A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday and Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 12, n. 31)

Saints Peter and Paul & Weekday 13: June 29, 2014 – July 5, 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 22-28, 2014, please go to ARCHIVES Series 12 and click on “Corpus Christi - Weekday 12”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: June 29, 2014 – July 5, 2014.)

 

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June 29, 2014: SAINTS PETER AND PAUL, APOSTLES

 “JESUS SAVIOR: Saints Peter and Paul Are the Pillars of His Church”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 12:1-11 // II Tm 4:6-8, 17-18 // Mt 16:13-19

 

 

I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS

 

We celebrate today the solemn feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the two great pillars of the Church. These two great apostles remind us that the cost of Christian discipleship is dear. By their pastoral ministry and self-sacrificing service to the Gospel, they have witnessed to the nations that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God and the Savior of the world.

 

Today’s bible readings underline their intimate participation in Christ’s paschal mystery and his saving power. The Acts of the Apostles (12:1-10) narrates that King Herod Agrippa has Peter arrested and put into prison in Jerusalem so that he may be tried before the people after the Passover. Peter is under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. On the very night before Herod is to bring him to trial, Peter, secured by double chains and sleeping between two soldiers, is rescued by an angel from imminent death. This miraculous divine intervention on behalf of Peter evokes God’s marvelous works on the night of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and at the Passover event of Jesus Christ from death to life. The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 7, remark: “This was during the week of the Passover … The deliverance of Peter, whom God frees from prison at night, and precisely at this period of the year, assumes the value of a parable. For the Church, it is still the time of Exodus. During the night of this world, it prays with confidence, remembering the Pasch of Christ and giving thanks for the marvels God has accomplished, including thanksgiving ahead of time for the crowning marvel: when Christ himself, and no longer an angel, will come back to snatch her finally forever from the hands of her enemies.”

 

In the Second Reading (II Tim 4:6-8, 17-18), we hear about the apostle Paul who is also a prisoner for Christ and an intimate participant in his paschal mystery. Undergoing the humiliating conditions of a captive in Rome, he entertains no illusions as to the outcome of his trial. Knowing that he would be condemned to death, he does not allow the specter of death to daunt him. Confronted by the certainty of martyrdom, he avows God’s benevolent protection and recognizes the divine saving plan at work in his life. Trusting fully in the Lord Jesus and knowing that he had done all he could to proclaim the Gospel, Paul compares his life to a spiritual sacrifice and speaks of his upcoming death as a “passage” – a Passover toward the divine kingdom. Knowing that he has competed well in his endeavor for Christ and that he has kept the faith in him, he is sure of the “crown of righteousness” that the Lord Jesus has prepared for him and all those who long for Christ’s coming. 

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Mt 16:13-19) speaks of Peter’s confession of faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and the subsequent investiture of Peter at Caesarea Philippi with the “keys” of the Kingdom of heaven. The “keys” symbolize the authority and governance entrusted to the apostle Peter to lead the young church after Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus declares that Peter is the “rock” upon which he would build his Church. Peter will take on a role of primacy and a service of authority on behalf of the entire spiritual edifice, the Church, whose cornerstone and ultimate foundation is Jesus Christ himself. As willed by Jesus Christ, Peter’s ministry as a “rock” foundation of the Church and his service of authority as a recipient of the “keys” will live on through time and space.

 

In our celebration of the God-given gift to the Church of its great apostolic pillars, Sts. Peter and Paul, we are invited to consider anew our vocation and mission as Church and to pray for the Pope and all those who have received the special mission as stewards of the mysteries of salvation. The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 7, conclude: “Peter and Paul, with their contrasting charisms put at the service of one and the same gospel, illustrate the nature of the Church of Christ and of the ministry entrusted to those whom the Lord chooses. Through the faith of which the apostles are witnesses and guides, the community of believers is solidly founded on Christ, the cornerstone that nothing can dislodge. Whatever may happen, despite all the trials, God delivers his friends as he freed his Christ from the power of death. Like their Master and Lord, those who exercise their responsibilities in the Christian community have only one ambition, to stay the course, to remain faithful to their mission as stewards of the mysteries of salvation, and to make themselves, without counting the cost, the servants of the servants of God, the messengers of his love.”

 

As we celebrate the solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, I thank the Lord for the opportunity he gave me to spend several years of my apostolic life in Rome, under the shadows of Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican City and Saint Paul’s Basilica on Via Ostiense. I was enrolled at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute, but it was a great joy for me to help our Sisters at the souvenir shops in Saint Peter’s Basilica during my free time. I had a chance to meet pilgrims from five continents of the world and savor the “universality of the Church”. The Sisters take daily turns for Eucharistic Adoration at the Blessed Sacrament Chapel in Saint Peter’s Basilica and offer special prayers for the Church and the Pope. One Wednesday afternoon, after our work at the Cupola’s souvenir shop and while walking in the courtyard to board our van, we were asked by the Vatican police to stay put. From the other part of the courtyard, there was a tremendous activity as the Pope’s entourage arrived. When we saw Pope John Paul II, we cried out, “Viva il Papa!” Pope John Paul II, who was boarding the Pope-Mobile for his Wednesday audience with the pilgrims, turned and waved to us like a loving father. Now he is a canonized saint.

 

I likewise remember when I would go to the SSP Provincial House at Via Alessandro Severo, near the Basilica of St. Paul, to pray at the tomb of our Founder, Blessed James Alberione, and the first Pauline priest, Blessed Timothy Giaccardo, who were both beatified by Pope John Paul II. These two great pillars of the Pauline Family were deeply influenced by Saint Paul. The first foundation of the Pauline Family in Rome, at Via Alessandro Severo, received vital assistance from the kind Benedictines at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.  In my prayer, especially in this year as we are celebrating the Pauline Centenary, I thank the Lord for the gift of the Pauline Family and our father Saint Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles.

 

 

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

 

1. What insights does the celebration of the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul give us about the nature and the ministry of the Church?

 

2. How did Saint Peter and Saint Paul participate intimately in Christ’s Paschal Mystery?

 

3. For the members of the Pauline Family: what will you do to make the celebration of the Pauline Centenary meaningful and transforming?

 

 

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

 

O gracious Father,

you fill our hearts with joy

as we honor your great apostles:

Peter, our leader in the faith,

and Paul, the fearless preacher.

Peter raised up the Church from the faithful flock of Israel.

Paul brought your call to the nations,

and became the teacher of the world.

Each in his chosen way

gathered into unity the one family of Christ.

Both shared the martyr’s death

and are praised throughout the world.

Grant us the grace to imitate

Saint Peter’s pastoral ministry to the Church

and Saint Paul’s zeal to proclaim the Gospel to the nations.

We give you glory and praise

and we pledge to love and serve 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.

 

“Upon this rock I will build my church.” (Mt 16:18)

 

 

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

 

Meditate on the marvels God has accomplished in the Church through the life witness and ministry of Saints Peter and Paul. Make an effort to read and reflect on the Pauline letters and be inspired by St. Paul’s teachings. In any way you can, enable the people of today to experience the pastoral and evangelizing ministry of Sts. Peter and Paul.

 

*** 

 

June 30, 2014: MONDAY – WEEKDAY 13 IN ORDINARY TIME; THE FIRST MARTYRS OF THE HOLY ROMAN CHURCH

(In the Pauline Family, SOLEMNITY OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE)

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Invites Us to Follow Him Unconditionally and Calls Us to Social Responsibility”

 

BIBLE READINGS

II Kgs 17:5-8, 13-15a, 18 // Mt 7:1-5

 

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

(Gospel Reflection by Sr. Mary Gemma Victorino, PDDM)

 

Jesus' invitation is not a sweet and gentle word; his is a strong challenge: "Foxes have dens, birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head." To another who also wanted to follow him, but set the condition of first "burying his father and mother", he gave an uncompromising reply - "Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead."

 

What does he want to say here? There is nothing more important than following him and announcing his gospel. Such following and preaching asks unconditional detachment, clarity of priorities, total trust and utmost generosity.

 

I experienced this truth early in life. A month after I graduated from college, the persistent call from the Lord Jesus to follow him in consecrated religious life came back to me. When I asked permission from my elderly father to attend the discernment retreat for young ladies contemplating the religious life, he grudgingly gave me permission, coupled with an ultimatum: "Okay, you may go and stay over the weekend but if you don't return consider me dead."

 

I didn't return home after the retreat. Where did I get the strength to disobey my father and face the pain of detachment?  Looking back after all these years, I think it is love for the Master and his Word plus the faith and conviction that his Word carries power and makes things happen.

 

His powerful command “Follow me” gave me the strength to get out of my comfort zone and put my most important relationships in their proper place. Nothing is more important than finding out what is God's will for me, the reason why I have been created in the first place. In being an obedient disciple, that is, a follower of Jesus, I have brought home an important message as well to my beloved father. In fact, after we had reconciled, he confessed and proclaimed, "I think I now understand your mission: when I see you, I remember God."

 

***

 

The Old Testament text for the most part of this week is taken from the Book of the prophet Amos. Originally a shepherd and a dresser of sycamore trees from the Judean town of Tekoa, Amos is commissioned by God to prophesy to the people of the northern kingdom of Israel, about the middle of the 8th century B.C. It seems to be a time of prosperity, religious piety and security. On the contrary, the society’s prosperity, which is limited to the wealthy, merely feeds on injustice and on the oppression of the poor. Moreover, Israel’s religious observance is insincere. Its security is false and imaginary.

 

In today’s reading (Am 3:6-10, 13-16), Amos charges Israel with crimes against the Lord God and brotherhood. The rapacious rich exploit the poor, which is contrary to the conduct expected of a faithful Israelite. The weak and the lowly are victimized: “sold for a pair of sandals”. There is moral degradation: “son and father go to the same prostitute”. The people’s religious practices are empty and in reality vehicles of social injustice. In contrast to their evil crimes is the Lord’s benevolence. The Prophet Amos reminds them of God’s saving acts on behalf of Israel, in particular the Exodus from the slavery of Egypt and the entry into the Promised Land. Israel ought to respond with gratitude and obedience to God’s beneficence, but refuses to do so. On account of Israel’s repeated sins and crimes, there will be just judgment and devastating punishment.

 

Unfortunately, the social injustice and moral degradation denounced by the prophet Amos continues to exist in the modern world. Here is an example (cf. Araceli Lorayes, “Child Prostitution: The Tribe of Lost Souls” in Philippine Panorama, June 9, 1986, p. 5-6).

 

According to Justice Corazon Juliano Agrava, founder of the Tahanan Outreach Program for Boys, in the past most child prostitutes were girls kept in sex dens. Although even the number of female child prostitutes seems to have increased, what appears to be new is the greater degree of homosexual activity involving boys as young as seven and foreigners – Europeans, Americans, Arabs and Japanese. (…)

 

Tourism has of course exerted its own drawing factor. In retrospect, it is clear that the come-ons to promote the Philippines – beautiful smiles, the Philippines as the last great bargain in the Orient – have conveyed to many Westerners and Japanese one message only: cheap sex, whether adult or child. And, in fact, child sex is cheap; the rate for a child prostitute ranges from 100 pesos to 600 pesos, equivalent to $5 up to $30 – hardly more than the cost of a medium-priced pair of shoes in the West.

 

For the children, particularly in the urban areas, the great push factor is poverty – not merely the lack of money, but also its brutalizing effect on the individual and its corrosive effects on the family. The majority of child prostitutes started out as cigarette vendors to supplement family income when they were enticed into prostitution either by friends already engaged in it or by teenage pimps. Other children ran away from unbearable homes where they were maltreated. (…)

 

So desperate is the struggle to keep body and soul together that provision of the most basic creature needs evokes a pathetic gratitude. Agrave noted that the boys under the Silungan program, which was especially formulated for those they termed “endangered boys”, had a strong sense of loyalty to their foreign “friends”. “The children do not know that what they are doing is wrong”, she said. “So when they can get a good night’s rest, a meal, a bath, they are beholden to these people. They just tell you that their customers are foreign, but not who they are.”

 

 

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

 

1. Do we respond fully to Jesus’ invitation “Follow me” and embrace the unconditional detachment it entails?

 

2. Are we guilty of social injustice by ignoring it, by condoning it, or by perpetuating it? What is God calling us to do?

 

 

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

 

Jesus Lord,

you call us to follow you,

but the cost of discipleship is dear.

Give us the grace to follow you unconditionally

through all the detachment and hardships it entails.

You are the center of our life

and the font of our joy.

Give us the courage, wisdom and strength

to fight social injustice

and to care for the poor and the weak.

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.

 

“Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.” (Mt 8:22) // “I brought you up from the land of Egypt and led you through the desert.” (Am 2:10)

 

  

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

 

Pray that many may respond in public service to God’s call offered in Jesus’ name. Promote vocations to priestly ministry and religious life in the Church today. Be aware of the social issues and of the Catholic social teachings in the public sector. Reinforce the Catholic social teaching by your life witnessing.

 

***

 

July 1, 2014: TUESDAY – WEEKDAY (13); BLESSED JUNIPERO SERRA, priest (USA)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Calms the Raging Sea and Calls Us to Accountability”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Am 3:1-8; 4:11-12 // Mt 8:23-27

 

 

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

 

One warm, beautiful morning, my Sisters accompanied me to the pier in Manila where I boarded a ship to Cebu Island. After putting my things in the cabin, I went to the upper deck and had a great time watching the activity on the pier as the crew prepared for sailing. When the ship began to move, there was the soothing sound of parting waters. I also felt the cooling sensation of the sea breeze. And then I heard something fascinating – the amplified voice of a crew in devout prayer to the Lord God who masters the storms and the raging seas, asking for blessing and protection for all of us sea travelers. I felt so peaceful and secure in that sea voyage knowing that everything had been entrusted to God who has dominion over all – even violent storms and turbulent seas.

 

God, the Creator of the sea and its boundaries, is the Almighty One who directs the course of each individual’s life. Everything that happens in the universe is under the power of God’s dominion and control. God has sovereign mastery over the elements, particularly over the sea, which seems difficult to control. He also manifests his power, not only over nature, but above all, over the raging inner storms in our lives.

 

           The Gospel picture of Jesus who sleeps through a raging storm (Mk 8:23-27) is perplexing and challenging. At times we panic when we are buffeted by the storms of life, and Jesus seems asleep and unaware. At times we despair because Jesus seems to pay no heed. But the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, is in control. He is fully concerned and involved in our fear and distress. As the Omnipotent One, he can pacify the tumults and “storms” of our daily life.

 

Harold Buetow comments: “Life presents all kinds of storms: disease, natural disasters, epidemics, and famines; and human anger, hatred, prejudice, injustice, betrayal, and selfishness. For Christians, acceptance of Jesus is not a guarantee that we will sail on trouble-free waters. To the contrary, Jesus invites us to travel on uncharted waters and to make for unfamiliar shores – and all this as darkness falls. The risk of faith demands a radical trust that, whatever our particular storm, Jesus is present; being conscious of his presence will give us a calm peace in all the storms of our life.” 

 

***

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Am 3:1-8; 4:11-12) gives insight into the role of Amos, called by God to prophesy against Israel. Amos puts in proper perspective Israel’s privilege as God’s chosen people. Election entails greater responsibility and a harsher punishment. Through the prophet Amos, God excoriates Israel: “Of all the nations on earth, you are the only one I have favored and cared for. That is what makes your sins so terrible, and that is why I must punish you for them.”

 

In today’s passage, we hear a series of rhetorical questions taken from the animal world and human daily life. The rhetorical momentum makes us realize that nothing happens by chance. Israel’s impending doom is not without cause. The catastrophic events to which Amos alludes happen for a reason. Moreover, there is a reason for the prophet’s intervention: the divine call. Indeed, when the Lord God speaks – who will not prophesy? Amos must proclaim Israel’s doom because God wills him to do so. He is seized by an inner compulsion to speak the truth – even if it is detestable and unwelcome.

 

Like the prophet Amos, Pope Francis courageously challenges the structuralized violence and injustice of today’s society. At the risk of his life, he denounces the Mafia, an organized crime syndicate (cf. Associated Press, “Pope Denounces Mafia in Jail Visit” in Fresno Bee, June 22, 2014, p. A27).

 

Cassano all’Jonio: Pope Francis journeyed Saturday to the heart of Italy’s biggest crime syndicate, met the father of a 3-year-old boy slain in the region’s drug war, and declared that all monsters are automatically excommunicated from the Catholic Church. During his one-day pilgrimage to the southern region of Calabria, Francis comforted the imprisoned father of Nicola Campolongo in the courtyard of a prison in the town of Castrovillari. In January the boy was shot, along with one of his grandfathers and the grandfather’s girlfriend, in an attack blamed on drug turf wars in the nearby town of Cassano all’Jonio. The attackers torched the car with all three victims inside. (…)

 

Calabria is the power base of the “ndrangheta”, a global drug-trafficking syndicate that enriches itself by extorting businesses and infiltrating public works contracts in underdeveloped Calabria. During his homily at an outdoor Mass, Francis denounced the “ndrangheta” for what he called its “adoration of evil and contempt for the common good”.

 

“Those who go down the evil path, as the Mafia do, are not in communion with God. They are excommunicated”, he warned. (…)

 

The Pope, who met with nearly 1,000 members of families of Mafia victims at the Vatican earlier this year also stopped to pray at a spot in a small town where a priest was beaten to death earlier this year in a botched extortion attempt.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we feel abandoned and neglected by Jesus when the life-storms are violent and he seems to be “sleeping”? Do we panic? Or rather, do we believe in faith that God is in control? Do we place our trust in Jesus whom even wind and sea obey?

 

2. Do we realize that our evil choices have negative consequence and that our negation of God’s loving plan is death-dealing?

 

 

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

 

Loving God,

your Son Jesus Christ slept through the raging sea.

When life-threatening storms buffet us,

help us to call on Jesus our Savior.

He is the powerful Lord who masters the winds and the raging seas.

May our faith be steadfast and strong.

May we hold on to you and to Jesus

as we journey through the turbulence and the violence of this world.

Help us to be accountable

and teach us to make the right choices.

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.

 

             “Jesus rebuked the wind and the sea, and there was a great calm.” (Mt 8:26b) // “The Lord God speaks – who will not prophesy!” (Am 3:8)

 

 

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

 

Pray to God that we may be able to feel his presence and serenity even in the midst of life’s storms. Offer comfort and assistance to those whose faith is wavering and whose lives are deeply upset by trials and difficulties. Pray for the grace to be socially involved and engaged in promoting the common good.

 

***

 

July 2, 2014: WEDNESDAY – WEEKDAY (13)

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Us to Fight the Spiritual Warfare and to Offer God True Worship

 

BIBLE READINGS

Am 5:14-15, 21-24 // Mt 8:28-34

 

 

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

(Gospel Reflection by Phil McCarty, St. Christopher Parish, San Jose, CA-USA)

 

In today’s Gospel we read of Jesus casting out demons - demons so savage that no one dared to approach the demoniacs. I am struck by the fact that the demons immediately recognized Jesus as the Son of God, and they were threatened by Him. In the constant struggle of good versus evil, do we recognize that goodness is a threat to evil? Evil seeks to intimidate goodness, for evil cannot flourish when encountered by goodness.

 

We all encounter evil in one form or another in our daily lives, whether in news reports of violent acts carried out in our community and around the world, or on a more personal level as we are tempted and sin. As faithful Christians we are strengthened by our faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. We are called to be a force for good in the face of evil. When we encounter an unjust act, do we stand up for justice? Do we pray that those who choose a path of evil will turn to the Lord, repent, and be saved?  Do we seek the sacrament of reconciliation to cast the demons of sin from our own lives?

 

***

 

In today’s Old Testament reading (Am 5:14-15, 21-24) God, through the prophet Amos, calls the erring people of Israel to conversion. He condemns their false security and invites them to adhere to godly ideals: “Seek good and not evil … let justice prevail”. If Israel changes its corrupt lifestyle and loves what is right then, and only then, there might be some hope for the “remnant of Joseph”. The Lord God likewise condemns false worship and religious formalism. Their religious rites do not correspond to their personal integrity and interior morality. Their worship is empty and divorced from life. Their liturgy substitutes for social responsibility. That is why God hates their religious festivals, their burnt and cereal offerings, their noisy songs and the melodies of their harps. God exhorts them: “Let justice surge like water and goodness like an unfailing stream.”

 

The following story helps us understand God’s call to true worship (cf. Anthony De Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations, New York: Image Books, 1990, New York: Image Books, 1990, p.3-34).

 

There was once a woman who was religious and devout and filled with love for God. Each morning she would go to church. And on her way children would call out to her, beggars would accost her, but so immersed was she in her devotions that she did not even see them.

 

Now one day she walked down the street in her customary manner and arrived at the church just in time for service. She pushed the door, but it would not open. She pushed it again harder, and found the door was locked. Distressed at the thought that she would miss service for the first time in years, and not knowing what to do, she looked up. And there, right before her face, she found a note pinned to the door.

 

It said, “I’m out there!”

 

 

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

 

1. Are we aware of the constant struggle of good versus evil? Do we recognize that goodness is a threat to evil? In the spiritual warfare, which side are we on?

 

2. Is our worship a true expression of inner reality and spiritual sacrifice to God? Are we guilty of substituting social responsibility with external religious practices?

 

 

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

(By Phil McCarty, St. Christopher Parish, San Jose, CA-USA)

 

Lord Jesus,

grant us the wisdom and courage

to face the evil we encounter,

whether great or small,

so that the goodness that comes from you

will prevail.

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.

 

“The whole town came out to meet Jesus.” (Mt 8:34) // “Let justice surge like water and goodness like an unfailing stream.” (Am 5:24)

 

 

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

 

Let us resolve to fight the evils and injustices in today’s society. By our life and example, let us promote the meaning of true worship.

 

***

 

July 3, 2014: THURSDAY – SAINT THOMAS APOSTLE

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Church Is Built Upon the Foundation of Apostles and Prophets”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Eph 2:19-22 // Jn 20:24-29

 

 

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

(Gospel Reflection by Sr. Mary Gemma Victorino, PDDM)

 

St. Thomas put conditions to the apostles before he would profess his faith in the Risen Lord. He wanted to touch and see the marks of Jesus' crucifixion and cause of death. And the Risen Lord gave in to his conditions. A week after the first apparition to the apostles, Jesus came again and invited Thomas: "Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe." He who wanted to touch Jesus was in turn touched by him and exclaimed: "My Lord and my God!"

 

There is a “doubting Thomas” in each of us. It is but normal that in our life of faith we oftentimes seek confirmation from the Lord, even through our bodily faculties. We like to see, hear, touch, even taste and smell the presence and the goodness of the Lord especially in our “down moments”. Otherwise, we fluctuate and falter in our following of the Master. 

 

Our Lord, in his goodness, gives in to these 'faith tests' now and then. I had one such experience lately. May 31 was the opening of our new PDDM Apostolic Center in Davao City, Southern Philippines. I came all the way from Manila to participate in this joyful event but, in the rush of preparations, I had a freak accident and suffered a second degree ankle sprain which left me immobile at the moment of the blessing of the center. As I was languishing in my pain and wondering how I could proceed to the new Center and join in the celebration, lo and behold, a poor parishioner who came around in his wheelchair saw me at that very moment. He offered his "special seat" just so I could be where my heart and body wanted to be. I was so touched by the gesture that I couldn't help thinking it was Jesus himself who came to console me.

 

The “doubting” Thomas became a loving, committed apostle of the Lord. In John 11:16, he professed commitment by boldly saying: "Let us also go to die with him." Indeed he followed the Lord and witnessed to his love for him up to the farthest bounds of the earth. In the middle of the VI century, an Egyptian merchant wrote how in southern India he unexpectedly met a group of Christians who informed him that they had been evangelized by the Apostle St. Thomas.

 

***

 

Today’s First Reading underlines the familial and harmonious character of the Church as members of the family of God and as fellow citizens with God’s people. The Church is a community of “flesh and blood” believers, that is, the dwelling place of God in the Spirit. The construction of the Church depends on Christ, first and foremost, but it also requires the apostolic witnessing and the ministry of the prophets for viability and growth. Jesus Christ is the Church’s capstone, its crowning glory. The service of the apostles and prophets make known God’s wisdom and the saving Gospel to the ends of the earth.

 

Today as we celebrate the feast of Saint Thomas, we are filled with thanksgiving for the marvels God has done to build up the Church through the instrumentality of this apostle. In the following profile presented on the Internet by Wikipedia, we contemplate the growth and expansion of the Church through the evangelizing work and martyrdom of Saint Thomas the Apostle.

 

Saint Thomas the Apostle, also called “Doubting Thomas” or Didymus (meaning “Twin”) was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ. He is best known for questioning Jesus’ resurrection after death when first told of it, followed by his confession of faith as both “My Lord and my God” on seeing and touching Jesus’ tangible and physical wounded body in the Gospel of Saint John (20:28). Traditionally he is said to have traveled outside the Roman Empire to preach the Gospel, traveling as far as India. He is often regarded as the Patron Saint of India. (…)

 

An early third century Syriac work known as the Acts of Thomas connects the apostle’s Indian ministry with two kings, one in the north and the other in the south. According to one of the legends in the Acts, Thomas was at first reluctant to accept the mission, but the Lord appeared to him in a night vision and said, “Fear not, Thomas. Go away to India and proclaim the Word. My grace shall be with you.” But the Apostle sill demurred, so the Lord overruled the stubborn disciple by ordering circumstances so compelling that he was forced to accompany an “Indian” merchant, Abbanes, as a slave to his native place in northwest “India”, where he found himself in the service of the Indo-Parthian king, Gondophares. According to the Acts of Thomas, the apostle’s ministry resulted in many conversions throughout the kingdom, including the king and his brother.

 

Remains of his buildings, influenced by Greek architecture, indicate that he was a great builder. According to the legend, Thomas was a skilled carpenter and was bidden to build a palace for the king. However, the Apostle decided to teach the king a lesson by devoting the royal grant to acts of charity and thereby laying up treasure for the heavenly abode. (…)

 

The Acts of Thomas identifies his second mission in India with a kingdom ruled by King Mahadwa, one of the rulers of a first-century dynasty in southern India. It is most significant that, aside from a small remnant of the Church of the East in Kurdistan, the only other church to maintain a distinctive identity is the Saint Thomas Christian congregation along the Malabar Coast of Kerala State in southwest India. According to the most ancient tradition of this church, Thomas evangelized this area and then crossed to the Coromandel Coast of southeast India, where, after carrying out a second mission, he died near Madras (= Chennai). (…)

 

He reputedly preached to all classes of people and had about 17,000 converts, including members of the four principal castes. Later, stone crosses were erected at the places where churches were founded, and they became pilgrimage centers. In accordance with apostolic custom, Thomas ordained teachers and leaders or elders, who were reported to be the earliest ministers of the Malabar church. (…)

 

Saint Thomas was killed in India in 72 A.D., attaining martyrdom at Saint Thomas Mount near Mylapore (part of Chennai, capital of Tamil Nadu). He was buried on the site of Chennai’s Saint Thomas Basilica in the Diocese of Saint Thomas of Mylapore … The tradition is that Thomas, having aroused the hostility of the local priests by making converts, fled to Saint Thomas’ Mount four miles (6 km) southwest of Mylapore. He was supposedly followed by his persecutors, who transfixed him with a lance as he prayed kneeling on a stone. His body was brought to Mylapore and buried inside the church he had built. The present Basilica is on this spot. It was first built in the 16th century and rebuilt in the 19th.

 

Few relics are still kept in church at Mylapore, Tamil Nadu, India. According to tradition, in 232 A.D., the greater part of relics of the Apostle Thomas are said to have been sent by an Indian king and brought from India to the city of Edessa (Mesopotamia) on which occasion the Syriac Acts of Thomas were written. On 27 September 2006, Pope Benedict recalled that “an ancient tradition claims that Thomas first evangelized Syria and Persia, then went on to Western India, from where also he finally reached southern India.”

 

 

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

 

1. Do we act like “doubting Thomas” in low points of our life, and challenge the Lord God to give us a reason for belief in him? Do we surrender ourselves more deeply in faith to God and thus merit the beatitude: “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed”?

 

2. What role did Saint Thomas the Apostle play in the building up and growth of the Church? What is your personal contribution in the building up and growth of the Church?

 

 

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

(Cf. Opening Prayer – Mass of the Feast of Saint Thomas)

 

Almighty Father,

as we honor Thomas the apostle,

let us always experience the help of his prayers.

May we have eternal life by believing in Jesus,

whom Thomas acknowledged as Lord,

for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“He said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’”  (Jn 20:28) // “In him you are also being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” (Eph 2:19-22)

 

 

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

 

Let us renew our faith in the Risen Lord, especially in the “down moments” of our life and say to him, “My Lord and my God!” Pray for the Church in India, especially the Syro-Malabar Church whose foundation is attributed to the apostolic works of Saint Thomas. Let every kind word and deed that you do be a part of the Church’s action of building together a “dwelling place of God in the Spirit”.

 

***

 

July 4, 2014: FRIDAY – WEEKDAY (13)

INDEPENDENCE DAY (USA)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Us to Be Healed and Satisfies Our Hunger for the Word of God”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Am 8:4-6, 9-12 // Mt 9:9-13

 

 

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

(Gospel Reflection by Rosemary Farrell, St. Christopher Parish, San Jose, CA-USA)

 

This short passage contains the heart of the gospel message, the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is LOVE.  The calling of Matthew to discipleship is of great significance to us all.   As a tax collector, Matthew belonged to a highly disreputable profession and would have been regarded as a social outcast by his fellow Jews.  The prior calling by Jesus of the fishermen, Peter, Andrew, James and John would not have excited public interest, but Matthew was conspicuous because of his despised profession and because of the other outcasts who associated with him.  However, all were called by Jesus in their failings and imperfections, whether these were highly visible and open to public scrutiny, as in the case of Matthew, or not; so too have we all been called in our imperfections, whether they have received public scrutiny, if we happen to be politicians or celebrities, or are known only to ourselves and to God.

Do not be afraid, I am with you.  I have called you each by name.  Come and follow me, I will bring you home; I love you and you are mine.    (David Haas)

 

This is the love of God, calling us just as we are, to be illumined in the light of His love; to be healed and transformed and to become His love to the world.

Even if your sins are scarlet, they can become snow white; even if they are as wool dyed crimson, they can be white as fleece.       (Isaiah 1:18)

 

While dining with Matthew and others who are deemed outcasts, Jesus overhears the skepticism of some of the Pharisees.  He refers them to the scripture that says, “It is kindness that I want, not animal sacrifices” and tells them to go and find out what that means.  Here, Jesus is referring to the words of the prophet Hosea:

What I want from you is plain and clear: I want your constant love, not your animal sacrifices.  I would rather have my people know me than burn offerings to me.  (Hosea 6:6)

 

Hosea was not alone in uttering words like these; we hear them also from his contemporary, fellow prophets Isaiah, Amos, and Micah who completes his exhortation with the famous dictum:

The Lord has told us what is good. What He requires of us is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God. (Micah 6:8)

 

How do these words resonate with us today?  Kindness, justice, humility and above all, love, we can certainly understand.  We have each been called to know and love the God who is love, and to become His love for others; through this love, all the fruits of the Spirit will grow in us. 

 

Hosea and the other prophets spoke out against animal sacrifice which was still practiced in the Temple in Jerusalem as atonement for sin in Jesus’ time and would continue until the Temple’s destruction in 70 AD.  The Pharisees, who were critical of Jesus dining with tax collectors and sinners, would have zealously performed the Temple sacrifices, but in referencing Hosea Jesus tells them that external duties and observances are inferior to Knowledge of God and the love and compassion that emanates from that Knowledge.  We may be tempted to dismiss the word “sacrifice”, in the prophetical writings that Jesus referred to, as something belonging to the distant past and not applicable to us today as long as we do not allow external religious observances to take precedence over compassion, kindness and mercy towards our brothers and sisters.  Perhaps we should contemplate the suffering of animals in factory farms and the billions of God’s creatures who are still sacrificed each day, no longer as sin offerings but to provide us with food that we do not need; it is easy to survive and be healthy on foods from purely non-animal sources. 

Our task must be to widen the circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.     (Albert Einstein)

 

***

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Am 8:4-6, 9-12) is a prophetic judgment against Israel and is preceded by Amos’ vision of a basket of fruit. The Hebrew words for “end” and “fruit” sound alike. Making use of a pun, the prophet indicates that the “end” of unrepentant Israel is definite.

 

The vicious plans of corrupt merchants to make more money at the expense of the poor prove that their impending doom is merited. Instead of heeding the call to conversion, they intend to cheat, to overcharge and “to buy the lowly man for silver and the poor man for a pair of sandals”. As a consequence of Israel’s evil deeds, there will be darkness and lamentation, and there will be famine in the land. But for Israel, the greatest anguish is not for physical bread or water, but the longing for the word of God. They will hunger and thirst for a message from the Lord, but to no avail. Indeed, it is not possible for Israel to presume and decide on its own terms when and how to return to the Lord – as if God were at its disposal. The conversion journey can be undertaken only in response to God’s mercy and loving initiative.

 

Today the American people celebrate Independence Day. This civic observance is an occasion for the Americans to commit themselves to God and to the works of justice and freedom for all. Like the prophet Amos, the words of the various statesmen and founding fathers of the U.S.A. remind us that God is at the root of the nation’s existence and destiny. The following statements they made are insightful (cf. “In God We Trust” in Fresno Bee, July 4, 2013, p. A19).

 

George Washington: Commander-in-Chief in the American Revolution; Signer of the Constitution; First President of the Unites States: “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.”

 

John Adams: Signer of the Declaration of Independence; One of Two Signers of the Bill of Rights; Second President of the United States: “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

 

James Madison; Signer of the Constitution; Fourth President of the United States: “Before any man can be considered as a member of civil society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the universe.”

 

Thomas Jefferson: Signer and the Principal Author of the Declaration of Independence; Third President of the United States: “And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever?”

 

John Quincy Adams: Diplomat; Sixth President of the United States: “Is it not in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? – that it forms a leading event in the progress of the Gospel dispensation? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon earth? – That it laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity?” (…)

 

Benjamin Franklin: Signer of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution: “I’ve lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: That God governs in the affairs of men. If a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We’ve been assured in the sacred writings that unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it. I firmly believe this, and I also believe that without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel.”

 

 

John Jay: Co-Author of the Federalist Papers; First Chief-Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court: “The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the word of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore to read it and to regulate your life by its precepts.” // “Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation, to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.”

 

 

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

 

1. How does the call and response of the tax collector Matthew impinge on you? Do we put our trust in the Divine Physician who calls us to be healed and transformed and to become his love in the world?

 

2. Do we hunger for the word of God, heed it and act upon it?

 

 

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

 

O loving Jesus, Divine Physician,

you did not come to call the righteous but sinners.

You call us just as we are.

Your healing love transforms us

that we may become in turn

your healing love to the world.

We hunger for your Word.

Speak, Lord, and we listen with loving heart.

We give you thanks and 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 day. Please memorize it.

 

“I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” (Mt 9:13) // “A famine for hearing the word of the Lord” (Am 8:11)

 

 

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

 

Meditate on the graciousness of God’s call and of the ongoing response we need to give to him. Through your compassionate ways, let the healing love of Jesus be felt by the persons close to you. Be thankful for the blessings God has bestowed upon the American nation and endeavor to share these blessings with the less fortunate.

 

***

 

July 5, 2014: SATURDAY – WEEKDAY (13); SAINT ANTHONY MARY ZACCARIA, priest; SAINT ELIZABETH OF PORTUGAL (USA); BVM ON SATURDAY

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the New Wine and the Promise of Restoration”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Am 9:11-15 // Mt 9:14-17

 

 

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

 

John the Baptist’s disciples, probably prompted by the Pharisees, ask Jesus why they and the Pharisees fast, but his disciples do not. Jesus retorts with a rhetorical question: “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?” In today’s Gospel, Jesus underlines a deeper truth that goes beyond the question of fasting. In the Bible, the marriage feast is a symbol of the kingdom of God. Jesus - the Bridegroom – invites us into the fullness of the kingdom, depicted as a marriage feast. As the Bridegroom of the Church, he brings in the radical newness of the reign of God.

 

The radical newness is depicted in the image of “new wine” in fresh wineskins and of a “piece of unshrunken cloth” that will tear an old cloth if patched onto it. Elements of Judaism that were either a temporary dispensation (e.g. the animal sacrifice) or a mere preparation for something better are surpassed by the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. He blesses us in a new way that shatters old categories and conventions. In his public ministry, Jesus did not require his disciples to fast the way the Pharisees and the disciples of John did. In the post-resurrection Church, “fasting”, with its many expressions, is still appropriate as long as it looks forward to the culmination of the kingdom. Fasting is done in the spirit of the Church-Bride waiting for Christ-Bridegroom’s return at the end time.

 

The radical newness of the kingdom and the “fasting” it entails can be perceived in the life of Mother Teresa of Calcutta (cf. Mother Teresa: Her Essential Wisdom, ed. Carol Kelly-Gangi, New York: Barnes and Noble, 2006, p. 97, 69, 64).

 

My sister and I used to read the same books. One day my sister read a book and passed it to me. As soon as I read two pages, I felt it would be a sin to read that book. Later I asked my sister whether she had read the book. She replied that she had and had found nothing wrong in it. There was no sin in my sister reading the book, but in conscience I could not read it. (…)

 

By our vow of chastity we renounce God’s natural gift to women to become mothers – for the greater gift – that of being virgins for Christ, of entering into a much more beautiful motherhood. (…)

 

I can’t bear being photographed but I make use of everything for the glory of God. When I allow a person to take a photograph, I tell Jesus to take one soul to heaven out of Purgatory.

 

***

 

The Book of Amos ends positively with a joyful glimpse of the restoration of Israel (9:11-15). The earlier threats and oracles of doom are counterpoised by the overwhelming reality of God’s mercy and fidelity. The kingdom of David will be rebuilt and the nations finally reunited. A picture of abundant fruitfulness deepens the promise of the nation’s restoration: the grain will grow faster than can be harvested; the vine will grow faster than the wine can be made; the mountains will drip with sweet wine; etc. The entirety of Amos’ prophetic proclamation, that is, the threats of just punishment and the promise of restoration, reminds Israel that sinfulness is death-dealing and that conversion to God is life-giving.

 

Israel’s experience of death and grace, of punishment and hope of tomorrow, of raw ugliness and awesome beauty, can also be gleaned in our daily life. The following article gives insight into this (cf. Amy Bunt, “Beauty beneath the Surface” in Country, February/March 2013, p. 16).

 

I live in the Arizona desert, where flowers are sparse, rocks and bushes replace green grass, and the four seasons are more likely one long summer with a few cold December and January days. But the desert had such an abundance of rain one year that I was determined to see how it affected the landscape. Surely there must be something wonderful under all that dirt.

 

I used to think that to see anything beautiful, I had to get as far away from the desert as possible. But I was wrong. The desert often seems harsh and void of life, but below the surface is a kind of beauty that will come to life if enough rain falls from the heavens.

 

During that one rainy season, I went hiking in Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction, which is reputedly the site of an elusive gold mine. I didn’t go to the park that day looking for a gold mine, but I found one among the acres of golden flowers that surrounded my every step. The abundance reminded me of a Midwestern spring; the only dirt I saw was on the dusty path I was following.

 

Life often seems like a dusty path that we walk day in and day out. But instead of being surrounded by flowers in bloom, we often find ourselves surrounded by heartache, disappointment and sadness. Maybe it’s the loss of a job, a wayward child, or the death of a loved one that leaves a void so big and so painful you wonder if anything beautiful can ever come out of it.

 

I don’t know what surrounds your dusty path, but I know that God surrounds mine. He is kind enough to send rain and bring forth such beauty that I am left in awe and wonder. He has proven to me that beauty can come from ashes.

 

Life gives joy and sometimes takes it away. In moments of sadness, I look long and hard at the dry ground and wonder if life will ever spring from it again. It is then that I realize that God gives me a hope that doesn’t fade. Through faith he tells me to keep walking on my dusty path and to look for beauty, because it will surely come again.

 

Will my path always be lined with flowers? No. They will fade and be replaced by heartaches and disappointments of life, but those won’t last forever, either. Spring will come again and flowers will return. Someday I will walk among the fields of gold once more and will smile and say that life is good because God is good.

 

 

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

 

1. Do I realize the radical newness of the kingdom of God that Jesus brings? How do I live out the radical newness of the kingdom?

 

2. Do I allow myself to be shaped by visions of hope, beauty and grace; or do stubbornly cling to the shadows of sin, fear and death?

 

 

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

 

Jesus Lord,

you are the Bridegroom of the Church.

You call us to share in the feast of your kingdom.

You offer us to savor the “new wine” in fresh wineskins.

Teach us to practice true “fasting” on behalf of your kingdom.

Help us to express in our life

the beauty of the Gospel

and the radical newness that your life brings.

Let us welcome the hope of tomorrow.

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.

 

“Pour new wine into fresh new wineskins.” (Mt 9:17) // “I will bring about the restoration of my people Israel.” (Am 9:14)

 

 

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

 

Examine the actions and choices in your life that are not “new wine” in new wineskins and ask the Lord for the grace to overcome them. With the strength of the Holy Spirit, carry out the “fasting” (e.g. from excessive use of digital media, etc.) that will benefit you spiritually and promote the kingdom of God. Be deeply aware of the “touches” of beauty, joy and goodness in your life.

 

***

 

 

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

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