Posts Tagged ‘the whole world is under the power of the Evil One’

Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, January 12, 2019 — “He must increase; I must decrease.”

January 11, 2019

Here John shows the essence of humility, which has many forms. In what ways do I exemplify humility?

Image result for Jesus and his disciples in Judea,, art, pictures

Detail of “The Charge to Peter” by James Tissot.

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Saturday after Epiphany
Lectionary: 217

Reading 1 1 JN 5:14-21

Beloved:
We have this confidence in him
that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask,
we know that what we have asked him for is ours.
If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly,
he should pray to God and he will give him life.
This is only for those whose sin is not deadly.
There is such a thing as deadly sin,
about which I do not say that you should pray.
All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly.We know that anyone begotten by God does not sin;
but the one begotten by God he protects,
and the Evil One cannot touch him.
We know that we belong to God,
and the whole world is under the power of the Evil One.
We also know that the Son of God has come
and has given us discernment to know the one who is true.
And we are in the one who is true,
in his Son Jesus Christ.
He is the true God and eternal life.
Children, be on your guard against idols.
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Responsorial Psalm  PS 149:1-2, 3-4, 5-6A AND 9B

R. (see 4a)  The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Sing to the LORD a new song
of praise in the assembly of the faithful.
Let Israel be glad in their maker,
let the children of Zion rejoice in their king.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let them praise his name in the festive dance,
let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.
For the LORD loves his people,
and he adorns the lowly with victory.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let the faithful exult in glory;
let them sing for joy upon their couches;
Let the high praises of God be in their throats.
This is the glory of all his faithful. Alleluia.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R.  Alleluia.

Alleluia MT 4:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light,
on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death
light has arisen.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  JN 3:22-30

Jesus and his disciples went into the region of Judea,
where he spent some time with them baptizing.
John was also baptizing in Aenon near Salim,
because there was an abundance of water there,
and people came to be baptized,
for John had not yet been imprisoned.
Now a dispute arose between the disciples of John and a Jew
about ceremonial washings.
So they came to John and said to him,
“Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan,
to whom you testified,
here he is baptizing and everyone is coming to him.”
John answered and said,
“No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven.
You yourselves can testify that I said that I am not the Christ,
but that I was sent before him.
The one who has the bride is the bridegroom;
the best man, who stands and listens for him,
rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice.
So this joy of mine has been made complete.
He must increase; I must decrease.”

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

THE JOY OF RECONCILING MAN WITH GOD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  1 JOHN 5:14-21PSALM 149:1-69JOHN 3:22-30 ]

Christmas celebrates the gift of God to us in the person of Jesus.  In assuming our humanity, Jesus reveals to us our identity as children of God.  Indeed, God became man so that man could become god.  However, many of us fail to recognize our dignity as children of God and as a consequence do not live as one.   This is because of sin.  Indeed, our sins prevent us from being conscious of our identity as sons and daughters of God.

St John in the first reading warns us of the danger of sin.  “Every kind of wrong-doing is sin, but not all sin is deadly.”  The truth is that a man begins by committing small sins.  If such things spring from his wounded nature and the manifestation of his human weakness, it is a venial sin.  Such sins are normally committed because of temptations and the weakness of the will to resist sin.   Such sins can be forgiven through prayers and the reception of the sacraments.  This is why, St John says, “If anybody sees his brother commit a sin that is not a deadly sin, he has only to pray, and God will give life to the sinner – not those who commit a deadly sin; for there is a sin that is death, and I will not say that you must pray about that.”

However, the sins that really destroy us are those deliberate sins which we purposefully seek to commit, knowing full well that it is a sin.  When such sins are planned and a person chooses to go against God’s will and hurt his neighbours, it is a serious sin leading to death.  Hence, we call them mortal sins.  St Paul says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Rom 6:23)  The truth is that one begins with a small sin and then we become more daring and commit bigger sins because our hearts and minds are clouded by our sins and selfishness.  After some time, what is sinful and serious is no longer felt in our conscience.  We become dead to sin and as the consequence of sin, we hurt ourselves more and more by hurting others.

Once we commit a serious sin, unless we repent and turn to God in contrition, it will lead to a repetition of our sins.  This is what the Lord warns us.  That is why a sin of lust will lead to another and more serious sin of lust. Jesus taught, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  (Mt 5:27f)  An act of anger will lead to revenge and eventually killing.  “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” (Mt 5:21f)

Prayers will help a person to grow in holiness and be attuned to the will of God.  “We are quite confident that if we ask the Son of God for anything, and it is in accordance with his will, he will hear us; and, knowing that whatever we may ask, he hears us, we know that we have been granted what we ask of him.”   St John is saying that Christ will hear our prayers if we pray in accordance with His will.  Indeed, all prayers are directed towards finding and doing the will of God.  Many of us think that prayer is to change the mind of God.  Rather, prayer is to align ourselves with His holy will, which is always best for us.  That is why, if our prayers are to be answered, we need to be obedient to His will.  Indeed, we must ask whatever the Lord wants of us.  Jesus said, “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”  (Jn 14:13f) To ask in the name of Jesus is to ask everything for His sake and for the glory of His name.  Therefore, there is nothing more effective in growing in holiness than through prayers and intimacy with the Lord.

Related image

Prayers will help us to know Jesus.  Knowledge of Jesus is the key to overcoming our sins because using our will is not sufficient because the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.  St Paul struggled with sin himself.  “Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  (Rom 7:21-25)  Indeed, through our own strength alone, we cannot be delivered from sin except in the power of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faith in Jesus’ love and mercy helps us to conquer sin, not out of fear of punishment but out of love for the Lord.

This is what St John meant when he wrote that if we are baptized, we will not sin.  “We know that anyone who has been begotten by God does not sin, because the begotten Son of God protects him, and the Evil One does not touch him.”  It does not mean that Christians can no longer sin.  What St John meant is that we do not sin deliberately because of God’s spirit in us.  But we will still sin out of weakness.  However, we do not fall into despair but continue to trust in the mercy of God, knowing that He has won victory over sin.  “We know that we belong to God, but the whole world lies in the power of the Evil One. We know, too, that the Son of God has come, and has given us the power to know the true God. We are in the true God, as we are in his Son, Jesus Christ.”   This is what baptism is all about.  We have Jesus in the gospel baptizing in the river Jordan.  To be baptized is to ask for forgiveness of our sins and most of all, to be filled with the Spirit of Jesus so that we can share in His sonship.

Today, like John the Baptist, we are called to direct sinners to the Lord.  Today, it is very difficult to convince people of the truth because of relativism.  We are bombarded with all kinds of philosophy and reasoning.  There is so much information and so many viewpoints on any issue that many of us are more confused than ever after reading all the different views.  We no longer know what is right or wrong anymore.  When reasoning and all arguments fail, the sure way to get people to accept Jesus is to lead them to Him.  If they know Jesus and if they fall in love with Him, then they will be able to see everything from the perspective of our Lord in the scriptures.  So instead of seeking to reason out with those who are disagreeable, although, it still might be necessary at times to defend our faith, yet, the better approach is through the testimony of our lives and our faith. Only through a life of holiness and faith in our Lord, can we convince others to come to Him so that He can be the Lord of their lives.

For this reason, we must pray for sinners even as we seek to reach out to them in compassion and love.  Our Lady, in all her apparitions, constantly urged us to repent and pray for sinners.  If words cannot change them, then prayers will change their hearts through God’s grace.  It is not enough just to pray for physical health and material needs.  If the body is important, how much more important is the soul because that soul is destined for eternal life.  We need to pray for the salvation of souls so that united with the Lord, they are saved for eternity, not just for this world.  If God answers prayers for material and physical needs, more so, He will hear our prayers for the conversion of sinners.

Indeed, like John the Baptist, great is our joy when we bring a sinner to Jesus to be reconciled with God.  “The bride is only for the bridegroom; and yet the bridegroom’s friend, who stands there and listens, is glad when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. This same joy I feel, and now it is complete.”  In bringing sinners back to God, we also save our own souls.  St James wrote, “My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”  (Jms 5:19f)  Indeed, like John the Baptist, we must be conscious of our role as mediator to Jesus.  Once that is done, we should move aside and not be an obstacle for others to come to know the Lord.  With John the Baptist, we say, “I myself am not the Christ; I am the one who has been sent in front of him. He must grow greater, I must grow smaller.”

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

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Reflection from Lectio Divina

Both John the Baptist and Jesus indicated a new way to the crowds. But Jesus, after having adhered to the movement of John the Baptist, and after having been baptized by him, advanced a step ahead and created His own movement. He baptized  people  in the Jordan River when John the Baptist was also doing it. Both of them attracted the poor and abandoned people of Palestine by announcing the Good News of the Kingdom of God.

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• Jesus, the new preacher, had a certain advantage over John the Baptist. He baptized more people and attracted more disciples. Thus, a tension arose between the disciples of John and those of Jesus, concerning the “purification,” that is, concerning the value of baptism. The disciples of John the Baptist experienced a certain envy and went to John to speak to him and informed him about the movement of Jesus.

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• John’s  response to his disciples is a beautiful response, which reveals his great spirit. John helps his disciples to see things more objectively. He uses three arguments: a) Nobody receives anything which is not given by God. If Jesus does such beautiful things, it is because he receives them from God (Jn 3:27). Instead of having envy, the disciples should feel joy. b) John reaffirms once again that he, John, is not the Messiah but only the precursor (Jn 3:28). c) In the end, he uses a comparison taken from the wedding feast.

At that time, in Palestine, on the day of the wedding, in the house of the bride, the so called “friends of the bridegroom” waited for the arrival of the bridegroom to present him to the bride. In this case, Jesus is the bridegroom, the crowd is the bride, John the friend of the bridegroom. John the Baptist says that, in the voice of Jesus, he recognizes the voice of the bridegroom and can present him to the bride, to the crowds. At this moment, the bridegroom, the people, leave the friend of the bridegroom and follow Jesus, because they recognize in Him the voice of their bridegroom! And for this reason the joy of John is great, “complete joy”. John wants nothing for himself! His mission is to present the bridegroom to the bride! The last sentence summarizes everything: “He must increase, I must decrease!” This statement is also the program for anyone  who follows Jesus.

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• At the end of the first century, in Palestine as well as in Asia Minor, where there were some communities of Jews, there were also people who had been in contact with John the Baptist or who had been baptized by him (Acts 19:3). Seen from outside, the movement of John the Baptist and that of Jesus were very similar to one another. Both of them announced the coming of the Kingdom (cf. Mt 3:1-2; 4:17). There must have been some confusion between the followers of John and those of Jesus. And because of this, the witness of John about Jesus was very important.

The four Gospels are concerned about transmitting the words of John the Baptist saying that he is not the Messiah. For the Christian communities, the Christian response, John’s response, “He must increase but I must decrease” was valid not only for the disciples of John at the time of Jesus, but also for the disciples of the Batiste or Cambric community of the end of the first century.

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-john-322-30

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Homily By Pastor Mark Driscoll

How odd would it be if you attended a wedding in which the star of the show was one of the groomsmen? Imagine if he demanded to be at the center of the photos, stood in front of the pastor for the ceremony, cut the cake, and had the first dance.

That would be incredibly awkward and wrong. Why? Because that is not his place.

Humility literally means, “to know your place.” Being humble requires knowing and accepting your place. None of us can say we are humble, but we should seek to say that we are pursuing humility by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Before Jesus started His ministry, John the Baptizer’s ministry began and got off to a rocket-ship launch. Before long, some of the people and leaders following John left him and started following Jesus instead. Some of John’s leaders were a bit miffed, so they brought their concerns to John. John’s response is amazing. In humility, he says that Jesus is the groom, the Church is the bride, and he was just the groomsman there to help – he’s not the star of the show.

The phenomenon of people leaving one ministry for another is nothing new. When someone transitions, some people immediately think it’s a bad thing and start to blame others. Sometimes the leader, ministry, or person leaving is tagged as bad.

John reveals that sometimes it is good for a person to transition from one ministry to another. Jesus and John the Baptizer were both good leaders with good ministries, and the people moving to Jesus’ ministry from John’s were seemingly good people. John rightly saw this as a good thing.

At the end of the day, people belong to God, not to the human leaders in a ministry. Sometimes, God moves people from one ministry to another because they are needed. This is precisely what John is saying – that the people were being sent by God to help Jesus, which is a good thing. This is a healthy model for handling transition in a godly way.

Are you more prone to encourage or criticize other ministries? If God calls you to move from one ministry to another, how can you do that in a healthy and godly way?

https://markdriscoll.org/he-must-increase-i-must-decrease/

Related:

More later….

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Bishops Describe Retreat With Father Raniero Cantalamessa

By Carol Zimmermann 
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Although the weeklong retreat for U.S. Catholic bishops emphasized quiet reflection, several bishops spoke out on social media during the retreat and after it wrapped up Jan. 8 with positive reaction about it and to give shoutouts to the retreat leader, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, who has preached to popes and top officials of the Roman Curia for nearly 40 years.

One bishop said listening to Father Cantalamessa was akin to being in the presence of the early Christian theologians. “Clear, intensely filled with the Holy Spirit, and all for the Kingdom of God,” Auxiliary Bishop Michael J. Boulette of San Antonio said in a tweet. “Let us continue to pray for one another, our church and our world. A blessing to be here!”

Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the official preacher of the papal household, delivers the homily to U.S. bishops during Mass Jan. 3 in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception at Mundelein Seminary during the bishops’ Jan. 2-8 retreat at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Illinois, near Chicago. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of Anchorage, Alaska, tweeted that the retreat leader was a “true instrument of the Lord” and that the Holy Spirit was at work during the retreat.

Bishop Lawrence T. Persico of Erie, Pennsylvania, described Father Cantalamessa’s talks and homilies as “powerful and engaging.”

He tweeted that he was glad they had time to reflect and pray about their role as shepherds, stressing: “We must start there to be able to offer healing. I am taking this very seriously but feeling positive.”

Boston Auxiliary Bishop Mark W. O’Connell said it was a “truly blessed experience” to be on retreat with Father Cantalamessa and fellow U.S. bishops.

“The Holy Spirit was powerfully present, and I was quite moved,” he tweeted. He also thanked the pope for giving the bishops this gift.

Pope Francis suggested the bishops hold the retreat and offered the services of the 84-year-old Father Cantalamessa, who has served as preacher of the papal household since 1980. The time of prayer Jan. 2-8 at Mundelein Seminary at the University of St. Mary of the Lake near Chicago was planned largely in response to last summer’s revelations of allegations of sex abuse that reached the highest levels of the U.S. church.

In a Jan. 8 column for Angelus News, the archdiocesan news outlet of Los Angeles, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles said the bishops’ retreat leader focused “our attention on the vocation and responsibility of bishops in this moment in the church.”

“We are praying together as a visible sign of our unity as bishops and our communion with the Holy Father. There is a collegial spirit here and a firm commitment to address the causes of the abuse crisis we face and continue the work of renewing the church,” he added.

The archbishop said Father Cantalamessa asked them to “trust more in the Holy Spirit. We need to have confidence that we are always living in God’s loving presence.”

Auxiliary Bishop F. Richard Spencer of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services listens to the homily during Mass Jan. 3 in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception during the bishops’ Jan. 2-8 retreat at Mundelein Seminary at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Illinois, near Chicago. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, wrote a few blog posts about the retreat with some reflection about the retreat leader’s message.

 

He said they heard about the need to emphasize in their preaching the fundamental belief in Jesus before delving into his message and teachings.

He also said Father Cantalamessa emphasized the need to root out “love of money” and all that it implies, including material possessions, honor or power.

“If this pursuit for ‘money’ needs to be rooted out from our Christian lives, then we need to embrace a true spirit of detachment,” the bishop wrote, adding that he would add more to that topic in the days ahead.

The theme of the U.S. bishops’ retreat was “the mission of the apostles and of their successors” drawing from Mark 3:14, which says Jesus “appointed 12 — whom he also named apostles — that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach.”

Reflections from the retreat do not seem to be about the crisis in particular, maybe for a reason.

In an email to Catholic News Service weeks before the retreat, Father Cantalamessa said he would “not talk about pedophilia and will not give advice about eventual solutions; that is not my task and I would not have the competence to do so.”

“The Holy Father asked for my availability to lead a series of spiritual exercises for the episcopal conference so that the bishops, far from their daily commitments, in a climate of prayer and silence and in a personal encounter with the Lord, can receive the strength and light of the Holy Spirit to find the right solutions for the problems that afflict the U.S. church today,” he added.

In a Jan. 9 column for the Chicago Catholic, the archdiocesan newspaper, Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich said the pope’s intention for the retreat went beyond “this particular moment or challenge facing us bishops.”

“We are not leaving this retreat with all the answers to the important questions facing the church in these days,” he wrote, but he said the bishops now have a renewed sense of the importance of taking their cues from “Christ’s spirit rather than our own efforts.”

Another blessing from the week, he said, was being drawn closer to each other and to the pope.

“I have no doubt that just as the early church relied on Peter’s unique ministry to meet the challenges of the day, so we will draw strength and insight from our unity with his successor,” he said.

– – –

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

Source:https://cnstopstories.com/2019/01/10/bishops-describe-their-retreat-as-inspiring-spirit-filled/

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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, January 10, 2015 — “He must increase; I must decrease”

January 9, 2015

Saturday after Epiphany
Lectionary: 217

Reading 1 1 Jn 5:14-21

Beloved:
We have this confidence in him
that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask,
we know that what we have asked him for is ours.
If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly,
he should pray to God and he will give him life.
This is only for those whose sin is not deadly.
There is such a thing as deadly sin,
about which I do not say that you should pray.
All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly.We know that anyone begotten by God does not sin;
but the one begotten by God he protects,
and the Evil One cannot touch him.
We know that we belong to God,
and the whole world is under the power of the Evil One.
We also know that the Son of God has come
and has given us discernment to know the one who is true.
And we are in the one who is true,
in his Son Jesus Christ.
He is the true God and eternal life.
Children, be on your guard against idols..

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Responsorial Psalm PS 149:1-2, 3-4, 5-6a and 9b

R. (see 4a) The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Sing to the LORD a new song
of praise in the assembly of the faithful.
Let Israel be glad in their maker,
let the children of Zion rejoice in their king.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let them praise his name in the festive dance,
let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.
For the LORD loves his people,
and he adorns the lowly with victory.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let the faithful exult in glory;
let them sing for joy upon their couches;
Let the high praises of God be in their throats.
This is the glory of all his faithful. Alleluia.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia Mt 4:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light,
on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death
light has arisen.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Jn 3:22-30

Jesus and his disciples went into the region of Judea,
where he spent some time with them baptizing.
John was also baptizing in Aenon near Salim,
because there was an abundance of water there,
and people came to be baptized,
for John had not yet been imprisoned.
Now a dispute arose between the disciples of John and a Jew
about ceremonial washings.
So they came to John and said to him,
“Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan,
to whom you testified,
here he is baptizing and everyone is coming to him.”
John answered and said,
“No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven.
You yourselves can testify that I said that I am not the Christ,
but that I was sent before him.
The one who has the bride is the bridegroom;
the best man, who stands and listens for him,
rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice.
So this joy of mine has been made complete.
He must increase; I must decrease.”
.
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Van Gogh’s Bible
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection.
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Both John the Baptist and Jesus indicated a new way to the crowds. But Jesus after having adhered to the movement of John the Baptist, and after having been baptized by him, advanced a step ahead and created his own movement. He baptized the persons in the Jordan River, when John the Baptist was also doing it. Both of them attracted the poor and abandoned people of Palestine, by announcing the Good News of the Kingdom of God.
.
Jesus, the new preacher, had a certain advantage over John the Baptist. He baptized more people and attracted more disciples. Thus, a tension arose between the disciples of John and those of Jesus, concerning the “purification”, that is, concerning the value of Baptism. The disciples of John the Baptist experienced a certain envy and went to John to speak to him and informed him about the movement of Jesus.
.
The response of John to his disciples is a beautiful response, which reveals his great spirit. John helps his disciples to see things more objectively. And he uses three arguments: a) Nobody receives anything which is not given by God.
.
If Jesus does such beautiful things, it is because he receives them from God (Jn 3, 27). Instead of having envy, the disciples should feel joy. b) John reaffirms once again that he, John, is not the Messiah but only the precursor (Jn 3, 28). c) And at the end he uses a comparison, taken from the wedding feast. At that time, in Palestine, on the day of the wedding, in the house of the bride, the so called “friends of the bridegroom” waited for the arrival of the bridegroom to present him to the bride. In this case, Jesus is the bridegroom, the crowd is the bride. John the friend of the bridegroom. John the Baptist says that, in the voice of Jesus, he recognizes the voice of the bridegroom and can present him to the bride, to the crowds.
.At this moment, the bridegroom, the people, leave the friend of the bridegroom and follow Jesus, because they recognize in him the voice of their bridegroom!. And for this reason the joy of John is great, “complete joy”. John wants nothing for himself! His mission is to present the bridegroom to the bride! The last sentence summarizes everything: “He must grow greater, I must grow less!” This phrase is also the program for any person who follows Jesus..At the end of the first century, in Palestine as well as in Asia Minor, where there were some communities of Jews, there were also people who had been in contact with John the Baptist or who had been baptized by him (Acts 19, 3). Seen from outside, the movement of John the Baptist and that of Jesus were very similar to one another. Both of them announced the coming of the Kingdom (cfr. Mt 3, 1-2; 4, 17).

.

There must have been some confusion between the followers of John and those of Jesus. And because of this, the witness of John about Jesus was very important. The four Gospel are concerned about giving the words of John the Baptist saying that he is not the Messiah. For the Christian communities, the Christian response, the response of John, He must grow greater and I must grow less” was valid not only for the Disciples of John at the time of Jesus, but also for the disciples of the Batiste or Cambric community of the end of the first century.

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Personal questions

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“He must grow greater, I must grow less”. This is John’s program. Is this also my program?

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What is important is that the bride finds the bridegroom. We are only spokespersons, nothing more. And, am I this?

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Concluding prayer

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They shall dance in praise of his name, play to him on tambourines and harp! For Yahweh loves his people, he will crown the humble with salvation. (Ps 149,3-4)

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-john-322-30

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St John the Baptist
St. John the Baptist, By Donatello (b. ca. 1386, Firenze, d. 1466, Firenze) St John the Baptist (detail) 1438 Painted wood Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice

http://smecsundaymorningforum.org/2013/12/04/st-john-
the-baptist-art-for-a-advent-2/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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KNOWING OUR PLACE IN GOD’S PLAN 

SCRIPTURE READINGS: 1 JN 5:14-21; JN 3:22-30
http://www.universalis.com/20150110/mass.htm 

“Now some of John’s disciples had opened a discussion with a Jew about purification, so they went to John and said, “Rabbi, the man who was with you on the far side of the Jordan, the man to whom you bore witness, is baptising now; and everyone is going to him.”  We can imagine how most of us would react if someone comes and gossips to us that there are some people challenging our status quo and are competing with us for attention and popularity.  Those of us who are in authority sometimes feel threatened by our subordinates who have become more popular than us and upstage us in what we do.  Most of us would feel jealous, angry or reactive to such perceived threats.  Our first reaction would be to curb and curtail their growing influence and popularity.  Such a response of course stems from fear of our security and the need for recognition and love of the world.  This is a normal human reaction.  Even King Herod felt the same way and sought to kill the baby Jesus, the Infant King of the Jews, for fear of losing his crown.

Yet, in the case of St John the Baptist, we have a positive reaction rather than a negative one.  There was certainly no apparent fear of competition.  John the Baptist showed himself to be truly a man of God who was so self-assured.  He did not need any approval of men, not even kings and nobilities or those in power.  He reprimanded without mincing his words when Herod committed adultery.  He scolded the religious leaders as “brood of vipers” and exhorted the soldiers to practise justice.  Such a man who had no fear of other men certainly did not feel threatened by Jesus’ baptizing at the river Jordan.

What is the secret of St John the Baptist’s magnanimity and calm response?  One must be a man of God!  His focus was never on himself but on God and the extension of His kingdom.  His only desire was to serve God and never himself.  As long as God and His kingdom were proclaimed and conversion took place, he was contented.  This man did not seek power, for God was His only power.  He did not seek to live a life of luxury since his palace was the desert.  A man who wanted nothing for himself has nothing to lose but everything to gain.  St John the Baptist was the freest man in this world.

This explains why he was more than happy to let go of his prophetic office.  He was a man who knew his place in the history of God’s plan.  His role was that of precursor.  He was absolutely aware of himself and true to himself.  He had no desire to be what he was not.  He could have easily passed himself off as the Messiah, since the people after all thought he was the one.  Instead, he made it clear in no uncertain terms that he was not the one.  He put to rest speculations on his identity when he said, “A man can lay claim only to what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can bear me out: I said: I myself am not the Christ; I am the one who has been sent in front of him.”

Indeed, St John the Baptist was contented just to be the precursor. He did not view Jesus as a threat but only sought to verify that He was truly the Messiah whose way he was to prepare. Once that was assured, he was ready to depart from the scene and let the Messiah take over the proclamation of the Kingdom of God. His conscience was clear and he was at peace.  His greatest joy was not to be in the limelight but to prepare the way for the Messiah to come and be ready to welcome Christ, like the bride her bridegroom, when He came.   Again, he said, “The bride is only for the bridegroom; and yet the bridegroom’s friend, who stands there and listens, is glad when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. This same joy I feel, and now it is complete. He must grow greater, I must grow smaller.”   Such was the joy of John the Baptist to know that the bridegroom whom he had been preparing the people for was in their midst.  Knowing that meant that he was also ready to go and let Christ assume His office.

Today, we have much to learn from the example of John the Baptist.  Firstly, we must resign ourselves to the plan of God for us.  Each one of us has been given a role in the history of salvation.  We must discern the calling of God for us.  Our task on this earth is to fulfill what we have been called to do.  There is no question of competing with others over positions and honour.  It is God who allots to each one of us according to the gifts of the Spirit for the good of His Church.  If we only seek to do His will, like John the Baptist, we will find integrity in life, peace and joy.  Otherwise, we will forever be uneasy, restless and jumping from one interest to another without finding ground.

Secondly, if we are envious of others who are appointed over us, or fearful of promising leaders in our midst, we must learn to let go.  Leaders must not cling to their position.  Truly, the first task of a leader is to identify and groom a successor to take over from him.  We must not be afraid that there are others who are more capable and talented than us.  If we truly seek the greater glory of God, then we would desire to find the best person to do the job.  Like John the Baptist, we must be gracious enough that when such a person comes, we are ready to give up our position and not continue to hang on to power.   When God appoints, we must respect His choice.  St John made it clear that “a man can lay claim only to what is given him from heaven.”  Envy will only lead us to misery and resentment.  What man proposes, God disposes. We must respect God’s election and trust in His divine wisdom.  As the Lord said to the prophet Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  (1 Sm 16:7)

Thirdly, if we rid ourselves of our egotism and fear, we will realize that the greatest joy of life is not in holding office.  It is a burden in fact, because it demands sacrifices and responsibilities.  Those who desire to hold office are often insecure and use their position of authority to feed their ego.  If we need titles, positions and status to make us feel good about ourselves, our lives will be forever at the mercy of people as we will always be worried about what they say and think about us.  What we should glory in is the fact that we are the children of God, adopted sons and daughters of God, the bride of Christ.  This realization of our identity is even more satisfying than any office we hold, since the gift of sonship is a privilege not earned.  Once we come to know our identity and the joy of being loved by God then we do not need any worldly honour.  Just knowing that we are loved by God will give us the joy, peace and security that the world cannot give, and no one on earth can satisfy.

Indeed, the responsorial psalm celebrates God’s love for us.   The psalmist rejoices and prays, “The Lord takes delight in his people. Sing a new song to the Lord, his praise in the assembly of the faithful. Let Israel rejoice in its Maker, let Zion’s sons exult in their king.”  St John reminds us of our dignity as children of God when he wrote, “We know that we belong to God, but the whole world lies in the power of the Evil One. We know, too, that the Son of God has come, and has given us the power to know the true God. We are in the true God, as we are in his Son, Jesus Christ. This is the true God, this is eternal life. Children, be on your guard against false gods.”   This consciousness that we are loved, not for what we do but for who we are, heals us of our fears and insecurity.  Fear is the cause of all sins.   It leads to other sins.   Being loved for our sake is the antidote to all sins. St John says our sins can be overcome if we recognize our dignity as those born of God.

As a result of our sonship too, we find true security as His children.  Experience of sonship is the basis of confidence in prayer, as St John remarked, “We are quite confident that if we ask the Son of God for anything, and it is in accordance with his will, he will hear us; and, knowing that whatever we may ask, he hears us, we know that we have been granted what we ask of him.”   We can live in perfect confidence in the Lord who will protect us from all harm and danger.  If we experience God as Abba Father in the way Jesus did, then we need not worry about our daily needs but rest assured that our heavenly Father will look after us.

Finally, like John the Baptist, we are happy as long as Christ is known and loved. It does not matter who brings them to Christ. Hence, no one is a threat to us.  All we desire is that our beloved is known and loved by the whole world.  The only ones who are a threat to us are those anti-Christs who work for the Evil One consciously or unconsciously and are used by him. So together we must take heed of St John’s exhortation in our fight against the Evil One. For these reasons, those who are leaders or those serving the Lord must consciously examine themselves and check their motives for serving the Lord.  We must free ourselves from vanity and ask ourselves sincerely whether we are leading people to Christ or to ourselves, and whether what we do is really in the interest of the Church or for ourselves.

– See more at: http://www.csctr.net/10th-january-2015-saturday-after-epiphany/#sthash.u0Ed9Dpd.dpuf

Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, January 11, 2014 — “He must increase; I must decrease.” — Plus Teaching on “Deadly Sin”

January 10, 2014

St. John the Baptist, By Donatello (b. ca. 1386, Firenze, d. 1466, Firenze) St John the Baptist (detail) 1438 Painted wood Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice

Saturday after Epiphany Lectionary: 217

Reading 1 1 jn 5:14-21

Beloved: We have this confidence in him that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask, we know that what we have asked him for is ours. If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly.
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We know that anyone begotten by God does not sin; but the one begotten by God he protects, and the Evil One cannot touch him. We know that we belong to God, and the whole world is under the power of the Evil One. We also know that the Son of God has come and has given us discernment to know the one who is true. And we are in the one who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Children, be on your guard against idols.

Responsorial Psalm ps 149:1-2, 3-4, 5-6a and 9b

R. (see 4a) The Lord takes delight in his people. or: R. Alleluia. Sing to the LORD a new song of praise in the assembly of the faithful. Let Israel be glad in their maker, let the children of Zion rejoice in their king. R. The Lord takes delight in his people. or: R. Alleluia. Let them praise his name in the festive dance, let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp. For the LORD loves his people, and he adorns the lowly with victory. R. The Lord takes delight in his people. or: R. Alleluia. Let the faithful exult in glory; let them sing for joy upon their couches; Let the high praises of God be in their throats. This is the glory of all his faithful. Alleluia. R. The Lord takes delight in his people. or: R. Alleluia.

Gospel jn 3:22-30

Jesus and his disciples went into the region of Judea, where he spent some time with them baptizing. John was also baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was an abundance of water there, and people came to be baptized, for John had not yet been imprisoned. Now a dispute arose between the disciples of John and a Jew about ceremonial washings. So they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing and everyone is coming to him.” John answered and said, “No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said that I am not the Christ, but that I was sent before him. The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease.”
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection.Both John the Baptist and Jesus indicated a new way to the crowds. But Jesus after having adhered to the movement of John the Baptist, and after having been baptized by him, advanced a step ahead and created his own movement. He baptized the persons in the Jordan River, when John the Baptist was also doing it. Both of them attracted the poor and abandoned people of Palestine, by announcing the Good News of the Kingdom of God. • Jesus, the new preacher, had a certain advantage over John the Baptist. He baptized more people and attracted more disciples. Thus, a tension arose between the disciples of John and those of Jesus, concerning the “purification”, that is, concerning the value of Baptism. The disciples of John the Baptist experienced a certain envy and went to John to speak to him and informed him about the movement of Jesus..The response of John to his disciples is a beautiful response, which reveals his great spirit. John helps his disciples to see things more objectively. And he uses three arguments: a) Nobody receives anything which is not given by God. If Jesus does such beautiful things, it is because he receives them from God (Jn 3, 27). Instead of having envy, the disciples should feel joy. b) John reaffirms once again that he, John, is not the Messiah but only the precursor (Jn 3, 28). c) And at the end he uses a comparison, taken from the wedding feast. At that time, in Palestine, on the day of the wedding, in the house of the bride, the so called “friends of the bridegroom” waited for the arrival of the bridegroom to present him to the bride. In this case, Jesus is the bridegroom, the crowd is the bride. John the friend of the bridegroom. John the Baptist says that, in the voice of Jesus, he recognizes the voice of the bridegroom and can present him to the bride, to the crowds. .

At this moment, the bridegroom, the people, leave the friend of the bridegroom and follow Jesus, because they recognize in him the voice of their bridegroom!. And for this reason the joy of John is great, “complete joy”. John wants nothing for himself! His mission is to present the bridegroom to the bride! The last sentence summarizes everything: “He must grow greater, I must grow less!” This phrase is also the program for any person who follows Jesus.

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At the end of the first century, in Palestine as well as in Asia Minor, where there were some communities of Jews, there were also people who had been in contact with John the Baptist or who had been baptized by him (Acts 19, 3). Seen from outside, the movement of John the Baptist and that of Jesus were very similar to one another. Both of them announced the coming of the Kingdom (cfr. Mt 3, 1-2; 4, 17). There must have been some confusion between the followers of John and those of Jesus. And because of this, the witness of John about Jesus was very important. The four Gospel are concerned about giving the words of John the Baptist saying that he is not the Messiah. For the Christian communities, the Christian response, the response of John, He must grow greater and I must grow less” was valid not only for the Disciples of John at the time of Jesus, but also for the disciples of the Batiste or Cambric community of the end of the first century.

4) Personal questions

“He must grow greater, I must grow less”. This is John’s program. Is this also my program? • What is important is that the bride finds the bridegroom. We are only spokespersons, nothing more. And, am I this?

Concluding prayer

They shall dance in praise of his name, play to him on tambourines and harp! For Yahweh loves his people, he will crown the humble with salvation. (Ps 149,3-4)

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-john-322-30

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St John the Baptist
St. John the Baptist, By Donatello (b. ca. 1386, Firenze, d. 1466, Firenze) St John the Baptist (detail) 1438 Painted wood Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice

http://smecsundaymorningforum.org/2013/12/04/st-john-
the-baptist-art-for-a-advent-2/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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Today, we conclude the season of Epiphany with St John the Baptist confirming Jesus as the Saviour of the World and affirming that he was only the forerunner of Christ and nothing more.  He said, “I myself am not the Christ; I am the one who has been sent in front of him. The bride is only for the bridegroom; and yet the bridegroom’s friend, who stands there and listens, is glad when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. This same joy I feel, and now it is complete.”  In the gospel, St John also declares, “We are in the true God, as we are in his Son, Jesus Christ. This is the true God, this is eternal life.”

Today, all of us are called to be like St John the Baptist, leading others to Christ.  Indeed, many of us have taken this commission to make Christ known seriously.  We try to witness to Christ both by our words and deeds.  More explicitly, some of us are involved in Church organizations, working for the growth of the Christian community, or in non-governmental organizations that work for the good of humanity.  So directly or indirectly, we are called to make Christ known through our witnessing and involvement in the lives of our fellow Christians and fellowmen.

Yet, in all these apparent good works we do, the question that we are challenged to reflect sincerely for ourselves is whether beneath the veneer of all these good that we claim to be doing for the Church or for our community and for the glory of God, are we consciously or unconsciously seeking for influence, recognition, praise, acceptance and a sense of worthiness from those whom we serve, or even for sordid gains?

In reality, our motives for serving God are never as pure and selfless as we would want to believe.  We all serve God for many reasons, although for most of us, we are not so devious as to consciously use God for our personal gain. But unconsciously what we do often spring from our insecurities and the need for love and acceptance; and sometimes for material benefits as well, because of greed.

As a consequence we feel threatened when our fellow confreres, members, or other leaders seem to be more popular and loved than us.  We fall into the sin of envy.   We find ourselves even more insecure when our fellow colleagues are doing so much better than us, especially when their ministry is bearing fruits.  What does an envious person do if not to engage in slander, backbiting, gossip, detractions etc to discredit his competitor’s work, or worse still, to destroy his reputation and character?  Envy and jealousy will lead a person to do all these things because he feels intimidated by others.   Indeed, pride and envy are two of the seven capital sins that St John wrote about in his letter, and they can be deadly spiritually, emotionally and physically.  “Every kind of wrong-doing is sin, but not all sin is deadly.”

That is why some refuse to step down from their positions even when they are no longer effective in their ministry, or unable to perform their work in spite of the fact that there are other capable members who can take over their portfolio.  Instead of being a service to God and His Church, they become obstacles to progress and renewal for their group.  By their refusal to recognize that there will come a time one must hand over his office to someone else, they hinder the growth of that organization or movement.  Of course, they always think that no one can replace them, whether real or due to their inflated assessment of themselves.

In this context we have much to learn from St John the Baptist.  He was utterly honest with himself, and he knew himself.  As he said without any apology and publicly too, “You yourselves can bear me out: I said: I myself am not the Christ; I am the one who has been sent in front of him.”  He could easily have made use of the people’s wrong perception that he was the Christ that they were waiting for.  But he did not pretend to be what he was not.  He might have been able to cheat the people, but he cannot cheat himself and definitely not God!  He did not feel envious of Jesus when his disciples told him, “Rabbi, the man who was with you on the far side of the Jordan, the man to whom you bore witness, is baptising now; and everyone is going to him.”

As he rightly said, “A man can lay claim only to what is given him from heaven.”  Our calling in life is determined by God.  All that we have, our talents, wealth, resources, opportunities etc, are given by God.  We cannot claim them as if we had acquired them by mere human effort alone.  Whether we are married, or single; parents or children; leaders or members; priests or lay, bosses or workers, all these are given to us by God for a purpose, namely, for our well-being and for the good of God’s people.  Only by being faithful to our vocation, can we find peace and happiness through a life of integrity.  John the Baptist sought to fulfill his role as appointed by God, which is to be the forerunner of the Messiah.  Having completed his task, he was ready to go, as he reiterated, “He must grow greater, I must grow smaller.”

Thus, instead of being envious with Jesus or compete with Him for popularity and attention, he was more than happy to leave the scene.  He knew his time had come for him to depart.  Indeed, what greater joy for him than to diminish himself before the Messiah.  John the Baptist did not have any difficulty stepping out of the limelight and allowing Jesus to shine as the Light of the World.

What about us?  Do we find it difficult to step down from our positions when our time is up?  Do we continue to hang on to our office for fear that when we are no more in authority, we would not receive the attention and the adulation we are used to?  Can we accept the plan of God for us?   Are we open to a new calling in life other than the one we have been so familiar with and perhaps even good at it?  John the Baptist was entirely docile to the Lord.  One thing was clear in his mind, which was to do everything for God’s ultimate glory.

And so it does not matter who baptizes, or who preaches the Word of God, so long as the Word of God is preached effectively and efficaciously.  It does not matter who leads the Church or serves the organization, so long as the gospel is preached.  Indeed, the different charisms of others should never pose a threat to us.  Rather, it shows the richness of the diversity of God’s gifts given to His Church.  All of us are called to serve and attend to the bridegroom in different ways.  There is no competition but only a common vision and mission to serve Jesus the Lord. Hence, it is not important who assumes a particular position or office in the Church.  What is important is that the right and the best person as chosen by God should take that place.

To vie for positions in the Church is totally against the gospel.  After all, in the bible, everything is founded on the graciousness of the election of God, not of men.  God judges the heart; we see only the externals of a person.  Israel was an insignificant race but chosen to be God’s special people.  So too, as gentiles, we were no people, yet God chose us in baptism!  This explains why in the Church, the ordination to the priesthood is a calling not in terms of merit or competency.  One cannot demand to be ordained simply because he has all the functional capacity of a priest.  Or course, those who are truly chosen by God will be given the graces and the charisms to conduct their ministry.

Are we ready to act in this manner and be happy with what God wants of us instead of being ambitious and competitive even when doing God’s work?  We all belong to one Church, which is the Church of Christ.   We have a common Lord and a common vision.  Why do we fight among ourselves and divide the Church, causing scandal to both believers and unbelievers?  Why do we take things into our own hands instead of trusting in those people appointed by the Lord?  By fighting among ourselves, we show a lack of love for the Church.  If we love the Church, we will do everything not to hurt the Church even more.   If we love the Church, we will respect those who are legitimately placed over us.  Don’t we believe that God knows what He is doing and that He will always protect His Church? If we love Christ and His Church, then St John assures us, “We are quite confident that if we ask the Son of God for anything, and it is in accordance with his will, he will hear us; and, knowing that whatever we may ask, he hears us, we know that we have been granted what we ask of him.”

http://www.csctr.net/11-january-2014-saturday-after-the-epiphany/

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