A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 18, n. 25)

The Sixth Week of Easter: May 17-23, 2020

 

 

(The pastoral tool BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD: A LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY & WEEKDAY LITURGY includes a prayerful study of the Sunday liturgy from various perspectives. For the Lectio Divina on the liturgy of the past week: May 10-16, 2020 please go to ARCHIVES Series 18 and click on “Easter Week 5”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: May 17-23, 2020.)

 

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May 17, 2020: SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Invokes the Coming of the Advocate”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 8:5-8, 14-17 // 1 Pt 3:15-18 // Jn 14:15-21

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 14:15-21): “I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate.” 

          

It was late in the morning of April 19, 2005. I was setting the dining table when the intercom rang. Sr. Mary Joanne summoned me, “Come over quickly! We have a Pope!” I left everything and rushed to the TV room to watch the presentation to the world of the new Pope. There was electricity and a joyful thrill, both in the transmitted scenario at St. Peter’s Square and in the room where the Sisters were. When the name of Cardinal Josef Ratzinger was announced, my excitement drifted away. I was disappointed that my papabile did not become a Pope. Next day something wonderful happened. At the Mass celebrated in our chapel for the new Pope, when the priest solemnly mentioned “Benedict, our Pope” in the Eucharistic Prayer, a special light came to me. A warm feeling of reverential and filial affection for “Pope Benedict” swept over me. In a mysterious way, I felt he was no longer “Josef Ratzinger”, the dreaded conservative theologian, but the “Holy Father” and God-given pastor of the universal Church. Consecrated by God as a humble instrument, Pope Benedict XVI would collaborate with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth and the “another Advocate with us” promised by Jesus Christ. A friend remarked sagaciously: “With the gift of the new Pontiff we are no longer orphans.”

 

In the context of the Easter season, today’s Gospel reading (Jn 14:15-21) prepares us for the forthcoming feast of the Lord’s Ascension and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the community of believers. God’s love impels Jesus to promise his disciples: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Paraclete (Advocate) to be with you always, the Spirit of truth” (Jn 14:16). The Dominican scholar, Gerald Vann explains: “The word paracletos means first of all a legal assistant, an advocate, a defending counsel; but it also means he who speaks out prophetically, proclaiming, exhorting, enlightening; and this leads to a third meaning, one who consoles, when the message proclaimed is the message of salvation, of hope and of joy. In the first epistle of John (cf. I Jn 2:1-2), our Lord is referred to as a paraclete or advocate who will plead our cause; and this is implicitly affirmed by Christ himself when he tells his disciples he will send them another paraclete to befriend and defend them. But there is an essential difference between the mode of activity of the Spirit and that of the incarnate Word: the mission of the Spirit is the direct result of the mission of the Son: the lifting up of the Son in death and glory brings about the coming down of the Pentecostal wind and fire.”

 

The Holy Spirit promised by Jesus has a vital role to play in the life of the Church: to make ever more fully known the mysteries of Christ, that is, the meaning of his life and words and actions. The coming of the Spirit in our lives necessitates profound sensitivity and total receptivity to his life-giving presence, actions and inspirations. Harold Buetow remarks: “All spiritual life, all holiness comes from the Father through Jesus by the action of the Holy Spirit. From time to time, if we have the sensitivity to perceive it, we are aware of what is happening as we truly share the Spirit with one another. The Spirit is present in our common kindness, loving concern for one another, and bursts of inspiration. Sometimes, though, we are fearful of those touching experiences, not knowing how to handle the emotion that surrounds them. In other words, we sometimes give the Spirit a difficult time breaking through. But the Spirit’s coming will happen whenever we love God enough to keep his commands.”

 

 

B. First Reading (Acts 8:5-8, 14-17): “Peter and John laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.”

 

Today’s First Reading (Acts 8:5-8, 14-17) depicts the beautiful response of the Samaritans to the proclamation of Christ: With one accord, the crowd paid attention to what was said by Philip when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing (v. 6). When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria to confirm the Samaritans’ baptismal consecration to Jesus Christ with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and to incorporate officially the fledging Christian community in Samaria into the one fold – the Church. The Jesuit biblical scholar William Kurz explains: “The point in Acts 8:16 is to show confirmation by God and by the apostles of Philip’s unexpected outreach to despised Samaritans. Luke’s only concern was to show that God ratified the Church’s outreach to the Samaritans and non-Jews.”

 

The Holy Spirit that confirmed the Samaritans and was transmitted to them by the apostles’ laying on of hands is likewise given to us at our baptismal consecration and confirmation. We should be fully grateful for the Easter gift of the Holy Spirit and as Christian disciples we are challenged to become “another Advocate” in today’s anguished world. Harold Buetow remarks: “Our world needs the discipline of love and the life of the Spirit … There are many painful lives affected by broken relationships, shattered dreams, disappointments, physical and mental ills, and torturing guilt. We must let such people know that they need not be alone in their pain. So let us not be faint-hearted in receiving the Spirit and in communicating him to others by the witness of our lives.”

 

The article published in the Los Angeles Times (April 16, 2008, p. B6) on Dr. John Stein (1962-2008), a USC staffer and an expert in urologic cancer, caught my attention. A Catholic surgeon deeply animated by the Holy Spirit, he is an example of what it means to be a consoler and an “advocate” for others. Here is an excerpt from the obituary.

 

Dr. John Stein, a professor at the USC Keck School of Medicine and an internationally known specialist in urologic cancers and bladder reconstruction, died Friday at a hospital in Naples, Fla. He was 45. A research scientist and unusually skillful surgeon beloved for his compassionate bedside manner, Stein was a star in his field. He was, according to Keck Dean Carmen A. Puliafito, “what every dean of a medical school wants in a faculty member, who was a dedicated clinician, a state of the art surgeon. He was a great innovator, a scientist … a terrific role model,” who touched the lives of thousands and saved many lives …

 

He also earned the adoration of patients, who valued his humanity as much as his expertise. He hugged them, sometimes prayed with them, sat by their side when they cried, and joked with them to relieve their fears. Said Santa Monica resident Paul Scott, who credits Stein with saving his life after being diagnosed with bladder cancer six years ago: “When you’re thinking about dying and your life is just in turmoil, here is this man who takes your hand in his and looks you in the eye and says ‘You’re going to be OK.’ He was just the kindest guy.” Now a leader in the electric car movement, a cause he took up after regaining his health, Scott added, “I owe him so much.”

   

  

C. Second Reading (1 Pt 3:15-18): “Put to death in the flesh, Christ was raised to life in the Spirit.”

 

The Second Reading (1 Pt 3:15-18) delineates the need to participate in Christ’s redemptive suffering as well as the vivifying role of the Holy Spirit, “Put to death in the flesh, Christ was brought to life in the Spirit.” The biblical scholar Jose Cervantes Gabarron comments: “Christ in his passion is the savior and model for Christians; it is he who brings us to communion with God and who shows us the level of love to which Christians are called by the will of God: he loved even to his passion, always doing good. (…) Christ, subjected by humankind, experiences a violent death, in the process he also experiences the vivifying force of the Spirit that rests on him and leads him to life and glory. This is the event that is at the origin of the salvation expressed and celebrated in the baptism of Christians.”

 

The following powerful testimony about some Church workers and martyrs in El Salvador illustrates what it means to suffer for “doing good” - in intimate participation in the redemptive passion of Christ, raised to life in the Spirit (cf. Madeline Dorsey, M.M. “Remembering Martyrs 30 Years Later” in Maryknoll, December 2010, p. 32-25).

 

The memory of the events of 1980 will always be painful yet beautiful, as the faith of our loved ones who died speaks out to us even today. That I survived will always remain a mystery to me. I was working with the poor and could very well have met death like my colleagues. No other Maryknoll Sister knew El Salvador’s complexities nor understood up close the government’s undeclared war on its own poor people as I did, having witnessed so much violence in the year I was alone serving 8,000 people in a poor colony in the Santa Ana Diocese. The newly founded death squad would come during the night and take away our youth and often their fathers. The poor, the youth and those working to help them meet their faith needs and basic economic necessities became the endangered species.

 

Lucky for me, Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel and Lay Missioner Jean Donovan, both on the Cleveland mission team, were serving an hour and a half away in La Libertad. They worried about me being alone. Jean would call and insist I not skip one of our regularly scheduled prayer/play days.

 

In 1979 when the Maryknoll Sisters leadership team asked for volunteers to join us in El Salvador, Carla Piette, Ita Ford, Terry Alexander and Maura Clarke responded. Carla arrived at the very moment Archbishop Oscar Romero was shot at the Offertory of his Mass on March 24. The shock was beyond description, not only in El Salvador but worldwide. Archbishop Romero had repeatedly denounced the violence. Now the voice of the poor was silenced. Terry Alexander joined us for the archbishop’s burial on Palm Sunday and Ita arrived a short time later to work with Carla in Chalatenango.

 

Death struck Carla first, on August 23. Ita had waited for Carla – gifted, lively, strong, funny – the only driver of the only jeep they had, to return from her work. It was the rainy season and the river might rise suddenly as they were returning a freed government prisoner to his home. Fording the river, the jeep was knocked over. Before drowning herself, Carla pushed Ita free. Ita, serious but with a dry sense of humor, was devastated by Carla’s death.

 

Maura generously joined Ita in the archdiocesan social work for internally endangered and displaced refugees. Gentle, thoughtful Maura, in El Salvador only three-and-a-half months, would go to her martyrdom with Ita, Dorothy and Jean.

 

Before going to our Maryknoll Sisters meeting in Nicaragua at Thanksgiving time, I sent a cable to Ita and Maura saying Terry and I would try to come back on the flight with them, since dangers were heightened with the recent murders of six Democratic leaders in San Salvador. Unfortunately the flight couldn’t be arranged. When Terry and I arrived at El Salvador’s airport, our dear friends, Dorothy, known as “an Alleluia from head to toe”, and Jean were there to pick us up. They talked about their dinner at the home of U.S. Ambassador Robert White the night before. We told them that Ita and Maura were coming on a later flight and would get to La Libertad by taxi, but they insisted on going back to the airport to pick them up.

 

Now I share our death, entombment and resurrection story, which is the only way I can think of those days of their being missing, the long search through prayer, phone calls, contact with Church and governments.

 

On Dec. 3 in mid-morning Father Paul Schindler, head of the Cleveland mission team, called Terry through our telephone-telegram office in Santa Ana to ask: “Where are the girls?” Jean and Dorothy were expected at a parish meeting and Paul had already checked with the Asuncion Sisters in San Salvador and Chalatenango. He asked us to come to La Libertad to help in the search.

 

As Terry and I surveyed the burned up minibus the missioners had driven, a man said, “This is the work of the guerrillas.” I promptly replied: “The opposition would never harm missionaries who are helping feed the hungry women and children caught in the fighting in the hills, and getting the little ones and the aged to refugee centers set up by the Archdiocese in San Salvador.”

 

The search went on until noon on December 4, when a farmer told his pastor that he had been forced to bury “four unidentified white women”. We “flew” in Paul’s jeep to the very concealed area where they were reported buried.

 

Then came the painful extraction of the four – piled one on top of the other. Jean was first, her lovely face destroyed. Dorothy had a tranquil look. Maura’s face was serene but seemed to utter a silent cry, and last little Ita. I went forward to wipe the dirt from her cheek and place her arm at her side. We Sisters fell to our knees in reverence. I felt it a Resurrection moment. Yes, their dead and abused bodies were there, but I knew their souls were with their loving Savior.

 

Annually, on Dec. 2 the churchwomen are celebrated with liturgies, dramas and processions. In the United States works named for the four women aid underprivileged students and adults. In El Salvador a project for women and children with healthy agricultural training bears their names – as do many young women.

 

They live, and I can only thank God for having known, loved and appreciated these wonderful women, and their total self-gift.

 

 

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

 

1. How does the following exhortation of Jesus impact us personally: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth …” (Jn 14:15-16)? How receptive are we to the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit in our lives?

 

2. Do we perceive that painful events and tragedies could have positive and life-giving results? How did the persecution of the early Christian community result in the witnessing to the nations? How did Philip’s Spirit-filled life and proclamation of Christ give joy to the greatly despised Samaritans? What was the role of Peter and John in transmitting the confirming and life-giving Holy Spirit?

 

3. Do we participate in the redemptive passion of Christ Jesus, who was “put to death in the flesh, but was brought to life in the Spirit”?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

the Spirit of the Risen Jesus

is the “other Advocate” he promised.

By the indwelling in our lives

of this wonderful Counselor and Consoler

and by our receptivity to his divine grace,

may we be “christified”

and be instruments of the joy of the Gospel.

Let us be a “breath of life” and “other advocates”

for our needy neighbors,

especially the marginalized, the downtrodden and the poor.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

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 will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth.” (Jn 14:16)

 

 

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

 

In word and deed be an “advocate” to those in dire need of God’s peace, love and consolation.   

 

 

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May 18, 2020: MONDAY – EASTER WEEKDAY (6); SAINT JOHN I, Pope, Martyr

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Spirit Will Strengthen Us … He Opens the Hearts to the Good News”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 16:11-15 // Jn 15:26-16:4a

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 15:26-16:4a): “The Spirit of truth will testify to me.”

 

In the Gospel (Jn 15:26-16:4a) we hear that Jesus is deeply concerned for his disciples. They will experience rejection and suffering in an unbelieving world. Because of their intimate union with him, they will meet the same fate from unbelievers who think they are serving God by persecuting them. Jesus assures his disciples that the Advocate will come – the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father. Indeed, assailed by the world’s hatred and in order not to give up the faith, the disciples would need the sustained help of the Holy Spirit, who gives witness to Jesus. They are called to bear witness just as Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, bears witness to God unto death. The testimony of the Christian disciples in an unbelieving world is powered by the witness of the Holy Spirit, sent by Jesus to be the “Helper” of the Church.

 

The following article gives insight into the conflicts and duress that Christian disciples are experiencing in today’s world (cf. “Media Could Learn from Allen” in Alive! April 2014,  p. 8).

 

John Allen Jr. is a new associate editor of the Boston Globe, with the task of covering global Catholicism … In a recent report for the Globe he told the remarkable story of how Catholicism “is growing by leaps and bounds” in the heart of the Muslim world.

 

Due to persecution and war, the Arab Christian population of the Middle East has fallen from 20% to 5% in a century, and some communities face extinction. But “the Arabian Peninsula today is, improbably, seeing one of the most dramatic Catholic growth rates anywhere in the world”, wrote Allen. “The expansion is being driven not by Arab converts, but by foreign expats whom the region increasingly relies on for manual labor and domestic service.”

 

Thanks to the arrival of Filipinos, Indians, Sri-Lankans, Pakistanis, Koreans and so on, the peninsula’s Catholic population is now estimated at 2.5 million. Saudi Arabia alone has 1.5 million Catholics with up to 400,000 in Kuwait and Qatar and about 140,000 in Bahrain.

 

“Despite the triple handicaps of being poor, lacking citizenship rights, and belonging to a religious community often viewed with suspicion, these folks are trying to put down roots for the faith, and having some surprising success”, wrote Allen.

 

Indeed, the King of Bahrain has agreed to donate land for the Catholic Church to be called “Our Lady of Arabia”, which will serve as the cathedral for Northern Arabia. At present Catholics attend Mass in Western embassies, especially Italy’s, or in a private home, or on the grounds of a foreign-owned oil company. The bishop of the area, a 69-year old Italian, sees the Bahrain king’s decision as “a good sign of dialogue which should be imitated by other countries.”

 

But he admitted that the region is one of the world’s most difficult places to be a Christian. Apart from pressures from radical Islamic movements, Christian workers are offered better salaries or other perks if they convert and their work hours can make it virtually impossible to attend Mass.

 

“In the Arabic world in general, this is a time of cruel fanaticism”, said Bishop Camillo Ballin. “We don’t want to provoke the fanatics by making ourselves a target.” As a result, the new cathedral will have no cross at the top or other outward sign it is a Christian.

 

In contrast to Bahrain, Saudi Arabia is a complete “no-go area” for any church, despite its large Catholic minority. “Muslims preach that the entire country is a big mosque, and they say you can’t build a church inside a mosque”, said the bishop. “The day we can build a church in Saudi Arabia will be a glorious day not just for the Saudis but for the whole world.”

     

 

B. First Reading (Acts 16:11-15): “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul taught.”

 

The reading (Acts 16:11-15) is very significant. The Gospel is proclaimed for the first time in Europe. Paul’s evangelization of Europe begins with his missionary activity in Philippi, a prominent city in the district of Macedonia. Philippi holds the key to land communication between Europe and Asia Minor and it has a certain status as a town settled by Roman citizens. On the Sabbath, Paul and his companions go to the Jewish place of prayer outside the city beside a river. There they meet a group of women worshippers, including Lydia from the city of Thyatira, a wealthy dealer in purple cloth. The Risen Lord opens the heart of this “God-fearing” woman to listen to the Gospel proclaimed by Saint Paul. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Lydia is receptive to what Paul says about the Christ. She responds in faith to the saving message and is baptized together with her household. United with them as “a believer in the Lord”, she persuades Paul and his companions to partake of the gracious hospitality she offers in her home.

 

The Risen Lord manifests his “living presence” when he “opens” the heart of Lydia to receive the Gospel. Something similar occurs during Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Britain in September 2010 (cf. “’A Triumph of Enthusiasm over Cynicism’, Says Salmond” in The Tablet, September 25, 2010, p. 7).

 

The success of the Scottish leg of Pope Benedict’s visit to Britain has been described by First Minister Alex Salmond as “a triumph of enthusiasm over cynicism”, writes Sam Adams. Mr. Salmond made the comment during a conversation with the visit’s coordinator, Lord Patten, after witnessing first hand the remarkable and perhaps unexpected welcome given to the Pope by the Scottish people on Thursday.

 

Fears of widespread protests or, worse still, public apathy proved to be unfounded as people turned out in their tens of thousands to cheer Benedict in Edinburgh and Glasgow on day one of the tour. Poor ticket sales for the pastoral events and media criticism of the Pope over his handling of the clerical-abuse crisis and his attitude towards issues such as homosexuality provoked downbeat expectations for his reception in Edinburgh, so the scale of support the Pope received in Scotland took many observers by surprise.

 

An estimated 125,000 people lined Princes Street in the Scottish capital to see him driven past in the Popemobile following his welcome to the United Kingdom by the Queen and spiritual leaders at the Palace of Holyroadhouse.

 

Benedict set the tone for the rest of the four-day visit during his opening speech at Holyroadhouse, in which he warned against the influence of “aggressive forms of secularism” in society. He expanded on this theme during his homily at the Mass in Bella Houston Park in Glasgow, where he had been given a raucous welcome by 65,000 flag-waving supporters in the early evening sunshine.

 

Pope Benedict called on Catholics to help evangelize a culture threatened by the “dictatorship of relativism”, in order to counter those who were trying to “exclude religious beliefs from public discourse, to privatize it or even to paint it as a threat to equality or liberty”.

 

“Society today needs clear voices which propose our right to live, not in the jungle of self-destruction and arbitrary freedoms, but in a society which works for the true welfare of its citizens and offers them guidance and protection in the face of their weakness and fragility”, said the Pope, appealing to lay Catholics to “put the case of the promotion of faith’s wisdom and vision in the public forum”.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we open ourselves to the power of the Holy Spirit who strengthens us in persecution and duress?

 

2. Do we allow our hearts to be opened by the Lord that we may listen with renewed sensitivity to the Gospel? Do we imitate Saint Paul in his zeal to spread the Good News to all people and to the ends of the world?

 

 

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

 

Father,

we thank you for the Spirit of truth. He is our Advocate and “Helper”

in a secularized world that demands our Christian witness.

We thank you for the missionary zeal of Saint Paul

and his fellow apostolic workers.

Open our hearts

to the transforming presence of the Risen Lord.

Let the Easter victory reign over all.

We love 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.

 

“The Advocate will testify to me.” (Jn 15:26) // “The Lord opened her heart.” (Acts 16:14)

 

  

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

 

Pray for the persecuted Christians in today’s world. When you read the newspaper, watch television, log on to the Internet, etc., identify the Gospel elements, focus on them and promote them in your conversation with your family, relatives, and friends.

 

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May 19, 2020: TUESDAY – EASTER WEEKDAY (6)

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Spirit Is Our Advocate … They Believed in Him and Were Saved”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 16:22-34 // Jn 16:5-11

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 16:5-11): “But if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you.”

 

Parting can be heartbreaking. When I was eight years old, my parents decided to transfer the whole family from Guinobatan, a small peaceful town at the foot of picturesque Mount Mayon in Albay province, to Manila, a large chaotic city where my father was employed. When we were boarding the train, I caught a glimpse of my farmer grandparents – standing together in silence – their venerable faces poignant with sadness. I will never forget the pained expression they wore. I wanted to run and embrace them. Tears welled up in my eyes and grief filled my young heart. My beloved grandparents tried to be strong. I knew I had to do just that.

 

In today’s Gospel (Jn 16:5-11) Jesus talks to his disciples of his imminent departure. Sadness and perplexity come upon them. But he assures them that his going to the Father is beneficial: for unless he goes away the Advocate will not come to them. Jesus’ earthly departure is a gain. He will send from the bosom of the Father the Holy Spirit, his Easter gift. The Spirit of the Risen Lord Jesus is the Advocate-Judge who will prove the claims of Jesus as Son of God and condemn the world for their sin of unbelief. As an Easter people, we need to be receptive to the Spirit-Advocate who continues to witness to Jesus in today’s world. As we live the divine life shared with us by the death and resurrection of Christ, we testify in the Spirit that Jesus Christ is the righteous one. He triumphs over Satan and is victorious over sin and death.

 

 

B. First Reading (Acts 16:22-34): “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you and your household will be saved.”

 

In the reading (Acts 16:22-34), Saint Paul and his companions continue their Gospel work in Philippi. One day as they are going to the place of prayer, a slave girl with an occult spirit accosts them. She earns a lot of money for her owners by telling fortunes. The possessed follows the missionaries, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God! They announce to you how you can be saved!” She does this for many days until Paul becomes so upset that he exorcises the evil spirit. The owners, realizing the loss of financial profit, seize Paul and Silas and drag them to the Roman officials, falsely charging them with civil disturbance. The magistrates order them to be whipped. After the severe beating, the missionaries are put in the innermost cell for the night, with their feet chained to a stake. Paul and Silas, however, are irrepressible. Despite their wounds, they pray and sing in prison as the criminals listen. About midnight, in a divine intervention that evokes the Easter event, Paul and Silas experience deliverance. They are also able to proclaim the Good News of salvation to the jailer and his family. Responding in faith, the jailer and his family are baptized and celebrate their new-found faith with a meal shared with Paul and Silas. The night in prison has become a saving event and a “celebration” that resembles an Easter Vigil.

 

The Easter event experienced by the jailer and his family in Philippi continues to live on in the people of today. The life of Thea Bowman, a Franciscan sister born in Mississippi at the tail-end of the Depression is an example (cf. “A Soulful Pray-er” by Vincent Rougeau in America, April 12-19, 2010, p. 23-24).

 

Thea Bowman’s home was the fertile Delta region of Mississippi. Its rich alluvial soil supported huge plantations that produced the prodigious wealth on display in places like Vicksburg, Natchez, and Memphis. Enormous numbers of slaves were required to keep the money flowing, and well into the 20th century the descendants of these slaves labored as sharecroppers to provide the cheap labor vital to this economic system. A relatively small class of wealthy, white landowners and a very small white middle-class were supported by poor blacks, who far outnumbered them. Consequently, the Delta became an area of the South with some of the most rigid and harshly enforced Jim Crow laws and social practices.

 

Thea (born Bertha) Bowman was born into the relatively privileged (but materially modest) household of the only black doctor and one of the few black schoolteachers in Canton, Miss. They were an educated couple who, when blessed with their only child late in life, provided the loving home and high expectations that would ground Sister Thea for her entire remarkable life.

 

It is hard for us to imagine today the leap of faith that was required for young Bertha Bowman to leave the tightly knit confines of the black community in Canton to become a nun in La Crosse, Wis. Attracted by the improved educational opportunities made available by the opening of a Catholic mission to blacks, Bertha’s family become involved with Holy Child Jesus parish and eventually converted to Catholicism. The parish school was staffed by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, strong, inspiring women who lovingly encouraged young Bertha’s intellectual gifts and who modeled the unimaginable – a loving community of faith made up of blacks and whites. These women ultimately set the example that moved Bertha to leave everything she had ever known.

 

In 1953, at the age of 15, she became a Franciscan aspirant at the motherhouse in La Crosse. In 1958, Sister Mary Thea became a professed sister. She would remain dedicated to her vocation as a nun for the rest of her life – no easy task for anyone, but particularly not for an African-American woman in an all-white congregation during the tumultuous decades that followed the Second Vatican Council.

 

The council created an opportunity for Sister Thea to find her authentic spiritual voice, which knitted together her black Southern self, her remarkable intellect and her fierce devotion to her Catholic faith. She earned her doctorate in English at Catholic University of America in 1972 and went on to teach in and chair the English department at Viterbo College in Wisconsin. Her life as a graduate student in Washington, D.C., exposed her to the intellectual ferment of the civil rights movement, and as she befriended men and women from around the world, she began to realize the rich possibilities offered by life in a cosmopolitan community. She would later make extended trips to Europe and Africa. Ultimately, the seeds were planted for her ministry of African-American expression in Catholic worship and, more generally, greater cross-cultural awareness in the church.

 

Thea Bowman’s life was cut short by cancer in 1990, but during the 1980s, she achieved international renown by sharing and spreading the African-American spiritual traditions of her Mississippi childhood. An accomplished singer, she demonstrated through song, dance, body movement, moaning, humming, and chant that people of African descent had important messages and gifts to offer the universal church. (…) Perhaps the most enduring symbol of Sister Thea’s legacy is the Lead Me, Guide Me hymnal, a collection of hymns in the African-American tradition for use in Catholic churches.

 

 

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

 

1. Do I experience painful but beneficial departure? Do I open my heart to the presence of the Spirit-Advocate who testifies to the world about Jesus, the Risen Lord and the Son of God?

 

2. How do the trials and sufferings of Saint Paul and Silas make them better apostles and missionaries? Do you wish to imitate them in transforming situations of duress into occasions of grace?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

Saint Paul and Silas suffer beatings and imprisonment

for the sake of the Gospel.

Yet their faith is undaunted

through the power of the Spirit-Advocate.

They pray and sing songs of trust in moments of trial.

When things are difficult for us,

let us imitate the apostles

in their trust and total surrender to you.

Help us to welcome the Spirit-Advocate in our life

and be attentive to his inspiration.

May we always look forward with hope

to the Easter triumph of the Risen Christ.

We bless 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.

 

“If I go, I will send the Advocate to you.” (Jn 16:7) // “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you and your household will be saved.” (Acts 16:31)

 

 

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

 

Recall some significant “departure” moments in your life and see how they have contributed to strengthen your character. Let the suffering, trial, and difficulty you are experiencing at the moment be united with the heart of Jesus and the heavenly Father’s saving will. Offer them to God for an apostolic intention.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

May 20, 2020: WEDNESDAY – EASTER WEEKDAY (6)

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Spirit Guides Us to All Truth … His Gospel Is Proclaimed to All Cultures

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 17:15, 22-18:1 // Jn 16:12-15

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 16:12-15): “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you to all truth.”

 

The following story entitled “Half Truths” is humorous, but it can give us an idea of the importance of Jesus’ promise to his disciples concerning the Spirit of truth who would guide us to the fullness of truth.

 

The first mate had somehow gotten drunk, so that night the captain wrote in the record for the day, “Mate drunk today.” The mate begged the captain to take it out of the record, for it might cost him his job with the ship’s owners. It was also his first offense. But the captain refused saying, “It’s a fact and into the log it goes.” Some days later the mate was on the bridge and it was his turn to keep the log. He duly recorded the location, speed, and distance covered that day. Then he added, “The Captain, sober today.” The captain protested that this would leave an altogether false impression – that it was an unusual thing for him to be sober. But the mate answered in the very words of the captain, “It’s a fact and so into the log it goes.”

 

A thing may be true, but the time and manner of telling and the circumstances may give an entirely false impression of another’s action or character. Many of us are languishing in situations of incomplete truth or are suffering the painful consequences of half-truths. Indeed, many lack complete understanding. Our contact with Jesus Truth-Way-Life, the glorified Lord and Redeemer, inspires us to seek the fullness of truth and nurtures in us a faith seeking understanding.

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Jn 16:12-15) underlines the life-giving promise of Jesus about the coming of the Spirit of truth who will guide his disciples to all truth. The role of the Holy Spirit in our life is to make the mission and message of Jesus clear in every age. The revelation of God’s saving love by Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is complete, but our understanding is incomplete. We need the guidance and the memory of the Holy Spirit to enable us to grasp, understand and accept the import, the personal implication and the challenge of Christ’s paschal destiny as a suffering and glorified Lord. Through the guidance of the Spirit of truth, we become more united with the Paschal Mystery of the incarnate Truth, Jesus Christ.

   

 

B. First Reading (Acts 17:15, 22-18:1): “What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you.”

 

Today’s reading (Acts 17:15, 22-18:1) is again from the second missionary journey of St. Paul the Apostle. After being persecuted in Thessalonica and Berea, he is escorted to safety in Athens by Christian believers. While waiting for Silas and Timothy to rejoin him in Athens, Paul holds discussions with people in the public square as well as with Jews and “God-fearers” in the synagogue. Athens is a center of Greek intellectual life and Hellenistic learning and piety. Paul attracts the attention of philosophers who bring him to the Areopagus, the city council of Athens. The apostle takes the opportunity to expound his teaching to the city’s philosophers and leading politicians. Paul’s speech in Athens is notable because he attempts “to inculturate” the Gospel message to an academic world. He first recasts the Easter proclamation (that is, Jesus is the Son of God whom God has raised from the dead) as “one God, one Lord”, who is the author of salvation. Paul deems it wise to use initially an approach that corresponds with the Greek rhetoric. In this the apostle manifests a readiness to accept the best in the culture and philosophy of the Gospel recipients.

 

Saint Paul, however, cannot and does not dilute the Easter message. He is impelled to proclaim to the Greek intellectuals the radical salvation that Jesus Christ won for us by his death and resurrection. A sharp reaction ensues when Paul proclaims that “the man whom God has appointed to judge the world with justice” God has confirmed “by raising him from the dead”. Some scoff at Saint Paul; some dismiss him with a polite “We should like to hear you on this some other time”; but a few become believers, including Dionysius, a member of the Court of Areopagus, and a woman named Damaris. After achieving rather modest success among the intellectuals, the irrepressible Paul moves on to spread the Good News to Corinth, the capital of the Roman province of Achaia.

 

The missionary zeal of Saint Paul is absolutely inspiring. He uses all means to proclaim the Gospel. In light of his experience, we need to examine our hearts and see how we can be more efficacious in our Gospel proclamation. The following incident in the life of the great world leader Mahatma Gandhi can also help us in our examination of conscience (cf. Anthony De Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations, New York: Image Books, 1988, p. 80).

 

In his autobiography, Mahatma Gandhi tells how in his student days in South Africa he became deeply interested in the Bible, especially the Sermon on the Mount.

 

He became convinced that Christianity was the answer to the caste system that had plagued India for centuries, and he seriously considered becoming a Christian.

 

One day he went to a church to attend Mass and get instructions. He was stopped at the entrance and gently told that if he desired to attend Mass he was welcome to do so in a church reserved for blacks.

 

He left and never returned.

 

  

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

 

1. What is the role of the Holy Spirit in my life? Is my personal life immersed in “the truth” of God’s love, revealed by his Son in the Holy Spirit?

 

2. Do we use all means to proclaim efficaciously the Gospel to all people? Are we ready to suffer rejection and the lack of response to the Gospel proclamation?

 

 

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

 

 

God our Father,

we thank you for Saint Paul,

the great apostle to the Gentiles.

He creatively proclaimed the Gospel

to all peoples and cultures.

He showed us the need to “inculturate” the Gospel

without diluting it.

Guide us by the Spirit of truth

as we share the Good News to all the nations.

We love you and we 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.

 

           “The Spirit of truth will guide you to all truth.” (Jn 16:13) // “What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you.” (Acts 17:23)

 

 

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

 

Offer a special prayer and sacrifice for the mass media and the digital communications that they may be used to promote the truth and not to distort the truth. Be sensitive to the riches and beauty of other cultures and be a part of the process of Gospel “inculturation”, that is, of letting the faith unfold from the culture of the people we are evangelizing.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

May 21, 2020: THURSDAY – EASTER WEEKDAY (6); SAINT CHRISTOPHER MAGGALANES, Priest, AND COMPANIONS, Martyrs

(N.B. Where the Ascension is observed today, the reflections for that solemn feast can be accessed by going

to the PDDM INTERNET LIBRARY.)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Will Change Our Grief into Joy … His Apostles Toil for the Gospel”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 18:1-8 // Jn 16:16-20

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 16:16-20): “You will grieve, but your grief will become joy.”

 

In the Gospel reading (Jn 16:16-20) we hear Jesus talking to his disciples about sadness and gladness. He prepares them for his impending death and the grief that they will experience in a “little while”. But their grief will give place to the joy of resurrection. His impending passion will plunge his disciples into great sorrow, but his victory over death will, in a “little while”, turn their grief into joy. As Christian disciples we continually experience desolation and consolation, trial and triumph, sadness and gladness, death and resurrection. They form the warp and the woof of our daily life. Through these complementary experiences, we develop a spiritual “insight” that enables us to see the presence of God even in the midst of difficulties. They help us grow in faith and trust as we pursue the divine through various crises and adversities. Indeed, life in the Risen Christ enables us to savor a joy that is deeply profound and enduring.

 

The following story circulated through the Internet gives us a glimpse into the joy that results from being totally united with God’s life-giving will.

 

Pam has known the pain of considering abortion. More than 24 years ago, she and her husband Bob were serving as missionaries to the Philippines and praying for a fifth child. Pam contracted amoebic dysentery, an infection of the intestine cause by a parasite found in contaminated food or drink. She went into a coma and was treated with strong antibiotics before they discovered she was pregnant.

 

Doctors urged her to abort the baby for her own safety and told her that the medicines had caused irreversible damage to her baby. She refused the abortion and cited her Christian faith as the reason for her hope that her son would be born without the devastating disabilities physicians predicted. Pam said the doctors didn’t think of it as life; they thought of it as a mass of fetal tissue.

 

While pregnant, Pam nearly lost their baby four times but refused to consider abortion. She recalled making a pledge to God with her husband: if you will give us a son, we’ll name him Timothy and we’ll make him a preacher.

 

Pam ultimately spent the last two months of her pregnancy in bed and eventually gave birth to a healthy baby boy on August 14, 1987. Pam’s youngest son is indeed a preacher. He preaches in prison, makes hospital visits, and serves with his father’s ministry in the Philippines. He also plays football. Pam’s son is Tim Tebow    

 

 

B. First Reading (Acts 18:1-8): “Paul stayed with then and worked and entered into discussions in the synagogue.”

 

The Acts of the Apostles continues in today’s reading (Acts 18:1-8) to depict the mission of Saint Paul the Apostle. After doing his very best though only with modest success in Athens, Paul goes to Corinth, a great commercial center with corresponding wealth and luxury. There he meets Aquila and Priscilla, who have recently arrived from Italy because the Emperor Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul stays and works with them for they are “tentmakers” like him. Paul supports his day-to-day activity by the work of his hands since he does not want to be a burden to the Church he serves. The apostle’s fundamental ministry, however, is to proclaim the Gospel, which he does while plying his trade. Moreover, every Sabbath he holds discussions in the synagogue, trying to convince both Jews and Greeks. The arrival of his co-workers Silas and Timothy from Macedonia, with financial assistance from the believers there, enables Paul to devote himself full time to preaching the Word.

 

In his work of evangelization in Corinth, Paul again experiences opposition and abuse. With the symbolic shaking of the dust from his clothes, Paul disclaims responsibility for the Jews’ rejection of the Gospel and asserts that he will bring it to the Gentiles. Like his mission in Athens, Saint Paul’s work of evangelization in Corinth is not a failure. Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, together with his household and many other people in Corinth who heard the message, believe and are baptized.

 

The trials and sacrifices of Saint Paul and the first apostles as well as the grace of vocation continue to be experienced by the Gospel workers in our time. The following story illustrates this (cf. James Martin, SJ, “God Is Ready” in America, March 8, 2010, p. 18).

 

At one point in my Jesuit training, I spent two years working in Nairobi, Kenya, working with the Jesuit Refugee Service. There I helped East African refugees who had settled in the city start small businesses to support themselves. At the beginning of my stay, cut off from friends and family in the States, I felt a crushing loneliness. After a few months of hard work, I also came down with mononucleosis, which required two months of recuperation. So it was a trying time.

 

Happily, I worked with some generous people, including Uta, a German Lutheran lay volunteer with extensive experience in refugee work in Southeast Asia. After I had recovered from my illness, our work flourished. Uta and I helped refugees set up about 20 businesses, including tailoring shops, several small restaurants, a bakery and even a small chicken farm. Uta and I also started a small shop that sold the refugee handcrafts. It was located in a sprawling slum in Nairobi.

 

It was a remarkable turnaround – from lying on my bed, exhausted, wondering why I had come here, anguished that I would have to return home, puzzled what I could ever accomplish, to busily working with refugees from all over East Africa, managing a shop buzzing with activity and realizing that this was the happiest and freest I had ever felt.

 

One day I was walking home from our shop. The long brown path started at a nearby church on the edge of the slum, which was perched on a hill that overlooked a broad valley. From there the bumpy path descended through a thicket of floppy-leaved banana trees, thick ficus trees, orange day lilies, tall cow grass and cornfields. On the way into the valley I passed people, silently working in their plots of land, who looked up and called out to me as I passed. Brilliantly colored, iridescent sunbirds sang from the tips of tall grasses. At the bottom of the valley was a little river, and I crossed a flimsy bridge to get to the other side.

 

When I climbed the opposite side of the hill, I turned to look back. Though it was around five in the afternoon, the equatorial sun blazed down on the green valley, illuminating the long brown path, the tiny river, the people, the banana tree, flowers and grass. Quite suddenly I was overwhelmed with happiness. I’m happy to be there, I thought. After some loneliness, some illness and some doubts, I felt that I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we believe that if we open ourselves to the Easter event our trials and sadness will be transformed into triumphs and joy?

 

2. Do we realize the importance and dignity of human labor? Do we realize the fundamental character of the work of evangelization? How does Saint Paul inspire us?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

we bless and praise you for giving us Saint Paul

as the model for Gospel proclamation.

He suffers rejection and opposition,

but he is not discouraged

because the Holy Spirit, the Easter gift, empowers him.

Help us to imitate Saint Paul

in his apostolic zeal and his physical-spiritual toil

to proclaim the saving Word to all nations.

Together with the apostle Paul

and animated by the Spirit of Jesus,

help us to endure the “little while” trials of daily life.

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.

 

“You grief will become joy.” (Jn 16:20) // “They believed and were baptized.” (Acts 18:8)  

 

 

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

 

Through prayer, word and action, be present to a grieving and/or troubled person and assure him/her that his/her sorrow will be turned into joy. Sanctify your daily human labor by uniting it with the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist and by offering it for an apostolic intention.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

May 22, 2020: FRIDAY – EASTER WEEKDAY (6); SAINT RITA OF CASCIA, Religious

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Suffers the Birth Pangs of the Kingdom … He Exhorts Us Not to Be Afraid”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 18:9-18 // Jn 16:20-23

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 16:20-23): “No one will take away your joy from you.”

 

Jesus uses the image of a woman in labor to describe the birthing of the kingdom of God. A laboring woman is in pain but there is tenderness and joy at the birth of her child. The “birth pangs” symbolize the suffering and trials of the disciples as they participate in his passion and death as Savior of the world. There will be sadness and pain, but these will be replaced by tremendous joy at the Lord’s resurrection. The Good News of the Risen Lord will enable them to situate trials and adversities in a new perspective. The “birth pangs” are part of the paschal process that leads to new life and eternal joy. In Jesus Lord, the font of joy, gladness has the ultimate word. Easter is a call to rejoice in the Risen Lord and to be missionaries of joy to a tormented world.

 

The following account of a woman in labor gives us a glimpse into the difficult birthing of the kingdom of salvation (cf. Karen Valentin in Daily Guideposts 2010, p. 44).

 

Everything I’d read about labor and delivery promised ninety seconds of contractions maximum, with three to four minutes of relief in between. I can handle that, I thought. But the books lied, or else I missed the chapter about labor-inducing drugs that sent an army of tortures into my body every other minute for twenty hours! I was in shock from the intensity of the pain, and by the time I gave birth I was completely exhausted.

 

Perhaps I was still in a delivery-room fog, but the tiny baby now wrapped like a burrito and surrounded by family didn’t quite feel like mine. “Do you feel like a parent yet”, I asked my husband, hoping I wasn’t the only one. Apparently I was.

 

Hours later, alone with the sleeping infant parked near my bed, everything still felt surreal. The baby was quiet and still like a doll, and had been asleep for hours. I needed sleep, too, but my body still hurt. I couldn’t get comfortable, and every movement – no matter how small – was torture.

 

Finally I drifted off, but just as my dream began, the little burrito woke me up. His loud, urgent cry penetrated deep inside me to a place I’d never known. It made me sit up, gritting through the pain as I inched toward my son. I picked him up and cradled him close to my body, and to our mutual relief the crying stopped. And during that peaceful moment, as I fed my little boy, I finally felt like a mother.

    

 

B. First Reading (Acts 18:9-18): “I have many people in this city.”

 

The reading (Acts 18:9-18) is a beautiful episode in the life of Paul. He is depicted as the object of divine protection. At the moment, Paul must have felt very vulnerable – like a fragile earthen vessel – having experienced so much persecution and revilement. But one night in Corinth, the Lord appears to him in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid. Go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with you.” The Lord Jesus assures Paul that he will not be harmed for there are many believers in that city. The apostle is comforted and strengthened by the divine assurance. He continues his mission in Corinth for a year and a half. Heeding God’s command, he continues to speak and proclaim the word of God. Even when the apostle is brought by an angry Jewish crowd to the proconsul Gallio, the “vessel of election”, Paul, remains unscathed for God’s grace is upon him. The magistrate refuses to deal with intramural religious squabbling and sends them away to thresh out their issues locally. The angry Jews vent their anger and frustration on Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue. Saint Paul miraculously survives another lynching. He stays with the believers for many more days, after which he sails off with his co-workers Priscilla and Aquila for Antioch.

 

Today’s episode is very meaningful for us as members of the Pauline Family founded by Blessed James Alberione. The same assurance of divine grace that Saint Paul had experienced is also present in the life of Blessed Alberione. Here is his account (cf. Rev. James Alberione, “Abundantes Divitiae Gratiae Suae, English trans. Boston: FSP, 1979, p. 91-93).

 

In moments of particular difficulty, re-examining his whole conduct to see if there were impediments to the action on his part, it seemed to him that the Divine Master wanted to reassure the Institute, started only a few years previously.

 

In a dream which he had afterwards, he felt he was given an answer. In fact, Jesus Master said: “Do not be afraid. I am with you. From here I will cast light. Be sorry for sins.”

 

The from here came from the tabernacle and with strength as to make him understand that from Him – the Teacher – comes all the light that has to be received.

 

He spoke of it to the Spiritual Director, explaining the light in which the figure of the Master had appeared. He replied: “Be serene. Dream or otherwise, what was said is holy. Make it a practical program of life and of light for yourself and for all the members.”

 

From this he always oriented himself more; and he drew all from the Tabernacle.

 

So he understood the following expressions in the midst of all circumstances: Neither the socialists, nor the fascists, nor the world, nor the demands of the creditors in a moment of panic, nor shipwreck, nor Satan, nor the passions, nor your insufficiency on every side … but be sure you let me stay with you; do not drive me out by sin. “I am with you”, that is, with your Family, which I have willed, which I nourish, of which I am a part, as the head. Do not hesitate! Even if there are many difficulties …; but just let me stay with you always. Do not sin! (…)

 

 

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

 

1. Are we willing to experience the birth pangs of the kingdom of salvation? Are we willing to embrace the joy in the Risen Lord and the mission that it entails?

 

2. In moments of difficulties and crisis do we trust in the Lord’s assurance: “Fear not … I am with you!”?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you appeared in a vision to Saint Paul,

a fragile earthen vessel.

You assured him,

“Do not be afraid for I am with you.”

We thank you for the loving assurance

you offered to the “vessel of election”.

As we experience the birth pangs of your kingdom,

let us feel the victory of your grace.

You are the center of our life.

Let our hearts rejoice in you.

We adore you 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.

 

“Your hearts will rejoice.” (Jn 16:22) // “Do not be afraid.” (Acts 18:9)

 

 

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

 

Alleviate the suffering and anxiety of a person close to you and enable that person to experience the joy of the Gospel. In moments of trial and difficulty, cling to the assuring words of the Lord: “Do not be afraid … I am with you.”

 

 

*** *** ***

 

May 23, 2020: SATURDAY – EASTER WEEKDAY (6)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Pray in His Name … The Scriptures Testify He is the Christ”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 18:23-28 // Jn 16:23b-28

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 16:23b-28): “My father loves you because you have loved me and believed in me.”

 

In the Gospel (Jn 16:23b-28), Jesus tells his disciples that those who love him will be loved by his heavenly Father. Those who believe in him as the Son of God will share in the joy of his glory as the Risen Lord. They will likewise enter into a new and intimate relationship with God the Father in prayer. At the birth of his kingdom and in his victory over sin and death, they will efficaciously pray and intercede. Jesus exhorts his disciples to ask the Father anything in his name. This will be given to them and their joy will be complete. Easter is a time to trust in the power of prayer. Easter invites us not only to rejoice in the Lord, but also to intercede in his name.

 

The following story gives witness to the power of prayer (cf. Susan Orneck, “Air Lift” in Guideposts, May 2012, p.65).

 

San Diego to Tampa – a long flight. I was on my way home from a real-estate agent workshop. If only I could relax, I thought as I shifted in my seat. Even a lucky upgrade to first class wasn’t enough to calm me down. My nephew had been diagnosed with melanoma. Jordan was in his early twenties, just starting a career as a songwriter. He faced his disease with incredible courage, believing in God’s plans for his life, whatever they were. Lord, I am so worried about him, I thought.

 

I noticed the man sitting next to me – long hair, ratty T-shirt, headphones and tattoos. He looked like a rocker dude from the seventies. “I’m traveling with my band”, he confirmed as the flight attendant served us a beverage. “Really? My nephew wants to be a songwriter.” He pulled off his headphones and asked me more about Jordan. I talked about his cancer, how much I feared losing him. Usually I was good at keeping my feelings in check. But here, with a complete stranger, I suddenly felt free to share how anxious I was. “I see him fighting so hard”, I said, starting to cry. “Chemotherapy is so difficult. I don’t know where he finds the strength to bear it.”

 

“I had cancer myself a few years ago”, my seatmate said after a moment. “I know how hard it can be.” A tear streaked down his cheek. He grabbed my hand and held it tight. “You can pray for your nephew’, he said. “I’ll pray with you.” A woman spoke up from across the aisle. “I’d like to pray for him too.” “Me too”, said the man behind me. I hadn’t known everyone was listening!

 

The next thing I knew our entire cabin was on its feet and holding hands – including the two flight attendants. I didn’t know anything about leading a prayer circle so I just spoke from the heart about Jordan. For the first time since his diagnosis I didn’t feel so alone in my fear. God was with me 30,000 feet above the earth, and so were these people who were praying – and would continue to pray – for my nephew.

 

Jordan’s cancer went into remission. He is still writing songs. And I am still lifted up by what I learned about the power of prayer.

 

 

B. First Reading (Acts 18:23-28): “Apollos established from the Scriptures that the Christ is Jesus.”

 

In the reading (Acts 18:23-28), Saint Paul begins his third missionary journey. From his home base in Antioch, he proceeds to Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the believers. In the meantime we are introduced to a Jew named Apollos, born in Alexandria, a very eloquent speaker who is well-versed in the Scriptures. Apollos goes to Ephesus where he speaks boldly in the synagogue. With great enthusiasm, he speaks accurately the facts about Jesus, which he knew through his association with a movement of reform preached by John the Baptist. Priscilla and Aquila take Apollos under their patronage and explain to him more correctly the “Way of God”. With a letter of recommendation, Apollos moves to Achaia, where he becomes a great help to the church in Corinth. He engages the Jews in public debates and is able to prove from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah. Through the instruction of Priscilla and Aquila, Apollos’ biblical knowledge acquires a radically new element: that Jesus is not merely a Teacher, but the “Messiah” revealed and foretold in the Scriptures. Thus the bible scholar Apollos is transformed into a believer in, and a preacher of, Jesus as the “Messiah”.

 

The radical newness of Christian faith that Apollos experienced continues to transform the hearts of people throughout history. Here is an example.

 

The story is told of an Indian Christian evangelist who was distributing the Gospels to passengers in a train speeding through Central India. One man in anger took the copy, tore it into small pieces, and threw them out the open window.

 

That seemed to be the end of the matter, but actually it was only the beginning … for a man was walking along the railroad track that day. He saw this little piece of paper, picked it up and in his own language saw written on it the words, “The Bread of Life”. He did not know what that meant, so he asked around among his friends. One told him, “That comes out of a Christian book. You must not read it or you will be defiled.”

 

He bought a New Testament and someone showed him the passage with Jesus’ words, “I am the Bread of Life.”

 

That started it! He studied the Gospels and light flooded into his heart. Later he became a preacher of the Gospel. And so it was that a little piece of paper, through the power of the Spirit, became the bread of life in this man’s life.

 

 

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

 

Do we trust in the power of prayer? Do we believe that whatever we ask the Father in the name of Jesus will be given us? Do we allow ourselves to be transformed by the radical newness of our faith: Jesus is the Messiah?

 

 

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

 

Jesus Savior, the life-giving Word,

you assure us of the power of prayer.

You tell us that whatever we ask the Father in your name

will be given to us.

We turn to you in humble supplication.

Prompted by the Holy Spirit

we pray that the heavenly kingdom may come

and his saving will be done.

Give us the grace to know you,

serve you

and love you more and more.

We treasure the Father’s love for you and for us.

We desire to 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.

 

“Whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.” (Jn 16:23b) // “He established from the Scriptures that the Christ is Jesus.” (Acts 18:28)

 

 

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

 

Make a serious effort to offer a prayer of intercession on behalf of the people of today, especially those being led astray by false teachings and erroneous moral principles. By your words and deeds, manifest to the people around the radically new and transforming element of Christian faith: Jesus is the Messiah.

 

***

 

 

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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