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WSC Circle – September 9 – 23, 2018

Word Sharing Circle (WSC) Reflection Guide
September 9, 2018 -23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle B, Year II)Community Word: Honoring God’s commandments bring peace to our hearts
Theme: There is peace in our hearts when we are open to God’s saving power
Promise: “Here is your God…he comes to save you.”(Is 35:4b)

Reflection:
Life is filled with difficulties and challenges – serious illness, family relationship in need of peace and harmony, financial indebtedness, and other endless concerns that can keep us anxious and distraught. Under such forbidding conditions, there are community members who serve as examples of fortitude and faith.

One of them is a disciple who has been undergoing medical treatment for a serious illness. Despite this, she keeps a serene life and maintains an indomitable spirit; and she firmly believes that God will save and heal her. Someone else might ask, “How?” The answer is that she nurtures an intimate relationship with the Lord.

Another example of fortitude and faith comes from a woman who is the foundress of the Holy Land in Subic, Zambales, in the Philippines. After her retirement as a bank officer, she founded and gradually built the Holy Land site from scratch, relying mainly on her faith in the Lord. She says that she communes with God in a very personal way and she encourages us that we can experience miracles in our lives also, by having a profound relationship with Him, a relationship that is filled with fondness and affection. As she says in Tagalog, “may kasamang paglalambing” (which brings to mind what Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, did to Jesus when she anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume and wiped them with her hair).

This disciple accomplished this despite the fact that she is afflicted with cancer. Although ill, she is not the least bit worried, because she places her complete faith in the saving power of the Lord and in whatever His will for her will be.

How then do we open our very being to the Lord and develop an intimate relationship with Him so that we may receive the blessing of inner peace?

We do not have to look far.

As community members and faithful Christians, we simply have to live up to the pledges we sealed with the Lord, with all our heart, mind and soul. We become strong and not fearful of any troubles and obstacles that might come our way, because the Lord is always with us and He will save us (cf Is. 35: 4-7).

In his letter, St. James tells us how close the Lord is to the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized. He asked, “Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him?” (Jas 2:5). The Lord is asking us, in no uncertain terms, to be mindful of them. Its great importance cannot be expressed more powerfully than when the Lord said, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me,” (Mt 25:40).

Doing so, with sincerity and love for the Lord, will open and help us nurture a relationship with Him so intimately that there is nothing we will fear. And ultimately, He offers us salvation not only for our earthly concerns but for the life to come – “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for your since the foundation of the world,” (Mat. 25: 34-40)

The Lord is indeed exhorting us to be open to Him, to place our complete trust in Him and to have a deep faith in His power to heal and to save. We can then be assured by this promise – “Here is your God…he comes to save you.”(Is 35:4b, c).

Prayer:
Lord, You say that You will save us who love you and will protect us who acknowledge You as Lord. When we call to You, You will answer us. You will rescue us and honor us. You will reward us with love life. You will save us. Amen

Reflection Questions:
1. How profound is my relationship with the Lord? What are the obstacles in deepening my relationship with Him?

2. What incident in my life tested my faith in the saving power of God? How did I respond?

This Week’s Daily Mass Reading Guide:
Sept 9, 2018 (Sun) – Is 35:4-7/Ps 146:7-10/Jas 2:1-5/Mk 7:31-37
Sept 10, 2018 (Mon) – 1Cor 5:1-9/Ps 5:5-6, 7-12/Lk 6:6-11
Sept 11, 2018 (Tue) – 1Cor 6:1-11/Ps 149:1-6, 9/Lk 6:12-19
Sept 12, 2018 (Wed) – 1Cor 7:25-31/Ps 45:11-17/Lk 6:20-26
Sept 13, 2018 (Thu) – 1Cor 8:1-7, 11-13/Ps 139:1-3, 1, 14, 23, 24/Lk 6:27-38
Sept 14, 2018 (Fri) – Nm 21:4-9/Ps 78:1, 2, 34-38/Phil 2:4-11/Jn 3:13-17
Sept 15, 2018 (Sat) – 1Cor 10:14-22/Ps114:12, 13, 17, 18/Jn 19:25-27

“Ignorance of the Bible is ignorance of Christ. Read your Bible daily!”

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WSC Circle – September 2, 2018

Word Sharing Circle (WSC) Reflection Guide
September 2, 2018 – 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle B, Year II)

Community Word: Honoring God’s commandments brings peace to our hearts.
Theme: There is peace in our hearts when we confess our sins.
Promise: “Whoever walks blamelessly and does justice; who thinks the truth in his heart … shall never be disturbed.” (Ps 15:2)

Reflection:
God’s will is above human traditions and precepts and His law takes precedence over our traditions, practices and rites. The latter are not substitutes for following the ways of God and for obeying what God wants from us. God cannot be reduced to mere performance of rituals, or observance of rules and regulations. God is honored by living His commandments. He is praised by our good works, and glorified by doing what He desires of us.

What matters is the condition of the heart. Jesus puts greater emphasis on sincere care and concern, not on mere obedience of rules and regulations. We please God more by being genuinely compassionate and concerned, able to understand and uplift the intolerable conditions of our underprivileged brothers and sisters. We can only be close to God by loving Him in His people. And love should be the motivating factor of all our words and actions. Traditions should lead us to love, rather than to finding excuses and justifications for feeling superior to others. God will surely measure us on the basis of how much we love, and the quality of our service.

Worthiness lies in a transformed life. To be a true and faithful disciple of Christ is to have a contrite heart and to live an honest and holy life. Jesus, in today’s gospel, demands purity of heart. If our hearts are pure, then we can speak and share true and inspiring words with others. If our hearts are clean, then we can love, forgive, and be forgiven. For where there is purity of heart, there will be love and faithfulness.

Jesus does not criticize traditions as such, because He himself kept many of them. What the Lord opposes are traditions that are cut off from the faith that gives them life. Traditions do not automatically make a person holy. Holiness and also sin are within the heart and soul of a person. They are ways of either sustaining or distracting our commitment to Christ and our Catholic identity. Traditions should express, renew and deepen, but not replace faith. Following the Lord is not easy in today’s world, but the Church, liturgy, music, teachings, prayers… these should enable us to express and maintain our faith in Christ. Through them, as St. Paul says in today’s second reading, we can welcome the Word, Jesus Christ, in our homes and into our lives. The condition of our heart speaks the truth of what we do. If we obey God’s commandments, then our actions should manifest our sincerest intention of following God’s will. Then we will be able claim the Lord’s promise for this week: “Whoever walks blamelessly and does justice; who thinks the truth in his heart … shall never be disturbed.” (Ps 15:2)

Prayer:
Lord, we pray that our intentions be purified and our faith in You be true and genuine. Help us that our acts of faith are not merely for the eyes of men, but by them we honor and glorify you. Renew our hearts to follow Your commandments in all that we do, rather than follow the dictates of the world. Let peace reign in our hearts knowing that only You are the truth, way and life. Amen.

Reflection Questions:
1. What are the intentions behind everything I do and in everything I say?

2. What is the true condition of my heart towards the last, the least and the lost?

This Week’s Daily Mass Reading Guide:
Sep 2, 2018 (Sun) – Dt 4:1,2,6-8/Ps 15:2-5/Jas 1:17,18,21,22,27/Mk 7:1-8,14,15,21-23
Sep 3, 2018 (Mon) – 1Cor 2:1-5/Ps 119:97-102/Lk 4:16-30
Sep 4, 2018 (Tue) – 1Cor 2:10-16/Ps 145:8-14/Lk 4:31-37
Sep 5, 2018 (Wed) – 1Cor 3:1-9/Ps 33:12-15, 20, 21/Lk 4:38-44
Sep 6, 2018 (Thu) – 1Cor 3:18-23/Ps 24:1-6/Lk 5:1-11
Sep 7, 2018 (Fri) – 1Cor 3:18-23/Ps 37:3-6, 27-28, 39, 40/Lk 5:33-39
Sep 8, 2018 (Sat) – Mi 5:1-4/Ps 13:6.6/Mt 1:1-16

“Ignorance of the Bible is ignorance of Christ. Read your Bible daily!”

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WSC Circle – August 26, 2018

Word Sharing Circle (WSC) Reflection Guide
August 26, 2018 – 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle B, Year II)

Community Word:Belief in Jesus Christ, our Living Bread, leads us to eternal life.
Theme: Our belief in the Living Bread compels us to stand firm in following Jesus.
Promise: “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (Jn 6:63b)

Reflection:
The declaration of Jesus about himself being the Bread of Life from heaven that gives eternal life drew negative reactions and sharp questioning even from his own followers. Some even stopped believing in the Lord and left him. His teaching about his real presence in the Eucharist is difficult to be understood by human minds. Believing this is an act of faith which is a gift of the Father. Like any gift we receive, it is useless unless we use it. We renew our faith each time we kneel in the presence of Jesus and adore him. Jesus did not try to explain away what he said even when many of his disciples left. He knows that he is nothing less than the Divine Presence in our world.

Peter may not understand the full meaning of what Jesus is saying but he knows what is essential: “You have the words of eternal life,” (Jn 6:68b). Then, he added: “We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God,” (Jn 6:69). To follow Jesus is to walk in faith, understanding that other pretenders to the truth can never satisfy us. It is basic to our faith that we believe in everything that our Lord Jesus Christ says, and like Peter, we can also affirm and say to him – ‘Lord, you are the truth and you have the words that will bring us to eternal life in heaven.’

The words of Jesus come at a great price. He teaches us truths that are sometimes hard to swallow. He calls us to believe in mysteries that may defy our logical thinking and intellectual pride such as, his ‘real presence in the Eucharist,’ the sacredness of all life, and the need for confession. The path of life is strewn not with ‘bed of roses” but with crosses and obstacles – tribulation, pain and suffering. Some people may have stopped believing because their prayers seem to remain unanswered. Some of the sick whose recovery come slowly harbor grudges against God. Poverty may drive many people to discontinue their relationship with God. Following Jesus is seeing him at work even in the haze of daily concerns that leave us bewildered, confused and tired. Amidst all of these, it is believing in his abiding presence where true Christians are formed and strengthened.

Even to this day, Christians are divided on how to see Jesus as the Bread of Life. Some would emphasize faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Some commemorate the Lord’s death and resurrection and profess that it signifies life in communion with Christ. But there is the mystery of faith which surpasses human understanding and can only be received in faith, a gift of the Father and the Spirit. Without Jesus’ real presence, where would our life be?

We are here for Jesus because we believe that he is here for us and he gives us his own body and blood for our strength and courage in our daily life. Though there are many weaknesses in our community, this is still the Body of Christ, the anchor of our faith. His presence truly compels us to stand firm in following him faithfully.
In receiving his body and blood thru Holy Communion, we are assured of his presence and power. His promise then assures us: “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life,” (Jn 6:63b).

Prayer:
Loving Jesus, you have the words of eternal life. You are our salvation. Without you we are lost and we cannot do anything. Life is meaningless without your presence. Faithful God of the covenant, in the daily choices we have to make, give us the courage to always choose Your Son and His ways and to remain close to Him. Bless the difficult road we have to take sometimes without seeing where it will lead us. Keep us from making half-hearted decisions when our faith is rather weak and make us accept all the consequences of our choice. Keep us always faithful through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Reflection Questions:
1. What else do you have to decide and do so that you can freely and unconditionally follow Jesus? Are you stifled by personal challenges in these situations?

2. What are the teachings of the Catholic Church that you doubt or cannot accept, or teachings that do not conform to your personal opinions, or circumstances? As a Catholic faithful, what action will you take to overcome these doubts or non-acceptance?

This Week’s Daily Mass Reading Guide:
Aug 26, 2018 (Sun) – Jos 24:1-2, 15-18/Ps 34:2, 3, 16-21/Eph 5: 21-32/Jn 6:60-69
Aug 27, 2018 (Mon) – 2Thes 1:1-5, 11, 12/Ps 96:1-5/Mt 23:13-22
Aug 28, 2018 (Tue) – 2The 2:1-3, 14-17/Ps 96:10-13/Mt 23:23-26
Aug 29, 2018 (Wed) – Jer 1:17-19/Ps 128:1, 2, 4, 5/Mk 6:17-29
Aug 30, 2018 (Thu) – 1Cor 1:1-9/Ps 145:2-7/Mt 24:42-51
Aug 31, 2018 (Fri) – 1Cor 1:17-25/Ps 33:1-5, 10, 11/Mt 25:1-13
Sep 1, 2018 (Sat) – 1Cor 1:26-31/Ps 33:12, 13, 18-21/Mt 25:14-30

“Ignorance of the Bible is ignorance of Christ. Read your Bible daily!”

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WSC Circle – August 19, 2018

Word Sharing Circle (WSC) Reflection Guide
August 19, 2018 – 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle B, Year II)

Community Word: Belief in Jesus Christ, our Living Bread, leads us to eternal life.
Theme: Our belief in the Living Bread inspires us to partake in the Holy Eucharist.
Promise: “… the one who feeds on me will have life.” (Jn 6:57b)

Reflection:
As Catholics, we believe that we receive Jesus Christ Himself as the Living Bread every time we received Holy Communion. It is in the Holy Eucharist that we become aware of who we are and to whom we truly belong. At the moment of Consecration, the miracle of transubstantiation – the turning of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, brings life to our beings and fortifies our relationship with Jesus. Jesus promises us: “…the one who feeds on me will have life,” (Jn 6:57b).

The liturgical readings for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time invite us to “taste and experience the wisdom of the Lord.” In the 1st reading, we gain true wisdom when we understand God’s ways. In Psalms, we are exhorted to join in praising God and be enriched from all that He gives us. St. Paul in the 2nd reading urges the Ephesians and us, too, to drink of the wisdom of the Holy Spirit rather than get drunk from alcoholic spirits. And in the gospel, Jesus tells the crowd that the true food and divine drink are His own Body and Blood which give us nourishment for eternal life.

Jesus wants everyone to come to Him and feed on Him in order that we will receive true understanding and wisdom. He promises to give His Real Presence to those who will accept Him and receive His Body and Blood. Jesus is our spiritual food in our journey towards God, our Father in heaven. He nourishes us in several ways: through His word – food for our souls, through His ministry – healing food for our bodies, and through His sacramental presence – our spiritual food. Jesus feeds us through our communion with Him and with all those who are also in communion with Him. Thus, we are all nourished as a community of believers who come to the Lord’s Table.

Receiving Jesus in the Holy Eucharist is receiving God’s wisdom that leads us to forsake our foolish and selfish ways. In Proverbs 9:6, it says: “Forsake foolishness that you may live.” St. Paul also tells the people of Ephesus: “….live, not as foolish persons but as wise,” (Eph 5:15b). We are reminded that we must live in the wisdom and understanding of God because the ways of the world are foolishness in God’s eyes. Being drunk in the Spirit leads us to a greater sense of community. All the Lord wants is for us to come to Him and receive His goodness, rather than to seek the perishable things in the world.

It is truly a humbling experience to know how much Jesus honors us by feeding us with His words, by His ministry, and most significantly with His Real Presence in the Eucharist. God’s love is perfectly demonstrated in giving us the best, in the person of His Son, Jesus. We only need to come to Jesus and take what He offers us – His very being. Our belief in the person of Jesus Christ as the Bread of Life then, allows us to partake in the Holy Communion. And when the host is presented us and the minister says: ‘The Body of Christ,’ our eager response is – ‘Amen! I receive Jesus and I believe in His Real Presence in me.’

Prayer:
Lord God, it is by Your goodness that You gave us the gift of Your Son, Jesus. His Real Presence nourishes us, not only physically but more importantly, spiritually. We are sorry for the times when we have instead chosen the “junk food” of this world that does not sustain us in our faith journey. Through Your Holy Spirit, we seek Your wisdom and understanding so that we can have a better grasp of the reality of the Eucharist, receiving Jesus in our hearts. Jesus, You are our Bread of Life that brings us to eternal life. Amen.

Reflection Questions:
1. What do I seek from the Lord as I receive Him in Holy Communion? How have I been nourished by Jesus?

2. In what ways can I reach out to those with whom I am in communion with?

This Week’s Daily Mass Reading Guide:
Aug 19, 2018 (Sun) – Prv 9:1-6/Ps 34:2-7/Eph 5:15-20/Jn 6:51-58
Aug 20, 2018 (Mon) – Ez 24:15-24/Dt 32:18-21/Mt 19:16-22
Aug 21, 2018 (Tue) – Ez 28:1-10/Dt 32:26, 27, 28, 30, 35, 36/Mt 19:23-30
Aug 22, 2018 (Wed) – Ez 34:1-11/Ps 23:1-6/Mt 20:1-16
Aug 23, 2018 (Thu) – Ez 36:23-28/Ps 51:12-15, 18, 19/Mt 22:1-14
Aug 24, 2018 (Fri) – Rv 21:9-14/Ps 145:10-13, 17, 18/Jn 1:45-51
Aug 25, 2018 (Sat) – Ez 43:1-7/Ps 85:9-14/Mt 23:1-12

“Ignorance of the Bible is ignorance of Christ. Read your Bible daily!”

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WSC Circle – August 12, 2018

Word Sharing Circle (WSC) Reflection Guide
August 12, 2018 -19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle B, Year II)Community Word: Belief in Jesus Christ, our Living Bread, leads us to eternal life.
Theme: Our belief in the Living Bread allows us to listen and learn from our Father.
Promise: “They shall all be taught by God.” (Jn 6:45b)

Reflection:
Some people perceive God by the way they experience their earthly father. In our world today, it is not easy to think of God as the Father whom we can trust and surrender our personal situations to. There are people who experience broken families, of parents being absorbed in work commitments and have no more time for their families. For some, personal communication lines are eroded due to the negative effect of media. There are those who experience overly authoritarian fathers, fathers who lack affection, or fathers who are absent from their families.

But, as written in the gospel of Matthew, the truth is “…no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him,” (Mt 11:27). God is revealed as the Father who expressed His supreme love by giving His own Son for the salvation of humanity. Jesus, the Living Bread, came down from heaven and introduced the Father to us by His teachings and His works that conveyed the love of God. Thus, we have our theme this week: Our belief in the Living Bread allows us to listen and learn from our Father.

We can fully see the benevolent face of God in Jesus, the Begotten Son. He does not merely represent the Father, but presents Him to us in their oneness and mutual indwelling. His words and deeds comes from the Father. In Jesus we are able to have a glimpse of the character and qualities of a loving Father. God the Father communicates to us through His word, loving us totally, providing for us abundantly, correcting us compassionately, forgiving us unconditionally and offering us the ultimate gift of eternal life in His kingdom. By His grace, He calls us His children. We become heirs of heaven when we are spiritually transformed through repentance, baptism and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul tells us, “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God,” (Rm 8:14).

God’s desire is to fill His house with His children. When He sent Jesus to the world, He was tasked to pave the way and lead everyone to His heavenly home for all eternity. Jesus is not merely a guiding light that illuminates the way, He Himself is the Way. He does not only teach us the truth about the Father, He is Truth Himself. He is not simply a model of righteous life, He is Life Himself. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life that brings us to Eternal Life. The end of our human quest of the Father is Jesus Christ. God the Father is always in our life, giving us His Spirit, His Word and His teachings through Jesus. To learn from the Son is to learn about the Father and, as His devoted children, we are called to listen and obey His will. We are blessed because our heavenly Father truly cares for us. As the promise for this week tells us, “They shall all be taught by God,” (Jn 6:45b).

Prayer:
Precious Father, we thank You because You revealed Yourself in the person of Jesus, our Living Bread and the expression of Your infinite love, grace and mercy. Thank You for unveiling Your character to us by the Spirit through Your Word, Jesus Christ. You are truly one true God. Amen.

Reflection Questions:
1. How do you describe your relationship with your earthly father? Do you see God the Father as you see your earthly father?

2. Share a personal experience when you felt closest to God and His love. How did you feel?

This Week’s Daily Mass Reading Guide:
Aug 12, 2018 (Sun) – 1Kgs 19:4-8/Ps 34:2-9/Eph 4:30-5:2/Jn 6:41-51
Aug 13, 2018 (Mon) – Ez 1:2-5, 24-28/Ps 148:1, 2, 11, 12-14/Mt 17:22-27
Aug 14, 2018 (Tue) – Ez 2:8-3:4/Ps 119:14,24,72,103,111,131/Mt 18:1-5,10,12-14
Aug 15, 2018 (Wed) – 1Chr 15:3-4, 15-16; 16:1-2/Ps 132:6-7, 9, 10, 13, 14/1Cor 15:54-87/Lk 11:27-28
Aug 16, 2018 (Thu) – Ez 12:1-12/Ps 78:56-57, 58, 59, 61, 62/Mt 18:21-19:1
Aug 17, 2018 (Fri) – Ez 16:1-15, 60, 63/Is 12:2-6/Mt 19:3:121
Aug 18, 2018 (Sat) – Ez 18:1-10, 13, 30-32/Ps 51:12, 13, 14, 15, 18, 19/Mt 19:13-15

“Ignorance of the Bible is ignorance of Christ. Read your Bible daily!”

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WSC Circle – August 5, 2018

Word Sharing Circle (WSC) Reflection Guide
August 5, 2018 – 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle B, Year II)Community Word: Belief in Jesus Christ, our Living Bread, leads us to eternal life.
Theme: Our belief in the Living Bread leads us to accomplish the works of God.
Promise: “… whoever comes to me will never hunger and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” (Jn6:35)

Reflection:
In the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves, Jesus points to us that it is not by bread alone but God’s presence that gives us life. The Holy Eucharist brings us deeper in our soul to find God and recognize the challenge this brings to our daily life, in living with and for others in peace. The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is not merely a call for devotion, but a real desire to find deeper meaning in our relationship with God, leading us to eternal life.

Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty,” (Jn 6:35). As the “bread of life,” Jesus speaks of the benefits of believing and abiding in Him, of consuming Him and making Him part of us. To understand Jesus as the bread of life is to be passionate about our faith. It means seeking after His word and following His teachings. To have a relationship of Jesus in the Eucharist requires us to rearrange our lives and reset our priorities. To be a person of passion is to make sacrifices and have an ardent longing for the bread of life. To accept the life-giving bread of Jesus is to completely trust in God who will provide all our needs.

When we focus more on working for food that perishes and makes us hungry, we may forget about the food that sustains us to eternal life. Jesus is the food that stops our spiritual hunger. We are all hungry for God’s love, kindness, care and grace. We worry so much, we trust so little, we are so concerned with material things. Yet what really matters are our families, friends and the people that God places in our lives. When we have Jesus, we no longer hunger for earthly things because He is sufficient for us. When Jesus is in our hearts, we hunger no more because His love fills us up.

Our belief in the Living Bread leads us to accomplish the works of God, is our theme for the week. Jesus knows that we are searching for lasting and everlasting happiness. To share in His divine life, we are to partake of Him and then offer ourselves in the service for others, by sharing what we have, by being “bread of life” ourselves to others. We are to become “Eucharist” so that through us, others may have the promised eternal life as well. Through the Eucharist we are richly blessed everyday and with this blessing we become a blessing to others. Everyday, we are grateful to God for the people in our lives and for the blessings of our daily bread to enable us to finish the work that Christ has begun in us.

How eagerly we should search for Jesus, the bread of life, not just to ask for food that satisfies our human hunger alone, but to have a personal relationship with Him in our life. It is a continuing search and journey of faith, but one that will lead us to fulfillment knowing that we have the source of true joy, the Sustainer of our being. Truly, Jesus is life and we believe in Him as we receive this assurance in His words: “… whoever comes to me will never hunger and whoever believes in me will never thirst,” (Jn 6:35).

Prayer:
Thank you, Precious Jesus, for being the true Bread of Life that fills us with God’s love. Let Your heavenly food renew us, that our faith may increase daily and enable us to serve You fervently more than ever before, all for the glory of Your name. Amen.

Reflection Questions:
1. How does Jesus as the Bread of Life satisfy your spiritual hunger? What is your personal experience when you receive Him in Holy Communion?

2. What have you accomplished by being “bread of life” to others?

This Week’s Daily Mass Reading Guide:
Aug 5, 2018 (Sun) – Ex 16:2-4, 12-15/Ps 78:3, 4, 23-25, 54/Eph 4:17, 20-24/Jn 6:24-35
Aug 6, 2018 (Mon) – Dn 7:9-10, 13, 14/Ps 97:1, 2, 5, 6, 9/Mk 9:2-10
Aug 7, 2018 (Tue) – Jer 30:1,2,12-15,18-22/Ps 102:16-18,19-21,29,22,23/Mt 14:22-36
Aug 8, 2018 (Wed) – Jer 15:10, 16-21/Ps 59:2-4, 10, 11, 17, 18/Mt 13:44-46
Aug 9, 2018 (Thu) – Jer 31:31-34/Ps 51:12-13, 14-15, 18-19/Mt 16:13-23
Aug 10, 2018 (Fri) – 2Cor 9:6-10/Ps 112:1, 2, 5, 6, 7-9/Jn 12:24-26
Aug 11, 2018 (Sat) – Hab 1:12-2:4/Ps 9:8-13/Mt 17:14-20

“Ignorance of the Bible is ignorance of Christ. Read your Bible daily!”

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WSC Circle – July 29, 2018

Word Sharing Circle (WSC) Reflection Guide
July 29, 2018 -17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle B, Year II)

Community Word: Faith anchored on Jesus Christ is unshakeable.
Theme: Unshakeable faith allows us to share our love and compassion with others.
Promise: “They shall eat and there shall be some left over.”(2Kgs 4:43b))

Reflection:
Our theme this week – Unshakeable faith allows us to share our love and compassion with others – is the message of this Sunday’s gospel. Jesus leads the people to recognize the Bread that does not only satisfy human cravings but one that nourishes their beings for eternal life. The “food” of Jesus is to do His Father’s will – to give His people their daily bread. And more than the food consumed but still make them hungry, it is the “spiritual food” that would bring them closer to the Father through His Son, Jesus, who is the Bread of Life. The multiplication of bread speaks of the greater miracle of the Eucharist where Jesus gathers His people to sustain them with the nourishment for their salvation.

The question of Jesus to his disciples, where to buy enough food for the people to eat (Jn 6:5), shows that He is indeed a compassionate Shepherd. Jesus is a great Leader and Teacher and He leads us to experience grace in a deeper way and teaches us to attend to those people in need and do something for them. Acts of charity must be extended to the less fortunate. The miracle of the multiplication of bread and fish demonstrates the value and benefits of sharing. The little we have, if all of us will share, is more than enough to sustain those who are in want. Miracles happen when we are always gracious to help and to give.

God can make more of what we offer. We would never know where our efforts to love, to help and to support others might bear fruit. The Eucharist becomes a challenge to experience the compassion of the Lord and allows us to be the instrument of His loving care to all. It is our worship in the table of God that satisfies our deep longing for God, makes us sensitive God and be committed to each other. For Jesus, the multiplication of food is a symbol of His desire to share Himself with us through the Bread of Life and in His word. This sharing is limitless and as often as we desire to, we will continue to receive His spiritual nourishment in our hearts. This is Jesus’ desire for us, to remain in us as we remain in Him.

Generosity and trust always go hand in hand. One who does not trust God will never learn to be generous. Jesus hold our resources in His hands and this is what really matters. It is up to us to open our hearts to receive this blessings by our complete faith and communion with the Lord. What the world truly needs is the conversion of people’s hearts that have full trust in God’s providence so that we may learn to let go of our possessions and share them with others.

One of the most endearing characteristics of Jesus is His generosity in sharing all He has with us. In this miracle through His action, He reveals how God is towards us – caring, nurturing and with deep concern for all our needs. His kindness and generosity overflow and because of this, we can be assured that we will never go hungry and our souls will never run dry, in this week’s promise: “They shall eat and there shall be some left over.” (2Kgs 4:43b). We are truly blessed in the presence of our kind-hearted God.

St. Teresa of Calcutta said this about Jesus: “He uses us to be his love and compassion in the world in spite of our weaknesses and frailties. I pray for the courage I need to risk giving even the little that I have. Jesus is present in the everyday encounters of my life. He is present in those I meet every day – in the poor, the marginalized, and those in need of my help. When I open my heart and reach out in compassion and love to them, I am also meeting Jesus.”

Prayer:
Our generous God, thank you for the Bread of Life and blessings in my life. May I always be ready to share, to give gladly and completely. Give me the willingness to go beyond myself, to share my little resources towards building a community where people love and care for one another.

Reflection Questions:
1. In what occasion can I attest how much Jesus has done for me?

2. Cite instances when you experienced Jesus sharing Himself with you in the word of God and in the Eucharist.

This Week’s Daily Mass Reading Guide:
July 29, 2018 (Sun) – 2Kgs 4:42-44/Ps 145:10, 11, 15-18/Eph 4:1-6/Jn 6:1-15
July 30, 2018 (Mon) – Jer 13:1-11/Dt 32:18-21/Mt 13:31-35
July 31, 2018 (Tue) – Jer 14:17-22/Ps 79:7, 9, and 11, 13/Mt 13:36-43
Aug 1, 2018 (Wed) – Jer 15:10, 16-21/Ps 59:2-4, 10, 11, 17, 18/Mt 13:44-46
Aug 2, 2018 (Thu) – Jer 18:1-6/Ps 146:1-6/Mt 13:47-53
Aug 3, 2018 (Fri) – Jer 26:1-9/Ps 69:5, 5, 10, 4/Mt 13:54-58
Aug 4, 2018 (Sat) – Jer 26:11-16,24/Ps 69:15,16,30,31,33,34/Mt 14:1-12

“Ignorance of the Bible is ignorance of Christ. Read your Bible daily!”

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WSC Circle – July 22, 2018

Word Sharing Circle (WSC) Reflection Guide
July 22, 2018 -16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle B, Year II)

Community Word: Faith anchored on Jesus Christ is unshakeable.
Theme: Unshakeable faith enables us to lead others to a deeper understanding of Christ’s teachings.
Promise: “I will appoint shepherds for them … so that they need no longer fear… (Jer 23: 4)

Reflection:
Christ calls us to carry our lamps glowing with the Truth of our Faith wherever we go. As high-spirited lamp-carriers we cannot hide the light we are carrying. Our proclamation of faith may vary at various moments and stages of our life as we are called to stand up for Truth and live our Christian values. We have to ensure that our sharing of God’s word is true to our experience so that we may become authentic witnesses for Christ as we pondered on His word to understand our lives better. We are indeed called to use our God-given spiritual gifts in service to others as part of the Body of Christ.

In this digital age, many people are eager to share their daily living experiences with others thru media; for example, the food they eat, places they go to and people they are with, but do not care about sharing the joy of living in faith. People are hesitant to share about one’s faith for fear of offending others or making them feel uncomfortable. If we talk about things we truly love, we should not be scared to speak about our faith with those around us, else we will never become the bearer of light for our faith. It becomes a challenge for Christians then to speak for the truth especially when situations grow increasingly complex. But we are called to stand up for our faith and live it every day of our life.

To fulfill Jesus’ Great Commission, we must be strong in facing the challenges of proclaiming the story of God’s love in meaningful ways. When we answer God’s call and seeing our own imperfections and that of others, we begin to see these imperfections with God’s eyes of love. Then we are able to tell a different story. With God’s eyes of love we are tasked to live differently, revealing Christ to the world and bearing the fruit of the Spirit in all that we do. Our mission is to go beyond ourselves to serve and connect with the deeper needs of the community. As disciples and missionaries, the Lord gives this consoling promise: “I will appoint shepherds for them … so that they need no longer fear…” (Jer 23:4).

Our commitment to follow Jesus as His disciples may leave us feeling overwhelmed and tired. So, in today’s Gospel, Jesus shows us the importance of resting and going away in solitude to be refreshed and renewed. He himself brought his disciples away to spend time with Him alone. As present-day disciples, this is what we need – to pause and spend time in prayer and in the celebration of the Eucharist. These are moments of abandonment into the hands of God and resting in His Spirit. We need to continually ignite our hope and confidence through prayer, reflection and self-offering to God that we may be sustained in our faith journey and mission work.

We ask for God’s grace to help us become more aware of the needs of His people and to respond in a generous way. We also give to the Lord our service so that He may ease our burden while sharing His teachings to others, as we are sustained by allowing Him to refresh our souls along the way. The work to promote God’s kingdom is not ours alone. As faithful Christians, when we open our lives as vessels to bring the Good News of salvation to others, we shall persevere because Jesus remains with us through all ages.

Prayer:
Almighty God and Father, ours is the privilege to share in the loving, reconciling and healing mission of Your Son, Jesus Christ, in this age and wherever we are. Without You, there is nothing good that we can do. May Your Spirit make us wise, guiding, renewing and strengthening us so that we will remain strong in faith, be discerning in proclamation, courageous in witness and persistent in good deeds. Amen.

Reflection Questions:
1. What do you do when you want to teach others something about your faith?
2. How can you lead others to a deeper understanding of Christ’s teachings?

This Week’s Daily Mass Reading Guide:
July 22, 2018 (Sun) – Jer 23:1-6/Ps 23:1-6/Eph 2:13-18/Mk 6:30-34
July 23, 2018 (Mon) – Mi 6:1-4, 6-8/Ps 50:5, 6, 8, 9, 16, 17, 21, 23/Mt 12:18-42
July 24, 2018 (Tue) – Mi 7:14, 15, 18-20/Ps 85:2, 4, 6, 7, 8/Mt 12:46-50
July 25, 2018 (Wed) – 2Cor 4:7-15/Ps 126:1-6/Mt 20:20-28
July 26, 2018 (Thu) – Jer 2:1-3,7-8,12,13/Ps 36:6,7,8,9,10,11/Mt 13:10-17
July 27, 2018 (Fri) – Jer 3:14-17/Jer 31:10-13/Mt 13:18-23
July 28, 2018 (Sat) – Jer 7:1-11/Ps 84:3-6, 8, 11/Mt 13:24-30

“Ignorance of the Bible is ignorance of Christ. Read your Bible daily!”

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Be the gift I gave you

Be the gift I gave you.
– GOD

Brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations?

1 Corinthians 3:1-3

How can you tell if you are a spiritual person? Frequently people have the idea that we have many spiritual gifts. But spiritual gifts are not a good measure of how spiritual we are. You can tell if you are a spiritual person by how much the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control) characterizes your life.

#bldmanila #bldlss54 #baptisminthespirit #day46

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CBCP PASTORAL EXHORTATION

REJOICE AND BE GLAD!
CBCP PASTORAL EXHORTATION

“Blessed are the peacemakers, they shall be called sons and daughters of God.” (Mt 5:9)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, do we not all aspire for the grace to be called “sons and daughters of God?” If we do so, then we must constantly strive to be peacemakers in these troubled times in our country. And that means to always strive to bring love where there is hatred, pardon where there is injury, faith where there is doubt, hope where there’s despair, light where there is darkness, and joy where there is sadness (from the prayer for peace attributed to St. Francis of Assisi).

PEACE: OUR COMMON VOCATION AND MISSION

Our enemies in this world are not fellow human beings, not “flesh and blood” (Eph 6:12). We do not fight our battles with guns and bullets. We do not seek protection from those who might wish to harm us by wearing bullet-proof vests, because the battles that we fight are spiritual. In these times of darkness, when there’s so much hatred and violence, when murder has become an almost daily occurrence, when people have gotten so used to exchanging insults and hurting words in the social media, we admonish the faithful to remain steadfast in our common vocation and mission to actively work for peace.

But make no mistake about it; even the master said, “Not as the world gives peace do I give you peace.” (Jn 14:27). His peace is never the peace of compromise or capitulation to evil; it is also not about the absence of conflict and turmoil. Was he not rejected by his own townsfolk in Nazareth? (Lk 4:16-30) Was he not called crazy by his own relatives? (Mk 3:20-22). Was he not called a “prince of demons”? (Mk 3:22-30). Was he not called a drunkard and a lover of tax collectors and sinners? (Mt 11:19)

Did he not show us how to deal with adversities when he slept in the boat, or walked on water even in the midst of a storm? (Mk 4:35-40; Mk 6:45-52) But like the apostles, we are often so easily overcome by fear and panic. Even when we’re already making baby steps on troubled waters like St. Peter, we find ourselves sinking because of our “little faith” (Mt14:31). There is nothing that can calm us down in these turbulent times except the quiet recognition of him who assured us of his abiding presence — “Be not afraid; it is I!” (Mt 14:27)

THE COST OF WITNESSING TO CHRIST

What is new about priests being murdered for witnessing to Christ? What is new about modern prophets being silenced by the treacherous bullets of assassins? What is new about servant leaders who are maligned because they have carried out their duties as shepherds configured to the person of their Chief Shepherd? Have you forgotten that “the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians”? (Tertullian) It is what has kept the Church alive after two thousand years. Be not afraid! Did not our master say, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather be afraid of the one who can destroy both body and soul into Gehenna” (Mt 10:28)?

We are no strangers to ridicule and persecution. What we are going through is no different from what the Psalmist describes in Psalm 64: “They sharpen their tongues like swords; they aim bitter words like arrows to shoot at the innocent from ambush, shooting suddenly and recklessly.” But what does the Lord tell his disciples when they are persecuted or humiliated for his sake? He tells them to “rejoice and be glad” (Mat 5:12). These are the very words with which Pope Francis opens his apostolic exhortation “Gaudete et Exsultate”. They are the Lord’s words to those persecuted and humiliated for his sake. With the intention of calling us all to strive for a life of holiness, Pope Francis says the Lord does not want us “to settle for a bland and mediocre existence” (GE 1). How have we been taught to deal with persecution? Listen to what the apostle, St Paul, says, “When we are insulted, we respond with a blessing; when we are persecuted, we bear it patiently; when slandered, we respond gently. We have become the world’s refuse, the scum of all; that is the present state of affairs” (1 Cor 4:12-13).

And how are we to deal with divisions among ourselves? How are we to deal with fellow “Christians” who see nothing wrong about the killings, who just laugh when our God is blasphemed, and who take part in passing on fake news? Did not the Lord himself warn us that part of the exigencies of working for peace is having to go through the crucible of conflicts? (Lk 12:51-53) There will always be those among us who profess the faith in Christ but are so easily seduced by the empty promises of Satan. Remember him who once sold the master for 30 pieces of silver because he had allowed himself to be mastered by Satan? St. Paul is right in saying, “…there have to be divisions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may become known.” (ESV 1 Cor 11:19)

THE SUFFERINGS OF THE POOR

Our sufferings as Church leaders are nothing compared to the sufferings of the poor in our country. Do we not hear the cry of poor slum-dwellers being jailed for “loitering”? Have they forgotten that for the homeless urban poor — the little alleys between their flimsy homes also serve as kitchens, bathrooms, recreation spaces, and playgrounds for their children? Have they forgotten that they live in tiny dwellings that are razed quickly to the ground when fire strikes, because they do not have proper roads? Do we not feel the sufferings of drug addicts who are labelled as “non-humans”, and are stigmatized as criminals when their names end up in the dreaded “drug watch lists”? Yes, we are aware of the sufferings of those who have been victimized by substance abusers, but can we not see them also as sick people who are struggling with a disease? Should we not rather look at them also as victims who are crying out for help? Are we to remain as bystanders when we hear of people being killed in cold blood by ruthless murderers who dispose of human lives like trash? Do we not realize that for every drug suspect killed, there is a widowed wife and there are orphaned children left behind — who could hardly even afford a decent burial for their loved ones? Do we not care when poor people’s homes are searched without warrants, or when drug suspects are arrested without warrants, or detained without charges?

Do we not care about the misery of people charged of drug-related offenses and packed like sardines in extremely congested jails? Can we even bear the thought of seeing most of them languishing in jail, knowing that rehabilitation is what many of them need? Do we not hear of the sufferings of indigenous peoples who are displaced from their ancestral lands in order to give way to mining companies and dams? And how do we feel about communities that are forced to leave their homes for fear of being caught in the crossfire of conflicts between government troops and insurgents? How are we affected when our own troops die because of unceasing hostilities that have not been adequately addressed through peaceful dialogue? We have a saying in Tagalog, “Ang sakit ng kalingkingan ay ramdam ng buong katawan.” (The pain of one part of the body is felt by the whole body.) Alas, this is not always true! There is no way we can feel each other’s pains when some parts of the body are numbed by sheer indifference.

To those in this world who boast of their own wisdom, those who arrogantly regard themselves as wise in their own estimation and the Christian faith as nonsense, those who blaspheme our God as stupid, St. Paul’s words are to the point: “For the stupidity of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” (1 Cor 1:25) And to those who ridicule our faith, we say with St. Paul, “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God.”(1 Cor 1:27-29).

THE WAY OF JESUS

We wish to remind those who have been angered by the insulting statements of people in authority; remember what the Lord had taught his disciples. He said, “But to you who hear I say… bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well…” (Lk 6:27-29). Vengeance is never the way of Christ. It is not the way of Jesus to return evil for evil; no, we can conquer evil only with good (Rom 12:21). Up to the last moment of his breath, he had nothing but words of mercy towards his tormentors, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do” (Lk 23:34).

There are those who accuse us of getting involved in political moves to destabilize the government. Nothing can be farthest from the truth. Our concern is never the establishment of any earthly kingdoms. Worldly kingdoms come and go. We work only for God’s kingdom which is beyond this world — so that we can start learning to live life “on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt 6:10). For the times in our history when we fell into the temptation of working for political power, we can only bow in shame and say, never again! We do not proclaim a false image of God, such as one who is just watching from heaven like a ruthless deity who threatens us of damnation in hell all the time. Ours is the God revealed to us in Jesus Christ — the God who saves, a God “rich in mercy and compassion”, a God involved in our history, a God who — for love of us — emptied himself totally, and “became poor, so that by his poverty we might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9).

CHURCH AND GOVERNMENT

The Church respects the political authority, especially of democratically-elected government officials, as long as they do not contradict the basic spiritual and moral principles we hold dear, such as respect for the sacredness of life, the integrity of creation, and the inherent dignity of the human person. We are not political leaders, and certainly not political opponents of government. The Church has, throughout history, coexisted with countless forms of government. The Church has always been and will always be a partner of government (especially in the LGUs and barangays) in countless endeavours for the common good, especially in addressing the needs of the most disadvantaged sectors of society. Sometimes we qualify the collaboration as “critical”, mainly to distinguish our differences in terms of ultimate goals, even as we partner in some shared endeavours. Needless to say, on some specific issues, collaboration might not be possible because of our spiritual and moral beliefs, which we persistently propose, but never impose on the unwilling. In such instances, we can only invoke our right to conscientious objection. We do recognise the constitutional provision of the separation of church and state, mainly in the sense of distinction of roles in society. When we speak out on certain issues, it is always from the perspective of faith and morals, especially the principles of social justice, never with any political or ideological agenda in mind.

CHURCH OF SINNERS, CALLED TO HOLINESS

We admit humbly that we are a Church made of members who are “wretched but chosen” (Miserando atque Eligendo, Pope Francis’ episcopal motto). We are a Church of sinners called to conversion and holiness at the same time. We bow in shame when we hear of abuses being committed by some of our fellow Church leaders — especially those ordained to “act in the person of Christ”. We hold ourselves accountable for their actions, and accept our duty to correct them — as duly mandated by our own higher authorities in the universal Church. We humbly admit that we have many weaknesses and shortcomings, human as we are. We have no reason to justify our weaknesses on the basis of our participation in the human condition, because we profess faith in the God who embraced the human condition, precisely to set a new template of humanity in his son Jesus Christ. We draw a lot of strength from St. Paul, who desperately begged the Lord to remove his weakness but only got these words as assurance, “My grace is enough for you; for in weakness power reaches perfection. It is when I am weak that I am strong” (2 Cor 12:9).

CALL TO PRAYER AND FASTING

On July 16, 2018 on the feast of the Blessed Mother of Mt. Carmel, the mountain associated with the bold challenge of the prophet Elijah in defense of God (2 Kings 18), let us spend a day of prayer and penance, invoking God’s mercy and justice on those who have blasphemed God’s Holy Name, those who slander and bear false witness, and those who commit murder or justify murder as a means for fighting criminality in our country. We invite you to join us, your bishops, in three days of fasting, prayer and almsgiving from July 17 to 19, 2018.

We commend you, our dear people of God, to the maternal care of the woman to whom Jesus entrusted his “Beloved Disciple” and said, “Behold your son!” (Jn 19:26) We, for our part, behold her — our mother in faith — with filial love. Mary, mother of the Church, be near to us especially when we tend to despair and run out of the wine of faith, hope and charity (Jn 2:1-11). Teach us to do only what your Son asks of us. And when we lose heart in the face of persecution, may we stand by you at the foot of the cross and regain our strength from the blood and water that flowed from the wounded side of your Beloved Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN.

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines,

Most Rev. Romulo G. Valles, DD
Archbishop of Davao
President, CBCP
July 9, 2018

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