A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 18, n. 12)

Week 6 in Ordinary Time: February 16-22, 2020

 

 

(The pastoral tool BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD: A LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY & WEEKDAY LITURGY includes a prayerful study of the Sunday liturgy from various perspectives. For the Lectio Divina on the liturgy of the past week: February 9-15, 2020 please go to ARCHIVES Series 18 and click on “Ordinary Week 5”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: February 16-22, 2020.)

 

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February 16, 2020: SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is God’s Wisdom”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Sir 15:15-20 // 1 Cor 2:6-10 // Mt 5:17-37

 

 

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

 

This Sunday’s celebration of the Word is meant to help us follow through with our Christian vocation to be “salt of the earth” and “light of the world”. We need to be open to the wisdom of God. The gift of wisdom offered to us in Jesus Christ enables us to be what we are called to be – “salt” that flavors and challenges an insipid, feckless world and “light” that shines and witnesses to truth, especially amidst shadows of doubt and despair.

 

The Old Testament reading (Sir 15:15-20) tells us that the Lord’s wisdom is great and powerful. He is aware of everything a person does and cares for those who fear him. He gives us free will and we can choose good or evil – life or death. If we want to, we can keep the Lord’s commands. We can decide to be loyal to him or not. We can never blame God for our evil choices for which we are personally responsible and accountable. Indeed, the Lord God, whose wisdom is infinite, is beyond reproach. He is worthy of honor, thanksgiving and praise.

 

God’s immense wisdom is fully revealed in Jesus Christ. This Sunday’s Gospel reading (Mt 5:17-37) shows that the demands of him who is “divine wisdom incarnate” are exigent, radical and authoritative. Harold Buetow remarks: “The Gospel of Jesus Christ is wisdom – not the temporary mode of fads or fashion, but the way of eternal insight … [There is] nothing automatic about being a true Christian. And it entails facing our inner motivations, desires, and priorities, and holding them up to Jesus’ new standard of honesty and love.”

 

The Second Reading (I Cor 2:6-10) helps us to better identify true wisdom in order to better assimilate and live it. God’s wisdom is centered on Christ crucified, the Lord of glory. Mary Ehle comments: “Paul adds to the understanding of divine wisdom by contrasting it with earthly wisdom … The wisdom Paul preaches is not of this age: it does not belong to this or any historical time … Paul speaks instead of divine wisdom, which is mysterious and hidden. This wisdom God has made known since before the beginning of time … God’s wisdom has been made known through the Spirit. To those who are receptive, the Holy Spirit will reveal the wisdom of God’s plan of salvation in Christ. In last Sunday’s reading, Paul said that he did not come with wisdom, but he knew only Jesus Christ crucified. For Paul, this is the divine wisdom and power of God on which our faith rests … God’s wisdom is within their grasp if they open themselves to the Spirit.”

 

God’s wisdom challenges and gives strength to those who are spiritually mature as the following account in the life of Dorothy Day shows (cf. Robert Ellsberg, “Dorothy in Love” in America, November 15, 2010, p. 18-19).

 

The Long Loneliness [is] the memoir of Dorothy Day, the American-born co-founder of the Catholic Worker. There she introduces the story of her love affair with Forster Batterham, and the role he played in hastening her spirituality: “The man I loved, with whom I entered into a common-law marriage, was an anarchist, and Englishman by descent, and a biologist.” They met at a party in Greenwich Village in the early 1920s and soon thereafter began to live together – as she put it, “in the fullest sense of the phrase” – in a house on Staten Island.

 

Among their bohemian set there was nothing scandalous about such a relationship. It was evidently Dorothy who liked to think of it as a “common-law marriage”. For Forster, who never masked his scorn for the “institution of the family”, their relationship was simply a “comradeship”. Nevertheless, she loved him “in every way”. As she wrote: “I loved him for all he knew and pitied him for all he didn’t know. I loved him for the odds and ends I had to fish out of his sweater pockets and for the sand and shells he brought in with his fishing. I loved his lean cold body as he got into bed smelling of the sea and I loved his integrity and stubborn pride.”

 

Wait a minute! Day is here describing, without any hint of Augustine’s obligatory shame or regret, her physical relationship with a man to whom she was not married. Needless to say, she was not yet a Catholic. Yet her point is to show how this lesson in love, this time of “natural happiness”, as she called it, awakened her thirst for an even greater happiness. She began to pray during her walks and started to attend Mass. This religious impulse was strengthened when she discovered she was pregnant – an event that inspired a sense of gratitude so large that only God could receive it. With that came the determination that she would have her child baptized, “come what may”.

 

As a dedicated anarchist, Forster would not be married by either church or state. And so to become Catholic, Dorothy recognized, would mean separating from the man she loved. “It got to the point where it was the simple question of whether to choose God or man.” Ultimately, painfully, she chose God. In December 1927 she forced Forster to leave the house. That month she was received into the church. (…)

 

In editing Day’s personal letters, All the Way to Heaven, I was astonished to read an extraordinary collection of letters to Forster dating from 1925, soon after their first meeting, until December 1932, the eve of her new life in the Catholic Worker. (…)

 

By the fall of 1932 Dorothy was living in New York. In December she traveled to Washington, D.C., to cover the Hunger March of the Unemployed. There on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, she offered a prayer that God would show her some way to combine her Catholic faith and her commitment to social justice. Immediately afterward she would meet Peter Maurin, the French peasant philosopher who would inspire her to launch the Catholic Worker and whose ideas would dominate the rest of her life. Whether there was any relation between the opening of this new door and the decision finally to close the door on her hope of marrying Forster, Dorothy’s letter to him of December 10 would be her last for many years.

 

After describing her strong commitment to the prohibition of sex outside of marriage, she writes: “The ache in my heart is intolerable at times, and sometimes for days I can feel your lips upon me, waking and sleeping. It is because I love you so much that I want you to marry me.” Nevertheless, she concluded: “It all is hopeless of course, though it has often seemed to me a simple thing. Imaginatively I can understand your hatred and rebellion against my beliefs and I can’t blame you. I have really given up hope now, so I won’t try to persuade you anymore.”

 

But even this did not mark the end of their relationship. Over the years they remained connected through Tamar. There would be friendly notes, the exchange of gifts and visits in the hospital. In Dorothy’s final years Forster took to calling every day. He was present at her funeral in 1980, and later at a memorial Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

 

So what, in the end, do these newly published letters reveal? They certainly confirm the deep, passionate love described in Dorothy’s memoir, thus underscoring the incredible sacrifice she endured for the sake of her faith. That sacrifice lay at the heart of her vocation; it was the foundation for a lifetime of courage, perseverance and dedication. It marked her deep sense of the heroic demands of faith. (…) Dorothy considered her love for Forster to be one of the primary encounters with grace in her life, one for which she never ceased to rejoice. That insight and that witness are among her many gifts.

 

 

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

 

Do we ponder and allow ourselves to be touched by the immense wisdom of our loving God? Do we have the courage and humility to be confronted by Jesus’ new standard of honesty and love? Do we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit who reveals to us the depths of God’s wisdom, radically revealed in Jesus crucified? 

 

 

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

 

Loving God,

we adore your infinite love and immense wisdom.

He was crucified and glorified

to show the fullness of your saving love.

Give us the courage to respond to that love.

Help us to embrace

Jesus’ new standard of honesty and integrity.

Teach us to be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit

who inspires us to embrace the folly of the cross

and discern in it the wisdom that saves.

We praise and glorify 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.

 

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors … But I say to you ...” (Mt 5:21-22)

  

 

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

 

            By our daily choices to do good to the people around us, let the modern world experience the benevolence of divine wisdom.

 

 

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February 17, 2020: MONDAY – WEEKDAY (6); THE SEVEN HOLY FOUNDERS OF THE SERVITE ORDER

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Refused to Give Them a Sign … His Is a Persevering Faith”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jas 1:1-11 // Mk 8:11-13

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 8:11-13): “Why does this generation seek a sign?”

 

Today’s reading (Mk 8:11-13) is about the Pharisees who are asking Jesus “a sign from heaven” to prove that he is the Messiah. Their demand for a spectacular public display is ill-motivated. They want to discredit Jesus who, for them, is a fraud. Their hearts are warped with unbelief and their demand for a “sign” manifests their willful blindness. Indeed, according to a 16th century proverb, “There are none so blind as those who won’t see.” The compassionate works of Jesus on behalf of the sick and suffering, of the hungry poor and dejected, do not touch their hearts. They do not perceive them as messianic signs. The miracles of healing and nourishment could not force them to love Jesus, who sighs from the depths of his heart. A heavenly sign for the unbelieving – no matter how spectacular - would be an exercise in futility. Of what use is it to have signs if the heart is blind? Hence, Jesus leaves them, gets into the boat, and sails off to the other shore.

 

The pathetic scenario of the unbelieving and unseeing Pharisees invites us to take the opposite stance. Jesus himself is the ultimate “sign” of the Father’s redeeming love for us. We need to open the eyes of our heart to see, love and serve Jesus. We need to be sensitive and receptive to the beautiful miracles that God continues to work in our daily life.

 

The following story gives us a glimpse into what perceiving “a sign from heaven” entails (cf. Anthony De Mello, Taking Flight: A Book Of Story Meditations, New York: Image Books/Doubleday, 1990, p. 52-53).

 

A prisoner lived in solitary confinement for years.  He saw and spoke to no one and his meals were served through an opening in the wall. One day an ant came into his cell. The man contemplated it in fascination as it crawled around the room. He held it in the palm of his hand the better to observe it, gave it a grain or two, and kept it under his tin cup at night. One day it suddenly struck him that it had taken him ten long years of solitary confinement to open his eyes to the loveliness of an ant.

 

 

B. First Reading (Jas 1:1-11): “The testing of your faith produces perseverance so that you may be perfect and complete.”

 

For the next two weeks we shall be reading from the Letter of James, a collection of practical instructions on Christian attitudes and living. Today’s First Reading (Jas 1:1-11) is a call to full maturity in faith. Trials are valuable because they lead to endurance, perfection and maturity of faith. Christians must persevere in conversion to God and growth in the living of Gospel morality. We must pray for wisdom to persevere in faith. When we pray, we must believe and not doubt at all. The one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind. Mature faith includes rejoicing in our poverty for God lifts up the poor. The boastful rich is like a flower of a wild plant that the sun scorches.

 

The following story illustrates the maturation of faith in the face of trial (cf. Beth McAllister, “Teaching About Prayer” in Guideposts, February 2014, p. 23).

 

When my seven-year-old son, Logan, first complained of an earache, I thought he had a routine infection. Then his hands and feet began to swell. Over the next few weeks he became desperately ill. His blood pressure and temperature shot up, reaching dangerous levels. A team of doctors determined that his illness was the result of an unchecked strep infection and his immune system was attacking his kidneys. The therapies and drugs they were using weren’t working. They were alarmed.

 

My husband, Timothy, and I were panic-stricken when we heard the diagnosis: “Logan’s in acute kidney failure and in danger of cardiac arrest.” The doctors started him on dialysis.

 

Timothy and I clung to each other and our faith. Our family and friends placed Logan’s name on several prayer chains. Apparently, our son overheard some of our conversations about this. As I tucked him into bed one night, Logan asked, “What is a prayer chain?” “That’s when a lot of people pray for the same thing”, I explained. “They tell their friends, and then those friends tell their friends, until there are hundreds – even thousands – of people praying together.” “All of those people are praying for me?” Logan asked. “Yes”, I said. “And God hears every prayer.”

 

Logan grew quiet and looked into my eyes. “Well, if thousands of people are praying for me”, he said, “Maybe I should pray for myself too.” “That would be a good idea”, I said. I kissed him goodnight and turned out the light. “Don’t worry if you hear me talking in here, Mom”, he called to me as I left his room. “I’m just praying.”

 

The next day we returned to the hospital for Logan’s dialysis. But when they drew his blood, tests revealed that he no longer needed the treatment. His kidneys were suddenly working again.

 

 

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

MEDITATIO

 

1. Am I slow to read the “sign” of God’s love because of blindness of heart? How do I try to open the eyes of my heart to the “sign”?

 

2. Do we consider the various trials that come our way as means for the maturation of faith?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

we are filled with wonderful signs of the Father’s love:

the beautiful sunrise and the gorgeous sunset,

the blooming of spring flowers,

the diligence of a lovely ant,

the compassionate hands

of those who care for the poor and helpless …

Above all, we are filled with praise and thanksgiving for you

– the ultimate sign of God’s compassion.

You are the radical sign of the divine redeeming love.

Grant that we may truly rejoice in you,

now and forever.

Amen.

 

***

Lord Jesus,

you incarnate God’s compassion.

Help us to see in the various trials that come our way

The grace of divine presence

and a call to mature in faith.

Grant that we may truly rejoice in 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.

 

“Why does this generation seek a sign?” (Mk 8:12) //“Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials.” (Jas 1:2)

 

 

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

 

Make an effort to read the various signs of God’s love that surround us every day and be grateful for them. By your acts of kindness and compassion, strive to be a living sign of God’s caring love for the poor and needy in today’s society. // By the gracious way you respond to daily trials, give witness to the presence of God and the wisdom of his saving plan.

 

 

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February 18, 2020: TUESDAY – WEEKDAY (6)

 “JESUS SAVIOR: Even His Disciples Did Not Understand … He Teaches Us to Overcome Temptation”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jas 1:12-18 // Mk 8:14-21

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 8:14-21): “Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”

 

The Gospel (Mk 8:14-21) tells us that after his encounter with the unbelieving Pharisees who demand from him a heavenly sign to prove his messianic credentials, the unscathed Jesus gets into the boat and sails with his disciples to the other side of the lake. In their hurry, the disciples have forgotten to bring bread except for one loaf. When Jesus starts to talk to them about the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod, they immediately conclude that it is because they did not have enough bread. Having just witnessed two miracles of the loaves in which Jesus has fed thousands in the hungry crowds, their discussion about not having enough bread is senseless and unwarranted. Their concern for material food reveals their obtuseness and lack of insight. They have not seen nor understood any more than the declared enemies of Jesus.

 

The barrage of eight questions that Jesus directs to his disciples is meant to rip through their blinded hearts. He is patiently teaching them to fight off the hidden corruption of self-righteousness, power and worldliness that is infecting the Pharisees and the Herodians. Jesus is warning them about the corrosive messianic expectations of the Pharisees and the inimical political motivations of the Herodians. Their corrupting influence is as forceful as the yeast that leavens the bread. The Divine Master is thus helping his disciples to overcome their hardness of heart and obduracy of mind. He is teaching them to recognize him as the one loaf that matters. Jesus Christ is evoking their faith, for he is the true Messiah – the one sent by God to feed them with the Bread of Life.

 

The following story can give us an idea of our own obtuseness and lack of insight, like the disciples who were in the boat with Jesus (cf. Anthony De Mello, Taking Flight: A Book Of Story Meditations, New York: Image Books/Doubleday, 1990, p. 180). We have unseeing eyes and unhearing ears. We are not able to recognize or understand the daily “miracle of life”.

 

The great Gensha once invited a court official to tea. After the customary greetings, the official said, “I do not wish to squander this opportunity of spending some time in the presence of so great a Master. Tell me. What does it mean when they say that in spite of our having it in our daily life we do not see it?”

 

Gensha offered the man a piece of cake. Then he served him his tea. After eating and drinking, the official, thinking that the Master had not heard his first sentence, repeated the question. “Yes, of course”, said the Master. “This is what it means: that we do not see it, even though we have it in our daily life.”

  

 

B. First Reading (Jas 1:12-18): “God himself tempts no one.”

 

The reading (Jas 1:12-18) gives an insight into the reality of temptation. If a person experiences temptation, that temptation does not come from God. Saint James asserts that God does not bring temptations upon us. A person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his desire that leads to sin and death. The person who overcomes temptation is blessed. He will receive as his reward the life that God has promised to those who love him. Saint James warns us not to be deceived or tempted by false rewards for the font of every good gift and every perfect gift is God.

 

The following war veteran story illustrates how a person is able to overcome temptation through the grace of God (cf. Major Edward Pulido, “A New Purpose” in Guideposts, February 2014, p. 39-42).

 

I’d gone into the military waiting to sacrifice for our country, to give my life even, for a higher purpose. But I wasn’t ready for this. To be crippled at 36. I couldn’t do that to my wife, Karen, and our daughter, Kaitlin, only three. I was supposed to provide for my family, not be a burden. (…)

 

One night, after the nurse had made her rounds, I looked over at the IV bags, the tubes that pumped antibiotics, pain meds, nutrients into my bloodstream. Everything that was keeping me alive. But for what? I should just end it. Pull out the lines. Get it over with.

 

My eyes moved slowly down my body, past my hips and thighs. A blanket covered the bottom of the bed, where my leg should have been. Slowly, my hand trembling, I slid the blanket to the side, then the sheet underneath. There was nothing but a stump. A thick bandage wrapped tightly around my mid-thigh. I squeezed my eyes shut. I couldn’t take it. I couldn’t live like this. Take charge. I opened my eyes, reached for the tubes, wrapped my fingers around them.

 

One tug and you’re done. I couldn’t look. I turned my head. There on the wall, staring back at me, was the face of Jesus, almost illuminated in the gloom. His picture was surrounded by cards, hundreds of them. They filled the entire wall. Every card sent by someone who cared. Someone who was pulling for me. An entire battalion of people I could count on. People the Lord had put into my life to help me, to love me, to give me strength.

 

I pulled my hand away from the tubes. Lord, forgive me, I prayed. I was so close to abandoning the life you’ve given me. But you have not left me. I know that now. You are here. I drifted off to sleep, the best rest I’d had since the explosion.

 

When I awoke, Mama and Karen were there. Mama took my hand, her face serious, as if she knew how close I’d come to ending my life.”Eddie, you have a choice to make”, she said. “You can stay in this bed and grieve over your lost leg or you can get up and walk.”

 

  

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

 

1. Are we so preoccupied with daily cares that we are unable to see and recognize the ongoing miracle of life that comes from God? Do we have faith in Jesus as the one loaf that matters – the Bread of eternal Life?

 

2. What do we do when we experience temptation? Do we turn to God for help?

 

 

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

 

O Jesus Lord, forgive us!

At times we are obtuse and insensitive.

Our eyes are not able to see,

our ears are not able to hear,

our hearts are not able to feel,

and our minds are not able to understand

the greatness of your love for us.

But you are the Divine Master and the Bread of life.

You are the one loaf that matters

– the life-giving Bread that satisfies the hungers of our heart.

Give us the light of your wisdom

and the love of the Holy Spirit

so that we may live only for you.

Help us share the bread of the Word

with a hungry world that longs for God.

Save us from the leaven of corruption.

Let us live our lives

as “bread blessed, broken and shared” for others.

You are the font of blessing

and we adore and bless you, now and forever.

Amen.

 

***

O Jesus Lord,

grant us your strength and persevering faith.

Teach us to overcome temptation

and give us the grace to trust in you.

You are the font of blessing and the source of every good.

We adore and bless 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.

 

“Do you still not understand?” (Mk 8:21) //“Blessed is he who perseveres in temptation.” (Jas 1:12) 

 

  

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

 

Pray that Christian disciples may have better insight into the compassionate ways and plan of God. Make it a daily exercise to recognize and thank God for the beauty and bounty of the “miracle of life” that daily surrounds us. // Pray the “Our Father” devoutly everyday that you may have strength to overcome the daily temptations.

 

 

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February 19, 2020: WEDNESDAY – WEEKDAY (6)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Makes the Blind See … He Helps Us

to Be Doers of the Word”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jas 1:19-27 // Mk 8:22-26

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 8:22-26): His sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly.”

 

The healing of the blind man in Bethsaida occurs by stages. Jesus takes him by the hand and leads him outside the village. Jesus uses spittle and lays his hands on him.  The blind recovers his sight partially. He tells Jesus that he can see people looking like trees and walking. At the second laying of hands, the blind man is able to see clearly. The healed man of Bethsaida is a symbol of all the disciples of Jesus, then and now, in need of his healing touch.

 

The gradual restoration of the man’s vision is similar to the gradual recognition of Jesus’ messiah-ship by his disciples. The healing “by stages” symbolizes the progressive healing of their spiritual blindness. The Twelve who followed Jesus have “seen” him without really seeing him. They need to undergo a conversion process that would enable them to overcome their blindness of heart and “see everything clearly”. Like the blind man of Bethsaida, Jesus would lead them by the hand. They would have a glimpse of Christ’s paschal destiny and grow progressively in faith.

 

The following story of the healing of a young man who became blind through an automobile accident gives us an idea of the wonderful experience of the blind man of Bethsaida healed by Jesus (cf. Joyce Stranger, “A Walk in the Dark” in Reader’s Digest Condensed Books, vol. 4, New York: 1988, p. 568-569).

 

It was strange to lie in a hospital bed again, aware of pain, his eyes bandaged. It brought back memories he would as soon have forgotten. They had operated on only one eye. There would be a second operation later. (…)

 

The days went by. Steve did not want the bandages removed. Better to hope than to know. He lay in a darkened room, shaking, when they finally unwrapped his eyes. “Open them”, the doctor said. He dared not. And then he forced himself to find out the truth. From the operated eye he glimpsed an edge of light at the window, a glint from a glass on the bedside table, the shape of a face above him. “I can see”, he whispered. The bandages were rewrapped. Steve lay, his heart pounding. Suppose it was only temporary? Suppose it lasted only a few hours?

 

But fate was kind, and each day revealed more of the world he had lost. He had to be careful. Bright lights hurt, and using his eyes even for ten minutes was a strain. But in those minutes he absorbed every impression he could get: the faces of the people about him, and such colors everywhere! The curtains in his room were yellow and blue. There were roses in a vase by his bed. They removed the bandages at night, and he lay like a child, staring at the shape of his hand, at the pattern on his pajamas. (…)

 

And then came the day when the curtains were pulled back, and he stood near the window looking out at a riot of colors dizzying his senses: bright flowers and trees, women in gay dresses, yellow against green against blue. He couldn’t bear it and had to draw the curtains again and reduce the light. Shaking, he sat in a chair, staring at the closed curtains, unable to believe his luck.

 

They brought him dark glasses, and with them he braved the world. He discovered that he had lost his sense of space; nothing seemed to be in the right place; distance had begun to play tricks on him. Steps were steeper and shallower than he thought; tables farther away. Perspective had vanished. He was terrified at the speed with which people walked toward him, sure they would bump into him.

 

At night, in his darkened room, he stood at the window and stared out at the trees bending in the wind, at the cloud banks lined with light. Light. Starlight. He was too fascinated to sleep, seeing the bright pinpoints of distant suns, the slender moon. The miracles continued. He walked in the garden, watching birds dart about the grass, seeing a cat slink out of the bushes, seeing it newly for the first time, an amazing creature. Sunlight bronzed its tortoiseshell fur. He wanted to sit and look forever.

 

He rediscovered shadows. He had been so used to them he rarely noticed them, but now he watched his own shadow as it stretched in front of him or suddenly dwarfed itself. But how could people live among such incredible sights and not notice them?

     

 

B. First Reading (Jas 1:19-27): “Be doers of the word and not hearers only.”

 

The reading (Jas 1:19-27) energizes us with Saint James’ exhortation: “Be doers of the word!” His main concern is to help the Christian community persevere in conversion to God and to make the believers grow in the Gospel life. He underlines the intimate relationship between faith in God and love of neighbor, which characterizes our covenant relationship with God. The great pastor, St. James, inspires us with his keen sense of the wholeness of Christian life. Indeed, there is an active and inseparable relationship between religion and life. For St. James, there is no fragmentation of faith and works. There is no part-time Christian in the Church.

 

It is our joy to present some notes concerning Alberto Hurtado, the remarkable Jesuit priest from Chile canonized by Pope Benedict on October 23, 2005, in Rome (cf. Luis Quezada, “I’m Content, Lord! I’m Content!” in THE WORD AMONG US, August 2006, p. 51-56). In his care for the needy, the orphans and the street children in Chile, St. Alberto Hurtado is an example of a disciple who is both a “hearer of the word” and a “doer of the word”.

 

Alberto Hurtado was born in 1901, in Vina del Mar, a port city in central Chile. By the time he was five, his father had died and his mother had moved to Santiago with her two sons, after selling the family property to pay off debts. Having no home of their own, they lived with different relatives – an experience that acquainted Alberto with the struggles of the homeless and needy. He learned compassion from his mother, too. “It is good to put your hands together to pray, but it is better to open them in order to give”, she used to say. Young Alberto did this by sharing with poor children the coins his uncle gave him. Later, as a student, he devoted Sunday afternoon to helping serve the poor in Santiago’s most blighted areas.

 

He also prayed. In fact, as he sensed a growing call to be a Jesuit priest, he prayed long and hard that doors would open and that his mother’s financial situation would improve. Eventually, his prayers were answered in the form of a court-ordered settlement that ensured his mother a decent income. In 1923, with a law degree in hand, Alberto entered the Society of Jesus. His long years of formation took him to Argentina, Spain, and Louvain, Belgium, where he wrote a doctoral thesis on the art and science of education. Upon being ordained a priest in 1933, he wrote a friend that he felt “completely happy” and wanted only “to live out my ministry with all the fullness of my inner life and my outer activities”.

 

Once back in Chile, Hurtado lost no time putting his dreams into action. He taught high school and university students, seminarians and lay people. Young people were drawn to him through the retreats he preached and the mission trips he led; it seemed that no matter what activity he was pursuing, he fired young hearts to give themselves to Christ and work for his glory. But in the midst of all these outreaches, Alberto was most concerned for the poor. He worried about the orphans who roamed Santiago’s streets and climbed onto city buses to sing for money, to beg, or to steal purses. While others ignored them, he was keenly aware of the homeless youths who spent nights around bonfires under bridges and in parks. Some, he knew, were addicted to drugs or drink and stole to support their habits; some had done jail time. What he saw broke his heart. “Every poor person, every vagrant, every beggar is Christ himself who is carrying his cross”, he often said. “As such, we ought to love him and care for him.”

 

In October 1944, a sick, shivering man came to Hurtado looking for a place to stay. He was the very picture of misery. Days later, still shaken by the encounter, Alberto spoke of the man’s distress at a women’s retreat. His heartfelt account of the poverty on Santiago’s streets was like seed falling on good soil. When he spontaneously suggested opening a shelter for the neediest and the street children, the women responded with generous donations of money, jewels, and land. “Christ’s Home”, the Hogar de Cristo, opened its doors the following May. Everyone was welcome, the only requirement being that they have a real need. Alberto was directly involved in the project, he recalled Maria Opazo, whose husband often accompanied him when he went out at night looking for children in need. He drove a green truck and drove it fast, slamming on the brakes when he saw a child lying on the ground. Stopping briefly on the bridge over the Mapocho River, he would blow the horn, and the children would come out yelling, “It’s Papa Hurtado!” When the truck was full, he took the children to the Hogar and then started all over again. “This would go on almost every night from 10:00 p.m. to about 3:00 a.m.”, said Mrs. Opazo.

 

Fr. Hurtado opened more houses, some of them rehabilitation centers and vocational schools that offered people the skills they needed to earn a living. Above all, he wanted everyone served to come to respect “their value as a person and dignity as a citizen, and more so, as child of God.” Today, the Hogar de Cristo and its many affiliates carry on their founder’s vision by caring for thousands of children, teens, and adults throughout Chile. (…)

 

Alberto was only fifty years old when he experienced the first symptoms of the disease that would cut his life short. A year later, after suffering a stroke, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The illness meant a reduction in the amount of work he could accomplish and, ultimately, an early death, but he received the news as a gift from God. Wanting to make the most of his last days, Hurtado kept his door always open. His room became a place of pilgrimage for people of all social conditions. He said farewells, thanked everyone for “such evidence of love and devotion” – and never forgot the poor. In his last letter, written only days before his death on August 18, 1952, Alberto charged his friends to continue his work: “As the needs and miseries of the poor show themselves, find ways to help them as you would help the Master … I confide the poor little ones to your care, in the name of God.”

 

 

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

 

1. Do I experience spiritual blindness? Do I allow Jesus to lead me, touch me and enable me to see with the eyes of faith?

 

2. Do I endeavor to be both “hearer of the word” and “doer of the word”?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

lay your healing hands upon me.

Let me see with the eyes of faith.

You are my God

and you alone I will love and serve.

Let all peoples praise you and glorify you,

now and forever.

Amen.

 

***

Lord Jesus,

let us give witness to your healing love and transforming power

by being both a “hearer of the word” and “doer of the word”.

Let all peoples praise you and glorify 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.

  

           “His sight was restored.” (Mk 8:25) //“Be doers of the word and not hearers only.” (Jas 1:22)

 

 

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

 

Make an effort to help the blind and the handicapped in your community. By your care for them, allow the word of God to bear abundant fruit. 

 

*** *** ***

 

February 20, 2020: THURSDAY – WEEKDAY (6)

  “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Suffering Messiah …

He Lifts Up the Poor”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jas 2:1-9 // Mk 8:27-33

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 8:27-33): “You are the Christ. The Son of Man must suffer much.”

 

In the Gospel (Mk 8:27-33) we hear that to Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answers correctly, “You are the Messiah”. But Peter immediately reveals that his notion of the “Messiah” is as faulty and corrosive as those of the Pharisees. Influenced by popular expectation, he expects Jesus to be a religious-political savior replete with worldly power. The false notion of messiah-ship needs to be rectified. The Divine Master, who healed the blind man of Bethsaida “by stages”, manifests his continuing effort to heal the spiritual blindness of the disciples, especially Peter. He tries to enlighten them on the true meaning of Messiah. He gives them insight that the “Messiah” is the Son of Man who must suffer greatly and be rejected and killed, and rise after three days. Indeed, authentic messiah-ship and discipleship involve powerlessness and suffering rather than worldly power and might.

 

One of the most beautiful stories I have ever read is “To Live Again” by Harold Koenig, M.D. (cf. “To Live Again” in Guideposts, September 2006, p. 20-24). The psychiatrist, Dr. Koenig, who is the coordinator of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at Duke University in North Carolina, suffers from a crippling disease that racks him with pain. Here is an inspiring account of how he has coped with pain and suffering.

 

I had been diagnosed with psoriatic inflammatory arthritis. My immune system was attacking my tendons and joints. Any part of my body I used repetitively – legs, knees, ankles, hands, shoulders, back – could become inflamed. The disease could be progressive. There was no cure. Part of me was relieved to have a diagnosis – no more mystery pain. But then I saw the fear in Charmin’s eyes. I knew she was already mourning our walks together, our hiking vacations. I looked at Jordan. What kind of father will I be? Will we play baseball together? Can we even roughhouse? That night, I lay in bed, unable to sleep. My back was throbbing. But it wasn’t just the pain keeping me awake. Why? I asked, cycling through thoughts of patients, research, all that I felt God had called me to do. Is all this work for nothing? Is it all going to get swallowed up in some disease? What am I supposed to do?

 

The bedroom was dark, the pain relentless. Finally, I got up and limped to the sofa in the living room. I lay on it and found the soft cushions eased the ache. Thank you, God, I prayed. And then it hit me. It was such a simple movement, from bed to sofa. God didn’t snap his fingers and make the pain go away. He didn’t promise to cure me. But he did show me how to adapt, how to live instead of giving up. Maybe that’s what I’m supposed to do, learn to follow God with the pain – and then help others do the same. Lord, that sounds hard. But if you’re with me, I’ll try.

 

God showed Dr. Koenig how to live with pain and how to help others cope with it. In embracing the mystery of suffering and in trusting the divine saving will, he was able to experience that God works through our weakness and our strength. Indeed, Dr. Koenig is a sterling example of how a disciple could participate fully and intimately in the paschal destiny of Jesus Christ, the suffering Messiah. Suffering is integral to Christian faith. And to follow Jesus involves redemptive sacrifice.

    

 

B. First Reading (Jas 2:1-9): “Did not God choose those who are poor in the world? You, however, dishonored the person who is poor.”

 

In the reading (Jas 2:1-9), Saint James confronts the problem of class discrimination. He inveighs against the blatant inconsistency of claiming to be a Christian while discriminating against the poor and oppressed fellow Christians of lower classes. He warns about dishonoring the poor in our midst. He reminds us that God chose the poor people of this world to be rich in faith and to possess the Kingdom. Saint James exhorts us to adhere to “the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ”. True faith entails following the law of the Kingdom: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

 

The letter of Saint James is a rebuke to the false standard of today’s world. It is senseless and cruel because it is based on values extraneous to the inner worth of the person. In spite of our distorted values and human frailty, however, the power of divine grace unfolds. The following article of “Papa Mike” McGarvin illustrates the triumph of beauty and grace (cf. Poverello News, July 2009, p. 2-3).

 

By now, Susan Boyle, a once obscure Scottish spinster, is a household name. It seems as though every pundit in America has written about her amazing performance on the show “Britain’s Got Talent”, so I am chiming in kind of late in the game.

 

If you haven’t seen Ms. Boyle’s performance on TV or You Tube, here’s what happened. Forty-seven years old, never married, and with a very plain appearance. Ms Boyle had grown up in an impoverished village. She is a faithful Christian who took care of her elderly parents until they passed away. Children and teenagers tormented her because of her looks, both when she was a child and as an adult. However, she has a glorious singing voice, and using her immense talent, she for many years performed in neighborhood churches and at karaoke sessions in local pubs.

 

Her opportunity to go on this show, a spin-off of American Idol, seemed particularly ill –fated. Described by many as “frumpy”, this unlikely candidate strode onto the stage to the cruel laughter of both the judges and audience. She seemed confident, but embarrassingly awkward, and the judges smirked as she described her goal of one day becoming a professional singer. To say that they didn’t take her seriously is a huge understatement.

 

And then, she opened her mouth and sang. A stunned panel of judges gazed, shocked and unbelieving, as the voice of an angel took command of the stage. The audience’s mockery turned to wild adulation. Susan Boyle’s magnificent contralto voice did not match their preconceived ideas of her. Her choice of songs, “I Dreamed a Dream” from the Broadway musical, Les Miserables, emotionally complimented her exquisite artistry. To a society that grossly overvalues physical attractiveness and wrongly equates it with goodness, talent, and prestige, Ms. Boyle stood as a refreshing rebuke. Jesus said that the last shall be first and the meek shall inherit the earth. Susan Boyle pretty much inherited the civilized, wired world that night as her performance spread like wildfire on the Internet. (…)

 

We don’t see a lot of physical attractiveness on the streets here at the Pov; but if there’s a lesson in Susan Boyle’s astonishing performance and the show’s dazzled judges, it’s that we cannot afford to dismiss people as unworthy or useless. God sees the whole person, and He sees beauty where, in our frailty and prejudice, we see none. I’ve always believed that He wants us to start viewing people with His vision of them. Our fallen human tendency is to label those who don’t meet our culture’s exacting standards as worthless; however, seeing someone through God’s eyes allows us to be open to many surprises, as well as many blessings that we otherwise would have missed.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we believe that suffering is an integral element of Christian faith? Do we wish to participate more fully in the paschal destiny of Christ, the suffering Messiah, as he redeems mankind and rebuilds the world?

 

2. Are we guilty of showing partiality to the rich and privileged and of socio-economic-racial discrimination against the poor and lowly? How do we overcome this false distinction? Do we strive to see the real worth and beauty of a person? 

 

 

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

 

Jesus Lord,

you are the suffering Messiah.

Help us to see the true worth

of a messiah-ship based on powerlessness and suffering.

Loving Jesus,

guide us to walk in your ways.

Inflame our hearts with love for you.

Filled with your blessings,

help us to serve you without distinction.

Help us to love inclusively.

We sing your kindness and glory.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

***

Jesus Lord,

Fill us with your blessings.

Help us to serve you without distinction.

Teach us to love inclusively.

We sing your kindness and glory.

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 Son of Man must suffer greatly.” (Mk 8:31) //“Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith?” (Jas 2:5)  

 

 

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

 

Pray that Christian disciples may have deep insight into the beauty and nobility of Christ as the suffering Messiah. // By your charity and personal dedication, enable the poor and the underprivileged to experience God’s all-inclusive love. 

 

 

*** *** ***

 

February 21, 2020: FRIDAY – WEEKDAY (6); SAINT PETER DAMIAN, Bishop, Doctor of the Church

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Invites Us to Take Up Our Cross … He Invites Us to Manifest our Faith in Works”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jas 2:14-24 // Mk 8:34 – 9:1

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 8:34-9:1): “Those who lose their lives for my sake and that of the Gospel will save them.”

 

In the Gospel (Mk 8:34-9:1) we hear that after prophesying his paschal destiny on the Cross, Jesus delineates the meaning of the discipleship of the cross: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Mk 8:34-35). Jesus thus connects the fate of his disciples with his own. Christian discipleship involves a share in his paschal sacrifice on the cross. Only in letting go of self and in letting God realize his mysterious, saving plan in us, can we achieve true life and happiness.

 

Indeed, taking up one’s cross is a badge of discipleship. The great humanitarian and peace-worker, Chiara Lubich, underlines the vital role of the cross in Christian discipleship: “The cross is the necessary instrument whereby the divine penetrates into what is human, and humanity participates more fully in God’s life, entering into the kingdom of heaven already here on this earth. But we really have to take up our cross. We must get up in the morning expecting it, and knowing that only by means of it can we receive those gifts, which this world does not have – peace and joy, knowledge of the things of heaven, which are unknown to most people.”

 

The following account of the Japanese martyrs of Ikitsuki illustrates how they took up the cross and fully participated in the paschal destiny of Christ (cf. Full Sail with the Wind of Grace, ed. “Martyrs” Editorial Committee, Nagasaki: Don Bosco Sha, 2008, p. 44-46).

 

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

 

Kondo oppressed Maria with these harsh words. After two years of struggling with the situation, Maria told her husband of her decision, and returned to her father Genka.

 

Shigenobu was furious with Genka who not only disobeyed his orders and continued to practice his faith, but also worked as a Christian leader. Shigenobu ordered the execution of Genka together with his wife Ursula and their oldest son John Mataichi.

 

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

 

Umanojo nodded and they started to walk toward the Kurusu Trail. When they arrived at the spot, Genka said to Umanojo, “Lord Inoue, it was my heart’s desire to offer my life here. None of this is your fault. Please be at peace.”

 

Genka knelt down, raised his tied hands toward heaven and silently bowed his head. Umanojo, choking down his tears, performed the execution with one stroke of his sword so that Genka would not suffer too much. Genka’s wife Ursula and their son John Mataichi were also beheaded about the same time at a place nearby. Gaspar Nishi Genka and his wife Ursula were both 54 years old. Their eldest son John Mataichi was 24 years old. Their remains were buried at the Kurusu Trail. The Christians secretly planted a pine tree on the spot.

 

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

  

 

B. First Reading (Jas 2:14-24, 26): “For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”

 

The reading (Jas 2:14-24, 26) underlines that true faith expresses itself by doing the will of God. Contesting the superficial “faith” widespread in his days, Saint James shows the intimate connection between faith and good works. “Faith” is the free acceptance of God’s saving revelation and “works” is the obedient implementation of God’s revealed will in every aspect of life. For James, true faith is practical and permeates the entire life, for faith without works is “dead” and does not lead to salvation. His great concern is to show covenant faith to all, especially the disadvantaged members. Indeed, the way we live in conformity to our faith is of vital importance. It is the criterion of our religious commitment to God.

 

The following account is an example of a living faith that expresses itself in concrete acts of charity on behalf of God’s poor (cf. Frank Maurivich, “Feeding God’s People” in The Anthonian, Summer 2009, p. 22-25). Faithful discipleship and authentic worship manifest its vitality in works of loving compassion for our needy brothers and sisters.

 

As the bell peals in the tower of St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City at precisely 7 a.m., a Franciscan friar enters the sanctuary to begin the celebration of Mass. At the same moment outside the church on West 31st Street of Midtown Manhattan, another brown-robed Franciscan friar leads three volunteers, one pulling a cart and the others dispensing hearty breakfast sandwiches to some 375 needy people. Two more volunteers pour cups of hot coffee for the homeless in what the Franciscans affectionately call the St. Francis Breadline.

 

Father Jerome Massimino, OFM, the pastor of the parish, sees an intimate connection between what is happening at the altar and on the sidewalk. “God’s chosen are being fed in both places”, he says. The scene outside the church began during the 1929 Depression when Brother Gabriel Mehler, OFM, established this ministry as a way to feed the hungry and the homeless. Since then, this scene has been repeated every morning for almost 80 years. Rain or shine, the friars will greet those who line up for coffee and food. “Alongside the ministry of reconciliation, the Breadline is the most beloved ministry of St. Francis Assisi Church”, the pastor says. Father Michael Carnevale, OFM, who has served as coordinator of the Breadline ministry for the past three years, says, “We have only one rule: ‘No questions asked.’ We take the people as they are – brothers and sisters in Christ. If they want to approach us, that’s a different story.”

 

The Breadline is inclusive – it welcomes everyone in need. The majority are male with only a handful of women. All are poor, and many are homeless. Some have or have had problems with alcohol or drugs; a few are mentally challenged. “We seldom have any trouble”, says Fred Dumas, the tall, husky security man on the parish staff. “If an occasional fight breaks out, others on the line usually break it up.” Fr. Mike estimates that some 70 percent of the people on the line are regulars. “They know one another”, the friar says. “They help among themselves. They have a sense of community.” They also appreciate Fr. Mike’s initiative in improving and varying the menu. What were once cheese or baloney sandwiches on white bread are now changed every day to roast beef, chicken cutlet, turkey, ham and cheese on a hero roll. The breakfast bag also includes a box of Juicy-Juice. “We can do this”, Fr. Mike says, “because our people, in the spirit of St. Francis, generously support this effort for people who are less fortunate.” (…)

 

Tony Ruba, for example, comes on the subway from his apartment in the Bronx to Manhattan at 3:30 every morning to begin bagging the sandwiches which are made and delivered from Manganaro’s Hero Boy Deli. Tony, like three others of the six volunteers on duty this day, was once on the receiving end of the line. He was homeless for eight years, but, he says, “Fr. Mike helped me get my head on straight.” The other volunteers refer to Tony as “the boss”.

 

“I like to get up early”, says Berkley “Burke” Stokes, who used to sleep on the church steps. Now, he has a regular job and has been volunteering every morning for 16 years. He and white-haired, handlebar mustached Frank Wallace, another regular volunteer who has been on both sides of the Breadline, each handle two large urns to dispense coffee. Burke does his job quietly, while Frank does a running commentary with his clients.

 

“I like to help in any way I can”, says Paul Johnson, another volunteer with experience of receiving and now giving. Friendly and loquacious, Paul serves as the cleanup man, but before attacking the refuse, he doles out the ball scores and news commentary. “How did the Rangers do last night?” a man holding a steaming Styrofoam coffee cup asks. “They won. A great hockey game”, reports Paul. “How about the Sixers?” a Philadelphia basketball fan asks. “Sorry, Bill, they lost.” Then Paul and round-shouldered Jimmy start a lively conversation on whether the city’s health department is doing enough to control the flu epidemic.

 

Tall, thin Erwin Schaub and curly-haired Anita Mark both volunteered after seeing a notice in the church bulletin. “I have been coming once or twice a week for four years”, Erwin says. Anita, who is also a Eucharistic minister at the church, serves on the Breadline almost every morning, but after dispensing the sandwiches, she rushes up the church stairs. “I’ve got to go inside”, the lively Eucharistic minister says, “to feed the others”.

 

 

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

 

1. How do we actualize, in our daily lives, the discipleship of the cross? How do we translate into concrete reality the Christian challenge: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me”?

 

2. What does “faithful discipleship” mean to me personally? Do we try to be faithful and efficacious in our Christian discipleship? Does our Christian faith manifests itself in “works”?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

we thank you for Jesus Christ, the Suffering Servant.

He calls us to deny ourselves,

take up our cross

and follow him on the road that leads to eternal life.

In Jesus’ name,

bless us with faithful discipleship, now and forever.

Amen.

 

***

Lord Jesus,

may our living “faith” be manifested daily

in concrete works of charity,

especially to the poor, the marginalized and the needy.

Let our compassionate works of love

for our vulnerable brothers and sisters

be a sign of your saving love for all.

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 week. Please memorize it.

 

“Whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the Gospel will save it.” (Mk 8:35) //“Faith without works is dead.” (Jas 2:26)

 

 

  

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

 

When your faith is challenged in today’s secularized world and when you are persecuted for your Christian faith, ask God for the grace to manifest the power of faithful discipleship. // In concrete works of charity to the poor and the needy, manifest the power of faith that has been given to you.

 

 

*** *** ***

February 22, 2020: SATURDAY – THE CHAIR OF SAINT PETER THE APOSTLE

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Cares for God’s Flock”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

1 Pt 5:1-4 // Mk 16:13-19

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 16:13-19): “You are Peter, and to you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” 

          

The Gospel episode (Mt 16:13-20) is situated in cosmopolitan Caesarea Philippi, a city built by Philip the Tetrarch. A dialogue between Jesus and his disciples ensues. Jesus does not ask for popular speculation, but the disciples’ own assessment of him. Peter, assuming the role of spokesman for the group, declares: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. Simon Peter’s confession of faith is remarkable. He declares not only that Jesus is the “Messiah”, that is, the long-awaited Son of David who ushers in the reign of God. Above all, he avows that Jesus is the “Son of the living God”, that is, the unique representative of God to all people, possessing God’s Spirit and enjoying an exclusive union with the Father. In today’s terms, Jesus as the “Son of the living God” means that he is divine.

 

Indeed, Simon Peter’s confession of faith evokes Jesus’ admiration and blessing. There is an investiture and a “nomination”. Jesus calls Simon and surnames him Peter. Simon is designated as the rock upon which Jesus builds his Church. The stone is Jesus himself, the sole foundation. But Simon is, by the solemn designation of the Lord, the stone solidly set upon the unique foundation. He is the visible “rock” joined to it by the mortar of faith that the Father has given Peter.

   

The following account on the Internet concerning the recently canonized pope John XXIII gives insight into how Jesus continues to guide and build his Church through divinely instituted pastors (cf. Loyola Press Internet Service, James Martin, “My Life with the Saints”).

 

One night [during retreat], around ten ‘clock, I was exploring the house library, a small, wood-paneled room with the typically motley jumble of old, used, worn and downright ugly furniture that characterizes “Jesuit style”. (In fairness, the little library at Eastern Point has since been spruced up.) Poking through the selves, I came upon a book called Wit and Wisdom of Good Pope John.

 

Published in 1964, not long after the pope’s death, the book had torn and yellowed pages. Despite [the assistant novice director’s] warning not to lose myself in books, the temptation to peek inside was irresistible. After a few pages I was hooked: who knew John XXIII was so funny? Of course, not all the stories were laugh-out-loud funny. And I had already heard his famous answer to the journalist who asked innocently, “How many people work in the Vatican?” “About half of them,” said His Holiness.

 

But the passage that made me laugh in the retreat house (and drew pointed glances from more silent retreatants) was one that placed the pope in a Roman hospital called the Hospital of the Holy Spirit. Shortly after entering the building, he was introduced to the sister who ran the hospital. “Holy Father,” she said, “I am the superior of the Holy Spirit.” “You’re very lucky,” said the pope, delighted. “I’m only the Vicar of Christ!”

 

It was that somewhat frivolous story that drew me to John XXIII. How wonderful to keep his sense of humor, even while holding a position of such authority, when he could easily have become cold or authoritarian. How wonderful to have a sense of humor at all! A requirement of the Christian life, I think.

 

It reminded me of a story I had heard from a friend about Fr. Pedro Arrupe, the former superior general of the Jesuits, often called “Father General,” or, more simply, “the General.” Once, Father General was visiting Xavier High School in New York City, which has, since its founding, sponsored a military cadet corps for its boys, a sort of junior ROTC. For his visit, the school’s cadets, in full uniform, lined both sides of the street. When Father General emerged from his car, the phalanx of cadets snapped to attention and saluted crisply. He turned to my friend. “Now,” he said, “I feel like a real general!”

 

Pope John XXIII had a similarly wry sense of humor, and who couldn’t love a pope who had a sense of humor? Who couldn’t feel affection for a man who was so comfortable with himself that he constantly made jokes about his height (which was short), his ears (which were big), and his weight (which was considerable). When he once met a little boy named Angelo, he exclaimed, “That was my name, too!” And then, conspiratorially, “But then they made me change it!”

 

For his humor, his openness, his generosity, and his warmth, many people loved him: Good Pope John. But to see John XXIII as a sort of papal Santa Claus is to only partly understand him. An experienced diplomat, a veteran of ecumenical dialogue, and a gifted pastor and bishop, he brought a wealth of experience to the office of pope.…

 

Soon after finishing the long retreat, I decided that I wanted to know more about Angelo Roncalli than just the few funny stories I had read in the retreat house library. So I slowly made my way through Journal of a Soul and Peter Hebblethwaite’s biography John XXIII: Pope of the Century as a way of getting to know him better. In time, I realized that I was drawn to John XXIII not as much for his wit, or his writings, or his love of the church, or even his accomplishments as for something more basic: his love for God and for other people. The gentle old man seemed to be one of the most loving of all the saints: always a loving son, a loving brother, a loving priest, a loving bishop, and a loving pope. John radiated Christian love. Was it any wonder that so many people were drawn to him?

 

 

B. First Reading (I Pt 5:1-4): “I myself am one of your leaders and a witness to the sufferings of Christ.”

 

The feast of the Chair of Peter, apostle, underlines Peter’s special role among the apostles and in the first generation Church, as well as the pastoral role of his successor, the Pope – the Bishop of Rome. In today’s first reading (I Pt 5:1-4), Saint Peter presents himself as a fellow elder and as a witness of Christ’s sufferings and sharer in the glory to be revealed. He exhorts his fellow elders to be true shepherds of God’s flock in their midst. Their mission is to give it a shepherd’s care. Their ministry is to be carried out with eager service, with noble and never selfish, mercenary motives. In their exercise of leadership, they should be supportive and not authoritarian. They should be models of devotion, service and generosity so that when the chief Shepherd comes they will share in his eternal glory.

 

The following article gives us insight into the pastoral ministry of our Holy Father Pope Francis and of the entire Church (cf. “Francis Begins a Revolution” in ALIVE!, December 2013, p. 7).

 

Pope Francis may yet bring about a far bigger revolution in the Church than any of us even suspect. Until now the media have focused on the pope’s surprising gestures, like his choice of name, his arrival in Lampedusa, his letter to an Italian newspaper. Then there is the watching to see how he may reform Vatican bureaucracy and the silly hope that he may turn out to be, in fact, a Protestant.

 

But from his first homily as pope, in the Sistine Chapel, he signaled where the real revolution will come. There he raised the question of what the Church and all her institutions are for. And he wants all those institutions, Vatican offices, diplomatic service, relief agencies, Catholic schools, local youth groups, media, hospitals, etc., asking the same question: what are we here for?

 

And Francis is in no doubt about the answer. “The Church is not a shop, she is not a humanitarian agency, she is not an NGP”, he said repeatedly. Rather, she exists to announce Christ, to proclaim the joy of salvation.

 

That has to be the primary aim of every Catholic group, be it family, a St. Vincent de Paul society, the Knights of Columbus, a parish bereavement service or a teacher-training college. Mary is the model for each individual and group. When visiting Elizabeth, “she brought not only material help but also Jesus, who was already alive in her womb. Bringing Jesus into the house meant bringing joy, the fullness of joy.”

 

Were the Church to fail in this regard, “were she not to bring Jesus, she would be a dead Church”. Francis could hardly make the point more bluntly. As groups open up to the Pope’s call and honestly question how they are fulfilling this mission and begin to measure everything in terms of evangelization, then we can expect a true revolution in the Church. Exciting times ahead.

 

 

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

 

How do I express my love and respect for the Pope and the other pastors of the Church? Do I pray for them and collaborate with them in caring for God’s flock?

 

 

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

(Cf. Roman Missal, Opening Prayer of the Mass: Chair of Peter)

 

All-powerful Father,

you have built your Church

on the rock of St. Peter’s confession of faith.

May nothing divide or weaken

our unity in faith and love.

Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“God’s flock is in your midst; give it a shepherd’s care.” (I Pt 5:2)

 

 

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

 

Let your pains, trials and sacrifices of these days be offered for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the pastoral Church as it embarks on the task of a renewed evangelization.

 

***

 

 

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

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