A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday and Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 10, n.3)

THIRD WEEK OF ADVENT: December 12-17, 2011 ***

 

(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.

 

Series 10 presents A LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE WEEKDAY LITURGY: December 12-17, 2011. The following reflections are based on the weekday liturgy’s Gospel reading.)

 

***

 

December 12, 2011: ADVENT WEEKDAY (III) – Monday

OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE (USA-Feast)

“Advent: A Time to Avow His Authority”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Nm 24:2-7, 15-17a // Ps 25:4-5ab,6 & 7bc,8-9 // Mt 21:23-27

 

 

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

 

After Jesus’ triumphant advent and messianic entry into Jerusalem, where he cleansed the temple, healed the sick and taught with authority, the chief priests and elders challenged him and asked for credentials. Jesus countered with a question about the authority of John the Baptist. If they admit John the Baptist’s divine commissioning, they convict themselves of unbelief; if they deny it, they risk inviting mob anger. Thus Jesus emerged from the confrontation with dignity and integrity.

 

The opposition leaders in Jerusalem refused to recognize the divine origin of both John the Baptist and Jesus. But, as the people of Advent expectation, we know better. We are called to avow Jesus’ messianic authority. Like Mary, who is also venerated as Our Lady of Guadalupe, it is our duty to give praise for the marvelous works of God, accomplished in Jesus Christ. Our Blessed Mother inspires us to surrender to the divine saving will and teaches us how to make Christ the center and summit of our life.

 

In concrete, we should courageously live and witness our faith in today’s increasingly hostile, secularized society. The White House for the first time, this year, referred to Christmas trees as “Holiday Trees”. This prompted CBS presenter Ben Stein to write an article which is circulated through Internet. His insights can encourage us in our religious witnessing.

 

I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees “Christmas trees”. I don’t feel threatened. I don’t feel discriminated against. That’s what they are – “Christmas trees”. It doesn’t bother me a bit when people say, “Merry Christmas” to me. I don’t think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of the year. It doesn’t bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu. If people want a crèche, it’s just fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

 

I don’t like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don’t think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from, that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can’t find it in the Constitution and I don’t like it being shoved down my throat. (…)

 

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world’s going to hell! Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send “jokes” through E-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion about God is suppressed in the school and workplace. Are you laughing yet? (…)

 

 

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

 

Are we like the leaders in Jerusalem who were not able to discern the divine character of the words and deeds of Jesus and refused to commit themselves to him? What do we do to get to know Jesus, follow him closely, love him ardently and serve him faithfully?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus, help us to recognize your divine authority and submit to your saving power. In today’s increasingly secularized and atheistic world, give us the courage to witness that you are truly our Savior. Maranatha! Come, O Christ the Lord!

 

 

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.

 

“By what authority are you doing these things?” (cf. Mt 21:23b)

 

 

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

 

Pray that the saving authority of Christ may be welcomed and embraced by today’s troubled world. In this Advent season, listen attentively to the Word of God and invite people around you to savor the “bread of the Word”.

 

***

 

December 13, 2011: Memorial - SAINT LUCY – Tuesday

 “Advent: A Time to Say YES

 

BIBLE READINGS

Zep 3:1-2,9-13 // Ps 34:2-3,6-7,17-19,23 // Mt 21:28-32

 

 

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

 

Jesus underlines the contrasting response of two sons to their father’s command. The response of the first son, who promised to obey but did nothing, indicates the Jewish leaders’ refusal of the kingdom value proclaimed both by John the Baptist and Jesus. The response of the second son, who repented and obeyed, indicates the conversion experience of sinners and their embrace of the kingdom of God.

 

Advent is a time for conversion and new beginning. Jesus comes into our life to make us a new creation. But we need to welcome him and say “Yes” to his loving endeavor to renew God’s life within us. What joy our conversion entails; great is the comfort it brings! The following charming article can help us experience the awesome nature of conversion-transformation (cf. Mike McGarvin, POVERELLO NEWS, October 2011, p. 1).

 

One family that comes to Poverello has a little girl who is really out of control. A while ago, she entered the Pov dining room with her mom and siblings, spotted me, and, screaming like a banshee, came running up to me and side-kicked me in a very sensitive spot. Needless to say, I wouldn’t let that girl get within five feet of me after that. One day, I realized that the family hadn’t been in to eat in a long time. After that excruciating kick, I wasn’t too sad about their absence.

 

Not too long ago, they reappeared. While I wasn’t looking, the girl slipped up behind me. When I turned, I was initially shocked to see her (and, I might add, a little scared). Then she did what I never would have expected: she wrapped her arms around me and gave me a big hug. It was hard to believe that it was the same child.

 

 

 

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

 

What is my response to the loving saving initiative of God through his Son Jesus Christ: a “Yes, but No”, a “No, but Yes”, or a “Yes, absolutely Yes” response?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus, we have failed you and our heavenly Father many times. Give us the grace to respond positively to the Father’s saving will. Transform our “No, but Yes” response into a “Yes, absolutely Yes” response. Help us hasten the definitive advent of your glorious kingdom by our service of justice, peace and truth. Maranatha! Come, O Christ the Lord!

 

 

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 changed his mind and went.” (cf. Mt 21: 29)

 

 

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

 

Participate in the Rite of Reconciliation during the Advent season. Offer your counsel and guiding hand to those who have lost their moral compass and are struggling to preserve their personal integrity.

 

 

 

***

 

 

December 14, 2011: Memorial - SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS – Wednesday

“Advent: A Time for Messianic Works”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 45:6b-8,18,21b-25 // Ps 85:9ab-14 // Lk 7:18b-23

 

 

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

 

The air was charged with messianic expectation. John the Baptist sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus whether he was “the one who is to come” or should they expect someone else.  John’s emissaries witnessed for themselves Jesus giving sight to the blind and healing people from ills. Jesus sent them back to John with a command to report what they had seen and heard: the blind could see, the lame could walk, the lepers were made clean, the deaf could hear, and the Good News was preached to the poor. The wondrous works of Jesus testified that he was indeed the longed-for Messiah – the promised Savior who would bring life and salvation.

 

Advent is a season to contemplate and participate in the messianic works of Jesus. It is a season of thankfulness for Christ’s healing power and the Gospel joy. This season of grace calls us to carry on Christ’s compassionate ministry and saving works to our families, society and the entire creation.

 

The following article gives us an idea of what we can do to make the Advent of the Church a time of service to a larger society (cf. Gary Richards, “Cleanup Draws Crowds” in SAN JOSE MECURY NEWS, November 20, 2011, Section B, p.1, 6).

 

Saturday morning broke brisk, the sky a clear Bay Area blue. Another beautiful day loomed ahead – except along our trashy freeways: fast-food wrappers, coffee cups, beer cans, clothes, cigarette cartons, tattered sleeping bags, torn tents and some mysterious, smelly dark stuff. But not for long! More than 200 volunteers swarmed over six South Bay freeways to pick up litter – and another 200 are headed out Sunday.

 

A San Jose group called Beautiful Day pitched the idea to Caltrans recently for a massive weekend cleanup that the Bay Area has never seen before, promising 400 volunteers. The group delivered. … People signed up in droves … people such as Linda Hoskins, 52, and her husband, Clay Nelson, 63, of San Jose. Along with several other volunteers, they worked the area around El Camino Real and Highway 85 for 2½ hours. “Our freeways are filthy and I complained all the time, she said. “Complaining is not helping. Then we read about this in your column and discovered a way to do something.”

 

 

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

 

Do we participate in Christ’s ongoing messianic works in the world? Do we heartily proclaim the Gospel and confirm it with our service to the poor and vulnerable?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus, you continue to be our Savior. We are your arms and hands - the channels of your peace and redeeming works. Make us docile instruments of your grace so that the blind may see, the lame may walk, the lepers may be cleansed, the deaf may hear, and the Good News may be preached to the poor. Maranatha! Come, O Christ the Lord!

 

 

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.

 

“Go and tell what you have seen and heard.” (cf. Lk 7:22)

 

 

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

 

Pray for all those who hasten the final advent of our Lord Jesus Christ by their messianic works on behalf of today’s poor and vulnerable. Be personally involved in the Gospel proclamation and in the service of those who are in greatest need in our society.

 

 

***

 

 December 15, 2011: ADVENT WEEKDAY (III) – Thursday

“Advent: A Time to Prepare the Way of the Lord”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 54:1-10 // Ps 30:2,4-6,11-13 // Lk 7:24-30

 

 

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

 

Jesus gives a glowing description of John the Baptist: not a wavering reed but a staunch prophet, and not just a prophet, but the Messiah’s forerunner. John prepares the way of the Lord. As precursor, he points out and designates the Messiah to the crowds, challenging them to conversion.

 

Blessed James Alberione remarks: “Let us now consider our preparation for Christmas … Our preparation involves a negative aspect … John the Baptist was commanded to preach in the desert. So he went throughout the country along the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with Isaiah’s prophecy: A voice cries: In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord (Is 40:3) … Let us set ourselves in God’s way. The first disposition certainly is to take away evil: rectify the sentiments, the thoughts and the will. Let us surrender our will to God and seek only and always the divine will. And what is in store for us? Every valley shall be filled … There is much emptiness in our hearts. Fill it up … The Lord comes to bring us graces … Hence, two points: take away what impedes grace; second, prepare the way of grace.”

 

In this Advent season, let us continue John the Baptist’s mission to prepare the way of the Lord. Let us prepare an environment that is conducive to conversion. Let us live our Christian life with personal dedication that people may be inspired and yearn deeply for Christ. By our personal witnessing and ministries, let us bring people close to Christ. When my terminally ill brother Gisbert was at the Palliative Care Unit of Brampton Hospital in Toronto, his friend at church would come every evening to read to him Bible passages, which were powerfully comforting. He was preparing my brother to meet Jesus Savior at the hour of death. By his spiritual ministry, Gisbert’s friend was a modern John the Baptist and for this, we were grateful.

 

 

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

 

Are we willing to accept the task and challenge of preparing the way of the Lord? In this Advent season what do we do to overcome the impediments to grace? What do we do to prepare the way of grace?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus, your coming was foretold by the prophets. John the Baptist prepared the way for your coming. Help us to overcome our resistances to grace. Teach us to welcome your continuing advent in the Church and in the world. Transform us by your grace and like John the Baptist, may we inspire others to commit themselves to you, our longed for Savior. Maranatha! Come, O Christ the Lord!

 

 

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 will prepare your way.” (cf. Lk 7:27)

 

 

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

 

Pray for the courage and strength needed by Christian disciples to prepare the way of the Lord in today’s fragmented world. By your personal integrity and acts of justice and charity to the people around you, create an environment that is more conducive to grace and conversion.

 

***

 

 December 16, 2011: ADVENT WEEKDAY (III) – Friday

“Advent: A Time to Shine Brightly”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 56:1-3a,6-8 // Ps 67:2-3,5,7-8 // Jn 5:33-36

 

 

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

 

The Advent of the Church is a time of witnessing. John the Baptist is an exemplary witness to Christ. He was a burning and shining lamp pointing to the true light, Jesus Christ. He exposed the dark sinful recesses of our hearts and washed the world with luminous light so that we may see Christ. Though John’s testimony was valuable, Jesus asserts that he has a witness greater than John. God the Father is his absolute witness. The works that Jesus has done through divine power revealed that God loves us and wants to save us.

 

In this Advent season, let us manifest by our words and deeds the saving power of God. Like John the Baptist, let our lives be “burning and shining lamps” that radiate the light of Christ. The holiness of the Lebanese hermit Saint Sharbel was such that God was pleased to grant him the miracle of the “burning and shining lamp” (cf. Marilyn Raschka, “A Saint without Borders” in ONE magazine, July 2009, p. 30-33).

 

St. Sharbel ranks among Lebanon’s most celebrated religious men. During his life, the hermit performed numerous miracles and inspired the lives of those who sought his counsel. (…) St. Sharbel’s most famous miracle was his first, which involved an old oil lamp. One evening at the monastery, Sharbel asked to have his oil lamp refilled. Two attendants decided to play a trick on the young monk, and filled the lamp with water instead of oil. The attendants then watched Sharbel through a crack in the wooden door to his cell. When they saw Sharbel light the lamp, they whispered to one another in amazement, catching the attention of another monk. Hearing the men’s story, the monk entered Sharbel’s cell. He then extinguished Sharbel’s lamp and tried, unsuccessfully, to relight it using the flame from his own lamp. He removed the wick from Sharbel’s lamp and tasted the liquid. Convinced that it was water, he handed the lamp back to Sharbel, who, again, successfully lighted the lamp before the others’ eyes.

 

 

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

 

Do we endeavor to live an exemplary life of holiness and service so as to radiate the saving light of Christ to the world of today?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus, fill us with the radiance of your life and love. Like your forerunner John the Baptist, may we be “burning and shining lamps” to expose the dark recesses of sins and invite people to conversion. Let us bathe the world with your saving light so that people from all nations and cultures may welcome you as the redeeming Lord of all. Maranatha! Come, O Christ the Lord!

 

 

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.

 

“John was a burning and shining lamp.” (cf. Jn 5:35a)

 

 

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

 

Pray that the followers of Christ may radiate his saving light especially in difficult and crisis situations. By your compassionate words and deeds, let the people of today experience the joy-giving light that is Jesus Christ.

 

 

***

 

December 17, 2011: ADVENT WEEKDAY (III) – Saturday

“Advent: A Time to Celebrate Solidarity”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Gn 49:2,8-10 // Ps 72:3-4,7-8,17 // Mt 1:1-17

 

 

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

 

The Gospel writer Matthew presents the family tree of Jesus, which includes rich and pauper, noble and ignoble, mighty and vulnerable, sinners and saints. Jesus is fully human, sharing the burdens and joys of our humanity.

 

Fr. Patrick Hannon remarks: “We live in a world of nations, tribes and people. The lines that divide us, the walls that protect us, the searing memories of war and want and wounds too often define us and keep us all at a fearful distance from one another. Into this walled world God came. He was a son of Abraham, son of David, son of Mary. And though he was of the Jewish tribe, Jesus came to erase the tribal lines that divide us and to remind us of the one tribe, the one race to which we all belong: the human race. It is our humanity that unites us and helps us to see who we are beyond the boundaries of nation, tribe, religion, and culture. It is Jesus who reminds us that the one thing we have in common with God is our humanity.”

 

When I was assigned in India, one Sister invited me to go with her to see a Muslim landlord, who graciously welcomed us. It was a hot day. When we were seated, we were each served a glass of refreshing water – an exquisite sign of hospitality. How beautiful it is to live peacefully and harmoniously with one another – whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, religious and ideological differences!

 

 

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

 

Do we value our interconnectedness and our belonging to the family of human race? What do we do to promote human solidarity in the name of Jesus?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus, you are the Son of God. You assumed our human nature and became like us in everything except sin. Help us to value our belonging to the human family. Teach us to be truly grateful for the astounding mystery of “Emmanuel – God with us”. Maranatha! Come, O Christ the Lord!

 

 

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.

 

“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham ….” (cf. Mt 1:1)

 

 

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

 

Pray for peace in the world and a deeper solidarity among the children of God. By your deeds of justice, endeavor to promote the common good, contribute to the unity of peoples and nations and the definitive advent of God upon the earth.

 

***

 

 

Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang  PDDM

 

 

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