A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday Liturgy
BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (# 29)
11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A – June 12, 2005
“A Call to Ministry”
Ex 19:2-6a // Rom 5:6-11 // Mt 9:36-10:8
I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS
The Eli Lilly & Co. is a global pharmaceutical research, development and manufacturing giant. Three Lilly family members have created the Lilly Endowment, which has given $176 million to 88 U.S. colleges and universities to encourage Church-related vocations. Its generous funding has led to remarkably creative programs that inspire and assist college and university students who feel called to Church ministries of all kinds. Carol Ann Morrow, in her article “Vocations: New Encouragement on Campuses” (cf. St. Anthony Messenger, May 2005 issue, p.22-27), reports the comments of three recipients of the Lilly Endowment.
· “I was always hearing that the Church needs vocations, but I never felt that I was being helped on my journey to see what I could do. When I heard about Marian’s San Damiano scholars, I knew this college was actually doing something that would help me achieve my goals.” – BETH
· “I didn’t think I was being called to be a religious, but I do want to help people and act on my faith beliefs. I wasn’t sure how to achieve that goal. Then I heard about this scholarship and applied.” – KATHLEEN
· “God is at work in this.” – ANNIE
The Lilly Endowment recognizes the need for new vocations, new blood to work in the Church. Though the Endowment’s initiatives will not suffice to replenish the supply of clergy and other Church vocations, the spokesperson of the Lilly Endowment asserts: “We just want to have ministry be considered and be thought of as vocation and calling.”
This Sunday’s Gospel reading (Mt 9:36-10:8) helps us to reflect on the vocation to ministry, the origin of this ministry, and our responsibility to promote the call to service in the Church and society. The source of the vocation to service is Jesus Christ, the compassionate Shepherd and the Lord of the Harvest. As the ultimate Shepherd and Harvest Master, Jesus needs the cooperation of those who have accepted his call to discipleship.
The first part of today’s Gospel reading (Mt 9:36-37) depicts the reaction of Jesus to the plight of those yearning for his ministry: “At the sight of crowds, Jesus’ heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few, so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.’”
Harold Buetow comments: “Jesus’ heart was moved with pity for the crowds, a pity that went to the depths of his being. Jesus has been moved like this before: for the sick, for the blind, for those in the power of demons, for lepers whose life was a living death of isolation, for the widow mourning the death of her only son. Now he is moved by the sight of the crowds, who were exhausted from poor people’s thousand petty persecutions. Jesus sees in these people all the marginalized: the tired, the abused, the sad, and the abandoned. The Pharisees’ idea of leadership was to deal only with those who are profitable. Jesus saw the poor in a completely different way. These people are persons, and they are worthwhile.” Hence, Jesus responded with love and mercy to the helpless and vulnerable crowds who were like sheep without a shepherd. The genesis of his commitment to pastoral ministry was his direct experience of the people’s need for healing and spiritual leadership.”
Jesus’ compassionate, pastoral ministry to the people in distress has an end-time character and was marked with an urgency depicted in the imagery of an abundant harvest. The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 4, explain: “There is so much to do, and the time is so short. The image of the harvest spontaneously evokes the reaping of grain that must be done rapidly. But in the Bible this image classically designates God’s great judgment. The task Jesus speaks of must therefore be seen against the background of the imminent end-times that give to the present time its character of extreme urgency.”
Matthew’s Gospel episode also underlines the importance of prayer in the reaping of God’s harvest. A community that nourishes its faith through fervent prayer is apt to receive and to generate more pastoral workers for Church ministry and for greater service in society. In a mysterious way, God prepares the hearts of those called to work more intimately with Jesus, the Master Harvester, in the beckoning, rich field of God’s kingdom. Moreover, the ministry of prayer of the Christian community enables the hearts of those called to see the immensity of the ministerial task and to realize the urgency of the call to work in the Lord’s spiritual harvest. Through the power of prayer, those called for a special ministry are able to perceive the truth contained in the following expression, poetically uttered by R. Tafton: “The day is short; the task is great; the laborers are idle; the wage is abundant, and the master of the house is urgent.”
The second part of the Gospel reading is about the call and mission of the Twelve Apostles (Mt 10:1-8). The mission of the disciples was initially limited to the people of Israel and only after the death and resurrection of Christ would the mission to the non-Jews and Samaritans formally begin. In the divine saving plan, Israel has the first place as the “beacon-people” and the “witness-people”. After Christ’s resurrection, the apostolic mandate was to preach the Gospel to all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (cf. Mt 28:16-20).
The mission of the disciples and, in a special way, the Twelve Apostles was to incarnate the compassionate mercy of Jesus to the people who were like sheep without a shepherd. The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 4, assert: “Mercy is the name of God’s efficacious love. The misery of his own people grips him to the depths and irresistibly pushes him to take in hand – with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm (Ps 136:12) – their situation and their faith … In order that this ministry might endure after his return to the Father, Jesus early on chose apostles to carry on his preaching. He does not call them shepherds or pastors, but workers in the harvest that sprouts from God’s word. Indeed, there is only one Pastor, Christ. No one can take the Lord’s place, substitute for him, since he has not left his Church. On the contrary, from now on, sitting at the Father’s right hand, he watches over and leads his own from one end of the universe and of time to the other, so that there may be only one flock and one Shepherd.”
The Belgian biblical scholar, Lucien Cerfaux offers an insight on the need of the apostles to be in deep communion with Christ, the font of all vocations to ministry and service: “God has a habit of doing great things with nothing. God loves to create. The saints understood this and they accomplished great works with nothing at all, like God, because in their works they followed God’s methods … When the apostolate is understood, it weighs heavily in the balance of God and the spiritual destiny of the world. Do you think the noisy apostolate will count for much in the history of the Church? No apostolate, no work, will re-echo like the obscure mission of Galilee. And yet what was it in square miles? Galilee is no larger than an American county. It is neither the surface nor the length nor the width that counts. It is the depth. The apostolate is measured by the plumb line, not the tape measure. Jesus chose the twelve that they might be always with him and that he might send them out to preach. An apostle is truly an apostle only when he remains united to our Lord. Contemplation and action should not be separated … The apostolate is just the glow of sanctity. Apostles should be doubly holy, once for themselves, and once for others.”
Finally, Benedict Viviano explains Jesus’ exhortation: “Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give” (Mt 10:8): “A surprisingly Pauline phrase (Rom 3:24; II Cor 11:7), the point of which is that the divine truths of salvation are so important for everyone that they must be taught without regard for the listener’s ability to pay … This ideal is tempered by the reality in verse 10b: the laborer is worthy of his food. The missionary must live. The tension between these two principles is not absolute, but the balance is delicate.”
II. POINTS FOR THE EXAMINATION OF THE HEART
A. Are our hearts moved with pity to the sad plight of today’s troubled and abandoned crowds, who are like sheep without a shepherd? Do we imitate Jesus’ compassionate response? Do we pray to obtain vocations?
B. Do we believe that Jesus calls us anew and gives us “authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and illness” (Mt 10:1)? How do we make use of this God-given power to alleviate the world’s afflictions?
C. Do we fully embrace the Christian vocation to ministry and service? Do we regard with value the role of today’s Church-related vocations? How do we take heed of Jesus’ exhortation: “Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give” (Mt 10:8)?
III. PRAYING WITH THE WORD
(Prayer to Obtain Vocations, composed by Blessed Alberione)
Leader: Jesus, Divine Master, who said:
“The harvest indeed is great, but the laborers are few”,
we lovingly accept your invitation:
“Pray the Heavenly Father to send forth laborers into his harvest.”
Assembly: Inspire a devout crusade for vocations:
“All the faithful for all vocations.”
May they be salt of the earth,
the light of the world,
the city placed on the mountaintop
for the salvation of humanity redeemed by your Blood.
More religious, both men and women,
to fill the earth with religious houses which welcome your favored children,
and which will be centers of light and warmth,
sources of piety, gardens of saints,
singing “glory to God and peace to men and women of good will”.
Leader: Mary, “God’s chosen one”,
Mother and guardian of holy vocations,
pray with us, pray for us, and for all those called by God.
IV. INTERIORIZATION OF THE WORD
The following is the bread of the living Word that will nourish us throughout the week. Please memorize it.
“Then he summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness.” (Mt 10:1)
V. TOWARDS LIFE TRANSFORMATION
A. ACTION PLAN: Thank God for the vocation to holiness and ministry in the Church. Pray for the increase of Church-related vocations. Do a kind deed on behalf of a priestly or religious vocation and offer an encouraging word to one whose vocational response to service is waning.
B. ACTION PLAN: That we may appreciate more deeply the mercy and compassion of God who calls us to service, 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 (# 29): 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
Tel. (718) 494-8597 // (718) 761-2323