we love God with all our heart, with all our mind and with every ounce of our strength? How many of us can say that God is the center of our lives, that everything we do is always in reference to Him and He is above everything and everyone else?  The reality is that we have our daily preoccupations, our anxieties and responsibilities.  At times, we are too distracted even to pay attention to what we are praying because of preoccupation with our problems, the temptations of the world, or we are too tired even to pray.

So too, our love for our neighour is imperfect.  Whilst we all enjoy loving those who love us and appreciate our love, it is quite different loving those who are difficult to love, those who are demanding, those who are always opposing us, those who do not value us or even see us as their allies.  Even loving our loved ones can be quite tiring because we are often taken for granted and some can be very demanding of our time and attention.  This is why we get impatient, annoyed and angry with them even though we love them.  We feel burnt out and unable to find the strength to continue loving them cheerfully or joyfully.  Soon, it becomes an obligation that we carry out with resentment, anger and bitterness.

Finally, our love for ourselves is equally imperfect.  Many of us cannot accept our imperfections, especially our failure to love God and our neighbour perfectly.  We feel guilty that we often break His commandments and allow our human frailties to take control over us.  We choose the sensual world of pleasure as an escape from the demands of life.  And when we do that, we feel sad that we are not perfect in love. We cannot forgive ourselves for our selfishness, impatience with others, for allowing our anger and emotional outbursts to take the better of us.   We feel worthless and useless.  We think we do not deserve the love of God.  We feel hypocritical at the same time, ashamed of ourselves.

Indeed, if we feel this way, then we are like the apostles and disciples of Jesus.  Their love for the Lord too, was imperfect.  They had ulterior motives for following Jesus: some for security, some for healing, some for material gains, like Judas.  Others, like James and John, were hoping for power, wealth and glory.  Others had political motives.  They were ignorant of Jesus.  As Mark remarked, “They were utterly and completely dumbfounded, because they had not seen what the miracle of the loaves meant; their minds were closed.”

What is it that we have failed to understand?  Namely this: that we cannot love perfectly.  We need to acknowledge that we are sinners and incapable of perfect love.  We need to accept our own brokenness and limitations in loving God and our brothers and sisters perfectly.   This is the first stage to perfecting our love for God and for others.  Unless we accept our finite and imperfect love, we live in denial and this will lead us to self-hatred.

Acknowledgement and acceptance of our sinful condition is the doorway to accepting the love of God.  We must accept the love of God for us, a love that is unconditional.  We might not be worthy of His love but we are not worthless in His eyes.  The incarnation of our Lord was to reveal to us this immense love of God for us, a love that is unconditional, total, without reservation.  Indeed, God not only loves the world and gave us His only begotten Son but He gave us the life of His Son in His passion and death.  “He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us.”  (Rom 8:32)   This is what St John urges us to put our faith in.  “We ourselves saw and we testify that the Father sent his Son as saviour of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him, and he in God.  We ourselves have known and put our faith in God’s love towards ourselves.”  It is this conviction of God’s love for us, not in spite but because we are sinners, that should really cause us to be dumbfounded and amazed!

Once we know that we are loved, not because we are perfect in love but in our imperfections, then we no longer have to worry about not loving God enough or be guilty when we fail Him in love.   St John wrote, “Love will come to its perfection in us when we can face the day of Judgement without fear; because even in this world we have become as he is. In love there can be no fear, but fear is driven out by perfect love: because to fear is to expect punishment, and anyone who is afraid still is imperfect in love.”  Fear is what causes us to lack love and acceptance of our sinful nature.  We feel the need to prove and to show that we are perfect because we are often motivated by pride and egoism rather than love of God and neighbour.

When we believe that God loves us with all our imperfections, then we can start loving ourselves.   Loving ourselves authentically does not mean that we just continue with our sinful life.  Rather, we are now motivated to love ourselves even more authentically by allowing God’s love to shape and mould us.   In truth, we want to love, not because we fear that we will be rejected by God but because we also want to share in God’s love and life that He has given to us.  Loving ourselves and our neighbour is the way to share in His life.  This is what John wrote, “No one has ever seen God; but as long as we love one another God will live in us and his love will be complete in us. We can know that we are living in him and he is living in us because he lets us share his Spirit.”

When we learn to love ourselves the way God loves us, then we too can accept the imperfect love of our neigbours.  Our model of love is that of our Lord.  St John said, “My dear people, since God has loved us so much, we too should love one another.”  So even when our neighbours are imperfect in loving us or in responding to our love, we will continue to love them just the same, because that is how God loves us.  He does not demand that we are good before He loves us.  Nay, “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.”  (Rom 5:8)  We too are now inspired to love the same way that the Lord has shown us how to love.  In this way, we do not get angry or disillusioned or retaliate when those whom we love are ungrateful or take our love for granted.  We continue to give them whatever love we can give, even if that love is also imperfect and limited.  We should be thankful that we are able to love at all.

In the final analysis, the strength to love like the Lord comes from our intimacy with Him.  In the gospel, Jesus shows us the finest example of how love of God and love of neigbour go together.  The Lord Jesus, after sending the crowd away, tired out after a long day of preaching and ministering, and needing spiritual recharge, “went off into the hills to pray.”  He was in deep intimacy with His Father.  But being with the Father did not mean that He was away from His Church, symbolized by the boat the disciples were in.  They, like the Church, were buffeted by the storms of life.  And we read that the Lord “could see they were worn out with rowing, for the wind was against them.”  He walked towards them and assured them of His presence, “‘Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.’  Then he got into the boat with them, and the wind dropped.”  So we take heart that the Lord, even at prayer, is also with us.

Hence, we too must follow Jesus in the way of love, namely the love of God precedes the love of men.  There is no dichotomy between intimacy with Christ and intimacy with the Church.   The more we pray and spend time with the Lord, the more we will fall in love with His Church.  If we lack love for the Church, it is because we lack love for Christ.   When we make time for the Lord in prayer, we will become more active in loving our neighbours out of the love that we have received from Him.  And the more we love our neighbours, the more we encounter God’s presence and love in and through them in our service.  So together, the love of God, the love of neighbour and love of self make that triangle of love.  In this way, our imperfect love is perfected through His grace.

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

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Jesus walks on Water. “Do not be afraid.” and “All things are possible with God.”

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Commentary on Mark 6:45-52 From Living Space
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Today’s Gospel follows immediately on yesterday’s account of the feeding of the 5,000. We are told that Jesus “made” his disciples get into the boat and precede him to the far side of the lake. Jesus himself sent the crowd away. The use of the word “made” implies that they did not go very willingly. From John’s version of this story we know that the people were very excited about what had happened and wanted to make Jesus king. One can imagine that the disciples too were basking in the reflected glory and popularity of their Master.  Jesus would have none of it. He first of all packed off his disciples in the boat and then sent the crowds away. He himself retired to the mountains to pray. Was Jesus himself tempted by the enthusiasm of the crowds? Here they were, literally eating out of his hand. What a wonderful opportunity to win them over to his Way! But he knows that that is not the way it is going to happen. He retires to the remoteness of the mountains and renews his closeness to his Father and his desire to do only his Father’s will.
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In the meantime, a storm had come up on the lake and the disciples’ boat was being tossed about dangerously. (It is said that sudden storms are a feature of the Lake of Galilee.) The disciples were in big trouble. But Jesus sees them and comes to them walking on the water but makes as if to pass them by. They thought he was a ghost and were even more afraid. Then he spoke to them: “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid.” As soon as Jesus got into the boat the wind died down. They were utterly amazed, because, says the Evangelist, they had not understood the meaning of the loaves. “On the contrary, their hearts were hardened.”
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In reading this story we need to go beyond merely a manifestation of God’s power in Jesus, a power that can even control the elements. The story has strong symbolic overtones. Here, as elsewhere, the boat with the disciples on board is a symbol of a Christian community. The world surrounding it is the world. Sometimes that world gets very stormy and seriously threatens the very existence of the community.
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Jesus suddenly appears and seems to be passing by. He is never far away but he does need to be called. Their reaction, far from being comforted, was one of terror. All they saw was a ghost. They could not believe it could be really him. He was far away still on land.
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Then Jesus speaks: “It is I”. Literally, in Greek, ego eimi (translated, “I AM”, God’s own name. “Do not be afraid.” With Jesus, there is never anything to fear. Perfect love casts out all fear.
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As soon as Jesus steps into the boat there is a calm. Is the calm just in the sea or is the deeper calm in the hearts of the disciples, knowing that Jesus is with them? Jesus is the source of true peace.
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They are astonished because they did not understand what had happened during the feeding of the 5,000. Jesus will bring this up again with them later on (8:17). They only saw a miraculous multiplication; they missed, as probably most of the crowd did, the deeper meaning of the event as a tangible expression of God’s love and care for his people. The same care was at work in the boat. And the message is clear for every Christian community today.
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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06 JANUARY 2016, Wednesday after Epiphany
PERFECT LOVE CASTS OUR FEAR

SCRIPTURE READINGS: 1 JN 4:11-18; MK 6:45-52

Fear is one of the most crippling emotions of human beings.  Many of us are ruled by fear.  Fear is the primary reason for our insecurity and anxiety.  The offspring of fear are many.  Fear is the root of all sins.  It is because of fear that we are ego-centered and proud.  We tell lies and are envious of others who are perceived to be better than us or have more than us.  It is fear that causes us to take revenge against our enemies or seek to control them.  Fear too gives birth to greed, gambling, cheating, hoarding and gluttony because we are afraid we do not have enough.  Lust is also the consequence of fear that we might lose the person we love and so we seek to possess the other person.  Among all these fears, the greatest fear is hunger, pain, suffering, rejection, shame, betrayal in relationship and, most of all, the fear of death!  Indeed, this was the case of the apostles in today’s gospel when the storm threatened their lives.   So fear dominates our lives.

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Yet the irony of fear is that the so-called defence mechanisms that we use to overcome fear make us more fearful instead of setting us free.  The truth of life is that fear cannot be overcome by pride, envy, anger, sloth, greed, lust and gluttony.  The more the capital sins consume us, the more fearful we become.  So for those of us who seek to overcome fear through the seven capital sins are deceived by the Devil because we end up being slaves to fear!   How, then, can we overcome fear?

St John makes it clear that the only way to overcome fear is to use the antidote of love.  He wrote, “In love there can be no fear, but fear is driven out by perfect love.”  Indeed, when we are loved, there is no fear.  A child in the arms of the mother has no fear.  A child fears and cries only when he or she discovers that mommy is not there for him or her.  So, too, young people fear when they see their parents fighting, quarreling and at war with each other because they know it is a matter of time before the family will be broken.  So, too, with relationships; isn’t it true that many relationships cannot survive because there is a lack of assurance of love for each other, not just in words but in deeds?  When such assurances of love are lacking, or when the actions of the other party show otherwise, then the relationship tends to be insecure and the couple is suspicious of each other, doubting each other and lacking trust.

For this reason, in the Incarnation, which is a prelude to the passion, God became man in Jesus to reveal to us His unconditional love and mercy for us.  God knows that we need assurances that He loves us and is faithful to us in love.  God is aware that as human beings we need to see, feel, touch and hear the tangible love of God.  This is what St John wrote, “We ourselves have known and put our faith in God’s love towards ourselves.”  Because of Christ’s incarnation, His life of love and service, His message of love and forgiveness, and most of all His death on the cross, St John could say, “We ourselves saw and we testify that the Father sent his Son as saviour of the world.”   Truly, the apostles have seen the love of God in person in Christ.

In the gospel, Jesus demonstrated His faithful love for His disciples who were going through the storm in the boat.  We read that Jesus went away to the hills to pray as the people wanted to make Him king by force after the multiplication of the loaves; the religious leaders were planning to get rid of him; and there was the possibility of King Herod and the Romans reacting to such revolutionary attempts.  Even though Jesus was dealing with His own inner struggles, yet, when He knew that His disciples were battling a storm in the boat and were overcome with fear, He came to them to assure them of His presence.  He said, “Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.”

With Jesus, there is nothing to fear.  He will help us to overcome all things.   And so we read, “Then he got into the boat with them, and the wind dropped.”   When Jesus is with us, there is nothing to fear.  He will help us to overcome all things because He Himself as a man had walked through the valley of darkness, the Garden of Gethsemane, the rejections, the betrayals of His fellowmen, including His disciples, the false accusations, the humiliation that He suffered on the cross and the pain of the scourging and the crucifixion.  He had gone through all, more than anyone of us.  But He has triumphed and survived.  He did not allow fear to overwhelm Him or, like us, succumb to sin.

Consequently, the question is whether we are willing to put our faith and trust in Him. To surrender our lives to Him, we must acknowledge Him as our Lord and Saviour.   St John said, “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him, and he in God.”  So confession of faith in Jesus’ divine sonship is the key to confidence in Him who can do all things in and through us.   The reason why the disciples were fearful was because they could not see beyond what Jesus did.  We read that “they were utterly and completely dumbfounded, because they had not seen what the miracle of the loaves meant; their minds were closed.”   Indeed, they were still too dull, ignorant and blind to who Jesus was until His passion and resurrection.  They saw the signs but they did not get the meaning and the truth beyond what they saw.

We too have many signs of God’s love for us.  These signs come from the love of our fellowmen and our love for them.  As St John says, “No one has ever seen God; but as long as we love one another God will live in us and his love will be complete in us. We can know that we are living in him and he is living in us because he lets us share his Spirit.”  When we are loved unconditionally, we feel the love of God present in us.  God’s love is always mediated through events, things and people.  The Eucharist and the other sacraments are signs par excellence of His love and mercy.   But we also experience His love through the love that others have showered on us.

However, it is not enough just to receive the love of God through our brothers and sisters.  If we want the cycle of love to be complete, we must love others the way God has loved us.  This is the basis of loving others.  St John says, “My dear people, since God has loved us so much, we too should love one another.”  We are called in the final analysis not just to find love by loving others but to share the love and life of God in us.  He said, “We can know that we are living in him and he is living in us because he lets us share his Spirit.”  When the love of God rests in us, when we share in His Spirit, our lives will always be one of true joy because we experience true freedom in love and service.  By partaking in the love of God as we love others, His love will increase in us; and we become more and more identified with the heart of God.

Indeed, how do we know that our love has been perfected?  St John said, “Love will come to its perfection in us when we can face the day of Judgement without fear; because even in this world we have become as he is. In love there can be no fear, but fear is driven out by perfect love: because to fear is to expect punishment, and anyone who is afraid still is imperfect in love.”   When we become like Jesus in love, what is there to fear?  We will have the confidence to appear before God our Father and our fellowmen because we know that we have loved and done what we could, according to the resources we have been blessed with.  So if we are afraid of God’s judgement it is because we see God as our judge, but when we see God as love and as our beloved, there is no fear but only the desire to be with Him more and more.  Truly, when there is true love, there is no fear.  We are ready to be totally open, vulnerable, naked and be available to others because we know that we will be loved, accepted and will never be taken advantage of.   Fear is only for those who do not trust.  Where there is no trust, no perfect love is possible because there is no total openness.   So today, let us trust the Lord and accept His love.  And in turn, let us love the way He has loved us so that His love and Spirit may be in us and we in Him.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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Often our fist reaction to something we’ve never seen before is fear: instead of hoping for the best we fear the worst!
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Even the apostle had this reaction to Jesus walking on the water. So we can forgive ourselves our little fears.
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Yet the larger message for us is this: If we put our Faith in God, we need never have fear again.
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Padre Pio said, “When you’re worried, PRAY. Once you are praying, why worry?”
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Our most self-harmful of human emotions is also self generated: fear.
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Fear calls into question our faith: every time.
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection
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• After the multiplication of the loaves (yesterday’s Gospel), Jesus ordered the disciples to go into the boat. Why? Mark does not explain this. The Gospel of John says the following. According to the hope people had at that time, the Messiah would repeat the gesture of Moses and would feed the multitude in the desert. This is why, before the multiplication of the loaves, the people concluded that Jesus must be the expected Messiah, announced by Moses (cf. Dt 18, 15-18) and they wanted to make him a King (cfr. Jn 6, 14-15). This decision of the people was a temptation for Jesus as well as for the disciples. And for this reason, Jesus obliged the disciples to take the boat and leave. He wanted to avoid that they got contaminated with the dominating ideology, because the “leaven of Herod and of the Pharisees was very strong (Mk 8, 15). Jesus himself faces the temptation through prayer.
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• Mark describes the events with great art. On one side, Jesus goes up to the mountain to pray. On the other, the disciples go toward the sea and get into the boat. It almost seems like a symbolical picture which foreshadows the future: it is as if Jesus went up to Heaven, leaving the disciples alone in the midst of the contradictions of life, in the fragile boat of the community. It was night. They are in the high seas, all together in the small boat, trying to advance, rowing, but the wind was strong and contrary to them. They were tired. It was night, between three and six o’clock in the morning. The communities of the time of Mark were like the disciples. In the night! Contrary wind! They caught no fish, in spite of the efforts made! Jesus seemed to be absent! But he was present and came close to them, but they, like the disciples of Emmaus, did not recognize him (Lk 24, 16).
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• At the time of Mark, around the year 70, the small boat of the communities had to face the contrary wind on the part of some converted Jews who wished to reduce the mystery of Jesus to the prophecies and figures of the Old Testament, as well as some converted Pagans who thought it was possible to have a certain alliance of the faith in Jesus with the empire. Mark tries to help the Christians to respect the Mystery of Jesus and not to want to reduce Jesus to their own desires and ideas.
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• Jesus arrives walking on the water of the sea of life. They scream taken up by fear, because they think that it is a question of a phantasm. As it happens in the passage of the Disciples of Emmaus, Jesus pretends that he wants to continue to walk (Lk 24, 28). But they cry out and this causes him to change the way, he gets close to them and says: “Courage, it is I, do not be afraid!”. Here, once again, for one who knows the story of the Old Testament this recalls some very important facts: (a) Remember that the people, protected by God, crossed the Red Sea without fear; (b) Remember, that God calling Moses, declared his name several times, saying “I am he who is!” (cfr. Ex 3, 15); (c) Remember also the Book of Isaiah which represents the return from the exile as a new Exodus, where God appears repeating numerous times: “I am he who is!” (cfr. Is 42, 8; 43, 5-11-13; 44, 6.25; 45, 5-7). This way of recalling the Old Testament, of using the Bible, helped the communities to perceive better the presence of God in Jesus and in the facts of life. Do not be afraid!
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• Jesus goes into the boat and the wind ceased. But the fear of the disciples, instead of disappearing, increases. Mark, the Evangelist, makes a commentary criticizing them and says: “They had not understood what the miracle of the loaves meant, their minds were closed” (6, 52). The affirmation their minds were closed reminds us of the heart of Pharaoh which was hardened (Ex 7, 3.13.22) and of the people in the desert (Ps 95, 8) who did not want to listen to Moses and thought only of returning to Egypt (Nb 20, 2-10), where there was plenty of bread and meat to satisfy them (Ex 16, 3).
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Personal questions
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• Night, stormy sea, contrary wind! Have you ever felt like this? What have you done to overcome it?
• Have you been afraid so many times because you have not known how to recognize Jesus present and acting in your life?
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Concluding prayer
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He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the needy from death.
From oppression and violence he redeems their lives,
their blood is precious in his sight. (Ps 72,13-14)
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Morning Prayer for Tuesday, January 8, 2019 — God’s Help Allows Us To Welcome Difficulties

January 8, 2019

I know that my new life will not be immune from difficulties, but I will have peace even in difficulties. I know that serenity is the result of faithful, trusting acceptance of God’s will, even in the midst of difficulties. Saint Paul said: “Our light afflictions, which are but for a moment, work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may welcome difficulties. I pray that they may test my strength and build my character.

From: Twenty Four Hours a day

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“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart; and you will find rest. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

—Matthew 11:25-30

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“The chains that break you, are the chains that make you. And the chains that make you, are the chains you break.”

Related:

See also:

Father Flanagan and Boys Town – He Ain’t Heavy He’s my Brother

https://noyeshome.org/blog/father-flanagan-and-boys-town-he-aint-heavy-hes-my-brother/

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See also:

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Prayer and Meditation for Monday, January 7, 2019 — We keep his commandments and do what pleases him

January 7, 2019

If they belong to the world their teaching belongs to the world

Am I doing what pleases God or what pleases me?

“The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light; on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death, light has arisen.”

Service to others shows the face of God’s mercy, compassion, love and forgiveness. It helps bring people from the darkness into the light.

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Monday after Epiphany
Lectionary: 212

Reading 1 1 JN 3:22–4:6

Beloved:
We receive from him whatever we ask,
because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.
And his commandment is this:
we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ,
and love one another just as he commanded us.
Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them,
and the way we know that he remains in us
is from the Spirit whom he gave us.Beloved, do not trust every spirit
but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God,
because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
This is how you can know the Spirit of God:
every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh
belongs to God,
and every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus
does not belong to God.
This is the spirit of the antichrist
who, as you heard, is to come,
but in fact is already in the world.
You belong to God, children, and you have conquered them,
for the one who is in you
is greater than the one who is in the world.
They belong to the world;
accordingly, their teaching belongs to the world,
and the world listens to them.
We belong to God, and anyone who knows God listens to us,
while anyone who does not belong to God refuses to hear us.
This is how we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of deceit.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 2:7BC-8, 10-12A

R. (8ab)  I will give you all the nations for an inheritance.
The LORD said to me, “ou are my Son;
this day I have begotten you.
Ask of me and I will give you
the nations for an inheritance
and the ends of the earth for your possession.”
R. I will give you all the nations for an inheritance.
And now, O kings, give heed;
take warning, you rulers of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice before him;
with trembling rejoice.
R. I will give you all the nations for an inheritance.

Alleluia  SEE MT 4:23

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Jesus proclaimed the Gospel of the Kingdom
and cured every disease among the people.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 4:12-17, 23-25

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested,
he withdrew to Galilee.
He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea,
in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali,
that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet
might be fulfilled:Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles,
the people who sit in darkness
have seen a great light,
on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death
light has arisen.
From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say,
“Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

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He went around all of Galilee,
teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom,
and curing every disease and illness among the people.
His fame spread to all of Syria,
and they brought to him all who were sick with various diseases
and racked with pain,
those who were possessed, lunatics, and paralytics,
and he cured them.
And great crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, and Judea,
and from beyond the Jordan followed him.

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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07 JANUARY, 2019, Monday after the Epiphany

THE IMPLICATIONS OF FAITH IN THE INCARNATION

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 JN 3:22-4:6MT 4:12-1723-25 ]

Very often, we hear remarks that the Catholic Faith is very ritualistic. This is because we pay great emphasis on the sacramentals of the Church, especially in the celebration of the liturgy.  We have elaborate ceremonies especially on significant feast day celebrations.  The liturgical rubrics are spelt out clearly so that the signs and symbols used will convey the reality that is celebrated.  There is the use of liturgical vestments, incense, crucifixes, candles, procession, holy water, etc besides gestures of bowing, kneeling and genuflecting.

At times, we are seen to be superstitious as well.  This is because we are very particular whether the rules are followed, especially in devotional practices, like fulfilling the nine days of Novena or blessing ourselves with holy water.  Our people love to go on pilgrimages, visiting shrines, praying before statues, offering prayers and petitions, offering flowers, buying holy pictures and rosaries, lighting candles, wearing religious medals and believing in indulgences.

Besides the sacramentals, we have the seven Sacraments of the Church.  These Sacraments are important in the life of a Catholic, especially the Sacraments of Initiation, namely, Baptism, the Eucharist and Confirmation.  Then we also have the Sacrament of Matrimony, where married couples are called to be the image of Christ’s love to each other and for humanity.  Catholics also frequent the Sacrament of Reconciliation when they need to have their sins forgiven.  When they are sick, they are given the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.  The last Sacrament is that of Holy Orders to ensure the continuity of priests to serve the Church.

Because of the emphasis on sacramentals and Sacraments, some Protestants accuse Catholics of abandoning the Scriptures and subscribing to man-made traditions.  Is this true?  For the Protestants, their emphasis is on the Scripture as the Word of God.  The rituals are secondary.  What is fundamental is the preaching of the Word of God.  Protestant services are basically Word service.  Those mainstream Protestants who have branched out of Catholicism, continue with some of these traditions, albeit stripping the religious ceremonies of its grandeur for fear of giving the impression of being overly ritualistic and superstitious.     

What is the basis for the use of sacramentals and Sacraments?  It is based on the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This is what St John wanted to underscore in today’s first reading.  The baby Jesus we adore at Christmas is not just any baby but He is Christ our Lord, the Saviour of the world.  The baby Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, is truly man and yet truly God.  Our confession of faith in Jesus as the Word made Flesh is fundamental to our salvation.  This is why John insisted on faith in the incarnation.  He wrote, “You can tell the spirits that come from God by this: every spirit which acknowledges that Jesus the Christ has come in the flesh is from God; but any spirit which will not say this of Jesus is not from God, but is the spirit of Antichrist, whose coming you are warned about.”   Jesus is not just from God but He is also from man born of Mary.   Faith in the incarnation means that God has assumed our humanity and it will be through and in His humanity that we will see the face of God.  In the gospel, Jesus states in no uncertain terms, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.  Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.”  (Jn 14:9-11)  Those who deny the humanity of Jesus or deny His divinity, as many do, are the false prophets.

Indeed, the purpose of Jesus’ incarnation is to show us the face of God’s mercy, love and forgiveness.  This explains why in His ministry, Jesus spent most of His time not just preaching but ministering to the sick and the suffering.  In the gospel, we read, “He went round the whole of Galilee teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness among the people. His fame spread throughout Syria, and those who were suffering from diseases and painful complaints of one kind or another, the possessed, epileptics, the paralysed, were all brought to him, and he cured them.”  He gave the same instructions to the disciples when it came to preaching the Good News.  He said, “As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.”  (Mt 10:7f)

The only way to convince people that God loves them is not by mere preaching alone but helping them to encounter God in a human way.  This means for the sick people, healing; for the oppressed, deliverance; for the sinner, forgiveness; for the dying, eternal life.  This is why Jesus left the Church the seven sacraments so that every Christian is sustained in his or her life journey through the graces that come from God in the sacraments.  When we are sick or dying, we turn to the Sacrament for the Anointing of the Sick.   When feel burdened by our sins and we need forgiveness, we turn to God who speaks through the priests, “I absolve you from all your sins.”  When we are married and starting a new family, we celebrate the sacrament of Matrimony to give us the strength and renew our love for Him so that couples could love each other more deeply. Of course, the Eucharist is the Sacrament par excellence because He is truly present in the bread and wine given to us so that we might remain in communion with Him and His Church.

The sacraments become the basis for the use of sacramentals in the Church.  As human beings, we need to see, to touch and feel the presence of God.  Again this was what St John wrote, “We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life –  this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it.”  (1 Jn 1:1f)  We cannot see or touch the Lord physically today.  But we can still feel His presence through the use of statues and medals, signs, symbols, sacred actions.  This is not being superstitious unless we mistake the signs for the reality.  They remain signs and symbols pointing to the reality behind what is manifested, seen or touch.  It is just like the National Flag, a symbol of the nation.  Just as we do not worship the flag when we stand at attention, we do not worship the symbols.  But as human beings, signs and symbols are ways to help us get in touch with the mind and the spirit.

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But faith in the incarnation is not just the signs and symbols used in the liturgy and worship, it must be concretized in humble service and generous giving.  In assuming flesh, Jesus is identified with us.  He is not ashamed to call us His brothers.  (cf Heb 2:11)  He is identified with the least of our brothers and sisters.  (cf Mt 25:40)  That is why right worship must lead to right practice, which is the love for our fellowmen.  St John wrote, “Whatever we ask God, we shall receive, because we keep his commandments and live the kind of life that he wants.  His commandments are these: that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and that we love one another as he told us to. Whoever keeps his commandments lives in God and God lives in him. We know that he lives in us by the Spirit that he has given us.”   If God were to live in us, then this indwelling of God in us should remind us to reach out to the poor and the suffering.  This is why charity is a corollary principle of authentic worship of God.  It is futile for us to claim that we have the right liturgy and the right way to worship God but in our lives, we lack charity and compassion for the suffering and the poor.   This is the basis for the social service of the Church, not primarily humanitarian but spiritual by showing them the face of God.

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

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Related:

Social Media and Suicide: The Tragic Real Thing

December 16, 2018

Fox 2 Detroit meteorologist Jessica Starr takes her own life

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Fox 2 Detroit (WJBK-TV) announced on air Thursday morning that meteorologist Jessica Starr has killed herself.

“All of us here at FOX 2 are in deep shock and cannot believe that such a wonderful, bright and intelligent individual will no longer be with us,” Fox 2 wrote in an online statement.

[If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24 hours a day at 800-273-8255.]

Other Fox 2 employees, along with media personalities from other outlets, expressed their grief on Twitter Thursday morning.

“Our hearts are broken,” wrote morning anchor Amy Andrews alongside a photo of herself and Starr.

Also read: Friends, fans mourn loss of Fox 2 meteorologist Jessica Starr

In October, Starr received Lasik surgery for her vision and was out of work for several weeks, according to her Facebook page. She posted about dealing with dry eye and her frustration with recovery.

Starr’s last tweet was from Nov. 14, reading in part, “Yesterday was a struggle for me. I really wanted to come back but need more time to recover. Please keep me in your thoughts during this challenging time.”

Jessica Starr

@Jstarrfox2

Update; yesterday was a struggle for me. I really wanted to come back but I need more time to recover. Please keep me in your thoughts during this challenging time. Will keep you updated. 🙏🏻

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Starr had been with Fox 2 Detroit since 2012.

She began her career at WLNS-TV (Channel 6) in Lansing as the weekend meteorologist. She came to Fox 2 after four years covering weather and community events for WBFF-TV (FOX 45) in Baltimore.

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Starr was a Michigan native, born in Southfield and raised in Commerce Township, according to her Fox 2 biography. She earned meteorology degrees from Michigan State University and Mississippi State University.

FOX 2 Detroit

@FOX2News

Last night we were informed of the heartbreaking news that our friend and colleague, meteorologist Jessica Starr took her life. All of us here are in shock and cannot believe such a wonderful, bright and intelligent individual will no longer be with us. https://bit.ly/2EtyUy8 

Meteorologist Jessica Starr passes away

Last night we were informed of the heartbreaking news that our friend and colleague, meteorologist Jessica Starr took her life.

fox2detroit.com

3,961 people are talking about this

How to get help

Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24 hours a day at 800-273-8255 to speak to a counselor if you’re in a crisis. Or call 911.

Among the warning signs of suicide are: talking about suicide, expressions of hopelessness, personality changes, depression or giving away possessions. To learn more, go to https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Read more:    

Roop Raj

@rooprajfox2

It is with a heavy heart that I post this. Our dear friend and colleague Jessica Starr has died. She leaves behind a husband, two beautiful children and a loving family. I send my deepest sympathies to her family. Our hometown girl will always be remembered fondly.

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