Posts Tagged ‘suffering’

Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, February 13, 2018 — The Spirit helps us in our weakness and suffering — The first step begins with the acknowledgement that we are weak…

February 12, 2018

Tuesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 336

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Reading 1  JAS 1:12-18

Blessed is he who perseveres in temptation,
for when he has been proven he will receive the crown of life
that he promised to those who love him.
No one experiencing temptation should say,
“I am being tempted by God”;
for God is not subject to temptation to evil,
and he himself tempts no one.
Rather, each person is tempted when lured and enticed by his desire.
Then desire conceives and brings forth sin,
and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death.
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers and sisters:
all good giving and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights,
with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change.
He willed to give us birth by the word of truth
that we may be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 94:12-13A, 14-15, 18-19

R. (12a) Blessed the man you instruct, O Lord.
Blessed the man whom you instruct, O LORD,
whom by your law you teach,
Giving him rest from evil days.
R. Blessed the man you instruct, O Lord.
For the LORD will not cast off his people,
nor abandon his inheritance;
But judgment shall again be with justice,
and all the upright of heart shall follow it.
R. Blessed the man you instruct, O Lord.
When I say, “My foot is slipping,”
your mercy, O LORD, sustains me;
When cares abound within me,
your comfort gladdens my soul.
R. Blessed the man you instruct, O Lord.

Alleluia JN 14:23

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Whoever loves me will keep my word, says the Lord;
and my Father will love him
and we will come to him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
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Gospel MK 8:14-21

The disciples had forgotten to bring bread,
and they had only one loaf with them in the boat.
Jesus enjoined them, “Watch out,
guard against the leaven of the Pharisees
and the leaven of Herod.”
They concluded among themselves that
it was because they had no bread.
When he became aware of this he said to them,
“Why do you conclude that it is because you have no bread?
Do you not yet understand or comprehend?
Are your hearts hardened?
Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear?
And do you not remember,
when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand,
how many wicker baskets full of fragments you picked up?”
They answered him, “Twelve.”
“When I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand,
how many full baskets of fragments did you pick up?”
They answered him, “Seven.”
He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

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Commentary on Mark 8:14-21 from Living Space

Today we see the blindness of Jesus’ own disciples.  This, of course, is pointing to our blindness in not recognising the clear presence of God in our own lives.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Concluding Prayer

I need only say, ‘I am slipping,’
for your faithful love, Yahweh, to support me;
however great the anxiety of my heart,
your consolations soothe me. (Ps 94,18-19)
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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13 FEBRUARY, 2018, Tuesday, 6th Week, Ordinary Time
RESISTING TEMPTATIONS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ JAMES 1:12-18;  MK 8:14-21  ]

We are all tempted in different ways.  No one is beyond temptation.  Not even Jesus, because He Himself was tempted throughout His ministry.   In fact, at the very beginning of His ministry, we read how the Devil tempted Him in the desert after 40 days of fasting.  (cf Mt 4:1-11) Temptations can come in many ways.  Not all temptations come from the Evil One.   Some come from the flesh and others from the world.  Because of our wounded nature, we are tempted to satisfy our bodily and sensual cravings.  The world with all its attraction and glory, power and beauty also can tempt us.  That was how the Devil tempted our Lord by asking Him to change stone into bread when He was hungry; and to worship him to receive the glory and kingdom of the world.

How, then, do we overcome temptations?  When we are tempted, the tendency is to push the blame on others instead of taking ownership for our sins.  We blame our friends for making us fall into the sin of lust.  We blame our parents and our teachers for making us cheat in our exams.  Or else, we blame the Devil and even God.  This is what St James wants us to realize.  He said, “Never, when you have been tempted, say, ‘God sent the temptation’; God cannot be tempted to do anything wrong, and he does not tempt anybody.”   We should not blame anyone because we have the choice. So, we must assume responsibility when we fall into temptation.

But as St James said, “Happy the man who stands firm when trials come.  He has proved himself, and will win the prize of life, the crown that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”  Indeed, great joy waits those who can resist the temptations of the Evil One, the Flesh and the World.  Temptation is for us to grow stronger, not to weaken us.  It is through temptations and trials that our fidelity and love for God and for our loved ones is tried.  As we overcome one temptation after another, we become stronger to resist greater temptations.  As the Lord had said, “He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much.”  (Lk 16:11)

So how can we strengthen ourselves against the temptations that come our way? The first step begins with the acknowledgement that we are weak.   Acknowledgement of the temptation and our weakness is the first step.  If that is so, then we must study the cause and the origin of our temptations so that we can better preempt and protect ourselves from being exposed to unnecessary temptations.  We must be alert, as St Peter warns us, “Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Pt 5:8)  St James explains the origin and cause of every temptation.   “Everyone who is tempted is attracted and seduced by his own wrong desire. Then the desire conceives and gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it too has a child, and the child is death.”

Sin begins with the wrong desire.  The beginning of sin is always craving.  Not all cravings are wrong.  But craving is a form of attachment.  When we are attached, and we do not get what we want, there is the pain and misery.  What is worse is when our attachment to those things or person we desire are not truly good for us.  Many of us are ignorant about what is good and true.  We are deceived by our eyes because of our ignorance.  We are blinded by the conditioning of the world, presenting to us the things of this world as if they are everything; pleasure, power, glory, sex and all the passing things.  Such worldly possessions cannot make us happy.  If fact, they make us more frustrated because the moment you have them, that moment you lose your satisfaction.   What is worse is that some of these wrongful attachments and desires bring us misery and pain.

From desire, we are led to action, which is the birth of the thought that entices our minds, our hearts and our body. And if it is a wrong action, it is sin.  So the beginning of every action, good and evil comes from the mind.  It begins with either with a good and noble thought or an evil and selfish one.   If it were a good thought, then we should nurture that thought so that it can give birth to good actions.  But if it were a bad thought, then even before the thought develops, we must cease from thinking about it.  If we allow the thought to continue, then it will materialize into sin.  This was how Eve was tempted by the Evil One.  It began with a thought that was sowed into the mind of Eve by the Devil.  Then, it was presented as something beautiful and good.  “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.”  (Gn 3:6)

So the key to overcoming temptation must begin at the beginning. To catch ourselves even before the craving begins.  Jesus warned us,  “Keep your eyes open; be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.”  Why yeast?  Because a little yeast will help the flour to grow and expand.  So too the beginning of sin is like a little yeast put into our hearts and it will grow to consume our minds and hearts. For this reason, the wisdom of our fathers is true when they say, “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.”  When we are too free or when there is nothing exciting to engage us, mind and body, our minds begin to wonder and look for excitement and thrills.  This is when the devil will come to suggest to us what would be good for us.   If we are conscious of such thoughts and stifle them before they are embellished, then the temptation would not arise.   So the guide to overcoming temptation is always to occupy ourselves with meaningful and fulfilling activities.  Of course, a person of solitude and prayer will definitely be more attentive to the stirring of the spirits in his or her heart.

Secondly, in our deliberation of what we intend to do, we must bring to mind the mistakes of our past.  Jesus reprimanded the apostles, “Do you not remember?  When I broke the five loaves among the five thousand, how many baskets full of scraps did you collect?  They answered, ‘Twelve.’  ‘And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many baskets full of scraps did you collect?’  And they answered, ‘Seven.’”  The problem with us is that we do not remember our mistakes.  Instead of learning from them, we keep on repeating the same mistakes, forgetting the price of our sins.  Indeed the greatest tragedy is not making mistakes but to repeat them again.

Hence, we must, as Jesus said, “Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mt 26:41)  This is why prayer is the answer to overcoming temptation.   But the prayer that is needed is not just asking for God’s help but the prayer of examen.  This form of prayer requires us to examine our conscience, considering all that we had done, and failed to do; the presence of God in our daily life and the lack of consciousness of His presence.  Spiritual masters recommend that we do at least one examen daily, either in the morning or evening; or better still, do it three times a day.

Thirdly, we must grow in perception.  Often the thought comes so quickly that we are left unguarded.  Before we can even stop it, it has become full blown and waiting to be conceived in action.  If that is the case, it is important that we remember the futility of our past cravings.  We must recall how these cravings, even when satisfied, left us unfulfilled or even worse, to suffer the pain of guilt and self-hatred.  Indeed, every time we sin, we look at our mistakes and regret our folly.  Growing in perception of the folly of our past will give us the impetus to avoid repeating the same sin because we know that the pleasure of sin is short-lived and the incomparable peace and joy from God is lost.

If we lack perception and understanding, there is still one way to grow in discernment.  It is to rely on the Word of God.  St James urges us to seek God who is all light, truth and love.  “Make no mistake about this, my dear brothers; it is all that is good, everything that is perfect, which is given us from above; it comes down from the Father of all light; with him there is no such thing as alteration, no shadow of a change.  By his own choice he made us his children by the message of the truth so that we should be a sort of first-fruits of all that he had created.”  And St Timothy urges to read the Word of God because “all scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.”  (2 Tim 3:16f)

Finally, we need to pray and depend solely on His grace alone.  The psalmist says, “When I think: ‘I have lost my foothold’; your mercy, Lord, holds me up. When cares increase in my heart your consolation calms my soul.”  Indeed, only the grace of God can help us to overcome all trials and temptations in life.  St Paul shares with us, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”  (Phil 4:13) Finally, we take consolation in the words of St Paul when he said, “Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me”  (2 Cor 12:8f)

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Admit Our Weakness
By Karla Hawkins
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A paradox is a statement that seems to contradict itself but may nonetheless be true. God’s written word, the Bible, is full of paradoxes. This is certainly true when discussing the terms “weakness” and “strength.” For example, many Christians say and believe that we are strongest when we are on our knees in prayer. This seems totally erroneous and contradictory to unbelievers, and yet when we turn things over to God in prayer our lives are strengthened and refreshed. With this idea in mind, here are my top 7 Bible verses about weakness.

Romans 8:26 “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”

Our daily lives are often full of difficulties and challenges, and discouragement can come upon us quickly as well. We often find ourselves struggling with fear and anxiety about the unknown or because of the hardships we face. As Christians, though, we do not have to despair or give up. This verse gives us so much hope and encouragement, because the Lord is saying to us that the Holy Spirit will help us when we are weak or struggling. Sometimes in the middle of life’s storms it is even difficult to know how to pray, and once again the Lord tells us here in this verse that the Holy Spirit himself intercedes for us even when we don’t know what to pray. The Lord cares about us at all times, and he has covered us with every contingency plan necessary.

I Corinthians 1:25 “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

We all know that the Lord is wiser and stronger than any man that has ever lived, and this verse reinforces that fact. It is also a paradox to think about God being foolish or weak, as he certainly is neither of those. So the apostle Paul’s statement here verifies that we should never underestimate the paradoxical strength and wisdom of the Lord.

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bible verses about weakness

I Corinthians 15:43 “It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.”

The apostle Paul is describing what will happen to our human bodies when we die as Christians in this passage. He explains that when we die, our bodies are laid to rest in dishonor but raised in glory. They are also put to rest in weakness, but that the Lord will then raise us up in power. Even though it seems contradictory, God’s plan is always to raise us up to a new level with him. Whether that is here on earth during our ministry time or when we go to heaven to be with him forever.

2 Corinthians 12:9 “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

In a culture that promotes strength and independence, it may seem strange that weakness should be exalted and even desired. In this passage, the apostle Paul had asked the Lord to take away a “thorn of the flesh” that Paul was struggling with. However, this verse gives the Lord’s response, as he tells Paul that God’s power is made perfect in our human weakness. This is obviously a paradox, as we would never think that a “weakness” could make us stronger. But in God’s economy, God’s strength can shine through us more easily when we are weak. This is true, because when we die to ourselves and give up our own desires to the Lord, then he is able to work amazing things through us. We become his vessels to be filled and used at his discretion.

2 Corinthians 12:10 “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

The apostle Paul is such a great example of a man who loved God so completely that he was willing to suffer much for the cause of Christ. In this verse he even admits that he will endure insults, hardships, and persecutions for the sake of his Lord and Savior. Paul not only states that he will survive them, but he even says that he is “content” with these challenges. So in this verse there are several paradoxes, as who would be content with hardships? Also, he states the great contradiction that when he is weak, then he is strong. When we are “weak” and we turn our lives over to God, then he can be “strong” and work great things through us.

2 Corinthians 13:4 “For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.”

Jesus himself was considered weak by the Romans, because he went to the cross “like a lamb to the slaughter.” Likewise, as Christians we can be considered weak, because of God’s humility working in us. However, Jesus was actually filled with the power of God when he submitted his will to that of the Father, and that is the same for us. When Jesus lives in us, we can live by the power of God.

Hebrews 4:15 “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

This verse is very powerful, because it truly shows God’s love for us in that he sent his one and only son to live here on earth with us. That experience enabled the trinity to not only sympathize but actually empathize with our human struggles and weaknesses, as Jesus was tempted just like we are on a daily basis. However, Jesus never sinned, and he made a way for us to come back to the Father as well. So he is our high priest—a model of perfection—that even though he appeared weak, he actually pointed the way to heaven.

CONCLUSION

The Bible is full of paradoxes that God uses to teach us key elements in our walk with him. Prayer is one of the tools that he has given us to submit and lean on him as well. The Lord wants us to be totally dependent and reliant on Him for our guidance and salvation. He even tells us that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against unseen spiritual forces. One such paradox is the biblical relationship between weakness and strength. So when we die to ourselves and are “weak,” then God is strong, and he can manifest his power and truth through us.

Written by Karla Hawkins

God has been good to me over the years, and I have much for which to be grateful to Him. First of all, I feel blessed to be the pastor’s wife of a thriving church in northern Michigan and the mother of four amazing grown children. It is also very rewarding to be a Christian author, editor and translator for the Kingdom of God. Some of my favorite pastimes include supporting my children’s contemporary Christian band ONLY9AM, singing on the worship team at church, traveling, and connecting with family and friends via social media. When I am not working, I love spending time with my family and especially with my precious three-year-old grandson.

Read more at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christiancrier/2015/03/27/top-7-bible-verses-about-weakness/#6hEdtxtP56r6Hr37.99

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Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, January 25, 2018 — Go out to all the world and tell the Good News. — Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature — Do you Evangelize?

January 24, 2018

Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle
Lectionary: 519

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Art: Saul on the Road to Damascus by Caravaggio

Reading 1 ACTS 22:3-16

Paul addressed the people in these words:
“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia,
but brought up in this city.
At the feet of Gamaliel I was educated strictly in our ancestral law
and was zealous for God, just as all of you are today.
I persecuted this Way to death,
binding both men and women and delivering them to prison.
Even the high priest and the whole council of elders
can testify on my behalf.
For from them I even received letters to the brothers
and set out for Damascus to bring back to Jerusalem
in chains for punishment those there as well.”On that journey as I drew near to Damascus,
about noon a great light from the sky suddenly shone around me.
I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me,
‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
I replied, ‘Who are you, sir?’
And he said to me,
‘I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.’
My companions saw the light
but did not hear the voice of the one who spoke to me.
I asked, ‘What shall I do, sir?’
The Lord answered me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus,
and there you will be told about everything
appointed for you to do.’
Since I could see nothing because of the brightness of that light,
I was led by hand by my companions and entered Damascus.”A certain Ananias, a devout observer of the law,
and highly spoken of by all the Jews who lived there,
came to me and stood there and said,
‘Saul, my brother, regain your sight.’
And at that very moment I regained my sight and saw him.
Then he said,
‘The God of our ancestors designated you to know his will,
to see the Righteous One, and to hear the sound of his voice;
for you will be his witness before all
to what you have seen and heard.
Now, why delay?
Get up and have yourself baptized and your sins washed away,
calling upon his name.'”or

Acts 9:1-22
Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord,
went to the high priest and asked him
for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that,
if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way,
he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains.
On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus,
a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him.
He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him,
“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
He said, “Who are you, sir?”
The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.
Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.”
The men who were traveling with him stood speechless,
for they heard the voice but could see no one.
Saul got up from the ground,
but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing;
so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus.
For three days he was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank.There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias,
and the Lord said to him in a vision, AAnanias.”
He answered, “Here I am, Lord.”
The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight
and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul.
He is there praying,
and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias
come in and lay his hands on him,
that he may regain his sight.”
But Ananias replied,
“Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man,
what evil things he has done to your holy ones in Jerusalem.
And here he has authority from the chief priests
to imprison all who call upon your name.”
But the Lord said to him,
“Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine
to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel,
and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name.”
So Ananias went and entered the house;
laying his hands on him, he said,
“Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me,
Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came,
that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes
and he regained his sight.
He got up and was baptized,
and when he had eaten, he recovered his strength.He stayed some days with the disciples in Damascus,
and he began at once to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues,
that he is the Son of God.
All who heard him were astounded and said,
“Is not this the man who in Jerusalem
ravaged those who call upon this name,
and came here expressly to take them back in chains
to the chief priests?”
But Saul grew all the stronger
and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus,
proving that this is the Christ.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 117:1BC, 2

R. (Mark 16:15) Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.
or:
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Praise the LORD, all you nations;
glorify him, all you peoples!
R. Go out to all the world, and tell the Good News.
or:
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
For steadfast is his kindness toward us,
and the fidelity of the LORD endures forever.
R. Go out to all the world, and tell the Good News.
or:
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Alleluia  SEE JN 15:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I chose you from the world,
To go and bear fruit that will last, says the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 16:15-18

Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them:
“Go into the whole world
and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved;
whoever does not believe will be condemned.
These signs will accompany those who believe:
in my name they will drive out demons,
they will speak new languages.
They will pick up serpents with their hands,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
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From One Year Ago:
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There are only two people, as far as we know, that used the phrase, “Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes.”  One was saul. The other was one of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill W. (Bill Wilson)
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Bill Wilson
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Conversion of Saint Paul (By Michelangelo)
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Who else in our “modern world” said “scales fell from my eyes”?

In November 1934, a man named Ebby Thacher visited Bill Wilson and sat with Bill in the kitchen of the Wilson’s Brooklyn apartment, and talked about the way this new spiritual answer to alcoholism had gotten him sober.  Bill W.’s fundamental conversion experience took place while he was talking with Ebby, as “the scales fell from his eyes” and he became willing for the first time to turn to the experience of the holy in prayer and meditation, and let its healing power begin to restore his soul.

The scales fell from the eyes….

Bill’s Story, p.12, Big Book

“Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized.” (Acts 9:18)

Ebby Thacher with Bill Wilson, the cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous, in 1955

Ebby Thacher (on the right) with Bill Wilson, the cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous, in 1955

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The story of how Saul, the devout Jew and zealous persecutor of the church, became Paul, a passionate preacher of the faith, begins along the road going northward from Jerusalem to Damascus. As Saul approached Damascus with plans to arrest those who “belonged to the Way,” he had a vision that totally changed the direction of his life. Luke describes the conversion three times in Acts (Acts 9:1-19Acts 22:3-16 and Acts 26:4-18), and Paul alludes to it in his letters to the churches in Galatia and Corinth (Galatians 1:16-212 Corinthians 11:22-23).

Saul was one of many Jews who felt that the followers of Jesus posed a threat to the Jewish religion. Earlier he stood by approvingly at the stoning of Stephen, one of the seven church deacons, for alleged blasphemy. Later, “breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples, he went to the Jewish high priest for permission to arrest any followers of “the Way” in the synagogues of Damascus, where the Gospel was attracting converts.

The 150-mile journey from Jerusalem to Damascus can now be completed in one day, thanks to excellent roads. When Saul set out from Jerusalem with his escort, he had the choice of two routes: One went east down through the canyon called Wadi Qelt to Jericho, then turned north through the Jordan River valley. It crossed the river at Scythopolis (modern-day  Beit Shean). This route would have taken Saul around the southern shores of the Sea of Galilee and up to the mountain roads linking the Decapolis with Damascus. In summer time it is hot and uncomfortable, lying far below sea-level until the area east of the Sea of Galilee is reached.

The more frequented route moved through the khaki-colored hills of Samaria (the northern part of the West Bank/Palestine today), across the Jezreel Valley, then skirted the west shore of the Sea of Galilee, passing very near Capernaum, the base for Jesus’ three-year ministry (irony!).

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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25 JANUARY, 2018, Thursday, The Conversion of St Paul, Apostle
ST PAUL A MODEL FOR ECUMENISM

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ACTS 22:3-16 or ACTS 9:1-22PS 117:1-2MK 16:15-18  ]

The feast of the Conversion of St Paul is designated as the conclusion of the celebration of Unity Week with our Christian brothers and sisters.  This is very appropriate because his conversion exemplifies how Catholic Christians and Protestant Christians are called to work together as disciples of Christ for the transmission of the Good News.  Reflecting on his conversion story, we can extract the kind of disposition, the approaches that we must adopt to work together in one common mission for the spread of the gospel in obedience to the Lord’s command. “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation. He who believes and is baptised will be saved.”

Indeed, the last prayer of our Lord for His Church was that the Church be one.  He prayed, “Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.”  (Jn 17:11)   Again, He said, “that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me.”  (Jn 17:21-23)

What, then, is the way to unity among Christians?  Firstly, sincerity is a pre-requisite.  St Paul sought to clarify his position.  “Brethren and fathers, hear the defense which I now make before you.”  (Acts 22:1)  He wanted to share with them his conversion experience of how he, once a persecutor of the Christians, had now become a disciple of Christ.  With truthfulness, he shared his conversion story with them.  When we are sincere in sharing our personal experiences without imposing our views on others, then we will get a better reception.  That is why the fostering of unity must begin with personal sharings rather than a debate over doctrines.  Without sincerity in seeking to make ourselves understood, as opposed to seeking to win an argument, it will be difficult for us to win the trust of our audience.

Secondly, St Paul immediately identified himself with his fellow Jews, their culture and their aspirations.  He wanted them to know that he was one of them and one with them.  He spoke their language.  “And when they heard that he addressed them in the Hebrew language, they were the more quiet.”  (Acts 22:2)  He also expressed his zeal for the Law.  “I am a Jew and was born at Tarsus in Cilicia. I was brought up here in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was taught the exact observance of the Law of our ancestors. In fact, I was as full of duty towards God as you are today. I even persecuted this Way to the death, and sent women as well as men to prison in chains as the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify, since they even sent me with letters to their brothers in Damascus.”  Identifying with our audience is necessary if we are to engage them.

Thirdly, St Paul did not engage them on matters over doctrines because it is divisive.  He appealed to their hearts, not their heads.  Hence, he began with the sharing of his conversion experience.  In engaging with Christians from different traditions, including non-Christians, it is best that we, too, begin by sharing our conversion experience and our religious encounters with the Lord.  When we begin with experience, there can be no room for dispute.  It calls for faith and trust.  This must also be our approach.  This is what the Lord asked of Paul.  Ananias said to him, “The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will, to see the Just One and hear his own voice speaking, because you are to be his witness before all mankind, testifying to what you have seen and heard.”  This is what is required.

What about unity in doctrines?  Is there no place in ecumenism?  If we are divided over doctrines, how can we speak of unity?  Doctrines of course are important, but what are doctrines?  They are the human formulation of a Christian religious experience or our encounters with the Lord; and the ensuing logical conclusions that are derived from such experiences.

So before we can even enter into a theological discussion, we need to enter into each other’s religious experiences.  Unless we can encounter God from the perspective of a particular Christian tradition, we will be talking in the abstract and this explains why we cannot agree because our presupposed religious experience is not shared.  In other words, we need to appreciate the different Christian traditions, how they originated and how such religious experiences were expressed according to the cultural, theological, historical and even political context; and how they were further developed and refined in the process of articulating their faith experience.  So in our relationship with Christians from different denominations, without understanding their history, we cannot understand the theological formulation of their religious experience.

Secondly, because theological developments are complex, it would be more manageable if we first begin with what we have in common.  We need to focus on what is fundamental to the Christian Faith before divergences take place in interpretation because of different philosophical, cultural and theological background.  Indeed, Pope Francis wrote, “The biggest problem is when the message we preach then seems identified with those secondary aspects which, important as they are, do not in and of themselves convey the heart of Christ’s message.”  (GE 34)  “Pastoral ministry in a missionary style is not obsessed with the disjointed transmission of a multitude of doctrines to be insistently imposed. When we adopt a pastoral goal and a missionary style which would actually reach everyone with­out exception or exclusion, the message has to concentrate on the essentials, on what is most beautiful, most grand, most appealing and at the same time most necessary.”  (GE 35)  “All revealed truths derive from the same di­vine source and are to be believed with the same faith, yet some of them are more important for giving direct expression to the heart of the Gos­pel.  In this basic core, what shines forth is the beauty of the saving love of God made mani­fest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead. In this sense, the Second Vatican Council explained, “in Catholic doctrine there exists an order or a ‘hierarchy’ of truths, since they vary in their relation to the foundation of the Christian faith.”  (EG 36)

Thirdly, this means that we are called to affirm our brotherhood and sisterhood in Christ.  Like Ananias when he met Saul, his first greeting was, “Brother Saul, receive your sight.”  We must affirm that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ by virtue of our common faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, sharing in one common baptism and filled with His Holy Spirit.  “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all.”  (Eph 4:4-6)  This one faith we profess in common when we recite the Apostles Creed or the Nicene Creed.

Fourthly, we share also in the one mission of proclaiming the Good News to all creation.  We do this not by expounding doctrines, especially the secondary doctrines that divide us, but by demonstrating our common faith in the Risen Christ through the signs that He works through us, namely, miracles, healings, deliverance from the Evil One and eradication of falsehood spread by the Devil.  Indeed, the Good News is more than mere words.  It is about the Risen Christ that continues to work in our lives, showing forth His glory, His mercy and His love through us, in our words and deeds.  So we will be better off as Christians working together in manifesting the power of Christ at work in our lives, through preaching the name of Jesus, manifesting His mercy and love in miracles and healings.

Finally, ecumenism is completed through charity, dialogue and prayer.  Differences in doctrines are often due to different world views, linguistic and cultural divergences.  So the truth must be reformulated through dialogue, as what was done in the doctrine of “Justification by Faith” with the Lutherans.  Today, most Christian communities, Anglicans, Methodists, the Reformed Churches, together with the Catholic Church, recognize that we are no longer divided in this fundamental doctrine.   This dialogue must continue with the help of the Holy Spirit who is the source of Christian unity.  He will lead us to the truth by enlightening us as we continue this dialogue in truth and in love.   Let us speak the truth in love and with charity without ridiculing and misinterpreting the doctrines of others.   In the final analysis, the best means in the promotion of Christian unity is prayer, in imitation of our Lord.

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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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Do you evangelize?

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Book: Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic by Matthew Kelly.

“Twelve-step programs teachs, of course, twelve steps. Matthew Kelly suggests we can boil those down to just Four Signs of a Dynamic Christian/Catholic.”

The Four Signs are:
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  • Prayer Description: Specifically, Kelly notes that this consists of a daily routine of prayer. “Am I saying the other 93 percent of Catholics don’t pray? No. Their prayer tends to be spontaneous but inconsistent. The 7% have a daily commitment to prayer, a routine” (p. 8).
  • Study Description: “[Dynamic Catholics] see themselves as students of Jesus and his Church, and proactively make an effort to allow his teaching to form them” (p. 14). Kelly also notes that on average they spend 14 minutes each day learning about the faith.
  • Generosity Description: Generosity covers not only time and money, but also generosity in all things. This generosity is a way of life. These people perform selfless service to others…
  • Evangelization Description: While many Dynamic Catholics don’t consider themselves to be evangelists, they “regularly do and say things to share a Catholic perspective with the people who cross their paths.”
I find that these are the same four signs we might see in someone recovering from drug addiction or alcoholism — They pray; They study (The Big Book and other resources); They act with generosity by helping and sponsoring others (They do a lot of “service to others”); and they Evangelize (they do “12 Step work” and help others to get and stay sober).
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Related:
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The most frequently spoken line in the Bible may be: “do not be afraid.” So why is everyone complaining about anxiety and depression in our society today?
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Answer: Declining connection to the Gospels and to God.
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Who and what lives inside each of us?
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Our Most frequently viewed articles:
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Book: Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything
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Some “Buzzwords” heard in AA that are also common to the scripture:
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Art: Conversion of St. Paul (Number 2) by Caravaggio. Rarey do we see one artist depict the same bible event over and over.
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ENCOUNTER, ILLUMINATION, AND CONVERSION: ON THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS

Carolyn Pirtle, M.M., M.S.M.

Assistant Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

Contact Author

In celebrating the lives of her saints, rarely does the Church bestow more than one feast day on the same person. Even more rarely does she celebrate specific events in the lives of those saints other than the day of their birth into eternal life (the die natale). Therefore, tomorrow’s celebration – the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle – is one that deserves our contemplation.

Oscar Wilde once wrote, “Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” The pithiness of the statement doesn’t belie its essential truth, and we see this readily in the story of St. Paul, or Saul, as he was known prior to his conversion. The Acts of the Apostles tell us that Saul avidly persecuted the first Christians, that he was not only present for the martyrdom of St. Stephen, but that “Saul was consenting to his execution” (Acts 8:1). At this point in the story, we would do well to pause and pretend that we don’t already know what happens next. That way, the intervening grace of God will take us by complete and utter surprise all the more.

Saul was party to an execution; he was, for all intents and purposes, an accessory to murder (assuming he didn’t actually assist in the deed itself). And he was hell-bent on continuing his war on the followers of Jesus in the city of Damascus, as we continue reading in Acts: “Now Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains” (Acts 9:1-2). We know how the story continues from there: en route to Damascus, a blinding flash of light knocks Saul from his horse, and a voice from the sky says, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4b). The voice identifies himself as Jesus, and instructs Saul to continue to the city, where he is to be met by a disciple named Ananias.

In one of the most dramatic accounts of the New Testament, Saul encounters the Risen Christ – not in physical form as the Apostles did after the Resurrection, but as a voice resounding from the midst of a blinding light. Since he had taken it upon himself to persecute Jesus’ followers, Saul no doubt had heard of Him; perhaps he had even heard Him preach in the synagogue in Jerusalem. Yet, until that very moment, Saul’s heart had been hardened to the possibility that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, to the point where he was ready to kill in order to prevent the spread of the Good News. This is hardly the kind of man we would imagine God to want on His team, and hardly the kind of man we would imagine capable of playing for that team. However, “nothing is impossible for God” (cf Lk 1:37), and the light of grace pierces through what seemed to be an impenetrable darkness surrounding Saul’s heart. Physically, Saul enters into the darkness as he is struck blind; spiritually, the illumination of his soul has just begun.

Following the encounter on the road, Scripture says that “for three days [Saul] was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank” (Acts 9:9). I imagine this time as a period of ascetic penance: Saul demonstrated remorse for the sins he had committed against the followers of Jesus and contemplated how his life would have to change in light of what had happened on the road to Damascus. In his hunger, thirst, and blindness, Saul longed for fulfillment and enlightenment, and slowly came to the realization that they could only come through Christ.

Indeed, it is only after Saul has been stricken blind that he is able to see clearly for the first time. The resounding voice of Jesus on the road serves as a death knell to his former way of life, and the three days he spent in darkness parallel the three days Christ Himself spent in the darkness of the tomb. After three days, Ananias heals Saul of his physical blindness and he emerges from this experience an entirely changed man, one who has been made new in the light of Jesus the Messiah. The scales falling from Saul’s eyes symbolize a sloughing off of a former way of life, a casting away of the blindness that kept him from seeing the truth: that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, the One who saves the human race from sin and death. Indeed, he is so far removed from his former way of life that he is no longer known as Saul but as Paul; even his name has been made new in the light of his identity as a follower of Jesus. The light of Christ shatters the darkness of Saul’s soul and grants to him a new vision, one that will impel him to spend the rest of his life (and beyond) leading others to Jesus.

Another pause in our story so that we may contemplate the person of Ananias. He had heard of Saul, of the horrible things he had done to the disciples of Jesus, and of the fact that he was at that moment on his way to Damascus to continue wreaking havoc. For Ananias, seeking out this man’s company undoubtedly would have resulted in imprisonment or worse. If I had been in his sandals, I would have kept a low profile in Damascus until Hurricane Saul moved on. But such is not the will of God for Ananias. God calls to Ananias, who shows fidelity in his discipleship by responding immediately… until he hears what it is that God actually wants him to do. God wants Ananias to lay his hands on Saul so that he may regain his sight. Perhaps Ananias felt that Saul had gotten what he deserved, and that his reign of terror over the Christian people might finally be at its end. Surely he must have thought it a key strategic error to heal the man who had been causing such harm, and he expresses his concerns to God. Nevertheless, God insists, saying, “This man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and Israelites, and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name” (Acts 9:15b). Again, if I were Ananias and had heard all of that, I still would have been tempted to say, “Really? Him?” Fortunately for Saul, and fortunately for us, Ananias displayed more trust in God, and although he still might have been afraid for his life, he accepted God’s will and sought Saul out, healing him of his blindness and initiating him into the Christian faith through baptism. Without the cooperative faith of Ananias, Paul might have remained in the darkness; he might have remained Saul. Ananias, too, underwent a conversion – a turning away from his previous assumption of how God works and an embracing of a new vision, a new understanding that God’s ways are not our ways. As Paul would later attest in his first letter to the Corinthians, “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God” (1 Cor 1:27-9).

In celebrating the conversion of St. Paul, we might be tempted to wish for a blinding flash of light that would knock us to the ground and eliminate our desires for those things in our lives that lead us from Jesus. I know that I’ve certainly wished for the clarity Paul seemed to have in the immediate wake of his encounter with Christ. However, it’s important to remember that Paul’s conversion was no one-time-only event; it continued for the rest of his life. As we see from his writings, Paul continued to struggle with temptation, fatigue, frustration, and persecution; yet he continued to turn his face toward Christ, continued to say “yes” to the will of God and “no” to that which clouded his vision, and in so doing, he fulfilled the command of Christ to “proclaim the Gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15), and forever changed the course of human history.

http://sites.nd.edu/oblation/2013/01/24/encounter-illumination-and-conversion-on-the-road-to-damascus/

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Tending to the spirit of the dying

December 28, 2017

James Low For The Straits Times

Responding to earlier articles on euthanasia, a doctor advocates better spiritual care of the dying.

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We humans must be the only creatures in this universe who grapple with the awareness that our existence in this world will come to an end some day in the future.

Death awareness starts from the age of five when one attempts to make sense of events, people and the surrounding world. In trying to find the meaning of life, existence and death, we contemplate the past, present and future in relation to the universe that we live in. The why, how and what-if questions plague most humans at various points in life regardless of what our belief systems may be and whether we are atheists or profess a religion.

This existential or spiritual dimension of humans is part of the multi-dimensional human model first described by the late psychiatrist George Engel in the 1970s.

As one nears the end, spiritual issues take on greater significance. The late Dame Cicely Saunders, founder of the palliative care movement, proposed the concept of “total pain” based on Dr Engel’s model of the human.

Pain in terminally ill patients emanating as physical or psychological pain may progress into spiritual pain when the patient doubts the value and worth of his existence. This may be compounded by the perceived hopelessness, meaninglessness, guilt and a sense of being a burden to family and friends. A sense of fear, foreboding, confusion and grief compounds the situation, further leading to a desire for a quick death.

Patients who wish death upon themselves for whatever reason almost invariably have some degree of spiritual pain. For such patients, addressing the root causes, such as uncontrolled physical suffering, clinical depression and complex grief, may not suffice for the crux of the problem could be an underlying spiritual pain.

Individuals seeking to end their lives, another feature of human spirituality, via euthanasia or suicide may look towards a wonder drug that can “save them from the misery”.

Doctors are increasingly called upon to provide the miracle “cure” for existential and spiritual pain. “Aid-in-dying” and “physician-assisted suicide”, euphemisms for euthanasia, are means to providing death in a controlled, sanitised and quick manner by way of prescribing a drug or cocktail of drugs.

This approach, however, does not consider the spiritual dimension of the human and seemingly affords a quick-fix physical solution to what is essentially a spiritual problem.

The balm for spiritual pain does not come in the form of a medication or drug. Dr Harold Koenig, director of the Centre for Spirituality, Theology and Health at Duke University Medical Centre, remarked that building a personal narrative, aided by a healthy perspective of spirituality or religion, is important in people undergoing severe trauma.

Dr Viktor Frankl, another renowned psychiatrist who was incarcerated in a German concentration camp during World War II, observed in his seminal book, Man’s Search For Meaning, that finding meaning in the most difficult of times, amid pain and suffering, determines whether a prisoner would survive or succumb quickly. Those who held a purpose or hope in life were more resilient and survived longer.

Spiritual care remains an underdeveloped facet of holistic care in this part of the world. Health issues and illnesses serve as catalysts for spiritual questions to emerge. Spirituality is often confused with religiosity.

For many, the latter provides a framework of beliefs and practices to answer questions of the former. Many of the principles of spiritual care are secular in nature and can be applied universally.

Spiritual care is journeying with patients and seeing them off in a compassionate and loving way, neither hastening nor slowing that journey. It is to restore meaning, purpose and hope to patients right to the last moment of their life and impressing upon them that their continued existence, no matter how difficult it may be for others, is important.

There is increasing evidence in scientific literature showing the association between spiritual wellness and resilience in the face of trauma, pain and suffering.

We are discovering, just like Dr Frankl did 60 years ago, that resilience, suffering and survivability are all interrelated and are founded on a strong sense of meaning, worth and personhood of the human spirit.

Unfortunately, a recent study by researchers from the University of Bristol, across nine countries, found that spiritual distress, though highly prevalent, is hardly recognised and, therefore, not managed well at the end of life. The participants reported a need for staff to be trained in spiritual care.

Spirituality and humankind’s quest for longevity gave birth to medicine. The early practice of medicine was steeped in spiritual and religious traditions. This preceded the development of the science of medicine. It will do our society well to pay greater heed to spiritual care for the sick and dying.

Spiritual or pastoral care, as it is known in some countries, is fast developing into a much-needed aspect of healthcare. Should the last piece of the healthcare jigsaw be put in place, it would seem that medicine has come a full circle from where it originated.

• The writer is a council member at the Singapore Hospice Council and a senior consultant at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.

http://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/tend-to-the-spirit-of-the-dying?&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social-media&utm_campaign=addtoany

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“No life is complete without pain, suffering and death.” — Viktor Frankl
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First Thought From Peace and Freedom
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St. Ignatius of Loyola believed very strongly that every person could and should achieve a transformational change in life — a change toward a more God-centered and less self-centered existence.
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Ignatius started his transformation or conversion while in recovery from wounds of war. For centuries, pain, suffering and hardships in life have become the catalyst for a complete change of self for many people. The Spiritual Exercise were written by  St Ignatius of Loyola to assist everyman in achieving this life-saving transformational change.
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Centuries later, the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and its “Twelve Steps” provided a new but very similar roadmap to those seeking a transformational change.
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When the Big Book was first published, Fr. Eddie Dowling bought a copy in St. Louis to read. He was so taken by the book, he took the train to New York City to meet Bill Wilson, whom people said had written the book. When Fr. Dowling met Bill W. he asked him, “Where did you get all this Ignatian teaching?”
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Do you pray? Saint John Paul II said, “No prayer, no spiritual life.” If you aren’t talking to God who are you talking to when you pray? Yourself?

John Paul II also said,  “No faith, no miracles….”

When we are on the doorstep of death, it’s too late to develop a spiritual framework that will sustain us. That’s why so many people invest large parts of their life in spiritual development using religion or whatever else is most helpful to them…

Below is a list of resources that can be of use to everyone and anyone who “fears” death…. Or for your loved ones who seem disconnected from the spiritual reality of death…

 (This is our most complete look at resources for people reaching out on a spiritual level….)

Many of us struggle with ego, false pride and self-esteem issues. Many of us constantly worry about money, our jobs, our future security, our health or health care.
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Yet Jesus says, “Do not worry about your life.” Again and again the theme in the Bible is “Do not be afraid.”
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A basic teaching of Christianity is: With Jesus we are OK. Do not be afraid.
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“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.”
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In other words: stay in the present moment.
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How come we refuse to believe?
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It is interesting to me that Alcoholics Anonymous teaches newcomers to believe in what they were often taught as very young children — but they somehow refused or neglected to believe.
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The Twelve Steps of AA start with “We admitted that we were powerless…” The very start of AA suggests humility and self-abandonment. By the Third Step, alcoholics are taught to put all their trust in a Higher Power.
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Self-abandonment can also be thought of as surrender. Each of us knows in our heart when its time for that…
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Humility, self -abandonment, trust in God and the “Christian way of life”  are the tonic used by patient, kind, forgiving, useful people to keep their lives in order.
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The readings also remind us today of an old friend, now gone to his heavenly reward, who often said, “God won’t give us more than is equal to the strengths of the gifts he has given us.” In other words, “Fear not, God is on our side.”
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I have come to ask myself at the start of each day: What are we seeking — and What are we using to get there?

How Can I Possibly Believe That Faith Is Better Than Doubt? (Unless you try it…)

December 26, 2017

The Incredulity of St. Thomas, 1602-03, by Caravaggio.
Credit Bridgeman Images

Why is it that, according to Jesus, faith is better than proof? That’s a question I’ve struggled to answer ever since I began my pilgrimage of faith as a young man. Sometimes it seemed more pressing, other times less so. It can intensify during periods of grief and pain, when faith may not offer much consolation or even make much sense in a world that seems random and cruel.

This question is compounded during periods like this one, when faith seems to distort reality rather than clarify it, when it’s easily manipulated for low rather than high purpose and when some of those who claim to be people of faith act in ways that bring dishonor to it and themselves.

Why take a leap of faith, given all that? Insisting on a little more empirical evidence before you make the leap seems pretty reasonable.

The apostle Thomas clearly thought so. According to the Gospel of John, the other disciples told Thomas that they had seen the risen Lord, to which Thomas replied he wouldn’t believe until he put his fingers in the nail marks in Jesus’ hands and put his hand into Jesus’ side.

Fast-forward a week, when Thomas encounters Jesus, who tells him, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas does, to which Jesus replies, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Not seeing and still believing is held up by Jesus as a greater thing than seeing and believing. But I’m not sure I have ever fully grasped what it is about faith that makes it precious in the eyes of God. Recently, with the help of friends — pastors, theologians, authors, fellow believers — I’ve tried to deepen my understanding on that subject.

To start out, it’s worth noting that treating Christian faith as different from proof doesn’t mean it’s antithetical to evidence and reason. Christianity is a faith that claims to be rooted in history, not abstract philosophy. St. Paul wrote that if Jesus was not resurrected from the dead, the Christian faith is “futile” and followers of Jesus are “of all people most to be pitied.”

Christians would say, in fact, that reason is affirmed in Scripture — “Come now, and let us reason together,” is how the prophet Isaiah puts it — and that faith properly understood is consistent with and deepens our understanding of reality. “Reason purifies faith,” George Weigel, my colleague at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, told me. “Faith without reason risks descending into superstition; reason without faith builds a world without windows, doors or skylights.”

But faith itself, while not the converse of reason, is still distinct from it. If it seems like that’s asking too much — if you think leaps of faith are for children rather than adults — consider this: Materialists, rationalists and atheists ultimately place their trust in certain propositions that require faith. To say that truth is only intelligible through reason is itself a statement of faith. Denying the existence of God is as much a leap of faith as asserting it. As the pastor Tim Keller told me, “Most of the things we most deeply believe in — for example, human rights and human equality — are not empirically provable.”

“The supreme function of reason is to show man that some things are beyond reason,” is how Blaise Pascal put it. Something would not require faith if the proof of it was absolute. According to Philip Yancey, the author of “The Jesus I Never Knew,” “Faith requires the possibility of rejection, or it is not faith.”

Perhaps the key to understanding why faith is prized within the Christian tradition is that it involves trust that would not be needed if the existence of God were subject to a mathematical proof. What God is seeking is not our intellectual assent so much as a relationship with us. That is, after all, one of the purposes of the incarnation of God in Jesus.

Every meaningful relationship — parent-child, spouse to spouse, friend to friend — involves some degree of trust. It is better and more vivifying to be the object of someone’s trust rather than the last person standing after a series of logical deductions. That’s true for us as individuals, and it can be true for God as well.

Faith demonstrates human trust in him — and, according to James Forsyth, pastor at McLean Presbyterian Church in Virginia, which my family attends, it demonstrates that we accept God’s love for us. “There is a force within love that longs to be received,” he says.

Craig Barnes, the president of Princeton Theological Seminary, told me, “Faith is a greater blessing than proof because it gives us a relationship with Jesus. All good relationships are bound together by love. And love is always an expression of faith.” He also pointed out that proofs don’t necessarily inspire belief. Toward the end of his Gospel, Matthew mentions that some still doubted after they looked right at the risen Christ. (“When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.”)

Some of those who witnessed the miracles of Jesus eventually sought to kill him. And Judas, one of Jesus’ original disciples, betrayed him with a kiss. So sensory experience isn’t enough to compel belief and allegiance.

Our most important forms of knowledge rarely come from logic or proof, according to Cherie Harder, the president of the Trinity Forum. Citing the work of the theologian Lesslie Newbigin, she says it comes through a more personal knowledge. For example, I know my wife loves me because I know her, I know her heart, I know her character, and because I trust her. “Your knowledge of her is less about physical certainty,” Ms. Harder wrote to me, “and more about a well-placed confidence in who she is (a faith in her that is qualitatively different, and far more personal and holistic, than intellectual certainty).”

“Faith,” Ms. Harder added, “is tied to love in a way that logical deduction and reason are not. We are changed by what we love more than what we think.”

Faith can allow us to understand things in a different way than reason does, in a manner similar to what J.R.R. Tolkien meant when he said that pagan myths weren’t lies but rather pointed toward deep truths. The imagination could be integrated into reason, he believed, in a way that helped us to see reality a bit more clearly. Reason is one way to perceive reality; faith — rooted not in partisan ideology but in grace and a sense of the sacred — is another.

There’s one other difference between faith and reason. The latter can analyze things like quantum physics and modern cosmology. But what faith can do is to put our lives in an unfolding narrative in ways reason cannot. It gives us a role in a gripping drama, of which the Christmas story is one defining scene. It’s a drama that includes sin and betrayal, redemption and grace; and ultimately it gives purpose to our lives despite the brokenness and pain we experience. This may mean nothing to you, but to people of faith, it can mean everything. If God is real, perhaps it should.

It’s notable that when Thomas makes his request to Jesus, he’s not condemned. Rather, Jesus gives Thomas what he needed — in his case, proof — and in doing so makes it clear that Jesus is willing to meet us where we are. Some need proof, at least as a start; for others, faith alone is enough.

According to Christian tradition, Thomas would eventually go on to serve as a missionary in India, where he was martyred. I imagine his faithfulness had less to do with putting his hand in the side of Jesus than what transpired within his heart. His intellectual doubts gave way to calm trust. In my experience, at least, that journey hasn’t always been an easy one. For many of us, shadows of doubt coexist with faith.

To emphasize faith is not to cast out doubt. In fact, it is precisely to take doubt seriously, but also to understand the doubter more completely — not just as a reasoning mind but as a full person, possessed of a divine spark that lets us see, now and then, right through the walls we have built between faith and reason.

Paul Keating: Voluntary euthanasia is a threshold moment for Australia, and one we should not cross

October 19, 2017
  • By Paul Keating

There is probably no more important issue in contemporary bioethics or a more serious ethical decision for our parliaments than that raised by the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 being debated this week in the Victorian Parliament.

Under this bill, conditions and safeguards are outlined that will allow physicians to terminate the life of patients and to assist patients to take their own life. This is a threshold moment for the country. No matter what justifications are offered for the bill, it constitutes an unacceptable departure in our approach to human existence and the irrevocable sanctity that should govern our understanding of what it means to be human.

The justifications offered by the bill’s advocates – that the legal conditions are stringent or that the regime being authorised will be conservative – miss the point entirely. What matters is the core intention of the law. What matters is the ethical threshold being crossed. What matters is that under Victorian law there will be people whose lives we honour and those we believe are better off dead.

In both practical and moral terms, it is misleading to think allowing people to terminate their life is without consequence for the entire society. Too much of the Victorian debate has been about the details and conditions under which people can be terminated and too little about the golden principles that would be abandoned by our legislature.

One of the inevitable aspects of debates about euthanasia is the reluctance on the part of advocates to confront the essence of what they propose. In this case it means permitting physicians to intentionally kill patients or assisting patients in killing themselves. Understandably, the medical profession is gravely concerned by this venture.

An alarming aspect of the debate is the claim that safeguards can be provided at every step to protect the vulnerable. This claim exposes the bald utopianism of the project – the advocates support a bill to authorise termination of life in the name of compassion, while at the same time claiming they can guarantee protection of the vulnerable, the depressed and the poor.

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No law and no process can achieve that objective. This is the point. If there are doctors prepared to bend the rules now, there will be doctors prepared to bend the rules under the new system. Beyond that, once termination of life is authorised the threshold is crossed. From that point it is much easier to liberalise the conditions governing the law. And liberalised they will be. Few people familiar with our politics would doubt that pressure would mount for further liberalisation based on the demand that people are being discriminated against if denied. The experience of overseas jurisdictions suggests the pressures for further liberalisation are irresistible.

While there are different views strongly expressed within the medical profession, the president of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Michael Gannon, has explained that the formal position of the AMA is opposition to interventions that have as their primary intention the ending of a person’s life.

Dr Gannon recently said: “Once you legislate this you cross the Rubicon. The cause for euthanasia has been made in a very emotional way and this is the latest expression of individual autonomy as an underlying principle. But the sick, the elderly, the disabled, the chronically ill and the dying must never be made to feel they are a burden.”

Palliative Care has issued the most serious warnings. It says at least one in four Victorians who die each year (about 10,000 people) do not have access to needed palliative care, that access in aged residential care is “very low”, that between 2 and 10 per cent of older Australians experience abuse in any given year and that its funding is inadequate to meet growing demand.

The submission highlights the problems with this bill – it is a disproportionate response to the real problems of patient pain and suffering, a situation that demands greater priority in public care and funding. It is true that if this bill fails then some people will endure more pain and this is difficult for legislators to contemplate. It is also true, however, that more people in our community will be put at risk by this bill than will be granted relief as its beneficiaries. This is the salient point.

Palliative Care said the bill ‘sends the wrong message to people contemplating suicide and undermines suicide prevention efforts.’ How could this not be the case? Suicide is the leading cause of death among people aged 15-44 and the second leading cause of death among people aged 45-54. International studies offer no support for the view that legalising euthanasia is associated with a decrease in non-assisted suicides.

The bill’s failure is pre-set by its design.

The issue is not how many people will choose to die under this proposed law. It is how many people may die when otherwise they wouldn’t. As Dr Gannon says it is “commonplace” for patients to tell doctors in front of their loved ones that they have no wish to be a burden on families.

Once this bill is passed the expectations of patients and families will change. The culture of dying, despite certain and intense resistance, will gradually permeate into our medical, health, social and institutional arrangements. It stands for everything a truly civil society should stand against. A change of this kind will affect our entire community not just a small number of dying patients. It is fatuous to assert that patients will not feel under pressure once this bill becomes law to nominate themselves for termination.

Opposition to this bill is not about religion. It is about the civilisational ethic that should be at the heart of our secular society. The concerns I express are shared by people of any religion or no religion. In public life it is the principles that matter. They define the norms and values of a society and in this case the principles concern our view of human life itself. It is a mistake for legislators to act on the deeply held emotional concerns of many when that involves crossing a threshold that will affect the entire society in perpetuity.

Paul Keating is a former prime minister of Australia

http://www.smh.com.au/comment/paul-keating-voluntary-euthanasia-is-a-threshold-moment-for-australia-and-one-we-should-not-cross-20171019-gz412h.html

Prayer and Meditation for Friday, September 15, 2017 — Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows — “I am grateful to him who has strengthened me.” — “Because I live, you also will live.”

September 14, 2017

Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows
Lectionary: 441/639

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Our Lady of Sorrows by Sassoferrato

Reading 1 1 TM 1:1-2, 12-14

Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our savior
and of Christ Jesus our hope,
to Timothy, my true child in faith:
grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father
and Christ Jesus our Lord.

I am grateful to him who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord,
because he considered me trustworthy
in appointing me to the ministry.
I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and an arrogant man,
but I have been mercifully treated
because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief.
Indeed, the grace of our Lord has been abundant,
along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

Responsorial Psalm PS 16:1B-2A AND 5, 7-8, 11

R. (see 5) You are my inheritance, O Lord.
Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge;
I say to the LORD, “My Lord are you.”
O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.
I bless the LORD who counsels me;
even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.
You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.

mothercrucified3

https://www.markmallett.com/blog/category/mary/page/2/

Sequence (Optional) — Stabat Mater

At the cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.

Through her heart, his sorrow sharing,
All his bitter anguish bearing,
Now at length the sword had passed.

Oh, how sad and sore distressed
Was that Mother highly blessed
Of the sole begotten One!

Christ above in torment hangs,
She beneath beholds the pangs
Of her dying, glorious Son.

Is there one who would not weep,
‘Whelmed in miseries so deep,
Christ’s dear Mother to behold?

Can the human heart refrain
From partaking in her pain,
In that mother’s pain untold?

Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled,
She beheld her tender Child,
All with bloody scourges rent.

For the sins of his own nation
Saw him hang in desolation
Till his spirit forth he sent.

O sweet Mother! font of love,
Touch my spirit from above,
Make my heart with yours accord.

Make me feel as you have felt;
Make my soul to glow and melt
With the love of Christ, my Lord.

Holy Mother, pierce me through,
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Savior crucified.

Let me share with you his pain,
Who for all our sins was slain,
Who for me in torments died.

Let me mingle tears with you,
Mourning him who mourned for me,
All the days that I may live.

By the cross with you to stay,
There with you to weep and pray,
Is all I ask of you to give.

Virgin of all virgins blest!
Listen to my fond request:
Let me share your grief divine.

Let me to my latest breath,
In my body bear the death
Of that dying Son of yours.

Wounded with his every wound,
Steep my soul till it has swooned
In his very Blood away.

Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
Lest in flames I burn and die,
In his awful judgment day.

Christ, when you shall call me hence,
Be your Mother my defense,
Be your cross my victory.

While my body here decays,
May my soul your goodness praise,
Safe in heaven eternally.
Amen. (Alleluia)

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, O Virgin Mary;
without dying you won the martyr’s crown
beneath the Cross of the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 19:25-27

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother
and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas,
and Mary Magdalene.
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved
he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.”
Then he said to the disciple,
“Behold, your mother.”
And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

Image result for Our Lady of Sorrows, art, pictures

Our Lady of Sorrows by Tianna Mallett

Or LK 2:33-35

Jesus’ father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
“Behold, this child is destined
for the fall and rise of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be contradicted
and you yourself a sword will pierce
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

https://www.markmallett.com/blog/category/mary/page/2/

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Our Lady of Sorrows – Commentary on Hebrews 5:7-9; Ps 30; Luke 2:33-35 or John 19:25-27 From Living Space

There are two choices for the Gospel reading. The first is from Luke’s account of the Presentation in the Temple. While they were in the Temple, Mary and Joseph met the holy man Simeon, who had been promised that he would not die before laying eyes on the Messiah.

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When he meets Mary and Joseph, he recognises the Messiah in the Baby she is holding. He then proceeds to make some prophecies about Jesus and, addressing Mary herself, tells her that a “sword of sorrow” will pierce her heart. He does not specify what that “sword” might be but now we can see that it particularly alludes to the suffering and death of Jesus which she witnessed. However, the “sword” can also be applied to the other painful experiences we remember in the Seven Sorrows of Mary.

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The alternative Gospel reading is from John’s account of the Crucifixion where he mentions that the “mother of Jesus” was standing by the foot of the Cross as her Son died. With her were two other women, her sister called Mary (wife of Clopas), Mary of Magdala and the “beloved disciple”.

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Seeing them there, Jesus entrusts the Beloved Disciple to the care of his Mother, while telling the Beloved Disciple that Jesus’ Mother is his also. Some would see in this scene the Mother of Jesus as symbolising the Christian community. There is to be a relationship of mutual support between the community and its dedicated members. The community exists for the well-being of the individual members and each member is committed in turn to the well-being of the community.

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The First Reading is from the Letter to the Hebrews and speaks of Jesus’ passionate prayer to his Father that he not have to go through the terrible death of the Cross. And his prayer was heard, because of his total submission to his Father. It was precisely through the acceptance of his suffering that he learnt to be totally at one with the will of his Father. And, being made perfect through his obedience, he became a source of salvation for all others who unite themselves to him.

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And who was more united to Jesus than his Mother? It is because of her acceptance of and identification with the sufferings of her Son that we celebrate her memory today.

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Related:
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Our Lady of Sorrows — The Madonna in Sorrow, by Sassoferrato, 17th century
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
(From September 15, 2014)
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There are many ways to look at sufferings in life.   Those who are negative will look at sufferings as a curse from God.  Such an attitude can turn them bitter against God and the world.  When we try to run away from our sufferings or deny them, we will end up being miserable.

Fortunately, most of us assume a positive approach to suffering; seeing it as a pedagogy of life.  In other words, it teaches us about life and most of all, it purifies our attitude towards people.  It helps to sanctify us.  Indeed, as the letter to the Hebrews tells us, Jesus Himself learned obedience through suffering.  In other words, we can embrace suffering as part of the mystery of life or fight it.  If we fight against suffering, then we open ourselves to greater pain, like when we harden our muscles when receiving an injection.  The way to overcome suffering is to let go and embrace it as God’s will for our growth, purification and strengthening of character.

However, it is not sufficient to see suffering in this manner as it is still very much focused on the self.  Rather, suffering should teach us to reach out, for it is only in reaching out that we are able to forget our own sufferings.  The clue to reaching out is found in the gospel of St John, when we are told that “the disciple made a place for her in his home.”  In other words, like John, we are called to feel with Mary, just as Mary felt with Jesus and identified herself with Him.

When St Paul tells us that if we share in the sufferings of Christ, we will also share in His glory, and that if we share in His death, we also share in His resurrection, he is not simply suggesting that if we suffer just like Jesus, we too will be glorified and raised like Jesus.  Of course, this is true, but there is a deeper significance to this exhortation of Paul.

St Paul is telling us that in sharing the sufferings of Christ, we will understand not only what Christ has gone through, but what He has suffered for us, for our sake and for our salvation.  In other words, by sharing in His sufferings, we can now identify with Him, not just in His sufferings, but also feel the depth of His love for us.  Only when we come to know how much He has loved us, can we come to love Him even more.  If we are called to know how much He suffered, it is so that we can appreciate the extent of His selfless love for us.  It is important that we understand the purpose of His sufferings.

Suffering in itself is not redeeming unless it is experienced for love of others.  So in sharing Christ’s sufferings and understanding His love for us, we are now ready to suffer for Him in return as our grateful response to His love.  Indeed, this was the way Christ suffered.  If He could suffer so much for us, it was because He had experienced the Father’s self-emptying love for Him.

Even in human relationships, we are inclined to be more sympathetic to people whom we encounter, and those who share their sufferings and pain with us.  Without understanding their struggles, the natural reaction would be for us to apply the laws to them objectively, without taking into consideration their existential context.  But justice, especially the justice of God, requires that we apply laws within the context and circumstances of each individual, as opposed to a legalistic manner.  Indeed, when we lack contact with a person and lack understanding of his or her personal struggles, we cannot empathize very much with the person.

That is why dialogue and communion enables us to feel with and for each other.  It is not in our nature to act objectively; only robots do that.  But neither do we act subjectively, for if we do, then we are not living out the truth.  Rather, we act objectively in a subjective manner, taking into consideration both the person and his circumstances.  Compassion and justice meet in God and in the Christian.  Once we recognize the person as a person and not a thing, then we too, can help the person to transcend his struggles.

Truly, if we feel with each other, then like Jesus, we will look upon others with compassion and sympathy rather than judgmentally.  In silent tears, we pray for those who are suffering and in pain, especially for our enemies, because like Jesus, we can understand why they are acting the way they do.  Like Jesus, we are called to forget our own sufferings but instead, to look towards the sufferings of others, so that no longer will we judge them with condemnation but with mercy.  For like Christ, we are called to share not just in His sufferings but we must also share in the sufferings of our enemies.

Today, Mary is our model.  If she is so associated with the redemptive suffering of Christ, it is because as a mother she must have felt with Jesus in His mission of love.  Most of all, if she could forgive the enemies of her Son, it was also because she could feel the way He felt for His enemies.  So, if we too, can feel with Jesus in His sufferings through our sufferings, we will repent of our own sins, return to Him in love and gratitude and undertake upon ourselves the same mission of love and mercy that we have received from Jesus.

– See more at: http://www.csctr.net/15-september-2014-our-lady-of-sorrows/#sthash.Z32XBVDT.dpuf

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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September 15, 2015
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SHARING THE SUFFERINGS OF OUR LOVED ONES IN SPIRIT
SCRIPTURE READINGS: Hebrews 5:7-9Luke 2:33-35

How often do we feel helpless in helping people, especially when they are suffering?  Not only are we unable to help them financially or physically, but even emotionally.  Indeed, we are often lost for words to encourage them.  We do not know what to say to comfort them.  We look at them and we feel so helpless and useless.  There is nothing we can do to relieve the suffering.  We use means in our power to help but to no avail.  We can only watch them suffer in pain and in depression.  We feel frustrated and even angry with God, besides being angry with ourselves.  In such a situation, what do we do?

Like Mary, we are called to simply stand by the cross of Jesus.  In celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, we feel with Mary who stood by Jesus not just when He was rejected in His ministry and even thought to be mad by His relatives.  She had always stood by Him in good and in bad times.   Although alone and widowed, she did not prevent Jesus from leaving home for the work of His Father.  Mary was supportive of Jesus’ mission from beginning to the end.

But we have no sufferings that can be compared with Mary’s sufferings.  No one can and will ever be able to suffer the way Mary suffered with Jesus.  She was His mother.  He was her only son, her flesh and blood.  She was one in mind and heart with her Son.  At the wedding in Cana, she was one with the will of God and invited us to do the same, “Do whatever He tells you.”   When presented with a problem she did not once exert the obligations of filial piety on Jesus to solve it. She just informed the Son that “they had no wine” without instructing Him what to do.  She knew her Son better and trusted in His wisdom and judgement.  (cf Jn 2)

Hence, when we reflect on the death of Jesus on the Cross, it must be said, that although Mary did not suffer in body like Jesus, she suffered in spirit.  She was a martyr in spirit. St Bernard wrote, “Who are you and what is the source of your wisdom that you are more surprised at the compassion of Mary than at the passion of Mary’s Son? For if he could die in body, could she not die with him in spirit? He died in body through a love greater than anyone had known. She died in spirit through a love unlike any other since his.” She suffered not so much in her body but she suffered as much as what Jesus suffered on the cross morally.  Jesus suffered because of our sins, which He carried in His body. Not only did He carry our sins but He was also condemned for our sins. Like the Suffering Servant, He was crushed for our sins.

What went through the heart of Mary when she saw her Son carrying the cross through the streets of Jerusalem on His way to Mount Calvary?  We cannot imagine how much she would have suffered, seeing her Son bathed in blood, scourged beyond recognition, losing so much blood and with raw and open wounds, carrying the cross and being paraded as a criminal.  Yet, Mary stood bravely with Jesus and moved with the crowd as she watched helplessly her Son struggling all alone with the weight of the cross and enduring the ignominy of being ridiculed and shamed by the people and mocked by the soldiers.  Yet, Mary did not utter a word against God or against His enemies.  In sorrow and in pain she shared with Jesus His sufferings in her heart.  She must have been such a strong woman to carry such pain in her heart.  Her grief cannot be compared to ours even when we lose our own loved ones.

Most of all, when she was at the foot of the cross, she had to endure the last filial act of our Lord on the Cross when He gave His disciple to Mary, “Behold your son!”  And to the beloved disciple, “Behold your mother!”  (Cf Jn 19:26f)  On the surface, Jesus was doing a filial act by entrusting the care of His mother to one of His disciples, since Jesus was her only son.  But how can the Son of God be replaced by the son of man; or a master by a disciple?  There is no substitute for Jesus.  This is true for us when we love someone dearly and deeply.  Can anyone replace our spouse, our boyfriend or girlfriend or even our dog?

Mary fulfilled the prophecy of Simeon who said that a sword will pierce her heart. “As the father and mother of Jesus stood wondering at the things that were being said about him, Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘You see this child: he is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected – and a sword will pierce your own soul too – so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.’”  (Lk 2:33-35)  So deep is the wound and so sharp is the sword that no one can ever feel the way she felt.  After the death of Jesus, He no longer felt the pain in His body or in His soul, but her soul suffered the violence of sorrow.  For this reason, the Church gave her the title, Our Lady of Seven Sorrows.  Beyond the prophecy of Simeon, she suffered when she had to flee for their lives to Egypt.  She suffered the loss of the child Jesus in the Temple.  She was filled with sorrow when she met Jesus on the way to Calvary.  Certainly, she must have been so overwhelmed at the way Jesus died on the cross.  As if it was not enough to see Him crucified, Mary had to see her Son pierced on the side by a soldier’s lance.  This last action would have pierced her heart even more.  Finally, all that was left for Mary was to receive the lifeless bloody body of Jesus in her arms and leave Him in the tomb.  Such were the seven sorrows of Mary.

Yet in all these events, she was not angry with God or vindictive of the enemies of her Son.  She stood by the cross in silence and joined her sufferings with that of her Son, forgiving those who killed Him.  There was no anger but only grief for her enemies because of their ignorance.  She was so full of love that she could love beyond herself and her own pain of seeing her Son suffering.   Like her Son on the cross, she would have uttered the same words of Jesus in her heart, “Father, forgive them for they knew not what they were doing.”  Like Jesus, Mary not only forgave her enemies but she prayed for them and made excuses for their actions, reducing them to ignorance.  Such was the magnanimity of Mary.  How many of us pray for our enemies with love and compassion, much less to make excuses for them for hurting us and making us suffer?

In the light of this feast of our Lady of Sorrows, we too are called to suffer in spirit with those who are suffering, especially when they suffer innocently and unjustly.  Our blessed Mother is asking us to suffer in silence and in love for them, whether they are our friends or our enemies.  If we feel helpless like her for her Son, let us offer that inadequacy in helping our loved ones with Mary to Jesus. With those who are the cause of our suffering, we must remember what St Peter wrote, “Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called – that you might inherit a blessing.”  (1 Pt 3:9)  And again, he wrote, “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God.”  (1 Pt 3:17f)

Indeed, following the example of Jesus in our weakness, we need to surrender everything to the Lord in faith and trust and in obedience.  If we surrender ourselves to Him in total obedience to His divine will and wisdom, the Lord will hear us and He will transform us.  This is all that is needed of us.  We cannot take things into our own hands.  We need to allow God to be God.  Just as He did the impossible by raising Jesus from the dead, He will do the same for us.   We only need to pray in faith.  We are called to stand by the cross like Mary.  We feel with them and for them.  Remaining helpless, we need to believe in the power and wisdom of God that He will act in His own time.

So let us obey Jesus and give a place to Mary in our home, in our spiritual life.  Like the beloved disciple, let us bring Mary to our home.  This means that we are called to accept Mary as our spiritual mother.  She is the mother of the Church represented by the unnamed disciple of the Lord.  We are called to learn from her to share the sufferings in spirit of those whom we cannot help in body.   We may not be able to take away the sufferings of the other person but we can always pray for them and offer them the hope of Christ.  Let us in faith take the assurance of Jesus to heart, “Because I live, you also will live.” (Jn 14:19)

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Rohingya Muslims ‘maimed by landmines’

September 12, 2017

BBC News

Roshida Haque

Roshida Haque says her 15-year-old son is unlikely to survive

The BBC has spoken to Rohingya Muslims maimed after apparently stepping on landmines as they fled Myanmar (Burma).

A boy of 15 being treated in Bangladesh lost both legs while a woman at the same hospital said she had trodden on a landmine after being fired on.

The area was mined in the 1990s but Bangladeshi sources say Myanmar’s army recently planted new mines – an allegation denied by Myanmar officials.

More than 300,000 Rohingya have fled a brutal security crackdown in Myanmar.

On Monday UN human rights chief Zeid Raad al-Hussein said that a “cruel military operation” was taking place, calling it “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

What sparked latest violence in Rakhine?

The Rohingya, a stateless mostly Muslim minority in Buddhist-majority Rakhine, have long experienced persecution in Myanmar, which says they are illegal immigrants.

Bangladesh’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, is due to visit one of her country’s main refugee camps for Rohingya. She said earlier that Myanmar had to solve a problem of its own making.

The White House has called on Myanmar to respect the rule of law and end the displacement of civilians.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader, is facing mounting criticism for failing to protect the Rohingya.

‘Suffering so much’

On Sunday the human rights group Amnesty International accused the authorities of laying landmines at border crossings used by fleeing Rohingya.

Bangladeshi government sources made the same allegation speaking to Reuters news agency last week.

Azizu Haque lost his legs in a blast, as Reeta Chakrabarti reports

The hospital visited by the BBC has seen an influx of people with landmine injuries, doctors say.

The 15-year-old boy, Azizu Haque, arrived with his legs destroyed. His brother, in another hospital, suffered the same fate, his mother says.

“Their injuries are so bad it’s as if they are dead,” she told the BBC. “It’s better that Allah [God] takes them, they are suffering so much.”

Who is burning down Rohingya villages?

The injured woman, Sabequr Nahar, says she fled Myanmar because the military had been targeting her community, and she was crossing the border with her three sons when she stepped on a landmine.

“We’d been fired on, shot at, and they planted mines,” the 50-year-old said.


Horrific injuries – by Reeta Chakrabarti, BBC News, Bangladesh

Azizu Haque’s body has been devastated by a blast, his legs gone, and parts of his torso also injured. His doctor is visibly emotional when he talks of trying to save him – he doesn’t expect to be successful. Azizu has a rare blood type, and the hospital has no blood bank, and has run out of donors.

Next door in the women’s ward, Sabequr Nahar is a tiny, exhausted figure. She says she crossed the Myanmar border behind her three sons – they got through unscathed.

It is unclear who laid the traps that caused these injuries – and when – but the condition of these people nevertheless raises questions about the Myanmar government’s version of events.


How the did the violence start?

The violence began on 25 August when Rohingya militants attacked police posts in the northern state of Rakhine, killing 12 security personnel.

The attacks triggered a vast security operation that has drawn international criticism.

Rohingya who have fled Myanmar say villages have been burned and civilians attacked in a brutal campaign to drive them out.

The UN Security Council said it was looking to meet on Wednesday to discuss the violence after Sweden and the UK requested a closed-door meeting on the “deteriorating situation” in Rakhine state.

Aid agencies say Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are in desperate need of aid

Bangladesh is already host to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who have fled previous outbreaks of violence in Rakhine.

Existing refugee camps are full and the new arrivals are sleeping rough in whatever space they can find, reports say.

The Rohingya are extremely unpopular inside Myanmar. On Sunday, police fired rubber bullets to break up a mob attacking the home of a Muslim butcher in Magway region in central Myanmar. One protester was quoted by AFP news agency saying it was a response to events in Rakhine.

Myanmar: Who are the Rohingya?

How much pressure is there on Suu Kyi to speak out?

Five Nobel peace Laureates have accused her of showing “indifference” to the Rohingya’s plight.

In an open letter issued by the Nobel Women’s Initiative, they say Ms Suu Kyi has a “personal and moral responsibility to uphold and defend the rights” of Myanmar’s citizens.

The letter is signed by Mairead Maguire, Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkol Karman, who were awarded the Nobel peace prize between 1976 and 2011.

“How many Rohingya have to die; how many Rohingya women will be raped; how many communities will be razed before you raise your voice in defense of those who have no voice?,” they ask in the letter.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-41234315

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people standing

Before the killing started: Myanmar Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Myanmar’s commander-in-chief, shakes hands with National League for Democracy party leader Aung San Suu Kyi in December 2015. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

Prayer and Meditation for Friday, August 11, 2017 — “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

August 10, 2017

Memorial of Saint Clare, Virgin
Lectionary: 411

Reading 1  DT 4:32-40

Moses said to the people:
“Ask now of the days of old, before your time,
ever since God created man upon the earth;
ask from one end of the sky to the other:
Did anything so great ever happen before?
Was it ever heard of?
Did a people ever hear the voice of God
speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live?
Or did any god venture to go and take a nation for himself
from the midst of another nation,
by testings, by signs and wonders, by war,
with his strong hand and outstretched arm, and by great terrors,
all of which the LORD, your God,
did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?
All this you were allowed to see
that you might know the LORD is God and there is no other.
Out of the heavens he let you hear his voice to discipline you;
on earth he let you see his great fire,
and you heard him speaking out of the fire.
For love of your fathers he chose their descendants
and personally led you out of Egypt by his great power,
driving out of your way nations greater and mightier than you,
so as to bring you in
and to make their land your heritage, as it is today.
This is why you must now know, and fix in your heart,
that the LORD is God in the heavens above and on earth below,
and that there is no other.
You must keep his statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you today,
that you and your children after you may prosper,
and that you may have long life on the land
which the LORD, your God, is giving you forever.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 77:12-13, 14-15, 16 AND 21

R. (12a) I remember the deeds of the Lord.
I remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I remember your wonders of old.
And I meditate on your works;
your exploits I ponder.
R. I remember the deeds of the Lord.
O God, your way is holy;
what great god is there like our God?
You are the God who works wonders;
among the peoples you have made known your power.
R. I remember the deeds of the Lord.
With your strong arm you redeemed your people,
the sons of Jacob and Joseph.
You led your people like a flock
under the care of Moses and Aaron.
R. I remember the deeds of the Lord.

AlleluiaMT 5:10

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness;
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 16:24-28

Jesus said to his disciples,
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit his life?
Or what can one give in exchange for his life?
For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory,
and then he will repay each according to his conduct.
Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here
who will not taste death
until they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.”

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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11 AUGUST, 2017, Friday, 18th Week, Ordinary Time

LIVING LIFE RADICALLY


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ DT 4:32-40MT 16:24-28 ]

“What, then, will a man gain if he wins the whole world and ruins his life?  Or what has a man to offer in exchange for his life?”  These are fundamental questions in life.  If we can answer these questions from the depths of our being, our fundamental option in life would change.  Indeed, when St Francis Xavier came upon this text, his whole life changed.  It suddenly dawned on him what life was all about!

So the truth is that if we want to live, we must live in the most radical manner. Unfortunately, most people always live on the superficial level.  They never bother to ask the ultimate questions of life.  They just drift and go through life without living it.  It is just like the way the greedy man eats.  The food is not tasted but goes straight from his mouth to the stomach.  He never tastes the joy of life.  When we live on the mundane level, we will never find satisfaction in life.

To drift along in life is equally disastrous.  Think of your life’s journey. When you get to where you’re going, where will you be? One year, five years, or even 20 years from now, if you keep heading in the same direction and keep doing what you are doing, what will your life look like? Not only vocationally and financially, but what kind of person will you be? Do you have a pretty clear picture of the way you would like things to turn out, or will you be as surprised when it happens as it does everybody else?  It has been my experience that most people do not spend much time with these questions. But as Henry David Thoreau once said, “In the long run, we only hit what we aim at.” To live aimlessly is to waste this precious gift of life. But to live with direction is to live fully.  Hence, the gospel challenges us to consider why and what we are living for.

In these questions, Jesus is inviting us to examine what is our greatest desire in life? What is it that can bring us real happiness?  Indeed, it is of utmost importance that each one of us must ask the question:  what is the ultimate security of my life or where do I put my security?  The answer to this question is vital since the decision we make will determine our character and our future.  If we place our hopes in material things, money and wealth or in other status symbol, can we find real happiness? Indeed, some have managed to attain what they set out to achieve but only to discover the vanity of it all.

Of what value is money or possessions if they cannot bring us happiness, peace in our heart, relationships with our fellowmen and most of all, our relationship with God?  But St Alphonsus Maria De Liguori said, “We do not fix our affections on borrowed goods, because we know that they must soon be returned to the owner. All earthly goods are lent to us: It is folly to set our heart on what we must soon quit. Death shall strip us of all. The acquisitions and fortunes of this world all terminate in a dying grasp, in a funeral, in a descent into the grave. The house which you have built for yourself you must soon give up to others.” Would we, as Jesus is asking us, exchange our lives for this temporal or illusive happiness?

In the final analysis, only living for God can bring us real happiness.  But how can one live for God unless one is convinced?  The Israelites could live for God only because of the experience of the majesty, power and love of Yahweh for them.  In order to live for God, Moses reminded the people that God is everything – our lives belong to him.   “This he showed you so that you might know that the Lord is God indeed and that there is no other.  He let you hear his voice out of heaven for your instruction; on earth he let you see his great fire, and from the heart of the fire you heard his word.  Because he loved your fathers and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out from Egypt, openly showing his presence and his great power, driving out in front of you nations greater and more powerful than yourself, and brought you into their land to give it you for your heritage, as it is still today.”

Everything we have is an out-right gift from God.  We owe Him everything, including our very lives.  It’s possible for many of us to give God our money, but not our entire self.  What we give to God or even to our fellowmen is just a token, not even 10% of what we have received from Him!   More often than not, we pay Him only lip-service, but our hearts are far from Him.  A wise disciple gladly gives up all that he has in exchange for an unending life of joy and happiness with God.  Our God gives without measure and to share His life and joy means that we too must do the same.  When we give without measure, what we give actually is never given away.  The joy and happiness we give to others remain with us!  In fact, it is doubled.  We suffer no loss in joy but only material loss which cannot bring us real happiness anyway.

We must therefore make a decision to surrender our entire life to the plan of the Father, for He is our joy and life.  ‘Understand this today, therefore, and take it to heart: the Lord is God indeed, in heaven above as on earth beneath, he and no other.” He knows best.  We just have to walk in truth and love and He will take care of us.  “Keep his laws and commandments as I give them to you today, so that you and your children may prosper and live long in the land that the Lord your God gives you forever.”

Hence, the responsorial psalm invites us to reflect on the deeds of God.  We cannot be convinced that living for God ultimately gives us life unless we experience His love for us.  The Israelites could commit their lives to the One and True God because they experienced His mighty power and love.  “I remember the deeds of the Lord, I remember your wonders of old, I muse on all your works and ponder your mighty deeds. Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is great as our God? You are the God who works wonders. You showed your power among the peoples. Your strong arm redeemed your people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. You guided your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.”

Similarly, if Jesus could live for God only, it was because of the experience of His Father’s love.  For Jesus lived a radical life for God and His kingdom even unto death.  Jesus did the Father’s will and lived according to the Father’s plan and vision.  His mission was rooted in the unconditional love of God as His Abba Father.  For us to do the Father’s will requires that we live according to our vocation, which is the vocation of love. To live life radically, one must lose one’s life, that is, to give up this present kind of life for the life of Christ.  “For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.”

To live for God is to offer our lives to Him.  The cross that Jesus speaks about is the symbol of our total commitment and giving.  When we love we are ready to suffer.  Because Jesus loves the Father, He was ready to carry the cross.  Similarly if we love then we will be ready to carry the cross.  Jesus said, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me.”  Of course, carrying the cross presupposes that we believe that that is the way to life; that the cross of Christ leads to victory and freedom from sin and death.  To carry our daily cross means to love our spouse, children, colleagues and bear with each other’s imperfections and negligence.  It means to keep on forgiving our brothers and sisters, tolerating their limitations and human frailties.  It entails living out our vocation faithfully each day, and being responsible in our duties.

To love means to carry the cross.  Those who cannot love are those who cannot suffer the cross of loving.  They only love themselves.  But when we love, we are ready to sacrifice ourselves, our pleasures and comforts for the greater joy of bringing happiness and love to other people’s life.  Do we seek true joy and happiness or passing pleasures and the happiness of life that comes from earthly things, like power, glory and pleasures?  So with St Ignatius, we pray, “Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and all my will, all that I have and possess.  You have given them to me; to you, O Lord, I restore them; all things are yours, dispose of them according to your will.  Give me your love and your grace, for this is enough for me.” (Prayer of Ignatius of Loyola, 1491-1556)

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

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Commentary on Matthew 16:24-28 from Living Space

Jesus has already shocked his disciples by telling them in advance what is going to happen to him as Messiah. Now he goes further and tells them that they, too, will have to have a part in his experience.

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They are to follow in his footsteps. Like him, they are to be ready to take up their cross, whatever it may be, and carry it behind him. For some, it will mean dying for Christ and the Kingdom. For others, it will mean living totally for Christ and the Kingdom. Notice, Jesus tells them to take up their own cross, not his. That cross will be different for each person; it takes the form of some difficult thing which it is clear we must accept and not run away from. It is not to be sought for; that would not be a healthy thing to do. It will come, unmarked and unchosen but clear.

The other way, to avoid all pain and seek only what brings pleasure and enjoyment, is to go down a cul-de-sac, a blind alley that leads nowhere. That is what we mean by trying ‘to save our life’. It is a sure way to lose it.

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What is the use of “gaining the whole world”, becoming a multi-millionaire and being profoundly unhappy? Living for oneself only is to end up finding one’s self dying. Letting go of one’s life to live for others, to live for truth, love and justice is to live a full life, even if shortened by physical death. Many of the saints died long before their time but achieved in a few years what most of us cannot do in a long life.

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“Consummatus in breve, explevit tempora multa” is a scriptural phrase applied to some of the saints who died relatively young. It says that, although their life came to an early end, they had filled it with many good things.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o1186g/

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection

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• The five verses of today’s Gospel continue with the words of Jesus to Peter which we meditated on yesterday. Jesus does not hide nor lessen the demands of discipleship. He does not allow Peter to take the initiative and puts him in his place: “Far from me!” Today’s Gospel makes explicit these demands for all of us;

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• Matthew 16, 24: “Take up his cross and follow me”. Jesus draws the conclusions which are valid even until now: “If anyone wants to follow me, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me”. At that time, the cross was the death sentence which the Roman Empire inflicted on marginalized persons and bandits. To take up the cross and carry it behind Jesus was the same as to accept to be marginalized by the unjust system which legitimized injustice. The Cross is not fatalism, nor exigency from the Father. The Cross is the consequence of the commitment freely taken up by Jesus to reveal the Good News that God is Father and that, therefore, we all have to be accepted and treated as brothers and sisters. Because of this revolutionary announcement, Jesus was persecuted and he was not afraid to give his life. Nobody has greater love than this: to give one’s life for his friends (Jn 15, 13). The witness of Paul in the letter to the Galatians indicates the concrete significance and importance of all this: “But as for me, it is out of the question that I should boast at all, except of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world”. (Ga 6, 14). And he ends by referring to the marks of the tortures which he suffered: “After this, let no one trouble me, I carry branded on my body the marks of Jesus” (Ga 6, 17).

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• Matthew 16, 25-26: “Anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it”.These two verses make explicit universal human values which confirm the experience of many Christians and non Christians. To save one’s life, to lose one’s life, to find one’s life. The experience of many is the following: Anyone who is always seeking goods and riches is never satisfied. Anyone who gives himself to others, forgetting himself, experiences a great happiness. This is the experience of the mothers who give themselves, and of so many people who do not think of self but think of others.

Many do this and live in this way almost out of instinct, as something which comes from the bottom of the heart. Others act in this way because they have had a painful experience of frustration which has led them to change attitude. Jesus is right in saying: “Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it”. The reason is important: “For my sake”, or like Mark says: “For the sake of the Gospel” (Mk 8, 35).

And he ends saying: “What, then will anyone gain by winning the whole world and forfeiting his life? Or what can anyone offer in exchange for his life?” This last phrase recalls the Psalm where it is said that no one is capable of paying the ransom for his life: “But no one can ever redeem himself or pay his own ransom to God; the price for himself is too high, it can never be that he will live on for ever and avoid the sight of the abyss” (Ps 49, 8-10).

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• Matthew 16, 27-28: The Son of Man is going to come in the glory of the Father and he will reward each one according to his behaviour. These two verses refer to the hope regarding the coming of the Son of Man in the last times, as judge of humanity, as he is presented in the vision of the Prophet Daniel (Dn 7, 13-14). The first verse says: “The Son of Man is going to come in the glory of his Father with his angels and will reward each one according to his behaviour”. (Mt 16, 27).

This phrase speaks about the justice of the Judge. Each one will receive according to his own behaviour. The second verse says: “There are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming with his kingdom”. (Mt 16, 28). This phrase is an advertisement to help to perceive the coming of Jesus, the Judge of the actions of life. Some thought that Jesus would have come afterwards (1 Th 4, 15-18). But in fact, Jesus was already present in persons, especially in the poor. But they did not perceive this, Jesus himself had said: “Every time that you have helped the poor, the sick, the homeless, the prisoner, the pilgrim, you helped me, it was me!” (cfr. Mt 25, 34-45).

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Personal questions

What is “MY CROSS?”

• Anyone who loses his life will find it. What experience do I have regarding this?

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• The words of Paul: “As for me, instead, there is no other glory than the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified for me and I for the world”. Do I have the courage to repeat these words in my life?

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Concluding Prayer

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Proclaim with me the greatness of Yahweh,
let us acclaim his name together.
I seek Yahwe4h and he answers me,
frees me from all my fears. (Ps 34, 3-4)

http://www.ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-matthew-1624-28

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom

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“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it.”

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What are Christians called to do?

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Hit any of these search terms:

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Go the extra mile,  pour yourself out,  carry the cross,  do not be afraid,  service to others, When you are worried pray, Simon of Cyrene, be a beacon.

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,  ,  ,  , , 

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Jesus said, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me.”  Clearly then, losing one’s life for the sake of Jesus is the way to make Jesus’ life our own.  What is the life of Jesus if not one of total self-emptying and carrying the cross?

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

Jesus said, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Clearly then, losing one’s life for the sake of Jesus is the way to make Jesus’ life our own. What is the life of Jesus if not one of total self-emptying and carrying the cross? For centuries men have learned how to do this from J.P. de Caussade, J.J.

De Caussade was born in Cahors, Lot, France. He was spiritual director at the Nuns of the Visitation at Nancy, France from 1733 to 1740. During this time and after he left Nancy, he wrote letters of instruction to the nuns. Some material ascribed to him was first published in 1861 by Henri Ramière (fr) under the title ” L’Abandon à la providence divine”.

However, according to research on The Treatise on Abandonment to Divine Providence, discussed in a paper by Dominique Salin SJ, emeritus Professor at the Faculty of Theology at the Centre Sèvres, published in The Way, 46/2 (Apr 2007), pp. 21–36, “it now seems almost impossible that the author was in fact the Jesuit Jean-Pierre de Caussade” as “[n]othing in de Caussade’s biography would suggest that this man was the author of a famous treatise” and the style of letters of spiritual direction that can genuinely be attributed to de Caussade “is far removed from the lyricism” marking it.

Whoever the author was, he or she believed that the present moment is a sacrament from God and that self-abandonment to it and its needs is a holy state – a belief which, at first glance, would appear to be heretical relative to Catholic dogma. In fact, because of this fear (especially with the Church’s condemnation of the Quietist movement), the work was kept unpublished until 1861, and even then they were edited by Ramière to protect them from charges of Quietism. A more authoritative version of these notes was published only in 1966.[1] In his writings, the author is aware of the Quietists and rejects their perspective.{{Section VIII of Abandonment to Divine Providence }} Abandonment to Divine Providence has now for many years been read widely and is considered a classic in the spiritual life by Catholics and many others.

De Caussade also spent years as preacher in southern and central France, as a college rector (at Perpignan and at Albi), and as the director of theological students at the Jesuit house in Toulouse, which is where he died.[

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Pierre_de_Caussade

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, July 26, 2017 — Never Give Up!

July 25, 2017

Memorial of Saints Joachim and Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Lectionary: 397

Reading 1 EX 16:1-5, 9-15

The children of Israel set out from Elim,
and came into the desert of Sin,
which is between Elim and Sinai,
on the fifteenth day of the second month
after their departure from the land of Egypt.
Here in the desert the whole assembly of the children of Israel
grumbled against Moses and Aaron.
The children of Israel said to them,
“Would that we had died at the LORD’s hand in the land of Egypt,
as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread!
But you had to lead us into this desert
to make the whole community die of famine!”

Then the LORD said to Moses,
“I will now rain down bread from heaven for you.
Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion;
thus will I test them,
to see whether they follow my instructions or not.
On the sixth day, however, when they prepare what they bring in,
let it be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”

Then Moses said to Aaron, “Tell the whole congregation
of the children of Israel:
Present yourselves before the LORD,
for he has heard your grumbling.”
When Aaron announced this to the whole assembly of the children of Israel,
they turned toward the desert, and lo,
the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud!
The LORD spoke to Moses and said,
“I have heard the grumbling of the children of Israel.
Tell them: In the evening twilight you shall eat flesh,
and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread,
so that you may know that I, the LORD, am your God.”

In the evening quail came up and covered the camp.
In the morning a dew lay all about the camp,
and when the dew evaporated, there on the surface of the desert
were fine flakes like hoarfrost on the ground.
On seeing it, the children of Israel asked one another, “What is this?”
for they did not know what it was.
But Moses told them,
“This is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 78:18-19, 23-24, 25-26, 27-28

R. (24b) The Lord gave them bread from heaven.
They tempted God in their hearts
by demanding the food they craved.
Yes, they spoke against God, saying,
“Can God spread a table in the desert?”
R. The Lord gave them bread from heaven.
Yet he commanded the skies above
and the doors of heaven he opened;
He rained manna upon them for food
and gave them heavenly bread.
R. The Lord gave them bread from heaven.
Man ate the bread of angels,
food he sent them in abundance.
He stirred up the east wind in the heavens,
and by his power brought on the south wind.
R. The Lord gave them bread from heaven.
And he rained meat upon them like dust,
and, like the sand of the sea, winged fowl,
Which fell in the midst of their camp
round about their tents.
R. The Lord gave them bread from heaven.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The seed is the word of God, Christ is the sower;
All who come to him will live for ever.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 13:1-9

Image result for jesus near the sea, art

On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.
Such large crowds gathered around him
that he got into a boat and sat down,
and the whole crowd stood along the shore.
And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying:
“A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and birds came and ate it up.
Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,
and when the sun rose it was scorched,
and it withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.
But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit,
a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

26 JULY, 2017, Wednesday, 16th Week, Ordinary Time

SURRENDERING TO THE MYSTERY OF GRACE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Ex 16:1-59-15Ps 78:18-19,23-28Mt 13:1-9]

In the first reading, we read of the trials of the sons of Israel in the wilderness of Sin.  They had left Egypt for 45 days, wandering in the desert.  The provisions would have run out and thus they “began to complain against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.”  In their frustrations they began to exaggerate how good their life was in Egypt.  They said, “Why did we not die at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we were able to sit down to pans of meat and could eat bread to our heart’s content! As it is, you have brought us to this wilderness to starve this whole company to death!”

Before we condemn them, it is important to put ourselves in their shoes. Life in the desert was certainly not easy.  They had to combat the extreme heat and cold and strong winds.  They had to look for water.  Nothing can grow in the desert.  The land is rocky and sandy.  They had to protect themselves from wild beasts and from peoples from other tribes.  So leaving the sheltered life in Egypt and going to a land of nowhere must have been extremely trying for them.  They were not too sure when they would ever reach the Promised Land.  At the same time, they had to contend with their daily needs.

We too are often like them.  But their situation is much worse than ours!  We have food, clothing and lodging.  We might not have as much luxury as we want, but most of all, we have our basic needs in life.  Most of us can be gainfully employed if we are not choosy over the work we do.  Health wise, we are quite well taken care of.  We might be able to afford the most advanced medical treatment, but we can get by in our sickness.  Yet, we are also not happy.  Whether we are earning lots of money, having a great career, we remain dissatisfied, always lamenting and comparing.   Rich or poor, healthy or sick, famous or ordinary, smart or average, we are never happy.  We are envious of others and we want more and more.  When we get what we want, we desire something more.   We are never contented.  This is the reality of life.  This was the case of the Israelites.  They asked for water and that was given.  They asked for bread and it was also given.  Then they asked for meat, which was also given.  But they remained a people that were always grumbling, complaining and testing the patience of Moses and the Lord.

Indeed, we often lament why our life is this way and not that way.  The parable of the Sower in today’s gospel illustrates the mystery of the grace of God.  The sower sowed the seeds.  Unfortunately, not all the seeds fell at the right place.  Some “fell on the edge of the path, and the birds came and ate them up.  Others fell on patches of rock where they found little soil and sprang up straight away, because there was no depth of earth; but as soon as the sun came up they were scorched and, not having any roots, they withered away.  Others fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.  Others fell on rich soil and produced their crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”  Indeed, the question is, why did not all the seeds fall on good soil.  If they did, then all the seeds would have attained their ends, which is to grow and to flourish.

The parable of the Sower and the seeds tells us that life is a mystery.  It is but the grace of God.  Why some seeds fell on poor ground and some on good ground is not for us to ask.  It just happens and this is not within our control.  Why are our children not as smart as others?  Why is it that the other person who is less capable or intelligent promoted over me?  Why am I not born into a rich family?  Why am I not given the opportunities to further my studies or career?  Why am I born with poor health?  These are questions that we often ask but these are vain questions as there is no answer.  God has made us all different kinds of soils.  He gives His seed, that is, His grace, equally to all.  So it is about the soil, which is us.

In the final analysis, regardless whether we are the path, the rocky ground, a patch of thorns or fertile soil, we can make the best of the situation we are in.  It is self-defeating and destructive to adopt an attitude of envy and resentment at the situation we are in. Whining and lamenting over the so-called disadvantages of life will get us nowhere except make us vindictive and self-pitying. Such attitudes towards life will not make us grow.

Hence, we are called to turn our disadvantages into moments of opportunities and grace.  Those of us who are born on the path, the edge of society, can rise above others because we know what it is to be marginalized.  That should help us to struggle against where we are so that when we are able to get out of the situation, we too can help those who are on the margins of society.   Similarly, if we are that rocky patch, hardened by life’s suffering and trials, we need not be closed to the grace that comes from God and the many opportunities in life that people offer us. Rather, we should use the bad experiences of life, the failures, the mistakes and the injustices we have suffered to help us reach out to others who are still hardened to the grace of God.  And if we come from the thorny patch of life, choked by the burden of responsibilities, the demands of daily life and our work, the temptations of the world to dishonesty, power, wealth and glory, then we should make use of these thorns that choke us to make us see life in perspective.  When we feel choked, we should free ourselves from these thorns by finding what the essentials of life are and what the real happiness that we are seeking in life is all about.

Conversely, it does not mean that only those who are blessed with fertile soil can produce good harvest. In fact, quite often, those blessed with opportunities, talents, wealth and resources take them for granted.  They do not recognize the blessings that they receive.  It is just like the Israelites.  They prayed for food and God sent them manna.  “And so it came about: quails flew up in the evening, and they covered the camp: in the morning there was a coating of dew all round the camp.  When the coating of dew lifted, there on the surface of the desert was a thing delicate, powdery, as fine as hoarfrost on the ground.”  Observe their reaction to the miracle.  They “said to one another, ‘What is that?’ not knowing what it was.  ‘That’ said Moses to them ‘is the bread the Lord gives you to eat.’”  They failed to recognize the grace of God when it was given. This is the tragedy of life.

Truly, we are called to surrender our lives to the Lord.  As the Lord said, “Now I will rain down bread for you from the heavens.  Each day the people are to go out and gather the day’s portion; I propose to test them in this way to see whether they will follow my law or not.”  The Lord wants to test whether we will follow His ways, trust in His divine providence, and stay focused.  The Lord is not deaf to our pleas.  He knows our pains and our struggles.  But He wants us to let Him be the Lord of our lives.  We should not presume that we have the last word and are able to manage our lives without Him.  They did not trust Him.  “In their heart they put God to the test by demanding the food they craved.  They even spoke against God.  They said: ‘Is it possible for God to prepare a table in the desert?”  Hence, “the Lord spoke to Moses and said, ‘I have heard the complaints of the sons of Israel.  Say this to them, ‘Between the two evenings you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have bread to your heart’s content.  Then you will learn that I, the Lord, am your God.’”

To trust in the Lord is to let the Lord be our God!  The psalmist urges us to rely on the goodness of God instead of putting Him to the test.  “Yet he commanded the clouds above and opened the gates of heaven.  He rained down manna for their food, and gave them bread from heaven. Mere men ate the bread of angels.”  God has given us Jesus the bread of life, the bread from Heaven.   This is the greatest blessing we can have.   Jesus shows us the way to live a life of fecundity, by giving ourselves in love and service to others and by walking in faith and in obedience to the Father’s will.  We too can share in this life if we follow Jesus, cooperating with God’s grace as He did, walking by faith and not by sight.

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

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Bible Gateway: Parable of the Sower
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The seed sown is the word of God. The sower is our Lord Jesus Christ, by himself, or by his ministers.
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Preaching to a multitude is sowing the corn; we know not where it will light. Some sort of ground, though we take ever so much pains with it, brings forth no fruit to purpose, while the good soil brings forth plentifully.
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So it is with the hearts of men, whose different characters are here described by four sorts of ground. Careless, trifling hearers, are an easy prey to Satan; who, as he is the great murderer of souls, so he is the great thief of sermons, and will be sure to rob us of the word, if we take not care to keep it. Hypocrites, like the stony ground, often get the start of true Christians in the shows of profession. Many are glad to hear a good sermon, who do not profit by it.
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They are told of free salvation, of the believer’s privileges, and the happiness of heaven; and, without any change of heart, without any abiding conviction of their own depravity, their need of a Saviour, or the excellence of holiness, they soon profess an unwarranted assurance.
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But when some heavy trial threatens them, or some sinful advantage may be had, they give up or disguise their profession, or turn to some easier system. Worldly cares are fitly compared to thorns, for they came in with sin, and are a fruit of the curse; they are good in their place to stop a gap, but a man must be well armed that has much to do with them; they are entangling, vexing, scratching, and their end is to be burned, Heb 6:8.
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Worldly cares are great hinderances to our profiting by the word of God.
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The deceitfulness of riches does the mischief; they cannot be said to deceive us unless we put our trust in them, then they choke the good seed. What distinguished the good ground was fruitfulness. By this true Christians are distinguished from hypocrites.
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Christ does not say that this good ground has no stones in it, or no thorns;but none that could hinder its fruitfulness. All are not alike; we should aim at the highest, to bring forth most fruit. The sense of hearing cannot be better employed than in hearing God’s word; and let us look to ourselves that we may know what sort of hearers we are. (Mt 13:24-30)
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 Freedom in Christ: Parable of the Sower
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In this parable, one observes four different conditions associated with the soil of the land.
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In essence, Jesus is calling attention to the condition of one’s heart, which determines one’s receptivity to the truths of God. Jesus wants His listeners to listen with receptive hearts. The design of this parable is intended to illustrate the causes of rejection and acceptance of Jesus as the Son of God.
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Jesus drew upon an agricultural image in order to convey why some would reject and others would accept His teachings. It is through this parable that Jesus draws attention to His own ministry. In this parable the soil represents the various conditions of the human heart.
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One objective of this study is to draw attention to the “now” as well as to the “then.” The question that confronts every believer is: How can Christians relate this parable to their own lives?
Every individual should search his or her heart for an examination of the following question: How do you relate yourself in your study of the various conditions in the sowing by the sower? What kind of soil is your mind?
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Commentary on Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15

Give us this day our daily bread…and meat.

Anyone who has ever led a large group of people through unfamiliar territory is sure to have heard complaints — often over trivial matters — from some or even many members of the group. The complaining can quickly sour relationships and provoke the leader to regret that he or she took the group away in the first place.

The complaining is loud and clear in this Exodus passage. Moses, Aaron and God get an earful. For us as readers, it is tempting to adopt the position of story outsider and treat the complaining as whiners, condemning the Israelites as faithless.

No one likes listening to complaint. Individuals in power or in the majority can often choose to ignore a complaint, dismiss it as mere whining, or punish the complainant. In contrast, to listen to a complaint involves seeing the world from another’s position and hearing a call to act.

Thus, to condemn the Israelites for complaining in Exodus 16 would be to introduce a judgment that the text itself does not make, sending the message that complaint has no place in life with God.

This, of course, is not true. The laments in the Book of Psalms give voice to the human experience of abandonment, suffering, fear, and danger. The laments call upon God to see, arise, and act (e.g., Psalm 10, 13, 89). In the Book of Job, Job rejects an attitude of resignation toward his suffering. Instead, he unleashes a lengthy and detailed complaint against God’s treatment of the righteous and God’s management of the world. From the cross, Jesus cries out in anguish, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34; Psalm 22:1).

At its core, complaint is a turning to God — not away — trusting that God the Almighty does not ignore, dismiss or punish those who call out in fear, anger, suffering, and need.

In Exodus 16, the Israelites are beginning their second month of wilderness walking (16:1) following their deliverance from Egypt. The dangers of the wilderness are real — the Israelites have already faced thirst (Exodus 15:22-25), now hunger, and later they will face attack (Exodus 17:8-13). They do not exaggerate their predicament. They are no longer part of the system of labor that fed them in the past. They cannot supply their own needs. They are hungry. Their situation is dire and there is no visible way out.

The complaint that there is no food, the fear of the present, and the longing to be back in an earlier time are not constrained to the pages of Exodus. The situation is the same for the world’s poor today, and they are joined by increasing numbers of people losing homes, jobs, health care, pensions, dignity, property, and savings in the wake of global economic turbulence.

Exodus 16 offers the assurance that the wilderness of want is not a God-forsaken time or place. As Moses instructs Aaron to say to the Israelites: “Draw near to the LORD, for he has heard your complaining” (16:9).

It must be acknowledged that a complaint does not always contain the best solution. In their complaining, the Israelites declare it would have been better to have died in Egypt than be facing hunger in the wilderness. In recalling Egypt, they think not of death but of food, specifically meat and bread. In their complaint, Egypt sounds like the good life as they remember how they “sat by the fleshpots and ate [their] fill of bread” (16:3). In their real fear for the future, the Israelites look back to Egypt as the way of life that sustained them.

The wilderness is a place of danger and want. It is also a space for learning new ways of relating that are not based on the identity the Israelites had and the life they lived in Egypt.

In Egypt, the Israelites’ lives and service benefitted Pharaoh. In the wilderness, their lives begin to be reordered. In the Sinai Covenant (Exodus 20:1-17) the loyalty of the Israelites is redirected from Pharaoh to Yahweh. Their service no longer benefits Pharaoh but goes towards building a community characterized by integrity, honor, care and compassion.

The wilderness is also the place where the Israelites come to know the God who has demanded and accomplished their release from slavery. In the dispute with Pharaoh, Yahweh claims the Israelites as Yahweh’s own (“Let my people go so that they may worship me” Exodus 9:13). God demonstrates power over humans in defeating Pharaoh and power over creation in delivering the Israelites.

What is unknown as the Israelites exit Egypt is how this powerful God will relate to them in the future. Exodus 16 offers a glimpse of this emerging relationship.

God hears the complaining of the Israelites. God recognizes not only their need for sustenance — daily bread — but their desire for a life beyond scarcity — meat. God responds by sending quail for meat and manna for bread. God proves to be a different type of lord than Pharaoh.

What an awesome scene as the dew lifts and the sun rises: the wilderness ground is covered with a “flaky substance, as fine as frost” (16:14). It is unfamiliar to the Israelites and they are puzzled, perhaps even fearful, as they ask each other: “What is it?” (16:15).

It is, Moses explains, bread from Yahweh given to them. As the Israelites move into their wilderness journey God has found new ways to provide for them. The manna supplied to the Israelites may offer hope to people today that God can and does provide in new and fitting ways in changed and uncharted conditions.

There is another amazing surprise in this passage. As the people “looked toward the wilderness…the glory of the LORD appeared” (16:10). It is not just on a mountaintop or just to Moses and Aaron that God appears.

God is near and listening to those whom we might be tempted to call faithless: those who complain to God because they are hungry, anxious, dislocated, in unfamiliar territory and without a clear plan for the future. There God is present. For them the glory of the LORD is revealed in daily bread…and meat.

https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=354

Has this man found the secret of happiness? — Man’s Search for Meaning

July 21, 2017

Image result for vintage Rolls-Royce, photos

  • Mo Gawdat personally started many of the Google’s worldwide operations
  • He was a former stock market trader, and made ‘a ton of money’ in Dubai
  • His ‘life had ticked every box’ but he was still feeling miserable
  • Death of Mr Gawdat’s son, Ali, 21, made him realise an equation for happiness

One click — and I had bought a vintage Rolls-Royce. Another click — and I bought a second. Just like that. It might sound like something from your wildest dreams, but this was just an average evening for me. Successful, wealthy and at the pinnacle of my career, I had every luxury you could imagine.

A top executive at Google, I had personally started close to half of the company’s worldwide operations. And even before I made it big at Google, you could certainly say that I was at the top of the tree. A former stock market trader, I had made a ton of money while working in Dubai.

I had a huge house. My colleagues and friends were similarly rich and successful. And to top it all, I had married my university sweetheart and had two beautiful children. My life had ticked every box.

Formula: Mo Gawdat was a former stock market trader, and made 'a ton of money' in Dubai. His 'life had ticked every box' but he was still feeling miserable (file pic)

Formula: Mo Gawdat was a former stock market trader, and made ‘a ton of money’ in Dubai. His ‘life had ticked every box’ but he was still feeling miserable (file pic)

My Rolls-Royces soon arrived. Exquisitely engineered, they were as perfect as my own existence appeared. I looked at them for 20 minutes. Then I left them in the garage without even opening a car door — and returned to my unhappy thoughts.

Yes, that’s right. Despite attaining all the things the modern world tells us we need for happiness, I was profoundly miserable.

The bitter irony of my situation was deepened by the fact that one of my personal side projects was developing a scientific formula for happiness.

I wanted to find a ‘code’ that could be applied to deliver happiness every time. I spent thousands of hours trying to apply logic to the issue of happiness, in the hope of finding an algorithm to summarise how the brain processes joy and sadness. My son Ali, then a teenager, helped me, vetting many of my ideas.

Eventually, in 2010, young Ali and I came up with a formula: a few letters and mathematical symbols that I thought nailed the art of happiness.

Little did I imagine that the sudden death of my beloved boy when he was just 21 — an earth-shattering, pointless event — would show me what fleets of cars and algorithms never could: the true meaning of happiness and how to be content, every day.

My path to finding the meaning of happiness began with a vision of unimaginable catastrophe.

Machines bleeped, tubes wove their terrible path in and out of my boy’s body — and Ali lay there, unconscious in an intensive care unit. It was 2014, and my son had been rushed to hospital for the most routine of operations, an appendix removal.

Mo Gawdat (pictured) personally started many of the Google's worldwide operations

Mo Gawdat (pictured) personally started many of the Google’s worldwide operations

But something went wrong. A needle punctured a major artery and precious moments slipped by before the doctors realised the blunder.

Then a series of additional mistakes were made. The words ‘agony’ and ‘despair’ do not come even remotely close to how Ali’s mother and I felt at the moment we realised we were going to lose our precious son.

We stood helplessly by his bedside, and I kissed his forehead. He looked so handsome, even in that state — as peaceful as I’d ever seen him.

We’d endured the worst night of our lives, as Ali was hooked up to machines, his life hanging delicately in the balance. We were tormented by the thought he might be in pain as his organs failed one by one.

Then came the moment to say goodbye. And as we left the hospital, leaving our 21-year-old son behind, our minds collapsed as grief set in, and penetrated every cell in my body.

The pain was like a spear piercing my heart. There were countless hours of tears, guilt and anger about what had happened, as well as my fear about having to exist in a world I could no longer contemplate without my beloved son.

Ali was kind, clever, loving and in the prime of his life, and losing him unexpectedly to preventable human error seemed unbearably cruel. How was I going to cope?

My feelings were all the more painful because Ali was the one person I would ordinarily seek out for comfort when times were hard. But now he was gone. Nothing made sense.

Without my son to anchor me, my thoughts spiralled and became toxic. ‘That doctor murdered my son,’ I thought. Then: ‘What’s the point of living even a day without him?’.

I couldn’t stop wondering whether his death was somehow my fault. Could life be punishing me for something I’d inadvertently done? Was this a sort of karma for my success, for not realising how blessed my existence had been?

I spent excruciating days in this state, numb to the outside world. I was terrified of what might happen to my wife, my daughter — of what else this cruel life might take from me. How could I ever be happy again?

Someone suggested we pursue a medical negligence investigation and we were asked if an autopsy could be performed on Ali’s body. I asked my wife what she wanted to do. She paused, then uttered the words that saved us: ‘Will it bring Ali back?’

It was like a lighthouse cutting through the fog. Nothing we could do — nothing — would bring Ali back. Any thought beyond this simple truth was pointless.

It was the turning point I needed.

No doubt any parent reading this will wonder how I can say I am happy after I’ve lost a child. Of course, life today is nothing like what it was when Ali was alive. But I am happy, despite the tragedy of his death.

How? It’s thanks to Ali. Deep down, I knew if I’d asked him Ali would say, with the precocious wisdom he was blessed with, ‘I’ve already died, Papa. There is nothing you can do to change that, so make the best of it’.

In the purgatorial time after his death, I heard no other voice in my head but Ali’s repeating those sentences. So when a negative thought popped into my mind I asked myself: ‘What would Ali do or say in this situation?’ It became a healing process.

When I angrily thought, ‘That doctor murdered my son!’, I would hear Ali’s reply: ‘Is that true? What doctor wakes up in the morning and says: “Today is the day I’m going to kill someone”?’

I am happy, despite the tragedy of his death. How? It's thanks to Ali. Deep down, I knew if I'd asked him Ali would say, with the precocious wisdom he was blessed with, 'I've already died, Papa. There is nothing you can do to change that, so make the best of it'

I am happy, despite the tragedy of his death. How? It’s thanks to Ali. Deep down, I knew if I’d asked him Ali would say, with the precocious wisdom he was blessed with, ‘I’ve already died, Papa. There is nothing you can do to change that, so make the best of it’

To my despairing howl, ‘No one should die at such a young age,’ Ali would answer: ‘Is that true? Youngsters die by the thousands every hour of every day.’

As for the cry of all grieving parents, ‘This is the worst thing that could have happened!’, Ali’s voice echoed in my mind, saying: ‘Is that really true? I could have been diagnosed with a lingering cancer or drafted into the madness of war instead of leaving peacefully in my sleep.’

When I recriminated with myself, saying again and again, ‘I drove you to the hospital myself. I should have known better’, Ali would soothe me, saying: ‘Is that true? You did what you thought was right. You wanted me to recover. No one could have known this was going to be how things turned out.’

And to my most common thought of all, ‘I can’t bear this pain, it will torture me for years and years,’ Ali brought solace and clarity: ‘Is that really true? You will live, and time will pass. The days will be long, and the years will be short. Instead of thinking about the years to come, focus on now. Do the best you can. Make me proud.’

And so, 17 days after that terrible night, I began to write. I felt compelled to follow Ali’s advice and do something positive. Those writings eventually became a book, in which I sought to spread the true meaning of happiness — and it wasn’t to be found in flashy cars or expensive gadgets.

And as I wrote, it brought my mind back to that algorithm I’d created with Ali. Except now I finally understood the meaning of my equation for happiness.

Because, as I had found, the more successful I became, the more happiness seemed to elude me.

Each time I reached the next rung of the corporate ladder, there would always be another goal just out of reach. Yet I couldn’t stop myself working, striving to be better, wealthier, and ultimately, I hoped, happier.

I was driven by the misguided assumption that, sooner or later, all this effort would pay off and I’d find a pot of gold — happiness — at the end of my high-achievement rainbow. But it seemed like the more literal gold I accrued, the more miserable I became.

In the years where I worked myself into the ground in pursuit of more success, I was probably pushy and unpleasant — even at home. I spent too little time appreciating the remarkable woman I’d married and not enough time with my wonderful children or pausing to enjoy each day as it unfolded.

All the while I treated happiness as something I needed to succeed at, a puzzle that my rational brain needed to solve. I spent almost ten years investigating the mathematics behind happiness, and eventually developed an equation: a well-engineered model of happiness and how to sustain it.

Yet despite finding the ‘secret’ to happiness, I did nothing to implement this into my own life.

Then came Ali’s death — and my own moment of reckoning when I was forced to confront my secret equation head-on.

So what is the magic formula, I hear you ask. It’s H ≥ e – E. Or in other words: happiness is greater than or equal to the events of life, minus the expectations of life.

What I discovered was that, for most, happiness is the default setting. Children are born happy. But as we move through life, we grow out of that happy state.

As we strive for more, flashes of unhappiness appear every time life misses our expectations. The key to happiness, I concluded, lay in controlling the way we compare the events of our life with our expectations. It lay in being content with what we have in the present moment, rather than striving for the intangible ‘more’.

Until Ali’s death, I didn’t apply this discovery to my own life. But his departure forced my hand.

That’s not to say the pain of losing my son isn’t still very real. Indeed, it will never go away. Every time I remember Ali I weep.

But I have learned there’s a difference between pain and suffering. Pain is a mechanism the body uses to keep us alive — it protects us from further suffering. We learn from our pain.

Suffering, however, is not useful. It is a cycle where a thought causes more anguish through feelings of guilt. Pain should be enough of a motivation to improve your life.

And so, the minute I feel the pain of Ali’s death, which I feel every time I miss him, instead of self-flagellation and guilt, I think ‘What can I do about it? How can I make the world slightly better even though Ali is not in it?’. It has taught me that we are all in charge of our lives, our destiny and, ultimately, our happiness.

Because happiness really can be controlled. Anyone can be happy — even in the face of what appeared to be an unparalleled catastrophe like mine. Happiness is about filling your mind with beautiful memories, and finding reasons to be truly thankful, despite the pain life can bring.

And so sometimes I find it easier to think of Ali as a kind guest who was just visiting, but who brought light and happiness to our home.

The 21 years with him zoomed by, and if we’d had another 21 years together, they would have zoomed by just as fast. And even that wouldn’t have been enough.

So instead of thinking about losing him, I try to be grateful that we had him at all. I’ve changed my expectations. Rather than thinking that my son should never have died, I choose to be grateful for the times we had, rather than mourn the times we didn’t.

Happiness is not about what the world gives you — whether it’s a lottery win or the loss of a child — it’s about what you think about what the world gives you.

It’s not always easy, but it’s an exercise I run through many times a day. I think of it like going to the gym — I’m getting better at it all the time.

I’m glad to say I’ve helped many others, too; those who have found peace through mine and Ali’s discovery. One interview I did with Channel 4 has had 32 million hits and counting.

Yes, my heart aches. Yes, I want my son back by my side more than anything in the world. But I understand that I can’t have him — and so I have made the commitment and choose to be happy instead.

Interview by LOUISE ATKINSON

  • Solve For Happy by Mo Gawdat, Bluebird, £10.49 on Amazon

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