A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday and Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 12, n. 1)

First Week of Advent: December 1-7, 2013 *****

 

 

(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 A from three perspectives. For reflections on the Sunday liturgy based on the Gospel reading, please scroll up to the “ARCHIVES” above and open Series 3. For reflections based on the Old Testament reading, open Series 6. For reflections based on the Second Reading, open Series 9. Please go to Series 10 and Series 12 for the back issues of the Weekday Lectio.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: December 1-7, 2013. The weekday reflections are based on the First Reading. For the weekday reflections based on the Gospel Reading, please open Series 10.)

 

 

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December 1, 2013: FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is Our Saving Lord in Days to Come”       

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 2:1-5 // Rom 13:11-14 // Mt 24:37-44

 

 

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

 

With the First Sunday of Advent, we begin a new liturgical year – a “sacrament” or “sacred sign” of the presence of Christ in time. The liturgical year is a complex of celebrations by which the Church annually celebrates the saving mystery of Christ. Through the liturgical year, the community of believers has a panoramic vision and comes in contact with the entire arc of salvation history. We welcome the new liturgical year in a spirit of thanksgiving and the words of a Morning Prayer hymn could describe what it is for us. The liturgical year is a gift of “fresh beginning like gentle dew from heaven above” and it gives us “new promise of God’s love” (cf. “O God of Light” by James Quinn, SJ).

 

The new liturgical year brims with a vision of hope. The prophet Isaiah speaks ecstatically about the gathering of nations on Mount Zion “in days to come”, the people being nourished by the word of the Lord from Jerusalem, and the wondrous condition of the messianic age (Is 2:1-5). James Weaver comments: “In today’s reading, Jerusalem’s temple mount (the mountain of the Lord’s house) is the goal toward which the nations stream … A reign of peace is the predicted result of God’s instructions, walking in God’s ways and submission to God’s judgment. Tools of war beaten into tools for farming depict a future, difficult to imagine, in which the cultivation of the earth replaces violence and the threat of violence as the chief occupation of nations. In this reading, the condition of universal peace is submission to God.”

 

With the celebration of the Advent season, which prepares us for the coming of the Lord, the Church’s liturgy directs our attention not only to our need for vigilant expectation, but to the justice, peace and harmony that Christ’s reign would bring. The heart-warming image of weapons being recast into gardening tools and farming implements enkindles our desire to draw out beauty and abundance from the earth, instead of giving in to violence and hatred. Indeed, the prophetic vision of nations not raising the sword against one another and not training for war again makes our Advent season this year a “fresh beginning like gentle dew from above”.

 

The mood of the Advent season, while intensely challenging and demanding, is basically hopeful and optimistic. It helps us focus on what we can do – to be servants and instruments of the messianic peace and justice. The true peace and security envisioned by the prophet Isaiah “in those days” would be ours to claim if we live by the word of the Lord and if we walk in his ways, especially in promoting human dignity and the true worth of every person. The following insight that I read in MARYKNOLL magazine (July- August 2007 issue, p. 28) is an example of how to live more meaningfully our Advent expectation as Church in today’s world.

 

In the last decade alone, more than 2 million children have died as a direct result of armed conflict, millions of people have been displaced and whole nations have been held hostage to fear. Extreme poverty, hopelessness and lack of access to basics like food, water, sanitation, housing, education and health care are the reality of life for millions of people. Ours is a world hungry for peace and security, but what do we mean by “security”? Think for a minute about how you experience or wish you experienced security. What would it look like? What do you need to imagine a secure life for you and your family? A safe and comfortable home? Enough money to pay necessary bills? A job that pays well? Assurances you will have sufficient resources in your old age? A car? A gun? A $500 billion annual military budget? Nuclear, biological or chemical weapons? Freedom of speech and assembly? What else would you add? … The concept of human security is rooted in our faith tradition: that every person has intrinsic dignity and is of equal value before God. The security of one person or nation cannot be guaranteed while ignoring or undermining the security and well-being of others in the global community. At issue is how we define security, from which perspective and through what lens. Given the lack of a future for millions of young people around the world, might not the most effective security measure be quality education and decent jobs that ensure that all people have access to a dignified life?

 

 

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

 

Why is the new liturgical year a “fresh beginning like gentle dew from above”? What is our attitude toward this special “sacrament” of the presence of Christ in time? How does the messianic vision of the prophet Isaiah about the gathering of nations on Mount Zion and the various images of peace and harmony impact you? How do we heed Christ’s wake-up call and exhortation to vigilance for his end-time and ultimate coming? Are we responsive to the Lord’s continuous advent or coming in our personal life, in our family, our community, our world, and in creation?

 

 

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

(An excerpt from Pope John Paul II’s “Prayer with Young People for Peace” – April 9, 1985)

 

Lord Jesus Christ,

give us your peace,

the peace that springs from your pierced heart,

peace in truth, in justice and in love.

Give us your peace,

but not for us to keep for ourselves …

Make us defenders of Abel wherever he lives:

Abel the poor and outcast,

Abel the elderly and without a proper job,

Abel the persecuted for his faith,

Abel the defenseless in his mother’s womb.

Forgive the Cains of our time

for they know not what they do.

Convert the oppressors and the violent to your peace.

Give enlightenment and courage

to the rulers and leaders of nations

to restrain the spiral of that crazy logic

that leads to resources being removed from life

and used instead for the purpose of death

and the destruction of the planet.

            May you, Jesus, be our peace.

May your Holy Spirit pacify our soul

with the sacrament of your Church

and that we ourselves may be peace for all our brothers …

Your eternal and universal Kingdom is approaching,

the Kingdom of truth and of life,

the Kingdom of sanctity and grace,

the Kingdom of justice, love and peace. 

 

 

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.

 

“Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.” (Is 2:3)

 

 

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

 

By your acts of justice and charity, especially to the needy and the distressed, contribute to the realization of the beautiful vision of peace, justice and harmony of nations of the messianic era.

 

 

***

 

December 2, 2013: MONDAY – ADVENT WEEKDAY (1)

“JESUS SAVIOR: In Him Is the Advent of the Messianic Kingdom”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 4:2-6 // Mt 8:5-11

 

 

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

 

I was involved in the preparation of World Youth Day’95 in Manila. I was the Liturgy Coordinator of the Program and Events Committee that prepared the liturgy for WYD’95. At the Opening Mass of the World Youth Day in Rizal Park in Manila, I was seated close to the representatives of the International Youth Forum. Young, beautiful and energetic people from all over the world, dressed in their native costumes and carrying their national flags, praising and worshipping God and praying for peace, were awesome. The messianic kingdom has truly come!

 

Today’s Gospel reading presents Jesus’ memorable encounter with a Gentile centurion who shows such an act of faith in the Lord’s power. He is in direct dialogue with Jesus and he intercedes for a servant lying at home paralyzed and suffering greatly. To Jesus’ willingness to heed his request, the humble centurion makes a remark that highlights the power of the word of the Lord: “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.” As a military commander he knows the force of a verbal command in a well-run army and he believes in the efficacy of Jesus’ word to heal. Jesus praises the centurion’s faith as surpassing anything that Jesus has encountered among the Jews. His proclamation of faith anticipates the post-resurrection situation when the Gentiles will find a place among God’s people at the heavenly banquet. In response to the centurion’s faith, Jesus heals the officer’s servant.

 

The Old Testament reading depicts the glorious destiny of the faithful remnant. After the cleansing, they will be re-created and made holy. Jerusalem will be restored and God’s glory will cover and protect the whole city. Isaiah foretells that the time is coming when the Lord will make every plant and tree in the land grow large and beautiful. All the people of Israel who survive will take delight and pride in the produce of the land. The prophet likewise mentions “the branch of the Lord” that is characterized by “luster and glory”. This has a messianic connotation and from the Christian faith-perspective, it evokes the saving glory of Jesus, the “rose of Judah” that has sprung from a “tender branch”. In Jesus is the advent of the messianic kingdom.

 

 

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

 

Do we believe that in the “branch of the Lord” there is “luster and glory”? Like the centurion, do we have the faith, trust and love to seek healing from our Lord Jesus? Do we welcome his transforming Advent into our life?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

we thank you for the season of Advent,

a season of new beginning and a time to seek healing.

Please come into our life with your healing power.

Make us whole in mind, body and soul.

You are the tender shoot of David.

In you is luster and glory.

Maranatha! Come, O Christ the Lord!

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.

 

“On that day, the branch of the Lord will be luster and glory.” (Is 4:2)

 

 

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

 

Pray not only for the healing of the sick, but also to be a healer. Do something kind and comforting for a sick relative or friend. Enable them to experience the “luster and glory” of the “branch of the Lord” Jesus Christ.

 

***

 

December 3, 2013: TUESDAY – SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER

 “JESUS SAVIOR: In Him Is the Advent of the Joy of the Kingdom”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 11:1-10 // Lk 10:21-24

 

 

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

 

The prophet Isaiah lived in Jerusalem in the latter part of the 8th century B.C., when there was terrible socio-political turmoil caused by the Assyrian Empire’s threat and invasion. Many kingdoms were crushed. Judah’s kinsmen in the northern Kingdom of Israel were routed by the Assyrians and sent into exile in 722 B.C. Despite the disaster experienced by the northern Kingdom, the prophet Isaiah predicted that the Kingdom of Judah would be spared. Isaiah envisioned a future when Judah and Israel, kingdoms of the North and South, would be reunited. The enemy siblings, Judah and Israel, would finally be reconciled through the saving work of a Spirit-filled messianic king, a shoot sprouting from the “stump of Jesse”. This future Davidic king would reign with a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord. He would judge the poor with justice and defend the rights of the helpless. The ideal King would be after God’s own heart. His Kingdom would be a reign of harmony, peace and reconciliation – reconciliation among the members of God’s creation and creation’s reconciliation with its Creator. The prophet Isaiah’s idyll of animal enemies living together serenely and harmoniously is a beautiful portrait of God’s benevolent plan and the glorious destiny he meant for his people and the entire creation.

 

However, the prophecy of the ideal Davidic King announced by Isaiah would not be fulfilled in his lifetime. That prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the “anointed one” and consecrated by the Spirit of Yahweh for the mission of universal salvation. In the fullness of time would be the advent of the Messiah and the definitive realization of the divine redemptive plan through the paschal sacrifice of that messianic King. Jesus is the Spirit-filled Messiah. Rejoicing in the Spirit, he celebrates God’s choice of “the childlike”, a preferential option for the poor and the vulnerable, which plays a great part in his messianic ministry.

 

The following story, circulated on the Internet, gives us an insight into what it means to be “childlike” and an idea on how to bring about the advent of joy into the life of the poor and vulnerable.

 

A Baby’s Hug: We were the only family with children in the restaurant. I sat Erik in a high chair and noticed everyone was quietly seated and talking. Suddenly, Erik squealed with glee and said, “Hi there”. He pounded his fat baby hands on the high chair tray. His eyes crinkled in laughter and his mouth was bared in a toothless grin as he wriggled and giggled with merriment. I looked around and saw the source of his merriment. It was a man whose pants were baggy, whose toes poked out of would-be shoes. His shirt was dirty and his hair was uncombed and unwashed. His whiskers were too short to be called a beard, and his nose was so varicose that it looked like a road map.

 

We were too far from him to smell, but I am sure he smelled. His hands waved and flapped on loose wrists. “Hi there, baby. Hi, there big boy. I see ya, buster”, the man said to Erik. My husband and I exchanged looks, “What do we do?” Erik continued to laugh and answer, “Hi, hi, hi there.” Everyone in the restaurant noticed and looked at us and then at the man. The old geezer was creating a nuisance of my beautiful baby.

 

Our meal came and the man began shouting from across the room, “Do you do patty cake? Do you know peek-a-boo? Hey, look, he knows peek-a-boo.” Nobody thought the old man was cute. He was obviously drunk. My husband and I were embarrassed. We ate in silence, but not Erik, who was running through his repertoire for the admiring skid row bum, who in turn reciprocated with his cute comments.

 

We finally got through the meal and headed for the door. My husband went to pay the check and told me to meet him in the parking lot. The old man sat poised between me and the door. “Lord, just let me out of here before he speaks to me or Erik”, I prayed. As I drew closer to the man, I turned my back, trying to sidestep him and avoid any air he might be breathing. As I did, Erik leaned over my arm, reaching with both arms in a baby’s “pick-me-up” position. Before I could stop him, Erik had propelled himself from my arms to the man’s. Suddenly, a very smelly old man and a baby expressed their love and kinship. Erik, in an act of total trust, love and submission, laid his tiny head upon the man’s ragged shoulder. The man’s eyes closed, and I saw tears hover beneath his lashes. His aged hands full of grime, pain and hard labor, cradled my baby. No two beings have ever loved so deeply for so short a time. I stood awestruck. The old man rocked and cradled Erik in his arms and his eyes opened and set squarely on mine. He said in a firm commanding voice, “You take care of this baby.” Somehow I managed, “I will” from a throat that contained a stone. He pried Erik from his chest lovingly, as though he were in pain.

 

I received my baby, and the man said, “God bless you ma’am; you’ve given me my Christmas gift.” I said nothing more than a muttered thanks. With Erik in my arms, I ran for the car. My husband was wondering why I was crying and holding Erik so tightly and why I was saying, “My God, my God, forgive me.” I had just witnessed Christ’s love shown through the innocence of a tiny child who saw no sin, who made no judgment. The child saw a soul, and his mother saw a suit of clothes. I was a Christian who was blind holding a child who was not. I felt it was God asking, “Are you willing to share your son for a moment?”
 when He shared His for all eternity. The ragged old man, unwittingly, had reminded me, “And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’.”

 

 

 

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

 

Do we act as Spirit-filled people of God? Are we like children in the hands of God? Are we able to trust God and rely on him with childlike simplicity?

 

  

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

 

Lord Jesus,

together with you, we rejoice in the Spirit.

We love God the Father with childlike trust.

With your grace, help us to surrender to his saving will.

Maranatha! Come, O Christ the Lord!

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.

 

“Jesus rejoices in the Holy Spirit.” (Lk 10:21)

 

 

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

 

Pray for a more childlike trust as God’s presence mysteriously unfolds in our life. Do something kind and comforting for a needy “little one” in your midst.  

 

***

 

November 4, 2013: WEDNESDAY – ADVENT WEEKDAY (1); SAINT JOHN DAMASCENCE, priest, doctor of the Church

“JESUS SAVIOR: In Him Is the Advent of the Messianic Banquet”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 25:6-10a // Mt 15:29-37

 

 

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

 

Today’s Old Testament reading presents, with mouth-watering vividness, the definitive triumph of God’s kingdom at the end time. The fulfillment of God’s saving plan is imaged as a “feast of rich food and choice wines”. On that day of great feasting, the people redeemed would exclaim: “Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us! This is the Lord for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us” (Is 55:9). This bountiful banquet on the mountain of God is a symbol of eternal salvation, companionship and joy – of the delightful sharing in the riches of God and intimate communion in his delectable life.

 

The biblical scholar Eugene Maly comments: “One of the most pleasant of human activities is the family or community meal. In its ideal form, it is a time when those who love one another not only share the food they eat, but also share with one another their hopes and fears, their experiences and future plans. The love that already binds them is made stronger. The Scripture attests to the fact that a meal is expressive of a wide range of human attitudes and emotions … All mankind seems to be aware of the fact that a shared meal creates or strengthens a community of life among the participants. That is why this most human of activities would also be used to symbolize a community of life between human and divine participants … The Isaiah reading describes in rich imagery what is commonly referred to as the eschatological or end-time meal. In his description of this meal, the author is trying to bring home to the people the exquisite joy of that final day when they would be united with the Lord forever. A common life and common love are symbolized.”

 

Moreover, all peoples are invited to this grandiose banquet. The end-time feast is for all peoples, with God himself as the gracious host. He is the Lord of the banquet who satisfies our deepest longings. In Jesus Christ is the advent of the messianic banquet. In Jesus, God not only feeds the hungry but he also acts to make the lame walk, open the eyes of the blind, heal the sick. In him is total nourishment and healing.

 

As children of God and as disciples of Jesus, we are called to be instruments to respond to the needs of the world’s poor. The following story illustrates how God uses us to feed the hungry (cf. Carol Ermo, “Mysterious Ways in GUIDEPOSTS, September 2013, p. 39).

 

Brr. I hugged the warm Crockpot I was carrying as I walked to the building site. We’re hardy folks here in Wisconsin, but that fall day was beyond brisk. The women in my church group were bringing lunch to some Habitat for Humanity volunteers building a house in a working-class neighborhood. We’d made brownies, sandwiches and, most important, a huge batch of chili. Nearing the site, I wondered if chili would be enough to warm the bellies of the hungry crew.

 

Except there was no activity. No hammering. No saw buzzing. No drills whirring. No one working inside or out. Only one car was parked on the street. A man climbed out, pulling his jacket tight. “Didn’t anyone tell you ladies?” he said. “There’s no build today.” “No build? Why” I asked. “Windows didn’t come in”, the man explained. There’s not much to do without them. It’s so cold, we figured we’d hold off until they’re delivered.”

 

The pot of chili felt heavy. All that work we’d put in, chopping onions, browning the beef, mixing in the spices and waiting for it to cook. Now we had this enormous batch and no one to eat it. Maybe we’d split it up. My family would have supper for weeks. Then a thought popped into my head that didn’t seem to come from me. Take it to the homeless shelter.

 

The shelter? They planned way ahead and I was sure they already had a meal for the day. Then again, they could freeze the chili and serve it some other time. The women and I piled back into the car and drove to the shelter. A crowd of people huddled outside the cafeteria doors. “What’s going on?” I asked the shelter coordinator. “The group that was supposed to fix the meal today didn’t come in”, she said. “We’ve got all these people and nothing to feed them.” “You have something now”, I said.

 

There was enough chili for everyone … even for two stragglers who arrived after I thought the pot was empty. I shouldn’t have been surprised. This crew wasn’t the one we’d been planning to serve, but the Master Builder had a greater plan.

 

 

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

 

What is your response to the divine offer of total participation at the “banquet of salvation”? How do you prepare yourself for the heavenly feast? How do you image the compassionate Jesus who heals the sick and feeds the hungry?

 

 

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

O loving God,

you are the Lord of the banquet.

We thank you

for the “feast of rich food and choice wines”

you have prepared for us on your holy mountain.

The “banquet of salvation” at the end time

celebrates the definitive triumph of your kingdom

and the glory of your Paschal Lamb.

In our daily celebration of the Eucharist,

the supper of the Lamb,

we have a foretaste of the eternal joy

and the bounty of that heavenly feast.

Help us to imitate the compassionate Jesus,

who heals the sick and feeds the hungry.

Grant us the grace to live in charity and integrity

that we may participate fully and joyfully

in the eternal “banquet of salvation”.

You live and reign, 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.

 

“They all ate and were satisfied.” (Mt 15:37)

 

 

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

 

Pray that the Christian disciples may be heartened by the “banquet of salvation” prepared for us by the Lord at the end time and prefigured in the Eucharist. By your small acts of charity and good deeds, prepare to participate fully at the heavenly feasting. Endeavor to alleviate the hunger of the world’s poor and to satisfy their need for a nourishing and bountiful meal. 

 

***

 

December 5, 2013: THURSDAY – ADVENT WEEKDAY (1)

 “JESUS SAVIOR: In Him Is the Advent of Our Rock Foundation”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 26:1-6 // Mt 7:21, 24-27

 

 

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

 

Advent is a propitious time to build our lives on Christ, our Rock Foundation. That we may be solidly founded on Christ, “he who comes in the name of the Lord”, we need to live by his words and follow his heavenly Father’s will. Our lives must correspond to the truth of faith that we profess. Today’s Old Testament reading under- girds the Christian call for integrity in our faith. The prophet Isaiah speaks of God’s promise of a “fortified city”, built in response to the hope of the “poor”. The gates of his “strong city” are open to the just and those who keep faith in him, but not to the proud and the tyrants. Isaiah refers to the Lord as an eternal “Rock”, which is a metaphor for total dependability. Indeed, the Lord God will always protect the humble and those who trust in his saving word.

           

The following account illustrates how a sterling modern woman built a house, put her trust in God, built her family life on the Rock Foundation and drew strength from the word of God (cf. Elizabeth Sherill, “The Glory of Ruth” in GUIDEPOSTS, October 2007, p. 101-104).

 

It was on a radio newscast on June 15, 2007, that I heard about the death of my friend Ruth: “Mrs. Billy Graham, wife of the well-known evangelist, died yesterday at eighty-seven.” Ruth had been ill for a long time, her face in their Christmas card photo a little thinner each year, until all I recognized were those lively and compassionate eyes. In my desk I found the file of our correspondence. Here were dozens of letters in Ruth’s bold, energetic handwriting, the words slanting backward till they almost lay on their sides. Embossed above them on each sheet was Little Piney Cove, North Carolina.

 

I saw myself driving for the first time up that steep mountain road to a rustic cabin nestled in the shelter of a cliff, seemingly the home of long-ago pioneers. Hand-hewn chestnut beams, rough plastering, an immense fireplace. In fact, on that first visit in the 1950s, the house was brand-new, designed cellar to roof by Ruth herself. Over the years the house came, for me, to stand for the woman herself. A woman for whom imagination often took the place of money. Because Bill took only a modest salary, a tight budget for the new house was her first challenge. “I wanted it to look”, she told me, “as though it had stood here forever.” But where would she find massive chestnut timbers like the pioneers used? From old abandoned cabins she tracked down in the hills and hollows. (…)

Imagination, love, humor – all were present in that house on the mountain.

 

But the chief thing the house reflected was a woman’s hourly, moment-by-moment reliance on God. In large German script on the broad wooden mantel above the fireplace six words were incised in gold: Eine Feste Burg Ist Unser Gott. These opening words of Martin Luther’s great hymn, “A mighty fortress is our God”, explained the confidence with which Ruth met the never-ending challenge of being a wife and a mother. God was the secure place from where she was able to fight all of the daily battles with dishes and disruptions and the differing needs of husband and children.

 

I don’t think Ruth’s Bible ever saw a shelf. It was open constantly, whatever room she was in, not just as an aid to prayer, but as a practical guide to every problem the day presented. Worship and daily living were, for Ruth, not separate things. Chores, games, school work, nature, study – she wove all of it into the fabric of faith.

 

 

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

 

Do we seek protection in the fortified “city of God” and strength from the Lord, the “eternal Rock”? Do we truly seek the will of the Father and his kingdom by building our life upon Christ, the foundation Rock? 

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

You are the rock-foundation of our life.

Instill our day-to-day options with your wisdom.

Make us firm in our choices for you.

Help us as we work for the advent of your kingdom.

Maranatha! Come, O Christ the Lord!

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.

 

“The Lord is an eternal Rock.” (Is 26:4)  

 

 

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

 

When buffeted with challenges and difficulties in life, seek the protection of God and draw strength from his life-giving word. Share the inner strength of God with the people around you whose faith seems to be weak.

 

***

 

December 6, 2013: FRIDAY – ADVENT WEEKDAY (1); SAINT NICHOLAS, bishop

“JESUS SAVIOR: In Him Is the Advent of the Joy Giving Light”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 29:17-24 // Mt 9:27-31

 

 

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

 

Blindness is often a metaphor for lack of knowledge and for obduracy of heart. The two blind men in today’s Gospel who followed Jesus, crying out, “Son of David, have pity on us!” already “know” Jesus and trust in him. Spiritually they are not blind. The miracle that restores their physical sight is a confirmation of the light of faith that enlightens their soul and enables them to perceive Jesus as the Messiah.

 

The Old Testament reading uses the metaphor of blindness as well as deafness to indicate the mendacious state of the people in Judah. They have no “knowledge” of the ways of God and refuse to listen to his life-giving word. As a consequence of their “hardness”, tyrants oppress them and cause misery and affliction. The Lord God, however, promises redemption and transformation. The removal of ruthless tyrants is a messianic sign, as well as the return of the “knowledge of God” upon the land. The image of the deaf able to hear and the blind able to see, and the image of the Lebanon trees being transformed into an orchard and finally into a forest indicate a great reversal. God, in his marvelous goodness, is able to lead the people “out of gloom and darkness” into the light of the knowledge of God. The prophet Isaiah completes his messianic vision with the following words: “Those who err in spirit shall acquire understanding, and those who find fault shall receive instruction.”

 

Today, December 6, we celebrate the optional memorial of a 4th century saint, Saint Nicholas, bishop of Myra in Asia Minor, a model pastor noted for charity. He is popularized as Santa Claus, patron of children. He is also patron of bankers, pawnbrokers, sailors, perfumers, brides, unmarried women, travelers, fishermen, dock workers, brewers, poets, and prisoners, as well as of Russia, Greece, Sicily, Lorraine and Apulia in Italy, where his relics are enshrined in Bari. The life of charitable Saint Nicholas is filled with the “joy-giving light” of Christ. In celebrating Saint Nick we too share in that joy. The following personal account is heartwarming (cf. Nadine N. Doughty, “Season Started with St. Nick” in COUNTRY, December/January 2009, p. 61).

 

I wasn’t quite asleep, after all. A tiny sound of crackling cellophane roused me, and I opened my eyes. There, in the living room, I saw a plump figure – doing what, exactly? I shut my eyes quickly. It was St. Nicholas at work, and if he saw me awake, he might vanish!

 

No, it wasn’t Christmas Eve. In our family, we observed St. Nicholas’ Day weeks earlier. Every December 6, the generous saint of giving would celebrate his feast day by filling children’s stockings with goodies. My parents, who had German and Austrian roots, referred to the day as Nicolo, and every year they had my three brothers, my sister and me hang stockings on the old fieldstone fireplace. They’d even driven special nails into the mortar between the stones, just for that purpose.

 

Ready and Waiting: My red knee sock, my sister’s green one and my brothers’ white crew socks all made for a cheerful display. But it was nothing to the sight we knew would greet us the next morning! During the night, our parents said, good St. Nick would come to fill those stockings with delightful small surprises, and we’d see them as soon as we woke up. It made it almost impossible for us to fall asleep that night.

 

Sure enough, the next morning, the sight of those bulging stockings had us so excited that we usually didn’t wait until our parents were awake to raid them! What caused us such excitement? Living during the Great Depression was enough to make us see just about anything he’d leave as a genuine treat. So we’d exclaim over such riches as a pocket comb, or the notebooks we each got, every one with a cover in a different color. The older kids might get a penknife. I still recall fondly the colored pencils I got, and a blue velvet hair ribbon that I kept for years.

 

Sweet Treats: We’d all be thrilled to find apple and banana-shaped marzipan, a delectable almond-and-sugar candy that was a rare treat for us. And at the very bottom of each stocking were tucked a traditional orange and some nuts we could crack and crunch. We didn’t usually eat those oranges right away, but kept them so we could savor the anticipation of the rare and delicious flavor! After we showed everyone our treasures, the Christmas season was officially on. There’d be projects to sew, carve, draw or paint as gifts for every family member. Some had already been started, but now we knew we had to hurry to finish them in time for Christmas.

 

As we grew older, we’d start to give more elaborate Christmas gifts, often ones that required special shopping trips. Nicolo, though, remained our family’s simple, fun and special way to begin the Christmas season.

 

 

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

 

Do we welcome the “advent” of Christ into our life to bring about our rebirth “out of gloom and darkness” into the light of the knowledge of God?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you are our light and salvation.

Heal the blindness of our heart.

In your light we see light.

Help us to work for the advent of your joy-giving light to others

that they too may have a seeing heart.

Maranatha! Come, O Christ the Lord!

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.

 

“And out of gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see.” (Is 29:18) 

 

 

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

 

Pray for those who are blinded in heart that they may see light. Gently introduce somebody to the radiant light of Christ in the Word and the Eucharist.

 

 

***

 

December 7, 2013: SATURDAY – SAINT AMBROSE, bishop, doctor of the Church

“JESUS SAVIOR: In Him Is the Advent of the Merciful One”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 30:19-21, 23-26 // Mt 9:35-10:1, 5a, 6-8

 

 

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

 

Today’s First Reading is one of the most comforting texts in the Sacred Scriptures. It assures us that the Merciful One will show mercy when we cry out to him. He will be gracious to those who trust in him. He will guide and show us the way and will be the Teacher to counsel us. He will give us the bread we need and the water we thirst for. Nature will produce abundantly and there will be prosperity. Above all, on the day of great distress and judgment, God will be a healer for those who have recourse to him. He will bind up the wounds of his people and heal the bruises brought about by his just punishment.

 

The Gospel reading underlines that “the Merciful One” is Jesus Christ, the Master and the Healer, the Shepherd and the Guide. He visits God’s people, teaches in the synagogue and preaches the Good News of the Kingdom. He sees the crowd and is moved with pity for them because they are troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. His compassionate heart motivates him to dispatch his disciples on an “Advent mission”, that is, to proclaim the Gospel of salvation, a gift gratuitously received and is to be gratuitously shared.

 

Pope Francis illustrates how to carry out the “Advent mission” entrusted to us by “the Merciful One” (cf. Nicole Winfield, “Pope Bolsters Charity Office to Be Near Needy” in Fresno Bee, November 29, 2013, p. A20).

 

When he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis was known to sneak out at night and break bread with the homeless, sit with them literally on the street and eat with them, as part of his aim to share the plight of the poor and let them know someone cared.

 

That’s not easy to do now that he’s a pope. But Francis is still providing one-on-one doses of emergency assistance to the poor, sick and aged through a trusted archbishop. Konrad Krajewski is the Vatican Almoner, a centuries-old job of handling out alms – and Francis has ramped up the job to make it an extension of his own personal charity.

 

As Americans gathered for Thanksgiving on Thursday, Krajewski described how Francis has redefined the little known office of papal almoner and explained the true meaning of giving during a chat with journalists over coffee and pastries a few steps from the Vatican gates. “The Holy Father told me at the beginning: ‘You can sell your desk. You don’t need it. You need to get out of the Vatican. Don’t wait for people to come ringing. You need to go out and look for the poor’,” Krajewski said.

 

He gets his marching orders each morning: a Vatican gendarme goes from the hotel where Francis lives to Krajewski’s office across the Vatican gardens, bringing a bundle of letters the pope has received from the faithful asking for help. On top of each letter, Francis might write “You know what to do” or “Go find them”.

 

And so Don Corrado, as he likes to be called, hits the streets of Rome and beyond. He visits home for the elderly in the name of the pope, writes checks to the needy in the name of the pope – even traveled to the island of Lampedusa in the name of the pope after a migrant boat capsized, killing more than 350 people.

 

Over four days on Lampedusa, Krajweski brought 1,600 phone cards so the survivors could call loved ones back home in Eritrea to let them know they had made it. He also prayed with police divers as they worked to raise the dead from the sea floor. “This is the concept: Be with people and share their lives, even for 15, 30 minutes, an hour”, he said.

 

The existence of the Vatican Almoner dates back centuries: It is mentioned in a papal bull from the 13th-century. Pope Innocent III, and Pope Gregory X, who ruled from 1271-1276, organized it into an official Holy See office for papal charity. Until Krajewski came along, the almoner was typically an aging Vatican diplomat who was serving his final years before being allowed to retire at age 75.

 

 

 

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

 

Are our hearts like that of Jesus, filled with compassion for others? What do we do to live fully our “Advent mission” as instruments of “the Merciful One”?

 

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

in you is the advent of “the Merciful One”.

You bind our wounds

and heal the bruises caused by our sinful offenses.

You nourish us with the food of eternal life

and make us drink at the font of salvation.

You have lightened our hearts with the Gospel you preach.

Now you dispatch us on an “Advent mission” to the nations.

Be with us and help us mirror to them your divine mercy.

Maranatha! Come, O Christ the Lord!

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 was moved with pity for them.” (Mt 9:36)

 

 

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

 

Pray for all missionaries in the world. By your kind words and charitable deeds to the people around you, especially the poor, the sick and the needy, let them experience the saving power of the Gospel and the compassionate heart of “the Merciful One”.

 

 

***

 

 

Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang  PDDM

 

 

PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI

SISTER DISCIPLES OF THE DIVINE MASTER

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