A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday and Weekday Liturgy



8th Sunday in Ordinary Time & Weekday 8 and Lent: March 2-8, 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: March 2-8, 2014. The weekday reflections are based on the First Reading. For the weekday reflections based on the Gospel Reading, please open Series 10.)





 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is Trustworthy”



Is 49:14-15 // I Cor 4:1-5 // Mt 6:24-34





The Word of God continues to strengthen us in our Christian discipleship. To help us respond to its exigent demands, this Sunday’s liturgy of the Word focuses our attention on God’s trustworthiness. With tender and enduring love, our heavenly Father cares for us. He provides for all our needs. Indeed, God deserves to be loved. He is worthy of our faith and trust.


The Old Testament Reading (Is 49:14-15) depicts with poignant beauty God’s protestation of love to a people crying out in despair that they have been abandoned and forsaken. To his anguished people exiled in Babylon, the Lord God speaks these consoling words: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.” The love of God surpasses that of a mother for her child. God would never forsake his Chosen People though they have forsaken him. Deeply chastised and painfully humbled by the Exile experience, they would become the object of divine mercy that transcends anything we could ever imagine.


The biblical scholar Eugene Maly comments: “God has always been faithful to his people; he had never forgotten them. Our first reading presents God under the tender image of a mother, and the people of God under the image of a nursing infant. Isaiah makes it clear that God’s love is ever greater than the image presented … While the people of God were in exile in Babylon, God still loved them; their release was a sign of compassion. He had never abandoned them, and they had no reason to lament … All through their punishment, God had remembered them and had now liberated them from bondage. Isaiah’s message is that we are to trust God even when the days are darkest, for God does not abandon his people.”


The absolute trustworthiness of God’s love, which demands a personal response, is again delineated in the Gospel reading (Mt 6:24-34). Through his beautiful sermon on the mount, Jesus invites his disciples to respond with faith, which is a confident trust in a loving and provident God. We turn to God in faith because of his benevolence and unmitigated concern for us. Our daily choices as Christian disciples are animated by this spirit of trust in his provident care.


Eugene Maly remarks: “Today’s Gospel proposes the same message. Matthew shows us Jesus preaching to people who toiled under the hot Mediterranean sun day after day. Jesus reminds them and us of the necessity of trust. We must work, but we cannot rely on our own means for all of our needs; it is necessary to trust God and his Son Jesus Christ. At the same time such trust does not mean that we are to sit back and do nothing … In speaking to workers Jesus has to remind them to take one day at a time and leave the rest to God. He takes care of his own. What is demanded of workers for the Lord is that they remain steadfast in their resolve to serve him and not be governed by the things of this world.”


In the Second Reading (I Cor 4:1-5), Saint Paul describes himself and other apostles as servants and the stewards of the sacred truths revealed in Jesus Christ. The stewards of the saving Gospel need to be “trustworthy”. The apostles of the Gospel are to rely on the grace of God in all their endeavors. Moreover, in their limpid witnessing of the Gospel, they must mirror the integrity and trustworthiness of God, fully revealed in Jesus Christ, who will come again on the last day. The Lord Jesus will then expose the deep motives of our hearts and grant us the praise and reward we deserve.


The following charming story gives us an idea how Christian disciples, especially those who are “servants of Christ and the stewards of the mysteries of God”, must trust in the grace and loving providence of God (cf. Msgr. Scott Friend, “God Always Provides” in The WORD Among Us, October 2010, p. 61-63).


After my ordination, I was assigned to work with a growing number of Hispanic immigrants in my diocese. Most of them were from Mexico, but just about every Latin country was represented among them. They have taught me many lessons and have helped me to depend on God for everything. They have especially taught me to be the priest that God called me to be. Here is one of the lessons.


Fiesta Frustration: In the first part of my priestly life, I was assigned to develop a Hispanic ministry in the diocese. I would drive three thousand miles around the diocese every month, knocking on doors looking for immigrants, and I would celebrate Masses in different parishes. At this time I was still very impressed with my own abilities, so I would ask God for help if I really needed it, but mostly I ran off of my own energy.


So it is not surprising that I got discouraged after a short while. I would drive several hours for a Mass, and only ten or twenty people would show up. I was frustrated and not sure what to do. I was also very cynical about things, although I tried not to show it.


Around the end of October in my third year of the priesthood, I went to St. Luke’s Parish for the monthly Mass and a meeting that followed with the leaders of the parish. They told me, “Padre, we are making plans for the Mass for Our Lady of Guadalupe in December. We are going to have a big fiesta to feed everyone who will come. We have enough beans and rice, but we don’t have enough meat. Could you find us a deer?”


I thought to myself, “This is it! All the time I spent in school, all the training that I’ve had, and these people want me to find a deer as if they grow on trees.” So I said, “Si Dios quiere,” which means “God willing”. However, I really meant it sarcastically.


Drama of the Deer: The following Tuesday, I got a call from a man I’d never met before who wanted to talk about the Hispanic ministry. I invited him to come the next morning for Mass. After Mass, I greeted everyone, and this man stayed back until everyone had left.


I am used to the usual formalities when I meet someone for the first time, but this guy came up with trembling hands and said to me, “Father, do you have a sharp knife and some plastic bags?” Now, I have watched enough cable movies to know that you don’t give your own knife to someone, so I asked him what was going on. His answer made my hair stand on end.


“On the way this morning, I hit a deer, and it is in the back of my car! I need to drain the blood from the deer so that the meat doesn’t spoil.” I was speechless. I went into the rectory, got the knife and the bags, and went with him to his car.


Sure enough, there was a dead deer in the back of his car with its tongue sticking out. I began to question the man, because my mind did not want to believe what was happening. I asked him to tell me how this happened. He said that it was really strange. It was a beautiful morning, the sun was shining, and he was enjoying the drive. He noticed up ahead the deer eating grass on the side of the road. He said that when he got close to the deer, it lifted its head, looked him right in the eye, and just walked in front of his car and gave up its life. Those were his exact words.


While it is not unusual to hit a deer in Arkansas, it is rare when it occurs in the daytime. Another thing the man did not understand: There was no visible damage to the car, not even a scratch – only some fur on the bumper. The man said he was trembling from the experience.


I didn’t want to let on that it was my fault that all of this had happened! But I finally gave in and said to him, “I am supposed to ask you for some deer meat.” He did not say anything; he just cut off the back hindquarter and gave it to me. I carried it back to the rectory, and I said to God, “You don’t have to be so dramatic!” I could hear God rolling on the floor, dying from laughter.


Walking in Faith: The following week I went to the parish and handed the deer meat to Ana, one of the leaders, and said rather enthusiastically: “Here’s your deer meat.” She just took it like she was expecting that it was coming, so I said, “Wait a minute – this was a miracle!”


I will never forget the look on her face. She said to me, “You’re a priest, and you don’t know that God is providential?” I got the lesson.


I am indebted to all the people I have had the pleasure of serving in our diocese. They pray for us priests, and they put up with us! I am thankful that the Lord has called me to be a priest here. But I am especially grateful to the Hispanics in my diocese and those I have come to know through them in Mexico and other places in Latin America. They have helped me learn how to rely on God and ask with faith, knowing that the Lord will listen.





In moments of despondency or distress, do we ever cry out with reproach: “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me”? Do we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed with anxiety and worry unnecessarily about “tomorrow”? Have we lived our lives according to Christ, the Wisdom of God, as servants and stewards of the Gospel?  





Loving God,

you love us tenderly and constantly,

as a mother loves the child in her womb,

but with a love that surpasses all we could ever imagine.

We are your chosen people.

You will never forget nor forsake us.

We thank you for your Son Jesus Christ,

the full revelation of your saving love.

As servants of Christ and stewards of his Gospel,

may we always mirror in today’s world

your trustworthy love and benevolence.

Make us your docile instruments

to nourish the hungry with the bread of compassion,

to delight the lonely with the wine of gladness,

to clothe the naked with the robe of Christ’s glory,

and to fill the barren desert with the breath of life.

We adore you and praise you,

now and forever.






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


“Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.” (cf. Mt 6:34)





            By a life of loving service, endeavor to image the trustworthiness of God. Be attentive to the urgent needs of our unfortunate brothers and sisters. Assist them in any way you can. 





“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Absolute Good and the Object of Our Love”



I Pt 1:3-9 // Mk 10:17-27





            A wise and holy hermit finds a precious stone beside the brook. He brings it with him to his little cottage. One of his disciples sees the precious discovery and begins to covet it. The hermit notices that the young disciple is looking dismal and miserable day by day. “What is it?” he asks the young man. “It is the stone,” the disciple replies. “I want to have it. I will never have peace and happiness until it is mine.” The good master remarks serenely, “But, of course, you can have it.” The disciple takes the stone. The next morning he is back. “What is it?” the hermit asks. The disciple holds up the precious stone and says, “I want the wisdom that made you renounce this precious stone so unselfishly.”


            The disciple’s “awakening” consists in discovering the need for wisdom. Wisdom directs our quest toward eternal life, the only goal worth striving for. The truly wise person is able to discern the unsurpassable value of the love of God and chooses to put God above everything else. The full meaning of wisdom can be gleaned in the light of Jesus Christ who is divine Wisdom personified. The incarnate Wisdom offers a new challenge and demands a greater response. The challenge is absolute discipleship, the following of Christ who is the absolute good. In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus invites the rich man to make a fundamental option for the incomparable wealth of his person. The enormity of the challenge is expressed in the Semitic hyperbole of a camel passing through the eye of a needle. It is a choice of a loving and discerning heart. It is a choice made possible by the grace of God: “with God all things are possible” (Mk 10:30). The true option for Christ, the “treasure of all treasures” is guided by the wisdom of heart. This radical challenge is addressed to us all.




The First Reading (I Pt 1:3-9) is an ode to divine mercy: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead …” We rejoice in the salvation and new life given by God and we owe the grace of our rebirth to the resurrection of Jesus our Lord. Our spiritual rebirth as Christians fills us with living hope for the rich blessing that God keeps for us in heaven. The power of God’s merciful love keeps us secure in this hope of salvation. Moreover, the heavenly inheritance to be revealed on the last day helps us to persevere through difficulties in our spiritual journey. Indeed, as Christians in today’s world, although we do not physically see him, we love him. We believe in him because we “see” him in faith and rejoice in his gift of salvation.


The life of Saint Katharine Drexel (cf. Wikipedia on the Internet) illustrates the fundamental choice of one who has found the absolute good and the meaning of being reborn to a living hope.

Katharine Drexel was born as “Catherine Marie Drexel” in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on November 26, 1858, the second child of investment banker Francis Anthony Drexel and Hannah Langstroth. Her family owned a considerable fortune, and her uncle Anthony Joseph Drexel was the founder of Drexel University in Philadelphia. Hannah died five weeks after her baby's birth. For two years Katharine and her sister, Elizabeth, were cared for by their aunt and uncle, Ellen and Anthony Drexel. When Francis married Emma Bouvier in 1860 he brought his two daughters home. A third daughter, Louise, was born in 1863. The girls were educated at home by tutors. They had the added advantage of touring parts of the United States and Europe with their parents. Twice a week, the Drexels distributed food, clothing and rent assistance from their family home at 1503 Walnut Street in Philadelphia. When widows or lonely single women were too proud to come to the Drexels for assistance, the family sought them out, but always quietly. As Emma Drexel taught her daughters, “Kindness may be unkind if it leaves a sting behind.”

As a young and wealthy woman, she made her social debut in 1879. But when she had nursed her stepmother through a three-year terminal cancer, she saw that all the Drexel money could not buy safety from pain or death, and her life took a profound turn. She had always been interested in the plight of the Indians, having been appalled by what she read in Helen Hunt Jackson’s “A Century of Dishonor”.

When her family took a trip to the Western part of the United States in 1884, Katharine saw the plight and destitution of the native Indians. This experience aroused her desire to do something specific to help alleviate their condition. This was the beginning of her lifelong personal and financial support of numerous missions and missionaries in the United States. After her father’s death in 1885, she and her sisters had contributed money to help the St. Francis Mission on South Dakota’s Rosebud Reservation. For many years Kate took spiritual direction from a longtime family friend, Father James O’Connor, a Philadelphia priest who later was appointed vicar apostolic of Nebraska. When Kate wrote him of her desire to join a contemplative order, Bishop O’Connor suggested, “Wait a while longer....... Wait and pray.”

Catherine and her sisters were still recovering from their father's death when they went to Europe in 1886. In January 1887 during a private audience with Pope Leo XIII, and asking him for missionaries to staff some of the Indian missions that she as a lay person was financing, she was surprised to hear the Pope suggest that she become a missionary herself. She could easily have married, but after consultation with her spiritual director, Bishop James O'Connor, she made the decision to give herself to God, along with her inheritance, through service to American Indians and Afro-Americans. Her uncle, Anthony Drexel, tried to dissuade her from entering religious life, but in May 1889 she entered the Sisters of Mercy Convent in Pittsburgh to begin her six-month postulancy. Her decision rocked Philadelphia social circles. The Philadelphia Public Ledger carried a banner headline: “Miss Drexel Enters a Catholic Convent - Gives Up Seven Million".

On February 12, 1891, she professed her first vows as a religious, dedicating herself to work among the American Indians and Afro-Americans in the western and southwestern United States. She took the name Mother Katharine, and joined by thirteen other women, she established a religious congregation the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. A few months later, Archbishop Ryan blessed the cornerstone of the new motherhouse under construction in Bensalem. In the first of many incidents that indicated her convictions for social justice were not shared by others, a stick of dynamite was discovered near the site.

Knowing that many Afro-Americans were far from free, still living in substandard conditions as sharecroppers or underpaid menials, denied education and constitutional rights enjoyed by others, she felt a compassionate urgency to help change racial attitudes in the United States. In 1913, the Georgia Legislature, hoping to stop the Blessed Sacrament Sisters from teaching at a Macon school, tried to pass a law that would have prohibited white teachers from teaching black students.

Requests for help and advice reached Mother Katharine from various parts of the United States. After three and a half years of training, she and her first band of nuns opened a boarding school, St. Catherine's Indian School, in Santa Fe. By 1942 she had a system of black Catholic schools in 13 states, plus 40 mission centers and 23 rural schools. Segregationists harassed her work, even burning a school in Pennsylvania. In all, she established 50 missions for Indians in 16 states. The most famous foundation was made in 1915; it was Xavier University, New Orleans, the first such institution for Black people in the United States. When Mother Katharine purchased an abandoned university building to open Xavier Preparatory School in New Orleans, vandals smashed every window.

In 1922 in Beaumont, Texas, a sign was posted by local Klansmen on the door of a church where the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament had opened a school. “We want an end of services here ... Suppress it in one week or flogging with tar and feathers will follow.” A few days later, a violent thunderstorm ripped through Beaumont, destroying a building that served as the Klan’s headquarters.

Over the course of 60 years - up to her death in 1955 at age 96 - Mother Katharine spent about $20 million in support of her work, building schools and churches and paying the salaries of teachers in rural schools for blacks and Indians. Her cause for beatification was introduced in 1966; she was declared Venerable by Pope John Paul II on January 26, 1987, and beatified on November 20, 1988. Mother Drexel was canonized on October 1, 2000, one of only a few American saints and the second American-born saint (Elizabeth Ann Seton was first, as a natural-born US citizen, born in New York City in 1774 and canonized in 1975).




1. How do we respond to Christ’s radical challenge to make a fundamental option for his person? Do we believe in Christ’s exhortation: “With God all things are possible” (Mk 10:30)?


2. Do we endeavor to give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, whose mercy gave us new birth to a living hope by rising Christ from the dead? How do we witness in our life “grace yet suffering” and “grace through suffering”?





Loving Father and gracious God,

give me wisdom

that I may renounce the attractions of this world

and choose the absolute good.

You gave us new life

through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Without “seeing” him we love and believe in him.

Be with us as we experience “grace yet suffering”

as well as “grace through suffering”.

We adore you and glorify you,

now and forever.






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


            “Although you have not seen him you love him.” (I Pt 1:8)





Take stock of your material possessions. Make a radical decision to share your material resources with the poor and needy. Let yourself be filled with the joy of salvation.




“JESUS SAVIOR: He Promises the Hundredfold Reward and Calls Us to Holiness”



I Pt 1:10-15 // Mk 10:28-31





In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus assures his disciples, who have given up everything and followed him, of the hundredfold reward. Anyone who is detached from everything and everyone for the sake of Christ will receive much more in the present age and the gift of eternal life in the age to come. The Christian disciples are totally dependent on God as the ultimate font of good, here and hereafter. God blesses them with the “house of God” (domus Dei) and the “family of God” in place of the material resources and natural relations they have surrendered in faith. Even when Jesus assures his disciples of their copious reward, he likewise reminds them that their existence in “this present age” is under the shadow of the cross. They will receive a hundred times as much persecution in “this present age”. Only in “the age to come”, when the “kingdom of God has come with power”, will life under the shadow of the cross give way to eternal life.

The following article illustrates a kind of persecution that today’s Church undergoes (cf. “The Church on Trial” in Our Sunday Visitor, February 25, 2014, p. 31).


The recent report by the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child claimed to be an authoritative review of the Vatican and its role in the sexual abuse crisis that has convulsed the Church since 1985. Instead, it was a sham that revealed a far broader and more insidious agenda to discredit the Church for its teaching on abortion, homosexuality and birth control. (…)


As has been made clear by the actions of the Church and the statements of its leaders, there is a deep sorrow for the crimes committed and there will be a long-lasting vigilance regarding such crimes. But the U.N. report went way beyond vigilance in lambasting Catholic moral and doctrinal beliefs and demanding that the Church:

- Provide family planning to prevent births rather than caring for abandoned children.

- Change Church canon law to allow abortions.

- Change its teachings on contraception and “overcome barriers and taboos surrounding adolescent sexuality that hinder their access to sexual and reproductive information”.

- Make HIV/AIDS prevention a mandatory part of Catholic education.

- Support international efforts to decriminalize homosexuality.

- Remove gender stereotyping from all Catholic textbooks and stop promoting the “complimentarity of the sexes”.


That several of the committee members – from Tunisia, Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Ghana, Ethiopia and the Russian Federation – could not legally advance such proposals in their own countries was only one of the ironies of this report.


While the report will be quickly be forgotten by most, it shouldn’t be. Like the current battle over U.S. efforts to force Catholic institutions to provide contraception and abortion-inducing drugs to their employees, the U.N. report is a reminder to Catholics that the Church is likely to face increased harassment and persecution for its beliefs.




In the First Reading, Saint Peter underlines the greatness of the Christian gift of salvation and what it entails. The prophets of old foretold it and the angels of heaven look forward to it. Such a great gift requires a special response: so the believers are urged to live a life worthy of their faith. They must live soberly, alert and ready for the blessing that will be given at the final coming and revelation of Jesus Christ. They must not allow their lives to be shaped by those desires that they had when they were still ignorant of Christ. Instead, they must be holy in all they do just as God is holy. To be holy is to be dedicated to God in a loving faithful covenant relationship.


The following account gives insight into what Christian holiness means (cf. Julie Basque, “The Long Good-bye” in Saint Anthony Messenger, March 2014, p. 38-39).


My mother can still find meaning in her dementia, given her history of deep faith. She describes her spiritual life as different now that she has dementia. “I am more detached now”, she says. “I am more detached and looking forward to heaven. I believe God wants to save more people on earth, so he would like to have some redemptive suffering. If my suffering with dementia can help someone, what a wonderful outcome that would be!”


The search for meaning or purpose when one is dealing with dementia can feel futile, yet God’s response is humbling. Her faith is able to give her a context to understand her current situation. “Faith informs us about our lives and how they are in the light of eternity”, she says. Mom believes in uniting her suffering to Jesus’ suffering, thus making it redemptive. She comments further that she feels fortunate that dementia does not hurt. It is not cancer. (…)


My mother shares even more with me regarding how she experiences her relationship with God now. “God is very tender toward me”, she says. “Little problems in my life seem to be solved without my even asking God. I feel as though Jesus is looking out for me. I am closer to God. I am less fearful.”


Her response is indicative of her unwavering faith. My sister Patty often states that Mom’s faith is very childlike and trusting. Ironically, it was trust in herself that she lost once she was diagnosed with dementia. Yet, it is trust in God that seems to be sustaining her now.





1. Are we ready to trust in Christ’s promise of a hundredfold reward and to follow him under the shadow of the cross? Are we ready to embrace the persecution that Christian discipleship may entail?


2. Do we appreciate the grandiose richness of Christian faith and salvation? Are we ready to live to the full the Christian vocation to holiness?



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


O Jesus,

we trust in your promise of a hundredfold reward.

Help us to live under the shadow of the cross

and strengthen us when threats of persecution assail us.

Teach us to set our hearts completely

on the grace that your final revelation brings.

Make us holy as God the Father is holy.

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.


            “He who called you is holy; be holy yourself.” (I Pt 1:15) 





When trials and difficulties come your way, trust in the Lord and cast your cares upon him. Let this be an occasion to grow in Christian holiness.






 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Leads Us in the Lenten Journey”



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





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 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.



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.


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.





1. Do I endeavor to apply myself to the Lenten works of prayer, fasting and alms-giving?


2. What does it mean to return to the Lord with our whole heart? With the Ash Wednesday celebration, are we willing to take seriously the penitential dimension of the Lenten season?


3. Are we aware that we are ambassadors of reconciliation for Jesus Christ? How do we carry out this ministry of reconciliation?





Lord Jesus,

we thank you for the gift of ashes,

sign of mortality and penance,

symbol of hope and renewal.

We rise again from ashes.

With your gift of the Holy Spirit,

we are renewed

and Lent becomes for us a springtime of hope.

Help us to dedicate ourselves

to prayer, fasting and alms-giving

that we may truly live in you and you in us.

We promise to listen to your Word.

Give us the grace to follow you closely

in this Lenten journey to Easter glory.

Let us be your ambassadors of reconciliation.

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.


            “Now is the day of salvation.” (II Cor 6:2)





Through fasting, prayer and alms-giving let the needy and suffering people in our midst experience a springtime of hope.





 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Invites Us to Take Up Our Cross and Urges Us to Choose Life”



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





Lent is a favorable time to discover what Christian discipleship means. The Gospel reading today 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.



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. 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





Unlike the Pharisees and John’s disciples, the disciples of Jesus did not have the ascetic discipline of fasting. Jesus explained to the followers of John, who raised the issue, that for the Christian disciples it was 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 was a time of intimate bonding and not of mourning. Hence, fasting, or other symbols of grief or mourning, was out of place. In his public ministry, Jesus was using every moment to lead his disciples to an intimate participation in his paschal destiny. With his paschal mystery brought to completion and radical salvation achieved, then his disciples would fast for a very special motive … a Christ-centered motive. Christian disciples, through time and space, would fast that they may be more sensitive to the face of Christ present 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 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.




In today’s Old Testament reading, 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 and Invites Us to Feast at His Table”



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





In his public ministry, Jesus did not impose fasting on his disciples though he himself fasted for forty days in the wilderness. In today’s Gospel episode, we see Jesus feasting! He had joined an awesome party celebrating Levi’s conversion and new-found calling. The feast included a large number of tax collectors and other guests. The Pharisees and scribes complained that Jesus was eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners. But Jesus defended his table fellowship with sinners and outcasts. They needed him and he came 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 became 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 POVERELLO 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.



The Old Testament reading from the prophet Isaiah 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.


Jesus exemplifies the true meaning of compassion, fasting and the Sabbath. His table fellowship with tax collectors and sinners becomes a celebration of God’s mercy … a feast 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. Our encounter with Jesus in the Word and the Eucharist should enable us to be more caring and compassionate for the poor, the hungry, the needy and the vulnerable.


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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