A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday and Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 12, n. 37)

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time & Weekday 19: August 10-16, 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: August 3-9, 2014, please go to ARCHIVES Series 12 and click on “18th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Weekday 18”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: August 10-16, 2014.)

 

***

 

August 10, 2014: 19th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Masters the Raging Seas”

 

BIBLE READINGS

I Kgs 19:9a, 11-13a // Rom 9:1-5 // Mt 14:22-23

 

 

I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS

 

The need for deeper faith permeates today’s Gospel reading (Mt 14:22-33). The biblical scholar, Eugene Maly comments: “To appreciate Matthew’s account fully, we must have some background information. To the best of our knowledge the evangelist was writing for a Christian community composed to a large extent of Jewish converts. At the time of his writing (about 80 A.D.) there was an increasing estrangement between the Jewish people and their former associates in the faith. Christian converts were being more often and more resolutely shunned by members of the synagogue. Matthew’s community was greatly affected by this. Some apparently, in the face of this pressure, renounced their Christian faith. Others were wavering. Matthew wrote his Gospel to bolster their faith … Even Peter, who is the ‘prince of apostles’ in Matthew’s Gospel, wavers in his faith.”

 

Today we hear of the impetuous Peter in distress. During the “fourth watch of the night”, i.e. the three hours of night before dawn, Jesus comes toward the boat walking on the sea. Wishing to ascertain the Lord’s identity, Peter cries out to Jesus to bid him come over the raging waters. Jesus obliges and commands him to come. Peter thus experiences walking on the waters. But Peter starts to doubt and allows the power of the sea to daunt him. He starts to sink. Jesus draws him out of the water. The raging sea that engulfs Peter represents the perils that assail our vocation as Christian disciples. Peter’s desperate cry for help “Lord save me!” is a manifestation of faith in the Lord of all creation. Like the imperiled Peter, we need to affirm our belonging and trust in Jesus, who saves him from sinking.

 

Sr. Mary Agape Saccone, PDDM, now deceased, was a missionary for 60 years, mostly in USA. Here is her personal account of a faith experience in 1965, during her second trip back to the United States after visiting her family in Italy.

  

We had a reservation on the ship NUOVA RAFFAELO, a beautiful ship traveling to America. (…) After sailing for five days, at around 2:00 P.M., I went to the upper balcony to contemplate the sea and the immensity of the ocean and enjoy the beautiful view. All of a sudden, I heard a noise, like an explosion. After a short while, I became aware that the crewmembers were hurrying back and forth, and seemed to be worried. Later I learned that one of the engines of the NUOVA RAFFAELO had caught fire. The captain was forced to advise the passengers that the ship had to return to port for mechanical reasons.

 

When the crew began the maneuvers to turn around, there were other noises and the ship began to shake. Everyone was worried. I sought to help the others remain calm and to encourage them during those terrible moments. I recall that I took the Gospel and read the passage about the calming of the sea to the other passengers.

 

Finally, on November 6, we arrived safely at the port in Genoa. From there we left for New York once again, this time in an airplane. Once again we thanked God for his help.

 

***

 

The Old Testament reading (I Kgs 19:9a, 11-13) is a part of some of the most fascinating passages in the Bible (cf. chapters 18-19 of I Kgs). It depicts the Lord Yahweh manifesting his saving presence to Elijah, a persecuted and fugitive prophet. Elijah is in full flight from the enraged Jezebel, the wife of Israel’s King Ahab. Queen Jezebel vows to kill Elijah for publicly embarrassing her and her pagan god Baal, and for the killing of hundreds of Baal’s prophets. Fragile, despondent, fearful and powerless to sustain himself, Elijah escapes southward to Judah where he begged God to take his life. An angel of God appears to nourish and protect him. Just as the Israelites wandered forty years in the desert, Elijah journeys through the desert forty days and forty nights toward Mount Horeb (also known as Mount Sinai, the place where Moses had an intimate encounter with God and where the covenant with the Israelites was sealed).

 

Responding to Elijah’s pitiful predicament, the Lord Yahweh reveals his loving presence to the beleaguered prophet, not in the fiery manifestation of heavy winds, earthquake or fire, but in a “tiny whispering sound” – in the soft voice of a gentle breeze. The perils and dangers of his prophetic vocation seem less menacing in the context of the gentle presence of God, manifested in the whispering breeze. Indeed, the soft whisper of the almighty God is more powerful than the threats of wicked Jezebel. The saving God, who called Elijah to proclaim his word, energizes him anew for his prophetic ministry.

 

The following story gives insight about the gentle way in which God can be present to us and we to him (cf. Anthony de Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations, New York: Image Books, 1988, p. 29).

 

An old man would sit motionless in church for hours on end. One day a priest asked him what God talked to him about. “God doesn’t talk. He just listens” was his reply. “Well, then what do you talk to him about?” “I don’t talk either. I just listen.”

 

The four stages of Prayer:

I talk you listen,

You talk I listen.

Neither talks, both listen.

Neither talks, neither listens: Silence.

 

***

 

The Second Reading (Rom 9:1-5) delineates the apostolic anguish of Saint Paul. He is overwhelmed with sorrow for the rejection of the Gospel of Christ by the chosen people Israel. By recalling God’s irrevocable gifts to Israel, Paul’s faith is strengthened. The liturgical scholar Adrian Nocent remarks: “They have been given the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the law, the worship, and the promises of God. The patriarchs belong to them, and above all, it is from their race that the Christ has been born. Israel has all it needs in order to understand the word of God and to become part of Christ’s new people. Yet all that has not kept them from not receiving Christ. For Paul, this is reason for an immense feeling of sadness. The Christian cannot refuse to acknowledge the riches of the Jewish people, whom God has so loved, and to be saddened, with Paul, that they have not believed in Christ. We must be united with them at least through love and prayer.”

 

Paul’s sorrow for his fellow Jews is intense. He is willing to be accursed, that is, to undergo the worst possible fate, in imitation of Christ’s suffering, so that the obstinate chosen people may experience life and salvation. Harold Buetow remarks: “Why did the Jews reject Jesus as Messiah? In part, at least, because they had their own preconceived ideas of how God should act; they especially could not accept the scandal of the cross. Paul’s reaction, like God’s most likely, was not one of anger, but of heart-broken sorrow over the people’s rejection.”

 

The following story, circulated through the Internet, gives us an idea of the graciousness of God, as well as the awfulness of ingratitude and of our ugly refusal to embrace fully the love of God manifested in his Son Jesus Christ.

 

There was a blind girl who hated herself because she was blind. She hated everyone, except her loving boyfriend. He was always there for her. She told her boyfriend, “If I could only see the world, I will marry you.”

 

One day, someone donated a pair of eyes to her. When the bandages came off, she was able to see everything, including her boyfriend.

 

He asked her, “Now that you can see the world, will you marry me?” The girl looked at her boyfriend and saw that he was blind. The sight of his closed eyelids shocked her. She hadn’t expected that. The thought of looking at them the rest of her life led her to refuse to marry him.

 

Her boyfriend left in tears and days later wrote a note to her saying, “Take good care of your eyes, my dear, for before they were yours, they were mine.”

 

 

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 seek God in serenity and simplicity … and in silence … and in the daily events of life?

 

3. Do we have compassion for others and experience sorrow and anguish on their behalf? What do we do that God may be blessed always and forever?

 

 

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

 

O loving Father,

we thank you, we love you and we praise you.

Your presence is as gentle as the cooling breeze

that we welcome in summer’s heat.

We listen attentively

as you speak tenderly your saving word

and we cherish it in our heart.

We turn to you in our need.

We trust that you listen to the cry of the poor.

Help us in our distress and never let us despair.

Through the raging waves of today’s world,

let not fear engulf us.

Let your Son Jesus reach out to us with his saving hand.

God the Father, you are great and almighty.

May you be blessed 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 beginning to sink, Peter cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” (Mt 14:33)

 

  

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. By your charitable deeds, enable those who are in despair to experience the saving hand of Jesus. That you may be a more efficacious instrument of God’s redeeming hand, make an effort to spend some moments before the Blessed Sacrament in silent prayer.

 

***

 

August 11, 2014: MONDAY – SAINT CLARE, virgin

 “JESUS SAVIOR: His Passion Redeems Us and He Gives Us Visions of His Glory”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Ez 1:2-5, 24-28c // Mt 17:22-27

 

 

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

 

Jesus Master wants to rectify the false adulation that honors him as a political leader, miracle worker, and breadbasket king, and not as the Suffering Servant to redeem the world from sin. The three predictions of the passion that he made on separate occasions are meant to dispel a false Messianic expectation that is based primarily on temporal powers, and not on service to God’s saving will. Today’s Gospel reading contains Jesus’ second prediction of his passion: “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day”. His paschal destiny does not involve constraint on his part, but total union with the Father’s saving will. Jesus freely accepts his passion and death to bring about our redemption. He pays the price for our salvation. His paschal sacrifice is sheer grace. For this we are deeply thankful.

 

The following story, circulated on the Internet, gives us an insight into the “grace” aspect of Jesus’ saving sacrifice.

 

There once was a man named George Thomas, a preacher in a small Texas town. One Sunday morning he came to the Church building carrying a rusty, bent, old bird cage, and set it by the pulpit. Eyebrows were raised and, as if in response, the preacher began to speak.

 

"I was walking through town yesterday when I saw a young boy coming toward me swinging this bird cage. On the bottom of the cage were three little wild birds, shivering with cold and fright. I stopped the lad and asked, "What do you have there, son?" "Just some old birds", came the reply. "What are you going to do with them?" I asked. "Take 'em home and have fun with 'em," he answered. "I'm gonna tease 'em and pull out their feathers to make 'em fight. I'm gonna have a real good time." "But you'll get tired of those birds sooner or later. What will you do then?" "Oh, I got some cats," said the little boy. "They like birds. I'll take 'em to them."

 

The preacher was silent for a moment. "How much do you want for those birds, son?" "Huh?” Why, you don't want them birds, mister. They're just plain old field birds. They don't sing. They ain't even pretty!" "How much?" the preacher asked again. The boy sized up the preacher as if he were crazy and said,"$10?" The preacher reached in his pocket and took out a ten dollar bill. He placed it in the boy's hand. In a flash, the boy was gone.

 

The preacher picked up the cage and gently carried it to the end of the alley where there was a tree and a grassy spot. Setting the cage down, he opened the door, and by softly tapping the bars persuaded the birds out, setting them free. Well, that explained the empty bird cage on the pulpit, and then the preacher began to tell this story.

 

One day Satan and Jesus were having a conversation. Satan had just come from the Garden of Eden and he was gloating and boasting. "Yes, sir, I just caught a world full of people down there. Set me a trap, used bait I knew they couldn't resist. Got 'em all!" "What are you going to do with them?" Jesus asked. Satan replied, "Oh, I'm gonna have fun! I'm gonna teach them how to marry and divorce each other, how to hate and abuse each other, how to drink and smoke and curse. I'm gonna teach them how to invent guns and bombs and kill each other. I'm really gonna have fun!" "And what will you do when you are done with them?" Jesus asked. "Oh, I'll kill 'em”, Satan glared proudly.

 

"How much do you want for them?" Jesus asked. "Oh, you don't want those people. They ain't no good. Why, you'll take them and they'll just hate you. They'll spit on you, curse you and kill you. You don't want those people!" "How much?” Jesus asked again. Satan looked at Jesus and sneered, "All your blood, tears and your life”. Jesus said, "DONE!"  Then he paid the price.

 

The preacher picked up the cage and walked from the pulpit.

 

***

 

For two weeks we will be hearing passages from the book of Ezekiel. It is generally assumed that he was exiled from Judah to Babylon in the first deportation of 597 B.C. Ezekiel is a man of deep faith and great imagination. Many of his insights come in the form of visions and many of his messages are expressed in vivid symbolic actions. Ezekiel emphasizes the need for inner renewal of the heart and spirit. He also proclaims his hope for the renewal of the life of the nation. As a priest and prophet Ezekiel has great interest in the Temple and underlines the need for holiness.

 

In today’s Old Testament reading (Ez 1:2-5, 24-28c) Ezekiel recounts his visionary experience by the Babylon river Chebar. He sees God seated on a throne and experiences the splendor of his glory. Ezekiel depicts him as shining with bright light that has all the colors of the rainbow. The dazzling light indicates the personal presence of God. Though Ezekiel’s vision is not easily comprehensible, it is clearly a sign that the Lord has not abandoned his people in the land of Exile. God wants to assure the Jewish exiles of his abiding presence and that his saving plan for them continues.

 

The movie “Heaven Is for Real” is inspiring, but the book is even more so. The little boy Colton’s experience of heaven as he made it through an emergency appendectomy – when he was not yet four years old - gives insight into Ezekiel’s heavenly vision. Here is an excerpt from Colton’s experience as gleaned by his dad (cf. Todd Burpo, Heaven Is for Real, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010, p. 62-67).

 

Sitting at my makeshift desk, I looked at my son as he brought Spider-Man pouncing down on some nasty-looking creature from Star Wars. “Hey, Colton”, I said. “Remember when we were in the car and you talked about sitting on Jesus’ lap?” Still on his knees, he looked up at me. “Yeah.” “Well, did anything else happen?” He nodded, eyes bright. “Did you know that Jesus has a cousin? Jesus told me his cousin baptized him.” “Yes, you’re right”, I said. “The Bible says Jesus’ cousin’s name is John.” Mentally, I scolded myself. Don’t offer information. Just let him talk … “I don’t remember his name”, Colton said happily, “but he was really nice.” John the Baptist is “nice”?!

 

Just as I was processing the implications of my son’s statement – that he had met John the Baptist – Colton spied a plastic horse among his toys and held it up for me to look at. “Hey, Dad, did you know Jesus has a horse?” “A horse?” “Yeah, a rainbow horse. I got to pet him. There’s a lot of colors. Lots of colors? What was he talking about? “Where are there lots of colors, Colton?” “In heaven, Dad. That’s where all the rainbow colors are.” (…)

 

“Hey, Colton, can I ask you something else about Jesus?” He nodded but didn’t look up from his devastating attack on a little pile of X-Men. “What did Jesus look like?” I said. Abruptly, Colton put down his toys and looked up at me. “Jesus has markers.” “What?” “Markers, Daddy … Jesus has markers. And he has brown hair and he has hair on his face”, he said, running his tiny palm around his chin. I guessed that he didn’t yet know the word beard. “And his eyes … oh, Dad, his eyes are so pretty!” (…)

 

I thought through what he had said so far … John the Baptist, Jesus and his clothes, rainbows, horses. I got all that. But what about the markers? What did Colton mean when he said Jesus has markers? What did Colton mean when he said Jesus has markers? What are markers to a little kid? Colton nodded. “Yeah, like colors. He had colors on him.” “Like when you color a page?” “Yeah.” “Well, what colors are Jesus’ markers?” “Red, Daddy. Jesus has red markers on him.”

 

At that moment, my throat nearly closed with tears as I suddenly understood what Colton was trying to say. Quietly, carefully, I said, “Colton, where are Jesus’ markers?” Without hesitation, he stood to his feet. He held out his right hand, palm up and pointed to the center of it with his left. Then he held out his left palm and pointed with his right hand. Finally, Colton bent over and pointed to the tops of both his feet. “That’s where Jesus markers are, Daddy”, he said. I drew in a sharp breath. He saw this. He had to have. (…)

 

 

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

 

1. Do we appreciate the meaning of Christ’s passion and its significance for us? How do we respond to this wonderful grace and great act of love?

 

2. What is our response to visions of glory that God offers us daily? Like Ezekiel, are we sensitive to these moments of grace?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you suffered for us.

To redeem us you paid a great price.

You suffered the passion and death on the cross

to free us from the clutches of sin and death

and to give us eternal life.

Grant that we may treasure

your sacrificial love for us.

Help us to respond to this grace in obedient love.

Make us sensitive to visions of heavenly glory

that you offer us daily.

We give you glory and praise,

now and forever.

Amen.

    

 

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

           

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

 

“They will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” (Mt 17:23) // “Such was the vision of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.”

 

 

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

 

Make an effort to unite the sacrifices of your daily life with the redeeming passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Be present to the people around you in their trials and difficulties and help them in any way you can. Thank the Lord for giving us daily glimpses of heavenly glory.

   

***

 

August 12, 2014: TUESDAY – WEEKDAY (19); SAINT JANE FRANCES DE CHANTAL, religious

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Wants Us To Be Childlike and To Care for the Little Ones, and His Words Are Sweet as Honey”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Ez 2:8-3:4 // Mt 18:1-5, 10, 12-14

 

 

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

 

            The disciples’ response to the Divine Master’s patient endeavor to help them understand his messianic mission and paschal destiny is disappointing. They fail to understand. They even put a question that is tinged with a power struggle: “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Their narrow vision degenerates into an authority issue. Jesus therefore teaches them the meaning of true greatness. He calls a child and puts him in front of them saying, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

 

A child represents complete dependence. The heavenly kingdom is for those who are completely dependent on God and, in the spirit of a child, trust fully in him. An authentic Christian follower relies totally on God. The greatest in the heavenly kingdom are those who imitate Jesus in his complete trust and dependence on the Father’s will. Jesus also warns us not to despise the “little ones”, that is, the humble and lowly, all those who put their faith in God with childlike trust. He teaches us that it is not the will of the heavenly Father that any of the “little ones” be lost. By his pastoral ministry, Jesus invites us to promote the well-being and salvation of the poor and vulnerable.

 

The following inspiring story gives us insight into how to care for the “little ones” in our midst (cf. Rick Hamlin’s reflections in DAILY GUIDEPOSTS 2010, p. 260).

 

My father gets around with a walker these days, and he doesn’t get around much. But he was there when the whole clan – twenty and counting – gathered for a week at the beach, staying at a rental on the sand. We sailed, we surfed, we rode bikes on the boardwalk, swam out to the buoy and kayaked in the bay. Dad seemed to enjoy having everybody together, but even from under the umbrella on the porch, he got frustrated at not being able to do half of what he once could.

 

Late one afternoon, I suggested a walk. “I’m not sure how I can do it with this walker on the sand”, he said. “Let’s try”, I said. “You can hold my hand if you need to.” He made his way down the beach, leaning on the walker or me. We stopped to watch some sailors bring their boats to shore and take down their sails. “Hey, Mr. Hamlin!” one of the guys called. “How are you doing?” “Just fine”, he said, his hands on the walker.

 

We trudged back next to the water, choosing the hard sand. A pelican dipped past us and plunged into the bay, picking up dinner. A kayak cut across the smooth water, a fish leaping in its wake. The shadows of the palms lengthened across the sand in front of us. “The shadows lengthen”, he observed.

 

They do, I thought. The years go by, and you don’t know where they went. Age brings us struggles. But at the end of the day there are still beauties to be found in a setting sun and a slow walk on the beach, father and son.

 

***

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Ez 2:8-3:4) depicts the vocation of the priest Ezekiel to be a prophet. By the River Chebar in Babylon where the Jews are exiled, Ezekiel receives a powerful vision of God and is commissioned to proclaim the divine word. God enjoins him not to be rebellious and commands him to eat the scroll that is filled with “lamentation, wailing and woe”. Ezekiel obediently eats the scroll and it tastes as sweet as honey in his mouth. The “eating” signifies Ezekiel’s total assimilation of God’s message so that his whole being is permeated by it. Nourished and animated by the divine word, the prophet follows God’s command to go to the people of Israel and say to them whatever God tells him to say.

 

The obedient stance of the prophet Ezekiel to the divine word that needs to be proclaimed is a good background for the following modern-day story (cf. Mark Mallett, “Stay and Be Light” in Amazing Grace for Survivors, West Chester: Ascension Press, p. 92-93).

 

One of the messages that burned in my heart was the terrible silence over the abortion in Canada. And so, one day at home, I penned a letter to the newspapers criticizing us “journalists” for being willing to cover every graphic murder, domestic violent crime, or war scene, but refusing to publish the pictures that clearly showed the reality of abortion. I signed my name as a producer of the TV station I worked for.

 

The backlash was immediate. The newspaper chains wanted to do follow-up stories, but only to sensationalize my stance, not to address the issue. My company warned me that to say anything more would put me in jeopardy. Memos were fired off, some sent to the entire news staff attacking my position and me.

 

A month later, I was laid off, and my show was cut. The station manager insisted it had nothing to do with my letter. As I stood looking out upon the familiar landscape of unemployment, I turned to my wife and said: “There’s nothing for me to do now but ministry.” This time, there was a tremendous peace. Still, how on earth was I to support a family? But what mattered was God’s will. This time, a burning desire for ministry was replaced with fear and trembling. (…)

 

Since my secular work has ended, my ministry has grown to extraordinary measure. My wife and I have traveled to three different continents and ministered to tens of thousands of souls. My ministry includes concerts, parish missions, and school evangelization. More recently, I’ve returned to my roots of leading people into an “encounter with Jesus”, but this time, through Eucharistic Adoration. In all these years of ministry, we’ve never missed a meal. We have since been richly blessed with three more healthy children, with one more on the way. More importantly, we’ve learned through the trials and crosses that come with serving the Lord (Sir 2:1), that he will never, never abandon us.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we heed Jesus’ teaching that unless we become like children, we will not enter the kingdom of heaven? Do we care for God’s “little ones”?

 

2. Like Ezekiel, do we allow ourselves to be nourished by God’s word in order to proclaim it to those for whom we are sent?

 

 

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

 

Loving Jesus,

you revealed to us

that only those who become like children

will enter the heavenly kingdom.

Help us to be childlike in our dependence on God

and teach us to be fully trusting in him.

You exhort us not to neglect the “little ones”

but rather to care for them.

Let our ways be compassionate

on behalf of the poor and vulnerable in our midst.

Nourish us by your word

and grant us the grace to speak your word to the nations.

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 day. Please memorize it.

  

“It is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.” (Mt 18:14) // “I ate it and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth.” (Ez 3:3)

 

 

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

 

Show God’s care and compassion for the “little ones” in our midst by your kind words and deeds. With childlike trust, ask God for the grace to be instruments of his pastoral care for the “little ones” in our society today. Promote the practice of Lectio Divina, the prayerful reading of God’s word, among your family members, friends and loved ones.

 

***

August 13, 2014: WEDNESDAY – WEEKDAY (19); SAINTS PONTIAN, pope, AND HIPPOLYTUS, priest, martyrs

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us the Duty of Fraternal Correction and Marks Us for Salvation”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Ez 9:1-7; 10:18-22 // Mt 18:15-20

 

 

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

 

The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 4, remark on today’s Gospel reading: “The community for which Matthew collected and presented the Lord’s teachings was already a motley group. There were brothers and sisters who did not behave in an evangelical manner toward the little ones. There were leaders concerned more with honors than service. There were even disciples who lived in sin, publicly and scandalously. What to do about them? What should be the means by which they could be helped to become aware of their disorderly ways and be converted? Certainly there was no question to prematurely separate the weeds from the good grain (Mt 13:24-30). But in some cases, it became necessary to expel from the community brothers and sisters whose conduct could not be tolerated. These questions are still with us. The Gospel of Matthew shows us how to address them. The concrete modalities of the procedure outlined in Matthew cannot be followed to the letter, but we must remember their spirit and perspective. The sins of brothers and sisters cannot leave their kin and other members of the community indifferent. Charity and the spiritual welfare of others demand that we exert ourselves to bring back onto the right path whoever has wandered off. The parable of the lost sheep (Mt 18:10-14) immediately precedes Jesus’ words on charitable correction. The art of reprimand is certainly among the most difficult and delicate; yet this is no reason for us to evade our duty.”

 

The famous English ballerina, Margot Fonteyn, narrates an incident in which she experienced a sisterly correction from her best friend, Pamela May (cf. MARGOT FONTEYN: Her Own Best Selling Autobiography, London: Wyndham Publications Ltd., 1976, p. 98-99).

 

Pamela May was away from the ballet for quite a while having a baby. June Brae, the other member of our ‘triptych’, had met David Breeden at Cambridge at the same time that I met Tito and Pamela met Painton. June and David married early in the war and their daughter was born soon after Pamela’s son. I seemed to be the odd girl out.

 

Alone in No. 1 dressing room, without my closest friends, I developed a star complex, and for a time I was really impossible, imagining that I was different from, and superior to, those around me. Then Pamela came to see us. It was soon after she had been widowed. Completely broken up by her loss, and living as she did facing up to stark reality, she was in no mood to put up with my fanciful airs She told me outright that I had become a bore.

 

Thinking it over, I decided that I far preferred the company of my friends to the isolated pinnacle implied by the title Prima Ballerina Assoluta, which I had been trying to reach, so I climbed down. As a matter of fact, it had been partly the fault of what I call false friends – those who, with the best will, and believing themselves your warmest admirers, unwittingly destroy you with such talk as: “People didn’t realize how great you are”; “You are the greatest ballerina alive; people should fall back in awe when you leave the stage door”; “You should be treated like a queen.” All of which is, of course, rubbish.

 

***

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Ez 9:1-7; 10:18-22) deals with Ezekiel’s second vision of God. The leaders of the exiles from Judah are sitting in Ezekiel’s house in Babylon, when the power of the Sovereign Lord comes to the prophet. In this vision God’s spirit lifts him high in the air and takes him to Jerusalem. Ezekiel sees seven ministers: one to mark the foreheads of those who will be saved and the other six to kill and destroy. The massacre begins in the Temple’s sanctuary and throughout the city. Only those marked with a “Thau” (i.e. the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet and resembling an “x” or a cross) – the faithful ones who are distressed and troubled on account of the evil and abominations committed against the Lord – will survive. The punishment is relentless on account of Israel’s grave sins. After the slaughter of the idolaters and the destruction of the city, the glory of the Lord departs from the Jerusalem temple and the city.  Jerusalem is now without God’s protection.

 

The detail given in Ezekiel’s vision that only those marked with a “Thau” on their foreheads will be saved gives meaning and perspective to the following modern day account involving movie actress turned Benedictine nun, Dolores Hart (cf. Mother Dolores Hart OSB and Richard DeNeut, The Ear of the Heart: An Actress’ Journey from Hollywood to Holy Vows, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2013, p. 155-156).

 

[The film] Lisa marked a reunion with Stephen Boyd … A romance between Dolores and Stephen began in the press, with gossip items suggesting that the two must surely be having a love affair. Photo layouts, following the fan-magazine formula, gave credence to the gossip. But indeed, something real was developing. Dolores’ relationship with Stephen Boyd would be her only professional relationship that would also become a romantic one. (…)

 

By the time we got to London, I knew that my feelings for Stephen had gone as far as they can go on the friendship level. I felt I had an obligation to indicate I was ready to move to a more personal one. Up to this point, there hadn’t been even a kiss. Not that I had never kissed Stephen, but it had never been that kind of a kiss.

 

One evening, returning from one of our walks in Saint James’ Park, we stopped in at the front door as we had on so many evenings, and I suddenly said, “Stephen, would you like to come in?” He looked at me and said, “Yes”. He leaned forward to kiss me, but the kiss was placed on the forehead. “Yes”, he repeated, but you’re marked. Don’t you know that?”

 

I was confused. I felt hurt. Had I exposed my vulnerability, my trust, only to be rejected? I wondered what he had meant by saying I was “marked”, but I didn’t ask for an explanation then. I never did. Our dinners and talks continued, but we never mentioned that evening. When the film was over, our lives moved apart. But I heard his voice – “You’re marked” – often.

 

 

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

 

1. What is my attitude to the erring members of the Christian community? Do we dedicate ourselves to the ministry of Christian correction? Do we believe that only God’s grace can change hearts and effect conversion? Do we allow ourselves to be instruments of grace for others?

 

2. Do we grieve over the evils committed in today’s world and carry out a ministry of prayer and reparation for the salvation of sinners?

 

 

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

(Cf. Commission Francophone Cistercienne, Tropaires des dimanches, 109, Fiche de chant U LH 68)

 

            When one human being wins another,

heaven rises on earth.

When two or three agree to implore the Father,

heaven surrounds them and unfolds at their bidding.

                        Earth and heaven are reconciled.

Jesus is in our midst.

            Love and truth meet;

glory will dwell on our earth.

Truth will sprout from the earth

and justice will lean down from heaven.

God himself offers happiness

and our earth will give its fruit.

Earth and heaven are reconciled.

Jesus is in our midst.

  

 

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 your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault …” (Mt 18:15) // “Do not touch any marked with the ‘Thau’.” (Ez 9:5)

 

 

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

 

Pray for the erring members of the community and for the grace needed by the Church to carry out its task of Christian correction. In a most humble and charitable way, exercise the duty of fraternal correction and forgiveness on behalf of erring members of your family and community.

 

***

 

August 14, 2014: THURSDAY – SAINT MAXIMILIAN KOLBE, priest, martyr

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Forgive Seventy Times Seven and Not to Be Captives by Sin”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Ez 12:1-12 // Mt 18:21-19:1

 

 

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

(By Mario S. Estrella: Member of the Religious Congregation Opifices Christi, Philippines)

 

            When I was working as one of the training officers of the different training programs of the Department of Education, I had made a decision that was detrimental to the mandate of the Department to provide continuous service to teachers and principals. My immediate superior called it to my attention when he discovered my irresponsibility and incompetence. I thought I would be reprimanded and incriminated for negligence and my conduct, which was unbecoming to a government employee. The superior asked me if I was guilty of the offense and I replied affirmatively. He surprised me when he asked, “If I keep you in your present capacity, can I trust you in the future?” I replied, “I am sorry, sir. I have learned my lesson and you surely can trust me again.” He must have detected the sincerity of my repentance. “I am not going to press charges anymore and you can continue in your present responsibility,” he said. He told me then that he had once succumbed to the same situation, but he was given mercy and was asked to learn from it. His position now in the Department can attest how far he has gone because of the opportunity accorded to him.

 

Truly, according to Steve Goodlier, those who forgive best are those who are forgiven. The story is centered on the fruit of forgiveness. Forgiveness multiplies when freely given to the offender. Whether we like it or not, something good may come from the experience and could possibly change the person for the better.

 

There is another way of looking at why Jesus asked us to forgive seventy-seven times. The number of times we exonerate is most likely equivalent to those who will have a change of heart for the better. The number of recipients who have been rehabilitated as a result of forgiveness is already a great contribution to the continuing proclamation of the Kingdom of God. If the recipients will do the same to their offenders, forgiveness multiplies until it reaches the core number that will make the world a better place to live in.

 

***

 

In today’s Old Testament reading (Ez 12:1-12), Ezekiel’s message is addressed to a rebellious people about God’s judgment on them and about the coming fall and destruction of Jerusalem. Upon God’s command, the prophet performs a symbolic act in front of them.  Ezekiel gathers what he can carry, digs a hole in the wall with his hands, goes out through the breach and leaves, with the pack on his shoulder and with eyes covered. His action is a sign that the inhabitants of Jerusalem will be refugees and captives. King Nebuchadnezzar fulfills this prophecy through his ultimate destructive blow against Jerusalem in 587 B.C. and the final deportation of the Jews to Babylon. The prophecy of doom concerning the ruler literally happens. King Zedekiah leaves Jerusalem at night by making a breach in the walls of the city, flees into the hands of the punitive Babylonians, is blinded by the captors and led in chains to Babylon. There he remains in prison until the day he dies.

 

The following modern day event in the Middle East gives insight into the sufferings that the people of Judah experienced from their oppressors

Iraq's Christians have perhaps suffered more than any other group since the Islamic State formerly known as ISIS rose to power, but Christianity is in decline all over the Middle East. Just 5% of the region's population identifies as Christian, and that figure is dropping still. The Christian residents of Mosul, Iraq, are under blatant attack, as the Islamic State distributed flyers in July giving them three options: convert to Islam, pay a fine, or be killed. Many of their abandoned homes now say in black lettering, "Property of the Islamic State."

Canon Andrew White, also known as the "Vicar of Baghdad," is the Chaplain of St George’s Anglican Church in Baghdad, Iraq. He estimates that his flock used to number around 6,000 people, but in the last decade over 1,200 have been killed, according to CNN's Arwa Damon.

"One of the things that really hurt was when one of the Christians came and said, 'For the first time in 1,600 years, we had no church in Nineveh,'" he told Damon. White refuses to leave Baghdad despite the danger, as St. George's is Iraq's last Anglican Church.

***

 

 

 

Today is the memorial of Saint Maximilian Kolbe who exemplifies Christ’s pastoral and prophetic ministry. Here is his biography (cf. Notes from Wikipedia on the Internet).

 

Kolbe was canonized on 10 October 1982 by Pope John Paul II and declared a martyr of charity. He is the patron saint of drug addicts, political prisoners, families, journalists, prisoners and pro-life movements. Pope John Paul II declared him “the patron saint of our difficult century”. Due to Kolbe’s efforts to promote consecration and entrustment to Mary, he is known as the “apostle of consecration to Mary”.

 

He was born Raymond Kolbe on 8 January 1894 in Zdunska Wola in the kingdom of Poland, which was part of the Russian Empire, the second son of Julius Kolbe and Maria Dabrowska. His father was an ethnic German and his mother was Polish. He had four brothers: Francis, Joseph, Walenty (who lived a year) and Andrew (who lived four years).

 

Kolbe’s family moved to Pabianice, where his parents initially worked as basket weavers. Later, his mother worked as a midwife (often donating her services) and operated a shop in part of their rented house where she sold groceries and household goods. Julius Kolbe worked at the Krushe and Ender Mill and also worked on a parcel of rented land where he grew vegetables. In 1914, Julius joined Josef Pilsudki’s Polish Legions and was captured by the Russians and hanged for fighting for independence of a partitioned Poland.

 

Kolbe’s life was strongly influenced by a childhood vision of the Virgin Mary that he later described: “That night I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me, a child of Faith. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both.

 

In 1907 Kolbe and his elder brother Francis decided to join the Conventual Franciscans. They illegally crossed the border between Russia and Austria-Hungary and enrolled at the Conventual Franciscan minor seminary in Lwow. In 1910 Kolbe was allowed to enter the novitiate where he was given the religious name Maximilian. He professed his first vows in 1911 and final vows in 1914 in Rome, adopting the additional name of Maria to show his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Kolbe would later sing hymns to the Virgin Mary in the concentration camp.

 

Kolbe was sent to Krakow in 1912, and later in the same year, to the house of studies in Rome where he studied philosophy, theology, mathematics and physics. He earned a doctorate in philosophy in 1915 at the Pontifical Gregorian University and a doctorate in theology in 1919 at the Pontifical University of St. Bonaventure.

 

During his time as a student, he witnessed vehement demonstrations against Popes St. Pius X and Benedict XV in Rome during an anniversary celebrating the Freemasons. According to Kolbe, “They placed the black standard of the Giordano Brunisti under the windows of the Vatican. On this standard the archangel, St. Michael, was depicted lying under the feet of the triumphant Lucifer. At the same time countless pamphlets were distributed to the people in which the Holy Father (i.e. the Pope) was attacked shamefully.

 

This event inspired Kolbe to organize the Militia Immaculata or Army of Mary to work for the conversion of sinners and enemies of the Catholic Church, specifically the Freemasons, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary. So serious was Kolbe about this goal that he added to the Miraculous Medal prayer: “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. And for all those who do not have recourse to thee, especially the Masons and all those recommended to thee.

 

The Immaculata friars utilized the most modern printing and administrative techniques in publishing catechetical and devotional tracts, a daily newspaper with a circulation of 230,000 and a monthly magazine with a circulation of over one million. Kolbe also used radio to spread his Catholic faith and to speak against the atrocities of the Nazi regime. He is the only canonized saint to have held an amateur radio license, with the call sign SP3RN.

 

In 1918 Kolbe was ordained a priest. In 1919 he returned to the newly independent Poland where he was very active in promoting the veneration of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, founding and supervising the monastery of Niepokalanov near Warsaw, a seminary, a radio station, and several other organizations and publications. Kolbe founded the monthly periodical Rycerz Niepokalanej in 1922, and in 1927 founded a Conventual Franciscan monastery at Niepokalanov, which became a major publishing center. Kolbe left Poland for Japan in 1930, spending six years there. The monastery at Niepokalanov began in his absence to publish a daily newspaper, Maly Dziennik, which became Poland’s top-seller. (…)

 

Between 1930 and 1936 Kolbe undertook a series of missions to Japan where he founded a monastery at the outskirts of Nagasaki, a Japanese paper and a seminary. The monastery he founded remains prominent in the Roman Catholic Church in Japan. Kolbe decided to build the monastery on a mountainside that, according to Shinto beliefs, was not the side best suited to be in harmony with nature. When the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Kolbe’s monastery was saved because the other side of the mountain took the main force of the blast.

 

With the invasion of his nation by Nazi Germany, Kolbe provided shelter to refugees from Greater Poland including 2,000 Jews whom he hid from Nazi persecution in his friary in Niepokalanov. On 17 February 1941, he was arrested by the German Gestapo and imprisoned in the Pawiak prison. On 28 May he was transferred to Auschwitz as prisoner #16670.

 

At the end of July 1941 three prisoners disappeared from the camp, prompting SS Hauptsturmfuhrer Karl Fritzsch, the deputy camp commander, to pick 10 men to be starved to death in an underground bunker in order to deter escape attempts. When one of the selected men Franciszek Gajowniczek cried out: “My wife! My children!”, Kolbe volunteered to take his place.

 

In his prison Kolbe celebrated Mass each day and sang hymns with the prisoners. He led the other condemned men in song and prayer and encouraged them by telling them they would soon be with Mary in heaven. Each time the guards checked on him, he was standing or kneeling in the middle of the cell and looking calmly at those who entered. After two weeks of dehydration and starvation, only Kolbe remained alive. The guards wanted the bunker emptied and they gave Kolbe a lethal injection of carbolic acid. Some who were present at the injection say that he raised his left arm and calmly waited for the injection. His remains were cremated on 15 August, the feast day of the Assumption of Mary.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we ever forgive? Do we set limits and conditions on Christian forgiveness? Do we imitate God in his willingness to forgive? Do we respond positively and fully to God’s healing and forgiving love? In our daily life, do we act like the merciless and unforgiving steward?  If so, what do we do about it?

 

2. Do we take care to cultivate our personal relationship with God so that our sin and weakness will not “exile” us from him?

 

 

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

 

Jesus Lord,

thank you for your forgiving love!

We have a duty to forgive

for you have been truly merciful.

Heal us totally of our resentments

that we may be able to forgive seventy times seven.

Let our hearts be open to your saving grace

that we may be instruments of your peace and benediction

to a wounded world in need of healing and reconciliation.

Let us never be separated from you.

We adore you and glorify you,

now and forever.

Amen.

  

 

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

 

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

 

            “I say to you forgive, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Mt 18:22) // “As captives they shall go into exile.” (Ez 12:11)

 

 

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

 

Seek to extend God’s forgiving love to those who have wronged you. In a spirit of contrition, beg forgiveness from the people you have wronged that you may truly experience God’s forgiving and healing love.  

***

 

August 15, 2014: FRIDAY – THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

N.B. Holy day of obligation (USA)

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Mother Mary Is Raised to Heaven Body and Soul”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Rv 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab // I Cor 15:20-27 // Lk 1:39-56

 

 

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

 

Today’s feast of the Assumption celebrates the fruit of Christ’s paschal sacrifice - eternal life and joy in God’s kingdom - bestowed upon his mother Mary in fullness. The Blessed Mother Mary points to our own glorious destiny with God. The French liturgical scholar, Louis Bouyer, remarks: “Mary should be looked on as the living pledge of Christ’s promises to the Church: that where he is, we also shall be; then the glory given him by the Father, he will give to us, as he received it.”

 

The First Reading (Rv 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab) depicts a “great sign in the sky” – a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth. The image of a woman in childbirth is used to describe creative acts that involve time and sacrifice in order to be brought to full maturity. The heavenly vision of the woman in labor in the Book of Revelation evokes the painful and challenging process of the birth of Christ in the hearts of the faithful, as well as Mary’s vital role in the birthing of the Church.

  

From the Second Reading (I Cor 15:20-27a) we can deduce that the power of Christ’s own resurrection makes the mystery of Mary’s assumption possible. Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the “firstfruits” of those who have fallen asleep. In Jewish cultic terms, the offering of “firstfruits” symbolizes the dedication of the whole harvest to God. As “firstfruits”, the Risen Lord Jesus pledges the resurrection of us all, of which Mary is the exemplar of a promise fulfilled. Indeed, God triumphs over death. Death is ultimately vanquished through the power of Christ’s resurrection. It is no longer a dismal end. In Christ, the “firstfruits”, death becomes a passage or passing over to eternal life. Though Christ’s victorious Passover is complete, ours is not yet. As Church, we need to open ourselves to the effects of Christ’s saving works and offer the “fruits” of redemption to the fragmented humanity of the “here and now”.

 

Mary’s assumption is a powerful sign that in our intimate union and full response to Christ, the Paschal Mystery is brought to fruition. Likewise, Mary, in her Magnificat (cf. Lk 1:39-56), invites us to praise the Lord for the great things he has done for her and to proclaim with her the final victory of God, of which she is a full recipient. With Mary assumed into heaven, we glorify the Lord!

 

The following story inspires us to have recourse to Mary, assumed into heaven, as a patroness of a happy death (cf. Susan Mountin, “Homecoming” in AMERICA, February 15, 2010, p. 19).

 

On the day my mother died, she entered into a state that hospice caregivers know well – the body’s oxygen supply diminishes. She was unable to communicate with us from about noon that day until about 3. Then, to our amazement, she calls for my dad and reached out to hold his hands. She became quite anxious and thrashed about (another expected pattern in the death process).

 

But what happened next will be etched in my heart and soul forever. About an hour before her death she reached out her arms and began distinctly saying, “push me, pull me, push me, pull me”. Mom was not speaking to any of us in the room. I had no doubt that she was being greeted by angels and her deceased sisters and brother, whom she missed so much (she was the oldest of eight children born in close succession, and they were very close).

 

Those were her last words, “push me, pull me”. Then she became quiet. I felt her soul slipping from her body. We gathered my siblings and dad around the bed and began to pray: Our Father; Hail Mary. We all touched her. I put my arm around dad’s shoulder as he sat on his walker next to the bed, and had one hand on mom’s foot. I instinctively began praying the Memorare, a prayer that had been renewed as a deep part of my own spiritual journey when I struggled with some issues years earlier. Then from the deepest recesses of my memory I prayed aloud the novena prayer to the Mother of Perpetual Help. Mom took five or six deep breaths and died.  If there is such a thing as a peaceful death, we were blessed with one for mom … I remember and relive day after day the journey to my mother’s death because it brought all of us closer to our own destiny and to God.

 

 

 

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

 

How did Mary participate in Christ’s paschal sacrifice as well as in the victorious event of “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep”? How do you participate in these saving events, personally and as a community? How does the meaning of the Blessed Mother’s assumption into heaven affect you personally? 

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

in Mary’s assumption into heaven,

body and soul,

we see our own beauty and glorious destiny in Christ.

But the Blessed Virgin is also a model

of intimate participation in Christ’s paschal mystery.

Her Son Jesus Christ rose from the dead

and became the “firstfruits” of those who have fallen asleep.

She is the exemplary recipient of the “fruits” of redemption.

Teach us to be receptive to grace.

Grant that we may truly experience the power of the resurrection

and relish the “firstfruits” of salvation.

United with Mary assumed into heaven,

we glorify you and exult in your goodness,

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.

 

 “He has lifted up the lowly.” (Lk 1:52)

 

 

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

 

Pray that Mary, assumed into heaven, may intercede for us as we endeavor to spread the “firstfruits” of Christ’s redemption to the fragmented humanity of our modern society. By our preferential option for the poor and vulnerable, let us allow the people of today to have a glimpse of our glorious destiny in heaven. 

    

***

 

August 16, 2014: SATURDAY – WEEKDAY (19); SAINT STEPHEN OF HUNGARY; BVM ON SATURDAY

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Blesses the Children and Teaches Us the Meaning of Responsibility”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Ez 18:1-10, 13b, 30-32 // Mt 19:13-15

 

 

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

 

As Jesus made his way to Jerusalem, teaching and healing, children were brought to him to be blessed. This account precedes the story of the young man who wants to follow Jesus but fails to do so because of his attachment to his possessions. Unlike the rich young man, the children are a symbol of the anawim – of the poor and lowly who depend totally on God. The kingdom of God is meant for the “children” who, in their simplicity and trust, totally rely on God. Jesus delights in them and he wants the children to come to him. The heavenly kingdom belongs to such as them. Jesus lays his hands upon the “little ones”. This gesture signifies his bestowal of the blessings and abundant riches of the kingdom upon them.

 

The following story entitled “Potato Chips”, circulated on the Internet, gives us a glimpse into the child-like quality that enables us – whether young or old - to experience the presence of God.

 

A little boy wanted to meet God. He knew it was a long trip to where God lived, so he packed his suitcase with a bag of potato chips and a six-pack of root beer and started his journey. When he had gone about three blocks, he met an old woman. She was sitting in the park, just staring at some pigeons. The boy sat down next to her and opened his suitcase. He was about to take a drink from his root beer when he noticed that the old lady looked hungry, so he offered her some chips. She gratefully accepted and smiled at him. Her smile was so pretty that the boy wanted to see it again, so he offered her a root beer. Again, she smiled at him. The boy was delighted! They sat there all afternoon eating and smiling, but they never said a word.

 

As twilight approached, the boy realized how tired he was and he got up to leave; but before he had gone more than a few steps, he turned around, ran back to the old woman, and gave her a hug. She gave him her biggest smile ever. When the boy opened the door to his own house a short time later, his mother was surprised by the look of joy on his face. She asked him, “What did you do today that made you so happy?” He replied, “I had lunch with God.” But before his mother could respond, he added, “You know what? She’s got the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen!”

 

Meanwhile, the old woman, also radiant with joy, returned to her home. Her son was stunned by the look of peace on her face and he asked, “Mother, what did you do today that made you so happy?” She replied, “I ate potato chips in the park with God.” However, before her son responded, she added, “You know, he’s much younger that I expected.”

 

***

 

In today’s Old Testament reading (Ez 18:1-10, 13b, 30-32) we come to grips with the issue of personal responsibility. The people in the land of Israel keep on repeating the proverb: “The parents ate the sour grapes, but the children got the sour taste.” The cynical use this proverb to complain about their need to suffer for their parents’ misdeeds. Faced with the disasters that follow in close succession plus the specter of doom that Ezekiel keeps on repeating, the question arises: “Whose fault it is?” Moreover, the disasters are of such magnitude that they cannot be caused only by the sins of one generation.

 

God answers the complaint by asserting that he is the God of life and that it is only the person who sins that shall die. Hence, a truly good man who doesn’t worship the idols of Israel or eat sacrifices offered at forbidden shrines, who follows the Lord’s way, such a righteous person shall live. And if his son robs and kills, goes to pagan shrines and worships disgusting idols, does disgusting things, that son of his shall die for his misdeeds. God reiterates that he shall judge each person for what he has done.

 

Then God’s climactic appeal comes: “Turn away from all the evil you have been doing, and get yourselves new minds and new hearts … Turn away from your sins and live.” The decisive argument for this appeal is: “I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies.” The promise of life and the threat of death do not refer to life and death in the physical sense, but communion with God, the giver of life, or separation from God which can only bring death.

 

The following pastoral letter of Archbishop Oakley, entitled “Deliver Us from Evil. Amen” (10 July, 2014) is an appeal to personal and communal responsibility.

 

Recently I came across a schedule of events for the Civic Center Music Hall in Oklahoma City. Imagine my astonishment upon reading about a ticketed “Black Mass” performance that will be presented at this public institution.

 

I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt and assume that this event was scheduled without knowledge of what was going to be taking place. The so-called Black Mass is an occult ritual normally carried out in secret among those initiated into its dark mysteries. It is astonishing that this is being performed in such a public way and in a public space. In a Black Mass a consecrated Sacred Host obtained by stealth from a Catholic Mass, is corrupted in a vile and sexual manner and then becomes the sacrifice of this pseudo Mass offered in homage to Satan.

 

For over one billion Catholics worldwide and more than 200,000 Catholics in Oklahoma the Mass is the most sacred of religious rituals. It is the center of Catholic worship and celebrates Jesus Christ’s redemption of the world by his saving death and resurrection. In particular, the Eucharist – which we believe to be the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ – is the source and summit of our faith. A Black Mass is a satanic inversion and mockery of the most sacred beliefs not only of Catholics but of all Christians.

 

I am astonished and grieved that the Civic Center would promote as entertainment and sell tickets for an event that is essentially a blasphemous and sacrilegious mockery of the Catholic Mass.

 

It is hard to imagine the Civic Center turning a blind eye and allowing a group to use its facilities to burn a copy of the Koran, or to conduct an overtly anti-Semitic performance. Nor should they! Why is this any different? There are community standards to uphold. And these prohibit works that are “illegal, indecent, obscene, immoral or in any manner publicly offensive.” A Black Mass certainly qualifies as offensive, obscene and immoral. Its sole purpose is to show hostility toward Catholicism and all that is sacred to Christians.

 

Acts of public sacrilege undermine the foundations of a civil society and have no redeeming social values. They undermine respect for social, cultural and religious institutions. They mock and tear down and provide no comparable social goods.

 

I certainly hope that those allowing this event will consider whether this is an appropriate use of public space. We trust that community leaders do not actually wish to enable or encourage such a flagrantly inflammatory event and that they can surely find a way to remedy this situation.

 

If the event does move forward, we will consider other peaceful, prayerful and respectful options to demonstrate our opposition to this publicly supported sacrilegious acts.

 

In the meantime, I call on all Catholics in Oklahoma and elsewhere, as well as men and women of good will, to pray for a renewed sense of the sacred and that the Lord might change the hearts and minds of the organizers of this event. May God protect us from the power of evil which such an event invokes.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we believe that the kingdom of heaven belongs to the “little ones”?  How do we prove that we are truly children of God?

 

2. Do we believe that God does not want the death of a sinner but that he be converted and live?

 

 

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

 

Loving Jesus,

you said, “Let the children come to me,

and do not prevent them;

for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

We are your disciples

and within us is the spirit of the “little ones”.

Draw us to you.

Bless us and lay your hands upon us

that we may be filled with the abundant riches of your kingdom.

You are meek and gentle of heart.

You call us to serve God the Father

for we are his own children

and you are our dear brother.

Help us to turn away sinners from sin

that they may live.

We love and adore 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.

 

“Let the children come to me … He placed his hands on them.” (Mt 19:14) // “Return and live!” (Ez 18:32)

 

  

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

 

Cultivate a child-like attitude that will enable you to perceive the blessings of God and his presence in every moment of your life. By your prayers and kind deeds help sinners turn away from sin and return to God.

 

***

 

 

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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