A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 18, n. 31)

Week 13 in Ordinary Time: June 28 – July 4, 2020

 

 

(The pastoral tool BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD: A LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY & WEEKDAY LITURGY includes a prayerful study of the Sunday liturgy from various perspectives. For the Lectio Divina on the liturgy of the past week: June 21-27, 2020 please go to ARCHIVES Series 18 and click on “Ordinary Week 12”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: June 28 – July 4, 2020.)

 

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June 28, 2020: THIRTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us the Meaning of Discipleship”

 

BIBLE READINGS

2 Kgs 4:8-11, 14-16a // Rom 6:3-4, 8-11 // Mt 10:37-42

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 10:37-42): “Whoever does not take up his cross is not worthy of me.” 

          

The Maryknoll magazine (cf. May-June 2005 issue, p. 33) presents a modern day example of a Christian disciple who took up her cross in imitation of Christ. She dared to lose her life believing that she would find it. The American-born Sr. Dorothy Stang is a beautiful figure of one who renounces self to follow Christ and receives his “little ones” with a welcoming heart. Here is the account in the “World Watch” section of the magazine.

 

Sister Dorothy Stang, present!  Sister Dorothy Stang, a native of Dayton, Ohio, and a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, was shot to death on February 12, allegedly on orders of a group of landowners threatened by her work for justice for landless and small farmers in Anapu, the town in Brazil’s Amazon where she lived and worked for 37 years. After attending the United Nation’s 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Stang realized her work for the poor was fully entwined with protecting the environment. For the past 15 years, she was an outspoken activist against the destruction of the Amazon, which has lost as much as 20 percent of its 1.6 million square miles to development, logging and farming … Stang received multiple death threats before she was killed.

 

The Gospel reading of this Sunday is composed of two parts: the renunciation demanded by Christian discipleship (Mt 10:37-39) and the rewards of this discipleship (Mt 10: 40-42).

 

Concerning the renunciation that is demanded of Christian disciples, Romano Guardini remarks: “The more profoundly Christian a man becomes, the deeper the cleft between him and those who refuse to follow Christ – its exact measure proportionate to that refusal. The split runs right through the most intimate relationship, for genuine conversion is not a thing of decision an individual can make. The one makes it, the other does not; hence the possibility for a schism between father and son, friend and friend, one member of a household and another. When it comes to a choice between domestic peace and Jesus, one must value Jesus higher, even higher than the most dearly beloved: father and mother, son and daughter, friend or love. This means cutting into the very core of life, and temptation presses us to preserve human ties and abandon Christ. But Jesus warns us: If you hold life fast, sacrificing me for it, you lose your own true life. If you let it go for my sake, you will find yourself in the heart of immeasurable reality.”

 

R. Guardini then underlines the intimate connection between absolute Christian discipleship and the reality of the cross: “Naturally, it is difficult; it is the cross. And here we touch the heaviest mystery of Christianity, its inseparableness from Calvary. Ever since Christ walked the way of the cross, it stands firmly planted on every Christian’s road, for every follower of Christ has his own personal cross. Nature revolts against it, wishing to preserve herself. She tries to go around it, but Jesus has said unequivocally, and his words are fundamental to Christianity: He who hangs on, body and soul, to life will lose it; he who surrenders his will to his cross will find it – once and for ever in the immortal self that shares in the life of Christ … The great lesson of the cross is the great lesson of self-surrender and self-conquest.

 

The second part of this Sunday’s Gospel reading (cf. Mt 10:40-42) reiterates the basic points delineated in Jesus’ Missionary Discourse:

-        The disciples are the representatives of Jesus.

-        To receive Jesus’ disciples is to receive not only him but also his heavenly Father.

-        Fitting rewards will be given to those who receive Christian prophets, holy men and women, and even any disciple because they all represent Christ and his heavenly Father.

 

Harold Buetow comments: “Everyone can help in the work of witnessing for God – even if only in some small way like giving a cup of cold water. In the heat of the long, dry summer of the Holy Land, a cup of cold water is a welcome, if inexpensive, gift. In places that have plentiful water, Jesus’ cup of cold water may be translated into a much-wanted letter, a smile of appreciation, an encouraging word – all as inexpensive as a cup of water in a dry country and all equally needed and appreciated everywhere. Even those small efforts in his name, says Jesus, will receive a prophet’s reward.”

   

 

B. First Reading (2 Kgs 4:8-11, 14-16a): “Elisha is a holy man, let him remain.”

 

The reading (2 Kgs 4:8-11, 14-16a) depicts the figure of a generous and intuitive woman who lives in Shunem. The prophet Elisha comes to experience the hospitality of this “great lady” who rightly perceives him as “a holy man of God”. She suggests to her husband to build a room on the roof, put a bed, a table, a chair and a lamp so that Elisha can stay there when he visits them. Her hospitality evokes a blessing from the prophet. The barren woman will bear a son. As Elisha has said, at about that time the following year, she gives birth to a son.

 

This Old Testament episode is a good backdrop for what Jesus says in today’s Gospel: “Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward” (Mt 10:41). Indeed, whatever good done to a prophet, to a good man, to a disciple, to the poor and hungry, to the “little ones” redounds to God’s glory and evokes the blessings of God on this earth and in eternal life.

 

The following exhortations of Blessed James Alberione to the Pious Disciples of the Divine Master, called for a special service to priests, gives insight into the charity to be rendered to his ministers and the reward that it brings (cf. Alle Pie Discepole 1961, 229 and Alle Pie Discepole 1947, 454).

 

See everything as God sees it, that is: the person who receives an apostle receives me, and “I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me to drink; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you cared for me; I was in prison and you consoled me, etc …”

 

If this applies to the least of those who seek to clothe, feed, etc. How much more so when we are dealing with a candidate for the priesthood, a priest who is active in ministry, a priest who needs the services of the Pious Disciples because he is elderly, ill … to the priest for whom we pray after his death. The Pious Disciple is deeply bond by this duty of charity: offer suffrages for the deceased priests.

 

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When Judgment Day comes, Jesus will tell you: “For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me; afflicted and you consoled me …”

 

You will answer: “Jesus, when did I do this?” And he will tell you: “All the times you did it to the Priest, you did it to me.”

 

My Mother was placed at my right, and because you imitated her and continued her duty, you will have a share of the same glory and reward.

    

 

C. Second Reading (Rom 6:3-4, 8-11): “Buried with Christ in baptism, we shall walk in the newness of life.”

 

The reading (Rom 6:3-4, 8-11) is a beautiful description of the Christian experience. Through baptism, the Christian is dead to sin and rises to new life in Christ. By being united to Christ through baptism, the believer participates in a total and definitive separation from the forces of evil and sin. Moreover, as the Risen Christ enjoys a new relationship with his Father, the baptized has a real share in the new way of life … in the new principle of vitality. By the power of Christ’s death and resurrection, the life of the baptized believer is “transformed”. Indeed, the power of Christ’s resurrection is already at work. How can the baptized deny this reality and return to a former sinful way of life?

 

The following book excerpt(cf. Giovanni Flabo, St. Monica: The Power of a Mother’s Love, Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2007, p. 99-100) gives insight into the transforming and vivifying baptismal experience of Saint Augustine.

 

Together with the assembly of the faithful, Monica followed the last phases of the catechumenate and the rites of preparation for the sacrament … Finally the great moment came for Augustine to descend into the regenerating waters and emerge as a new creature in the profession of the ture faith hehad once opposed. Now he was preparing to glorify and defend the faith with the depth of his mind and the holiness of his life.

 

His head was anointed with the holy chrism oil, signifying the royal priesthood that he had received by being incorporated into Christ, in his Mystical Body, which is the Church. Augustine then put on the white garment that would allow him to participate in the banquet of the Kingdom of heaven.

 

Monica would now be able for the first time to participate with him in the sacred mysteries, to draw near to the same table together with him to eat the same bread and drink the same wine. What else could life possibly hold in store. What more could she desire? The dream she had held onto over so many years – through penance, fasting and tears – had now come true before her very eyes.

 

The Lord had heard his faithful servant, and nothing remained for her now but holy rejoicing. The son to whom she had given birth amid the pains of labor, she had now brought to new birth – this time also amid suffering – to the life that does not pass away. This holy night – the night between April 24 and 25 of 387 – was Monica’s triumph.

 

 

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

 

Is our love for Christ absolute and non-negotiable? Do we value the love of Jesus more than any other love? Do we glean from the mystery of the cross the great lesson of self-surrender and self-conquest? How do we welcome the Christian disciples and God’s “little ones”?

 

 

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

(Cf. Commission Francophone Cistercienne, Tropaires des dimanches, 82 as cited in Days of the Lord, vol. 4, p.112-113.)

 

To lose one’s life in order to welcome Christ,

to deliver one’s self to Christ in order to meet the Father,

to find one’s self as a gift from God …

I shall follow you, Jesus; show me the way.

 

Whoever loves father or mother more than me

is not worthy of me.

I shall follow you, Jesus; show me the way.

 

Whoever refuses to take up the cross

is not worthy of me.

I shall follow you, Jesus; show me the way.

 

Whoever loses life because of me

will keep it.

I shall follow you, Jesus; show me the way.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” (Mt 10:38)

  

 

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

 

Pray for those who love Jesus above all things, for those who are ready to take up their own cross and lay down their life for the love of him. Pray for those whose love is feeble and faith weak. Open your hearts to welcome Christ in the “little ones” he is sending to visit you today. To appreciate more deeply the meaning of our Christian vocation, spend some quiet moments of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.

 

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June 29, 2020: MONDAY – SAINTS PETER AND PAUL

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Apostles Peter and Paul

Are the Pillars of the Church”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 12:1-11 // 2 Tm 4:6-8, 17-18 // Mt 16:13-19

 

 

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

 

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 (2 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, 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.

 

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June 30, 2020: TUESDAY – WEEKDAY (13); THE FIRST MARTYRS OF THE HOLY ROMAN CHURCH

N.B. In the Pauline Family, the Solemnity of Saint Paul the Apostle is celebrated.

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Masters the Raging Sea … He 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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 8:23-27): “Jesus rebuked the winds and the sea and there was great calm.”

 

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.”

 

The following personal account gives insight into what trust in the Lord and a miracle of faith mean (cf. Pam Kidd in Daily Guideposts 2010, p. 72).

 

We are on a bus driving through an off-road thicket, deep in a moonless landscape. There is no electricity for miles, and I can see nothing as I stare out the window into the darkness. The bus rumbles to a halt, and my husband David and I and our fellow passengers stumble toward a pontoon boat. Within minutes we’re anchored in the middle of a forbidding bay. “This is the strangest tourist attraction I’ve ever seen”, I whisper nervously to David.

 

Earlier, after we’d arrived on the Lake of Vieques for a special holiday, our taxi driver had said, “Put the Bioluminiscent Bay at the top of your agenda.” So here we are, listening to the pilot of the boat say, “To experience the miracle of the bay, you must jump into the water.”

 

No one moves.

 

This is ridiculous. The water is black as the night. We all wait.

 

Suddenly David stands up and jumps into the unknown. In the pool of darkness, his body takes on a bright glow. His every movement radiates a flowing blue-green light. Mesmerized, I jump in, and others follow. I wave my arms and make angel wings and then twirl and swirl in a trail of fairy dust. By now, everyone is laughing and splashing as our every move turns the night magical. The moment seems part fantasy, part science fiction as the energy of our bodies sets trillions of microorganisms aglow.

 

Later, back on the boat heading for the shore, I think of the fear that wrapped around us. There in a dark bay, magic was waiting – waiting for someone who believed enough to take a chance and jump in.

 

Father, take away my toe-first inclinations and fill me with a leaping faith.

   

 

B. First Reading (Am 3:1-8; 4:11-12): “The Lord God speaks – who will not prophesy!”

 

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.

 

 

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July 1, 2020: WEDNESDAY – WEEKDAY (13); SAINT JUNIPERO SERRA, Priest (USA)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Us to Fight the Spiritual Warfare … He Calls Us to True Worship

 

BIBLE READINGS

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

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 8:28-34): “Have you come here to torment us before the appointed time?”

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

 

In today’s Gospel (Mt 8:28-34) 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?

 

***

 

The following excerpt from “Deliverance and Healing Ministry: Battle Between Good and Evil”, an article by Fr. Mike Lastiri (cf. Central California Catholic Life, February 2015, p. 11) gives deeper insight into the meaning of today’s Gospel episode (Mt 8:28-34).

 

Demonic possessions of human persons have long been a part of tradition in the Jewish, Christian and Islamic religions. These, the largest and greatest of the world’s religions, have long held that demons have the power to overtake the will of a person, provided they are open and willing. Exorcisms are ritual actions used by the different religious tradition to exorcise demons from a person. The Gospels have many stories, i.e. Gerasene Demoniac (Mark 5:1-20; Matthew 8:28-34; Luke 8:26-39). Jesus has command over the demons, which causes fear in them, and even fear among those not possessed. In our Catholic tradition, the Rite of Exorcism has been utilized for centuries to expel demons. Bishops have authorized special priests that were especially trained to do exorcisms.

 

Recently, the Vatican’s Sacred Congregation of Divine Worship revised the Rite of Exorcism for use in the modern day. While the rite itself has changed little since the earlier rite used before Vatican II, the rite allows the bishops to choose diocesan priests to celebrate the exorcisms. The rite demands before anyone is considered possessed by a demon, that a full psychological evaluation is completed, and that medical professionals have rendered that they can do nothing more. The bishop is to be fully aware of every step of the process before the actual exorcism is ever authorized. As the Chief Shepherd of the local Church, representing Christ the High Priest, the role of the diocesan bishop is paramount in these matters. (…)

 

Should we live in fear? No. Most of us, if living a good life, regularly receiving the Sacraments, having a deep love of Jesus, and being people of prayer and charity, have nothing to fear. Demons are terrified of faithful Christians, Jews and Muslims. If one ever wonders about such things, remember that power of the name of Jesus! He is the ultimate enemy of Satan and his armies. His name is feared and cannot be touched. The name of Mary, our Blessed Mother, is also feared by the evil one.

 

 

B. First Reading (Am 5:14-15, 21-34): “Away with your noisy songs! Let justice surge like an unfailing stream.”

 

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 2, 2020: THURSDAY – WEEKDAY (13)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Has Power to Heal … He Is the True Prophet”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Am 7:10-17 // Mt 9:1-8

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 9:1-8): “They glorified God who had given such authority to men.”

(By Mario Domino, St. Christopher Parish, San Jose, CA-USA)

 

Matthew’s description of the healing of the paralytic is not as elaborate as Mark’s (2:1-12). Matthew was more intent on proving Jesus’ messianic fulfillment: the establishment of a new kingdom. In order to do that, Jesus proves that he has power and authority.

 

Matthew shows that Jesus cures not only physical ills but, most significantly, spiritual ills. First, he tells the paralytic that his sins are forgiven him. Then, showing he can discern people’s thoughts, he rebukes the scribes by telling the paralytic to take up his stretcher and walk.

 

In a very convincing manner, he shows us that just as he has the authority to forgive sins, he also has the power to cure physical ills.

 

From this reading, we should take solace in the restorative powers of Jesus. He can indeed alleviate our physical ills but, more importantly, he does forgive our sins

 

***

 

Jesus Christ is the “holistic healer” par excellence. In imitation of Christ, his disciples endeavor to heal broken lives through “holistic” ways as illustrated in the following account (cf. Gladys Gonzales, M.M., “Healing Broken Lives” in Maryknoll, July/August 2014, p. 24-28).

 

Much of Tanzania’s landscape is surrounded by large boulders, which entrepreneurs are removing to construct buildings. The process is leaving huge holes, like craters, rendering the land unusable, causing massive erosion, and pushing out wildlife, flora and fauna. Added to that is the plight of the women who labor to break the stones to construct the buildings. (…)

 

Many of the women have lung problems. Many are completely blind or have impaired vision caused by the stone chips, particles and dust covering not only their faces but their whole bodies as they work day after day under a blazing sun. They have no hope of ever leaving this work until their bodies completely give out. I am working to help them holistically, that is, restoring their whole being, body and spirit, to health.

 

During my 18 years as a missioner in Tanzania I have discovered the importance of holistic healing working not only with women’s groups but also youth groups and children with HIV … I came to understand that the whole person is involved in any activity. That is what is meant by holistic. So I moved from formal teaching to informal teaching and the art of holistic healing. I believe that through nurturing, listening and responding to the deeper wisdom of our whole being, we can heal ourselves and the world. (…)

 

As a Maryknoll Sister, I am committed to carry on our charism: “to be an active participant in the mission of God: a mission of peace, healing, wholeness and love.”

   

 

B. First Reading (Am 7:10-17): “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”

 

Rhoel Gallardo, a member of the Claretian missionary congregation, and Raul Ventigan, a member of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (CICM), a missionary congregation founded in Belgium, were my students at Maryhill School of Theology in Metro Manila, Philippines. After his ordination, Fr. Rhoel was sent to work in the predominantly Muslim-populated Basilan Island, in southern Philippines, where he died a martyr’s death. The notorious Abu Sayaf Islamic rebel group kidnapped and tortured him. Fr. Rhoel was ordered to rape the catechists who were captured with him. But he refused to obey their sadistic command. He defied their mockery and brutality by turning to God in prayer. They eventually shot him to death. Fr. Raul was a young medical doctor when he entered the seminary. As part of his missionary training, he worked for four years in Haiti. He then returned to the Philippines to finish the last year of his group’s theology program. After ordination, he was sent back to Haiti, his mission land. His medical expertise helped him greatly in his pastoral ministry to the poor and the sick. A few months after his return to Haiti, he succumbed to a health condition and was found dead on his bed. Fr. Rhoel and Fr. Raul - two young Filipino missionaries sent out by our Lord Jesus to minister to his people – exemplify God’s gift of missionary vocation to the Church and to the world.

 

The missionary and prophetic vocation is God’s initiative. The Old Testament reading (Am 7:12-15) reinforces the reality that an apostolic and prophetic vocation originates from God alone. Amos is a prophet through God’s personal intervention. A shepherd and a dresser of sycamore trees, the prophet Amos, from the village of Tekoa – some ten miles south of Jerusalem – in the southern kingdom of Judah, is called by God to prophesy in the more economically prosperous Israel, the northern kingdom of the Hebrew people, during the time of “the schism of Israel” in the eighth century B.C. The name “Amos” means “burden” and the name “Tekoa” probably means, “to sound the ram’s horn”. Carrying a burden of destruction, his prophetic message is sounded loud across the northern kingdom and reverberated long afterward in Jerusalem. Preaching at Bethel, the elite spiritual center of the northern kingdom, Amos causes intense disturbance and annoyance when he inveighs against the immorality, sacred prostitution, social injustice at the shrine and the detestable corruption of Israel’s political and religious institutions. The priest Amaziah of the Bethel temple, who sees him as a threat to the unity and integrity of the Israel kingdom, tries to evict him: “Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah! There earn your bread by prophesying, but never again prophesy in Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary and a royal temple.”

 

The response of Amos to the greatly outraged Amaziah gives us a glimpse of the vocation-mission of a prophet as one called directly by God and sent out to declare the divine message. Amos denies that he is a member of a band of prophets who earn their living by foretelling oracles or visions. He does not belong to a group of “professionals”, but is chosen from obscurity and commissioned by God himself for a special task. Summoned by God to speak, it is his absolute responsibility to declare the divine word that both summons and judges the people of Israel. Indeed, the coming of a prophet is a grace since it attests to a faithful and loving God who never abandons his own.

  

  

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

 

1. Do we turn to Jesus Lord and seek healing? Do we help our sick brothers and sisters to come to Jesus and be healed? Do we care for their spiritual-physical needs?

 

2. Do we believe that as Christian disciples immersed into the paschal destiny of Christ the prophet we too are prophets? How do we carry out our prophetic ministry?

 

 

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

 

Loving Jesus,

we turn to you and seek total healing.

Forgive us our sins

and heal our weary soul and broken spirit.

Let our ailing bodies be restored to health,

according to the Father’s compassionate will.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

***

Lord Jesus,

give us the grace to speak your word:

a word of life and truth

as well as a word of justice and judgment.

You word is living and active.

It strikes to the heart

and pierces more surely than a two edged sword.

Help us to be true prophets of your word.

We serve and glorify 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.

 

“Your sins are forgiven … Rise and walk.” (Mt 9:5) // “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.” (Am 7:15)

 

 

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

 

Pray for a sick person and, if possible, assist that person to have access to the sacraments of reconciliation and the anointing of the sick. // Pay particular attention to the word of God proclaimed in the liturgy and find concrete ways to introduce your family and friends to the bread of the Word offered in the Eucharist.

 

 

 

*** *** ***

 

July 3 26, 2020: FRIDAY – 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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 20:24-29): “My Lord and my God!”

(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 his commitment by boldly saying: "Let us also go to die with him." Indeed he followed the Lord and witnessed to his love for him 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.

 

 

B. First Reading (Eph 2:19-22): “You are part of the building built on the foundation of the apostles.”

 

Today’s First Reading (Eph 2:19-22) 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 the 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, 2020: SATURDAY – WEEKDAY (13); BVM ON SATURDAY

N.B. INDEPENDENCE DAY (USA)

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

 

BIBLE READINGS

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

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 9:14-17): “Can the wedding guests mourn a long as the bridegroom is with them?”

 

In the reading (Mt 9:14-17), 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 into 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.

   

 

B. First Reading (Am 9:11-15): “I will bring about the restoration of my people Israel. I will plant them upon their own ground.”

 

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

60 Sunset Ave., Staten Island, NY 10314

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

Website: WWW.PDDM.US

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