A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday and Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 12, n. 22)

Easter Week 2: April 27 – May 3, 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. For the Lectio Divina on the liturgy of the past week: April 20-26, 2014, please go to ARCHIVES Series 12 and click on “Easter Week 1”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: April 27 – May 3, 2014.)

 

***

 

April 27, 2014: SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER

(SUNDAY OF DIVINE MERCY)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is Font of Divine Mercy”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 2:42-47 // I Pt 1:3-9// Jn 20:19-31

 

 

I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS

 

The eight days of Easter, according to Saint Augustine, are “days of mercy and pardon”. Moreover, he calls the Sunday of this Octave of Easter “the summary of the days of mercy”.  On April 30, 2000, during the canonization of Sr. Faustina Kowalska, the humble “apostle of mercy”, Pope John Paul II, announced during his homily that the Second Sunday of Easter would now be celebrated as DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY throughout the universal Church. The Holy Father also explained that the image of the “Divine Mercy” revealed to Sr. Faustina represents the Risen Christ bringing mercy to the world.  Indeed, the Risen Christ brings victory, peace and mercy to a believing world. The Easter mystery of his passion, death and resurrection unleashes the power of divine mercy that flows from his pierced heart. The Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, had fittingly declared the eighth day of the Easter week as the Feast of Divine Mercy.

 

The following faith experience of Fred Berretta, a survivor of Flight 1549 – the airliner that went down in the Hudson River on January 15, 2009 – is being circulated through the Internet. Fred shares his amazing story by E-mail with Vinny Flynn, a gifted Catholic speaker/writer/musician. Flight 1549 crashed into the Hudson River at about three o’clock, which the Risen Christ told St. Faustina was “the hour of great mercy” and at which the merciful Lord “will refuse nothing to the soul that makes a request” to him in virtue of his passion.

 

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Subject: Passenger of Flight 1549

 

Vinny,

 

I sincerely hope this E-mail finds its way to you. I was a passenger on flight 1549 and my name is Fred Berretta. You might have caught a glimpse of me or heard of me on CNN or Fox the night of the crash. I interviewed with Lou Dobbe, Wolf Blitzer and Bill O’Reilly and discussed the crash that night.

 

I had been on a one-day business trip to New York and sat in seat 16A, just behind the left engine. My trip was a last minute decision the day before. I finished my meetings early on Thursday and realized I had time to attend the 12 noon Mass at St. Patrick Cathedral. It was unusual for me to have the extra time, but that day I did. After Mass, I stopped by the gift shop just across from the cathedral and purchased your book, “7 Secrets of the Eucharist”. As I waited to board flight 1549 bound for Charlotte, where I live, I began reading your book. I continued reading while we taxied until just after takeoff.

 

I think I got through about half of it and then decided to close my eyes and reflect on the incredible insights your book gave me regarding the Eucharist. We were climbing out and just a minute or so into the flight I heard the impact of the bird strikes and then the explosion in the left engine. I could see it on fire and the cabin began to smell like jet fuel. As a private pilot, once I realized the second engine was also not functioning, things became quite tense.

 

While I had known about and prayed the Divine Mercy chaplet years before, I had not really focused on it in quite a long time. Ironically, I had prayed the chaplet the day before at 3 pm. I had forgotten that in my briefcase I had long kept a copy of a booklet of the Divine Mercy chaplet, which had excerpts from St. Faustina’s diary. When I arrived in New York, I had some time at my hotel and decided to clean out my briefcase, something long overdue. I found the Divine Mercy booklet, prayed the chaplet, and read some of the words of Jesus to Faustina.

 

Before we hit the water, I thought about the words Jesus said, that nothing would be refused if asked for during the hour of mercy. I really thought there was a good chance myself and others would die that day, but I asked God to be merciful to us. I prayed the Lord’s Prayer and a Hail Mary. I then prayed to St. Michael, and we impacted the water. The odds were not with us that day, but God clearly was. I believe it is the only jet airliner to successfully ditch in the water without fatalities in the history of aviation.

 

I just want you to know that your book gave me comfort as we were going down, and for that I am grateful. I know a lot of people prayed on that plane, and I believe the Miracle on the Hudson was a testament to the mercy of God, and a sign of hope.

 

Take care and may God continue to bless your ministry and all you do to spread the message of Divine Mercy and the wonders of Holy Communion.

 

Best regards,

 

Fred Berretta

 

***

 

            In today’s Gospel passage (Jn 20:19-31), we contemplate the two apparitions of the Risen Lord to his disciples and his gentle compassion to make them experience the glorious event of Easter. In his apparition “on the evening of the first day of the week”, Jesus calms the fearful disciples with his blessing of peace and bestows upon them the Holy Spirit, the Easter gift. The Risen Lord appears again to his disciples “eight days later” and stands in their midst. Together with them is the disciple Thomas, who was not with them when Jesus came the first time. Doubting their Easter testimony, he demands tangible proofs of the Lord’s resurrection in order to believe. Jesus confronts doubting Thomas with the stigmata of his passion. Thomas’ resistance breaks down completely in the face of the Risen Lord. He then utters the ultimate Christian profession of faith: “My Lord and my God!” The Risen Lord, however, exhorts Thomas to a greater faith: “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed”.

 

            The last verse of today’s reading crystallizes the motive for the many “signs” written and proclaimed about Jesus, whose resurrection is the crowning event and the “sign of signs”. The evangelist John tells the recipients of the Gospel: “These are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name”. Indeed, to really relish the joy of Easter we need to believe that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the Christ, the Son of God. He is the Lord and God of those who have experienced the life-giving power of Easter.

 

Today is the canonization of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII. Their life of holiness and service and their ministry of intercession for the Church are Easter “signs” to deepen our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. The role of Pope John Paul II in obtaining a “miracle” for a Costa Rican woman helps us relish the Easter joy and the healing power of God’s love. Here is an account of the healing of Floribeth Mora (cf. Javier Cordoba, “Costa Rican is a Celebrity after Certified Miracle” in FRESNO BEE, April 20, 2014, p. A21).

 

TRES RIOS, Costa Rica: On a warm spring day, Floribeth Mora was in her bed waiting to die from a seemingly inoperable brain aneurysm when her gaze fell upon a photograph of Pope John Paul II in a newspaper. “Stand up”, Mora recalls the image of the Pope saying to her. “Don’t be afraid.”

 

Mora, her doctors and the Catholic Church say her aneurysm disappeared that day in a miracle that cleared the way for the late Pope to be declared a saint next Sunday in a ceremony at the Vatican where Mora will be a guest of honor.

 

For Mora, the Church-certified miracle was only the start of her metamorphosis from an ill and desperate woman into an adored symbol of faith for thousands of Costa Ricans and Catholics around the world. Mora, 50, has been greeting a stream of local and international visitors in her modest home in a middle-class neighborhood outside the Costa Rican capital and accepts invitations to as many as four Masses a day.

 

The faithful have given her so many letters to deliver to current pontiff Pope Francis that she had to buy an extra suitcase. Mora has suspended her late-in-life law studies and much of her work for her family security business to dedicate herself full time to her role as a symbol of faith for many in Costa Rica.

 

She says she ignores skeptics who doubt she was really healed. “Everyone can think what they want”, she told the Associated Press during a visit to her home. “What I know is that I am healthy.”

 

Mora was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm and sent home to rest and take pain medication in April 2011 after doctors said the problem was inoperable. Mora, who thought she was simply returning home to await death, looked at the image of John Paul II on May 1, the day of John Paul’s beatification six years after his death. Then, she says, it spoke to her.

 

She surprised her family by walking around, and, after her doctors declared her healed, word spread quickly to the local church, and from there to the Vatican. Today, Mora says speaking about her experience has become her calling.

 

***

 

The Spirit-filled Church is a continuation and the result of the wonderful work of redemption of Jesus. Today’s First Reading (Acts 2:42-47) delineates the profound characteristics that constitute the inner life of the newborn Church. It is a faithful Church dedicated to the teachings of the Apostles, a communal Church where all the members shared and cared for the poor, a praying Church, devoted to the breaking of the bread and prayers, and a joyful Church that radiates the radiance of the Risen Lord to the people around them. The Christian disciples of today are called to be a joyful Easter people who relish the healing and renewing power of the Risen Lord. We are called to be open to the creative action of the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Risen Christ. We must try to relive the idyll of the early Christian community when all the members had their needs met and no one hoarded selfishly while others are in want.

 

The following story gives insight into the generous stance of “caring” that marks the Easter Church (cf. Jeff Lapinga in DAILY GUIDEPOSTS 2010, p. 126).

 

A friend was telling me about two boys in his son’s high school class a few years back who shared the same exact name but seemingly little else. One was an all-state swimmer on his way to being class valedictorian and about to choose one of the six elite universities that had offered him scholarships. The other often skipped class, refused to play sports (although he was built like a linebacker, my friends said), and likely wasn’t even thinking about college. Two very different kids headed in two very different directions.

 

“That just doesn’t seem fair to me”, I said.

 

My friend smiled. It turns out that both ended up going to college and both are doing very well. Do you know why? Because the talented kid decided to invest some of his talents in another kid with the same name – and it all added up to two successful young men. “You’re right, of course”, he concluded. “Life isn’t fair. But God is. That’s why God gave me what I have, not just for my own use but to benefit the lives of the world around me.”

 

That day a friend shared his wisdom with me. Today I’m passing it along to you. After all, it’s only fair.

***

 

The Second 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 …” (v. 3).  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 journey as Christian disciples.

 

The liturgical scholar Adrian Nocent comments: “Because we are advancing toward the goal, present trials cannot deaden our sense of joy; no crisis, however serious, can lessen the interior joy of the community and of the individual Christian who knows by faith the treasure that is already his. The faith, however, must be of a high order; it must have a quality that is tested by the trials he must yet endure for a while. The joy that springs from faith – the faith that believes without seeing, faith in the person of Christ who died but has risen and is now living in the Church – should transform the Christian and his entire life, for, as the end of the reading says, As the outcome of your faith, you obtain the salvation of your souls.”

 

Today – Divine Mercy Sunday – is the canonization of Pope John Paul II, the apostle of divine mercy. His life and ministry exemplified the total trust and the spirit of thanksgiving that we need to render to God, whose great mercy gave us new life by raising Jesus Christ from death. Pope John Paul II’s sacrificial service and patient endurance in illness showed us the meaning of “grace and yet suffering” as well as “grace through suffering”. Above all, he witnessed to the world the saving power of divine mercy.

 

The following are excerpts from Pope John Paul II’s Testament, which he wrote on March 3, 1979, and then integrated with subsequent additions (cf. “A Life Entrusted to the Mercy of God” in L’OSSERVATORE ROMANO, January 19, 2011, p. 8-9).

 

Totus Tuus ego sum: In the name of the Most Holy Trinity. Amen. “Watch, therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming” (Mt 24:42) – these words remind me of the last call that will come at whatever time the Lord desires. I want to follow Him and I want all that is part of my earthly life to prepare me for this moment. I do not know when it will come but I place this moment, like all other things, in the hands of the Mother of my Master: Totus Tuus. In these same motherly hands I leave everything and everyone with whom my life and vocation have brought me into contact. In these Hands I above all leave the Church, and also my Nation and all humankind. I thank everyone. I ask forgiveness of everyone. I also ask for prayers, so that God’s Mercy may prove greater than my own weakness and unworthiness.

 

I express the most profound trust that, in spite of all my weakness, the Lord will grant me every grace necessary to face, in accordance with His will, any task, test or suffering that He sees fit to ask of His servant during his life. I am also confident that He will never let me fail through some attitude I may have: words, deeds or omissions, in obligations to this holy Petrine See. (…)

 

The Resurrection of Christ is an eloquent, decisive sign of the departure from this world for rebirth in the other, future world … Today, I would like to add just this: that everyone keep the prospect of death in mind and be ready to go before the Lord and Judge – and at the same time Redeemer and Father. So I keep this continuously in my mind, entrusting that decisive moment to the Mother of Christ and of the Church – to the Mother of my hope.

 

The times we are living in are unspeakably difficult and disturbing. The Church’s journey has also become difficult and stressful, a characteristic proof of these times – both for the Faithful and for Pastors. In some Countries (as, for example, those I read about during the spiritual exercises), the Church finds herself in a period of persecution no less evil than the persecutions of the early centuries, indeed worse, because of the degree of ruthlessness and hatred. Sanguis martyrum – semen christianorum – “The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians” (Tertullian). And in addition to this, so many innocent people disappear, even in the Country in which we live …

 

I would like once again to entrust myself entirely to the Lord’s grace. He Himself will decide when and how I am to end my earthly life and my pastoral ministry. In life and in death I am Totus Tuus through Mary Immaculate. I hope, in already accepting my death now, that Christ will give me the grace I need for the final Passover, that is, my Pasch.

 

 

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

 

1. What was the transforming experience that the disciples had at the Easter apparition of the Risen Lord? What prompted the doubting Thomas to confess “my Lord and my God”? Why is the Easter season a celebration of new life?

 

2. In our life as Christian believers in today’s world, do we make an effort to reflect the apostolic idyll of a faithful, communal, worshipping and happy Church?

 

3. 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”?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father and gracious God,

you are font of living hope and mercy.

You gave us new life

by raising Jesus Christ from the dead.

The power of your divine mercy sustains us

in our journey toward our heavenly inheritance.

Be with us as we experience “grace yet suffering”

as well as “grace through suffering”.

Touch us with the healing power of Easter.

Grant that we may experience deeply

the love and mercy which the Risen Lord continues to offer us.

Let each one of us confess to Jesus Savior,

“My Lord and my God!”

We adore you and glorify you,

now and forever.

Amen. Alleluia!

 

 

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.

 

“My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28)

 

 

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

 

Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy any time this day or these days. By your concern for the poor and needy, allow the healing power of divine mercy to touch their hearts and offer them a “living hope”.

 

*** 

April 28, 2014: MONDAY – EASTER WEEKDAY (2)

“JESUS SAVIOR: In Him We Are Reborn in the Spirit”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 4:23-31 // Jn 3:1-8

 

 

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

 

The Easter season is a special time of mystagogy when we are led into a deeper understanding of Christ’s paschal mystery. The saving event of his passion, death and resurrection is made present to us in the here and now through the liturgy, especially the sacraments. Savoring the glorious aftermath of the Easter event in which many believers are baptized, we are called today to focus on the need to be “born from above” through water and the Spirit. In his conversation with a “night” visitor, Nicodemus, who typifies the “imperfect” and closet believers, Jesus declares the necessity to be born from God (“anew” and “from above”) if we are to enter or see the reign of God. By his passion and death on the cross and by his rising from the dead, Jesus gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit, which is the agent of rebirth to eternal life. The transforming action of the Holy Spirit in our life is as mysterious and palpable as the wind, but as decisively real in its effects. Baptism is the sacramental sign of “spiritual rebirth” in which we become the children of God and heirs of his kingdom.

 

The famed Church musician John Michael Talbot is a “troubadour for the Lord”. A convert to Catholicism, he tells of an important part of his spiritual rebirth (cf. Dan O’Neill, SIGNATURES: The Story of John Michael Talbot, Berryville: Troubadour for the Lord, 2003, p. 106-108).

 

“I will never forget that day”, John asserts. “I was received with the rites of initiation, including conditional baptism. My godparents, Chuck and Elle Callahan, provided a small flask of water brought all the way from the Jordan River. It was a very moving experience.” (…) John’s parents were in attendance and watched the proceedings with great interest. Within a year they would follow their youngest child into the Church.

 

“One of the themes of my ministry is integration: healing and reconciliation … unity”, John states with great emphasis. ‘In my house are many mansions’, Jesus said. There are many expressions of Christian faith and I will not judge any of them. Instead, we must re-gather, come together into a building made of living stones – the church of Jesus Christ – sharing all our marvelously diverse gifts and personalities. Yes, I believe we are one in Christ already, but we must continue to unify, to direct our hearts and minds toward reconciliation.”

 

***

 

Today’s First Reading (Acts 4:23-31) depicts the early Christian community celebrating the victory wrought by God on behalf of Peter and John who were arrested, detained and released by the Jewish authorities. As the Israelites thanked God after escaping from Pharaoh at sea, so the Christian believers praise God for the marvels shown in liberating the apostles from the Sanhedrin. Their prayer celebrates the fulfillment of Psalm 2, which predicts that kings and rulers, Jews and Gentiles would be helpless against the Lord God and his anointed Messiah. God’s victory even in the death of Jesus Christ reassures the community as they face threats against various enemies. They pray for boldness and that God may carry out new signs and wonders through the name of Jesus. The Church’s prayer results in a “second Pentecost”. The place shakes and, filled with the Holy Spirit, they speak God’s word with boldness.

 

The Easter liberation experienced by Peter and John continues in the life of believers through time and space. The following story, circulated on the Internet, is an example.

 

A Muslim man in Egypt killed his wife because she was reading the Bible and then buried her with their infant baby and an 8-year old daughter. The girls were buried alive! He then reported to the police than an uncle killed the kids.

 

Fifteen days later, another family member died. When they went to bury him, they found the two little girls under the sand alive! The country is outraged over the incident, and the man will be executed. The older girl was asked how she had survived and she says: “A man wearing shiny white clothes, with bleeding wounds in his hands, came every day to feed us. He woke up my mom so she could nurse my sister.”

 

She was interviewed on Egyptian national TV, by a veiled woman news anchor. She said on public TV, “This was none other than Jesus, because nobody else does things like this!” Muslims believe Isa (Jesus) would do this, but the wounds mean he really was crucified, and it’s clear that he is alive! But it’s also clear that the child could not make up a story like this, and in no way could these children have survived without a true miracle.

 

Muslim leaders are going to have a hard time to figure out what to do with this, and the popularity of the Passion movie doesn’t help. With Egypt at the center of the media and education in the Middle East, you can be sure this story will spread. Christ is still turning the world upside down!

 

 

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

 

1. Do we thank the Lord for the great gift of rebirth from on high through the power of the Holy Spirit? Do we live in accord with our baptismal consecration and rebirth to new life?

 

2. Do we trust in God who comes to our aid when we are faced with threats and dangers? Do we believe that the Holy Spirit gives us power to proclaim the word of God with boldness?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

we thank you for your Son Jesus

who suffered for us and rose from the dead

that we may be reborn into eternal life.

Make us open to the action of the Holy Spirit,

the principle of our rebirth and transformation.

He is the Risen Lord’s Easter gift.

Help us to live by the Spirit

that we may truly be your loving children

and partakers of your heavenly kingdom.

Fill us with the fire of the Holy Spirit

that we may continue to speak the word of God with boldness.

We love you and we give you praise,

now and forever.

Amen. Alleluia!

     

 

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.

 

“No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.” (Jn 3:5) // “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:31)

  

 

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

 

Thank the Lord for the gift of baptismal rebirth to new life. Do something special for the newly baptized in your parish and for anyone who is in need. Pray for persecuted Christians all over the world.

 

***

 

 

April 29, 2014: TUESDAY – SAINT CATHERINE OF SIENA, virgin, doctor of the Church

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Was Lifted Up … In Him We Are of One Heart and Mind”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 4:32-37 // Jn 3:7b-15

 

 

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

  

Jesus continues his discourse with Nicodemus, the closet believer. The Divine Master speaks authoritatively of heavenly things because he is “from above”. Coming forth from the bosom of God, Jesus carries out his saving mission as the “Son of Man”. He who has “descended” from heaven now speaks of “exaltation”. Jesus recalls the bronze serpent mounted on a pole by Moses as commanded by God. It was “lifted up” in the desert for the salvation of the chosen people. Those who gazed upon the bronze serpent were cured from the bites of poisonous snakes that were sent by God as punishment for their obduracy. The object of punishment became a means of salvation. Like the bronze serpent “lifted up” for healing, Jesus is “lifted up” on the cross for our salvation. The suffering that Jesus endured becomes the font of salvation. His “exaltation” on the wood of the cross results in his resurrection and exaltation as the Lord of glory, forever and ever.

 

I watched the beautiful film, “BAKHITA: From Slave to Saint”. Two scenes impressed me: the crucifixion of a slave that the little girl, Bakhita, was witnessing with horror and the young woman, Bakhita, contemplating with fascination Jesus on the cross. Bakhita concluded with awe: “The man on the cross is a slave!” The crucified Jesus became her hope and salvation. Saint Bakhita would affirm: “I am definitively loved and whatever happens to me – I am awaited by this Love. And so my life is good.” And with heavenly understanding, she remarked: “If I were to meet those slave traders that abducted me and those who tortured me, I’d kneel down and kiss their hands, because, if it had not been for them, I would not have become a Christian and a religious woman.”

 

***

The following delightful story shared by one of our Sisters, the Indian-born Sr. Mary Luce Cornelio, has both a missionary and Easter tone.

 

We had a papaya tree in our garden and it was full of papayas, big and small. Since they were too heavy, it was bending. When my father saw it, he wanted to save the tree from falling. So he gave it a support, a piece of wood, and tied it. Then he prayed, saying, “Lord, please save this tree from falling and every papaya on it. When the fruits will ripen, we will sell them and put the money in the mission collection box.”

 

So the papaya tree never fell, neither did the fruits. We were able to sell all the papayas and we mortified ourselves from eating any of them. Finally, the mission collection box was full of money. When the priest came to pick up the box, he was surprised. Our collection contribution was the highest so he announced it during the Mass. My father’s joy was great and so was ours. We will never forget the great faith and love of our father for the missions. HAPPY EASTER TO ALL!

 

We have here a tightly knit family, animated by faith and love, capable of sharing and sacrifice. The members of this family and domestic church are capable of responding to the needy and have the missionary capability of going out of themselves to help others. In this charming family account is a glimpse of the Easter idyll narrated by the evangelist Luke in today’s first reading (Acts 4:32-35).

 

The passage from the Acts of the Apostles proclaimed today in the liturgical assembly depicts the early Christian community as being “of one heart and mind”. The sharing and caring faith-community that was formed in the aftermath of the Easter events is the fruit of a “new creation”. It sprang forth from the redemptive action of the Risen Christ and the vivifying action of the Holy Spirit – his Easter gift to the Church. The first Christians who were “of one heart and mind” were concerned with the needs of others. The early Christian believers were marked by harmony, unity and love that were the fruits of their response to the renewing and recreating action of the Holy Spirit in their lives and to the great power by which the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  

Indeed, Luke’s Easter idyll of the sharing and caring Christian community that is “of one heart and mind” challenges today’s Easter people to create a world in which no one has any need. The picture of a selfless faith-community in the “springtime of the Church” denounces the acquisitive and consumerist culture in which we live. It goads us to denounce the abuse of hoarded goods and the ill distribution of resources. The absolute necessity of Christian disciples to respond positively to the needy is resounded by the Church Fathers.

 

St. Basil the Great, an early Church Father, cries out to the hoarding, uncaring rich: “They proclaim themselves masters of the common goods they hoard, because they were the first to own them. If every one of them kept only what he required for his immediate needs, and if the surplus was given to the poor, wealth and poverty would be abolished … You are not a thief? You have taken for your own the goods of which you are supposed to be the caretaker … To the hungry belongs the bread you have … To the naked the cloak that is hidden in your trunk … To the footsore, the shoes rotting in your house … To the poor the money that you have buried in the earth. How can you oppress so many people that you could help?”

 

The vehement appeal of St. Basil the Great reminds us in this Easter season of our prophetic duty as redeemed people to pool our resources and sacrifice our possessions for the sake of the needy. The capacity to share and the grace to live in communal charity are signs of the in-breaking of the Spirit and the victory of the Risen Lord over the world of sin and selfishness. Indeed, if we live today in consonance with the idyll of the springtime of the Church, great favor will be accorded us all – God’s Easter people.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we contemplate the great mystery of salvation that flows forth from Jesus lifted up on the cross and in his rising from the dead and glorification? Do we allow ourselves to be a part of that saving mystery?

 

2. What is the relevance of Luke’s idyllic picture of the “springtime of the Church”? How do I respond to this challenge? Do I strive to be truly “of one heart and mind” with the faith community that cares for the needy?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

your Son Jesus Christ was lifted on the cross,

the throne of glory.

His vivifying Spirit, the Easter gift,

renews us in our minds and hearts.

Help us to grow increasingly into a faith-community

that is “of one heart and mind”.

May we efficaciously build a more just and caring world

and gently and lovingly care for the poor

and respond to each other’s needs.

Assist us to be channels of the peace and divine mercy

that flow out from Jesus, the Risen Lord,

who lives and reigns forever and ever.

Amen. Alleluia!      

 

 

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

 

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

 

“The Son of Man must be lifted up so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” (Jn 3:15) // “The community of believers was of one heart and mind … There was no needy person among them.” (Acts 4:32, 34) 

 

 

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

 

By your act of charity alleviate the pain of those who find their daily cross burdensome and too difficult to bear.

 

***

 

April 30, 2014: WEDNESDAY – EASTER WEEKDAY (2); SAINT PIUS V, pope

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is God’s Sacrificial Love for Us … We Give Witness to that Love”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 5:17-26 // Jn 3:16-21

 

 

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

 

God offers his beloved Son for our total liberation and redemption. Christ Jesus, “lifted up” on the cross and raised in glory, is the ultimate sacrament of the Father’s saving love. The death of Jesus on the cross is the high point of God’s passionate pursuit of his people. In the life-offering of the Son of God, the fullness of divine mercy is revealed. Indeed, as we contemplate the life-giving death of Jesus on the cross, we cannot help but praise God the Father for the wondrous mystery of his unbounded love.

 

Easter is a privileged time to contemplate and imitate God who loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life. The sacrificial stance of God the Father can be gleaned from the following story.

 

After a few of the usual Sunday evening hymns, the Church’s pastor slowly stood up, walked over to the pulpit and, before he gave his sermon for the evening, he briefly introduced a guest minister who was in the service that evening. In the introduction, the pastor told the congregation that the guest minister was one of his dearest childhood friends and that he wanted him to have a few moments to greet the church and share whatever he felt would be appropriate for the service.

 

With that, an elderly man stepped up to the pulpit and began to speak. “A father, his son and a friend of his son were sailing off the Pacific coast”, he began, “when a fast approaching storm blocked any attempt to get back to the shore. The waves were so high, that even though the father was an experienced sailor, he could not keep the boat upright and the three were swept into the ocean as the boat capsized.”

 

The old man hesitated for a moment, making eye contact with two teenagers who were, for the first time since the service began, looking somewhat interested in his story. The aged minister continued with his story, “Grabbing a rescue line, the Father had to make the most excruciating decision of his life: to which boy would he throw the other end of the lifeline. He only had seconds to make the decision. The Father knew that his son was a Christian and he also knew that his son’s friend was not. The agony of his decision could not be matched by the torrent of waves.

 

As the Father yelled out, “I love you son!” he threw out the lifeline to his son’s friend. By the time the Father had pulled the friend back to the capsized boat, his son had disappeared beneath the raging swells into the black of night. His body was never recovered. By this time, the two teenagers were sitting up straight in the pew, anxiously waiting for the next words to come out of the old minister’s mouth.

 

“The father”, he continued, “knew his son would step into eternity with Jesus and he could not bear the thought of his son’s friend stepping into an eternity without Jesus. Therefore, he sacrificed his son to save the son’s friend. How great is the love of God that he should do the same for us. Our heavenly Father sacrificed his only begotten son that we could be saved. I urge you to accept his offer to rescue you and take hold of the lifeline he is throwing out to you in this service.”

 

With that, the old man turned and sat back down in his chair as silence filled the room (…) Within minutes after the service ended the two teenagers were at the old man’s side. “That was a nice story”, politely stated one of them, “but I don’t think it was very realistic for a father to give up his only son’s life in hopes that the other boy would become a Christian.”

 

“Well, you’ve got a point there”, the old man replied, glancing down at his worn bible. A big smile broadened his narrow face. He once again looked up at the boys and said, “It sure isn’t very realistic, is it? But, I’m standing here today to tell you: that story gives me a glimpse of what it must have been like for God to give up his son for me. You see … I was the father and your pastor is my son’s friend.”

***

 

The entrance antiphon of today’s Mass evokes the courageous stance of the apostles and their resolve to spread the Easter victory of Jesus Christ: “I will be a witness to you in the world, O Lord. I will spread the knowledge of your name among my brothers, alleluia.” The High Priest and his Sadducee followers become extremely jealous of the apostles for the mighty works they do: healing the sick and driving away evil spirits. They have them arrested and put in jail. But the angel of the Lord frees them from prison and commands them to go into the temple and tell the people all about this new life in the Risen Christ. The miraculous liberation of the apostles is a divine confirmation of their leadership and illustrates the helplessness of the Sanhedrin in the face of the wondrous intervention of God. The apostles are brought back to the Jewish religious authorities, but without force for fear that the people might stone them.

 

Though persecuted, the apostles have the courage to continue the Easter proclamation because God’s protection is with them. The Christian apostles of today are called to manifest the same courage in the face of the opposition and trials that confront those who live out their faith. The following is a profile of a modern-day apostle who continues to teach the Easter faith in the name of Jesus Christ (cf. Russel Shaw, “Archbishop William E. Lori: Religious Liberty Point Man” in “Catholics of 2012” in Our Sunday Visitor, December 30, 2012, p. 10)

 

For a little more than a year, Archbishop William E. Lori has been the American bishops’ point man in the toughest fight the Catholic Church in America has faced in a long time. Maybe ever, in fact.

 

As chairman of the religious liberty committee of the bishops’ conference, the 61-year-old Archbishop of Baltimore is at the center of Catholic resistance to an Obama administration act of aggression – commonly known as the “HHS mandate” – as well as other government incursions on religious free exercise.

 

The mandate would require hundreds of church-related institutions to provide coverage for contraceptives, abortifacient drugs and sterilizations in employee health plans. This is the first time in America that government has sought to force the Church to cooperate in what it regards as a moral evil.

 

The religious liberty committee was established by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in September 2011. As chairman, Archbishop Lori has testified before Congress and played a key role in strategic planning for the Church’s response to what observers call the potential “institutional martyrdom” of Church programs via the HHS mandate. Currently, the mandate is the target of lawsuits in several courts.

 

A native of Louisville, KY, the archbishop was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., in 1977 and received a doctorate in Sacred Theology from The Catholic University of America in 1982. He served as secretary to the late Cardinal James Hickey of Washington, chancellor, moderator of the curia, and vicar general. Blessed Pope John Paul II appointed him auxiliary bishop of Washington in 1995 and bishop of Bridgeport, Conn., in 2001. Eleven years later, Pope Benedict XVI named him Archbishop of Baltimore.

 

Archbishop Lori has held numerous committee posts with the bishops’ conference, including chairing the Committee on Doctrine and the Ad Hoc Committee on Universities and Colleges. He is the Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus.

 

Speaking at USCCB’s fall general assembly in November, he predicted the religious liberty struggle would be a long one. “We’re going to stay the course”, he promised the bishops and the Church.

 

 

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

 

1. Are we grateful to God for loving us so much that he gave his only Son to save us? How do we show our gratitude to God for his sacrificial love?

 

2. Are we willing to trust in God’s protecting hands when we take a stand for moral issues and for the Catholic faith?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

you did not send your Son into the world to condemn it,

but to save it.

We praise you for your sacrificial love.

Grant that we may imitate your unbounded love

and give witness to your Son’s total self-giving.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen. Alleluia!

 

 

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.

 

 “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” (Jn 3:16) // “Tell the people everything about this life.” (Acts 5:20) 

 

 

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

 

Offer the daily sacrifices that you experience as a Christian disciple to God the Father and beg him for the grace to be self-giving in your ministry to others.

 

***

 

May 1, 2014: THURSDAY – EASTER WEEKDAY (2); SAINT JOSEPH THE WORKER

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Carpenter’s Son … He Is God’s Beloved Son … We Give Witness to This”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 5:27-33 // Jn 3:31-36

 

 

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

 

Today we commemorate Saint Joseph the Worker and all working people. In 1955 Pope Pius XII instituted this special feast to emphasize the dignity of labor and bring a spiritual dimension to labor unions and legislation. Today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus of Nazareth is the “carpenter’s son”. As he learns and practices the carpentry trade of his foster father Joseph, Jesus brings dignity to human work and especially manual labor. As Joseph and Jesus ply their trade at the workbench, human work becomes a living participation in the mystery of redemption. Indeed, through the example of Joseph and Jesus, work becomes an expression of love, an instrument of sanctification, and an efficacious means to follow the saving will of God, the Creator and Redeemer.

 

The following story gives a glimpse into the work ethic and sterling virtues that adorn the relationship of Jesus and his foster father Joseph, the worker-carpenter (cf. Richard Edgington, “You Break It, You Fix It” in COUNTRY, February/March 2012, p. 54-55).

 

I knew I was in a hot water clear up to my neck! I waited for Dad to come, wondering what my fate would be. I had a wild hope that maybe he wouldn’t see the window. But when he drove up, opened the car door halfway and stopped, I knew he’d seen it. Would I get yelled at, or maybe get my britches fanned? He walked over to where I sat.

 

“Well”, he said, “you learned how to break a window. Now, you’ll learn how to fix one.” I followed him to the barn. “Get the stepladder”, he said. He handed me a pair of his high-top gloves, which were a half-dozen sizes too big. I climbed up a couple of steps on the ladder, wishing I had three hands so I could hold on with the two and work with the third. “Be careful, and work out the rest of the glass”, Dad said. He showed me how to measure for a new piece of glass with his folding ruler – the one I never get to touch. Then he said, “Let’s go to town.” I climbed down and we went to Pohlman’s Hardware in Spencerville. I told Mr. Pohlman the dimensions of the glass I wanted. He cut it and wrapped it in newspaper. (…)

 

After supper we went out to the barn, and Dad taught me how to fix the window.

Dad could have been my buddy and fixed the window for me, but he didn’t. He was my dad, and he made me fix it. In 70 years, I’ve repaired many windows, but I’ve never forgotten that first one. It reminds me of all the wonderful things I learned from my dad. So. All you dads out there, don’t be your boy’s buddy. The next time you hear the sharp crack of an errant baseball going through the window, make your son fix it. It will pay big dividends.

 

***

 

John the Baptist speaks in today’s Gospel about Jesus. The Baptist testifies that the Father loves the Son. God has given everything to Jesus, especially the fullness of the gift of the Spirit. Jesus in turn gives to us the Spirit of God without measure. The Son speaks the words of God by the Spirit. Whoever believes in the Son and receives his testimony manifests to the world that God is trustworthy. The one who trusts in the Son and accepts his testimony has eternal life. It is very fitting that in this Easter season we hear the Baptist’s exhortation to receive the Son’s testimony about the heavenly Father. The Baptist himself witnessed to the world that Jesus Christ is trustworthy. By his ministry and martyrdom, John the Baptist surrendered trustingly to the Father and has received eternal life through the Son.

 

Nicholas Sparks’ novel “The Rescue” (cf. Reader’s Digest Select Editions, Large Type, p. 275-277) contains the poignant past of a firefighter, Taylor McAden. He was nine years old when it happened. One night, when he was unable to sleep, he went to the attic to play with his set of plastic soldiers. He did not realize that the house was on fire and did not answer when his parents frantically searched and yelled for him. The fire trapped him in the attic. He scrambled to the window crying for help. Taylor narrated: “My dad … my big strong dad came running across the lawn to the spot right beneath the window. By then most of the house was on fire. I remember him reaching up his arms, yelling, ‘Jump, Taylor! I’ll catch you! I’ll catch you, I promise!’ But instead of jumping, I just started to cry all the harder … The more my dad called for me to jump, the more paralyzed I became. I can still see my father’s face when he realized I wasn’t going to jump … Then my father nodded ever so slightly, and we both knew what was he going to do … He finally turned and started running for the front door … By then the house was completely in flames … I remember seeing him rushing toward me. He was on fire. His skin, his arms, his face, his hair – just this human fireball rushing at me. He pushed me toward the window, saying, ‘Go, son.’ He forced me out, holding on to my wrist until I was dangling above the ground. He finally let go … I watched my father pull his flaming arm inside … He never came back out … I didn’t mean to kill him.”

 

The failure of young Taylor to trust and to throw himself into his father’s waiting, rescuing arms proved disastrous. For many years, he would carry the specter of the dreadful accident. He was burdened with guilt for having refused his father’s saving hands. In a way, this is what happens when we fail to surrender ourselves to the loving design of the Father and refuse to accept his Son Jesus’ life-giving testimony.

 

***

 

As an Easter people, our Christian faith is very much linked to ministry and witnessing. A limpid example of an Easter witness for Christ is Mother Marianne Cope (1838-1918) who went to Molokai in Hawaii on November 13, 1888, to help Fr. Damien DeVeuster minister to the lepers. A member of the Sisters of St. Francis, she and her companions served the outcasts of Molokai, described as “the most dreary place one could ever imagine”. Here is an account by the writer Jill Boughton (cf. “Count It All Joy for the Sake of Love: The Journey of Mother Marianne Cope” in THE WORD AMONG US, February 2007, p. 44-45).

 

According to Mother Marianne, their mission was “to make life as pleasant and comfortable as possible” for the outcasts who had been sent to Molokai to die. She brought beauty as well as order into the settlement, planting fragrant flowers under her sisters’ windows and sewing colorful garments for the girls. With her landscaping skills, she worked to transform the barrenness and bring a sign of hope.

 

Besides the challenges of caring for the sick and all their needs, Mother Marianne was responsible for schools and hospitals and their workers on three other islands. She had to be submissive to her religious superiors, who were often distant and uninformed; to keep detailed records; and to placate the Board of Health, the royal family, and government officials. Yet in all her dealings, her sisters described her as “kind” but “firm.” There were never enough workers, and some who thought the work would be romantic left after a short time. Some opposed Mother Marianne and tried to stir up discontent among the sisters, but she remained patient and tried to pastor each one individually without jeopardizing the work.

 

Mother Marianne also had to be patient with the limitations of her own health. Around the turn of the century, she was up all night spitting blood; the sisters learned of her distress only when they gathered her laundry. Toward the end of her long life, she also experienced heart and kidney failure and was confined to a wheelchair. True to character, however, Mother Marianne remained cheerful and attentive to others even in her final illness. She wouldn’t let Sr. Leopoldina keep vigil at her bedside: “If you cannot rest nights, how can you do justice in your work with the lepers?” although she was unable to eat, she insisted on being wheeled to the dining room to join her sisters.

 

Marianne Cope died on August 9, 1918, surrounded by praying sisters. On her coffin, the lepers she loved used white flowers to spell out one simple word: “Mother.” It spoke volumes about how they had experienced her loving care for them.

 

 

The “sign” of pastoral love continues to be actualized in time and space through the ministry of the apostles and the faith-community brought about by their witnessing. The apostles proclaim fearlessly the core of the Gospel message. They tenderly care for God’s flock by nourishing them with the bread of the Word. They lovingly tend the sheep by extending to the sick and suffering the compassionate healing touch of God. They lay down their life for the sheep that have been neglected and abused by the false shepherds. Indeed, in the task of Gospel proclamation, the apostles are opposed and persecuted. Today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles illustrates how Peter and the apostles incur the ire and resentment of the threatened Jewish religious leaders. The Sanhedrin officials strongly reprimand them for disobeying their orders to stop teaching in the name of Jesus. But Peter and the apostles resolve to obey God rather than men.

 

 

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

 

1. Do I contemplate Joseph and Jesus at the workbench in Nazareth and derive insight about the dignity of human labor and the redemptive dimension of work?

 

2. Do we truly believe that God is trustworthy and that his Son Jesus’ testimony about his compassionate love is true? Do we trust that in Jesus Christ the Father gives us eternal life?

 

3. How did Peter and the apostles minister to the needs of God’s flock entrusted to their care? Are we today’s heroic apostolic witnesses? Are we credible “signs” of the Risen Lord’s pastoral love and care for his sheepfold?

 

 

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

 

O loving God and heavenly Father,

you entrusted the care and training of your Son Jesus

to Joseph, the carpenter-worker of Nazareth.

Jesus learned the dignity of human labor

and the necessary trade skills

from his foster father Joseph.

Help us to contemplate

their inspiring examples at the workbench

that our own work may become fruitful.

Bless the work of our hands

and let them participate in the mystery of redemption.

We love and give you praise,

now and forever.

Amen. Alleluia!

 

And/Or:

 Loving Father,

you sent your Son Jesus to reveal your great love for us.

His life-giving testimony is true.

O compassionate God,

you are trustworthy!

Together with John the Baptist,

we accept Jesus as the Christ

and testify to the world

that in him we have eternal life.

Grant us the grace to be faithful.

You live and reign,

forever and ever.

Amen. Alleluia! 

 

 

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.

 

“Is he not the carpenter’s son?” (Mt 13:55) //“God is trustworthy.” (Jn 3:33) // “We are witnesses of these things, as is the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 5:32)  

 

 

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

 

Be conscious of the dignity of human labor and the great role it plays in the mystery of redemption. Pray for those seeking honest jobs at fair living wages and promote the rights of workers.

***

 

May 2. 2014: FRIDAY – SAINT ATHANASIUS, bishop, doctor of the Church

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Grants Us the Sign of Loaves and Fish … We Suffer Rejoicing in His Name”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 5:34-42 // Jn 6:1-15

 

 

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

 

As I read today’s Gospel account (Jn 6:1-15), I remember a true story for inspiration that I read in a magazine. A housewife was in a quandary. Some dear friends from out of town called for an impromptu visit. She and her husband were delighted to see them, but she was worried because there was not enough food in the house. They had been working on a shoestring budget and the pantry was practically empty. Anxiously she went to her bedroom to pray. Then she heard a kindly voice assuring her, “You have food to serve.” She went to the kitchen to check. She found a fistful of ground meat in the freezer; two pieces of withered carrot and some onions in the vegetable bin, and a small box of biscuit mix in the cabinet. She hurriedly prepared a small pot of meat stew from this meager supply and baked mouth-watering biscuits, her specialty. The guests came and sat with them. She dreaded that there was not enough food for all. But as they amiably exchanged stories and the food was passed around, the guests as well as the hosts were able to serve themselves. They even treated themselves to a second serving. After the fine dinner, when she was lavishly complimented by the well-satiated guests for the delicious stew and biscuits, she was aghast that there was even some leftover! Indeed, the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves was replicated in their lives.

 

            The account of the multiplication of the loaves carries a powerful message to the people of today. In a distressed world convulsed with deep human hunger, we are reminded that there is bread for all, if only we are willing to share. It teaches us that personal involvement is needed in carrying out a miracle of “loaves and fish” for God’s people. Although overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation, Andrew did not detach himself from the problem. He said to Jesus: “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Andrew was creatively involved in the pastoral situation of the hungry crowd. Rather than being passive, he was exploring possible solutions. In the process, he unwittingly pointed to a basic material for Jesus’ miraculous intervention. From the modest portion offered by the boy, Jesus prepared a banquet for all.

 

***

 

In the Second Reading (Acts 5:34-42), Peter and the apostles made known to the Jewish religious authorities their resolve to obey God rather than any human authority. Although not opposed to lawful authority in principle, their ultimate loyalty lies in God alone. Hence, they are likely to come into conflict with those who wield power and demand from them total loyalty and absolute obedience. They boldly proclaim anew before the Sanhedrin the Easter kerygma about Jesus: they have killed him by nailing him to a cross, but God has raised him from the dead for the forgiveness of sins and the repentance of Israel. Their witnessing so infuriates the Sanhedrin that they want to put the apostles to death.

 

The greatly revered teacher Gamaliel, a leading Pharisee said to be the teacher of Saint Paul, fittingly raises a word of caution. He persuades the Sanhedrin to wait and see whether this movement is of merely human origin. If it were so, it will fail like others in the past. If it were from God, then they would be fighting in vain against God. Gamaliel’s wisdom prevails and the Sanhedrin follows his advice. The apostles are released, but not before enduring suffering. They were flogged and ordered never again to speak in the name of Jesus. The apostles go out rejoicing, feeling privileged to suffer for the sake of Jesus. Every day in the Temple and the people’s homes, the apostles continue to teach and proclaim the Good News about Jesus as the Messiah.

 

To die rejoicing is exemplified in the martyrdom of the Japanese Christian Francis Toyama Jintaro (cf. Full Sail with the Wind of Grace, ed. “Martyres” Editorial Committee, Tokyo: Don Bosco Sha, 2008, p. 90-93).

 

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon …” The young pure-hearted Jintaro was captivated by the spirit of St. Francis, taught him by the Franciscan missionary Fr. Apolinar Franco. Jintaro said to himself, “I too, want to give my life for God’s peace. Jintaro was baptized in 1616 when he was 16 years old. He received the name of the St. Francis he loved.

 

His family and friends were worried about him. “Jintaro, are you sure about this? The Christian religion is forbidden and persecution is getting worse everywhere.” The 16-year-old could well understand what kind of suffering awaited those who become Christians, but no one could change his mind which was set on serving God.

 

Jintaro joined the Confraternity of the Cord to take care of the sick and help the poor. He led an austere life. Having learned foreign languages from the missionaries, Jintaro read books which were not yet translated into Japanese, and using simple words explained the teachings to other Christians. The missionaries visiting Wakayama took a rest at Jintaro’s home. When they were staying there, the house would be filled with the voices of the faithful who came to attend mass. Young Francis Jintaro matured into becoming a leader of the Church in Wakayama.

 

In 1619, Asano Nagaakira was transferred to Hiroshima. Jintaro moved to Hiroshima with his master. In Hiroshima also, where persecution had already begun, there were Christians secretly living their faith. Jintaro worked hard for God in Hiroshima, too … Jintaro had a serenity that was unusual for a youth of 19. He served everyone well and there was peace wherever he went. (…)

 

In December 1623, upon witnessing the Great Martyrdom of Edo, Jintaro’s master Nagaakira was terribly troubled. He could no longer turn a blind eye to the Christians. Upon returning to Hiroshima in January of the following year, Nagaakira started a thorough survey to identify the Christians. One day, when Jintaro was out, an officer came to his house. “There aren’t any Christians in this house!” Jintaro’s servant tactfully told the officer, turning him away. When Jintaro heard of this, he turned himself in to the commissioner. “I am a Kirishitan. I won’t run or hide.” Jintaro had decided to turn himself in because he didn’t want to cause other Christians to weaken. (…)

 

Many officers came and surrounded Jintaro’s residence. “You are disobeying the orders of the lord, and must commit seppuku like a samurai!” Jintaro shook his head and replied to those who brought Nagaakira’s orders. “I will not kill myself. My life is a gift from God.”

 

Before the execution, Jintaro left these words to his mother and his wife. “My time has come at last! Please rejoice. I am at peace!” “You have served everyone well. At least we are consoled to know that your wish will be fulfilled. Our tears are tears of joy.” Jintaro’s mother and his wife cast their eyes down and wept. Jintaro’s last wish was granted and he was beheaded before a statue of Our Lady, while his family prayed. It was 16 February 1624. Jintaro was only 24 years old.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we believe that we are being called to share our modest portion of “five barley loaves and two fish”? Are we personally involved in making the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves happen in our community/society today?

 

2. Are we willing to replicate the experience of the apostles: “rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name”?

 

 

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

 

           

Loving Jesus, Bread of life,

you set a table of plenty for the hungry crowd,

giving them a sign of the heavenly banquet and Eucharistic feasting.

Help us to be attentive to the stupendous “signs”

that you continually carry out in our lives.

Like your disciple, Andrew,

help us to be personally involved

in the pastoral care for your flock.

Like the boy who shared with you the “five barley loaves and two fish”,

may we experience the beauty and nobility

of contributing our modest resource

for your messianic work and miracle of love.

Strengthened by the bread of the Word and the Eucharist,

grant us the grace to accept suffering for the sake of your name.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen. Alleluia!

 

 

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.

 

 “Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted.” (Jn 6:11) // “They did not stop teaching and proclaiming the Messiah, Jesus.”  (Acts 5:42) 

 

 

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

 

Identify the needs in your community/society and make a practical move to share your “five barley loaves and two fish” with the needy. When you suffer humiliation or an offense, do not react negatively but gracefully, and offer this for the glory and honor of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

***

 

 

 May 3, 2014: SATURDAY – SAINTS PHILIP AND JAMES, APOSTLES

“JESUS SAVIOR: Saints Philip and James Were His Apostles”

 

BIBLE READINGS

I Cor 15:1-8 // Jn 14:6-14

 

 

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

 

In today’s First Reading, Saint Paul asserts that it is through the Gospel that we are saved; therefore we must hold fast to it. He also hands on to us the Easter kerygma or proclamation:  that Christ died, was buried and was raised to life as written in the Scriptures. He also asserts that Christ appeared to Peter and the apostles, to five hundred disciples, to James and, last of all, to Paul himself.

 

Transformed by the Easter event and empowered by the Spirit of the Risen Lord, Saints Philip and James proclaimed the Gospel message throughout the world. By their apostolic ministry and martyrdom, their participation in the works of Christ was brought to perfection. According to the Acts of Philip, following the resurrection of Jesus, Philip was sent with his sister Mariamne and Bartholomew to preach in Greece, Phrygia, and Syria. Through a miraculous healing and his preaching, Philip converted the wife of the proconsul of the Hierapolis. This enraged the proconsul, and he had Philip, Bartholomew, and Mariamne all tortured.  Philip and Bartholomew were then crucified upside down, and Philip preached from his cross. As a result of Philip’s preaching, the crowd released Bartholomew from his cross, but Philip insisted that they not release him. And Philip died on the cross.

 

St. James the Less, the author of an inspired epistle, was also one of the Twelve. St. Paul tells us that he was favored by a special apparition of Christ after the Resurrection. In the dispersion of the apostles among the nations, St. James was left as Bishop of Jerusalem; and even the Jews held in such high veneration his purity, mortification, and prayer, that they named him the Just. The earliest Church historians handed down many traditions of St. James's sanctity. He was always a virgin, says Hegesippus, and consecrated to God. He drank no wine, wore no sandals on his feet, and wore but a single garment on his body. He prostrated himself so much in prayer that the skin of his knees was hardened like a camel's hoof. The Jews, it is said, used out of respect to touch the hem of his garment. He was indeed living proof of his own words, "The wisdom that is from above first indeed is chaste, then peaceable, modest, full of mercy and good fruits." He sat beside St. Peter and St. Paul at the Council of Jerusalem; and when St. Paul, at a later time, escaped the fury of the Jews by appealing to Cæsar, the people took vengeance on James, and crying, "The just one hath erred", stoned him to death.

 

The Church commemorates on the same day Sts. Philip and James, whose bodies lie side by side at Rome. They represent to us two aspects of Christian holiness. The first preaches faith, the second works; the one holy aspirations, the other purity of heart. Saints Philip and James are sterling examples of Easter faith and total service to the Gospel. 

 

 

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

 

How do the life and witnessing of Saints Philip and James inspire you?  What aspects of their life and service do you wish to imitate?

 

 

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

(Cf. Opening Prayer of the Mass, Feast of Saints Philip and James)

 

God our Father,

every year you give us joy

on the festival of the apostles Philip and James.

By the help of their prayers

may we share in the suffering, death and resurrection

of your only Son

and come to the eternal vision of your glory.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, forever and ever.

Amen.   

 

 

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

 

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

 

“Christ died for our sins … he was buried … he was raised on the third day … he appeared to James, then to all the Apostles.”  (I Cor 15:3-5)

 

 

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

 

By the blood of the martyr-apostles Philip and James, invoke God’s peace upon today’s world suffering from violence and various natural and man-made disasters.

 

***

 

 

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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