A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday and Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 12, n. 23)

Easter Week 3: May 4-10, 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 27 – May 3, 2014, please go to ARCHIVES Series 12 and click on “Easter Week 2”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: May 4-10, 2014.)

 

***

 

May 4, 2014: THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is Our Companion in Our Easter Journey”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 2:14, 22-33 // I Pt 1:17-21 // Lk 24:13-35

 

 

I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS

 

The exquisite story of the Easter apparition of the Risen Lord to two disciples on the road to Emmaus is found only in Luke. The Emmaus story (Lk 24: 13-35) is probably the greatest of the post-Easter accounts of encounter with the Risen Lord. The evangelist Luke depicts the glorified Lord as drawing near to journey with the disciples who are fleeing from the Easter event in Jerusalem. Replete with charm and beauty, the account of the Easter walk to Emmaus is about the Risen Lord who progressively reveals himself in word and symbolic action.

 

Indeed, the journey with the Risen Lord to Emmaus is, for Cleopas and the other disciple, a return journey to the true way of discipleship. On the day of his resurrection, Jesus devotedly seeks those who have abandoned the redemptive way of the Suffering Servant. On that eventful Easter day, the glorified Lord gently illumines their eyes, darkened with sadness and blinded by false expectations. According to Luke’s account, when accosted by the “stranger” on the road, the faces of the distressed disciples are downcast. Something prevents them from recognizing Jesus. However, by “breaking the bread of the word”, that is, by interpreting for them the Scriptures, the Risen Lord gradually opens their eyes to see the true meaning of God’s plan. Jesus enables his disciples to see the paschal events in Jerusalem with the light of faith.

 

The faith journey of the Emmaus disciples reaches its climax at the evening meal. The fascinating guest presides at table. The ritual action of the “breaking of the bread” is the climax of Jesus’ revelatory act to the disciples. The “sharing of the Word” leads to the recognition of the glorified Jesus at the Easter supper in Emmaus. In the “bread blessed, broken and shared” with his disciples, the Risen Lord affirms his abiding sacramental presence and shows that God’s saving kingdom has indeed come.

 

The Easter journey of the disciples on the road to Emmaus is replicated in the life of today’s disciples. The following account by Liza Apper of the Saint Benedict Catholic Worker gives an insight into this (cf. Parish Bulletin of St. Mary Queen of Apostles, April 20, 2014).

 

“Hello, I came to help”, said the man in a quiet, almost inaudible voice as he approached me from behind. I immediately recognized him. It was Ignacio, a member of our St. Mary’s parish family whose wife had recently died of cancer. “Hi”, I said, somewhat surprised to see that he had come to Fresno County jail that night. After all, it had only been a month since his wife, Leticia, had died. Since her death, whenever I saw him at Mass or at parish functions, I would ask him, “How are you doing, Ignacio?” And he would always, unconvincingly, reply, “I’m ok.” That Tuesday night I asked him, in what had become a ritual of concern. “How are you doing, Ignacio?” He gave his usual reply but with measured hesitation. “I’m ok,” shrugging his shoulders. “At least that is what people want to hear. Actually, I am not doing so good, not good at all. But I thought you might need help tonight.” “We sure do need the help, Ignacio”, I admitted to him. Ignacio smiled ever so slightly. He then immediately began to unload Dorothy, the Catholic Worker truck, filled to the brim with soup-line supplies for the night.

 

After Dorothy was unloaded, I put Ignacio in charge of drinks on the soup-line. The beverages of choice that night were punch or water with ice (a real treat on the line). I kept a concerned eye on Ignacio throughout the night in case he might need a hand serving or help in dealing with a person on the soup-line. Ignacio matter-of-factly served the drinks, saying very little to anyone. I was a little troubled by his quietness, knowing that he was struggling with his own personal loss and might not be in a place to help others. But my watchfulness and worry took a sudden hopeful turn as a little girl of about five years old with big brown eyes and a head full of beautiful cascading black hair bounded up the stairs to our table. She immediately went to Ignacio, breathlessly asking, “Can I have some punch, please – with ice?” She then looked directly at Ignacio and inquired, “Are you the one giving drinks?” “Yes, I am”, he replied, smiling broadly. He then leaned down to give the little girl her drink.  She smiled back widely and said, “Thank you”, carefully holding her liquid treat. Ignacio stood watching the little girl as she left and as he turned back to continue serving the drinks, I could see a beautiful broad smile on his face. As the evening went on, more children came to Ignacio for drinks. And that first beaming smile of his, engendered by that little girl, gave way to conversation and then to laughter with both children and adults that he served that night. (…)

 

During Lent we had been challenged in our spiritual journey to do acts of love (donating food for our soup-line and food pantry; soup-line preparation in St. Mary’s kitchen; serving on the soup-line at Fresno County jail, and almsgiving to support the work of the St. Benedict Catholic Worker).  It is those acts of love that make Easter, Jesus’ victory over darkness, a living reality in each one of our lives. Jesus’ resurrection means that darkness (death) does not have the last word. Love has the last word. The love of Jesus dispels the darkness so that we can live in his kingdom, his love. May we, the St. Mary’s Parish family continue on our spiritual journey as Easter people to do acts of love for with every act of love we make the kingdom come.

 

***

 

Like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, the apostle Peter and the “Eleven” are privileged recipients of the Easter experience. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, outpoured upon them as a gift by the Risen Lord, they become resolute witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus. This Sunday’s First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles (2:14, 22-33) contains Peter’s first sermon given on Pentecost. A masterpiece of Easter witnessing, this inaugural sermon presents in a nutshell the faith of the Church and proclaims boldly the reality of God’s action in raising Jesus, who now sits in glory at the right hand of God, from where he sends the Spirit.

  

Today – as Church built upon the faith in the Risen Lord – we are Easter witnesses to the power of life over death, of good over evil, of hope over despair, of love over hatred, and of healing over brokenness. In the anguish of modern society, we proclaim that grace prevails over wickedness through the victory of Jesus Christ. As Easter people, we are witnesses that Jesus of Nazareth has been confirmed as the Lord and Messiah. Indeed, by our life of holiness and prayer, of charity and service, we invite people to submit to the saving hand of God, who brings life from death, and transforms our brokenness and sadness into beauty, healing and grace.

 

The following article shows the inspiring stance of the Easter people (cf. Peter Finney, Jr., “Big Faith in the Big Easy” in St. Anthony Messenger, November 2013, p. 30-35).

 

The fighter pilot in Ted Besh epitomized a man who knew that preparation and precision were matters of life and death. Ted’s 20/20 vision was more than a physical gift. He had a plan for everything and everyone, especially for his six children and what they would make of themselves.

 

But as Ted rode his bike one day in 1977, a drunk driver smashed into him and left him paralyzed. There was no plan for this. Ted’s son, John, was just 9 years old at the time, and the boy who attended St. Margaret Mary School in Slidell, Louisiana, saw his own world rocked. For over two years, while Ted convalesced in a rehab hospital, and his wife juggled to keep the kids together and care for her husband, John  shuffled from house to house with friends whenever his mom was on an extended hospital visit.

 

Periodically, during his convalescence, Ted would come back home and John’s job was to cook for him. “It was just some crazy concoction that I’m sure tasted absolutely disgusting”, John recalls. “But as a kid, just throwing things together for him would make him so happy. I connected right then that food equals happiness.”

 

John Besh is 45 now, and he and his wife, Jennifer, have four sons of their own. That aromatic equation – food equals happiness – has delighted thousands of people across the globe. Besh operates nine restaurants, is the author of two cookbooks, and appears regularly on national television as the fresh face of indigenous south Louisiana cooking. But as a Catholic who takes his faith seriously, Besh says he sees a deeper purpose in his life’s vocation of bringing people together around the family table.

 

“I’m going to issue a disclaimer”, Besh told an intimate crowd of Catholics and people of other faiths who attended a recent “Spirituality in the City” lunch at Immaculate Conception Church, a Jesuit-run parish in downtown New Orleans. “I’m a stumbling human being. I am solely at the mercy of one very merciful and loving and living God. Faith is a gift I’ve been given – just being born of incredible parents with an incredible attitude toward life. I have parents with a phenomenal attitude toward stewardship.” (…)

 

The family table parallels with Besh’s Catholic faith. “These moments bring me back to what our religion was founded on”, he says. “It’s the holy Eucharist we celebrate every Sunday. It’s food and the table – the altar. That’s the place that keeps us firmly rooted.”

 

***

 

The special vocation of the Easter people to holy living and its foundation are delineated in this Sunday’s Second Reading (I Pt 1:17-21). The biblical scholar Jose Cervantes Gabarron explicates: “The faithful memory of the liberating event carried out through the blood of Christ is the profound reason for the Christians’ change in conduct. They pass from a life without meaning to a life of hope, and also from ignorance to holiness. The liberator is Christ and the way of liberation is the passion sealed with the spilling of his blood. (…) The memory of believing faith is rooted in the person of Christ and thus also in the greatness of the event of liberation from a theological perspective. This was God’s project from the creation of the world: Jesus Christ, revealed in later times, is resurrected by God and given glory. Passion and glory are again united because they pertain to the only saving plan of the Father for the chosen. Faith in God and in the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ brings a living hope that must be shaped into a new conduct because it corresponds to regeneration through God the Father.”

 

The Easter people shaped by the saving event of Christ’s paschal mystery are thus called to respond with lively faith to the various presences of the Risen Lord in our midst, to boldly witness the Easter event of Christ’s death and resurrection to the whole world, and to act responsibly as the “redeemed” - marked by a “holy living”. The following story further illustrates the stance of the Easter people and how their faith and “holy living” can touch the hearts of all (cf. Mary Lou Reed, “The Perfect Easter” in GUIDEPOSTS, April 2011, p. 82).

 

Easter is my favorite day of the year. I love all the preparations that go into it. But the night before, I lay in bed feeling miserable: headache, chills, body aches and a fever. I can’t be sick on Easter, I thought. What will happen if I’m not there to get everything ready?

 

I hosted the big family gathering every year. The grandkids hunted for eggs while I prepared a feast: ham, rosemary potatoes, candied yams, green beans, rolls, salad, chocolate cake. It was perfect. But now with me stuck in bed, our celebration would be ruined. Lord, please let me have Easter here, I asked in the dark.

 

But when I woke up early that Easter morning, I felt worse than ever. I couldn’t make it out of bed, much less hide Easter eggs or cook a ham. I called my daughter Kim. “I guess we won’t be having Easter this year”, I said sadly. “Of course we will!” said Kim. “We’ll take care of everything. I’ll be right over, Mom. Don’t worry.”

 

But it won’t be the same, I thought, as I drifted back to sleep. How could I do this to my family, getting sick on Easter?

 

I awoke sometime later to the smell of ham, rosemary and chocolate cake. And the sound of laughter throughout the house. The whole family had arrived. Later, Kim poked her head into my bedroom. “You look better”, she said. “The egg hunt is in full swing. The kids are having a great time.”

 

So my family found the plastic eggs I had bought. And my recipes, judging by the delicious smells. If I didn’t know better I would think Easter was going on just fine without me!

 

“Mom, we’ve watched you cook for us for years”, Kim said, offering me a spoonful of candied yams to try. “We’ve learned a few things by now.” The yams were perfect. Just, I was sure, like everything else.

 

As everyone sat down together and feasted on the wonderful dinner, I said my own special grace, thanking God for answering my prayers, and for reminding me that it was he – not me – who made Easter perfect.

 

 

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

 

1. Are we ready to welcome Jesus as our life-giving companion in our journey to faith? Are we ready to welcome him in the “breaking of the bread of the word” and in the “breaking of the Eucharistic bread”?

 

2. In his Pentecost sermon, what was Peter’s testimony concerning Jesus of Nazareth? How did Peter’s encounter with the Risen Lord strengthen him for his Easter witnessing? What was the role of the Holy Spirit, the Risen Lord’s Easter gift, in giving witness to Christ? Are we truly the Easter people and are we credible Easter witnesses?

 

3. As an Easter people do we endeavor to be marked with a “holy living” and to live reverently as God’s redeemed?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

the Easter experience transformed the dismayed disciples

who became witnesses of the Lord’s resurrection.

We too have experienced

the Easter event of Christ’s death and rising

- in the daily events of our life

and in the Word and sacraments.

We are the Easter people of today.

We are called to witness by our life of holiness,

by our charity and service,

that Jesus Christ is Lord!

Anoint us with the renewing Spirit,

the Risen Lord’s Easter gift,

that we may unceasingly proclaim to the world

the beauty and marvel of Christ’s death and resurrection.

We praise you, love you and serve 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.

 

“He was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.” (Lk 24: 35)

 

 

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

 

            Pray that the people of today may be sensitive to the presence of the Risen Lord in our midst and respond fully to the healing power of Easter. By your acts of justice, peace and solidarity as well as by your care for the needs of the poor and vulnerable, manifest to the world of today the life-giving stance of God’s Easter people.    

 

*** 

May 5, 2014: MONDAY – EASTER WEEKDAY (3)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Gives Food for Eternal Life and Grants the Wisdom of the Spirit”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 6:8-15 // Jn 6:22-29

 

 

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

 

One of the great blessings that America has received is food in abundance. In my native country, the Philippines, the daily anxiety of millions of poor people is where to get food to assuage their hunger. Scavengers rummage through filthy garbage cans to look for something to eat. Hungry children would ply the streets begging for food. I was standing on a busy street corner in Manila, waiting for a ride, when two small boys approached me begging for alms. I asked them whether they would like something to eat. They nodded their heads vigorously. I retrieved from my bag two huge sandwiches, plump with chicken salad filling, that a friend gave me at a thesis defense that I had just attended. The kids ran away munching on the sandwiches. A few minutes later they came back with their half-eaten sandwiches, smiling and exclaiming, “Salamat, Sister! Masarap!” (“Thank you, Sister! Delicious!”). And off they went again. I felt good that the kids came back to thank for the gift of bread. 

           

In today’s Gospel reading, the evangelist John tells us that the crowd Jesus fed on the other side of the lake got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. The beneficiaries of the loaves of bread and the fish were searching for him. They came back to Jesus, not to thank him, but for a mere material motive: as the source of an unlimited supply of bread and material goods. After experiencing the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves, they wanted to make him their breadbasket king. Jesus, however, saw through it all and admonished them. Indeed, Jesus wanted to raise their minds from purely earthly concerns to that which leads to eternal life. That is why he exhorted his superficially intentioned beneficiaries: “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”

 

The reading (Jn 6:22-29) has tremendous relevance for our world and society. According to statistics, half of the people of the world go to bed hungry every night and, by the end of today, 60,000 more people will die of hunger. Harold Buetow comments: “Bad as things are, the unrecognized hunger for God is even worse …And we still hunger for things beyond food: for forgiveness, for reconciliation, for kindness, for restoration in relationships, for justice, for joy in place of bitterness and cynicism, for peace, for unity – in short, for taking away the emptiness of our lives … Jesus is the way to eternal life. Unless we fill ourselves with him, we’re not just empty and hungry: we’re spiritually dead.” 

 

***

 

I was preparing for the public defense of my doctoral thesis at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute of Saint Anselm University in Rome. I did what I could but I was a nervous wreck. On the eve of the thesis defense, I heard the words of Jesus at Mass assuring me: “Do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say: for it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” As promised, God gave me the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. The thesis defense went well. I got a perfect score for it!

 

Today’s First Reading (Acts 6:8-15) narrates the power of the Spirit at work in Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit and anointed as a deacon by the apostles to serve the Greek-speaking Jewish Christians. Richly blessed by God, Stephen performs great miracles and wonders among the people. He comes in conflict with Greek-speaking Jews who do not believe in Christ. But they are no match for Stephen. The Spirit has given Stephen a wisdom that they could not refute. They retaliate by stirring up the people against him and, with false accusations, haul him before the Sanhedrin. Replicating in his life the passion of the Christ, Stephen will be condemned to death and die by stoning.

 

 

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

 

1. What are the various hungers we are experiencing personally and as a community? What are the most vicious hungers of humanity today? How do we respond to Jesus’ declaration and invitation: “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you”?

 

2. Do I believe that in my day to day Christian witnessing, the wisdom of the Spirit is given to me and that God gives me the power to overcome adversities?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

we come into your presence

with our deepest hungers for things beyond food:

for forgiveness and reconciliation,

for kindness and restoration in relationships,

for justice and freedom,

for joy in place of bitterness and cynicism,

for peace and unity,

for beauty and harmony,

and for spiritual and physical healing.

We long for you,

the food that endures to eternal life.

Fill us with the wisdom of the Spirit

And help us to work dutifully and lovingly for the Kingdom

that we may feast on this bread of life,

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.

 

“Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life.” (cf. Jn 6:27) // “They could not withstand the wisdom and spirit with which he spoke.” (Acts 6:10)

  

 

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

 

 When you break bread at the family table, do it with a grateful heart and think with reverence of the millions of hungry people the world over. Pray that they too may have their share of daily bread and that all may be filled with the wisdom of the Spirit.

 

 

***

 

May 6, 2014: TUESDAY – EASTER WEEKDAY (3)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Bread from Heaven and the King of Martyrs”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 7:51-8:1a // Jn 6:30-35

 

 

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

  

To the perplexed crowd asking for a “sign” that they might believe in him, Jesus responds by directing their attention to “the bread of heaven” that God sends for the life of the world. This ultimate gift exceeds the manna that God rained down from heaven on the Israelites journeying through the wilderness in the time of Moses. And to the people’s plea to give them this bread always, Jesus answers: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” Indeed, the manna received by the Israelites through Moses is a figure of the all-surpassing food given by God in the person of his beloved Son, Jesus.

 

Jesus Christ is the “bread of the Word” and life-giving “Eucharistic bread”. We need to go to him. He will satisfy the pangs of our inmost spiritual hunger and yearning for meaning and eternal destiny. In offering himself to us as the “living bread”, he appeals to our faith, to our personal response and free commitment to follow him. At the Eucharistic banquet, Jesus invites us to the table of plenty in which he offers the “bread of the word” and sets himself as the sacramental food.

 

Sr. Mary Rachel, who worked as a missionary in Canada, suffered a series of strokes after her return to the Philippines. The third stroke was bilateral. It left her entire body paralyzed except from the neck up. She could not talk. All she could do was cry. She had to be fed through a nasal-gastric tube and assisted in everything. Terror and anguish etched her face in the beginning. After a period of anger and denial, her features started to relax. While attending to her one day, I noticed that she was unusually quiet. Gazing directly upon her pensive eyes, I spoke slowly: “Sister Rachel, do you want to receive Communion? If so, please turn your head to one side.” She responded with such vigor that her head almost snapped. We requested a priest to come and celebrate Mass in her room. Sr. Mary Rachel received Communion for the first time after the third stroke. And she would do so every day until she passed away four years later. In her sickness and suffering, Sr. Mary Rachel fully accepted the words of Jesus: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

 

***

 

Today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles depicts the death of Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Like Jesus, the deacon Stephen performed great miracles and wonders among the people. And for this he is arrested and falsely accused. His martyrdom replicates the passion and death of Jesus Christ. Like Jesus, the deacon Stephen is led out of the city to be killed. Dying in a posture of prayerful submission, Stephen commends himself to the Lord in imitation of Jesus. Stephen’s “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” echoes Jesus’ prayer of submission at the cross: “Father, into your hearts I commend my spirit!” The forgiving attitude that makes Stephen cry out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” evokes the compassionate stance of Jesus on the cross: “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing. Like Jesus’ prayer of forgiveness that leads to the “second chance” offered to the Jerusalem Jews, Stephen’s prayer may be linked to the grace of conversion that the young Saul would later experience after persecuting the fledging Church. The presence of Saul at the martyrdom of Stephen and his subsequent conversion into the great “apostle to the Gentiles” reminds us that the blood of martyrs is the seed of faith.

 

Many disciples of Jesus Christ become totally configured to him through martyrdom. The following account of the martyrdom of Mathias and Joachim is edifying (cf. Full Sail with the Wind of Grace: Peter Kibe and 187 Martyrs, ed. “Martyres” Editorial Committee, Tokyo: Don Bosco Sha, 2008, p. 94).

 

Before being martyred, Jintaro had written a letter to Mathias Shobara Ichizaemon to express gratitude and to encourage him. Mathias read the letter over and over again in prison. His body was all broken from harsh torture, but when he remembered how their hearts had burned when they discussed their love for God together, he felt something warm welling up inside and he forgot his weariness and pain.

 

Mathias was baptized by the Jesuit Fr. Antonio Ishida when he was working as a warden in a prison. Fr. Antonio was his prisoner. From then on, the prison became the Church in which he served.

 

Joachim Kuroemon had been a Minister of Mercy for a long time. Because of his role, the torture inflicted on him was very cruel. The soles of his feet were worn through the long years of work. They hurt and the skin was cracked and hard as a rock. He had walked here and there with Jintaro, helping the poor and visiting the sick. “The only things I can be proud of in my life are my bent, aching legs” he would say, rubbing them as he laughed like a small child.

 

Mathias was martyred 17 February, at 34 years of age, and Joachim was 65 when he was martyred on March 8. They were each tied to a cross and pierced to death with a lance. Even after the martyrdom of Mathias and Joachim, their fellow prisoners were feeling the peace that they had left. It was the peace of the Lord, left behind by those who live their love of God and humanity to the end.

 

 

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

 

1. What is our personal response to Jesus’ revelation: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst”? Do we hunger for the Bread of the Word and the Eucharistic Bread?

 

2. Do we imitate the prayerful submission of the martyrs to their paschal destiny with Jesus Christ? Do we endeavor to the totally configured to Jesus in every aspect of our life?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

we thank you for the total configuration unto Christ

of Stephen and other Christian disciples

through martyrdom.

Help us to imitate them.

Let us be fully united with your Son’s Eucharistic sacrifice.

He is the true Bread from heaven.

We adore and praise 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.

 

“I am the bread of life.” (Jn 6:35) // “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” (Acts 7:59)

 

 

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

 

Unite your daily trials and sufferings with Jesus in his Eucharistic sacrifice. Pray for the grace to be able to say “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” at the hour of death.

 

***

 

May 7, 2014: WEDNESDAY – EASTER WEEKDAY (3)

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Bread of Life and He Gives Strength in Persecution”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 8:1b-8 // Jn 6:35-40

 

 

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

 

Jesus reveals himself as the “bread of life”. He has come down from heaven to do the Father’s will, which is, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life. The “bread of life”, Jesus Christ, who nourishes us with his Word and the Eucharistic bread, satisfies our most intense hunger for the fullness of life. We need to feed on him continually who is offered to us in multiple ways as spiritual nourishment. The Bread of Life gives strength and impels us to share the fullness of life even in the most difficult situations.

 

Archbishop Van Thuan, who was imprisoned by the Vietnamese government for thirteen years and then “released” to house arrest, testifies that Jesus is indeed the “bread of life” (cf. Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, Testimony of Hope, Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2000, p. 132-133).

 

Thus, in prison, I felt beating within my heart the same heart of Christ. I felt that my life was his life and his was mine. The Eucharist became for me and for the other Christians a hidden and encouraging presence in the midst of all our difficulties. Jesus was adored secretly by the Christians who lived with me, just as happened so often in other prison camps of the twentieth century.

 

In the re-education camp, we were divided into groups of fifty people; we slept on a common bed, and everyone had a right to 50 centimeters of space. We managed to make sure that there were five Catholics with me. At 9:30 P.M. we had to turn off the lights and everyone had to go to sleep. It was then that I would bow over the bed to celebrate the Mass by heart, and I distributed communion by passing my hand under the mosquito net. We even made little sacks from the paper of cigarette packs to preserve the Most Holy Sacrament and bring it to others. The Eucharistic Jesus was always with me in my shirt pocket.

 

Every week there was an indoctrination session in which the whole camp had to participate. My Catholic companions and I took advantage of the break in order to pass the small sack to everyone in the four other groups of prisoners. Everyone knew that Jesus was in their midst. At night, the prisoners would take turns for adoration. With his silent presence, the Eucharistic Jesus helped us in unimaginable ways. Many Christians returned to a fervent faith-life, and their witness of service and love had an ever greater impact on the other prisoners. Even Buddhists and other non-Christians came to the faith. The strength of Jesus’ love was irresistible.

 

In this way, the darkness of the prison became a paschal light, and the seed germinated in the ground during the storm. The prison was transformed into a school of catechesis. Catholics baptized fellow prisoners and became the godparents of their companions.

***

 

On the day of Stephen’s martyrdom, the Church of Jerusalem begins to suffer cruel persecution. It is a persecution that, like a violent wind, scatters the seed of the Word. The believers, except the apostles, are scattered throughout the provinces of Judea and Samaria. They go everywhere preaching the Risen Christ. Philip, one of the seven Greek-speaking Jews set apart for a special diakonia or service in the Church, preaches the Gospel to the people of Samaria. This is the first time in the Acts of the Apostles that the Gospel is preached to people who are non-Jews. The Jews regard the Samaritans as impure mongrels and “heretics”. Philip draws crowds by his message, which he authenticates by performing miracles, especially exorcisms and healings. A great joy fills Samaria, a joy that springs forth from an encounter with the Risen Christ. The young man Saul, an important protagonist in Stephen’s murder, also propels the work of evangelization. By cruelly persecuting the Church, he unwittingly helps to spread the Christian faith.

 

The following story gives us an idea how adversity and trial can lead to a greater good (cf. Mezhgan Hussainy, a Makeup Artist, in Chicken Soup for the American Idol Soul, ed. Jack Canfield, et. al. Deerfield Beach: Health Communications, Inc. 2007, p. 146-150).

 

When the two men arrived at the door of our house in Afghanistan, even though I was only eight years old, I knew something had gone wrong. The anguish on my mother’s face told the story. That was the day my family – my parents, three brothers, and six other relatives – were to begin our escape from our country that we called home. It was early 1980s and the Soviet invasion had just begun. (…)

 

For the next ten days, my entire family walked in the darkness through the nearly impassable mountains covered in fog so thick that if you took one wrong step, you would fall into the deep canyons. We hid in little villages during the daylight hours, hardly moving or speaking. At first I thought it was some sort of fun game, especially since it was special to be spending this time with my cousins, but after the second day when the hard-boiled eggs were long gone, with no food or water, the horror really began.

 

It was freezing cold at night and sweltering hot during the day. Everyone had blisters on the bottoms of their feet. I had developed sores all over my body – the most painful were the ones in my mouth. My little brother, who was only five, suffered from such severe dehydration that we had to stop my mother from slitting her wrists because she wanted him to have something – anything – to drink. (…)

 

By some miracle, we made it over the border into Pakistan. We paid the smugglers – and others too who later helped us reach America – with money my mom had put in bags and sewn underneath her dress along with my father’s college diploma. My dad had gone to school years before in the United States. He had a degree in computer programming and spoke fluent English, so that helped our transition. Although the rest of us didn’t speak one word of English, we adjusted well in our new country, eventually settling in Los Angeles. (…)

 

After high school, I went to school to become a dental hygienist because I love beautiful smiles. One of my friends from dental school happened to be working part-time for a makeup line and thought it would be fun if we did makeup together. I told her I had no experience with it, but the next thing I knew, I was working for the cosmetic company Lancome. (…)

 

I’ll always be grateful to my parents for the courage they had to give their children a life of freedom in this country. The remarkable irony of my life story is that if my family had stayed in Afghanistan after the Russian invasion and the Taliban taking control, not only would I never have been able to wear makeup, but I would have been living my life under a burka, with my entire face covered. Women in my country can be killed if they walk out of their front door with their faces showing.

 

And here I am, making up the faces that are seen on television by more people that any other faces in the world. Perhaps my mother had an intuition about what my destiny would be – Mezhgan, the name I was given at birth, means eyelashes.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we truly believe that Jesus is the “bread of life” and that it is the will of the Father to grant us eternal life? What is our response to the divine gift of the “bread of life”?

 

2. Do we allow moments of adversity and trials to become a saving grace and occasion for the spread of the Gospel?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

we thank you for the gift of Jesus, the “bread of life”.

In him is eternal life.

We put our faith in him who is our saving Lord.

In him we no longer hunger and thirst for more.

He alone suffices and he is “our all”.

Through him trials and persecution become “saving grace”.

He 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.

 

 “I am the bread of life.” (Jn 6:35)

 

 

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

 

When faced with adversity, trust in the Lord who is our faith nourishment. Let it be an occasion to deepen our faith in Jesus, the “bread of life”.

 

***

 

May 8, 2014: THURSDAY – EASTER WEEKDAY (3)

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He is the Living Bread from Heaven to Teach and to Nourish and in His Name We Are Baptized”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 8:26-40 // Jn 6:44-31

 

 

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

 

The benefactor, Jesus Christ, who is both the giver and the gift, nourishes us through his teaching. As the Word-made-flesh and as the Wisdom of God, he lays out for us a rich banquet of spiritual nourishment. He offers himself to us as the bread of the Word, the saving revelation of God’s infinite love for us, and fulfills what is written in the prophets: “They shall all be taught by God”. In the last part of today’s Gospel reading, the topic shifts from Jesus as revealer of the Father to Jesus as the giver and gift of the Eucharist. The liturgical assembly is being led to contemplate, not just the “word nourishment” offered by Jesus, but the “sacramental” nourishment that he gives of his own flesh and blood. Jesus’ wondrous gift includes the “Eucharistic” nourishment provided by his Spirit-filled and glorified body. Indeed, Jesus is the living bread from heaven to teach and to nourish.

 

Here is an interesting story that illustrates the skepticism of an unbeliever with regards to the Eucharist and the tremendous wisdom that a believer draws from it.

 

A man came to a priest and wanted to make fun of his faith, so he asked, “How can bread and wine turn into the Body and Blood of Christ?” The priest answered, “No problem. You yourself change food into your body and blood, so why can’t Christ do the same?”

 

But the objector did not give up. He asked, “But how can the entire Christ be in such a small host?” “In the same way that the vast landscape before you can fit into your little eye.”

 

“But he still persisted, “How can the same Christ be present in all your churches at the same time?” The priest then took a mirror and let the man look into it. Then let the mirror fall to the ground and broke it and said to the skeptic, “There is only one of you and yet you can find your face reflected in each piece of that broken mirror at the same time.” 

 

***

 

Today’s episode from the Acts of the Apostles continues to depict the spread of the Word beyond the Jewish world. The conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch from a distant land foreshadows the full-scale evangelization to the nations. His journey to Christian faith, accompanied by Philip, is God’s initiative. Indeed, it is God not merely human enterprise that guides the spread of the Easter faith. The God-fearing Ethiopian is considered an outcast. Not only is he a pagan, but he has been castrated. The Law excludes eunuchs from membership in the community of the Lord. The Book of Deuteronomy asserts: “No man who has been castrated or whose penis has been cut off may be included among the Lord’s people” (Dt 23:1) But Isaiah prophesies that this would change: “A man who has been castrated should never think that because he cannot have children, he can never be part of God’s people” (Is 56:3). The joyful integration of the eunuch into God’s “new people” happens at his baptism in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Jesus walks with his two disciples on the road to Emmaus and opens to them the meaning of the Scriptures. In the same way Philip journeys with the eunuch as a spiritual guide. He enables him to understand the Christ-centered meaning of the Scripture passage he has been reading. Responding in faith, the eunuch manifests his desire for baptism: “Look, there is water. What is to prevent my being baptized?” Both Philip and the eunuch go into the water. Philip baptizes him and when they come out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatches Philip away. The newly baptized continues on his way rejoicing. The desert of his inner heart is now fecundated with the “living water” and abloom with joy.

 

The baptismal experience of the eunuch with its life-transforming effect is likewise experienced by Kateri Tekakwitha, herself no stranger to alienation and suffering (cf. “Our First Native American Saint” in ST. ANTHONY MESSENGER, October 2012, p. 30).

 

When Kateri Tekakwitha is proclaimed St. Kateri Tekakwitha on October 21, she will be the first member of a North American tribe to be declared a saint. “The Lily of the Mohawks”, Kateri was born in 1656 in a village along the Mohawk River called Ossernenon, now known as Auriesville, New York. Her father was a Mohawk chief, her mother a Christian Algonquin raised among the French.

 

When Kateri was 4, a smallpox epidemic claimed her parents and baby brother. She survived, but her face was disfigured and her vision impaired. She was raised by her anti-Christian uncle, who began to plan her marriage. But after meeting with Catholic priests, Kateri decided to be baptized.

 

Following her Baptism by a Jesuit missionary in 1676 at age 20, Kateri’s family and village ostracized and ridiculed her. She fled the next year to Canada, taking refuge at St. Francis Xavier Mission in the Mohawk Nation at Caughnawaga on the St. Lawrence River, about 10 miles from Montreal, and made her First Communion on Christmas in 1677.

 

Kateri astounded the Jesuits with her deep spirituality and her devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. She took a private vow of virginity and devoted herself to teaching prayers to the children and helping the sick and elderly at Caughnawaga.

 

She died in 1680 at age 24. According to eyewitnesses, the scars on her face suddenly disappeared after her death. Soon after, Catholics started to claim that favors and miracles had been obtained through her intercession. Native Americans have made appeals to the Catholic Church for her recognition since at least the late 1800s.

 

Documentation for Kateri’s sainthood cause was sent to the Vatican in 1932. She was declared venerable in 1942 and in 1980 was beatified by Pope John Paul II.

 

Records for the final miracle needed for her canonization were sent to the Vatican in July 2009. It involved the full recovery of a young boy in Seattle whose face had been disfigured by flesh-eating bacteria and who almost died from the disease. His family, who is part Native American, had prayed for Kateri’s intercession. On December 19, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI signed the decree recognizing the miracle, clearing the way for Kateri’s canonization.

 

 

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

 

1. When we partake of the Eucharistic bread and wine, do we believe that it is the font of wisdom and eternal life? How do we translate this belief into our daily life?

 

2. Like Philip, do we make an effort to enlighten the uninitiated with regards to the meaning of the Scriptures? Do we seek to spread the Easter faith to those who are seeking for the light of truth?

 

 

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

 

O Risen Christ,

you are the font of wisdom

and source of eternal life.

By our sharing in the sacred meal,

you enable us to share in your paschal destiny.

We believe that you are really and substantially present

in the most holy sacrament of your body and blood.

Make us your zealous Easter witnesses.

Help us to proclaim the joy of the Gospel

in today’s fragmented world.

We give you thanks and 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 day. Please memorize it.

 

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever.” (Jn 6:51) // “He continued on his way rejoicing.” (Acts 8:39)  

 

 

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

 

By your self-giving love and sacrifice, enable the people around you to experience the healing and transforming power of the Risen Christ, present in the Eucharist. Resolve to study the Scriptures more devoutly and faithfully. Seek to share the life-transforming power of the Word with the people close to you.

 

***

 

May 9, 2014: FRIDAY – EASTER WEEKDAY (3)

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Flesh Is True Food and His Blood Is True Drink … Paul is His Vessel of Election”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 9:1-20 // Jn 6:52-59

 

 

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

 

With the eyes of faith, it is easy to perceive the answer to the “HOW” of salvation and the workings of the miracle of love, the Eucharist. From the point of view of the believer’s heart, everything is possible with God. The principal challenge in today’s Gospel reading (Jn 6:51-18) is faith in the power of God and his beloved Son, Jesus, to give life by the means they choose. Jesus does not answer the cynical “HOW” of the unbelievers, but gives powerful statements about himself and his new presence in the sacrament of the Eucharist. He also affirms the necessity of feeding upon his body and blood as the food for the new life that he comes to give in abundance. In the Eucharistic species, he is the true FLESH to eat and the true BLOOD to drink. Through a miracle of love and the power of faith, the Eucharistic bread becomes the reality of Jesus’ glorified body; the Eucharistic wine becomes the reality of Jesus’ sacred blood.

 

The following article in a brochure about “The Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano, Italy” gives insight into this.

 

In the city of Lanciano, around the year 700 of Our Lord, there was a monk who, although learned in the sciences of the world, was ignorant in those of God, and therefore not strong in his faith. He was plagued by a doubt as to whether the consecrated Host was truly the Body of Christ and the consecrated wine truly His Blood.

 

He was a person dedicated more to science than to wisdom, interested more in the world than in the Absolute, trusting more in reason than in contemplation. We can recognize in him a person of our own times: he resembles each of us to an extraordinary degree.

 

However, he constantly prayed that God would take this wound from his heart, and divine grace did not abandon him, because the almighty God, Father of mercy and consolation, was pleased to raise him up from the depths of his darkness and to grant him the same grace that he had shown to the Apostle Saint Thomas.

 

One morning, as he was celebrating Mass, after he had already said the most holy words of consecration (“This is My Body … This is My Blood …”), as Jesus had taught it to his Apostles, his doubts and errors weighed upon him more heavily than ever. By a most singular and marvelous favor then, he saw the Bread changed into Flesh and then wine into Blood.

 

Frightened and confused by so great and so stupendous a Miracle, he stood quite a while as if transported in a divine ecstasy; but eventually, his fear gave way to the spiritual happiness that filled his soul, and he turned his joyful yet tearful face to those around him, exclaiming, “… Behold the Flesh and the Blood of our Most Beloved Christ.”

 

At those word the bystanders ran with devout haste to the altar and, completely terrified, began, not without copious tears, to cry for mercy. The faithful, having become direct witnesses themselves, spread the news throughout the city.

 

Today, twelve centuries after the miraculous occurrence, the Holy Relics have remained practically intact. Upon superficial examination, the Host of Flesh, which is still in one piece and has retained the dimensions of the original “Large Host”, has a fibrous appearance and a brown color, which becomes light-reddish if one places a light in the back of the Ostensorium.

 

The Blood, contained in the chalice, has an earthy color, inclined towards the yellow of ocher, and consists of five coagulated globules. Each of the parts is uneven in shape and size, and when weighed together, the total weight is equal to that of each piece.

 

The actual spot of the Miracle is located beneath the present-day Church of Saint Francis. The Miracle itself is preserved in the second tabernacle, which is found in the middle of the high altar. The Host, now changed into Flesh, is contained in a silver Monstrance. The wine, now changed to Blood, is contained in a crystal chalice.

 

OFFICIAL POSITION OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH: Local Church and Vatican officials have authenticated the Holy Relics on many occasions since the Middle Ages. In 1672, Pope Clement X declared the altar of the Eucharistic Miracle a privileged altar on all Mondays of the year. In 1887, the Archbishop of Lanciano obtained from Pope Leo XIII a plenary indulgence in perpetuity to those who visit the Church of the Miracle during the eight days preceding the annual feast day, which falls on the last Sunday in October.

 

SCIENTIFIC STUDIES: A rigorous scientific analysis was performed in 1970-71 by Professor Dr. Odorardo Linoli, University Professor at large in anatomy and pathological histology and in chemistry and clinical microscopy. Head Physician of Arezzo, Prof. Linoli, was assisted by Professor Dr. Ruggero Bertelli, a Professor Emeritus of anatomy at the University of Siena.

 

The research done on the fragments of the Blood and Flesh yielded the following results:

-        The blood of the Eucharistic Miracle is real Blood and the Flesh is real flesh.

-        The Flesh consists of the muscular tissue of the heart.

-        The Blood and the Flesh belong to the human species.

-        The blood type is identical in the Blood and in the Flesh.

-        The proteins in the Blood are in the same proportions as those in normal fresh blood.

-        There is no trace whatsoever of any material agents used for preservation of flesh or blood.

 

Science, when called to testify, has confirmed what we have believed in Faith and what the Catholic Church has taught for the last 2,000 years; echoing the words of Christ, “My flesh is real food; my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood dwells continually in me and I dwell in him.”

 

***

 

Today’s account from the Acts of the Apostles (9:1-20) is about the conversion of Saint Paul and his call to be “the instrument chosen to bring the Lord’s name to the Gentiles”. On the road to Damascus, Saul of Tarsus has a profound, dynamic spiritual experience. It is God’s initiative, grace and compassion that brought about Paul’s encounter with the Risen Lord. It is an experience of light – of revelation – of who Christ really is. Jesus of Nazareth reveals himself as the One being persecuted by Saul in his Body the Church. It is a knocked-down experience that leaves Paul vulnerable, defenseless and open to grace. He could not help but welcome the loving initiative of God. Saint Paul is a model for us of total receptivity and openness to grace. Paul’s spiritual journey is a spiritual experience that produces a transformation and impels him to assume a mission of evangelization. The converted Paul thus becomes an apostle of Christ to the nations.  Immediately after his conversion, Paul begins to proclaim in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.

 

The conversion and mission of Saint Paul in spreading the Gospel to the nations deeply impressed Blessed James Alberione, the founder of the Pauline Family to which the PDDM religious congregation belongs. He explains the role of Saint Paul with regards to the Pauline Family, composed of five religious congregations and five secular and aggregated institutes (cf.  Luigi Rolfo, SSP, James Alberione: Apostle for Our Times, New York: Alba House, 1987, p. 233).

 

Saint Paul the Apostle is our Father, Teacher, and Protector. He has done everything … The life of the Pauline Family comes from the Eucharist, but it is St. Paul who communicates it … He has made this Family with an intervention so physical and spiritual that not even now, reflecting back upon it, can it be understood very well, much less explained.

 

Everything is his. From him, who applied the Gospel to the nations and called the nations to Christ, have we received the most complete interpretation of the Divine Master … from him, whose presence in the theology, the moral teaching, the organization of the Church and in the adaptability of the apostolate to the times is very lively and substantial, and will remain so until the end of time. He moved everything, illuminated everything, nourished everything; he was the guide, the provider, the defense, the supporter, wherever the Pauline Family was established.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we allow our life to be troubled and shortchanged by the unbeliever’s “HOW”? With regards to the Eucharistic mystery, do we sometimes react with incredulity and ask: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat”? What is our response to Jesus’ radical Eucharistic affirmation: “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink”?

 

2. Each of us has a spiritual experience. How do we imitate Paul in being receptive and responsive to this experience? Do we imitate him in our work of conversion and “christification”? How do we carry out the mission of evangelization?

 

 

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

 (From the Prayers of the Pauline Family) 

 

Jesus, eternal Truth, I believe you are really present in the bread and wine. You are here with your body, blood, soul and divinity. I hear your invitation: “I am the living bread descended from heaven”, “take and eat; this is my body”. I believe, Lord and Master, but strengthen my weak faith. 

 

Jesus Master, you assure me: “I am the Life”, “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood will have eternal life.” In baptism and in the sacrament of reconciliation you have communicated to me this life of yours. Now you nourish it by making yourself my food. Take my heart; detach it from the vain things of the world. With all my heart I love you above all things because you are infinite goodness and eternal happiness. 

 

I bless you, Jesus, for the great mercy granted to Saint Paul in changing him from a bold persecutor to an ardent apostle of the Church. And you, great saint, obtain for me a heart docile to grace, conversion from my principal defect and total configuration with Jesus Christ.

 

 

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 flesh is true food, and my blood true drink.” (Jn 6:52-59). // “This man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles.”  (Acts 9:15) 

 

 

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

 

Before you receive communion at the celebration of the Eucharist, recall with conviction the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and make an act of faith. Spread the Gospel to the people around you by promoting the reading of the Gospel and the Pauline epistles. 

 

***

 

May 10, 2014: SATURDAY – EASTER WEEKAY (3); SAINT DAMIEN VEUSTER, priest (USA)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Us to a Radical Faith and Strengthens the Faith Community”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 9:31-42 // Jn 6:60-69

 

 

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

 

Fr. Jon Sobrino, a Jesuit theologian based in El Salvador, gives us a firsthand account of an incident that illustrates Archbishop Oscar Romero’s radical response for Christ and the good of his people. 

 

On May 19, 1977 the army went to Aguilares, expelled the three remaining Jesuits, desecrated the church and sacristy, and declared a state of emergency. After a month of the state of emergency, the army simply drove the people out of Aguilares. Archbishop Romero decided to go there at the first opportunity, denounce the atrocities that had been committed, and try to inspire a threatened, terrorized people with hope. ‘You are Christ today, suffering in history,’ he told them. After the Mass we held a procession of the Blessed Sacrament. We processed out into a little square in front of the church to make reparation for the soldiers’ desecration of the sacramental Body of Christ and the living Body of Christ, the murdered ‘campesinos’. Across the square, in front of the town hall, were armed troops, standing there watching us, sullen, arrogant and unfriendly. We were uneasy. In fact, we were afraid. We had no idea what might happen. And we all instinctively turned around and looked at Archbishop Romero, who was bringing up the rear, holding the monstrance. ‘Adelante! (Forward!)’, said Archbishop Romero. And we went right ahead.

 

On March 24, 1980, Archbishop Romero was shot to death while celebrating the Mass, the blood of his martyred body mixing with the sacramental body and blood of Christ on the altar of Eucharistic sacrifice.  The death of Archbishop Romero sealed his fundamental option to commit himself totally to Christ and to be radically united with him, who is the Son of God, the living bread come down from heaven, the food for eternal life. 

 

Today’s Gospel reading highlights the fundamental option and core decision of the disciples, either to break away from Christ or to reinforce their commitment to him. The scenario, however, ends on a very positive note. Addressing the Twelve, the most intimate circle of Jesus’ disciples, he said: “Do you also want to leave?” (Jn 6:67). Simon Peter answered truthfully, vocalizing the fundamental option of the Twelve: “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God” (Jn 6:68-69). Responding with faith to Jesus’ self-revelation as the Holy One of God and source of life, Peter’s confession is a paradigm of the radical decision of the Eucharistic-centered community of believers through all ages to love and follow Christ. The choice we have made must be proven in our daily life.

***

 

The Acts of the Apostles (9:31-42) paints a beautiful picture of the early Church in its springtime of growth. The Church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria has a time of peace. Through the Holy Spirit it is being built up and strengthened. It grows in number and lives in reverence for the Lord. Through the wonderful works of the apostles, many come to believe in Jesus. Today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles presents the apostle Peter as continuing the works of Christ Jesus. Peter heals the paralytic, Aeneas, and raises to life Tabitha in the name of Jesus. The healing of Aeneas, confined to his bed for eight years, evokes the miraculous cure of the paralytic (Lk 5:17-26) in Galilee. He was healed at Jesus’ command: “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home!” Likewise, the raising up to life of Tabitha makes us think of Jairus’ deceased daughter who was raised to life by Jesus (Lk 8:49-56). Having witnessed the healing of Aeneas, the people in Lydda and Sharon turn to the Lord Jesus. Likewise, having heard of the miracle accomplished by Peter in raising Tabitha to life, many come to believe in Jesus, the Risen Lord.

 

Miracles continue to be experienced in the here and now. The intercession of saints helps to bring these about and these holy “signs” become an occasion for conversion and the growth of the Church (cf. “Linked Across the Centuries” in ALIVE! March 2013, p. 3)

 

In early 2011 Marilyn Pinkerton’s baby grandson, Nicholas, was diagnosed with nail-patella syndrome. This is a genetic disorder that prevents proper development of the finger nails and kneecaps and sometimes other parts of the body. Among other problems, Nicholas had no kneecaps, and doctors wondered if he would ever be able to walk.

 

Pinkerton lived near a convent of Carmelite nuns in San Marino, a short distance from Los Angeles. According to the National Catholic Register, the 57-year-old woman spoke to the nuns who suggested that she pray for her grandson to Blessed Margaret of Castello. Although she was not a Catholic, Pinkerton began to attend daily Mass with the nuns, pleading with God through the intercession of Margaret for the baby’s health.

 

Nicholas was having ongoing therapy for other symptoms of the disorder. But, said Marilyn, “while I kept praying and praying, he got better and better.” The most impressive improvement occurred a year after she began her devotion to Bl. Margaret. “Last March”, said the Register, “the doctors were again examining Nicholas and for the first time, they discovered he had kneecaps. He is now able to walk and run like other typically developing children of his age.”

 

Said Pinkerton, “Nicholas is our miracle baby. He has defied the odds of everything they thought he’d be able to do.” Margaret of Castello, she said, “had so many handicaps, but through it all she had great faith. I pray I can have that great faith, too.”

 

Last Easter, she, her husband and her daughter (the baby’s mother) all had the immense joy of being received into the Catholic Church. “It has given me so much strength”, said the grateful grandmother.

 

Blessed Margaret was born in 1287 to a noble family near Florence, Italy. From birth she suffered from various severe physical ailments. A dwarf, she had a curved spine that left her hunched over, was lame to the point that she could barely walk, and blind. Her family kept her hidden for many years. Aged 6, she was walled up in a room beside a chapel in the castle. But the family’s chaplain fostered her faith in God.

 

When she was 20 her parents took her a distance to a Franciscan shrine, seeking a miracle. It didn’t happen, so they simply abandoned her to the streets. The down and outs took care of her but after a time her joy and holiness were becoming evident to the townspeople.

 

Margaret became a member of the Dominican Third Order, developed a deep prayer life and devoted the remainder of her 33-year life to penance and acts of kindness. For the last three years of her life she was frequently ill, probably due to her disabilities.

 

When she died on 13 April 1320 the townspeople thronged to her funeral and insisted she be buried inside the church. The priest agreed only when a crippled girl was miraculously cured. Margaret was beatified in 1609. In recent years a new popular devotion to her has developed, thanks to the US pro-life movement and the Dominican friars.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we manifest in our life our option for Christ: “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God”?

 

2.  Do we feel a part of the building up of the Church? What do we do personally to make people turn to the Lord Jesus and come to believe in him?

 

 

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

 

O Risen Christ,

we believe in you who said:

“I am the living bread which came down from heaven;

if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.”

Nourished by this heavenly food,

make us always yearn and toil

for the coming of God’s kingdom.

O Risen Master,

to whom shall we go?

You have the words of eternal life.

Help us to manifest in our life

the fundamental choice we have made for you.

Give us the grace to help build your Church,

the people of God.

We love you and adore 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 week. Please memorize it.

 

“Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (Jn 6:68) // “The Church was being built up … and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit she grew in numbers.” (Acts 9:31)

 

 

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

 

Create a space of quiet and serenity within yourself. Reinforce your core decision for Christ by pronouncing repeatedly, as a mantra: “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” When your faith is challenged, be ready to stand up for it. 

 

***

 

 

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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