Posts Tagged ‘will of God’

Prayer and Meditation for Friday, October 13, 2017 — “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste.”

October 12, 2017

Friday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 465

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Jesus Casts a Devil Out of the Mute Man

Reading 1 JL 1:13-15; 2:1-2

Gird yourselves and weep, O priests!
wail, O ministers of the altar!
Come, spend the night in sackcloth,
O ministers of my God!
The house of your God is deprived
of offering and libation.
Proclaim a fast,
call an assembly;
Gather the elders,
all who dwell in the land,
Into the house of the LORD, your God,
and cry to the LORD!

Alas, the day!
for near is the day of the LORD,
and it comes as ruin from the Almighty.

Blow the trumpet in Zion,
sound the alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all who dwell in the land tremble,
for the day of the LORD is coming;
Yes, it is near, a day of darkness and of gloom,
a day of clouds and somberness!
Like dawn spreading over the mountains,
a people numerous and mighty!
Their like has not been from of old,
nor will it be after them,
even to the years of distant generations.

Responsorial Psalm PS 9:2-3, 6 AND 16, 8-9

R. (9) The Lord will judge the world with justice.
I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart;
I will declare all your wondrous deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you;
I will sing praise to your name, Most High.
R. The Lord will judge the world with justice.
You rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked;
their name you blotted out forever and ever.
The nations are sunk in the pit they have made;
in the snare they set, their foot is caught.
R. The Lord will judge the world with justice.
But the LORD sits enthroned forever;
he has set up his throne for judgment.
He judges the world with justice;
he governs the peoples with equity.
R. The Lord will judge the world with justice.

Alleluia JN 12:31B-32

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The prince of this world will now be cast out,
and when I am lifted up from the earth
I will draw all to myself, says the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Image result for driving out demons, art, bible, photos

Gospel LK 11:15-26

When Jesus had driven out a demon, some of the crowd said:
“By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons,
he drives out demons.”
Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven.
But he knew their thoughts and said to them,
“Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste
and house will fall against house.
And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?
For you say that it is by Beelzebul that I drive out demons.
If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul,
by whom do your own people drive them out?
Therefore they will be your judges.
But if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons,
then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.
When a strong man fully armed guards his palace,
his possessions are safe.
But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him,
he takes away the armor on which he relied
and distributes the spoils.
Whoever is not with me is against me,
and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

“When an unclean spirit goes out of someone,
it roams through arid regions searching for rest
but, finding none, it says,
‘I shall return to my home from which I came.’
But upon returning, it finds it swept clean and put in order.
Then it goes and brings back seven other spirits
more wicked than itself who move in and dwell there,
and the last condition of that man is worse than the first.”

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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13 OCTOBER, 2017, Friday, 27th Week, Ordinary Time
PUTTING THE INTERIOR HOUSE IN ORDER

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Joel 1:13-152:1-2Ps 9: 2-3,6,16,8-9Lk 11:15-26 ]

In the first reading from prophet Joel, we hear the call to repentance.  “Priests, put on sackcloth and lament. Ministers of the altar, wail.”  By so doing, the prophet was inviting Israel, especially the religious and political leaders, to put their house in order.  This call is addressed in a special way to priests, but also to the whole Church. This is the same message of Pope Francis when he wrote the encyclical, “The joy of the gospel”, calling the whole church to ongoing conversion, a prerequisite for the mission of the Church.

This same message resounds in today’s gospel when Jesus invites us to examine the state of our interior life.   Whilst we might not be possessed by Beelzebul, the prince of devils, our lives are not in order as well.  For most of us, our real inner struggle is to live a consistent lifestyle befitting our calling as Christians.  The truth is that many of us are living in a divided house.  There is a contradiction between faith and life; ministry and life.  What we believe and what we teach is not how we live.

The warning of Jesus in living such a life is that we will collapse sooner or later. Our hypocrisy will be exposed.  “Every kingdom divided against itself is heading for ruin, and a household divided against itself collapses.  So too with Satan: if he is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand?”  Indeed, by failing to live the gospel life, we would ultimately hurt ourselves.  Living a hypocritical life might deceive others but we know we cannot deceive ourselves.  Realizing that we are not what we should be will make us sad and unsettled.  Living a double life cripples us from enjoying a life of authentic freedom.

Hence, it is important today to examine what Christ wants us to do as Church. Vatican II presents ecclesial conversion as openness to a personal renewal of faith in Jesus Christ, which would impact one’s moral life as well as the structures of the Church.  “Every renewal of the Church is essentially grounded in an increase of fidelity to her own calling. Christ summons the Church to continual reformation as she sojourns here on earth. The Church is always in need of this, in so far as she is an institution of men here on earth.”  (Unitatis Reintegratio, no 6.)

Indeed, there is a need to take growth in holiness seriously as Catholics.  Holiness of life is not for some extraordinary heroes but is a calling for all.  St Theresa of the Child Jesus tells us that holiness is to live an ordinary life in an extraordinary way.  We do not have to do great things but small things in a great way.  Pope St John Paul II wrote in the Apostolic Letter, Novo Millennio Inenunte, “First of all, I have no hesitation in saying that all pastoral initiatives must be set in relation to holiness.  But the gift in turn becomes a task, which must shape the whole of Christian life.”    It is a duty which concerns not only certain Christians as  all “are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity.  It would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity, marked by a minimalist ethic and a shallow religiosity.”  (NMI, no 30)  So the first conversion is a call to holiness of life, the perfection of charity according to our circumstances.

Secondly, we must focus on cultivating a Spirituality of communion.   Unless we live in communion with each other, we cannot speak of mission since our mission is communion.   It would be a contradiction to proclaim the gospel if Catholics cannot live in communion with each other.  “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn 13:35).  The Church is called to be a sign and sacrament of unity with God and the whole human race.  Division among Christians and within the Catholic Church is a source of scandal to the proclamation of the gospel.

The call to communion presupposes that we live a life of communion by living in love with each other.  Pope St John Paul II proposes that a spirituality of communion “indicates above all the heart’s contemplation of the mystery of the Trinity dwelling in us, and whose light we must also be able to see shining on the face of the brothers and sisters around us. A spirituality of communion also means an ability to think of our brothers and sisters in faith within the profound unity of the Mystical Body, and therefore as ‘those who are a part of me’. This makes us able to share their joys and sufferings, to sense their desires and attend to their needs, to offer them deep and genuine friendship. A spirituality of communion implies also the ability to see what is positive in others, to welcome it and prize it as a gift from God: not only as a gift for the brother or sister who has received it directly, but also as a ‘gift for me’. A spirituality of communion means, finally, to know how to ‘make room’ for our brothers and sisters, bearing ‘each other’s burdens’ (cf Gal 6:2) and resisting the selfish temptations which constantly beset us and provoke competition, careerism, distrust and jealousy.”  (NMI, 43)

Only when we change our selfish and self-centered attitudes towards our fellow Catholics, can we then focus on the change and updating of the structures of communion.  Pope St John Paul II warns us, “Let us have no illusions: unless we follow this spiritual path, external structures of communion will serve very little purpose. They would become mechanisms without a soul, “masks” of communion rather than its means of expression and growth.’  (NMI No. 43)  Without this interior disposition, we will not have the humility and the appreciation of the structures of communion; Pope and bishops, bishops and priests, priests and laity, clergy and religious; and all the councils, committees, organizations, associations, ecclesial movements in the Church.

All of us are called to be for each other and work with each other for the greater good of the Church and the spread of the gospel.  It is this parochial-mindedness, of protecting one’s turf and enriching one’s organization at the expense of the larger body that causes much division and competition in the life of the Church.   The irony is that the laity and non-Catholics see us as one Church.  If anything happens or a scandal is caused by a Catholic organization or even a person of standing, the whole image of the Catholic Church is tarnished and put in question.  But in reality, many of our Catholic organizations and even parishes work as if they are not connected or responsible to the local Church or the universal Church. It is this unhealthy competition among ourselves as Catholics that cause the mission of the Church to be compromised because it leads to disunity, jealousy and division.

Finally, there is still yet another pitfall that the call to conversion is warning us, namely, the sin of complacency.  Even though some of us might live good lives, it might not mean that our house is in order.  The temptation to complacency will lead to minimalism and indifference.  The longer we are as Catholics or in an organization, there is always that danger of us falling into mediocrity due to routine, repetition and boredom.  When creativity and enthusiasm is lacking, boredom will lead us to other sins.  We will try to find other means to fill our emptiness, restlessness and sadness.  Without enthusiasm and motivation, we will lose our zeal for the gospel.  Complacency always springs from neglect in our prayer life, in the regular celebration of the sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation, and daily contemplation on the Word of God; and living a life of communion with fellow Catholics.

This explains why Jesus warns us through the story of the unclean spirit who invited seven other spirits to live in the man who had tidied his house.  Putting our house in order is not sufficient to live a life of faith.  We must be proactive.  We cannot simply just sit and wait for things to happen.  Rather, we must use our ingenuity to find new ways to proclaim the gospel and reach out to people.  Indeed, Jesus makes it clear “He who is not with me is against me; and he who does not gather with me scatters.”  Either we are actively for Jesus or against Him.  Our faith in Christ cannot be that of indifference or complacency.  Being complacent about our faith in itself a counter-witness.   More than just a counter-witness, it means that we are in danger of losing our faith because the temptations of the world and the falsehood of the world will draw us away from our faith in the Lord.  Conversely, we evangelize ourselves by evangelizing others.

Today, we must consciously pray to Jesus who is the strong man who can help us to overcome our sins.  For Jesus assures us, “So long as a strong man fully armed guards his own palace, his goods are undisturbed.”  We must therefore turn to Jesus who can heal us of our wounds and forgive our sins.  We must rely on Jesus who will help us to remain faithful to our calling.  Only through Jesus could we find true peace and joy.  The battle against Satan and his works cannot simply be fought using our human effort but by the grace of God.

Let us take heed of the invitation to conversion by putting our house in order.  But unlike the Israelites, we do not do so simply because we are fearful of the judgment of the coming of the day of the Lord.  For us Christians, the Day of the Lord is as near to us as the moment we welcome the Lord into our house and invite Him to put our house in order.  For us, then, the day of the Lord is not a day of judgment but a day of liberation for authenticity of life and love.  When the Lord enters into our life, we will be filled with joy and peace.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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Commentary on Luke 11:15-26 From Living Space

“There are none so blind as those who will not see.”

In today’s passage Jesus frees a person from enslavement to an evil power which had rendered him mute, so that he could not speak. (In Matthew’s version of this story, the man is also blind.) As Christians, many of us can suffer from the same evil influence when we refuse or are afraid to acknowledge openly our Christian faith. We hide and we remain silent, especially when the values we hold are attacked or ridiculed. Once liberated, the man could speak and he did so, much to the amazement of the crowd. Let us, too, pray for this gift of speech, to be able to say the right thing at the right time.

But there were those present who accused Jesus of using the demon’s power to drive out the evil spirit. At the same time, in spite of the extraordinary signs that Jesus was initiating on almost a daily basis – including the one they had just witnessed which caused such astonishment among the people – his enemies asked him for a sign from God.

There is a clear gap between the leaders and the people here. While the leaders keep asking Jesus for his credentials, the people are shown as constantly praising and thanking God for all that is being done among them through Jesus.

Jesus then shows the self-contradictions in his opponents’ charges. A kingdom that is split by internal rivalries cannot survive. Why would evil spirits attack each other and so frustrate their goals? And, Jesus asks his accusers, when their own people drive out demons, by whose power do they do it? “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out devils, then the reign of God is among you.”

When people are liberated from the control of evil spirits, that is a sure sign that the loving power of God is at work. Any other interpretation does not make sense. And the ‘reign of God’ is personified and embodied in Jesus himself. It will also become present in his disciples who do his work.

And Jesus goes on to give another image. A strong man guarding his house and possessions remains undisturbed until someone stronger comes and overthrows him. That is clearly what is happening. Jesus is the stronger one and the evil spirits are being driven away by him. They are helpless before him. This liberation of people and society from evil powers is one of the most dramatic proofs that the all-powerful reign of God is present in the person of Jesus. What further signs could be asked for?

“The man who is not with me is against me, and the man who does not gather with me scatters.”

There can be no neutrality where Jesus is concerned. We have to make our choice – for him or against. Not to choose is itself a choice – against him. Compare this with the similar but actually quite different saying with one we saw earlier (9:50): “Anyone who is not against you is for you”.

This was in the context of the Apostle John complaining that he saw a man cast out demons in Jesus’ name. In so far as that nameless person was doing Jesus’ work and doing it in Jesus’ name, he was with Jesus. That surely has implications for the many good things that non-Catholics and others who are not Christians at all are doing.

And this saying about the non-acceptance of neutrality leads to another warning. It is not enough to have been liberated from the power of an evil spirit. Otherwise it may come back “to find the house swept and tidied” and bring even worse spirits with it. The end result is that the person’s situation is even worse than before. No, the emptiness left by the departure of the evil spirit has to be actively filled with the Spirit of Jesus.

Was Jesus referring to some of the people around him, especially his critics, who, by their meticulous observance of the Law, saw themselves as morally blameless but in whose lives the positive presence of the Spirit, as exemplified in Jesus himself, was totally absent?  This is something we need to reflect on with regard to our use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

It is easy to use the sacrament to get the forgiveness of our past sins and leave it at that. To have the feeling of now having a clean slate.  Nature may abhor a vacuum but the devil loves one! The true reconciliation that the sacrament calls for demands a new and stronger commitment to the living of our Christian life. The sacrament is intended to be an experience of conversion and change. It is much more concerned with the future than with the past.  The past is gone and there is nothing we can do about it. The present is in our hands and that is where we meet God.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2276g/

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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, October 10, 2017 — “You are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. “

October 9, 2017

Tuesday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 462

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Reading 1 JON 3:1-10

The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time:
“Set out for the great city of Nineveh,
and announce to it the message that I will tell you.”
So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh,
according to the LORD’s bidding.
Now Nineveh was an enormously large city;
it took three days to go through it.
Jonah began his journey through the city,
and had gone but a single day’s walk announcing,
“Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed,”
when the people of Nineveh believed God;
they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small,
put on sackcloth.

When the news reached the king of Nineveh,
he rose from his throne, laid aside his robe,
covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in the ashes.
Then he had this proclaimed throughout Nineveh,
by decree of the king and his nobles:
“Neither man nor beast, neither cattle nor sheep,
shall taste anything;
they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water.
Man and beast shall be covered with sackcloth
and call loudly to God;
every man shall turn from his evil way
and from the violence he has in hand.
Who knows, God may relent and forgive,
and withhold his blazing wrath,
so that we shall not perish.”
When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way,
he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them;
he did not carry it out.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 130:1B-2, 3-4AB, 7-8

R. (3) If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand?
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD
LORD, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to my voice in supplication.
R. If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand?
If you, O LORD, mark iniquities,
LORD, who can stand?
But with you is forgiveness,
that you may be revered.
R. If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand?
Let Israel wait for the LORD,
For with the LORD is kindness
and with him is plenteous redemption;
And he will redeem Israel
from all their iniquities.
R. If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand?

Alleluia LK 11:28

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are those who hear the word of God
and observe it.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  LK 10:38-42

Jesus entered a village
where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
She had a sister named Mary
who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said,
“Lord, do you not care
that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?
Tell her to help me.”
The Lord said to her in reply,
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
There is need of only one thing.
Mary has chosen the better part
and it will not be taken from her.”

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 We think the best way to please God or to find salvation is to do good works to earn the love and mercy of our Lord.  Martha thought by caring for Jesus’ needs, she would please Him and gain favours and appreciation from our Lord.  She wanted to do things for Jesus to seek His attention and win His love.  Hers was salvation through good works.
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Mary also found the heart of the gospel through attentive love to our Lord.  She was basking herself in Christ’s love with full devotion of mind, heart and soul.  There lies her strength, her consolation and her motivation to do good.  She was not seeking to earn Christ’s love because she knew she has already been loved.  She understood that what the Lord was seeking was not food but intimacy.   The Lord wanted to share His life with them and wanted to allow them to experience His love.   He did not want to be distracted by all the unimportant things of life.  What matters most is love and intimacy.  Hence, the Lord commended her for having chosen the better part or rather what is most important.

This is not to say that Martha was not doing the right thing but her priority was wrong.  She is typical of many of our Church workers and volunteers.  Most of us are concerned about service, activities, programs and achievements before intimacy with the Lord in prayer and contemplation.  Like Martha, they have good will.  They want to serve God and His people.  They want to help the Church grow and spread the gospel.  But unfortunately, they lack the foundation and the energy to sustain their activities.  Many get hurt in the ministry and stopped serving the Church.  Many suffer burn out as well.  So one wonders whether they are serving the Lord or serving themselves.  Do we serve the Lord only when things are well and comfortable, and because we enjoy it, or because it is what the Lord is asking of us?  Most of us seem to be serving more for our sakes rather than for the sake of God.  If we are truly serving God, then we will serve Him in poverty and riches, in joys and sorrows, in success and failures, in good and bad times.  Should priests who face difficulties in the ministry, persecution and opposition also resign too?  If that were the case, the gospel would not have gone further than Palestine and would have ceased soon after the death of Jesus.  But the apostles, so filled with the love of Christ, were ever ready to die for the Lord regardless of the sufferings and trials they had to suffer.  Without intimacy with the Lord, we will end up like Martha, complaining, lamenting, arguing and becoming disillusioned.

From Bishop Goh in 2016:

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Reflection on Lk 10:38-42 by Steven J. Cole

“What is the one activity that you know if you did superbly well and consistently would have significant positive results in your walk with God?” Then, “If you know this would make such a significant difference, why did you not do it this past week?” I believe that that one significant activity is spending time alone with the Lord in His Word and in prayer. In the language of our text:

Sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to His Word is the one thing necessary in life.

That is the main message of this little story that gives us a glimpse into an incident in the life of Jesus and two sisters who hosted Him for dinner. The story is amazingly concise and yet packed with punch. Luke seems to put it here both to contrast it with the preceding incident and to elaborate upon part of it. In that story, a lawyer challenged Jesus by putting a test question to Him. In this story, Martha welcomed Jesus into her home. There’s a big difference between challenging someone and welcoming Him. Luke wants us to ask ourselves, “Do I put Jesus to the test or do I welcome Him into my life?” In the first story, the lawyer cites the two great commandments, to love God and to love our neighbor, but the emphasis, through the parable of the Good Samaritan, is on love for our neighbor. In this story, we see an example of what it means to love God, as Mary sits at Jesus’ feet. If we only had the story of the Good Samaritan, we might allow service for God to take precedence over devotion to God. But the story of Mary shows us that devotion to God must be the basis of all our service for Him. Worship must undergird our work.

It’s significant that every time we encounter Mary of Bethany in the gospels, she is at Jesus’ feet: here; when her brother, Lazarus dies (John 11:32); and, when she anointed Jesus before His death (John 12:3). It’s also significant that Jesus visited these women and was willing to teach them about spiritual matters. In that culture, many rabbis thought that teaching women was a waste of time. But Jesus took the time to evangelize and teach women, thus showing the value that God puts on every person. And through these women, especially Mary, the Lord teaches us a vital lesson about the main priority that we need to hold on to in the midst of our busy schedules, namely, that of sitting at His feet, which Jesus calls the one necessary thing, the good part.

Probably most of you agree with me, at least theoretically, that consistently spending time sitting at Jesus’ feet ought to be our main priority. But I would guess, based on my own struggles and on my years of pastoral experience, that most of you struggle with doing it consistently. I hope to motivate you by showing you why sitting at Jesus’ feet is the one necessary thing.

See more:

https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-52-one-thing-necessary-luke-1038-42

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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10 OCTOBER, 2017, Tuesday, 27th Week, Ordinary Time
DOING THE WORK FOR GOD OR THE WORK OF GOD?

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Jon 3:1-10Ps 130:1-4,7-8Lk 10:38-42]

It is true that we are all busy.  Some are busy over their own business and personal affairs.  But those of us who are involved in Church ministry and activities are also very busy.  Doing God’s work can be much more demanding than secular work because we have to exercise compassion, patience and understanding in our dealings with people.  Most of our programs need much time for planning.  Choirs need hours of practices to perfect their singing.  Altar servers have to practise many times to get their steps right.  Organizing fun fairs, parish feast day celebrations and fund raising dinners or any parish project requires lots of time, resources and effort.  Giving talks, writing homilies and attending meetings can be very time consuming.  Like Martha, most of us feel so drained serving in these committees that some of us feel like giving up.

But what keeps us going is the thought that we are doing work for God, and hence are serving Him.   Most of all, we are giving our time, resources and energy for free.  We are not paid for the work we do.  Consequently, we all feel great about ourselves; that we are rendering our services to God and to the Church.  We feel we have been generous and contributive. People should appreciate what we are doing and most of all, God should be proud of us!  Again, that was how Martha felt.  She was looking for Jesus’ approval and appreciation for all the troubles she took to make Jesus’ stay comfortable.

If we are restless when doing work for God, it is because we are not doing the work of God.  There is a great difference between doing work for God and doing the work of God.  In the former, it is about me doing things for God, according to what I like and what I enjoy doing most.  Isn’t this why people join church ministries?  They don’t ask what is needed for the Church or what God wants them to do.  They tell the church and God what they like to offer and to do.  It is not about doing God’s will but their own.  It is not about fulfilling what God needs of them but what they need of God!  So they pick and choose something that they like to do.  It is about their fulfillment and their happiness.  It is not about the recipients’ happiness.  How often have people imposed their taste of clothes, food and entertainment on their loved ones and friends.  Just because they like it, they expect others to share their interests.   When we are doing the work for God, we are doing what we will.

This was certainly the case of Martha in the gospel and Jonah in the first reading.  She wanted to dictate to the Lord how He should be made welcome.  In Martha’s assessment, she felt that she needed to serve the Lord well, perhaps, by preparing a good meal for Him and a comfortable room.  She believed that was what would make the Lord happy and feel welcome.  This was her understanding of hospitality.  Again, that was also the same sentiment of Jonah.  In his mind, the people of Nineveh did not deserve any mercy from God.  They should incur the full weight of God’s wrath and be punished for their wickedness, cruelty and immorality.  He did not even feel that it was worthwhile for him to preach to them at all.  Hence, he decided to go west to Tarshish instead of going east to Nineveh.  Later when forced to obey God’s call to preach at Nineveh, he was still hoping that they would not listen to his message so that they would not be brought to repentance.  In this way, the threats of God to destroy them would eventually take place.

Doing the work for God therefore requires lots of energy, planning and hard work.  It is about me doing the work for God.   He is the recipient, the beggar, the one indebted to us.  We are using all our strength and maximizing our resources to complete the work for God.  This explains why we, like Martha, become stressful, irritable and edgy.   We spend many hours labouring to finish the project.  And because we put in so much effort and ingenuity into these projects, we want our projects to turn out well.

Behind the desire for success in our projects is, again not so much about doing the work for God but about glory and praise.  We are concerned about what people will think of our work and our projects.  We want people to think well of us and praise us.  It is about projecting a good public image.  Our ego and pride are behind all that we do when we examine truthfully the motives behind what we do for God.  Like Martha, we seek attention from others, especially important people.  We are in need of affirmation and encouragement.  So when we do not get what we want, we become angry and sad and disappointed. We have become self –serving in our service!  So, too, Jonah.  We read that after his preaching, all the inhabitants and the King and his court put on sackcloth, fasted and repented.  The city was of course spared by the Lord. “God saw their efforts to renounce their evil behaviour. And God relented: he did not inflict on them the disaster which he had threatened.”  And of course, Jonah was angry with God!  He did not fulfill His intended revenge on the people.  (cf Jonah 4)

This is the spiritual worldliness that the Holy Father in Evangelii Gaudium warns us.  [Spiritual worldliness, which hides behind the appearance of piety and even love for the Church, consists in seeking not the Lord’s glory but human glory and personal well-being. It is what the Lord reprimanded the Pharisees for: “How can you believe, who receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (Jn 5:44). It is a subtle way of seeking one’s “own interests, not those of Jesus Christ” (Phil 2:21). It takes on many forms, depending on the kinds of persons and groups into which it seeps. Since it is based on carefully cultivated appearances, it is not always linked to outward sin; from without, everything appears as it should be. But if it were to seep into the Church, “it would be infinitely more disastrous than any other worldliness which is simply moral”.] (EG 93)

In doing the work of God we are differently motivated.  It is not about me who is giving but about the one who is at the receiving end.  When we do the work of God, there is no personal agenda. Doing God’s work is to be completely docile to His will like Mary the mother of Jesus.  Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38)  It is about doing His will.  It is not about my needs or my interests or my fulfillment.  It is about our desire to please the Lord according to the way He desires us to please Him.  Hence, Mary instructed the disciples of Jesus, “Do whatever he tells you.” (Jn 2:5)   So too in the case of our Lord, His Father’s will is that He died on the cross.  So Jesus submitted to His holy will and allowed His mission to end in failure so that the Holy Spirit could complete it after His resurrection.  So on the cross He handed His mission to the Holy Spirit. He prayed, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!” (Lk 23:46)

When we are doing the work of God, we should not feel anxious or worried.  It is not about our ego and success.  When our ego does not come into play, we can remain calm, collected and measured.  There is no selfish ambition involved.  Success or failure is in the hands of God.  If God wants us to fail, let us fail for His sake because through our failure, He seeks to bring about a greater good out of evil.  If God wants us to succeed, we are happy not for ourselves but for His greater glory and for the good of His people.  So a man who does the work of God is indifferent to either.  He knows that everything is in God’s hands and we will see that “in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.”  (Rom 8:28)

We can do the work of God only if we trust in Him completely and love Him more than we love ourselves.   This presupposes we have basked ourselves in His love as Mary did in the gospel.  Only when we listen to Him attentively, can we then know what is in His heart and what He desires of us.  Jonah did not listen to God and failed to realize the God he worshipped is the Father of all and we are all His children.  He is a God of forgiveness and He is not vindictive and revengeful like us.  He desires to forgive and He finds no joy in seeing us suffer.  If He desires our repentance, it is because He does not want to see us hurting ourselves and our loved ones by our foolish acts.   We, too, when we come to know the love and mercy of God intimately, then we no longer seek other loves but Him alone for He fulfills all our needs, our security and our desires.

Let us spend time with Mary contemplating on His love instead of just doing things for Him which might not be what He wants of us.  His desire is that we first make time for Him by listening and conversing with Him before we do any work.  All works done for Him must be the outcome of our desire to show our love for Him in the way He needs our service.  What better way than to spend quiet time before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament daily, praying the psalms and meditating on the scriptures.  With St Paul we pray, “May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fulness of God.  Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.”  (Eph 3:17-21)

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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Today Jesus tells us the secret of a productive, loving life: “There is need of only one thing.”
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Padre Pio used to tell people, “If you’re worried, pray. Once you are praying, why do you worry?”
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The book “Alcoholics Anonymous” tells those recovering from alcoholism to keep in “conscious contact with God.”
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Some say, the “antidote to fear is faith.” That thought seems to come directly from the Word brought to us by Jesus. The problem with us mere human being is, we tend to forget easily and quickly!
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For centuries Christians were taught to maintain “Christian practices” like prayer in the morning, prayer before meals, the Angelus — devotional prayers to coincide with the ringing of the church bells throughout the day. When I was a grasshopper, church bells sill rang out at noon to call Christians to devotional prayer. Now public prayer is frowned upon and considered “not cool.”
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A Good Morning Devotional Prayer
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God, I offer myself to Thee- To build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always! Thank you, God, Amen!
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Related:
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One can never do justice to telling the story of Padre Pio except to say, I think about him every day. He taught me: “If you are worried: pray.  Once you are praying, you can stop your worry.” Padre Pio had the stigmata.

“Pray, pray to the Lord with me, because the whole world needs prayer. And every day, when your heart especially feels the loneliness of life, pray. Pray to the Lord, because even God needs our prayers.”

– St. Pio of Pietrelcina
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“Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.”
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– St. Pio of  Pietrelcina
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Many of  Nguyễn Văn Thuận letters, prayers and sermons have been preserved and published — most are available at fine bookstores and from Amazon.
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Book: Joseph’s Way: The Call to Fatherly Greatness – Prayer of Faith: 80 Days to Unlocking Your Power As a Father by Devin Schadt
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Many spiritual teachers say if you want to get the Holy Spirit into you — make room by emptying yourself out in service to others…

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What is it that you are devoted to? Money? Sex?  Golf? Travel?  Why not God?

As no sensible person would make a long road trip without first consulting a map, so the person intent upon gaining Heaven should turn to a competent guide to reach that most important goal. An Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622) is addressed as a personal letter to Philothea, the “lover of God.” This book instructs us in our approach to God in prayer and the Sacraments, the practice of 16 important virtues, remedies against ordinary temptations, and becoming confirmed in our practice of devotion. TAN-CLASSICS Edition; paperback.

Prayer and Meditation for Friday, September 8, 2017 — “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”

September 7, 2017

Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Lectionary: 636

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Reading 1 MI 5:1-4A

The LORD says:
You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah,
too small to be among the clans of Judah,
From you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel;
Whose origin is from of old,
from ancient times.
(Therefore the Lord will give them up, until the time
when she who is to give birth has borne,
And the rest of his brethren shall return
to the children of Israel.)
He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock
by the strength of the LORD,
in the majestic name of the LORD, his God;
And they shall remain, for now his greatness
shall reach to the ends of the earth;
he shall be peace.

Or ROM 8:28-30

Brothers and sisters:
We know that all things work for good for those who love God,
who are called according to his purpose.
For those he foreknew he also predestined
to be conformed to the image of his Son,
so that he might be the firstborn
among many brothers.
And those he predestined he also called;
and those he called he also justified;
and those he justified he also glorified.

Responsorial Psalm PS 13:6AB, 6C

R. (Isaiah 61:10) With delight I rejoice in the Lord.
Though I trusted in your mercy,
let my heart rejoice in your salvation.
R. With delight I rejoice in the Lord.
Let me sing of the LORD, “He has been good to me.”
R. With delight I rejoice in the Lord.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, holy Virgin Mary, deserving of all praise;
from you rose the sun of justice, Christ our God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 1:1-16, 18-23

The Book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ,
the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham became the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.
Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah,
whose mother was Tamar.
Perez became the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram the father of Amminadab.
Amminadab became the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon the father of Boaz,
whose mother was Rahab.
Boaz became the father of Obed,
whose mother was Ruth.
Obed became the father of Jesse,
Jesse the father of David the king.

David became the father of Solomon,
whose mother had been the wife of Uriah.
Solomon became the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
Abijah the father of Asaph.
Asaph became the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
Joram the father of Uzziah.
Uzziah became the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah.
Hezekiah became the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amos,
Amos the father of Josiah.
Josiah became the father of Jechoniah and his brothers
at the time of the Babylonian exile.

After the Babylonian exile,
Jechoniah became the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel the father of Abiud.
Abiud became the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor the father of Zadok.
Zadok became the father of Achim,
Achim the father of Eliud,
Eliud the father of Eleazar.
Eleazar became the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.

Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill
what the Lord had said through the prophet:

Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,

which means “God is with us.”

Or MT 1:18-23

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill
what the Lord had said through the prophet:

Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,

which means “God is with us.”

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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08 SEPTEMBER, 2017, Friday, The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
FINDING OUR PLACE IN THE PLAN OF GOD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [MICAH 5:1-4 or ROM 8:28-30MT 1:1-1618-23  ]

What does it mean to celebrate a birthday?  Why do we celebrate birthdays in the first place?  Birthdays are more than merely a commemoration of someone’s birth date.  What is the use of remembering when we were born unless there is something to celebrate about the life we have lived since we came into the world?

So we celebrate birthdays primarily to thank God for the gift of life and more importantly, the gift of love.  For us Christians, we thank God not just for the physical life but for the gift of eternal life, which is to share in the love of God.  A physical life without love is not worth living.  Life has no meaning when it is not lived in love.  Only because of love, we want to live on as long as possible because love does not want to end.  We desire to be with our loved ones forever because love gives us meaning, purpose and the reason for our existence.  How wonderful is the thought that we human beings are invited to partake of the love of the Holy Trinity, the love between the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit!

For those of us who are beneficiaries of the person’s gift of life, we want to thank God for blessing us through the person.  Because of that person’s life, we have been blessed, loved, helped and through that person, we have come to know the love and mercy of God.  So if we celebrate someone’s birthday, it is because we want to thank the person and God for all the blessings that we have received through him or her.  So celebrating a birthday is to tell that person that his or her life has made a real difference in our lives.

From this understanding of the nature of birthday celebrations, it is clear that birthday celebrations are not only meant for ourselves but for the love and service of others because we are called to make a difference in the lives of others.  We were created not for ourselves but to fulfill our role in God’s plan of salvation.  Each one of us is called to be a mediator of God’s love through our life.  As St Paul wrote, “They are the ones he chose specially long ago and intended to become true images of his Son, so that his Son might be the eldest of many brothers. He called those he intended for this; those he called he justified, and with those he justified he shared his glory.”   Yes, through our lives, we hope to lead others to become true sons and daughters of God so that all can share in the glory, the joy and love of the Son.  We find our purpose and meaning in life only when we serve the overall purpose of God’s plan for a larger family.

It is within this context that we can appreciate the significance of today’s celebration. It is significant that the liturgy only celebrates two birthdays other than that of Christ’s.  They are the birthdays of our Blessed Mother and that of John the Baptist.  For all others, we celebrate the day they died, since their death is their entrance to the fullness of life in God.   Why does the Church celebrate only these two birthdays?  Well, both of them already received the gift of eternal life; Mary at her conception and John the Baptist when he encountered the Lord in the womb of the Blessed Virgin.  Mary received the gift of Immaculate Conception and John the Baptist was sanctified in the womb of Elizabeth.  Of course, such privileges are gifts from the Lord and not their entitlement.  They received these gifts not primarily for themselves but for us so that what they received could be given to us.  They were blessed with holiness so that they could give us Jesus our Saviour and Lord.  Once again, we are reminded that whatever has been given to us, whether it is our life, health, status, wealth or talents, they have been given to us by God not only for our good but for the service of others.  Just as God blessed Abraham and Mary for the sake of His people, we too must do likewise.

Secondly, if we celebrate their birthdays it is because they were directly related to Christ and participated in His saving work.  John the Baptist was a precursor for Christ, preparing the way of the Lord.  Mary, by her consent to the Incarnation, made possible for Christ our redeemer to come into this world.  This explains why on her birthday, the gospel text is taken from the birth of Christ.  The intention of the Church’s celebration is clear in that all birthdays, including Mary’s, have their meaning only with reference to Christ.  We celebrate Mary’s birthday only because of her close association with Christ’s redemptive work for humanity.  Mary, in assenting to be the mother of the Saviour at the incarnation, also by extension, gave her consent to be associated with her Son’s suffering at the cross.  Mary therefore is truly the woman of convergence of the Old and New Testaments.  As the Anawim, she is likened to Israel preparing for the Lord to come.  As the bride, she is intimately in union with her Son.  As mother, she nurtures us all in the faith in her Son.

By implication, we too are called to take our place in the plan of salvation.  Our goal is to lead others to Christ, as St Paul says.  Birthday celebrations are a reminder that we are called to live for God and for others.  Those who live only for themselves will find life empty and meaningless even in their success.  It is interesting that many successful people, having reached the heights of success and have made tons of money, have come to realize that happiness is not found in accumulating more and more but in giving and sharing what they have with the less fortunate or for the good of society.  Indeed, many in their later life have become philanthropists.  They know they owe much to society and hence feel the obligation to return part of their wealth back to society.  Yes, all of us owe much to society.  We are what we are because of others and the society we come from.  Our success is never due to our hard work alone but to the very many people who have helped us in life from young, in school and in our work.  This accounts for why the government always reminds those who are better off that they are morally obliged to give back to society their wealth and their talents.

But it is not enough to give ourselves to others.  We must ask what God’s specific plan and will are for us, just as Mary and Joseph discerned theirs.  To give ourselves purposefully and meaningfully to society, we must discern what God wants us to do and how to do it.  Doing God’s will and taking up His call to do what He asks of us is more important than doing what we like for Him.  Only then will we find real fulfillment because we can devote ourselves entirely to the plan He has designated for us.  So when we celebrate our birthday, each one of us must continually ask God how He wants us to be a life-giver at a particular place and time.  It is critical for our happiness that we only do what He has chosen for us in His masterpiece of creation.

When we are doing His will, we should not be discouraged even when we go wrong.  We can rest assured and be at peace as we submit to His holy will, knowing that we have done what we could.  For those of us who have not been using our lives in accordance with God’s plan for us, it is never too late. If we have chosen the wrong vocation or choices in life, we can still redeem ourselves.  St Paul consoles us when he wrote, “we know that by turning everything to their good God co-operates with all those who love him, with all those that he has called according to his purpose.”  So in all things, so long as we consecrate them to God, our lives and all that we have and are, God will use them for His purpose.  In this way, like Jesus whose name is Emmanuel, which means God is with us, we too become the presence of God to all those we meet and those whom we are called to serve.

So like Mary, whose birthday we celebrate today, we are called to cooperate with His grace.  Mary was conceived without original sin, but this did not exempt her from using her whole life to glorify God by doing His holy will at every moment of her life, especially in undertaking the vocation of motherhood to Christ the Saviour and of exercising her spiritual maternity in the Church. Because we owe much to Mary in extending the blessings she has received to us, we truly want to thank God for the gift of Mary to us.  Like her, we too want to cooperate with the grace of God.  Like Mary, we want to make ourselves a gift of God to others, having received the gift of life from Him.   In this way, we will not live our lives in vain. The only way to live is to live for others by dying to self.  As we give ourselves to others, we forget about ourselves.  Otherwise self-centeredness will lead us to be too absorbed by our own needs and problems leading us into depression.  May our lives not be lived in vain!  How tragic to end the journey of life without having made our life a gift to humanity!  Let me conclude with this poem to remind us of the shortness of life and how we must live.  “I shall not pass this way again.  I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow-creature, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Commentary on Micah 5:1-4a or Romans 8:28-30; Ps 12; Matthew 1:1-16, 18-23 From Living Space

The Gospel reading is the genealogy of Jesus as given by Matthew at the beginning of his gospel. It is largely an artificial composition divided into three sets of 14 generations – 52 altogether. It begins with Abraham, the Father of God’s people and there follow many names from the biblical account in the Hebrew Testament.

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It is a very mixed group of people, including the very good and the not good at all. There are also four women in the list, each of them with a special interest of their own. It represents the very diverse history of loyalty and infidelity which was the story of God’s people. Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, is truly identified with our world. “The Word was made flesh and lived among us” – all of us, the good, the bad and indifferent. Mary, too, was born into this world and, with her Son, and, though, like him, without sin is fully part of it. The ancestry leads down to Joseph, the “husband of Mary”. But it is of Mary that Jesus the Messiah is born.

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There is a choice of texts for the First Reading. The first comes from the prophet Micah. He has been speaking against the rulers of Israel who are paying dearly for their sinful ways. In today’s passage he is speaking of the restoration of Israel through a Messiah. Just before today’s passage he speaks against Jerusalem (called Bat-gader) which is under siege by the Assyrians. But in today’s passage he contrasts the powerful ruler of Israel under siege with the tiny city and clan of Bethlehem-Ephrathah, “too small to be among the clans of Judah”.

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For, from this tiny, insignificant place will come “the one who is to be the ruler of Israel”. His origins are from of old, from ancient times, from the royal Davidic line.

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The Lord will give up these people until the time “when she who is to give birth has borne” – a clear reference to Mary, mother of the Messiah. And that Son with the strength of Yahweh will “stand firm and shepherd his flock”. And “his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth, he shall be peace”. The gospels will show how all of these predictions are fulfilled in Jesus. And the birth of the Incarnate Messiah comes through Mary. It is not surprising, then, that we celebrate the birth of such a person in a very special way. And that she herself, in preparation for this, should be blessed with special favours and graces.

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The second choice for the First Reading is from Paul’s Letter to the Romans. He speaks of how all are picked out specially by God. “We know that everything works together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” This is an important statement for us to take on board. We see it in Mary’s acceptance of the angel’s invitation, even though she did not fully understand its implication at the time.

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Like Mary, all of us have been called to be “conformed to the image of the Son”, so that he becomes the first among many brothers and sisters. Mary, too, of course was, even as Mother, totally conformed to the Way of her Son.

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The last words also apply in a special way to Mary: “Those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified.”

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Mary, from the first moment of her existence, was totally conformed to the will of her Son, and so deserves the special glory which she merited after her death.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/f0908r/

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From 2015
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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TAKING OUR RIGHTFUL PLACE IN GOD’S PLAN

SCRIPTURE READINGS: MIC 5:1-4ROM 8:28-30MT 1:1-1618-23

The Church traditionally does not celebrate birthdays, especially in the liturgy.  Rather, we celebrate death days, since death is a symbol of our baptism, as we are called to die in Christ.  Hence, the commemoration of saints is always on the day they were martyred or died.  Yet, we celebrate Christ’s birthday, which of course could be easily justified, since His birth is the beginning of our salvation.  But why do we also celebrate Mary’s birthday and also that of John the Baptist?  It has to do with the event of redemption. Just as Christ’s birthday marks the beginning of our salvation, so, too, by celebrating their birthdays we are celebrating their redemption.

The Church believes that Mary, who was sanctified at the moment of conception in the womb of Anne, was already saved by Christ by His pre-emptive death on the cross in time.  In the case of John the Baptist, he was sanctified by Christ when he leapt for joy at the encounter between their mothers.  Within this context we can appreciate the alternative scripture reading from St Paul’s letter to the Romans when he wrote, “They are the ones he chose specially long ago and intended to become true images of his Son, so that his Son might be the eldest of many brothers. He called those he intended for this; those he called he justified, and with those he justified he shared his glory.”

Indeed, if we celebrate Mary’s birthday it is because the Church wants to underscore that the real life which we celebrate is our day of salvation.  Greater than just having physical life is to have eternal life with Christ.  For the same reason, most Catholics in European countries prefer to celebrate their baptismal day, or patron saint’s day, or name’s day, rather than their chronological birth date, as is celebrated by the secular world.  Indeed, real life is eternal life, which is to share in the life of God.  This life, unlike the physical life, will never die.

And what is even more wonderful is that this has been in the mind of God from all eternity.  God from all eternity has not only chosen Mary but all of us to be true images of His Son.  This plan was already announced by the Prophet Micah before the coming of Christ when he said, “The Lord says this: You (Bethlehem), Ephrathah, the least of the clans of Judah, out of you will be born for me the one who is to rule over Israel; his origin goes back to the distant past, to the days of old.”  And when He comes, the prophet said, “He will stand and feed his flock with the power of the Lord, with the majesty of the name of his God. They will live secure, for from then on he will extend his power to the ends of the land. He himself will be peace.”  Christ of course, in our estimation, is the realization of this promise made to the people of old.

So if we celebrate Mary’s birthday, it is because she is so closely associated with Christ’s work.  In her own ways, she was responsible for helping to bring to realization the amazing and gracious plan of God.  That is what the gospel affirms, “Now all this took place to fulfill the words spoken by the Lord through the prophet: The Virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and they will call him Emmanuel, a name which means ‘God-is-with-us’”.  The one whom she is giving birth is not simply anyone but He is also our Saviour.  As the Angel told Joseph, “She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.”

Consequently, to celebrate Mary’s birthday is to celebrate God’s grace and His mercy.  God is so selfless in love that He would condescend to take upon Himself the humanity of man and all our limitations in order to be in solidarity with us in everything except sin.  This in itself calls for great thanksgiving.  But of course the Incarnation was just the first step of the kenosis of God as it had to be carried to full term in the passion and death of our Lord.  For what does it mean to be human?  It is more than having a human body or even to suffer.  To be human is to suffer all the pains that come with the state of being human, struggling to do God’s will and being willing to empty oneself even unto death. Hence, we celebrate Mary’s birthday only in the context of the birthday and the passion of our Lord.

Another motive for celebrating Mary’s birthday is to marvel at God’s choice in the work of redemption.  The choice of Mary clearly shows that the way God works is so different from the way we work.  He did not choose great people to be His collaborators.  Rather He chose the poor and insignificant.  As the prophet said, God will choose the Messiah from Ephrathah, the least of the clans of Judah.  Above all, He chose Mary to be the mother of His only begotten Son.

Yet, celebrating Mary’s birthday is not merely to praise God alone.  We cannot discount the cooperation of Mary with the grace of God.  Whilst it is true that only God can save us, it is equally true that God would not want to save us without our cooperation.  He wants us to give our personal response to His grace at work in us.  So we also want to praise God for giving her the grace to respond to the invitation of the Angel to bear the Son of God in her womb.

We must not underestimate that the response to be the Mother of God was a decision taken lightly by Mary.  Many of us tend to commit ourselves to someone or some project without thoroughly considering whether we can be faithful to our promises.  This is particularly true in relationships, whether in friendship or in marriage.  Many of us discover too late, that we cannot keep our promises.  This same mistake also is made by good-will people, whether in Church or even at work and in business. At the point of time, it is possible that many made such commitments sincerely, but very few are able to live up to the pledges they made.

In the case of Mary, it must surely have taken her lots of prayer, faith and courage to make that commitment; unlike many of us who like to hold offices and positions in life and in society, but are irresponsible to the office we hold.  We want the crown and the privileges but not the thorns and the sacrifices.  For Mary, she only wanted to do God’s will and to do what was good for her people.  She was conscious of the great sacrifices she would have to endure from the moment she said “yes”.  The price of being the mother of the Saviour cost her her whole life, and untold pain in her heart.  We read in today’s gospel how she, like her Son, was misunderstood by her loved ones, even her most intimate companion, Joseph, who wanted to put her away.  She must have suffered tremendous pain, rejection, misunderstanding and even ridicule on account of her pregnancy.  Who would believe her?  Not even Joseph, if not for the intervention of the Angel. So responding to God’s call is not as easy as we think.

Yet we can learn from Mary, that if we abandon everything to God in faith, He will see us through as He did for Mary, Joseph and His Son.  As St Paul says, “we know that by turning everything to their good God co-operates with all those who love him, with all those that he has called according to his purpose.”  Yes, we must trust in the power of God and His fidelity to those who trust Him and are faithful to Him.  Again St Paul wrote, “He called those he intended for this; those he called he justified, and with those he justified he shared his glory.”  Such is the fidelity of God seen in the person of Christ.

So today, let us seek to be like Mary and Her Son.  Every life given to us is meaningful and enriching only when we use that very life with all the blessings and even handicaps that God gives to us for the service of the people of God.  When we give life to people, we find life ourselves.  So we cannot say that we are insignificant, ordinary people with no talents and therefore cannot do anything for anyone or cooperate with the plan of God’s salvation for humanity.  Like Mary, we just have to say “yes” when we are called and chosen by Him through prayer and discernment.  So, to celebrate the birthday of someone is more than a commemoration of the person’s accidental presence in history, but someone who has deliberately chosen to align his or her life with the vocation that the Lord has given to him or her, in a way that serves life, heals people and empower them to be life-givers in Christ.

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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, September 3, 2017 — “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross., and follow me.”

September 2, 2017

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 124

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Reading 1  JER 20:7-9

You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped;
you were too strong for me, and you triumphed.
All the day I am an object of laughter;
everyone mocks me.

Whenever I speak, I must cry out,
violence and outrage is my message;
the word of the LORD has brought me
derision and reproach all the day.

I say to myself, I will not mention him,
I will speak in his name no more.
But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart,
imprisoned in my bones;
I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.

Responsorial Psalm PS 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9

R. (2b) My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
O God, you are my God whom I seek;
for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary
to see your power and your glory,
for your kindness is a greater good than life;
my lips shall glorify you.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
Thus will I bless you while I live;
lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.
As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied,
and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
You are my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.
My soul clings fast to you;
your right hand upholds me.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

Reading 2 ROM 12:1-2

I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God,
to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,
holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.
Do not conform yourselves to this age
but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that you may discern what is the will of God,
what is good and pleasing and perfect.

Alleluia CF. EPH 1:17-18

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
enlighten the eyes of our hearts,
that we may know what is the hope
that belongs to our call.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus to Carry His Cross, Fifth Station — Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception, Peoria, Illinois

Gospel MT 16:21-27

Jesus began to show his disciples
that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly
from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.
Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him,
“God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.”
He turned and said to Peter,
“Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. 
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

Then 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 all according to his conduct.”

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Reflection From The Abbot in the Desert

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Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

“His name becomes like fire burning in my heart”—this is from our first reading today, from the Prophet Jeremiah.  God pursues us just as God pursued the Prophet Jeremiah.  Often we do not realize this because we pay no attention to God.  Today we are invited to pay attention to God and to know more profoundly how much God loves us and wants us to love Him.

The second reading today is from the Letter to the Romans.  Now we are invited to “be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”  This can help us understand that we cannot know God’s love for us unless we take time to think about God and to listen to God’s words to us.  So many of us do not take the time to read the Bible, the Holy Scriptures, every day.  Instead we remain like little children who have no education and only want to play!  God invites us to take Him seriously and to begin to read His word in the Bible and to let that word form our lives.

Today’s Gospel, from Saint Matthew, tells us about the relationship of Jesus with His followers.  Peter does not want Jesus to suffer.  None of us wants others to suffer, for the most part.  Yet a human life lived in a way only to avoid suffering is a wasted life.  Instead, Jesus invites us to follow Him and to accept the suffering that come with that following.

Jesus tells us in strong words:  “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”  Clearly it is not natural for us to want the cross or to follow someone who will lead us into suffering.  Nevertheless, Jesus invites us to know what life really is by following Him.

If we follow the Lord, we will suffer.  We will become like the Prophet Jeremiah and complain that following God makes us suffer.  We will be like Saint Paul in recognizing that we must be transformed by the renewal of our minds.  In the midst of all of this, the name of God can become like fire burning in our hearts and allowing us to rejoice in this life, even in the sufferings, because we are loved by God and know that in following Him, we are returning His love.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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3 SEPTEMBER, 2017, Sunday, 22nd Week, Ordinary Time
ATTUNING OURSELVES TO THE WILL OF GOD IN OUR LIVE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [JER 20:7-9ROM 12:1-2MT 16: 21-27 ]

One of the most difficult things in life for many is the acceptance of God’s will, especially when it seems to be at variance with their own will.  This therefore brings about unhappiness and sometimes resentment and bitterness with God and with life.  This is particularly true when these matters have a bearing on our health, our job, and our loved ones.

In such situations, there are two options that people normally resort to.  The first is the way of self-denial.  It is the way of escapism.  This was the way of Jeremiah. Faced with persecution and failure, Jeremiah tried to bargain with God.  He wanted God to change His will to suit his.  Doing God’s will was apparently too much for him.  Yes, he wanted to escape from his responsibilities and calling.  As he said, “I will not think about him, I will not speak in his name any more.”

There is another path that people normally also take. It is the path of manipulation.  This was the case of Peter in today’s gospel.  He could not accept that Jesus, whom he professed earlier to be the Christ, would also be the suffering servant of Israel, redeeming His people by His passion and death.  Peter, known for his impulsiveness, remonstrated with Jesus, saying, “Heaven preserve you, Lord.” “This must not happen to you.”  In other words, he just could not accept this truth.  We must change the course of events.  We must change the divine plan.  This is the way of manipulation; taking things into one’s own hand.

But the above two options will not bring us any happiness.  Jeremiah tried to deny his calling in life.  But he found no peace because no matter how hard he tried to shirk his calling the voice of God continued to haunt his conscience.  This was true also of Peter.  Just a moment earlier, after his confession of Jesus as the Christ, he was told by Jesus, “You are a happy man.”  Now he is no longer happy because the reality does not correspond with his desires and his own plans.

What Jeremiah and Peter experienced is not peculiar to them only.  We all experience such situations in our lives.  No matter how hard we try to reject the reality of the situation, we find ourselves sooner or later having to accept it, albeit with much resentment and bitterness, adding more unhappiness to our lives.   So what should an enlightened person do to maintain his sense of inner peace and happiness when his will and the will of God are apparently at variance with each other?

It is the way of understanding.  This is the way of Christ and of Paul.  The real problem in life is not doing this or that; accepting this or that.  The real action that we need to take is not to deny the reality or to try to change the reality.  What has to be done is to understand the reality.  Understanding brings about natural changes in a non-violent way.  Understanding is the key to our inability to reconcile God’s will with ours.  Indeed, if we reject certain plans of God in our lives, it is simply because we see them as threatening our happiness.  This was certainly the case of Peter.  He could not see how the divine plan of God could be fulfilled with the death of Jesus.  In his eyes, such a situation would only show the cruelty of God and Jesus’ mission would end in ultimate failure.  That was the way Peter thought.

That is why Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan … the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.”  In other words, the real problem of Peter was that he was seeing the situation from a very human and unenlightened perspective.  He did not have the foresight or the grace to penetrate deeper into the mystery of God’s plan. If Peter had lost his happiness, it was because he did not consistently think like God.  This was not the case earlier when he confessed Jesus as the Messiah.   For when he did so, Jesus said, “My Father has revealed this to you.”  And consequently, Christ declared, “You are a happy man.”  Obviously, this is not the case now, because the way he thought was not God’s but man’s.

In our sufferings we too tend to see situations from a very narrow, superficial and short-sighted perspective.  We are so pre-occupied with our immediate needs and cravings that we are unable to see far, wide and deep.  Of course, if we cannot see how something can bring us happiness, our will certainly will revolt to have its ways.  Hence, God’s plan becomes an obstacle to our plans. So, to get behind Jesus simply is to enter into the mind and heart of Jesus.  It is to think the way God thinks.  It is to see that our way of thinking is an obstacle to God’s plan, which is also at the same time, the obstacle towards our happiness.

And this is what Paul is exhorting us in the second reading.  He tells us not to model ourselves on the behaviour of the world around us but to let ourselves be modelled on a new mind.  Now what could this new mind be if not the mind of Christ.  It is with this new mind, the mind of Christ, that we will be enabled to “discover the will of God and know what is good, what it is that God wants, what is the perfect thing to do.”  What he is saying is that once we have the mind of Christ, we will know His will for us, but we will also understand the value of God’s will for our lives; and that ultimately God’s will is good and perfect for us.

Yes, once we understand the will of God, we will follow it wholeheartedly, not grudgingly, because we see the good that will come out of it, or at least trust that good will come out of it.  And this is certainly true for Jesus.  If Jesus was adamant in carrying out the Father’s will, even though it meant death and the cross, it was because He knew that that was the only way in which God’s plan could be realized; and that that was the only way he could be truly authentic to Himself.  Once it was clear to Him that that was the way of the Father, Jesus did not have to cower from the plan of God.  All this was possible only because Jesus thought not the way man thought but God.

Yes, today we are confronted with the choice for life or for the world.  To try to save our life by running away from the reality or from the will of God cannot bring us real happiness.  No, because in the depths of our hearts, the Spirit of God will cry out for authenticity and true freedom.  We may pretend that it is not there but we will feel that gnawing discomfort.  But if we choose life in death, death to oneself, to the world’s way of thinking, then life is surely ours.

Of course, this choice for life often necessitates the carrying of the cross.  Not that God is sadistic and wants us to suffer.  No! Crosses in life exist only because our own path crosses the path of God.  There will be no cross to carry if we embrace the will of God wholeheartedly in our lives; of course, not with blind resignation but with understanding.  But because we are too dumb and foolish to understand the wisdom of God’s plans for us, God permits us to carry not His cross, as Jesus said, but our cross, until we awaken and begin to see things in clarity and in truth.  Unfortunately, for many of us, it is only through trial and suffering that we are awakened to the harsh reality of the truth about life and ourselves.  That is why Paul exhorts us, not to simply offer our bodies as a holy sacrifice, truly pleasing to God; but to do so only because we are thinking beings, people who understand God’s will as good for us.

Yes, there is nothing that can bring us happiness in life unless we do the will of God.  And the will of God is nothing else but simply what God has ordered for us so that by following His plan, we will come to our happiness.  Of course, the specific way to happiness will differ for each person because we are all unique.  But precisely, by choosing the way of God, our happiness is guaranteed, because it is when we do God’s will that we become true to ourselves, true to our calling.  A person who is one with himself is surely one with God.  And if one is one with God, how can he not be at peace and be happy.  Only a divided man with a divided mind is full of anxieties and turbulence in his heart.

In the final analysis, no matter what, God is not going to change His will to suit ours, since His will is best for us. For God to do otherwise would be to contradict Himself.  He can only do what is truly good for us.  And so, like it or not, if we cannot accept the will of God now, we will have to embrace it sooner or later, in this life or the next.  We might have to go through all the psychological stages of rejection, anger, resentment, bargaining.  But whatever it is, the earlier we come to the stage of acceptance, the better for us, If not we will only prolong our own crosses unnecessarily.  But do not blame God for these crosses.  Most crosses in life are created by us.

The events in life, be they crosses or joys, are God’s ways to teach us to grow.  All we need to do is simply to understand and the will will naturally follow.  We can then surrender joyfully to God’s plan.  Yes, once we model our thinking, and therefore our behaviour or life to that of God’s, then we will, as Jesus said, be rewarded, with a life that the world cannot give, with a peace and joy that can be ours already.  Let us pray that through our union with Christ in prayer and contemplation, we will come to discover the wisdom of God’s will for us.

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Written by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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Which Way?
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Someone once said that some husbands are like split-type air conditioners, i.e., no matter how loud they are outdoors, they are designed to be silent indoors.

In today’s gospel (Mt. 16, 21-27), Jesus tells us that instead of following the trend  of the great outdoors to be successful and greedy in this world, let us follow His voice and listen to His call to deny ourselves , take up our cross, and follow Him. It is only in the silence of the indoors of our hearts, and in the stillness of prayer that we can understand the foolishness of the Cross.

The world says: Step on the accelerator and go, go, go for money, fame, entitlement, and enjoyment. The Lord says: Step on the brakes and say no, no, no to the fleeting treasures and pleasures of this world that destroy our peace and lead us to perdition. We have a choice: to follow the way of this world, or the way of the Cross.

Think outside the box. Think God. “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” There is a big picture. There is always a different way, a new way of looking at things. Let us learn to give some room for the Divine in our thoughts, decisions, and plans. For those who operate mostly from their head, or from their mouths, or from their pockets, maybe they should try to operate from their heart, from their ears, and from their knees sometime, and they will understand that perspectives can change. Horizons do broaden. At any moment in our lives, let us be open to the stirrings of the Divine. Everything and everyone is temporary. Let us keep going toward our true North, and keep tuned to His instructions and plans.

“What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” The consequences of sin and selfishness are not just about eternal life, but are already in the negative effects in our present life. Loss of peace of mind, loss of friends, loss of family, loss of values, loss of respect, dignity and self-worth, loss of health, loss of face, and even loss of sleep. Come to think of it: All for whom? All for what? Is it worth it all, this pursuit of worldly treasures?

“You missed your chance.” These are words we hope we will not hear from the Lord when we finally come face to face with Him. Please remember: To whom much is given, much is also required. Those who have been given wealth, position, power, intelligence, and talents, please don’t miss your chance to use these to help people and give glory to God, for “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

To make us understand what is really valuable in this life, someone suggested that we make a visit to three places that will help us stop, look, and listen to what life is really all about: namely, the hospital, the prison, the cemetery. A visit to a hospital makes us appreciate that we have health. A visit to a prison should make us grateful for our freedom. A visit to a cemetery should make us grateful that we are still alive. Life is short. Death is certain. When we leave this world, we carry nothing with us.

People who stand for their beliefs and principles, no matter what, are admirable. They are precious and few. On the other hand, people who are for sale and for safety are disgusting. They are plenty, but are of no value. Did you notice? Most of the people talked about in the news these days are either killers or thieves? What would be written on your tombstone after your name? ________, the killer? ________, the thief? ________, the liar?

Speaking of killers and thieves, remember how Jesus was crucified between two thieves?  What are the two thieves in our lives that “kill” us? The first thief is our past. If we keep on rewinding the hurts and failures in our past, we are robbed of peace of mind and peace of heart in our present life. The other thief is the future that we keep worrying about, which likewise robs us of peace. Let us give to Jesus our past and our future. Lord, my past, I leave in Your heart; my future, I leave in Your hands; and my present, I live in Your love.

Think about this: “Difficult roads often lead us to beautiful destinations.” The way of the Cross is difficult but it leads us to life and peace. The way of the world is convenient and comfortable, but it leads to stress and sadness.

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, help us to choose and to stay on the way of the Cross even if, and especially when, it is not easy. Amen.

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Prayer and Meditation for Friday, September 1, 2017 — “For God did not call us to impurity but to holiness.” — “Stay awake for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

August 31, 2017

Friday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 429

Image result for ten virgins holding oil lamps, art, photos

Reading 1 1 THES 4:1-8

Brothers and sisters,
we earnestly ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that,
as you received from us
how you should conduct yourselves to please God–
and as you are conducting yourselves–
you do so even more.
For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.

This is the will of God, your holiness:
that you refrain from immorality,
that each of you know how to acquire a wife for himself
in holiness and honor, not in lustful passion
as do the Gentiles who do not know God;
not to take advantage of or exploit a brother or sister in this matter,
for the Lord is an avenger in all these things,
as we told you before and solemnly affirmed.
For God did not call us to impurity but to holiness.
Therefore, whoever disregards this,
disregards not a human being but God,
who also gives his Holy Spirit to you.

Responsorial Psalm PS 97:1 AND 2B, 5-6, 10, 11-12

R. (12a) Rejoice in the Lord, you just!
The LORD is king; let the earth rejoice;
let the many isles be glad.
Justice and judgment are the foundation of his throne.
R. Rejoice in the Lord, you just!
The mountains melt like wax before the LORD,
before the LORD of all the earth.
The heavens proclaim his justice,
and all peoples see his glory.
R. Rejoice in the Lord, you just!
The LORD loves those who hate evil;
he guards the lives of his faithful ones;
from the hand of the wicked he delivers them.
R. Rejoice in the Lord, you just!
Light dawns for the just;
and gladness, for the upright of heart.
Be glad in the LORD, you just,
and give thanks to his holy name.
R. Rejoice in the Lord, you just!

Alleluia LK 21:36

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Be vigilant at all time and pray,
that you may have the strength to stand before the Son of Man.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Image result for ten bridegrooms, bible, art

Parable of the ten virgins awaiting the bridegroom

Gospel MT 25:1-13

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The Kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins
who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
Five of them were foolish and five were wise.
The foolish ones, when taking their lamps,
brought no oil with them,
but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.
Since the bridegroom was long delayed,
they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
At midnight, there was a cry,
‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.
The foolish ones said to the wise,
‘Give us some of your oil,
for our lamps are going out.’
But the wise ones replied,
‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you.
Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’
While they went off to buy it,
the bridegroom came
and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him.
Then the door was locked.
Afterwards the other virgins came and said,
‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’
But he said in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Therefore, stay awake,
for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

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From The Latter Day Saints

The Parable of the Ten Virgins

In this parable, the Savior taught us how to prepare for His Second Coming.

In these last days, the Lord has said, “Be faithful, praying always, having your lamps trimmed and burning, and oil with you, that you may be ready at the coming of the Bridegroom” (D&C 33:17). This counsel refers to the parable of the ten virgins, which illustrates how we are to prepare for Christ’s Second Coming (see Matthew 25:1–13). Here are some explanations that may help you as you study this parable and ponder its meaning.

Ten Virgins

It was a custom among the Jews for the bridegroom to come at night to the bride’s house, where her bridesmaids attended her. When the bridegroom’s approach was announced, these maidens went out with lamps to light his way into the house for the celebration.

In this parable the virgins represent members of the Church, and the bridegroom represents Christ. The Lord explained to Joseph Smith that the wise virgins are those who “have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived” (D&C 45:57).

Bridegroom

In the Bible, the image of a wedding is used to portray the coming of the Lord (see Isaiah 62:5Matthew 22:1–14). Jewish weddings included the announcement of the bridegroom’s coming to the bride’s house. The weddings usually began in the evening, with the lamps lit at dusk. So midnight was later than the ten virgins would have expected the bridegroom—and the announcement came suddenly.

We do not know the timing of Christ’s Second Coming, but we should prepare for it as though it could come at any time—whether soon or late.

Vessels

The vessels in the parable were containers for storing extra oil. Being wise means being prepared for the unexpected with an extra measure of faith, testimony, and the Spirit in our lives. Sometimes we grow complacent, thinking we have enough to get by. But following the Savior means more than just getting by. It means always striving to draw closer to Him, preparing for those times when our patience, faith, and testimony will be tried.

Lamps

The oil lamps used by the Jews in Jesus’s day are called Herodian lamps, after King Herod. These lamps enabled people to carry light wherever they went. In the same way, we are to carry the light of the gospel with us (see Matthew 5:14–16).

The handle was shaped by hand and then attached to the lamp.

The body of the lamp was made of clay and shaped on a potter’s wheel.

The spout or nozzle was made from a mold.

wick made of flax fibers or a rush stem was placed in the spout, and then the lamp was filled with olive oil. Once the wick absorbed the oil, the lamp was lit.

Oil

Olives are first soaked in water to clean them and purge them of their bitterness, and then they are crushed to extract their oil. Olive oil, produced throughout the Mediterranean region, had multiple uses anciently: food, cooking oil, condiment, treatment for wounds, ingredient in cosmetics and soaps, and fuel for lamps.

The oil in the parable represents our faith and testimony, our purity and dedication, our good works, and our keeping of covenants—all of the ways in which we have “taken the Holy Spirit for [our] guide” (D&C 45:57).

The wise virgins could not share their oil with the foolish virgins because “the oil of spiritual preparedness cannot be shared” (Marvin J. Ashton, “A Time of Urgency,” Ensign, May 1974, 36).

Drop by Drop

“Attendance at sacrament meetings adds oil to our lamps, drop by drop over the years. Fasting, family prayer, home teaching, control of bodily appetites, preaching the gospel, studying the scriptures—each act of dedication and obedience is a drop added to our store. Deeds of kindness, payment of offerings and tithes, chaste thoughts and actions, marriage in the covenant for eternity—these, too, contribute importantly to the oil with which we can at midnight refuel our exhausted lamps.”

President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985), Faith Precedes the Miracle(1972), 256.

The lamps were lit at dusk.

The bridegroom came at midnight.

Herodian lamps could usually burn for about two hours.

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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VIGILANCE FOR CHRIST’S COMING REQUIRES FAITHFUL PERSEVERING LOVE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [1 TH 4:1-8MT 25:1-13 ]

As we reach the last chapters of St Matthew’s gospel, the theme is naturally focused on the Coming of the Kingdom of God and, by extension, the Return of Christ.  Exegetically, when we interpret today’s parable in the context of the ministry of Christ, He was referring to the coming of God’s kingdom that would be brought upon by His death.  By the time of the evangelist, when the return of Christ was postponed indefinitely, this parable took on the theme of the final judgment, as expressed in the words, “So stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour.”  Regardless whether we are preparing for His proximate coming or His final coming, we must be vigilant, which is what St Matthew is exhorting us.

How, then, do we keep vigilant?  We must keep ourselves holy.  This is what St Paul advises us.  Christian calling is ultimately a call to the vocation of holiness.  The will of God is our sanctification.  He wrote, “What God wants is for you all to be holy.”  By virtue of our baptism, we are just like the bridesmaids; we are called to keep ourselves holy as we prepare to welcome the bridegroom who wants to wed humanity to Himself.  Christ, our bridegroom, wants His Church to be in union with Him as His Bride, now on earth and in heaven forever.

In this context, St Paul urges holiness in terms of sanctification of the body, that is, avoiding sexual immorality, because He desires it to be that way, “He wants you to keep away from fornication, and each one of you to know how to use the body that belongs to him in a way that is holy and honourable, not giving way to selfish lust like the pagans who do not know God.  He wants nobody at all ever to sin by taking advantage of a brother in these matters.”  Furthermore, unchastity is an outrage against God, since He dwells in us in the Holy Spirit.  Thus, he said, “We have been called by God to be holy, not to be immoral; in other words, anyone who objects is not objecting to a human authority, but to God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.”

Nevertheless, we must see unchastity not merely in terms of an act but rather what the act expresses, namely, the lack of purity of love between two persons and for God.  When a person is used to satisfy our lust, we have made use of him as a thing for our pleasure, as opposed to respecting the person who is to be loved.  Chastity simply means loving the person rightly in such a way that our love is pure, holy and unselfish.  In contrast, sexual immorality would be seen as idolatry because it is a worship of self.

Nevertheless, growth in holiness is not something that we acquire once and for all.  The process of sanctification begins with our baptism, but it is an ongoing reality.  Unfortunately, many Christians think that once they are baptized, they are guaranteed of a place in the Kingdom of God.  On the contrary, there is this constant need to purify ourselves in love, grow in virtues, overcoming our sinful and bad habits.

In this respect, growth in our spiritual life is something which, although can be assisted by the community, is essentially personal.  No one can take our place or work at it on our behalf when it comes to our relationship with God.  This is what the parable of the five wise and five foolish bridesmaids teaches us.  Initially, we might be struck by the apparent selfishness of the five supposedly wise bridesmaids.  For when asked by the five foolish bridesmaids to share their oil with them, they replied, “There may not be enough for us and for you; you had better go to those who sell it and buy some for yourselves.”   How could they be called wise when they are so selfish?  Aren’t they called to share their oil with those who need them?

In order to understand why the wise bridesmaids could not share their oil with the foolish bridesmaids, we must realize that the oil refers to something that is very personal.  It refers to what would fan the flame of love in us and give power, that is, the capacity to love.  Things like virtues and knowledge, interior life especially, cannot be shared.  It is a matter of personal discovery, cultivation and interiorization.  For this reason, the wise bridesmaids pointed out to the foolish ones to look for the oil themselves.

Spiritual condition is our personal responsibility which cannot be delegated.  This is true in all relationships and life.  We cannot neglect those whom we love.  When we lose our emotional bond with our loved ones, alienation of heart will eventually lead to alienation of mind and will.  That is why relationship takes time and is demanding.  We cannot afford to leave our relationships to grow naturally without taking time to water with love and compassion, prune with care and understanding; and nurture with intimacy. Without patience, time and perseverance, the relationship, regardless how beautiful when it started, will deteriorate to one of distance, from being cool to cold and then indifferent.

Similarly, our relationship with God cannot be taken for granted.  Growing in holiness is more than just getting baptized or going for conversion retreats or seeking spiritual highs.  Rather, it is what follows that determines whether we grow in personal relationship with the Lord.  The trouble is that today many of us are not ready for a long haul in relationships.  This is so true in marriage.   We give up on love so easily.  People nowadays change their feelings so easily.  The regret of many married couples is always this, “He or she is no longer the same as before.  He or she has changed.  There is no more love left except obligation to live together.  Our marriage is stale and the joy of romance, the enthusiasm of being together and doing things together is no longer there.  Although married, we live separate lives in reality.  We do our own thing and have our own friends and social activities, even in faith as well.”

Realizing this danger of backsliding, St Paul urges us therefore to make a conscious effort to cooperate with the grace of God.  He appealed to the Thessalonians and to us “to make more and more progress in the kind of life that you are meant to live: the life that God wants, as you learnt from us, and as you are already living it.”  He reminded them, “What God wants is for you all to be holy.”  We must remember that holiness is not something that one can acquire overnight.  Holiness is a lifelong struggle and a journey.  Our whole purpose in life is to be purified in holiness.  What is true for holiness is true for knowledge and self-identity.

Consequently, it behooves us to be ready at all times.  To be ready means we must start preparing now for the future.  We do not know what is in store for us in the future.  Whether it is growing in holiness, strengthening of ministry, marriage or relationships, we must recognize the long haul.  We will be faced with tremendous difficulties ahead of us.  Yes, in the routine of the ministry or in our marriage, like the bridesmaids, we too will grow drowsy and fall asleep.  Unaware of what is happening, we fall into temptations; pursuit of power, inappropriate relationships and attachment to the things of this world. Hence, if we do not begin to strengthen our spiritual life now, or to acquire the necessary knowledge already, when the time arrives, we would be left unprepared to face the trials of purification in holiness and love.

Indeed, holiness and readiness for the coming of the Kingdom of God is an ongoing process.  That is why the Church speaks of the necessity of ongoing formation in our spiritual life.  There is no end to growth in spiritual and intellectual life.  To neglect our spiritual life and our affective life in terms of our personal relationships with our loved ones and even those whom we work with, is putting ourselves in jeopardy.  Just focusing on work and material things and success alone will lead to many other problems.  So whatever time and opportunity we have, we must employ ourselves usefully, storing the oil in us so that when the time comes, we would have all that we need to respond to the situation.  If not, then we would be swept away in the face of difficulties and temptations, whether in the ministry, in our marital relationships or at work.  One of the worst lines we can utter is “I regret.”  To regret might be too late.  Then, like the foolish bridesmaids, we will be locked out from the happiness of the kingdom.

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Written by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, August 19, 2017 — “If it does not please you to serve the LORD, decide today whom you will serve.”

August 18, 2017

Saturday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 418

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Art: Joshua’s Army Marches Around Jericho

Reading 1  JOS 24:14-29

Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem,
and addressed them, saying:
“Fear the LORD and serve him completely and sincerely.
Cast out the gods your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt,
and serve the LORD.
If it does not please you to serve the LORD,
decide today whom you will serve,
the gods your fathers served beyond the River
or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are dwelling.
As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

But the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the LORD
for the service of other gods.
For it was the LORD, our God,
who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt,
out of a state of slavery.
He performed those great miracles before our very eyes
and protected us along our entire journey and among all the peoples
through whom we passed.
At our approach the LORD drove out all the peoples,
including the Amorites who dwelt in the land.
Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.”

Joshua in turn said to the people,
“You may not be able to serve the LORD, for he is a holy God;
he is a jealous God who will not forgive
your transgressions or your sins.
If, after the good he has done for you,
you forsake the LORD and serve strange gods,
he will do evil to you and destroy you.”

But the people answered Joshua, “We will still serve the LORD.”
Joshua therefore said to the people,
“You are your own witnesses that you have chosen to serve the LORD.”
They replied, “We are, indeed!”
Joshua continued:
“Now, therefore, put away the strange gods that are among you
and turn your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.”
Then the people promised Joshua,
“We will serve the LORD, our God, and obey his voice.”

So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day
and made statutes and ordinances for them at Shechem,
which he recorded in the book of the law of God.
Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak
that was in the sanctuary of the LORD.
And Joshua said to all the people, “This stone shall be our witness,
for it has heard all the words which the LORD spoke to us.
It shall be a witness against you, should you wish to deny your God.”
Then Joshua dismissed the people, each to his own heritage.

After these events, Joshua, son of Nun, servant of the LORD,
died at the age of a hundred and ten.

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

R. (see 5a) 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.

Alleluia SEE MT 11:25

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth;
you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the Kingdom.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 19:13-15

Children were brought to Jesus
that he might lay his hands on them and pray.
The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said,
“Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them;
for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
After he placed his hands on them, he went away.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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19 AUGUST, 2017, Saturday, 19th Week, Ordinary Time
RENEWING OUR COMMITMENT TO THE LORD AND HIS PEOPLE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Jos 24:14-29Ps 16:1-2,5,7-8,11Mt 19:13-15 ]

Today, it is difficult to find people who are committed to their vocation in life or the work they do.  This is particularly true of relationships.  Marriage is no longer a lifelong commitment.  People marry with great skepticism that the marriage would last.  What is true of marriage is also true of vocation.  The number of priests and religious leaving the ministry is increasing each day.  Some leave just a couple of years after their ordination.  Even those who stay are doing so for security reasons as they have lost their zeal in serving the Lord and His people.  This is even truer of jobs.  Very seldom do we have a worker who is loyal to the company for life.  The moment they find a better job, they leave.

Joshua who led the people into the Promised Land was fully aware of the temptations ahead of them. Upon settling down in the land of Canaan, they would become rich and influenced by the Canaanite culture and religion.  In the desert, they had nothing and no one to rely on except God alone.  But once they have settled down in the Promised Land, they would be able to plant their own crops and be self-sufficient.  For this reason, Joshua felt the need to have the people reaffirm their commitment to the Lord.  They were asked to renew their decision to follow the Lord with all their heart.

Today, we too are called to renew our commitment to the Lord.  This commitment could be our priestly or marriage promises or religious vows.  This is particularly relevant especially when we celebrate our anniversary.  It is an occasion to renew our promises and vows to the vocation that we have chosen.  What does it take to renew our commitment to the Lord and His people? 

Firstly, we need to put away our false gods.  If the Lord is our God, then we must destroy in us what makes us worship the alien gods in our lives.  It means that we put away every form of idolatry, such as pride, insecurity, greed, jealousy, and the vain pursuits of the world.   Instead of listening to the world, we listen only to the Lord.  “Joshua said to all the people: ‘Fear the Lord and serve him perfectly and sincerely; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if you will not serve the Lord, choose today whom you wish to serve, whether the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are now living.”   Indeed, we need to examine how much we have strayed from the living God.  The truth is that many of us say “yes” to God, but along the way, like the Israelites, we turn away from the living God because we are attracted by the illusions of the world, power, glory and materialism.

Secondly, we need to encounter the Lord’s mercy and power.  We cannot commit ourselves to the Lord unless we know that He is indeed the Lord.  The decision to commit themsleves to the God of Israel was not just based on blind faith.  On the contrary, they had seen the powers and mercy of God. “The people answered, ‘We have no intention of deserting the Lord and serving other gods! Was it not the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors out of the land of Egypt, the house of slavery, who worked those great wonders before our eyes and preserved us all along the way we travelled and among all the peoples through whom we journeyed? What is more, the Lord drove all those people out before us, as well as the Amorites who used to live in this country. We too will serve the Lord, for he is our God.’”  The strength of our commitment to serve the Lord is affected by how we see the Lord at work in our lives, in our vocation, in our marriage and in our commitment.  When we see that what we are doing with the help of His grace is bringing fruits to those for whom we are laboring, that gives us the impetus to do even more and to trust Him more.

Thirdly, we need exemplary models like Joshua.  If there is a lack of commitment in vocation and relationships, it is because we have poor mentors.   Many of us join the priestly and religious vocation because we have observed the good mentors before us who gave up their lives to serve God and His people. It is the same for marriages as well.  But today, we lack mentors who live up to their commitment with fidelity, joy and passion.  Joshua, the leader of Israel, led not by using power over the people but by his own example.  With conviction, he unwaveringly declared, “As for me and my House, we serve the Lord.”   Regardless of what the others might choose, Joshua was definite about his choice, which was to serve the Lord.  This decision he made was not just a verbal decision but one that he lived out for the rest of his life.

Fourthly, we must consider the implications of our choice.  Joshua reminded the people of their decision.  He said, “You cannot serve the Lord, because he is a holy God, he is a jealous God who will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you desert the Lord to follow alien gods he in turn will afflict and destroy you after the goodness he has shown you.”   It is not enough simply to say “yes” without thinking of the implications.  Getting married is easy, staying married is difficult.  Indeed, there are serious implications when those who take promises and vows do not live up to them.  This is true of priests, religious and married people, or those appointed for leadership.  What we do does not only affect us but the community whom we are called to serve.  So the failure to live up to our commitment will not only hurt us but hurt everyone as well.

In the light of these challenges, how then can we live up to our promises and commitments knowing how difficult it is?  We must give our whole heart to the Lord.  “Joshua said to the people, ‘You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.’ They answered, ‘We are witnesses.’ ‘Then cast away the alien gods among you and give your hearts to the Lord the God of Israel!’ The people answered Joshua, ‘It is the Lord our God we choose to serve; it is his voice that we obey.’”  To give our whole heart to the Lord means that we will obey His will in all that we do.  It means that we will do everything for the love of Him and the glory of His name.  Is the Lord the center of our lives?  Do we pledge total allegiance to Him above all things and persons?  The strength of our commitment and surrender will determine how much we will be faithful to Him.

Like the psalmist, we must be able to declare that the Lord is our portion. “You are my inheritance, O Lord.  Preserve me, God, I take refuge in you.  I say to the Lord: ‘You are my God.’  O Lord, it is you who are my portion and cup; it is you yourself who are my prize. I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel, who even at night directs my heart.  I keep the Lord ever in my sight: since he is at my right hand, I shall stand firm. You will show me the path of life, the fullness of joy in your presence, at your right hand happiness for ever.”  Unless God is our inheritance and not the world, we cannot give ourselves utterly to our commitment.

In the final analysis, we must surrender in faith like a child to enter the Kingdom of God.  When the disciples wanted to turn away the little ones from coming to Him for a blessing, Jesus said, “Let the little children alone, and do not stop them coming to me; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”  With a childlike faith, we are called to surrender our lives to the Lord and to our heavenly Father.  Only those who have experienced the Fatherly love of God can surrender in trust to Him.  Children trust in their parents and elders because they feel loved and protected.  Otherwise, they become suspicious of people, especially those in authority, if they have been abused or taken advantage of.   For this reason, we are called to have a special care for the young because how they are formed, guided and mentored in love will affect their ability to make their own commitments to God and their vocation in future.   If they have proper fatherly love and care, they would be able to be more stable in relationships and commitments.  Fatherly love on earth will help them to encounter the heavenly Father’s love for them in Christ Jesus.

Finally, let us remember our commitment to the Lord through the external sign, such as a wedding ring or a religious ring.  We need these external signs and ceremonies to keep our faith and promises alive.  Renewal of our commitment through the celebration of anniversaries are great moments to review and thank God for His commitment to us.  That was why, Joshua renewed the covenant by setting up a stone or an altar. “He took a great stone and set it up there, under the oak in the sanctuary of the Lord, and Joshua said to all the people, ‘See! This stone shall be a witness against us because it has heard all the words that the Lord has spoken to us: it shall be a witness against you in case you deny your God.’”

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

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection

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• The Gospel today is very brief; only three verses. The Gospel describes how Jesus accepts the children.

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• Matthew 19, 13: The attitude of the disciples concerning the children. People brought little children to Jesus, for him to lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples scolded the mothers. Why? Perhaps because this was according to the severe norms of the Law of purity, the small children in the conditions in which they lived were considered unclean, impure. If they touched Jesus, he would become impure. Because of this, it was important to avoid that they should get close to him and that they touch him. Because it already had happened one time, when a leper touched Jesus. Jesus became unclean, impure and could no longer enter the city. He had to remain in deserted places (Mk 1, 4-45).

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• Matthew 19, 14-15: The attitude of Jesus: he accepts and defends the life of the children. Jesus reproved the disciples and said: Let the little children alone, and do not stop them from coming to me, for it is to such as these that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs”. Jesus does not care about transgressing the norms which prevent fraternity and acceptance to be given to the little ones. The new experience of God, the Father has marked the life of Jesus and gives him new eyes to perceive and to value the relationship between persons. Jesus gets on the side of the little ones, of the excluded and assumes their defence. It impresses when we see together everything which the Bible says regarding the attitudes of Jesus in defence of the life of the children, of the little ones:

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a) To give thanks for the Kingdom present in the little ones. Jesus’ joy is great when he sees that the children, the little ones understand the things of the Kingdom which he announced to the people. “Father, I thank you!” (Mt 11, 25-26) Jesus recognizes that the little ones understand more about the things of the Kingdom, than the doctors!

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b) To defend the right to shout or cry out. When Jesus, entered the Temple, he upset the tables of the money changers, and the children were those who shouted: “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Mt 21, 15). Criticized by the high priests and the Scribes, Jesus defends them and in his defence he recalls the Scriptures (Mt 21, 16).

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c) To identify oneself with the little ones. Jesus embraces the little ones and identifies himself with them. Anyone who accepts a little one accepts Jesus (Mk 9, 37). “In so far as you have done it to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me”. (Mt 25, 40).

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d) To accept and not to scandalize. One of the hardest words of Jesus is against those who are a cause of scandal for the little ones, that is, who are the cause why the little ones no longer believe in God. Because of this, it would have been better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around their neck (Lk 17, 1-2; Mt 18, 5-7). Jesus condemns the system, both the political one as well as the religious one, which is the reason why the little ones, the humble people, lose faith in God.

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e) To become like children. Jesus asks his disciples to become like children and to accept the Kingdom as children do. Without this, it is impossible to enter into the Kingdom (Lk 9,46-48). It indicates that the children are professors of the adults. That was not normal. We are accustomed to the contrary.

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f) To accept and to touch. (Today’s Gospel). The mothers with their children who get close to Jesus to ask him to bless the children. The Apostles react and drive them away. Jesus corrects the adults and accepts the mothers with the children. He touches the children and embraces them. “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them!” (Mk 10, 13-16; Mt 19, 13-15). According to the norms of that time, both the mothers and their small children, practically, lived in a state of legal impurity. Jesus does not allow himself to be drawn by this.

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g) To accept and to take care. Many are the children and the young people whom he accepts, takes care of and rises from the dead: the daughter of Jairus, who was 12 years old (Mk 5, 41-42), the daughter of the Canaanite woman (Mk 7, 29-30), the son of the widow of Nain (Lk 7, 14-15), the epileptic child (Mk 9, 25-26), the son of the Centurion (Lk 7, 9-10), the son of the public officer (Jn 4,50), the boy with five loaves of bread and two fishes (Jn 6,9).

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Personal questions

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• Children: what have you learnt from children throughout the years of your life? And what do children learn about God, about Jesus and his life, from you?
• Which is the image of Jesus which I give to children? A sever God, a good God, distant or absent?

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Concluding Prayer

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Lord, give me back the joy of your salvation,
sustain in me a generous spirit.
I shall teach the wicked your paths,
and sinners will return to you. (Ps 51,12-13)

http://www.ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-matthew-1913-15

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A theme repeated over and over again in the scriptures is, “Do not be afraid.”
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When someone today asks, “What do we get as Christians?” we might answer: “Do not be afraid. Everything is possible with God.”
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God, I offer myself to Thee –
to build with me and do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love and Thy Way of Life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank You God, AMEN!
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Survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan march during a religious procession in Tolosa on the eastern Philippine island of Leyte  over one week after Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated the area. The United Nations estimates that 13 million people were affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan with around 1.9 million losing their homes. AFP PHOTO / Philippe Lopez (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images) When the going gets tough, we have to get our faith going!

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From Last Year…..

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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13 AUGUST 2016, Saturday, 19th Week of Ordinary Time
INTER-GENERATIONAL SIN

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  EZ 18:1-10.13.30-32; MT 19:13-15 ]

The question of inter-generational sin and original sin has always been a source of contention and disagreement.  The objection lies in that if sin must be willingly committed by one who is free, then it is not fair that we suffer the sins of our parents and ancestors through no fault of ours.

The cause of such misunderstanding is due to the fact that the word “sin” is used analogously and not literally. Of course, we cannot inherit the sins personally committed by someone else.  Nevertheless, we can inherit the guilt as a consequence of their sins.

In the Old Testament, great emphasis was given to the collective sin of the community.  This was because salvation was always taken to be of a people or a nation.  People tended to see themselves as a community rather than as individuals.  The success or failure of one would have had repercussions on the rest of the community. More so, if the person who sinned was the head of the community, as his sin would have involved the whole nation.  Hence, the sin of the king or the leader of the tribe, or the father of the household, would cause all those under his care to suffer the punishment for his sins.

Thus, we can understand why the bible, since the time of Moses, speaks about the sins of our forefathers affecting us. We cannot deny that in some ways we are influenced by both the culture of the society we are born into and also the spiritual influence of our parents.  Although it would not be right to speak of genetic sin, certainly the emotions and the psychological state of our parents would have affected us even when we were in the womb of our mothers and when we were being brought up by them as well.  Therefore we must recognize that we do suffer the effects of the sins of our parents, although we do not and cannot inherit their sins.  Indeed, Ezekiel himself did not sin, but like the good and righteous ones of Israel, he too was in exile because of the sins of his fellowmen.

Of course, there is a danger that we can exonerate ourselves of all guilt and push the blame on our forefathers.  This is what Ezekiel sought to do in today’s first reading.  We must see sin in perspective. Ultimately, God does not condemn us for the sins of our parents, but only our personal sins.   So it is more important that we take cognizance of our own personal sins rather than blaming them on our parents. Yes, we suffer the consequences, but we have the freedom and the will to change the orientation.  The power to overcome our sins is within us.  We need not resign ourselves to committing the same sins our parents did.  In other words, the prophet is saying that we are responsible for our own sins.  “As I live – it is the Lord who speaks – there will no longer be any reason to repeat this proverb in Israel.  See now: all life belongs to me; the father’s life and the son’s life, both alike belong to me.  The man who has sinned, he is the one who shall die.”

Isn’t this what the doctrine of original sin, and by extension, that of inter-generational sin, wants to convey, namely, that we share the fallen nature of our parents?  This fallen nature has affected us physically, emotionally, spiritually and psychologically.  We are wounded right from the start.  Original sin itself strictly is not yet a sin, except insofar as the fact that right from the start of our conception we are not in union with God.  However, soon it will become a sin in a real sense because we will then reenact what our parents had done by our personal sins.

Of course, inter-generational healing does not exclude our asking forgiveness for our own personal sins.  The responsorial psalm and the prophet made it clear that we must repent of our personal sins and not lay all the blame on our relations.  Like the psalmist, we must seek sincere repentance for our sins and ask the Lord to cleanse us and recreate in us a new heart.

In the same vein too, baptism also takes away our sins insofar as we are separated from God.  Through baptism, we are reconciled with God. Our sins, original and personal, are forgiven.  As a consequence of the grace of Christ, we experience an inner renewal of body, mind and spirit.  We should not have any doubts about the power of the sacrament of baptism to free us from sin and the Evil One.  The grace given to us at baptism is always there.

How is it possible that our sins are taken away at baptism?  The same principle holds with regard to the vicarious death of Christ.  Jesus, as the New Adam, rescinded all that was lost by the First Adam.  As St Paul says, “For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.  Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” (Rom 5:17-19).  Jesus as the head, and we being His body, enables us to share in His victory over sin and death.

However the Council of Trent also teaches that concupiscence still remains in us in spite of our baptism. Nevertheless it is not a sin, but a tendency to sin remains.  Our human nature remains weak but with the grace of Christ we can overcome temptation to sin.  Hence, we are now in communion with God in principle.  We are renewed in Him and we are His children.  But the warfare still carries on and the battle against sin must continue to be fought with the grace of God.  So, existentially we all remain sinners even after baptism.  After all, who does not sin after baptism; unless we are baptized before death!  Metaphysically however, we are saints.  To preserve our holiness, we must strengthen our prayer and spiritual life; frequent the sacraments, especially the Eucharist.

The importance and relevance of inter-generational healing, therefore, is that it is not a matter of asking forgiveness for the sins we have inherited from our parents, rather, it is to ask God to forgive their sins on one hand; and on the other, we choose to forgive them for the effects of their sins upon us.   Through forgiveness we help the departed souls to rest in peace and return to the Lord; at the same time we free ourselves from curses, guilt and our bondage to their past.  So generational healing is the practical application of the grace of Christ given to us at baptism to heal our wounds, especially emotional and psychological traits inherited from our wounded forefathers and those who have had an influence over us directly or indirectly.

The gospel text today brings to light the relevance of generational healing.  If Jesus reprimanded the disciples for forbidding the children to go to Him, it was because He understood how we can influence our children for better or for worse.  Knowing that we come from dysfunctional and imperfect parents, they too, need prayers to be healed of the negative traits they received from their parents and relatives.  Of course the other meaning of blessing the children is to remind us that unless we are innocent, receptive and trusting in God, like children, we cannot share in the life of God.

As parents, we must therefore consider carefully what we do and say and how these will affect our children for better or for worse.  Recognizing how much influence we can have over our loved ones, let us strive to live a life of holiness so that we can impart goodness to them instead of evil.  On our part, recognizing that we are wounded from our past, we must continually seek the Lord for inner healing and at the same time, pray for the forgiveness of the souls of the faithful departed, that they too will embrace the loving mercy of God’s forgiveness and be united with the Lord in heaven.

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, July 30, 2017 — Do You Listen With Your Heart? — Do You Have a Desire to Please God? — Therein lies the secret to success in life.

July 29, 2017

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 109

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The Dream of Solomon. circa, 1693 by Luca Giordano (1632 – 1705)

Reading 1  1 KGS 3:5, 7-12

The LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night.
God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.”
Solomon answered:
“O LORD, my God, you have made me, your servant, king
to succeed my father David;
but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act.
I serve you in the midst of the people whom you have chosen,
a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted.
Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart
to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.
For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?”

The LORD was pleased that Solomon made this request.
So God said to him:
“Because you have asked for this—
not for a long life for yourself,
nor for riches,
nor for the life of your enemies,
but for understanding so that you may know what is right—
I do as you requested.
I give you a heart so wise and understanding
that there has never been anyone like you up to now,
and after you there will come no one to equal you.”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130

R. (97a) Lord, I love your commands.
I have said, O LORD, that my part
is to keep your words.
The law of your mouth is to me more precious
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
R. Lord, I love your commands.
Let your kindness comfort me
according to your promise to your servants.
Let your compassion come to me that I may live,
for your law is my delight.
R. Lord, I love your commands.
For I love your command
more than gold, however fine.
For in all your precepts I go forward;
every false way I hate.
R. Lord, I love your commands.
Wonderful are your decrees;
therefore I observe them.
The revelation of your words sheds light,
giving understanding to the simple.
R. Lord, I love your commands.

Reading 2  ROM 8:28-30

Brothers and sisters:
We know that all things work for good for those who love God,
who are called according to his purpose.
For those he foreknew he also predestined
to be conformed to the image of his Son,
so that he might be the firstborn
among many brothers and sisters.
And those he predestined he also called;
and those he called he also justified;
and those he justified he also glorified.

Alleluia  CF. MT 11:25

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth;
for you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the kingdom.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 13:44-52

Jesus said to his disciples:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant
searching for fine pearls.
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea,
which collects fish of every kind.
When it is full they haul it ashore
and sit down to put what is good into buckets.
What is bad they throw away.
Thus it will be at the end of the age.
The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous
and throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

“Do you understand all these things?”
They answered, “Yes.”
And he replied,
“Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven
is like the head of a household
who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”

Or  MT 13:44-46

Jesus said to his disciples:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant
searching for fine pearls.
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.”

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Reflection From The Abbot in the Desert

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Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

The Kingdom of Heaven!  Today the Gospel of Matthew gives us a small understanding about the Kingdom of Heaven.  Most of us today don’t think in terms of kingdoms, but we could rephrase the Kingdom of Heaven as all who belong the Lord.  It is we who form one people, one grouping, one body in Christ.  Individualism has dominated so much of our thinking, yet our Scriptures are clear:  we go to the Father as a people, as a community of people, not just as individuals.

Our first reading today is from the First Book of Kings.  In this passage, King Solomon asks for wisdom in order to be able to guide the people of his kingdom.  The surprise is that King Solomon does not ask for strength, nor for riches, nor for a good life for himself, nor for triumph over his enemies.  Instead, King Solomon seeks wisdom to serve the people.

What do we seek in life?  What do I seek in life personally?  These are natural questions after hearing about King Solomon.  What do I want in life:  Money?  Power?  Control over others?  Relationships?  Triumph over my enemies?

Instead, the Kingdom of God is like a wonderful gift of love for all others and should overcome in us all the desire to have things just for myself or for my loved ones.  Rather, the Kingdom of Heaven pushes me to want to good of the other person and the good of all.

The second reading today is from the Letter to the Romans.  In this letter, we discover that “all things work for good for those who love God.”  When we begin to live in God, our way of seeing the world and what happens to us and to others in a new way.  Always we trust that what happens is in the hands of God.  We don’t understand His ways but we understand that He loves us.  God wants to conform us to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.  God will conform us to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.  This is God’s work.  Our work is simply to accept God’s work within us and to allow God to work within us.

This brings us back to the Gospel today, from Saint Matthew.  God brings about His Kingdom and God will take out of His Kingdom all that does not belong to His Kingdom.  You and I must be purified of all that is in us and which is against the Kingdom.  We should not fear this purification.  Rather we should recognize that purification is necessary so that we can be with God completely and always.  Let us pray for the purification!  Once we see the immense value and joy of the Kingdom, it is all we shall want.

Your brother in the Lord,

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Reflection on Solomon’s Dream By Charles E. McCracken

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Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours? I KINGS 3:9

Shortly after David’s death, the Bible records the new king traveled to sacrifice at the Tabernacle site. Solomon’s journey to Gibeon some seven miles northwest of Jerusalem was not a private event. A parallel passage records, Then Solomon, and all the assembly with him, went to the high place that was at Gibeon (1 Chr. 1:3). (1) The event apparently lasted several days with 1,000 sacrifices provided by Solomon for the offerings during the gathering.

Although not specifically stated, Solomon’s purpose behind the pilgrimage to Gibeon was to seek God’s blessing on his reign. In what seems to be God’s response to the multitude of sacrifices, the Lord said to Solomon in a dream, Ask! What shall I give you? (1 Ki. 3:5) Solomon’s answer to the Lord within the context of the dream is not only enlightening, but also crucial to our understanding of the event.

Solomon began by recounting elements of the Davidic Covenant—it was God who promised David a perpetual dynasty, an everlasting kingdom and an eternal throne. God chose Solomon as David’s successor—the next in the familial line of Messiah. Solomon’s restatement of God’s promises demonstrated profound gratitude for all God had done in fulfilling the covenant made with his father.

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God already pledged to establish his kingdom; and, in genuine humility Solomon confided to the Lord, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in (1 Ki. 3:7). The phrase “to go out or come in” is taken from God’s appointment of Joshua to lead the people (Nu. 27:15). It refers to administration, decorum and leadership in shepherding the nation of Israel. Solomon was simply acknowledging his inexperience (1 Chr. 22:5; 29:1).

Basing his request on what God had already promised, Solomon asked God for, an understanding heart to judge Your people (2 Sam 7:13-16; 1 Ki. 3:9). The phrase “understanding heart” is literally “hearing heart,” a heart attune to God’s word. Interestingly, the words “hear” and “obey” have the same Hebrew root (shema). An obedient heart is a hearing heart; a hearing heart is an obedient heart. Solomon acknowledged that successful leadership of Israel required wisdom only God could give.

God was pleased. Solomon’s request demonstrated humility rather than self-aggrandizement—a willingness to submit to God’s authority rather than selfish ambition.

God granted his request. Solomon would indeed be wise, not just wiser than his predecessors, but the wisest king on the earth (v. 12; 4:29-31).

In addition, Solomon would be granted riches and honor to the extent, that there shall not be anyone like you among the kings all your days (v. 13). In all that God promised, there was only one condition, if you walk in My ways, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days (v. 14). If Solomon faithfully adhered to the will of God and obeyed the Law of Moses, God would extend his life.

Thankful for God’s promises, Solomon and his court returned with joy to Jerusalem where he offered more sacrifices before the Ark of the Covenant and prepared a feast for his servants (v. 15).

Like Saul and David, his father, Solomon was exalted in the eyes of the people at the beginning of his reign. Saul and David were given military victories that bolstered their reputation among the people. God gave Solomon a judicial challenge to demonstrate his wisdom.

Two mothers came to him with two babies—one alive—the other one dead. They both claimed the dead child belonged to the other having been switched during the night. In a classic demonstration of justice, Solomon called for a sword threatening to give each mother half of the living child. He wisely identified the woman pleading for the child’s life as the real mother. His first act of jurisprudence was only the beginning of Solomon’s multi-faceted career as king.

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In an era, when aggressive self-promotion bordering on narcissism is encouraged as a virtue in nearly all sectors of our society, the way to please God remains unchanged. We, like Solomon, must come in humility seeking God’s wisdom and blessing.

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Solomon demonstrated godly character, genuine humility and a desire to please God. And, therein lies the secret to success in life. God rewarded him with the judicial wisdom he solicited, but also included unprecedented wealth and fame—two things most men crave, but rarely attain.

ENDNOTE:
1) Since the Ark of the Covenant had not been housed within the Tabernacle for more than 100 years, God permitted other localized worship centers throughout Israel. The Tabernacle containing the original objects of worship including the altar created by Bezalel remained the primary location (“high place”) for sacrifice (Ex. 31:2; 1 Samuel 7:11; 1 Chr. 1:5-6).

https://charles-e-mccracken-ministries.org/2016/02/09/solomons-wisdom/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

30 JULY, 2017, Sunday, 17th Week, Ordinary Time

A DISCERNING HEART


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 KGS 3:5,7-12ROM 8:28-30MT 13:44-52 or MT 13:44-46 ]

Everyone seeks happiness in life.  No one wants to suffer.  We seek the things that can make us happy; pleasure, comfort, love, unity and peace.  But what brings us misery is the means by which we use to achieve our desires.  Many of us mistake the means for the ends.  As a result, some of us are consumed by the means and forget the real objectives we seek in life.

Indeed, many of us think that money is everything when money is only a means to provide comfort and security.  But money cannot buy love or peace.  In fact, too much money causes us as much worry as one who lacks money.   The desire for wealth is the cause of much division, corruption, cheating, dishonesty and even killing.  It is the same for the desire for power.  We all desire security and we think that power can give us security when in truth the more powerful we are, the more insecure we become.  Rich and powerful people are the most insecure people in the world and that is why they need lots of security around them.

What we need is a discerning heart to know what is truly good for us, to distinguish the means from the ends.  What is the use of having the means when the end is not attained?  What is the use of having lots of money when the family is alienated and we are distant from each other because we have no time for one another? What is the use of power and fame at the expense of our freedom to be who we are and what we are, to go where we like?  Indeed, it is the lack of discernment that causes us to suffer much in life.  We make the wrong decisions.  We choose the wrong things in life.  Most of us tend to choose what is obvious or pleasing to the eye and heart without considering the long term implications.  This is the foolishness of the world today; the world of consumerism, the world of immediate gratification.  People today cannot wait.  They must get what they want in an instant.  So many of the policies that are put in place today are to satisfy the wants of the people but we do not think of the long term implications for our children, the future generation and the future of humanity.  Whether it is the question of euthanasia, divorce, same-sex union, promiscuity, and all the other bio ethical issues, and the effects of globalization and migration, ecology, we never really give serious thought to the implications of such trends.

The art of discernment is the theme of all the scripture readings today.  King Solomon, when invited to ask a gift from the Lord asked for a discerning heart.  “Give your servant a heart to understand how to discern between good and evil, for who could govern this people of yours that is so great?”  So too in the gospel, Jesus spoke of the parable of the dragnet.  “When it is full, the fishermen haul it ashore; then, sitting down, they collect the good ones in a basket and throw away those that are no use.”  Judgment is inevitable.

When we know how to make proper discernment, we will find ultimate happiness.  The Lord was pleased with Solomon.  “’Since you have asked for this’ the Lord said ‘and not asked for long life for yourself or riches or the lives of your enemies, but have asked for a discerning judgement for yourself, here and now I do what you ask. I give you a heart wise and shrewd as none before you has had and none will have after you.’”  Truly, when we make right choices, the rest would also be given to us.  We protect the other things of life as well, such as wealth, status and power.  When we use them wisely for the good and service of all, we preserve what we have and even increase them all the more.  Wise judgement will spare us the time to repair damages caused by imprudent decisions.

How, then, do we make proper discernment? Judgement on objective matters is much easier than matters of the heart.  King Solomon did very well as a king.  He was able to govern the people with wisdom, impartiality and justice.  Indeed, he was a very capable king and was able to unite the kingdom.  It was during his reign that the kingdom became prosperous, strong, united and famous, so much so that the Queen of Sheba came to visit him.  (cf 1 Kgs 10:1-13)

However, when it came to personal matters, Solomon made a mess of his life.  He did not know how to handle his personal affairs.  He had everything cut out for him.  He received a sound religious education from his father, King David.  He was a promising youth and intellectually brilliant.  He completed building the temple of Jerusalem for his father.  But what caused his downfall was his self-indulgence, his sin of the flesh.  Morally, he was weak and fell into the sin of lust.  He failed to listen to the prophet on avoiding bad companions.  He took in foreign wives that did not share his faith.  He turned to other gods as well, influenced by his pagan wives.  His wealth also became a source of temptation for him.  He was too extravagant and that led to increased taxation and suffering for the people.

How true for us too!  We can be successful in our career and in our work but when it comes to running the family, including our marriage, we are a failure.  We cannot live in peace and love with our spouse.  We are always fighting with each other, arguing and cannot agree on anything.  Instead of being a support and helpmate to each other, we become a checkmate and a judge.  We are not on good terms with our children and in-laws as well.  We do not have enough time to spend with them.  The relationship becomes distant and so we are strangers to each other.  We no longer enjoy each other’s company and we avoid each other more and more.  Very soon, from strangers, we become enemies of each other.   So what is the use of our success?  Successful in work and business but failure in famly life! This is the greatest form of failure and the cause of misery and loneliness!

How then do we discern?  We must put God first in our lives.  This is what the two parables of the pearl and treasure seek to teach us.  The first man discovers the treasure that is hidden in a field and he goes off to sell everything to buy it. He would pay anything to buy that treasure. This treasure meant everything to him.  The other merchant found a pearl of great value.  He too went and sold everything to buy it.  Such was the price they were willing to pay to obtain what they discerned to be the ultimate happiness in their lives.  Is God our treasure of all treasures?  Is Christ the Word of God and the Wisdom of God in person for us?  If so, then Jesus says, “Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  (Mt 6:33)

To seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness is to live like sons and daughters of God.  As St Paul reminds us, “They are the ones he chose specially long ago and intended to become true images of his Son, so that his Son might be the eldest of many brothers. He called those he intended for this; those he called he justified, and with those he justified he shared his glory.”   We are called to live the life of Christ which is a life of love, service and compassion, for the glory of God and for the good of our fellowmen.

Consequently, as children of God, we live by the will of God.  When we put God as the ultimate treasure in our lives, all that we do will be subordinated to the rule of God in our lives.  Our measure of judgement will be the measure God judges us with.  The psalmist says, “you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.”  (Ps 51:4)  The responsorial psalm urges us to take the laws of God as our guiding principles in life. “Lord, how I love your law!  My part, I have resolved, O Lord, is to obey your word.  The law from your mouth means more to me than silver and gold. That is why I love your commands more than finest gold, why I rule my life by your precepts, and hate false ways.”

Indeed, if we cooperate with the will of God, then He will ensure that everything will turn out for our good.  This is what St Paul says.  “We know that by turning everything to their good, God co-operates with all those who love him, with all those that he has called according to his purpose.”   He will give us the necessary means, as He gave to Solomon the wisdom that he needed to guide his peoples, but He asks for our co-operation.  It is not enough to pray for the gifts of God, if we do not use them accordingly in our daily life.  Unless we use it well, we will only destroy ourselves and those under our care.  But if we do, then we will find ultimate happiness and joy in life.

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

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom

Careful readers of the works of the young Saint Augustine will recall that he bargained with God.

“Please help me God. I know I am not living the life you want me to lead and I must reform. BUT NOT YET!”

We all hold back. Even Saint Augustine held back. But not forever. Our task is to develop a trusting relationship with God. He is obviously worthy of our trust: but are we worthy of His?

Some of the greatest spiritual writers encourage us to give ourselves unreservedly to God. St. Augustine, St. Francis de Sales, and many other tell us to abandon ourselves to God.

God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!

The first time I became completely confused by my Vietnamese family, the only helper I could think of that might have a solution was the Vietnamese priest.

When I explained at length my dilemma, he gave me the best four word advice I’ve ever heard:

“Listen with your heart,”  he said.

I had no idea my heart had ears. In fact, I’d pretty much forgotten about my heart entirely (a common American illness).

So now, I give that advice out to others, like me, who sometimes forget why they are hear on this earth. We’re here to serve others.

And to get them what they need, we need to listen with our heart.

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My Creator, I am now willing that You should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that You now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do Your bidding. Amen

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Jean Pierre de Caussade (7 March 1675 – 8 December 1751), advice on people having great troubles, anxiety, depression:

“They have only to fulfill the simple duties of the Christian Faith and of their state of life, to accept with submission the crosses that go with those duties, and to submit with faith and love to the designs of Providence in everything that is constantly being presented to them to do and to endure, without searching for anything themselves.”

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

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Related:

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The Road to Hope by Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan

Many of  Nguyễn Văn Thuận letters, prayers and sermons have been preserved and published — most are available at fine bookstores and from Amazon.

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Book: Joseph’s Way: The Call to Fatherly Greatness – Prayer of Faith: 80 Days to Unlocking Your Power As a Father by Devin Schadt
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For MEN: Be still and pull the mule —
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As no sensible person would make a long road trip without first consulting a map, so the person intent upon gaining Heaven should turn to a competent guide to reach that most important goal. An Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622) is addressed as a personal letter to Philothea, the “lover of God.” This book instructs us in our approach to God in prayer and the Sacraments, the practice of 16 important virtues, remedies against ordinary temptations, and becoming confirmed in our practice of devotion. TAN-CLASSICS Edition; paperback.

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Prayer and Meditation for Friday, July 28, 2017 — You shall not carve idols for yourselves — You shall not have other gods besides me — What truths are sown in your heart?

July 27, 2017

Friday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 399

Image result for moses with commandments, charlton heston, photos

Reading 1  EX 20:1-17

In those days:
God delivered all these commandments:

“I, the LORD, am your God,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery.
You shall not have other gods besides me.
You shall not carve idols for yourselves
in the shape of anything in the sky above
or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth;
you shall not bow down before them or worship them.
For I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God,
inflicting punishment for their fathers’ wickedness
on the children of those who hate me,
down to the third and fourth generation;
but bestowing mercy down to the thousandth generation
on the children of those who love me and keep my commandments.

“You shall not take the name of the LORD, your God, in vain.
For the LORD will not leave unpunished
him who takes his name in vain.

“Remember to keep holy the sabbath day.
Six days you may labor and do all your work,
but the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD, your God.
No work may be done then either by you, or your son or daughter,
or your male or female slave, or your beast,
or by the alien who lives with you.
In six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth,
the sea and all that is in them;
but on the seventh day he rested.
That is why the LORD has blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.

“Honor your father and your mother,
that you may have a long life in the land
which the LORD, your God, is giving you.

“You shall not kill.

“You shall not commit adultery.

“You shall not steal.

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife,
nor his male or female slave, nor his ox or ass,
nor anything else that belongs to him.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 19:8, 9, 10, 11

R. (John 6:68c) Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.
The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul;
The decree of the LORD is trustworthy,
giving wisdom to the simple.
R. Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.
The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
The command of the LORD is clear,
enlightening the eye.
R. Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.
The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever;
The ordinances of the LORD are true,
all of them just.
R. Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.
They are more precious than gold,
than a heap of purest gold;
Sweeter also than syrup
or honey from the comb.
R. Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.

AlleluiaSEE LK 8:15

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

Gospel MT 13:18-23

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Hear the parable of the sower.
The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the Kingdom
without understanding it,
and the Evil One comes and steals away
what was sown in his heart.
The seed sown on rocky ground
is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.
But he has no root and lasts only for a time.
When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word,
he immediately falls away.
The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word,
but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word
and it bears no fruit.
But the seed sown on rich soil
is the one who hears the word and understands it,
who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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28 JULY, 2017, Friday, 16th Week, Ordinary Time

UNDERSTANDING THE WORD OF GOD DETERMINES OUR RESPONSE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ EX 20:1-17PS 18:8-11MT 13:18-23]

The law of the Lord is perfect,   it revives the soul.  The rule of the Lord is to be trusted; it gives wisdom to the simple.  The precepts of the Lord are right, they gladden the heart.  The command of the Lord is clear;   it gives light to the eyes.”  Indeed the law of the Lord is good. This is what the psalmist declares. The Ten Commandments offer us guidelines to wise living.  They help us to walk in the right path and in the way of justice and love. They are simple and based on truth.  “The decrees of the Lord are truth and all of them just.  They are more to be desired than gold,  than the purest of gold and sweeter are they than honey, than honey from the comb.”  Anyone can appreciate them.  They are founded on universal truths.  The last seven Commandments are based on the human conscience and instinct on justice.  Those who abide by these Commandments will have a happy life and a glad heart, free from guilt and blame.

Truly, the laws are the wisdom of God. Moses told the people how fortunate they were to have such a God!  “So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the Lord our God whenever we call on Him? Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today.” (Dt 4:6-8) 

Then why is it that we keep breaking the laws, just like the Israelites?  Jesus in the gospel says it is due to the lack of receptivity.  There are different depths of understanding.  But He was not speaking so much about the understanding of the mind but of the heart.  It has to do with receptivity.   What kind of soil are we?   Are the laws written on tablets or on our hearts?  Do we have an attitude of faith and docility?  The different depths of openness and understanding are illustrated in the parable of the sower.

The first level concerns understanding. “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom without understanding, the evil one comes and carries off what was sown in his heart; this is the man who received the seed on the edge of the path.”  This concerns our conviction.  It depends on how convinced we are of what we hear.   The depth of conviction depends on understanding, not knowledge.  The latter must not be confused with the former.   Knowledge is merely information without conviction. Understanding involves the intellect grasping the truth and the heart perceiving as good.  Until that happens, there is no real understanding.

In this respect, understanding requires prayer, study and grace.  The most direct and easiest way to understand the bible is through a prayerful meditation on the scriptures. Of course, our prayer life is helped by a greater knowledge of the Word of God through Bible and theological study.  Whilst knowledge of the Bible is not essential for understanding, it helps greatly to understand the different levels of meanings in the bible, namely, the historical, existential and theological meanings.  Yet the ability to enter into the depths of the Word of God depends on the grace of God, the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit.

The mystical and spiritual meaning must be inspired by Him alone.   This is because, as St Paul says, “It is a wisdom that none of the masters of this age have ever known, or they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory; we teach what scripture calls: the things that no eye has seen and no ear has heard, things beyond the mind of man, all that God has prepared for those who love him. These are the very things that God has revealed to us through the Spirit, for the Spirit reaches the depths of everything, even the depths of God. After all, the depths of a man can only be known by his own spirit, not by any other man, and in the same way the depths of God can only be known by the Spirit of God.”  (1 Cor 2:8-11)

The second level of receptivity is affected by external factors that come from trials.  “The one who received it on patches of rock is the man who hears the word and welcomes it at once with joy.  But he has no root in him, he does not last; let some trial come, or some persecution on account of the word, and he falls away at once.”   This is because faith is not deep enough.  The lack of conviction means that in the face of struggles and trials, we forget the Word of God.  We have short memories of God’s love for us as in human love.  Like the Israelites, we forget the wonders He has wrought in our lives.

There are two reasons for this forgetfulness.  Firstly, the experience was not a depth experience and hence easily forgotten.  Unless it is a radical encounter with the power and grace of God, we tend to forget.  Secondly, we all have short memories for good things that have been done to us but have long memories for those hurting events in our lives.  We cannot forgive those who have hurt us.  Because of one serious failure on the part of our loved ones, we break relationship completely, forgetting all the many good things the person has done for us or had helped us in the past.  We need to see things in perspective and in proportion.  Hence, by recollecting the good things and beautiful events we have with the person who has failed us, we will regain confidence in that person.  So too by recalling those times that God has seen us through, we would then not feel so shaken by the trials of life, especially the painful events.  So it is necessary that we recollect often and pray over those events in the past so as to relish and appreciate His love and mercy.  Recounting His love and mercy like the psalmist is important to strengthen faith through gratitude for His love in the past.  It is for this reason that the Church invites us to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, which is called Praise and Thanksgiving, so that praying the psalms, we remember His love for us throughout the ages.

The third level of receptivity is affected by the temptations of the world.  “The one who received the seed on thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this world and the lure of riches choke the word and so he produces nothing.”  It has to do with our fallen nature.  We are sensual beings, not pure spirits.  Our body craves for food and pleasure.  We are afraid of pain and discomfort.  This is natural but it becomes unnatural when we lose control over ourselves.  This is the consequence of a fallen nature, when we suffer the loss of integrity, the fear of death, the aversion to pain and an unenlightened mind.  As a consequence, our spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.   The lures of the world come from a wounded nature, a weak body, a disordered will and a confused mind with shallow understanding.  This explains why the world is imposing their desires and preferences as the norm for constructing the new world order.  They are rewriting laws based even on nature to suit their selfish needs.  The new moral order is not founded on truth but on compromises and succumbing to the sensual, self-centered and individualistic needs of man.

How can we overcome the temptations of the world?  We need to cultivate discipline, the practice of mortification, penance, prayer and almsgiving, regular confession, and reception of the Eucharist.  But more than just discipline we need to pray for the gift of wisdom to see what is truly essential in life.  St Paul says, “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.  Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny. ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Cor 2:12-16)  When we see and know what is truly good for us then we won’t pursue the illusory things of the world realising that they are means not the ends of our happiness.

Finally, we arrive at the final level of receptivity.  This level is attained through pure grace but with full human cooperation. “And the one who received the seed in rich soil is the man who hears the word and understands it; he is the one who yields a harvest and produces now a hundredfold, now sixty, now thirty.”  Indeed, this is the thrust of the gospel message of the parable.  Everything is pure grace.  Where the seeds will fall is grace.  When they fall is grace.  Furthermore, knowledge of the laws alone is not sufficient to help us live a good and wise life.  Laws are incapable of empowering us. They only tell us how to live and tell us when we are wrong.  Only God’s love can empower us. This is pure grace.  St Paul says, “For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life, I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.”  (Gal 2:19-21)

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

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Commentary on Matthew 13:18-23 From Living Space

Parables of the Kingdom (cont’d)

We come today to the explanation of the parable of the sower. Perhaps we should rather say an interpretation. It is presented as coming from Jesus but it is likely to have come from the tradition of the early Church. There is quite a different emphasis between the original parable and this interpretation. The parable focuses on the sower and the ultimate and inevitable success of his work. The interpretation, however, looks much more at the soil in which the seed falls. The interpretation reflects the experiences of the early Church as it tried to spread the Gospel. The four different kinds of soil are taken to represent four kinds of responses to the Word of God which it has received.

The first kind is like the seed on the stony path. The Word of God never even gets started but gets plucked away by the evil influences by which the person is surrounded. In our strongly secular world today it is not easy for the Word to take root with so many competing enticements.

The second kind is like the seed that falls on the rock. The Word of God is received with great enthusiasm; the person becomes a devout and active Christian. But, if obstacles arise which make the living of the Christian life difficult, the person falls away, maybe quickly, maybe gradually. As the Gospel says, the person has no roots; the faith has not gone deep, it is has not been really assimilated. This must have been the case with many in the early Church who enthusiastically embraced Christianity but when persecution came, abandoned their faith. In our own time, we see this often enough when people, for instance, are removed from a protected environment where it is easy to live the faith to one where the faith is ignored or even ridiculed.

The third kind is like the seed that falls among the briars and brambles. I would suggest that a very large number of us are touched by this category. Anxieties about many things and the lure of material goods can gradually choke off our commitment to the Gospel in its fullness. Our witness becomes seriously compromised and “there is no yield”, that is, we make no real contribution to building the Kingdom and changing the world. We sit on the fence and try to have the best of both worlds; we try to serve God and mammon, which Jesus says is not possible. I am sure many of us have matter for reflection here.

Finally, there is the fourth kind of seed which falls on good soil. This is the one “who hears the message and takes it in”. These hear the Word, accept the Word, make it their own and it overflows into all they are and do and say. Much fruit for the world comes from such persons.

These four types can still be found and it is for each one of us to determine to which group we belong.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2166g/

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From the Carmelites: Lectio Divina
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Context. Beginning with chapter 12 on the one side we see there is opposition between the religious heads of Israel, the Scribes and the Pharisees, on the other side, within the crowds who listen to Jesus and are admired because of his marvelous actions, gradually, little by little a group of disciples is being formed, still of uncertain features, but who follow Jesus with perseverance.
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To twelve of these disciples Jesus has given the gift of his authority and of his power; he has sent them as messengers of the Kingdom, giving them demanding and radical instructions (10, 5-39). Now at the moment when controversy breaks out with his opponents, Jesus recognizes his true kinship, not in the lines of the flesh (mother, brothers), but in those who follow him, listen to him and fulfill the will of the Father (12, 46-50). This last account offers us the possibility to imagine that the audience to whom Jesus addressed his words is two-fold: on the one side the disciples to whom he has given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom (13.11) and who have the possibility to understand them (13, 50) and on the other side the crowds who seem to be deprived of this deep understanding (13, 11.34-36).
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Before the large crowds which gather together to listen to Jesus is presented, above all, the parable of the sower.
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Jesus speaks about a seed that falls or not on the earth. Its growth depends on the place where it falls; it is possible that it be hindered so that it cannot bear fruit. This is what happens in the first three types of earth “along the road side” (the ground hardened by the passing of men and animals), “the rocky earth” (formed by rocks), «on the thorns” (it is the earth covered with thorns). Instead, the seed that falls on “good ground” bears excellent fruit even if at different levels.
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The reader is directed to be more attentive to the yield of the grain than to the gesture of the sower. Besides, Matthew focuses the attention of the listener on the good earth and the fruit that this earth is capable of producing in an exceptional manner. The first part of the parable ends with an admonition: “Anyone who has ears should listen” (v. 9); it is an appeal to the liberty of the listener. The word of Jesus may remain a “parable” for a crowd incapable to understand; it can reveal “the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven” for those who allow themselves to be upset or affected by its force. It is the acceptance of the Word of Jesus that distinguishes the disciples from the indeterminate crowds; the faith of the first ones reveals the blindness of the others and obliges them to look “beyond” the parable.
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To listen and to understand. It is always Jesus who leads the disciples on the right path for the understanding of the parable. In the future through the disciples, it is the Church to be guided in the understanding of the Word of Jesus. In the explanation of the parable the pair of two verbs “to listen” and “to understand” appears in 13, 33: That which has been sown in the good ground is the one who listens to the Word and understands it…” It is in the understanding that the disciple is distinguished, the one who daily listens to the Word of Jesus, from the crowds which, instead, listen to it occasionally.
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Hindrances to understanding. Jesus recalls, above all, the negative response to his preaching on the Kingdom of Heaven given by his contemporaries. Such a negative response is bound to the diverse impediments among them. The earth on the edge of the road; is that transformed by passers by into a trodden road; it is totally negative: “Throw the seeds on the pavement of the street, everybody knows that it serves nothing: the necessary conditions for growth do not exist. And, then people go by, step over it, and ruin the seed.
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The seed should not be thrown just any place” (Carlos Mesters). Above all, there is the personal responsibility of the individual: to accept God’s Word in one’s own heart; on the contrary, if it falls on a “trodden” heart, which is obstinate because of its own convictions and indifferent, he sides with the evil one who completes that persisting attitude of closeness to the Word of God. Then the rocky earth: If the first impediment was constituted by an insensitive, indifferent heart, now the image of the seed that falls on the rocks, on stones, and among bushes indicates a heart immersed in a superficial and worldly life.
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Such life styles are energies that prevent the Word of God to bear fruit. They begin to listen, but immediately it is blocked, not only by tribulations and trials that are unavoidable, but also because of the involvement of the heart in concerns and riches. It is a life that is not profound but superficial, worldly, it is similar to instability.
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The good earth: is the heart that listens and understands the Word; this one bears fruit. Such fruit is the work of the Word in the heart that accepts it. It is a question of an active understanding, that allows itself to get involved by God’s action present in the Word of Jesus. The understanding of his Word will continue to be inaccessible if we neglect the encounter with Him and, therefore, we do not allow it to overflow in us.

Personal questions
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Does listening lead to the deep understanding of God’s Word or does it remain only an intellectual exercise?
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Are you a heart that accepts, that is available, docile to attain to a full understanding of the Word?
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Concluding Prayer
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The Law of Yahweh is perfect, refreshment to the soul; The precepts of Yahweh are honest, light for the eyes. (Ps 19,7-8)
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From 2015:
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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DEEPENING OUR APPRECIATION FOR GOD’S LAWS

SCRIPTURE READINGS:  EX 20:1-17MT 13:18-23

After leaving Egypt, God made a covenant with the Hebrews.  They became a nation constituted under God with Moses as His representative.  To help them to live as the People of God, God gave the commandments through Moses.  God gave them the laws to help them to live a life of harmony and love.  It was not enough to be set free from the slavery of the Egyptians but more importantly, to be set free from selfishness that leads to sin. So these laws are meant to be guidelines to protect charity and justice in the community.

These Ten Commandments can be divided basically into two categories.  The first three commandments focus on our relationship with God.  The basis of all relationships is dependent on whether we have a right relationship with God.  The book of Sirach says, “To fear the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Sir 1:14)  “To fear the Lord is fullness of wisdom.” (Sir 1:16)  “To fear the Lord is the crown of wisdom” (Sir 1:18)  “To fear the Lord is the root of wisdom” (Sir 1:20)  Indeed, the real reason for the lack of unity in the world today is secularism, when God’s existence is denied or forgotten.  Without reverence for God, we have too many gods fighting with each other!  We cause disunity because we lack a reference point for all that we are and do.  Failing which, the Lord says, “For I, the Lord your God am a jealous God and I punish the father’s fault in the sons, the grandsons, and the great-grandsons of those who hate me; but I show kindness to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”  For this reason, the first commandment is THE foundational commandment. God says, “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the house of slavery.  You shall have no gods except me. You shall not make yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything in heaven or earth beneath or in the waters under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them.” The other two commandments further elaborate what it takes to give God His due honour and place in our lives.

Only because we love God, we love all whom He loves.  Loving God is the way to grasp His mind and be identified with His heart.  We become like those whom we love.  This is a fact of life.  We are influenced in our minds and thoughts by the people we love.  That is why lovers become more and more identified with each other that they become one in heart and mind.  If we are called to love God and put Him as the first person in our lives, it is in order that we too will share in His passion for justice and love.  For this reason, after the first three commandments, the next seven commandments deal with our relationship with our fellowmen.   Loving God is the basis for loving our neighbour.  We are called to love our neighour as ourselves.  Loving our neighbour in truth is to love ourselves because we are not independent of others.  In the final analysis, what matters in life are good and loving relationships with those around us and society at large.  Everyone desires love and demands fair treatment, respect, compassion and dignity.  The moral code given to the Israelites in truth is not much different from the moral codes in other religions and societies.  The universal values of truth and honesty, justice and charity, integrity and fidelity are inscribed in the hearts of all.

The fact is that the love of neighbour begins by honouring our parents.  This is the basis for an authentic human relationship.  If our relationship with our parents lacks love and respect, it affects our ability to love in a holistic way.  Our capacity for human love depends so much on how our parents love us unconditionally since they planted that seed of love in us.  We are able to love ourselves and accept ourselves as we are only because they love us as the representative of God.  In loving ourselves, we can then love others unconditionally since we have experienced unconditional love ourselves.

In spite of the goodness of the Laws given by God, yet there is always the danger that these laws can be performed in a perfunctory manner.  We can lose the spirit of the laws, which is based on the love of God and His love for us.  We become more preoccupied in obeying the laws slavishly than seeing the beauty of the laws.  When that happens, instead of being our ally, the laws become our enemies.  Secretly, we harbor resentment against God.  We wish the laws do not exist so that we can do whatever our passions dictate.   And when we fail, we live in guilt or in fear that God will punish us for our sins.  So the obedience we render to the laws is not based on conviction of the beauty of the commandments or of love but rooted in fear and selfishness.  When God becomes our chief enemy, we hate Him in our hearts, or else we revolt against Him and make ourselves our own gods.  We become the ultimate judge and the norm of what is true and right.

Hence, in the gospel today, Jesus invites us to go deeper into the Word of God which we have received.  If we break the laws in spite of the fact that they are good, it is because of the different levels of perception and conviction of the value of the laws.  In the parable of the Sower, Jesus invites us to examine the depth of our receptivity.  If we are those seeds that fall on the pathway, it means that we lack understanding of the laws.  We are ignorant.  The laws remain written on tablets. They are external to us.  We do not appreciate and perceive the wisdom of God and hence are not convicted.   As Jesus said, “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom without understanding, the evil one comes and carries off what was sown in his heart; this is the man who received the seed on the edge of the path.”   Those who have a nominal faith are lukewarm because faith is merely a religion, a ritual and some practices; not a personal relationship with God.

If we are those seeds that fall on rock, obviously what we receive lack depth and do not take root.   We lack formation and mentoring.  We do not contemplate on the Word of God or deepen our knowledge of doctrines and morals.  This is particularly true of all those who have a God-experience or a conversion experience.  Many having been touched by God have already returned to their nominal faith and a life of sin because they did not build on the initial love of God which they had experienced.  A conversion experience is only the beginning of discipleship; not the end.  Without discipleship and spiritual maturity, regardless of whatever God-experience we have had, we will lose that fervor and taste for God after some time.  As Jesus said, “The one who received it on patches of rock is the man who hears the word and welcomes it at once with joy.  But he has no root in him, he does not last; let some trial come, or some persecution on account of the word, and he falls away at once.”  In the face of suffering and persecution we give up and turn to the world for solution rather than God in faith.

As a result too, when we lack a deepening of our love and knowledge of the Lord, not only trials but thedistractions, worries, anxieties and temptations of the world will prevent the Word of God in us from flourishing.  The temptations that come from the world, the flesh and Satan are the thorns in our lives that hinder us from living a life of holiness.  Our life hinges on greed and fear.  We get caught up in the daily pursuits of the world. We feel that we cannot rely on anyone except ourselves.  But an unexamined life is not worth living, so says Socrates!  Indeed, Jesus warns us, “The one who received the seed on thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this world and the lure of riches choke the word and so he produces nothing. “

Let us pray for docility to the Word of God so that we can be “the one who received the seed in rich soil…he is the one who yields a harvest and produces now a hundredfold, now sixty, now thirty.”   There is no way to hear the Word unless we make time for God in prayer.   Only by listening to Him in the depths of our hearts, can we come to understand the wisdom of His laws for us because the truth sets us free.  But most of all, we must ask for the Holy Spirit to empower us.  Only His love alone can give us the strength to love as He loves.  If the Israelites were asked to observe the Commandments, it was because they had seen the power of God’s love for them.  We too must sit before the Lord to let His love heal our wounded hearts and His wisdom to enlighten us in the truth.

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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, July 23, 2017 — “For you show your might when the perfection of your power is disbelieved.”

July 22, 2017

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 106

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Reading 1  WIS 12:13, 16-19

There is no god besides you who have the care of all,
that you need show you have not unjustly condemned.
For your might is the source of justice;
your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all.
For you show your might when the perfection of your power is disbelieved;
and in those who know you, you rebuke temerity.
But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency,
and with much lenience you govern us;
for power, whenever you will, attends you.
And you taught your people, by these deeds,
that those who are just must be kind;
and you gave your children good ground for hope
that you would permit repentance for their sins.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16

R. (5a) Lord, you are good and forgiving.
You, O LORD, are good and forgiving,
abounding in kindness to all who call upon you.
Hearken, O LORD, to my prayer
and attend to the sound of my pleading.
R. Lord, you are good and forgiving.
All the nations you have made shall come
and worship you, O LORD,
and glorify your name.
For you are great, and you do wondrous deeds;
you alone are God.
R. Lord, you are good and forgiving.
You, O LORD, are a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in kindness and fidelity.
Turn toward me, and have pity on me;
give your strength to your servant.
R. Lord, you are good and forgiving.

Reading 2  ROM 8:26-27

Brothers and sisters:
The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness;
for we do not know how to pray as we ought,
but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.
And the one who searches hearts
knows what is the intention of the Spirit,
because he intercedes for the holy ones
according to God’s will.

Alleluia  CF. MT 11:25

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth;
you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the kingdom.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 13:24-43

Jesus proposed another parable to the crowds, saying:
“The kingdom of heaven may be likened
to a man who sowed good seed in his field.
While everyone was asleep his enemy came
and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.
When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.
The slaves of the householder came to him and said,
‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field?
Where have the weeds come from?’
He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’
His slaves said to him,
‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds
you might uproot the wheat along with them.
Let them grow together until harvest;
then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters,
“First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning;
but gather the wheat into my barn.”‘”

He proposed another parable to them.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed
that a person took and sowed in a field.
It is the smallest of all the seeds,
yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants.
It becomes a large bush,
and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.'”

He spoke to them another parable.
“The kingdom of heaven is like yeast
that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour
until the whole batch was leavened.”

All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables.
He spoke to them only in parables,
to fulfill what had been said through the prophet:
I will open my mouth in parables,
I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation
of the world.

Then, dismissing the crowds, he went into the house.
His disciples approached him and said,
“Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”
He said in reply, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man,
the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom.
The weeds are the children of the evil one,
and the enemy who sows them is the devil.
The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire,
so will it be at the end of the age.
The Son of Man will send his angels,
and they will collect out of his kingdom
all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.
They will throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.
Then the righteous will shine like the sun
in the kingdom of their Father.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

OrMT 13:24-30

Jesus proposed another parable to the crowds, saying:
“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man
who sowed good seed in his field.
While everyone was asleep his enemy came
and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.
When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.
The slaves of the householder came to him and said,
‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field?
Where have the weeds come from?’
He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’
His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds
you might uproot the wheat along with them.
Let them grow together until harvest;
then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters,
“First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning;
but gather the wheat into my barn.”‘

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Reflection From The Abbot in the Desert

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Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

The Letter to the Romans tells us in the second reading today:  “we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.”  That is pretty strong!  Because our world is so messed up, we are often confused about what is right and what is wrong—so we don’t know how to pray as we ought.

The first reading today, from the Book of Wisdom, reminds us that God is all powerful and because of that, God can love and judge and deal with us with leniency and mercy and forgiveness.  Those who are powerful can be generous!  This can remind us that our own personal power should always reflect in mercy, generosity and forgiveness.

The Letters to the Romans reminds us that our prayers are very often just our own prayers and not the will of God.  Instead, we can allow the Spirit to pray within us so that the prayer is God’s prayer.  It is easy to do this.  All we need say is “O God, may I do your will and pray for what you want.”

The Gospel from Saint Matthew today, in the longer version, gives us three parables.  The shorter version gives us only one parable and without its explanation by the Lord.  All three parables are about the kingdom of God.  We can understand from these parables that it is difficult in this life to separate the good and the bad, the wheat and the weeds.  We can see that the Kingdom is a small seed that can grow enormously.  And we can understand that if we live the Kingdom, it becomes like leaven in bread in our lives and in the lives of others.

The teaching today is that we must be slow to judge others, slow to think that we understand the Kingdom and how it is present and slow to presume that we know the ways of God.  Rather, we must look at others as possible Kingdom bearers, we must be still before the mystery of God so that we can begin to be aware of the Kingdom and we must look for God in all that happens to us and to others.

When Jesus tells us parables, it is because He wants us to look at life in ways that are different from our normal ways.  We should never think that we are the wheat and that others are the weeds!  Rather we need to pay attention to the weeds of our lives and be aware of the wheat in the lives of others.  When Jesus tells us that the Kingdom is like a small seed that can grow into a large tree, we should be aware of the gifts of others and aware that we are still small.  When Jesus tells us that the Kingdom is like leaven, we should strive to be aware of how others are leaven already and that we can become leaven.

Let us be aware of God’s love for others and reflect God’s love for others in our own lives through mercy and forgiveness.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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23 JULY, 2017, Sunday, 16th Week, Ordinary Time

EMBRACING IMPERFECTIONS IN THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ WIS 12:13,16-19PS 85:5-6,9-10,15-16ROM 8:26-27MT 13:24-43 OR MT 13:24-30]

The Church is supposed to be the budding of the Kingdom of God.  All of us are called to holiness of life.  The early Christians called themselves saints of God.  Indeed, the Church is called to be different from the rest of the world.  We are called to be the sacrament of Jesus in the world, the sacrament of love and unity.  Unfortunately, many who join the Church fail to realize that although the Church aspires to be the community of saints, we are still pilgrims on earth.  The Church is both a community of saints and sinners.  We have not yet arrived but are on the way to the fullness of life in the heavenly kingdom.

As such, the Church, being a pilgrim church on the way to perfection, must learn to accommodate the sinfulness of her members and the imperfections of community life and the institution at large.  Failure to realize this reality will cause much disillusionment, disappointment, anger and resentment against the Church.  Indeed, many Catholics labour under the false notion that all Catholics are perfect, holy, loving, considerate, kind, giving, gentle, compassionate, forgiving, etc.   And when they find that their brothers and sisters, and most of all, the Church leaders, laity or clergy or religious are not manifesting the compassion and love of our Lord, they are easily scandalized. They are shocked that Catholics are not behaving in the way Christ asks of us in the gospel.  As a result, many leave the Church and join other churches or other religions, or give up on God completely.

The irony of such a reaction is that all other Catholics seem not to be good enough, except themselves.  Often, such people who are judgmental, intolerant of others’ weaknesses, whims and fancies, dissatisfied with the institutions, condemning everyone else except themselves, fall into the sin of presumption.  We are quick at passing sweeping judgements on the actions of others without trying to understand the person, his struggles, his constraints, circumstances and limitations.  The truth is that no one is perfect and we cannot expect others to live up to our standards when we ourselves have failed miserably as Catholics, if not in the particular area we are not pleased about, surely in other areas of our life.

St Paul and James warned us about the foolishness of pronouncing  judgement on others instead of leaving the judgement to God.  (Cf. 1 Cor 4:3-5; Jms 4:11f)  In fact, if we are not careful, we can become the enemy itself who would be sowing darnel among the wheat.  When we judge, condemn and criticize others destructively, we are destroying them and also the community.  Instead of promoting unity through compassion, understanding and patient meditation, we circulate on social media the sins and imperfections of others and the community or the organization.  This is tantamount to helping the Evil One to sow seeds of division in the community.  We should be sowing good seeds; not making the situation worse than it already is.

Today, we take the cue from the scripture readings as to how we should see the imperfections of community, whether at church, in our homes or in our offices.  Unless we integrate such stark realities in our lives, we will end up destroyed by the evils that we hate.  Those of us who cannot accept the sins and imperfections of the members of the community will end up frustrated, resentful and even vindictive.  This is particularly true when we belong to a religious order, or any closely knit Catholic cell group or organization.  By embracing both the strength and weaknesses of the individuals and the organization, we can grow as individuals and as a community to be more like Christ.  We must remember that grace is also at work in disgrace.

For this reason, Jesus told the disciples the parable of the Darnel and the Wheat.  This was what the servants said to the master.  “Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? If so, where does the darnel come from? Do you want us to go and weed it out?”  This is unfortunately the impatience reflected in every Christian community.  As the bishop, I receive countless letters of complaint against priests and fellow Catholics; even from non-Catholics.  All express anger, disappointment and disenchantment with what is happening in the Church, the conduct of both the lay faithful and the Church leaders.  They write to me, expecting and even demanding that I exercise my juridical authority to immediately weed out such people from the Church.  They hope that I will shame them publicly, make them lose face and discredit them.  Most are not seeking to help those who are wayward in their Catholic way of life but to see them punished, humiliated and excommunicated.  There is so much lack of charity, compassion, forgiveness and tolerance among Catholics.

Clearly the gospel tells us that we should allow good and evil to co-exist.  We should not be in a hurry to weed out all those who fail and have shortcomings.  The master said, “No, because when you weed out the darnel you might pull up the wheat with it. Let them both grow till the harvest; and at harvest time I shall say to the reapers: First collect the darnel and tie it in bundles to be burnt, then gather the wheat into my barn.”  In other words, we must allow sin and grace to co-exist.  If we are intolerant and impatient, not only might we lose all the sinners but we might even hamper the growth of those who are seeking holiness of life.

The truth is that we all grow through our weaknesses and our strengths.  It is through our interaction with others that we learn to discover more about ourselves, our likes, attitudes, fears, inadequacies and our charisms and potentials as well.  Only through difficult situation are we challenged to our limits.  This is just like the trees in the forest.  They all strive against each other to seek sunlight.  Even the creepers in the forest know how to find their way to the top.  So we must take fellow Catholics as spiritual benefactors, helping us to purify our faith and our love for God and for humanity.  Instead of seeing them as obstacles to our faith, we must see them as persons allowed by God to test us in generosity, in forgiveness, in mercy and in patience.  Instead of marginalizing them, we must be ready to continue to reach out to them in humility and love in spite of their hostility towards us.

In the first reading, we read how God manifests His mercy and love for all.  Although He is a God of justice, He cares for all and is just to all.  “There is no God, other than you, who cares for everything, to whom you might have to prove that you never judged unjustly.  Your justice has its source in strength, your sovereignty over all makes you lenient to all.” This is how God has taught us to exercise love and mercy.  The author says, “By acting thus you have taught a lesson to your people how the virtuous man must be kindly to his fellow men, and you have given your sons the good hope that after sin you will grant repentance.”  So we must not give up on others because they fail in their Christian life.  Rather, recognizing our own failures and imperfections, we must also grant them the same mercy and compassion that God has for us in our sinfulness.

Most of all, we must pray in our weakness.  This is what St Paul urges the Christian community.  “The Spirit comes to help us in our weakness. For when we cannot choose words in order to pray properly, the Spirit himself expresses our plea in a way that could never be put into words, and God who knows everything in our hearts knows perfectly well what he means, and that the pleas of the saints expressed by the Spirit are according to the mind of God.”  Only prayer can change lives.  Only prayer can give us the patience, the magnanimity and power to forgive those who have hurt us or failed us.  When we face such nasty parishioners or uninspiring priests in our lives, rather than condemning them, we must pray for them earnestly. We have no right to correct them if we have not yet prayed for them.

If we follow this principle, then indeed, in its own time, the Kingdom of God will flourish. This is the promise of Jesus in the parable of the mustard seed and the dough. “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the biggest shrub of all and becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and shelter in its branches.”  Indeed, with perseverance we will see the full flowering of the tree.  So let us be good dough doing our little part and our best to contribute to the growth of the community and our personal life.  Instead of seeking to marginalize and exclude those who are not living a good Christian life, we must show mercy and compassion.  No one should be excluded from the Church, the divorced, those with same-sex attraction, the addicts, etc.  We must welcome them to the Church and help them to experience the unconditional love and mercy of Jesus through us.  God will heal them through us.  We only need to be docile to the Lord and allow Him to make use of us.

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

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Why let the bad mix with the good?

“…if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest…” (Matthew 13:29-30).

I read our Gospel today, and I remember the spicy surprise that met a Jesuit who transplanted sprigs of basil beside some sili. After a few weeks, the basil was not just basil anymore. It had acquired a peppery flavor and required a new name: ba-sili.

Scientifically, this incident provides too small a sample size for any conclusion, but our Scripture today prompts me to ask, “Should we let the weeds grow with the wheat?” What if the weeds change the wheat? Why let the bad mix with the good?

One might attack this differently and counter, “What if the wheat changes the weeds?” Maybe the good can influence the bad and make everyone better. But for this possibility, should we be willing to risk the bad just turning everything worse? Why let the bad mix with good?

Five chapters after our Gospel today, Jesus will say, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea… If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away” (see Matthew 18:6-9). In the body that is our community, if a member leads others to sin, should he or she not be cut off? Why sacrifice the saint for the sinner? Why let the bad continue to mix with good?

Why should we let the weeds grow with the wheat? To answer this, let us look at the two other parables in the longer version of our Gospel today.

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, Jesus says. It is the smallest of seeds, but it becomes the largest of plants. The dramatic change in size is what we usually focus on in this parable, and so we miss an important detail about the mustard bush: “the birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches” (Matthew 13:32). It is not just the doves and the pigeons and the other gentle and beautiful birds that come. One can imagine crows and ravens – aggressive and not as aesthetically pleasing avian creatures – coming and dwelling as well. Jesus makes no distinctions. All are welcome. And when birds of paradise perch with vultures – as when wolves and lambs feed together in Isaiah’s vision – then the kingdom of God is in our midst.

Why let the weeds grow with the wheat? Because that is how God envisions his kingdom.

The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour. Scholars say that three measures equals 50 pounds. That is a lot of flour! Again, the contrast between the pinch of yeast and the mountain of flour makes us miss an important detail: the woman kneading the yeast in. She wrestles with the dough. (Can you imagine yourself elbows deep in 50 pounds of flour and the I-don’t-know-how-many liters of water needed to make it dough?) There can be bread enough for a banquet only because there is a woman who painstakingly labors.

Why let the weeds grow with the wheat? The saint and the sinner come together in the kingdom of God, and our Lord, the Master Baker, continues to work on them because this is how he prepares a feast.

That the weeds are allowed to grow with the wheat – this is Good News for us! Many times, we are not the purest and finest wheat. Many times, we are the weeds strangling those around us, competing for what we think are limited resources when in truth, God’s mercy abounds. God allows us weeds to grow without making distinctions as we sprout out of the ground. God works on us and kneads his grace into us.

If this is how God deals with us, then it should also be how we deal with others around us. Have we let weeds into our lives? Or have we cultivated friendships only with those we know do not come with thorns and only with those we know will bear good fruit? Do we continue to gently massage even just the pinch of yeast we possess into our relationships with others so that we can all slowly rise together? Or overwhelmed, have we just given up on people?

The time for the harvest will come, when stubborn weeds who refuse God’s grace will be pulled up and burned. But the pulling up and the burning will not be our task. That will belong to God. Who is this God? Read again Wisdom 12:13-19, our First Reading today, and get to know him as the master of might who judges with clemency and governs with lenience. Encounter him as the father who gives his children good ground for hope because he allows us to repent. Learn to trust him as the teacher who by his own deeds imparts the important lesson that “those who are just must be kind.”

From 2014

Homily from the Abbot

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

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Those who are just must be kind. This small kernel of wisdom from the Book of Wisdom in our first reading today, is a wonderful teaching about God as well. Far too often there have been images of God as being just–but as a stern taskmaster who really intends to put most people into hell. Instead, this small gem of a teaching speaks of kindness. Justice and kindness are linked, not justice and sternness or justice and meanness.

Of course we know from the teachings of our Lord Jesus that God is love and that God loves all that has been created in Him. God loves us, even with our sinfulness. God invites us to share eternal life and to leave our sinfulness aside, knowing that to leave that sinfulness aside will cost us our whole lifetime.

We can hear this teaching clearly in the Gospel today, where there are many images for us to ponder. One of them is that the wheat and the weeds are always together and we need to leave the sorting out to the Lord. Did not create everything good? Then where did the evil come from? We don’t need to answer that question. We need only to keep striving to live in the good and to do good and to speak good and all shall be well. That we fail to live completely in the good, that we fail to do good always and that we fail to speak the good is part of our human condition. Every day we need to start afresh, living the joy and the love of our Lord Jesus, no matter what our previous failings.

When we are completely worn out and see only the evil in ourselves and our failures. The second reading today can help us: The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. The same is true when we do not do the good which is possible because it seems impossible in the moment. The Spirit is there and will take our hands and help us do what we can.

The challenge of living a truly Christian life is a very simple challenge: trust completely even when it seems hopeless. Trust always and in every situation. Call to the Lord when we fail and when we fall. Keep asking the Lord to help us. All of this is so simple and even small children realize its truth.

For sure there is a punishment for those who cause others to sin and there is a sorting out of the weeds and the evils at the end of time. We are all guilty and so we belong to that category as well. We need not fear. God love is a consuming fire and will purify us with love if we only call out to Him. Let us practice calling on the Lord today and always.

http://www.philstar.com/opinion/2017/07/23/1720615/why-let-bad-mix-good

 

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Prayer and Meditation for Friday, July 13, 2017 — “Do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say … the Spirit of your Father [will be] speaking through you.” — Plus: History of The Third Step Prayer of Alcoholics Anonymous

July 13, 2017

Memorial of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Virgin
Lectionary: 387

Reading 1  GN 46:1-7, 28-30

Israel set out with all that was his.
When he arrived at Beer-sheba,
he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.
There God, speaking to Israel in a vision by night, called,
“Jacob! Jacob!”
He answered, “Here I am.”
Then he said: “I am God, the God of your father.
Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt,
for there I will make you a great nation.
Not only will I go down to Egypt with you;
I will also bring you back here, after Joseph has closed your eyes.”

So Jacob departed from Beer-sheba,
and the sons of Israel
put their father and their wives and children
on the wagons that Pharaoh had sent for his transport.
They took with them their livestock
and the possessions they had acquired in the land of Canaan.
Thus Jacob and all his descendants migrated to Egypt.
His sons and his grandsons, his daughters and his granddaughters
all his descendants—he took with him to Egypt.

Israel had sent Judah ahead to Joseph,
so that he might meet him in Goshen.
On his arrival in the region of Goshen,
Joseph hitched the horses to his chariot
and rode to meet his father Israel in Goshen.
As soon as Joseph saw him, he flung himself on his neck
and wept a long time in his arms.
And Israel said to Joseph, “At last I can die,
now that I have seen for myself that Joseph is still alive.”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 37:3-4, 18-19, 27-28, 39-40

R. (39a) The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
Trust in the LORD and do good,
that you may dwell in the land and be fed in security.
Take delight in the LORD,
and he will grant you your heart’s requests.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
The LORD watches over the lives of the wholehearted;
their inheritance lasts forever.
They are not put to shame in an evil time;
in days of famine they have plenty.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
Turn from evil and do good,
that you may abide forever;
For the LORD loves what is right,
and forsakes not his faithful ones.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
The salvation of the just is from the LORD;
he is their refuge in time of distress.
And the LORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.

Alleluia  JN 16:13A, 14:26D

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
When the Spirit of truth comes,
he will guide you to all truth
and remind you of all I told you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 10:16-23

Jesus said to his Apostles:
“Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves;
so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.
But beware of men,
for they will hand you over to courts
and scourge you in their synagogues,
and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake
as a witness before them and the pagans.
When they hand you over,
do not worry about how you are to speak
or what you are to say.
You will be given at that moment what you are to say.
For it will not be you who speak
but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Brother will hand over brother to death,
and the father his child;
children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but whoever endures to the end will be saved.
When they persecute you in one town, flee to another.
Amen, I say to you, you will not finish the towns of Israel
before the Son of Man comes.”

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

14 JULY, 2017, Friday, 14th Week, Ordinary Time

LIVING OUT OUR FAITH IN A SECULAR WORLD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Gn 46:1-728-30Ps 36:3-4,18-19,27-28,39-40Mt 10:16-23  ]

Being an authentic Christian living in a very secularized world is one of the most challenging demands of Christian life.  As Jesus warned His disciples in the gospel,  “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”  (Jn 15:18f)   So we must be ready as Christians and brace ourselves for a collision between the values of the world and our Christian values.  This is inevitable.  Indeed, even our loved ones will misunderstand us. Jesus warned us that “Brother will betray brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise against their parents and have them put to death.”  If as a Christian we feel there is no tension between the world and our faith, we are obviously not living out our Christian discipleship.  After all, Jesus said, “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’” (Jn 15:20) If our Lord was persecuted, why should we be exempted?

And the reason Jesus gave is because the values of the gospel are not of this world.  “I have given them thy word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  I do not pray that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  Sanctify them in the truth; thy word is truth.”  (Jn 17:14-17)  Our values come from Christ who is the Word of God in person.  He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. (cf Jn 14:6)

So how do we remain firm in our faith and yet live in this paradoxical and confused world with so many divergent voices, ideologies and self-centered interests?  In the gospel, Jesus urged us to be discerning and not be rash.  He said, “Remember, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves; so be cunning as serpents and yet as harmless as doves.”  Like the wise serpent, we must be tactful and learn how to strategize.  We need to be patient and study the situation before we seek to deal with the challenges.  Jesus advised us, “If they persecute you in one town, take refuge in the next; and if they persecute you in that, take refuge in another.”  In other words, don’t be a daredevil.  Foolhardiness and hot-headedness will cause more problems.  We must learn how to wait and see how things develop.

But we must also be gentle as a dove.  We do not deal with our opponents by using harsh words or taking up arms and using violence.  St Paul reminds us, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  (Rom 12:21)  This was what the Lord taught us “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, ‘Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.’”  (Mt 5:38-f)  Maintain good conduct among the Gentiles, so that in case they speak against you as wrongdoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.’  (1 Pt 2:12)   This was said of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah as well.   “He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street, a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.”  (Isa 42:2f)

But this does not mean that we keep quiet on the truth that must be spoken.  This is not what Jesus is saying.  He is not asking us to be silent.  On the contrary, He asked us to speak out when the time comes, regardless of who is our opponent. “Beware of men: they will hand you over to sanhedrins and scourge you in their synagogues.  You will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the pagans.”  This is the time when we are called to witness to Christ.  St Paul advised us, “Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence.”  (1 Pt 3:15)  It is in truth spoken with charity that will triumph in the end.

After having spoken and if the truth is not accepted, St Peter said, “But even if you do suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.”  (1 Pt 3:14)  So we should not be discouraged as Jesus asked us to flee and come back to fight another day.  There are things that cannot be changed overnight.  There are opinions and trends that cannot be transformed in a short while.  We must be patient and leave the change in God’s time.  We are not the ones who will change and transform hearts but it is the work of the Holy Spirit.  We just need to do our part and be His vehicle of truth and mercy.  That is why He told the disciples, “But when they hand you over, do not worry about how to speak or what to say; what you are to say will be given to you when the time comes; because it is not you who will be speaking; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking on you.”  Let the Holy Spirit speak to their hearts.

However, it would be quite wrong to say that the world has nothing but falsehood.  Everyone seeks true happiness, joy, meaning and love in life.  The values of the gospel are universal values.  But the means to attain them differ between religions and ideologies.  Some contain more truths than others.  Some are misguided or lived under illusion.  So even in our attempts to enlighten all in the truth, we must be respectful of opinions and views that differ from ours.  Our task is to listen, to engage in dialogue and mutual understanding.  It must not be seen as Christianity versus the world.  Rather, Christianity is for the world because we read “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”  (Jn 3:16f)

So we must cooperate with the world and stress on what we have in common and accept our differences in certain moral positions such as abortion, euthanasia, same-sex union, divorces and death penalty.   We should continue to engage in dialogue. It does not mean that we need to be silent on these issues but there is a larger picture of the concrete situations confronting society and the world.  We cannot impose our values on the world.  We can only propose.  This takes time and patience.  The psalmist says, “Then turn away from evil and do good and you shall have a home for ever; for the Lord loves justice and will never forsake his friends.”

Indeed, this was how Jacob in the first reading dealt with the vicissitudes of life.  Faced with famine in his homeland, he was forced to migrate to Egypt where his son Joseph could promise them a better life.   But he knew that God’s promise would be fulfilled.  He did not forget the promise of God.  This was confirmed in the vision he received from the Lord. “Do not be afraid of going down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there.  I myself will go down to Egypt with you.  I myself will bring you back again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.”  God’s plan for the full possession of the Promised Land and the establishment of the Kingdom would take another 800 years or more for God’s promises to be realized.  But God’s plan would not be derailed by men.

But Jacob was also shrewd.  He did not want his people to lose their culture and values.  And thus he asked to be settled at Goshen, in the north-eastern part of Egypt.  (cf Gn 46:28-34) In this way, he had the best of both worlds.  He received the generosity of the Pharaoh and yet keep apart from them because of their prejudice against shepherds.  He was wise enough to make a compromise.  He might not have seen the full realization of God’s promise, but he was contented to see the small victories, as in seeing his people well looked after by Joseph.  In this way, his people continued to multiply and grow from strength to strength.

So in faith, we too must live our faith.  Not everything can be realized in our times.  We only need to do our part and leave the rest to God to unfold His plans.  We just enjoy whatever anticipated joys or achievements we have in our times.  The best is yet to come. Like Jacob, we must not insist on our ways.   Like him, we must be willing to trust God and wait for the promise to be fulfilled.  This is what the psalmist says, “If you trust in the Lord and do good, then you will live in the land and be secure.  If you find your delight in the Lord, he will grant your heart’s desire. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord, their stronghold in time of distress.  The Lord helps them and delivers them and saves them: for their refuge is in him.”  This is the assurance of the Lord Himself, “You will be hated by all men on account of my name; but the man who stands firm to the end will be saved.”  He will not abandon us.  Knowing that He is with us in this journey should give us the courage to persevere right to the end.

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

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History of The Third Step Prayer of Alcoholics Anonymous

Third Step Prayer (Alcoholics Anonymous)

God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!

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Suscipe  (From Latin, To Receive) (St. Ignatius of Loyola’s prayer)

This is to recall to mind the blessings of creation and redemption, and the special favors I have received.

I will ponder with great affection how much God our Lord has done for me, and how much He has given me of what He possesses, and finally, how much, as far as He can, the same Lord desires to give Himself to me according to His divine decrees.

Then I will reflect upon myself, and consider, according to all reason and justice, what I ought to offer the Divine Majesty, that is, all I possess and myself with it. Thus, as one would do who is moved by great feeling, I will make this offering of myself:

Take, Lord, and Receive

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O Lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and Thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.

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Charles Eugene de Foucauld (1858-1916) took Jean Pierre de Caussade’s  “Self Abandonment”  philosophy and boiled it down into one simple prayer seen below:

Father, I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will. Whatever you may do. I thank you; I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures. I wish no more than this, a Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul; I offer it to you with all the love of my heart, for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into your hands, without reserve, and with boundless confidence, for you are my Father.

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Book: Jean Pierre de Caussade (7 March 1675 – 8 December 1751) was a French Jesuit priest and writer known for the work called “Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence.”
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Jean Pierre de Caussade was a member of the “Society of Jesus” or the Jesuits, founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola. AA historians say when the priest, Eddie Dowling read the first edition of the Big Book, he traveled to New York to find Bull Wilson. When he did locate “Bill W” — he asked, “How did you get all this Ignatian teaching into your book?”
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Bill W answered: “I have no idea what you are talking about.”
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From 2015:

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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WHEN FILIAL PIETY TO GOD RENDS OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH OUR LOVED ONES
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SCRIPTURE READINGS: GN 46:1-728-30MT 10:16-23
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In today’s gospel, Jesus warns the Twelve that the proclamation of the Good News could ironically bring family division.  He said, “Brother will betray brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise against their parents and have them put to death.”  This, perhaps, is the most painful part of discipleship.
We do not mind following Christ, but when the cost of discipleship entails rejection at home or a rift with our loved ones or even persecution, this is more than we can bear.Indeed, the forewarning of Jesus is as real for us today as it was with the disciples.
We can be certain that when St Matthew wrote his gospel, Christianity, which was then winning converts, must have also resulted in much friction in family life, especially when many of these converts were formerly practicing Judaism.  With the Jewish Christians expelled from the synagogues in AD 70, they were then persecuted by their fellow Jews. Those who accepted Christ would surely have faced rejection by family members and also ostracism from their community.  Such was the price of faith in Christ.Such, too, is the price of faith even in our day, where society is supposedly more secular, relativistic and open.  Many of our Christian converts tell of how their relationships were impacted by their conversion to Christianity, as their loved ones found it hard to accept their conversion.
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The truth is that faith in Christ is more than just attending church services and practicing some rituals; it is a whole Copernican revolution in the way we see God, people, ourselves and the values of life.  So whether we like it or not, if our faith in God is different from that of our loved ones, there is bound to be tension, depending on how accommodating they are to our beliefs and we to theirs.  Bickering over practices of faith and differences in values are not uncommon.  In some cases, the spouses even forbid their partners to attend church services, pray or read the bible.  And even though the non-Catholic partner promised that their children would be baptized, many of them renege on their promises and even disallow their children from learning or practicing the faith.
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This form of division exists even among practicing and devout Catholics.
Many parents object strongly to their children wanting to join the religious life or the priesthood.  Some threaten to disown them, even though they are avowed Catholics!   At times, it could be because of a love relationship.  To give up our loved ones for the sake of the gospel is perhaps the greatest of all sacrifices.  It breaks not just one’s own heart but that of our beloved.  So we can imagine how much Jesus’ mother had to go through in offering her only son to us and how much more our heavenly Father had to empty Himself to give up His only Son for our redemption!
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But if one thinks that family division ends here, it does not.
The Church is our bigger family.  When we have to speak out against our superiors, parish priest or leaders in our church organizations because of perceived wrongs, injustices or scandals, this also hurts us deeply.  We do not want to be the cause of division, but by failing to speak the truth, we would be doing the community a greater harm in the long run.  But being truthful may make us unpopular and even ridiculed and persecuted.  So the gospel also brings division in the Christian community; the Word of God being “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joins and marrows” (Heb 4:12).By extension, we can also include our workplace as our family.  When there are disagreements with regard to values in business ethics, living out our faith could result in us being marginalized, and rifts and misunderstandings with our colleagues and bosses may ensue. 

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So when faith threatens to drive a wedge between our loved ones and our faith, what should we do?  We do not want to lose our faith, but neither do we want to lose our loved ones and status in life. This was the same challenge for Jacob in today’s first reading.  He was uncomfortable about moving to Egypt for fear of abandoning his religious and cultural traditions and being unfaithful to his ancestors and to God.  On the other hand, he yearned to be with Joseph, his lost son whom he had not seen for many years.  He would never be able to die in peace without being reconciled with his son.  This is true for all of us, parents and children.  To die without being reconciled with our loved ones would be the greatest regret in life.  So like him, we are in a conundrum.  Should we choose God or choose man?

The scripture readings today are very assuring.

God is merciful and all understanding.

God recognized the need of Jacob, the pain in his heart.  In His divine providence, He permitted him to go to Egypt but He also assured him that the promises made to his forefathers would stay and that he would return to the Promised Land once again.  In the same way too, God is merciful and kind to us.  We must be patient when our loved ones disagree with us and object to our beliefs.  We must give them time to come to terms with our faith and our hearts’ desire.  Such things cannot be forced and our loved ones must be given time to adapt and to accept.  We must learn patience and practice compassion towards their resistance.

Secondly, we must learn to act wisely and prudently.  Instead of reacting to their hostilities, we must exercise tact in dealing with them.  Isn’t that what Jesus urges us?  He said, “’Remember, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves; so be cunning as serpents and yet as harmless as doves.”  So, like serpents, we must be wise and prudent.  Like doves, we must be gentle and harmless.  If we react, we would only create greater disharmony.

And if the heat gets too strong for us, it is better, as Jesus advises us, to flee:  “If they persecute you in one town, take refuge in the next; and if they persecute you in that, take refuge in another.”  We need not ‘take the bull by its horns’ in every situation.  Sometimes, as the proverb tells us, it is better to run and fight another day.  Hence, if our loved ones become too violent and hostile, let us stay cool and wait for grace to take over.  God is greater than their resistance.  He will settle the conflict for us.

Of course, this requires that we trust in the Lord totally. God knows better than we do.  Instead of taking things into our own hands, let the grace of divine providence work its way through our history and our lives.  Only Christ and the grace of God can change them, as Jesus said, “I tell you solemnly, you will have gone the round of the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”

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So today in our trials, especially when we are at variance with our loved ones with regard to our faith, let us follow Jacob and bring our fears and anxieties to the Lord.  God will speak to us in prayer or in a vision as He did to Jacob and give us the direction as to what we should do.  Yes, Jesus encourages us to trust in His heavenly Father no matter what happens.  Pray to the Holy Spirit, for He says, “when they hand you over, do not worry about how to speak or what to say; what you are to say will be given to you when the time comes; because it is not you who will be speaking; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking on you.”

Finally, let us remember that even if conflicts and persecutions cannot be avoided, let these be occasions for us to witness to the gospel of love and compassion by our lives of non-violence and forgivenesstowards those who hate us for seeking to live the gospel life of truth and love.  As Jesus said, “You will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the pagans.”  We are reminded of the words of St Peter, “But even if you do suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.  Have no fear of them, nor be troubled but in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord.” ( 1 Pt 3:14)

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