A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 15, n. 18)

Fourth Week of Lent: March 26 - April 1, 2017

 

 

(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 of Year C from various perspectives. For the Lectio Divina on the liturgy of the past week: March 19-25, 2017, please go to ARCHIVES Series 15 and click on “3rd Week of Lent”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: March 26 – April 1, 2017.)

 

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 March 26, 2017: SUNDAY – FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT

  “JESUS SAVIOR: He Gives Sight to the Blind”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

1 Sam 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a // Eph 5:8-14  // Jn 9:1-41

 

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 9:1-41): “The man who was blind went off and washed himself and came back able to see.”

          

Jacqui Kess-Gardner narrates a touching story of how she received light and insight into God’s plan (cf. “These Are the Children We Hold Dear”, Guideposts, May 1997, p. 28-31). When Jermaine, her second baby was born, one eye was sealed shut and the other was a milky mass. He had no bridge to his nose and his face looked crushed. Anger at God surged through her. She could not stand anyone staring at her baby and avoided going out of the house. What hurt Jacqui the most was not getting any smiles from Jermaine, which is common in blind infants who cannot mimic a smile because they do not see anyone smiling at them. She felt it was another slight from God. Her younger sister, Keetie pleaded with her insistently: “Jacqui, you’ve got to pray to God to forgive you. You’ve got to come back to him. He has a plan.” She resisted. One day when Jermaine was six months old and strapped to her back, she found herself crying as Keetie pleaded with her once more on the phone. She put down the spoon she was using to stir the spaghetti sauce and repeated the words Keetie was praying: “Lord, forgive me. I have been angry at you. I’m sorry. Help me trust in your wisdom. I know you have some plan in this. Help me see it.”

 

Two months later God’s plan was revealed. Jacqui recounts: “Jamaal had been practicing the piano in the family room, playing ‘Lightly Row’ again and again. (By then I had taken to leaving Jermaine strapped to his high chair next to the piano while his brother played.) He had just finished, and came downstairs to the bedroom where my husband James and I were sitting. Suddenly a familiar plink plunk-plunk, plink plunk-plunk floated down the stairs. I looked at James; James looked at me. It couldn’t be Jamaal. He was jumping on the bed in front of us. We stared at each other for a second, then tore upstairs. At the piano, his head thrown back, a first-ever smile splitting his face, Jermaine was playing ‘Lighty Row.’ The right keys, the right rhythm. It was extraordinary.”

 

Jacqui thanked Jesus and she knew that Jermaine had found the incredible gift of God. At two and a half, the marvelous blind boy was playing Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”. When he was four he performed with Stevie Wonder. At age five, he played for Nancy Reagan at the White House. He appeared on national television and received invitations to perform from far and wide. The dream of this blind boy who has brought so much light, inspiration and joy to others is to start a music school for the blind. The proud mother happily affirms: “God had a plan for our son. He did indeed.”

 

Jacqui’s paschal experience from a situation of spiritual darkness to light gives us a glimpse of the fascinating spiritual journey of the Man Born Blind presented in today’s Gospel reading (Jn 9:1-41). The evangelist John presents the intriguing figure of this courageous and intelligent young man as journeying from blindness to sight; from ignorance about Jesus to recognition of his messianic identity; from an object of divine healing to a true sacrificial witness for Jesus, the Light of the world; and from an inchoative insight about his healer to a faith-filled worship of Christ, the font of Light.

  

Indeed, the faith of the Man Born Blind is not complete until his second encounter with Jesus (cf. Jn 9:35-38). The latter seeks out him who has been driven away abusively by the Jewish authorities. When Jesus, the font of Light, finds the Man Born Blind, who has courageously stood for the light of truth and resisted the coercive darkness of falsehood and oppressive legalism of the Pharisees, he says to him: “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” The Man Born Blind, responding more intensely to the grace of radiant truth, answers: “Who is he Sir that I may believe in him?” Jesus then pronounces the climactic revelation: “You have seen him; the one speaking with you is he.” The Man Born Blind responds with deep faith and profound worship: I do believe Lord.”

 

This beautiful episode of encounter of the Man Born Blind with Jesus the font of light is a saving event that mirrors our own progressing faith journey as Christian disciples: from the darkness of sin to the light of grace; from a glimmer of messianic recognition to the more radiant and limpid light of faith; from spiritual intuition to the mature stance of oblation and worship; from an object of healing and mercy to a sacrificial witness on behalf of Christ, the giver of life-giving light.

 

 

B. First Reading (I Sm 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a): “David is anointed as king of Israel.”

 

The Old Testament reading about the election and anointing of David (I Sam 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a) helps us to be grateful for the graciousness of God’s choice and his kind predilection. The almighty and all-knowing God who chose David to be the shepherd of his people is the same loving God who called forth the entire creation and all peoples into existence. He is the same compassionate God who brought forth the community of faith from the regenerating waters of Baptism. He is the font of vocation of the “elect” candidates preparing to receive the sacraments of initiation during the Easter Vigil celebration. Above all, he is the author of the benevolent saving plan to redeem mankind and to renew creation through the paschal sacrifice of his Servant-Son, the ultimate “Chosen One” in whom he is well pleased.

 

The challenge of the baptized is to walk in the light and to radiate to a dismal and suffering world the light of Christ. The vocal and forceful witnessing of Christian faith by Chris Horn and his family in the world of athletics is an example of how to radiate the light of Christ toward the socio-cultural situation we are in (cf. Emily Stimpson, “Torchbearers of Faith” in Our Sunday Visitor, June 10, 2007, p.11).

 

A crucifix, a Divine Mercy image and a Bible. There’s nothing surprising about a Catholic keeping those three devotional items about. What’s surprising about these particular items is where they’re housed: inside the locker room of the Carolina Panthers football team. Or to be more precise, inside the locker of Panthers wide receiver Chris Horn. The devotional items housed in his locker are just one of the ways the Idaho native lets his teammates know about his Catholic faith. Horn’s faith is no secret in the NFL, mostly because as Horn, 28, moved through the ranks of professional football, he discovered that the more open he was about his Catholicism, the easier it was to live his faith. He also discovered that the more open he was, the more chances he had to help others. Now teammates regularly seek counsel from him on issues ranging from abortion ethics to marital problems.

 

Even before he felt free to share his beliefs, Horn still took his faith seriously. The second oldest of five, he remembers his mother coming home early in the morning after working all night and forgoing sleep so she could take the children to Mass. “Her sacrifices and lessons were priceless”, Horn recalled. Now married and the father of two, Horn and his wife, Amy, try to provide the same kind of faithful witness to their young children. Together, they’ve twice prayed the yearlong St. Brigitte novena for each of their children, and family Mass-going and family prayers are integral parts of daily life. In the world of professional sports, where an injury or a bad season can quickly end a career, that daily practice of faith provides a steady foundation for Horn’s family. Conversely, the discipline that years of training for his sports demanded has helped Horn grow in the practice of spiritual disciplines – prayer, forgiveness, charity.

 

Horn knows the lessons he’s learned about the faith through football are lessons others can learn as well, which is why a year ago he joined Catholic Athletes for Christ (CAC). The recently founded organization, made up of athletes and former athletes, uses sports as a platform to teach the faith. Through speaking engagements and conferences arranged by CAC, Horn regularly speaks to youth and men’s groups about God, the Church and football. According to Horn, “As Catholics we haven’t always been as vocal as we need to be about our faith. But because of the importance our culture gives to sports, we can use athletics as a way to start talking to people about it and reach people who might not normally be open.”

 

 

C. Second Reading (Eph 5:8-14): “Arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

In the Second Reading (Eph 5:8-14), Saint Paul contrasts the time of darkness before baptism and the time of light that results from baptism. In this time of light, we are called to make the “seeds of light” grow and produce – to bear the “fruit of light” that is found in all that is good, right and true. Our sharing in the light-life of Christ must be reflected in the way we live.

 

The Benedictine biblical scholar Ivan Havener explicates on today’s passage from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: “The readers of this letter were once Gentiles without Christ and were darkness itself, but now as Gentiles in the Lord, they have become light. Their new identity as children of light requires that they live in a different way. The fruit produced by their light-life is all goodness, righteousness, and truth, considering what is pleasing to the Lord. Therefore, instead of participating in the unproductive works of darkness, they should condemn such deeds. It is even shameful to speak of the deeds done in secret by the children of darkness. Such deeds condemned, however, are illumined by light, and everyone so illumined becomes light. To underscore the point, the author quotes a passage from an unknown source, probably a fragment of a baptismal hymn. It challenges the one to be baptized to wake up from the sleep of a spiritual death and to arise from among the spiritually dead. Resurrection is conceived here as entry into the newness of life, permeated by the light of Christ.”

 

In the following testimony by Charles Holden, a seminarian studying for the Archdiocese of Portland and a former bus operator for the public transportation of Portland for fifteen years, we realize that it is possible to experience light and to radiate its rays in today’s world (cf. “Annie’s Story” in The Way of St. Francis, January-February 2011, p. 12-19).

 

Even to this day I’m not sure if her name really was Annie, but that is what she called herself. She was a petite little thing, but both summer and winter, she was layered like an onion, every piece of clothing she owned on her small person, making her look corpulent as she waddled down the street. She had a round, sweet face, weathered and lined. She had no teeth, but that somehow made her smile seem brighter and wider. Ah, Annie. She looked like a little apple-doll: a wrinkly little face, with deep set eyes that sparkled as if she didn’t have a care in the world.

 

A bus driver will often serve “regulars’ – that is, individuals who spend their days riding the transit system in search for company, or because they have nothing else to do. Most are homeless or transient. The drivers, for their part, will usually allow them to continue riding if they behave, don’t panhandle and refrain from using foul language. People who work among the homeless and transient know that these individuals are typically the “cast-offs” of our society. Many are mentally challenged. Some have no family, or are no longer in relationship with them. All are poor in purse and in spirit: they live by their wits and a thread. Although “communities” will sometimes form among this population, many will ultimately die alone or disappear.

 

Annie was somehow different. She was proud and independent, yet certainly not invulnerable. One day I noticed she was being harassed by some passerby. Characteristically, she did not call out for help, but I stepped forward anyway, and walked her away from the abuser. Although I had seen Annie many times before, this was the first time I spoke with her. From that point on, we engaged in a daily greeting ritual, and I would often buy her a cup of coffee – “four sugars, please, and lots of cream” – and we would talk about nothing in particular.

 

As the fall rains came to Portland, Annie would sit on the corner with her makeshift raincoat made of Hefty bags connected with duct-tape, and become soaked like so many who had no place to call home. I often wondered what she did before I came along. I decided to have her come along and ride, to get out of the wet and cold, and share my day. Unlike some others in her circle, Annie wouldn’t go to the homeless shelters. She didn’t like being in close proximity with others, and she had a fear of being robbed in the night. In fact, she told me she slept with her eyes open. When I learned this, I found it both amazing and disturbing, and I decided to find her a safe place to go at night. At first she resisted. She hadn’t slept in a bed for years. Even after we acquired a room for her at a residential hotel, she would always take her belongings with her whenever she left the building.

 

In our short time together, Annie shared her story. Her mother died in childbirth, and she never knew her father. She had worked as a show-girl “floozy” in a nightclub, and longed to sing solo, but could never get out of the chorus. She married a card shark in Vegas, and they had a daughter, but she had to give her up because she couldn’t support her. Annie told me she was a grandmother, but she has never seen her grandchild and could not say if it was a boy or a girl. One rainy night, after a show, she was crossing the street and was hit by an on-coming car with no head lamps. The injuries she suffered ended her dancing career. Her husband left her while she was still in the hospital, and, having no other skill, she became homeless at the age of thirty-one. When I met her in Portland, she was eighty-seven.

 

Annie taught me a lot about courage and hope in the light of loss and despair. She found joy in everything, and nothing was more unacceptable to her than to feel sorry for oneself. Yet for all her independence, Annie admitted she feared death. It was a striking contradiction: she was adamant she needed no one, but she dreaded the idea of dying alone. She would laugh that she feared being discovered in an “indelicate” position – she was, after all, a lady. But her humor was tinged with a darker truth that there was no one to hold her hand at the end.

 

If Annie believed in God, she didn’t let on. She found ways to change the subject when religious faith came up. I often wondered if she might have harbored a deep-seated anger at God, or if her relationship with God was so personal she kept her feelings and faith to herself. I did notice, however, that she frequently clutched a small coin in her hand. It was worn smooth, like a worry-stone, from constant handling and rubbing. I asked her what it was, and she replied it was a St. Christopher’s medal, given to her a long time ago – for luck, she said.

 

For me, reaching out to Annie was a ministry of friendship. There really was very little I could do for her except to invite her to climb aboard and rest awhile from the rawness of street-life. Over the course of the fall and winter, we would ride and talk and laugh for as long as she chose to remain on the bus. And when it was time to go, she would ask for the wheelchair lift and wiggle her pudgy fingers “toodle-loo” as she waddled back on to the sidewalk. In the spring, Annie started to fail. Perhaps she had a stroke. Whatever it was, something had changed, and she moved more slowly and talked less. I spoke with a representative of the local Catholic Charities, and a caregiver was sent to assess what might be done for Annie. Because Annie was so independent, this step – like the small room she ultimately agreed to move into – was a process of convincing and negotiation.

 

I didn’t see Annie for several weeks. I asked the other bus drivers who knew her and the road supervisor who monitored the transit mall, but no one had seen her. More than anything, I hoped that the people at Catholic Charities had found a way to bring something lovely to the end of her life.

 

Then one day, quite out of the blue, there was Annie, waiting at the corner. My heart was filled with the joy and relief of seeing my friend, and I could tell somehow she felt the same way. For the rest of the afternoon we talked and caught up on what had been happening in her life. She had been ill, and spent some time in the hospital, but now she was glad to be up and around. Other than that, nothing much had changed. Annie was Annie.

 

Annie and I resumed our routine, and she seemed her old self. She still wore every piece of clothing she had, including her little knit cap that covered her white hair, never complaining of the heat. Yet as the summer progressed, she slowed dramatically. She had greater difficulty getting on the lift, and she could no longer lift the worn sack that held her few possessions. Her smile, however, never seemed to waver.

 

One late afternoon in July, as twilight set in, that I glanced over to see Annie. Her eyes closed, a little smile curled about her lips. I never really gave it a thought. These days she slept or dozed most of the time she rode with me, and I was grateful she felt safe enough to sleep. When I reached the end of the line, I went to wake her, only to find that she had passed away, quietly, peacefully, without fear or struggle. Most importantly, she had not been alone. She had been accompanied by a friend.

 

Losing Annie was hard for me. She was a beautiful spirit, and amidst the sadness she suffered throughout her life, she brought joy and offered some of life’s most important lessons. I had been attracted to the beauty of Annie’s poverty. With nothing to burden her, she lived with a certain freedom, a freedom to enjoy life in its simplicity. Like our Seraphic Father, St. Francis of Assisi, Annie proved that it is possible to be truly happy with almost nothing. She chose to look not at the material of this world, but rather to embrace something which eludes many of us – a grateful heart.

 

Despite a very difficult life, Annie never looked back in anger. She never regretted, never expressed bitterness for her misfortune. Instead, she always had a kind word and a smile on her lips. Annie’s example illustrated for me a number of profound truths. If there is nothing inside to block the light, we cannot prevent it from emanating outward and casting it upon those around us. In showing mercy and love to others, in honoring their dignity as human persona of great worth, we see the face of God – and of ourselves – in that reflection.

 

 

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

 

1. In what way are we the Man Born Blind? What are the aspects of blindness in us that seek the healing light of Christ? In what way are we the recipient of Christ’s healing act of making the blind see the “light”?

 

2. What insights can you derive from the beautiful story of the election and anointing of David by the prophet Samuel? What makes the divine choice meaningful and unique? What is the significance of the “anointing” of the young shepherd David?

 

3. As children of light, do we endeavor to bear fruit of goodness, righteousness and love?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

we thank you for Jesus, the Messiah prefigured by David.

He is the ultimate “consecrated one”

filled with the radiant light of the Holy Spirit.

“Anointed” for the healing of the world,

Jesus offered the light of faith to the Man of Born Blind,

who responded deeply to it.

Together with the Man Born Blind,

we are healed at the pool Siloam

and journey from blindness to faith.

Loving God, full of majesty and love,

give us the grace to be faithful to our baptismal vocation.

Transform us

into courageous torchbearers of faith and messengers of light.

We adore you and thank you;

we worship and serve you;

we love you and glorify you, now and forever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“He went and washed, and came back able to see.”  (Jn 9:7b)

 

 

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

 

Meditate on the meaning and the challenge of our baptismal consecration as “illumination”. By your prayer and acts of charity, especially to the poor, hungry and the sick, endeavor to be a “torchbearer of faith” and a “messenger of light” in today’s shadowed and gloomy world.

 

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March 27, 2017: MONDAY – LENTEN WEEKDAY (4)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Font of Life and Joy

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 65:17-21 // Jn 4:43-54

  

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 4:43-54): “Go your son will live.”

 

In today’s Gospel (Jn 4:43-54) Jesus heals a royal official’s dying son. This miracle of a “long distance cure” is brought about by the Lord’s spoken word. Jesus does nothing but speak a life-saving word. He tells the distraught father whose son in Capernaum is in near death: “You may go; your son will live.” The man believes what Jesus said to him and goes home to his son who indeed has been healed. The word spoken by Jesus at Cana, where he previously changed water into wine, is redemptive and life-giving. The Gospel episode focuses not on physical healing but on the powerful, efficacious word of Jesus. We are called to contemplate the deeper meaning of this healing “sign” and to believe that Jesus is the Messiah-Savior. Indeed, we need to be receptive to his very person and to welcome his life-giving word into our lives.

 

The following modern-day healing story gives insight into the various stages of a faith journey (cf. John Briley, Jr. M.D., “Medically Impossible” in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stories of Faith, ed. Jack Canfield, et. al. Cos Cob: CSS, 2008, p. 13-16).

 

I remember it was almost Christmas because carols softly played on the radio in the nurses’ station. I walked into Jimmy’s room. A small seven-year old, he seemed dwarfed by the big, indifferent, mechanical hospital bed with its starchy sheets. He looked at me through suspicious eyes, hidden in a face puffed up from the use of steroids to control his kidney condition. “What are you gonna do to me now?” they seemed to ask. “What blood tests are you gonna order? Don’t you know they hurt, Doc?”

 

Jimmy has a disease called nephritic syndrome, and it was not responding to any therapy we had tried. This was his sixth month with the illness, his second week in the hospital. I was feeling guilty – I had failed him. As I smiled at him, my heart felt even heavier. The shadow of defeat had dulled his eyes. “Oh no”, I thought, “he’s given up.” When a patient gives up, your chances of helping that patient lower dramatically.

 

“Jimmy, I want to try something.” He burrowed into the sheets. “It’s gonna hurt?” “No, we’ll use the intravenous line that’s already in your arm. No new needles.” What I planned I had tried a few weeks earlier without success. I gave him intravenous Lasix, a drug that is supposed to “open up” the kidneys. This time I planned a new twist, which the nephrologist said probably would not work but was worth the try. A half hour before I injected the Lasix I would inject albumin, a simple protein that would draw water from the bloated cells into the bloodstream. Then, when I gave the Lasix, the water flooding the bloodstream might flow into and open up the kidneys. The problem was, if it didn’t, the “flooded” blood vessels could give Jimmy lung congestion until his body readjusted. I had discussed this with his parents. Desperate, they agreed to try.

 

So I gave albumin into his intravenous line. A half hour later I came back to give the Lasix. He was breathing harder and looked scared. I had an idea. I never believed in divine intervention, but Jimmy came from a very religious family. “You pray a lot?” I asked. “Yes”, he answered. “I pray every night. But I guess God don’t hear me.” “He hears you”, I replied, not knowing in all honesty if God did or didn’t, but Jimmy needed reassurance. And belief. “Try praying as I give this medication to you. Oh, and I want you to pretend you see your kidneys – remember all those pictures of them I showed you awhile back?” “Yes.” “Well, I want you to picture them spilling all the extra water in your body into your bladder. You remember the picture of your bladder I showed you?”  I figured I might as well try visualization. This was in the early 1970s. Some articles had been written about visualization and some evidence existed that it worked – in some cases, anyway. “Yeah.” “Good. Start now. Concentrate on your kidneys.” I placed my hands there and shut my eyes, concentrating – just to show him how, you understand. Then injected the Lasix. Jimmy closed his eyes and concentrated, and mouthed a prayer.

 

What the heck. I also prayed, even though I knew it wouldn’t work. I did not believe in divine intervention. When I died I would have a few choice questions for God about why he allowed certain terrible things to happen to certain children. One of my friends suggested that when I did die, God would probably send me the other way to avoid me. But in for a penny, in for a pound.

 

“How long will it take to work?” the nurse asked as she adjusted the dripping intravenous line. I motioned to her to step from the room. “In a person with normal kidneys, maybe twenty minutes – fifteen minutes tops”, I replied. “With Jimmy, I’m hoping a half hour. But I have to tell you, it’s a real long shot. Stay with him. If he has trouble and needs oxygen, call me. I’ll be at the nurses’ station writing all this down.”

 

I sat down and opened Jimmy’s cold, metal-jacketed chart, almost cursing the irony of the Christmas carol on the radio: “Oh Holy Night”. Before I had scribbled one sentence, the nurse stuck out her head from Jimmy’s room. “A half hour to work?” she asked. “That’s what I said.” “Well, the floodgates have opened. He’s urinating like crazy. Within just two minutes he asked for the urinal. I’ve got to go to get another.”

 

Two minutes? Impossible. I went to the room as fast as my cane would allow me to walk. Jimmy had already filled the plastic yellow urinal. The nurse rushed in with another two. He grabbed one and started filling that one, too. He grinned at me, the light back in his blue eyes.

 

I left the room, a numbness coursing through my mind and body. It couldn’t be. If he diuresed – if his kidneys opened up – he was on a way to cure. No, it just could not happen that fast. Impossible – medically impossible. And yet … Was it sheer pharmacology and physiology breaking the rules? Was it the visualization?

 

I could clearly hear a fragment of a carol on the radio. I felt goosebumps. “Fall on your knees, oh hear the angel voices …” A paraphrase of the last line from Miracle on 34th Street came to me: “And then again maybe I didn’t do such a wonderful thing, after all.”

    

 

B. First Reading (Is 65:17-21): “No longer shall the sound of weeping or the sound of crying be heard.”

 

The Old Testament reading (Is 65:17-21) depicts the restoration of Jerusalem as a new creation. The prophet Isaiah transmits to the suffering chosen people the consoling words of God about the salvation of the remnant. The world will not be destroyed but transformed into “new heavens and a new earth”. The creative action of God is the font of joy. The Jerusalem he will “create” will be full of joy and its people will be happy. What he creates is the fullness of life. Babies will no longer die in infancy, and all people will live out their life span. This idyll of joy and peace gives delight both to God and his people. In Jesus Savior who saves the dying son of a royal official, the word of God once again calls “new heavens and a new earth” into being. The creative love of God at work in Jesus is font of life, healing, and joy.

 

            We too are called to be a part of this idyll of love, joy, and peace. The following story, circulated on the Internet, gives us an insight into how we can be an instrument of the “new creation” and a font of joy.

 

There was once an elderly woman who lived in a violent, drug-ravaged, crumbling neighborhood in an old city. Her children had died before her. Time had left its mark on her too. She was no longer pretty in the eyes of the world. She had become wrinkled, stooped, thin and hollow-eyed. Her body was now half crippled with arthritis. Still, this little old lady continually brought joy to the community around her. Everyone called her "Granny" and she was a loving Grandmother to all. As she moved slowly down the street she would sing hymns and share smiles. She had a kind word for everyone. She gave her gentle laughter as a free gift to all. She offered encouragement, said prayers for, and brought hope to the disheartened. She went about doing good every chance she could. No one, after meeting her, left without the heart feeling lighter and the smile shining brighter. Her serenity and tranquility remained a mystery to the neighborhood, though. No one could figure out how someone who had lost and suffered so much could live so beautifully.

 

One day a curious little girl ran up to the tiny old woman shuffling along with her walker and called out to her. "How do you do it Granny?" she asked. "How do you love so freely? How do you live so happily? How do you give so much to all of us every day?" Granny just smiled at her and said, "Because God loves me child! Because He loves me, I love Him and you and everybody else!”

 

 

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

 

1. Do we commit ourselves in faith to the person of Jesus and believe in his efficacious, life-saving word?

 

2. Do we open our hearts to God’s creative action and the idyll of a “new creation”? Do we strive to be a font of joy, peace and healing for the people around us?

 

 

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

 

Loving God,

how wonderful you are!

You have forgiven our disobedience and infidelity

and make of us a “new creation”.

In Jesus Savior,

we experience what joy and peace there is

in your gift of life.

Help us to be open to that gift.

You are kind and merciful.

We adore and praise you, now and forever.

            Amen.   

 

  

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

           

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

 

“Your son will live.” (Jn 4:50) // “Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth.” (Is 65:17)

 

 

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

 

By your words of kindness and act of charity, lift up the spirit of a despondent person and allow him to experience the joy of God’s “new creation”.

 

 

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March 28, 2017: TUESDAY – LENTEN WEEKDAY (4)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Font of Healing”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Ez 47:1-9, 12 // Jn 5:1-16

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 5:1-16): “Immediately the man became well.”

 

Our Lenten journey to Easter glory is full of signs of God’s life-giving power. In today’s Gospel (Jn 5:1-16), Jesus stands by the Sheep Gate at a pool called Bethesda. He sees a paralytic in a pitiful predicament. He has been ill for thirty-eight years and is unable to access the pool’s therapeutic waters.  Jesus, the font of ultimate healing, commands the paralyzed man, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.” Immediately, the man becomes well; he takes up his mat and walks. Jesus’ healing power surpasses the famed curative waters of Bethesda. From his very person springs forth true healing; his all-powerful words are sufficient to enable the paralytic to rise. He is freed from the illness that held him down for a lifetime. Moreover, Jesus invites the cured paralytic to make a total journey from brokenness to wholeness by inviting him to sin no more.

 

Lent is a privileged time to encounter Jesus, the wellspring of healing. Like the helpless paralytic of Bethesda, we, too, are objects of his concern. Jesus asks us, “Do you want to be well?” We thus present to him our helplessness and need for healing. By the power of his healing words, we who are broken become whole. We who are shackled by the effects of evil and sin are able to rise. Restored to health and the freedom of the children of God, we walk with Jesus along the narrow path that leads to eternal life.

 

The following story illustrates that miraculous healing continues to be experienced in the here and now (cf. Leti Martelli, “When You Walk Again” in Guideposts, February 2012, p. 50-54). The 15-year-old Lenny broke his neck in a snowboarding accident and was paralyzed from the chest down. His mom, Leti, prayed lengthily for his healing.

 

Maybe it was time for me to pray for something else – for fortitude to walk whatever path the Good Lord set for us and thank him for my son’s life. I looked down at my hand. I was clutching a prayer card that someone had given to us. On it was a picture of Padre Pio, an Italian friar born in the nineteenth century who went on to become a saint. Padre Pio’s simple advice to believers was: Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry. But how could I not worry? I tried everything and my son was not recovering. A bit of light filtered into Lenny’s room from his window and I held the card up to read the prayer printed on one side.

 

At the end of the prayer I was supposed to state what I was asking for. “I confidently beseech you, Lord, to grant me the grace of healing for my son.” I said those words over and over. The prayer was short. It seemed tiny compared to the monumental miracle we needed. I said the prayer until it seemed that I was saying it in my sleep.

 

I sat up with a jolt. I was awake now, because I realized that Lenny and I weren’t alone in the room. A figure stood by the door. I squinted to try to see more clearly. It wasn’t a doctor or a nurse. It was a man wearing a long robe made of rough fabric and tied around the waist by a rope. Okay, I thought, this is weird. There’s a friar in the room with me. I should have been freaking out. But I wasn’t. The figure radiated peace and calm. He walked slowly to Lenny’s bedside and stood looking down at my son. He then laid his hand on Lenny’s right leg, the one that always gave him the most trouble in therapy. The hand rested there for a moment, then the figure backed out of the room.

 

I let out a long breath. What on earth had just happened? I looked at the prayer card again. Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry. Relief began to trickle through me, then surged, as mysterious as the figure of the old friar who had just visited. For the first time in ages I did not feel worried. I leaned back, closed my eyes and dropped back to sleep.

 

The next day in the therapy room, two therapists put their arms around Lenny’s waist and shoulders. He stood, able to put weight on his legs. “Let’s try something new”, they said. “Okay”, said Lenny. “What do you want me to do?” “Walk.” Lenny took a step with his left foot, then another with his right. All of a sudden, before any of us quite realized what was happening, he was walking. Supported by the two therapists, he made it to the end of the hallway and then turned around. “Whoa”, he said, looking startled. “How did I get here?” A huge grin and he answered his own question. “I walked!” He headed back up the hall toward me. “Mom!” he cried. “I’m walking!” (…)

 

I still can’t say for certain what really happened that night in Lenny’s hospital room. Obviously God performed a miraculous work of healing. (…) Maybe Padre Pio did visit us that night, not so much to heal Lenny, as a reminder from God that healing was underway.

   

 

B. First Reading (Ez 47:1-9, 12): “I saw water flowing from the temple, and all who were touched by it were saved.”

 

When my dad was sick with cancer, my family would go in pilgrimage to a Marian shrine in Novaliches, Philippines, where a devotee, grateful for the healing received, had built a poor man’s replica of the Grotto in Lourdes, France. We would attend the Mass, pray the rosary and the novena, and make the Stations of the Cross. My dad was too weak to make the Stations of the Cross spread throughout a grassy hillside, but he would take a bath at the springs. Water from the Grotto in Lourdes, France, had been poured into the wellspring of the local Grotto, which greatly comforted the sick devotees. Bathing in that water was, for my dad, an act of faith in the healing power of God and a sign of total surrender to the divine saving will. I also remember the delicious, sweet guavas and the bottles of fresh milk (from carabao, a water buffalo) that the farmers were selling outside the shrine. We would buy bunches of guava fruits and some bottles of carabao’s milk. We would boil the milk until a creamy stuff formed. My sick dad loved to eat that creamy stuff and drink the pasteurized sweetish milk, which I believe is the best in the world.

 

This teenage experience enables me to savor vividly the beauty and the hope that today’s Old Testament reading (Ez 47:1-9, 12) offers. God’s life-giving power is imaged in the flowing temple water that purifies and makes the trees fruitful. The prophet Ezekiel has a series of visions of the restoration of a new Israel to its homeland. The vision of the healing and life-giving waters that flow from the temple is the climax and a fitting conclusion to his visions. New life flows from the presence of God forever in the midst of his people. The vision of abundance and plenitude that was given to the prophet Ezekiel finds fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ, the healing water of salvation. Our Lord Jesus is the font of healing and of joy. In him is the life-generating and healing river of the Spirit.

 

 

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

 

1. What is our response to Jesus’ question, “Do you want to be well”? Do we allow his healing words to touch us and heal us of our infirmity?

 

2. Are you willing to open your heart to the healing and life-giving waters that flow from God’s temple?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

we thank you for the wellspring

that flows from your temple.

It revitalizes the dead desert sea

and makes the trees on the river banks sturdy and fruitful.

Your Son Jesus is the new font of life.

In him is the healing river of the Spirit.

Let our life be steeped in the water of life he brings.

We bless and adore you, dear Father, now and forever.

Amen.  

  

 

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

 

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

 

“Do you want to be well?” (Jn 5:6) // “They shall be watered by the flow from the sanctuary.” (Ez 47:12)  

 

 

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

 

Pray for God’s healing grace for you and the people in your midst. Be an instrument of God’s healing for them by your kind deeds, consoling words and inspiring actions. Do something for the infirm, especially those who are unable to walk.

 

      

*** *** ***

 

March 29, 2017: WEDNESDAY – LENTEN WEEKDAY (4)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Incarnates God’s Faithful Love”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 49:8-15 // Jn 5:17-30

  

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 5:17-30): As the Father raises the dead and gives them life so also does the Son give life to those whom he chooses.”

 

In the Gospel reading (Jn 5:17-30) we hear that Jesus is the object of contention. The Jewish authorities begin to persecute Jesus because he healed the crippled man at Bethesda and thus broke the Sabbath law. Moreover, he claimed that God is his own Father and thus made himself equal to God. Jesus does not deny the accusation, but reiterates his filial connection with God. He answers them, “My Father is always working, and I too must work.” The unceasing work of God is to give and sustain life. As the Son of God, Jesus cannot do otherwise. Hence, the Sabbath law does not have authority to prevent Jesus from healing a paralytic. His compassionate “work” on behalf of the sick is grounded in God’s nature as life-giver. The Jews believe that God rested from work on the Sabbath, but that he never rested from the work of giving life to creation, since creation would cease to exist had God done so.

 

The season of Lent invites us to embrace the life-giving work of the Father and the Son. We are invited to gaze more intently on the ongoing miracle of life, which results from their creative activity. Jesus continues to dispense to us the gift of life that comes from the bosom of God. Just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, in the same way the Son gives life to those he wants to. We are recipients of the gift of “new life” not only on the day of resurrection, but even in the “here and now”. We simply have to be receptive. We ought to be thankful for all the gifts that our gracious God continues to bestow on us in his Son Jesus.

 

The following story inspires us to be receptive to the miracle of life and the unceasing creative activity of God (cf. Brian Doyle, “March 15 Reflection” in Daily Guideposts 2010, p. 86).

 

I was visiting a grade school, as is wont, on the general theory that these are the beings who are going to own the world pretty soon and I want to stay on their good side. And as a salty, testy, thankful older man, it’s my duty and joy to try to connect to as many kids as possible and remind them that we are inundated by the profligate generosity of the Maker. Maybe we all don’t celebrate that quite enough, being also inundated by worries and bills and car troubles and back pains.

 

In this classroom I was blathering on and on about the sea of miracles, and a girl – it’s always girls who ask the piercing questions – raised her hand and said, “Yes, sir, but have you personally experienced miracles? Or is this just a lecture?”

 

There was a long pause, and I said with dawning wonder, “Oh, child, yes; oh, dear Lord, yes, yes, yes! I have seen bears the size of cars. I have heard whales moaning in dark oceans. I have had a child say, “I love you more than I could ever figure out words for my love, Dad.” I have been graced by burly brothers. I have had sicknesses that looked to be the cause of gravestone engravings, but here I am, cheerfully mumbling in your classroom. Here I am and that is a miracle beyond accounting, and here you are and that is even a cooler miracle, because you are young and strong and possible in ways that I am not any more. Yes, my young friend, I have seen miracles. Every moment of every day. Every breath. Yes. Any more questions?”

           

 

B. First Reading (Is 49:8-15): “I have given you as a covenant to the people, to restore the land.”

 

Today’s Old Testament Reading (Is 49:8-15) depicts with poignant beauty God’s protestation of love to a people crying out in despair that they had been abandoned and forsaken. To his anguished people exiled in Babylon, the Lord God spoke 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 themselves had 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 in the tender image of a mother, and the people of God in 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.”

 

Jesus Savior incarnates the Father’s love that is beyond telling. The Christian disciples continue to make present in today’s world God’s tenderness and faithful love. Through them the Lord God comforts his people and shows mercy to the afflicted. The following story of Sr. Mary Rose of the Covenant House, America’s largest shelter for homeless and runaway kids, gives insight into this (cf. Sr. Mary Rose McGeady, Sometimes God Has a Kid’s Face, Covenant House, 2010, p. 35-38).

 

Finally, the tears began to form in her eyes, and she decided to take a chance. Dana decided to trust in us. “I used to live in a real house”, she said. “I had a mother and a father and five brothers”, she said. “That was a long time ago”, she said. “Then, last year, my dad decided to leave. He just walked out one day … he didn’t even tell me he was going anywhere … he just left. My mother … my mother couldn’t take it anymore. She tried to get a job … but it all got to be too much. About two months ago, she sat me down and told me I had to leave. ‘You’re 16, Dana’, she said. ‘You’re the oldest … I can’t afford all of you … you’re going to have to leave.’ I looked at her like she was kidding. I mean, leave for what, Sister? Go where? I’m 16 … it’s not like I know a million places to go. But my mother kept telling me I had to get out. ‘You can make it, Dana’, my mother said. ‘You’re strong like me. Pack up your things. I’m sorry, you have to go.’”

 

As she poured out her story, the tears began rolling down Dana’s cheeks in streams. They were angry, pained, disbelieving tears of a 16-year-old girl who suddenly found herself all alone, on the street, by herself. I grabbed her hand and told her again how glad I was she had found us. (…)

 

I made sure our staff took extra special care of Dana tonight. We got her some brand-new pajamas, and I made sure she got a room right near one of her counselors, so she could see someone by her all night. (…) I do know one thing. We’re going to do everything humanly possible to help her, and try to rebuild her life (and as we’re doing all we humanly can, I’m going to be praying extra hard to God for His help too).

 

 

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

 

1. Do we believe and trust in the ceaseless life-giving activity of God? Do we wish to embrace the life-giving work of Jesus, the Son of God?

 

2. In moments of despondency or distress, do I ever cry out with reproach: “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me”? What do I do to trust in God’s faithful love?

 

 

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

 

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 or forsake us.

We thank you for your Son Jesus Christ,

the full revelation of your saving love.

He trusted in you even in the face of the “gathering storm”.

Help us to trust in you and to rely on the name of Christ.

He lives and reigns, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes.” (Jn 5:17-30) // “Even should a mother forget I will never forget you.” (Is 49:15) 

 

 

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

 

Today take time to see the miracle of life within and around you. Pray that by our life of loving service we may clearly image the faithful love of God. Be attentive to the urgent needs of our brothers and sisters and assist them in any way you can.    

 

         

*** *** ***

 

March 30, 2017: THURSDAY – LENTEN WEEKDAY (4)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is Our Mediator and We Are His Witnesses”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Ex 32:7-14 // Jn 5:31-47

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 5:31-47): “The one who will accuse you is Moses in whom you have placed your hope.”

 

In the Gospel (Jn 5:31-47) we hear that as Jesus comes closer to the end of his life, the Jewish authority’s hostility grows fierce and the opposition is more threatening. Basically, the issue is whether Jesus is truly God-Messiah. Jesus responds by presenting astounding witnesses on his behalf. John the Baptist is the burning lamp that points to him as the true light. The Baptist testifies about Jesus, “He is the Son of God!”  Though John is a significant witness, Jesus has an even greater witness: God the Father himself. The deeds that Jesus carried out in obedience to the Father manifest that he truly comes from God. Moreover, the Father gives further witness to Jesus by an inner voice that is discovered by those who are responsive to divine grace. Those who oppose Jesus are spiritually blind. Their understanding is so warped that they are unable to perceive the witness of God in the Scriptures and Moses. It is ironic that they reject Jesus as God-Messiah, but easily accept charlatans whose credentials accord with their preconceived ideas. There is no need for Jesus to condemn them. They stand self-denounced by their hardness of heart.

 

The following story shows that a simple, receptive heart is necessary for truly knowing Christ (cf. Anthony De Mello, The Song of the Bird, New York: Image Books, 1984, p. 112). We are witnesses of Christ. Our personal transformation testifies to his saving presence in our life.

 

A dialogue between a recent convert and an unbelieving friend:

 

“So you have been converted to Christ?”

“Yes.”

“Then you must know a great deal about him. Tell me: what country was he born in?”

“I don’t know.”

“What was his age when he died?”

“I don’t know.”

“How many sermons did he preach?”

“I don’t know.”

“You certainly know very little for a man who claims to be converted to Christ!”

“You are right. I am ashamed at how little I know about him. But this much I know. Three years ago I was a drunkard. I was in debt. My family was falling to pieces. My wife and children would dread my return home each evening. But now I have given up drink; we are out of debt; ours is now a happy home. All this Christ has done for me. Thus much I know of him!”

 

To really know … That is, to be transformed by what one knows.

  

    

B. First Reading (Ex 32:7-14): “Relent in punishing your people.”

 

Today’s Old Testament reading presents Moses as a mediator who intercedes for the erring Israelites. His mediation is meant to turn the divine wrath away from the chosen people. Rescued by God from slavery, they now have become idolatrous. They have foolishly built a gold bull-calf to worship in place of the true God. The Lord God intends to wipe them out and begin a new nation from Moses. The ministry of mediation of Moses is courageous and persuasive. He asks God to change his mind and not to bring disaster up on the people. Moses carries out his role of mediation by appealing to the honor of God’s name before the pagan nations. To have the Israelites die in the wilderness would only provoke the ridicule of the Lord’s enemies in Egypt. Likewise Moses reminds God of his promises to the patriarchs. To abandon the Israelites now is to renege on the promises he made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to make of them a great nation and to lead them to their eternal possession. So the Lord relented and did not bring upon his people the punishment he had threatened.

 

The ministry of mediation of Moses finds exquisite fulfillment in Jesus Christ who reconciled men with God. The Christian disciples are also called to a life of mediation and intercession on behalf of today’s world. They are called to be peacemakers and to help people evade the path of evil and self-destruction. The following story gives us a glimpse into what we can do (cf. Mike McGarvin, Papa Mike, Fresno: Poverello House, 2003, p. 74).

 

There weren’t many who hit the streets with me, but quite a few helped by preparing the food. Two of these early volunteers were John Graham, a man who would later become a board member, and his wife Barbara, who would cook chili to hand out.

 

Another volunteer, Frank Stommel, came from the local Newman Center. Frank was originally from Holland, and he spent a good part of World War II dragging his family all over Europe as he fled the Nazis. He’d seen a lot of hard things in his life, but a more loving man you couldn’t find anywhere. Frank was one of those unique people who overflow with warmth.

 

Frank came along about the time I was starting to burn out. If he hadn’t shown up, I may not have been able to keep it going. He had a thick accent, and half the time the street guys couldn’t understand him. But they understood that he accepted them and cared about them. Frank’s a big bear of a man with a twinkle in his eye, and he threw himself into the work. He’d scare me sometimes, because he was absolutely fearless. He trusted God to take care of him, but my faith wasn’t as deep as his. I worried about him.

 

One time a big melee started near where he was serving. Frank waded into the middle of it, saying something like, “Friends, friends, de gude Lord vants you to love each other, not fight. Let’s settle down, now.” Amazingly, they did. I think they were stupefied by this big Dutchman who boldly stepped between them and spoke in what surely seemed to be a language from outer space.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we truly accept the presence of Jesus in our life as true God and Savior? How do we give witness to Jesus?

 

2. What does the ministry of mediation and intercession of Moses say to you? Did you ever carry out this ministry on behalf of others?

 

 

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

 

O loving Father,

we thank you for the gift of the mediation of Moses.

Above all, we give you thanks for your Son Jesus Christ

who brought to fulfillment

this role of covenant mediation upon the cross.

Teach us to love

and to intercede for the people

who foolishly refuse your love.

You are merciful and compassionate.

We adore and praise you, now and forever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“The Father who sent me has testified on my behalf.” (Jn 5:37) // “So the Lord relented in the punishment he had threatened to inflict on his people.” (Ex 32:14)   

 

 

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

  

Commit yourself to the study of the Scriptures and to acquire a deeper understanding of the presence of Christ in your life. // Open up today’s newspaper and, after reading some of the local, national, and world events, lift up your hands in prayer for the people and the world that need to be brought back to God.

       

 

*** *** ***

 

March 31, 2017: FRIDAY – LENTEN WEEKDAY (4)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Just One”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Wis 2:1a, 12-22 // Jn 7:1-2, 10, 25-30

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 7:1-2; 10:25-30): “They tried to arrest him, but his hour had not yet come.”

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Jn 7:1-2, 10, 25-30) depicts another conflict situation in the life of Jesus. The Jews celebrate the feast of Tabernacles or Sukkoth, an annual autumn celebration of thanksgiving for the yearly harvest and for the historic Exodus miracles of the water and the pillar of fire. Jesus, the font of living water and the light of the world, makes a private appearance in Jerusalem for this festival. Though he wants to be incognito, people recognize him just the same and a controversy ensues. Since they know his family origin, they doubt whether he is the Messiah. Their superficial knowledge of his person prevents them from recognizing the astounding truth that he is truly the one sent by God as the Savior of the world. Jesus is the “hidden” Messiah. His divine origin could be perceived only by “believers” who trust in him.

 

The adversaries try to seize him, but cannot since his “hour” has not yet come. At the autumn festival in Jerusalem, the “gathering storm” quickens. The mounting hostility precipitates him closer to his passion and death on the cross. As his disciples, it is our duty to stand by him and endure the “gathering storm” that will break loose on Good Friday.

 

The “gathering storm” of hostility continues to accompany the Christian disciples in today’s world. Our commitment can be a reproach to the world and our moral principles can generate opposition. The following news article gives us a glimpse into the “gathering storm” that we must endure (cf. San Jose Mercury News, March 6, 2012, p. A2).

 

Cameron creates controversy by stating views on gay rights: Kirk Cameron, the star of the 1980s sitcom “Growing Pains”, told Piers Morgan in an interview broadcast Friday, that homosexuality is “unnatural … I think that it’s detrimental and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization.”

 

Well, it’s a good thing for civilization that homosexuality has only been around for a couple of years, or we’d be in real trouble by now.

 

Cameron said, “Marriage was defined by God a long time ago. Marriage is almost as old as dirt, and it was defined in the garden between Adam and Eve – one man, one woman for life till death do you part. So I would never attempt to try to redefine marriage. And I don’t think anyone else should, either. So do I support the idea of gay marriage? No, I don’t.”

 

When asked what he would do if one of his six kids told him, “I’m gay”, Cameron responded, “I’d sit down and I’d have a heart to heart with them, just like you’d do with your kids.” Morgan retorted, “I’d say, ‘That’s great, son, as long as you’re happy.’ What would you say?” Cameron said, “I wouldn’t say, ‘That’s great, son, as long as you’re happy.’ There are all sorts of issues we need to wrestle through in our life … Just because you feel one way doesn’t mean we should act on everything we feel.”

 

Herndon Graddick of gay rights group GLAAD, said Cameron “sounds even more dated than his 1980s TV character” and he “is out of step with a growing majority of Americans, particularly people of faith who believe that their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters should be loved and accepted based on their character and not condemnation because of their sexual orientation.”

 

Morgan defended Cameron to TMZ saying that he was “pretty brave” for speaking out. “I felt that he was honest to what he believed”, Morgan said, “and I don’t think he was expecting the furor that it created.”

 

 

B. First Reading (Wis 2:1a, 12-22): “Let us condemn him to a shameful death.”

 

I was born in the Philippines, in a small town near the slopes of the majestic Mayon Volcano that is renowned for its perfect cone. When I reminisce about the little town where I was born, I also remember our hardworking houseboy named Julian. A no-nonsense orphan, it was his dream to go to school. My parents made arrangements so that he could be a working student. One day, when he was going to school to pay his tuition, his half-brother accosted him, asking for money. The half-brother grew up with bad companions and was involved in gambling and drinking. He detested Julian’s clean character. For him Julian, the “good boy”, was obnoxious. When he threatened Julian with a gun, the latter refused to give up his hard-earned money and his dream of a better future. The half-brother shot him to death. Our quiet neighborhood was convulsed by the dreadful violence inflicted on an innocent lovable boy.

 

The conflict between good and evil is verified again and again in human experience. The life of Julian gives insight into the “just one” referred to in today’s Old Testament reading (Wis 2:1a, 12-22). The life of the “just one” is a reproach to those who do evil. The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 5, comment: “Those who do evil are intolerant of contradiction, whatever its form. They strive to silence it. But nothing is more unbearable to them than the living reproach and permanent challenge of the life of just persons in their midst … By not living like everyone else, the just become marginal … Through their very lives, led in conformity with God’s law, the just denounce the misconduct of the impious.” The unmerited injustice suffered by the “just one” mentioned by the Book of Wisdom adds poignancy and intensity to the figure of Jesus, the Suffering Servant-Messiah. While the figure of the “just one” who patiently withstands insults and torture points to Jesus, the wicked ones who sought the destruction of the “just one” anticipate those who seek the suffering and death of Jesus. 

 

 

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

 

1. Do I stand by Jesus in the “gathering storm” of controversy that his person and teaching generate?

 

2. How do we respond to the permanent challenge of the just persons in our midst? Is the life of the “just one” a reproach to our sinful ways, or is it an invitation to conversion? Are we ready to embrace the paschal destiny of the “Just One” par excellence?

 

 

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

 

Loving Lord,

we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ,

the “Just One” par excellence.

He is a living reproach to our evil ways.

He invites us to conversion.

Give us the grace to welcome him

so that we may have the wisdom and strength to return to you,

our loving and merciful Father.

Help us to be united

with the paschal destiny of Christ, our Savior.

He lives and reigns, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

            “They tried to arrest him.” (Jn 7:30) // “Let us beset the just one.” (Wis 2:12) 

 

 

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

 

Pray for the just whose life of integrity is a living reproach to those who do evil. Nurture the Christian call to goodness and justice by getting acquainted with the life and sacrifices of today’s persecuted Christians. Be ready to make your own courageous stand for the Christian faith.  

       

 

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April 1, 2017: SATURDAY – LENTEN WEEKDAY (4)

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Was Persecuted”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jer 11:18-20  // Jn 7:40-53

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 7:40-53): “The Christ will not come from Galilee, will he?”

 

In today’s Gospel (Jn 7:40-53), the controversy continues to swirl around Jesus as to whether he is the Messiah. The crowd is divided. Some enthuse that he is the Prophet. Others believe he is the Messiah. But others refute this, arguing that the Messiah will not come from Galilee, but from David’s line – from Bethlehem. Others want to arrest him, but no one lays a hand on him. As the “storm” of hostility gathers, we see some people making an effort to defend him. The temple guards ordered to arrest Jesus come back empty-handed because his words touched them. They report to the chief priests and Pharisees, “Never before has anyone spoken like this one.” The religious leaders scorn them for being so easily deceived. Encouraged by the action of the guards, the “closet Christian”, Nicodemus, made an effort to defend Jesus by reminding the chief priests and Pharisees that according to the law, they cannot condemn a person before hearing him and finding what he has done. His honest effort to protect Jesus, however, is of no avail.

 

Lent is a time to delve into our Christian duty to make a defense for Jesus. Courage and fortitude are given by God to those who opt to stand by Jesus Christ when our faith is challenged. The following article gives insight into the courage of those who choose to stand by Jesus (cf. Jon Sweeny, “March 17 Reflection” in Daily Guideposts 2010, p. 88).

 

St. Patrick is one of the handful of saints that everyone seems to know by name. We all know about the parades, concerts and parties that are held today to commemorate him and celebrate the Irish heritage, and most of us know that, according to legend, he drove the snakes out of Ireland. But the stories that have come down about him are much richer than that.

 

His life was full of contests with the Druids, the Celtic magician-priests who opposed his attempts to spread Christianity in Ireland. In one story, Patrick resolved to celebrate Easter on the hill of Slane in what is today County Meath. He climbed to the top of the hill and lit the paschal fire. The king of Ireland was holding a festival in his palace across the way, and it was the custom that no fire should be lit unless one was first seen lit at the royal house. So when the king’s Druids saw Patrick’s fire, they said to the king, “Unless this fire is quenched tonight, it will never be quenched. And the one who kindled it will seduce all the people of your realm.” So the king took nine chariots and drove to the hill of Slane.

 

When Patrick saw the chariots, he quoted Psalm 20:7. The Druids challenged Patrick, but Patrick was up to the task and he converted at least one of them on the spot. Then, at Patrick’s prayer, darkness fell and the earth quaked and the Druids and the chariots fled.

 

What stands out for me in this story is Patrick’s confidence, his assurance that no matter what the challenge, he would prevail. It was a confidence that rested not on any abilities of his own, but on his faith in God, who is always able to do the unexpected.

   

 

B. First Reading (Jer 11:18-20): “I am like a trusting lamb led to slaughter.”

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Jer 11:18-20) presents the persecuted Jeremiah entrusting his cause to God.  Jeremiah was appalled to realize that his enemies were making plots against his life. They wanted to kill him so that he would stop proclaiming God’s message and thus be forgotten by all. He was as vulnerable as a trusting lamb taken out to be killed. Jeremiah therefore prayed to God, who is a just judge and who probes one’s thought and feelings, to vindicate him. This death threat caused the suffering Jeremiah to reflect on the meaning of life and his mission as a prophet. The figure of Jeremiah as a rejected and persecuted prophet points to Jesus, the Suffering Servant of Yahweh.

 

The disciples of Jesus Christ continue to live out the pathos of persecution and rejection. The modern-day martyrs, like Jeremiah and Jesus, place their cause in the hands of God (cf. Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, Testimony of Hope, Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2000, p. 113).

 

Martyrs for the Faith: The Armenian Catholic bishop of Mardin, Monsignor Maloyan, a man of peace, was unjustly accused, arrested, and forced to march at length with a contingent of Christians. Some proposed that he renounce his faith in order to save himself. He responded: “We will die, but we will die for Jesus.” He died a martyr with his faithful in 1925.

 

Martyrs for ethnic hatred: At the seminary of Buta in a Burundi tormented by ethnic wars, forty Hutu and Tutsi seminarians were massacred together on April 30, 1996, by Hutu guerrillas. They had been told to divide themselves into two groups – Hutus and Tutsi. By doing so, the Hutus would have saved their lives, but they refused to separate themselves from their companions and all were killed.

 

We cannot describe the wonders of grace in so many of our brothers and sisters whose suffering is known only to God. Brothers and sisters, we will not forget you!

 

 

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

 

1. Am I ready to stand by Jesus and make a defense for my faith?

 

2. What experiences do you have of being persecuted for the sake of your faith? What does it mean to entrust one’s cause to God?

 

 

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

 

Loving Jesus,

help me to stand by you.

Give me strength to make a defense for my faith

and to defend the weak and defenseless.

Help me to trust in your power.

In the hour of darkness, please give me light.

In the hour of fear, be my comfort and protection.

Grant me the voice of truth and the power to speak for justice.

Teach me to share your saving Word to the nations.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“Does our law condemn a person before it hears and finds out what he is doing?” (Jn 7:51) // “To you I have entrusted my cause.” (Jer 11:20) 

 

 

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

 

By your self-giving and personal dedication to daily duties, replicate in your life the loving sacrifice of Jeremiah and Jesus. 

 

   

 

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Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang  PDDM

 

 

PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI

SISTER DISCIPLES OF THE DIVINE MASTER

60 Sunset Ave., Staten Island, NY 10314

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

Website: WWW.PDDM.US

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