Posts Tagged ‘will of God’

Prayer and Meditation for Friday, February 16, 2018 — “We do not presume to be able to control our lives” — “We put our lives into God’s hands”

February 15, 2018

Friday after Ash Wednesday
Lectionary: 221

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Jesus Talks with the Pharisees. By K Lebedev

Reading 1 IS 58:1-9A

Thus says the Lord GOD:
Cry out full-throated and unsparingly,
lift up your voice like a trumpet blast;
Tell my people their wickedness,
and the house of Jacob their sins.
They seek me day after day,
and desire to know my ways,
Like a nation that has done what is just
and not abandoned the law of their God;
They ask me to declare what is due them,
pleased to gain access to God.
“Why do we fast, and you do not see it?
afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?”Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits,
and drive all your laborers.
Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting,
striking with wicked claw.
Would that today you might fast
so as to make your voice heard on high!
Is this the manner of fasting I wish,
of keeping a day of penance:
That a man bow his head like a reed
and lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Do you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!

Responsorial Psalm  PS 51:3-4, 5-6AB, 18-19

R. (19b) A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
R. A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
For I acknowledge my offense,
and my sin is before me always:
“Against you only have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight.”
R. A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
For you are not pleased with sacrifices;
should I offer a burnt offering, you would not accept it.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
R. A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.

Verse Before The Gospel SEE AM 5:14

Seek good and not evil so that you may live,
and the Lord will be with you.

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Gospel MT 9:14-15

The disciples of John approached Jesus and said,
“Why do we and the Pharisees fast much,
but your disciples do not fast?”
Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn
as long as the bridegroom is with them?
The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
and then they will fast.”
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Lectio Divina From The Carmelites

Today’s Gospel is a brief version of the Gospel on which we already meditated in January, when the same theme of fasting was proposed to us (Mk 2, 18-22), but there is a small difference. Today, the Liturgy omits the whole discourse of the new piece of cloth on an old cloak and the new wine in an old skin (Mt 9, 16-17), and concentrates its attention on fasting.

• Jesus does not insist on the practice of fasting. Fasting is a very ancient use, practiced in almost all religions. Jesus himself practiced it during forty days (Mt 4, 2). But he did not insist with the disciples to do the same. He leaves them free. For this reason, the disciples of John the Baptist and of the Pharisees, who were obliged to fast, want to know why Jesus does not insist on fasting.

• While the bridegroom is with them, therefore, they do not need to fast. Jesus responds with a comparison. When the bridegroom is with the friends of the spouse, that is, during the wedding feast, it is not necessary for them to fast. Jesus considers himself the spouse. The disciples are the friends of the spouse. During the time in which Jesus was with the disciples, is the wedding feast. One day will come in which the spouse will no longer be there. Then, they can fast if they so desire. In this phrase Jesus refers to his death. He knows and he becomes aware that if he continues along this path of freedom, of liberty, the religious authority will want to kill him.

• Fasting and abstinence from meat are universal practices which are actual. The Muslims have the fasting of the Ramadan, during which they neither eat, nor should they eat until the rising of the sun. Always more and for diverse reasons, persons impose upon themselves some form of fasting. Fasting is an important means to control oneself, and to dominate oneself, and this exists in almost all religions. It is also appreciated by sportsmen.

• The Bible has many reference to fasting. It was a way of making penance and of attaining conversion. Through the practice of fasting, Christians imitated Jesus who fasted during forty days. Fasting tends to attain the freedom of mind, self-control, a critical vision of reality. It is an instrument to maintain our mind free and not allow oneself to be transported by any breeze. Thanks to fasting, it increases the clearness of mind. It is a means that helps to take a better care of health. Fasting can be a form of identification with the poor who are obliged to fast the whole year and eat meat very rarely. There are also those who fast in order to protest.

• Even if fasting and abstinence are no longer observed today, the basic objective of this practice continues to remain unchanged and is a force which should animate our life: to participate in the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. Surrender one’s own life in order to be able to possess it in God. Become aware or conscious of the fact that the commitment with the Gospel is a one way journey, without returning, which demands losing one’s life in order to be able to possess and to find all things in full liberty.

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-matthew-914-15

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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16 FEBRUARY, 2018, Friday, Chinese New Year
ENTRUSTING OUR FUTURE INTO GOD’S HANDS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [Num 6:22-27Ps 90:1-612-14,16-17James 4:13-15Mt 6:31-34  ]

Today, we enter into another Lunar New Year.  We have managed to survive the trials and challenges of the previous year.  Will we be able to face up to the challenges of the New Year?  Indeed, whilst we are happy to leave the Old Year behind, the year of the Rooster, we are anxious about the year of the Dog.

So we seek to control the future. That is why Chinese people are overly superstitious in daily life.  We believe that everything we do, from the food we eat to the colours we wear, will determine the future of our happiness and success in life.  So we wear red for good luck and happiness.  We eat sticky rice cake, Nian Gao, so that we can advance in life.  We take black moss seaweed for prosperity since it is called 髮菜; fàcài or ‘fat choy’ in Cantonese.  So, we have the greeting, “Gong Xi Fa Cai’.  Fish is a must at the table on Chinese New Year because the word 魚 (yú) has the same pronunciation as the word 餘, which is “remain or surplus.”   We exchange oranges because they are symbols of gold and wealth, since it has the pronunciation, 柑橘; gānjú.   Even numbers are important, especially the number eight, which symbolizes fortune.   Chinese also believe that our future is determined by which Chinese zodiac sign we are born in.  The year of the animal will determine our character and relationship with others.

Of course, for us, we Christianize the symbols as expression of our hope and our prayers to God who provides us and our daily needs.   We do not presume to be able to control our lives. The truth is that life is unpredictable.  We cannot control everything in life, whether by manipulating our stars or even using our human will.  In the play by William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar suggests, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves, that we are underlings.” (1.2.138-140)

Man proposes, God disposes.  Everything might seem to be going on well in life for us but unexpected tragedy can happen, a terminal illness or a tragic accident.   No matter how powerful we are on this earth, we are still human beings, finite.  We can have all the riches and wealth and afford the best doctors and security in the world, but accidents and illness happen and no one can prevent such unforeseen circumstances. Indeed, only God is in full control.  This is what the responsorial psalm says, “You sweep men away like a dream, like grass, which springs up in the morning. In the morning, it springs up and flowers; by evening, it withers and fades.  Make us know the shortness of our life that we may gain wisdom of heart. Lord, relent!”  Many of us come to this wisdom of heart only when we meet with tragedy or challenges that make us totally helpless in spite of our knowledge and power.

Surrendering to God’s will is the advice of St James for those of us who seek security on this earth, in wealth, status and power in life.   “You never know what will happen tomorrow; you are no more than a mist that is here for a little while and then disappears. The most you should ever say is: ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we shall still be alive to do this or that.’”  If we want to live a life of joy and peace, we must seek to do His will.  God knows best.  We must trust in His divine providence.  (cf Isa 55:8f)  In His will is our peace.  When we are focused on living in accordance to His will for us, we can give our heart and soul into what we are doing.  God will somehow bless us in what we do and help us to make progress in our works.  He will not take away our struggles but He will give us the grace to overcome them.

For this reason, we are invited to enter into the New Lunar Year with peace of mind and freedom from anxiety.   If we allow our anxieties about tomorrow to control us, we will be crippled in our happiness in life.  The truth is that we do not know what will happen tomorrow. We can plan many things but not everything will work out according to our plans.  Jesus said to His disciples, “Do not worry; do not say, ‘What are we to eat? What are we to drink? How are we to be clothed?’ It is the pagans who set their hearts on all these things.”  Indeed, there are many people who are always thinking and planning for tomorrow that they forget to live today.  Instead of enjoying what they are doing each day, being with their loved ones and doing things that energize them, they are planning for happiness tomorrow.  Jesus advises us, “So do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  So learn to enjoy each moment and each day with all its challenges and joys.

The solution to all our worries is simply to seek God and His kingdom.  “Your heavenly Father knows you need them all. Set your hearts in his kingdom first, and on his righteousness, and all these other things will be given to you as well.”  So what does it mean to set our hearts on His kingdom first as our purpose in life? What is the kingdom of God?  St Paul says, “the kingdom of God does not mean food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”  (Rom 14:17)  Happiness in life is more than merely having lots of money or power or influence.  Such things in themselves cannot make us happy but they are means by which we can use them for the service of God and humanity.  Happiness in life depends on whether we are living for meaning and purpose.  Indeed, we can be very happy if we have a purpose in life and find meaning in what we are doing.  All the other things are used to help us realize our meaning and vision.   They are not ends in themselves.

True meaning in life is found in love and relationship.  Indeed, science has discovered that those of us who live longest and enjoy healthy lives are those with meaningful relationships.  It is not enough to keep fit, go to the gym or keep a healthy diet.  What is of utmost importance is building good relationships with others.  Indeed, when we celebrate the year of the dog, we know that dogs are often man’s best companion.  They can feel with us and feel for us.  A dog gives us the consolation of his love and presence, sometimes even more than our friends who only know how to criticize us and condemn us.  That is why during the Lunar New Year, we visit each other to renew ties and friendships, especially those whom we have not met for quite some time.   New Year is not a time to run away and isolate ourselves from the larger community.  It is a time to reach out and to build ties with others.  In this way, life becomes worth living because we have good relationships with people.

This love is also expressed in selfless service and contribution to the good of others and society.  In the process of serving others, we build up ourselves and attain self-realization.  If we live for ourselves, we will eventually find ourselves useless and living an aimless life. We must maximize ourselves and grow through our contribution to society, otherwise we will rot.  The human body needs to be active to function and so is the mind.  Meaningful work and service to others give us joy and we keep ourselves alive not just physically but emotionally.   Service to humanity is the way to keep ourselves happy.

Secondly, Jesus tells us to seek righteousness.  This means that we are to live in right relationship with God, our fellowmen and with ourselves.  When we live responsible lives, doing what is right, living an honest and upright life, whether in our relationship with God, with others or with respect to ourselves, we find happiness.  In other words, we are called to live a life of integrity and justice.   Peace is found when we have lived an upright life.  When we have been responsible and do all we can for our fellowmen, our conscience is clear.  Peace comes from justice that we render to others.  In the gospel, Jesus taught us the golden rule.  (cf Mt 7:12) In another text, St Paul wrote, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? (cf 1 Cor 6:9f)  The Kingdom of God therefore is to live under the rule of God’s love.  Seeking righteousness, peace and joy is what makes us happy in life.

At the same time, to seek His righteousness is more than simply striving to live a moral life.  Ultimately, justice comes from God because no one can justify himself because we are all sinners.  This is what St Paul wrote, “For no human being will be justified in his sight by works of the law, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” (cf Rom 3:20-22)  St John consoles us by saying,  “Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.  And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.  ” (1 Jn 3:18-20)

As for the future, we know that God’s grace will see us through.  When we desire to live the life of God, seeking to live a just life, a life of integrity and charity in accordance to His will, we can live each day in peace and with calmness, doing all that we can, according to our limitations and strength.   So long as we live fully each day, discharging our responsibilities well, we can live in peace knowing that we have not lived our lives in vain.  So let us seek God’s blessings and divine protection as what Moses did for His people.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore 
 
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Parable of the Bridegroom and the Wedding Guests
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Descriptive term for a short parable recorded by the three synoptic Gospels (Matthew 9:14-15; Mark 2:18-20; Luke 5:33-35). It was spoken probably on the occasion of the banquet given by Saint Matthew to Christ and His disciples along with many sinners and publicans, after his call to the Apostleship.

The parable was provoked by the question of the disciples of John the Baptist and some of the scribes and Pharisees asking “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but thy disciples do not fast?” Jesus replies in a similitude, asking if the companions of the bridal-chamber, whose special task it was to provide for the merrymaking at the feast, could be expected at the same time to mourn and fast. But, Christ adds, the days shall come when the Bridegroom shall be taken away from these wedding guests and then they shall fast.

The meaning of the parable was quite intelligible to His hearers. The disciples of the Baptist are reminded that their master had referred to Christ as the Bridegroom, and all the questioners are taught that the time of the visible presence of Jesus among His disciples should be for them a time of rejoicing and not of mourning and fasting; but when His visible presence is withdrawn, then they shall lament and be made sorrowful and then fasting and mourning shall be consistently their portion. The Fathers of the Church interpret the image of the bridegroom and bride as referring to Christ and His Church. Some explain it tropologically: as long as the Spouse is with us we are not able to mourn; but when by sin He departs then is the time for tears and fasting. Yet others apply the words of Christ to the Holy Eucharist. The parable does not condemn the strictness of John nor does it condemn fasting. The disciples of Christ kept the fasts prescribed by the Law but they did ignore those imposed by the Pharisees. This parable does stand against the spirit of the Pharisees who esteemed too highly external works and it shows to all that a new time had come and another spirit reigned in the Kingdom. It is held up as a splendid lesson on how to argue and how to convince.


Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”

And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”

– Matthew 9:14-15, Revised Standard Version

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”

And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.”

– Mark 2:18-20, Revised Standard Version

And they said to him, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.”

And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.”

– Luke 5:33-35, Revised Standard Version

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Saint Francis in Meditation by Caravaggio, in the Museo Civico, Cremona.
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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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The world is a place of the “haves” and the “have nots.” This was the case even in the time of Jesus, when rich Romans ruled over the Middle East.
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Christ reached out to the marginalized, the poor, the suffering and infirm. He wasn’t dining with Pontius Pilate but hugging and curing the lepers and showing us how to live.
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Christianity sometimes seems remote and foreign  to people of wealth and great excess. People with all their needs met often see no reason whatever to make sacrifices, to fast and to seek out a relationship with God.
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Why “afflict ourselves” as Isaiah suggests in the first reading? In nations with doctors and pharmacists ready to alleviate every pain, why would anyone seek to suffer — even with a tiny bit of fasting?
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Maybe because we are told over and over again to seek a stronger connection with our God through prayer and that small acts of humility and self-denial will make that job easier! Maybe it is because some of our self-denial is good for us — in the eyes of the Lord.
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 Isaiah also gives us a wonderful expression of how we are to live our lives through acts also put forward by Jesus during his “Sermon on the Mount.” We are to be about “Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.”
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Why on Earth would anyone do these things?
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Because our lives here on Earth are brief and limited. But the souls in us and of us will go into eternity.
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Lent calls us to return to the loving arms of the Lord. And each of us does that in his or her individual war. But Scripture gives us a way, and the Church gives us community and fellowship so we don’t have to be lost in ourselves.
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Related:
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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, January 6, 2018 — The Spirit is the one who testifies and the Spirit is truth — The “indwelling of the Holy Spirit” in each of us

January 5, 2018

Christmas Weekday
Lectionary: 209

Image result for holy spirit, photos, stained glass window

Photo: Christ the King Catholic Church (Ann Arbor, Michigan) – interior, Holy Spirit window

Reading 1  1 JN 5:5-13

Beloved:
Who indeed is the victor over the world
but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?This is the one who came through water and Blood, Jesus Christ,
not by water alone, but by water and Blood.
The Spirit is the one who testifies,
and the Spirit is truth.
So there are three that testify,
the Spirit, the water, and the Blood,
and the three are of one accord.
If we accept human testimony,
the testimony of God is surely greater.
Now the testimony of God is this,
that he has testified on behalf of his Son.
Whoever believes in the Son of God
has this testimony within himself.
Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar
by not believing the testimony God has given about his Son.
And this is the testimony:
God gave us eternal life,
and this life is in his Son.
Whoever possesses the Son has life;
whoever does not possess the Son of God does not have life.I write these things to you so that you may know
that you have eternal life,
you who believe in the name of the Son of God.

Responsorial Psalm  PS147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20

R. (12a) Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Glorify the LORD, O Jerusalem;
praise your God, O Zion.
For he has strengthened the bars of your gates;
he has blessed your children within you.
R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
or:
R. Alleluia.
He has granted peace in your borders;
with the best of wheat he fills you.
He sends forth his command to the earth;
swiftly runs his word!
R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
or:
R. Alleluia.
He has proclaimed his word to Jacob,
his statutes and his ordinances to Israel.
He has not done thus for any other nation;
his ordinances he has not made known to them. Alleluia.
R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia SEE MK 9:6

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The heavens were opened and the voice of the Father thundered:
This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 1:7-11

This is what John the Baptist proclaimed:
“One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee
and was baptized in the Jordan by John.
On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open
and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him.
And a voice came from the heavens,
“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”or

LK 3:23-38 OR 3:23, 31-34, 36, 38

When Jesus began his ministry he was about thirty years of age.
He was the son, as was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli,
the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi,
the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, the son of Mattathias,
the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli,
the son of Naggai, the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias,
the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda,
the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel,
the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, the son of Melchi,
the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam,
the son of Er, the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer,
the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi,
the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph,
the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, the son of Melea,
the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan,
the son of David, the son of Jesse, the son of Obed,
the son of Boaz, the son of Sala, the son of Nahshon,
the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni,
the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah,
the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham,
the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, the son of Serug,
the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber,
the son of Shelah, the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad,
the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech,
the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared,
the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, the son of Enos,
the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

or

When Jesus began his ministry he was about thirty years of age.
He was the son, as was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli,
the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha,
the son of Nathan, the son of David, the son of Jesse,
the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Sala,
the son of Nahshon, the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin,
the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez,
the son of Judah, the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac,
the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor,
the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem,
the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, the son of Enos,
the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

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Genealogy of Jesus

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genealogy_of_Jesus

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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06 JANUARY, 2018, Saturday, Weekday of Christmas Time
OUR CAPACITY TO LOVE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 JOHN 5:5-13PS 147:12-13,14-15,19-20MK 1:6-11  ]

The theme of the First Letter of John is the love of God and the implications of His love for us.  As the children of God, we too are called to love one another.  In yesterday’s reading, St John wrote, “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us – and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.  How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?  Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”  (1 Jn 3:16-18)  The question that is raised today is, how then can we find the capacity to love as He loved?

This capacity to love as He loved us depends on whether we believe that Jesus is the Son of God.  St John said, “I have written all this to you so that you who believe in the name of the Son of God may be sure that you have eternal life.”   Faith in Jesus as the Son of God means to believe that He is truly human and divine.  St John in his time was battling with a heresy called Gnosticism where the true humanity and divinity of Jesus was not fully accepted.  Some thought that Jesus was only divine when he was baptized and “the Christ” left his body just before He died.  This heretical theological position was expounded to protect the divinity of Christ, since God cannot die.   If that were the case, then there is no real salvation for humanity because only God can take away our sins.

The faith of the Church in Jesus is clear.  Jesus is truly the Son of God and the Son of man in one person since the moment of His incarnation.  Only this faith in His divine sonship can help us to overcome all trials in life and give us the capacity to love as He loved.  “Who can overcome the world? Only the man who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”  Only Jesus who was truly man, doing the will of God even though He was divine, can give us hope that we too can do the will of God with a human will.  Indeed, He “emptied himself,  taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.”  (Phil 2:7)

What, then, is the basis for us to believe that Jesus is truly the Son of God and not just a man?  St John gives us three criteria.  “Jesus Christ who came by water and blood, not with water only, but with water and blood; with the Spirit as another witness – since the Spirit is the truth – so that there are three witnesses, the Spirit, the water and the blood, and all three of them agree.”  In the bible, when there are three witnesses, the testimony is considered valid.  Furthermore, St John said, “We accept the testimony of human witnesses, but God’s testimony is much greater, and this is God’s testimony, given as evidence for his Son.”

In the first place, the water refers to the baptism of our Lord.  We are aware that Jesus was baptized even though as the Son of God, He was sinless and hence did not require baptism.  When John the Baptist deterred Him from getting baptized, Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.” (Mt 3:15)  Jesus received baptism as a man from John the Baptist in order to be identified with sinners like us so that He could assume in His body our sins.  St Paul remarked, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  (2 Cor 5:21)

Baptism too was the beginning of His mission.  He was confirmed as the Son of God so that He could live out His sonship for others to follow the same.  “A voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’”  Confirmed by His Father, this gave Him the impetus to bring all others into sonship in Him by inviting us to follow Him, living His way of life. “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God;  who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”  (Jn 1:12f)  As a consequence, by virtue of our baptism, we are to live His life.

Secondly, Jesus came “not with water only, but with water and blood.”  In other words, Jesus not only came as a man even though He was God but as St Paul said, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.”  (Phil 2:8) The death of Jesus on the cross reveals to us the ultimate meaning of sonship in Christ.  It means that we are called to empty our lives totally for the love of God and our fellowmen, even unto death.  The command to love has no limits.  “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you.”  (Jn 15:12-14)  Truly, in the death of Christ, we see the unconditional and total love of God, not just of Christ but of His Father as well.  “He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?”  (Rom 8:32)

Thirdly, it was not just that Jesus was baptized and that He died, more importantly, the Holy Spirit was with Jesus throughout His life.  He is the witness to Christ as the Son of God.  “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf.”  (Jn 15:26)  The Spirit came upon Jesus when He was baptized.  “No sooner had he come up out of the water than he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit, like a dove, descending on him.” Throughout His ministry, Jesus was working in the power of the Holy Spirit.  The apostles testified “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”  (Acts 10:38)

Most of all, Jesus did not end His life just in death, He was also raised in the power of the Holy Spirit.  “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.”  (Rom 8:11)  “Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  (Phil 2:9-11)  If this is God’s testimony for His Son, it means therefore “Everybody who believes in the Son of God has this testimony inside him; and anyone who will not believe God is making God out to be a liar, because he has not trusted the testimony God has given about his Son.”

Consequently, only with faith in Christ’s divine sonship can we be given new life in the Spirit.  John the Baptist said, “Someone is following me, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals. I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.”  After His resurrection and ascension, He sent the Holy Spirit upon them saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”  (Jn 20:22f)  This same Holy Spirit is given to us at our baptism and renewed at confirmation when we are sent out on mission.  We are made sons and daughters in Christ.  Sharing in His life, we are called also to share in His suffering and glory.  “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba!  Father!”  it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God,  and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ – if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.”  (Rom 8:15-17)

This same Holy Spirit not only empowers us to be His disciples by giving us the Spirit of Christ but also gives us the power to do what He did.  Jesus assured His disciples, “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.  I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”  (Jn 14:12-14)  True enough, we read in Mark’s gospel, “And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it”  (Mk 16:20) by using His name to cast out demons, speak in new tongues, lay their hands on the sick.  (cf Mk 16:17f)

Consequently, we can understand why the Christian experience of God’s love follows that of Christ’s;sharing in His baptism as we die to our sins and so begin the path of sonship; following Him to the extent of dying with Him on the cross, so that we can share in His resurrection.  This is all made possible through the work of the Holy Spirit given to us at our baptism and confirmation and reinforced by the Eucharist.  This explains why the Christian experience of God is called the Rite of Christian Initiation.  Unless, we share a common experience of sonship in Christ, we cannot do what He did.

Today, as we celebrate the Eucharist, we are called to renew the Holy Spirit given to us at baptism and confirmation, for it is the same Holy Spirit that transforms the bread and wine into His Body and Blood.  Only by receiving the Eucharist frequently, do we receive the Holy Spirit anew as well.  By inserting ourselves into Christ and His Church, the mystical body of Christ, we can grow in faith, in love and in our sonship so that we can live the life of the Spirit, the life of Christ.  Unless we renew the Holy Spirit in us daily through the Eucharist, the Sacraments and prayers, we will lose the power to be witnesses of His love.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Fr. Edward Leen’s book “Holy Spirit” is a great read for any Christian. Leen believes that the Holy Spirit lives inside each of us in a phenomena known as the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit.” Believers say this indwelling of the Holy Spirit makes for the “Sanctity of Human Life” in each of us. And how do we make the most of this most precious gift? We live within God’s Law (The Commandments), and we seek to do the Will of God.

Matthew Kelly tells us in “The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic” to pray and meditate, to study and stay true to the scriptures, to pour ourselves out in loving service to others and to evangelize to have a spectacular God-centered life!

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

Related:

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 (By Bishop Robert Barron)

Prayer and Meditation for Friday, December 15, 2017 — “If you would hearken to my commandments your prosperity would be like a river.” — “To what shall I compare this generation?”

December 14, 2017

Friday of the Second Week of Advent
Lectionary: 185

Do we listen to the world instead of listening to the wisdom of God?

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Reading 1 IS 48:17-19

Thus says the LORD, your redeemer,
the Holy One of Israel:
I, the LORD, your God,
teach you what is for your good,
and lead you on the way you should go.
If you would hearken to my commandments,
your prosperity would be like a river,
and your vindication like the waves of the sea;
Your descendants would be like the sand,
and those born of your stock like its grains,
Their name never cut off
or blotted out from my presence.

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

R. (see John 8:12) Those who follow you, Lord, will have the light of life.
Blessed the man who follows not
the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on his law day and night.
R. Those who follow you, Lord, will have the light of life.
He is like a tree
planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever he does, prospers.
R. Those who follow you, Lord, will have the light of life.
Not so the wicked, not so;
they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
For the LORD watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the wicked vanishes.
R. Those who follow you, Lord, will have the light of life.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Lord will come; go out to meet him!
He is the prince of peace.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 11:16-19

Jesus said to the crowds:
“To what shall I compare this generation?
It is like children who sit in marketplaces and call to one another,
‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance,
we sang a dirge but you did not mourn.’
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said,
‘He is possessed by a demon.’
The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said,
‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard,
a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’
But wisdom is vindicated by her works.”

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Commentary on Matthew 11:16-19 From Living Space
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Today’s readings are about listening to what God is saying to us. The Gospel reading follows immediately on yesterday’s passage about John the Baptist as the one preparing the way for the Messiah. It ended with the words, “Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
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So in today’s reading Jesus upbraids the crowds for not listening. He compares them to children in the market place who complain to their playmates: “We piped to you and you did not dance; we wailed and you did not mourn.”
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Thus, when John came in great austerity, neither eating nor drinking, fasting and wearing a garment of camel’s hair, people said he was possessed by an evil spirit. On the other hand, when Jesus came “eating and drinking”, they said, “See, a glutton and drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.”
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If we do not want to hear what God is saying to us through the people and situations in our life, we can so easily rationalise and reject the bearer’s frailty and in the process reject the Gospel as well – which is actually quite illogical. “A priest shouted at me in confession so I don’t go to church any more.” It would be like rejecting democracy because of the corruption of a democratically elected official.
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We do need to distinguish very clearly between the central vision of the Kingdom which Jesus left to us and the ways in which that vision has been lived out through the centuries. It was Paul who said a long time ago that we Christians carry the message of the Gospel in vessels of clay, easily broken, often leaking. It is important for us to realise that God can and does speak to us through very unexpected media and agents. It is probably true to say that some of the greatest saints had serious weaknesses. In fact, many of them became saints because of their weaknesses and through their weaknesses (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, where Paul thanks God for working through his weaknesses).
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It is important, as Jesus urges us, that we really try to listen to the essence of what Jesus left us, his vision of the Kingdom. Very few of us hear the message without some form of filtering due to our history or our personal idiosyncrasies. As a preacher, I often say that when I preach to 20 people, 20 different messages are heard. And there is nothing wrong with that provided each one of us really tries to hear what God is saying to me and do not immediately push away something I do not like to hear.
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The passage is nicely summed up in the last phrase: “Wisdom is vindicated by her works.” Jesus is the embodiment of the Wisdom of God. Jesus needs no justification beyond the results of his life shown in all that he said and did, especially with the ultimate manifestation of love shown on the Cross. And the same can be true for each one of us.
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Jesus heals a demon possessed boy — Egyptian art

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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11 DECEMBER 2015, Friday, 2nd Week of Advent
FULLNESS OF LIFE THROUGH THE LAWS OR THROUGH WISDOM

SCRIPTURE READINGS: ISAIAH 48:17-19; MATTHEW 11:16-19For the Israelites and even for the Jews today, the greatest gift that God has given to humanity is the laws, the Torah.  Nothing can be compared to the Torah, the Word of God.  In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses said, “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) Clearly, the laws given to the Israelites were considered as the Wisdom of God.  They are meant to help people to live a happy and harmonious life.  The laws are for the good of the people so that walking by the laws, they can live in truth and in love.

Indeed, the wisdom of the Laws is reiterated by the Lord who spoke through the prophet Isaiah. He said, “I, the Lord, your God, teach you what is good for you, I lead you in the way that you must go. If only you had been alert to my commandments, your happiness would have been like a river, your integrity like the waves of the sea. Your children would have been numbered like the sand, your descendants as many as its grains.  Never would your name have been cut off or blotted out before me.”  Indeed, those who follow the commandments of the Lord will find happiness in life, and live a life of integrity.  Their family will be united in love and their children will grow up to be upright, filial and virtuous.   As a consequence, their lives will be a blessing to others and hence, their names will be honoured by God and man for being role models as people of faith and love.  This is what the psalmist affirms as well.  “Happy indeed is the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked; nor lingers in the way of sinners nor sits in the company of scorners, but whose delight is the law of the Lord and who ponders his law day and night.  He is like a tree that is planted beside the flowing waters, that yields its fruit in due season and whose leaves shall never fade; and all that he does shall prosper.”

Truly, when we look at the world today and our own lives, we know that if our lives are in a mess, it is because we have listened to the world instead of listening to the wisdom of God.  We buy into the values promoted by the world, such as power, glory, wealth and status.  We allow ourselves to be deceived by the illusory values of the world.  What the world promotes is self-gratification, self-glorification, self-will and self-centeredness.   The focus is all on the individual, his rights, his freedom, his ways.  This is the age of individualism, materialism and consumerism. All the world is concerned about is to strengthen the egoistic needs of man, by pushing him to seek for glory and power to satisfy his ego and pride, and pursue pleasure, especially food and sex to satisfy his body and lust.   In truth, we know that the pursuit of such goals in life will end in illusion, frustration, emptiness and loneliness. This, too, is the judgment of the psalmist, “Not so are the wicked, not so! For they like winnowed chaff shall be driven away by the wind, for the Lord guards the way of the just but the way of the wicked leads to doom.”

We just have to look at the people who are truly happy.  Are they happy because they have plenty of wealth, power and status?  Nay, these are the most insecure people because they have so many enemies, competitors, and they live under the threat of being kidnapped and killed.  Not only do they not have freedom to go where they like, even their loved ones live like prisoners, always under the watchful eyes of security guards, living in a palace which looks more like a fortified prison.  The truly happy people are those who live a life of freedom in love, those who are capable of giving, loving, contributing themselves to the world.

Those who are at peace are those who are in touch with God, Nature, the Universe, their fellowmen and themselves.  This is the true meaning of ecology.  Often, ecology is seen in terms of proper relationship with nature.  But the true meaning of ecology is to be in right and harmonious relationship with God, the ground of existence, with nature, which includes the environment, air, water, plants, animals and our fellowmen. People who are truly human are those who transcend their creatureliness by living not just in the flesh but in the spirit.  In other words, such people live in true wisdom because they live like God who is always giving, loving, and sharing His life and love with us.  This is true wisdom, the ability to live one’s life with meaning, purpose and freedom.  Otherwise, we live like animals, just pandering to our physical needs.   And if we live for our ego, we will always remain fearful, for pride is the cause of all insecurity.

In the gospel, Jesus is presented to us as the Wisdom of God in person.  In Him, the Laws of Moses are contained in Him.  He is the Way, the Truth and the life.  He is the Word of God made flesh.  He is the bread of life.  He is the New Moses that John the Baptist, the new Elijah, was preparing us to welcome. Reflecting on the gospel today, we see how Jesus lived that life of total freedom in love.  On one hand, He seems to be breaking the Laws of Moses; on the other hand, He seems to be so free and liberated.  This made Jesus remark, “For John came, neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He is possessed.’ The Son of Man came, eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ Yet wisdom has been proved right by her actions.”

What is the secret of Jesus?  How is it that there is no dichotomy between living a life of wisdom and living a life based on the Laws?  How could He reconcile the observance and even apparent rejection of the Laws which are meant to be the Wisdom of God?   

In truth, for most of us, we often wonder whether following the Laws can truly give us life.  Because if we do, then we would have taken the Laws, in our case, the Word of God, seriously and observe them meticulously like the Jewish leaders.  The fact that we do not is because there is an inner struggle within us.  On one hand, we know that the Law is good, but on the other hand, the flesh, symbolizing our human weakness, lack of integrity, the loss of control over our will and appetite, the dullness of the intellect and most of all the fear of pain and death prevent us from looking at life with wisdom in truth and love. Our sensual desires, our pride and our fears hinder us from seeing what is truly worthwhile pursuing in life.

On the other hand, those who follow the Laws slavishly are no better off.  They are under the yoke of the Laws.  They live in fear of God and His divine punishment because they break the Laws.  The Jewish leaders were indeed enslaved by the laws.  Life became extremely burdensome because of the requirement to observe meticulously and religiously not just the commandments given by Moses but even the interpretation and the application of the principle involved in every practical situation of life.  This was particularly the case of the observance of the Sabbath Law where Jesus would bend according to the circumstances.  He was certainly not a slave to the Laws, but neither was He rebellious.  On the contrary, He made it clear, ““Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.  For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.” (Mt 5:17f)   But He also qualified His statement by reminding us thus, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 5:20)

 

Jesus observed this dilemma or lack of integrity in us when He remarked, “What description can I find for this generation? It is like children shouting to each other as they sit in the market place: ‘We played the pipes for you, and you wouldn’t dance; we sang dirges, and you wouldn’t be mourners.’”   The real truth is that the Jewish leaders were not sincere.  When John the Baptist came, they refused to accept his call to conversion through repentance of sins and living an ascetical life because of the potential wrath and punishment of God. They were preoccupied in preserving their status, their special position in the Temple and in the eyes of others.  When Jesus came, preaching the unconditional mercy and forgiveness of God, they too could not accept the grace of God in Christ.  They wanted to merit God’s grace and not accept it freely as a gift.  In a nutshell, they were hypocrites.  They were not able to recognize their true motives in doing what they were doing.

Hence, if we want to find life today, we are called to recognize the Wisdom of God, not by rejecting the Word of God or the Laws of God but to observe them with understanding of the truth behind the laws and to apply them accordingly in every situation; not blindly, not merely by observing the letter but the Spirit of love, compassion and mercy behind all laws.  Only then we will be like Jesus, free in the Spirit, free in love, free from the Laws by transcending them and one at peace with the whole of creation, and with God.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, December 5, 2017 — Isaiah Tells What To Look for When The Messiah Arrives — “The Messiah will have God’s Spirit in unlimited measure.”

December 4, 2017

Tuesday of the First Week of Advent
Lectionary: 176

Reading 1  IS 11:1-10

On that day,
A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:
a Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
A Spirit of counsel and of strength,
a Spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
Not by appearance shall he judge,
nor by hearsay shall he decide,
But he shall judge the poor with justice,
and decide aright for the land’s afflicted.
He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
Justice shall be the band around his waist,
and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
The calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra’s den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,
as water covers the sea.On that day,
The root of Jesse,
set up as a signal for the nations,
The Gentiles shall seek out,
for his dwelling shall be glorious.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17

R. (see 7) Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
O God, with your judgment endow the king,
and with your justice, the king’s son;
He shall govern your people with justice
and your afflicted ones with judgment.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
Justice shall flower in his days,
and profound peace, till the moon be no more.
May he rule from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
He shall rescue the poor when he cries out,
and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.
He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor;
the lives of the poor he shall save.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
May his name be blessed forever;
as long as the sun his name shall remain.
In him shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed;
all the nations shall proclaim his happiness.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Behold, our Lord shall come with power;
he will enlighten the eyes of his servants.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 10:21-24

Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said,
“I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows who the Son is except the Father,
and who the Father is except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

Turning to the disciples in private he said,
“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.
For I say to you,
many prophets and kings desired to see what you see,
but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”

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Homily Ideas for Isaiah 11: 1-10
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He understands what you’re going through

Isaiah’s opening sentence tells us His earthly roots. Then a shoot will grow from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit. A stump is all that is left of a tree that has been cut down. Israel is just a clear-cut field of burned out stumps on the landscape of world history, Isaiah writes. But God will be faithful to His promises in regard to His people.

A small, green shoot will spring forth from one of the dead stumps, from the family tree of Jesse. Recall that Jesse was the father of Israel’s greatest king, David. Though this royal lineage holds incredible importance to the people of Judah, Isaiah does not mention David’s name here. Instead, he refers to humble Jesse, which emphasizes three things.

God loves to magnify His grace in mysterious ways

The Apostle Paul noted that God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world – what is viewed as nothing – to bring to nothing what is viewed as something, so that no one can boast in His presence. (1 Cor.1:27-29) We tend to value beauty and strength, influence and wealth. But God brings His Deliverer to this world in the most unpretentious, unpredictable ways.

The Messiah will not be born into privilege

Jesse was never a king. Being born in the line of Jesse means the Messiah will not be born into the royal family as a crowned prince and grow up in the ruling class. He will not start out as royalty; He will inherit His kingdom.

 

The Messiah will have God’s Spirit in unlimited measure

He knows what you need and how best to meet your needs.

Verse 2: The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him – a Spirit of wisdom and understanding, a Spirit of counsel and strength, a Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. We have never known a president like this. The people in Isaiah’s day hadn’t either. This tender shoot from Jesse’s family tree will have the breath of God upon Him. He will not attempt to accomplish His goals by human means, but will be controlled by the Spirit of God.

Therefore, He will exercise His judicial duties with wisdom and understanding. Unlike every world leader in human history, this Messiah will not require a cabinet of advisors or any of the other political machinery seated leaders need to accomplish their plans, for upon Him rests the Spirit of counsel and strength. He knows what needs to be done and has the power to accomplish His plans.

Isaiah adds that everything this Messiah will do will flow from a unique connection with God, for He has the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. In fact, the opening phrase of v. 3 tells us that His delight will be in the fear of the Lord. It will be the defining drive of His life and work.

This combination of attributes springs from a man in whom the Holy Spirit finds no impedance of sin, and is therefore able to empower Him to do all of the will of God. This level of spiritual innocence and unhindered dependence upon the Spirit of God can only be explained by what we call the Incarnation, when God was born a man in the person of Jesus Christ.

His reign will bring people face-to-face with the King

Verses 3-5: He will not judge by what He sees with His eyes, He will not execute justice by what He hears with His ears, but He will judge the poor righteously and execute justice for the oppressed of the land. He will strike the land with discipline from His mouth, and He will kill the wicked with a command from His lips. Righteousness will be a belt around His loins; faithfulness will be a belt around His waist.

The hallmark of the reign of God’s Messiah is captured in three primary words in this passage: righteousness, equity, and faithfulness. Each of those words is about conforming to a standard, about aligning to a criterion. And it’s plain from this passage that the benchmark by which God’s final King will rule is not derived from the people over whom He will reign. He is not elected to this office by a vote; there will be no vote. He reigns by the authority of God and rules by the standards of the will of God.

And notice that He means to exercise His rule down to the lowest level. The tone of these verses tells us that He is not legislating for the masses, but in each of our lives. He will render His rule on an individual basis!

So He will judge you according to reality rather than perception. He will not be swayed by emotion or fooled by ignorance of the truth. He will see you for who you really are. No one will be overlooked. He will deal with you with precise justice, evaluating your life in accordance with the holiness of God. And when He pronounces His judgment, it is final. All who are made righteous by faith in Christ will be exalted. And all others, called the wicked, He will wipe from the face of the earth.

Read the rest:

http://www.lifeway.com/Article/sermon-christmas-triumph-savior-isaiah-11

THE PROPHECY THE FULFILLMENT
The Messiah: Jesus of Nazareth:
Will be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14) Was born of a virgin named Mary (Luke 1:26-31)
Will have a Galilean ministry (Isaiah 9:1,2) Ministry began in Galilee of the Gentiles (Matthew 4:13-16)
Will be an heir to the throne of David (Isaiah 9:7; 11:1, 10) Was given the throne of His father David (Luke 1:32, 33)
Will have His way prepared (Isaiah 40:3-5) Was announced by John the Baptist (John 1:19-28)
Will be spat on and struck (Isaiah 50:6) Was spat on and beaten (Matthew 26:67)
Will be exalted (Isaiah 52:13) Was highly exalted by God and the People (Philippians 2:9, 10)
Will be disfigured by suffering (Isaiah 52:14; 53:2) Was scourged by Roman soldiers who gave Him a crown of thorns (Mark 15L15-19)
Will make a blood atonement (Isaiah 53:5 Shed His blood to atone for our sins (1Peter 1:2)
Will be widely rejected (Isaiah 53:1,3) Was not accepted by many (John 12:37, 38)
Will bear our sins and sorrows (Isaiah 53:4, 5) Died because of our sins (Romans 4L25; 1Peter 2:24, 25)
Will be our substitute (Isaiah 53:6,8) Died in our place (Romans 5:6, 8; 2 Corinthians 5:21)
Will voluntarily accept our guilt and punishment for sin (Isaiah 53:7,8) Jesus took on our sins (John 1:29; Romans 6:10; 2 Corinthians 5:21)
Gentiles will seek Him (Isaiah 11:10) Gentiles came to speak to Jesus (John 12:20,21)
Will be silent before His accusers (Isaiah 53:7) Was silent before Herod and his court (Luke 23:9)
Will save us who believe in Him (Isaiah 53:12) Provided salvation for all who believe (John 3:16; Acts 16:31)
Will die with transgressors (Isaiah 53:12) Was numbered with the transgressors (Mark 15:27, 28; Luke 22:37)
Will heal the brokenhearted (Isaiah 61:1,2) Healed the brokenhearted (Luke 4:18, 19)
God’s Spirit will rest on Him (Isaiah 11:2) The Spirit of God descended on Jesus (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; 4:1)
Will be buried in a rich man’s tomb (Isaiah 53:9 Was buried in the tomb of Joseph, a rich man from Arimathea (Matthew 27:57-60; John 19:38-42)
He will judge the earth with righteousness (Isaiah 11:4,5) Jesus was given authority to judge (John 5:27; Luke 19:22; 2 Timothy 4:1,8)

http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/charts/Isaiah’s%20Messianic%20Prophecies.htm

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Lectio Divina Reflection on Luke 10: 21-24

Today’s text reveals the depth of the Heart of Jesus, the reason for his joy. The disciples had gone on the mission, and when they return, they share with Jesus the joy of their missionary experience (Lk 10, 17, 21)

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• The reason for the joy of Jesus is the joy of the friends. In listening to their experience and in perceiving their joy, Jesus also feels a profound joy. The reason for Jesus’ joy is the well-being of others.

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• It is not a superficial joy. It comes from the Holy Spirit. The reason for the joy is that the disciples – men and women – have experienced something of Jesus during their missionary experience.

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• Jesus calls them “ little children”. Who are the “little children”? They are the seventy-two disciples (Lk 10, 1) who return from the mission: father and mother of a family, boys and girls, married and single, old and young. They are not doctors. They are simple persons, without much science, much study, but they understand the things of God better than doctors.

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• “Yes, Father, for that is what it has pleased you to do!”  A very serious phrase. It pleases the Father that the doctors and the wise do not understand the things of the Kingdom and that, instead the little ones understand them. Therefore, if the great want to understand the things of the Kingdom, they should become the disciples of the little ones!

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• Jesus looks at them and says: “Blessed are you!” And why are they happy? Because they are seeing things which the prophets would have liked to see, but did not see. And what will they see? They will be able to perceive the action of the Kingdom in the common things of life: to cure the sick, to console the afflicted, to expel the evil from life.

“I give you praise, Father,  for although you have hidden these things from the wise  you have revealed them to the childlike.” (cf. Lc 10,21)

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-luke-10-21-24

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

05 DECEMBER, 2017, Tuesday, 1st Week of Advent

BUILDING A NEW WORLD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ISAIAH 11:1-10LUKE 10:21-24  ]

What is the world like today?  This world that we live in is in such a confused state.  It is ruled by extreme ideologists, religious fundamentalists and terrorists!  Indeed, how can there be peace and unity in this world when we are all so divided in everything, from morality to religion and politics.  We cannot agree even on the fundamentals of life, such as our sexual identity, marriage and the family.  How, then, can we ever come to agreement on other critical moral issues like abortion, euthanasia, cloning?  If such basic issues that concern love, life and death are contentious, what can we say about political ideology and religious beliefs.  For this reason, we are living in a very tense world.  This is the most unsafe world we are in at any time of human history.  We fear terrorist attacks, which can come any time at any place.  We fear World War III might break out, if not, a nuclear war causing mass destruction of life if relations between nuclear-armed countries are not properly managed.  Above all, there is a divide between globalization and protectionism, whether in politics or in economics, not to mention in religions.   Because of this too, we are afraid that the economy could be derailed anytime when war breaks out.

So is there hope for tomorrow?  This is what the scripture readings seek to address.  Advent is a season of hope.  It tells us of a new world that is to come.  This was what the prophet Isaiah spoke about to his people before the exile.  He spoke about a new world and a new creation where there will be justice, peace and harmony.  In this kingdom, he envisaged the almost impossible dream where “the wolf lives with the lamb, the panther lies down with the kid, calf and lion cub feed together with a little boy to lead them. The cow and the bear make friends, their young lie down together. The lion eats straw like the ox. The infant plays over the cobra’s hole; into the viper’s lair the young child puts his hand. They do no hurt, nor harm, on all my holy mountain.”

What a beautiful vision of tomorrow!  Dare we hope for this world?  Do we believe that this world has a future?  Or are we like those in the world who have given up hope for happiness in this world, or of building a world of peace and harmony, progress and prosperity?  The truth is that both fundamentalists and liberals have given up hope on this world.  The fundamentalists think that this world has no more hope because there is so much evil and injustice.  Hence, they would do anything, even offer themselves as martyrs through terrorist acts so that they can gain the rewards of the eternal kingdom of joy, love and abundance promised them.  The liberals also go the same way.  Because they think that there is no hope for tomorrow, they become individualistic and materialistic.  They care only for themselves and their comfort now.  So it is important that they enjoy all that they can and grab whatever they can from others.

But such attitudes precisely will destroy the peace and progress for the nations!  What we need to establish peace in this world is to acquire the spirit of the promised Messiah.  This is what the prophet Isaiah said. “A shoot springs form the stock of Jesse, a scion thrusts form his roots: on him the spirit of the Lord rests, a spirit if wisdom and insight, a spirit of counsel and power, a spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. (The fear of the Lord is his breath.) He does not judge by appearances, he gives no verdict on hearsay, but judges the wretched with integrity, and with equity gives a verdict for the poor of the land. His word is a rod that strikes the ruthless, his sentences bring death to the wicked. Integrity is the loincloth round his waist, faithfulness the belt around his hips.”

Truly what the world needs are leaders who possess such qualities in governing the country or in leading and forming the young.  We need wisdom to understand what the essentials of lifeare, rather than just pursuing the transient and the passing values of this world.  We need understanding of the truth of what we are doing, the policies that we formulate for our organization, Church and the people.  We need counsel to discern prudently how we should act.  We need fortitude to push through our convictions and to persevere in our goals.  We need the spirit of piety and devotion to God and to our fellowmen if we are to offer ourselves as a sacrifice for the greater good of humanity.  Finally we need people who have reverence for God and not think too highly of themselves, but that there is a supreme being that is in charge of this world.  

When a leader possesses all these qualities, only then can he live a life of integrity.  At the end of the day, integrity will determine the fruits that a leader brings. “Integrity is the loincloth round his waist, faithfulness the belt around his hips.”  Without integrity, a leader cannot command the trust of his subjects.  Without integrity, there can be no justice, impartiality and honesty.  That is why, among all the qualities a leader should have is integrity and honesty, transparency and accountability in all that he does before God and the people he leads or governs.  This is what the psalmist prays.  O God, give your judgement to the king, to a king’s son your justice, that he may judge your people in justice and your poor in right judgement. In his days justice shall flourish and peace till the moon fails. He shall rule from sea to sea, from the Great River to earth’s bounds. For he shall save the poor when they cry and the needy who are helpless. He will have pity on the weak and save the lives of the poor.”

Is there such a leader in this world?  The Good News is that Christ is the promised Messiah who possesses these gifts of the Spirit.  Christ is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah.  Historically, Isaiah was giving assurance to the Kingdom of Judah, which was under threat from the great empire, Assyria.  It would not destroy Judah but like a tree, Assyria would be cut down at the height of its power.  (cf isa 10:33f)  Judah would be like a tree chopped down to a stump.  But from that stump, the Davidic Dynasty would arise anew with the coming of the Messiah.  He will be greater than the previous kings.  He would bear much fruit and he would rule forever.   Of course, Christ the King of Kings will rule the world with justice, righteousness, compassion and wisdom.

This hope of a new world in Christ is confirmed in today’s gospel.   We read earlier how the 70 disciples rejoiced upon their return from their mission.  They said, “’Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!’ And he said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.  Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you.  Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’” (Lk 10:17-20)  And Jesus praised God for using Him to restore the world back to order through the healing miracles and overcoming the work of the Evil One when He remarked, “Happy the eyes that see what you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.”   Through His works and words, Jesus revealed to us the love and mercy of His Father for us.  He said, “Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

We, too, as His disciples are sent forth to proclaim the rule of God in this world, based on justice, equality, compassion and mercy.  We must build a new world that the Lord has come to establish based onrighteousness and justice and to give fair treatment to all.  Our judgement cannot be based on appearance, hearsay and false evidence.  We need to refrain from copying the corrupt practices of Judah that oppressed the poor, the weak.

Instead of lamenting how society and the world is heading, we must not give in and succumb to despair.  On our part, we must play an active role in building a vibrant, evangelistic and missionary Church.  By virtue of our baptism, we are called to exercise the messianic gifts given to us.  All of us in our capacity are called to contribute our resources, money, talents and time for the greater good of our Church and the nation.  The only way to save ourselves is to save the world.  We cannot isolate ourselves from the rest of the world because we are all living in this world.  Let us work for the golden age where there will be peace, love, compassion and a world where poverty no longer exists.  Let us realize the dream of God for humanity when all will become a great family of God where there is love and unity.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, December 4, 2017 — “Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain…”

December 3, 2017

Monday of the First Week of Advent
Lectionary: 175

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Reading 1 IS 2:1-5

This is what Isaiah, son of Amoz,
saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.In days to come,
The mountain of the LORD’s house
shall be established as the highest mountain
and raised above the hills.
All nations shall stream toward it;
many peoples shall come and say:
“Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
That he may instruct us in his ways,
and we may walk in his paths.”
For from Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and impose terms on many peoples.
They shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
One nation shall not raise the sword against another,
nor shall they train for war again.O house of Jacob, come,
let us walk in the light of the LORD!

Responsorial Psalm PS 122:1-2, 3-4B, 4CD-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
I rejoiced because they said to me,
“We will go up to the house of the LORD.”
And now we have set foot
within your gates, O Jerusalem.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
Jerusalem, built as a city
with compact unity.
To it the tribes go up,
the tribes of the LORD.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
According to the decree for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
In it are set up judgment seats,
seats for the house of David.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
May those who love you prosper!
May peace be within your walls,
prosperity in your buildings.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
Because of my relatives and friends
I will say, “Peace be within you!”
Because of the house of the LORD, our God,
I will pray for your good.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.

AlleluiaSEE PS 80:4

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Come and save us, LORD our God;
Let your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
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The Centurion said to Jesus, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.”

Gospel MT 8:5-11

When Jesus entered Capernaum,
a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying,
“Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.”
He said to him, “I will come and cure him.”
The centurion said in reply,
“Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof;
only say the word and my servant will be healed.
For I too am a man subject to authority,
with soldiers subject to me.
And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes;
and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes;
and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him,
“Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.
I say to you, many will come from the east and the west,
and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven.”

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Centurion Beseeching Jesus, William Brassey Hole

Commentary on Matthew 8:5-17 From Living Space

Today we read the second of the 10 miracles of Jesus described by Matthew after the Sermon on the Mount. It is a story also found in Luke and John but, strangely enough, not in Mark.

The significant element in this story is the fact that the person asking for help is a centurion, a soldier and presumably not a Jew. Yet he has this great faith in Jesus. It is a sign of the future role of Gentiles in the originally all-Jewish Christian community.

He asks Jesus to cure a servant who has become paralysed. Jesus immediately responds that he will go and cure him. “No, no,” replies the centurion. “I am not worthy that you should come to my house. Just say the word and my servant will be healed.” (Words very familiar to us from their paraphrase used in the prayers before sharing in Communion.) And he goes on to say that as an army officer, he just has to give commands and they are carried out on the spot. When it comes to healing, he knows that Jesus can do the same.

Jesus is astonished at the faith of this pagan: “Nowhere in Israel have I found faith like this!” And he foretells that this is a sign of what is going to happen in the future when Gentiles from all over the world will enter the Kingdom while many of Jesus’ own people will be left outside. What is more they will become God’s people sharing glory with the Jewish ancestors: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It is a sad theme running through the whole of this gospel: the rejection of Jesus by so many of his own people and their self-chosen exclusion from the Kingdom.

The faith that Jesus expects is not an acceptance of religious doctrines. It is rather an act of total trust and surrender by which people commit themselves to the power of God – in this case, the power of God in Jesus. “Christ asks for this faith especially when he works his miracles, which are not so much acts of mercy as signs attesting his mission and witnessing to the kingdom; hence he cannot work miracles unless he finds the faith without which the miracles lose their true significance.” (Jerusalem Bible, loc. cit. Text references omitted.)

For this reason this faith was not easy to give, especially for many of Jesus’ hearers who could not see the presence of God in Jesus and hence could not commit themselves to him. Even the disciples were slow to believe. We see this especially in Mark’s gospel. But, once present, such a faith can bring about the transformation of a person’s life, as many converts to Christianity can attest.

Turning to the centurion Jesus says, “Go back home; you have believed, so let this be done for you.” The servant was cured at that very moment.

What is clear from this story and from many other healings by Jesus is the crucial element of faith in the one approaching Jesus. It is the only condition necessary – racial origins are irrelevant. Luke will tell us that Jesus was restricted in the help he could give to the people in his home town of Nazareth because they simply did not have faith in him.

Let us pray that we may never lose that gift of faith which has, in the mysterious ways of divine Providence, been given to us. And let us remember that, without that faith, God will be hampered in reaching out his healing love to us.

Source: http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2127g/

Related:
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On Suffering — From Suffering With Joy

We hear the tale of the Roman centurion who is used to ordering others around and getting instant obedience.  But he, too, approaches Jesus with a humble heart full of compassion for his suffering servant and complete faith in Jesus’ power to heal, even at a distance.  From this encounter with the Lord we have the powerfully compelling words, “Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed.”

From this passage in Matthew we draw the beautiful prayer we say together before receiving Holy Communion: “Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst come under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

In the traditional Latin Mass we say this prayer three times.  Why?  Because in Hebrew expression there is no comparative or superlative as we have in English.  Thus, the triple repetition of something signifies the greatest emphasis possible in what is being said.  Since much of the Traditional Mass originates from the time of the apostles, we find this custom retained in the Latin expression of the Hebrew culture.  Thus, we, in praying this prayer three times at Mass, emphasize our great lowliness in the face of Jesus, our helplessness to cure ourselves, and our great faith in Jesus.  A second reason for the triple repetition is acknowledgement of the triune God.  Jesus is the second Person who cannot be separated from the Father and the Holy Spirit.

I write a lot from the viewpoint of suffering in this world.  Often we suffer because our souls need healing.  We need God’s help to root out anger, resentment, envy, covetousness, and many other evils from our hearts/souls.  Often, physical suffering can be eliminated or greatly ameliorated by the healing of the soul. This prayer of the centurion prepares us to receive the healing power of Christ in Holy Communion when we say it at Mass.

When we are not at Mass but on a bed of pain, we can repeat this prayer as an offering to God as we unite ourselves to the Passion of Christ and seek His aid in conforming ourselves to the will of God.

Source: http://sufferingwithjoy.com/2012/01/23/the-leper-the-centurion-and-jesus/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

04 DECEMBER, 2017, Monday, 1st Week of Advent

CHRISTIAN HOPE FOR WORLD PEACE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ISAIAH 2:1-5MATTHEW 8:5-11  ]

We are living in a world that has changed so rapidly beyond our imagination.   This is a fast moving technological age.  Technology has made life easier for us.  Certainly, life is much more comfortable than the days of our forefathers.  But technology is blind. It is amoral. Depending on who harnesses it and for what purpose, technology can be employed for good or for evil.  This explains why technology, whilst it has its advantages, can also be used to destroy lives through wars, acts of terrorism, spreading of fake news slandering the reputation of people, and also for cheating and deceiving innocent and trusting people.  Ironically, more than ever, in spite of sophisticated equipment and weapons, this is the most unsafe world we are living in because anything can happen; wars, religious conflicts and terrorism.

What, then, is our basis and hope for world peace?  The first reading from Isaiah says that world peace will come about when everyone knows their place in this world and acknowledges God as the creator and source of all life.  “In the days to come the mountain of the Temple of the Lord shall tower above the mountains and be lifted higher than the hills. All the nations will stream to it, peoples without number will come to it; and they will say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the Temple of the God of Jacob that he may teach us his ways so that we may walk in his paths; since the Law will go out from Jerusalem.’”   Indeed, only when all men walk in the ways of the Lord can there be peace.  Without taking directions from the Lord, man cannot agree among ourselves because we are all short-sighted and do not possess the wisdom to know and understand everything.

We need the laws of God to guide us to walk the right path.  As the psalmist says, “I rejoiced when I heard them say: ‘Let us go to God’s house.’ And now our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem.  It is there that the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord. For Israel’s law it is, there to praise the Lord’s name. There were set the thrones of judgement of the house of David.”  Walking in His way, we will foster peace in our midst.  “He will wield authority over the nations and adjudicate between many peoples; these will hammer their swords into ploughshares, their spears into sickles. Nation will not lift sword against nation, there will be no more training for war. House of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.”

But why are there religious conflicts when all religions profess to lead their faithful to God?  This is where each religion must ask whether they are teaching the truth and where this truth comes from?  If it is from man, then we cannot claim to have the absolute truth.  Only through God’s revelation, can man understand the fullness of truth.  Consequently, different religions possess different levels of truth accordingly.  We are not here to pass judgement.   This is what the Church in the Modern world says of other religions.  “Likewise, other religions found everywhere try to counter the restlessness of the human heart, each in its own manner, by proposing ‘ways,’ comprising teachings, rules of life, and sacred rites. The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ ‘the way, the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself.”  (Nostra Aetate, No 2)  Every religion therefore must purify herself in the truth.

Consequently, “The Church, therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men.”  (NA, No 3)  Together, we are called to share our faith so that we will be enriched in our own understanding of our faith as we listen to others who too have truth and goodness in their religions to share with us.  With humility, we can always learn from others and through other religions examine our own faith and be purified through them.

So if there are religious conflicts, it is because of an inadequate interpretation of the Sacred Texts.  Some followers narrowly interpret the texts in such a way that it becomes exclusive and divisive.  All religions, if they are from God, must promote peace and goodwill among all of humanity.  Exclusivity is a danger and we cannot afford to act in such a manner today because it will lead to greater division, conflicts, wars and resentment among believers of different faiths.  With mass communication and digital communication, we need to be more sensitive in what we say and teach so that others will not feel offended by our teachings.  All true religions must point the way to peace and goodness.  So long as they are teaching what is true and good, they too partake of God’s truth and love.

Of course for us, Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life because He shows us the face of the Father.  This of course is the Christian claim rooted in our personal encounter with Him in His passion, death and resurrection.  Without this prior encounter with the Risen Lord, no one can make this claim.  This is what St Paul wrote to the Romans, “if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved.”  (Rom 10:9f)  So not all can make this confession of faith.  Only on this basis is the Christian claim that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life to the Father is founded since as He told Philip, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves. (Jn 14:10-11; Cf Jn 14:4)

Yet, even if they have not yet come to this truth, it does not mean that they have no inkling of God.  It is significant that the Centurion, although not a Jew, showed his faith in God, perhaps not exactly in the way the Jews worshipped the One God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  His faith in Christ was also not that of a divine person but he could somehow sense that Jesus was truly a man of God, who mediated God to him.  He did believe that he possessed the powers of God to do the works that only God could do.  Hence, he said to Jesus, “Sir, I am not worthy to have you under my roof; just give the word and my servant will be cured.  For I am under authority myself, and have soldiers under me; and I say to one man: Go, and he goes; to another: Come here, and he comes; to my servant: Do this, and he does it.”  So even with an inadequate faith in the identity of Jesus, the Lord responded to his request.  We can thus believe and hope that even those who do not know the Lord personally, could come to experience Him in other ways as the Holy Spirit makes it possible.

The Constitution of the Church in the Modern World gives this possibility.  “All this holds true not only for Christians, but for all men of good will in whose hearts grace works in an unseen way. For, since Christ died for all men and since the ultimate vocation of man is in fact one, and divine, we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery.”  (GS 22)  On our part, we must live the life of Christ in such a way that others will come to see us as the messengers of God and be inspired by our lives to search for the Way, the Truth and the Life in Christ themselves.  We are called to bring life and love to them.  No amount of words and doctrines can convince people except by a life of inclusivity, justice and charity.

We must not conduct ourselves like the Jews who were exclusive in their approach to non-Jews.  They excluded others from the Kingdom.  The warning of Jesus to such people is this, “I tell you that many will come from the east and west to take their places with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob at the feast in the kingdom of heaven.”  By preventing others from entering the Kingdom because of prejudice and arrogance, we will further cause division and scandals in the world   Let us be peacemakers and bridge builders if we want the world to be a world of peace.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, November 26, 2017 — Are We Christ-Like? — What you did not do for one of these least ones you did not do for me.”

November 25, 2017

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
Lectionary: 160

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Reading 1 EZ 34:11-12, 15-17

Thus says the Lord GOD:
I myself will look after and tend my sheep.
As a shepherd tends his flock
when he finds himself among his scattered sheep,
so will I tend my sheep.
I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered
when it was cloudy and dark.
I myself will pasture my sheep;
I myself will give them rest, says the Lord GOD.
The lost I will seek out,
the strayed I will bring back,
the injured I will bind up,
the sick I will heal,
but the sleek and the strong I will destroy,
shepherding them rightly.As for you, my sheep, says the Lord GOD,
I will judge between one sheep and another,
between rams and goats.

Responsorial PsalmPS 23:1-2, 2-3, 5-6

R. (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Reading 2 1 COR 15:20-26, 28

Brothers and sisters:
Christ has been raised from the dead,
the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
For since death came through man,
the resurrection of the dead came also through man.
For just as in Adam all die,
so too in Christ shall all be brought to life,
but each one in proper order:
Christ the firstfruits;
then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ;
then comes the end,
when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father,
when he has destroyed every sovereignty
and every authority and power.
For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
When everything is subjected to him,
then the Son himself will also be subjected
to the one who subjected everything to him,
so that God may be all in all.

Alleluia MK 11:9, 10

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come!
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Jesus: Whatever you did for the least of my brothers

Gospel MT 25:31-46

Jesus said to his disciples:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory,
and all the angels with him,
he will sit upon his glorious throne,
and all the nations will be assembled before him.
And he will separate them one from another,
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the king will say to those on his right,
‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father.
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.’
Then the righteous will answer him and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you,
or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’
And the king will say to them in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Then he will say to those on his left,
‘Depart from me, you accursed,
into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
a stranger and you gave me no welcome,
naked and you gave me no clothing,
ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’
Then they will answer and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty
or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison,
and not minister to your needs?’
He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you,
what you did not do for one of these least ones,
you did not do for me.’
And these will go off to eternal punishment,
but the righteous to eternal life.”
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From The Abbot

Monastery of Christ in the Desert

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Christ the King!  Christ is king of our hearts and of our lives.  Many of us today no longer think of actual kings but we can still understand the idea of a king.  We should think of the struggle in the Old Testament, the Jewish Scriptures, when the Jewish people decided to ask for a king on this earth, rather than just staying with their covenant with God.

Christ the King as a solemnity is about our covenant with God.  Perhaps we don’t often think that we have a covenant with God.  Often we only think of our Jewish ancestors and their covenants with the Lord God.  But our Scripture are called the New Testament and they refer to the New Covenant with the Lord God.  The point where we made that covenant is our baptism:  we were baptized into Christ and into the New Covenant with Him.

The first reading today comes from the Prophet Ezekiel and speaks of God as shepherd:  “The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy, shepherding them rightly.”  Always the strong words of the Old Testament cause dismay for people today.  The Prophet Ezekiel, speaking in the name of God, tells us”  “the sleek and the strong I will destroy.”  This is not about God wanting to get rid of some of us.  Rather it is the destruction of a person so that the person can be reformed in God’s image.  The sleek and the strong live in illusion because the only strength in this life is Jesus the Lord.  The illusions need to be destroyed so that the sleek and the strong can form with God the same covenant as all the others.  We must rely on God.  None of us is strong in himself or herself.

The second reading comes from the First Letter to the Corinthians and speaks about the true goal of life is living in Christ and sharing the Resurrection of Christ.  In the end, everything will according to the will of God and living according to God’s plans.  So why do we have freedom?  So that we can freely give ourselves to the Lord and to the following of the Lord’s ways.  God is so patient with us and so willing to keep working with us, even when that work means destroying the parts of us that resist His will and His plans for us.

Today’s Gospel is from Saint Matthew and tells us that the way that we treat others is the way that we treat Jesus Christ Himself.  We know that intellectually but oftentimes pay no attention to it in our daily lives.  We are challenged to see Christ in each other person, especially those who most irritate us and cause us negative feelings and reactions.  That is why Jesus always tells us to love our enemies.  It is easy to love our friends.

So if Christ is our King, then we need to live our Covenant with Him.  We need to walk humbly in His ways and to trust in loving others that we ourselves will know God’s love in our lives.  This solemnity is not just about looking to God as our King or looking to Christ as our God-King.  No, it is about our Covenant with our God and King and a deep commitment to live as He wants us to live:  loving all because we love Him.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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The Good Samaritan by William Henry Margetson (1861-1940)

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
26 NOVEMBER, 2017
Sunday, Christ the King
THE JUDGEMENT OF MERCY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ EZ 34:11-12,15-171 COR 15:20-2628MATT 25:31-46]

If we want to live a meaningful and purposeful life, we need to know our origin, purpose and destiny.  Hence, the three most important questions in life are:  Where did I come from? What is the purpose of our life here on earth?  Where do I go after my life on earth?  Today, we arrive at the final question.  Where do we go after death?

We have reached the last Sunday of the liturgical year, in which we celebrate the feast of Christ the King.  In the creed, we pray “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead” and “his kingdom will have no end.”  Indeed, the last four things in Church doctrines are death, judgment, heaven and hell.  The parable of the Last Judgement presents the last act of history, the universal judgement where we will be placed in heaven or hell.  In contrast to the scene at His passion when He stood before the rulers of the world in chains, when men and history judged Christ, at the final judgment, He is seated on the throne judging men and history.  He will pronounce judgement, rendering justice to good and bad alike.

When we hear of the final judgment, we can respond in three ways.  A common response of those who are faithful to God is fear.  We are afraid that we will not pass the test and be sent to hell forever.   Surely we do not want to hear these words from our Lord, “Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”  For those who lived good lives, they will welcome the day of judgment because it means liberation and reward for all their sacrifices and sufferings that they endured.   For them, it is a day of reckoning, a day when justice is done.

But for this modern generation, the parable of the Last Judgment is met with indifference.  Many would just conclude that it is a story, a joke just to frighten some children and naïve people.  Indeed, among modernists have no faith in life after death, much less about judgment, hell or heaven.  Hence, such threats of eternal punishment are not taken seriously.  They are scorned at because for such people there is no hope beyond this world.  Life ends at death.  Even those who might see this as a possibility take consolation that it will not happen in their time.  They can wait.  But the Lord warns us. “Fool! This night your soul is required of you.” (Lk 12:20)   Whilst there is a universal and final judgment, let us not forget that there is an immediate judgment upon death.

Regardless how we take the final judgement, it must be noted that the judgment of God from beginning to end is one of mercy.  Indeed, even the final judgement is an act of mercy to restore things back to order.  It is not meant so much to punish but to give sense to world history, otherwise this history lacks meaning, finality and purpose.  Hence, as people of faith, we should be looking for the fulfillment of history when the kingdom of God will be brought to its completion.  This is the hope of Christians when St Paul wrote, “For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order: Christ the first fruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ; then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”   Freed from all that lords over us, and restricting our freedom to love, this final judgement will reconcile us with each other and everyone will live in love and unity because we will all be in God and God will be all in all. “And when everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself will be subject in his turn to the One who subjected all things to him, so that God may be all in all.”

Not only is the judgement an act of mercy, the criteria for the judgement is also determined by mercy.  Today’s Gospel provides us the criteria for judgment when the King said: “For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.”   It is significant that at the final judgement, we will not be asked whether we, as Catholics, have fulfilled our Sunday Obligation but whether we have fulfilled the obligation to love our neighbours.   Jesus will ask each of us whether we love Him enough to love His brothers and sisters. The needy would include Christians and non-Christians alike.  The needy are not just those who need physical, material and financial help but also those who are spiritually sick through worldliness and sin, ambition and greed.  So to help the needy would involve both corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

This is because the poor and the weak are identified with the Lord who is our Good Shepherd.  “Then the virtuous will say to him in reply, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome; naked and clothe you; sick or in prison and go to see you?’ And the King will answer, ‘I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.’”  In the first reading, we read of God as our Good Shepherd.  The images of the Good Shepherd from the book of Ezekiel speaks of the heart of God for His sheep, especially those who are sickly, wounded, hungry and lost.  This is what the Lord said, “I shall rescue them from wherever they have been scattered during the mist and darkness. I myself will pasture my sheep, I myself will show them where to rest. I shall look for the lost one, bring back the stray, bandage the wounded and make the weak strong. I shall watch over the fat and healthy. I shall be a true shepherd to them.”

He is the model of how we should live our lives in such a way that we are ready for judgement.  He goes after the lost sheep, the weak and the wounded.  He is the model and exemplar of a shepherd who gives up His life for His sheep.  He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  Indeed, with the psalmist, we pray, “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. Fresh and green are the pastures where he gives me repose.  Near restful waters he leads me, to revive my drooping spirit. He guides me along the right path; he is true to his name. You have prepared a banquet for me in the sight of my foes. My head you have anointed with oil; my cup is overflowing. Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me all the days of my life. In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell for ever and ever.”

But how do we reconcile that Jesus is our Good Shepherd and yet He is also the judge?  The creed says, “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.”  How could a merciful God not forgive sinners even at the last judgement?  The truth is that it is not God who cannot forgive but that the sinner will be too proud to ask for forgiveness or to accept forgiveness.  When God judges, He judges by the norm of Love, that is Christ Himself.  The individual judges himself or herself against Christ as the measure of love.  He or she would be the one to reject Christ both on earth and at the end of history.  This is because in living a sinful and evil life, the sinner is consumed with self-centeredness and hatred.  Just like those who cannot forgive on earth, he or she also cannot forgive even at death.  He hangs on to his envy, anger, resentment and selfishness.

Hence, it is our choice whether we want to be goats or sheep.   Goats by temperament are aggressive, domineering and defensive of their territory.  They tend to walk alone without the others.  They are egocentric and do not want to live in friendship with others.  Those who cannot love are those in hell because hell is a state of alienation from others.  Sheep, on the other hand, are docile.  They follow their shepherd.  They like to group together. They love fellowship and company.  They represent the community of the just in heaven, for saints are those who care for each other as much as themselves.

On this feast of Christ our King, let us renew our pledge of loyalty to Him.  Let us resolve to free ourselves from self-will and put ourselves at His service of love.   To claim that Jesus is our king is more than just sentimental words.  It is to subject our lives to His rule of love and mercy so that we can be transformed to love like Him.  Allowing the love of God to rule our hearts is the key.  We must allow Him to touch our hearts through prayer, meditation on His love and mercy, and most of all, ask for the grace to see Him in those who are suffering.  Only the love of God will free us from the inordinate love of self.  We must continue to allow the Good Shepherd to touch our hearts so that when the time comes, we will be ready to embrace Him in our fellowmen.

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

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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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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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