A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday and Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 10, n.42)

WEEK 23 IN ORDINARY TIME: September 9-15, 2012 ***

 

(N.B. The pastoral tool BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD: A LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY LITURGY includes a prayerful study of the Sunday liturgy of Year B from three perspectives. For reflections on the Sunday liturgy based on the Gospel reading, please scroll up to the “ARCHIVES” above and open Series 1. For reflections based on the Old Testament reading, open Series 4. For reflections based on the Second Reading, open Series 7. Please go to Series 10 for the back issues of the Weekday Lectio.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY:

September 9-15, 2012. The following reflections are based on the weekday liturgy’s Gospel reading.)

 

***

 

September 9, 2012: 23rd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME     

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Has Done All Things Well!”       

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 35:4-7a // Jas 2:1-5 // Mk 7:31-37

 

 

I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS: A Pastoral Tool for the LECTIO

          In the middle of the 30-day Ignatian retreat that we – silver jubilarians in religious profession - attended in 1999 in Baguio, a scenic mountain city in the Philippines, our spiritual directress gave us a break. Our group went to the Ecological Sanctuary run by the Maryknoll Sisters. After the “Cosmic Journey” tour, led by Sr. Peg Dillon, that helped us to contemplate the various stages of cosmic history, she brought us to the adjacent “Deaf Centrum”. The deaf and mute students entertained us. They danced with precision to the rhythmic beat of the drums and other ethnic musical instruments. At the end of their beautiful presentation, the deaf-mute performers tried to sound off their names. I was very much impressed by the teachers who patiently taught them to communicate through sign language and other means. They also helped them to produce sounds that approximate human speech. We were full of admiration for what the Maryknoll Sisters and the staff of the “Deaf Centrum” were doing for the deaf and mute children in Baguio City. This sense of admiration for a job well done is likewise present in today’s Gospel reading.

By his public ministry, Jesus promotes the kingdom of God. One day a deaf-mute was brought to him that he might heal him. Jesus takes the deaf-mute apart from the crowd, puts his fingers into his ears and touches his tongue with saliva. Looking up to heaven in a gesture that shows intimacy with God, Jesus breathes out a sigh expressing deep emotion over the man’s affliction. Then Jesus commands: “Ephphatha!” (“Be opened!”). The words and actions of our Lord are powerful and efficacious. They bring about a miracle of healing: the opening of the deaf man’s ears and the loosening of his tongue. 

The prophet Isaiah gives a vision of a world to come – a world of beauty and freshness, of healing and transformation. He depicts the divine promise of salvation: “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing” (Is 35:5-6). Jesus’ cure of the deaf and speech-impaired man indicates that the messianic times have come. His ministry of healing is a sign of the dynamic eruption of God’s kingdom into our lives. Indeed, together with those who have witnessed the healing miracle in the Decapolis region, we exclaim joyfully and with awe about Jesus: “He has done all things well!”

 

II. POINTS FOR THE EXAMINATION OF THE HEART: A Pastoral Tool for the MEDITATIO 

 

Jesus heals us by his Word and sacraments. He opens our ears and loosens our tongues. Do we listen to his saving Word and then proclaim the Good News of Christ? How do we respond to Christ’s “Ephphatha” today? How do we spread the efficacy of Christ’s “Ephphatha” to those who are unable to hear or proclaim God’s Word? Do we know how to affirm the good deeds of others? Are we able to say with fondness and enthusiasm: “He has done all things well”

 

 

III. PRAYING WITH THE WORD: A Pastoral Tool for the ORATIO

 

Lord Jesus,

healer of soul and body,

we have been deaf to your word.

We did not obey your saving will.

Let your healing touch and word open our ears

that we may listen to your saving word

and hear the cry of the poor.

Dear Jesus,

you have the words of eternal life.

Our tongues have cleaved to our mouths

because we were afraid to speak the truth about you.

Heal us and give us courage to proclaim the Gospel of salvation.

Open our lips that we may speak your praise to all nations,

saying: “He has done all things well!”

Let every people love and serve you.

You live and reign, forever and ever. Amen.

 

 

IV. INTERIORIZATION OF THE WORD: A Pastoral Tool for the CONTEMPLATIO

 

The following is the bread of the living Word that will nourish us throughout the day. Please memorize it.

 

“He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” (Mk 7:37)

 

 

V. TOWARDS LIFE TRANSFORMATION: A Pastoral Tool for the ACTIO   

 

Ask the Lord Jesus to touch your ears and your mouth and speak his powerful command, “Ephphatha!” Present to him all the spiritual maladies that prevent you from listening to his divine will and proclaiming his divine praise, and ask for healing. 

 

 

***

 

September 10, 2012: MONDAY – WEEKDAY (23)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Does Good on the Sabbath”

 

BIBLE READINGS

I Cor 5:1-8 // Lk 6:6-11

 

 

I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS: A Pastoral Tool for the LECTIO

 

On another Sabbath, Jesus goes into the synagogue to worship and teach. The scribes and Pharisees are there to actively scrutinize him. They watch closely to see if he would cure on the Sabbath and thus find a reason to accuse him. They legally interpret healing as a medical intervention and, therefore, as a kind of “work” that transgresses the law of the Sabbath. Jesus, however, realizes how wrong they are. He, therefore, responds to the conflict situation proactively. He deliberately heals on a Sabbath day to teach them its true meaning. The law of Sabbath rest is meant for the good of people. To do a compassionate act on the Sabbath – to heal a man with a withered hand and to relieve him of suffering - is therefore “lawful”. To refuse to do the good that can be done is akin to evil. There is no “Sabbath” that restricts us from doing good to another human being. There is no “Sabbath” that prevents us from loving. Indeed, the refusal to love is a betrayal of life.

 

In light of today’s reading, we are being challenged to be courageous like Jesus in doing what is good and not allow “false restrictions” to impede us. When I was a teenager, I saw on television the movie “The Nun’s Story”, starring Audrey Hepburn. She was a missionary nun in Africa and was serving as a nurse in a hospital. The medical doctor was out of town when a bleeding patient was brought for treatment. An emergency surgery has to be done to save the injured man. Although she did not have a medical license, she took the risk and operated on him. The courageous nun saved his life.

 

 

II. POINTS FOR THE EXAMINATION OF THE HEART: A Pastoral Tool for the MEDITATIO

 

Are we like the scribes and Pharisees, who prevent others from doing good to the needy? Do we have a healthy understanding of the “Sabbath” that enables us to be more compassionate to our needy and suffering neighbors?

 

 

III. PRAYING WITH THE WORD: A Pastoral Tool for the ORATIO

 

Loving Father,

we thank you for Jesus, the Divine Master.

He is the Lord of the Sabbath.

He heals even on the Sabbath

to teach us that the Sabbath is made for the good of man

and that man was not made for the Sabbath.

His acts of love and compassion

cannot be restricted by man-made laws

and false legal interpretation.

Help us to imitate him

in acting compassionately with the freedom of the Holy Spirit,

the principle of life and good.

Let us be convinced that refusal to do good

is a betrayal of life.

We love you, dear Father in heaven.

We give you glory and praise,

now and forever.

Amen.

 

 

IV. INTERIORIZATION OF THE WORD: A Pastoral Tool for the CONTEMPLATIO

 

The following is the bread of the living Word that will nourish us throughout the day. Please memorize it.

 

“Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath?” (cf. Lk 6:9)

 

 

V. TOWARDS LIFE TRANSFORMATION: A Pastoral Tool for the ACTIO

 

Pray that you may have a healthy understanding of church and civil laws. Endeavor to do charitable acts every day so that you will be ready to do good even in extraordinary situations and/or conditions.

 

***

 

September 11, 2012: TUESDAY – WEEKDAY (23)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Spends the Night in Prayer”

 

BIBLE READINGS

I Cor 6:1-11 // Lk 6:12-19

 

 

I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS: A Pastoral Tool for the LECTIO

 

The night is fascinating. It can be a moment of deep commune with God and a time of profound prayer. Before choosing his apostles, Jesus spends an entire night on a mountain in prayer. Once again, before making a decisive decision crucial to his messianic mission, he prays. When the day comes, he calls his disciples to himself and chooses the twelve apostles, who represent the “twelve” tribes of the New Israel, the Church. Like Moses descending from the mountain to deliver the Law to the people, Jesus comes down from the mountains to share with them the word of life and his touch of healing. On the plain, people crowd around him to hear the word of God and to experience his healing touch.

 

Prayer is a very important element in the life of Jesus and his disciples. Harold Buetow remarks: “It’s in prayer that we learn the mystery of Christ and the wisdom of the cross. In prayer we perceive in all their dimensions the real needs of our brothers and sisters throughout the world; in prayer we find the strength to face whatever lies before us; in prayer we get the strength for the mission which Christ shares with us.”

 

The following account in the life of John Michael Talbot, a modern day disciple-apostle and a “troubadour for the Lord” gives us a glimpse into the role and importance of prayer in the Christian vocation (cf. Dan O’Neill, SIGNATURES: The Story of John Michael Talbot, Berryville: Troubadour for the Lord, 2003, p. 43-45).

 

It happened in 1971 in a hotel in mid-America. “Things now rush together in my memory about those years, probably the endless touring and performing lulled me into a stupefied indifference about where I was or when I was there, and, of course, there were far more important matters on my mind at that time”, John points out. “All I remember about the general circumstances is that we were in the middle of a tour, probably somewhere in the Midwest, and spending this particular night at Holiday Inn. I had my own room – the walls I recall as being blue – probably matched my disposition at the time.”

 

The other band members and road crew were checking into their rooms down the hall as John closed the door and collapsed on the double bed, turning his tired gaze toward the window. The soft eerie glow of the neon hotel sign filtered softly through the drawn blue drapery, bathing him in a pattern of light and shadows. As had become his custom when there were quiet, restful moments at hand, John began to pray to a God he did not know deeply but had come to believe in. Almost imperceptibly, his silent, interior meditation became an audible, vocal question: “Lord, who are you?”

 

Then it happened. Light seemed to fill the room, gradually intensifying to a mind-bending brilliance. Startled, John sat up, blinking his eyes to behold the figure of a man in white robes, arms outstretched, with long hair and a beard. “I saw an image”, John says, “that looked like Jesus – it was a traditional Christ figure – an incredible sight.” A surge of adrenaline tore through his body like a hot rushing current, yet there was no fear or panic.

 

“I looked up out of my prayer and saw Christ bathed in light before me”, says John Michael. “He didn’t say anything. He didn’t give me a ‘great commission’ or anything like that. He was simply present. His love poured over and through me – it even seemed to emanate from me. In that experience I knew that my prayer for God to reveal himself to me was answered in the person of Jesus. I didn’t understand any Christian theology. I just knew that God loved me through this revelation of Jesus, and that any of my past sins or failings were forgiven. He stood before me, somehow almost around and within me, in infinite greatness yet total humility. I felt compassion. And I felt acceptance. I had been reading about Jesus and feeling him in my heart, but at that moment I actually experienced his touch. I knew it was Jesus. From that point on, I begin calling myself a Christian again.” (…)

 

As they say, “the real test is in the fruit”, and the fruits of John’s life were definite changes for the better. John’s band-mates said that he became a more mature and well-balanced person. His newfound faith was making him a better human being. He was nicer to be around. The photos of Mason Proffit show the change. The early ones show a dull-eyed, aimless teenager. After the Christ experience John Michael Talbot looks like a young man with a vision about the direction of his life.

 

 

II. POINTS FOR THE EXAMINATION OF THE HEART: A Pastoral Tool for the MEDITATIO

 

What role does prayer play in our life, and especially in our Christian vocation? Do we give fundamental importance to prayer and contemplation? Do we see the intimate connection between prayer and deep commune with God and the call to mission and service of the Kingdom?

 

 

III. PRAYING WITH THE WORD: A Pastoral Tool for the ORATIO

 

            Lord Jesus,

you spent an entire night in prayer

to discern the divine will

with regards to your mission

and the future leaders of the Church.

Help us to perceive

the great importance of prayer in our life.

Teach us what it means to commune with God.

Give us the grace

to discern the divine saving will.

Grant us the strength

to carry out our mission

on behalf of your kingdom of justice, peace and love.

May we touch the world with your healing love

and the power of your saving word.

You live and reign,

forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

IV. INTERIORIZATION OF THE WORD: A Pastoral Tool for the CONTEMPLATIO

 

The following is the bread of the living Word that will nourish us throughout the day. Please memorize it.

 

“He spent the night in prayer to God.” (Lk 6:12)

 

 

V. TOWARDS LIFE TRANSFORMATION: A Pastoral Tool for the ACTIO

 

Tonight spend quiet moments in prayer to God. Allow your prayer to be transformed into acts of self-giving and service to the needy.

 

 

***

 

September 12, 2012: WEDNESDAY – WEEKDAY (23); THE MOST HOLY NAME OF MARY

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Blesses the Anawim

 

BIBLE READINGS

I Cor 7:25-31 //  Lk 6:20-26

 

 

I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS: A Pastoral Tool for the LECTIO

 

The anawim (from anawah = humility) are a people - humble and lowly - who find their blessedness in God. These humble believers are eager to welcome God and ready to do his will. They put their hope and trust in God alone. Formed by his mother Mary, the Lord’s humble handmaid, Jesus is the ultimate anawim. As the Servant-Son of Yahweh, he is meek and humble of heart. In his inaugural discourse as Divine Master, Jesus declares that the anawim – the poor, the hungry, the grieving and the persecuted - are blessed by the Lord. They are recipients of salvation and of God’s infinite favor. Immersed into the baptismal waters of his paschal destiny, the Christian disciples in today’s word are the anawim. Like Jesus and Mary, they are called to proclaim the beatitudes of God’s anawim.

 

The following illustrates how some Filipino women exemplify in their local community the spirit of the anawim.

 

A few years ago, I conducted a liturgy class at Maryhill School of Theology in Metro Manila, Philippines, that included the topic “Liturgy and Creation”. I invited an ecology team from Barrio Ugong to share their endeavors with my students. The team was composed of enterprising housewives. None of them had a college or even a high school degree, but they became a leaven of transformation for their local community. Speaking in Tagalog, for none of them was proficient in English, the medium of instruction in higher Filipino schools, the housewives conducted the seminar on waste management, recycling, composting, organic gardening, etc. in very simple terms, but with expertise. They also shared the initial resistance of some people to their community project. The “macho” men in the neighborhood were hostile. But the women steeled themselves from their unjust attacks and persisted with single-hearted devotion and courage. Their humility and prophetic stance paid off. Barrio Ugong was judged the best barrio in the Philippines!

 

 

II. POINTS FOR THE EXAMINATION OF THE HEART: A Pastoral Tool for the MEDITATIO

 

How does Jesus’ proclamation of the Beatitudes impinge upon us? Do we accept his declaration that the anawim are indeed blessed by the Lord? Do we try to live out in our life the beatitudes of the anawim? Do we look upon Jesus as the ultimate anawim and imitate Mother Mary who has lived the spirit of the anawim

 

 

III. PRAYING WITH THE WORD: A Pastoral Tool for the ORATIO 

 

Loving Jesus,

you are the true anawim.

In Galilee,

you taught us the beatitudes of the anawim.

In your humility and obedience,

you put your total trust and dependence on God,

even to the point of self-emptying on the cross.

We thank you for showing us the way to life.

Help us to imitate Mary, your and our Mother,

who lived fully the spirit of the anawim.

We adore you, Jesus, meek and humble of heart.

Live in us, Christ our Lord, now and forever.

Amen. 

 

 

IV. INTERIORIZATION OF THE WORD: A Pastoral Tool for the CONTEMPLATIO

 

The following is the bread of the living Word that will nourish us throughout the day. Please memorize it.

 

            “Blessed are you who are poor.” (Lk 6:20)

 

 

V. TOWARDS LIFE TRANSFORMATION: A Pastoral Tool for the ACTIO

 

Meditate on the Beatitudes and our identity as Christian anawim. In your service to the poor, those who mourn, the victims of injustice and violence, etc., endeavor to be an instrument of God’s beatitude for them. 

 

 

***

 

 September 13, 2012: THURSDAY – SAINT JOHN CHRYSOSTOM, bishop, doctor of the Church

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Us to Radical Forgiveness and Mercy”

 

BIBLE READINGS

I Cor 8:1b-7,11-13 // Lk 6:27-38

 

 

I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS: A Pastoral Tool for the LECTIO

 

Christ challenges us to be radically God-like in extending forgiveness, love and mercy to all. Jesus’ exigent demands resound: “Love your enemies … Do good to them … Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” The words of Jesus on forgiveness and compassion, however, should not be falsely interpreted. His words on non-retaliation and forgiveness do not promote passivity nor permit us to succumb to evil and injustice. Rather, Jesus’ words are a call to radicality. Aelred Rosser asserts: “It’s about being radical: radically loving, radically generous, radically God-like. All the kinds of behavior that Luke records here are summed up in one kind of behavior: God-like behavior. To what extent can we behave like God? To a far greater extent than most of us do. The bottom line may be put this way: if there is no difference between how Christians behave and how non-Christians behave, where’s the evidence that Christianity is different?”

  

           Indeed, Jesus challenges us anew. He who invites us to this radical expression of God’s benevolence and compassion will also give us the grace and inner strength to be radically loving and forgiving. In the case of someone who loves God and Christ, everything is possible. Trusting in the grace of God, the Christian disciple is able to say: “In him who is the source of my strength, I have strength for everything” (Phil 4:13).

 

The following two stories illustrate what it means to live the challenge of forgiveness and mercy. The first story is about radical forgiveness (cf. Mary Brown in DAILY GUIDEPOSTS 2010, p. 270) and the second is about radical compassion (cf. Brenda Wilbee in DAILY GUIDEPOSTS 2010, p. 271)

 

I’ve been deeply concerned for my friend. Her teenage daughter has moved in with her older boyfriend and his dad. The boyfriend and his dad treat my friend with hostility. To make matters worse, my friend’s ex-husband has joined them in their anger at her. Together they’ve leveled false accusations against my friend and have alienated her daughter from her.

 

Over the past months my friend has poured out her despair to me. Tonight, however, when I phoned her, I heard an amazing change in her voice. “I feel as though a huge weight had been lifted off me”, she said. “What happened?” I asked. “Well, when I heard the Gospel reading at church this morning – to love your enemies and to pray for those who persecute you – I knew that somehow I had to do what Jesus said, even though it seems impossible.” “Considering how you’ve been treated, it does seem impossible to respond that way.” “I felt that I couldn’t but that God could. For the rest of the service, I prayed for them. When I came home, I still felt overwhelmed by my hurt and anger, so I prayed more. Instead of praying for them to change, I simply asked God to do good to them. Suddenly, everything inside me changed, I felt a lightness I’ve never felt before. I know that somehow everything will work out. I’ll keep praying for them and trusting God. I finally have peace.”

 

 

***

 

David Denny founded the city of Seattle in 1851. I know the man well; I wrote six books about him and his Sweetbriar Bride Louisa. With only twenty-five cents in his pocket, he went on to become the city’s third richest man. With assets of three million dollars. In the panic of 1893, his brother begged that he shut down his enterprises to weather the terrible recession.

 

“I can’t”, he replied. “A hundred families will starve.” David instead mortgaged everything, and the recession rolled in. He and Louisa celebrated their fortieth wedding anniversary in an empty mansion and then moved on to a log cabin he’d once given his daughter Abbie. He died ten years later with less than twenty-five cents to his name but with a reputation worth more than gold. Seattle loved Honest Dave.

 

Before he died, he wrote: “If I could live my life again, I’d still come West, I’d join the same church and marry the same woman. But I’d endeavor to be a better Christian.”

 

 

 

II. POINTS FOR THE EXAMINATION OF THE HEART: A Pastoral Tool for the MEDITATIO

 

How does today’s Gospel on forgiveness and mercy challenge me? What is my response to the command of Jesus: “Love your enemies and do good to them … Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful”? Do I use Christ’s teaching on forgiveness and compassion as an excuse to hide the absence of justice and to acquiesce to the onslaught of injustice and evil? 

 

 

III. PRAYING WITH THE WORD: A Pastoral Tool for the ORATIO

 

Lord God,

you are merciful and gracious,

slow to anger and abounding in kindness.

Great is your compassion for your children.

We thank you for your Son Jesus Christ

who incarnated the meaning of forgiveness and mercy.

He calls us to be forgiving and merciful.

Give us the grace we need

to live up to the challenge of radical forgiveness and compassion.

O loving Father,

we bless your holy name in Jesus,

who lives and reigns, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

IV. INTERIORIZATION OF THE WORD: A Pastoral Tool for the CONTEMPLATIO

 

The following is the bread of the living Word that will nourish us throughout the day. Please memorize it.

 

            “Love your enemies … Be merciful.” (Lk 6:35 - 36)

 

 

V. TOWARDS LIFE TRANSFORMATION: A Pastoral Tool for the ACTIO

 

Name someone who has hurt you. Pray for that person for a period of time and offer him/her your gift of forgiveness even from afar. Offer an act of compassion and mercy for someone in deep need. 

 

 

***

 

 September 14, 2012: FRIDAY - THE EXALTATION OF THE HOLY CROSS

“JESUS SAVIOR: The Cross Is His Throne of Glory”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Nm 21:4b-9 // Phil 2:6-11 // Jn 3:13-17

 

 

I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS: A Pastoral Tool for the LECTIO

 

We celebrate today the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, the font of healing and of life. The words of St. Andrew of Crete introduce us into the spirit of today’s celebration: “Had there been no cross, life itself could not have been nailed to the tree. And if life had not been nailed to it, there would be no streams of immortality pouring from Christ’s side, blood and water for the world’s cleansing. Therefore, the cross is something wonderfully great and honorable. The cross is called Christ’s glory; it is saluted as his triumph.”

 

The lifting up of the bronze serpent that we hear in the Old Testament reading (Nm 21:4b-9) is fascinating and illumines the mystery of the cross that we venerate. The bronze serpent on the pole that brings healing to those bitten by venomous seraph snakes is a symbol of God’s benevolent saving will. Jesus, like the serpent, is lifted up on the pole of the cross, and whoever looks to him in faith will be saved. This is the triumph of the cross. Indeed, in the light of the joyful Easter event of Christ’s resurrection, the cross becomes a throne of glory.

 

Christ’s death on the cross is the climax of a life totally given to God in humble obedience. Upon the cross, the Son-Servant of God carries out the ultimate act of sacrificial love and fulfills the Father’s benevolent plan of salvation. The cross of Christ is therefore a glorious throne, a font of healing and a means to eternal life. Saint Paul and the early Christian community, therefore, sing this beautiful hymn of faith: “Christ humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him, and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those 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 2:8-11).

 

The following story illustrates the participation of Christian disciples in the mystery and triumph of the cross (cf. Full Sail with the Wind of Grace: Peter Kibe and 187 Martyrs, written and edited by “Martyres” Editorial Cimmittee, Tokyo: Don Bosco Sha, 2008, p. 44-46).

 

Genka’s daughter Maria was married to the son of Kondo Kisan, the commissioner of Tachiura (Hirado City, Nagasaki Prefecture). Kondo was a devout Buddhist. He tried to convert his daughter-in-law and make her give up her faith. Maria always responded with the same words: “I was baptized by my father and have always walked the way of God that was taught to me. I cannot give up my faith.” “If you do not renounce your faith, we cannot keep you in our household. Think well and choose either my son or your faith.” Kondo oppressed Maria with these harsh words. After two years of struggling with the situation, Maria told her husband of her decision, and returned to her father Genka.

 

“It must be Genka who encouraged her to leave. He must pay for this!” Kondo discussed the matter with his friend, a Buddhist monk in Hirado, and appealed to Shigenobu to punish Genka. Shigenobu was furious with Genka who not only disobeyed his orders and continued to practice his faith, but also worked as a Christian leader. Shigenobu ordered the execution of Genka together with his wife Ursula and their eldest son John Mataichi.

 

Genka was handed over to the commissioner of Yamada (Hirado City, Nagasaki Prefecture), Inoue Umanojo to be executed on 14 of November 1609. To Umanojo, Genka was a friend for whom he had a great respect. Genka told him of his only wish. “Lord Inoue, could you do me a favor and perform my execution at the Kurusu (cruz = cross) Trail? “Why the Kurusu Trail?” “Once a cross stood there, and my parents and friends are buried there, too.”

 

Umanojo nodded and they started to walk toward the Kurusu Trail. When they arrived at the spot, Genka said to Umanojo, “Lord Inoue, it was my heart’s desire to offer my life here. None of this is your fault. Please be at peace.” Genka knelt down, raised his tied hands toward heaven and silently bowed his head. Umanojo, choking down his tears, performed the execution with one stroke of his sword so that Genka would not suffer too much.

 

Genka’s wife Ursula and their son John Mataichi were also beheaded about the same time at a place nearby. Gaspar Nishi Genka and his wife Ursula were both 54 years old. Their oldest son John Mataichi was 24 years old. Their remains were buried at the Kurusu Trail. The Christians secretly planted a pine tree on the spot.

 

In 1992, the Christians of Ikitsuki built a large cross on the Kurusu Trail. It is to remind them of the importance of faith strengthened in the family, a precious heritage of Gaspar Nishi Genka.

 

 

II. POINTS FOR THE EXAMINATION OF THE HEART: A Pastoral Tool for the MEDITATIO

 

Are we eager to fix our gaze on Jesus Christ crucified and seek healing from him? Are we disposed to participate in the folly of the cross and the mystery of Christ’s sacrificial love? Are we willing to meditate on the mystery of the cross and its meaning for us? Are we ready to proclaim to the world the triumph of Christ on the cross and give a living witness to it? 

 

 

III. PRAYING WITH THE WORD: A Pastoral Tool for the ORATIO

 

Lord Jesus,

the mounted bronze serpent

that saved the ancient Israelites from sure death

prefigures your crucifixion and redeeming death at Mount Calvary.

Thank you for your obedient sacrifice.

Above all, we render praise and thanksgiving to God the Father

who loved us so much that he sent you, his Servant-Son,

to be lifted up on the cross.

Now in faith we look upon the cross of your sacrifice

and see in it the source of healing and the font of eternal life.

Through your cross, O loving Jesus,

our hope is strengthened

that we will not die from the snares of sin, but live.

We adore you.

We worship you, Lord.

We venerate your cross.

Through your cross you brought joy to the world

and for this, we revere you,

now and forever.

Amen.

 

 

IV. INTERIORIZATION OF THE WORD: A Pastoral Tool for the CONTEMPLATIO

 

            The following is the bread of the living Word that will nourish us throughout the week. Please memorize it.

 

“So must the Son of Man be lifted up.” (Jn 3:14) 

 

 

V. TOWARDS LIFE TRANSFORMATION: A Pastoral Tool for the ACTIO

 

Pray for the victims of violence, hatred, and war and all those suffering from acts of injustice and oppression. By your compassion and charity, allow them to experience the healing and saving love of Christ on the cross. 

 

 

***

 

September 15, 2012: SATURDAY - OUR LADY OF SORROWS

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Mother Mary Shares in His Sorrowful Passion”

 

BIBLE READINGS

I Cor 10:14-22 // Jn 19:25-27 or Lk 2:33-35

 

 

I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS: A Pastoral Tool for the LECTIO

 

Today’s feast, which comes after the feast of the Exultation of the Cross, reminds us that the Blessed Virgin Mary, standing by the cross, shares in her Son’s passion and suffering. Like her Son, the king of martyrs, the Mother is a martyr in spirit. Saint Bernard remarks: “The martyrdom of the Virgin is set forth both in the prophecy of Simeon and in the actual story of the Lord’s passion. The holy old man said of the infant Jesus: He has been established as a sign which will be contradicted. He went on to say to Mary: And your own heart will be pierced by a sword. Truly, O Blessed Mother, a sword has pierced your heart. For only by passing through your heart could the sword enter the flesh of your Son … Then the violence of sorrow has cut through your heart, and we rightly call you more than martyr, since the effect of compassion in you has gone beyond the endurance of physical suffering.”

 

Any parent is bound to suffer, but Mary’s suffering is more intense that any other. She is the Mother of Christ, the Redeemer. Because of her spiritual closeness to her child, her sorrow is more acute. And because of her sinless nature, she is more sensitive to other people’s sufferings, especially that of her Son. The ancient hymn “Stabat Mater” beautifully depicts the pathos at the foot of the cross and Mary’s poignant sorrow: “At the cross her station keeping, stood the mournful Mother weeping, close to Jesus to the last. Through her heart his sorrow sharing, all his bitter anguish bearing, now at length the sword had passed. (…) Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled, she beheld her tender Child, all with bloody scourges rent. For the sins of his own nation saw him hang in desolation, till his spirit forth he sent.”

 

As Mary shared in the sufferings of her Son, we too are called to participate in the passion of Christ … in the passion of the world … in the lot of our suffering brothers and sisters. The following charming story tells us of the compassion and spiritual communion experienced by two pilgrims, both cancer victims, when they met in Lourdes, France (cf. Jill Paris, “Miracle Seeker” in Saturday Evening Post, March-April 2012, p. 46-47).

 

“Is this your first time at Lourdes?” I look up at a frail-looking pilgrim just beside me in the line for the sacred grotto. “Yes”, I say. The woman’s name is Selam. She has come from Vancouver, Canada, but originally hails from Ethiopia. She is 40 years old. Within seconds we are swapping war stories. “Melanoma, Stage III”, I say. “Colon cancer … I’ve been given six months to live”, she whispers.

 

I let her step in front of me and study how she grazes the grayish stone that leads to the niche with her left hand, stopping every few feet to kiss the rock. A white rosary entwined in her right hand swings gently from side to side. I begin to copy her every move. If she makes the sign of the cross, I do, too. If she pats the water droplets that trickle from the cave-like surface and touches her face, I do the same. It is as if she’s been sent to me as a personal guide. Nearing the sacred spot, she begins to weep. I stroke her back the way a mother would soothe a child with skinned knee.

 

She kneels before the statue of Mary resting high in an alcove. Dabbing moisture from the stone, my hand presses the gash on my upper left arm, but I forget to ask Mary for anything because of a deep concern for my new companion. Selam’s despairing sobs grow louder – agonizing wails echoing in an already hushed enclave. Minutes later, she rises and turns toward me. I open my arms wide and she collapses against me. We hold each other in a long embrace as though lifelong friends. “I want you to have this”, I say, reaching into my bag for a vintage religious medal of Bernadette that a dear friend sent with me for luck. “Pin it over your heart. It will protect you.” “Oh, thank you, my love’, she says. I prayed I would meet someone here.”

 

Who knew my presence alone would answer a dying woman’s prayers? (…) Six months later, after a chest X-ray, I am classified as disease free. I harbor much hope, but there is always my next scan. Upon returning from Europe, I would speak with Selam twice. Her cancer had rapidly spread, and she was bravely undergoing extreme bouts of experimental chemotherapy. Her last words to me were, “I’ll call you next week, my love.” That was several months ago. Just recently I have signed up with Our Lady of Lourdes Hospitality North American Volunteers to become one of the thousands of companion caregivers that Selam and I had seen.

 

 

II. POINTS FOR THE EXAMINATION OF THE HEART: A Pastoral Tool for the MEDITATIO

 

How does the presence of Mary, at the foot of the cross affect you personally? How do you participate in the passion of Christ … in the passion of the word … in the sufferings of your brothers and sisters?

 

 

III. PRAYING WITH THE WORD: A Pastoral Tool for the ORATIO

 

Father,

as your Son was raised on the cross,

his mother Mary stood by him, sharing his sufferings.

May your Church be united with Christ

in his suffering and death

and so come to share in his rising to new life,

where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

IV. INTERIORIZATION OF THE WORD: A Pastoral Tool for the CONTEMPLATIO

 

The following is the bread of the living Word that will nourish us throughout the day. Please memorize it.

 

            “Standing by the cross of Jesus was his mother …” (Jn 19:25)

 

 

V. TOWARDS LIFE TRANSFORMATION: A Pastoral Tool for the ACTIO

 

Through compassionate acts, share deeply in the passion of your suffering brothers and sisters.

 

***

 

 

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

Website: WWW.PDDM.US

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