Saturday, September 19, 2020

Your thoughts are not our thoughts O God.



"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways—oracle of the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55: 8 - 9).

Sunday 20th September 2020, 25th Week in Ordinary Time.

Where can we see examples of God's ways and thoughts so different from humans? Two examples come to mind:

#1 Prayer:  God does not answer every prayer literally. Saints who are masters of Prayer like St Augustine have taught that God treats us like children who at times do not know what they want. God knows exactly what we need and when we need it. God acts according to His knowledge and providence.

#2 Divine Providence: God governs this world through His most loving and powerful Providence. We tend to think that God's Providence works only in big ticket items like birth and death and moments of big changes in life. God's Providence is operational every moment, in every thing and everywhere.  It is not from chance springs any of the comforts we enjoy in life but from God’s gracious ordaining.

Our Gospel of today from Matthew 20: 1 - 16 shows how God's thoughts and ways are so different from our thoughts and ways. We should take Jesus seriously when He says often that in the Kingdom of Heaven, be prepared to see the first last and the last first.
"Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first." (Matthew 20: 8).

God is just but not fair.
"I am the Good Shepherd, says the Lord; I know my sheep, and mine know me." (John 10: 14).

Daily Bible Verse @ SeekFirstcommunity.com

Friday, September 18, 2020

The Feast of St Januarius.

 “A sower went out to sow his seed......As for the seed that fell among thorns, they are the ones who have heard, but as they go along, they are choked by the anxieties and riches and pleasures of life, and they fail to produce mature fruit." (Luke 8: 5......14).

Saturday 19th September 2020, 24th Week in Ordinary Time is also the feast of St Januarius. (+ 305). Italian. Bishop and Martyr under Emperor Diocletian. His dried blood liquufies miraculously several times a year. Even science and agnostics are confounded by this. Jesus our Savior still presents believers more than sufficient proofs like the liquification of the the blood of Januarius to strengthen their faith.

Did you guess that the Sower in the Gospel for today (Luke 8: 4 - 15) is Jesus the Farmer? The seed is the word of God.
The seed that fell among thorns may be likened to those living today in western societies. Because of unbridled affluence and materialism, they have eaten and grown fat and bloated. They heard the Pearl of the Gospel: "Seek first the kingdom of God and holiness of life above every other thing and all your needs shall be met. Stop worrying about tomorrow which you cannot control. Trust firmly in my Divine All Powerful Providence." (Cf Matthew 6: 33 - 34). We heard the word and preferred to dwell on the pandemics hoping that its interruptions of our lives be very brief and its effects be very short term.

Our ever merciful Savior continues to sow the word every day through the Sacred Scriptures, teachings from Sacred Tradition and Magisterium. But you too, you are a sower of the word whether you are a teacher, nurse, housewife, politician, gabage collector, etc. Whatever you are or do, the Lord has entrusted you to partner with Him to transform the world today. How do you respond?

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Thursday, September 17, 2020

Who are the women of Jesus?

"Accompanying him [Jesus] were the Twelve  and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,  Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources." (Luke 8: 1 - 3).

Friday 18th September 2020, 24th Week in Ordinary Time. Who are the women who accompanied Jesus during His ministry and why?

Some of us would remember a time when men sat in the right aisle and the women and the little children on the left in Church. It was so in the Synagogue in the days of Jesus. It must have been something of a novelty that some women traveled with Jesus as he journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.

Who are these women? They are a varied group: wealthy and not well to do, married and single, young and middle aged, respectable and not. They were all drawn to Jesus:
"They had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities." (Luke 8: 2). They liked the Good News of the Kingdom of God they hear Jesus proclaim and they responded with their hearts and their pockets. They provided for the needs of Jesus and His Apostles.

Jesus taught His disciples and us that those who labor for the Gospel deserve their upkeep. He promised: "Seek first the Kingdom of God and holiness of life above every other thing and all your needs shall be met." God used the Women of Jesus to fulfill this promise for the band of the Apostles and their Master.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The Feast of St Robert Bellarmine of the Society of Jesus.

"By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective." (1 Corinthians 15: 10).

Thursday 17th September 2020, 24th Week in Ordinary Time is the feast of St Robert Bellarmine of the Society of Jesus. (1542 - 1620). Italian. Bishop, Cardinal, Apologist and Patron Saint of Catechists.

Robert Bellarmine resided in Rome during most of his work life. The poor of Rome came to know him well and called him "the new poor one," reminiscent of St Francis of Assisi. Bellarmine shared his table regularly with the poor of the city of Rome.

Bellarmine was the nephew of Pope Marcellus II.  St Robert Bellarmine was a renowned scholar, a great apologist and contributed immensely to the Council of Trent and the reforms mandated by the Council.
In spite of all these encomiums, Bellarmine could say with Paul:
"By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective."

How about you? Can you say honestly: "By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective." Can you defend the Catholic faith and all its practices? You may say: "I don't have the wisdom and the gifts of St Robert Bellarmine to do great things for the Church." Paul and Bellarmine recognized that without the grace of God, they could do nothing. The Holy Spirit is standing by waiting to be asked to be Your Helper, Friend, Advocate. He will help you clarify your purpose on earth and help you to accomplish it.
Jesus told us that the Father does not ration the Holy Spirit.

Daily Bible Verse @ SeekFirstcommunity.com

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The Feast of St Cornelius and St Cyprian.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated,  it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,  it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." (1 Corinthians 13: 4 - 7).

Wednesday 16th September 2020, 24th Week in Ordinary Time is the feast of St Cornelius. Pope. Martyred under Emperor Gallus in 253. We also honor today St Cyprian. Bishop and Martyr. Cyprian from Carthage (Tunisia) was martyred in 258 under Emperor Valerian.

The two saints we honor today were acquainted with one another. They lived under one of the most severe persecution of the Church. Tens of thousands were martyred by Rome determined to stamp out once and for all Christianity. Many Christians did not have the courage to face martyrdom. So they denied Jesus and the faith. Then the violent persecution abated. Those Christians who denied Jesus and the faith wanted to come back to the Church. The controversy nearly split the Church asunder. Pope Cornelius wanted the Christians who apostasized to confess their sins and do appropriate penance and be allowed to rejoin the Church. Many Bishops opposed him. St Cyprian from the powerful African Church came to his support. Their side won and schism was prevented. The Lord was impressed by their good work and awarded the two the crown of martyrdom.

Our key Scripture for today is from the famous theme of love. Since Love is the center and heart of the Christian faith, 1 Corinthians 13: 4 - 7 is one of the best Scripture for the examination of conscience before Confession. It covers almost every sin. For an extended List for a good examination of conscience, click the link below:

http://seekfirstcommunity.com/2020/09/a-good-examination-of-conscience.html?m=1

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A Good Examination of Conscience

An Examination of Conscience is the best preparation for a good confession:

Make a list of the behaviors or attitudes you would like to change. Then commend them to God, asking for strength.  In Him you can do it!! 

The Ten Commandments:

1.    I am the Lord your God:  You shall have no strange gods before me.  Do I love anybody or anything more than God?? 

Do I give God time everyday for prayer?  Do I seek to love him with my whole heart?  Have I been involved with superstitious practices?  Have I been involved with the occult?  Do I seek to surrender myself to God’s Word as taught by the Church?  Have I ever received Communion in a state of mortal sin?  Have I deliberately told a lie in Confession or have I withheld a mortal sin from the priest in Confession?

2.    You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

Have I used God’s name in vain:  lightly or carelessly?  Have I been angry with God?  Have I wished evil upon another person?  Have I insulted a sacred person or abused a sacred object?

3.    Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day.

Have I deliberately missed Mass on Sunday or holy days of obligation?  Have I tried to observe Sunday as a family day and a day of rest?  Do  I  do needless work on Sunday?

4.    Honor your father and your mother.

Do I honor and obey my parents?  Have I neglected my duties to my spouse and children?  Have I given my family good religious example?  Do I try to bring peace into my home life?  Do I care for my aged and infirm relatives?

Do I respect all lawfully constituted authority? 

5.    You shall not kill.

Have I had an abortion or encouraged anyone to have an abortion?  Have I physically harmed anyone?  Have I abused alcohol or drug?  Did I give scandal to anyone, thereby leading them into sin?  Have I been angry or resentful?  Have I harbored hatred in my heart?  Have I mutilated myself through any form of sterilization?  Have I encouraged or condoned sterilization?

6.    You shall not commit adultery.

Have I been faithful to my marriage vows in thought or action?  Have I engaged in any sexual activity outside of marriage?  Have I used any method of contraception or artificial birth control in marriage?  Has each sexual act in my marriage been open to the transmission of new life?  Have I been guilty of masturbation?  Have I sought to control my thoughts?  Have I respected all members of the opposite sex, or have I thought of other people as objects?  Have I been guilty of any homosexual activity?  Do I seek to be chaste in my thoughts, words and actions?  Am I careful to dress modestly?

7.    You shall not steal. 

Have I stolen what is not mine?  Have I returned or made restitution for what I have stolen?  Do I waste time at work, school or at home?  Do I gamble excessively, thereby denying my family of their needs?  Do I pay my debts promptly?  Do I seek to share what I have with the poor?

8.    You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Have I lied?  Have I gossiped?  Have I spoken behind someone else's back?  Am I sincere in my dealing  with what concerns others?  Am I critical, negative or uncharitable in my thoughts of others?  Do I keep secret what should be kept confidential?  Do I expose the faults of others? 

9.    You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.

Have I consented to impure thoughts?  Have I caused them by impure reading, movies, conversations or curiosity?  Do I seek to control my imagination?  Do I pray at once to banish impure thoughts and temptations?  [The Name of Jesus is my Armor of Protection. 021918]. 

10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods. 

Am I jealous of what other people have?  Do I envy the families or possessions of others?  Am I greedy or selfish?  Are material possessions the purpose of my life?  Do I trust that  God will care for all my material and spiritual needs?

++

In 1 Corinthians 13: 4 - 7, we see the attributes of love. 

This is how God loves us.

Is this how you love yourself? Your neighbor? 

"4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  

6. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

7. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." (1 Corinthians 13: 4 - 7). 

++

The fruit of the Spirit is:

1. Charity

 2. Joy 

3. Peace 

4. Patience 

5. Kindness 

6. Goodness 

7. Generosity 

8. Gentleness 

9. Faithfulness 

10. Modesty 

11. Self-control 

12. Chastity  

+++++

Character of a Christian growing in grace and love:

✅ They speak the truth in love at all times 

✅ They are good listeners 

✅ They hardly take offense

✅ They are quick to forgive 

✅ They are reliable 

✅ They are supportive 

✅ They have appetite for prayer and fasting 

✅ They rely on the Word of God 

✅ The more God lifts them up, the more they become humble 

✅ They love people and they are compassionate 

✅ They respect people and are very sensitive to people's feelings 

✅ They have a lot of patience and they are not short tempered 

✅ They fear God 

✅ They give honour where it is due 

✅ They have good leadership skills 

✅ They are hospitable 

✅ They are not carried away by all kinds of teachings 

✅ They are good followers 

✅ They have a sacrificial spirit 

✅ They don't gossip and look down on people 

✅ They have faith 

✅ They take part in church activities and attend church regularly 

✅ They are clean in every aspect of life 

✅ Their spirits are sensitive, they hate sin 

✅ They don't act holier than Thou.

++

Eusebius, a 3rd century church father, offered the following prayer as instruction for his fellow Christians:

"May I be no man's enemy, and may I be the friend of that which is eternal and abides. May I never quarrel with those nearest me: and if I do, may I be reconciled quickly. May I love, seek, and attain only that which is good. May I wish for all men's happiness and envy none. May I never rejoice in the ill-fortune of one who has wronged me. When I have done or said what is wrong, may I never wait for the rebuke of others, but always rebuke myself until I make amends. May I win no victory that harms either me or my opponent. May I reconcile friends who are angry with one another. May I never fail a friend who is in danger. When visiting those in grief may I be able by gentle and healing words to soften their pain. May I respect myself. May I always keep tame that which rages within me. May I accustom myself to be gentle, and never be angry with people because of circumstances. May I never discuss who is wicked and what wicked things he has done, but know good men and follow in their footsteps."

Do you seek to live peaceably and charitably with all?

"Lord Jesus, my heart is cold. Make it warm, compassionate, and forgiving towards all, even those who do me harm. May I only think and say what is pleasing to you and be of kind service to all I meet."

"O God, author of every mercy and of all goodness, who in fasting, prayer and almsgiving

have shown us a remedy for sin,

look graciously on this confession of our lowliness, that we, who are bowed down by our conscience, may always be lifted up by your mercy.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever. Amen." (Collect - Sunday Mass). 

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Monday, September 14, 2020

Feast of our Lady of Sorrows.

"Simeon said to Mary: Behold, this child is destined for the ruin and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign of contradiction; and your own soul a sword will pierce." (Luke 2: 34 35).

Tuesday 15th September 2020, 24th Week in Ordinary Time is the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.

"At the cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping, Close to Jesus to the last." (Stabat Mater). Thus was the prophecy of Simeon at the Presentation of the Child Jesus fulfilled. "Your own soul a sword will pierce."

"Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala.  When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home." (John 19: 25 - 27).

Here the Mother of Sorrows received her everlasting vocation:
“Behold, your mother.”  Mary may have murmured silently: "Be it done to me according to Your word." And she became our Mother from that instance.

What do you make of the Sorrows of Mary? Was it necessary? Superfluous? An overkill? The Church teaches: "Our Mother Mary teaches us to live, together with her, beside the cross of her Son. In her suffering, she reminds us of the malice of sin and shows us the way of true repentance." (Roman Missal). How do we summarize this? The Apostle Peter says it best in the Communion Antiphon:

"Rejoice when you share in the sufferings of Christ, that you may also rejoice exultantly when his glory is revealed." (1 Peter 4: 13).

Daily Bible Verse @ SeekFirstcommunity.com

Sunday, September 13, 2020

The Great Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.

"We should glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom is our salvation, life and resurrection, through whom we are saved and delivered." (Galatians 6: 14).

Monday 14th September 2020, 24th Week in Ordinary Time is the great feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.

Why celebrate the feast of Exaltation of the Cross?

#1 The crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus transformed the Cross into a true sign of salvation.

#2  "Christ crucified is thus "the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." It is in Christ's Resurrection and exaltation that the Father has shown forth "the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe" (CCC 272)

The Cross has become a synonym for the trials of life. Jesus says: If you want to follow Me, pick up your own cross and follow Me. Hence we find plastic cross, gold cross, silver cross, wooden cross, etc. We find crosses in homes, cars, schools, hospitals, churches, cemeteries. We find crosses in every country in the world. The ubiquitous presence of the Cross everywhere is significant and providential. It signifies that grace and mercy are everywhere we accept trials and situations we can not avoid.

We are baptized with the sign of the Cross: In the Name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit. This reminds us of the Trinitarian character of our faith.

As the catechumens are reminded in the RCIA Rite of Acceptance,  embracing our cross is embracing the will of God. It is the most assured route to sanctity and the good life. The will of God is our shalom, our peace. Peace is the first and greatest gift of salvation.

Man has always rejected the Cross as we see in the first Reading:

"With their patience worn out by the journey, the people complained against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert, where there is no food or water? We are disgusted with this wretched food!” (Numbers 21: 4 - 5).

Jesus came to undo the disobedience of Adam and Eve by embracing the prescribed means of salvation by the Father.
"When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself, says the Lord." (John 12: 32)

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because by your Cross you have redeemed the world.

Daily Bible Verse @ SeekFirstcommunity.com