A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday and Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 12, n. 24)

Easter Week 4: May 11-17, 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: May 4-10, 2014, please go to ARCHIVES Series 12 and click on “Easter Week 3”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: May 11-17, 2014.)

 

***

 

May 11, 2014: FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

51st WORLD DAY OF PRAYER FOR VOCATIONS

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Gate of Salvation and the Good Shepherd”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 2:14a, 36-41 // I Pt 2:20b-25 // Jn 10:1-10

 

 

I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS

 

Using the metaphor of shepherds and the imagery of a door or a gate, today’s Gospel reading (Jn 10:1-10) presents Jesus as the legitimate Shepherd of the flock and the gate of the sheepfold. According to the biblical scholar, Neal Flanagan: “The discussion about the sheep and the shepherd is probably being used by John as a statement regarding the miserable shepherding being effected by such authorities as appear in the case of the man born blind. Blind guides themselves, they not only fail to recognize the leading light that is Jesus but cast out of the synagogue the one man who does accept the light … Crucial to the identification of the author’s purpose at this point is the necessary realization that he is writing about Jesus with the text of Ezekiel 34 in clear view. In that passage, Ezekiel, speaking God’s word, excoriates the authorities of his own time. They had become irresponsible and thieving shepherds, feeding themselves rather than their flock. So God would take away their mal-administration and become the shepherd himself. Finally he would appoint another shepherd after the figure of David. John sees all of this coming true in Jesus. God has become the shepherd in Jesus, himself Messiah and Son of David. Jesus’ fidelity to his sheep, his sacrifice for them, stands out in contrast to the failure of the stumbling, blinded, bullying authorities in chapter 9 … Jesus is the GOOD SHEPHERD loved by the Father because he will lay down his life for the sheep. It is this act of total, loving self-sacrifice that is mentioned again and again as the central motif … Though the shepherd-sheep metaphor was well known in the Old Testament Scriptures (as in Ezekiel 34), this laying down of the shepherd’s life is something new. It is the characteristic function of Jesus. He is the good shepherd especially because of his willing self-sacrifice.”

 

The metaphor of the shepherd-sheep is superimposed upon that of the sheep gate. As the gate for the sheep, Jesus provides safety for the flock by prohibiting entrance to marauders and food by opening out onto good pasture lands. Indeed, as the true guardian and legitimate shepherd, Jesus is the way to salvation and the fullness of life. Harold Buetow remarks: “Jesus also calls himself the Gate for the sheep. Gate is also what we mean by door. In our time of electric and automatic entrances and keys and locks we think of doors mostly as territorial barriers against being robbed or otherwise violated. Doors stand between public and private, between mine and yours. Doors signal hospitable greeting or blatant rejection, the last barrier across which guards throw themselves against an invading enemy. Even in our space age, doors have not lost those meanings. But Jesus had more in mind. Imagine yourself a cosmonaut walking in outer space, umbilically attached to your craft. Seeing that your air reserve is almost gone, you realize that it is time for you to return to your ship. You reach for the hatch lever and find the door is locked. You desperately claw the bolted door. When the door is thrown open from within and you are pulled through it to escape into life, you realize the importance of a door and the meaning of the gate of life.”

 

Indeed, the true guardian of the sheep gives us access to the fullness of life. Jesus avowed his life-giving mission as a shepherd: “I came so that they may have life and have it more abundantly” (Jn 10:10). Jesus’ pastoral mission of giving life to his flock was fully achieved in his paschal sacrifice on the Cross that led to his glorious resurrection. The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 3, assert: “Jesus has passed the gate of death to enter into glory: “God has made him Lord and Messiah.” To proclaim his resurrection is to recognize that he is the guide in whose footsteps we must follow in order to have life, and to have it more fully. He marches at the head of the ransomed people, leading them on the road in their paschal exodus. This shepherd, whose face is worn by suffering, but also shines with light, leads us confidently on difficult paths. He watches that nothing unfortunate may happen to us. If the mist sometimes obscures our vision, his voice continues to lead us in the right direction.”

 

As we celebrate today the 51st World Day of Prayer for Vocations, it is fitting to present a profile of a priest who is configured to Jesus the Gate of Salvation and the Good Shepherd (cf. Russell Shaw, “Knights’ Success Built on Founder’s Desire for Charity” in Our Sunday Visitor, May 4, 2014, p. 14-15).

 

In many ways, Father Michael J. McGivney was just one more of that band of hardworking Irish-American priests who spent themselves building up the Church in America in the latter years of the 19th century. But in one truly extraordinary respect, he was unique. Before he was 30, Michael McGivney had founded what was to become the largest Catholic men’s organization in the world: the Knights of Columbus. (…)

 

Father McGivney was born August 12, 1852, in Waterbury, Connecticut, the oldest of 13 children of an immigrant couple named Patrick and Mary Lynch McGivney. Six of his brothers and sisters died in infancy or childhood. His father worked in Waterbury brass mill. A quick learner, young Michael felt an early attraction to the priesthood and prepared for the seminary. Following studies at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, he was ordained in December 1877 by Archbishop (later Cardinal) Gibbons. His first assignment was at St. Mary’s in New Haven.

 

There he became convinced that a benevolent organization for Catholic men was required as a means of providing their families with financial support in times of need while also keeping the men themselves out of the clutches of anti-Catholic secret societies. The priest and his lay associates explored various options, including establishing a local branch of some already existing group. Eventually, though, they decided to launch a brand new organization – a “cooperative benefit order” to be called the Knights of Columbus. (…)

 

Two years after the founding, Father McGivney was named pastor of St. Thomas Church in Thomaston, Connecticut. Responsibility for a second parish also came with the job. Working alone, he carried a backbreaking pastoral load while managing to stay active in defending and promoting the Knights. Never physically robust, in January 1890 he contracted pneumonia. His health declined during the following months, and on August 14 he died. He was only 38. His funeral and the burial in his hometown of Waterbury were major public events.

 

The process that could one day lead the Church to recognize Father McGivney as a saint was formally opened in 1996. At present he has the title “Venerable”. Last August, Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson reported to the group’s annual convention that a possible miracle worked through his intercession is now being studied by the Vatican’s congregation for saints. (…)

 

***

 

In today’s First Reading (Acts 2:14a, 36-41), the personal response of faith to Jesus leads to the remarkable growth of the Church, the flock of disciples who have embraced the Easter event of Christ’s death, resurrection and glorification. Three thousand people listening to Peter’s Easter proclamation are moved to repentance and are baptized. Through the evangelizing ministry of Peter and the apostles, the people respond to the saving call of Jesus, the Shepherd and Sheep Gate. They are moved to conversion, of which baptism is a powerful and efficacious sign.

 

Indeed, salvation is mediated by Jesus and is offered to Jews and non-Jews alike as a gift through the Holy Spirit. The voice of the Shepherd resounds compassionately throughout the world and inspires a response of faith throughout time and space, and in the diversity of races and cultures. The Servant of God, Dr. Takashi Nagai, from Nagasaki, Japan is an icon of a beautiful and whole-hearted response to the life-giving call of Christ the Lord (cf. “The Mystic of Nagasaki” from the book The City of Silence”, 1995, p. 100-114).

 

Dr. Nagai was a patriot whose Shinto family had imbued him with Nihon-teki, the expression of the Japanese spirit. He was born in 1908 and raised in Shimane Prefecture, the oldest son (he had four younger siblings) of a physician father, from whom he inherited a love for science. His mother endowed him with respect for intuition and the contemplative spirit; she taught him “how to find the universe in a bowl of rice” … His childhood years bestowed on him a love of nature, a willingness to accept communal responsibility and a familial duty, and a sense of wonder and enjoyment of the world. At twelve Takashi Nagai was sent to Matsue to attend secondary school and in 1928 he began his medical studies at the University of Nagasaki. Science and Japanese culture, not faith, were the passions that informed his student years, and he read widely and avidly the canon of Western thought and literature that came to Japan in the wake of Meiji Restoration. His mother’s death in 1931 initiated a period of profound grief and questioning, beginning a journey of faith that was midwifed by the French mystic scientist Blaise Pascal. Attracted to Catholicism but knowing little about its belief and practices, he decided to room with a Catholic family. He was taken in by the Moriyama family, descendants of leaders of the Hidden Christian community. He began to explore Christian beliefs under their example and guidance. More decisively, he fell in love with Midori, the Moriyama’s daughter and only child.

 

Midori Moriyama and Takashi Nagai were married in 1934 after Nagai returned from a year of military service in Manchuria and after his conversion to Catholicism. His baptism in June 1934 caused a painful split with his father, but in a relatively short time Midori’s gentle spirit would repair that rift. Takashi and Midori Nagai had a tender and loving marriage, and she was unfailing support during the years when he devoted himself to his successful, if meagerly remunerated, research career. An illness on the eve of his medical graduation had left him deaf in one ear; unable to use a stethoscope, he developed a specialty in radiology, which had been newly introduced to Japan in the 1930’s. In 1940 he was made assistant professor and in 1945 became the dean of radiology at the University of Nagasaki.

 

On August 7, 1945, in response to news of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Midori had taken their two children to her mother’s nearby rural home; she returned to Nagasaki the next day and was killed instantly by the bomb. Two days later, her grief-stricken husband found her charred remains in her kitchen, a rosary clasped “among the powdered bones of her right hand”. Dr. Nagai was in his office at the medical school, located between three and seven hundred meters from the epicenter, preparing for a lecture on diagnostic radiology when “the flash of blinding light took place” … Co-workers freed him from the rubble and despite his severe cuts and serious loss of blood (his right temporal artery had been cut) Dr. Nagai quickly mobilized the surviving medical personnel into an effective team to rescue the more severely injured patients and staff from the fires that destroyed the hospital in the aftermath of the bomb. For two days, before they were relieved by a military rescue team, they treated victims who laboriously made their way to the once-respected medical facility, only to find it in ruins, its few surviving physicians and nurses frustrated by their lack of medicine and instruments … On August 12, Dr. Nagai and a small group of medical workers left “the world of ashes” that was Nagasaki and made their way to the valley of Mitsuyama, noted for the healing property of its mineral springs. In Koba they established a first aid station and began walking from home to home, village to village, examining and treating the sick with the most basic of medicines. Despite hard work, sacrifice and mourning, Dr. Nagai writes of the tenderness and compassion of those days, when they were fed by farmers who had so generously opened their homes to the survivors, and how they patiently cared for hideously infected wounds and burns. “To show and receive tender care … this was our life.”

 

The sense of responsibility led them to make careful observations on the development of radiation disease in their patients and themselves. Dr. Nagai himself collapsed on September 26 and lay close to death; his recovery, on October 25, was considered miraculous. Shortly thereafter, he moved to the ruins of Urakami and built a small, crude shack as a home for his small family: himself, his two children, and his mother-in-law. Eventually, a group of Nagasaki carpenters built him a pilgrim hut next to the shack, and he named it Nyokodo: “Love your neighbor as yourself”. It was in that hut that the doctor became a poet, the scientist was transformed into a mystic, and the man who loved the silence and privacy of his research laboratory gave his waning strength to sustain others. His simple hut became a monastic cell in which he contemplated God and the bomb, a man of action who, through sickness and pain, practiced unceasing prayer. It was there that he was given the grace to understand the redemptive nature of suffering, that even such profound losses could be seen and accepted as a part of God’s loving Providence. (…)

 

Despite his progressively worsening health and the need to insure financial support for his children, Dr. Nagai assumed a greater role as a public figure. The popularity of his books resulted in a widespread correspondence, and he received numerous visitors, both the famous (Helen Keller and Emperor Hirohito) and unknown, ordinary citizens. The “Bells of Nagasaki” was made into a popular movie, and the song of the same title became Nagasaki’s unofficial city theme song. In addition to his books, he wrote countless newspaper and journal articles and gave large sums of money to help rebuild the institutions of Christian Urakami. None of this acclaim deflected from his serene acceptance of voluntary poverty or the constancy of his devotion to God, his children, and the people of vanquished Japan. Dr. Nagai received both secular and religious honors: in 1949 he became the first Christian to be honored as a National Hero of Japan because of his work toward the spiritual restoration of the country. In 1949, he received a rosary from Pope Pius XII, and it was gripped in his hand when he died on May 1, 1951. Twenty thousand mourners filled the cathedral to mourn his death, forming a three-mile procession to the graveyard where his ashes were enshrined. His tombstone bears the simple, eloquent epitaph from Luke: “We are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty.”

 

***

 

The Second Reading (I Pt 2:20b-25) is an impassioned appeal to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, the shepherd and guardian of souls. He suffered for us so greatly and completely that by his wounds we were healed. We were like sheep that had lost their way, but now we have been brought back to follow Christ, who showed us the redemptive meaning of suffering. To follow Jesus, the shepherd and guardian of souls, is to tread the life-giving path of sacrifice and assume his pastoral stance of personal giving and loving service.

 

The biblical scholar Jose Cervantes Gabarron comments: “Always to maintain oneself in the attitude of availability and service, even before those who cause unjust suffering, is the Christian vocation par excellence, following the example of Christ … This attitude of being available even in a situation of unjust suffering is valued as a grace, a gift from God, if it is accepted in virtue of the experience that one has of God and of doing good. It is not the pain itself that constitutes grace, but rather the suffering caused by doing what is good, or of countering evil with good just as Christ did.”

 

The following story gives insight into how we could manifest the gentle and caring attitude of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, in daily life and initiate a “friendly move” that would reflect the Shepherd’s searching for the sheep (cf. Nona Bridges, “A Friendly Move” in GUIDEPOSTS, April 2011, p. 20-22).

 

I unpacked another box in the living room, carefully peeling away sheet after sheet of the newspaper protecting our picture frames, candleholders and vases. For a moment I stopped and peeked out the front window, hoping to see a neighbor coming up the drive to introduce herself. But there was no one. Only the sound of the wind. Like all the times I’d checked before.

 

It was late January, a month since my husband, teenage son and I had moved into our new house, and still not a soul has come over even to say hi, let alone bring a housewarming gift. What was up with my new neighbors? I looked out the window again. The skeleton-like trees in the front yard only added to my loneliness. It was odd, at 43, to feel like the new kid, wondering if I was going to be accepted.

 

I’d been excited about the move. There was more room, a space where we could grow a garden, even a swimming pool. Most of all we were in a real neighborhood. Where we’d come from, farther out into the country, we lived next to a highway, not the kind of place where people strolled over to borrow a cup of sugar or chat after dinner. I’d so looked forward to getting to know everyone. I’d asked God to help me meet some good friends here, never imagining it would be this difficult. Love your neighbors? I thought now. I’d settle for just knowing their names.

 

I had thought about making the effort to introduce myself. But the few times I’d seen people out in their yards it had usually been just as they were getting home or on their way out. I didn’t want to impose and, well, I was busy too, rushing out the door to get to my part-time job at the college or to pick up dinner fixings at the grocery store.

 

I emptied a few more boxes, then decided to take a break to go to the mall. I got in the car and backed out of the driveway. Glancing behind me to look for traffic, I caught a glimpse of the house across the street. That’s odd, I thought. There was a wooden wheelchair ramp attached to the porch. I hadn’t noticed that before.

 

As I drove past the next-door neighbors’ I saw a big blue ribbon tied to their mailbox. They must have had a baby! I felt a tingle of excitement. I ought to get them a little gift, I thought.

 

I picked up a baby blanket at the mall and had it wrapped. On the way home I stopped to deliver it, introducing myself. “That’s so sweet”, the young mother said, cradling her newborn. “I wish I’d been able to come over and welcome you but I’ve hardly had a moment …”

 

“I know how it is”, I said. I could remember all those sleepless night with a new baby and how exhausted I’d been. My life was a breeze compared to hers. Back home I stared out the front window at the house across the street. That wheelchair ramp. Maybe there’s something I can do to help. Suddenly, unpacking another box of books didn’t seem that important.

 

I whipped up a batch of cookies and took them across the street. The woman who answered the door looked tired, but when she saw the plate in my hand her face broke into a smile. “My son broke his hip and had moved back in with us”, she said. “I’ve barely had a chance to leave the house.”

 

I gave her a hug, wishing I had come over sooner, but in the tightness of her embrace I felt something unexpected: friendship. That was the first of many hugs we’ve exchanged over the years. We’ve shared vegetables from our gardens, cookie recipes, countless joys and sorrows. The best way to make friends, it turns out, is to be one.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we truly thank the Lord for the gift of Jesus, the true Shepherd and the sheep gate that gives access to eternal life? Do we listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd? How? Today’s Good Shepherd Sunday is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. How do we participate in promoting vocational awareness in the Church?

 

2. In this Eastertide, do we continue to cherish the gift of repentance and baptism in the Church, the community of faith? Do we welcome and pray for the newly baptized?

 

3. Do we realize the sufferings that “the shepherd and guardian of our souls” endured in order to save us? Do we resolve to hear his voice and follow him for “by his wounds we have been healed”?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

we thank you for the Easter gift of Jesus Christ,

the Gate of Salvation and the Good Shepherd.

By our Easter witnessing,

may we enable people of all cultures and races

to respond to him in a spirit of repentance,

of which baptism is an efficacious sign.

Let there be but one flock and one Shepherd.

We 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.

 

“I am the gate for the sheep … Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.” (Jn 10:9-10)

 

 

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

 

            Pray for an increase of vocations in the Church. Contribute to the promotion, formation and perseverance of priestly and religious vocations through spiritual, moral and material assistance.

 

*** 

 

May 12, 2014: MONDAY – EASTER WEEKDAY (4);

SAINT NEREUS AND ACHILLEUS, martyrs;

SAINT PANCRAS, martyr

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Cares for His Sheep”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 11:1-18 // Jn 10:11-18 (the alternative text)

 

 

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

 

Jesus is the ultimate Shepherd, exceedingly loved by the Father because he lays down his life for the sheep. His act of total, loving self-sacrifice is in sharp contrast to the miserable shepherding of the false leaders of his time. Indeed, Jesus is able to accomplish his role as the Good Shepherd of the Father’s flock because he and the Father are one. The pastoral ministry of Jesus is inclusive: “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd”. This all-inclusive ministry flows out from his loving and intimate relationship with the Father who has compassionate care for all. The pastoral mission of the Good Shepherd finds completion on the cross when he lays down his life for the sheep. His life-giving ministry needs to be actualized in the “here and now” by his disciples.

 

True pastoral ministry may be verified in the life of Archbishop Van Thuan who was a prisoner in various Communist prisons in Vietnam for thirteen years, nine of them in solitary confinement (cf. Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, Testimony of Hope, Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2000, p.75-76).

 

At 9:00 in the evening of December 1, 1976, I suddenly found myself with a large group of prisoners. Chained one to the other in pairs, we were loaded by police onto a truck. A short trip brought us to Tan Cang (Newport), a new military port opened by the Americans a few years before. In front of us we saw a ship, but it was hidden in such a way that people would not be aware of what is happening.

 

We boarded and went north – a voyage of 1,700 kilometers. Along with other prisoners, I was taken to the hold of the ship where the coal is loaded. Our only light came from a small oil lamp; other than that, complete darkness reigned. A total of 1,500 people were forced to endure indescribable conditions. (…) The next morning, a little sunlight infiltrated the hold of the ship and, in that funereal atmosphere I could make out the distraught and despairing faces if the prisoners around me. Some of the prisoners called for me because a man had tried to hang himself with a steel wire. I spoke with him, and in the end he accepted my counsel. (Two years ago at an inter-religious encounter in California, I met this man again. Full of joy he came toward me, thanked me, and began to recount the whole incident while showing everyone the scar that still remains around his neck.)

 

During that trip, as the prisoners learned that Bishop Van Thuan was on board the ship, they approached me to tell me of their anguish. The hours passed, and I found myself sharing in their sufferings and comforting them throughout the day. The second night, in the cold of that December on the Pacific Ocean, I began to understand that a new stage in my vocation was beginning. I spent that three-day journey sustaining my fellow prisoners and meditating on the passion of Jesus.

 

***

 

The PDDM congregation (to which I belong) takes care of the Souvenir Shops at Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. When I was assigned in Rome, I also had the privilege of helping at the Souvenir Shops. There we meet pilgrims and tourists from all continents of the world. One Japanese Sister met a young man from Japan, a non-Christian. She became God’s instrument for his conversion. When he returned to Japan the youth enrolled in RCIA and became a Christian.

 

In today’s episode from the Acts of the Apostles (11:1-18), the Holy Spirit presses irresistibly toward the integration of all nations in Jesus Christ, and the apostle Peter is a principal instrument of that divine saving plan. Peter reports to the Church in Jerusalem what happened in Cornelius’ household in Caesarea. To those who criticized him for visiting and eating with the Gentiles, Peter justifies his conduct and attributes to God’s action the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Cornelius and his Gentile household, the same gift that was outpoured upon them at Pentecost when they believed in Jesus Christ. Peter asks rhetorically: “Who was I to be able to hinder God?”  Peter’s critics are pacified and conclude that God has also granted life-giving repentance to the Gentiles. Though the early Christian community now recognizes officially the evangelization of the Gentiles as God’s initiative, the battle is not wholly won: the issue of whether Christianity should be bound to the Jewish practices or not would recur (Cf. Acts 15).

 

 

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

 

1. How concretely do we incarnate the love and care of Jesus, the Good Shepherd in the here and now? Like the Good Shepherd, are we willing to lay down our life for the “sheep”? Who are the “sheep” that need our special care?

 

2. Are we receptive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, even to the necessity of assuming a new stance and perspective?

 

 

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

(Based on a prayer composed by Blessed James Alberione) 

 

We thank you, Jesus Good Shepherd,

for having come down from heaven to seek out humankind

and bring it back to the way of salvation.

In you is fulfilled the promise:

I will raise up in the midst of scattered sheep

a shepherd who will gather them and care for them.

Have mercy on those who nourish themselves

on falsehood and vanity.

Recall sinners to your way.

Sustain the wavering; strengthen the weak.

May everyone follow you,

Shepherd and Guardian of souls.

You alone are the Way.

You alone have the words of eternal life.

I will follow you wherever you go.

Amen. Alleluia.

 

And/or:   

 

Loving Father,

you granted life-giving repentance to all peoples

by the death and rising of your Son Jesus Christ.

Help us to imitate Saint Peter

who is open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit

and receptive to your universal saving plan.

Make us instruments of your Easter grace

to all the nations.

We ask this through our Lord 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 week. Please memorize it.

 

 

            “I am the good Shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” (Jn 10:11) // “God has granted life-giving repentance to the Gentiles too.” (Acts 11:18)

 

  

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

 

Express your gratitude to priests and all those who have truly carried out the ministry of the Good Shepherd in your local faith community.

 

***

 

May 13, 2014: TUESDAY – EASTER WEEKDAY (4); OUR LADY OF FATIMA

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Gives His Sheep Eternal Life”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 11:19-26 // Jn 10:22-30

 

 

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

  

            The following true story, published in Poverello News (March 2004), tells us how a desperate and hopeless young man, Rick McNiel, found “life” through the pastoral ministry of the staff of Poverello House, who believe in the dignity of every human being and provide care for the homeless, the poor and the disadvantaged. In 2002, Rick found himself living on the streets, in tremendous spiritual and emotional pain. His marriage had fallen apart, and he had been terminated from two drug rehab programs. He came to Poverello House in order to survive. Rick, however, made the mistake of breaking the community’s zero-tolerance policy for drugs and alcohol. Getting kicked out of a homeless mission was perhaps his lowest point, but sometimes good can emerge from brokenness and humiliation. The guard who found him drinking a bottle of vodka suggested that he come back the next day and try to get in the Resident Program. Rick had hit his bottom and was willing to listen. The miracle began at that moment. He did what was suggested. Rick narrates: “Something started happening … I faced things that I didn’t think were possible to deal with. Poverello really came through for me. The staff got to know me well enough that they saw when I needed a push, or when I needed to be confronted … There’s a lot of acceptance, but also accountability; if you mess up, you pay the price.” Rick is now a Poverello staff driver for donation pick-ups. He is in his own apartment, paying bills, and learning to be a responsible citizen all over again. Rick has come a long way since getting kicked out for that pint of vodka two years ago.

 

Rick McNiel’s inspiring story gives us a glimpse into what is presented in today’s Gospel (Jn 10:22-30) regarding the interpersonal relationship that exists between the life-giving Shepherd and the sheep that are called to follow the Shepherd. The Shepherd’s gift of eternal life demands a positive response from the recipients. Jesus said: “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me” (Jn 10:27). The interpersonal “knowledge” that exists between them necessitates receptivity in listening and obedience in following after Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Those who hear his voice and follow him obediently and lovingly are truly known by Jesus, the Good Shepherd. To the obedient and loving flock of disciples, whom he knows intimately and upon whom he would bestow the Easter gift of eternal life, Jesus gives the solemn assurance of divine protection. The perfect assurance given to the disciples comes not only from his solicitude and devotion as the Good Shepherd. Rather, the Son of God and Shepherd of the sheep can assure them of complete protection because the Father and he are one. Since the Father and the Son are one, no one can frustrate the divine saving plan, that is, the gift of eternal life for those who believe.

 

            Today’s Gospel passage contains an astounding Christ’s revelation: “The Father and I are one” (Jn 10:30), which is the basis for the life-giving pastoral ministry of Jesus. The profound mystery of unity between the Father and his Son Jesus, the victorious paschal Lamb, is the source of the latter’s incomparable power and unimpeachable authority as the Good Shepherd. He answers our most profound human longings and intense spiritual needs. Eternal life is the Good Shepherd’s most beautiful gift to us, the flock he shepherds.

 

***

 

In 1984 one of the best professors at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute in Rome suddenly died of a heart attack. The Benedictine Daniel Gelsi was a monk at the Greek Byzantine monastery of Chevetogne in Belgium. He was the foremost liturgical scholar specializing in the “Liturgical Traditions of the East”. At his funeral both the monks from the Roman Latin tradition and those from the Greek Byzantine rite participated. That was one of the most fascinating liturgical celebrations I have ever witnessed. Listening to the monks pray and chant for Fr. Gelsi, I felt that his soul was in the bosom of God, relishing the infinite beauty of the heavenly liturgy. I also felt blessed to experience the liturgical traditions of both the East and the West and the richness of a multi-cultural Church.

 

Today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles (11:19-26) depicts the proclamation of the Gospel to the “Greeks” in Antioch by the Greek-speaking Christian Jews from Cyprus and Cyrene (in African Libya). They do not limit their proclamation to Jews, but reach out also to the Gentiles. The Lord’s power is with them and many believe and turn to the Lord Jesus. When the news reached the church in Jerusalem, they send Barnabas to Antioch (the largest town in ancient Syria). What he sees makes him rejoice and he encourages the new Christians to be faithful and true to the Lord with all their hearts. As official representative of the Jerusalem church, the Cyprus-born Barnabas has the task of incorporating the Christian “Greeks” into the fold. He also engages Saul of Tarsus to help in the building up of the Gentile church through catechesis.  Antioch is where the believers are first called “Christians”.

 

***

 

Today is the optional memorial of Our Lady of Fatima, whose message of prayer, atonement and conversion calls us to live more fully the Easter mystery of Christ’s saving death and resurrection. In this Easter season it is fitting to contemplate the meaning of the Our Lady of Fatima in the life of the Church and the world (cf. “Our Lady, Our Guide” in Our Sunday Visitor, May 4, 2014, p. 11).

 

In 1917, Our Lady of the Rosary appeared for six consecutive months to three Portuguese children: Lucia Santos (1907-2005), Blessed Jacinta Marto (1910-1920), and Blessed Francisco Marto (1908-1919). Her message was one of prayer, atonement and devotion to her Immaculate Heart.

 

“Say the Rosary every day to bring peace to the world and an end to the war”, she said. “And after each one of the mysteries, my children, I want you to pray in this way: O my Jesus, forgive us our sins; save us from the fire of hell. Take all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need.”

 

“Make sacrifices for sinners and say often, especially while making a sacrifice: O Jesus, this is for love of Thee, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for offenses committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary”, she added. She revealed to the children a three-part secret: a vision of hell; a request for the First Saturday devotion and consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart; and the killing of a bishop dressed in white, along with other clergy, religious and laity. Pope Pius XII, Pope Paul VI, St. John Paul II and Pope Francis have consecrated the world to Mary’s Immaculate Heart, and the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith released text of the third part of the secret in 2000, along with commentary.

 

During the final apparition on October 13, Our Lady requested the construction of a chapel, and 70,000 onlookers witnessed the sun dance in the sky.  Bishop Jose Alves Correia da Silva of Leiria Fatima approved the apparition in 1930, and Pope Paul VI (1967), Pope Saint John Paul II (1982, 1991, 2000) and Pope Benedict XVI (2010) all made pilgrimages there.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we hear the voice of the Shepherd? Do we open our hearts to his call? Do we follow as true disciples? Do we incarnate in our life the life-giving ministry of Jesus, the Good Shepherd? Do we truly recognize and avow in the witnessing of our life the solemn revelation of Jesus, the Good Shepherd: “The Father and I are one” (Jn 10:30)?

 

2. Does the example of the enterprising Christian believers from Cyprus and Cyrene inspire you to be more pro-active in the ministry of evangelization in today’s world?

 

 

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

(From the prayers composed by Blessed James Alberione)

 

Jesus Good Shepherd,

who brought from heaven the fire of your love,

give us your heart.

Inflame us with the desire for the glory of God

and with a great love for our brothers and sisters.

Make us sharers in your apostolate.

Live in us,

that we may radiate you

in word, suffering, in pastoral action,

in the example of a good life.

We offer you ourselves as docile and faithful sheep,

to become worthy of cooperating

in your pastoral mission in the Church.

Dispose all minds and hearts

to receive your grace.

Come, divine Shepherd, guide us;

may there soon be one flock and one shepherd.

 

And/or:

 

Loving Father,

we thank you for the missionary zeal

of the first Christian believers in Cyprus and Cyrene

and for their enthusiasm

in proclaiming the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ

to the “Greeks” as well.

Help us to be receptive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit,

who propels us to evangelize all the nations.

We bless 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.

           

“My sheep hear my voice … I give them eternal life.” (Jn 10:27-28) //“They began to speak to the Greeks as well, proclaiming the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 11:20)  

 

 

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

 

United with Mother Mary, Our Lady of Fatima, pray the Rosary for peace in the world.

 

***

 

May 14, 2014: WEDNESDAY – SAINT MATTHIAS, APOSTLE

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Chooses Matthias as His Apostle”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 1:15-17, 20-26 // Jn 15:9-17

 

 

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

 

As Christian disciples, we nurture the Easter blessings we receive from God the Father. We are called to live a life of loving obedience to his saving will in imitation of Jesus, his Son-Servant. At the level of service, we are “slaves” since we follow the way of the Servant of Yahweh. Serving with love is deeply rewarding and exalting. At the level of intimacy, we are not “slaves” “because a slave does not know what his master is doing” (Jn 15:15), but “friends”. Our Lord Jesus Christ tells us: “I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father” (Jn 15:15). 

 

The love of Christ moves us to love one another. The fact that God loves us into a new existence in Jesus and that we are no longer slaves but friends, empowers us to follow Christ’s command: “Love one another as I love you” (Jn 15: 12). Christian love, moreover, involves a mandate to go and bear lasting fruit. Attached to the life-giving vine, Jesus Christ, we are impelled to go to the ends of the earth, proclaim the Gospel and bear abiding fruits of conversion and faith.

 

Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Matthias. A witness of Christ’s public ministry and resurrection, he replaced Judas Iscariot as one of the twelve apostles. The eleven apostles felt unworthy to choose the “twelfth” of their own accord and prayed to God for guidance. The divine sign was revealed at the casting of lots. St. Matthias is privileged to be chosen by God to share in the apostolic mission of giving witness to Christ’s resurrection. In his personal relationship and service, St. Matthias is a friend-slave of Jesus. According to one tradition, he preached the Gospel in Jerusalem, Egypt and Ethiopia and suffered martyrdom in Colchis (modern Georgia) at the hands of “meat eaters” or cannibals. Another tradition says he died by stoning in Jerusalem. Through his Gospel service and martyrdom, the apostle St. Matthias became totally configured to Christ, our Lord and Savior.

 

***

 

Today’s First Reading (Acts 1:15-17, 20-26) depicts the early life of the Church after the Lord’s Ascension and before the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The election of Judas’ replacement to fill up the college of apostles is prepared by the ministry of prayer of the apostles, of Mary and other women, and of Jesus’ relatives. They are gathered in the upper room in continuous prayer.

 

The rules for Judas’ replacement require choosing “someone” who has been with the apostles during Jesus’ public ministry, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which Jesus was taken up to heaven. Above all, this “someone” is one who has been a witness to Christ’s resurrection. Only “someone” who knew Jesus before his death could witness that the risen Jesus is the same one who died. The group of apostles, reduced to eleven by the betrayal and death of Judas, feels it necessary to restore its full complement of twelve. Guided by the scriptural directive, May another take his office (Ps 109:8), the early Christian community of “about one hundred and twenty persons”, a symbolic allusion to the restored twelve tribes of Israel (12 tribes multiplied by ten – the perfect number), gathers in one place to select a successor to Judas Iscariot. The symbolism of “twelve” apostles is vital for it indicates the new representatives of the house of Israel (cf. Lk 22:30), and evokes the twelve foundation stones of the “new Jerusalem” (cf. Rev 21:14). The “twelve” are tasked to lead the community of about 120 disciples (12 x 10), a symbolic number representing the core of the Spirit-filled Israel at Pentecost.

  

As Jesus prayed to the Father for guidance in his messianic ministry, and as he especially prayed for his disciples when the time of sacrifice was drawing near, the early Christian community prays for guidance in selecting Judas’ successor in the apostolic ministry. They propose two candidates: Joseph called “Barsabbas”, also known as “Justus”, and Matthias. The community agrees that these two men fulfill the requirements for joining the Twelve, but the final choice among the two is left to God. The discernment for the person chosen by God for the apostolic ministry is made in prayer and in great trust of God’s omnipotent wisdom. After praying, they draw lots, and the lot falls upon Matthias who is listed as one of the twelve apostles. The appointment of Matthias to the apostolic college underlines that one does not arrogate the ministry to oneself: God and the Church call one to it.

 

The following testimony of Ruben Studdard, “American Idol” winner of Season 2, will give us a glimpse of what it means to be the “chosen” one (cf. Ruben Studdard, “Now There’s Enough for Everybody” in Chicken Soup for the American Idol Soul, ed. Jack Canfield, et. al., Deerfield Beach: Health Communications, Inc. 2007, p. 23-26)

 

One day, a background singer in our band said she was going to try out for American Idol and asked me to go with her. “I’m not doing that”, I said. I thought I was everything the American Idol wasn’t. I mean, I wasn’t exactly Kelly Clarkson. I was this big guy in a jazz band who, in college, had been pursuing a degree in operatic performance. I just envisioned going up there and embarrassing myself on national television. All the odds were against me.

 

But I told my friend I’d go to give her support and to cheer when she made it through. We drove to Nashville and spent all night waiting outside. Fortunately, she brought pillows and blankets because we had to sleep on the ground.

 

In the morning, one of the producers woke us and asked if we were there to audition. “Yeah”, I said, still half-asleep. Maybe I meant, “Yeah”, as in “Yeah, she’s here to audition and I’m with her”, but next thing I knew I was singing in front of the assistant producers. I made it through and my friend didn’t.

 

From that moment on, I had to believe there was a master plan because it all just flowed, one thing after the other. I was told to come back the following day for the next audition, but I sure didn’t want to sleep outside again. Then I found out a friend was in Nashville for an engineering conference and just happened to have an extra hotel room. When I met the show’s producer, Nigel Lythegoe, he said,

You don’t look like an American Idol, but I bet you can sing.” I sang Stevie Wonder’s “Ribbon in the Sky”, and Nigel said, “Man, you are going on.”

 

I was flying high when I went home to Birmingham, but I had to return to Nashville the next week to sing for Randy, Simon, and Paula. I didn’t know what to do because my car wouldn’t make it. My brother Kevin offered to take me. This was really something because I always drove him nuts when I sang. He would beg me to stop singing, please. When we were kids and walked to the store, he punched me out for singing all the way down the street. But now he was driving me to Nashville?

 

When I sang for the judges, all three said, “Absolutely, yes!” I just knew something great was going to happen. I didn’t think I was going to win the show by any means, but I did feel like it just might give me the opportunity to somehow live my dreams.

 

American Idol helped me accomplish more that I could have dreamed in a million years on my own. I sang at the American Music Awards. I was nominated for a GRAMMY. I went to South Africa and sang in soccer stadiums. I’ve done concerts for hundreds of thousands of people. I’ve had a platinum album and Billboard # 1 songs. I never would have imagined that I’d sing for the President, but I did that, too – twice. I’ve done so much since Idol – and I would have been happy just making one album! (…)

 

And don’t think I’m not grateful. I’m one of those people who lives life based on gratitude. I believe the more grateful you are, the more good things will come to you. I will always be grateful to American Idol – I will never forget what it has done to help me make my dreams come true.

 

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

 

1. What is our relationship with Jesus Christ at the level of intimacy and at the level of service? Do we endeavor to go out and bear lasting fruits?

 

2. Do we fully trust in the Lord God who knows the hearts of all? Do we allow God to work freely in the acts of discernment that we make day by day? Do we ask his guiding help in making decisions that will have an impact on our community and the people around us? 

 

 

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

(Cf. Opening Prayer – Mass of the Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle)

 

Father,

you called Saint Matthias to share in the mission of the apostles.

By the help of his prayers

may we receive with joy the love you share with us

and be counted among those you have chosen.

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 day. Please memorize it.

 

“The lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the Eleven Apostles.” (Acts 1:26) //“I have called you friends.” (Jn 15:15)

 

 

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

 

Spend some quiet moments in church, preferably before the Blessed Sacrament, to deepen your spirit of listening and intimacy with the Divine Master. Look around and see how you could share the joy of the Gospel with the people around you.

 

***

 

May 15, 2014: THURSDAY – EASTER WEEKDAY (4); SAINT ISIDORE (USA)

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Us to a Total Configuration with Him and to Preach the Good News”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 13:13-25 // Jn 13:16-20

 

 

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

 

In today’s Gospel (Jn 13:16-20), Jesus reinforces the meaning of the foot washing as a prophetic action, describing the call of all Christians to be humble servants and to be totally immersed into his paschal destiny of death and resurrection. No slave is greater than the master; no messenger is greater than the one who sent him. Jesus exhorts his disciples to put his example of humble service into practice. At the moment, however, Judas Iscariot seeks to betray him. At this initiation into the final conflict, Judas decries his share with Jesus and refuses to believe in the “I AM”. Jesus manifests total control of the situation. He announces the betrayal as congruent with the divine saving plan: so that the Scripture might be fulfilled. Jesus then underlines the principle of the unity of the disciple with the Divine Master: Whoever receives the one I send receives me.

 

The call to be a humble servant has been heeded by the newly canonized kindly Pope, Saint John XXIII. He exercised his pastoral ministry on “bended knees” and with refreshing humor, a tool of humility. The following article by Father James Martin, SJ, circulated on the Internet is insightful.

 

The Humor of Saint John XXIII: When the Pope was innocently asked by a journalist how many people worked in the Vatican, he deadpanned, “About half of them.”

 

John XXIII visited a hospital in Rome called the “Hospital of the Holy Spirit” run by a group of Catholic Sisters. The Mother Superior, deeply stirred by the papal visit, went up to him in order to introduce herself. “Most Holy Father”, she said, “I am the Superior of the Holy Spirit.” “Well, I must say you’re very lucky”, replied the Pope. “I’m only the Vicar of Christ.”

 

It was that somewhat frivolous story that in an instant drew me to John XXIII. How wonderful to keep one’s sense of humor, even while holding a position of such authority, when one could have easily become distant, cold or authoritarian. How wonderful to have a sense of humor at all! A requirement of the Christian life, I believe.

 

Anyway, who couldn’t love a Pope who had a sense of humor? Who couldn’t feel affection for a man who was so comfortable about himself that he constantly made jokes about his height (which was little), his ears (which were big), and his weight (which was considerable).

 

When he once met a little boy named Angelo, he exclaimed, “That was my name, too!” And then, conspiratorially, “But then they made me change it!”

 

When he was a Nuncio, he was at a dinner where a lady had a plunging neckline. One complained to Roncalli how scandalous it was. “All the men are looking at her.” Roncalli said, “Oh, no. The men are looking at me to see if I am looking at her.”

 

Believe it or not, it was the revelation that a saint could have such a sense of humor – that began my devotion to this great and holy man, who is now a saint. The need for humor in the spiritual life is often underplayed in Catholic circles. But as John XXIII and so many of the saints show us, it is an essential requirement for a healthy Christian life.

 

Some of the denigration of humor and laughter comes from a misunderstanding of not only the saints (many of whom had a well-developed sense of humor, contrary to the morose portraiture we see in churches) but also of Jesus. There are multiple signs of Jesus’ sense of humor in the New Testament – even though we can overlook them. Many of the parables, for example, are no longer amusing to us because we don’t live in the first-century Palestine and so fail to “get them”. The late New Testament scholar Daniel J. Harrington, SJ, told me that the original listeners would likely to have found some of them “hilarious”. Theologically, we also need to remember that Jesus was fully human, and part of being fully human is having a sense of humor. Jesus laughed. So can we. So should we!

 

A sense of humor about oneself also enables one to maintain a healthy perspective on life. Saint John XXIII was able to take God seriously, to take the Church seriously, but not to take himself too seriously. Humor, therefore, is a tool of humility. The Pope often used to recount what he would say to himself when concerns about the Church kept him up at night.

 

Pope John confessed that he had some difficulty in falling asleep on the night of the memorable day that he announced the convocation of the Second Vatican Council. He said that he talked to himself in this way: “Giovanni, why don’t you sleep? Is it the Pope or the Holy Spirit that governs the Church? It’s the Holy Spirit, no? Well, then, go to sleep, Giovanni!”

 

***

 

Today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles (13:13-25) depicts the first missionary journey of Paul and his companions as they sail from the island of Cyprus to Asia Minor. Luke’s narrative now focuses on Paul. The apostle Barnabas, who earlier had played the leading role, is mentioned merely as one of Paul’s “companions”. At Perga, John Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, leaves them and goes back to Jerusalem. Paul and Barnabas move on to Antioch in Pisidia. Their visit to the town’s synagogue gives Paul his first real opportunity to address a discourse to the Jews. We hear today a part of Paul’s inaugural address, which summarizes the main Christian preaching to Jews and is based on scriptural precedents and arguments. Paul recalls the history of Israel from the Exodus to Samuel, Saul and David, who is a type of Jesus and his ancestor. Paul’s radical message to the assembly is that God has made Jesus, a descendant of David, the Savior of the people of Israel, as promised. In this awesome missionary sermon, he delineates salvation history as under the guidance of God who brings it to its fulfillment. Paul, the evangelizer and preacher, is here at his best!

 

The following prize-winning story by an eighth-grader at St. John Vianney School in San Jose, California, illustrates how we can imitate Saint Paul in proclaiming the Good News in our own time (cf. Clarissa Vokt, “Good News Alive Today” in MARYKNOLL, May/June 2011, p. 47-49).

 

The ways that I share the Good News are posting and reading articles on the social network websites about men and women doing good deeds in our community, to encourage others to do the same. I also send messages to others telling them to go to church on Sunday to celebrate the Eucharist, and learn all about the Good News.

 

I spread the Good News almost all the time when I help out at places in my community. Sometimes I volunteer to help at the park, where I help clean up after the animals and wash their feeding bowls so they always have clean water, because they are also God’s creation and should be treated so.

 

If I am not doing community service, then usually I will go around the house and search for items that we no longer use, and donate them to organizations such as The Salvation Army to help those in poverty who do not have the luxuries we take for granted each day.

 

I experience the Good News being spread when I listen to the radio. There is a radio station called Catholic Radio that my mother and I listen to almost every day, and it is always talking about the Gospel, answering questions about our beliefs, and telling us about campaigns and upcoming Catholic events in our community.

 

One such campaign is called “40 Days for Life”. This campaign draws attention to the evils of abortion with a three-point program including prayer and fasting, constant vigilance and community outreach. My family joined this campaign together and we have blue wristbands we wear to show our support and spread the Good News everywhere we go.

 

Catholic Radio has expanded my knowledge of the Gospel and inspired me to share this Good News with my friends and neighbors. This radio station has their own page on Facebook, so I decided to join it and share the Good News with my friends on the social network, who did the same.

 

The Good News is being spread everywhere, from the radio to popular websites, and through community service, and is spread by everyone, including teenagers and older men and women. The ways in which the Good News is being spread may have changed over the past 100 years, but the meaning still stays the same, and today it is as alive as ever.

 

***

 

The United States, with its rural tradition and farm life, today honors Saint Isidore, the patron of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference. Here is an article from the Internet about this inspiring saint.

 

Isidore was born to very poor, yet very pious Catholic parents in Madrid, Spain. His parents were unable to support him when he was a youth and sent him to work for a wealthy landowner, John de Vergas. He ended up working for him for the rest of his life.

 

He married a very religious woman named Maria Torribia (also known as Maria de la Cabeza). She, like Isidore, became a saint. They had one son who died unexpectedly as a child. Their grief inclined them to believe their son's death to be a sign from God and consequently vowed themselves to live a life of perfect continence.

 

Isidore frequented Holy Mass every morning but often reported to work late. Late, though he was, his plowing was nevertheless accomplished by angels that resulted in three times more productivity. His coworkers and his boss witnessed such miraculous events and accorded Isidore great respect.

 

St. Isidore loved the poor and loved the animals. The miracles of the multiplication of food occurred when Isidore fed a flock of starving birds, and another time, when Isidore shared his food with a large group of beggars.

Isidore died on May 15, 1120, at 60 years of age, and was canonized in 1622 along with four very notable Spanish saints. The group, known as "the five saints", included St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Francis Xavier, St. Phillip Neri, and St. Isidore. His body has been found incorrupt. His memorial is celebrated on May 15th on the Roman Calendar.

 

 

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

 

1. Are we ready to share in Christ’s paschal destiny? Are we willing to emulate him as the humble and faithful servant of God?

 

2. Are we willing to give witness by our life that Jesus is our Savior? Do we commit ourselves fully and personally to Christ Savior?

 

 

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

 

O Risen Christ,

you are sent by the Father as our saving Lord.

You too send us into the world

to proclaim the joy of Easter and God’s saving power.

Help us to be faithful and fruitful

in our evangelizing ministry.

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.

 

“Whoever receives the one I send receives me.” (Jn 13:20) // “God, according to his promise, has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus.” (Acts 13:23).

 

 

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

 

Today emulate in a very special way the example of Jesus as the humble servant and, by this act of discipleship, enable the people around you to have a taste of the joy of the Gospel.

 

***

May 16, 2014: FRIDAY – EASTER WEEKDAY (4)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Way, the Truth and the Life and Is the Fulfillment of the Promise”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 13:26-33 // Jn 14:1-6

 

 

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

 

Dan Griffin, a Maryknoll Lay Missioner, narrates a charming incident when someone had to show him the way (cf. MARYKNOLL magazine, January-February 2005, p. 8).

 

Tanzania is a big country with few roads and even fewer road signs. One day as I was driving along in a remote area of Shinyanga in the pouring rain, I saw a woman alongside the road. I thought I would be a Good Samaritan and give her a lift. As she climbed into the truck, she asked me where I was going. I told her I was headed to Mwadui Mine. “Good,” she said. “Then we can help each other.” Puzzled, I asked what she meant. “I’m going to Mwadui,” she replied, “and you’re going to Mwadui, but we are going in the wrong direction.”

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Jn 14:1-12) underlines that we need someone to show us the way to the Father, and that Jesus, the true Shepherd and the Gate for the sheep, is precisely the true and living way to him. In the way he lives, in the truth of his word, and in the quality of new life that he brings, Jesus reveals the Father and leads us to a life of loving intimacy with him. Indeed, if we wish to know what God is like and if we long to have an access and participation in the divine life, we need to look to Jesus, the way, and the truth and the life – at his life of service and public ministry, at his transforming and prophetic words, at his paschal mystery of passion, death and resurrection.

 

***

Today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles is the second part of Paul’s major sermon in the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia. Paul proclaims to the assembly the Good News: that God’s promises to their ancestors are now fulfilled in the death and rising of Jesus Christ. Paul identifies the crucified and risen Jesus, a descendant of David, as the Messiah. He proclaims that the fullest meaning of the prophets and the psalms is revealed in the light of this Good News. The apostles’ proclamation about Jesus as the Messiah creates a great impact on the people. They invite Paul and Barnabas to come back the next Sabbath and tell them more about these things.

 

Like Paul and Barnabas, today’s Christian disciples are called to proclaim the Gospel to the nations. The life of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati (1901-1925) is an example of a living Gospel proclamation (cf. Bert Ghezzi, “Spending this Advent Season with the Saints” in Our Sunday Visitor, December 2, 2012, p. 23).

 

Blessed Pope John Paul II celebrated Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati as a man of the Beatitudes. Athletic and strong, he devoted himself to the weak and malformed. He was wealthy, but he lived in poverty so he could give everything to the poor. He was gregarious, but a lover of solitude. He was rambunctious, the life of every party, and a practical joker, but at prayer he was solemn, reflective and quiet.

 

As a teenager, Pier Giorgio made friends with the poor in Turin’s back streets and gave them whatever he had – his money, his shoes, his overcoat. “Jesus comes to me every morning in holy Communion”, he replied to a friend on why the hovels did not repulse him. “I repay him in my very small way by visiting the poor. The house may be sordid, but I am going to Christ.”

 

Pier Giorgio saw the need for social change to relieve the causes of poverty. At the university he decided to major in mechanical engineering so that he could work with miners, who were especially disadvantaged. He was a leader in student political organizations and actively opposed Mussolini and the Fascists. At the same time, he was the organizer of student parties, games and ski trips to the Alps, where he would lead his friends in prayer. Afterward, they relaxed and enjoyed food, wine, cigars and songs.

 

Blessed Pier Giorgio has become the hero of contemporary young Catholics. They recognize his high Christian ideals still help while pursuing the same pleasures that they enjoy. They gravitate to this handsome and charming saint who delighted in reciting the poetry of Dante, praying the Rosary in a booming voice and spending a night in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

 

 

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

 

1. How do we personally experience Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life? In our word and deed, do we replicate the person of Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life?

 

2. Like Paul and Barnabas, do we endeavor to proclaim the Gospel with every means and opportunity at our disposal?

 

 

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

 

Father of holiness, Lord of heaven and earth,

in the Word made flesh

you have spoken your words to us

and you call us to follow him.

He is the way that leads to you,

the truth that sets us free,

the life that makes our joy complete.

Grant us the grace to know the truth,

to follow the way

and to share your eternal life

in Jesus, the way, truth and life.

Together with Saint Paul,

we wish to proclaim your saving love

to all the nations.

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.

 

“I am the way and the truth and the life.” (Jn 14:6) // “What God promised our fathers he has brought to fulfillment for us.”  (Acts 13:33)

 

 

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

 

Participate in the saving mission of Jesus Christ by trying to be yourself “way, truth and life” for a neighbor who is troubled, lost and confused. By your spirit of joy and charity make the people around you experience that Jesus is indeed the promised Messiah.

 

***

May 17, 2014: SATURDAY – EASTER WEEKDAY (4)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Image of the Father and Is Preached to the Nations”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 13:44-52 // Jn 14:7-14

 

 

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

 

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus makes a very important statement: “If you know me, then you will also know my father.” Jesus is the true image of the Father. He radically reveals the nature of the Father as the fullness of love. Our daily living must be a reflection of God in Jesus. Our mind, will and heart, our thoughts, words and deeds must reflect who God is in his inmost being. Indeed, Jesus is the “great sacrament” of the self-giving, loving God. Since the Father is reflected in the Son, we get to know God the Father through his beloved Son Jesus Christ.

 

The following charming story illustrates the saying, “Like father, like son” (cf. Fay Angus, “May 15 Reflection” in DAILY GUIDEPOSTS 2010, P. 154). It also gives insight into the awesome affinity and intimate relationship of God the Father and his Son Jesus, sent as our Savior.

 

During the heat of the California summer, we invite our neighbors to come over anytime for a dip in our pool. Van is a favorite; he loves to cycle up and down our hills, his forehead dripping under his protective helmet, and it’s great to see him park his bike by the pool and plunge in, staying under so long that it’s a relief when he eventually surfaces.

 

This particular weekend his son was with him. On leave from his base in San Diego, he was tall, with the upright, straight-as-an-arrow deportment typical of the military, a firm handshake and steady eyes that locked into those of the person talking to him. I liked him. I liked him even more when he peeled off his T-shirt to take a swim, for across his upper torso, under his collarbone, was a tattoo: Carpe Diem, Latin for “seize the day”. I was fascinated, “Tell me about this”, I asked. “I want to make every moment of my life count”, he said, giving me his father’s wide smile. “My service to God, to my country and to making the world a better place: this is a daily reminder of my commitment.”

 

He sprang from the diving board and swam the length of the pool in one swoop, like a torpedo. On the return lap, his arms were turbojets churning the water. Wow, I thought, if he represents the caliber of our military, we’re in good hands!

 

***

 

In today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles (13:44-52) we see the people’s response to the Gospel: it is received both positively and negatively. The first reaction to Paul’s preaching in the synagogue of Antioch in Pisidia is positive. Many are converted. Nearly everyone gathers to hear the word of the Lord on the next Sabbath. But other Jews, full of jealousy on account of the interest and crowds the apostles are generating, contest what Paul is saying and insult him. But Paul and Barnabas speak out even more boldly and assert that since the Jews are rejecting the Gospel, they will turn to the Gentiles. In obedience to God’s commands, the apostles will be – in imitation of Jesus Christ – “a light for the Gentiles” so that all may be saved. The Gentiles rejoice and praise God’s message and they believe. But as the word of the Lord spreads everywhere in that region, the Jews incite violence against the apostles. They start a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, who shake the dust off their feet in protest. The apostles head off to Iconium to continue their work of evangelization. Meanwhile, the believers in Antioch are full of joy and the Holy Spirit.

 

The Christian disciples are called to continue the work of evangelization. The Parish of the Sacred Heart in Manila, where I grew up, was under the pastoral care of the Capuchin friars. One of the priests serving there, who became my spiritual director, was born in Goa, India. Before being assigned in Manila, Fr. Alexis Felinto worked as a missionary in Portuguese Angola, in Southwest Africa. He shared with us that when he viewed the movie “The Nun at the Crossroad”, about a nun who was sexually assaulted by African rebels, tears ran down his face. He had a first-hand experience of the violence the missionaries suffered from the Angolan rebels. He narrowly escaped death, but some of his colleagues were tortured and killed. The rebels plucked their beards, tearing off patches of skin from their faces, creating raw wounds and terrible pain. They have replicated in their life the trials Paul and Barnabas endured for the sake of the Gospel. Indeed, their afflictions were a participation in the saving passion of Christ.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we believe that if we know the Son we will know also the Father? How do we show our love for both God the Father and his son Jesus?

 

2.   What do we do when we meet obstacles and trials, especially for the sake of the Gospel?

 

 

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

 

O loving Father,

your Son Jesus is the full revelation

of your saving will and life-giving love.

Let us be totally configured to Christ Jesus

and fully united with you through the Easter mystery

of his death and rising to glory.

Give us the grace to proclaim him to the nations.

We give you praise and glory, 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.

 

“If you know me, then you will also know my Father.” (Jn 14:7) // “The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 13:52) 

 

 

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

 

By your life of virtue and service to the poor and needy, manifest to the world the love and goodness of God the Father in his Son Jesus. // By the way you respond to daily trials and difficulties, manifest to the world that Christ, the Risen Lord, is the center of your life and the font of strength.

 

***

 

 

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

Go back