A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday and Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 12, n. 13)

7th Sunday in Ordinary Time & Weekday 7: Feb. 23 - March 1, 2014 ***

 

 

(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 - Series 12 for the back issues of the Weekday Lectio.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: February 23 - March 1, 2014. The weekday reflections are based on the First Reading. For the weekday reflections based on the Gospel Reading, please open Series 10.)

 

***

 

February 23, 2014: SEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Us to Holiness Expressed in Love of Neighbor”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Lv 19:1-2, 17-18 // I Cor 3:16-23 // Mt 5:38-48

 

 

I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS

 

The living Word proclaimed in today’s liturgy continues to challenge the faith community about the demands of Christian discipleship. The message of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount echoes with greater intensity and transforming power. Today’s Gospel reading contains the Divine Master’s radical teaching on holiness, expressed in non-resistance to injury and magnanimous love even of enemies.

 

Harold Buetow comments: “Jesus teaches largeness of heart and mind: holiness … Jesus’ law is that for such-and-such injury, we are to return such-and-such blessing … With it a new world has begun … Our love for our enemies – those we do not like or who do not like us – is not of the heart but of the will. Therefore to love them need not be an emotional experience, but must be a decision to commit ourselves to serve the best interests of all other people … We see that the apex of God’s kind of perfection is compassion, a willingness to suffer for others. Those who love in such an unconditional and non-selective way are true children of the God of limitless love … In our dealings with other people, both friends and enemies, we are to be magnanimous: large-minded, wide open, generous – and holy.”

 

The Old Testament reading reinforces Jesus’ call to holiness that is linked to love of neighbor. True holiness demands that we be holy as God is holy by loving our neighbor in his “magnanimous” way. Listening to the voice of the Lord, we thus realize what holiness entails: overcoming hatred, wholesome fraternal correction, taking no revenge, and loving our neighbor as ourselves. Indeed, the merciful God gently guides his chosen people on the path of holiness.

 

In today’s Second Reading, Saint Paul motivates the faltering Corinthian community to follow their Christian call to holiness: “For the temple of God, which you are, is holy … You belong to Christ, and Christ to God.” We are “holy” because we belong to Christ, and through him, to God. Our vocation to holiness moves us to overcome trials, divisions and difficulties within the community. Holiness integrates the life of believers by focusing it on Jesus Christ and enabling it to rise above the vanity and wisdom of today’s world.

  

The following story gives insight into the present-day challenges and demands of Christian holiness (cf. Carolyn Thompson, “Bullying Victim Is Still Teaching Kindness” in Fresno Bee, June 30, 2013, p. E1-E2).

 

After being gifted a life-changing sum following a school bus bullying episode seen around the world a year ago, former bus monitor Karen Klein says she really hasn’t changed much. Sure, the “Today” show mug she drinks coffee from reminds her of the widespread media attention her story brought, and the occasional stranger wants to snap her picture. She’s also retired - something the 69-year-old widow couldn’t afford before.

 

But Klein, who drove a school bus for 20 years before spending three years as a monitor, remains as unassuming as she was before learning firsthand how the kindness of strangers can trump the cruelty of four adolescent boys.

 

“It’s really amazing”, Klein said at her suburban Rochester home, still perplexed at the outpouring unleashed by a 10-minute cell phone video of her being ridiculed, sworn at and threatened by a group of seventh-graders last June. They poke at her hearing aid and call her names as she tries to ignore them. “Unless you have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all”, Klein says calmly a few minutes in. One boy taunts, “You don’t have a family because they all killed themselves because they don’t want to be near you.” Klein’s oldest son committed suicide more than a decade ago.

 

The video, recorded by a fellow student, was posted online and viewed more than 1.4 million times on YouTube. When 25-year old Canadian Max Sidorov was moved to take up an online collection to send her on vacation, more than 32,000 people from 84 countries responded pledging $703,873 in donations. “It’s just the way it hits them, I guess. I don’t know. I don’t know”, Klein said, still unsure of why it all happened. Sidorov called it “ridiculously more than I expected.”

 

Klein used $100,000 as seed money for the Karen Klein Anti-Bullying Foundation, which has promoted its message of kindness at concerts and through books. Most recently, the foundation partnered with the Moscow Ballet to raise awareness of cyber-bullying as the dance company tours the United States and Canada … Klein has been to Boston, Toronto and other cities to promote her foundation. She participated in a WNBA anti-bullying event with the New York Liberty in Newark, New Jersey … “There’s a lot of nice people out there; I have learned that”, Klein said, and to ignore the negative people. (…)

 

Klein has met with one of the boys who bullied her. He and his parents came to her home to apologize. The other three sent typed apologies, which she said struck her as less sincere. “I hope they learned a lesson. They probably didn’t,” Klein says, shrugging. “It might have been a big joke to them.”

 

 

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

 

Do I endeavor to be holy as God is holy? Do I strive to love my neighbor as myself? Do I renounce personal revenge? In place of vengeance, do I “choose” to love my enemies? Do I respond fully to the Christian call to holiness? Do I promote the holiness of the community of faith?

 

 

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

 

Loving God,

you are exceedingly holy.

Thank you for the gift of your Son Jesus Christ.

He showed us the way of holiness

by his passion and death on the cross.

He teaches us to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Help us not to inflict injury for injury,

but rather to respond to injury

with forgiveness and magnanimity.

Give us the strength to love unconditionally

and to embrace with welcoming arms even our enemies.

Open our eyes to the demands of discipleship

and to recognize the holiness of the body of Christ.

In our work for the heavenly kingdom,

let us draw courage from the truth

that we belong to Christ

and that Christ belongs to 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.

 

“Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.” (cf. Lv 19:2)

 

 

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

 

            Pray that the Christian call to holiness may be fully expressed in the service of love to our neighbor. By an act of kindness and compassion to a needy person or a lonely stranger, or by a forgiving stance to an injury suffered personally, enable the Gospel of saving love to spread.

 

***

 

February 24, 2014: MONDAY – WEEKDAY (7)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Us to Faith and Teaches Us True Wisdom”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jas 3:13-18 // Mk 9:14-29

 

  

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

 

The transfiguration story, which precedes today’s Gospel episode, is a figure of the future risen glory of Jesus. In the same way, the story of the disciples trying to heal an epileptic boy and dealing with argumentative scribes is a figure of the challenges the future Church would experience in attempting to do his works. The effort of the disciples to drive out the evil spirit from the boy is futile. The scribes must have outclassed them in discussion as well. The disciples feel powerless. But the Divine Master shows them what it means to keep faith: “Everything is possible to one who has faith.” The boy’s father, stirred by an inchoative faith, declares: “I do believe; help my unbelief.” Jesus thus exorcises the evil spirit and the boy is healed. The miracle healing of the boy underlines Jesus’ messianic power. It is also a powerful lesson and an urgent invitation to his disciples to trust in him. Prayer is a sign of faith. By faith the disciples are empowered to carry out Christ’s saving work, through time and space.

 

The following story gives insight into the faith of a holy man and the marvels that God accomplishes through him (cf. Anthony De Mello, TAKING FLIGHT: A Book of Story Meditations, New York: Image Books/Doubleday, 1990, p. 110-111).

 

There once lived a man so godly that even the angels rejoiced at the sight of him. But, in spite of his great holiness, he had no notion that he was holy. He just went about his humble tasks, diffusing goodness the way flowers unselfconsciously diffuse their fragrance and streetlights their glow. His holiness lay in this – that he forgot each person’s past and looked at them as they were now, and he looked beyond each person’s appearance to the very center of their being, where they were innocent and blameless and too ignorant to know what they were doing. Thus he loved and forgave everyone he met – and he saw nothing extraordinary in this, for it was the result of his way at looking at people.

 

One day an angel said to him, “I have been sent to you by God. Ask for anything you wish and it will be given to you. Would you wish to have the gift of healing?” “No”, said the man. “I’d rather God did the healing himself.” “Would you want to bring sinners back to the path of righteousness?” “No”, he said, “it is not for me to touch human hearts. That is the work of angels.” “Would you like to be such a model of virtue that people will be drawn to imitate you?” “No”, said the saint, “for that would make me the center of attention.” “What then do you wish for?” asked the angel. “The grace of God”, was the man’s reply. “Having that, I have all I desire.”

 

“No, you must ask for some miracle”, said the angel, “or one will be forced on you.” “Well, then I shall ask for this: let good be done through me without my being aware of it.”

 

So it was decreed that the holy man’s shadow would be endowed with healing properties whenever it fell behind him. So everywhere his shadow fell – provided he had his back to it – the sick were healed, the land became fertile, fountains sprang to life, and the color returned to the faces of those who were weighed down by life’s sorrow.

 

But the saint knew nothing of this because the attention of people was so centered on the shadow that they forgot about the man. And so his wish that good be done through him and that he be forgotten was abundantly filled.

 

***

 

In the First Reading, Saint James continues his demand for a living and practical faith that shows itself in good deeds. He distinguishes true wisdom from false wisdom, refuting false claims to wisdom by arrogant and quarrelsome would-be teachers. One who is jealous, bitter and selfish should not boast of having “wisdom” for that kind of wisdom does not come from heaven. Such false wisdom is uninspiring, unspiritual and demonic. True wisdom is pure and spotless; it is peaceable, gentle and full of mercy; and it bears good fruits. Indeed, the seeds sown by the peacemakers produce a harvest of goodness.

 

How true wisdom produces goodness and enriches our life is illustrated in the following story (cf. Mike Buetell, “As a Man Soweth” in A 2nd Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul, ed. Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hansen, Deerfield Beach: Health Communications, Inc., 1995, p. 223-224).

 

When I was in junior high, the eighth-grade bully punched me in the stomach. Not only did it hurt and make me angry, but the embarrassment and humiliation were almost intolerable. I wanted desperately to even the score! I planned to meet him by the bike racks the next day and let him have it.

 

For some reason, I told my plan to Nana, my grandmother – big mistake. She gave me one of her hour-long-lectures (that woman could really talk). The lecture was a total drag, but among other things, I vaguely remember her telling me that I didn’t need to worry about him. She said, “Good deeds beget good results and evil deeds beget bad results.” I told her, in a nice way, of course, that I thought she was full of it. I told her that I did good things all the time, and all I got in return was “baloney!” (I didn’t use that word). She stuck to her guns, though. She said, “Every good deed will come back to you someday, and every bad thing you do will also come back to you.”

 

It took me 30 years to understand the wisdom of her words. Nana was living in a board-and-care home in Laguna Hills, California. Each Tuesday, I came by and took her out to dinner. I would always find her neatly dressed and sitting in a chair right by the front door. I vividly remember our very last dinner together before she went into the convalescent hospital. We drove to a nearby simple family-owned restaurant. I ordered pot roast for Nana and a hamburger for myself. The food arrived and as I dug in, I noticed that Nana wasn’t eating. She was just staring at the food on her plate. Moving my plate aside, I took Nana’s plate, placed it in front of me, and cut her meat into small pieces. As she very weakly, and with great difficulty, forked the meat into her mouth, I was struck with a memory that brought instant tears to my eyes. Forty years previously, as a little boy sitting at the table, Nana had always taken the meat on my plate and cut it into small pieces so that I could eat it.

 

It had taken 40 years, but the good deed had been repaid, Nana was right. We reap exactly what we sow. “Every good deed you do will someday come back to you.”

 

What about the eight-grade bully? He ran into the ninth-grade bully.

 

 

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

 

1. Do I trust God and put faith in him that he will give me strength to do his saving work?

 

2. Do we try to be truly wise in the Lord and sow good deeds and thus harvest the fruit of righteousness?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

the epileptic boy’s father confessed his faith

and begged you to increase his little faith.

You healed the boy in response to his prayer of faith.

We, your disciples,

are called to bring your healing power to a wounded world.

Strengthen our feeble faith

and enlighten us with true wisdom.

Help us to sow good deeds

and reap the abundant harvest of righteousness.

You are our saving Lord, now and forever.

Amen.

 

  

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

           

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

 

            “But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle ...” (Jas 3:13-17)

 

 

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

 

Offer a simple prayer of faith in Jesus. Accompany your daily prayer of faith with an act of mercy and good deeds.

 

***

February 25, 2014: TUESDAY – WEEKDAY (7)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us the Meaning of Humble Service and Calls Us to a Total Conversion”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jas 4:1-10 // Mk 9:30-37

 

 

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

 

After healing the epileptic boy, Jesus with his disciples leaves the place and goes on through Galilee. He speaks again about his passion, death and resurrection, but his disciples do not understand. Though afraid to ask what he means, they do not have any qualms about arguing who among them is the greatest. At a house in Capernaum, Jesus tries to enlighten their hearts. To help them overcome their wicked ambition, Jesus puts in their midst a child, symbol of poverty and powerlessness. Jesus teaches his disciples that greatness consists in service and in caring for the weak and vulnerable. To be first is to serve. Jesus is the ultimate servant. By his passion and death on the cross, he offers himself totally at the service of the Father’s saving will. By his life-giving sacrifice, the Servant Messiah embraces infinitely all the “children of God”, especially the poor and vulnerable. A moral test of a society is how we treat the weakest among us. In our preferential option for the poor and in our care for the weak, we truly embrace God’s children. Like Jesus Christ, we become the “servant of all”.

 

The following story, circulated through the Internet, is very touching. It illustrates a compassionate stance on behalf of the needy.

 

I was walking in a Walmart store, when I saw a cashier hand this little boy some money back. The boy couldn’t have been more than 5 or 6 years old. The cashier said, “I’m sorry, but you don’t have enough money for this doll.” Then the little boy turned to the old woman next to him, “Granny, are you sure I don’t have enough money to buy this doll?” “No, my dear.” Then she asked him to stay there for just five minutes while she went to look around. She left quickly. The little boy was still holding the doll in his hand.

 

Finally, I walked toward him and asked him who he wished to give his doll to. “It’s the doll that my sister loved most and wanted so much for Christmas. She was sure that Santa Claus would bring it to her.” I replied to him that maybe Santa Claus would bring it to her after all, and not to worry. But he replied to me sadly, “No, Santa Claus can’t bring it to her where she is now. I have to give the doll to my Mommy so that she can give it to my sister when she goes there.” His eyes were so sad while saying this, “My sister has gone to be with God. Daddy says that Mommy is going to see God very soon too, so I thought that she could take the doll with her to give it to my sister.”

 

My heart nearly stopped. The little boy looked up at me and said, “I told Daddy to tell Mommy not to go yet. I need her to wait until I come back from the mall.” Then he showed me a very nice photo of himself. He was laughing. He then told me, “I want Mommy to take my picture with her so she won’t forget me. I love my Mommy and I wish she didn’t have to leave me, but Daddy says that she has to go to be with my little sister.”

 

Then he looked again at the doll with sad eyes, very quietly. I quickly reached for my wallet and said to the boy, “Suppose we check again, just in case you do have enough money for the doll!” “OK” he said, “I hope I do have enough.” I added some of my money without him seeing and we started to count it. There was enough for the doll and even some spare money. The little boy said, “Thank you God for giving me enough money!” Then he looked at me and said, “I asked last night before I went to sleep for God to make sure I had enough money to buy this doll, so that Mommy could give it to my sister. He heard me! I also wanted to have enough money to buy a white rose for my Mommy, but I didn’t dare to ask God for too much. But he gave me enough to buy the doll and a white rose. My Mommy loves white roses.”

 

A few minutes later, the old lady returned and I left with my basket. I finished my shopping in a totally different state of mind from when I started. I couldn’t get the little boy out of my mind. Then I remembered a local newspaper article two days ago, which mentioned a drunk man in a truck, who hit a car occupied by a young woman and a little girl. The little girl died right away, and the mother was left in a critical state. The family had to decide whether to pull the plug on the life-sustaining machine, because the young woman would not be able to recover from the coma. Was this the family of the little boy?

 

Two days after this encounter with the little boy, I read in the newspaper that the young woman had passed away. I couldn’t stop myself as I bought a bunch of white roses and I went to the funeral home where the body of the young woman was for people to see and make last wishes before her burial. She was there, in her coffin, holding a beautiful white rose in her hand with the photo of the little boy and the doll placed over her chest. I left the place, teary-eyed, feeling that my life had been changed forever. The love that the little boy had for his mother and his sister is still to this day, hard to imagine, and in a fraction of a second, a drunk driver had taken all this away from him.

 

***

 

In the First Reading, Saint James condemns the faithlessness in the community; that is, their human degradation, the riotous living, the fights and pleasure seeking, etc. Having exposed the extensive social and personal turmoil and having reacted with a just reproach, Saint James now issues a call to repentance: “Submit to God … Draw near to God… Purify your hearts … Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.” There should be a complete reversal of their lives from vice to God, from fragmentation to integration, from division to wholeness. Saint James exhorts them to a total conversion of heart and urges them to let God be the Lord of their lives.

 

The following personal testimony of Papa Mike, the founder of the Poverello House in Fresno, gives insight into the meaning of Saint James’ moral and spiritual exhortation (cf. Mike McGarvin in POVERELLO NEWS, July 2013, p. 2-3).

 

In the 1960s, I was an eager participant in the hippie movement: free love, drug experimentation that soon led to dependency, openness to a hodge-podge of strange spiritual beliefs, and advocating for the expansion of the welfare state as a way of addressing poverty. I marched in anti-war and anti-poverty marches (when I wasn’t too drunk to march), took LSD, smoked marijuana, and practiced sexual liberation with a vengeance. And guess what? I became poor, miserable, spiritually empty, and got to the point where I wanted to kill myself.

 

As much as I hate to admit it, it’s when I embraced those hated middle-class values that I found meaning and happiness. Middle-class value number one: old-fashioned Christianity. My conversion to Catholicism gave me a new direction and a purpose for living. Middle-class value number 2: I got married, and I stayed married, taking seriously that “until death do us part” business. Middle-class value number three: I worked my way up from an apprenticeship to a full-time job as a photoengraver, learning good work habits and providing for my family. Finally, middle-class value number four: I started giving back to others less fortunate than me, which is how Poverello House started. (…)

 

When we take a homeless drug addict into our program, in most cases we’re not only dealing with the personal wreckage of his life, but also the leftover cultural debris from the 1960s. Our solution is so middle-class that it almost makes the old hippie in me want to cry: get clean and sober, get God, work hard, be responsible, get a job, and take care of the messes you’ve made, and then go out and help someone else in need. It’s a far cry from “Turn on tune in, drop out”, and certainly more humdrum, but it means the difference between a horrible life of squalor and having a chance at achieving lasting joy.

 

 

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

 

1. Are our hearts blinded with ambition and are we unable to be the “servant of all”? Do we endeavor to welcome the needy and vulnerable “children of God” in our midst?

 

2. Do we respond to God’s call to total conversion and do we draw close to him and make him be the Lord of our lives?

 

 

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

 

O Jesus,

you are the ultimate servant and the “servant of all”

by your life-giving sacrifice on the cross.

Help us to be “first” by our serving love.

Give us the grace to welcome the poor, the needy, the vulnerable …

all the children of God.

Teach us to overcome the demands of evil passions.

Draw us close to our loving God,

who lives and reigns,

forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

            “Submit yourselves to God … Draw near to God.” (Jas 4:7-8) 

 

 

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

 

Pray that the Christian disciples may be strengthened to resist temptations and the destructive lure of evil passions. In your acts of charity, enable the people around you to feel the love of Christ, the “servant of all”. 

 

***

 

February 26, 2014: WEDNESDAY – WEEKDAY (7)

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Be Open to Others and Submission to the Will of God”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jas 4:13-17 // Mk 9:38-40

 

 

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

 

The following charming story, “Jesus at the Football Match”, from Anthony De Mello’s book, The Song of the Bird (New York: Doubleday Image Books, 1984), p.147, helps me to understand today’s Gospel reading in a humorous vein.

Jesus Christ said he had never been to a football match. So we took him to one, my friends and I. It was a ferocious battle between the Protestant Punchers and the Catholic Crusaders. The Crusaders scored first. Jesus cheered wildly and threw his hat high up in the air. Then the Punchers scored. And Jesus cheered wildly and threw his hat high up in the air. This seemed to puzzle the man behind us. He tapped Jesus on the shoulder and asked: “Which side are you rooting for, my good man?” “Me?” replied Jesus, visibly excited by the game. “Oh, I’m not rooting for either side. I’m just enjoying the game.” 

            Indeed, Jesus is not in the habit of taking sides. He is concerned with the good of people and not with trifling issues of party membership or political color. In light of the above story, we can understand why Jesus roots for anyone who does good in terms of service to God’s anawim - “the little ones” - even if that person does not belong to the inner circle of disciples. In today’s Gospel reading, he recognizes the good work done by “someone driving out demons in his name”. He tries to correct the clique tendency and the petty exclusivity of his disciples. As the Divine Master, he teaches his disciples to be tolerant and open to others of good will. They are not to consider those not in their company as less favored.

***

 

In today’s First Reading, Saint James warns against radical self-assertion and about not orienting one’s entire life to God. The one who boasts and proudly conducts his life as if he is in control should take heed. The businessman whose only plan is to make more profit and does not recognize the role of God in his life is like a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears. Such a man does not even have an idea what his life will be like tomorrow. Our human life is fragile and transitory and we cannot afford to conduct our life as if we are in control and not God. We must not be proud or boastful, but make the Lord God the center of our life. We must live our life in dependence on God. Recognizing the wisdom of the divine plan, our stance is humble: “If the Lord wills it …” Moreover, Saint James reminds us that in failing to do the good we must do, we are guilty of sin.

 

The following story gives insight into the mystery of the divine plan and the need to submit to the will of God (cf. Frank Slazak, “I Won Because I Lost” in A 3rd Serving of Chicken Soup for the Soul, ed. Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hansen, Deerfield Beach: Health Communications, Inc., 1996, p. 225-229).

 

I wanted to be an astronaut … Then it happened in early 1985, like a lightning bolt from the sky, the White House announced that President Reagan was directing NASA to begin the search for an ordinary citizen to fly into space on board a space shuttle mission … Two weeks later, NASA announced that any teacher interested in competing for the honor of being the first ordinary citizen and teacher in space should write to them to request an application. That very same day, I sent my request to Washington … Express Mail! I wondered if other teachers had the same dream. (…)

 

Every day, I ran to the mailbox to see if I had survived the space agency’s scrutiny. NASA took several weeks to review the 11,000 submitted applications, but then it came … an official-looking envelope with NASA’s logo in the upper left-hand corner. I waited so long for this news, and now that I had it, I was afraid to open the envelope. What if it was bad news? I prayed that the news would be good as I excitedly read the letter. My prayers were answered! I survived the first cut! (…)

 

I finally received the call that I had prayed for. NASA informed me that they had chosen me to attend their special astronautic training program at the Kennedy Space Center! This was it; this was the final step toward being chosen! My confidence soared as I knew that I would be the one who would be the first teacher in space. (…)

 

Then came the devastating news. I would not be the first teacher to fly in space. NASA had chosen a teacher from Concord, New Hampshire, by the name of Christa McAuliffe. I had lost. My lifelong dream was over. Depression, loss of confidence and anger replaced my euphoria as I questioned everything: Why God, why not me? What part of the right stuff did I lack? Why had life dealt me such a cruel blow? How could I face my students, my family and my community? Why did my dream have to end when I was so close? (…)

 

Tuesday, January 28, 1986, the day I had dreamed about for 25 years, found me gathered with those that I had shared my failed dream with: my students, my family and people from the community, along with members of the media. We all came to witness history and watch the historic flight of teacher Christa McAuliffe. We watched as the space shuttle Challenger lifted off the launch pad on what seemed like a perfect launch. As it cleared that launch tower, I challenged my dream one final time. God, I would do anything to be in that shuttle. Why can’t that be me?

 

Seventy-three seconds later, God answered all of my questions and invalidated all of my doubts as the Challenger exploded, killing all on board, including teacher Christa McAuliffe. My father’s words, “Everything happens for a reason”, instantly came back to me. I was not chosen for that flight no matter how much I wanted it or prayed for it, because the Divine Plan included another reason for my presence on this earth. I had another mission in life. I was not a loser; I was a winner! I had won because I had lost!

 

 

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

 

1. Do we exclude “non-members” from the ministry and echo the intolerance of the immature disciples of Jesus: “Teacher, we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us”? Do we believe wholeheartedly in Jesus’ declaration: “There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me … For whoever is not against us is for us”?

 

2. Are we obedient to the divine plan and do we trust God’s benevolent wisdom? Do we carry on the humble stance of a faithful disciple: “If the Lord wills it …”?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

at times, our hearts are intolerant.

We try to lay exclusive claim to the Reign of God

you have graciously shared with us.

Help us to realize that the Kingdom

is meant for all people of good will in every time and culture.

Teach us, O Divine Master,

to be receptive to grace

and to humbly submit to the divine plan.

Grant that in our endeavors,

we may always say: “If the Lord wills it …”.

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.

  

            “You should say, ‘If the Lord wills it ...’” (Jas 4:15)

 

 

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

 

Pray for the success of the ecumenical movement in the Church and the laudable endeavor of inter-religious dialogue. See what tangible contribution you can make in this regard. Present all your endeavors to the Lord and say to him, “If you will it …”

 

***

 

February 27, 2014: THURSDAY – WEEKDAY (7)

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Us to a Radical Discipleship and Hears the Cry of the Poor”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jas 5:1-6 // Mk 9:41-50

 

 

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

            Today’s Gospel reading continues to underline the challenges of Christian discipleship. Jesus warns against the evil of causing scandal to others by using the harsh imagery of the unquenchable fires of Gehenna. Harold Buetow remarks: “The figure of Gehenna is a symbol of hell derived from the garbage dump in the dried-up Valley of the Hinnon River below the southwest wall of the city. It had an evil history. Once the site of child-sacrifices to the god Moloch, in the time of Jesus it was the city dump, and its smoldering fires and billowing acrid smoke consuming the smelly garbage were a symbol of the punishment of the damned.” 

To avoid the hell of Gehenna, the disciples must take care not to give bad example to anyone. Jesus asserts: “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire”. Jesus’ remarkable saying is not meant to be taken literally. Physical mutilation does not always work against temptation. What Jesus underlines is the absolute importance of entering the kingdom of God and the exigent demand is entails. Anything that jeopardizes participation in the heavenly kingdom must be expunged from our lives.

Indeed, the Christian disciples need to be purified in their innermost motives. They need to be “salted with fire” and experience the purifying fire of trials by which the faithful become pleasing sacrifices to God and at peace with one another. They need to expunge the evils of ambition, intolerance and scandal from their midst. In place of these, they have to make a tough choice for primacy in service, for tolerance and openness to others of good will, and for integrity in their dealing with God’s “little ones”. Those who respond to the radical demands of Christian discipleship with zest and gusto become the salt of the earth. As the good salt of the earth, they continue to inspire people with the liveliness of the Gospel spirit and lead them to yearn for God’s kingdom. 

The following testimony is an example of today’s laudable efforts to help the “little ones” experience the blessings of God’s kingdom and to overcome the obstacles in their lives (cf. Sister Mary Rose McGeady, Sometimes God has a Kid’s Face, Covenant House USA, 2010, p. 82-84).

Freddy had been born seventeen years ago in one of those small old mill towns in the Northeast, the kind of town where industry and hope left town and never looked back at what was left behind. Unable to find work, unable to cope, his parents both took to drinking as a way to escape their sorrow. Sometimes when the drink wasn’t enough to ease their pain, they took their frustrations out on Freddy. Many nights, Freddy found himself hiding in his house, in closets and under beds, trying to escape a beating that had, by that point, become an almost weekly ritual.

Afraid and desperate to please his parents, Freddy began drinking with them, in order to show he was on their side. Soon, well before he had become a teenager, he found himself hooked on alcohol, unable to pry himself loose from the grip it had on him.

“It’s in my blood, Sister”, he said to us that first day. “I was born an addict … there’s nothing you can do to help me.”

One day, when the beatings got to be too much, he fled to the streets to find a peace he had never known. Instead, he found what all kids find – the aloneness, hunger, fatigue and darkness of an unforgiving world on the street. He was sixteen years old. For one full year, Freddy struggled to find some kind of existence on the streets. He slept in alleys, and ate out of garbage cans. He drank to forget how scared and alone he was – and he began experimenting with drugs, hoping they would somehow help him escape his pain. He died a little, day by day.

Then he found Covenant House. I’m not sure exactly how it’s going to turn out for him. I’m hoping – I guess some would say against hope – that it’s not too late for him to believe, that it’s not too late for him to finally overcome an addiction that has an ironclad grip on every ounce of his body. I do know that as long as he is alive, I have hope that we can turn his life around … “I want you to know something, Freddy”, I said. “I still think you are going to make it”, I said. “Just give us a chance”, I said. I could tell by the look of his eyes that he hoped I was right. “I’d like to try”, he said. I reached out and hugged him. “Thank you. God”, I whispered to myself.

***

 

In the Reading (Jas 5:1-6), St. James comes to grips with a sinful situation that jeopardizes the Christian community’s call to serve the kingdom of God and to mirror his liberality. The selfish desire for possession brings about violence to the innocent and militates against human dignity and the beautiful unfolding of our Christian vocation.

 

Harold Buetow comments: “Today’s Reading laments that some people, instead of being prophets as Moses and Jesus had wished – that is, speakers of God – place their trust in money … An angry James wants to show the ultimate worthlessness of riches and to show how detestable some who own riches can become. James condemns the rich who hoard their wealth, cheat laborers of their just wages, and live in a luxurious way that is unmindful of the poor. He, like the rest of Scripture, does not condemn wealth as such, but insists strenuously upon its responsibilities and on the perils that surround the person who has it. The more you own, the more you are owned; it is good to have money, if money is not all you have … The desire for possessions can eat at a person like a fire. This all-consuming fire can cause a person to be oblivious of the needs and rights of others – even those to whom we have immediate obligations, like employees … James insists that we cannot be right with God unless one is just.”

 

Manila Hotel’s former PR officer Gwen Carino writes about her close encounter with hotel guest Michael Jackson in December 1996. Her testimony serves as a counterpoint to the portrait of the uncaring rich depicted in the passage from St. James. The grace of God calls us to manifest God’s liberality and compassion for the poor and to all.

 

MANILA, Philippines – When I was a PR officer at Manila Hotel, I was assigned to head the annual Orphan’s Christmas Party where 300 children from different orphanages around Metro Manila were treated to a day of fun and surprises. It was one of the biggest projects on my plate and it was such a challenge to focus on work the day before the big event, knowing Michael Jackson was billeted in the hotel. Two nights before, I had been fortunate to be part of his welcome line at the hotel lobby together with the rest of the PR and sales staff but was content enough to see him walk by.

 

The day before, a guy claiming to be Michael Jackson’s aide from Mamarao Productions came to the office. I couldn’t recall his name but he looked for the “person in charge” and said his boss had read the announcement about the event in the Dear Guest flyers we had circulated to all the rooms a week before. Michael wanted to know how he could help. His aide went up to the Penthouse and down to the PR office several times after we gave our suggestions. Michael offered to fill up the 300 loot bags with goodies and toys, candies and chocolates. But after getting close to 50 sponsors, it was actually a problem for us to dispose of everything. So I thought hard…how can the King of Pop meaningfully join the
affair? I couldn’t possibly have him be with the kids in the palayok game or the pabitin as he might end up being mobbed! And since the annual event was really all about giving, I mustered all my courage and told the Mamarao guy that the best thing I could think of was for Michael to literally be present to help distribute the loot bags, sign autographs and pose with the children for photos. “Wow, that may not be easy. You’re talking about handing goodie bags to 300 children and
I can just imagine the chaos. We’ll see, Ms. Jacinto. I’ll get back to you,” he said.

Lunch break came and it was the most hurried one I ever took in my entire life. It wasn’t until after 5 p.m. that Michael‘s aide came back and said, “Michael is more than happy to do whatever you suggest. How do we go about it tomorrow?” I wanted to scream. I had to calm myself and regain composure as the Lizzie McGuire in me said, “Get real, get back into focus.”

 

We agreed that Michael would join after the games, musical program and snacks, and at the last part to give out the loot bags. My colleague Annette Africano and boss Dulce Agnir requested additional security around the garden and the stage area as this was where we decided to distribute the gifts. We made sure the children would form an orderly line.

 

Then the moment arrived. It was at the Champagne Gardens on Dec. 7, 1996. I was surprised to see him walking towards us, guided by his aide. Michael came up to me as I had to brief him. “Hi, how are you? Thanks so much for letting me in, I know I’m early ’coz I didn’t want to miss the program.” I said, “Are you kidding? Thanks so much for volunteering! Here’s what, Michael, why don’t you just sit here and watch the musical numbers before we get into the gift giving. I will have to tweak the program a bit.” He replied, “Sure, anything you say… (pausing to look at my name tag) Gwen!” I was stunned at how incredibly sweet and modest he was. And in my mind it was, “Oh my God, this is really happening!”

Amazing how he patiently sat through the whole program. Carol Banawa, then an Ang TV mainstay, couldn’t believe MJ was watching her perform. She had her red blouse signed by him right after her number. Then followed Stefano Mori’s dance number. Later, his backup singers and dancers came up on stage followed by select kids from different orphanages who danced to the beat of Billie Jean. Oh, the smile on Michael’s face was just amazing.

 

Then we announced that Michael will be distributing gifts onstage. I explained to him that there’s a loot bag for the younger kids and another for the older ones and he nodded. The thrill and excitement he gave those children was incredibly touching. It was in between the gift bag distribution that I caught a glimpse of MJ, not as a performer but as a person.  It was one in the afternoon. Santa Claus (David Endriga, a friend of fellow PR officer Francis Capistrano) was with us. The heat was scourging and I was worried that Michael felt so hot with his black long-sleeved signature attire and hat. “Are you alright Michael? We can let you take a break,” I asked. He said, “I’m cool Gwen. Just imagine how Santa feels inside his velvet suit and beard. We’ll be fine.” I never heard him complain or say a word about how hot it was or how long the line was. He had the most beautiful manners. He didn’t even ask for a drink or a towel to wipe his sweat but one of our banquet staff made sure he got a glass of fresh orange juice.

An hour passed and we were halfway through gift-giving when we noticed that the garden was getting filled up. Suddenly, there were people from the media, politicians, officials and hotel guests including those in a wedding reception at the nearby Champagne Room who deserted the newly-weds just to get a glimpse of the King of Pop. “Oh oh, this isn’t supposed to be, I’m so sorry,” I said. “It’s all right, we’ll get through it,” Michael said smiling. As we finished giving out the last loot bag to an 11-year-old orphan, a new line of more kids and adults formed. Michael’s bodyguard, Wayne, said. “We can leave now.” Michael replied calmly, “We can’t leave when there are still people in line. It’s Christmas, dude.” I felt my heart beat faster and the hair on my arms and the back of my neck stood up. He wasn’t just the most electrifying performer, but the most generous person.

One of the most memorable moments was when a lady came up to him for an autograph. Laughing and holding his tummy, he said “Hey Gwen, you’ve gotta check this out”. He whispered, “It’s a blank check. The lady is making me sign on a blank check.” We laughed hard and little did we know that it wasn’t even half of the comedy. He later showed me and Wayne other stuff people would use or pick up on the ground when they couldn’t find paper for him to sign on. One lady made him sign at the back of her elegant, designer Filipiniana gown. One teenager came up to him holding a dead leaf and another one, a popped balloon. Imagine how our laughter ballooned as well.

 

It was an amazing, genuine experience. At one point he asked if I was going to catch his History concert and I said “tomorrow night.” “Oh, you’ll have a blast!” Michael told me. At this point he became concerned about the stage as adults outnumbered the kids. His face had nervousness written all over it but he still didn’t complain. He tapped the wooden floor with his foot several times making sure it was sturdy enough not to fall apart. “I’ve experienced the stage collapse and I just want to make sure we’re all safe here,” he explained. Half of me wanted the line to finish because we were literally melting and worried about our safety, but half of me didn’t, knowing that once the line ended, Michael will leave.

At some point it did end. I managed to get an autograph for my sisters and me before our general manager, Clem Pablo, requested him to sing Give Love on Christmas Day. Cesar Sarino, one of the hotel’s officials, addressed his thank you
note to the King of Pop. Then I saw his guards and aides whisking Michael off stage. I said in my mind, “Oh man, I didn’t even have the chance to say goodbye.” Suddenly, I saw Michael return on stage and say, “Thanks so much to you and your team, Gwen. This really means a lot.” Then he held me beside him and said, “I’ll see you at the concert.”

 

As Michael Jackson is laid to rest and returned to pristine condition in the afterlife, these two incredible acts of the King of Pop — volunteering for charity and unselfishly spending time with the less fortunate, will forever be the way I will remember this man.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we make a fundamental choice for the Kingdom of God, and are we ready to renounce all that impedes from total participation in it? Do we endeavor to help the “little ones” to experience the blessings of the heavenly Kingdom?

 

2. Do we hear the cry of the poor and respond to their needs? Do we truly seek the treasures of heaven?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

help us to heed your warning

not to cause the “little ones” to sin,

but rather to promote their dignity and integrity.

Teach us to respond to the cry of the poor

and aid them in their needs.

Let us respond to the call of radical discipleship.

We love you and we trust in you, O Divine Master,

for in drawing us close to you

we are purified and “salted with fire”

and become the good “salt of the earth”.

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.

 

“Their cries have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.” (Jas 5:4)  

 

 

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

 

Make a personal inventory and see what things/resources/assets you can renounce/share with the “little ones” and the needy poor.

 

***

 

February 28, 2014: FRIDAY – WEEKDAY (7)

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us the Sanctity of Marriage and Shows Us Patient Endurance”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jas 5:9-12 // Mk 10:1-12

 

 

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

            This true story of enduring love happened some years ago in the Philippines. The parents of our friend, Fr. Allan Lastimosa, went to visit him at his parish in Metro Manila. They had a beautiful time together, especially when they celebrated his mom’s birthday. Soon it was time for his parents to sail for their Cebu island hometown. Fr. Allan brought his parents and a nephew to the pier in Manila and sent them off. As they were about to sail, his dad commented, “The weather doesn’t look good!” But there seemed to be no cause for alarm. And so the ship set off for a day’s journey to Cebu. That was the last time Fr. Allan would see his mom and dad. They were among the fatalities when the boat was caught offshore by a typhoon and capsized. The nephew survived to tell a beautiful story of sacrificial love and nuptial fidelity. Fr. Allan’s dad, who was physically able and could have saved himself, refused to leave his sickly and fragile wife behind. Death perfected their marriage covenant. Indeed, their love for each other is a paradigm of the irrevocable unity of “what God has joined together”.

            Today’s Gospel reading continues to delineate the radical demands of Christian discipleship. Jesus’ teaching on marriage is a further challenge to those who wish to follow him. At the core of his message is the challenge to spouses to live in faithful union until death. In the divine plan, the married couple constitutes “one flesh” and their covenantal relationship is enduring. He asserts radically that what God has joined together, no human being must separate. Jesus thus enunciates the ideal of indissoluble marriage in the context of the divine plan and the Reign of God that he has come to establish. Though cognizant of the painful issue of marital failure and divorce, the Church continues, then and now, to uphold the lofty ideal of the sacredness of the marriage covenant. In a world where marriage is a convenience, Christian couples are called to witness to the sacred character of the bond of matrimony. God proposes this ideal of marriage to weak human beings, but he places his trust in men and women created in his image and strengthened by his grace.

***

 

Today’s First Reading contains a lesson on patient endurance. Saint James invites the Christian community not to judge one another because the true Judge who is God is ready to appear. Rather, he invites them to emulate the sterling models of patient endurance. He reminds them of the prophets who suffered for God’s word and of Job, a paradigm of perseverance and a recipient of God’s abundant reward. Indeed, those who persevere are blessed. The words of Saint James are meant to console and to enlighten. The Lord who comes as judge is compassionate and merciful. But to avoid being condemned by the just judge, one must live in truth and integrity.

 

The courageous Pakistani girl, Malala, gives us a glimpse what “patient endurance” in today’s world means (cf. “The Face of Courage” in PARADE, October 6, 2013, p. 10, 16).

 

In a country that’s seen more than its share of violence, the fate of one teenager might not seem to count for much. But somehow Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan has managed to become an international inspiration. She was only 11 when she took on the Taliban, demanding that girls be given full access to school. Her campaign led to a blog for the BBC, a New York Times documentary, and a Pakistani peace prize. But all that was only a prelude to even more extraordinary events. Last October, Taliban assassins attacked Malala, then 15, on her way home from school, shooting her in the head. Here Malala describes that day and offers her hopes for the future. (…)

 

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 9, 2012: The man was wearing a peaked cap and had a handkerchief over his nose and mouth. Then he swung himself onto the tailboard and leaned in over us. “Who is Malala?” he demanded. No one said anything, but several girls looked at me. I was the only girl with my face uncovered. That’s when he lifted up a black pistol. Some of the girls screamed. Moniba tells me I squeezed her hand.

 

My friends say he fired three shots. The first went through my left eye socket and out under my left shoulder. I slumped forward onto Moniba, blood coming from my left ear, so the other two bullets hit the girls next to me. One bullet went into Shazia’s left hand. The third went through her left shoulder and into the upper right arm of Kainaz Riaz. My friends told me the gunman’s hand was shaking as he fired.

 

In the year since that fateful day, Malala has undergone a recovery that is nothing short of miraculous. The bullet narrowly missed her brain, and doctors at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England, where she was brought in a medically induced coma six days after the attack, marveled that she was able to stand within a week of her arrival. Malala underwent multiple surgeries and spent nearly three months in the hospital (which specialized in treating wounded soldiers) though mercifully it was found that she had suffered no major permanent neurological damage.

 

The ordeal did, however, solidify her will: “It feels like this life is not my life. It’s a second life. People have prayed to God to spare me and I was spared for a reason – to use my life for helping people.”

 

 

 

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

 

1. Do we believe in Jesus’ radical affirmation: “What God has joined together, no human being must separate”? How do we promote the sanctity and integrity of family and married life?

 

2. As Christian disciples, how do we build in ourselves “patient endurance”? Do we allow ourselves to be strengthened by our compassionate and merciful God?

 

 

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

 

Almighty and eternal God,

you have made the unbreakable bond of marriage

a sign of your Son’s union with the Church as his spouse.

Look with favor on all married couples

whom you have united.

Let them grow in love for each other

and may they resolve to be

of one heart, one mind, one soul.

In their needs, be near to them

and in their struggles, assist them with your saving power.

Loving Father,

we pray for the Church, the Bride of Christ,

that she may trust in your mercy and compassion

and work for the coming of your kingdom in “patient endurance”.

We give you glory and praise,

now and forever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“Indeed we call blessed those who have persevered.” (Jas 5:11)

 

 

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

 

Pray for all married couples, offering special petitions for those who are having marital problems. Manifest “patient endurance” and perseverance in carrying out the daily tasks of Christian discipleship.

 

 

***

 

March 1, 2014: SATURDAY – WEEKDAY (7); COMMON OF BVM ON SATURDAY

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Welcomes the Children

and Teaches Us the Power of Prayer”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jas 5:13-20// Mt 10:13-16

 

 

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

 

Today’s Gospel episode of Jesus blessing the children follows Jesus’ teaching about the sacredness of marriage. This is significant in that to accept the Lord’s teaching on marriage requires the openness of children and a sense of dependence on God’s strength matching the child’s sense of dependence on the parents. Only a childlike trust will enable the Christian disciples to live up to the demands of the day-to-day relationships they have in the family and elsewhere. Jesus shows compassion and concern for the children who are being prevented from coming to him. Reacting with righteous indignation, he orders them to let the children come to him and holds the little ones as models for those who receive the kingdom of God. It is only to those who are receptive as children that the kingdom of God belongs. Those who are childlike have a central place in the community of faith.

 

The following story illustrates the sensitivity and receptivity of a “child” to the works of God’s kingdom (cf. TASTE OF HOME, February-March 2009, p. 67). A 12-year-old’s fundraising effort to help poor African children gives us a glimpse of what Christians can do in today’s world to be pleasing to God.

 

A video shown at church inspired Miranda Walters to make a difference. She saw the faces of children dying from malaria thousands of miles from her Cedar Falls, Iowa home and knew she couldn’t ignore them. A $10 mosquito net dramatically reduces the risk African children face of contracting malaria, an often-fatal infectious disease transmitted through mosquito bites. So Miranda, 12, gave herself a goal: raise $100, enough to buy 10 nets for the nonprofit organization Nothing But Nets. “After seeing the video, I told my grandma I wanted to do something to help them”, Miranda says. “She suggested a bake sale. So we talked to people at church, made posters and baked some things.”

 

She and her grandmother, Jill Rechkemmer, also of Cedar Falls, made Caramel-Pecan Cheesecake Pie and Caramel-Pecan Apple Pie, both from Taste of Home. They also invited others from the congregation to help with the baking. “At first I worried we wouldn’t get enough baked goods”, says Grandma Jill. “But there were so many!” The bake sale raised $640, enough to buy 64 nets.

 

Miranda encourages other kids to think about raising money for a cause. “It’s possible no matter how busy you are”, she says. “It feels good to do something to make a difference.” 

***

 

Today we hear the conclusion of the letter of Saint James in which he continues to underline what an authentic faith entails. Whether suffering or in good spirits we need to draw near to God in prayer. When there is a sick member, the Church elders are urged to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer made in faith will heal the sick person. The Lord will restore him to health and the sins he has committed will be forgiven. Citing as model the prophet Elijah, whose prayer brought both drought and life-giving rain on the land, Saint James declares that the prayer of a righteous person is very powerful. The prayer of faith should not only concern the physically sick person, but the sinner who has gone astray. The spiritually sick member deserves as much attention as the physically ill. Such kindness and concern for the well-being of the sinner’s soul will find favor with God.

 

Here is an example of a church’s prayer of faith at work (cf. Lynda Ramsey Martinez, “Anointed” in GUIDEPOSTS, February 2014, p. 24-26).

 

I could not possibly have advanced ovarian cancer … I knew God didn’t make mistakes and everything happened for a reason. But this felt like a mistake … I’m a deeply faithful person. I totally trust God. But I couldn’t help being afraid … I didn’t want this to be the end. I was only 59! I thought back over my life – my first marriage, then marrying Pete, raising two sets of kids, Lynda’s Café.

 

Suddenly I remembered something from my church growing up. How our pastor would anoint the sick with oil for them. Our church had believed strongly in the healing power of God’s Spirit. Was that  what I need? A kind of spiritual chemo? It was as if my sister Mary Margaret read my mind. She was my big sister. She’d always looked out for me. Out of the blue she called and announced. “Lynda, I found a pastor who will anoint you with oil. Remember how they did that when we were kids? He’s coming the day before your surgery.”

 

Pastor Kenneth Kelly arrived the evening before I went to the hospital. The instant I saw him I felt at ease. He was the pastor of a small church in downtown Phoenix. His eyes were kind and filled with God’s mercy, almost as if a light shone in them. The anointing was very simple. Pastor Kenneth took a small vial from his pocket, poured a drop on my forehead, then laid his hands on my head. His wife and brother, who’d accompanied him, laid their hands on too. “Dear Lord, protect Lynda and heal her body.” Pastor Kelly prayed. “Send your angels to carry her through this surgery and guide the hands of the doctors. We ask this in the name of your blessed son, Jesus.” That was all. I felt no different when the prayer ended. But I was glad he’d come. I asked if he would come again during chemo. “Of course”, he said.

 

I made it through the surgery … Dr. Bhoola prescribed six rounds of chemo, starting in December … The night before the third round, Pastor Kenneth had gently asked whether I was prepared for the possibility that God would not heal my body. “Sometimes there’s physical healing”, he said. “Sometimes the healing takes a different form. Are you open to that?” All I could think to reply was, “Well, if the Lord chooses not to heal me, then I’ll see my mom and dad and everyone else in heaven.” I meant that. But I didn’t want it to happen yet.

 

The night before the fourth round of chemo, Pastor Kenneth came to our house once again. I sat in a chair in the living room, trying to feel the same sense of comfort I’d felt the first time he came. He got out the oil and poured a drop on my forehead. Then he laid his hands on me and prayed. He finished and stepped back to talk to Pete. Suddenly I sat bolt upright.  A wave of intense heat passed through my body … “I think I was just healed”, I said. (…)

 

I underwent tests just before Memorial Day. All through the long weekend Pete and I prayed and agonized, waiting for the results. At last, on Tuesday, the phone rang. It was Dr Bhoola’s assistant. “You are one strong woman, Lynda”, she marveled. “The tests show you are one hundred percent cancer-free. We call that NED – no evidence of disease.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we have a childlike dependence in our relationship with God and are we animated by a sense of trust in our pursuit of the kingdom of God?

 

2. Do we perceive the importance of the prayer in our life as Christian disciples? How do we contribute to the prayer of faith of the Church and the well being of the members?

 

 

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

 

Dear Jesus,

you wanted the children to come to you.

We come to you with childlike dependence

and total trust in you.

Let us enter the heavenly kingdom

and give us the grace to share in the healing ministry

and the prayer of faith of the Church.

We love and serve you,

now and forever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“The prayer of faith will save the sick person.” (Jas 5:15)

 

 

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

 

With childlike dependence, ask God for the grace you need to serve him in the sick and suffering and in caring for the “little ones”.

 

***

 

 

Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang  PDDM

 

 

PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI

SISTER DISCIPLES OF THE DIVINE MASTER

60 Sunset Ave., Staten Island, NY 10314

Tel. (718) 494-8597 // (718) 761-2323

Website: WWW.PDDM.US

Go back