PROCLAIMING THE GOOD NEWS THAT COMES FROM CHRIST

SCRIPTURE READINGS: ROM 10:9-18; MT 4:18-22

Many people today are living meaningless and empty lives.  They have no direction and no purpose in life.  Those who live according to the world often find this life full of misery and unhappiness.  Even those who are successful and live seemingly good loving lives also find life quite meaningless because, somehow, their spirits are not quenched. Others are so overwhelmed by suffering, failure, loneliness and brokenness that life does not seem worth living.  Indeed, people without faith are seeking for something more in their lives, something that the world cannot fulfill.

Such people are looking for a savior.  These people, including ill-instructed Catholics, are so desperate in their search for happiness that they would engage in all kinds of religious activities, even in the occult, hoping to find meaning, purpose and happiness.  Many are so confused, they would even embrace New Age beliefs and practices; anything that gives them a solution, regardless of whether these are from Christian sources or otherwise.

How then can we be saved? St Paul declares, “If your lips confess that Jesus is Lord and if you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved.”  St Peter also reiterated the same truth, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Act 4:12)  Again St Paul affirms, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”(1 Tim 2:5So to find salvation, we must confess that Jesus is Lord.  But why do we believe that He is Lord?  Because God raised Him from the dead!

However, it is not enough to confess with our lips or even believe in our head that Jesus is Lord. What truly saves us is that we believe in our hearts.  Only then can we be made righteous, that is, find security, peace and joy.  St Paul explains further, “By believing from the heart you are made righteous; by confessing with your lips you are saved.” When we believe from the depths of our being that Jesus is Lord, with the resurrection as the basis for this faith, we are affirming the Lordship of Christ over all creation.  For this reason, St Paul says, “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”(Phil 2:9-11)

Consequently, we can now surrender our entire life to the Lord since He is our source of Life and Love.  We can turn to Him without fear that we will be overwhelmed by sin or death.  “When scripture says: those who believe in me will have no cause for shame, it makes no distinction between Jew and Greek: all belong to the same Lord who is rich enough, however many ask his help, for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Yet, the fact remains that many do not know Jesus as their personal Savior and Lord.  Hence, St Paul remarked, “But they will not ask his help unless they believe in him, and they will not believe in him unless they have heard of him.”  Therefore, it is our duty as believers in Christ to announce to them that Christ is our Lord and Saviour.  Like Andrew and the Apostles, we are sent forth to share the Good News about Jesus Christ with everyone.  Otherwise, “they will not believe in him unless they have heard of him, and they will not hear of him unless they get a preacher, and they will never have a preacher unless one is sent, but as scripture says: The footsteps of those who bring good news are a welcome sound.”

It is within this context that the gospel challenges us to be the Good News messengers so that they too will be able to find life and be saved.  This call to be His apostles of the Good News is addressed to all regardless, as seen in the varied choice of the Twelve.  No one can disclaim this call to be His apostle.  One does not have to be theologically trained to be His proclaimer.  This call is addressed to all of us wherever we are and whoever we are.  We can be homemakers, workers in factories, executives in our offices, mending the nets or in the Church.  It does not matter what we do.  We can share what Christ has done for us in our lives and what He means to us.  This is what the Good News is all about, that God loves us and has forgiven us in Christ Jesus.

And what is also important is that this call is urgent. It must be done immediately since it is the Lord who calls.  When the evangelist described how the apostles responded without delay to the call, “And they left their nets at once and followed him” and “At once, leaving the boat and their father, they followed him”, he wants to underscore the all-important truth that because Jesus is Lord and therefore God, we must render unconditional and total obedience without questioning and procrastinating.  Jesus, being the Lord of our lives and the name above all names, calls for total commitment since God is the absolute in our life.  As the responsorial psalm says, “Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life. The law of the Lord is perfect -refreshing the soul; the decree of the Lord is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the command of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eye.”  We also recall the words of St Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”(Jn 6:68)

But why are there many who are still not responding or not responding fully by submitting themselves to the Lordship of Christ even though they profess themselves as Christians?  This was the same question posed by St Paul; “Not everyone, of course, listens to the Good News. As Isaiah says: Lord, how many believed what we proclaimed? So faith comes from what is preached, and what is preached comes from the word of Christ. Let me put this question “is it possible that they did not hear? Indeed they did; in the words of the psalm, their voice has gone out through all the earth, and the message to the ends of the world.”

Why is that so? More often than not, it could be because we are poor messengers of the Good News, rather than that they refuse to accept Christ.  If many people do not believe in Christ today, it is because they have not truly heard about Him or seen Him.  To hear does not mean simply an external hearing, rather it is a hearing that brings about personal conviction.  Consequently, today, people are waiting for a preacher who does not simply proclaim the Good News but becomes the Good News himself.  They are looking for witnesses, not teachers. This is what St Paul is urging us all.  We must be both proclaimers of the Good News by our conviction and by our lives.

To proclaim the Good News in such a way that it can be heard presupposes that first and foremost, as believers, we must believe from our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead.  In other words, we must have a personal and living relationship with Jesus.  Unless, we have this personal relationship with Jesus who is as real to us as our friends are, then we cannot say that we have preached the word of Christ, since such proclamation is hollow.  Only an intimate personal relationship with the Lord will empower us to speak from the depth of our experience and conviction, otherwise they would be mere words.  It is not enough to proclaim Christ as if He were a datum of knowledge that we have studied or from some books that we have read.  He is the Living Lord, risen and alive in our midst, not someone who has gone down in history.

However, even if we believe Jesus from our heart, this is not sufficient.  A real proclamation of Christ with conviction must be verified in our lives.  This is what St Paul meant when he says that if our lips confess that Jesus is Lord, we would be saved.  To confess that Jesus is Lord is not simply a mere verbal confession but it is to live our lives in such a way that we confess with our whole being that Christ is the Lord of our lives, Lord of our ways, Lord of our wills and Lord of everything.  Unless we subordinate our lives and live in such a way that our lives are faithful to the gospel and teachings of Christ, we cannot be said to have confessed that Jesus is Lord.  Jesus must be seen to be truly Lord and not only a verbal confession.

Only when we have done this, can the Good News be heard.  Indeed, the real challenge in evangelizationtoday is not that people have not heard the Good News, for the Good News has in effect reached to the ends of the world.  Rather, it is because the Good News is not credible today since it is not lived.  People do not see the change and transformation in us.  Because they doubt us, they also doubt the Christ we confess and proclaim.

Today, let us pray that we will be able to be like St Andrew and the rest of the apostles.  If the early Christians and the early apostles were truly proclaimers of the Good News, it was because they did so by their lives and not so much by their preaching.  In fact, I am sure that not all of them were great preachers in the ordinary sense that they were great rhetoric orators.  But they were certainly true proclaimers of the Good News by showing their deep faith and trust in Jesus in leaving their occupations, their careers, their security and even their loved ones, for the sake of the Gospel.  Not all of us are called to leave our homes and be missionaries, but all are certainly called to live our lives in such a way that render true testimony to what and who we believe in.


Written by The Most Rev William Goh
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
© All Rights Reserved
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Pope Francis on the Spiritual Gift of Fortitude and the Hidden Saints Among Us

http://www.catholic.org/news/international/europe/story.php?id=55408

VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) – Below is the official Vatican Radio Transcript of the catechetical message Pope Francis gave on Wednesday, May 14, 2014 to the pilgrims gathered in St. Peters square. It is a part of his continuiing series of teachings on the gifts of the Holy Spirit:

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Pope Francis on the Spiritual Gift of Fortitude
Dear brothers and sisters!

In recent catechesis, we examined the first three gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding and counsel. Today we think about what the Lord does, He always comes to support us in our weakness with a special gift, the gift of fortitude .

1. There is a parable told by Jesus, which helps us to grasp the importance of this gift. A sower goes out to sow; not all the seed he sows, however, bears fruit. What ends up on the street is eaten by birds; what falls on stony ground or among thorns sprouting, but is soon dried by the sun or choked by the thorns. Only what ends up on the good soil can grow and bear fruit (cf. Mk 4.3 to 9 / / Mt 13:3-9 / / Luke 8.4 to 8 ) .

As Jesus himself said to his disciples, the Father is the sower, who sows the seed of His Word abundantly. The seed, however, often clashes with the aridness of our hearts and, even when welcomed, is likely to remain sterile.

Instead, with the gift of fortitude the Holy Spirit frees the soil of our heart from torpor, uncertainties and all the fears that can stop it, so that the Word of God can be put into practice, in an authentic and joyful way.

This is a real help, this gift of fortitude it gives us strength and frees us from many obstacles.

2 . There are difficult moments and extreme situations in which the gift of fortitude is manifested in an extraordinary, exemplary way. This is the case of those who are facing particularly harsh and painful experiences, that disrupt their lives and those of their loved ones.

The Church shines with the testimony of so many brothers and sisters who have not hesitated to give their lives, in order to remain faithful to the Lord and His Gospel.

Even today there are numerous Christians in many parts of the world who continue to celebrate and witness to their faith with deep conviction and serenity, and resist even when they know that this can result in them paying a very high price.

All of us know people, people who have experienced difficult situations, so much pain, let us think of those men and women who have a difficult life, who fight for the survival of their family, educate their children.

They do this because the Spirit of fortitude helps them.

How many, many men and women – whose names we do not know – honor our people, honor our Church because they are strong in carrying forward their lives, their work, their family, their faith – these our brothers and sisters are saints!

Every day saints! Hidden saints among us! They have the gift of fortitude in carrying on in their duty as people, mother, father, brother, sister citizen. We have so many – so many.

Let us thank the Lord for these Christians who are the hidden saints among us. It is the Spirit within who carries them forward and it would do us good to think of these people. If they do this, if they can do this then why not me and we ask the Lord to give us the gift of fortitude.

3 . With this, we must not think that the gift of fortitude is only necessary on some occasions or in certain situations.

This gift must be the base note of our being Christians, in our ordinary everyday lives. As I said we must have fortitude in our everyday life as Christians we need this fortitude to carry on in our lives, our families our faith. Paul, the Apostle Paul, said something that it would do us all good to hear: “I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me” (Phil. 4:13).

In our everyday life, in difficult times it would do us good to say this “I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me”. The Lord always gives us strength, Lord never gives us more than we can handle, “I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me”.

Dear friends, sometimes we may be tempted to allow ourselves be overtaken by laziness or despondency, especially when faced with the hardships and trials of life. In these cases, do not lose heart, but invoke the Holy Spirit, so that with the gift of fortitude He can lift our hearts and communicate new vigor and enthusiasm to our lives and our following Jesus.

Pope: widows are image of Church seeking to stay faithful

(Vatican Radio) The Church remains faithful if she keeps her eyes fixed on Jesus, but she becomes lukewarm and mediocre if she seeks comfort in worldly things. That was Pope Francis’ message on Monday as he reflected on the Gospel reading at Mass in the Casa Santa Marta…

Listen to our report:

Pope Francis noted that the reading from St Luke’s Gospel tells the story of the widow who puts her two coins in the temple treasury box, while other wealthy worshippers make a great show of the money they’re putting in. Jesus says that “this poor widow put in more than all the rest” because the others were giving away money from their surplus wealth, while she, in her poverty, “has offered her whole livelihood”. In the Bible, Pope Francis said, the widow is the woman who is alone, who has no husband to look after her, who has to manage on her own, who survives on charity. The widow in this Gospel passage, he said, was “a widow who had placed her trust only in the Lord”. I like to look at the widows in the Gospel, he said, as an image of the “widowed” Church who is waiting for Jesus to return.

The Church is the bride of Christ, Pope Francis said, but her Lord has gone and her only treasure is in her Lord. If the Church remains faithful, then she leaves everything while waiting for her Lord to return. If she does not have so much faith in the love of her Lord, then she tries to get by in other ways, seeking security in things that are more of this world than of God.

The widows of the Gospels, the Pope continued, speak beautifully to us about Jesus and His Church. There is the widow of Nain who was crying as she accompanied her son to be buried outside the city gates. There is the widow who goes to the unjust judge in order to defend her sons, knocking on his door every day and bothering him continuously until he delivers a just sentence for her. This is the widowed Church who prays and intercedes for her children, Pope Francis explained. But the heart of the Church is always with Jesus, the Bridegroom in heaven.

According to the desert fathers, the Pope said, our souls also resemble the Church, and the closer our souls, our lives, are to Jesus, the more we are able to avoid worldly, useless things that lead us away from Christ. While the ‘widowed’ Church waits for Jesus, he said, she can be faithful, trusting that her husband will return, or she can be unfaithful to her widowhood, a lukewarm, mediocre, worldly Church seeking comfort in other things.

In these last days of the liturgical year, Pope Francis concluded, we would do well to ask ourselves if our souls are searching for the Lord, or if they’re looking for comfort in things which do not please the Lord. Let our souls say “Come Lord Jesus! Come!” And may we leave behind all those useless things which stop us staying faithful.

 

http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/11/23/pope_widows_are_image_of_church_seeking_to_stay_faithful/1188888

Have you seen what you are looking for? 

(C) Sabbath
Question: Have you seen Stevie Wonder’s house?
         Answer: Neither has he. Stevie Wonder is blind.
       It is possible to have something right in front of you and still not be able to see it.
     There are only two occasions where the Gospels record Jesus weeping: at the death of his friend Lazarus (see John 11:35) and in today’s Gospel. Coming within sight of the city of Jerusalem, Jesus wept over it (v. 41).
       Today, Jesus beheld Jerusalem and wept over it. He wept for its failure to recognize the presence and see the manifestations of the Kingdom of God right in her midst. Jerusalem was waiting for the Messiah when, right in front of her, is the Kingdom of God personified in Jesus.
          I once saw a poster showing Superman on one side and Clark Kent on the other. At the bottom it read: “Many girls dream of meeting Superman but walk past Clark Kent every day.” We dream of God manifesting Himself to us in a Superman-kind-of-way, in the process missing the many Clark Kents He sends our way. The world waited for a Messiah, but all it got was a “baby.”
       What is my point? We ask for God’s blessings but oftentimes we want God to give it the way we want them, on our terms, on our conditions, on our calendar, according to our specifications.
       Remember the story of the village guy who lost his house in a fire and prayed to God for help? When an ax fell from heaven, he ranted at God saying, “Are you mocking me? I didn’t ask for an ax!” God replied saying, “I sent you an ax so you can begin cutting trees and build yourself a house.” God’s blessings don’t always come the way we want them packaged. There is no doubt about it. God will manifest His providence and power. We just have to trust and sharpen our eyes to recognize the many Clark Kents He sends our way. Fr. Joel Jason
 

REFLECTION QUESTION: Have you been impatient and discouraged lately? Might not really be a case of God being silent, but you being blind.
 

Open our eyes, Lord. We want to see Jesus. To reach out and touch Him. And say that we love Him. Amen

THE WAY OF THE KINGDOM

(C) Sabbath
 

The proclamation of the Kingdom of God and its action in human history was the central teaching of Jesus’ ministry. At His very first public appearance, Jesus declared, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Matthew 3:2; Mark 1:15). People began expecting for the coming of that kingdom. They thought of it as a political kingdom, ruled by a political Messiah, who would liberate Israel from Roman occupation.

When they did not see and hear signs of that kingdom happening and coming to fruition, they became impatient and demanded from Jesus where and when they will see the fulfillment of that kingdom. But Jesus was talking about a different kind of kingdom — a Kingdom where God’s will and His precepts take first place in the hearts of men, a Kingdom that roots out the stronghold of sin in the heart and transforms men and women to become salt and light of the world, renewing the face of the earth. Like that of a seed, it grows imperceptibly in silence. That is why Jesus says the growth of the kingdom is “not something that can be observed nor a matter of pointing ‘it is here’ or ‘it is there’” (see verses 20-21).

Today, with evil happening all around us, it’s very easy to be discouraged and cynical. Is the Kingdom of God really present in the world? Is God really involved in history or has He abandoned it?

When a tree falls, everybody notices it, for it makes a loud noise. But hardly anyone pays attention to the countless trees in the same forest that grow, bear fruit and give life constantly, regularly, imperceptibly — in silence. Let us not be fooled and seduced by the noise that one falling tree creates, overshadowing the many others who continue to flourish in silence.

Good news never make the headlines, they say, because they don’t sell newspapers. Make no mistake about it, the Kingdom of God and its action is among us, accomplishing its purpose, in its own proper time, in its own gracious way. Fr. Joel Jason

 

REFLECTION QUESTION: Are you paying attention to the many imperceptible ways God is reaching out to you?

May I be ever attentive to You, O God, and the manifold ways You will reach out to me today. Amen.

OF MEN AND SERVICE

(c) Sabbath

Jesus punctuates His parable on service today with the line: “When you have done all you have been commanded to do, say, ‘We are useless servants. We have done no more than our duty’” (Luke 17:10).

This brings my thoughts to the late secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government, Jesse Robredo. On August 18, 2012, he died in a plane crash off the shores of Masbate Island. On my last trip to Legaspi, a friend of mine volunteered to bring me to Robredo’s graveyard. His resting place has become one of the prides of the city. Mention his name and the people’s demeanor suddenly changes into one of fond reverence. Jesse was a people’s man. He was fond of wearing casual polo. When he was town mayor, he went around wearing shorts and slippers.

In contrast, during the last State of the Nation Address of the President, senators, congressmen and women turned the event into a red-carpet circus. During interviews, they spoke not of their programs but of their fashion designers and the inspiration for their gowns. When you looked at Jesse Robredo, he hardly looked “honorable,” but people honor his memory deeply.

One insightful line goes, “It is not the title that gives a man honor. It is the man who gives honor to the title.” You want to become a true man or woman of honor in this world and in the Kingdom? Throw away your lust for titles. Do not fuss about vain recognition and applause. Give yourself away in love. GK Chesterton once wrote, “The reason why angels can fly is because they take themselves lightly.” Do not take yourself too seriously and serve with joy and serenity even in anonymity. “When you have done all you have been commanded to do, say, ‘We are useless servants. We have done no more than our duty.’” Remember, it was pride that turned angels into devils. It is humility that turns men into angels. Fr. Joel Jason