A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday Liturgy
BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (# 10)
4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A – January 30, 2005
Zep 2:3; 3:12-13 // I Cor 1:26-31 // Mt 5:1-12a
I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS
In two weeks we will celebrate Valentine’s Day. The following story by Dale Galloway about Chad, a pure-hearted “Valentine giver” (cf. Stories for the Heart, ed. Alice Gray, Sisters: Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 1996, p. 65) illustrates the spirit of the Beatitudes proclaimed by Jesus in today’s Gospel reading (Mt 5:1-12a).
Little Chad was a shy, quiet young fella. One day he came home and told his mother he’d like to make a valentine for everyone in his class. Her heart sank. She thought, “I wish he wouldn’t do that!” because she had watched the children when they walked home from school. Her Chad was always behind them. They laughed and hung on to each other and talked to each other. But Chad was never included. Nevertheless, she decided she would go along with her son. So she purchased the paper and glue and crayons. For three whole weeks, night after night, Chad painstakingly made thirty-five valentines.
Valentine’s Day dawned, and Chad was beside himself with excitement! He carefully stacked them up, put them in a bag, and bolted out the door. His mom decided to bake him his favorite cookies and serve them nice and warm with a cool glass of milk when he came home from school. She just knew he would be disappointed … maybe that would ease the pain a little. It hurt to think that he wouldn’t get many valentines – maybe none at all.
That afternoon she had the cookies and milk on the table. When she heard the children outside she looked out the window. Sure enough here they came, laughing and having the best time. And, as always, there was Chad in the rear. He walked a little faster than usual. She fully expected him to burst into tears as soon as he got inside. His arms were empty, she noticed, and when the door opened she choked back the tears. “Mommy has some warm cookies and milk for you.” But he hardly heard her words. He just marched right on by, his face aglow, and all he could say was: Not a one … not a one.” And then he added, “I didn’t forget a one, not a single one!”
In this Sunday’s Eucharistic liturgy, we come in contact once again with Christ’s living Word. In the assembly of believers, we hear anew Jesus’ proclamation of the Beatitudes. As part of his inaugural discourse uttered on one of the hills near Capernaum, the Beatitudes are an exquisite revelation and “summary” of the meaning of Christian discipleship. In the Beatitudes, Jesus – the new Moses teaching on the new mountain of revelation - offers us the foundations of the law of the Kingdom and shows us the path of Christian perfection. According to Aelred Rosser: “The Beatitudes are a portrait of Jesus himself: poor, lowly, merciful, single-hearted, peaceful, persecuted, sorrowful, hungry and thirsty for holiness.” The Beatitudes, however, are not only a description of Christ, but also a portrait of the ideal Christian. In order to experience fully God’s beatitudes, the Christian disciples are called to live intensely the life of Jesus, as one who is poor, lowly, merciful, single-hearted, peaceful, persecuted, sorrowful, hungry and thirsty for holiness.
Harold Buetow provides us with an interesting insight on the Beatitudes. According to him: “All the beatitudes speak of this world, not of pie in the sky bye ‘n’ bye when you die”. They contain congratulations on what is, and promise a reward that always consists in at least an improved relationship with God. To view our life as blessed doesn’t require us to deny our pain or to put on a happy face no matter what. It simply demands a more all-embracing vision.” Using a personal approach, Harold Buetow then delineates in a very touching way the meaning of the Beatitudes (cf. God Still Speaks: Listen! New York: Alba House, 1995, p. 52-55).
1. First Beatitude: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:3). It is the keynote of the whole sermon. Jesus is calling fortunate not the person who has nothing superfluous, but one who has nothing at all. The anawim are those who lack material goods; because they are poor, they have no influence; because they have no influence, they are walked over by other people; and because they have no earthly resources, they put their whole trust in God. Jesus is not calling material poverty a good thing and he does not condemn ambition. What Jesus condemns is the inordinate love of riches, a love that makes impossible a meaningful concern for the afflicted.
2. Second Beatitude: “Blessed are they who mourn for they will be comforted” (Mt 5:4). Here Jesus speaks of sorrow in the strongest sense: those who have a passionate grieving for the loss of one who is loved: for the dead, the vanished, the one who has journeyed away – or for their sins. It brings ache to the heart and tears to the eyes. To those who think falsely that people of strong faith should not have sorrow, Jesus says it is all right, and that mourners will be comforted because adversity has its uses. An Arab proverb asserts: “All sunshine makes a desert”. Indeed, some flowers are brought forth only by rain; the intense colors of others only by cold mountain air; some human growth requires sorrow as its seed.
3. Third Beatitude: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the land” (Mt 5:5). It speaks of the lowly, the humble of the earth, who imitate God’s qualities of gentleness and kindness. The meek are the self-controlled – or better, the God-controlled. People cannot lead others until they have controlled themselves. And so the meek will inherit the land.
4. Fourth Beatitude: “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be satisfied” (Mt 5:6). These are those who ardently long for that goodness that is similar to God. When we hunger and thirst so strongly for the holiness that Jesus wants of us and are willing to pay its cost, then we are able spiritually to survive.
5. Fifth Beatitude: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Mt 5:7). Mercy is not a sentimental wave of pity, nor is it indifference to wrongs, but rather the ability to identify with others and the willingness to suffer with them and walk in their shoes.
6. Sixth Beatitude: “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God” (Mt 5:8). The clean of heart are those whose inner single-mindedness motivates them to serve God joyfully for his own sake and not primarily out of self-interest. They are free of duplicity and are not adulterated. The clean of heart see God and discern his presence in the small and ordinary events of their lives.
7. Seventh Beatitude: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Mt 5:9). The peacemakers promote harmony within the human community and go out of their way to reconcile quarrels. Those who promote peace establish right relationships between person and person, and make this world a better place to live. They will be called children of God because our heavenly Father is a God of peace, and Jesus our brother came to bring peace on earth.
8. Eighth Beatitude: “Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.” (Mt 5:10-12a). Fidelity to Jesus is deepened by the test of persecution. For true Christians, some degree of persecution is inevitable. Called to be the conscience of the world, they must speak whenever morality is offended and adhere to Christ’s values.
Jesus, on the mount of Beatitudes, impels us to examine our life in light of the spirit of the Kingdom of God. The care and love with which he nourished his disciples and the eager crowd with the bread of his living Word are meant to inspire us to love and care for his people. The moral theologian, Bernard Haring, concludes: “Christ proclaims the beatitudes, and shares with us his knowledge of the Father so that our heart may be filled with joy. If we truly abide in his love and rejoice in his nearness, treasuring up his words in our heart and mind, then we shall come to know his love for all people. We too can become a source of joy for others. But because of our selfishness, we have to remind ourselves from time to time that we cannot be with Christ and rejoice in him unless we turn our eyes to the multitude, as he did when he went up to the mount of the Beatitudes.”
II. POINTS FOR THE EXAMINATION OF THE HEART
A. Are we ready to welcome into our hearts the challenge of the Beatitudes and abide by the radical teaching of Christ on the foundations of God’s kingdom?
B. In revealing to us the principles of the Beatitudes, do we believe that Christ is calling us to a deeper experience of joy and intimacy with God, our loving Father? Do we believe that we are being called to an astounding love and service of God’s people?
C. What are our experiences of joy and difficulty in the concrete daily living out of the Beatitudes? Among the eight Beatitudes mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew, which are the ones that are challenging us with greater intensity today?
III. PRAYING WITH THE WORD
(Cf. The Master Is Here: A Collection of Prayers for Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction, PDDM: Manila, 1993, p. 104)
Leader: Like the disciples on the Mount of the Beatitudes, we are gathered around Jesus. Let us ask him to give us his Spirit that we may be faithful to the Gospel message. Let us pray together:
(R.) LORD, HEAR OUR PRAYER.
1. Help us to be poor in spirit, always trusting in your divine assistance and strength, that the kingdom of Heaven may be ours. We pray: (R.)
2. Help us to mourn, humbly surrendering ourselves to your divine will, that our grief may be transformed into joy and consolation. We pray: (R.)
3. Help us to be meek and humble that peace may reign upon earth. We pray: (R.)
4. Help us to hunger and thirst for your holiness that we may be satisfied. We pray: (R.)
5. Help us to be merciful that we may obtain mercy and compassion. We pray: (R.)
6. Help us to be pure and single-hearted that we may see God in the daily events of our life and be admitted into his eternal Kingdom. We pray: (R.)
7. Help us to be peacemakers and builders of a more harmonious world that we may be called children of God. We pray: (R.)
8. Help us to welcome affliction, derision and persecution for the sake of the kingdom that we may be rewarded greatly in heaven. We pray:
Leader: Almighty and merciful God,
on the mountain of the Beatitudes,
your Son Jesus has shown us the path of holiness and perfection.
Look kindly upon us and be gracious to us,
and make us yearn deeply
for the joy that the Beatitudes bestow on our lives.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
IV. INTERIORIZATION OF THE WORD
The following is the bread of the living Word that will nourish us throughout the week. Please memorize it.
“Jesus began to teach them saying: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 5:2-3)
V. TOWARDS LIFE TRANSFORMATION
A. ACTION PLAN: Give thanks to the Lord for the gift of the Beatitudes in the Church. Choose one Beatitude as a moral-spiritual program and try to live this out in a more intense way this week.
B. ACTION PLAN: To celebrate the gift of the Beatitudes revealed by Jesus and in view of a more meaningful Year of the Eucharist, make an effort to spend an hour in Eucharistic Adoration. Visit the PDDM WEB site (www.pddm.us) for the EUCHARISTIC ADORATION THROUGH THE LITURGICAL YEAR (# 10): a weekly Pastoral Tool for the Year of the Eucharist.
Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang PDDM
PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI
SISTER DISCIPLES OF THE DIVINE MASTER
60 Sunset Ave., Staten Island, NY 10314
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