A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday and Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 12, n. 29)

Trinity Sunday and Weekday 11: June 15-21, 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 8-14, 2014, please go to ARCHIVES Series 12 and click on “Pentecost - Weekday 10”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: June 15-21, 2014.)

 

***

 

June 15, 2014: TRINITY SUNDAY

 “JESUS SAVIOR: In Him the Blessed Trinity Is Revealed”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Ex 34:4b-6, 8-9 // II Cor 13:11-13 // Jn 3:16-18

 

 

I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS

 

When I presented my thesis proposal to the Pontifical Liturgical Institute where I was enrolled in Rome for my licentiate degree, my Moderator objected that my object of study was too vast and wisely suggested that I delimit the topic. In the proposed outline that I submitted to him, he noticed an item that he found interesting. Taking heed of his wise counsel, I then set myself to the task of investigating “The Trinitarian Aspect of the Biblical Readings of the Sundays of Lent, Year A, in the Vatican II Lectionary”. I did not have any problem with the liturgical hermeneutics of the biblical texts. What was formidable and daunting, however, was to delineate how these biblical readings could be used to prepare baptismal candidates for their immersion into the life of the Trinity.

 

Every evening after I had finished my work in the sacristy, I would sit in front of the tabernacle asking for light and guidance. The Eucharistic Master heeded my prayer. One afternoon, Sr. Mary Salome, who was also enrolled in the Liturgical Institute, kindly showed me an entry on the Trinity in a voluminous theological dictionary stacked in our community library. She rightly guessed that it might be useful for my work. When I read the article, I was astounded at the remarkable insight presented by the author. He asserted that the Paschal Mystery is the basis of Trinitarian revelation. According to him, from the experience of the Paschal Mystery, the Church had come to a profound understanding that the one God, in his most intimate nature, is Trinitarian: as a loving Creator Father, the source of redemption; as the obedient Son who accomplished the Father’s saving plan by his death on the cross; and as the Spirit of love, proceeding from the Father and the Son, who witnesses to our being God’s children and enables us to call him, “Abba, Father”.

 

That insight became the key to my thesis on how the biblical readings of the Sundays of Lent, Year A, could prepare candidates for baptism, called by St. Isidore of Seville the “sacrament of the Trinity”. Once I had approached the Lenten readings from the Paschal-Trinitarian perspective, my thesis went smoothly and it was successfully completed in a short time.

 

Aelred Rosser corroborates the insight that the Paschal Mystery of Christ is the basis of Trinitarian revelation: “God’s self-revelation as a trinity of persons came very gradually through the centuries. God has not changed, of course, but our limited understanding of God’s nature has continually developed thanks to God’s grace. The revelation came most fully, we Christians believe, in Jesus, in whose life and death we glimpse enough to know that God is all-good, all-loving and has shown us how to be creatures worthy of our Creator.”

  

The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 2, underline the dynamic aspect of today’s feast: “The liturgy, like the New Testament, like all the Greek and Latin Fathers before Augustine, has a very concrete and dynamic conception of the three Persons of the Trinity: everything comes from the Father and returns to him through the Son in the Spirit. Celebrated on the Sunday after Pentecost, it is a great doxology to the Father who raised his Son and brought him into the glory where he reigns with the Holy Spirit he has sent to us. When the sequence of the Sundays in Ordinary Time is about to begin again, this feast sheds light on the face and true nature of Jesus, the Son of God, who, by his teaching and his acts, reveals the Father and leads humankind to himself in the Spirit.” 

 

In our celebration of the feast of the Most Holy Trinity, we are invited to a greater response to the incredible love shown to us by God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Augustinian friar, Francis McGowan, exhorts us to pay the triune God the homage of a loving heart: “We owe the Blessed Trinity the homage of grateful love … What happiness was breathed into our souls! The Father adopted each one of us as his child, the Son embraced us as his brother, and the Holy Spirit chose us for his temple. Could the triune God have done more for us? … Yes, we have abundant reason to be thankful to the Holy Trinity for its love and mercy toward us; we have forcible reason to love and honor the ever-blessed Three to offer them the best homage and sincerest worship of our lowly hearts.”

 

***

 

This Sunday’s Old Testament reading (Ex 34:4b-6, 8-9) enables us to glean the exquisite quality of God the Father, who is full of forgiving love and benevolence. The Lord God is merciful and gracious; slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity. He reveals his inmost self by his actions in the world and by his deeds in favor of mankind. He is the all powerful Savior of those who trust in him and walk in his ways. In the fullness of time the depth of his merciful love is fully revealed in the paschal mystery of his Son Jesus Christ. The evangelist John affirms: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). The glorified Son sends from the Father the Holy Spirit, the font of unity and fellowship of believers.

 

I was a teenager when I went with my cousin Virgie for vacation in a small fishing village by the Pacific Ocean in the Philippines. After breakfast, we walked to the beach and spent the whole day swimming, walking on the sand, resting under the shade of the upturned fishing boats, and snacking on boiled bananas and fried “camotes” (sweet potatoes). As we celebrate today the feast of the Blessed Trinity, the leisurely experience of being immersed in the waters comes back vividly. I did not try to fathom the immensity of the ocean. I simply allowed the ocean to envelop me. In the process I experienced its benevolent movements and had a glimpse of its unfathomable riches. The saving mystery of the One and Triune God is not something that could be fathomed or conquered by the human mind. We experience its beauty and grace by humbly surrendering to infinity and by immersing ourselves into the mystery.

 

Immersed into the life of the Blessed Trinity, we – the baptized Christian believers – experience the ineffable goodness of God and are called to mirror in our lives the divine benevolence. As the human image of the Blessed Trinity, we are called to mirror in our lives the benevolent workings of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. By our efforts to awaken and cherish new life, to fashion and mold the environment, to preserve the integrity of creation, to promote the culture of life and beauty, etc., we participate in the Father’s work of creation, generation, and maintenance. By our human works of healing, reconciling, serving, promoting the cause of justice and right, etc., we reflect the divine Son’s own work of reconciliation and redemption. By pursuing the wisdom of heart and good inspiration, by responding to the call of holiness, by promoting community-communion, etc. we give witness to the animating movement of the Holy Spirit. The functions of the three persons of the Blessed Trinity intertwine, influence and complement each other.

 

***

 

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you” (II Cor 13:13). Saint Paul’s conclusion to his second letter to the Corinthians is a masterpiece. It would be difficult to find a better expression of what the Trinity is than Paul’s concluding blessing that summarizes the characteristics of the one and triune God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

 

The biblical scholar Eugene Maly comments: “In his valedictory blessing, Paul gathers together the characteristics of the God who revealed himself in history. The characteristics are really those of the one God, and so of all three Persons. But in a way they are seen in our world view as appropriated by the three in a distinctive manner. To God the Father belongs love, the principle of all he wills and does. The result of this love for us is the gift - the grace - that is the Father’s Son, Jesus Christ. That love and grace, through the power of the Spirit, brings us together in fellowship and union. This is the feast of God we celebrate, the feast of love and grace and fellowship. They are Holy Trinity.”

  

This year’s Father’s Day celebration propitiously coincides with Trinity Sunday. This happy coincidence could help us to see the intimate connection between the Trinity’s life and our own. The following daughter’s personal account of her dad is very charming and insightful. It could also give us a glimpse of the fathering, generating and nurturing quality of God the Father and of the one-triune God (cf. Lisa Krieger, “Thanks for Shaping Me” in San Jose Mercury News, June 20, 2010, p. B1, B5).

 

Dear Dad: It was 35 years ago on a sleet-gray December when I was making my first big solo road trip, on a long and rural drive home from college. My VW was aged and packed full with suitcases and a dog. I was tired. It was dusk. Snow started to fall. And then the car died. I don’t remember how I found a payphone to call you, or where I spent the next long hours waiting. All I remember is that you drove 150 miles to get me, arriving with a hug, a credit card and this lesson: It’s OK, you said. We’ll fix it. You can try again. I’m proud of you.

 

Much is said of the legacies left by mothers’ wedding dresses, recipes, photo albums and heirloom furniture. But you, like fathers everywhere, gave me something less tangible but just as important: resiliency. It’s OK – you can do it, you said. Try harder. You’re just as good as they are. Get up, get going. Try again. When I suffered a broken heart, Mom was ready with Kleenex; you were ready with a tennis game. When I almost flunked chemistry, you didn’t doubt my intelligence – just my study habits. When I headed overseas, with only a backpack, Mom pleaded with me to be safe. You said, “Send me a postcard!”

 

Through you, I learned how to navigate the real world. You showed me how to file a tax return. Pay bills on time. Fix a flat. Pour a drink. Invest intelligently. Buy a house. Travel the world. You led by example. A quiet man, you didn’t talk much about the importance of research – but I recall how you undressed in the basement because your clothes smelled so strongly of the lab. Then you went to night school to earn an MBA; I still remember the hasty Swanson dinners. You endured a long commute so I had a green yard and a strong school system.

 

Accountability was important; you lent me money to buy the VW, then created a ledger where we recorded each monthly repayment. So was planning; my friends always seemed to have lots of fancy clothes and spare cash, but we saved up for adventurous family trips. I remember skiing together in Switzerland, in dense fog, when we both stopped at the edge of a precipice to catch our breath and laugh. Then we discovered we were standing atop a snow-covered chalet roof, mere inches from an 8-foot fall.

 

Patiently, you showed me how you built a Heathkit radio. You saved me souvenirs from astronaut John Glenn’s historic tickertape parade. You parked your car in the driveway, so I could raise an opossum in the garage. One night, we set up a tripod to photograph the stars; then we developed the film in mom’s laundry sink. Like magic, they emerged as white streaks across an inky sky.

 

Give things a try, you said. Take your time, but take a chance. It’s OK to make a mistake. If something doesn’t work out, try it a different way. And always: I’m proud of you. You sent me out into the world, not with fragile self-esteem, but real skills. Most male animals contribute nothing to their progeny’s welfare, beyond a big dose of DNA. Some father-free species, such as fish, must spawn millions of offspring to ensure the survival of just one or two. “Breeding like bunnies” is essential for rabbits, because males flee, post-coitally, with not even a thanks. But through parental investment, our species flourishes.

 

Nor is it a surprise that fatherless neighborhoods turn feral, careless and violent. Maybe mothers are hesitant to confront a sullen 6-foot-tall 16 year old son about a truancy report. A good dad steps up to fill the gap between potential and performance – by taking away the PlayStation and sending him back to school.

 

Dad, at 87, your days of rescue and advice are long gone. You can’t drive anymore. You don’t remember that cold December night, or even our conversation this morning. But you were right: Things are OK. I took my chances, learned the lessons and passed them on to my daughter. Now it’s my turn to be proud, and so grateful.

 

Happy Father’s Day! Yours always, Lisa

 

 

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

 

1. What is our personal response to this magnanimous, compassionate and gracious divine act: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (Jn 3:16)?

 

2. How do we open our hearts to receive the following Trinitarian benediction: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you” (II Cor 13:13)?

 

3. Is our life a Trinitarian doxology, “Glory to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit”? How?

 

 

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

 

O divine Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

we adore you, we thank you and we love you.

We open our hearts anew

to your benediction of love, grace and fellowship.

O heavenly Father, bless us and keep us.

O Jesus Christ, our Lord and Redeemer,

let your face shine upon us.

O Holy Spirit, font of holiness and the Easter gift,

grant us your peace.

O blessed Trinity,

consecrate us to yourself so that we may be

a “Glory be to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”,

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.

 

“The grace and peace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” (II Cor 13:13)

 

 

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

 

Pray that all Christians may give glory to the triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit by replicating the creative and compassionate love of God in their lives. Today, make the sign of the cross and pray the “Glory Be” with greater solemnity and devotion.

 

*** 

 

June 16, 2014: MONDAY – WEEKDAY (11 in Ordinary Time)

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Counters Evil with Good … He Has Suffered Injustice”

 

BIBLE READINGS

I Kgs 21:1-16 // Mt 5:38-42

 

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

 

The law of retaliation contained in the Old Testament (that is, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”) is meant to moderate vengeance and to keep violence within limits. It restricts the punishment inflicted by the avenger to injury proportionate to the damage done by the aggressor. Jesus’ teaching on non-retaliation is radical, for it seeks to break the cycle of revenge. The righteous man is called not just to respond with proportionate vengeance to an injury inflicted by an aggressor, but to take no vengeance at all. Jesus teaches us “to offer no resistance to one who is evil”. The Divine Master’s teaching of non-resistance to an evildoer is not an invitation to suicide, or to let true justice be trampled upon, but a call to counter evil with good, hatred with love, vengeance with forgiveness. Love, though vulnerable and paradoxical, is the only force capable of overcoming evil. By his passion and death on the cross, Jesus showed how forgiving love can overcome the ugly forces of evil and sin that lead to violence. With his life of non-retaliation and reconciliation, a new world order has begun.

 

The following story gives us insight into the ways of the non-vengeful who seek to overcome evil with good (cf. Anthony de Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations, New York: Image Books, 1988, p. 65).

 

A traveler was walking along the road one day when a man on horseback rushed by. There was an evil look in his eyes and blood on his hands. Minutes later a crowd of riders drew up and wanted to know if the traveler had seen someone with blood on his hands go by. They were in hot pursuit of him. “Who is he?” the traveler asked. “An evil-doer”, said the leader of the crowd. “And you pursue him in order to bring him to justice?” “No”, said the leader, “we pursue him in order to show him the way.”

 

Reconciliation alone will save the world, not justice, which is generally another word for revenge.

 

***

 

Today’s Old Testament Reading (I Kgs 21:1-16) depicts the criminal acts of the idolatrous royal couple Ahab and Jezebel. King Ahab wants to possess Naboth’s vineyard next to his palace to make it into his vegetable garden. Naboth the Jezreelite does not want to part with his ancestral heritage and refuses the king’s offer to barter or to buy it. The disappointed Ahab is sullen and angry. His wife Jezebel plots the death of Naboth using false charges and witnesses so that they can seize the property. The innocent Naboth is stoned to death. Jezebel’s infamous strategy and Ahab’s tacit acquiescence illustrate the pervasive and destructive power of the state when it moves against its own citizens.

 

The suffering of the innocent goes on through history. The recent case in Sudan is an example (cf. “A Christian Woman in Sudan Sentenced to Death” in L’Osservatore Romano, 23 May 2014, p. 3).

 

In Sudan last week, a court sentenced a Christian woman, who is 8 months pregnant, to death on charges of apostasy. 27-year old Meriam Yeilah Ibrahim, a doctor, has a 20-month-old child in prison with her. The judge of a court in Khartoum concluded that the woman had abandoned her faith, as her father was a Muslim. She was also sentenced to 100 lashes on charges of adultery for having married a Christian.

 

According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a human rights protection group, the woman is a daughter of a Muslim Sudanese man and an Orthodox Ethiopian mother. After her father abandoned her at the age of 6, Meriam was raised in the Christian faith. But because of her father, Sudanese law considers her a Muslim by birth. This would make marriage to a non-Muslim invalid. According to the group’s spokesman, Kiri Kankhwende, in similar cases in the past, the Sudanese government had waited for the woman to give birth before proceeding with the death sentence.

 

 

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

 

1. Do I strive to conquer the vengeful instinct and to overcome evil with good? Do I practice the ethic of non-violence and the Christian way of forgiving love?

 

2. Are there evil streaks in me that could lead to acts of injustice against my neighbors?

 

 

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

 

Jesus, meek and humble of heart,

how difficult is your teaching of non-resistance to evildoers!

We are vengeful.

Our instinctive reflex is to retaliate

for an injury inflicted by an aggressor

and to give it to the one who offends us.

But your example transcends the ugly ways of the violent.

By your life of forgiving love and reconciliation,

you show us how to break the cycle of vengeance in this world.

Give us the grace to be peaceful.

Teach us the way of non-violence and non-retaliation,

of forgiving love and reconciliation.

Let your love be upon us

that we may respond to evil with good,

to hatred with love.

Dear Jesus,

lead us on the path of true justice and peace.

We adore you and serve you as our only good.

We give you praise, 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 week. Please memorize it.

 

“Offer no resistance to one who is evil.” (Mt 5:39) // “Naboth had been stoned to death.” (I Kgs 21:14)

 

  

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

 

If someone offends you, put into practice the teaching of Jesus of non-retaliation and reconciliation through the power of good. Pray to God for forgiveness for all the innocent victims of injustice in today’s world and see in what way you can help them concretely.

 

***

 

June 17, 2014: TUESDAY – WEEKDAY (11)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Love Our Enemies and Calls Us Away from Our Wicked Ways”

 

BIBLE READINGS

I Kgs 21:17-29 // Mt 5:43-48

 

 

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

 

Today’s Gospel reading contains the Divine Master’s radical teaching on magnanimous love even of enemies. Harold Buetow comments: “Jesus teaches largeness of heart and mind … Our love for our enemies – those we do not like or who do not like us – is not of the heart but of the will. Therefore, to love them need not be an emotional experience, but must be a decision to commit ourselves to serve the best interests of all other people … We see that the apex of God’s kind of perfection is compassion, a willingness to suffer for others. Those who love in such an unconditional and non-selective way are true children of the God of limitless love … In our dealings with other people, both friends and enemies, we are to be magnanimous: large-minded, wide open, generous – and holy.”

 

The Amish community’s compassionate act to reach out to the family of Charles Roberts, the suicide-attacker of 10 Amish girls, illustrates the grandiose love that forgives and embraces all (cf. Internet article of Daniel Burke, Religion News Service).

 

It was October 2, 2006, and Charles Carl Roberts IV had just shot 10 Amish schoolgirls before turning the gun on himself. Five girls died. Five others were seriously wounded. The shooting shocked this quiet, rural county and horrified countless outsiders glued to the nonstop media coverage. “Not only was my son not alive, he was the perpetrator of the worst crime anyone could ever imagine”, Terri Roberts said. After the shooting, the world was riveted by the remarkable display of compassion shown by the Amish, as the quiet Christian sect embraced the Roberts family and strove to forgive the troubled sinner. (…)

 

On the day of the shooting, Terri crawled into a fetal position, feeling as if her insides were ripped apart. Her husband Chuck, a retired policeman, cried into a tea towel, unable to lift his head. He wore skin off his face wiping away his tears. Family and friends poured into the Roberts’ home in Strasburg, Philadelphia, a small town about six miles from Nickel Mines, where the shooting occurred.  No one knew what to say. “What do you say, ‘At least it’s not as bad as so-and-so’? There was nothing that anyone could imagine that would have been worse than that day”, she said.

 

Later that evening, an Amish neighbor named Henry, whom Terri calls her “angel in black” arrived at their house. Chuck had begun a second career as an “Amish taxi”, driving families to destinations farther away than horses and buggies could carry them. After the shooting, Chuck feared he could never face the Amish again. “Roberts, we love you”, Henry insisted and continued to comfort Chuck for nearly an hour. Finally, Chuck looked up. “Thank you, Henry”, he said. “I just looked at that and said, ‘Oh Lord, my husband will heal through this.’ I was just so thankful for Henry that day”, Terri said.

 

***

 

In today’s Second Reading (I Kgs 21:17-29), God sends Elijah the Tishbite to confront and condemn King Ahab for the murder of Naboth and for stealing the victim’s ancestral heritage. The prophet speaks God’s word of condemnation. The murderous, covetous and idolatrous couple would suffer the same fate as Naboth even to the goriest detail: the dogs shall lick up their blood too. In II Kgs 9:30-37 we learn of the horrible end of Jezebel who instigated her husband Ahab to idolatry and sin. The palace officials threw her down from the window and her blood scattered on the wall and the horses. Jehu, the new king of Israel, drove his chariot and horses over her body. The men who are to bury her find nothing except her skull and the bones of her hands and feet.

 

Hearing the words of divine judgment, King Ahab is remorseful. His humble stance before the forthcoming punishment wins for him a reprieve. The destruction of his house is postponed to the next generation. Ahab, however, is “not-so-totally-converted”. The king will be wounded by an arrow in his future battle with the Syrians and die. The chariot drenched by his blood will be cleaned up at the pool of Samaria. There the dogs shall lick up his blood as the Lord has said will happen. 

 

By speaking God’s word, the prophet Elijah continues to be an instrument of the divine saving will. The following story, “A Speeding Ticket Lesson”, circulated on the Internet, illustrates a “prophetic” way to confront an evil situation.

 

Jack took a long look at his speedometer before slowing down: 73 in a 55 zone. Fourth time in as many months. How could a guy get caught so often? When his car had slowed to 10 miles an hour, Jack pulled over, but only partially. Let the cop worry about the potential traffic hazard. Maybe some other car will tweak his backside with the mirror. The cop was stepping out of his car, the big pad in his hand.

 

Bob? Bob from the church? Jack sunk farther into his trench coat. This was worse than the coming ticket. A cop catching a guy from his own church. A guy who happened to be a little eager to get home after a long day at the office. A guy he was about to play golf with tomorrow. Jumping out of the car, he approached the man he saw every Sunday, a man he’d never seen in uniform.

 

“Hi, Bob. Fancy meeting you like this.” “Hello, Jack.” No smile. “Guess you caught me red-handed in a rush to see my wife and kids.” “Yeah, I guess.” Bob seemed uncertain. Good. “I’ve seen some long days at the office lately. I’m afraid I bent the rules a bit – just this once.” Jack toed at a pebble on the pavement. “Diane said something about roast beef and potatoes tonight. Know what I mean?” “I know what you mean. I also know that you have a reputation in our precinct.” Ouch. This was not going in the right direction. Time to change tactics.

                                                                                              

“What’d you clock me at?” “Seventy. Would you sit back in your car please?” “Now wait a minute here, Bob. I checked as soon as I saw you. I was barely nudging 65.” The lie seemed to come easier with every ticket. “Please, Jack, in the car.”

 

Flustered, Jack hunched himself through the still-open door. Slamming it shut, he stared at the dashboard. He was in no rush to open the window. The minutes ticked by. Bob scribbled away on the pad. Why hadn’t he asked for a driver’s license? Whatever the reason, it would be a month of Sundays before Jack ever sat near this cop again. A tap on the window jerked his head on the left. There was Bob, a folded paper in hand. Jack rolled down the window a mere two inches, just enough room for Bob to pass him his slip. “Thanks.” Jack could not keep the sneer out of his voice.

 

Bob returned to his police car without a word. Jack watched him retreat in the mirror. Jack unfolded the sheet of paper. How much was this one going to cost? Wait a minute. What was this? Some kind of joke? Certainly not a ticket. Jack began to read.

 

Dear Jack,

Once upon a time, I had a daughter. She was six when killed by a car. You guessed it – a speeding driver. A fine and three months in jail and the man was free. Free to hug his daughters, all three of them. I had only one, and I’m going to have to wait until Heaven before I can ever hug her again. A thousand times I tried to forgive that man. A thousand times I thought I had. Maybe I did, but I need to do it again. Even now. Pray for me. And be careful, Jack, my son is all I have left.

Bob

 

Jack turned around to see Bob’s car pull away and head down the road. Jack watched until it disappeared. A full 15 minutes later, he too, pulled away and drove slowly home, praying for forgiveness and hugging a surprised wife and kids when he arrived.

 

 

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

 

1. Do I strive to conquer the vengeful instinct and to overcome evil with good? Do I practice the ethic of non-violence and the Christian way of forgiving love?

 

2. Do I believe in divine justice and retribution? Do I make an effort to renounce my wicked ways?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

in you mercy and justice have embraced.

thank you for the gift of your Son Jesus Christ.

Through his self-giving,

we realize that Christian holiness demands compassion.

It challenges us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Give us the strength to love unconditionally

and to learn the ways of justice and peace

Let us draw courage from the truth that we belong to Christ

and that he leads us on the right path.

You live and reign, 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.

 

“Love your enemies.”  (Mt 5:44) // “He has humbled himself before me.” (I Kgs 21:29)

 

 

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

 

By an act of kindness and compassion to a needy person or an offensive person, or by a forgiving stance to an injury suffered personally, enable the Gospel of saving love to spread. Help people to understand the meaning and implication of divine justice and the necessity of responding to the Word of God calling us to conversion.

 

 

***

 

June 18, 2014: WEDNESDAY – WEEKDAY (11)

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Do Good Deeds and Ensures Prophetic Succession

 

BIBLE READINGS

II Kgs 2:1, 6-14 // Mt 6:1-6, 16-18

 

 

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

  

Doing the right deed for selfish reasons is “phony” and not commendable. Jesus takes up three traditional Jewish good deeds: almsgiving, prayer and fasting. While encouraging his disciples to practice them, he warns about the manner of practicing them. These traditional acts of righteousness are meaningless when done hypocritically and in view of self-seeking. Jesus criticizes pious self-display and not the pious actions themselves. Almsgiving, prayer and fasting are meaningful only when they are motivated by a sincere and faithful relationship with God and one’s fellow human beings. The Father of Jesus – our own Father too – who sees acts hidden from human sight will surely reward good deeds done for the glory of God and the good of others. God the Father rewards good deeds, both those done in secret and those carried out in public witnessing, as long as they are properly motivated, i.e. to secure God’s glory and to promote the well-being of our brothers and sisters. While teaching his disciples not to be hypocrites and self-seeking, Jesus Christ also encourages them to let their light shine before others so that those who see their good deeds may glorify the heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:16).

 

After the 8:00 A.M. Easter Sunday Mass at our parish St. Christopher here in San Jose (CA-USA), our community of three, plus a friend went for breakfast at a nearby restaurant in our Willow Glen neighborhood. We enjoyed freshly brewed coffee and placed our order. Mine was a bowl of fresh fruit and Eggs Benedict. Easter joy was in the air as we shared the meal. When we asked for the bill, the waiter told us that an “Easter bunny” took care of it. We greatly appreciated the kindness of our secret benefactor. We prayed that God the Father who sees good deeds done in secret may reward and fill him with Easter blessings.

 

***

 

Today’s Old Testament reading II Kgs 2:1, 6-14) depicts the ascension of Elijah into heaven and the prophetic succession of Elisha. Elijah has responded to a series of commands from God that progressively separated him from his people and his land. Today’s episode narrates the final separation. Obeying God’s command, Elijah goes to Jordan. The devoted and determined disciple Elisha follows him and witnesses the parting of the Jordan River which the prophet Elijah effects using his mantle. Elisha begs the master for a “double portion” of his spirit. The eldest son in Israel generally receives a double share of the paternal inheritance.  Elisha’s request means that he be recognized as the spiritual heir of the master. He is begging to receive a share of the power that will enable him to succeed the prophet. It is a difficult request because Elijah may have extraordinary powers, but he cannot create prophets. The master tells him that if the disciple sees him being taken up to heaven, his wish will be granted.  Suddenly a chariot of fire pulled by horses of fire comes between them and Elijah is taken up to heaven. Elisha receives the prophetic power. The repetition of the miracle of the parting of the Jordan water using the master’s “miraculous” mantle confirms Elisha as Elijah’s successor. The fifty prophets from Jericho see him strike the water and divide it. They acclaim: “The power of Elijah is on Elisha.”

 

The following article gives insight into the “prophets” and witnesses in the modern world (cf. Judith Sudilovsky, “Argentina Priest Caters to Spiritual Needs of Poor” in Our Sunday Visitor, January 12, 2014, p. 6).

 

At the entrance to Villa Carcoba, on the outskirts of the city of Buenos Aires, sit piles of rubbish and construction waste. Perched on this pile is a group of young boys armed with homemade slingshots taking aim at the windows of a building that looms above them. All the windows are covered with bars and netting.

 

“This is how they pass their time”, said parish priest Jesuit Father Jose Maria di Paola, 51, who is known to everybody – not only in this poorest of parishes but in the entire country – as “Padre Pepe”. He swings his beat-up white Fiat sedan down onto the street that leads from paved roads and grassy parks into the chaos of rutted dirt roads, roaming bands of mangy dogs and groups of loitering youth.

 

Two years ago Father di Paola – who belongs to the group of priests of the villas beloved and supported by Pope Francis, when he was archbishop and cardinal of the city – voluntarily left another slum, Villa 21-24, known as the most dangerous villa in Buenos Aires proper. This was after numerous threats against his life by drug traffickers who had become rampant in the rambling shanty town of 40,000 inhabitants, mostly immigrants from Paraguay and Bolivia.

 

As the economy and social conditions of neighboring countries continue to deteriorate, immigration to Argentina increases and the population and distress in these densely populated centers of poverty, family violence and drug crime continue to grow, noted the Jesuit.

 

Having grown up in a working-class neighborhood to immigrant parents, Pope Francis always has been close to the common people, especially the most poor. “Pope Francis gave a new presence to the villas”, said Father di Paola. “Before, in a sense, they had been orphaned. When then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio came he gave special attention to the villas. There was not a week that we did not speak with him telling him our problems and giving suggestions.”

 

Funding for programs in the villas comes from international bishops’ conferences as well as some local Church funds. Father di Paola counts as one of his successes a spiritual retreat he was able to organize for 700 men from Villa 21-24 – an almost unheard of number.

 

“There is the problem of addiction … but the crux of the problem is spiritual - it is an unresolved spiritual question in each person”, he said. “We have to help them find a place for their own spiritual path so they can find … a meaning in their life.

 

For 14 years, Father di Paola served in the villa parish of Caacupe in Villa 21-24, leading a team of four other priests and numerous professionals and volunteers who worked also in three other neighboring villas to keep youths away from drugs by providing them with social activities and emotional support. They created a home for street children as well as rehabilitation programs for drug addicts and a small farm, breaking through the state bureaucracy with little or no support from state agencies. It was only in 2009, after he and the other priests of Villa 21-24 came out with a declaration denouncing the growing drug trafficking in the villa, that threats against his life became more menacing. (…)

 

Following the threats in Villa 21-24, together with then Cardinal Bergolio, Father di Paola decided to leave for a northern rural parish in the province of Santiago del Estero, not merely for his own safety, but for the safety of the people with whom he was working.

 

Eight months ago Father di Paola was ready to come back to his work with the marginalized youth of the villas and was given responsibility over Villa Carcoba – one of the oldest slums outside Buenos Aires – and three other slums encompassing a population of 35, 000.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we do our “good deeds” with proper motivation or do we carry them out as an occasion for self-seeking? Do we believe that God the Father who sees in secret will reward us for all good deeds done for his glory and the salvation of his people?

 

2. Do we imitate the prophetic spirit of Elijah and Elisha on behalf of God’s people? Do we ask the Lord for the grace of prophetic witnessing?

 

 

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

 

Heavenly Father,

we praise and thank you

for you see all our humble efforts to love and serve you.

You search the secrets of our heart

and all our actions are known to you.

Teach us always to work with supernatural intentions.

Deliver us from self-seeking and hypocrisy.

May our prayer, fasting and almsgiving

be done always for your greater glory

and the good of souls.

Grant us the prophetic power of Elijah and Elisha.

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.

 

“Your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” (Mt 6:4) // “Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.” (II Kgs 2:11)

 

 

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

 

In every good you do and in your pain and suffering, give glory and praise to God and seek the salvation of souls. Emulate the wholehearted prophetic witnessing of Elijah and his successor Elisha.

 

***

 

June 19, 2014: THURSDAY – WEEKDAY (11); SAINT ROMUALD, abbot

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Pray and He Is Prefigured by Elijah and Elisha”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Sir 48:1-14 // Mt 6:7-15

 

 

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

 

When I was a postulant, we had a retreat with an Irish Carmelite priest. To help us understand better the meaning of prayer, he narrated a story about two hermits. Each one planted a papaya and took care that it should grow well and be fruitful. They even prayed for the papaya. One hermit tried to make God understand what needs to be done for the papaya: “Lord, please send some rain today for the papaya”; “The sun is too hot; please send some cool breeze for the papaya;” etc. But his papaya was unhealthy and scrawny. When he visited his friend, he noticed that the papaya he planted was sturdy and extremely fruitful. “What is your secret?” he asked. The other hermit responded, “I prayed and asked God, Please take care of the papaya!”

 

Jesus teaches us the true meaning of prayer and how to pray. God our Father knows our needs even before we make our request. But he wants us to ask in confidence and trust. In prayer we do not so much inform God of some situation or micromanage him, as express our dependence and faith in him. The “Lord’s Prayer” that Jesus teaches us is a model of total surrender to God: “Your will be done …” Mother Teresa of Calcutta remarks: “Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at his disposition, and listening to his voice in the depths of our hearts.”

 

***

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Sir 48:1-14) gives a summary of the exploits of Elijah and Elisha, great prophets of the northern kingdom of Israel. Both are obedient instruments of God’s word and they stand up to wicked kings and authorities. Their prophetic careers underline the destruction and devastation that await those who forsake God. Indeed, the prophet Elijah and his successor Elisha, are God-fearing men of principles, in marked contrast to the kings of Israel, among whom the author of the Book of Sirach finds none to praise.

 

The sterling quality of the prophetic careers of Elijah and Elisha can also be verified in the following clergy who have inspired hearts, formed lives and brought the faithful closer to Christ (cf. “We Love Our Priests” in Our Sunday Visitor, June 1, 2014, p. 10-11).

 

FATHER MATTHIAS CREMER, Priests of the Sacred Heart Monastery, Hales Corners, Wisconsin: Rarely in life do we meet someone who makes such an impression on us that even after many years we can still recall with fervor the emotion attached to such an encounter. Such was the case with Father Matthias Patrick Cremer, who taught at Priests of the Sacred Heart Monastery in Hales Corners, Wisconsin, and where I first called on him back in 1992. He was a scholar, linguist, teacher, preacher, mentor, incredible athlete and survivor. Yes, survivor.

 

He had escaped the clutches of Adolf Hitler, whose aides had their eye on the young Cremer as he trained in Germany with other athletes from the national team for the 1936 Summer Olympic Games in Berlin. Cremer had set records in the discus and javelin events and was widely considered to be one of Germany’s leading contenders. Hitler desired him for his bodyguard; however the young Cremer wanted no part of this evil, despite that it could have given him a comfortable life.

 

His story of survival and eventual exile is impressive in itself but only secondary to why I was drawn to this man. I heard of his great love for our Lord and His mother; his gentle nature, generosity and passion for his faith. I was determined to be in the presence of one so selfless.

 

During our one and only visit, I knew I’d met a true servant of Jesus. His imposing physical figure stood in stark contrast to his mild manner. And his genuine concern for me personally was my lesson in love and humility, and so much more than I could have asked for.

 

(By Joan Brigman Krueger: Racine, Wisconsin)

 

***

 

FATHER MICHAEL J. ESSWEIN, St. Peter Catholic Church, Kirkwood, Missouri: Father Mike Esswein has been a holy inspiration to our family through his profound love of God and neighbor. His physical life is a constant challenge, but he is always a steadfast beacon of joy and grace.

 

While Father Mike was in the seminary, he was involved in an automobile accident that left him quadriplegic with only limited movement of his arms and hands. At the accident scene, his first prayer to God was that he could still fulfill his childhood vocation dream of becoming a Catholic priest.

 

During his rehabilitation, his vocation goal seemed doubtful as initially his hands were not functional enough to even grasp the host during Mass. Through constant prayer, a final surgery on his neck miraculously provided him just enough digital dexterity to grasp a host.

 

Even though he is confined to a wheelchair and daily carries many physical crosses, he is always thankful to God for his life as a devoted, loving priest. Our family is in awe of his humility, compassion, wisdom and joy he shares. When any of us are burdened by one of life’s challenges, we are inspired by the graceful, angelic life of Father Mike. We are blessed that he is part of our Christian family.

 

(By Ken and Pam Kopp: Des Peres, Missouri)

 

 

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

 

1. What is the significance of prayer for me personally?  What are my experiences of prayer?  Do I try to glean the true meaning of the “Lord’s Prayer”?

 

2. How do the life and ministry of the great prophets Elijah and Elisha inspire us? Do we imitate their example of complete dedication to the word of God?

 

 

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

 

Our Father, who art in heaven,

hallowed be thy name;

thy kingdom come;

thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread;

and forgive us our trespasses

as we forgive those who trespass against us;

and lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

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 is how you are to pray.” (Mt 6:9) // “His words were as a flaming furnace.” (Sir 48:1)

 

 

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

 

When you pray the Lord’s Prayer, mean what you say. Spend more time today in silent prayer. Pray to God for the grace to be persons of integrity like Elijah and Elisha and to be totally obedient to the divine word.

 

***

 

June 20, 2014: FRIDAY – WEEKDAY (11)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Seek True Treasures and Helps to Fight Evil and to Do Good”

 

BIBLE READINGS

II Kgs 11:1-4, 9-18, 20 // Mt 6:19-23

 

 

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

 

Today Jesus gives instructions on choosing between God and earthly treasures. Jesus Master counsels us not to store up treasures on earth because “earthly treasures” are fragile, alienable and perishable. There is nothing on earth that is worth putting our heart into in an absolute way. Only the Lord God is the eternal and absolute treasure. Our heart should be placed in him. He should be the object of our love, self-surrender and sacrifice. In view of this fundamental option, our principal concerns and interests are to store up treasures in heaven. Jesus also talks about the “eye” as the “lamp of the body”. In the ancient world the term “eye” is understood as expressing a person’s attitude. To say that “the eye is the lamp of the body” means that one’s attitude controls what one does or says. A healthy “eye” means that one’s personal attitude is sincere and open to God’s guidance. Hence, to make wise choices for the heavenly treasures would require a healthy “eye”, that is, a personal attitude that is enlightened by the wisdom of God. Storing up treasures in heaven needs true insight and perspective that is enlightened by the Spirit of God.

 

            The following story, “The Seven Jars of Gold” illustrates the tragedy and misery of hoarding false treasures as well as the possibility of being “enlightened” and of rectifying our dismal acts and unfortunate choices (cf. Anthony De Mello, The Song of the Bird, New York: Image Books, 1984, p. 134-135).

 

A barber was passing under a haunted tree when he heard a voice say, “Would you like to have the seven jars of gold?” He looked around and saw no one. But his greed was aroused, so he shouted eagerly, “Yes, I certainly would.” “Then go home at once”, said the voice. “You will find them there.”

 

The barber ran all the way home. Sure enough, there were the seven jars – all full of gold, except for one that was only half full. Now the barber could not bear the thought of having a half-filled jar. He felt a violent urge to fill it or he simply would not be happy.

 

So he had all the jewelry of his family melted into coins and poured them into half-filled jar. But the jar remained as half-filled as before. This was exasperating! He saved and skimped and starved himself and his family. To no avail. No matter how much gold he put into the jar it remained half-filled.

 

So one day he begged the king to increase his salary. His salary was doubled. Again the fight to fill the jar was on. He even took to begging. The jar devoured every gold coin thrown into it but remained stubbornly half-filled.

 

The king now noticed how starved the barber looked. “What is wrong with you?” he asked. “You were so happy and contented when your salary was smaller. Now it has been doubled and you are so worn out and dejected. Can it be that you have the seven jars of gold with you?”

 

The barber was astonished. “Who told you this, Your Majesty?” he asked.

 

The king laughed. “But these are obviously the symptoms of person to whom the ghost has given the seven jars. He once offered them to me. When I asked if this money could be spent or merely hoarded, he vanished without a word. That money cannot be spent. It only brings with it the compulsion to hoard. Go and give it back to the ghost this minute and you will be happy again.”

 

***

 

The Old Testament reading (II Kgs 11:1-4, 9-18, 20) continues to depict the struggle between good and evil that marks salvation history. Today’s episode happens in Judah where Athaliah, the daughter of the infamous King Ahab of Israel, usurps the throne of David by purging all legitimate claimants. The courageous Jehosheba, the wife of the priest Jehoiada, saves her infant nephew Joash by hiding him in a bedroom in the Temple. Queen Athaliah rules the land of Judah for six years. In the seventh year, Jehoiada stages a countercoup that defeats the power-crazy Athaliah. The priest Jehoiada crowned the seven-year old Joash as king and mediates two covenants: the first, between the Lord and the king and the people; the second, between the king and the people. The people of Judah renew their covenant with the Lord and manifest that they are the Lord’s people by destroying the cult of Baal that has been promoted by the idolatrous Athaliah. The newly crowned king is escorted by Jehoiada, the guards and the people to the palace where he takes his place on the throne. King Joash will rule the kingdom of Judah for 40 years.

 

The compassion and womanly instinct that prompted Jehosheba to save the life of her nephew Joash can be verified in many occasions. Richard Feloni’s article “Make A Stand Founder Vivienne Harr” circulated on the Internet gives insight into this.

 

Harr was only 8 when she saw photographer Lisa Kristine's image of two young Nepalese brothers carrying heavy stones down a mountain. When she learned that these boys were slaves, she immediately decided that she wanted to end child slavery. So in May of 2012, she did what many kids do, and set up a lemonade stand near her home in Fairfax, California, except the money she earned didn't go towards candy and toys. She charged "Whatever's in your heart" and gave all proceeds to charities fighting for her cause. As word got out about her mission, Harr continued to sit at her increasingly popular lemonade stand every day, and in December, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg invited her to sell her lemonade in Times Square. By the end of the day she had raised $101,320. She told her parents that she wasn’t going to stop until child slavery no longer existed.

 

 

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

 

1. Do I truly seek to store up treasures in heaven? What are my priorities, interests and choices? Do I strive to keep the “eye” – the “lamp of my body” healthy? Do I cultivate true insight and supernatural perspective in life?

 

2. Do I have the courage shown by the priest Jehoiada and his wife Jehosheba to fight evil and to do good?

 

 

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

 

O Jesus Divine Master,

we thank you for teaching us where to put our hearts

and where to store up treasures.

Help us to seek God as the only and absolute good.

Let us not be tantalized

by the false treasures of this earth.

Give light to the “eye” of our soul.

Grant us true insight

that we may seek the eternal treasures in heaven

with love, devotion and sacrifice.

Give us the wisdom, grace and strength

to fight evil and to do good.

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.

 

“For where your treasure is, there also your heart will be.” (Mt 6:21) // “Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord as one party and the king and the people as the other.” (II Kgs 11:17)

 

 

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

 

Get rid of superfluous goods and strive to share more fully your earthly and supernatural goods with the needy. Pray to God for the grace and strength to fight the evil influences that surround us, especially the evil caused by the misuse and abuse of the modern media.

 

***

 

June 21, 2014: SATURDAY – SAINT ALOYSIUS GONZAGA, religious

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Delivers Us from Anxiety and Strengthens Us to Resist Evil and to do Good”

 

BIBLE READINGS

II Chr 24:17-25 // Mt 6:24-34

 

 

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

 

Jesus continues to shape us into disciples whose priorities are straight and who totally depend on God. He wants us to serve God and not mammon. Our possessions have a way of possessing us, but that cannot happen if we make a core decision for God. Our fundamental option for Christ and our radical choice for the kingdom values eliminate useless anxieties. Indeed, Jesus wants us to be free from excessive concern about food and clothing.  What are they in comparison to the infinite value of the kingdom of God and his righteousness?  He invites us to reflect on God’s care as shown in nature. The birds in the sky neither sow nor reap nor gather food into barns yet the heavenly Father feeds them. He gives color and beauty to wild flowers and clothes them with a splendor that surpasses Solomon’s regal attire. If that is how God cares for the birds and wild flowers, how much more would he care for us – more important in his sight. Jesus urges us not to worry, for worrying is unproductive and counterproductive, a vicious killer of joy in our life. If we put our heart in God and seek his kingdom and his righteousness, all other matters will be in place and our needs taken care of.

 

The following story gives insight into the meaning of Jesus’ exhortation not to worry about tomorrow for there is no need to add to the troubles each day brings (cf. Anthony De Mello, The Song of the Bird, New York: Image Books, 1984, p. 21).

 

The Japanese warrior was captured by his enemies and thrown into prison. At night he could not sleep for he was convinced that he would be tortured the next morning.

 

Then the words of his master came to his mind. “Tomorrow is not real. The only reality is now.”

 

So he came to the present – and fell asleep.

 

The person over whom the future has lost its grip. How like the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. No anxieties for tomorrow. Total presence in the now. Holiness!

 

***

 

The Old Testament reading (II Chr 24:17-25) encourages us to continue to do good and resist evil. King Joash of Judah does not persist in following the way of the Lord. After the death of his counselor and benefactor Jehoiada, the Priest, Joash falls from a good life and succumbs to idolatry. Jehoiada’s son, Zechariah prophesies that the king’s rejection of the Lord will have dire consequences.  Joash’s response is to silence the bad news. On the king’s orders, the people stone Zechariah in the temple courtyard. King Joash, who has abandoned God, has forgotten about the loyal service that Zechariah’s father had given him. He, who as an infant was rescued by Jehoiada from death, instigates the killing of his redeemer’s beloved son. As Zechariah is dying, he calls out to the idolatrous king: “May the Lord see what you are doing and punish you.” Punishment is inevitable. A small Syrian army overtakes a larger Judean army. King Joash suffers the indignity of being murdered by his own servants.

 

Today’s Bible reading invites us to persevere in doing good and warns us not to succumb to evil. The need to persist in doing noble acts, even if unrequited, can also be gleaned in the following article (cf. “The Unseen Harvest” in Poverello News, June 2014, p. 5-6).

 

A police officer we know (we’ll call him Brett) was driving near Poverello one hot summer day after he had finished his shift. He saw a man dressed in dirty, ragged clothing and carrying a backpack. However, what got Brett’s attention was that the man was barefoot, and each step he took on the blistering sidewalk looked like torture. Brett had to gas up his police vehicle at the city yard nearby, but after he did so, he drove by the same area, and saw the man again. He pulled up to him and rolled down his window.

 

When he greeted him with a friendly, “How’s it going?”, the man immediately became hostile. “I just got out of jail! I didn’t do nothing wrong. Why are harassing me?” he shouted.

 

Brett tried to calm him down. “Look”, he said, “I’m not stopping you to give you any trouble. I just noticed that you didn’t have any shoes, and I thought your feet must be hurting, that’s all. I have some boots at home that might fit you.”

 

Brett said that the look in the man’s eye was one of absolute astonishment. It was as if he couldn’t understand that a police officer wasn’t trying to arrest or hassle him. After a long silence, he responded, “Yeah, that would be nice. Some boots would help.”

 

Brett replied, “Okay, I’m off duty right now. The boots are at my house. It’ll take me twenty minutes to drive there, and about twenty to thirty minutes to drive back. You go over there under the overpass where it’s shady. Stay there, and I’ll be back with some socks and boots. Got that? Stay there, okay?”

 

The man assured Brett that he would wait, and Brett took off. When he returned with the boots, the man was nowhere to be seen. Brett drove around for about fifteen minutes looking for him, but he had vanished.

 

Brett told us, “You know, I felt pretty stupid, like I had been conned. Was that a stupid thing to do?”

 

Not only was that not a stupid thing to do; it was a compassionate, noble act. Whenever we go out of our way to show kindness to someone in need, there is never a guarantee that we’ll get the results we expect. In fact, we are often very disappointed. In Galatians 6:9, Saint Paul tells us, “Let us not become weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

 

If everyone who performed kind acts simply gave up because his charity was misused, there wouldn’t be anyone left to help the poor, and the world would be a much darker place. Compassion is wonderful and motivating virtue, but without the companion virtues of faith and perseverance, compassion transforms itself quickly into anger and cynicism.

 

In over forty years at Poverello House, we hadn’t reaped a huge harvest for our investments of love, but we know that there is a bigger picture. God sees things very differently that we do, and so we persevere in charity and faith, because we believe He knows the rest of the story, which is the harvest that we can’t see right now.

 

 

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

 

1. Do I put my total trust in God, not worrying about tomorrow and not giving in to useless anxieties?

 

2. Do I persevere in my resolve to fight evil and to do good? Do I continue to act charitably even if my effort is not reciprocated and does not produce the result I imagine?

 

 

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

 

Jesus Master,

we trust in divine providence.

We look at the birds of the sky

and the immense field of wildflowers,

radiant with color and beauty.

You care for them.

How much more will you care for us!

Deliver us from useless anxieties.

Give us the grace to seek you

and the kingdom of God and his righteousness.

Help us to persevere in overcoming evil with good.

Let us live day by day in your grace.

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.

 

“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” (Mt 6:33) // “Because you have abandoned the Lord, he has abandoned you.” (II Chr 24: 20)

 

 

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

 

When the present socio-economic situation threatens you with fear and anxieties, turn to God and assert more strongly your fundamental option for him as the one and absolute good. Do not allow unrequited charity to discourage you.

 

***

 

 

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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