A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 18, n. 27)

Pentecost – Week 9 in Ordinary Time: May 31 – June 6, 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 23-30, 2020 please go to ARCHIVES Series 18 and click on “Easter Week 7”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: May 31 – June 6, 2020.)

 

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May 31, 2020: PENTECOST SUNDAY

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Easter Gift Propels the Mission of the Church”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 2:1-11 // I Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13 // Jn 20:19-23

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 20:19-23): “As the Father sent me, so I send you: Receive the Holy Spirit.” 

          

Terns are aquatic birds related to sea gulls. They have a more slender body and bill, smaller feet, a long, deeply forked tail, and a more graceful flight. The following experience of Carolyn White, a Maryknoll Sister assigned in the picturesque Marshall Islands, is about these fascinating birds flying over a lagoon at sunset (cf. Maryknoll, November 2003, p. 5) and how they have imaged in her the presence of the Holy Spirit.

 

On a small island in the Marshalls one evening, I sat looking over the lagoon with the setting sun behind the trees to my left. White fairy terns were diving for their supper. When they rose from the water with a splash, the sun struck their glistening bodies with a blaze of glory. I was stunned. It set me wondering if there had been some original connection between two of the symbols for the Holy Spirit – the white dove or tern and the Pentecostal tongues of fire.

 

The celebration of the feast of Pentecost helps us delve more deeply into the meaning and presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Today’s liturgy underlines that the Holy Spirit, the Easter gift, is the power that propels the missionary expansion of the Church. According to the biblical scholar, Neal Flanagan: “On the cross, Jesus, manifesting the nature of God, which is love, delivers over the spirit (Jn 19:30), symbolized immediately afterward by the flow of the sacramental symbols of blood and water. And now, at his first encounter with the believing community, he breathes the Spirit again as he celebrates the re-creation of God’s people. Simultaneously, he sends out these disciples just as the Father had sent him (Jn 20:21). His mission becomes theirs; his work is placed in their hands. That mission is to manifest God who is love - in their words and deeds. Through them now, enlivened by the Spirit, will the presence of God become known and seen and felt in the world.”

 

Indeed, the giving of the Holy Spirit to the Easter community of Christian disciples behind closed doors on the day of the Lord’s resurrection attains a more public and expansive character on the day of Pentecost, the feast that takes place fifty days after Easter. According to the authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 3: “Pentecost is the crowning finale of the celebration of the Lord’s resurrection, which lasts throughout Easter t ime and ends with the pouring out of the Spirit over the apostles and in the Church … At Pentecost, the Spirit made them open the doors, speaking without fear to the people who gathered as a noise like a strong driving wind filled the whole house (cf. Acts 2:1-11). This was a public event … The Church blossoms on Pentecost, and it is quite clear that the fruits of the Lord’s Passover surpass the promise of the buds.”

 

The marvelous event of the original Pentecost, with its recreating energy and unifying force, should be replicated in our lives and experienced by the peoples, cultures and nations of the here and now. Harold Buetow asserts: “Through the ministry of the Church, whenever we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’s action in our lives we experience a little pentecost. Little pentecosts happen whenever we use the special gifts gently given us by the Spirit to serve all the other members of the community of humankind. They happen whenever we cooperate with God’s inspiration to bring peace, to unify our parish, to do a good deed, to help a needy neighbor, to think kindly thoughts of others, or to allow God to forgive our sins. Only when we cooperate with our little pentecosts can we have the wonderful experiences of the first Christian Pentecost.”

 

 

B. First Reading (Acts 2:1-11): “They were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak.”

 

Today’s First Reading (Acts 2:2-11) is about the Christian Pentecost. It should be seen against the backdrop of the feast of the Jewish Shavuot that commemorates the giving of the law on Mount Sinai, an event accompanied by wind and fire. The feast of Shavuot celebrates the establishment of the Covenant of God with the Israelites, recalling the moment when they were constituted as the people of God. In the Christian Pentecost, as narrated by Luke, the Holy Spirit, the principle of the new law of love, is poured out upon the believers drawn out from all peoples of the earth to constitute the all-inclusive new people of God, the Church. This event is accompanied by stupendous signs: the noise of a strong driving wind, the tongues of fire that rested on the disciples, and the speaking in different tongues.

 

The Christian Pentecost is a Babel event (cf. Gen 11) in reverse. According to Luke, the Spirit-empowered apostles speak a universal language. The unity lost at Babel, when the one language was confused, is restored. This Pentecostal event of unity symbolizes and anticipates the apostles’ worldwide mission of salvation. In their enduring mission of evangelization, the community of believers is empowered by the Holy Spirit, whose coming and presence in their hearts will never cease. Truly, the Holy Spirit, the principal agent and the protagonist of the Church’s mission, is the principle of the New Covenant ratified by the blood of Christ, poured out by his death on the cross.

 

In May 2013 I had a beautiful experience of “universal salvation”. It was the second day of my annual retreat in our convent in Staten Island. There were twelve persons celebrating the Eucharist in our small but beautiful convent chapel. Suddenly a heartwarming thought dawned upon me. The Church gathered there was truly representative of the universal Church. The celebrant was a native New Yorker and the assembly came from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds: Italy, Canada, Mexico, Nicaragua, Vietnam, Japan, Korea, India and the Philippines. The Eucharistic community gathered at that moment was a very powerful symbol of the universal salvation brought about by the Holy Spirit, the Easter gift. It was the fulfillment of Christ’s prophetic words before his passion: “When I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all people to myself” (Jn 12:32). 

 

 

C. Second Reading (I Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13): “In one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.”

 

Today’s Second Reading (I Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13) underlines that those who have responded in faith to the Gospel, with their vast richness of socio-cultural backgrounds and their beautiful gifts, are brought into unity by the Holy Spirit, the font of gifts. The Spirit dwells in and animates those baptized into Christ’s body, the Church. The biblical scholar Eugene Maly comments: “In the reading from Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth we note two characteristics of the Spirit’s work. The first is the bestowing of special gifts on the believer … Anything we do as Christians to help one another is the Spirit’s power working in us; it is his gift. The one major criterion for recognizing the possession of a gift is if it helps others, or, as Paul puts it, if it is for the common good. The Spirit’s gifts are not for chosen elite; they are for all who believe and who act on their belief. That is why Paul says that the greatest gift is love. The other characteristic of the Spirit’s work mentioned here is his unifying power. He makes the most disparate peoples one. That means that in one spirit all of us were baptized into one body. While every Christian around the world has his or her special gifts, they all form one body of Christ. The Holy Spirit is the unifying principle.”

 

The Church’s celebration of Pentecost is a thanksgiving for the gift of the Spirit. It is also a call to maximize the gifts we have received for the good of others and to build the unity of the one body of Christ, the Church. The following story expresses in a quaint, “colorful” way the “unity in diversity” in the Spirit (cf. La Vita in Cristo e nella Chiesa, May 2011, p. 54, translated by Sr. Mary Eugenia Pia, pddm).

 

Once upon a time the colors had a terrible fight. All of them were proclaiming themselves the best, the absolute, the favorite.

 

The green said: “Clearly I am the most important since I am the symbol of life and hope. I was chosen by the grass, by trees and by all the shrubs.”

 

The blue interrupted: “You think only about the earth, but don’t you consider the sky and the sea? Water is the basis of life. Without me you would be nothing.”

 

The yellow butted in: “You are all so serious. I bring smiles and warmth throughout the world. The sun is yellow. The sunflowers are yellow. The whole world seems to smile with me.”

 

The orange exclaimed: “I am the color of health and strength. I am precious because I carry with me the most important vitamins. I am so beautiful that no one thinks about you anymore.”

 

The red shouted: “I am the king of all of you. I am the color of passion, of love, of a rose.”

 

The purple stood up in all its height and spoke with pompous voice: “I am the royal and powerful color. The heads have already chosen me because I am the sign of authority. People listen to and obey me!”

 

Finally the violet said: “Think of me. I am the color of silence. I represent thoughts and peace.”

 

And so they continued to discuss, each one convinced they were the most beautiful, the most useful and the one preferred by all. They argued and fought more and more. But suddenly a lightning bolt broke the sky. The thunder and the rain which followed scared the colors so much that they pulled together to comfort one another so as not to be afraid.

 

In the midst of the noise, the rain began to speak: “You foolish colors – fighting among yourselves and each one trying to dominate the other. Don’t you realize that each one of you has a unique, different purpose? Hold each other’s hand and come with me.

 

After they had reached peace, they took each other’s hand. The rain continued: “From now on when it rains, each one of you will extend yourself throughout the sky as a great arch of color as a reminder that you are all friends and live in peace.”

 

 

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

 

1. When the Risen Jesus breathes upon us and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit”, what is our response? Are we receptive to the Holy Spirit, the Easter gift? How does the Easter mandate, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” affect us personally and influence our lives effectively?

2. By the power of the Holy Spirit, do we bear abundant fruit for the good of all and carry out zealously our ministry in the Church and in the world?

3. How do I promote and realize the Pentecost gift of “unity in diversity”?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

we thank you for the Holy Spirit,

the power of love that bonds you to your Son Jesus Christ

and the power of life that raised him up from his sacrificial death.

We thank you, dear Father,

for the Risen Lord’s Easter gift of the Holy Spirit

that enabled the disciples to participate in his paschal victory over death.

We thank you again

for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples at Pentecost

and the public inauguration of the missionary Church.

Above all, we thank you

for the blossoming of the Church at Pentecost

and for choosing peoples from all nations and cultures

to be a part of the blooming and fruitful Church.

We love you and serve, almighty God and gracious Father,

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.

 

“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” (Acts 2:4)

 

 

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

 

By your acts of charity, make a “little pentecost” happen in today’s distressed situation. Pray for those who are preparing to receive and those who have received the sacrament of Confirmation that they may truly experience the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Pray for the healing of all nations and for peace in the world through a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit. 

 

 

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June 1, 2020: MONDAY – THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, MOTHER OF THE CHURCH

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Gives to Us Mary as

Mother of the Church”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Gn 3:9-15, 20 or Acts 1:12-14 // Jn 19:25-34

 

 

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

In 1994, desiring to deepen our Priestly Apostolate as PDDM Sisters, we presented to Msgr. Protacio Gungon, the Bishop of the Diocese of Antipolo (Philippines), our plan to organize the mothers, fathers, relatives and friends of priests as “prayer warriors”. They would pray especially for priests and for priestly-religious vocations and would also serve as a support group for them. Bishop Gungon blessed our initiative with his approval. Moreover, he suggested that this group of “prayer warriors” be dedicated to “MARY, MOTHER OF THE CHURCH”.  Thus, the Mary, Mother of the Church: Prayer Association for Priests started on February 2, 1994 in the Diocese of Antipolo to support and collaborate with the priestly ministry. It was very opportune to be under the patronage of Mary, who is the Mother of Jesus Priest and the Mother of the Church, the community of believers generated by Christ’s priestly sacrifice on the cross. Hence, I received with joy the recent announcement made by Pope Francis on March 3, 2018 that a new memorial entitled, “The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church” would be universally celebrated throughout the Church, on the Monday after Pentecost Sunday.

 

The Bible Readings assigned for this Marian memorial are well chosen. The Gospel reading (John 19:25-34) depicts the “birthing” of the Church from the wounded side of Christ and the entrusting of the Church, the community of disciples represented by John, to Mother Mary. In the Gospel of John, the attempt to slake his “thirst” with “a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop” evokes the “sprig of hyssop” of Exodus 12:22, that is, the plant used to sprinkle Israelite doors with the saving blood of the Passover lamb. Against this backdrop, we realize that Jesus’ cry: “It is finished”, before he bows his head and hands over his spirit, indicates the fulfillment of the divine plan of salvation. By the outpouring of his blood on the cross, Jesus, the Priest and Victim, accomplishes all he has to do - the Father’s will … the Scriptures … the salvation of humankind! In the mind of the evangelist John, the death of Jesus is a “glorification”. It is the release of his Spirit into the world. By his death, Jesus releases his Spirit to the Father and at the same time, pours it out to believers. Moreover, the evangelist John narrates that a soldier pierces the side of Jesus with a lance and immediately “blood and water” flow out. The “blood and water” from the pierced side of Christ signify Baptism and the Eucharist, by which Christ continues to generate the Church through time and space and to nourish them with his sacramental body and blood. Indeed, Baptism and the Eucharist are the “life sources” of the Church, the “new Eve”, coming forth from the side of Jesus Christ, the “new Adam”.

 

In the context of the “birthing” of the Church on the cross, Mary plays a prominent role. In the mystery of the Lord’s incarnation, Mary becomes the Mother of Jesus, the Son of God. In the paschal mystery on the cross, Mary becomes the “Mother of the Church”, the community of Christian disciples that is continually generated through the ages. The First Reading (Gn 3:9-15, 20) is about Adam’s wife, Eve, the mother of all the living. Mary, who stood with Jesus by the cross, is another Eve – the “new Eve” – the mother of all those redeemed by her Son Jesus. While Adam’s Eve brought death to the world, Mary – the “new Eve” is life-giving through her intimate participation in Christ’s redemptive work. For us Christian disciples, Mary becomes our Mother and Jesus becomes our brother. We are Mary’s children and, consequently, we are brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus. The biblical scholar Neal Flanagan asserts that Mary, beneath the cross, is “a woman of victory” and indicate Mary’s vital contribution to salvation history.

 

The alternative First Reading (Acts 1:12-14) depicts Mary as the Mother of the apostles and disciples in the Cenacle, preparing for the “Pentecostal” generation of the Church, that is destined to preach the Gospel to the nations by the anointing of the Holy Spirit. In this biblical text, the evangelist Luke portrays the time between the Ascension of the Lord and the Pentecost as a time of waiting and praying. The disciples of the Lord, as participants in the Easter event, are sharing in the hour of “silent begetting” and are waiting for the Pentecostal hour that will change everything. According to Saint Luke, they “devoted themselves with one accord to prayer”. The community of praying disciples has as its nucleus the apostles who, on the day of Pentecost, would be empowered to become the new leaders of God’s people. Luke narrates that the prototype Church includes “some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers”. Among the women disciples in Jerusalem after the Ascension, Luke names only Mary, the mother of Jesus. She who bore the Savior in her womb is with the apostles when the Holy Spirit descends to bring the missionary Church to birth for the sending out to the nations. The vital role of Mary in Jesus’ birth is beautifully evoked at the birthing of the Church on Pentecost.

 

 

 

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

 

Do we greatly esteem the role of Mary in the birthing of the Church and in the life of the Church? How do we manifest in daily life our love for Mary?

 

 

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

(Our Founder Blessed James Alberione has a great devotion to Mary, Queen of the Apostles. In the following prayer he composed, he underlines her animating role in the apostolic and praying Church. Likewise, in this prayer, Blessed Alberione gives Mary the beautiful titles, “Mother of the apostles” and “Mother of the Church”.)

 

Virgin most pure, noble Queen of Martyrs,

Morning Star, safe Refuge of sinners,

rejoice for the days in which you were Teacher, Comforter

and Mother of the apostles in the Cenacle!

You invoked and received the Divine Paraclete,

the Spirit with the seven gifts,

Love of the Father and of the Son,

Transformer of the Apostles.

With your all-powerful intercession

and your humble and irresistible prayers,

which always move God’s heart,

obtain for me the grace to realize the value

of every human person ransomed from hell

with Jesus’ most precious blood. (…)

Mother of the Church,

Queen of the Apostles, our Advocate,

to you we sigh, mourning in this valley of tears!

 

 

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.

 

            “Behold, your mother!” (Jn 19:27)

 

 

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

 

Continue to invoke Mary’s intercession that finally we may be liberated from the pandemic calamity. Extend your assistance as the Church community slowly come together for the sacramental celebration.

 

 

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June 2, 2020: TUESDAY – WEEKDAY (9); SAINTS MARCELLINUS AND PETER, Martyrs

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls us Repay to Caesar What Belongs to Caesar and to God What Belongs to God … In Him We Await New Heavens and a New Earth”

 

BIBLE READINGS

2 Pt 3:12-15a, 17-18 // Mk 12:13-17

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 12:13-17): “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

 

Today’s Gospel (Mk 12:13-17) presents an insidious trap concocted by some Pharisees and Herodians against Jesus. Recognizing their hypocrisy and evil intent, Jesus eludes the trap by asking them to bring him a denarius. When they hand him the Roman coin, he asks them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They reply “Caesar’s”. Jesus then confounds them with a masterly retort: “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God”.

 

The great preacher, Fulton Sheen, comments on today’s Gospel episode: “Our Lord took no sides, because the basic question was not God or Caesar, but God and Caesar. That coin used in their daily marketing showed they were no longer independent from a political point of view. In that lower sphere of life, the debt to the government should be discharged … Once again he was saying that his kingdom was not of this world; that submission to him is not inconsistent with submission to secular powers; that political freedom is not the only freedom. To the Pharisees who hated Caesar came the command: Give unto Caesar; to the Herodians who had forgotten God in their love of Caesar came the basic principle: Give unto God. Had the people rendered to God his due, they would not now be in their present state of having to render too much to Caesar. He had come primarily to restore the rights of God. As he told them before, if they sought first the kingdom of God and his justice, all these things such as political freedom would be added unto them.”

 

Today we are reminded of our primary duty to render to God his rights as well as our obligation to render our due to the civil society. Jesus challenges us to be observant in paying our debts to God and to fulfill our duties to one another and to a larger society. I am a Filipino citizen, but because of the particular work that I do – spiritual ministry – I am not a wage earner. I do not pay income tax since I practically do not have any income. But I know the importance of paying taxes to the Philippine government. Taxes are needed to fund its community services and public works. Hence, I contribute my “little” to the civil society by paying my resident’s tax, travel tax, etc. not grudgingly but joyfully, and above all, by conducting myself in a manner that befits a citizen of our beloved nation.

    

 

B. First Reading (2 Pt 3:12-15a, 17-18): “We await new heavens and a new earth.”

 

In the reading (2 Pet 3:12-15a, 17-18), the apostle directs the attention of believers to “new heavens and a new earth”. Aelred Rosser comments: “The author of this letter is energetically appealing to logic. Peter is asking, ‘Since the world as we know it is going to come to an end, and since we do not know when this will happen’, is it not obvious that we should live in readiness and with devout attention? (…) The second coming is the final phase of the one great divine intervention, which is Jesus Christ. Are you growing impatient for the new heaven and the new earth? The writer tells us we can hasten the coming of this glorious event by leading holy lives. The Jews have a saying that if Israel lived God’s law perfectly for just one day, the kingdom would be restored … We Christians can hasten the second coming of Christ by leading holy lives … Or impatience with ourselves can be a very healthy motivation toward holiness. We become weary and intolerant of weakness and sin only when we forget that in eternity, the will of God to save the world has already been fulfilled and has always been fulfilled.”

 

As we wait for the advent of the “new heavens and a new earth”, we must continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom is due glory, now and for eternity. The following article, “Five Important Lessons in Life”, circulated through the Internet, gives an idea on how to promote and hasten the advent of God’s kingdom.

 

First Important Lesson: “Cleaning Lady”

During my second month of college, our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions until I read the last one: "What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?" Surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark-haired and in her 50's, but how would I know her name? I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade. "Absolutely", said the professor. "In your careers, you will meet many people.  All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say "hello." I've never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.

Second Important Lesson: “Pickup in the Rain”

One night, at 11:30 p.m., an older African American woman was standing on the side of an Alabama highway trying to endure a lashing rainstorm. Her car had broken down and she desperately needed a ride. Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car. A young white man stopped to help her, generally unheard of in those conflict-filled 1960's. The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance and put her into a taxicab. She seemed to be in a big hurry, but wrote down his address and thanked him. Seven days went by and a knock came on the man's door. To his surprise, a giant console color TV was delivered to his home. A special note was attached. It read: "Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night. The rain drenched not only my clothes, but also my spirits.  Then you came along. Because of you, I was able to make it to my dying husband's bedside just before he passed away... God bless you for helping me and unselfishly serving others.

Sincerely,

Mrs. Nat King Cole

 

Third Important Lesson: “Always Remember Those Who Serve”

In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10-year-old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him. "How much is an ice cream sundae?" he asked. "Fifty cents," replied the waitress. The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied the coins in it. "Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?" he inquired. By now more people were waiting for a table and the waitress was growing impatient. "Thirty-five cents," she brusquely replied. The little boy again counted his coins. "I'll have the plain ice cream," he said. The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table and walked away. The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and left. When the waitress came back, she began to cry as she wiped down the table. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish were two nickels and five pennies. You see, he couldn't have the sundae, because he had to have enough left to leave her a tip.

 

Fourth Important Lesson: “The Obstacle in Our Path”

In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock.  Some of the King's wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way. Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road.  After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the King indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many of us never understand! Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.

 

Fifth Important Lesson: “Giving When It Counts”

Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at a hospital, I got to know a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare & serious disease.  Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness.  The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, "Yes I'll do it if it will save her."  As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheek. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, "Will I start to die right away".  Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood to save her.

  

 

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

 

1. Do I render to God his rights as well as my duty of service to humanity? Am I animated with love and zeal as I carry out my obligation to God and neighbors?

 

2. How do we prepare ourselves for “new heavens and the new earth”? How do we hasten the definitive advent of the kingdom of God?

 

 

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

 

O loving Jesus,

you came into the world to uphold the divine majesty

and to promote the total integrity of the human person.

Help us to be totally dedicated to God

and fully involved

in the pursuit of justice and peace in today’s world,

in giving preferential care for the weak and vulnerable,

and in promoting the good of individuals and the society.

Bless our endeavors

to “repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar

and to God what belongs to God”.

Make us channels of your peace and healing love.

We love you and serve you;

we glorify you and give you praise, now and forever.

Amen.

 

***

Loving Jesus,

we yearn for salvation

and dream visions of “new heavens and a new earth”.

In faith we believe that these are fulfilled in you

by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Help us to live holy lives

that we may hasten the advent of your glorious kingdom,

To you be glory, now and forever!

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” (Mk 12:17) //“We await new heavens and a new earth.” (II Pt 3:13)

 

  

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

 

Participate actively, consciously and fruitfully in the Sunday worship and be honest and responsible in paying your dues to the State. // Spend some quiet moments contemplating the miracle of “newness” and thanking God for the gift of “new beginnings” in your personal life. By your acts of justice, charity and compassion to the poor and needy, let the people around you experience our promised destiny of “new heavens and a new earth”.

 

 

 

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June 3, 2020: WEDNESDAY – SAINT CHARLES LWANGA AND COMPANIONS, Martyrs

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Us to Faith in the Living God … With Him We Suffer for the Gospel”

 

BIBLE READINGS

2 Tm 1:1-3, 6-12 // Mk 12:18-27

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 12:18-27): He is not God of the dead but of the living.”

 

This story is told by one of our Italian Sisters. Her father died of a massive stroke. Her mom was crying heartily at the funeral. She tried to console her with the thought of the final reunion in heaven. Her mom wailed: “But Jesus said in the Gospel that in the next life we will be like angels … no more matrimony. In heaven, I will no longer be your dad’s wife!” Of course, the widow’s fear of losing her husband in heaven is unfounded. True love never ends and nuptial love is perfected in heaven.

 

Today’s Gospel passage (Mk 12:18-27) introduces us to the Sadducees, a group of religious leaders who deny the existence of resurrected life. They are bent on engaging Jesus in a reduced-to-absurdity argument against bodily resurrection. The Divine Master’s first rebuttal to the scheming Sadducees also uses a reduced-to-absurdity tactic. He argues that in the next existence, which has no place for death, the issue of marriage is irrelevant. Jesus refutes the basic premise of the Sadducees that the life of the age to come is a continuation of this life and therefore needs human propagation lest it die out. The second rebuttal of Jesus is derived from the Torah. Since the Sadducees hold only to the Law of Moses, Jesus utilizes it to bolster his argument about the resurrection. The opponents of the resurrection have quoted the Torah to justify their case, but Jesus also quotes the Torah (Ex 3:6) to prove that death does not end human existence. When God says: “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” this implies that the patriarchs are living.

 

The main object of human existence is to live for God and God’s glory. It is through the resurrection of the Son of God that we are brought to true and eternal life. Our belief in our resurrection is based on our faith in the resurrected Christ. Harold Buetow remarks: “Christian belief in immortality is unique and special. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Good News of fullness of life in this age, and of the resurrection in the age to come … Someone has compared death to standing on the seashore. A ship spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the open sea. She fades on the horizon, and someone says, ‘She’s gone.’ Just at the moment when someone says, ‘She’s gone’, other voices who are watching her coming on another shore happily shout, ‘Here she comes’. Or to use another metaphor, what the caterpillar calls ‘the end’, the butterfly calls the ‘beginning’.”

       

 

B. First Reading (2 Tm:1-3, 6-12): “Stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the laying on of hands.”

 

Saint Paul was martyred at Rome in the year 67. His second letter to Timothy represents his last will and testament. Paul exhorts the young pastor Timothy “to stir into flame” the gift of God that has been given to him through the “imposition of hands”. The “gift of God” that Timothy received at ordination implies dutiful service to the faith community. The gift received needs to be continually exercised and rekindled for the common good. Timothy is likewise called to an enduring faith. Timothy needs to give witness to our Lord. He must endure sufferings for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God. Saint Paul himself, appointed by God as apostle and teacher, suffers for the sake of the Gospel. But Paul is full of confidence because God is “trustworthy” and is able “to guard what has been entrusted to him until that day”. By the grace of God, the entire content of the Gospel that has been entrusted to the apostolic Church will be preserved until the day of the Lord’s final coming at the end time. Indeed, faith, the greatest force in the world, is the richest deposit possible and the most sacred of trusts. 

 

The following inspiring article illustrates what it means “to stir into flame” the divine gift received through ordination and gives insight into a faithful Gospel witnessing (cf. David Aquije, “The Bicycle Disciple” in Maryknoll, April 2010, p. 24-31). Fr. McCahill manifests his faith and shares this wonderful gift as he serves the sick poor in Bangladesh.

 

The day Maryknoll Father Robert McCahill arrived in Narail it was raining. The thin, 72-year old priest was physically exhausted and tired of looking for the place where he could begin a new phase of mission. Narail “was kind of miserable”, says the missioner who for more than 35 years has been living in different villages of Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world, with a population of 150 million in a land the size of Iowa. Narail, a small, underdeveloped village without infrastructure in the southeast of the country, seemed to the missioner like “a good place to make a mark of Christianity, not for the purpose of conversion but simply for the idea of showing what a Christian is and does.”

 

McCahill was one of five Maryknoll priests who arrived in Bangladesh in 1975 to begin a ministry of Christian witness. For eight years, the missioners lived together, forming a Christian fraternity in Tangail, near Dhaka, the capital. Afterward, McCahill focused his mission on traveling to the interior of the country to help people, particularly children, who were in urgent need of medical assistance. Finding a place to begin his next stay can take McCahill months of research. He has his own criteria: the place should be poor, have no other foreigners or Christians and some of the people must be willing to allow him free use of a small piece of land where he can build his own shack.

 

A disciple of our times, McCahill arrives alone – with only a bag with a change of clothing and the essential elements to celebrate his own Mass – in any community where he might live for the next three years. There he sits in any tea shop – “tea stalls” he calls them – where men generally congregate to drink cha, sweet tea with milk that is the national drink, the way coffee is in the United States. Noting the presence of a foreigner, the rustic shop quickly fills up with people and McCahill responds honestly to all their questions. “I am Brother Bob, a Christian missionary”, the priest from Goshen, Indiana, tells them. “I am here to serve seriously sick people who are poor.” In the predominantly Muslim nation with a large Hindu minority, the questions that McCahill receives are many: has he come to convert, how does he finance the help he offers and why had he no family? He responds that the medical help he offers depends completely on the financial donations of his extended family and not on an organization; that his purpose is to live among people who are not Christian and treat them with love, respect and brotherhood; and that his family is all of humanity. McCahill describes the three years that he lives in each town this way: “The first year many are suspicious of me. The second year trust begins to build. The third year people’s affection is felt. They say, ‘He said he only came to do good and that is what he does’.”

 

In Narail, a short while before finishing his three years, McCahill continues getting up very early in the morning to dedicate time for prayer and meditation before beginning his mission work. This morning in October, he leaves his shack of jute-stick walls, a dirt floor and a corrugated roof and mounts his bicycle that will carry him over windy dirt roads through the beautiful countryside of Bangladesh’s fertile farmland, where ironically millions of people live in extreme poverty. The missioner pedals some miles to the next village of Bolorampur, where he visits Mehenaz, a 3-year-old girl who suffers from cerebral palsy as a result of a poorly handled delivery by a midwife in the village. Mehenaz’ grandmother brings the girl out of her hut and puts a mat on the ground. The missioner squats down in the style of the Bangladeshis and observes and assists the grandmother with the recommended physical therapy for the child. The girl’s mother isn’t there and McCahill is happy that someone else in the family has learned the exercises.

 

Afterward, amid the songs of wild birds and the smell of burning firewood, McCahill again mounts his bicycle and pedals several more miles to the village of Buramara. In Buramara, McCahill visits Liza, a 2-year-old who suffered serious burns on her left arm before her first birthday. The burns were so grave that her entire hand was fused to her forearm. McCahill was able to take the girl to a hospital in Dhaka where surgeons separated her hand from the forearm. Liza wears a brace so that the hand stays straight. The missioner explains that the child needs another surgery to straighten out two fingers that are bent. Liza cries easily and McCahill thinks it is because she is still in pain, but he tries to console her and make her laugh.

 

That is McCahill’s ministry. He mounts his bicycle and rides miles to his destination. It doesn’t matter if the roads are full of mud during the monsoon season in this tropical Asian land, east of India, on the Bay of Bengal. He arrives in a village and looks to help people who would otherwise be disabled and burdened for a lifetime by their physical conditions. With a small camera he takes photos of their conditions: cerebral palsy, burns, muscular dystrophy, cleft lips, hernias, tumors and broken bones caused by accidents. Every week he goes to Dhaka, traveling the same as the poor, in the old buses that are part of the complicated and dangerous Bengali transportation system. At a hospital in the capital, McCahill shows the photos to doctors who make their provisional diagnosis. With this information the missioner arranges for free treatment at one of the government hospitals in the city and eventually makes the eight- or nine-hour trip again with the children and their parents. “Not a great expense”, McCahill says. “I afford them their tickets. I usually provide the medicine. It’s not a matter of money; it’s a matter of love, the heart.”

 

Because he lives in a poor and predominantly Muslim country, McCahill relies on only a modest budget that comes from donations by his extended family for his ministry. “If I had lots of funds at hand to use, and lived apart (in a parish), people’s attitude to me would differ”, he says, adding the people would be tempted to wheedle money out of him. “People here understand I’m using more money for their needs than I use for my own needs.  No one can look at my life of service and say ‘he can only do that because he’s a rich American’.” For that reason McCahill shares the donations he receives through Maryknoll with other Christian communities that serve the poor in Bangladesh, especially communities of apostolic Sisters.

 

His is a life of service that he says began on Oct. 31, 1956. He was 19 years old and was interested in a career in political science. But that day as he was returning home from Seattle University, where he was studying, “I received – I can’t even describe it – an attraction to God like I had never felt before nor have needed since. The motivation I received in that moment was sufficient to keep me for life, as long as I continue to remember it.”

 

For years, McCahill has described his mission in a journal that he types every month on an antique Olivetti typewriter and shares with friends and family. “My mission”, he says, “is to show the love of Christ, the love of God for all people of all faiths; to be with them as a brother, to establish brotherhood by being a brother to them.”

                 

   

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

 

1. What is our concept of death and dying? Is this concept illumined by faith in the living God, in whom all are alive?

 

2. Do we keep in mind our ordained ministers and pray for them that the divine gift they have received through the “imposition of hands” may be stirred into flame and keep alive for the good of the Church? Do we put our faith in God and believe that he will be able to guard the faith that he has entrusted to the apostolic Church?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

you are the God of the living, not of the dead.

In Jesus, your Son and our Savior,

we live and move.

We love you and your only begotten Son

for he is the way to eternal life.

We believe that death

is a door to infinite beauty and wondrous glory.

We proclaim in the great assembly

and in our life of service to the poor and needy

that you are indeed the font of life.

May the Risen Christ whom we celebrate in every Eucharist

bring about more and more

our daily resurrection and transformation.

In our work for justice and truth in today’s wounded world,

may we always give glory and praise to the triumph of life.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

***

Lord Jesus,

we trust in you.

We pray for the ordained ministers

that they may keep alive the grace they have received

for the good of the Church.

Help us to be faithful to the Gospel.

Let the faith you have entrusted us

be kept alive until the day of your coming.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“He is not God of the dead but of the living.” (Mk 12:27) // “Stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.” (II Tm 1:6)

 

 

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

 

Pray for widows/widowers who have lost their partners and are grieving for them. Pray for the grace of a happy death and a deeper experience of trust in Jesus’ almighty Father, the God of the living. Unite the struggles and challenges of your daily life into the great Christian paschal mystery of dying that leads to eternal life. // See in what way you can help the ordained ministers proclaim the Gospel and serve the Christian community faithfully.

 

 

 

*** *** ***

 

 

June 4, 2020: THURSDAY – WEEKDAY (9)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Us to Love God and Neighbor … If We Have Died with Him, We Shall Also Live with Him” 

 

BIBLE READINGS

2 Tm 2:8-15 // Mk 12:28-34

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 12:28-34): “There is no commandment greater than these.”

 

The social ills of our time that cry out for healing challenge us to incarnate the love command presented in today’s Gospel reading: (Mk 12:28-34): “Love the Lord your God with all your heart … Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus Christ’s assertion of the primordial importance of the twofold love-command can be understood in the light of the Old Testament reading (Dt 6:2-6), which underlines the obligation of the people of Israel to love God wholeheartedly. But Jesus imbues the “love of God” command with a new meaning by adding “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”, from the Book of Leviticus (19:8).

 

Harold Buetow explains: “What is new is that Jesus went further: For him there’s an extremely intimate bond between love of neighbor and love of God. In Christian charity, people and God are not merely side by side; they are inseparably one. That idea was new. Another facet of newness was that Jesus gave a completely new interpretation of neighbor. In the time of Leviticus it meant Hebrews only. By the time of Jesus, it included resident aliens as well. For Jesus, the word has the widest meaning possible: It includes every member of the human race: He died for all of us. This was a much greater depth and breadth than ever before imagined.”

 

The true meaning of love of God and neighbor is crystallized in the very life and person of Jesus, especially in his self-gift and sacrificial love on the cross. Because God, in his Son Jesus has loved us so much, we too are empowered to love. The commandment to love God and neighbor flows from the love that the Lord has for us. In accepting God’s love, it is possible to love God and neighbor in a wholehearted way.

 

The life of Mother Teresa of Calcutta exemplifies what love of God and neighbor means in our world today (cf. Mother Teresa: Her Essential Wisdom, New York: Barnes and Noble, 2006, p. 20-23). The following thoughts from her are very insightful.

 

Sometime back, a high government official said, “You are doing social work and we also are doing the same. But we are doing it for something and you are doing it for somebody.” To do our work, we have to be in love with God.

 

***

Charity begins today. Today somebody is suffering; today somebody is in the street; today somebody is hungry. Our work is for today; yesterday has gone; tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today to make Jesus known, loved, served, fed, clothed, sheltered. Do not wait for tomorrow. Tomorrow we will not have them if we do not feed them today.

 

***

I ask you one thing: do not tire of giving, but do not give your leftovers. Give until it hurts, until you feel the pain.

 

***

The sisters care for forty-nine thousand lepers. They are among the most unwanted, unloved, and neglected people. The other day one of our sisters was washing a leper covered with sores. A Muslim holy man was present, standing close to her. He said, “All these years I have believed that Jesus Christ is a prophet. Today I believe that Jesus Christ is God since he has been able to give such joy to this sister, so that she can do her work with so much love.

 

    

B. First Reading (2 Tm 2:8-15): “The word of God is not chained. If we have died with Christ, we shall also live with him.”

 

The reading (2 Tm 2:8-15) is marked with tenderness and pathos. The passage highlights the intense suffering of Paul for the sake of the Gospel. Because he preaches the Gospel, he is “chained” like a criminal. But he is willing to endure the trial of his imprisonment and all sufferings because he is impelled to proclaim the Gospel. Indeed, though the apostle Paul is “chained”, the word of God is not “chained” and cannot be “chained”. Saint Paul likewise exhorts Timothy to be conformed to Christ’s paschal mystery so as to share his victory. Citing a baptismal hymn, Saint Paul declares: “If we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we persevere we shall also reign with him.” Reinforcing the meaning of these statements with his life witness, Paul - the great apostle to the Gentiles - suffers for others: that they may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus and share his eternal glory. In his spirituality and mission, Saint Paul thus crystallizes the truth that participation in the paschal suffering is redemptive. As a great spiritual mentor to Timothy, he advises the young pastor to correctly teach the message of God’s truth, the saving truth that is centered on Christ’s paschal mystery.

 

The life of Saint Philip Neri gives insight into what it means to share in Christ’s life and to be a true pastor-teacher (cf. Barry Hudock, “500 Years Later, Philip Neri Still a Witness of Joy” in Our Sunday Visitor, July 12, 2015, p. 14-15).

 

Philip Neri was born on July 22, 1515, in a working class region near Florence, Italy. He grew up there with his father and stepmother (his mother had died when he was very young). At age 18, he moved to the small town of San Germano, where he got to know the Benedictine monks at the nearby Monte Cassino abbey. From them, he developed a profound love of the liturgy, the Bible and the ancient Church Fathers.

 

By the time Philip moved to Rome a year or so later, he was burning with a desire to introduce others to God and the Scriptures. And Rome needed him. Vices and temptations of all kinds fought for the attention of citizens and visitors alike. Even many of the clergy there were more interested in luxury and worldly concerns than in prayer or pastoral work.

 

From the start, young Philip led an effective ministry of drawing people to Christ by the power of his own vibrant witness. At the heart of this witness was joy … But Philip’s gregarious demeanor was fueled by a profound spirituality. He lived a life of intense communion with God through prayer. He spent long hours of silent prayer in churches, in the Roman catacombs and in his tiny apartment. “This astonishingly human saint”, the great theologian Louis Bouyer once wrote, “was saturated with the supernatural.” (…)

 

In 1948, Philip helped found a group of laymen dedicated to serving pilgrims to Rome, and by the Holy Year of 1550, when huge crowds of pilgrims streamed through the city, they were running a hostel serving about 500 people a day. Following the advice of his spiritual director, Philip was ordained a priest in 1551. He began to spend long mornings in church to hear confessions, a practice he continued for decades. In the afternoons, he continued to host meetings of laypeople who gathered to talk, pray and sing together. (…)

 

By the time he had reached his 70s, still meeting regularly with lay Christians and hearing confessions for long hours, Philip was renowned for his holiness and wisdom. In his final years, laypeople, priests and cardinals came from all over Europe to visit him and seek his guidance. Father Philip died in Rome on May 25, 1595, the feast of Corpus Christi, just before his 80th birthday. He was canonized in 1622.

 

 

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

 

1. What is our response to Jesus’ great command: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart … You shall love your neighbor as yourself”? How do we try to put this twofold command into practice? Are we capable of wholehearted love and service? If not, what do we do to improve our capacity for loving and giving?

 

2. What do we do to proclaim the saving word of God, knowing that it is not “chained” and that it cannot be “chained”? How do we participate in Christ’s redemptive suffering? Are we deeply imbued with pastoral care for God’s “sheep”?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you loved the Lord your God with all your heart

and loved your neighbor as yourself.

In the Eucharist you are present to us

as the One who loved his own “to the end”.

O Divine Eucharist,

flame of Christ’s love that burns on the altar of the world,

make the Church comforted by you,

even more caring in wiping away the tears of suffering

and in sustaining the efforts of all who yearn for justice and peace.

Let your love triumph,

now and forever.

Amen.

 

***

Lord Jesus,

we believe that if we have died with you,

we shall also live with you.

You are faithful and true.

Give us the grace to proclaim to your saving Gospel truthfully,

knowing that your Word cannot be “chained”.

Grant us a pastoral heart

to serve your people

and nourish them with the bread of the Word,

the message of truth.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart … You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mk 12:30-31) // “If we have died with Christ, we shall also live with him.” (II Tm 2:11)

 

 

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

 

Pray that Jesus’ twofold love-command may truly impact and shape our daily lives. Let the words of Jesus and his Eucharistic sacrifice challenge you to love and embrace the poor and vulnerable in today’s fragmented and wounded world. // Consider giving your family members or friends the gift of a personal Bible.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

June 5, 2020: FRIDAY – SAINT BONIFACE, Bishop, Martyr

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Son of David and His Lord … He Continues to Teach Us through the Scriptures”

 

BIBLE READINGS

2 Tm 3:10-17 // Mk 12:35-37

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 12:35-37): “How do the scribes claim that the Christ is the son of David.”

 

We hear in the Gospel (Mk 12:35-37) that after being interrogated by his opponents on such issues as paying taxes to Caesar, on the doctrine of the resurrection, and on the greatest commandment, it is Jesus now who poses a question: how can the Messiah be a son of David, if David himself acknowledges him as his Lord? No one in the crowd answers. Jesus himself doesn’t answer his own question about in what sense the Messiah could be David’s descendant. The purpose of raising the question is didactic. Jesus wants to underline that the title “son of David”, with which he was acclaimed by the welcoming crowd in his triumphant entry to Jerusalem, is not adequate to describe his nature as Messiah. Christ Messiah, on account of his exalted, transcendent origin, is more than just a “son of David”. Although a descendant of David, Jesus the Messiah is the Son of God. His divine character surpasses the nobility and regality of his ancestor David. By his paschal mystery of passion, death, and glorification, Jesus Savior proves that he is indeed the son of David and wields lordship over David and all his ancestors. Indeed, the glorified Jesus is Lord of the peoples of the earth and all creation.

 

I read a charming story about Pope John XXIII. After he became Pope, his relatives from Bergamo came to have an audience with him. A bunch of rural, humble folks, they were timid and overwhelmed to be received by the Supreme Pontiff. The good, jolly old Pope extended his arms to the intimidated group and coaxed them warmly, “Come; it is only me!” I fancy that King David is likewise overwhelmed by the glory of his illustrious progeny, Jesus – son of Mary and Joseph. But on the day of resurrection, the Risen Lord invites and assures his ancestor David, “Come; it is only me!”

    

 

B. First Reading (2 Tm 3:10-17): “All who want to live religiously in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

 

In the reading (2 Tm 3:10-17), Saint Paul asserts that he has been a good role model and that Timothy, his younger colleague and assistant, has been a good learner. He has followed Paul’s teaching, way of life, and purpose in life. Timothy has likewise witnessed Paul’s sterling qualities of faith, patience, love and endurance in persecutions and sufferings. Saint Paul thus exhorts Timothy to be likewise steadfast for “all who want to live religiously in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”.

 

To strengthen him in serving God and to help him in his pastoral-teaching ministry, Timothy needs to be faithful to the Scriptures to which he was introduced as a child by his mother Eunice and grandmother Lois. Reading the Hebrew Scriptures from a new perspective, he will be given “wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”. Saint Paul’s statement that “all Scripture is inspired by God” is the first biblical text that speaks of the divine inspiration of the Old Testament. In the conviction of the Church divine inspiration is considered to be the basis for belief in divine authorship. Indeed, inspired by God, all Scripture is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults and giving instruction for right living. Nourished by sacred Scriptures, the young bishop Timothy is fully qualified and equipped to do every kind of good deed for the building up of the Church community.

 

The following article on Saint Jerome gives insight into the importance of the Sacred Scriptures in the life of the Church (cf. Elizabeth Sherrill, “Jerome, Companion in Bible Study” in Daily Guideposts 2016, p. 12).

 

I first encountered saints in medieval paintings. One figure intrigued me: Saint Jerome was always accompanied by a lion. I started reading about him and then about others, discovering that my ignorance of saints had deprived me of some wonderful companions. Whenever work took me to Europe, I’d try to visit the hometowns of my newfound friends. Unique individuals, no two alike; if saints have one thing in common, it’s the secret of abiding in Christ, whatever challenge life throws at them.

 

Jerome (331-420) was a scholar who retired to the wilderness to study God’s Word uninterrupted. A lion, according to legend, went to him with a painful thorn in his paw. Jerome pulled it out, and the lion became his constant companion.

 

The real story, I discovered, was even better. Jerome was dissatisfied with the awkward Greek translation of the Old Testament – the only version Christians had – and set out to learn the original Hebrew. The Pope heard about it and asked for Jerome’s help. Few people could read Greek. Could Jerome translate the Bible into the people’s language, Latin?

 

Jerome spent the rest of his life devoted to this enormous task. He had a companion in his work, but it wasn’t a lion. In an age when women were considered incapable of mental activity, Jerome chose a female collaborator. Paula was a wealthy widow, already fluent in Greek, who, to assist Jerome, learned Hebrew, gave her fortune to the poor and worked daily at his side.

 

For medieval artists this intimate companionship between an unmarried man and woman was scandalous! So as Jerome produced the Bible used for over 1,500 years, they painted a lion at his side instead.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of David and his Lord and that he wields lordship over us all?

 

2. How does the statement of Paul that “all who want to live religiously in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” impinge on you? Do you value the importance of the Scriptures in your spiritual growth and pastoral ministry?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

by the Holy Spirit,

you are incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man.

You are a descendant of David.

The holy carpenter Joseph of Nazareth,

of the royal line of David,

is the foster father who cared for you.

We bless and thank you for being our Savior.

By the paschal events of your death and rising

and through the power of the Holy Spirit,

it has been revealed to us

that you are not simply the Messiah.

You are the “Son of God”

and not merely the “son of David”.

You are exalted above all.

You transcend the nature of a mere liberator.

You are God – our one Lord Jesus Christ!

We believe in you.

We submit to you our entire being

- our mind, heart and will.

We thank you for your gift of eternal life.

We love you and serve you, now and forever.

Amen.

 

*** 

Lord Jesus,

please give us strength and perseverance

when we are persecuted for our faith.

Let us be nourished by your living Word.

Teach us how to use the Scriptures

to teach, to correct, to unite

and to build the Church community-communion.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand.’” (Mk 12:36) // “All Scripture is inspired by God.” (II Tm 3:16)

 

 

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

 

Meditate on the Nicene Creed and savor the beauty of the goodness of God who sent his only Son into the world to redeem us. In your daily life, endeavor to mirror the dignity and humility of the Son of God who became man to save us. // Introduce your relatives and friends to the laudable practice of Lectio Divina, the prayerful reading of the Word of God.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

June 6, 2020: SATURDAY – WEEKDAY (9); SAINT NORBERT, Bishop; BVM ON SATURDAY

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Us to a Total Self-Giving … He Awards the Crown of Righteousness”

 

BIBLE READINGS

2 Tm 4:1-8 // Mk 12:38-44

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 12:38-44): “This poor widow has given more than all others.”

 

Today’s Gospel (Mk 12:38-44) is a lesson in wholehearted giving. Jesus contrasts the sterling quality of an extremely generous widow with the greediness of scribes who “devour the houses of widows”. Observing the devout act of the poor widow who puts two small coins into the temple’s treasury, Jesus calls the disciples’ attention and teaches them the difference between complete and incomplete giving. The rich honor God with a portion of their wealth, but the poor woman gives from her very livelihood. As a consequence of her self-emptying, she entrusts herself wholly to God. The widow’s offering evokes the total gift that Jesus would make of himself on the cross. The Son of God is the ultimate self-giving Lord. He offers his life “once and for all” in order to redeem us. In union with him, our lives become capable of total self-giving. Together with Jesus, the “poor one” (anawim), we become a gift to God.

 

The generous stance of the Gospel’s poor widow is replicated by the beggar in the following story narrated by Mother Teresa (cf. Mother Teresa: Her Essential Wisdom, New York: Barnes and Noble, 2006, p. 21).

 

A beggar one day came up to me and said, “Mother Teresa, everybody gives you things for the poor. I also want to give you something. But today, I am only able to get ten pence. I want to give that to you.” I said to myself. “If I take it he might have to go to bed without eating. If I don’t take it, I will hurt him.” So I took it. And I’ve never seen so much joy on anybody’s face who has given his money or food, as I saw on that man’s face. He was happy that he too could give something. This is the joy of loving.

 

 

B. First Reading (2 Tm 4:1-8): “I am already being poured out and the crown of righteousness awaits me which the Lord will award to me.”

 

In the reading (2 Tm 4:1-8), Saint Paul confirms Timothy’s task as pastor of the Church entrusted to his care. Invoking the witness of God and of Jesus, the Judge of the living and the dead, the great apostle Paul exhorts Timothy to endure suffering, to do the work of a preacher of the Good News, and to perform his whole duty as a servant od God. Saint Paul then confesses that he has opened himself completely to the grace of God. He has trusted fully in the Lord who stood by him and gave him strength so that the Gospel may be proclaimed to the nations. Indeed, Saint Paul has competed well, has finished the race and has kept the faith. Humbly and trustingly, he awaits the crown of righteousness that the faithful Lord keeps for him. The biblical scholar, Enrique Nardoni remakrs: “The Apostle sees his death as a sacrificial libation of his blood, a departure for the final harbor. He feels the satisfaction of an accomplished mission and an unwavering loyalty to Christ. Therefore he is fully sure of his glorious reward.”

 

On October 17, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI canonized Blessed Andre Bessette, known as the “Miracle Man of Montreal”. Like Saint Paul, Brother Andre exemplifies how “to compete well … to finish the race”. His pastoral life merits “the crown of righteousness” that the Lord, the just judge, awards to those who have kept the faith. The following homily was delivered by Pope John Paul II at the beatification of Brother Andre (cf. A.A.S. 74, 825 f., May 23, 1982).

 

We venerate in Blessed Brother Andre Bessette a man of prayer and a friend of the poor, a truly astonishing man.

 

The work of his whole life – his long life of 91 years – was that of “a poor and humble   servant”: Pauper, servus humilis, as is written on his tomb. A manual laborer until the age of twenty-five years on the farm, in workshops and factories, he then entered the Brothers of the Holy Cross, who entrusted to him for almost forty years the task of porter in their school in Montreal; and finally for almost thirty years more he was custodian of Saint Joseph’s Oratory near the school.

 

Where then does his extraordinary influence, his renown among millions of people, come from? A daily crowd of the sick, the afflicted, the poor of all kinds – those who were handicapped or wounded by life – came to him. They found in his presence in the school parlor or at the Oratory a welcome ear, comfort, faith in God, confidence in the intercession of Saint Joseph. In short, they found the way of prayer and the sacraments and, with that, hope and, very often, manifest relief of body and soul. Do not the poor of today have as much need of such love, of such hope, of such education in prayer?

 

But what was it that gave Brother Andre this ability? It was God who was pleased to give such an ability to attract, such a marvelous power to this simple man who had himself known the misery of being an orphan among twelve brothers and sisters, of being without riches and education, of having poor health, in short, of being deprived of everything except a great confidence in God. It is not surprising that Brother Andre felt himself close to the life of Saint Joseph, that poor and exiled worker who himself was so close to the Savior and whom Canada and especially the Congregation of the Holy Cross have always greatly honored.

 

Brother Andre had to put up with misunderstanding and mockery because of the success of his apostolate. Yet he remained simple and joyful. Turning to Saint Joseph or in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, he himself prayed long and earnestly, in the name of the sick, doing as he had taught them to do. Is not his faith in the power of prayer one of the most precious signs for the men and women of our time, who are tempted to resolve their problems without recourse to God?

 

 

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

 

1. How do we react to situations of vulnerability, insecurity and poverty? Do we take the stance of the generous widow? Do we allow ourselves to be configured into the self-giving Lord Jesus, the true Anawim – the ultimate Poor One of Yahweh?

 

2. Do we proclaim God’s saving word, with persistence, whether it is convenient or inconvenient?

 

 

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

 

O Lord Jesus,

you are the anawim - the poor one of Yahweh.

You praised the self-giving widow at the temple treasury.

Her self-gift anticipates your self-sacrifice

on the wood of the cross.

Fill our hearts with your love

so that we too may be a total gift offered to God

and for the good of others.

Your life in us is our greatest treasure.

We are happy and content to possess you

and to be possessed by you.

We love you and serve you, now and forever.

Amen.

 

***

Loving Jesus,

you will judge the living and the dead.

Help us to faithfully proclaim your saving word,

whether convenient or inconvenient.

Give us the grace to keep our faith,

to compete well and to finish the race

so as to merit the crown of righteousness

that you award on that day to your faithful ones.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“This poor widow put in more than all the others … She, from her poverty, has contributed all she had.” (Mk 12:43) // “I have kept the faith.” (II Tm 4:7)

 

 

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

 

Pray that the spirit of total giving may animate our life of Christian discipleship and service. Pray also that the unjust structures that lead to destitution and greater abuse of the poor and needy in today’s society may be rectified. Strive to offer the gifts you have received from the Lord for good at the service of the community. // Give moral, spiritual and material support to the ordained ministers in your parish/community.

***

 

 

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

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