A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy



Week 7 in Ordinary Time - Lent: February 23 - 29, 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 16-22, 2020 please go to ARCHIVES Series 18 and click on “Ordinary Week 6”.




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 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Us to Holiness Expressed

in Love of Neighbor”




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





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 (Mt 5:38-48) 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 (Lv 19:1-2, 17-18) 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 (I Cor 3:16-23), 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.”





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?





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.






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


“So, be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:48)





            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.



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February 24, 2020: MONDAY – WEEKDAY (7)

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Us to Faith … He Teaches Us

True Wisdom”




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





A. Gospel Reading (Mk 9:14-29): “I do believe; help my unbelief.”


The transfiguration story, which precedes today’s Gospel episode (Mk 9:14-29), 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.



B. First Reading (Jas 3:13-18): “If you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast.”


In the First Reading (Jas 3:13-18), 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.





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?





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.

You are our saving Lord, now and forever.




Lord Jesus,

enlighten us with true wisdom.

Give us the courage to be peaceful

and the grace to be gentle.

Help us to sow good deeds

and reap the abundant harvest of righteousness.

You are our saving Lord, now and forever.






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


            “I do believe; help my unbelief.” (Mk 9:24) //“But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle ...” (Jas 3:13-17)





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



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February 25, 2020: TUESDAY – WEEKDAY (7)

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Us to a Humble Service … He Calls Us to a Total Conversion”




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





A. Gospel Reading (Mk 9:30-37): “The Son of Man is to be handed over. Whoever wishes to be first shall be last of all.”


We hear in the Gospel (Mk 9:30-37) that 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.



B. First Reading (Jas 4:1-10): “You ask but you do not receive because you ask wrongly.”


In the reading (Jas 4:1-10), 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.





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?





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.




O Jesus,

grant us the wisdom to submit humbly

to the compassionate plan of our almighty God.

Teach us to overcome the demands of evil passions.

Draw us close to you.

You live and reign, forever and ever.






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


            “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” (Mk 9:35) //“Submit yourselves to God … Draw near to God.” (Jas 4:7-8) 





In your acts of charity, enable the people around you to feel the love of Christ, the “servant of all”. // Pray for the grace to resist temptations and the destructive lure of evil passions.



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February 26, 2020: ASH WEDNESDAY

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Guides Our Lenten Journey”




Jl 2:12-18 // 2 Cor 5:20 - 6:2 // Mt 6:1-6, 16-18





A. Gospel Reading (Mk 6:1-6, 16-18): “Your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”


With Ash Wednesday we begin the Lenten season. Lent is a sacramental sign of our conversion and participation in the sacred mystery of Christ, who fasted, was tempted and remained victorious over temptation. Today we are signed with ashes, symbol of penance and mortality, as well as of our hope and desire for renewal in Jesus.


The sacred season of Lent is specially marked with prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Today’s Gospel reading (Mt 6:1-6, 16-18) invites us to a genuine practice of these traditional works of piety and to reject hypocritical practices.  Jesus criticizes pious self-display but not the pious actions themselves. He upholds public prayer, but not religious showiness. He does not object to fasting, for he himself fasted forty days, but its spurious practice to gain self-recognition.


The Lenten works of prayer, fasting and alms-giving enable us to participate more intimately in the life of Christ, who fasted, prayed and gave himself totally to the Father’s saving will. We exercise fasting for a new beginning and to open ourselves to God’s vision, to express our penance, invoke God’s mercy, and to obtain greater self-control. Physical fasting, though a typical expression of the Lenten practice, does not exhaust its meaning. It includes other forms of salutary abstinence in every sector, e.g. fasting from criticism, reduced use of electronic media, etc. True prayer is personal communion with God and the “full offering” of ourselves to him. Prayer attunes us to listen to God and prepares us to do his will. Real fasting and true prayer lead to charity and service … to alms-giving. Fasting and prayer inspire not only alms-giving but above all personal self-giving and community-communion.


The following account gives insight into the laudable spiritual practice of prayer, fasting and alms-giving (cf. Flavio Rocha, “Missioner Tales” in Maryknoll, April 10, 2010, p.7).


Good Friday is a day of prayer and fasting for all Catholics, but people understand this in different ways. In the town of Duas Estradas, where I grew up in northeastern Brazil, poor people go from house to house asking for their “fasting”. The food that they collect will nourish their families for a couple of weeks. A similar tradition is to exchange the “fasting” of fruits, sweets or fish with families and friends. One year my mom used this ritual of reconciliation. She and her sister-in-law hadn’t talked to each other in more than a year after a dispute. One Good Friday morning, my mother took fruit to her sister-in-law and said, “Here is your fasting.” My aunt thanked her and later that day brought my mom’s fasting and they were reunited. Fasting is more than not eating; it is the cleansing of our hearts of anger and stubbornness to embrace the promise of the Resurrection.



B. First Reading (Jl 2:12-18): “Rend your hearts, not your garments.”


Today’s celebration of Ash Wednesday fittingly begins with a clarion call to conversion (Jl 2:12-18). The prophet Joel first depicts the imminent invasion of locusts and a devastating drought in Palestine as events that point to the coming “Day of the Lord” in judgment. In the face of these catastrophes, the prophet conveys to the people God’s call to conversion. Conversion is the only possible response to a compassionate God who comes to the people offering hope and salvation. Conversion indicates a turning toward God with one’s whole being, the complete re-orientation of thoughts and decisions toward God. The outward expression of fasting, weeping and mourning are only signs of a deeper reality – returning to God with all our heart. Issuing a series of imperatives, the prophet Joel urgently convokes the people that they may offer God a prayer of lamentation. God answers the heartfelt cry of the people and blesses the land with the gift of salvation.



C. Second Reading (II Cor 5:20-6:2)): “Be reconciled to God. Behold, now is the acceptable time.”


Today’s Second Reading (II Cor 5:20-6:2) asserts that we are ambassadors for Christ. Through Jesus, we become ministers of reconciliation and agents of “new creation”. The biblical scholar Mary Ann Getty explicates: “God overcame the obstacles of our transgressions so that we are enabled to become partners in the ministry of reconciliation. And not only the apostle, but all who are in Christ, have been sent out into the world with a single message: Be reconciled! This is both imperative and empowerment. For our sakes God made the sinless one sin so that redemption could penetrate the darkest, most forbidding, isolated, and inhuman part of our human experience. This was so that God, in Christ, could bring us to holiness.”


The season of Lent is a privileged time to answer God’s call to conversion offered to us in Jesus Christ. It is also an opportune time to resound in the world the divine call to conversion. Conversion is an encounter with a gracious and compassionate God, who is slow to anger and full of love. The life of Matt Talbot illustrates that this conversion experience is at work in the here and now (cf. Bert Ghezzi article in Our Sunday Visitor, December 2, 2012, p. 22).


Venerable Matt Talbot (1856-1925): For 16 years, Venerable Matt Talbot was a daily drunk. Then one day, an unanticipated conversion transformed him and he became a model penitent.


As a child of a poor family in Dublin, Matt had to forgo school for a job. After a year of basic education, he started working for a wine seller. And Matt started drinking heavily at the early age of 12. His father beat him and made him change jobs – but nothing could stop Matt’s habit. He said that when he was intoxicated, he occasionally thought about the Blessed Mother and prayed an off-handed Hail Mary. Matt speculated later that she had something to do with his conversion.


One day in 1884 everything suddenly changed. Matt had been out of work several days and expected his buddies to take him drinking. When they snubbed him, he made a decision that transformed his life. When he arrived at home, his mother said, “You’re home early, Matt, and you’re sober!” He replied, “Yes, mother, I am and I’m going to take the pledge.” The next day he went to confession and took the sobriety pledge for three months.


But Matt extended the three months into 41 years. In 1891, Matt found community support by joining the Franciscan Third Order. He lived the rest of his life quietly, working and praying. Pope Paul VI declared him venerable in 1975.





Do we experience temptation? What do we do in moments of temptation? Do we look upon Jesus as model of faith and surrender to the divine saving word? Are we ready to fast and respond with docility to the promptings of the Holy Spirit? 





Loving Father,

we thank you for the Lenten season,

sacramental sign of our conversion.

We praise you for deliverance from enslavement

and making us your holy people.

United with Jesus Christ,

victorious over temptations,

we render you true worship

and obey your saving will.

Help us to respond generously

to the needs of the poor and the needy,

to the defenseless and the suffering in our land.

We love and serve you, now and forever.






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


            “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days to be tempted by the devil.” (Lk 4:2)





As part of your spiritual itinerary in this Lenten season to combat temptations and evil inclinations, fast from the excessive and abusive use of the mass media and dedicate yourself to daily nourishment on the bread of the Word. 


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  “JESUS SAVIOR: He Invites Us to Take Up Our Cross …

He Urges Us to Choose Life”




Dt 30:15-20 // Lk 9:22-25





A. Gospel Reading (Lk 9:22-25): “Whoever loses my life for my sake will save it.”


Lent is a favorable time to discover what Christian discipleship means. The Gospel reading (Lk 9:22-25) gives beautiful insight into it. Discipleship is to take up the cross and follow Christ through the narrow path that leads to life. Lent is a privileged time to follow Christ through the rigors of discipline, sacrifice and self-denial to the joy of Easter.


At the beginning of our Lenten journey, let us remember the words of St. Andrew of Crete: “Had there been no cross, Christ would not have been crucified. Had there been no cross, life itself would not have been nailed to the tree. And if life had not been nailed to it, there would be no streams of immortality pouring from Christ’s side, blood and water for the world’s cleansing. Therefore, the cross is something wonderfully great and honorable. The cross is called Christ’s glory; it is saluted as his triumph.”


The following charming story shows how to bear the cross of mutual charity in our daily life (cf. Fr. Rich Broderick, “Missioner Tales” in Maryknoll, May/June, 2010, p.7). With a spirit of love, fraternal service becomes a life-giving “cross” that is possible to bear and easier to carry.


As a diocesan priest in Albany, N.Y., I also serve a few months a year in Guatemala. One day, three women from the States accompanied me for Mass in an indigenous hamlet in the Guatemalan hills. Although one of the women, Arlene, used a wheelchair, I saw no problem, as the church was only a 20-minute drive away. But when we got to the church, we learned that Mass would be at a home more than a half mile away – on foot down a steep dirt and rock footpath. Clearly, Arlene’s wheelchair wasn’t going to make it.


Knowing the men of these rural communities regularly carry their sick to the road on their backs, I squatted down like a frog and Arlene climbed aboard. My knees felt as if they would buckle! Yet I was able to ease us down one step and one breath at a time. We celebrated a joyful Mass with about 75 Mayan people.


Then the dreaded return. This time a Mayan man said, “Padre, just put her on my back.” We did as instructed and up the hill he went with no stops. He didn’t even break a sweat and was waiting by the car with Arlene still on his back when we caught up!


A profusion of thanks drew only a humble “No es nada” (It’s nothing) from our Good Samaritan, while I wondered if I might find a chiropractor in one of the villages.



B. First Reading (Dt 30:15-20): “Behold, I set before you the blessing and the curse (Dt 11:26).”


Our Lenten journey is marked by the presence of Moses speaking to the people of Israel as they are about to cross the Jordan River to take possession of the Promised Land (cf. Dt 30:15-20). The “testament” of Moses is his advice to the Chosen People to heed the lessons of the past if they are to secure their future. Their journey through the desert after their departure from Egypt has made them experience, again and again, that loyalty is rewarded and infidelity is punished. God expects complete obedience from Israel. The dying Moses tries with all his might to move the people to that kind of obedience, loyalty and commitment that would secure their future in the Promised Land. The great patriarch sets before the people a dramatic choice: life and prosperity, or death and doom. It is up to Israel to make one of the two choices: life with God which brings blessings and good, or life apart from God which would be a curse of death. Israel will find its true self only in their fundamental choice to obey and to live in the Lord. Passionately concerned for Israel’s future, Moses virtually commands the people of Israel to choose life by living in total obedience to God.


Jesus Christ, the “new Moses”, sets before us this fundamental choice: life and death, the blessing and the curse. He urges us to heed the voice of God and to hold fast to him. To choose God is to choose life. Men through the ages have to make the choice. The following story shows that our core decisions vary (cf. “Two Tales of a City” in Poverello News, February 2012, p.3-5).


Last November, a tourist took a photograph in New York and posted it online, and it soon went viral. It was a picture of a New York policeman stooping down to give a homeless man a pair of socks and boots on a frigid night. Officer Lawrence DePrimo had spotted the homeless beggar, Jeffrey Hillman, who was sitting on a chilly sidewalk barefoot.


Officer DePrimo then went to a store, and with his own money, bought a pair of heavy socks and good boots that cost over $100. He presented them to Hillman and squatted down to help the homeless man put them on.


In a nation wearied by a troubled economy, a polarizing presidential election and bad news both at home and abroad, people were riveted by this simple story of compassion. It was an uplifting tale fit for the holiday season.


The second story, which also took place in New York, was in stark contrast to this one. It was a shocking tale of urban violence and apathy. Fifty-eight-year-old Ki Suk Han was pushed into the path of an oncoming subway train by an apparently mentally ill panhandler. For over one minute, Han tried desperately to scramble back to the platform, screaming for help. At least eighteen people stood by refusing to intervene, including a New York photographer, who snapped pictures of the desperate man’s last seconds. Han was hit and killed by the train. Afterwards, several bystanders took camera-phone pictures of the dead man as a doctor performed CPR on him, and the newspaper callously ran a front-page picture of his hopeless attempt to escape death.


In the same city, two completely opposite acts are separated by only a few days; one of tremendous kindness, the other of wanton cruelty and indifference to suffering. What are we to make of these incidents? (…)


Humans are capable of great compassion, but also great evil. Officer Lawrence DePrimo and the heartless subway bystanders snapping pictures all belong to the species homo sapiens, but their actions make them seem to be creatures of a different order. The world inhabited by a New York street cop is full of cruelty; police daily witness the very worst acts of humanity. Nevertheless, this officer transcended the evil he sees all around him and went out of his way to help someone who seemed utterly helpless. He made a choice to do and be good; the subway bystanders, on the other hand, made a choice to participate in an evil act by refusing to help, and then by voyeuristically photographing the resultant tragedy for some bizarrely selfish and perverse reason, known only to themselves. (…)


God sees all, the good and the bad, and no matter the end result, Officer DePrimo’s gallant gesture of kindness has been recorded for eternity. (…) Officer DePrimo offers us the important reminder that in spite of demonic wickedness, intractable poverty and baffling social problems, there exists in the soul of mankind the great potential for triumphant, noble goodness.





1. Are we willing to take up our cross and follow Jesus on the narrow road that leads to life? How do we bear the cross in our daily life?


2. What is our fundamental choice to what God sets before us: life with God with its blessings and good, or life without God, which is death and doom?





Jesus Lord,

we thank you for the sacred season of Lent.

We pray that we may follow you faithfully

and bear the life-giving cross with joyful courage.

Help us to walk in your ways

and embrace your life-giving commands.

Be with us in our fundamental choice for you

with all its challenges and blessings.

Let us never negate your goodness and love.

Grant that all may choose the fullness of life

and follow Jesus on the way of the cross that leads to life.

You live and reign, forever and ever.






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


“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Lk 9:23) // “Choose life.” (Dt 30:19) 





 Pray for those who find the cross of their daily lives overwhelming and burdensome. In your own way and doing the best you can, try to alleviate the sufferings of the people around you.  Resolve that your thoughts, words and actions be perfectly aligned with your fundamental choice for God.



*** *** ***



“JESUS SAVIOR: He Gives True Meaning to Our Fasting”




Is 58:1-9a // Mt 9:14-15





A. Gospel Reading (Mt 9:14-15): “When the bridegroom is taken from them, then they will fast.”


Unlike the Pharisees and John’s disciples, the disciples of Jesus do not have the ascetic discipline of fasting. In today’s Gospel reading (Mt 9:14-15), Jesus explains to the followers of John, who raise the issue, that for the Christian disciples it is not yet opportune to fast. Guests at a wedding party do not fast, but rejoice in the presence of the bridegroom. In the same way, the sojourn of Jesus with his disciples is a time of intimate bonding and not of mourning. Hence, fasting, or other symbols of grief or mourning, is out of place. In his public ministry, Jesus uses every moment to lead his disciples to an intimate participation in his paschal destiny. When his paschal mystery is brought to completion and radical salvation achieved, then his disciples would fast. And it is for a very special reason … a Christ-centered reason. Christian disciples, through time and space, would fast that they may become more sensitive to the face of Christ present in the plight of the poor, the needy and the weak. During the Lenten season, they especially dedicate themselves to fasting that they may become more receptive to the saving will of God and efficaciously participate in the compassionate works of Christ.


The following excerpt gives suggestions on meaningful ways of doing the Lenten fast (cf. Jeanne Hunt, “Cleaning Our Spiritual Closets” in St. Anthony Messenger, February 2012, p. 36-40).



* Proclaim an electronic fast on weekends. That means no iPad, iPod, Blackberry or computer until Monday morning. Then spend the resulting free time visiting people you love and spending quality time with your spouse and children.


* Stay out of unnecessary stores during Lent. Anything beyond the grocery store, pharmacy, etc. is off-limits. Instead of adding more stuff during Lent, give away or throw away three things each day before Easter.


* Go green in a big way. Every day perform a Lenten “random act of kindness for the earth”. Keep a journal of your green project work, and after Easter do these acts regularly.


* Fast from media during Lent. Stop watching TV or Internet news or even listening to the radio. For 40 days, turn your thoughts to God. Choose to spend your time reading a book or magazine that feeds your soul.


* Walk everywhere you can. Limit gas usage to a certain amount and make it last all week. Each day, walk with God. Simply imagine that you and Jesus are running or walking side by side. Talk to him and listen to him.


These are only a few suggestions that can impact your life. We need to look at our lives objectively, honestly recognizing our weaknesses. Design a fast that responds to those weaknesses. And, most of all, don’t do something that comes easily. Your Lenten workout should hurt a little. We will know when we are changing for good when it takes effort to do the deed.



B. First Reading (Is 58:1-9a): “Is this the manner of fasting I wish?”


In today’s Old Testament reading (Is 58:1-9a), the prophet Isaiah conveys God’s long invective denouncing the hypocrisy of false fasting. To fast while neglecting and oppressing the poor is an ugly form of deceit. People thus complain of not being heard by God who detests hypocritical prayer. Worship without justice has no value. Fasting without concern for the poor is bereft of meaning. The kind of fasting that the Lord God desires is this: free the oppressed, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked, etc. In doing this, the Lord God will respond with blessing and protection and to their cry for help, he will say: “Here I am!”


In the same vein, Christian disciples must fast, but for a spiritual motive. They fast that they may be more sensitive to the presence of Christ in the plight of the hungry poor, the needy and the weak. During the Lenten season, they especially dedicate themselves to fasting that they may become more receptive to the saving will of God and efficaciously participate in the compassionate works of Christ.


The following article gives an insight into Friday abstinence, an ascetical practice related to Lenten fast, that likewise has a Christ-centered motive (cf. Greg Erlandson, “Meatless Fridays” in Our Sunday Visitor, November 25, 2012, p.22).


Once upon a time, Catholics abstained from meat on Fridays as a small act of penance. Not just Fridays during Lent, but all Fridays. Friday was the day of the Lord’s death on the cross, and throughout the year, not just on Good Friday. Catholics would commemorate that day in a special way. One still finds this practice in religious communities like monasteries, and the British bishops restored the practice last year.


In general, however, meatless Fridays disappeared after the Second Vatican Council, despite the fact that canon law (Canon 1251) still asks us to abstain from meat or other food on Fridays subject to the requirements of the local conference of bishops. The irony is that of all the many changes when the Church windows were opened to the fresh wind of aggiornamento, this one may have been more significant. It was a small act of penance that was thoroughly integrated into everyone’s lives. (…)


Yet when Friday abstinence was done away with, it had a rather oversized impact on Catholic identity. It turned out it was a significant public acknowledgment of one’s faith, like ashes on the forehead. The bishops hadn’t meant for such small acts of penance to go away. They had intended to open up other options for sacrifice. But, of course, they weren’t. (…)


However, the Church may get a chance to try again. In his speech to his fellow bishops on Nov. 13, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, suggested that it might be time to return to the practice of Friday abstinence. “The work of our Conference during this coming year”, he said, “includes reflection on re-embracing Friday as a particular day of penance, including the possible reinstitution of abstinence on all Fridays of the year, not just during Lent.”


Now to be fair, he did not specifically mention giving up meat. And, of course, one could give up television screens, or dessert, or a hundred little pleasures we all enjoy. But I hope we do go back to those meatless Fridays. There is something to be said for Catholics knowing they are all in it together. This time, maybe we will not put the focus on the threats of punishment, but use this as a teaching moment and a positive reinforcement of our Catholic identity.


My real hope is that we will also keep in mind why we are doing it. To remember Someone who gave up a lot more for us.





1. What forms of Lenten fast do I resolve to do this year? How can I derive the best fruits from my Lenten fast?


2. What is the personal meaning for us of fasting and abstinence? Does the kind of fasting and abstinence we practice correspond to the divine saving will?





O Jesus Savior,

when you sojourned on earth with your disciples,

you did not require them to fast.

But now that your paschal mystery is complete,

we need to fast so that we may have clearer vision

and be more ready to follow your call.

Help us to perceive your presence in the poor and the weak

and attend to their needs.

Grant that our discipline of fasting

may bear fruit in concrete works of charity and justice.

Let our Lenten sacrifice

hasten the coming of your kingdom.

We love you and serve you.

We bless you and glorify you, now and forever.






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


“This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless ...” (Is 58:6-7) // “They will fast.” (Mt 9:15)





Let the fruits of your Lenten fast and renunciation be destined for the victims of natural and man-made calamities and/or the needy people in your local community.



*** *** ***


“JESUS SAVIOR: He Cares for Us … He Invites Us

to Feast at His Table”




Is 58:9b-14 // Lk 5:27-32





A. Gospel Reading (Lk 5:27-32): “I have not come righteous to repentance but sinners.”


In his public ministry, Jesus does not impose fasting on his disciples though he himself has fasted for forty days in the wilderness. In today’s Gospel (Lk 5:27-32), we see Jesus feasting! He joins an awesome party celebrating Levi’s conversion and new-found calling. The feast includes a large number of tax collectors and other guests. The Pharisees and scribes complain that Jesus eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners. But Jesus defends his table fellowship with sinners and outcasts. They need him and he comes to call them to repentance and healing. The “righteous”, however, do not need a savior just as the healthy do not need a doctor. With Jesus present, the banquet hosted by Levi becomes a feast of God’s kingdom … a joyous celebration of conversion and coming home … a figure of the supper of the Lamb at the end time. The season of Lent invites us to a deeper fellowship with Jesus and with one another at the table of the Word and the Eucharist.


Like the feast-loving Jesus Savior, Mike McGarvin, the founder of Povereelo House in Fresno, knows the importance of table fellowship and meal ministry. Following the “Iron Chef” competition between the cooks in the drug rehab program and the chefs-in-training at the Institute of Technology, “Papa Mike” treated the resident cooks to a breakfast at his favorite diner, Café 309. That experience broadened the addicts’ perspectives and helped them see that there is so much to admire and enjoy in a world of sobriety. The following is an account of Doug, one of those who joined the breakfast (cf. “The Simple Joys of Food and Fellowship” in Poverello News, February 2011, p. 3-4).


The 309 Café had a home-like atmosphere that was inviting to people that liked to be regulars somewhere. The restaurant was old-looking, but very, very clean. The walls weren’t marked up and all the tables and chairs were very, very shiny … The food was hot and great-tasting and I liked that they had no problem with me ordering something odd, like rye toast.


The waitress was good and very friendly and made me feel at ease. I was impressed by her. I wasn’t surprised when she patted Papa Mike’s back, because you could tell she knew him well as a regular customer, but I was wowed when she put her hand on Anthony’s shoulder, who was a first-time customer. That type of caring is probably why they are doing well in the restaurant business.



B. First Reading (Is 58:9b-14): “If you bestow your bread on the hungry then light shall rise for you in the darkness.”


The Old Testament reading (Is 58:9b-14) underlines the blessings that God bestows on those who live with integrity and act with compassion: God will turn their darkness into light; he will water the parched land of their hearts; he will guide them always and renew their strength; he will help them rebuild their homes. Those who keep the Sabbath sacred and do not defile it with selfish pursuits will experience the joy that comes from serving the Lord God.


The Catholic Relief Services make present in today’s world the compassion of God and the saving work of Jesus (cf. “Being Catholic in the World Today” in Our Sunday Visitor, December 16, 2012, p. 15).


Before he was 10 years old, Thomas Awiapo was orphaned and left to survive and struggle on his own in Ghana. School was certainly the last thing he dreamed of. Today, he has a master’s degree from California State University – Hayward. How did Thomas get a fresh start at life?


It happened through contributions to Catholic Relief Services’ Humanitarian work in Africa. Thomas was motivated by food provided by CRS to the children in his village who went to school. He was hungry for food, not education. Eventually, though, Thomas developed a strong personal interest in school. His new life, deep abiding faith in God and spiritual determination propelled him to a renewed dignity, hope and academic achievements.


Thomas told CRS representatives in Ghana, “By offering me an education, Catholic Relief Services empowered me for life. Believe me, there are millions of people in Africa who are doing better today because of the help provided by CRS through the generosity of people in the United States.”


Since 1943, in nearly 100 countries, Catholic Relief Services has given help and hope where they are most needed, regardless of race, religion and ethnicity.





1. Do we realize the importance and beauty of Jesus’ table fellowship and meal ministry? Do we imitate his tender loving care for the needy, the sinners and the marginalized?


2. Do we endeavor to bestow bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted? Do we have compassion and care for the poor and needy? Do we uphold the sacred meaning of the Sabbath?





Lord Jesus,

you feasted with joy at the table

of a “sinner” turned disciple.

By your presence at Levi’s house,

you turned his party into a celebration of homecoming.

Help us to seek the lost

and lead them to the supper of the Lamb.

Let us bestow bread on the hungry

and minister to the afflicted.

We adore and bless you, now and forever.






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


“They were at table with Jesus.” (Lk 5:29) // “The Lord will guide you always.” (Is 58:11) 





Let the meals that you share be as pleasant and spiritually rewarding as possible and an occasion for healing and bonding. During the Lenten season, offer alms to the poor and give quality time to family meals.





Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang  PDDM





60 Sunset Ave., Staten Island, NY 10314

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

Website: WWW.PDDM.US

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