A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 18, n. 35)

Week 17 in Ordinary Time: July 26 – August 1, 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: July 15-25, 2020 please go to ARCHIVES Series 18 and click on “Ordinary Week 16”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: July 25 – August 1, 2020.)

 

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July 26, 2020: SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Hidden Treasure in the Field

and the Pearl of Great Price”

 

BIBLE READINGS

1 Kgs 3:5, 7-12 // Rom 8:28-30 // Mt 13:44-52

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 13:44-52): “He sells all that he has and buys the field.” 

          

In today’s Gospel reading (Mt 13:44-52), we continue to listen to Jesus’ Discourse in parables. In the parables of the treasure in the field and the precious pearl (verses 44-46) and in the parable of the dragnet (verses 47-50), he teaches us the meaning of the kingdom of heaven. The twin parables of the treasure in the field and the precious pearl underline the absolute, incomparable value of God’s kingdom, the joy that it brings, the total commitment that it deserves and the overriding zeal with which it must be pursued.

 

Edward Armstrong, an Anglican writer, comments: “The parable of the peerless pearl is twin to the hidden treasure, and the two may have been told together; for parallelism is a characteristic of Hebrew style … The discoverer of the treasure trove was a comparatively poor man who chanced on the money; the pearl merchant was relatively wealthy; he came on the pearl in the course of business and sold his whole stock to acquire it. One man enters into the joy of the kingdom unexpectedly; another attains it through the maturing of a lifetime’s endeavor.” The remarkable response of the treasure finder and the pearl merchant is decisive, total and absolute. Indeed, the kingdom of heaven is a treasure beyond price and demands renunciation and sacrifice in order to acquire it.

 

The Church Father, Origen (183-253) from the catechetical school of Alexandria, asserts that Christ is the precious pearl we must seek – the one pearl of great price: “To the seeker after fine pearls may be applied the words, Seek and you will find, and, Everyone who seeks will find. If you ask what is to be sought, and what will be found by everyone who seeks for it, I say with all confidence: pearls – especially that pearl which will be acquired by those who give their all, who sacrifice everything for it, the pearl Paul meant when he said: I have accepted the loss of everything in order to gain Christ. Everything means beautiful pearls; to gain Christ refers to the one pearl of great price.”

 

The parable of the fishing net thrown into the sea reminds us that the coming of God’s kingdom includes a final judgment in which the good and the bad will be separated definitively and receive their fitting reward and punishment. This parable highlights the presence of both good and evil in the Church and in the world. It seeks to instill in us patience and tolerance, which flow from a discerning heart, until the day of final judgment.

 

This Sunday’s Gospel passage concludes with a question addressed by Jesus to his disciples: “Do you understand all these things?” (Mt 13:51) and with an important remark on the significance of having discovered the treasure of heaven: “Every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old” (Mt 13:52).

 

The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 4, explain: “To understand all these things is not a question of human intelligence – that of the sages and the smart ones – but of spiritual intelligence – that of the humble and the lowly … We can understand the parables and put their teaching into practice only in the light of the Spirit … The disciples draw near to Jesus in order to receive from him the explanation of the parables. Only by being familiar with the one who pronounced the parables can we probe their meaning and, having become his disciples, be like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” Indeed, the discerning heart of the scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven enables him to assess the radically new act of Christ in the light of the Old Testament tradition. The venerable Church Father Origen remarks: “The law and the prophets fully comprehended are the preparation for the full comprehension of the gospel and the complete understanding of the acts and words of Christ Jesus.”

 

The journey of the movie actress Dolores Hart from Hollywood to the Holy Vows gives insight into the workings of a discerning heart that is able to find the “hidden treasure in the field” and is able to sacrifice everything for the “pearl of great value” (cf. Mother Dolores Hart, OSB, and Richard DeNeut, The Ear of the Heart, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2013, p. 174-175, 178).

 

Don had a clear memory of the night his parents hosted an engagement party in their home: “Dolores was distant from the minute I picked her up, and during the entire party I never felt she was truly with me. On the drive back to her apartment, I suddenly stopped in the middle of the street and asked her if she loved me.”

 

I said, “Of course I do”, but clearly it wasn’t enough. “Then what is wrong?” he demanded. Obviously the effort to hide my feelings of discontent and desperation wasn’t accomplishing anything except draining me and hurting Don. He said he felt as if he were sitting on a fence, and he couldn’t sit there any longer. He thought we should make an announcement of a postponement right away. I agreed, though I knew I could not stand up under any media scrutiny that that kind of item would provoke.

 

“You’re still thinking about the monastery, aren’t you?” he asked, and without waiting for an answer he added, “Dolores, I think you have to go back there and get everything straightened out in your mind.”

 

I could not get to sleep that night. It was one o’clock in the morning when I made reservations on the day’s first flight to the East Coast. En route to the monastery, I was held by a kind of madness that I could not express. I say “madness” because there was no way I could intellectually explain the hound that yapped at my heels. There was no earthly reason why I was shunning the life I wanted most – only that Regina Laudis had gradually seeped through my body like some mysterious liquor and I was at peace only on its taste.

 

Arriving back at the monastery was one of the strangest experiences. At first, I felt completely foreign. Los Angeles in January is warm and sunny. Everything here was cold and white. As the day drew itself together, things settled down into a familiar framework, and finally a tiny sense of comfort began to fill the picture … During the entire visit, not once did I feel pressured by Reverend Mother to make up my mind. To the contrary, I was constantly being told, “Do what you want to do.” It was maddening that I was the one left with the decision. I would have felt happy if someone would have taken that task away from me. (…)

 

When Don met Dolores at LAX, he was in good spirits. Nothing in Dolores’ letters from the monastery indicated he would not have a fiancée when she returned.

 

When he saw her, however, his mood changed. “She looked like a refugee, pale and drawn, no makeup, and her hair wasn’t even fixed. We stopped at a steak house near the airport. It was packed, and we were seated smack in the middle of the room.”

 

Dolores hadn’t planned on telling Don her decision that evening, and she tried to keep up a conversation that, before long, gave way to silence. Don remembered, “I began thinking, ‘Where are we heading?’ I finally asked point-blank is she was entering the monastery.”

 

Don’s perception was so strong that I knew I couldn’t put it off. I told him I was.

 

“I just fell apart”, Don said, “right in the middle of the packed room.”

 

 

B. First Reading (1 Kgs 3:5, 7-12): “You have asked for wisdom.”

 

The Old Testament reading (1 Kgs 3:5, 7-12) tells us that Solomon’s proverbial wisdom is a gift of God. This young ruler of Israel – son of King David by Bathsheba – accedes to the royal throne in about 961 B.C. Solomon is initially an ideal king - a humble, benevolent ruler disposed to follow the divine will. In an eventful encounter with the Lord in a dream, Solomon prays for a discerning and understanding heart to be able to govern the chosen people efficaciously. The Lord God graciously responds to his prayer with the following words: “I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now; and after you there will come no one to equal you” (v. 12).

 

The divine gift of wisdom to Solomon is meant to promote the good of the people and ensure the welfare of the kingdom. As the supreme arbiter of justice in Israel, King Solomon initially uses this precious gift with sensitivity and benevolence. In the delicate case of two women claiming maternity of a child (cf. I Kgs 3:16-28), he issues a command that enables him to determine the mother of the child in contention. His insightful decision wins the esteem of the people and enables him to experience the glory promised by God. Unfortunately, however, King Solomon in his later years becomes less and less dependent on God. Moreover, he gives vent to his natural inclinations and increasingly relies on his human judgment. Surfeited and jaded, he ceases to follow the wisdom of God and becomes idolatrous. The moral downfall and degradation of Solomon eventually lead to the rupture of the kingdom of Israel.

  

Each day in the life of a Christian follower is an exercise in moral choice. Christian discipleship is a loving labor of wisdom and the ongoing response of a discerning heart. Those who endeavor to live by the promptings of divine wisdom ultimately triumph. When the final sorting comes, the faithful and wise disciples will join the “righteous” ones in heaven and savor the eternal joy of the kingdom. Like St. Paul, the truly wise in the Lord, the wisdom-filled disciples experience that “all things work for good for those who love God” (Rom 8:28).

 

Sandy Whiting’s story, “Perennial Blessings” published in the magazine Country Woman (June/July 2008, p.51) is inspiring. The grandma in this story is a giving gardener with a wise and compassionate heart. She understands the power of flowers to console. Her gift of wisdom and kindness touches the bereaved and draws out a response of kindness and gratitude from the community.

 

Grandma loved earthy things with roots – like the fragrant geraniums she loving grew and found homes for. I walked by her house everyday on my way home from school. She always had a wave and smile ready for me. This particular afternoon, however, she frowned. I backed up a few steps and asked, “What’s the matter? Did the bugs eat your flowers?” Grandma stared at her geraniums and sighed. “That new family on the other side of the square … the Dunkles. They just lost their twin baby boys.” Being 10 and knowing little about life and less about death, I shrugged. “So? We don’t know them.” “We’re neighbors … and neighbors are family”, she said firmly. Perking up, she brushed the dirt from her hands. “Go call your mother and ask if you can run an errand with me, then meet me in the shed.” Minutes later, with Mom’s approval, I shoved open the shed door. “There you are,” Grandma said. “Help me find two pots – pretty clay ones.” (…)

 

Handing me a trowel, Grandma led me to the garden. “Dig up that pink geranium and plant it in the pot,” she said. “Don’t forget to put a few rocks in the bottom for drainage.” In minutes, I had one pink flower safely tucked into its new home. Grandma quickly finished potting hers. “Come on,” she said. “Let’s get these to the Dunkles.” Not bothering to knock, she placed the plants on the porch, slid a blue scrap of paper under one pot and turned to go. After that errand, I began noticing something unusual about Grandma’s geraniums. I’d count them when I passed in the morning. And by my return trip, there’d be two or three less. On shopping trips with Grandma, I’d hear folks speak of flowers appearing around town and speculate on who the “Geranium Lady” might be. When asked if we had any clues, I’d shrug and Grandma would just smile.

 

The years turned their pages … I married and moved away. Well, before I was ready, a call came with painful news that Grandma had passed. The trip back home was difficult as I wrestled with my grief, three restless children and one husband in the driver’s seat negotiating country roads. Finally, we pulled into a familiar dirt lane and rounded the curve to Grandma’s house. I couldn’t believe my eyes! Pots spilling over with red, pink, salmon and white geraniums covered the porch. Mother met me. “I don’t know who’s bringing them,” she said. “But every time I come out, there’s a dozen more.” Gently, I lifted a pot from the bottom step. Slipped beneath the sunset orange blooms was a faded blue note, written in Grandma’s own hand. “Only the body goes back to the earth. The soul blooms in greener pastures.” It wasn’t just the Dunkles who had figured out Grandma’s secret. The entire town knew. And now I did, too. Single acts of kindness are returned a thousand times over – perpetually blooming.

       

 

C. Second Reading (Rom 8:28-30): “God predestined us to be conformed to the image of his Son.”

 

To acquire the absolute treasure of God’s kingdom entails deep sacrifice. In the Second Reading (Rom 8:28-30), Saint Paul assures the Romans that all things work for good for those who love God. He stimulates their zeal and enthusiasm in the midst of difficulties and persecution by reminding them that God’s plan of salvation, which is definitively in progress, leads to the glory that is their destiny. Called to be conformed to the image of his Son, nothing will ever happen to them that has not been foreseen by God and directed to their greater good from all eternity. God is in control of everything. The ultimate goal is to be configured to Jesus Christ, who in his paschal sacrifice, is totally glorified.

 

The following story about the martyrs of Shimabara and Unzen, who died in 1627, illustrates what it means to be truly conformed to the image of Jesus, the Son of God, in his paschal sacrifice (cf. “The Red Roses and the Blessed Sacrament” in Full Sail with the Wind of Grace, written and edited by “Martyrs” Editorial Committee, Tokyo: Don Bosco Shea, 2008, p. 96-102).

 

A Golden Light: It stopped snowing and the golden rays of the sun shone through the grey clouds. I had been shivering from cold, but when the golden light covered me, I felt as light as air. I had a dream in which I was on my mother’s lap and my father and two brothers were nearby. We were all in the small chapel of our house. Everyone was smiling and we were singing hymns. I loved to sing.

 

“Ignatius, Ignatius! Stay in there!”

“Ignatius, your father is right here!”

 

I had almost fainted, but the voices pulled me back to consciousness again. My brothers Balthasar and Antonio were stripped of their kimonos and had their hands tied behind their backs. My father was looking intently at me from a nearby boat, calling my name. I am Ignatius Uchibori. I became a martyr with my two brothers on the Ariake Sea on 21 February 1627. I was only five years old, but I was chosen by God to carry an important message.

 

Losing the Status of Samurai: When my second older brother Antonio was one year old, my father became a peasant, losing his status as samurai. Our lord Arima Naozumi, who burned eight Kirishitans (= Christians) on the Arima River, hated us and moved to Hyuga to get away from the many Christians in Arima.

 

“Our only true Master is the Lord our God, for whom we give our lives. We cannot give up what is most important for us.” Many subjects stayed in Arima and Shimabara instead of following the lord and moving to Hyuga. They became peasants and cultivated the land, prayed and helped one another.

 

My father, Paul Uchibori Sakuemon, became their leader, encouraging and taking care of our friends. That’s why father was the first one to be arrested when, very soon, the commissioner of Nagasaki came to persecute us. He was stripped of his kimono and pulled around the streets with a rope tied to his hands. “It’s all right, my friends. The Lord is always with us.” Father did not stop encouraging our fellow Christians who watched with worried faces along the streets or from their doorsteps. No matter how hard they tried to threaten him, the officers could not change the look on my father’s gentle face with its clear eyes. They gave up and sent him home. My father Sakuemon was greatly trusted by our fellow Christians and the missionaries who worked undercover. We didn’t say so, but we were very proud of him.

 

The Small Chapel of the Uchibori Family: A new lord was assigned to Arima. His name was Matsukara Shigemasa. Shigemasa dismantled the former castle and decided to build a new one in Shimabara. While the new castle was being built, Shigemasa needed everyone to work for him, so he pretended that he didn’t know we were Kirishitans. For a while, the Church in Shimabara enjoyed peace, like the sea in an early evening calm. Even before I was born, the priests and friars in Shimabara used to stay in our house. Fr. Sebastian Kimura, who would be martyred ahead of us, Fr. Navarro and Fr. Zola dropped by from time to time. “This is our Bethany!” the missionaries would say. “Our home is your home. Please take your rest here” my parents would say. The missionaries would relax with us and my parents would make them feel at home as best they could, feeding them and making them rest. We were happy to be of help, it was our good fortune.

 

My favorite place was our small chapel. When a priest came and celebrated mass, the wooden floor almost broke under the weight of the faithful who gathered secretly and packed the room. My family prayed together in the chapel every evening, in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, reciting the Litany of Our Lady, singing hymns in thanksgiving for the day. It was our happiest moment. Father treasured the prayers of the family. “There is a treasure in this house. This house is a house of prayer”, Father used to say. I would fall asleep on Mother’s lap by the end of evening prayer.

 

Moving to Prison: In January 1627, Lord Matsukura Shigemasa who had returned from Edo, was grumpy and sometimes sudden shadows of fear and sadness clouded his face. He kept remembering Shogun Iemitsu’s words, “Order severe punishment for the Kirishitans in Shimabara and force them to give up their faith. Kill them if they don’t obey. If you don’t accomplish this, know that you yourself will be punished!” Shigemasa fell ill from pressure. My father Sakuemon had already been put in the castle prison a half year before Lord Shigemasa returned to Shimabara. On the 20th of February, some officers broke into our home. My mother Agatha, my two brothers and myself were all tied and taken to the castle. Father welcomed us in prison. “Are you all right? I’m so glad to see you all. This cell will be the new chapel for the Uchibori family. The good Lord always gives us everything we need. We felt relieved at seeing father’s gentle face. The prison cell became our fond home that night.

 

The Red Roses and the White Snow: The following morning, the lord gave out the order. “Choose 16 of the 37 Kirishitans in prison, cut off their fingers, and throw them into the sea with rocks tied to their necks!” We brothers were chosen among the 16. Somehow, father and mother were not chosen this time. The red-faced commissioner spluttered in a loud voice, “Kirishitans are equal to dogs and pigs. Two fingers are enough for them. Cut off the three in the middle!”

 

The first to be called was my second older brother Antonio. An officer pressed Antonio’s hand ruthlessly on a board and made him spread his fingers. Everyone turned their eyes away in horror. But Antonio said, “That was nothing. At last, now I understand Jesus’ cross.” He joined his hands in prayer, with only the thumb and the little finger left on them. “Good for you, Antonio. I’m proud of you!” said Balthasar and offered his hands to the officer.

 

I was the last one to be called. I was not afraid, but looked back for a moment at father and mother. “It will be all right, Ignatius.” Their eyes glistened with tears as they nodded at me. When I extended my hands over the board, the officer was trembling. He didn’t need much strength to cut my fingers, but he let out a loud cry as he swung down the chopping knife. I could see my fingers left on the board. It was a strange feeling. I held up my bleeding hands against the sky to see how they looked. The reason I smiled then, was because I saw the face of the heavenly Father through the space where my fingers used to be. Just then, snow began to fall. It was so white. The person who recorded our martyrdom wrote, “This child held up his hands toward heaven and gazed at them, as if he were viewing beautiful rose blossoms.”

 

To Be Given Such Grace: After they cut off our fingers, they stripped us of our kimonos and took us out to Ariake Sea on boats. They took my father on another boat in order to have him watch us being killed. I was made to lie down at the rear of the boat and snowflakes began to cover me with a thin white veil. And I saw the dream.

 

“Father, let us thank the Lord for such a grace that he has given us!” Antonio cried out these last words and disappeared into the waters. And then Balthasar, too. I was always the last one. Father never took his eyes off me, as I lay motionless in the boat.

 

The golden rays of the sun shone from the sky and my turn came. For the last time, I looked at father. He nodded to me with his gentle eyes as he had always done. I felt comforted. I decided then that I would offer my life to God joyfully. After they threw me into the sea, it began to snow again. “During this ordeal, Sakuemon reminded us of Abraham when Abraham offered his son Isaac for sacrifice.” These words of Joachim Mine, who was with my father at the time, can be read in the records.

 

When the execution was finished, my father and the others were taken back to the castle prison and the officers pressed burning iron and branded the word “Kirishitan” on their foreheads. A week later, 16 prisoners including my father were taken to Mount Unzen (Nagasaki Prefecture) and martyred there. They were thrown into the boiling hot springs. Father continued to encourage the others until the end. “Praised be the most holy Sacrament of the altar!” These were my father’s last words of prayer before he was martyred. Our faith had been strengthened all these years by the Lord who was always with us in our small chapel at home. Two and a half months later, 17 May, Joachim Mine and the others who were still in prison were taken to Mount Unzen and martyred.

 

If the life that I offered to God starts to live again in all the people who come to know my story, I will be very happy. My life would then become a tremendous gift for them.

 

 

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

 

1. Do I seek and pursue the heavenly kingdom as the “hidden treasure in the field” and as the “pearl of great price”? Have I allowed myself to be instructed in the kingdom of heaven that like the head of a household, I am able to bring forth from the storeroom both the new and the old? How do I proclaim the treasures of the Gospel in the challenging reality of today’s situation?

 

2. What was the stance of the young King Solomon before God? Why did he ask the Lord to give him an understanding heart? What was the Lord God’s response? Do you pray to God to give you a wise and understanding heart?

 

3. Do you look to St. Paul as a model of one who has a wise and understanding heart? How did St. Paul pursue the kingdom value and the spiritual treasure incarnated in the person of Jesus Christ? Do you believe and experience that “all things work for good for those who love God” (Rom 8:28)?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

Please bless us with an understanding heart

that will enable us to make a fundamental choice for Christ.

Strengthen us in our resolve

never to let go of the heavenly treasure that is your gift to us.

In the various trials and afflictions of daily life,

strengthen our faith.

We know that all things work for good for those who love you.

Give us courage, wisdom and inner strength

by the power of the Holy Spirit

that we may allow ourselves to be shaped daily

into the beautiful, wondrous image of your Son Jesus Christ,

who lives and reigns forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

            “When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.” (Mt 13:46)

 

  

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

 

Pray in thanksgiving for those who have found the treasure of the kingdom of heaven. Pray for all those still seeking to find it. In your life of sacrifice and service, especially to the poor and the outcast, share the joy of one who has found the treasure in the field and the pearl of a great price.

 

 

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July 27, 2020: MONDAY – WEEKDAY (17)

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Kingdom Is Like a Mustard Seed and a Transforming Leaven … He Teaches Us to Cling to the Lord”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jer 13:1-11 // Mt 13:31-35

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 13:31-35): “The mustard seed becomes a large bush and the birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.”

 

In today’s Gospel (Mt 13:31-35), Jesus uses the figure of a mustard seed that grows into an enormous “welcoming” tree to symbolize the hidden power of the kingdom of God. The tiny mustard seed, with its dynamic character, represents the kingdom, which has humble beginnings but is destined for universal greatness. Jesus, moreover, depicts the transforming character of the kingdom by using the image of yeast which a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch is leavened. The kingdom of heaven is hidden in the world like yeast and will transform the world with radical newness. We are “leaven” in the world, vibrant and acting as ferment in the society, on account of Jesus who powers our witnessing and activity.

 

I went to the Sacramento State Fair in 2012. It was an awesome experience of America’s noble spirit. I muttered: “How come we always hear the bad, and very little of the good?” I had a great time at the livestock pavilion, horticulture pavilion, county pavilion, etc. At the end of the day I was tired. I found a bench near a plot of beautiful flowers and relaxed. A beautiful lady sat beside me and started a nice chat. Her disabled husband in a wheelchair also came. As ministers in their church, they help “at-risk” youth and guide them on the right path. One way is to bring them to the State Fair, which is very educational and inspiring. When I bid them goodbye, I was full of gratitude to God for their ministry and for all the wonderful works I witnessed that day. They all have “mustard seed” beginnings and testify that the “leaven” of God’s kingdom continues to be at work in today’s world.

  

 

B. First Reading (Jer 13:1-11): “This people shall be like a loincloth which is good for nothing.”

Today’s Old Testament reading (Jer 13:1-11) is a parable in action. Its purpose is to dramatize the prophetic message and to impact the hearers. God asks Jeremiah to buy a linen loincloth and to wear it on his loins. Then God asks him to go by a Judean stream, whose name evokes a river in Babylon and the threat of Exile. The Lord commands Jeremiah to bury his loincloth in a hole in the rocks.  After some time when the Lord commands him to retrieve it, the loincloth is rotted, good for nothing. The message of the parable in action is clear: God wants his people to cling to him in an intimate loving relationship; to refuse to cling to the Lord is self-destruction. God intends all the people of Israel and Judah to hold tightly to him so that as his chosen people they may give praise and honor to his name. Sadly, like the rotting loincloth, they refuse to cling to him and to obey him. They resort to idolatry, rather than fidelity to God. Thus specter of the Babylonian Exile looms ahead.

 

In our modern time, Pope Francis - like prophet Jeremiah - sounds a voice of condemnation against the grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse. The perpetrators of these crimes are like a “rotting loincloth” that refuses to cling to God. Here is an excerpt from the Pope’s homily given on July 7, 2014 in a morning Mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he addressed six victims of sexual abuse: three men and three women from Germany, Ireland and the United Kingdom, accompanied by a few family members and loved ones (“I Humbly Ask Forgiveness” in L’Osservatore Romano, July 11, 2014, p. 5).

 

For some time I have felt in my heart deep pain and suffering … This is what causes my distress and pain at the fact that some priests and bishops, by sexually abusing minors, violated their innocence and their own priestly vocation. It is something more than despicable actions. It is like a sacrilegious cult, because these boys and girls had been entrusted to the priestly charism in order to be brought to God. And those people sacrificed them to the idol of their own concupiscence. They profane the very image of God in whose likeness we are created. Childhood, as we all know, young hearts, so open and trusting, have their own way of understanding the mysteries of God’s love and are eager to grow in the faith.

 

Today the heart of the Church looks into the eyes of Jesus in these boys and girls and wants to weep; she asks the grace to weep before the execrable acts of abuse which have left life-long scars.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we treasure the miracle of small beginnings and the transforming power of the kingdom of God? Do we allow ourselves to be a part of the miracle of the heavenly kingdom?

 

2. Are we like a “loincloth” that clings to the Lord or are we a “rotting loincloth” alienated from God by our sins of idolatry?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

we thank you for the grandiose destiny of your kingdom.

Help us to embrace the challenge of its “mustard seed” beginnings.

Let us be leaven of transformation in today’s world

and instruments of the radical newness your salvation brings.

Give us the grace to cling to you always

and to be faithful to our loving God.

Teach us to reject idolatry of any form.

We love and adore you;

we praise and bless 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.

 

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed... like yeast that a woman took …” (Mt 13:31,33) // “The wicked people shall be like this loincloth which is good for nothing.” (Jer 13:10)

 

 

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

 

Be responsive to the challenge of small beginnings. Use the resources you have, however small, to promote justice and peace in society and the integration of creation. // Pray for the victims of clerical sexual abuse and for the perpetrators of these crimes.

 

 

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July 28, 2020: TUESDAY – WEEKDAY (17)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Judge at the Harvest … He Calls Us to True Repentance”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jer 14:17-22 // Mt 13:36-43

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 13:36-43): “Just as the weeds are collected now and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.”

 

The Gospel (Mt 13:36-43) tells us that in response to his disciples’ request, Jesus Master gives them tools to help them understand the parable of the weeds in the field. The “sower” of the good seed is the Son of Man, the judge at the harvest.  The “good seed” are those who have been receptive to the divine word and have borne abundant fruit. The “bad weeds” are the evil ones who reject God’s offer of salvation. The “harvest” is the judgment at the end time. The judgment will determine the final destiny of the righteous and the wicked, and will purify the kingdom entirely. The wicked and the perpetrators of evil will be thrown into the “fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth”. The righteous will shine like the sun in the heavenly kingdom, for God’s brilliant presence will permeate them. Jesus’ parable invites us to be patient with the wicked and likewise assures us that unending doom is the lot of the unrepentant wicked. As Christian disciples in today’s world, we have a duty to catechize people about the “last things”: death, judgment, heaven, hell.

 

George Alford, a 67-year old surfer in New Smyrna, Florida, counts his mission to surfers and beachgoers as a very important ministry. When he goes to the beach, he plants a cross in the sand in front of his SUV to remind beachgoers that God loves them. On special occasions, he will hoist the 12-foot cross on his shoulder and carry it up and down the beaches. He testifies how God makes his ministry fruitful (cf. Kathy Alford, “Surfing for God” in St. Anthony Messenger, July 2012, p. 33).

 

One spring break, while George was carrying the cross down the beach, an inquisitive young man with multiple face piercings came walking toward the cross with a cigarette lighter in his hand. He asked, “Can I burn your cross?” “Why do you want to burn the cross?” George asked him. “He said, ‘Because I worship Satan.’”

 

“The young man wasn’t angry or hostile”, George says. “He just wanted to talk.” “That’s bad news, dude”, George replied. “No, Satan speaks to me in my mind”, the young man said. “Satan hates you. He wants to drag you into hell.” “Oh, that would be great – going to Satan’s house”, the young man responded. “No, hell’s a horrible place, full of anguish and suffering forever. You don’t want to go there.” At that point, the young man started backing away from George, and then he turned and walked away.

 

A year later, George was carrying the cross down the beach again during spring break, and he saw a young man who smiled at George and nodded. “He looked like he wanted to say something. I slowed down to give him a chance to talk, but he just smiled. I noticed that the young man had scars where piercings used to be. Later, as I walked down the beach, it occurred to me: that was the young man with the lighter!”

 

“His look had meant, ‘Look at me; I’ve changed. We’re brothers.’ I’ve prayed for another opportunity to see him again, but it didn’t happen. I still continue to pray that the Lord will bless him and help him grow in his faith.”

 

George pauses, then sums up his passion. “Changing lives: that’s the power of the cross!”

       

 

B. First Reading (Jer 14:17-22): “Remember, Lord, your covenant with us and break it not.”

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Jer 14:17-20) depicts the “great destruction” that overwhelms the people of Judah. The military onslaught of the Babylonians has filled the fields with dead bodies. A terrible drought in the land exacerbates the misfortune. There is no rain and the ground is dried up. There is no water in the cisterns and their jars are empty. The farmers are sick at heart and people are starving to death. On account of the famine, even prophets and priests forage in a land they know not

 

The people thus make a plea to the Lord. A collective lament rises up to him: “We have sinned against you … Remember your promises and do not despise us … Do not break the covenant you made with us.”  But they continue to be filled with wrongdoing as they attempt to manipulate God’s benevolence. They try to shame him into acting in their favor. Their plea for mercy is rejected because, in their hearts, there is no repentance. They have turned away from the covenant by their idolatrous actions. And yet they expect God to continue to protect them. They even attempt to con God into ending the drought by evoking his immense power over nature: “None of the idols of the nations can send rain; the sky by itself cannot make showers fall.” But God is adamant. The idolatrous people of Judah are doomed to die in war and from starvation. Moreover, some are doomed for exile.

 

The present day drought in California gives us insight into the death-dealing situation that afflicted the people of Judah during the time of prophet Jeremiah (cf. Robert Rodriguez, “Small Farmers Losing Hope” in Fresno Bee, July 20, 2014, p. A1, A10).

 

This time of year, May Vu’s farm in Sanger should be carpeted with blooming flowers and a bounty of vegetables. But a failing irrigation pump and a nearly empty well have dried up Vu’s farm and with it, her source of income.

 

The 58-year-old Vu knows she is up against major obstacles as California struggles through one of the worst droughts in history. Still, she carefully walks the trellised rows, hunting for vegetables to harvest. The summer heat and lack of water have shriveled her crop of bitter melon, turning the Asian vegetables from a bright green to a yellow-orange color. “This is not what it should be like”, Vu says, plucking the vegetables and tossing them on the ground. “You get no money for this, no money.”

 

Across the state, the drought has put tremendous pressure on large and small farmers such as Vu, who increasingly are relying on ground water to sustain the crops. The spike in ground water use has caused water levels to drop below the reach of irrigation pumps. (…)

 

For now, with her pump pulling out just a fraction of water it normally provides, she is doing what she can to keep her plants alive. She has seen a severe drop in production. Instead of 125 boxes of vegetables a week, she is harvesting about two boxes a week. She estimates she has lost thousands of dollars in the sales.

 

Her flower garden succumbed to the dry conditions about two weeks ago. A field that once was blanketed with lilies, daisies, tulips, dahlias, sunflowers, carnations and peonies is dry. Stubborn weeds have taken over, choking out what few flowers remained.

 

Vu, known for her flowers, sold them at several farmers markets including Hanford, Clovis and Fresno. She grows them in honor of her husband who died in 2006. “The flowers always made me feel happy”, Vu said. “But now, there isn’t a lot to be happy about.”

  

 

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

 

1. Do we believe that at harvest time we will be judged? How do we prepare for this deep encounter with God’s grace?

 

2. Is our prayer to God properly motivated or is it just a selfish way to con him to grant us favors?

 

 

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

 

Loving Jesus,

we thank you for your patient love and great justice.

You are the sower of good seed

and the judge at the final harvest.

May we bear abundant fruit

and be counted as precious in your sight.

Bring us into your heavenly kingdom

where the presence of God

will make us shine with splendor and glory.

We pray for those who reject your saving love.

Give them light and show them the way.

Let this interim time

be an occasion of healing and conversion for us all

so that we may be spared from eternal doom.

We love you, Jesus,

for you are kind and merciful.

Glory and praise be yours, now and forever.

Amen.

 

***

 Our loving and forgiving God,

we have been unfaithful.

We recognize, O Lord, our wickedness.

For your name’s sake spurn us not.

Remember your covenant with us; break it not.

We promise to turn away from sin

and to follow you with our whole heart.

You are just in all your ways.

Hence, we resolve to 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.

 

“Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” (Mt 13:43) //“Remember, Lord, your covenant with us and break it not.” (Jer 14:21)

 

 

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

 

When the world events tend to depress you, find strength and comfort in the reality of the “last things”. Let the Church teaching on the final judgment be a guidepost on your spiritual journey to God. // Conscious of the critical situations in drought-stricken countries/states/areas, pray for God’s blessing of the life-giving rain. Be sparing and judicious in the use of water.

 

 

*** *** ***

July 29, 2020: WEDNESDAY – SAINT MARTHA

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Living Word and Eternal Life”

… He Strengthens Our Prophetic Vocation”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jer 15:10, 16-21 // Jn 11:19-27 or Lk 10:38-42

 

 

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

 

A, Gospel Reading (Lk 10:38-42): “Martha, Martha, you worry and fret about so many things.”

 

One thing I have in common with Sr. Mary Adele, a remarkable Sister born in a small scenic town close to Naples, Italy is a love for pasta. One day as we were enjoying a delicious, hot serving of spaghetti cooked “al dente” and topped with dense rich tomato sauce and grated Parmesan cheese, she narrated to me a modern version of the Gospel story of Martha and Mary.

 

Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. A plate of pasta and a glass of wine will do.”

 

            In today’s alternative Gospel text (Lk 10:38-42) for the memorial of Saint Martha, Jesus, in the course of his paschal journey to Jerusalem, stops to rest in the home of Martha and Mary. The sisters receive him with solicitude and hospitality. Martha’s type of hospitality, however, is anxious and her intense concern misdirected. Martha’s “over-reacting” hospitality thus provokes a good-natured reproach from Jesus. He cautions her not to be anxious. It is the same advice that Jesus gives to his other disciples as they journey towards the cross and Easter glory. Indeed, Martha’s endeavor to prepare a perfect meal and her preoccupation for the “details of hospitality” detract her from the essential and primordial: to welcome Jesus in his life-giving Word.

 

*** *** ***

 

Alternative Gospel Reading (Jn 11:19-27): “I have believed that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

 

The missionary tale in Maryknoll magazine (December 2004, p.5) narrated by Joseph G. Healey, M.M. is about a little girl who escaped the clutches of death and lived. This interesting story of a Tanzanian girl’s rescue gives us a glimpse of the marvelous work of Jesus in saving his beloved friend, Lazarus from death and bringing him back to life. 

 

One morning when Father Joseph Brannigan went to say Mass at a mission chapel in Shinyanga, Tanzania, he discovered an inert baby lying in front of the altar. The mother, explaining that the little girl was dead, asked if the priest could say Mass for her. Just then, the bundle moved. “She’s still alive,” Brannigan declared. “But she’s sick and I have no money for medicine. She’ll be dead soon anyway,” the mother replied. Giving the mother 10 shillings, the missionary sent her to the hospital with the baby. Seven years later a woman stopped Brannigan on the road. Breathlessly she explained, “My little girl lived. Here’s your 10 shillings. I’ve spent a long time looking for you.”

 

 

Today’s alternative Gospel reading (Jn 11:19-27) is also about the triumph of life over death. The raising of Lazarus from the tomb is a “sign” for it reveals Christ’s messianic and divine identity as the resurrection and life. The theological center of today’s account is found in Jn 11:25-26: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live; and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”Martha, the sister of the deceased Lazarus, responds fully to Jesus’ words and declares: “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” Formerly an over anxious hostess who has no time and leisure to welcome Jesus in his life-giving word, Martha has progressed deeply in her discipleship. Today’s episode shows her as listening to the words of Jesus and responding with full faith to Christ’s offer of eternal life.

 

***

 

Today, the memorial of Saint Martha, the following poem composed by Angela O’Donnell gives important insights into the saint’s personality (cf. America, February 9, 2009, p. 35).

 

ST. MARTHA

 

“She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word.” (Lk 10:39)

 

A silly child she ever always was –

our mother said so a thousand times –

her quick eye caught by the flight or buzz

of some pretty creature’s mastering wings.

Lazarus tried to keep her out of sight,

to spare his clever sister women’s tasks.

I hauled the water, rose before first light,

set bread upon the board before they asked.

The day You came to us our prayers were granted.

My hands obeyed the rhythms of my labor

while Mary sat beside You like a man,

embraced within the circle of Your favor.

 

I stood apart, Your beauty kept from me,

and only when You left us did I see.

  

 

B. First Reading (Jer 15:10, 16-21): “Why is my pain continuous? – If you repent, you shall stand in my presence.”

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Jer 15:10, 16-21) depicts the vocation crisis of Jeremiah. His prophecy of doom to the people of Judah has made him “a man of strife and contention”. On account of his unwelcome message, he has to quarrel and argue with everyone in the land. This unfortunate situation leads him to regret the day of his birth. With bitter sarcasm, Jeremiah complains to the Lord: “I have not lent any money or borrowed any, yet everyone curses me.” He asserts that he is faithful to his prophetic ministry and because of his single-hearted devotion he does not even indulge in a good time. He whines: “Why do I keep on suffering? Why are my wounds incurable?” The disgusted prophet suspects that he could no longer rely on the Lord who must have forsaken him. Jeremiah completes his tirade: “You have indeed become for me a treacherous brook whose waters do not abide.”

 

God replies with a rebuke that Jeremiah himself needs to be converted. Indeed, Jeremiah ought to return to God and repent of his rebellious thoughts. Moreover, if instead of talking nonsense he proclaims a worthwhile, constructive message to the people, then Jeremiah will be God’s prophet again. In humbly returning to God, Jeremiah will experience anew the divine presence and protection. The Lord thus assures the prophet: “For I am with you to deliver and rescue you.”

 

The following modern day account, circulated on the Internet by the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights and dated July 8, 2014, gives insight into the contentious situation that Jeremiah experiences as a man of God.

 

Court Rules against Seal of Confession: Bill Donohue comments on a ruling made by the Supreme Court of Louisiana.

 

In 2008, a fourteen-year-old girl alleges that she told her parish priest that she was being abused by a now-deceased lay member of their parish. The girl alleges the disclosures came during the Sacrament of Confession. Now her parents are suing the priest and the Diocese of Baton Rogue for failing to report the alleged abuse. The State’s Supreme Court has ruled that the priest, Fr. Jeff Bayhi, may be compelled to testify as to whether the Confessions took place, and if so, what the contents of any such Confessions were.

 

Confession is one of the most sacred rites in the Church. The Sacrament is based on a belief that the seal of the confessional is absolute and inviolable. A priest is never permitted to disclose that an individual did seek the Sacrament. A priest who violates that seal suffers automatic excommunication from the Church.

 

As a result of this ruling, Fr. Bayhi may now have to choose between violating his sacred duty as a priest and being excommunicated from the Church or refusing to testify and risk going to prison. The Diocese said Fr. Bayhi would not testify.

 

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the free exercise of religion. Just as government cannot compel anyone to follow a particular religion, it likewise cannot prevent anyone from exercising the tenets of his faith. By deciding that Fr. Bayhi must choose between his faith and his freedom, the Louisiana Supreme Court has endangered the religious liberty of all Americans.

 

The Catholic League supports Fr. Bayhi and the Diocese of Baton Rouge.

 

 

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

 

1. Are we hospitable? Why or why not? In what ways are we Martha? In what ways are we Mary? Is our Christian discipleship characterized by receptivity and true listening to the word of God? // Is our response to Christ’s faith assurance: “I am the resurrection and the life” (Jn 11:25) like that of Martha, the sister of Lazarus? Are we willing to be a “sign” of resurrection in the death-dealing situations of today’s wounded world?

 

2. When things go wrong and we suffer trials and difficulties, do we whine and complain to the Lord? Or do we humbly turn to God and beg him for help and protection?

 

 

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

(Cf. Opening Prayer of Mass – Memorial of Saint Martha)

 

Father,

your Son honored Saint Martha

by coming to her home as a guest.

By her prayers

may we serve Christ in our brothers and sisters

and be welcomed by you into heaven, our true home.

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.

 

*** *** ***

 

Loving Jesus,

convert us to yourself.

Make us an instrument of your kingdom.

Be our help and protection

in contentious situations and difficulties.

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.

 

“Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” (Lk 10:42) // “I am the resurrection and the life … Do you believe this?”  (Jn 11:25-26) // “For I am with you to deliver and rescue you.” (Jer 15:20)

 

 

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

 

Carry out your daily tasks with personal dedication and with a loving spirit drawn out from the love of Jesus. // In fulfilling your prophetic ministry, resolve to turn to God and humbly beg his help when faced with difficult, contentious situations.

*** *** ***

 

July 30, 2020: THURSDAY – WEEKDAY (17); SAINT CHRYSOLOGUS, Bishop, Doctor of the Church

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Kingdom Is Like a Dragnet … He Teaches Us to Be Docile to the Divine Potter”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jer 18:1-6 // Mt 13:47-53

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 13:47-53): “They put what is good into buckets, what is bad they throw away.”

 

In today’s Gospel (Mt 13:47-63), Jesus gives us the parable of the dragnet. The dragnet, hauled to shore by fishermen, brings with it all the fish of the enclosed area. Some of the catch are inedible and some unclean according to Jewish law, and these will have to be thrown back into the sea. The good edible fish will be separated and put into buckets. The parable of the dragnet underlines the same point contained in the parable of the weeds growing among wheat: the good and bad exist together until the end of the age, when the Son of Man will make the final judgment.

 

At the conclusion of his series of parables, Jesus asks his disciples a significant question: “Do you understand all these things?” The disciples answered an emphatic “Yes”. The Divine Master has been helping them delve into the meaning of the kingdom of God with the use of parables. The disciples are like “scribes” who study the divine word. The “storeroom” of their lives contains what is “new” – the teaching of Jesus – and what is old – the law and prophets. They are called to see the radically new act of God in Christ in the light of the Old Testament tradition. They realize that Jesus’ message of the kingdom now takes precedence over the old and gives it new meaning.

 

The following story gives insight into how we will be judged at the end time (cf. Anthony de Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations, New York: Image Books, 1988, p. 137-138).

 

An old woman died and was taken to the Judgment Seat by the angels. While examining her records, however, the Judge could not find a single act of charity performed by her except for a carrot she had once given to a starving beggar.

 

Such, however, is the power of a single deed of love that it was decreed that she was to be taken up to heaven on the strength of that carrot. The carrot was brought to court and given her. The moment she caught hold of it, it began to rise as if pulled by some invisible strength, lifting her up toward the sky.

 

A beggar appeared. He clutched the hem of her garment and was lifted along with her; a third person caught hold of the beggar’s foot and was lifted too. Soon there was a long line of persons being lifted up to heaven by that carrot. And strange as it may seem, the woman did not feel the weight of all those people who held onto her; in fact, since she was looking heavenward, she did not see them

 

Higher and higher they rose until they were almost near the heavenly gates. That is when the woman looked back to catch a glimpse of the earth and saw this whole train of people behind her.

 

She was indignant! She gave an imperious wave of her hand and shouted, “Off! Off, all of you! This carrot is mine!” In making her imperious gesture, she let go of the carrot for a moment – and down she fell with the entire train.

 

There is only one cause for every evil on earth: “This belongs to me!”

 

 

B. First Reading (Jer 18:1--6): “Like the clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, house of Israel.”

 

In today’s Old Testament reading (Jer 18:1-6), God commands Jeremiah to go to the potter’s house and there a message is given to him. Just as the potter must work with the clay and shape it until a useful and good vessel is obtained, so the Lord acts with Judah. The Lord shapes and disciplines his people in the same way the potter patiently moulds an earthen vessel from the clay. God is the potter and the people of Judah are the clay that he shapes into his saving design. But the clay needs to be docile and responsive to the deft hands of the potter. Indeed, the God of Israel recognizes the people’s freedom to choose good or evil. Just like the potter who re-shapes imperfect pottery into something else, God plans to chastise a people who stubbornly cling to evil. Indeed, through the prophetic ministry of Jeremiah, God is calling his people to conversion and to be open to grace.

 

The following excerpt, from the story of a heartbroken mother who hunts down her drug-addicted daughter to save her life by bringing her home, takes on special significance against the backdrop of Jeremiah’s parable of the potter and the clay (cf. Margaret Williams, “Just Come Home” in Amazing Grace for Survivors, ed. Jeff Cavins, et. al., West Chester: Ascension Press, 2008, p. 161-167). Like a lump of clay in the potter’s hands, human conversion needs docility and openness to the dew of divine grace.

 

We arrived at Marie’s and could see through the mail slot that she was sleeping on the couch. “Marie, get up!” I called. She later said it was like a flashback from school days as she got up half asleep and opened the door. Seeing us, she became angry. Marie had made up her mind that she did not want to go back to Michigan. She decided her life was with these people and it was her mission to stay and help them.

 

I told her that I loved her and wanted her to come home with me. She told me she loved me but she was not going. Meanwhile, in the other room, Marie’s siblings Mark and Gloria proceeded with the plan to call the police. It was about 10:30 a.m. One of the neighbors came to the house to see what was going on. Marie overheard Mark tell the neighbor she should leave because the police would soon be there. With that, Marie called out and said that if that’s the way we wanted it, that was all right with her. At least she would get some rest in jail. I broke down and cried. At that point, I gave up all hope of her coming home with me.

 

As Marie walked out of the bedroom, the police arrived. Two young officers came through the living room. They began to question her as she walked back to the bedroom to put on her shoes. Mark sat back on his heels, put his head in his hands and cried. The three of us gave up all hope. Suddenly, one of the other officers came out of the other bedroom and said, “Marie, I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to arrest you for possession of rock” (the slang term for crack cocaine). We all looked shocked!

 

The officer walked into the front room holding a large rock in his hand – an actual fieldstone. It was a joke! Suddenly, laughter burst out, cutting all the tension. Then the other officer turned around and said, “Marie, why don’t you go home with your mom?”

 

To our amazement she answered, “All right.” We could hardly believe it. They never even mentioned the tickets. I thanked them profusely. It was like something right out of the movies.

 

Once Marie made up her mind to go home with us, the struggle was over. We went to Mark’s to pick up my luggage and still had enough time to stop for lunch before getting dropped off at the airport. On the plane ride home, Marie said that there was a saying back in the neighborhood when someone had some crack that “you gotta break me off some of that good stuff”. She looked at my rosary and said, “You gotta break me off some of that good stuff.”

 

Marie spent one year in a rehabilitation program at Dawn Farms. She has been sober for close to fifteen years now, and we are very happy and grateful to see what a wonderful person she has become.

 

 

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

 

1. Do I prepare myself for judgment day with acts of charity so that I may become an object of God’s mercy and saving grace? Do I treasure the radical newness of the Christ event and see it against the backdrop of the Law and the prophets?

 

2. Are we like clay docilely responding to the deft hands of the Divine Potter? Or are we stubborn and unyielding clay?

 

 

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

 

Jesus Lord,

at the end time,

let us be the object of your saving grace.

When the dragnet of our destiny is hauled into the eternal shore,

please count us among the redeemed.

Grant us divine wisdom so that,

as scribes of the kingdom,

we may delight in the radical newness of your saving work

and see the depth of its meaning

against the backdrop of the Law and the prophets.

Help us to be docile and responsive

to the deft hands of the heavenly Father, the Divine Potter.

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 kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind.” (Mt 13:47) // “Like the clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand.” (Jer 18:6)

  

 

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

 

By your acts of mercy and kindness, prepare for the definitive encounter with God’s mercy and justice at the hour of death and at the end time. // Resolve daily to be open and responsive to the saving will of the Divine Potter.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

July 31, 2020: FRIDAY – SAINT IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA, Priest

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Experienced Rejection and He was Persecuted … He was Persecuted”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jer 26:1-9 // Mt 13:54-58

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 13:54-58): “Is he not the carpenter’s son? Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds?”

 

In today’s Gospel episode (Mt 13:54-58), we come face to face with the mystery of a resisting and unbelieving heart. One can close one’s heart and mind to the Prophet of truth and Savior of the world. The townsfolk of Jesus are prejudiced by the utter ordinariness of his background. Jesus is amazed by the lack of faith that he found at Nazareth. The popular proverb he cites, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and in his own house”, situates him in line with all the prophets who were subjected to rejection by their co-citizens. Jesus is affected by the power of their unbelief and is not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. Jesus respects human freedom. The decision of an unbelieving and resisting heart, which negates the gratuitous offer of his love, is respected.

 

The Lord’s frustrating experience of “rejection” also surfaces in our daily life, in one way or another. This can be verified in Papa Mike’s ministry to the homeless (cf. Mike McGarvin, Poverello News, May 2012, p.1).

 

When homeless people tell me about the difficulties of their lives, I tend to be a good listener, which is why they talk to me, I suppose. However, I also have a habit of jumping in and giving them my opinion. Sometimes, it’s because I think that I can actually help them; other times, I see someone “stuck on stupid”, and I want to give him a reality check.

 

Like Rodney Dangerfield, it seems that when I offer my two cents’ worth, I don’t get any respect. It’s a little frustrating, because here I am, freely giving this person bits of McGarvin wisdom achieved through that famous School of Hard Knocks, and he completely ignores my advice. You’d think I’d learn to just shut up, but I guess I can’t help myself.

 

One woman approached me during a lunch meal and, talking very fast, told me how bad things were getting “out there”. She said she doesn’t drink or use drugs anymore, but she doesn’t seem to get away from those who do. I suggested she stay at Naomi’s House, a suggestion that was quickly rejected. This woman suffers from schizophrenia, which may account for her reluctance to accept help, but it was yet another case where I gave someone a good suggestion that was ignored.

 

 

B. First Reading (Jer 26:1-9): “All the people gathered about Jeremiah in the house of the Lord.”

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Jer 26:1-9) depicts Jeremiah’s fearless ministry of the Word and the condemnation it has brought upon him. Soon after King Jehoiakim became king of Judah, God commands Jeremiah to stand by the Temple court to speak to the worshippers about the impending doom to fall upon them if they persist in their evil ways. Through the prophet, God continues to appeal to the people to obey his life-giving words and thus avert self-destruction. But the people of Judah react angrily to the words of Jeremiah. His preaching the wrath of God provokes a general scandal. Instead of repenting, the people accuse him of blasphemy. They crowd upon him intending to kill him. They shout: “You ought to be killed for this!”

 

The following modern day account gives us insight into Jeremiah’s predicament as God’s faithful prophet.

 

June 18, 2014: Bill Donohue comments on San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone's response to those protesting his participation in the March for Marriage; it is being held tomorrow in Washington. A motley group of public officials, community activists, religious leaders, and gay advocates are upset that Archbishop Cordileone supports marriage, properly understood.  It is a striking sociological moment when elites stage a protest of an archbishop in the Roman Catholic Church simply because he believes—as the whole world has believed for thousands of years—that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. It is not a good cultural sign that this commonsensical position is considered controversial, even hateful.


 Those who are quick to brand support for traditional marriage hateful need to look in the mirror. As Archbishop Cordileone said in his excellent response to his critics: "For those who support the conjugal understanding of marriage, the attacks have not stopped at rhetoric. Simply for taking a stand for marriage as it has been understood in every human society for millennia, people have lost their jobs, lost their livelihoods, and have suffered other types of retribution including physical violence.”

The archbishop, who is chairman of the bishop's Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, offered to meet with those offended by his participation in the march. He asked “before you judge, get to know us.” But will they?

Kudos to Archbishop Cordileone for standing on principle. Let's also give a shout-out to his courageous spokeswoman, Christine A. Mugridge, for exclaiming, "We don't hate-monger, we don't pander to bigots." We are not accustomed to such straight talk coming from those in her position.

 

 

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

 

1. What is our response to experiences of rejection? Are we gracious, or do we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by frustration?

 

2. How does the predicament of the faithful prophet Jeremiah inspire us or daunt us? Are we ready to be persecuted for the word of God?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

your co-citizens were scandalized

by your humble “roots”.

You were not able to perform many mighty deeds in Nazareth

for the people’s lack of faith.

Help us to believe in you.

You are the true prophet who speaks the word of life.

Grant us the strength and the courage needed

to be true prophets like you.

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.

 

“And he did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith.” (Mt 13:58) // “You must be put to death!” (Jer 26:8)

 

 

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

 

In reparation for the rejection suffered by Jesus from his neighbors, do not react negatively to someone who treats you with hostility, but rather, respond to him/her with an act of kindness. // Pray for today’s persecuted Christians all over the world.

*** *** ***

August 1, 2020: SATURDAY – SAINT ALPHONSUS LIGOURI, Bishop, Doctor of the Church

“JESUS SAVIOR: The Baptist Shared in His Paschal Destiny … He Is Our Defender”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jer 26:11-16, 24 // Mt 14:1-12

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 14:1-12): “Herod had John beheaded. John’s disciples came and told Jesus.”

 

In the Gospel (Mt 14:1-12) we hear that in upholding the integrity of moral truth against the malice of King Herod and his partner Herodias, John suffered martyrdom. His death was an intimate participation in the paschal destiny of the Messiah, of whom he was the precursor. In sharing intimately the universal work of salvation of Jesus Christ, the words of Yahweh in the Second Servant Song, could also be applied not only to Jesus but also to John: “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth” (Is 49:6).

 

The courageous stance of John the Baptist in defense of truth and justice lives on in the Christian disciples of today’s world. This is marvelously illustrated in the lives of Fr. Gregory Schaffer and Fr. Rother (cf. Kayla Ann Smith, “Standing for Guatemalans” in Maryknoll, May-June 2005, p. 19-21). Kayla, a Minnesota teen inspired by those who champion oppressed Central Americans, writes:

 

Father Schaffer’s true courage to stand up for the poor of Guatemala was put to the test when, in the 1980’s, there were armed campaigns pointed at the natives of Guatemala. Even though the priest from the New Ulm Diocese knew he could be killed at any time for helping the indigents of Guatemala, he remained with the people he had come to love. He was in an especially dangerous position, since he was aiding the innocent of Guatemala as well as being a Catholic priest. Through his many acts of charity, he spoke plainly and boldly that the poor cannot be ignored, and that we are called to help the less fortunate.

 

Soon Father Schaffer found that he had been put on a death list. Although the fact of possible death would have scared many people to leave the terrorized country, Father Schaffer remained in Guatemala. He barely saved his life by convincing a military commander that he was not an ally of the guerrilla terrorists. Father Rother, who was a priest in the neighboring town, Santiago de Atitlan, was not as fortunate as Father Schaffer. Father Rother was murdered by the death squads. The farmer’s son turned priest from Okarche, Oklahoma, paid the ultimate price for being a soldier of Christ.

 

The loss of Father Schaffer’s fellow priest friend saddened him almost to the point of anger until he realized that Father Rother’s passing would be a powerful event that united all the people.

 

 

B. First Reading (Jer 26:11-16, 24): “For in truth it was the Lord who sent me to you to speak all these things for you to hear.”

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Jer 26:11-16, 24) underlines God’s protection upon Jeremiah. The words spoken by the Lord to Jeremiah are true: “I will rescue you from the power of the wicked and violent men” (cf. Jer 15:21). Jeremiah risks his life by speaking “in the name of the Lord, our God”. Faithful to his ministry as a prophet, he confronts the people of Judah: “For in truth it is the Lord who sent me to give you this warning.” He challenges his persecutors: “Do with me whatever you think is fair and right. But be sure of this: if you kill me, you and the people of this city will be guilty of killing an innocent man.” The civil leaders and the people who believe that Jeremiah speaks in the name of the Lord defend him. And because Jeremiah has the support of a powerful friend Ahikam, the faithful prophet is not killed. Ahikam is the son of Shaphan, the royal scribe who helped promote the word of God during the reform of King Josiah. Indeed, God continues to stand by Jeremiah – to protect him and keep him safe.

 

God’s rescue of his faithful Jeremiah gives depth and perspective to the modern day account, circulated on the Internet, of the rescue of a “faithful” Christian.

 

ROME (AP) - Pope Francis met privately Thursday with a Sudanese woman who refused to recant her Christian faith in the face of a death sentence, blessing the woman as she cradled her infant born just weeks ago in prison. The Vatican characterized the visit with Meriam Ibrahim, 27, her husband and their two small children as "very affectionate." The 30-minute encounter took place just hours after the family landed at Rome's Ciampino airport, accompanied by an Italian diplomat who helped negotiate her release, and welcomed by Italy's premier, who hailed it as a "day of celebration."

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said the pope "thanked her for her faith and courage, and she thanked him for his prayer and solidarity" during the half-hour meeting Thursday. Francis frequently calls attention to the suffering of those persecuted for their religious beliefs.

Lombardi said the presence of "their wonderful small children" added to the affectionate tone of the meeting. Ibrahim was presented with a rosary, a gift from the pope. Ibrahim held her sleeping infant as she stepped off the plane from Sudan, which had blocked her from leaving the country even after the country's highest court overturned her death sentence in June. An Italian diplomat carried her 18-month-old son and they were followed by her husband, Daniel Wani, who is a citizen of the United States and South Sudan. Ibrahim and her family are expected to spend a few days in Rome before heading to the United States.

Ibrahim, whose father was Muslim but whose mother was an Orthodox Christian from Ethiopia, was sentenced to death over charges of apostasy. She married her husband, a Christian, in a church ceremony in 2011. As in many Muslim nations, Muslim women in Sudan are prohibited from marrying non-Muslims, though Muslim men can marry outside their faith. The sentence was condemned by the United States, the United Nations and Amnesty International, among others, and both the United States and Italy - a strong death penalty opponent with long ties to the Horn of Africa region - worked to win her release.

Sudan's high court threw out her death sentence in June, but she was then blocked from leaving the country by authorities who questioned the validity of her travel document. Lapo Pistelli, an Italian diplomat who accompanied the family from Sudan, said Italy was able to leverage its ties within the region. "We had the patience to speak to everyone in a friendly way. This paid off in the end," he said.

 

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

 

1. Like John the Baptist, are we prophets of truth and are we ready to undergo sacrifice for the sake of truth?

 

2. Do we believe that if we are faithful to God, he will be for us our help and defender?

 

 

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

 

God our Father,

you called John the Baptist

to be the herald of your Son’s birth and death.

As he gave his life in witness to truth and justice,

so may we strive to profess our faith in your Gospel.

When persecuted for our faith,

let us feel your saving power.

Grant this through Christ our Lord.

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.

 

“Herod had John beheaded in the prison.” (Mt 14:10) // “For in truth it was the Lord who sent me to you.” (Jer 26:15)

 

 

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

 

Pray for Christian disciples who promote God’s kingdom of truth and justice. In your daily life, endeavor to be a prophet of truth. // Pray for the persecuted Christians in various parts of the world and pray to God for the courage to be peaceful.

 

 

***

 

 

Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang  PDDM

 

 

PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI

SISTER DISCIPLES OF THE DIVINE MASTER

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