A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday and Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 12, n. 34)

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time & Weekday 16: July 20-26, 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: July 13-19, 2014, please go to ARCHIVES Series 12 and click on “15th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Weekday 15”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: July 20-26, 2014.)

 

***

 

July 20, 2014: SIXTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Sows the Good Seed of the Kingdom”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Wis 12:13, 16-19 // Rom 8:26-27 // Mt 13:24-43

 

 

I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS

 

This Sunday’s Gospel reading (Mt 13:24-43) contains three parables of the Kingdom: the parable of the weeds among the wheat (v. 24-30), the parable of the mustard seed (v. 31-32), and the parable of the leaven (v. 33). In using these parables, Jesus continues to reveal God’s ineffable ways and the astounding quality of the Kingdom of heaven, thus fulfilling the words of the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables. I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation of the world” (Mt 13:35, cf. Ps 78:2).

 

The parable of the weeds among the wheat is an agricultural image used by Jesus to explain the lack of universal acceptance of his preaching and to suggest to his disciples the proper attitude concerning the people’s mixed reception to his saving ministry. Jesus’ parable also sheds light on the mystery of good and evil in the world and in the Church of all times. Moreover, it gives an insight into the perplexing human question that is born from despair and frustration: “Has Christianity failed?”

 

The biblical scholar, Eugene Maly comments: “When we realize that it was almost two thousand years ago that Jesus Christ, through his death and resurrection, redeemed the world, we might wonder what the redemption meant. War, crime, poverty, disease, and disasters continue to plague the human race. Where is the Kingdom of God that Jesus preached? Many responses have been offered. Perhaps the most quoted is that of G.K Chesterton, who said that Christianity has not failed; it just has never been tried. He meant that if enough people lived the Gospel message in its fullness, the difference would be for all to see … Still others say that no matter how powerful, how revolutionary, how radical the message of Christianity is, it will never force the human heart. God wants freedom above all, and that means freedom even to reject his greatest offer of freedom, the freedom of the children of God. If everyone were forced by God’s grace to be another Mother Teresa of Calcutta, there would soon be no one to whom a free and authentic Mother Teresa could minister. The Gospel reading also tells us something about the question … The Kingdom works in a mysterious way, in a way that the human mind cannot comprehend.”

  

The parable of the weeds among the wheat exhibits a more interesting nuance seen in the light of the parable of the mustard seed and the parable of the leaven, which depict the dynamic energy of the Kingdom and point to its grandiose fulfillment. Daniel Harrington underlines the Christ-centered aspect of the Reign of God: “The activity of God in the ministry of Jesus seems as a small mustard seed or as a little yeast, but its result in the fullness of God’s rule will be very great. These comparisons suggest that in Jesus’ preaching, the Kingdom already has a present dimension and that the process moving toward its fullness has in some way been inaugurated.”

 

The conclusion of today’s Gospel reading has an eschatological perspective. To the disciples’ request for an explanation of the parable of the weeds among the wheat, Jesus responds with a catalogue of equivalences that serves to decode the parable. Jesus then shifts the focus from patient tolerance in the present situation of good and evil to the spectacular event of the “final” harvest. Indeed, the Kingdom of God that has been sown and has worked as a good leaven to bring about the people’s transformation entails “judgment”, which cannot be ignored. The compassionate God who tolerates the presence of the weeds in his field will sift the evil ones from the good in the day of the final reaping and eternal judgment.

 

The personal reflection on today’s Gospel by Leland Ronquillo, a Pauline Cooperator – Friend of the Divine Master, is insightful.

  

Every day we are thrust into temptations. Sometimes, it is difficult to see evil because it can present itself in such complex or beautiful forms. There are too many stimuli around us today via television and the Internet that one gets drawn to the “attractive”, the “interesting” and the pleasurable. We have to distinguish the “weeds” among these. It is an everyday struggle to focus on the path of righteousness or to stay on the side of good. It can be a friend who invites you to take drugs. It can be a woman who flirts with your husband, or your husband who keeps a mistress. It can be the people who want to tear down a government for greed or the officials who cling to government posts to enrich themselves. It can be inside us when we choose to harm, or hurt, or steal, or cheat. Just as “weeds” are around us, so are they also within us, intertwined with our thoughts and influencing our behavior. We have to remain with the Lord and keep him in us to keep the “weeds” from choking the good plant.

 

I met a sixteen-year old boy in a hospital. He began to have kidney disease when he was four years old. He was in and out of hospitals so often that he never had a chance to go to school. He suffered from complications and was bed-ridden when he was twelve years old. He had infections and bedsores. And yet, in the hospital, this boy was calm and friendly. He exuded a warm, kind heart. He kept his faith strong despite his painful physical condition. The hospital staff was struck by this, including his calmness and humility, a strong contrast to the other sick people who griped and complained. He has an impact on people’s hearts. He is a mustard seed that grows to be a great, welcoming tree! People find solace in his branches!

 

***

 

This Sunday’s Old Testament reading (Wis 12:13, 16-19) underlines that God shows his strength more by leniency than by punishment. His power is infinite and his loving concern for all his creation is boundless. Moreover, his justice is unimpeachable and above suspicion. The liturgical scholar Adrian Nocent comments: “History is a long succession of merciful acts on the part of the Lord who is Israel’s leader. God’s righteousness as manifested in history proves to be different from the righteousness of men or the righteousness of the law. God is concerned about everything, and he thus makes it clear that when he judges, he judges with full knowledge of every case. His righteousness has its origins in his power, and his sovereignty over all things makes him patient with all. He has plenty of time at his disposal. Man, because his power is limited, represses those who oppose him. God alone, because he created everything and holds sway over all, can be patient and can judge mercifully.”

 

The following ministry of the Maryknoll priest, Fr. Joseph Fedora, to the marginalized gives insight into the all-inclusive love of a loving, merciful and patient God (cf. Barbara Fraser, “With Jesus on the Margins” in Maryknoll, May/June 2014, p. 10-15).

 

In a low-ceilinged room of two-tone gray, Maryknoll Father Joseph Fedora spreads his arms and invites Mass-goers to offer their petitions to God. There are prayers for health, for family, and then one man says, “I pray to God for freedom. I’ve been here for six years and have nine to go.”

 

At Communion time, a few men approach the table that serves as an altar. But at the end of the liturgy, when Father Fedora offers to administer the sacrament of the sick, a line forms. The men who extend their hands reverently for the blessing are doubly stigmatized. Besides being prisoners in the overcrowded penitentiary known as Lurigancho, in a dusty corner of Lima, Peru’s sprawling capital, they have HIV and live in the prison’s infirmary.

 

“People on the margin, people who have been discriminated against, people suffering not only from physical ailments, but from poverty and mental ailments, have a lot to teach us”, Father Fedora says. (…)

 

His ministry is spiritual and physical. On his monthly visit to the prison infirmary, he celebrates Mass with the HIV-positive prisoners, then shares a meal with them. (…)

 

Each has a story, and Father Fedora remembers them. The souls of his ministry, he says, is “being at the bedside, being present at moments of crisis, being a healing presence, the healing presence of Jesus. My hope is that my attentiveness is a reflection of Jesus for them.”

 

***

 

Today’s Second Reading (Rom 8:26-27), which is a lesson on prayer, teaches us that the intercession of the Spirit is the font of strength. In a distressing world that challenges our limits, the Spirit of Jesus comes to help us in our weakness. He pleads to God on our behalf. In the face of trials and adversity, the Church in prayer – animated by the Spirit – mirrors the divine power and patience that overcome evil.

 

Mary Ehle comments: “When our hope is not enough, the Spirit helps us wait patiently for that new day when our sufferings will be replaced by the glory of the Resurrection. Paul’s lesson on prayer not only teaches us that the Spirit intercedes for us, but how the Spirit does so. The communion of the Spirit with God – the one who searches hearts – is so deep that God knows the intercessions of the Spirit even before he intercedes for us. The Spirit’s intercession follows God’s plan of salvation … The Spirit draws us into communion with God because the Spirit himself longs with us for that day when we will know the redemption of our bodies and everything will be accomplished according to God’s will for those of us who are his holy ones.”

 

The ministry of prayer – by the power of the Holy Spirit – is an efficacious way of overcoming adversity and triumphing over sinful situations. The following inspiring story is proof (cf. Mike Cassidy, “Valley’s Jobless: Hear Our Prayer” in San Jose Mercury News, October 5, 2010, p. 1, 5).

 

At a time when thousands in Silicon Valley are spending months or years looking for work, there are plenty among the unemployed who feel like they don’t have a prayer. And then there are those who gather each week in a small room in a converted industrial building just off the freeway in Mountain View. For them, it’s only a slight exaggeration to say that they feel like maybe a prayer is the only thing they do have.

 

“We believe that God has a plan”, says Geraldine Hill, who leads a small prayer group for the unemployed at the Abundant Life Fellowship church. Good and bad happen for a reason, she tells those looking for work and salvation simultaneously. “We push that”, she tells me. “Sometimes they hear it and sometimes they don’t.”

 

Hill, whose title is director of prayer and visitation, oversees the mega-church’s weekly Prayer Works meetings. It’s a group for the downsized and the outsourced, for the weary and the wary, for those who devoutly power their job search with a higher power that has nothing to do with Monster, LinkedIn or Career-Builder.

 

“For me, this has been the best time of my life”, says Marvin Ewing, a veteran of the first Gulf War, who joined the group after he was laid off from his telecommunications job early in 2009. “I’m closer to God. My prayer life has increased.” And his job prospects? “I know that I’m going to get a job”, Ewing says. “That’s going to come.”

 

His is the kind of faith that is rarely at the forefront of the conversation in Silicon Valley. This is a place about commerce and invention. It’s a place that puts its faith in science, technology and measurable results. Everything else is slightly suspect.

 

But it’s a mistake to look at unemployment as only a statistic. Layoffs and unemployment do broad damage. Sure, they drain bank accounts. But they also cause the stress that shatters relationships and inspires the despair that tests the faith of even the most faithful – whether that trust is placed in God, the market economy or one’s self.

 

Some turn to social mixers or professional networking events to replenish their sense of significance. Some turn to God and to those who believe as they do.

 

Last week, about a dozen people sat in a circle of chairs in one room in the vast building that serves as Abundant Life’s worship hall. They were a sampling of the misery that the downturn has delivered: Ray Guzman, a 63-year-old trucking dispatcher who was laid off two years ago; Alfred Kennedy, who’s worked some, but mostly looked for work for the past nine years; Tony Waller, who is praying to find forgiveness for the employer that dumped him; Tina Beauchamp, who is intent on leaving her old career behind and starting anew.

 

Each came with a prayer request and each prayed for the others in the room. Hill offered quiet amens and thank-yous as the prayers went around the circle. She is a woman with the soft eyes of a grandmother and the resolve of a drill sergeant. She tells the group that PrayerWorks, which started during the downturn following 9/11, will always be there for them. But it’s not as simple as that.

 

“You will get a job”, she says. “God said to Adam and Eve, ‘You gotta get out of here. No more free lunches. You have to work’.” Hill expounds on the point outside the meeting. PrayerWorks is strictly a “God helps those who help themselves” operation. There is no magic potion. This isn’t some sort of Hail Mary pass for the jobless. “You have to do your part”, she says of job seekers. “God doesn’t have a problem doing his part.”

 

And so she passes around printouts of various job openings during the prayer meetings. Participants trade news of opportunities they’ve heard about. She invites guest speakers to talk about resumes and interviewing techniques. And she asks alumni who have found jobs to come back and offer encouragement. Alumni like Jackie Ellison, who was laid off in 2008, when her payroll manager job was outsourced.

 

Ellison searched for work for months. (“I did have to say at one point, ‘God, are you still there?’”) And then, about a year ago, she landed a similar job at a similar salary. It turns out Ellison’s former supervisor knew the hiring manager and put in a word for her. “Maybe it was a little guilt”, says Ellison, of San Jose. “Maybe it was God tapping her on the shoulder.”

 

And maybe what it was depends on whether you’re one who believes you don’t have a prayer or one who believes a prayer is all you have.

 

 

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

 

1. What is our attitude to the presence of good and evil in this world? Do we imitate the patient and benevolent tolerance of God who graciously provides opportunities for healing and conversion to all? Do we accept our humble beginning as a mustard seed and look forward to our grandiose destiny in the fullness of that Kingdom? How do we utilize the power of God given to us believers that we may be a leaven of transformation in today’s society? How does the reality of the eschatological harvest and final judgment impinge upon our feelings, thoughts and actions in daily life? Are we ready to be reaped as God’s wheat and gathered into his barn?

 

2. What image of God is presented in today’s Old Testament reading? Why is his care and judgment beyond reproach? How does he deal with his children who had sinned?

 

3. Do you believe in the power of the Holy Spirit at work in you and interceding for the completion of the divine saving plan? Do you look upon St. Paul and learn from him the way to respond to the patient justice of God and to the animating power of the Holy Spirit?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

your judgment is beyond reproach.

You are patient and treat us with great compassion.

In the great field of human history,

you allow the good and the bad to co-exist momentarily.

You temper justice with kindness

and offer us the gift of conversion.

As we gaze onward

to the future reaping of the good wheat at the end time,

we believe in the ultimate victory of the good over evil.

Thank you for the grace of forgiveness

and the chance to grow in your love.

When the final reaping comes,

may we become a part of the fruitful harvest of the Spirit

and be gathered together

into your eternal kingdom of love, justice and peace.

We glorify you, Father,

in Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit,

now and forever.

Amen.

  

 

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

 

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

 

“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field.” (Mt 13:24)

 

  

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

 

Pray for those who are overwhelmed by the existence of evil in this world and are crushed by their afflictions. Pray for the grace of comfort and conversion needed by those who are on death row. Continue to sow and nurture the good seed of the Gospel by your life of holiness, service and dedication.

 

***

 

July 21, 2014: MONDAY – WEEKDAY (16); SAINT LAWRENCE OF BRINDISI, priest, doctor of the Church

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Gives the Sign of Jonah”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Mi 6:1-4, 6-8 // Mt 12:38-42

 

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

 

The scribes and Pharisees demand to see a “sign” from Jesus – a flashy miracle that will convince them he is truly the Messiah. The “sign” they want is one that fits their notion of a triumphant political Son of David. Jesus has given enough signs in his public ministry, both in word and deed. But their prejudice prevents them from recognizing Jesus as the Messiah. He obliges by giving them the ultimate sign: Jonah in the belly of the whale three days and three nights. The mind-baffling “sign of Jonah” refers to the paschal event of his death and resurrection. Failure to accept this sign is unfortunate and merits condemnation. The people of Nineveh, who responded with repentance to Jonah’s proclamation, and the Queen of the South, who yearned to hear the wisdom of Solomon, stand in sharp contrast to their unbelief. Indeed, Jesus is “something greater” than Jonah or Solomon. More than Jonah who preaches repentance, Jesus is our peace and reconciliation. More than Solomon and his wisdom, Jesus is the incarnate wisdom of God. He is the fullness of truth - the absolute revelation of the heavenly Father’s love.

 

Jesus continues to offer the “sign of Jonah”, and those who are sensitive to grace can perceive it. The paschal sign of his death and resurrection enfolds us. We are called to an intimate participation in it. The following story circulated on the Internet gives insight into this.

 

A sick man turned to his doctor as he was preparing to leave the examination room and said, “Doctor, I am afraid to die. Tell me what lies on the other side.” Very quietly the doctor said, “I don’t know.” “You don’t know? You’re a Christian man and don’t know what’s on the other side?” The doctor was holding the handle of the door. On the other side came a sound of scratching and whining. And as he opened the door, a dog sprang into the room and leaped on him with an eager show of gladness. Turning to the patient, the doctor said “Did you notice my dog? He’s never been in this room before. He didn’t know what was inside. He knew nothing except that his master was here. And when the door opened, he sprang in without fear. I know little of what is on the other side of death. But I do know one thing … I know my Master is there and that is enough.”

 

***

 

One of the most touching songs that I learned to sing when I entered the convent is the “Reproaches”, sung at the veneration of the Cross during the celebration of the Lord’s passion on Good Friday. Composed by the Benedictine Fathers of the Abbey of Our Lady of Montserrat in Manila, the music, which has an indigenous tone, is haunting. The refrain of the song is incisive: “My people, what have I done to you or in what have I grieved you. Answer me.” This refrain is taken from the prophet Micah and we hear it proclaimed in today’s Old Testament reading.

 

Today’s reading (Mi 6:1-4, 6-8) begins with a summons. The Lord invites the mountains and hills, and the foundations of the earth to witness the case he raises against Israel. In the indictment we glimpse God’s personal agony over Israel’s apostasy. The Lord reproaches his people and challenges them to answer in what way God has wronged them. God continues his reproach by enumerating the mighty saving acts he carried out on Israel’s behalf: from the Exodus to the conquest of the Promised Land.

 

Israel, the defendant, is culpable and does not refute the accusation. Feeling guilty, the people ask God what they can do to appease him: burnt offerings, peace offerings, or even human sacrifice. But God rejects their empty ritual sacrifices and reiterates what the Lord requires of them: “to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with God”. Indeed, the culpable people are required to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with God.

 

 

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

 

1. What is our response to the “sign of Jonah” that Jesus continues to offer us in our daily life?

 

2. Do we give heed to God’s exhortation: “to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with God”?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus Christ,

we thank you for the paschal “sign of Jonah”.

Please give us the grace to respond in faith

to this “mystery” and revelation of love.

Teach us to make a quest for you,

the eternal wisdom that leads to eternal life.

Loving Lord, help us to do what is required of us:

“to do the right and to love goodness,

and to walk humbly with God”.

We love you and praise you,

now and forever.

Amen.

  

 

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

           

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

 

“No sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.” (Mt 12:39) // “Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Mi 6:8)

 

 

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

 

Be receptive to the “sign of Jonah” that surrounds us in daily life. By consciously participating in the paschal sacrifice of Christ, let the people around you realize that the “sign of Jonah” is a sign of salvation. Every day make an effort to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with God.

 

  

***

 

July 22, 2014: TUESDAY – SAINT MARY MAGDALENE

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Makes Us Messengers of His Resurrection and God’s Merciful Love”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Mi 7:14-15, 18-20 // Jn 20:1-2, 11-18

 

 

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

 

Today we celebrate the memorial of Saint Mary Magdalene. The Gospel reading (Jn 20:1-2, 11-18) presents her as the first witness of the resurrection and as the first one commissioned by Jesus to proclaim the Easter message to his disciples. Mary Magdalene, who ministered to Jesus in his public ministry and stood by him at his crucifixion, is now depicted as weeping by the tomb and seeking for the dead body of Jesus whom she thought had been taken away. She fails to recognize the Risen Lord who appears to her, but like one of his sheep, she recognizes him when she hears him calling her name. Mary clings to him, but Jesus makes her understand that he must not be hindered from completing the full extent of his glorification. The Risen Lord assures her that from now on he and his disciples are inseparable. Through his glorification, they have become children of the one Father and God, begotten by his own blood, shed on the cross. Jesus commissions her to bear the good news of the Easter event – though she is a woman. Mary Magdalene, therefore, has the honor of being the “apostle to the apostles”.

 

In his apostolic letter, Mulieris Dignitatem (“On the Dignity and Vocation of Women”), Saint John Paul II wrote: “The Gospel of John also emphasizes the special role of Mary Magdalene. She is the first to meet the Risen Christ … Hence she came to be called the apostle to the apostles. Mary Magdalene was the first eyewitness of the Risen Christ and for this reason she was also the first to bear witness to him before the apostles. This event, in a sense, crowns all that has been said previously about Christ entrusting divine truths to women as well as men.” Indeed, Mary Magdalene becomes a significant part of the “new creation” that springs forth in the Easter morn. The glorification of Christ ushers in a “Christological creation” in which there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, between slaves and free men, between men and women (cf. Gal 3:28).

 

Tradition and fancy have developed regarding the ministry of Mary Magdalene, a privileged witness of Christ’s resurrection. The following Wikipedia article, circulated on the Internet, gives an example.

For centuries, it has been the custom of many Christians to share dyed and painted eggs, particularly on Easter Sunday. The eggs represent new life, and Christ bursting forth from the tomb. Among Eastern Orthodox Christians this sharing is accompanied by the proclamation "Christ is risen!”

One tradition concerning Mary Magdalene says that, following the death and resurrection of Jesus, she used her position to gain an invitation to a banquet given by the Roman Emperor Tiberius. When she met him, she held a plain egg in her hand and exclaimed, "Christ is risen!" The Emperor laughed, and said that Christ rising from the dead was as likely as the egg in her hand turning red while she held it. Before he finished speaking, the egg in her hand turned a bright red, and she continued proclaiming the Gospel to the entire imperial house.

Another version of this story can be found in popular belief, mostly in Greece. It is believed that after the Crucifixion, Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary put a basket full of eggs at the foot of the cross. There, the eggs were painted red by the blood of the Christ. Then, Mary Magdalene brought them to Tiberius Caesar.

***

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Mi 7:14-15, 18-20) contains a prayer to God for the restoration of the good old days. The Lord is invoked to shepherd his chosen people in the fertile land of Carmel and to feed them in the rich pastures of Bashan and Gilead. They plead: “Work miracles for us, Lord, as you did in the days when you brought us out of Egypt.” To reinforce their prayer, the people declare God’s incomparable mercy and steadfast love. The emphasis on God’s incomparability is Micah’s signature: “Who is like Yahweh?” (mi-ka-yahu). Indeed, God’s loving mercy is unique and his constant love unsurpassable. The chastised people thus pray: “You will be merciful to us once again. You will trample our sins underfoot and send them to the bottom of the sea.” Recalling the covenant promise, the people trust that the Lord who has pledged his “faithfulness” (emet) and “grace” (hesed) to the Israel of old will not revoke them.

 

God’s forgiving love which has been lavishly bestowed upon us needs to be shared and “given” (cf. Corrie ten Boom, “Love Your Enemy” in Chicken Soup for Christian Soul, ed. Jack Canfield, et. al., Deerfield Beach: Health Communications, Inc., 1997, p. 2-5).

 

It was in a church in Munich that I saw him – a balding, heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken, moving along the rows of wooden chairs to the door at the rear. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives.

 

It was the truth they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and I gave them my favorite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind, I liked to think that that’s where forgiven sins were thrown. “When we confess our sins”, I said, “God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. And even though I cannot find a scripture for it, I believe God then places a sign out there that says, ‘NO FISHING ALLOWED’.”

 

The solemn faces stared back at me, not quite daring to believe. There were never questions after a talk in Germany in 1947. People stood up in silence, in silence collected their wraps, in silence left the room.

 

And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights; the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor; the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!

 

The place was Ravensbruck and the man who was making his way forward had been a guard – one of the most cruel guards. Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: “A fine message, Fraulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!”

 

And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course – how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women? But I remember him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. I was face-to-face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.

 

“You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk”, he was saying. “I was a guard there.” No, he did not remember me. “But since that time”, he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein” – again the hand came out – “will you forgive me?”

 

And I stood there – I whose sins had again and again needed to be forgiven – and I could not forgive. (…)  And I still stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion – I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. Jesus, help me! I prayed silently. I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.

 

And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm and sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

 

“I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart.”

 

 

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

 

1. Like Mary Magdalene are we willing to stand by the cross of Christ and at the tomb of his resurrection? Are we willing to proclaim the joyful news of his resurrection?

 

2. Do we believe that God will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins? Are we willing to share his forgiving love with other?

 

 

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

(Cf. Opening Prayer, Mass: Memorial of Saint Mary Magdalene) 

 

Father,

your Son first entrusted to Mary Magdalene

the joyful news of his resurrection.

By her prayers and example

may we proclaim Christ as our living Lord

and one day see him in glory,

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.

 

“Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’.” (Jn 20:18) // “You will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins.” (Mi 7:19)

 

 

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

 

Pray for persons who have hurt you, and whom you find difficult to forgive. Make an effort to bring God’s forgiving love and the good news of Christ’s resurrection to them.

 

***

 

July 23, 2014: WEDNESDAY – WEEKDAY (16); SAINT BRIDGET OF SWEDEN, religious

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Sows the Seed of God’s Word and Appoints Us Prophets to the Nations”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jer 1:1, 4-10 // Mt 13:1-9

 

 

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

 

In today’s Gospel reading (Mt 13:1-23), the impressive image of the fruitful seed that yields a hundredfold underlines the mighty power of God’s saving plan. The Word of God, prefigured in the “seed” sown liberally by the sower, is Jesus Christ whose favorable saving action on our behalf is total and efficacious. The fruitfulness of the seed of the Word, however, involves not only the graciousness of the divine initiative but also the receptivity and personal response of the recipient.

 

The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 4, comment: “The word attests to God’s faithfulness, long patience, and assiduous labor for the unfolding of salvation offered to all humankind. This word comes from God, who created human beings free, and who made with them a covenant of love. Efficacious, indescribably fecund, this word demands from human beings a willing response made of openness, conversion, and ever- renewed trust in him who speaks it … Thanks to the generous manner in which it is sown, we see the extraordinary fecundity of a single seed encountering a bit of good soil; it gives fruit a hundred or sixty or thirty fold. Are these different yields due to chance or luck? Absolutely not, for it is in the human heart that the word is sown … If the word is not fruitful, it is due to the listeners’ poor disposition. The urgent appeal to each one’s responsibility must be welcomed with immense hope.”

 

The following gives insight into the dynamics of the sowing of the Word and the reaping of a fruitful harvest (cf. Harold Hostetler‘s April 15 Reflection in DAILY GUIDEPOSTS 2010, p. 120).

 

When I was a boy getting ready for school each morning, I often found my mother sitting at the kitchen table, reading her Bible. After seeing my father off to work in a Pennsylvania coal mine, she turned to the Good Book before making breakfast for her three children. I can still visualize her bowing her head over her well-worn King James Bible, eyes closed, chin resting on a half-clenched hand, probably praying for each of us.

 

It took twenty years from the time I left home before I gave my heart to Jesus, but when I did, the first thing I wanted to do was read the Bible. In nearly four decades since that eye-opening moment I’ve read God’s Word from cover to cover almost every year, in more than a dozen different translations. My favorite is the New International Version, maybe because I spent a year working for the International Bible Society during the time it was producing the NIV Study Bible and I was able to contribute some thoughts for its footnotes.

 

And today, as I finish yet another reading of Psalm 119, I can’t help but remember one of the reasons I feel do drawn to the Good Book.

 

Thanks, Mom.

 

***

 

We start today the semi-continuous reading of the book of Jeremiah. The prophet Jeremiah prophesied from 626 B.C., during the time of King Josiah of Judah, until the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. and the Babylonian exile. During his ministry he warned of the disaster that would come upon God’s people because of their idolatry and sin. But he also foretold the eventual return of the people from exile and the restoration of the nation. Jeremiah was a sensitive man who deeply loved his people and, therefore, hated pronouncing judgment against them. But the word of the Lord was like a fire in his heart that could not be contained. He had no choice but to speak the word of God – whether for judgment or for consolation.

 

Today’s reading (Jer 1:1, 4-10) narrates the call of Jeremiah, destined from birth to be God’s prophet. That God “knows”, “dedicates” and “appoints” Jeremiah to be a “prophet to the nations” indicates that Jeremiah has a role to play not only in the history of Israel, but also in the history of the gentile nations as well. Aware of the difficulties of the prophetic office and attempting to escape the commission, Jeremiah declares that he does not know how to speak; he is too young. God overrides his objection and assures him of his help and presence. God then touches Jeremiah’s mouth to show that the prophet’s word is truly the word of God. Jeremiah is called “to root up and to tear down … to build and to plant”, that is, he will be an instrument of God’s judgment as well as consolation.

 

The following modern-day story becomes more meaningful against the backdrop of young Jeremiah’s call to serve God’s saving plan (cf. Paula Ciniwas, “The Baby Who Would Not Die” (as told to Rob Staples) in Amazing Grace for Survivors, ed. Jeff Cavins, West Chester: Ascension Press, 2008, p. 216-217).

 

In my hometown of Sighisoara. Romania, lives a woman named Magdalena … When Magdalena became pregnant with her fourth child, a fierce battle erupted in the extended family. The grandparents and other family members wanted the child to be aborted because there was no enough money coming in to feed and clothe the children they already had. Magdalena’s mother-in-law said, “She had no skills to enable her to earn income; all she can do is to have babies.” Magdalena desperately wanted to keep the child, but finally, with deep sorrow, she relented to keep peace in the family. (…)

 

On the table, during the procedure, she lost a lot of blood and fainted. The unskilled abortionist became frightened and ran away for fear she would go to prison if caught. Magdalena’s friend came into the room and took her to a hospital and to a doctor who knew the family. Learning that no one in the extended family wanted the child and that Magdalena had agreed to an abortion to keep peace, he agreed to do it in spite of his fear of what might happen if anyone found out. He tried different procedures, including shots, to make the baby come.

 

After two days in the hospital, Magdalena became very weak. Finally, the doctor said to her, “This baby will not die; she wants to live.” But because he did not know what the abortionist had done, he told her the baby might be physically handicapped, with no fingers or toes or possibly missing an arm or leg, and it might be mentally retarded.

 

The family decided to keep the baby.

 

A faithful member of the Orthodox Church, Magdalena believed in God. She made a covenant with God that if he let the baby be born healthy, she would give the child back to him to use in any way he chose. The tiny girl, born a month prematurely and weighing little more than four pounds, was kept in an incubator for two weeks. But as she grew, she was obviously quite normal. (…)

 

The girl is now twenty years old. Magdalene had named her little girl Paula. I am that Paula. Magdalena is my mother. I am now a student preparing for a life of Christian service.

 

 

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

 

1. Are we thankful for the goodness and generosity of Jesus the Sower, who casts the seed of the Kingdom everywhere and brings the Good News to all?  Do we endeavor to be the rich, welcoming soil that will make the seed of the Kingdom grow and bear abundant fruit?

 

2. Do we thank the Lord for the beauty of our Christian vocation?  Do we realize that we too have been chosen by Christ to be prophets to the nations?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you have sown the seed of the living Word.

Let it find a fertile ground.

You have called us to broadcast the saving Word.

We trust in the power of your Word.

Let the sown seed produce a hundred-fold.

Make us faithful prophets

and servants of the Word.

You live and reign,

forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“Some seed fell on rich soil.” (Mt 13:8) // “A prophet to the nations, I appointed you.” (Jer 1:5)

 

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

 

To help appreciate more deeply the generous kindness of Jesus, the Sower of God’s Kingdom, make an effort to spend some moments of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.

 

***

 

July 24, 2014: THURSDAY – WEEKDAY (16); SAINT SHARBEL MAKHLUF, priest

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Speaks in Parables and Teaches Us to Choose the Source of Living Waters”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jer 2:1-13 // Mt 13:10-17

 

 

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

 

Jesus uses stories to communicate the kingdom values. He speaks to people in parables to reveal the mysteries of the reign of God. The Gospel message demands a positive response and necessitates openness of heart. The parables and stories are meant to be meditated upon and “interiorized”. Teaching in parables is a compassionate act of the Divine Master to reach out to those in need of salvation. The simple and childlike are able to glean the life-giving wisdom of Jesus’ parables. Those who have deliberately closed their heart to Jesus are untouched by the power of the parables. Since their heart is gross, they look but do not see; they hear but do not understand. They are oblivious to the saving message and are not moved to conversion and transformation. Their lack of understanding results from their prejudice that Jesus does not meet the criteria of the Messiah.

The following story illustrates that to glean the life-giving meaning of stories and parables, the heart must be at work (cf. Anthony de Mello, The Song of the Bird, New York: Image Books, 1984, p. 1).

 

A disciple once complained, “You tell us stories, but you never reveal the meaning to us.”

 

Said the master, “How would you like it if someone offered you fruit and masticated it before giving it to you?”

 

No one can find the meaning for you. Not even the master.

 

***

 

In today’s Old Testament reading (Jer 2:1-3, 7-8, 12-13), Jeremiah begins his ministry as a prophet. The Lord God asks him to proclaim to Israel a message of accusation, which becomes poignant against the background of God’s care for his people: “Israel, you belonged to me alone; you were my sacred possession. I sent suffering and disaster on everyone who hurt you.” God has brought them into a fertile land to enjoy its harvests and riches, but the chosen people are ungrateful. They have forgotten the great things God did for them from the Exodus to the conquest of the Promised Land. God thus accuses them of a twofold crime: they have abandoned God and have worshipped useless idols. They have turned away from God, “the source of living waters” and dug themselves “cisterns, broken cisterns that hold no water”. Infidelity and idolatry are Israel’s detestable crimes against the true God of Israel. It is shocking that Israel chooses the “broken cisterns” of death-dealing idolatry and rejects God, the font of eternal life.

 

The following article gives insight into the pathos of being forsaken (cf. Dr. Ray Guarendi, “I Failed Parenthood” in Catholic Digest, June/July/August 2014, p. 13-15).

 

Recently a mother of three children, ages 28, 23, and 15, told me that her oldest child has left the Church. The middle is lukewarm about religion, and the jury is still out on the youngest. She said that she and her husband tried hard to teach and live the Faith, but they both feel like failures. (…)

 

Young adults are moving away from the Church in swelling numbers. The soul-misshaping forces of our secular society – media, television, movies, music, celebrities, academics, advertising – are everywhere and relentless. Even when homes try to lock the ugliness out, it can seep in like a vapor and form the way someone inside thinks, feels, and believes – often quite counter to what the home is teaching.

 

Of course, not all young people are so influenced. God’s grace, one’s free will and personality, circumstances – all interact to help a child hold tight to the Faith. Nonetheless, many fine parents are feeling: at the least, a profound disappointment, but more often failure at not passing on to their offspring a sense of God and his presence. (…)

 

Many, if not most, parents did little or nothing “wrong”. They imparted the Faith as best they knew. Not having God’s omniscience, they lived and taught as limited humans. (…)

 

At parent presentations, I often ask the audience to answer a series of questions with a simple “yes” or “no”. Is there s God? Yes. Was Christ God? Yes. Could he perform miracles? Yes. Did he have a perfect understanding of human nature? Yes. Slowly and deliberately, I then ask: Could he get most people to follow him? At this, a pensive silence drifts through the group before it answers: No. My last question: “If the God-man himself didn’t convert most, why do we think we can do better?” (…)

 

He told you to raise them in the Faith, and you have done so. Now it is their life and their free choice to believe. To repeat Mother Teresa, God asks us to be faithful, not successful.

 

Though you have no assurance that all your devoted years will add up to a religious young adult, you do have other assurances. One, the more faithful a parent, the more likely the kids will follow. And two, of those who leave or outright reject the Faith, some will one day return, often more believing than ever. They were given truth to return to.

 

For now, you may have given yourself a D-, but the semester is far from over.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we make a personal effort to deepen our faith by prayerful reflection on the word of God?  Do we continue to value the life-giving meaning of Jesus’ parables?

 

2. Do we prefer the “source of living waters” or do we choose to dig ourselves “cisterns, broken cisterns that hold no water”?

 

 

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

 

Jesus Lord,

you spoke in parables

to reveal to us the mysteries of the kingdom

and to manifest the state of our heart.

Help us to be receptive to your word.

Give us the grace and wisdom we need

to delve into the meaning of your parables.

Let your life-giving message transform us.

Help us to prefer the “source of living waters”

and never choose to dig ourselves

“cisterns, broken cisterns that hold no water”

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.

 

“Knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you.” (Mt 13:11) // “They have forsaken me, the source of living waters.” (Jer 2: 13)

 

 

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

 

Pay particular attention to Jesus’ parables, especially when they are proclaimed in the liturgical assembly. Make a special effort to glean their message for you and the community. Learn to savor and tell stories. Be deeply aware that the liturgy is the “font and summit” of Christian life and make special effort to participate consciously, actively and fruitfully in the Church’s liturgy.

 

***

 

July 25, 2014: FRIDAY – SAINT JAMES, APOSTLE

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Apostles Share in His Passion and Are the Earthen Vessels of His Grace”

 

BIBLE READINGS

II Cor 4:7-15 // Mt 20:20-28

 

 

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

 

The meaning of today’s Gospel account can be understood if we consider the prophecy of the passion that precedes it (cf. Mk 20:12-19). The request of James and John to sit at Jesus’ right and left in glory is totally inappropriate in the context of the prediction regarding his imminent passion as the Suffering Servant. The Divine Master responds to their obtuseness by challenging them: “Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?” (Mt 20:22). Since the image of the cup is a symbol of his forthcoming passion and death, we can deduce that Jesus is inviting them to participate in his paschal destiny. Indeed, discipleship is an intimate sharing in his role as the suffering Servant of Yahweh. Through this the Christian disciples share in his glory.

 

The apostle James, whose feast we celebrate today, has drunk the “cup” of passion and participated in Christ’s paschal destiny. The following notes about this saint, circulated on the Internet, are very interesting.

 

St. James the Greater was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus, a son of Zebedee. He and his older brother John were called by Jesus while fixing their nets at the Lake of Genesaret. They received from Christ the name "Boanerges," meaning "sons of thunder," for their impetuosity. The gospel relates that James was present for the miracle of Jairo's daughter, the Transfiguration, and later with Jesus during His Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.

 

The Acts of the Apostles relates that the Apostles dispersed to different regions to take the Good News to the people of God. Sister Maria de Jesus de Agreda was a Franciscan religious who received revelations from Jesus. It was revealed to her that St. James the Greater went to Spain to evangelize. He went first to Galicia, where he established a Christian community, and later to the Roman city of Cesar Augusto, today known as Zaragoza. It is believed that on January 2nd, in the year 40 A.D., St. James and his disciples were resting on the shore of the Egro river when they started to hear sweet voices singing. They saw the sky fill up with light and many angels coming near them. The angels were carrying a throne on which the Queen of Heaven and earth was sitting. This was extraordinary, for Mary was living at that time in Jerusalem, making her appearance to them in Spain a bilocation. The Blessed Virgin told St. James to build a sanctuary where God would be honored and glorified, and gave him a pillar with her image to be placed in the sanctuary. The Blessed Virgin also told St. James that the sanctuary would remain until the end of time and that she would bless all the prayers offered devoutly in this place. At the end of the apparition, our Lady said to St. James that when the sanctuary was finished, he should return to Palestine where he would die.

 

St. James fulfilled the desires of the Blessed Virgin Mary and constructed the first Christian Church in the entire world. St. James returned to Palestine, where he was decapitated by order of Herod on the 25th of March during a persecution of the Church in Jerusalem. According to tradition, the accuser of St. James, who led him to judgment, was so moved by St. James’ confession before his death that he converted and was willingly beheaded with the Apostle. His disciples recovered his body and transported it to Galicia without anyone’s knowledge in a miraculous boat guided by God.

 

In the Old Testament, Jacob constructed an altar for God naming it Bethel, which means "House of God" (Gen. 35:7). Jacob is a Greek name, and translated to Spanish, the name means James. Jacob constructed the "House of God” and St. James parallels his namesake with the construction of the first "House of God” of the New Covenant.

 

St. James' tomb was forgotten for over 800 years. Under the rule of Alfonso II (789-842), a hermit named Pelagio received a vision revealing the tomb of St. James. On July 25th, 812, the spot where the tomb was revealed to be was filled with a bright light. Because of this, it has since been known as Campostela, which means "Field of Light." The bishop of Iria Flavia, Theodomir, after investigating, declared that these were truly the remains of St. James in the tomb. In 1884 Pope Leo XIII, in a Papal Bull, declared that the remains of St. James were at Campostela.

 

St. James the Greater is also known as "Matamoros," Spanish for “killer of the Moors.” It is known that his intercession helped the people on various occasions against the threat of the Moors, especially in 1492 when Spain was re-conquered.

 

***

 

In today’s First Reading (II Cor 4:7-15), Saint Paul underlines the reality of human frailty and weakness and its limpid capacity to manifest the power of God. In the context of his experience with the contentious Corinthian community, the apostle is truly an “earthen vessel” because of his limitations. His critics despise him as not qualified for the apostolic task. Thus Paul, whose qualifications for the apostolate come from God and not from human origin, both concedes his poverty and underlines the divine power at work in that very poverty. He admits he is an “earthen vessel” – yes - but a treasure-bearing “earthen vessel”. In spite of our human limitations, God choose us to be bearers of his spiritual treasure. He wills to manifest through us the supreme power that belongs to him alone.

 

The apostle Paul then underlines what it means to be a treasure-bearing “earthen vessel”. He was afflicted but not constrained, perplexed but not driven to despair, persecuted but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed. Death-dealing situations seek to overwhelm him, but never succeed because he is totally united with Jesus in his life-giving passion. In union with the Christ’s paschal mystery, Paul’s ministry is bearing fruit in the believing Corinthians. Indeed, God the Father who raised the Lord Jesus will also raise us with him. This will cause thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God.

 

Like the apostles Paul and James, we are called to be “earthen vessels” of God’s grace. The following personal account is an example of what it means to be Christ’s “earthen vessels” in today’s world (cf. Fr. Emmet Murphy, “The Franciscan Journey” in The Anthonian, Winter 2012-2013, p. 29-30).

 

Although I was raised at St. Agnes in Arlington, Mass., a parish staffed by diocesan priests, I was one of the nine candidates who joined the Franciscans of Holy Name in 1951. St. Anthony’s Shrine in downtown Boston happened to be my first contact with the friars. Their joy and ministry immediately impressed me. After working for ten years as a salesman in Boston, I entered the Franciscan Brothers training program. (…)

 

All in all, I spent 13 fruitful and happy years at St. Francis Church, but my journey with the friars was not without its heartaches and pitfalls. Along the way I had neglected my early lessons in discipline and prayer and developed an addiction to alcohol, which completely unraveled my religious life. I was urged to take a leave of absence in order to bring peace to my chaotic life.

 

After an absence of two years, I was readmitted to the life of a friar and asked to consider entering into a new apostolate to help poor people in Philadelphia with Father Roderic Petrie, OFM. Soon, Father Robert Struzynski, OFM, joined us. After surveying the needs, we searched for a building in the impoverished Kensington section of the city that was to become St. Francis Inn. We bought an old tavern below the Market Frankford elevated train line for $9,000 and immediately set out to renovate the building. The first floor was the kitchen and dining room, the second floor to be rooms for the friars.

 

On December 16, 1979, the first day we opened this ministry to the poor so dear to the heart of St. Francis, we fed 29 people. Since then St. Francis Inn has been open every day of the year, and last year the permanent staff of four friars, two Franciscan Sisters and three dedicated laywomen plus a host of volunteers served nearly 150,000 hot, nourishing meals to families and to single men and women – some unemployed but most of them retired persons who cannot survive on their fixed incomes – and to others trapped by addictions, as I had been.

 

It was in Philly that I felt called to priesthood. I enrolled at St. Francis College for philosophy studies and Pope John XXIII for theology. I was ordained to the priesthood in 1986 at the ripe age of 52. Last June, at age 78, I took up residence at St. Anthony Friary in Butler, N.J., after having spent almost four years in the large, very active Franciscan parish in Raleigh, N.C. I served as one of the North Carolina State prison chaplains, ministering to death row and general population inmates. I found the Raleigh’s Catholic community warm and friendly as they opened their homes and hearts to me.

 

My current priestly ministry has been in the Ministry of the Word; that is, preaching parish missions and leading Twelve Steps retreats. At times, I am also called to help out in neighboring parishes.

 

As I look back, I consider my life a blessed and incredulous journey … I would do it all over again!

 

 

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

 

Are we willing to drink the cup of Christ’s passion that we might have a share in his glory?

 

 

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

 

Almighty Father,

by the martyrdom of St. James

you blessed the work of the early Church.

May his profession of faith give us courage

and his prayers bring us strength.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who 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.

 

“Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?” (Mt 20:22)

 

 

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

 

Pray for the strength to drink the cup of passion and salvation. In today’s secularized world, be ready to give witness to your Catholic faith when you are challenged.

  

***

 

July 26, 2014: SATURDAY – SAINTS JOACHIM AND ANNE, parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Will Separate the Weeds from the Wheat and Calls Us to True Worship”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jer 7:1-11 // Mt 13:24-30

 

 

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

 

The parable of the weeds among the wheat underlines that those who endeavor to live faithfully in this world are surrounded by those who do not. But Jesus, the sower of the good seed and the Lord of the harvest, wants us to trust that the wheat can withstand the weeds and even be stronger for it. The parable also tells us about the patience of God, who is compassionate. He allows the weeds to grow with the wheat until harvest time, when the weeds will be separated and burned and the wheat stored and treasured in the barn. He does not easily condemn, but rather, is kindly disposed to give us a chance to prove our true worth. The society in general and the Church in particular have a “mixed bag” quality. They contain side by side the best and the worst as well as the sinners and the saints. The Jesuit bible scholar Fr. Nil Guillemette comments: “Let us not forget, too, that the mixture of good and bad is not only in society at large and in the Church in particular; it is also in our own hearts. We ourselves are a mixture of weeds and wheat. By admitting this to ourselves, we can become less judgmental and more compassionate about our neighbors’ weeds.”

 

The following stories about “streaky people” are funny, but give us idea of the need to be less judgmental and more compassionate in dealing with the people around us (cf. Anthony de Mello, The Song of the Bird, New York: Image Books, 1984, p. 129).

 

A preacher put this question to a class of children: “If all the good people were white and all the bad people were black, what color would you be?”

 

Little Mary Jane replied, “Reverend, I’d be streaky!”

 

So would the preacher. So would the mahatmas, popes, and saints.

 

***

 

A man was looking for a good church to attend and he happened to enter one in which the congregation and the preacher were reading from their prayer book. They were saying, “We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done.”

 

The man dropped into a seat and sighed with relief as he said to himself, “Thank goodness, I’ve found my crowd at last.”

 

Attempts to hide your streakiness will sometimes be successful, always dishonest.

 

***

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Jer 7:1-11) is a part of Jeremiah’s Temple Sermon, dated early in the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah (609-598 B.C.). Commanded by the Lord to stand near the temple gate, Jeremiah calls to the people: “Hear the word of the Lord!” and speaks to them God’s message of condemnation. The prophet upbraids the Jews for their presumption that they are secure notwithstanding their crimes. They claim: “We are safe! This is the Lord’s temple, this is the Lord’s temple, this is the Lord’s temple.” Naively trusting in the temple as the guarantee of God’s protection, they commit crimes with impunity. They steal, murder, commit adultery, seek other gods, etc. But God’s protection is conditional on covenant fidelity, not on the physical temple itself. Indeed, the Lord God hates their false worship and their hypocritical conviction that they can turn the temple into a “den of thieves” and still escape punishment. Jeremiah thus exhorts them: “Change the way you are living and stop doing the things you are doing!”

 

The following story gives insight into the ugliness of crimes committed by “religious” people in “the temple of the Lord” and into the healing warmth of charity and true worship (cf. Carmen Creamer, “One Bad Apple” in 101 Inspirational Stories of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, ed. Patricia Proctor, Spokane: Franciscan Monastery of Saint Clare, 2006, p. 65).

 

I have had many wonderful experiences when going to confession: however, my first time was not great at all.

 

It happened in the city of Caico, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil. Padre Deoclides, a priest of the Diocese of Caico, came to the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary to listen to our confessions. While each of us was in the confessional, he touched each of us little girls in a very inappropriate manner. I can never forget that first experience.

 

It was traumatic, but with God at my side, I continued to pray and went back to confession the following month. I remained a Roman Catholic, faithfully devoted to the Church, except for two years after finishing college in 1964. In 1966, I met my husband, an American, who was in Brazil on duty. I learned that he was a convert Catholic, and with him I started going back to the Church I love.

 

We were married in the Church and have had a wonderful marriage for forty years. My husband passed away this year, and if it weren’t for my faith and the wonderful people in my Church, I don’t know what would have happened. All of our children came home for their dad’s last days and were amazed at my church community. They saw how fortunate I was to have two wonderful priests and a great nun to support me with love and compassion through those days of grief.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we try not to be judgmental, but to be patient and compassionate with the weeds and the wheat that grow side by side within our world, our Church and ourselves?

 

2. Is our ritual worship a true expression of our covenant fidelity and obedience to God?

 

 

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

 

Jesus Lord,

you are patient and kind.

You let the weeds grow with the wheat until harvest time.

Help us to manifest the beautiful qualities of the good wheat.

Judge us favorably and bring us home.

Gather us into the barn of your kingdom

that we may render fitting worship to God

with all the saints in heaven.

We 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 week. Please memorize it.

 

“Gather the wheat into my barn.” (Mt 13:30) // “Reform your ways and your deeds.” (Jer 7:3)

 

 

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

 

Be patient with the foibles of the people around you. In your dealings with them, manifest the good qualities that will inspire them to be better persons. Let your ritual worship be a true expression of the inner worship you render to God. Pray for the victims of the false “ministers of Christ”.

 

***

 

 

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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