A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday and Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 10, n.49)

WEEK 30 IN ORDINARY TIME: October 27 – November 3, 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: October 28 – November 3, 2012. The following reflections are based on the weekday liturgy’s Gospel reading.)

 

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October 27, 2012: 30th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME 

“JESUS MASTER: He Imparts to Us the Light of Faith”       

In the Pauline Family: SOLEMN FEAST OF JESUS THE DIVINE MASTER

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jer 31:7-9 // Heb 5:1-6 // Mk 10:46-52

 

 

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

  

            I met Philip, a ten-year old boy with a brain tumor, when he visited us at our convent in Cebu Island in the Philippines. The tumor caused him to be blind and his body growth was stunted. But his face radiated peace and trust. The blind boy played the organ and the guitar beautifully. After his improvised concerto, I accompanied him to the refectory, located on the second floor.  I held his hand as we went up the stairs. When we reached the top, Philip asked, “How many steps in the stairs?” I could not answer. He gamely told me how many steps there were. Philip knew that he would not live long, but had no fear. With his sightless eyes, he could “see” better than us … he could see the beyond. When he bid us goodbye, I prayed: “Lord, help me to see the way Philip sees!” The lovable blind boy died and is now in heaven.

 

            The need for true spiritual sight is the subject of this Sunday’s Gospel reading. Bartimaeus sits by the roadside begging as Jesus is leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd. The blind beggar resolutely cries: “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me”. Jesus responds compassionately by calling for him. Bartimaeus throws aside his cloak, springs up, and comes to Jesus. The “cloak” that he throws away represents his former way of life. He now leaves behind the “old order” and embraces a new life. Jesus’ question, “What do you want me to do for you?” becomes an occasion for him to profess his faith in the power of Jesus. The blind man addresses him: “Master, I want to see”. He calls Jesus the “Master”. Jesus is the Master who imparts the light of faith. The words of Jesus are gracious: “Go your way; your faith has saved you”. Today’s Gospel ends joyfully with an experience of healing and a remarkable movement. Filled with the light of faith, the response of Bartimaeus to Jesus’ command, “Go your way” is to follow the way of the Divine Master - a way that leads from Jericho to Jerusalem, and ultimately – to the Cross. The response of the healed blind man challenges the faith community today.

 

 

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

 

Do we recognize and identify the blindness within us that needs to be healed? Do we turn to Jesus and say, “Master, I want to see”? In our experience of blindness and hopelessness, do we have the courage and the faith to cry out with Bartimaeus: “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me”? When Jesus sees us by the wayside and calls us to himself, what is our response? Do we throw aside the cloak of our old habits, get up, and run to meet him? Do we follow him on the way?

 

 

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

 

 Lord Jesus, we are blind.

We close our eyes to our paschal destiny

and the radical demands of discipleship.

We turn to you for inner healing

and for the light of faith.

You are good and compassionate,

the healer of our infirmities.

You are the Divine Master,

the kindly Light to lead us to Jerusalem,

to the saving way of the Cross.

We put our trust in you

for you are the font of light and healing.

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 received his sight and followed him on the way.” (Mk 10:52)

 

 

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

 

Pray in thanksgiving for the many good people who endeavor to relieve the painful and difficult situations of the vision-impaired. Offer some help to various institutions for the blind.  

 

 

***

 

October 2, 2012: MONDAY – WEEKDAY (30)

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Compassion Surpasses the Sabbath Law”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Eph 4:32-5:8 // Lk 13:10-17

 

 

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

 

My cousin, a pharmacist, belongs to a medical mission team that goes to Vietnam to assist the sick. She suggested to their Franciscan director that since almost 75% of the team is of Filipino origin, it might be a good idea to do a medical mission also in the Philippines. The suggestion was well taken, but on account of the excessive red tape imposed by the Philippine government, they were not able to carry out their mission to the Filipinos.

 

The ministry of compassion of Jesus is also threatened by a legalistic bind. A woman is crippled by a malady that makes her incapable of standing erect. Jesus releases her from her bondage while teaching at the synagogue on a Sabbath. The ruler of the synagogue, indignant that Jesus has broken the Sabbath rule but not daring to rebuke him directly, addresses the crowd: “There are six days when work should be done. Come on those days to be cured, not on the Sabbath day.” The woman has suffered for 18 years, and the ruler wants Jesus to wait one more day to cure her. But the compassionate ministry of Jesus cannot be bound nor postponed. The irruption of the kingdom of God cannot be suppressed by a faulty, legalistic interpretation of the Sabbath law. Jesus exposes the hypocrisy by arguing from the lesser to the greater: If you loosen animals on the Sabbath to refresh them, why not loosen a suffering “daughter of Abraham” from a crippling bondage. The kingdom of God is superior to the Sabbath law. The meaning of the Sabbath is fulfilled by works of compassion to those who yearn for the comfort and peace of God and a “rest” from their anguish.

 

 

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

 

Are we truly persons of compassion or do we allow ourselves to be crippled by faulty, legalistic interpretations? Are we totally “free” to carry out works of compassion to those who yearn for the comfort and peace of God?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

we thank you for Jesus Master, the Lord of the Sabbath.

He teaches compassion

and the wisdom to surpass faulty, legalistic interpretation.

Help us to be “free” to carry out works of compassion

for those who are seeking “rest” from their anguish

and are yearning for your comfort and peace.

We love you and serve 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 day. Please memorize it.

 

“Ought she not to have been set free on the Sabbath day from this bondage?” (Lk 13:16)

 

 

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

 

By your kind words and charitable deeds, alleviate the suffering of the afflicted and enable them to experience “rest” from their anguish.

 

 

***

 

 

October 30, 2012: TUESDAY – WEEKDAY (30)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Blesses Small Beginnings”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Eph 5:21-33 // Lk 13:18-21

 

 

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

 

The first parable in today’s Gospel is about the mustard seed, the smallest seed in the world. Planted in the ground, it grows and becomes a large bush. Birds come and make their nests in its shady branches. In this parable, Jesus contrasts the insignificant beginning of the extremely small seed and the enormous size of the full-grown bush. The image of a tiny mustard seed growing into the grandiose bush underlines the universal expanse of God’s kingdom that would encompass all nations, as well as Israel. The second parable is about the yeast’s leavening force that makes the dough rise. Even a minimal amount of yeast has a natural tendency to expand, producing a great change in the dough to make it fit to be baked into a loaf of bread. Likewise, there is something inherently dynamic in the kingdom of God. Its power of good is transforming.

 

Jesus invites us to extol the power of small beginnings. We are called to sow the seed of the kingdom in today’s world as well as to trust in the power of the Holy Spirit who animates the growing kingdom. Let us do our part in sowing the seed and in manifesting to the world the dynamic and transforming power of the heavenly kingdom. We are to be seeds of the kingdom and to exhibit the transforming power of good in today’s world. The experience of Mike McGarvin, the founder of the Poverello House in Fresno, gives insight into the mustard seed beginning and the dynamic power of his compassionate ministry to the poor and needy (cf. Mike McGarvin, PAPA MIKE, 2003, p. 73-74).

 

My job was with a local newspaper, the Fresno Bee … There was a void in my life, because I had been so used to serving the Pov, and now I wasn’t doing anything. It was this restlessness, and the unbearable heat in our trailer, that compelled me to start checking out Chinatown. Fresno’s Chinatown is a tiny area southwest of downtown proper. It was near to where the Fresno Bee building was located, and it piqued my interest. In many ways, it reminded me of the Tenderloin district in San Francisco. There were small struggling businesses, a lot of cheap bars, single room occupancy hotels, prostitutes, and homeless people everywhere. It had a few mysterious and charming street names, such as “Fagan’s Alley” or “China Alley”, but it was dreary and gritty rather than romantic.

 

It was 1973, just a few months after we had moved back to Fresno. I went to a day-old bread store, loaded up on loaves, got some peanut butter and jelly, and went to work. I took it all back to our trailer, and Mary and I made up a bunch of sandwiches. I got some disposable cups, a jug of ice water, and drove the short distance to Chinatown. I was working nights, so I had days free, and I started going to Chinatown daily, taking the sandwiches and the water, walking and giving them out. People were suspicious at first, but as time went on, they started warming up to me. It helped that I was big, had a black belt in judo, and wasn’t intimidated.

 

The homeless people I encountered had no place to go. There was a rescue mission in town, but at that time it didn’t have a day program. Most of these folks were typical skid row types – older alcoholics and drug addicts, worn-out prostitutes, and poor, disabled men. They hung out on the streets in the summer heat and the winter cold because there was nowhere to turn. They weren’t wanted by anyone. The businesses didn’t want them around, because they scared customers away and littered the area. The police didn’t want them around, because they were nothing but trouble. I had stumbled onto a whole community of outcasts. That old Poverello spirit was starting to take hold of me again. I loved going out and seeing the smiles on the faces when I handed out sandwiches. I enjoyed the jokes and stories I’d hear. I liked getting to know people by name, and many of them seemed to crave not only the food, but also the attention.

 

My routine in Chinatown started out just a few days a week, but like the Pov up in San Francisco, it slowly became a bigger part of my life. It wasn’t long before I was going seven days each week. It was getting a little pricey on my new salary, so I started hitting up my church, Mount Carmel, to donate some money to buy bread and the peanut butter. That got some people interested. I figured out pretty quickly that I might be able to get more than money out of the church. I was meeting some good-hearted people and some of them wanted to join me. After about a year, I was ready for help, although I wasn’t sure how these church folks would react to some of the hardened street characters. There weren’t many who hit the streets with me, but quite a few helped by preparing the food.

 

 

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

 

Do we believe in the power of small beginnings and in the transforming power of the kingdom of God? Do we trust greatly in God who can do all things in us?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

we are fascinated how a mustard seed,

can grow into a large bush to shelter the birds of the sky.

We are awed

by the leavening power of a small amount of yeast.

We thank and praise you

for the miracle of the mustard-seed beginning of your kingdom,

which continues to extend its life-giving fruitfulness

to all peoples of the earth.

We thank you for the dynamic power

of the heavenly kingdom.

Help us to appreciate small beginnings

and to believe in the dynamic power of the Gospel.

You are our hope and our joy,

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.

 

“What is the kingdom of God like?” (Lk 13:18)

 

 

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

 

Pray that people who sow the seed of the heavenly kingdom in today’s world may be blessed by the Lord. By your compassionate acts of love and service, and by trusting in the dynamic power of the Gospel, do your part in making the kingdom of God come.

 

***

 

 

October 31, 2012: WEDNESDAY – WEEKDAY (30)

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Us to Enter through the Narrow Gate”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Eph 6:1-9 // Lk 13:22-30

 

 

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

 

In the Poverello News (February 2004), I read this beautiful story, which illustrates the reality of a personal, total response to God’s offer of salvation presented in today’s Gospel reading.

 

On May 10, 1748, a ship was being violently buffeted by a brutal storm. The captain of the vessel, thinking that death was imminent, prayed in desperation. The captain, John Newton, was not the praying kind. Nicknamed “The Great Blasphemer”, he was a debauched, profane seaman who plied the most despicable trade imaginable: he was a slave trafficker. After his fervent prayer, the storm ceased and the sea calmed. Newton’s deliverance from death had a profound effect on him. He contemplated his life and saw, perhaps for the first time, the full extent of his misery, corruption, and moral ruin. That day was a turning point in his life, a day that ultimately led him to reject his loathsome profession, enter Christian ministry, and later become a key influence in the life of William Wilberforce, a man who had a major role in abolishing slavery in England. However, Newton is not known for his biography. He is best remembered for a hymn he composed. That hymn is today sung all over the world, heard mournfully played by bagpipes at funerals, and is still powerful enough to bring tears to many who hear it. The hymn is “Amazing Grace”. Perhaps it has so much force because it is Newton’s heart-felt confession:

 

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound,

That saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see.

 

John Newton’s conversion beautifully depicts the realization of Jesus’ words: “And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God. For behold some are last who will be first, and some who are first who will be last” (Lk 13: 29-30). His wholehearted response to God’s “amazing grace”, which saved a “wretch” like him, enabled him to participate in the feast of God’s kingdom.

 

Today’s Gospel reading continues to underline the rich significance of the Lord’s journey to Jerusalem. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem to undergo the death that leads to glory. Within the context of this paschal journey, someone asks: “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” Rather than answer him directly, Jesus prods him with a challenge: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough”. The narrow gate is open to all, but only for those who seek it. Indeed, the gift of salvation is not an indiscriminate prerogative. It must be willingly and fully embraced. We need to make a choice for the kingdom.

 

The biblical scholar, Samuel Oyin Abogunrin explains that the term “strive” (in Greek, agonizesthe) is the word from which the English “agony” is derived. According to him: “The struggle to enter must be so singularly motivated and focused as to be described as agony that involves the whole person: body, soul, and spirit. Christian life is a daily struggle to rise to a higher spiritual plane. It is wrong to sit back and relax after we have made a personal commitment to Christ. We cannot remain stagnant in our loyalty to God’s kingdom; unless we move forward we shall move backward.”

 

 

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

 

Am I willing to enter through the narrow gate that leads to the feast of God’s kingdom? Do I respond to the “amazing grace” that comes from his forgiving love? Do I believe that God wants all to be saved? What do I do personally and concretely to contribute to the mystery of universal salvation? Do I participate in the feast of God’s kingdom with joy and gratitude?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

your Son Jesus Christ invites us

to enter through the narrow gate to salvation.

Help us to share in his paschal sacrifice

and the feast of the kingdom.

Let us experience your “amazing grace”

and make us respond to it wholeheartedly.

Enable us to satisfy the world’s hunger

for the bread of life and the cup of salvation.

You are the Lord of the banquet

and you preside at the table in your kingdom,

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.

 

            “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.” (Lk 13:24)

 

 

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

 

Let your daily sacrifice be united with Christ and be a means of sharing in the banquet of God’s kingdom. Study the text of John Newton’s “Amazing Grace” and sing it in a spirit of prayer. 

 

 

***

 

 November 1, 2012: THURSDAY – ALL SAINTS

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Us Be Saints”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Rev 7:2-4, 9-14 // I Jn 3:1-3 // Mt 5:1-12a

 

 

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

 

Today is the Feast of All Saints. The saints are people who have given intense and incisive witness that salvation comes from God and from the Paschal Lamb Jesus Christ. The Beatitudes have animated and shaped their lives. Single heartedly, these exemplary followers of Christ have pursued the goal of holiness to which all are called by God. Through this joyful feast, we celebrate the holiness of God manifested in the lives of the saints. We also thank the Lord for the triumph of righteousness. Today we proclaim our communion with the saints and invoke their intercession for us. The saints are myriads – from every nation, race, people, and tongue (Rv 7:2-4, 9, 14). But all have trod the path of the Beatitudes (Mt 5:1-12a). As children of God, we too are called to be holy. Like the saints, we strongly hope “to see God as he is” in our glorious destiny in heaven (I Jn 3:1-3).

 

The biblical scholar Eugene Maly comments: “On this Solemnity of All Saints, Matthew, I John, and Revelation remind us that this is our day. We are to be joyous as we celebrate the solemn festival here below. Our lifetime is a pilgrimage to the heavenly city above. Yet it is only in the total commitment of our personality to Christ that we can make our robes white in his lifeblood and can have the total fulfillment of our hopes. It is in him that we live – and hope to die. We are pilgrims on our way home. The path is found in the beatitudes, and the end is found in heaven. Happy Feast Day!”

 

The following story, “What Goes Around Comes Around” illustrates the moral fiber and the spirit of sainthood. It gives us a glimpse of “heaven”. It also shows how wonderful our world could be if we live out fully the Gospel spirit of mercy and of the entire Beatitudes.

 

One day a man saw an old lady stranded on the side of the road, but even in the dim light of day, he could see she needed help. So he pulled up in front of her Mercedes and got out. His Pontiac was still sputtering when he approached her. Even with a smile on his face, she was worried. No one had stopped to help for the last hour or so! Was he going to hurt her? He didn’t look safe; he looked poor and hungry. He could see that she was frightened, standing out there in the cold. He knew how she felt. It was that chill which only fear can put in you. He said, “I’m here to help you, ma’am. Why don’t you wait in the car where it’s warm? By the way, my name is Bryan Anderson.” Well, all she had was a flat tire, but for an old lady, that was bad enough. Bryan crawled under the car looking for a place to put the jack, skinning his knuckles a time or two. Soon he was able to change the tire. But he had to get dirty and his hand hurt.

 

As he was tightening up the lug nut, she rolled down the window and began to talk to him. She told him that she was from St. Louis and was only just passing through. She couldn’t thank him enough for coming to her aid. Bryan just smiled as he closed her trunk. The lady asked how much she owed him. Any amount would have been all right with her. She already imagined all the awful things that would have happened had he not stopped. Bryan never thought twice about being paid. This was not a job to him. This was helping someone in need, and God knows there were plenty who had given him a hand in the past. He had lived his whole life that way, and it never occurred to him to act any other way. He told her that if she really wanted to pay him back, the next time she saw someone who needed help, she would give that person the assistance needed, and Bryan added, “And think of me.” He waited until she started her car and drove off. It had been a cold and depressing day, but he felt good as he headed for home, disappearing into the twilight.

 

A few miles down the road, the lady saw a small café. She went in to grab a bite to eat, and take the chill off before she made the last leg of her trip home. It was a dingy looking restaurant. Outside were two old gas pumps. The whole scene was unfamiliar to her. The waitress came over and brought a clean towel to wipe her wet hair. She had a sweet smile, one that being on her feet for the whole day couldn’t erase. The lady noticed the waitress was nearly eight months pregnant, but she never let the strain and aches change her attitude. The old lady wondered how someone so little could be so giving to a stranger. Then she remembered Bryan. After the lady finished her meal, she paid with a hundred dollar bill. The waitress quickly went to get change for her hundred dollar bill, but the old lady had slipped right out the door. She was gone by the time the waitress came back. The waitress wondered where the lady could be. Then she noticed something written on the napkin. There were tears in her eyes when she read what the lady wrote: “You don’t owe me anything … I have been there too. Somebody once helped me out, the way I’m helping you. If you really want to pay me back, here is what you do: Do not let this chain of love end with you.” Under the napkin were four more $100 bills. Well, there were tables to clear, sugar bowls to fill, and people to serve, but the waitress made it through another day …

 

That night when she got home from work and climbed into bed, she was thinking about the money and what the lady had written. How could the lady have known how much she and her husband needed it? With the baby due next month, it was going to be hard … She knew how worried her husband was, and as he lay sleeping next to her, she gave him a soft kiss and whispered soft and low, “Everything is going to be all right. I love you, Bryan Anderson.”

 

 

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

 

What is the personal implication of the Gospel Beatitudes for you? Do you allow yourself to be inspired by the saints in the way they live the spirit of the Beatitudes? Do we commit ourselves to the divine call to holiness? Do we believe that we are all called to be saints? 

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

we thank you for the gift of your Son Jesus Christ

whose glory is reflected in the lives of the saints.

The myriads of saints

“from every nation, race, people and tongue”

have trodden the path of the Beatitudes.

Each saint has participated fully and uniquely

in the saving passion of your Son on the cross.

Let our lives be inspired

by their total configuration to Christ Redeemer.

In communion with the saints,

may we pursue our Christian vocation to holiness

and attain their glorious destiny with you in heaven.

Together with the multitude of the redeemed

and with all the saints in heaven,

we exclaim:

“Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving,

honor, power and might be to our 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.

 

“Your reward will be great in heaven.” (Mt 5:12) 

 

 

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

 

Pray that we may respond fully to our Christian call to holiness. By incarnating the spirit of the Beatitudes, allow our fragmented world of today to have a glimpse of God’s infinite beauty and truth. Let those in need experience “a touch of the saints in heaven”.

 

 

***

 

 November 2, 2012: FRIDAY – THE COMMEMORATION OF ALL THE FAITHFUL DEPARTED (ALL SOULS)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Receives the Faithful Departed”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Wis 3:1-9   // Rom 6:3-9 // Jn 6:37-40

 

(Other texts may be used, cf. Lectionary readings for the Masses for the Dead.)

 

 

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

 

In the 9th century Amalareus of Metz (ca. 780-850 A.D.) suggested a day of commemoration for all the dead, similar to the consecration of a day in memory of all the saints. But it was only after many years that his wish would be fulfilled. The commemoration of all the faithful departed was first celebrated on November 2, 998 through the initiative of St. Odilo (ca. 962-1049), the fifth abbot of Cluny, and approved by Pope Sylvester II (ca. 940-1003). The Pope’s successors continued to favor the celebration of this feast in numerous Cluny monasteries, which in turn contributed to the diffusion of this feast throughout the Latin churches.

 

There is an intimate connection between the feast of All Saints (November 1) and the feast of All Souls (November 2). Both celebrate the paschal mystery of Christ, which is the basic foundation for the Christian vision of death and life after death. Our contemplation of the saving event of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection, in which the saints intimately participated on earth and continue to share gloriously and eternally in heaven, leads us naturally and spontaneously to the prayer for all the departed. We pray that our beloved dead, by the mercy of God, may also share fully and intimately in Christ’s paschal victory and in his gift of eternal life in heaven.

 

On the feast of All Souls, no particular biblical readings are prescribed, in contrast to other feast days. But there is a wide range of lectionary texts proposed from the Masses for the Dead. One favorite text is Wisdom 3:1-9, which offers consoling words about the eternal destiny of our faithful departed: “They are in the hand of God … they are in peace … their hope is full of immortality … chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed.” Combined with appropriate New Testament readings (e.g. Rom 6:3-9 and Jn 6:37-40, etc.) that avow the divine saving plan and the final destruction of death through Christ’s death and resurrection, this Wisdom text is very appropriate for the liturgy of All Souls Day. The insightful readings from the Masses for the Dead help Christian believers come to grips with the mystery of death that leads to eternal life

 

Our commemoration of the faithful departed should take into consideration both the human experience of loss, hurt and grieving, as well as our faith in Christ’s paschal mystery. With our faith and hope in the victorious death of Jesus Christ, our Risen Lord, we are heartened that death does not have the ultimate word and is not a total destruction. Death is merely a “transitus” – the enigmatic door that leads to eternal life.

 

St. Augustine recognizes the human need to mourn for the dead and the Christian faith that mitigates our sorrow. He remarks: “It is inevitable that we should be sad when those we love depart from us by dying. Although we know they are not leaving us for ever, that they have but gone a little ahead of us, that we who remain will follow them, nevertheless our nature shrinks from death, and when it takes a loved one we are filled with sorrow simply because of our love for that person. That is why the Apostle did not tell us that we should not be saddened, but that we should not be saddened in the same way as those who have no hope (…) Faithful hearts should be allowed, then, to mourn for their loved ones, but with a grief that can be healed; let them shed over our mortal condition tears that can be wiped away, tears that can be quickly checked by the joy of that faith which assures us that when believers die they go but a little distance from us that they may pass to a better state.”

 

On the feast of All Souls we are greatly reminded of our duty to offer suffrage for the poor souls in purgatory. The following excerpt from the life of Padre Pio could inspire us to pray more intensely for the souls in purgatory (cf. “Padre Pio and Purgatory” in the booklet PADRE PIO: A CATHOLIC PRIEST WHO WORKED MIRACLES AND BORE THE WOUNDS OF JESUS CHRIST IN HIS BODY by Bro. Michael Dismond, OSB, New York: Most Holy Family Monastery, p. 55-56).

 

One night Padre Pio was sitting alone in a room absorbed in prayer when an old man entered and sat next to him. “I looked at him but never thought of how he managed to get in the friary at that hour. I asked him: ‘Who are you? What do you want? The man answered: ‘Padre Pio, I am Pietro di Mauro, nicknamed Precoco. I died in this friary (in a fire) on September 18, 1908, in room number 4. I am still in Purgatory, and I need a Mass to free my soul from it. God has given me permission to come to you and ask for your prayers.’ After I had listened to his story, I said: ‘You can rest assured that I will celebrate Mass tomorrow for your liberation.’” Padre Pio then said that the Mass he celebrated the next day freed the man’s soul from Purgatory. One of the other priests at the friary later on checked the village records and found that such an individual had indeed died under the circumstances described by Padre Pio.

 

One day, some of the friars saw Padre Pio abruptly leave the table and begin to speak, as if he were speaking to someone. But no one was around Padre Pio to whom he could have been speaking. The friars thought Padre Pio was going crazy, and they asked him who he was speaking to. “Oh don’t worry, I was talking to some souls who were on their way from Purgatory to Heaven. They stopped here to thank me because I remembered them in my Mass this morning.”

 

Padre Pio said: “More souls of the dead from Purgatory than of the living climb this mountain to attend my Masses and seek my prayers.”

 

One time someone asked Padre Pio how Purgatory could be avoided. He replied, “By accepting everything from God’s hand. Offering everything up to Him with love and thanksgiving will enable us to pass from our deathbed to paradise.”

 

 

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

 

What is the meaning and importance of the Church’s feast of All Souls? Why is the Paschal Mystery of Christ the foundation of our vision of death and eternal life? How do we offer suffrage for our beloved dead and the poor souls in purgatory? In our memorial of the deceased, do we offer “sacrifices, prayers and almsgiving” on their behalf? Do we endeavor to visit the cemetery in November as part of our love and suffrage for our beloved dead? 

 

 

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

(Cf. Blessed Alberione’s Prayer for the Souls in Purgatory)

 

Lord, Jesus Christ, King of glory,

through the intercession of Mary and all the saints

free the souls of the faithful departed

from the punishments of purgatory.

And through the intercession of St. Michael,

standard-bearer of the heavenly army,

guide them to the holy light

promised to Abraham and to his descendants.

I offer you, Lord, sacrifices and prayers of praise.

Accept them for these souls

and admit them to eternal joy.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.

And let perpetual light shine upon them.

May they rest in peace.

            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.

 

“The souls of the just are in the hand of God … Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed.” (Wis 3:1, 5)

 

 

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

 

By your “sacrifices, prayers and almsgiving”, assist the poor souls in purgatory in their journey to heaven. In your daily endeavor to surrender to the saving will of God and to live a life of justice and charity, continue to manifest the communion of the Church in today’s world with the saints in heaven and with the poor souls in purgatory.

 

 

***

 

November 3, 2012: SATURDAY – WEEKDAY (30); SAINT MARTIN DE PORRES, religious; BVM ON SATURDAY

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Blesses the Humble”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Phil 1:18b-26 // Lk 14:1,7-11

 

 

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

 

Mike McGarvin, the founder of Poverello House in Fresno, was an alcoholic, a drug addict and a substance abuser. Mike became converted in his early twenties when he met the tenderhearted and welcoming Franciscan priest, Fr. Simon Scanlon in Tenderloin, in urban San Francisco. The Tenderloin district was notorious for its poverty, prostitution, and violence. Fr. Simon, the pastor of St. Boniface Church, responded to the hapless situation by gathering some volunteers and opening the Poverello Coffeehouse, a safe haven and place of refuge where people on the streets could find acceptance, hot coffee, and a warm welcome. Fr. Simon asked Mike to volunteer at Poverello. The burly ex-football player said “yes” and, in accepting to serve the poor and the homeless, was set on the road to recovery. In 2003 he wrote a very interesting book, “Papa Mike”, about his conversion and his service to the poor, the marginalized and the homeless. After reading the book, I concluded that Mike McGarvin is a living example of one who had humbly recognized his human frailty and weakness and turned to God for salvation. He is a realization of the words of Jesus: “The one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk 14:11b). The following anecdote that Mike wrote in his book made me chuckle for it fittingly illustrates the other aspect of Jesus’ lesson on humility: “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled” (Lk 12:14a).

 

At St. Boniface and Poverello, I got a real slice of life. The Tenderloin was the bottom of the social barrel, and all sorts of desperate cases drifted in and out …There was a regular at Poverello who was exceptional. He looked like a typical street person: dirty, a ratty beard, deteriorating, mismatched clothes. One day someone told me that he had once been a chess champion, ranked eighth in the United States. He had been involved in a love relationship that didn’t work out, and it had taken him over the edge. He started drinking too much, and eventually landed on the streets in San Francisco. One evening, a volunteer, who was a lawyer, looked out over the coffeehouse and said, “I’ll bet these people aren’t smart enough to play chess.” I was offended by his remark, but immediately thought of a way to cool this guy’s arrogance. I pointed to the chess champion, and said, “I’ve seen that guy play a little chess; why don’t you try him out?” The lawyer played three games with him, and the old wino beat him resoundingly every time. The attorney fancied himself an excellent chess player, so he was devastated. He came back up to the counter, and kept saying over and over, “I can’t believe that old drunk beat me three times.”

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Lk 14: 1, 7-11) tells us that on a Sabbath day Jesus had gone for a meal to the house of a leading Pharisee. Jesus noticed how the guests were choosing the places of honor at table. In this meal setting populated with “social climbers”, the Divine Master narrated to the guests a parable that ends with a powerful dictum: “For everyone who exalts himself with be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk 14:11). The biblical scholar, Eugene Maly explains the faith context of this parable: “Jesus is not concerned with ordinary social etiquette. He has more in mind than that … This is a Kingdom talk. This is the way it is in the Kingdom of God. A presupposition of the saying is that God issues the invitation to the Kingdom banquet. And he issues it to the lowly, the humble, those who recognize their total dependence on God’s salvation. These are the ones who will be exalted. But those who say, ‘Look at me, Lord! See my strength, my wealth, my influence’, are the ones who will be humbled. This humility, this total openness to the strength of God, leads to greatness.”

 

Indeed, the kingdom parable of Jesus underlines the meaning of humility, which is basically a total dependence on God who wills our salvation. The Divine Master took the way of humility in his pilgrimage to Jerusalem to bring to fulfillment his life-giving paschal destiny on the cross. Jesus crystallized the meaning of humility in his very person. He is the Servant-Son totally consecrated to the saving will of God. With deep humility as faithful servant and in filial obedience, Jesus humbly pursued the Father’s saving plan and fully committed his entire being to God. The lowly one of Yahweh trusted in the marvelous action of God – he who humbles and exalts. St. Paul and an early Christian hymn acclaim: “Jesus humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him” (Phil 2:8-9).

 

 

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

 

What does Jesus’ teaching on humility mean to us, personally and concretely? Are we willing to replicate in our life the humble stance of Jesus, the Servant of Yahweh and the Son of God?

 

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

 

Loving Father,

your only begotten Son Jesus is the humble Servant

in whom you are most pleased.

We praise and thank you for the mystery of his kenosis and self-emptying.

Help us to realize more and more that the feast of your kingdom is for all.

Fill us with zeal and apostolic strength

to spread your gracious saving invitation to all peoples,

especially the poor and lowly.

We ask this through Christ our Lord

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.

 

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk 14:11).

 

 

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

 

In a spirit of humility, renew your total dependence on God and his saving will. If possible, read the inspiring book, “Papa Mike” by Mike McGarvin. The book, which costs $20, is available at Poverello House, P.O. Box 12225, Fresno CA 93777. All proceeds from the sale of this book go directly to assist the mission of caring for the poor at Poverello House.  

 

 

***

 

 

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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