A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 18, n. 3)

Advent Week 3: December 15-22, 2019

 

 

(The pastoral tool BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD: A LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY & WEEKDAY LITURGY includes a prayerful study of the Sunday liturgy from various perspectives. For the Lectio Divina on the liturgy of the past week: December 8-14, 2019 please go to ARCHIVES Series 18 and click on “Advent Week 2”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: December 15-22, 2019.)

 

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December 15, 2019: THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

  “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the One Who Is to Come”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 35:1-6a, 10 // Jas 5:7-10 // Mt 11:2-11

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 11:2-11): “Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another?”

          

On this Advent Sunday, traditionally called Gaudete Sunday, marked especially by a note of rejoicing in view of the forthcoming celebration of the birth of Jesus, we continue to focus our attention on the one who is to come”. The joy that ensues from the advent into one’s life by the saving Lord Jesus, of which the Christian disciples are instruments, may be gleaned from a story narrated by Rebecca Manley Pippert (cf. “Somebody Loved Him” in Stories for the Heart, Multnomah Publishers: Sisters, Oregon, 1996, p. 233-236). The author writes about the sad plight of an eastern European Jew who spent five years in a concentration camp during World War II after his own wife traitorously tipped off the Gestapo. Released after the war, Jacob realized that he lost everything, even the hope of seeing his own son. His blood brother who had not seen him in years, refused to believe that the haggard, decrepit-looking bum at his door was really Jacob. As he lay dying on a park bench, a teenage girl came to his rescue. Here is R.M. Pippert’s account of the life-giving messianic mission of that kind-hearted Christian girl to Jacob.

 

Suddenly he heard a soft voice speaking to him. Jacob opened his eyes and to his astonishment he saw her looking at him with a compassion and sincerity that caught him off guard … “Sir, I was afraid to come over here, but I feel like God is nudging me to tell you something, before I get back on my bus. I wish I knew how to say it better but, well, sir, Jesus loves you. He loves you. He really does.” He looked at her in disbelief. This child was telling him that somebody in heaven loved him? After all the hell he had been through, all the indignity he had suffered, all the rage that had filled his soul for so many years … But as he looked up at her face he saw tears streaming down her cheeks, and to his astonishment he began to weep as well. “No one could love me, child. It’s too late for me,” he said between sobs. “No,” she replied urgently as she took his thin, gnarled hand into hers. “It’s not too late. God will gladly take you if only you’d let him. Just tell him that you want to. He will love you and help you.”

 

He said it was at that moment that he knew that Someone was reaching out to him through her … The girl and the friend who was with her helped him up and they took him by bus to the home where they were staying. The family nursed Jacob back to health for one entire year. During the course of that year they shared their faith, read to him from the Bible and prayed with him. Eventually what began as a dying man’s desperate invitation to God to take his life, became a total commitment of his life and soul to his Messiah … Jacob eventually found a good job, lived in his own apartment and went back to his brother and was reconciled. (…)

 

As long as I live I will never forget the expression on his face as he spoke of what Jesus meant to him. “It would have been so easy,” he said, “to have rejected that girl. To have chosen to harbor all the years of resentment and disillusionment in my heart. But to think that God reached out to me, gave me a home and a family who loved me, restored my health, and above all else, filled my heart with a gladness and joy I never knew was possible!”

 

The identity of that charitable girl and her family is undoubtedly “Christian”. They are so because they have discovered, known, and loved the person of Jesus as the saving Lord and have put this revelation into practice. This Sunday’s Gospel reading (Mt 11:2-11) is also about identity – an enormously greater one - the identity of “the one who is to come” and of his precursor, John the Baptist, “the one who prepares the way”. The Gospel reading is divided into two main parts: the first concerns John’s delegation to Jesus and the latter’s reply about his identity (v. 2-6); the second deals with the identity of John the Baptist as described by Jesus to the crowds (v. 7-11).

 

            Since his arrest (cf. Mt 4:12), John the Baptist has been hearing of “the works of the Christ” (Mt 11:2). From prison, he sends his disciples to Jesus to ask him: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” (Mt 11:3).  According to modern exegetes, John the Baptist does not express complete doubt about Jesus, but perplexity that he is not the kind of Messiah he envisions. The answer of Jesus to the emissaries substantiate his messianic identity by enumerating his saving “works” in terms of the messianic expectations of ancient prophets, especially Isaiah (cf. Is 35:5-6; 61:1): “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them” (Mt 11:4-5). Indeed, by alluding to ancient messianic prophecies, Jesus asserts that the era of definitive salvation is joyfully breaking forth and being inaugurated. Rather than resort to violence and retribution, Jesus dedicates himself to compassionate works of beneficence, saving miracles and the proclamation of the Good News to the poor. In a marvelous and unexpected way, Jesus of Nazareth thus brings to fulfillment the messianic prophecies concerning “the one who is to come”.

  

The final words of Jesus to John’s emissaries are: “Blessed is the one who takes no offense at me” (Lk 11:6). Those who welcome Jesus as the radically new and perfect model of the savior-figure based primarily on mercy and compassion, and not on fiery judgment and authority, are truly blessed. Those who welcome Jesus as the healing Christ of the poor, and are not scandalized by the meek quality of his benevolent messiahship, will relish the blessing of salvation. Indeed, the messianic works that Jesus carried out on behalf of the anawim are signs that evoke a faith response. They solicit personal involvement from people in every time and space.

 

 

B. First Reading (Is 35:1-6a, 10): “God himself will come to save us.”

 

It was early springtime when I traveled by AMTRAK Train n. 14 from Los Angeles to San Jose, California. For two hours, from Oxnard until San Luis Obispo, the train was coursing through one of the most scenic spots in the world. On the left side was the immense Pacific Ocean with its peaceful water, while all over the hills, mountains and flat lands were myriads of flowers dripping with breath-taking beauty and poetic charm. This California landscape of water and flowers helps me contemplate vividly the nature image depicted by the prophet Isaiah in this Sunday’s Old Testament reading (Is 35:1-6a, 10).

 

The prophet’s beautiful image of “the flowering of the desert” announces God’s saving intervention on behalf of his long-suffering Jewish people. The splendor in nature was for Isaiah emblematic of the “newness” and glory that the advent of God would bring. Indeed, the fascinating panorama of the desert blooming and the parched land exulting with dancing flowers depict in anticipation the “miracles of life” to be accomplished by the coming Messiah. With consoling words, the prophet exhorts to joyful hope an enfeebled, frightened and discouraged people reeling from the terrible experience of invasion, war and the Babylonian exile: “Be strong, fear not! Here is your God; he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened; then will the lame leap like a stag; then the tongue of the mute will sing. Those whom the Lord has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; they will meet with joy and gladness; sorrow and mourning will flee” (Is 35:4-6, 10).

 

The images of beauty in nature painted by the prophet intensify the saving reality fully realized by the advent of the life-giving Messiah. The paschal experience of the chosen people Israel and all those redeemed by Jesus Christ could be compared to the miracle of the blooming desert. Jesus makes the desert within us, arid and forlorn by bitterness, passion, anger, fear and sinful inclination, flow with life-giving water. He makes the sere and parched land of our weary spirits bloom with beauty and grace. In this Advent season of grace, we are being asked to focus on the messianic signs of healing and goodness that surround us. The Advent liturgy invites us to open our hearts to the “miracles of life” wrought by Jesus Christ, which confirmed to John the Baptist that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed “the one who is to come”.  The healing works and saving deeds of Jesus are actions of life. They transcend time and space. They give us great comfort and joy and enable us to experience an exquisite flowering in the desert of our soul if only we are open to grace.

 

The following excerpt from Carla Emery’s story (cf. “Silent Prayer” in Guideposts, October 1989, p.42-44) tells of her healing – an experience akin to “the flowering of the desert”. Born mute, she was loved by her parents but utterly lonely and vulnerable to the cruel pranks of other children. Her grandmother’s visit one summer set her on the road to healing and helped bring about the blossoming of her soul. Carla’s tongue was finally loosened and she was able to speak the praises of God. She narrates:

 

I was fundamentally different. I was mute. That was why I’d been pushed into the goldfish pond; that was why the girl had dabbed red paint all over me. The red paint had worn off, but the unkindness that it represented marked my spirit. Then that summer, Grandmother came to visit us … Her snow-white hair softly framed a richly wrinkled face and glistened like a halo when we walked together in the sun.

 

She had time, you know, to admire flowers, pet neighborhood cats and talk with a mute granddaughter. “The flowers are so beautiful,” she’d say. And suddenly I noticed flowers. They mattered to me. We shared their scents and shapes and colors … Then one day she told me, “Carla there is someone called God.” I looked at her intently, for I had never heard of this someone. She told me about God, about divine goodness, divine love, perfection. She told this to the imperfect child and she acted as if I were as perfect as her perfect God. And she believed in it. (…)

 

A few days later, shortly before Grandmother returned to New York, she spoke to my mother. We sat at the kitchen table in the boardinghouse while Mom moved about, quickly putting the block of ice, just delivered, into the icebox to keep the food fresh. “Irma Ferne,” Grandmother said in a much firmer tone than usual, “you must have that child examined by a doctor.” I had not seen a doctor since my birth. As I mentioned, in those days of scrimping to make ends meet, healthy children didn’t get checkups. I didn’t feel ill; in fact, I’d never felt better. Grandmother’s loving attention had made those the most memorable days of my life and had started an inner flowering in my soul.

 

Shortly after, a kindly doctor poked around in my mouth, and then announced to Mother, “Oh, she’s tongue-tied. Very easy to fix.” A thin thread of tissue was holding my tongue flat against the bottom of my mouth. With a pair of small silver scissors, he snipped the piece of skin that had kept my tongue locked in place. There was no pain. “It’s fixed,” he told me. Just like that. And in two months, with the help of a lovely young speech therapist at the University of Washington, I was talking. And I’ve never stopped … My muteness made me understand the profound desire that we all have to speak our minds. It made me cherish the richness of human languages … I am amazed and thrilled by all of the ways we have of talking with one another.

 

But by far the most amazing communication is that of the spirit. Years ago my grandmother introduced me to God, who is always listening. Even when no one else hears, He does.

    

C. Second Reading (Jas 5:7-10): “Make your hearts firm because the coming of the Lord is at hand.”

 

The Second Reading (Jas 5:7-10) gives deeper insight into the mystery of Advent. The Lord’s coming is likened to the “precious fruit of the earth” patiently awaited by the farmer. The mystery of the Lord’s coming, with its fruit of “healing joy”, unfolds slowly and progressively in the vast field of salvation history. As the farmer patiently waits for the autumn and spring rains and the precious crops that the watered earth would bring, so too we must keep our hopes high and be patient till the Lord is come.

 

The patient waiting of a farmer for the rains and the fruits of the earth does not mean inactivity, complacency or lack of initiative. The farmer tills the soil, sows the seeds, pulls the weeds, etc. He must labor; otherwise there is no harvest. God does his part; we must do ours. Like the hard-working farmer, we too must toil patiently and zealously to promote the advent of God’s kingdom on earth.

 

The following inspiring article from our local newspaper warmed my heart and made me joyful (cf. Linda Zavoral, “Back in Bloom” in San Jose Mercury News, August 12, 2010, p.1, 8), especially since it deals with a neighborhood garden close to our convent here in San Jose. The transformed garden underlines the importance of patient toil and human endeavor. The “healing” of the neglected San Jose rose garden gives us a glimpse on how to labor patiently, creatively and fruitfully as a community for the advent of God’s kingdom.

 

Hey, Portland and Pasadena! There’s a new queen of roses. Just a few years after being put on horticultural probation, the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden has not only salvaged its reputation but will be named today as “America’s Best Rose Garden”, beating out more than 130 public rose gardens nationwide. In the process, it’s become a model for how to care for a community garden at a time of declining government and park budgets. (…)

 

All-America Selections, which also accredits gardens, put the disheveled San Jose garden on probation in 2005 and then noted its transformation by lifting the probation status in 2008.

 

“The amazing work that the Friends of San Jose Rose Garden, the volunteers and park staff have done to turn the garden around is truly wonderful”, said Henry Conklin, the Arizona-based president of All-America Rose Selections. “Their spirit, creativity and love of roses is emblematic of why the America’s Best Rose garden competition was created.”

 

News of the award, which will be announced officially today, thrilled flower enthusiasts and civic leaders alike. “I’m just ecstatic that we’ve gone from a park that was on probation – and frankly with weeds taller than I am – to the No. 1 rose garden in the U.S.”, said San Jose Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio, whose district includes the rose garden. (…)

 

In 2007, Oliverio suggested that the city outsource its garden maintenance to a private contractor – a failed proposal that upset union workers and ignited volunteer efforts by local rose enthusiasts Terry Reilly and Beverly Rose Hopper. They co-founded the Friends of the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden. Oliverio said Wednesday evening that both the volunteers and city staffers deserve the credit for the transformation. The key, Reilly said, was in getting people to understand how passionate gardeners are about their hobby and then channeling that interest. “Some people hike (for recreation). Some bike. They walk their dogs. Some like to garden, pull weeds and pick roses.”

 

Volunteers now average a total of 150 hours a week and thousands of hours since the group was formed in 2007. To assuage city fears about just anybody stopping by to prune or weed, the group trains volunteers and issues official vests to those who pass muster. It’s not unusual to see a vested volunteer or two or three toiling just after 8 a.m., when the garden opens, or at dusk, close to closing time, Reilly said … “This award is a fabulous demonstration of how important volunteers are to our community”, Hopper said. “They’re priceless, really.”

 

Now other gardens around the country are looking to replicate San Jose’s success with volunteers. Reilly and Hopper have been approached for advice by the people who run Sacramento’s McKinley Park Rose Garden, the Morcom Rose Garden in Oakland and an 800-plant garden, the Walnut Hill Park Rose Garden that opened this year in New Britain, Connecticut.

 

Kate McCue, the Connecticut project coordinator, proposed resurrecting a 1929 rose garden that had thrived until city budget cuts in the 1980s left it to grow wild. It was ultimately plowed under. The city said the restoration was OK – if McCue and her Friends group could raise private money and handle garden maintenance. “I modeled it after the volunteer project that San Jose has run so successfully”, McCue said. “We’ve modeled everything – the training, the supervised hours, the parties. It’s worked so well here. I’ve made no secret of the fact that San Jose has been one of the critical advisers in the success of our garden.”

 

 

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

 

At times, do we challenge Jesus with the blunt question: “Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another”? Do we continue to “hear and see” the following messianic miracles in daily life: “the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them”? How do we “prepare the way of the Lord”?

  

 

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

 

Father,

the prophet Isaiah’s image of “the flowering desert”

gives us deep joy and great consolation.

The beauty of a transformed nature

is a sign of the radical “newness”

that the coming of Jesus Christ brings into our life.

Like blossoming flowers in the desert,

may we open our hearts to the “miracles of life”

wrought by his paschal sacrifice.

Give us the grace to hasten

the definitive advent of his kingdom in today’s world.

May we participate intimately

in his healing ministry and liberating power

so that we may open the eyes of the blind,

clear the ears of the deaf,

make the lame leap like a stag,

loosen the tongue of the mute,

bring the exile back to their home

and transform the parched land of modern unbelief

into a blossoming desert.

We thank you and adore you

for you are our loving and compassionate God,

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.

 

“Are you the one who is to come?” (Mt 11:3)

 

 

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

 

During this Advent week make an effort to replicate in your life of prayer, love and service the messianic work: “the poor had the good news proclaimed to them”. Pay particular attention to the needs of the disaster-stricken and the world community.

 

 

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December 16, 2019: MONDAY – ADVENT WEEKDAY (3)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Star from Jacob”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Nm 24:2-7, 15-17a // Mt 21:23-27

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 21:23-27): “John’s baptism: where did it come from?”

 

In the Gospel reading (Mt 21:23-27), after Jesus’ triumphant advent and messianic entry into Jerusalem, where he cleanses the temple, heals the sick and teaches with authority, the chief priests and elders challenge him and ask for credentials. Jesus counters with a question about the authority of John the Baptist. If they admit John the Baptist’s divine commissioning, they convict themselves of unbelief; if they deny it, they risk arousing the anger of the mob. Thus Jesus emerges from the confrontation with dignity and integrity.

 

The opposition leaders in Jerusalem refuse to recognize the divine origin of both John the Baptist and Jesus. But, as the people of Advent expectation, we know better. We are called to avow Jesus’ messianic authority. In concrete, we should courageously live and witness our faith in today’s increasingly hostile, secularized society. When, for the first time, the White House referred to Christmas trees as “Holiday Trees”, the CBS presenter Ben Stein was prompted to write an article which is circulated through the Internet. His insights can encourage us in our religious witnessing.

 

I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees “Christmas trees”. I don’t feel threatened. I don’t feel discriminated against. That’s what they are – “Christmas trees”. It doesn’t bother me a bit when people say, “Merry Christmas” to me. I don’t think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of the year. It doesn’t bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu. If people want a crèche, it’s just fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

 

I don’t like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don’t think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from, that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can’t find it in the Constitution and I don’t like it being shoved down my throat. (…)

 

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world’s going to hell! Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send “jokes” through E-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion about God is suppressed in the school and workplace. Are you laughing yet? (…)

 

 

B. First Reading (Nm 24:2-7, 15-17a): “A star shall advance from Jacob.”

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Nm 24:2-7, 15-17a) contains the very interesting story of the prophet Balaam being coaxed three times by Balak, the king of Moab, to curse the Israelites so that they will be able to defeat them and drive them out from the land. Instead of cursing the people of God, Balaam three times utters blessing upon them. The prophet Balaam explains to the irate and frustrated king: “I will say only what the Lord tells me to say.” The enraged Balak dismisses the prophet without any reward. But Balaam is unmoved in his purpose. Remuneration means nothing to him for his sole motivation as a prophet is to say what the Lord puts in his mouth. Before going back to his home in the eastern mountains of Syria, Balaam speaks an unsolicited word that announces Israel’s ultimate victory over the peoples of the region. Above all, he utters the most magnificent oracle of all: “A star shall advance from Jacob, and a staff shall rise from Israel.” In the context of our Advent preparation, Balaam’s prophecy about the “star” and the “staff” finds its final fulfillment, not in King David, but in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the King of the universe.

 

The tradition of putting up a star as an Advent-Christmas décor underlines the presence of Jesus, “the star from Jacob”, the light that dares the darkness. Here is an example of how a family carries out this tradition (cf. Pam Kidd in Guideposts 2010, p. 12).

 

The star was nothing special, just a piece of plastic with a few strings of lights twined around its edges. We had used duct tape to fasten it to a long wooden pole and then tied the pole to the highest limb of the dogwood tree at the entrance fo our house. Some might call my star shabby, but I thought it was glorious. Its blue and white lights were a welcome sight when I returned home on those cold, pre-Christmas nights. And what a delight it was to look out the kitchen window and see the star shining in the darkness. All through the season, when guests were expected, my directions were simple: “Just come to the house with the star.”

 

 

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

 

Are we like the prophet Balaam who is totally committed to speak what God wants him to speak? Or are we like the leaders in Jerusalem who are not able to discern the divine character of the words and deeds of Jesus and refuse to commit themselves to him? What do we do to get to know Jesus, follow him closely, love him ardently and serve him faithfully?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

help us to recognize your divine authority

and submit to your saving power.

In today’s increasingly secularized and atheistic world,

give us the courage to speak your saving word

and witness that you are truly our Savior.

Maranatha! Come, O Christ the Lord!

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.

 

“By what authority are you doing these things?” (Mt 21:23b) // “A star shall advance from Jacob, and a staff shall rise from Israel.” (Nm 24:17a)

 

 

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

 

Pray that the saving authority of Christ may be welcomed and embraced by today’s troubled world. In this Advent season, listen attentively to the Word of God and invite people around you to savor the “bread of the Word”. 

 

 

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December 17, 2019: TUESDAY – ADVENT WEEKDAY (3)

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is from the Tribe of Judah”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Gn 49:2, 8-10 // Mt 1:1-17

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 1:1-17): “The genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David”

 

In today’s Gospel reading (Mt 1:1-17), the evangelist Matthew presents the family tree of Jesus, which includes rich and pauper, noble and ignoble, mighty and vulnerable, sinners and saints. Jesus is fully human, sharing the burdens and joys of our humanity.

 

Fr. Patrick Hannon remarks: “We live in a world of nations, tribes and people. The lines that divide us, the walls that protect us, the searing memories of war and want and wounds too often define us and keep us all at a fearful distance from one another. Into this walled world God came. He was a son of Abraham, son of David, son of Mary. And though he was of the Jewish tribe, Jesus came to erase the tribal lines that divide us and to remind us of the one tribe, the one race to which we all belong: the human race. It is our humanity that unites us and helps us to see who we are beyond the boundaries of nation, tribe, religion, and culture. It is Jesus who reminds us that the one thing we have in common with God is our humanity.”

 

When I was assigned in Mumbai, India in the 1980s, one Sister invited me to go with her to see a Muslim landlord, who graciously welcomed us. It was a hot day. When we were seated, we were each served a glass of refreshing water – an exquisite sign of hospitality. How beautiful it is to live peacefully and harmoniously with one another – whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, religious and ideological differences!

 

 

B. First Reading (Gn 49:2, 8-10): “The scepter shall not depart from Judah.”

 

This happened in 1964. I was riding a bus which got stuck in traffic close to Malacanang, the Philippine presidential palace. Suddenly a group of motor guards appeared and cleared the way for a limousine. I held my breath when I saw the VIP being chauffeured - a very beautiful lady dressed in a pink Filipino gown. Later I realized that the “very beautiful” lady was Gemma Cruz, the newly crowned “Miss International”. That afternoon she was going to Malacanang to be feted by the First Lady, Mrs. Eva Macapagal. Gemma is beauty and brains. She has a heart for the poor. She donated the $10,000 prize money she received when she became Miss International to the “Asilo” for the street kids of Manila. She later became the Curator of the Philippine National Museum. Moreover, Gemma is the great-grand niece of Dr. Jose Rizal, the Philippine national hero. Rizal must have been very proud of his progeny “beauty queen”.

 

Today’s Advent readings likewise depict an awesome royal progeny, Jesus Christ, the son of David and the offspring of Judah. The Old Testament reading (Gn 49:2, 8-10) contains the farewell address of the dying Jacob who was blessing his sons. In his blessing of Judah, the patriarch foreshadows the privileged destiny the tribe of Judah would enjoy when King David comes to power. The royal power and immense authority of David, however, point to a deeper reality: the infinite authority and the fullness of kingship of his descendant Jesus Christ, the savior of the world and the king of the universe. In Jesus Christ, Jacob’s prophetic blessing is fulfilled: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, or the mace from between his legs, while tribute is brought to him, and he receives the people’s homage.” Let us welcome the advent of Christ’s kingdom of truth and life, of sanctity and grace, of love, justice and peace.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we value our interconnectedness and our belonging to the family of human race? What do we do to promote human solidarity in the name of Jesus?

 

2. Do we allow Christ, the king of justice and peace, to come into our hearts and to rule over us?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus, you are the Son of God.

You assumed our human nature

and became like us in everything except sin.

Help us to value our belonging to the human family.

Teach us to be truly grateful for the astounding mystery

of “Emmanuel – God with us”.

Maranatha! Come, O Christ the Lord!

 

***

Loving Father,

we thank you for the “scepter of Judah”

that finds fulfillment in your Son Jesus Christ.

He is the king of all ages.

Let him reign over us

that we may experience the fullness of truth and life,

of sanctity and grace,

of love, justice and peace.

He lives and reigns, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham ….” (Mt 1:1) // “The scepter shall not depart from Judah.” (Gen 49:10)

 

 

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

 

Pray for peace in the world and a deeper solidarity among the children of God. By your deeds of justice, endeavor to promote the common good, contribute to the unity of peoples and nations and the definitive advent of God upon the earth. // Treat the people around you with great respect and integrity befitting a “kingly people”. 

 

 

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December 18, 2019: WEDNESDAY – ADVENT WEEKDAY (3)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Righteous Shoot of David”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jer 23:5-8 // Mt 1:18-25

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 1:18-25): “Jesus was born of Mary, the betrothed of Joseph, son of David.”

 

Although the fullness of God’s saving justice is crystallized in Jesus, also called “Emmanuel” (“God is with us”), in today’s Gospel (Mt 1:18-25) we see that Joseph of Nazareth likewise exhibits the character of justice that befits his being a member of the chosen people. Joseph, the betrothed of Mary, is a just man who demonstrates his compassionate justice by his decision to save Mary and not to expose her to the Jewish punitive law. If Joseph were to act merely with human “righteousness”, the innocent Mary would be unjustly punished and put to death. His divinely inspired justice is revealed when he obediently follows God’s command and takes Mary into his home as his wife. Saint Joseph is therefore a model of total collaboration in the divine saving plan to offer to the world its Savior, Jesus.

 

The saving righteousness of Jesus, Mary and Joseph and their cooperation in God’s saving plan continue to live on in the people of today. Steven Gemmen’s story, “Where Love Grows” in Guideposts magazine (October 2004, cf. p. 44-48) is a touching account of how he welcomed into his life the child conceived by his wife, Heather, a victim of sexual assault. Steve narrates how his anger at the rapist found its outlet in the baby. In the sixth month of his wife’s rape-pregnancy, however, Steve was given the grace to understand that the little creature in his wife’s womb had nothing to do with the crime of the father, an unidentified African-American young man who broke into their home. Steve accepted the baby as his own, although there were bad times. According to Steve, “And there would be strained moments because of the baby’s appearance – starting with the delivery. How do you explain to the staff in the maternity ward that a white couple will have a biracial baby? But what a beautiful, beautiful baby! Healthy, squalling, wriggling, perfect – our long-awaited little girl … Our lives haven’t been the same since that terrible night. They never will be. I’d thought nothing could make me love this child. That’s true. Nothing can make us love anyone or anything. Love is not a choice. It is the sovereign gift of God. And it was his gift that the child who stirred within Heather would make the unbearable not just bearable, but miraculous.”   

 

 

B. First Reading (Jer 23:5-8): “I will raise up a righteous shoot to David.”

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Jer 23:5-8) contains Jeremiah’s prophecy, which breathes hope into an oppressive atmosphere of despair before the fall of Judah at the hands of the Babylonians. False shepherds and corrupt rulers have been responsible for the exile of the nation. But God promises a righteous Shepherd-King who will gather the scattered people of Judah and the children of Israel from where they have been banished. The future king, a descendant of King David, will be God’s instrument to fulfill his saving plan. He shall govern wisely and do what is right and just. His name shall be “The Lord our justice” or “The Lord our salvation” because he is the embodiment of the true meaning of “justice”, which is the saving presence of God. Through “the king who is to come” shall be realized the blessings of the covenant, that is, the peace and justice that God has promised his people. Jeremiah’s prophecy of “a righteous shoot to David” is fulfilled with the coming of Jesus, whose foster father is Joseph, “son of David”.

 

The life of St. Leopold the Good gives insight into the “righteous shoot of David” whose compassionate character is fully crystallized in Jesus Savior and is likewise manifested by his foster father Joseph of Nazareth (cf. Saints for the Family, Special Supplement to Our Sunday Visitor, p. 42-44).

 

Saint Leopold the Good, A Saint for Stepparents (died 1136): Saint Leopold loved children. He married a widowed noblewoman named Agnes who brought into the palace two young children from her former husband, and Leo raised them as his own. In the years that followed, Agnes and Leopold had 18 children, 11 of whom survived to adulthood. By all accounts, Leopold was a gentle, loving father who made no distinction between his stepchildren and the children he had fathered with Agnes.

 

The couple ruled over Austria, a land that, in the early 12th century, was still largely wild and uninhabited. As an expression of his religious devotion, Leopold founded several important monasteries that still survive, including Klosterneuberg, on the Danube right outside Vienna, his personal favorite place where he asked to be buried, and Heilegenkreuz in Lower Austria, which possesses a relic of the true cross. There was a practical aspect to founding these monasteries, too. The sites Leopold chose were in wilderness areas, but once the monks arrived he knew they would make the land productive abd attract people to settle in the region. (…)

 

When Leopold died, all his children and the people of Austria mourned him as an honest and holy prince. In addition to being venerated as the patron of stepchildren, stepparents and large families, Saint Leopold the Godd is also one of the patrons of Austria.

 

 

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

 

Do we allow ourselves to be imbued with the true character of justice – the one lived out by Saint Joseph and his foster son, Jesus Christ? Do we realize that true justice is linked to the presence of God and his plan of salvation?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

we believe that with the advent of your Son Jesus Christ,

“the righteous shoot of David”,

justice shall flourish in our time and fullness of peace forever.

Help us to welcome Jesus in our life

so that we may rejoice in his messianic blessing.

You are truly kind and just

and you are our almighty God,

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 will raise up a righteous shoot to David.” (Jer 23:5) // “He will save his people from their sins.” (Mt 1:21)

 

 

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

 

By your prayer, words and deeds endeavor to bring justice to those who have been abused, violated and wronged. Pray in a special way for the victims of sexual violence and human trafficking. Pray for stepparents and stepchildren.

 

*** *** ***

 

December 19, 2019: THURSDAY – ADVENT WEEKDAY (3)

  “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Consecrated One”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jgs 13:2-7, 24-25a // Lk 1:5-25

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 1:5-25): “The birth of John the Baptist is announced by Gabriel.”

(By Fr. Samuel Canilang, CMF, Director: Institute for Consecrated Life in Asia)

 

The elderly Elizabeth became pregnant. The all-powerful and empowering God makes the barren fertile. God’s loving and liberating Son makes the blind see, the mute speak, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the captive free, the hungry satisfied, the lowly exalted…. Elizabeth’s giving birth to John is part of the story of God’s salvation that culminates in the Incarnation. In Jesus, God is in our midst, making everything new and fruitful, bringing about justice, leading us all into the fullness of life and love.

 

The annunciation of John’s birth points to the annunciation of Jesus’ birth. While Zechariah doubted, Mary readily believed. Today, many of us do not seem to feel really part of the salvation story: the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed, the suffering, the sick … Like Mary, let us trust and put all our hopes in the Word. Let us be truly part of God’s story in believing, hoping, loving, and serving. Christ has never left us. The Holy Spirit is always among and in us. Advent awakens us into this reality. All we need to do, to be truly part of God’s story, is live in and according to this reality, that God – who makes the barren fertile – is Emmanuel.

 

 

B. First Reading (Jgs 13:2-7, 24-25a): “The birth of Samson is announced by an angel.”

 

Our friends, Lynn and Restie, a young married couple residing in San Jose (CA-USA) were eagerly looking forward to raise their own family. Unfortunately, Lynn had a miscarriage. A medical problem made it difficult, or impossible, for her to have a baby. Lynn and Restie prayed to God and put their trust in him. Against all odds, Lynn conceived and gave birth to a beautiful girl. I was taking my turn for the Eucharistic Adoration when I heard some discreet footsteps. I turned around and saw Lynn and Restie, beaming joyfully and carrying their baby named Eliana. Lynn was just discharged from the maternity hospital. Before going home, the proud parents decided to pass by the Sisters’ convent and present their daughter to the Lord. Lynn and Restie put the baby, sleeping peacefully in a cradle basket, at the foot of the altar. We offered praise and thanksgiving to the Lord for the “miraculous” gift and humbly begged Jesus to bless and consecrate the child.

 

Today’s readings speak of the announcement of the birth of Samson and John the Baptist and their consecration to God from their mothers’ womb. Both the mother of Samson and the mother of the Baptist are barren. The birth of the child for each mother is an act of grace and presages a unique mission for each child. In the Old Testament reading (Jgs 13:2-7, 24-25a), we hear that the boy, Samson, is destined for the deliverance of Israel from the power of the Philistines. The boy, John the Baptist, will bring many people of Israel back to God and, mighty like the prophet Elijah, he will prepare the way of the Lord. In view of their special saving mission, Samson and John the Baptist must live an ascetic life – never drinking wine or strong drink. Filled with the Holy Spirit, their consecration to God points to the totally “consecrated One”, Jesus Savior, whose works and words manifest him as the “Holy One of God”.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we truly participate in salvation history, in which God the “Emmanuel” transforms, making the barren fertile and everything new and fruitful?

 

2. Are we receptive to the miraculous intervention of God in our daily life, and do we trust in his power to make the barren fruitful? What does being “consecrated” to God mean to us? How do we live out this “consecration”?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you are the “Root of Jesse’s stem”,

sign of God’s love for all his people.

In you the barren becomes fertile.

Everything is made new and fruitful.

Let us work with you in the blooming of the desert.

Help us to proclaim the Good News to the poor

and hasten the advent of your kingdom.

Maranatha! Come, O Christ the Lord!

 

***

O loving God,

we thank you for your miraculous intervention

in the lives of barren women

and your awesome power to make the barren fruitful.

We thank you for consecrating Samson and John the Baptist

in their mothers’ womb

and for their special role in salvation history.

Help us to value our own consecration

and let the Holy Spirit of Jesus,

the totally “consecrated One” fill our hearts.

Make us docile instruments of your saving will.

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.

 

“Elizabeth was barren … Elizabeth conceived.” (Lk 1:7, 24) //“This boy is to be consecrated to God from the womb.” (Jgs 13:5)

 

 

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

 

By your works of justice on behalf of the marginalized, be a part in the blooming of the desert and of making the barren fertile. // Make this Advent season a privileged occasion to practice mortification and sacrifices that will help you perceive the practical implications of being “consecrated” to God.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

December 20, 2019: FRIDAY – ADVENT WEEKDAY (3)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Sign of Salvation”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 7:10-14 // Lk 1:26-38

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 1:26-38): “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son.”

(By Fr. Samuel Canilang, CMF, Director: Institute for Consecrated Life in Asia)

 

The Spirit of God was hovering over the cosmos at the time of creation. The Spirit of God overshadowed Mary at the conception of Jesus. The Spirit of God descended upon the Apostles at the birth of the Church. The Holy Spirit is creative, the source of all life - the mother of all. The Incarnation has transformed the cosmos. It is the birth of a new heaven and a new earth. The mission of the Son is to bring fullness of life to all: to humankind, to all created beings, to mother earth, to the universe.

 

The human being is Adam. The human being is earth. Indeed, the human and the earth are radically bound together. We live on the fruits of the earth. In turn the earth needs us to care for it, cultivate it, and make it fruitful. The season of Advent invites us to contemplate the mystery of the Incarnation. At the same time, it invites us to assume the mission of the Incarnate Son: to bring fullness of life to all. Like Mary, let us be handmaids of the Lord; servants of the Lord; co-workers of the Lord. Today, a very urgent task of all handmaids of the Lord is the care of our mother earth.

 

 

B. First Reading (Is 7:10-14): “Behold, the virgin shall be with a child.”

 

It must have been some kind of midlife crisis, for I had allowed the disappointments of those moments to discourage me and even erode my self-esteem. I felt so insignificant and it seemed that I had toiled in vain. I needed some kind of affirmation to confirm that my apostolic labor had meaning and value. I prayed to God to give me a “sign”. In his goodness God gifted me with a beautiful “sign”. One day in June 2001, Bishop Protacio Gungon of the Diocese of Antipolo, in the Philippines, informed me that I was going to receive an award. The Bishop nominated me for the papal award, Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice in recognition for the service I had rendered to the Church and the Pope. On August 15, 2001, in a memorable diocesan celebration that acknowledged the contribution of a layman, a religious, and a clergyman, Mr. Guillermo Tolentino and I received the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice award while Fr. Arnel Lagarejos was elevated to the rank of “papal chaplain”, with the title of “Monsignor”. The conferral of the papal award was for me a “sign” that encourages me in difficulties as I endeavor to serve the Lord and his people through the Eucharistic-Priestly-Liturgical apostolate.

 

The liturgy of the Advent and Christmas seasons is marked by an exquisite “sign” of God’s love: the birth of a child, which is perhaps the most universal and enduring symbol of hope for the human race. A “sign” in the Old Testament and New Testament is usually some event assuring us of divine intervention. It is an indication of divine presence and a form of revelation. A “sign” is God’s propitious expression of benevolence and a promise of salvation for his people. It is a gift of love from our saving God to encourage us in moments of crisis. Indeed, a divine “sign” is a symbol of hope in weakness and an assurance of life and victory when assailed with threats of defeat and destruction.

 

The Old Testament reading (Is 7:10-14) contains a prophetic sign directed to King Ahaz, who was anxious and trembling as “the trees of the forest tremble in the wind” (Is 7:2), for the imminent siege of Jerusalem in 735 B.C. by the kings of Syria and Israel. Confronting his lack of trust in the Lord, the prophet Isaiah declared: “The Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel” (Is 7:14). With the sign of the conception and birth of a child, God wanted to manifest to King Ahaz, who was piously hiding his intent to seek security through political allies, that the Lord Yahweh was in perfect control of human history and destiny. Indeed, God is with us and intimately involved in our affairs. The “sign” announced by the prophet Isaiah was an invitation to Ahaz to trust in God alone – in the realization of the Covenant and his continual protection. The King ought not to rely on the political and military interventions of the Assyrians for salvation from his enemies. The conception and birth of a child by the young wife of King Ahaz was meant to be a powerful indication of Yahweh’s abiding presence and merciful intervention on behalf of his people. The weakling ruler, however, did not accept the birth of his son, Hezekiah, as a “sign” of salvation and of God’s solicitude for the house of David. Trusting more in political security, Ahaz sent gold and silver to the King of Assyria and became his vassal.

 

Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in the birth of the Virgin Mary’s child, Jesus. The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 1, comment: “The sign that God gives is the birth of a child. It is a sign, because this birth is a promise of salvation. Moreover, he will bear the significant name Emmanuel, that is, God-with-us. The salvation announced to the people goes beyond the person of Hezekiah. The child, the sign of the salvation of God, will be no ordinary person, and he will come from David’s lineage: the Messiah himself. When Jesus appeared, born of a woman – a virgin whose name was Mary – to whom the angel of God said: You shall conceive and bear a son … The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father … and his reign will be without end (Lk 1:31-33), one will easily surmise that he must be the promised Messiah. Not merely one sign among many, but THE sign of God.” 

 

 

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

 

1. Do we imitate Mary in her openness to grace and in her total availability to share in the mission of the Son to bring fullness of life to all?

 

2. Have we ever experienced a crisis situation that prompted us to ask God for a “sign” that he was really there for us? Did God send us a “sign” in response to our faith-filled yearning? 

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you are the “Key of David”,

opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom.

Like Mary, we say “Fiat” to the Father’s saving will.

Make us share in your mission

to free prisoners from the darkness of sin

and to bring the fullness of life to all.

Maranatha! Come, O Christ the Lord!

 

***

Loving Father,

we welcome the birth of Jesus,

from the virginal womb of Mary,

as a sign of your saving presence in our midst,

a symbol of hope and a promise of salvation.

In the fragile “sign” of the Child Jesus,

born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem,

we embrace the presence,

the power and strength of your redeeming love.

In Jesus Savior

the joy of Christmas is complete.

We thank you, loving Father,

for the “sign” of the Christ Child

and the gift of Christmas.

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.

 

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38) //“The Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.” (Is 7:14) 

 

 

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

 

Meditate on the beautiful Christmas “sign” of the Christ Child, born of Mary. Let the “sign” of the Christ Child and the Christmas spirit of love, justice, peace and the presence of God be shared with the people around you, especially the poor, the sick and the suffering.

    

 

*** *** ***

December 21, 2019: SATURDAY – ADVENT WEEKDAY (3); SAINT PETER CANISIUS, Priest, Doctor of the Church

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is in Our Midst”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Sg 2:8-14 or Zep 3:14-18a // Lk 1:39-45

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 1:39-45): “And how does this happen to me that the mother of the Lord should come to me?”

(By Fr. Samuel Canilang, CMF, Director: Institute for Consecrated Life in Asia)

 

Mary is “the most blessed among women”. She is blessed because she “believed that the Lord’s word would come true”. These words of Elizabeth correspond to those of Jesus himself: “My mother, my brothers and my sisters are those who receive the word of God and fulfill it.” Shema Israel… Listening (= hearing and obeying) is a central theme in the whole Judaeo-Christian Tradition. Listening to the Word is intrinsically linked to blessedness or holiness. Only God is Holy – the three times holy. Being blessed is sharing in the holiness of God.

 

The other biblical term used to refer to the sharing in God’s holiness is consecration. All of us – members of the Church – are consecrated by virtue of our baptism. We all share in the holiness of God. We are blessed. We live our consecration according to our form of life in the Church: as lay, as religious, as ordained. To live our consecration fundamentally involves discernment, meditation and responding to the word of God which comes to us through the Scripture, the Tradition, our contemporary experiences, the signs of the times, the needs of our neighbors. Advent is a special invitation for us to live and bear witness to our consecration to God in Christ.

 

 

B. First Reading (Sg 2:8-14): “Hark!My lover comes, springing across the mountains.” // Zep 3:14-18a: “The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst.”

 

Song of Song 2:8-14: This Old Testament reading depicts the deep longing of a young girl for the coming (the “advent”) of her beloved, who now bounces upon the hills like a gazelle or a young stag. Confined at home behind a wall, windows and lattices, she eagerly listens to her lover’s invitation for a springtime tryst. The profusion of flowers, the cooing of turtledoves, the blossoming of fig trees and the beauty of their romance evoke the joyful meeting of Mary and Elizabeth and the two illustrious babies within their wombs. The Song of Song’s portrayal of the tender love between the young lovers likewise points to the intimate union of the Savior with humankind through the mystery of the Lord’s incarnation.

 

***

 

Zephaniah 3:14-18a: Zephaniah, who prophesied under King Josiah of Judah, is both the prophet of the “day of wrath” and the harbinger of the promise of salvation. His foreboding of doom (cf. Zep 1:15: “a day of wrath, that day, a day of distress and agony, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of cloud and darkness …”) merely underlines the consoling message that God is in our midst – to bring salvation out of a painful situation.  The enigmatic prophet makes an ardent appeal to trust in the mighty Lord who is “in our midst”. He courageously invites a presently distressed people to rejoice in a situation in which joy seems utterly impossible. Zephaniah’s climactic message of hope reinforces the clarion call of the Church in this Advent season to rejoice always in the Lord. The indomitable joy of a believer and the faith community is founded on the conviction that our future is secured by God and promoted by human endeavor and response. Against the backdrop of Zephaniah’s ode to joy and the exceedingly familiar situations of pain and calamity in today’s world, we perceive better our mission to be instruments of joy and hope for others.

 

The following excerpt from a letter written in December 2013 by our friend, Sr. Jean Marie, CSFN, an American missionary in the Philippines, invites us to cling to God whose love is made incarnate and is “in our midst”.

 

Yes, since October 15 this country has had two major calamities. A 7.2 earthquake struck Bohol and Cebu about 8:15 a.m. that day and over 3,000 aftershocks are still going on. Our 5 Sisters there had to hold on to iron grills on the windows; otherwise, they would have been thrown over the second floor porch, where they were able to exit.  Our school was damaged but the loss of 23 churches is even more devastating. (…)

 

Typhoon Yolanda, as called in the Philippines, struck a blow Nov. 8-9 leaving even more devastation. Thousands of lives were lost because of the water surge. It will take a long time plus lots of faith and courage for these families to rebuild their homes and lives.

 

Christmas is right around the corner. So, this newborn Baby Jesus is always a sign of and proof for hope that new life, especially our spiritual life will not die. Perhaps the Filipino people are being purified and strengthened in their faith and trust in the God who loves and cares. Lots of love is being poured out from all around the world. Businesses and institutions here are cancelling Christmas parties and donating the money. Is this not what Christmas is all about? Christmas is about love – the love of God for us and our love for one another.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we realize how greatly blessed are we by God and that he has consecrated us to his saving will? How do we witness God’s blessing and how do we live out our consecration?

 

2. Do we welcome with joyful expectation the advent of Jesus, the font of joy, in our personal life and in the life of the Church? Do we resolve to commit ourselves to be a people of joy and to be promoters of joy in today’s anguished and distressed world?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you are the “Emmanuel”,

our King and giver of the Law.

In you we behold the holiness of God

and participate intimately in his life.

Help us to rejoice in the blessing you bring

and to live fully our consecration to your saving mission.

Maranatha! Come, O Christ the Lord!

 

***

(Cf. Alternative Opening Prayer of the Mass: Third Sunday of Advent)

 

Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

ever faithful to your promises

and ever close to your Church:

the earth rejoices in hope of the Savior’s coming

and looks forward with longing

to his return at the end of time.

Prepare our hearts and remove the sadness

that hinders us from feeling the joy and hope

which his presence will bestow.

He is Lord 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.

 

“Blessed is the fruit of your womb.” (Lk 1:42b) //“The Lord, your God, is in your midst.” (Zep 3:17)

 

 

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

 

Let our blessing and consecration be made manifest in our acts of justice and charity for the people around us, especially those who have lost their jobs and/or homes and are feeling extremely vulnerable. // Offer your moral, spiritual and material help to the victims of natural and man-made calamities.

***

 

 

Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang  PDDM

 

 

PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI

SISTER DISCIPLES OF THE DIVINE MASTER

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Tel. (718) 494-8597 // (718) 761-2323

Website: WWW.PDDM.US

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