A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday and Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 12, n. 36)

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time & Weekday 18: August 3-9, 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 27-August 2, 2014, please go to ARCHIVES Series 12 and click on “17th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Weekday 17”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: August 3-9, 2014.)

 

***

 

August 3, 2014: 18th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Multiplies the Five Loaves and Two Fish”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 55:1-3 // Rom 8:35, 37-39 // Mt 14:13-21

 

 

I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS

 

The Gospel episode (Mt 14:13-21) depicts Jesus’ “banquet” of the loaves and fish in a deserted place in Galilee near the sea. The miraculous banquet laid out by Jesus the Master-Shepherd points to the Eucharistic feast and the dawning of messianic salvation. In the superabundance of the multiplied loaves and the twelve baskets filled with leftovers is a sign of the copious spiritual nourishment and the unfailing Eucharistic food that Jesus offers to hungry crowds over the course of centuries. Our sense of faith is heartened by the remarkable quality of Jesus’ banquet of the loaves and fish, especially of what it prefigures – the Eucharist. Moreover, in the miraculous event of the multiplication of the “five loaves and two fish”, Jesus is forming his disciples’ faith in preparation for their role as pastors and givers of nourishment to the ecclesial community.

 

The Lord of the feast and Eucharistic banquet is Christ Jesus, who invites us to share at the table of the Word and Sacraments. As his beloved and privileged disciples, he summons us to bring his spiritual nourishment to the “hungry” crowd of today’s world. He is the gracious host who transforms our paltry, humble supply of “five loaves and two fish” into a table of plenty. In our vocation as Christian believers in the modern world, he assures us that with only “five loaves and two fish” and by his grace, we will be able to respond to the “hungers” of today’s anguished and restless modern society. If only we turn to Jesus Host in faith, our poverty will be transformed into spiritual riches for the benefit of the world’s poor and their salvation. Indeed, the miracle of “superabundance” begins with “little”. In his compassion, the power of God – through Christ and the Holy Spirit - is actively and marvelously at work in us, embracing our poverty and multiplying the meager resources we lovingly place at his disposal.

 

The following modern day account teaches us that with God we can do all and that the miraculous sign of “multiplication” can be experienced even now (cf. Lisa Beech, “A Lesson in Multiplication” in Guideposts, March 2014, p. 23).

 

Last year I joined San Francisco’s City Impact, a nondenominational group doing outreach to inner-city residents. This was my first day visiting a public housing complex. The leader put me and another newbie in charge of handing out groceries. My partner and I agreed we had the best job. Who didn’t love food, especially when they couldn’t afford much of it?

 

“Not everyone will need some”, our leader reminded us. “We’re also just here to talk, check in with people, pray with them if they want. It’s about showing love.”

 

The people on our assigned floors seemed happy to see us and our big box of supplies when we knocked – all except one. “I have company”, he said. “Sorry. I have to go.” He shut the door before we’d even had time to offer him anything. Which might have been for the best. Our box is almost empty. “We’re going to run out of food!” I said. “We must be giving people too much.”

 

My partner and I looked at each other in alarm. Had we messed everything up? We had a whole floor of apartments left to visit! Lord, I said silently, you fed the five thousand. Could you multiply this food the way you did the loaves and the fishes?”

 

“I asked God to multiply the food”, I whispered to my partner. “Me too!” he whispered back. Visit by visit our supplies dwindled. We still had quite a few apartments left when I checked the box again: one lime and a can of soup. Soon those were gone. “We’ll have to tell people we ran out”, I said. “We really miscalculated.” No way is God going to bail us out, I told myself miserably.

 

Just then someone came running down the hall. It was the impatient man from the floor above. His arms were full of groceries: cereal and cans of soup. “Here”, he said, putting them in the box. “Thought some of the other residents could use them. I’ve got plenty this month. Gotta run!”

 

We had just enough for the apartments we still had left to visit. God had multiplied our groceries – and multiplied our faith too.

 

***

This Sunday’s Gospel takes on a deeper meaning if seen against the backdrop of the Old Testament reading (Is 55:1-3), which introduces the theme of the banquet of the Lord. This prophetic passage was probably written in exile in Babylon after King Cyrus of Persia signed the edict allowing the captive Jews to return home. The prophet Isaiah transmitted Yahweh’s comforting words to the Jews who have returned to Judah and found the Jerusalem situation overwhelming: “Heed me, and you shall eat well; you shall delight in rich fare. Come to me heedfully; listen, that you may have life”. Couched in evocative imagery, the invitation to eat well and to delight in rich fare is meant to assure the broken-hearted people of God’s providential love and the marvelous abundance at the end-time.

 

The image of a “banquet”, a common and pleasurable experience, indicates the fullness of salvation offered by God to his people and their intimate participation in the divine life at the end-time. To prepare for the end-time fulfillment, the people are summoned to put themselves right with God. Indeed, the vocation to participate in the sumptuous banquet of divine life demands personal response, attentive listening of the heart and heeding the voice of God in a spirit of filial obedience. To “eat well” and to “delight in rich fare” imply that God would satisfy the deepest yearnings of a responsive and obedient heart – their longing for loving relationships and for the abundant riches of the messianic kingdom.

 

The following modern day story gives insight into the meaning of God’s invitation: “Heed me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare. Come to me heedfully; listen, then you shall have life” (Is 55:3). Carolyn Webber deals with the recovery of her drug-addicted son (cf. “The Bread of Life” in Guideposts, March 2013, 63-66.

 

Two guys walked up to us in the strip mall parking lot just as my husband and I were about to get in our car. They were carrying a cooler. Something about them gave me a strange vibe, so I opened the passenger door and climbed in. “Would you like to buy some banana bread?” I heard one of them asked David. What do they really want? I wondered. “No, thanks”, David said. “My wife makes the best banana bread.” “I understand”, the man said. “please take this though.” He handed David some sort of paper. (…)

 

David got in the driver’s seat. “I think you need to see this”, he said, handing me the paper he’d been given. It was a flyer. “Victory Family Center: The Road to Recovery Starts Here” - the front proclaimed. A shiver ran down my spine. David had started to drive away. “Wait!” I said. “Turn around.”

 

Back in the parking lot we spoke to one of the men with the banana bread. “Victory Family Center has a six month live-in recovery program”, he told us. “Residents participate in daily chapel services, group sessions, Bible studies and various work activities designed to motivate and build character. All our services are free.” To help support the center, residents sold banana bread, which also gave them an opportunity to tell others about the ways God had worked in their lives.

 

I felt that shiver again, and I knew he had to be at work right here and right now. I called Wes on my cell phone. “There’s this place I think you should check out”, I said. It’s a rehab center that really focuses on God. Please just see how it is. Not for me. For yourself.” Silence. Was he going to hang up or tell me to stay out of his life? I braced myself.

 

“Yeah, okay”, Wes said. “I’ll go, I guess.

 

David was the one who took Wes to Victory Family Center that very night. I couldn’t bring myself to go. If he refused to check himself in, I wouldn’t be able to take it. As soon as David got home, I ran to him. “Please tell me he stayed”, I said. “Please tell me something good.” “The first thing the counselors did was open their arms and hug Wes”, he said. “They told him they loved him and were there for him no matter what.”

 

On my first visit to Victory Family campus, I saw that love in action. The place was very structured – no TVs, no couches to lounge on. Every resident was given a job, something to take responsibility for. “I love it here”, Wes told me. “I feel like I have a purpose.”

 

Still, after he finished the six months, he relapsed. But now I understood that relapse was part of the disease. He got clean again and recommitted to the Victory Family two-year program. He traveled all over the Houston area with a cooler full of banana bread, helping addicts get on the road to recovery. Helping others get straight helped him stay straight. David and I talked to him all the time, and we visited regularly with his sister and brother too.

 

One afternoon David and I took Wes out for lunch. “Mom, if I hadn’t gone through everything I did”, Wes said, “I never would have changed or given my life to Christ.” His blue eyes were filled with light, with life – and something else I couldn’t quite put my finger on. “I’m so proud of you, Wes”, I said to him. “I …” Before I finish he spoke again. “And, Mom, when I wake up in the morning I am at peace. And when I go to bed at night, I have peace.”

 

My deepest prayer for my son was answered, a miracle as sweet as banana bread.

 

***

The love of a nurturing God made manifest in Jesus Christ is strongly underlined in today’s Second Reading (Rom 8:35, 37-39). Saint Paul avows that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ and that no creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Indeed, we conquer overwhelmingly all trials and difficulties through him who loves us. Nothing can keep Christ from loving us and no one can impede God from showing his love for us in Christ Jesus.

 

Harold Buetow comments on today’s Pauline passage, which is one of the most magnificent passages in the Bible: “Here Paul, a true Jew who found conversion to Jesus difficult, enumerates seven different troubles to which human flesh is heir and which may come thick and fast. His initial list of hardships (v. 35) says that the disasters of the world won’t separate a person from Jesus. Indeed, if properly used they bring one closer. Thus we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. Then Paul lists (v. 38f.) a series of terrible extremes that will never break our love relationship with Jesus. Death, which is neither the end nor a separation, is really a step closer to the presence of Jesus. Angelic powers, some of them evil, won’t separate us from him, nor will any age in time. At a period when astrology tyrannically ruled many people’s minds, giving rise to superstition, Paul defied it all by declaring that stars at both their zenith and their nadir would be powerless to destroy this relationship. And, looking into the future, he declared that not even another world can take away our being enveloped in the love of God if we don’t let it.”

 

The following story, “The Old Dented Bucket” circulated through the Internet, affirms that we can mirror divine goodness through our own hospitality and compassionate acts for the needy. It also illustrates that when we allow the love of God in Christ Jesus to dwell in us, no trials or difficulties can ever separate us from that love.

 

Our house was directly across the street from the clinic entrance of John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. We lived downstairs and rented the upstairs rooms to out-patients at the clinic.

 

One summer evening as I was fixing supper, there was a knock at the door. I opened it to see a truly awful looking man. “Why, he’s hardly taller than my 8-year-old”, I thought as I stared at the stooped, shriveled body. But the appalling thing was his face, lopsided from swelling, red and raw. Yet his voice was pleasant as he said, “Good evening. I’ve come to see if you’ve a room for just one night. I came for treatment this morning from the eastern shore, and there’s no bus ‘til morning.” He told me he’d been hunting for a room since noon with no success; no one seemed to have a room. “I guess it’s my face … I know it looks terrible, but my doctor says with a few more treatments …”

 

For a moment I hesitated, but his next words convinced me: “I could sleep in this rocking chair on the porch. My bus leaves early in the morning.”

 

I told him we would find him a bed, but to rest on the porch. I went inside and finished getting supper. When we were ready, I asked the old man if he would join us. “No, thank you. I have plenty.” And he held up a brown paper bag.

 

When I had finished the dishes, I went out on the porch to talk with him a few minutes. It didn’t take a long time to see that this old man had an oversized heart crowded into that tiny body. He told me he fished for a living to support his daughter, her 5 children, and her husband, who was hopelessly crippled from a back injury.

 

He didn’t tell it by way of complaint; in fact, every other sentence was prefaced with thanks to God for a blessing. He was grateful that no pain accompanied his disease, which was apparently a form of skin cancer. He thanked God for giving him the strength to keep going …

 

At bedtime, we put a camp cot in the children’s room for him. When I got up in the morning, the bed linens were neatly folded and the little man was out on the porch. He refused breakfast, but just before he left for the bus, haltingly, as if asking a great favor, he said, “Could I please come back and stay the next time I have a treatment? I won’t put you out a bit. I can sleep fine in a chair.” He paused a moment and then added, “Your children made me feel at home. Grownups are bothered by my face, but children don’t seem to mind.”

 

I told him he was welcome to come again. And, on his next trip, he arrived a little after 7 in the morning. As a gift, he brought a big fish and a quart of the largest oysters I had ever seen! He said he had shucked them that morning before he left so that they’d be nice and fresh. I knew his bus left at 4:00 a.m. And I wondered what time he had to get up in order to do this for me.

 

In the years he came to stay overnight with us, there was never a time that he did not bring us fish or oysters or vegetables from his garden. Other times, we received packages in the mail, always a special delivery; fish and oysters packed in a box of fresh young spinach or kale, every leaf carefully washed. Knowing that he must walk 3 miles to mail these, and knowing how little money he had made the gifts doubly precious.

 

When I received these little remembrances, I often thought of a comment our next-door neighbor made after he left that first morning. “Did you keep that awful looking man last night? I turned him away! You can lose roomers by putting up such people!”

 

Maybe we did lose roomers once or twice. But, oh! if only they had known him, perhaps their illnesses would have been easier to bear. I know our family always will be grateful to have known him; from him we learned what it was to accept the bad without complaint and the good with gratitude to God.

 

Recently, I was visiting a friend, who has a greenhouse. As she showed me her flowers, we came to the most beautiful one of all, a golden chrysanthemum, bursting with blooms. But to my great surprise, it was growing in an old dented, rusty bucket. I thought to myself, “If this were my plant, I’d put it in the loveliest container I had!”

 

My friend changed my mind. “I ran short of pots”, she explained, “and knowing how beautiful this one would be, I thought it wouldn’t mind starting out in this old pail. It’s just for a little while, till I can put it out in the garden.”

 

She must have wondered why I laughed so delightedly, but I was imagining just such a scene in heaven. “Here’s an especially beautiful one”, God might have said when he came to the soul of the sweet old fisherman. “He won’t mind starting in this small body.” All this happened long ago – and now, in God’s garden, how tall this lovely soul must stand.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we see the miraculous possibility of the “five loaves and two fish” that are available to us in our ministry to the poor? Do we trust that Jesus will multiply our resources? Do we allow ourselves to be filled by the superabundant riches of God?

 

2. How do we respond to God’s invitation: “Heed me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare. Come to me heedfully; listen, that you may have life”?

 

3. Do we trust that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ and no creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord?

 

 

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

 

O loving Father,

your Son Jesus, our Master-Shepherd,

multiplied the “five loaves of bread and two fish”.

He is both the host and the fare.

He is the bread of the Word and the bread and wine

of the Eucharistic sacrifice on the cross.

Jesus redeemed, sanctified and glorified us.

The paschal event assures us

that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ

and that no creature will be able to separate us

from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Strengthened by the bread of life,

help us to overcome all kinds of trials, difficulties and distress

through the love of God in Christ Jesus.

He is our Lord and he lives and reigns, forever and ever.

            Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

            “They all ate and were satisfied.” (Mt 14:20) // “Heed me and you shall eat well.” (Is 55:2) //“What will separate us from the love of Christ?” (Rom 8:35)

  

  

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

 

Seek to alleviate the hunger of a needy brother and sister in any way. Contribute to the local Church’s effort to provide bread for the poor in your community.

 

***

 

August 4, 2014: MONDAY – SAINT JOHN VIANNEY, priest

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Saves Us from the Raging Waters and Upholds His Prophet”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jer 28:1-17 // Mt 14:22-36

N.B. In Year A when Mt 14:13-21 is read on the preceding Sunday,

Mt 14:22-36 is read.

 

 

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

 

The need for deeper faith permeates the Gospel reading (Mt 14:22-36). Peter, impetuous as ever, asks to come to Jesus on the waters, but his faith fails him. After a tentative beginning, he begins to sink. Jesus saves him, but rebukes him for his feeble faith. Even Peter, the “prince of apostles”, wavers in his faith.

 

St. Augustine exhorts us to contemplate this Gospel episode so that, when beset with the turmoil of temptations, we could put our faith Jesus, who for our sake suffered death in order to save us: “Look at Peter, who in this episode is an image of ourselves; at one moment he is all confidence, at the next all uncertainty and doubt; now he professes faith in the immortal One, now he fears for his life … Think, then, of this world as a sea, whipped up to tempestuous heights by violent winds. A person’s own private tempest will be his or her unruly desires. If you love God you will have power to walk upon the waters, and all the world’s swells and turmoil will remain beneath your feet. But if you love the world, it will surely engulf you, for it always devours its lovers, never sustains them. If you feel your foot slipping beneath you, if you become a prey to doubt or realize that you are losing control, if, in a word, you begin to sink, say: Lord, I am drowning, save me! Only he, who for your sake died in your fallen nature, can save you from the death inherent in that fallen nature.”

 

The following lovely story illustrates that those who love God and have faith in him have power to walk upon the waters (cf. Anthony de Mello, The Song of the Bird, New York: Image Books, 1984, p. 72-73).

 

When the bishop’s ship stopped at a remote island for a day, he determined to use the time as profitably as possible. He strolled along the seashore and came across three fishermen mending their nets. In pidgin English they explained to him that centuries before they had been Christianized by missionaries. “We Christians!” they said, proudly pointing to one another.

 

The bishop was impressed. Did they know the Lord’s Prayer? They had never heard it. The bishop was shocked. “What do you say, then, when you pray?” “We lift eyes in heaven. We pray, ‘We are three, you are three, have mercy on us.’” The bishop was appalled at the primitive, the downright heretical nature of their prayer. So he spent the whole day teaching them the Lord’s Prayer. The fishermen were poor learners, but they gave it all they had and before the bishop sailed away next day he had the satisfaction of hearing them go through the formula without a fault.

 

Months later the bishop’s ship happened to pass by those islands again, and the bishop, as he paced the deck saying his evening prayers, recalled with pleasure the three men on that distant island who were now able to pray, thanks to his patient efforts. While he was lost in the thought he happened to look up and noticed a spot of light in the east. The light kept approaching the ship and, as the bishop gazed in wonder, he saw three figures walking on the water. The captain stopped the boat and everyone leaned over the rails to see this sight.

 

When they were within speaking distance, the bishop recognized his three friends, the fishermen. “Bishop”, they exclaimed. “We hear your boat go past island and come hurry hurry to meet you.” “What is it you want?” asked the awe-stricken bishop. “Bishop”, they said, “we so, so sorry. We forget lovely prayer. We say, ‘Our Father in heaven, holy be your name, your kingdom come …’ then we forget. Please tell us prayer again.”

 

The bishop felt humbled. “Go back to your home, my friends”, he said, “and each time you pray, say, ‘We are three, you are three, have mercy on us!’”

 

 

In imitation of Jesus Christ, who walks on the water, the beloved St. John Mary Vianney, whose memorial we celebrate today, saves many people from the raging waters of evil and sin (cf. The Word Among Us, June 2008, p. 54-57).

 

Jean-Marie had very little education and did poorly in class. No matter how hard he studied, he couldn’t remember his Latin grammar. Just when all seemed lost, Fr. Charles Balley – a far-seeing pastor who recognized Vianney’s potential – decided to tutor him. Vianney passed the required tests, was ordained in August 1815, and served as Fr. Balley’s assistant for two and a half years, until his assignment to Ars. (…)

 

Vianney set to work. Very early each morning and very late each night, he spent hours before the altar in the dilapidated church. Face down on the floor, he begged God – often with tears – to change the people’s hearts. A curious parishioner who once followed him inside was surprised at what his new pastor was praying out loud: “My God, grant me the conversion of my parish. I am willing to suffer all my life … I am prepared to endure the sharpest pains even for a hundred years. Only let my people be converted. (…)

 

In time, the people of Ars began to heed their pastor’s exhortations to stay out of the taverns and come to church, to refrain from work on Sundays, and to end the wild dances. They came to love the religious processions and pilgrimages that Vianney organized to help them know that God was among them. Many learned to pray and grew close to God themselves … As Vianney’s fame grew, pilgrims began showing up – twenty a day at first, then over the next three decades, up to eighty thousand each year. Often they waited for days, crowded together in the church, awaiting their turn in the confessional … Young people flocked to him to help them discern whether they had a religious vocation. The sick came to be prayed over for healing. (…)

 

For forty-one years, Vianney persevered as the pastor of the little village … He died on August 4, 1859, at the age of seventy-three. Already acclaimed a saint by the people, Jean-Marie Vianney was canonized on May 31, 1925, and later named the patron of parish priests. His life can be summed up by one of his sayings: “To be loved by God, to be united with God, to live in the presence of God, to live for God. Oh! What a beautiful life and what a beautiful death!”

 

***

 

In today’s Old Testament reading (Jer 28:1-17), there is face-to-face confrontation between Jeremiah, the true prophet, and Hananiah, the false prophet. Jeremiah wears a wooden yoke, urging the people of Judah to submit for now to the king of Babylon to avert total destruction. Hananiah, a charlatan, paints a rosy picture. Indeed, his empty promise of peace suits God’s chosen people in denial. Using a symbolic action, Hananiah breaks Jeremiah’s wooden yoke and predicts that God will break the Babylonian rule within two years. After some time the Lord commands Jeremiah to replace the wooden yoke with an iron yoke and to refute the false prophecy. Jeremiah reiterates his message of doom and complete subjugation for the rebellious people of Judah. Moreover, Hananiah who predicts success and not humility, the one “not sent” by God, is to be “dispatched” that very year. Two months later, Hananiah dies! The fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prediction authenticates Jeremiah’s mission as true prophet.

 

Lionel Bottori’s story “The Uninvited Guests” (cf. Bostoniano, July 2014, p. 30-31) is very entertaining. It is about two charlatan monks who presented themselves as devotees of the Order of St. Bulbous. They said they were on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and asked shelter from the hospitable archpriest Papa Galeazzo. Brother Mangiatutto (= Brother “He Eats All”) and Brother Berfinafondo (= Brother “He Drinks Till He Empties the Cup”) ate everything that was put in front of them and were not shy to ask for more wine when the first pitcher was emptied. In no time, Papa Galeazzo became suspicious. The following account of the showdown between the two fraudulant monks and their gracious host Papa Galeazzo evokes, in a humorous vein, the victorious struggle experienced by Jeremiah in today’s Old Testament account.

 

(…) Resolving to learn more about these dubious fellows, he prepared a quiz on religious doctrine to see if he could expose them. But, as luck would have it, he happened upon an open window behind some heavy drapes just as the pair walked by. Unaware of his presence, the pair spoke freely. “Ha, ha”, they both laughed, then the man who called himself Mangiatutto said: “That ‘Papa Gallo’ is such a fool! As soon as we’re rested, we’ll get a couple of big sacks and clean out all those gold and silver antiques from the church, and have a proper party when we get back home!”

 

If they weren’t a pair of devils, they were at least thieves and charlatans, thought Galeazzo. They obviously had told him a pack of lies, up to and including inventing their own saint. The archpriest had no means to evict these frauds, so he decided that he would use a real saint to beat them at their own game.

 

That night at dinner, he announced the news that the Feast of St. Celestino il Quinto would be celebrated in the most traditional manner. All the “religiosi” in the “canonica” were asked to respect this observance, which would last for a week or so, said the priest who stood before the two so-called monks. Fearing they’d lose the opportunity to burglarize the church, they nodded their affirmation.

 

“This daily repast will consist of a piece of bread and a cup of water”, said Papa Galeazzo, eliciting a pair of loud gasps. The archpriest had all other food removed from the building, and the doors of the wine cellar locked. Soon, the two false monks found few occasions to call down the blessing of St. Bulbous. Then Papa Galeazzo told his guests they would have to stay in unfurnished cells and sleep on the hard stone floors. He explained that St. Celestino was famous for abnegating the world and its sins by means of the mortifications of the flesh, and so he expected his fellow clergy to set the same example for the laity as the saint himself had done.

 

As they listened, their faces slowly reddened and changed from expressions of expectation to those of exasperation. They began whispering to one another. The archpriest was now convinced that these were common thieves, and not the Devil and a demon in disguise. So he decided to take a chance by inventing one more lie of his own. He announced that on the third day, the ritual of flagellation would commence, and that members of the Order of St. Celestino il Quinto would come and beat them for an hour or two in order to cleanse them of all sin and help them focus their thoughts on the afterlife as the saint himself had done. He went on to describe the heavy horsewhips and large physiques of the volunteers who were coming to so generously assist in this ritual blessing.

 

“Diavolo!” exclaimed the pair in unison. “Better to suffer a bit in this short life than to burn in eternal damnation, don’t you think?” asked the archpriest, relieved that they had not disappeared in a cloud of sulfurous smoke only to reappear as bright red demons intent on carrying him to hell.

 

Just then, Brother Mangiatutto announced that it was their sacred duty to leave immediately, since their pilgrimage was a higher obligation than celebrating St. Celestino’s rituals. When they asked for a letter of introduction, the archpriest presented them with a copy of a grocery list, asking them if something like that would suffice. They carefully looked it over and stated that it was quite adequate.

 

Armed with the knowledge that the two could not read, he told them that he’d be nothing less than truthful in this recommendation. He wrote: “These men are neither monks nor devils, but incorrigible liars and thieves. Anyone who meets them should beware.” Then they departed to “Jerusalem” as fast as they could.

 

When Papa Galeazzo met his bishop again, his superior asked him how he handled the situation with the demons in disguise. “Well, they left! Apparently the threat of penance can scare off even the Devil!” answered Papa Galeazzo.

 

 

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

 

1. When we are buffeted by howling winds and violent storms in the sea of life, how steadfast is our faith? Do we dare walk on the “raging waters” on the basis of our faith in Jesus? When we sin and falter, what do we do? Do we have recourse to Jesus and cry out: “Lord, save me”?

 

2. Do we trust that God will give us the grace to overcome threats and conflicts brought about by false prophets?

 

 

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

 

Loving Jesus,

you walk on the water and you master the raging sea.

When we are buffeted

by howling winds and violent storms in the sea of life,

help us to have steadfast faith in you.

Hold us by the hand

and we too will walk with you upon the raging sea.

But when our faith falters,

save us and do not let us perish.

Deliver us too from raging storms created by false prophets.

We love you for you are kind and merciful.

You come to our aid always.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

   

 

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

           

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

 

“He came toward them, walking on the sea.” (Mt 14:25) // “You have raised false confidence in this people.” (Jer 28:15)

  

 

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

 

Pray for those whose lives are in a “raging sea” and beset with trials and difficulties. Assist them in any way you can. Pray for fishermen and seamen and all those engaged in ministering to their material, moral and spiritual needs. Pray that we may be delivered from the evil influence of today’s false prophets.

  

 

***

 

August 5, 2014: TUESDAY – THE DEDICATION OF THE BASILICA OF SAINT MARY MAJOR

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is an Authoritative Teacher and Gives Us Hope of Restoration

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jer 30:1-2, 12-15, 18-22 // Mt 14:22-36 or Mt 15:1-2, 10-14

N.B. The text Mt 15:1-2, 10-14 may be used especially in Cycle A,

when Mt 14:22-36 is read on Monday.

 

 

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

 

In performing the various acts of power, like multiplication of the loaves, walking on water, healing the sick, etc., Jesus’ reputation grows. Hearing these, some Pharisees and scribes come from Jerusalem to investigate. They question Jesus about his disciples’ lack of ritual observance. They accuse them of breaking the tradition of the elders for they do not wash their hands when they eat a meal. The “tradition of the elders” refers to oral traditions, later written down in the Midrash, which are interpretations of the Old Testament laws. The “tradition” consists of elaborate rules and prescriptions that often go beyond the true meaning of the Old Testament laws. Rules meant for the members of the priestly class have also been extended by the so-called “teachers of the law” to all Israelites on the grounds that the entire Israel is a priestly people. The accusation that Jesus’ disciples do not wash their hands before eating is based on a ritual purity law required of the Levite priests that have been imposed on everyone.

 

Jesus responds by inviting the crowd “to listen and understand”. He then makes the radical statement that real impurity comes from within the person. What defiles a person is the evil in his or her own heart, and not the omission of purification rites. Jesus’ contention must have provoked the Pharisees and scribes. The disciples are concerned that the Pharisees had their feelings hurt by what Jesus has said. Jesus is adamant and points out that these “leaders” are not of God’s planting and need to be pulled up. Alluding to the prophet Isaiah (56:10), Jesus asserts that they are blind leaders of the blind. When one blind man leads another, both fall into the ditch. Those who follow them share in their fate.

 

The following article circulated on the Internet gives us an idea about the “blind leading the blind”.

 

This is one of the best explanations of the Muslim terrorist situation I have ever read. His references to past history are accurate and clear. Not long, easy to understand, and well worth the read. The author of this email is Dr. Emanuel Tanya, a well-known and well-respected psychiatrist.    A man whose family was German aristocracy prior to World War II owned a number of large industries and estates. When asked how many German people were true Nazis, the answer he gave can guide our attitude toward fanaticism.

 

“Very few people were true Nazis,' he said, 'but many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and the end of the world had come.' 'My family lost everything. I ended up in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories.'

 

We are told again and again by 'experts' and 'talking heads' that Islam is a religion of peace and that the vast majority of Muslims just want to live in peace. Although this unqualified assertion may be true, it is entirely irrelevant. It is meaningless fluff meant to make us feel better, and meant to somehow diminish the specter of fanatics rampaging across the globe in the name of Islam.'

 

The fact is that the fanatics rule Islam at this moment in history. It is the fanatics who march. It is the fanatics who wage any one of 50 shooting wars worldwide. It is the fanatics who systematically slaughter Christians or tribal groups throughout Africa and are gradually taking over the entire continent in an Islamic wave. It is the fanatics who bomb, behead, murder, or honor-kill. It is the fanatics who take over mosque after mosque. It is the fanatics who zealously spread the stoning and hanging of rape victims and homosexuals. It is the fanatics who teach their young to kill and to become suicide bombers.

 

The hard, quantifiable fact is that the peaceful majority, the 'silent majority,' is cowed and extraneous. Communist Russia was comprised of Russians who just wanted to live in peace, yet the Russian Communists were responsible for the murder of about 20 million people. The peaceful majority were irrelevant. China's huge population was peaceful as well, but Chinese Communists managed to kill a staggering 70 million people.

 

The average Japanese individual prior to World War II was not a warmongering sadist. Yet, Japan murdered and slaughtered its way across South East Asia in an orgy of killing that included the systematic murder of 12 million Chinese civilians; most killed by sword, shovel, and bayonet. And who can forget Rwanda, which collapsed into butchery? Could it not be said that the majority of Rwandans were 'peace loving'?

 

History lessons are often incredibly simple and blunt, yet for all our powers of reason, we often miss the most basic and uncomplicated of points: peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by their silence. Peace-loving Muslims will become our enemy if they don't speak up, because like my friend from Germany, they will awaken one day and find that the fanatics own them, and the end of their world will have begun.

 

Peace-loving Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Russians, Rwandans, Serbs, Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, Somalis, Nigerians, Algerians, and many others have died because the peaceful majority did not speak up until it was too late.

 

Now Islamic prayers have been introduced in Toronto and other public schools in Ontario, and, yes, in Ottawa, too, while the Lord's Prayer was removed (due to being so offensive?). The Islamic way may be peaceful for the time being in our country until the fanatics move in.

 

In Australia, and indeed in many countries around the world, many of the most commonly consumed food items have the halal emblem on them. Just look at the back of some of the most popular chocolate bars, and at other food items in your local supermarket. Food on aircraft have the halal emblem just to appease the privileged minority who are now rapidly expanding within the nation's shores.

 

In the U.K, the Muslim communities refuse to integrate and there are now dozens of ‘no-go’ zones within major cities across the country that the police force dare not intrude upon. Sharia law prevails there, because the Muslim community in those areas refuses to acknowledge British law.

 

As for us who watch it all unfold, we must pay attention to the only group that counts - the fanatics who threaten our way of life.”

 

***

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Jer 30:1-2, 12-15, 18-22) is from Jeremiah’s oracles of salvation in which the prophet declares God’s intention to restore the chosen people Israel. The first part of today’s text is a vivid description of the sufferings and miseries of Israel due to her sins. Her wounds are incurable; her injuries cannot be healed; her pain is without relief. The Lord asserts that this is because of Israel’s great guilt and her numerous sins. The second part depicts the reversal of fortune, which is God’s gracious work. The Lord promises to restore his people to their land. Jerusalem will be rebuilt and the people who live there will sing his praise. The Lord offers a beautiful vision of the future: “They will be my people and I will be their God.”

 

The interplay of judgment and salvation in today’s oracle helps us understand better the following words of Pope Francis during the Mass that he celebrated on July 7, 2014, for six victim of sexual abuse (cf. Pope Francis, “I Humbly Ask Forgiveness” in L’Osservatore Romano, July 11, 2014, p. 5).

 

(…) I feel the gaze of Jesus and I ask for the grace to weep, the grace for the Church to weep and make reparation for her sons and daughters who betrayed their mission, who abused innocent persons … For some time now I have felt in my heart deep pain and suffering. (…)

 

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 lifelong scars. I know that these wounds are a source of deep and often unrelenting emotional and spiritual pain, and even despair. Many of those who have suffered in this way have also sought relief in the path of addiction. Others have experienced difficulties in significant relationships, with parents, spouses and children. Suffering in families has been especially grave, since the damage provoked by abuse affects these vital family relationships. Some have even had to deal with the terrible tragedy of the death of a loved one by suicide. (…)

 

Before God and his people I express my sorrow for the sins and grave crimes of clerical abuse committed against you. And I humbly ask forgiveness. (…)

 

Dear brothers and sisters, because we are all members of God’s family, we are called to live lives shaped by mercy. The Lord Jesus, our Savior, is the supreme example of this; though innocent, he took our sins upon himself on the cross. To be reconciled is the very essence of our shared identity as followers of Christ. By turning back to him, accompanied by our most holy Mother, who stood sorrowing at the foot of the cross, let us seek the grace of reconciliation with the entire people of God. The loving intercession of Our Lady of Tender Mercy is an unfailing source of help in the process of our healing. (…)

 

***

 

The following article on the Internet (cf. Wikipedia) gives us a background concerning the optional memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major.

 

The feast commemorates the dedication by Pope Sixtus III of the rebuilt Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore just after the First Council of Ephesus. The major basilica, located on the summit of Esquiiline Hill in Rome, is called the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore because it is the largest church in Rome dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The original church, which was replaced by that of Pope Sixtus III, was built during the pontificate of Pope Liberius (352-366) and is thus sometimes known as Basilica Liberiana.

 

Until 1969 the feast was known as Dedicatio Sanctae Mariae ad Nives (Dedication of the Church of Our Lady of the Snows), a name that had become popular for the Basilica in the 14th century in connection with a legend about its origin that the Catholic Encyclopedia summarizes: “During the pontificate of Liberius, the Roman patrician John and his wife, who were without heirs, made a vow to donate their possessions to the Virgin Mary, They prayed that she might make known to them how they were to dispose of their property in her honor. On 5 August, at the height of the Roman summer, snow fell during the night on the summit of the Esquiline Hill. In obedience to a vision of the Virgin Mary which they had the same night, the couple built a basilica in honor of Mary on the very spot which was covered with snow.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we trust in the teaching of Christ the Master, or do we allow ourselves to be led by blind guides?

 

2. When we are overwhelmed by miseries created by evil and sin, do we allow ourselves to be strengthened by the promise of restoration and the hope of salvation?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

our pain is great and our wound incurable

on account of our great guilt and numerous sins.

By your tender mercy restore us to your friendship.

Grant that we may always follow

the promptings of your Son Jesus, the Divine Master,

who leads us to eternal life.

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.

 

“If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (Mt 15:14)  // “See! I will restore the tents of Jacob.” (Jer 30:18)

 

 

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

 

Pray for the victims of sexual abuse and the conversion of the perpetrators of this violent crime. Resolve to spend significant time for the study of the Word of God in order to follow more closely Jesus, the Divine Master, and not the world’s “blind guides”.

 

 

***

 

August 6, 2014: WEDNESDAY – THE TRANSFIGURATION OF THE LORD

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is Transfigured in Glory”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Dn 7:9-10, 13-14 // II Pt 1:16-19 // Mt 17:1-9

 

 

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

 

Shortly after his conversion, the young man, Mike McGarvin, the future founder of the Poverello House in Fresno, volunteered to help out at a huge home for elderly people in San Francisco. The job kept him depressed, but it was there that he had a “vision of glory”. He narrates:

 

The very last time I went to Mass there, I had an upsetting experience that brought about a good change in me. I had wheeled a couple of ladies to the service, and I sat by them. The Mass came to the point at which we turned and greeted each other, shook hands, and said, “Peace be with you.” A woman turned around, and she was the most grotesque person I’d ever seen. She apparently had the same disease as John Merrick, “The Elephant Man”. I had never seen anyone so horribly disfigured, even at Poverello. I tried hard not to react, shook her hand, and quickly said the peace greeting. Afterward, I was haunted by the fact that despite her deformity, she had the most beautiful smile that I had ever seen. It was disturbing to see that disfigurement and that smile all in the same person. I said a little prayer for her, because I couldn’t imagine how hard it was for her to go through life like that. She must have truly felt God’s joy, because her smile was so radiant. One of the things I’ve tried to do since then is to get people to smile, no matter what their circumstances. A smile is a gift, and it erases misery, if only for a few seconds.

 

God gives us glimpses of his beloved Son’s Easter glory to strengthen us in our weakness. The vision of the Lord’s transfiguration (Mt 17:1-9) puts the paschal suffering in proper perspective. Today’s feast invites us to meditate on the radiant glory that flows forth from Christ’s passion and death. Forty days before the feast of the Triumph of the Cross (September 14), we celebrate his transfiguration (August 6) as an event that illumines the enigma of the cross.

  

The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 7, underline the role of the Lord’s transfiguration in the life of his disciples: “All Christians must summon up from their innermost depths the memory of this revelation whenever they see the Son of God dead on the cross, or the Church in agony, or when they are overwhelmed by personal tribulations, or on the edge of despair, or of losing faith. If they do, they will find the strength to pull themselves up from these depths and climb to the heights of the mountain, no matter how difficult the way. Through mists and tears, they too will be graced with a glimpse of the figure of the resurrected Christ surrounded by light.”

 

***

 

The Old Testament reading (Dn 7:9-10, 13-14) is about Daniel’s vision of the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven and receiving dominion, glory and kingship. This vision originally represents the vindication of the persecuted people of Israel, bitterly oppressed under the reign of the detestable pagan Syrian king, Antiochus IV Epiphanes whose kingship is about to be shattered. The image of the human figure enthroned in glory, however, is later applied to the expected Messiah. Christians see the fulfillment of this apocalyptic vision in the person of Jesus Christ, whose glorious transfiguration we celebrate today. Jesus brings to perfection the enigmatic working principle, “through suffering to glory”. Reigning from his cross, the messianic King draws all peoples and creation to himself by the power of his self-surrendering love.

 

The martyrdom in Arima (Japan) of the young boy catechist Diego and his companions illustrates what transfiguration into glory means (cf. Full Sail with the Wind of Grace, ed. “Martyres” Editorial Committee, Tokyo: Don Bosco Sha, 2008, p. 49-53).

 

In Arima, catechism classes were held almost every day for children learning about Jesus. Diego Hayashida, a boy who had just turned 12, was their teacher … At Our Lady’s Church in Kitaoka, a group was born made up of children only: the Confraternity of Martyrs. Diego, who was teaching the catechism class, was chosen as the group’s leader. Diego was a third generation Christian in the Church of Arima. The town of Arima was located on the Shimabara Peninsula. Almeida, a physician and missionary, and Brother Lorenzo were the first to bring Christianity to Shimabara. (…) In Arima, the fastest growing Church in Japan, a peaceful wind was blowing. Diego, born in 1601, grew up in these surroundings.

 

It was the year 1612 when Tokugawa Ieyasu suddenly issued a decree banning Christianity in Edo (Tokyo), Sumpu (Shizuoka City) and Arima … The springtime of Arima thus came to an end. It was at this time when the persecution started, that the children of Arima started the group of Confraternity of the Martyrs. The children knew that they were preparing for the crucial moment that was approaching.

 

On 7 October 1613, although it was still early in the morning, crowds of the faithful began to gather on the banks of Arima River which ran along the foot of the castle. The Christians, dressed in their best clothes, holding candles and rosaries in their hands, numbered 20 thousand. It was the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, and also the anniversary of the Confraternity of Santa Maria whose mission was “Educating in Faith”. But this was not why the faithful had gathered.

 

Naozumi had ordered 8 people representing the Christians to be burned to death on the sandbar of the river. “We want to serve our Heavenly Father as our master, instead of you who order us to give up our faith.” Three samurais who resolutely rejected Naozumi’s orders were chosen to be burned together with their families. They were Adrian Takahashi Mondo, Leo Taketomi Kanemon and Diego’s father Leo Hayashida Sukeemon, Takahashi’s wife Joanna, Taketomi’s son Paul, Diego’s mother Martha, his sister Magdalena and Diego.

 

With arms crossed and tied in front of them, they were taken by boat to the sandbar in the river. The path on the sandbar leading to the execution site was thick with wet mud because of the high tide. One of the officers, who was a Christian, tried to carry Diego on his back. “Jesus walked to Calvary carrying his cross. Let me walk this path, too.” Diego declined the offer and walked step by step in the mud toward the site. He felt as if he was putting his feet in the steps of Jesus who went before him. He cried, but they were tears of joy.

 

There were eight stakes prepared at the site, with huge piles of straw and wood. The officers tied the eight to their stakes. Just then, Leo Taketomi cried out in a deep voice. “Behold, this is the faith of the people of Arima. The Christians of Arima are one with the same heart. At this time of farewell, I ask all of you to persevere in your faith.”

 

The officers taken by surprise at this outpouring of faith, hurriedly lit the fire on the piles of straw in every direction in an effort to avert everyone’s attention. At that moment, the crowds watching on the riverbanks let out a loud cry. “Jesus, Mary!” They all started to recite the rosary. The prayer of the 20 thousand on either side of the river became a rumbling from the land of Arima reaching up to the heavens.

 

When the fire was lit, the rope that tied Diego to his stake soon burned away. Diego ran through the flames toward his mother and clung to her. Embracing him, his mother Martha pointed toward heaven with her right hand. “Diego, look up to Heaven … to Heaven!” Diego and his mother breathed their last calling out the names, “Jesus, Mary”.

 

Diego’s sister Magdalena, who was 19 years old, took the burning wood in her hands when the ropes burned away and held them high above her. “Lord, purify me. Let the flame of faith never die.” Even before she was chosen to be martyred, Magdalena had taken a vow of chastity. She offered everything to God in martyrdom.

 

As the fires started to die out at the execution site, the Christians rushed over to the martyrs, running down the make-shift bamboo fence surrounding the site. They wanted to take away the remains of the martyrs and keep and treasure them as tokens of their faith. The faithful of Kouzuura (Amakusa City, Kumamoto Prefecture), deeply moved by Magdalena’s last moments, with special reverence took her remains home to their island where they were kept for a while. The Christians of Arima, after witnessing the martyrdom of the eight, began to take the same path following Diego’s example.

 

***

The Second Reading (II Pt 1:16-19) underlines that Peter is an eyewitness at the transfiguration event. Peter asserts that with their own eyes they saw his greatness and that they were there when Christ was given honor and glory by God the Father. Saint Peter narrates that when they were on the mountain, the voice from the Supreme Glory declared about Jesus: “This is my own dear Son, with whom I am well pleased!” Peter’s “prophetic message” about Christ’s transfiguration gives a firm foundation to the apostolic teaching about the “power and coming” (dynamis kai parousia) of the Lord. Therefore, Peter exhorts a Christian community, whose faith in the Lord’s second coming is being undermined by false teachers, to be faithful to the message of Christ’s coming. He says it is like a lamp shining in a dark place until the Day dawns and the light of the morning star shines in our hearts. At his final coming at the end time (parousia) we will all experience our Lord Jesus Christ transformed in glory.

 

The following story gives insight into how we are to respond to the voice of the Father speaking to us and how to be attentive to the divine message (cf. Mark Mallett, “Stay and Be Light” in Amazing Grace for Survivors, ed. Jeff Cavins, et. al., West Chester: Ascension Press, 2008, p. 88-93).

 

In our early twenties, my wife and I finally gave way to a fallen-away Catholic’s invitation to a Sunday morning Baptist service. It turned out to be a moving experience. That one hour seemed to highlight for me all the dysfunction in my Catholic parish that was seething beneath the surface of my heart. The cold environment, the poor homilies, the dreary music, the lack of zeal for God. I turned to my wife and said, “We should start coming here. Maybe we can slip into a Catholic Church on Monday for the Eucharist.

 

That night I was brushing my teeth when I suddenly heard clearly in my heart the words: “Stay and be light to your brothers.” I stopped, and heard them again. “Stay and be light to your brothers.” I told my wife, Lea, what had happened, and she agreed: we should stay in the Catholic Church.

 

A short time later, my mom sat me down in a chair to watch a video in which an ex-Protestant pastor explained how he had set out to debunk the Catholic Church. In the course of his historical and theological study, he found that what the Church teaches has been consistent through the centuries back to the apostles. Dr. Scott Hahn converted and became a Catholic, eventually taking thousands of Protestants with him. By the end of the video, I had tears streaming down my face. My heart suddenly burned with a deep love for the Church because it was Jesus’ Church, the one He built on Peter the Rock.

 

I spent the next two years pouring over the teachings of the Church until one day I received another word from the Lord: “Music is a doorway to evangelize.” With that, I began a Catholic praise and worship band that met monthly. After four years, there were up to seven or eight hundred Catholics worshipping with us on a Sunday night as we’d preach the Gospel and then lead them through song into personal encounter with Jesus. It was powerful.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we perceive in the event of the Lord’s transfiguration a glimpse of hope that will enable us to overcome our troubles? Are we ready to perceive the vision of Christ’s paschal glory? Are we open to receive the hope that Jesus, the Suffering Messiah, brings into our lives? Do we believe that suffering is an itinerary to glory?

 

2. Do we believe that Christ’s dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away and that his kingship shall not be destroyed?

 

3. Like Peter, are we ready to give witness to our experiences of the glory of the Lord? Are we attentive to the voice of the Lord and ready to follow his commands?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

in your transfiguration on the mountain,

you have given us a glimpse of your Easter glory.

Help us to summon from our innermost depths

the memory of this revelation

to give us strength and hope in all our trials and afflictions.

Help us to trust that our suffering in this life

is an itinerary to glory.

We trust and believe in 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.

 

“And he was transfigured before them.” (Mt 17:2)

 

 

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

 

Pray for all those whose present afflictions are great so that they may experience a vision of Christ’s Easter glory and be strengthened by it. Be aware of the glimpses of glory that God grants to you gratuitously every day of your life. Through your care, love and attention, enable a suffering person to have a glimpse of the glorious God and of his Risen Christ at work in their lives.

***

August 7, 2014: THURSDAY – WEEKDAY (18); SAINT SIXTUS II, pope, AND HIS COMPANIONS, martyrs; SAINT CAJETAN, priest

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Gives Peter the Keys to the Kingdom”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jer 31:31-34 // Mt 16:13-23

 

 

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

 

Today’s Gospel reading is about the investiture of Peter with the keys to the kingdom. In response to Peter’s confession of faith in Jesus, whom he acknowledges as “the Christ, the Son of the living God” – a spiritual truth revealed by the heavenly Father – Jesus establishes him as the “rock” of the Church. He presents to him the “power of the keys”. The commissioning of Simon Peter is part of God’s benevolent plan for his chosen people. It is an important step in the realization of his saving design to provide them with trustworthy stewards and spiritual shepherds. Indeed, the “power of the keys” is a pastoral power meant to benefit God’s people.

 

Through time and space, the Church – the community of faith founded on the Risen Lord Jesus Christ and ministered to by Peter and his successors – experiences various crises, persecutions and trials. But the “gates of the netherworld” do not prevail against the Church because Christ is its leader. He has radically conquered the power of sin and death. He remains with his disciples until the end of time.

 

The ministry of the Pope is a vital expression of the pastoral office of Jesus who lives on in the Church. The following account of John Thavis, Catholic News Service (CNS) Rome Bureau Chief concerning Benedict XVI, illustrates the Pope’s effort to live up to the challenge of his pastoral ministry and as Christ’s trusted steward of faith for today’s society (cf. Carrie Swearingen’s “PAPA-RAZZI: Following the Man who Follows the Pope” in ST. ANTHONY MESSENGER, July 2008, p. 16).

 

John Thavis found it stunning to see the Pope, during his tour of a Turkish mosque, turn toward Mecca and pray alongside his Muslim host. “In one gesture, he bridged the gap of misunderstanding that had arisen after his Regensburg lecture several months earlier”, says Thavis. “Of course, Christians and Muslims pray to the same God, so there was nothing really revolutionary about it. But after some media had labeled him ‘the Pope against Islam’, this was a clear illustration that Benedict was not about to play the role of anti-Islamic crusader.”

 

Thavis has been moved by Pope Benedict XVI’s simplicity and clarity when speaking to foreign groups. In May of 2007 the Pope and the press corps took a long bus ride through picturesque hills in central Brazil. “He addressed recovering drug addicts. It was a rousing welcome by a mostly young group of people and, when the Pope ended, they kept chanting his name. When he was getting into the pope-mobile, his aides telling him they had to hurry up and leave, he suddenly stopped, got out of the vehicle and walked back on the stage. He waved and gave them one last greeting. It was just a small kindness, but it meant so much to these people.” (…)

 

Thavis knew that this Pope would want to make an effort to be more engaging. “And he does. He makes eye contact, is always kind, and says a few words to each person he meets. The world had known him as a doctrine enforcer, but that was not on his mind as Pope.” The Pope’s main goal, Thavis explains, is to reawaken a sense of God in society and a deeper faith in Christ and the Catholic Church.

 

***

Today’s Old Testament reading (Jer 31:31-34) invites us to meditate on the promise of the New Covenant announced by the prophet Jeremiah to a disobedient people at the brink of disaster. A catastrophe will ensue, leaving only a remnant of the nation. And then an everlasting covenant will be made, a covenant as in the days of Noah. The covenant is “new” in three respects: God’s spontaneous forgiveness of sin, individual responsibility and retribution, and the interiorization of religion. The Law is no longer a code regulating external activity, but an inspiration working on our heart, under the influence of the spirit of God. It is the Spirit who gives us a new heart, capable of knowing God. This new and eternal covenant will be inaugurated by the sacrifice of Christ. The apostles and followers of Christ will proclaim its fulfillment.

 

The following testimony of a 22-year-old youth gives insight into the “new Covenant” that is our work in our daily life (cf. Karen Ferris, “What God Means to Me” in Alive! July/August 2014, p. 13).

 

I was born a cradle Catholic, the youngest of five children and the only girl. (…) At secondary school I slipped away from God. None of my friends spoke about him, so I didn’t. Social media, gossip and parties became more important.

 

At this time my father, having become a lay Dominican, went back to church and began speaking about God and the Divine Mercy. I never had any interest as I was so unfamiliar with the subject. (…)

 

I constantly fought with my parents, teachers and with myself. I felt angry and didn’t know why. When I began college peer pressure wasn’t so strong, and I wasn’t a sheep anymore. I wasn’t afraid to express my feelings or thoughts. I began to notice a change in my father; he seemed happier with life and with himself, like an inner peace. I was amazed by this. I love being around him because it made me feel happy. When my father spoke about God I was genuinely interested and it brought me peace. I started asking questions and eventually it became a daily thing. (…)

 

Recently I attended the Divine Mercy conference and while I was meditating with my mother and close friend I got an overwhelming sense of happiness and peace. I had to hold back my tears. I felt warmth in my heart that I only heard or read of in books. It was wonderful.

 

I used to be too embarrassed or shy to talk about God, but no more. I feel as if I’m keeping great news from people if I don’t tell them how I feel about God and our Savior Jesus. That God loves us so immensely and gives us such comfort and strength when needed. (…)

 

I have been told countless times that I only have faith for comfort, or that I have been brainwashed. It’s so sad to think that younger people don’t have faith today. They are not happy with the latest trends, clothes, electronics but I will be happy with my faith alone. Hopefully I can lead as example. (…)

 

My relationship with God has just been renewed and is growing. I now understand that you need to have your heart open to receive God’s love. I found a great friend in God and I will trust in him.

 

 

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

 

1. How does Peter’s confession of faith affect us? Do we make an effort to understand the role of Peter and his successors in salvation history? Do we pray for the Pope and lovingly sustain him in his pastoral ministry and as “steward” of faith? 

 

2. Do we treasure the New Covenant that God establishes with us through his Son Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit?

 

 

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

 

O God, our Father,

we thank you for Peter’s faith confession

that Jesus is indeed “the Christ, the Son of the living God”.

We thank you for the Church,

the community of believers founded on the faith of the apostles.

We thank you for Peter’s successors,

whom you have established as stewards of Christian faith.

May they all be trustworthy and faithful!

O compassionate God, help us to be faithful

to the new covenant established in the blood of Jesus Christ.

We give you praise, now and forever. 

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 16:19) // “I will make a new covenant.” (Jer 31:31)

 

 

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

 

Pray for the Pope that he may be strengthened in his pastoral ministry as chief steward of Christian faith. By your service to the poor and the needy, and through a life of holiness and personal dedication, let the love of Christ Shepherd touch a world in need of healing. Be thankful for the gift of the new covenant ratified in Christ’s blood.

 

***

 

August 8, 2014: FRIDAY – SAINT DOMINIC, priest

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us the Meaning of Discipleship and to Overcome Violence with Peace”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Na 2:1,3;3:1-3, 6-7 // Mt 16:24-28

 

 

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

 

In today’s Gospel reading (Mt 16:24-28), Jesus challenges us to take up our cross. After prophesying his paschal destiny on the Cross, Jesus delineates the meaning of the discipleship: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it”. Jesus thus connects the fate of his disciples with his own. Christian discipleship involves a share in his paschal sacrifice on the cross. Only in letting go of self and in letting God realize his mysterious, saving plan in us, can we achieve true life and happiness. Indeed, taking up one’s cross is a badge of discipleship. St. Augustine reflects on cross and discipleship.

 

The following personal reflection of Eli Doroteo, one of our dear friends and benefactors in the Philippines, is likewise insightful.

  

The call to discipleship entails suffering. Jesus himself, in his words to his disciples, asserts: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

 

As we heed the call to follow the will of God and Jesus who has shown us the way, at times, there are obstacles. Sometimes they are our attachments. They could be our families, our possessions and even our friends. In Jesus’ case, Peter – a disciple and a friend – tried to obstruct Jesus on his way to Jerusalem, which eventually led to Calvary. For Jesus, the way of suffering and death has a different meaning. It is a service and an offering of self to fulfill God’s saving plan. But Peter, seeing it in the context of the world’s desires, would not allow any evil or disaster to happen to his friend. His was a genuine, fraternal concern, which shows that our ways and thinking are far different from God’s. From a human perspective, Jesus’ way of suffering and death was futile and needless, but from the viewpoint of God and Jesus, it was a “necessary fault”. 

 

Our attachments tend to blur our vision in fulfilling the calling we have received. The Gospel affirms that what could derail us in following the will of God must be cut off at once. We should and must resist the temptations of the devil and the evil designs of this world.

 

In our journey of faith, we make choices. This is where the challenge lies. At times, we take the shorter, easy way, and avoid the long, winding way. More often than not, the easy way out, the practical one, is the way of the world, and not of God. Jesus has shown us the way- the way of the cross – and no other. His death is the truth that brings life to the Church.

 

***

Today’s Old Testament reading (Na 2:1,3; 3:1-3, 6-7) is from the prophet Nahum, whose name means “consolation”. Nahum “consoles” Judah: Assyria is destroyed and Judah will no longer be invaded. The Book of Nahum celebrates the fall of Nineveh, the capital city of Israel’s ancient and oppressive enemy, the Assyrians. The fall of Nineveh, near the end of the 7th century B.C., is seen as the judgment of God upon a cruel and arrogant nation. By cunning and unscrupulous strategies Assyria has lulled many nations into relaxing their guard, and then forced them to do her bidding by bloody campaigns. Ever rapacious, she has filled her coffers with plunder. But the Lord will bring retribution on Nineveh, which will be filled with disgrace and treated with contempt. With irony Nahum poses the question: “Nineveh lies in ruins! Who has any sympathy for her? Who will want to comfort her?”

 

The sinful crimes associated with Nineveh, “the bloody city, all lies” evokes some of the detestable violence in today’s society. Here is an example (cf. “Sick in Belgium? They’re Coming to Get You!” in Alive! July/August 2014, p. 2)

 

A doctors’ professional body in Belgium has told its members that killing off terminally ill patients without their consent is acceptable and, in some cases, to be recommended. The Belgian Society of Intensive Care Medicine revealed its views in a statement drawn up by its members and published in its journal. Whether sick people or their families desire it or not, and whether the patient is in pain or not, the Society holds it is acceptable for a doctor to intentionally “shorten the dying process”. The policy also applies to sick children.

 

The document makes clear the issue is not simply “about giving sedatives to combat pain, nor about the so-called double effect”, when pain-killers “may have the adverse effect of shortening the dying process.” Rather, the issue is about giving drugs “with the direct intention of shortening the process of terminal palliative care in patients with no prospect of meaningful recovery.”

 

In other words, it’s about doctors deciding, regardless of the wishes of an individual or family, to execute a patient who is not dying quickly enough. Killing patients who desire it is already legal in Belgium, but the latest development would considerably extend the power of doctors to decide who is to be terminated. The statement tries to reassure intensive care doctors that giving a lethal injection, for example, is “not to be interpreted as killing but as a humane act to accompany the patient at the end of his or her life.”

 

 

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

 

1. How do we actualize in our daily lives the discipleship of the cross? How do we translate into concrete reality the Christian challenge: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mt 16:24)?

 

2. How do we respond to the many threats of violence and the many structures of violence in today’s society?

 

 

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

(From “Suffering with Jesus”, a prayer composed by Francois Fenelon)

 

O crucified Jesus,

in giving me your cross,

give me too your spirit of love and self-abandonment.

Grant that I may think less of my suffering

than of the happiness of suffering with you.

What do I suffer that you have not suffered?

Or rather what do I suffer at all,

if I dare to compare myself with you?

            O Lord, grant that I may love you

and then I shall no longer fear the cross.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mt 16:24) // “Woe to the bloody city, all lies!” (Na 3:1)

 

 

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

 

Pray for those who find the cross of their daily lives overwhelming and burdensome. In your own way and doing the best you can, try to alleviate the sufferings of the people around you. Be an instrument of peace to help overcome the violence in today’s world.

   

***

 

August 9, 2014: SATURDAY – WEEKDAY (18); SAINT BENEDICTA OF THE CROSS, virgin; BVM ON SATURDAY

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us the Power of Faith and that the Just Live by Faith”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Hb 1:12-2:4 // Mt 17:14-20

 

 

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

 

After the Lord’s transfiguration on the mountain, he comes down with Peter, James and John. The father of a self-destructive “lunatic” approaches him prayerfully. Kneeling before Jesus, he pleads mercy for his suffering son. The Divine Master is exasperated at the inability of his disciples to help the boy. He berates them for their unbelief: “O faithless and perverse generation, how long will I be with you?” Jesus uses the same phrases that Moses had used, coming down from Mount Sinai, to describe the faithlessness of Israel. Jesus drives away the demon and the boy is healed. When the disciples come to Jesus in private to ask why they were not able to drive the demon out, Jesus answered that they did not have enough faith. True faith in Jesus, even if it is the size of a mustard seed, is efficacious and can move mountains. The Divine Master thus teaches us the power of faith and affirms that with faith, nothing will be impossible for us.

 

The following account concerning Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini illustrates the power of trusting faith in today’s world (cf. Patricia Treece, Brewster: Paraclete Press, 2011, p. 64-66).

 

Picture Mother Cabrini in a strange land where she knew no one but the only One you have to know to go into a city and penniless and soon put up a hospital (she did that in New York, Chicago, and Seattle), an orphanage (in Colorado, New York, and Los Angeles, to mention three), dozens of schools in various countries throughout the Americas and Europe, and other institutions to bring God’s loving care to others. She kept them running for decades too. At night she has to sleep in a room alone because the glory of God tends to light up the space and wake companions, which is of course offensive to the humility of one who no longer thinks of herself at all, so madly in love is she with Jesus.

 

Mother Saverio De Maria, assistant, secretary, and constant companion on Mother Cabrini’s travels for these undertakings, wrote a life of the saint. Mother Saverio recalls that many people offered Mother Cabrini financial help, but she accepted from very few. Among the reasons she did so is this utterly delightful one: “Her trust in divine providence was so limitless that I seemed unfair [to her] to seek other support.”

 

Now picture a day like many when this consummate businesswoman (as people who had dealings with her described Mother Cabrini) is told a tradesman is at the door, seeking payment of his bill. The saint hands to another of the sisters the key to the desk money drawer. “Empty!” she reports back to Cabrini.

 

Mother De Maris writes: “Mother [Cabrini] concentrates a moment, then, with serene tranquility said, ‘You did not look well, look again’. Sister opened the same drawer and found a small package of brand new bank bills – the exact amount required to pay the bill. Our dear Mother, while recounting this fact (just to her daughters) many years later with eyes full of gratitude and love used to add: ‘How many of these occurrences I could tell! Truly the Lord overwhelmed us with his benefits.’”

 

Another time a sister needed to pay off a bill, but there was no money. “Why don’t you put your hand in your pocket?” Mother suggested. Without thought, the sister did so. There, as before, was the precise amount needed.

 

***

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Hab 1:2-3; 2:2-4) is about a faith that is tested and God’s gracious help to make that faith endure. With a vision of hope, the Lord tries to reinforce the faith of the prophet Habakkuk, deeply distressed at the misery, destruction and violence all around him. Bewildered by God’s seeming indifference to the anguish of a deeply persecuted and tortured nation, he demands an explanation for God’s silence and inaction.

 

Harold Buetow comments: “Habakkuk’s times were as internally wicked and internationally threatening as any before or since. It looked as though nothing would stand in the Assyrians’ way to conquer more of the world, including the Jews’ southern kingdom of Judah, where Habakkuk lived. Meanwhile, Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian armies became the new mighty world power to contend with. Unfortunately, Jehoiakim, the king of Judah, had backed the Assyrians, the losing side. Habakkuk was a deep thinker and, according to the picturesque phrase of St. Jerome, a wrestler with God. A faithful man, Habakkuk is all the more real to us because he knew what it is to experience temptations to faithlessness. Daringly but respectfully in today’s dialogue with God, he wanted to know some of the same things we would like to know. Why, for example, is God so silent while the faithless conquers and the wicked devours the good? Why does not God intervene in the world – especially when suffering and evil seem to be triumphing? Why does God tolerate the wicked? The Judeans had sinned, to be sure, but why should God choose to punish them by means of a monstrous people who were more wicked than themselves?”

 

God does not disdain, but rather looks kindly upon the question and complaints of Habakkuk for the prophet’s intense cries are not expressions of lack of loyalty and trust, but an agonized plea for divine intervention. The cries of Habakkuk are actually a prayer that seeks courage in the face of the triumphant appearance of evil. God’s magnificent response is both an affirmation of his loving faithfulness and a call to patience and greater trust on the part of the threatened “believer”.

 

The following article illustrates a steadfast and enduring faith that does not succumb to defeat and suffering (cf. Frank Maurovich, “Celebrating and Remembering” in Maryknoll, July/August 2007, p. 18-19).

 

Many of the faithful who filled the Catholic cathedral in Seoul, South Korea, on March 18, were among the thousands who fled their homes when the communist government in the North began severe persecution of Christians in the late 1940s. Those older refugees were very much in the mind of Maryknoll Superior General John Sivalon when he spoke at the Mass of “Celebration and Remembrance”. The Archdiocese of Seoul, under Cardinal Nicholas Cheong, was celebrating the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Diocese of Pyongyang in 1927, at that time a Maryknoll mission in the North, and remembering the tragic suffering. “This is really a celebration of the Korean people, and the Korean Church, and of your deep faith and history of suffering and martyrdom,” Sivalon said. Many of those refugees had been taught and baptized by Maryknoll missioners, who had served in northwest Korea until they were forced out by World War II and blocked from re-entering afterwards by the new communist regime in the North. Two Maryknollers, Bishop Patrick J. Byrne and Sister Agneta Chang, were among the estimated 10,000 who died at the hands of their oppressors. Korean Bishop Francis Hong of Pyongyang died in prison. Although the communists had effectively shut down the Church in North Korea, the Vatican honored it in 1962 by raising the vicariate of Pyongyang to a diocese, making it a full-pledged local church. The Holy See placed the diocese temporarily under the jurisdiction of the archbishop of Seoul. “We especially look forward to the day when we might join you in returning and taking up where we left off.”

 

 

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

 

1. Do we trust in the power of faith that can move mountains? How do we cultivate that faith?

 

2. How do we relate to the feelings voiced by the prophet Habakkuk to the Lord? Are there times when we complain to God: “I cry for help but you do not listen”? What is God’s response to Habakkuk? How does God respond to our cries of distress?

 

 

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

 

Loving Jesus,

we are a “faithless and perverse generation”.

We are afraid to let go and trust in you.

We hesitate to exercise the efficacious power of faith

that is your gift to us.

Teach us to submit to you

in a loving personal response.

Help us to believe

that true faith can move mountains.

With faith in you,

nothing is impossible for us.

Let us proclaim to the nations

that the just, because of their faith, shall live.

We love you, praise you and extol 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.

 

“If you have faith the size of a mustard seed … nothing will be impossible for you.” (Mt 17:20) // “The just man, because of his faith, shall live.” (Hab 2:4)

 

  

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

 

In every trial that comes your way, have faith in God. Believe that he is in control and ask him for the grace to bring about the divine saving will. Continue to affirm in every death-dealing situation that the just, because of their faith shall live.

 

***

 

 

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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