A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday and Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 12, n. 28)

Pentecost and Weekday 10: June 8-14, 2014***

 

 

(N.B. The pastoral tool BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD: A LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY LITURGY includes a prayerful study of the Sunday liturgy of Year A from three perspectives. For reflections on the Sunday liturgy based on the Gospel reading, please scroll up to the “ARCHIVES” above and open Series 3. For reflections based on the Old Testament reading, open Series 6. For reflections based on the Second Reading, open Series 9. Please go to Series 10 - Series 12 for the back issues of the Weekday Lectio. For the Lectio Divina on the liturgy of the past week: June 1-7, 2014, please go to ARCHIVES Series 12 and click on “Easter Week 7”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: June 8-14, 2014.)

 

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June 8, 2014: 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

 

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 magazine, 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 time 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.”

 

***

            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). 

***

 

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. 

 

 

*** 

 

June 9, 2014: MONDAY – WEEKDAY (10); SAINT EPHRAIM, deacon, doctor of the Church

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Shows the Way of Beatitudes and the Power of God’s Word”

 

BIBLE READINGS

I Kgs 17:1-6 // Mt 5:1-12

 

 

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

 

In today’s Gospel episode (Mt 5:1-12) Jesus proclaims the Beatitudes which are a “summary” of the meaning of Christian discipleship. In the Beatitudes, Jesus – the new Moses teaching on the new mountain of revelation - offers us the foundations of the law of the Kingdom. He shows us the path of Christian perfection. The Beatitudes are a description of Christ as well as a portrait of the ideal Christian. In order to experience fully God’s beatitudes, the Christian disciples are called to live intensely the life of Jesus, as one who is poor, lowly, merciful, single-hearted, peaceful, persecuted, sorrowful, hungry and thirsty for holiness.

 

The following story illustrates the spirit of the Beatitudes in a modern setting (cf. Dale Galloway in Stories for the Heart, ed. Alice Gray, Sisters: Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 1996, p. 65).

 

Little Chad was a shy, quiet young fella. One day he came home and told his mother he’d like to make a valentine for everyone in his class. Her heart sank. She thought, “I wish he wouldn’t do that!” because she had watched the children when they walked home from school. Her Chad was always behind them. They laughed and hung on to each other and talked to each other. But Chad was never included. Nevertheless, she decided she would go along with her son. So she purchased the paper and glue and crayons. For three whole weeks, night after night, Chad painstakingly made thirty-five valentines.

 

Valentine’s Day dawned, and Chad was beside himself with excitement! He carefully stacked them up, put them in a bag, and bolted out the door. His mom decided to bake him his favorite cookies and serve them nice and warm with a cool glass of milk when he came home from school. She just knew he would be disappointed … maybe that would ease the pain a little. It hurt to think that he wouldn’t get many valentines – maybe none at all.

 

That afternoon she had the cookies and milk on the table. When she heard the children outside, she looked out the window. Sure enough here they came, laughing and having the best time. And, as always, there was Chad in the rear. He walked a little faster than usual. She fully expected him to burst into tears as soon as he got inside. His arms were empty, she noticed, and when the door opened she choked back the tears. “Mommy has some warm cookies and milk for you.” But he hardly heard her words. He just marched right on by, his face aglow, and all he could say was: “Not a one … not a one.” And then he added, “I didn’t forget a one, not a single one!”

 

***

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (I Kgs 17:1-6) depicts a prophet named Elijah, from Tishbe in Gilead, confronting King Ahab of Israel with the power of God’s word.  Ahab is one of the most notorious kings of the Northern Kingdom. His father King Omri aroused the anger of the Lord God by his sins and by leading the people into sin and idolatry. But his son, King Ahab, surpassed him in wickedness. Ahab sinned against the Lord more than his predecessors. He married the Baal-worshipping Jezebel of Sidon. He built a temple to Baal in Samaria and made an altar for the idol and put it in the temple. He did more to arouse the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than all the kings before him.

 

The prophet Elijah suddenly appears and announces to King Ahab the coming of a drought. Speaking in the name of the Lord, he tells the idolatrous king that there will be no dew or rain – so vital for the fertility of the parched land of Israel – for the next two or three years until he says so. Elijah’s claim is a challenge to Ahab and Jezebel who follow Baal as the god of fertility. Elijah asserts that the word of God he proclaims will be fulfilled. The prophet Elijah is depicted, moreover as faithful to God’s word. He obeys God’s command to take refuge by Cherith Brook where there is water and ravens bring him bread and meat every morning and every evening.

 

The present-day California drought evokes the image of the drought that plagued Israel during the time of King Ahab, who reigned from 874 B.C. to 853 B.C. Instead of being defiant and recalcitrant like Ahab, we need to present ourselves humbly before God in the face of this natural calamity. The California Conference of Bishops, presided by Bishop Jaime Soto, encourages the Californians to offer to God the following prayer (cf. “Prayer for Rain” from the National Catholic Rural Life Conference: Rural Life Prayer Book)

 

Almighty God, we are in need of rain. We realize now, looking up into the clear, blue sky, what a marvel even the least drop of rain really is. To think that so much water can really fall out of the sky, which now is empty and clear!

 

We place our trust in you. We are sure that you know our needs. But you want us to ask you anyway, to show you that we know we are dependent on you.

 

Look to our dry hills and fields, dear God, and bless them with the living blessing of soft rain. Then the land will rejoice and rivers will sing your praises, and the hearts of all will be made glad. Amen.

 

 

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

 

1. What are our experiences of joy and difficulty in living out the Beatitudes? Among the Beatitudes mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew, which ones challenge us with greater intensity today?

 

2. What is our response when confronted with the challenge and power of the word of God? Are we defiant and resistant; or do we respond with grace and humility?

 

 

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

 

Jesus poor,

help us to be poor in spirit

and to trust in your divine assistance and strength

that the kingdom of Heaven may be ours.

Jesus, man of sorrows,

help us to mourn and to surrender to the divine will

that our grief may be transformed into joy and consolation.

Jesus, most gentle,

help us to be meek and humble

that peace may reign in our hearts and upon the earth.

Jesus, yearning for love,

help us to hunger and thirst for holiness

that we may satisfy our deepest longings.

O most merciful Jesus,

help us to be merciful

that we may relish your mercy and compassion.

Jesus, chaste and loving,

help us to be pure and single-hearted

that we may see God in the daily events of our life

and be admitted into his eternal Kingdom.

 

Jesus, our peace,

help us to be peacemakers

that we may build a world of harmony and beauty

and be called children of God.

Jesus Savior,

help us to welcome persecution for the sake of justice

that we may be rewarded greatly in heaven.

Jesus, Risen Lord,

make us the people of the beatitudes.

Help us to trust in the power of your Word.

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.

 

“Your reward will be great in heaven.” (Mt 5:12) // “He did as the Lord had commanded.” (I Kgs 17:5)

 

  

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

 

Give thanks to the Lord for the gift of the Beatitudes in the Church. Choose a Beatitude as a moral-spiritual program and try to live this out in a more intense way this week. Pay special attention to the word of God proclaimed in the liturgy

 

***

 

June 10, 2014: TUESDAY – WEEKDAY (10)

“JESUS SAVIOR: In Him We Are the Salt of the Earth and the Light of the World and We Trust in His Word”

 

BIBLE READINGS

I Kgs 17:7-16 // Mt 5:13-16

 

 

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

 

Today’s Gospel reading presents the role of the disciples of Jesus using the images of salt and light. The biblical scholar, Daniel Harrington gives a concise, but insightful explanation: “In Jesus’ time, salt was used not only to improve the taste of food but also to preserve meat and fish. When Jesus compares his followers to salt, he says that they improve the quality of human existence and preserve it from destruction. In Jesus’ time, the only lamps available were small dish-like devices in which oil was burned. By our standards these lamps did not give off much light, but in the time before electricity their light must have seemed very bright. When Jesus calls his disciples the light of the world, he says that their actions serve as a beacon of light in a dark world. The disciples are challenged to let their light shine as a witness to their fidelity to Jesus and his heavenly Father.”

 

Against this backdrop, I find the article of Robert Rodriguez on the De Alba Family, the co-parishioners of our PDDM Sisters in Fresno, very interesting (cf. The Fresno Bee, Dec. 25, 2004, p. A11). Remembering its roots in the fields, the family has fed farmworkers in the central San Joaquin Valley for 11 years. It is their way of thanking them for their hard work in harvesting the region’s fruits and vegetables. It is also a reminder of how far this family of twelve has come from their own days of picking cherries, tomatoes and grapes in Valley fields and orchards. The De Alba Family also has held very successful canned-food drives for the poor and strongly supports St. Mary Queen of Apostles Church, to which they belong. Rev. Pat McCormick, a former parish priest, testifies: “They have really been a unifying factor for the church. They are a great family.” Indeed, this wonderful De Alba family of Fresno is an inspiring example of what it means to be “the salt of the earth … the light of the world” in today’s world.

 

***

 

In the Old Testament reading (I Kgs 17:7-16) the prophet Elijah obeys the word of the Lord and goes to Zarephath of Sidon. The Cherith Brook, where he used to drink, has dried up because of the lack of rain. God commands him to stay in Zarephath, assuring him that a widow will feed him there. The widow, who is preparing the last meal for herself and her son, gives Elijah water to drink and shares with him the little and the last resources she has. The prophet speaks to her the divine promise that the jar of flour and the jug of oil will not be empty until the day when the Lord sends rain upon the earth. Indeed, as the Lord has promised through Elijah, the flour and the oil are not depleted.

 

The miracle of the multiplication of the flour and oil underlines the power of God and the efficacy of his word. King Ahab’s sin brings suffering for the people of Israel. In contrast, Elijah’s fidelity to the word and the faith of the widow enable them to experience God’s providence and loving care. It is significant that the prophet lodges in Zarepahth of Sidon that is the territory of Baal, the god of Ahab’s ruthless wife Jezebel. In the perilous homeland of Baal and in the face of death-dealing situations, God preserves the life of the faithful and the “anawim”.

 

Like the generous widow of Zarephath, we too are called to share our resources and to be instruments of God’s providence. The following testimony gives insight into this (cf. Tim Anderson, “My Momma Always Knew” in COUNTRY, August-September 2013, p. 12).

 

When I was growing up in Nathalie, Virginia, everyone was friendly with the neighbors. And if someone was in need, it seemed that my Momma always knew. I especially remember a single mother who had cancer and no way to provide for her little daughter. So Momma, who was a great baker, got busy. She baked two cakes and decorated them beautifully.

 

There are two large country stores in town, and Momma asked permission to place one cake at each store. She raffled them off at 50 cents a chance. Now, you may not think that would add up to much, but there were 1,000 chances taken on those two cakes. Momma collected $500 for this mother and her child.

 

Momma and Daddy, the three sisters and I went down to where the woman lived, and Momma gave her the envelope of money. I still remember the happiness and gratitude that shone on her face. She and her daughter thanked Momma and hugged her, and we all had tears in our eyes.

 

Momma taught us many lessons at our country home and farm through the years. We learned that no matter how little anyone had, they could still help out a friend or a family in need. A little sometimes means a lot.

 

 

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

 

1. Are we “the salt of the earth … the light of the world”? Is the heavenly Father being glorified by our daily acts of Christian witnessing?

 

2. Are we afraid that the little we have is too “little” to share? Are we ready to trust and follow the word of God? Are we ready to be instruments of the divine providence?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you call us to be “the salt of the earth … the light of the world”.

As “salt of the earth” and by the zest of our Christian witnessing,

we strive to uplift human dignity

and help our brothers and sisters relish the joy of salvation.

Moved by the Holy Spirit

to proclaim your saving love,

we wish to be “the light of the world … the city on the mountaintop”.

Make us instruments of God’s compassion.

Help us trust that “the jar of flour” and “the jug of oil” will never be empty.

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 are the salt of the earth … You are the light of the world.”  (Mt 5:13a, 14a) // “The jar of flour did not go empty.” (I Kgs 17:16)

 

 

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

 

By aiding the poor, the marginalized and the suffering members of the local and world community, strive to be “the salt of the earth … the light of the world”. Do not be afraid to share with others the resources and talents you have, no matter how “little”.

 

***

 

June 11, 2014: WEDNESDAY – SAINT BARNABAS, APOSTLE

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us the Meaning of the Law and His Apostle Barnabas Is the Son of Consolation”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 11:21b-26; 13:1-3 // Mt 5:17-19

 

 

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

(Gospel Reflection by Richard Noack, St. Christopher Parish, San Jose, CA-USA)

 

Sweating the Small Stuff in Faith

 

In his 1996 book, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff,” Psychologist Richard Carlson writes that we spend too much time, energy, and stress focused on minutiae.  The “small” stuff, suggests Carlson, will take care of itself if only we focus on the big stuff, such as our lives, relationships, and families.  But in today’s Gospel, Matthew 5:17-19, Jesus tells us that He has come as the fulfillment of the law and the prophets, not to abolish them.  Not only must we love God and follow Jesus, the “big” stuff from our Christian perspective, we must also abide by all of the law and prophets, to the smallest part of the smallest letter, careful not to break the least of these commandments.  When it comes to our faith, it seems, we must sweat the “big” stuff and the “small” stuff.

 

Over time, we Christians have gradually marginalized many of the strict Jewish laws in Deuteronomy, as well as those given by the prophets, as “small” stuff.  Some of those laws such as circumcision, dietary restrictions, and Sabbath observance, were viewed as anachronistic, often as an accommodation for the assimilation of non-Jewish converts.  But that legacy of not sweating the “small” stuff extends to the present day.  There are those in our communities who view some of our faith practices, disciplines, and doctrines as “small” stuff that need not be sweated, such as regular Sunday Mass attendance, appropriate and respectful attire while attending Mass, arriving on time for Mass and staying until the end of the closing hymn, participating in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, meatless Fridays during Lent, and respecting the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death. 

 

But these things aren’t “small” stuff.  They are a part of who we are as a faith community and they define us as the People of God.  As Catholic Christians, we consider our call to love God with our entire beings and to love our neighbors as ourselves to be our “big” stuff.  Our faith practices, disciplines, and doctrines are signposts that point the way to the “big” stuff and that sustain, strengthen, support, nourish, guide, prepare, and affirm us along the Way.

 

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

(Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta)

 

***

 

Today we celebrate the memorial of Saint Barnabas, apostle. Born in Cyprus and named Joseph, he was converted shortly after Pentecost. He gave up all his possessions and was nicknamed Barnabas (“Son of Consolation”) because of his helpful, optimistic nature. In today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles (11:21b-26, 13:1-3), he is described in glowing terms as “a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith”. Sent by the mother Church in Jerusalem to Antioch to verify the phenomenon of conversion there, he is true to his optimistic nature. He sees the grace of God at work in this nascent Church of Antioch. He rejoices and encourages them to remain faithful to the Lord. He brings many people to the Lord. He even goes to Tarsus to look for Saul to help him teach and nourish the fledging Christian community in Antioch. Together with Saul of Tarsus, Joseph Barnabas of Cyprus is chosen by the Holy Spirit for a special missionary journey to proclaim the Gospel to the nations.

 

Saint Barnabas is faithful to his apostolic mandate even unto death. The following, circulated on the Internet, is an account of his martyrdom.

 

Church tradition developed outside of the canon of the New Testament describes the martyrdom of many saints, including the legend of the martyrdom of Barnabas. It relates that certain Jews coming to Syria and Salamis, where Barnabas was then preaching the gospel, being highly exasperated at his extraordinary success, fell upon him as he was disputing in the synagogue, dragged him out, and, after the most inhumane tortures, stoned him to death. His kinsman, John Mark, who was a spectator of this barbarous action, privately interred his body.

According to the History of the Cyprus Church, in 478 Barnabas appeared in a dream to the Archbishop of Constantia (Salamis, Cyprus) Anthemios and revealed to him the place of his sepulcher beneath a carob tree. The following day Anthemios found the tomb and inside it the remains of Barnabas with a manuscript of Matthew's Gospel on his breast. Anthemios presented the Gospel to Zeno at Constantinople and received from him the privileges of the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus, that is, the purple cloak which the Greek Archbishop of Cyprus wears at festivals of the church, the imperial scepter and the red ink with which he affixes his signature.

Anthemios then placed the venerable remains of Barnabas in a church which he founded near the tomb. Excavations near the site of a present day church and monastery have revealed an early church with two empty tombs, believed to be that of St. Barnabas and Anthemios. St. Barnabas is venerated as the Patron Saint of Cyprus.

 

 

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

 

1. Do I strive to act in accordance with the spirit of love that animates the law and the prophets? Do I value and carry out the “small” stuff that leads to the “big” stuff?

 

2. Do we imitate the sterling quality of the apostle Barnabas, “a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith”? Do we try to be positive-minded and encouraging like Saint Barnabas? Do we emulate his apostolic zeal?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

you form us into a covenant people

through the law and the prophets.

Let your spirit of love animate us.

Help us to transcend the letter of the law

and to act by the love of the Spirit.

With Christ in the Spirit,

let us perceive the meaning of the law and the prophets

and lovingly fulfill it with devotion.

Like Saint Barnabas

help us to proclaim the Good news to all creation.

We bless and praise you, 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.

 

“I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” (Mt 5:17) // “He was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith.” (Acts 11:24) 

 

 

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

 

Emulate the positive and good-natured character of Saint Barnabas and his apostolic zeal. Today pray especially for the Christian community in Cyprus. Carry out your duties to God as well as the greater society, e.g. social service, paying taxes, etc., with personal dedication.

 

***

 

June 12, 2014: THURSDAY – WEEKDAY (10)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Manage Our Anger and the Power of the God of Creation”

 

BIBLE READINGS

I Kgs 18:41-46 // Mt 5:20-26

 

 

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

(Gospel Reflection by Bong Tiotuico, ASSOCIATION OF PAULINE COOPERATORS- Friends of the Divine Master, Antipolo Unit, Philippines)

 

Anger, Hatred and Reconciliation

 

According to the Jews at the time of Jesus, righteousness is equated to one's ability to follow the law. Scholars of scripture describe the attitude of Jesus regarding the law. He rejects erroneous interpretations of law while he holds firm to its original intent, i.e. the practice of a greater justice which is love. In this gospel, Jesus teaches a higher standard of adherence to the law that is more stringent than the "Thou shall not kill; whoever kills will be liable to judgment" commandment handed down through Moses. 

 

Jesus denounces murderous anger and hatred as immoral. From this, the Church teaches, if anger reaches a point of a deliberate desire to kill or seriously wound a neighbor, it is gravely against charity although it is also praiseworthy to impose forms of restitution to correct vices and maintain justice. Yes, there is such a thing as righteous anger when we face oppression, greed, corruption and other forms of injustice. But most people are not righteously angry: most of the time they are "sinfully" angry. We experience deliberate hatred toward other human beings because of wounded pride. We want to get even from a perceived hurt.

 

Husband: When I get mad at you, you never fight back. How do you control your anger?

Wife: I clean the toilet.

Husband: How does that help?

Wife: I use your toothbrush.

 

We always need to teach the usual suspects a lesson they will never forget. Like when you get seriously angry with that colleague who, due to a misunderstanding, starts spreading lies behind your back. And there were moments when you secretly wished that neighbor down the corner bad fortune because you were simply envious of his brand new red Porsche.

 

From human experience we learn that anger, like sin, grows like a seed in our hearts, then becoming like a weed that chokes and displaces love, kindness, patience and other virtues, ultimately leaving no room for God. It is likewise compared to an acid which does more harm to the container in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured. What is the antidote to these commonly occurring but overpowering feelings? Long before anger management therapy was invented, St. Paul (Eph. 4:31-34) advises, "Get rid of all bitterness, all passion and anger, harsh words, slander and malice of every kind. In place of these, be kind to one another; be compassionate and mutually forgiving, just as God has forgiven you in Christ." With our human weaknesses and limitations, how do we follow these prescriptions? With God's grace, nothing is impossible. We pray for patience, humility and for God to fill our hearts with love and forgiveness so we can better deal with that obnoxious next-door neighbor. In the same light, as they say in another part of the world: "If you are right, there is no need to be angry. If you are wrong, you have no right to be angry. Jesus tells us not only to reconcile with the subject of our anger but to do it without delay so that we can proceed to an authentic and perfect form of worship. Furthermore, to paraphrase St. James (Jas 1:19-20) "Let every person be quick to hear and listen, slow to speak, slow to anger like the heavenly Father, for anger does not fulfill God's justice."

 

***

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (I Kgs 18:41-46) is better understood against the backdrop of the preceding episodes. In the third year of drought, a showdown on Mount Carmel between the prophets of Baal and Elijah, the prophet of the Lord God occurs. In obedience to God’s prompting, Elijah encounters the idolatrous King Ahab and arranges with him a contest that will oblige the fickle Israelites to choose between Yahweh and the idol Baal. Through the miracle of fire from heaven (a “lightning”), the prophet of the Lord triumphs over the 450 prophets of Baal. The power of the Lord God is revealed and the authority of Elijah as God’s prophet is confirmed. The people thus assert their choice for the one true God over the “non-god” Baal. The false prophets are punished in accordance with the Dt 13:5 injunction: to put to death a prophet who teaches the people to rebel against the Lord and leads them astray  from the life that God has commanded them to live.

 

In today’s episode Elijah commands King Ahab to eat and drink in joyful anticipation of the coming rain. While the king nourishes himself, the prophet prays intensely on top of Mount Carmel, where his servant can look out over the Mediterranean and see the first approach of the rain-bearing clouds. At the seventh time, the servant reports a little cloud rising. In a little while the sky is covered with dark clouds, the wind begins to blow and a heavy rain begins to fall. Elijah commands Ahab to go to Jezreel by chariot, but the power of the Lord comes upon the prophet who runs and overtakes the chariot-riding king. Through the exploits of Elijah, the Lord God manifests that he is indeed the true God – the almighty Lord of creation who wields power over the land and the sky, the fire and the rain, the wind and the clouds, the animals and vegetation, and the people he has shaped from the dust of the earth.

 

Writing to the Christian community, Saint James presents Elijah as a figure of the power of prayer. Saint James comments: “The prayer of a good person has a powerful effect. Elijah was the same kind of person as we are. He prayed earnestly that there would be no rain and no rain fell on the land for three and half years. Once again he prayed and the sky poured out its rain and the earth produced its crops” (cf. James 5:18).

 

The following article gives insight into the humble stance and prayerful attitude that we should have as part of God’s beloved creation (cf. Mildred Wickson, “Life on the Land” in COUNTRY, June/July 2011, p. 56).

 

Ask a rancher or farmer why he continues in the face of endless adversity, and he’ll probably shift to the other foot as a slow, thoughtful smile creases his weathered face. Chances are he’s thinking of the wobbly calf or lamb he helped into the world only yesterday, or the velvety nose of his favorite mare as she nuzzles her greeting.

 

He knows the overwhelming peace that comes from watching the sun rise and set on his little domain, and the wonder of being part of God’s divine plan. He treasures the freedom to walk through a meadow of wild flowers, sit by the creek, daydream on the porch, or just rest on a bale of hay. He lives by his own clock, not someone else’s.

 

He remembers the thankfulness he feels as the rain falls right after a long dry spell, and the brilliance of a rainbow that arches across the sky as the clouds move on. Come bedtime, he’s in awe of the oversized moon that turns the night into a molten silver landscape.

 

His eyes light up proudly as he thinks of his wife, who is truly his helpmate in every way, and his children, who have gained maturity on the back of a horse and the seat of a tractor. Then there’s the parade of faithful pets that have been part of their lives over the years.

 

Ask a farmer or rancher why he keeps on keepin’ on, but don’t get your hopes up. Unless you’ve smelled the dampness of the soil or felt the kiss of a cool breeze on your face as it blows across your land, you really wouldn’t understand his answer anyway.

 

 

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

 

1. What do I do to manage my anger and to seek healing for sinful attitudes that lead to violence and acted-out anger?

 

2. Do I recognize the power of the compassionate God, the Lord of creation? Do I care for God’s beloved creation? How do I show my concern for drought-stricken land and the scarcity of water supply?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

heal us of sinful attitudes and unbridled emotions

that disturb our peace, harmony and dignity.

Give us the grace to pacify vengeful anger.

Let your Holy Spirit anoint the violent

with the balm of peace.

Help us to see that we are part of God’s loving creation.

Give us the grace to choose God and life.

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.

 

 

“Whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.” (Mt 5:21) // “The hand of the Lord was on Elijah.” (I Kgs 18:46)

 

 

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

 

By putting greater trust in Jesus, meek and humble of heart, strive to manage anger whenever it surfaces from your heart. Be a peacemaker to the people around you. Do what you can to promote good stewardship of God’s creation.

 

***

 

June 13, 2014: FRIDAY – SAINT ANTHONY OF PADUA, priest, doctor of the Church

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Integrity and Gently Comforts Us”

 

BIBLE READINGS

I Kgs 19:9a, 11-16 // Mt 5:27-32

 

 

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

 

In today’s Gospel reading (Mt 5:27-32) Jesus continues to interpret the Law and the Prophets. He delves into the meaning of the command “Do not commit adultery” and asserts that as anger is at the root of murder, so lust lies at the root of adultery. It is not just the act of adultery that breaks the Law, but also thoughts and desires that lead to it. Deeply aware of our frail and fallen humanity, Jesus exhorts us to eliminate what corrupts our personal integrity and vitiates our covenant relationship with God. The salvation of the whole person is of more value than anything or anyone that could lead to sin. Lust is an “implicit” adultery that compromises our eternal beatitude with God. Divorce is a “legalized adultery” that militates against faithful husband-wife relationship, the basis of a healthy family life and society.

 

Lust leads to crime and death. Faith in God leads to life. The following article gives insight into how to embrace Jesus’ teaching on the total integrity of the person and our need to trust God who has covenanted himself to us (cf. “God Put Me Here To Do Great Things” in ALIVE! April 2014, p. 9).

 

An American Beauty queen has hit the headlines by revealing that she was conceived as a result of a violent rape. But strong in her faith and despite her far from promising start in life, Valerie Gatto is immensely grateful for her existence and believes that God has put her on earth “to do great things”. (…)

 

Gatto’s mother was a 19-year-old student when she was raped at knife-point. The assailant intended to murder her but was distracted by a strange bright flash of light. “He got scared and didn’t want any onlookers to see her and what he was doing to her.” This gave the young woman the opportunity to break free and escape. “I like to think of that light as my mother’s and my guardian angel”, said the beauty queen.

 

Some weeks later the assault victim realized that she was expecting the rapist’s child. She decided to keep her pregnancy a secret and to put her baby up for adoption when it was born. But after the birth her mother encouraged her to keep her baby daughter, explaining to her that “God does not give us more than we can handle.”

 

Relying on family support and on her strong faith, the young woman put aside her plans to attend law school so that she could mind her baby. It was a decision she never regretted. Gatto was told as a child about the assault on her mother but was able to deal with it thanks to her faith.

 

She explained: “I’ve always been a positive person, and I went to church all the time when I was little. I think it was more about having religion and Christianity a lot of my life. So I knew that God put me here for a reason and, although my circumstances weren’t the same as a traditional family with the perfect white-picket fence, he gave me to my family and my mother for a reason.” (…)

 

As Miss Pennsylvania 2014 she hopes to inspire people and to show them that “no matter where you come from, you can achieve your dreams. But you need to make sacrifices, work hard and stay positive.”

 

***

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (I Kgs 19:9a, 11-16) is fascinating. The Lord God manifests his saving presence to Elijah, a persecuted and fugitive prophet. Elijah is in full flight from the enraged Jezebel, the wife of Israel’s King Ahab. Queen Jezebel vows to kill Elijah for publicly embarrassing her and her pagan god Baal and for the killing of Baal’s prophets. The fearful, despondent Elijah escapes southward to Judah where he begs God to take his life. An angel of God appears to nourish and protect him. Just as the Israelites wandered forty years in the desert, Elijah journeys through the desert forty days and forty nights toward Mount Horeb (also known as Mount Sinai, the place where Moses had an intimate encounter with God and where the covenant with the Israelites was sealed). The Lord God reveals his loving presence to the beleaguered prophet, not in the fiery manifestation of heavy winds, earthquake or fire, but in a “tiny whispering sound” – in the soft voice of a gentle breeze. The perils and dangers of his prophetic vocation seem less foreboding and menacing in the context of the gentle and reassuring presence of God. Indeed, the soft whisper of the almighty God is more powerful than the ferocious threats of wicked Jezebel. The saving God, who called Elijah to proclaim his word, energizes him anew for his prophetic ministry.

 

The gentle comfort that Elijah experienced from the loving God evokes the various memories of goodness and kindness in daily life (cf. “Whew, It’s Hot!” in COUNTRY, June/July 2011, p. 14-15).

 

“Exhaustion Almondine” by Charlotte Huenergardt: Years ago we lived on a 20-acre farm in Ceres, California, with 15 acres planted in almonds. At harvest time, machines swept and blew the almonds into rows. It got most of them, but there were always plenty of stray nuts for us to rake and shovel into rows for the machines to pick up. And temperatures often exceeded 100 degrees! After one particular day of raking and shoveling, my husband and I were so hot and tired we could hardly move. Filthy from head to toe, we grabbed a foam rubber mattress and an old sheet and collapsed on the patio in exhaustion. Our daughter brought us drinks while we cooled off in the shade.

 

“Sip and Smile” by Kathy Smith: It took a lot of hay to fuel our 100-acre Wisconsin dairy farm, and even with 12 of us, haying still took several weeks of long, hard days. What I remember most is when dad called a break and we’d gather under a shade tree for a drink of Coca-Cola. Two would share a bottle, carefully making sure each got the same amount. It tasted like pure heaven going down our dusty throats. This was such a special treat that I’ll remember it always. Soda has never tasted as good as it did then.

 

“Sheets to the Wind” by Norma Cook: In the 1930s, when I was a child in hot, dry, dusty western Kansas, we did as everyone else around us did and opened windows for cross ventilation to cool our old farmhouse. But when the south wind got hot enough to make us miserable by lunchtime, Mother pulled a trick from her sleeve. She pinned bed sheets to the curtain rods, then sprinkled water from a pan to dampen the sheets. We cooled off in no time with the wind blowing through those wet bed sheets. I thought that it was magic, and that Mother was the smartest woman in the world!

 

 

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

 

1. Do we endeavor to be chaste and to promote the dignity of our human person? Do we reject any form of “adultery” within us and outside us?

 

2. Do we savor God’s gift of “gentle silence”? Do we perceive his gentle presence within us and about us?

 

 

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

 

Jesus Lord,

we thank you for teaching us integrity of heart

and faith in God who has bound himself to us

in covenant love.

Help us to perceive your gentle presence everywhere.

Give us the grace to extend your loving comfort to others.

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.

 

“There was tiny whispering sound.” (I Kgs 19:12) // “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out …” (Mt 5: 29)

 

 

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

 

Pray for all those in adulterous situations that God may give them the grace to follow his saving will. Spend some time in quiet adoration before the Blessed Sacrament and savor his gentle but real presence.

 

***

 

June 14, 2014: SATURDAY – WEEKDAY (10)

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Be Truthful and Calls Us to Service”

 

BIBLE READINGS

I Kgs 19:19-21 // Mt 5:33-37

 

 

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

 

In today’s Gospel (Mt 5:33-37), Jesus teaches us that truthfulness is assured by the inner integrity of the person. The biblical scholar Adrian Leske comments on the reading: “The practice of making oaths or vows had become so commonplace by the time of Jesus that the rabbis spent much time discussing valid and invalid forms. Originally oaths were made before the altar in the presence of God, when the truth of a matter could not be substantiated, by witnesses or documents. Included in such an oath was the invoking of a curse if the oath was false. Later in order not to take the name of God in vain it became a practice to use circumlocutions for God’s name, and even beyond that, in popular practice, to swear by anything of value. Jesus points out that no matter how one words that oath, it is still an oath before God … Those who belong to the kingdom will speak in sincerity and faithfulness, so their simple yes and no can be accepted as trustworthy before God and people. While oath-taking today may be required by courts and other institutions, the essential point here is speaking with utter honesty and sincerity.”

 

The following story gives insight into the value of a man’s word – if he is a person of integrity (cf. Iris Deurmyer, “Let’s Shake on It” in COUNTRY, April/May 2014, p. 51).

 

On a spring day when I was 6, I rode to town with Uncle Art to buy seed for planting gardens and fields and get feed for the calves. As a young girl growing up in the heartland, I found a special joy spending time with him. As we traveled in the pickup truck, Uncle Art made up silly rhymes and we sang them together. He patiently taught me to say the ABCs backward.

 

After loading supplies at the feed store, Uncle Art visited with the owner outside and then pointed at the truck. “I forgot to sign for this”, he said. The owner said, “Arthur, let’s shake on it. Your handshake is worth more than most men’s signatures.”

 

Later, I asked him what the owner had meant. Uncle Art explained that if a man gave his word, it should be dependable as money in the bank. He said a trustworthy man’s handshake was like an unwritten promise to keep his word.

 

In the half century since that day, I’ve reflected on Uncle Art’s words and his reputation. I can still picture that handshake; it’s a permanent reminder that the word should be as good as money in the bank. Oh, and one other thing has stuck with me. I can still rattle off the alphabet backwards.

 

***

 

In today’s Old Testament reading (I Kgs 19:19-21) we hear the vocation story of Elisha and his positive response to the divine call to be a prophet. The call to prophetic ministry comes from God who ordered Elijah “You shall anoint Elisha, son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah, as prophet to succeed you” (v. 16b). Elijah carries out the Lord’s command. He comes upon Elisha, a prosperous farmer, plowing the field with a team of twelve oxen. The biblical author narrates that Elisha is “following” the twelfth oxen. That day is truly significant for henceforth he would no longer be following “oxen”, but the Lord. Elijah throws his cloak over the toiling farmer, and the latter understands what the symbolic gesture means. The mantle symbolizes the personality and rights of the owner, and since the hair-shirt mantle of the prophets is part of their official dress, casting Elijah’s mantle on Elisha indicates an invitation, an investiture and an initiation to the prophetic ministry.

 

Elisha’s response is immediate. He abandons the oxen he was “following” and runs after Elijah, the instrument of God’s call. Elisha requests permission from the master-prophet to kiss his father and mother goodbye and manifests to him his resolve, “I will follow you”. Elijah does not object to the legitimate request for a devout, filial leave-taking. Elisha then shows his unreserved response to God’s plan by slaughtering his twelve oxen. He burns the plow as fuel to cook the oxen and serves the boiled meat as food for his people. His acceptance of the prophetic call is unreserved. In destroying the tools of his trade, he makes himself vulnerable, and in a no “fall back” position. He loses security. Elisha is an eloquent model of a total response to the call of God, who destines us for a special service to his people.

 

Sr. Mary Alba Scellato, one of our most inspiring and dynamic Sisters, illustrates the dynamics of God’s call and the person’s total response. Sr. Mary Alba turned 90 years old last June 3, 2014.

 

Vocation Story: Sr. Mary Alba Scellato

(First Profession: Mary 25, 1943 – Final Profession: March 25, 1948)

 

My family was a fervent Christian one that observes the Sunday law and the precepts of the Church. My father died when I was eleven years old. A mule kicked him in the stomach. He was brought home in terrible pain. No means was found to save him. He died after three days. He was a Franciscan tertiary. A Capuchin father came to bless him.

 

My elder sister Felicia was learning tailoring. My mother had been sick in many ways. She wanted us to learn anything that would enable us to take care of ourselves. She thought she would die soon. All of us attended the church. We were close to a church and the hospital where the Sisters of St. Anne served and taught catechism. It was proposed to us to learn 100 questions and answers on catechism without mistakes. The benefits were many: to know Christian life and the Eucharistic presence with a few gifts besides, including a photo. Eight of us won!

 

At that time I was going to an embroidery class. The weekly catechetical instruction and the music rehearsal left a deep impression in me about the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. The Sisters of St. Anne had a blind musician who played the organ. He taught us to sing a song I would never forget: heaven and earth exult on the day we receive Jesus in the Eucharist … we need to adore him present on the altar.

 

When I turned fourteen, my mother became sicker. Doctors suggested bringing her to Catania. My aunt Paula knew where to go and whom to contact. It was February 19, 1939. They took a rental car to go to Catania. In that car, there was an extra seat. Aunt Paula asked me if I wanted to go. She would visit the PDDM sisters in Catania because she used to give them hospitality when they were going to our native town of Nicosia for the ministry. We went to Catania and met the Sisters. Mother Pia Dogliani told us that if I wanted to stay with them, I was welcome. So when my mother was in the hospital, I stayed with them for nine days

 

 When my mother was ready to return to Nicosia, I told her that if the Sisters would be willing to keep me, I would remain with them. Then my mother said, “You must come with us; we will prepare the dowry and bring you back.” But I said, “If I go home, I would not have the courage to leave home. But now that I am here, I am happy to remain.” My mother said “Yes” to me with tears in her eyes. I remained there and was very happy. My mother immediately gave part of the dowry and would settle the rest in the near future.

 

 

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

 

1. Am I trustworthy? Do my words have integrity?

 

2. Am I willing to follow Christ unconditionally?

 

 

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

 

O Lord Jesus,

you called me.

Help me to say “yes” and to follow you with integrity.

Make me a servant of your word

and make me trustworthy.

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.

 

“I will follow you.” (I Kgs 19:20) // “Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes’.” (Mt 5:37)

 

 

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

 

Resolve to be faithful to the demands of Christian discipleship. Make every effort to be honest and truthful.

 

***

 

 

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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