A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 18, n. 38)

Week 20 in Ordinary Time: August 16-22, 2020

 

 

(The pastoral tool BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD: A LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY & WEEKDAY LITURGY includes a prayerful study of the Sunday liturgy from various perspectives. For the Lectio Divina on the liturgy of the past week: August 9-15, 2020 please go to ARCHIVES Series 18 and click on “Ordinary Week 19”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: August 16-22, 2020.)

 

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August 16, 2020: TWENTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Mercy Is for All”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 56:1, 6-7 // Rom 11:13-15, 29-32 // Mt 15:21-28

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 15:21-28): “O woman, great is your faith.” 

          

By his words and deeds, Jesus Christ instilled in his disciples the universal character of the Father’s saving plan and radically fulfilled it by the paschal mystery of his passion, death and resurrection. The story of the Canaanite woman depicted in today’s Gospel (Mt 15:21-28), who is an object of Jesus’ favor and praise, gives us a glimpse of the ever-growing expanse of the community of faith – of those who turn to Jesus Christ with unwavering trust.  No one is excluded from the community of salvation that continually expands and enfolds all peoples, nations and cultures. The Church of Christ is universal and its liturgy is a beautiful expression of its all-embracing experience of salvation.

  

The Canaanite woman likewise epitomizes the positive attitude of the recipients of the Good News through time and space. In this remarkable Gentile mother, the evangelist Matthew portrays a laudable figure of efficacious faith. The biblical scholar, Eugene Maly remarks: “Throughout his Gospel Matthew is at pains to show what great things can be achieved through faith in Jesus Christ. He is writing for Christians who have already expressed that faith – and he is writing for us - for he knows that all Christians are in need of constant encouragement to grow in faith. Here he is telling us how effectively even this pagan woman believed. Could Jesus say to us what he said to her, You have great faith!?”

 

The following incident gives a glimpse into the Christian disciples’ effort to share “the bread of faith” - through charitable actions - with the needy people of today’s world (cf. Richard Ross, MKLM, in “Missioner Tales” in Maryknoll, May/June 2014, p. 9).

 

In the Nyashana suburb of Mwanza, Tanzania, most families live without running water and electricity. The Jesuit-founded Lubango Center, where I serve with the Maryknoll Lay Missioners, was created to address the local poverty by offering equal opportunities to women and children in the areas of life skills and education. The building complex is beautiful and the children who attend classes there are well-dressed in school uniforms. However, the stress of living in the area, where the need for food, water, shelter and sanitation are primary, makes it hard for children to learn and develop the confidence to break the cycle of poverty.

 

One day, I had some old loaves of bread that I was going to throw out but decided instead to toss to the birds on my way to Lubango Center. Some of the children come early to school and I walk with them before the 8 a.m. start of classes. When these children saw the old bread I was about to toss, their eyes lit up, and in a flash the bread was gone. They all took two pieces each. Here I was going to throw it to the birds and the children just gobbled it up. Because the children have smiles on their faces and nice uniforms, you can’t tell how poor or hungry they are.

  

 

B. First Reading (Is 56:1, 6-7): “I will bring foreigners to my holy mountain.”

 

The Old Testament reading (Is 56:1, 6-7) from the third section of the book of Isaiah (chapters 56-66) gives us an expansive and refreshing concept of salvation: the house of God is “a house of prayer for all peoples”. According to this prophetic vision, salvation depends first and foremost on the person’s loving and humble attitude toward the Lord God and not per se on membership in the Jewish people. Those who are faithful to God’s covenant and keep the Sabbath will be brought to his holy mountain and experience the joy of participating in his “house of prayer”. Probably written after the Babylonian exile, about six centuries before Christ, salvation is presented as universal and the divine benevolence extended to all peoples. Indeed, God’s acceptance of “foreigners” expands the boundaries of the worshipping community of Israel and foreshadows the future “catholic” – universal- mission of the Church.

 

I share below one of my most intense personal experiences of the “catholic” Church.

 

It was in the early 1980’s when I had a chance to attend for the first time the Easter Sunday Mass with the Pope at St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican City. I was with a visiting Italian PDDM sister who had worked in Latin America for many years. We were there with myriads of people from different nations and cultures - all patiently waiting for the Mass to begin. I was shivering from the dampness and chill of a steady spring shower, but I was awed by the reality that I was in a “house of prayer” without frontiers. I was looking at the immense sky, feeling the gentle raindrops on my face and beholding the various faces of the peoples of the earth aglow with Easter joy.

 

When Pope John Paul II greeted us and began the Mass, I forgot how cold I was and simply focused on the beauty and glory of being an Easter people – of the great privilege and dignity of worshipping in the house of God. After the Mass and with the spring sunshine finally enveloping us, the Holy Father extended his Easter greetings to the entire world in about a hundred languages. That was a “catholic” experience I would never forget!

 

 

C. Second Reading (Rom 11:13-15, 29-32): “The gifts and call of God for Israel are irrevocable.”

 

The worldwide saving mission to all peoples is exemplified by Saint Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. Having encountered intimately the Risen Lord and powered by the apostolic energy of the Holy Spirit, the Easter gift, Paul follows obediently the dynamics of the divine plan of salvation, i.e. “to the Jews first and also to all nations”. He is deeply grieved that as a people, the Israelites do not welcome the Gospel centered on Jesus Christ as the Messiah. And yet the ever-positive Paul, as we could verify in today’s Second Reading (Rom 11: 13-15, 29-32), never loses hope. Saint Paul is convinced that Israel’s fall is temporary, not definitive. His hope for the Israel’s conversion is based on the wholly-gratuitous love of God and his unfailing mercy for all.

 

The biblical scholar John Pilch comments: “Israel’s stumbling is not definitive or irremediable. Paul explains how Israel’s fall made it possible for the Gentiles to accept Jesus and thereby stir Israel to envy. If the failure of Israel brought such a blessing, imagine the result when they all accept Jesus! (…) While the Jews have ruptured the right relationship with God by rejecting the good news, they are still loved by him because the election of Israel is irrevocable. The promises or covenants with the patriarchs still stand forever. God simply doesn’t vacillate about those who he blesses and chooses. In point of fact, all groups have been disobedient to God at one time or another. This is what allows God to have mercy on all.”

  

The following article is on a positive note. It gives us a glimpse into the ecumenical direction and inter-religious dialogue that the Church is carrying out in the modern world, following the divine universal saving plan. It is also consonant with Saint Paul’s conviction concerning God’s mercy for all (cf. Marco Bellizi, “The Jews and the Frail Pope” in L’Osservatore Romano, May 18, 2011, p. 11-12).

 

Every time you met John Paul II you had the feeling that something important was happening; he had a solemnity about him that was instantly perceptible. However, the full value of the Polish Pope has not yet been recognized … These opinions were expressed by Rabbi Jack Bemporad, 78, a man who has spent his life promoting mutual understanding between religious. He was born in Italy but moved to the United States when he was six years old, after the approval of Mussolini’s racial laws. The Rabbi led Jewish communities in Texas, California and New Jersey. Since 1992 he has lived at the Center for Inter-Religious Understanding in Rome and teaches at the Pontifical University of St. Aquinas. Bemporad was and is an important spokesman for relations with the Church: he worked with Cardinal Willebrands and Cardinal Cassidy to achieve full diplomatic relations between Israel and the Holy See. He met John XXIII – the Vatican Council “was one of the crucial experiences of my life”, he says – as well as Benedict XVI. And of course, he had frequent meetings with Karol Wojtyla, of whom he spoke in this interview with L’Osservatore Romano.

 

 

Rabbi Bemporad, you met John Paul II several times, for example in Denver (1993) and in Vatican City (1994), when you discussed the views of Jews in the Catholic Catechism. You also led a large delegation of Rabbis and religious leaders to thank the Pope shortly before his death. What are your memories of these meetings?

 

Perhaps the first impression one had in meeting personally with John Paul II was his gravitas. A presence immediately made itself manifest which made you feel that something important was at stake. At the same time, his profound humanity and love shone through and you felt he was interested in you and in what you are doing and the topic at hand.

 

In Denver the meeting took place in the day, since it was scheduled after his many talks and conferences and his concern was that religions work together to offer an objective and universal ethic that could help deal with the pressing problems we face: war, poverty, inequality, and lack of education in so many parts of the world.

 

The meeting at the Vatican was much more theoretical and theological. It related to the work our Center had done in educating the inter-religious community on the new catechism and the topic was how best to conduct theological dialogue between Christian and Jews.

 

What one was left with after these and other meetings was the Pope’s complete dedication to making the world better for all human beings, his dedication to a dialogue wherein one must be true to one’s faith, without being false to the faith of others, and how serious and difficult this task was.

 

 

When John Paul II visited Jerusalem, you commented on the event in the media. Looking back, according to you, what really made that trip so memorable?

 

I think the image of the frail Pope, with no assistance from the aides, slowly walking to the wall to insert the beautiful prayer of forgiveness and reconciliation struck an unforgettable chord in the hearts of Jews, not just in Israel, but in Jews throughout the world. I also think his meeting with Polish Holocaust survivors, who recognized that this Pope as a young man was a witness to this horror, demonstrated solidarity with the suffering of the Jewish people.

 

 

In your opinion, which act of John Paul II has been most appreciated by the Jewish community?

 

I think his most important act was the visit to the Synagogue in Rome which included re-statement of the most important innovations of Nostra Aetate and subsequent documents. Pope John Paul II believed that the changes between Christians and Jews should be given significant expression. What better way to show these changes than to walk into the Rome Synagogue, embrace Rabbi Toaff before the world.

 

 

Did the personal attitude of John Paul II contribute to building Jewish opinion with regard to the Pope?

 

Yes, the Jewish people have the highest opinion and respect for John Paul II. He was the first Pope to enter a synagogue and he authorized Cardinal Cassidy to ask forgiveness for past acts of anti-Judaism, using the Hebrew word, teshuvah, which means not only the asking for forgiveness, but the resolve to start out in a new direction. In addition, he initiated and completed the establishment of full diplomatic relations between Israel and the Holy See and wherever he went throughout the world, he met with Jewish communities to reach out in friendship and understanding. No prior Pope had done so much.

 

 

We are acquainted with the story of the Jewish orphan whom the young Karol Wojtyla refused to convert, respecting the will of the child’s parents who had died in a concentration camp. If you were in similar circumstances, would you have done the same?

 

Yes, except that Judaism is not a religion that actively seeks proselytes. This act shows the Pope’s sensitivity and understanding.

  

 

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

 

1. How do the merciful presence of Jesus and the unwavering faith of the Canaanite woman in his saving power inspire you? Do you believe that the mercy of Jesus is universal and has no bounds? Do you replicate in your life the indomitable trust of the Canaanite woman in what Jesus could do on our behalf?

 

2. How does the prophetic proclamation of the Third Isaiah concerning foreigners being led to the holy mountain and joyfully worshipping in God’s house of prayer affect you? What are your insights and personal experiences about the universal character of the plan of salvation?

 

3. Do I believe that God’s merciful love is for all and that the gifts and the call of God for Israel are irrevocable? How do I act on this conviction?

 

 

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

 

Almighty God,

your merciful love is for all.

Your compassion touches peoples of all nations, cultures and colors

and your care embraces the whole creation.

Let our prayers in various tongues rise up to you

from vast continents and jewel-like islands of the earth.

Help us to welcome each other

and may our Church be a “house of prayer for all peoples”.

Do not let us exclude anyone nor marginalize anybody

through selfishness, indifference and conceit.

In the spirit of Saint Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles,

help us to trust in your universal plan of salvation

and to believe that your gifts and call for Israel are irrevocable.

Give us the zeal and wisdom

to promote inter-religious understanding among all peoples.

Grant us also the courage to deal with the pressing problems

in our society today,

drawing grace and mercy from the heart of Jesus,

whose rising to life set off the universal mission to the whole world.

O compassionate Father,

let the Spirit of the Risen Christ energize us

that we may bring efficaciously your merciful and saving love

to all creation.

May you be praised, honored and adored, 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.

 

“Great is your faith!” (Mt 15:28a)

 

  

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

 

Pray that today’s efforts toward inter-religious dialogue may be blessed by the Lord, especially between the Christians and the Jews.  By your acts of justice, service and compassion especially to the marginalized, allow the universal love of God to permeate the earth and his heavenly kingdom to come upon us all.

                                                                       

 

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August 17, 2020: MONDAY – WEEKDAY (20)

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Challenges Us to Choose the Ultimate Good … He Challenges Us To Be a True Prophet”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Ez 24:15-24 // Mt 19:16-22

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 19:16-22): “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and you will have treasure in heaven.”

 

The rich young man in today’s Gospel (Mt 19:16-22) is in pursuit of eternal life. He has kept the commandments. In the Old Covenant, such a response would have been sufficient. But Jesus goes further. He challenges him to sell what he has, give it to the poor and follow him. Christian discipleship involves renunciation. To follow Jesus is to make a radical choice for his very person - the absolute good. It entails leaving behind false security. Jesus therefore invites him to use his possessions to minister to the poor and thus find treasure in heaven. But the rich young man is excessively attached to his possessions. They preempt his priorities and value judgments. They impede him from choosing Jesus as the center of his life. Hence, this would-be disciple fails to respond to Jesus’ invitation and goes away sad. The rich young man’s possessions have actually “possessed” him.

 

Jesus invites us today to give God our possessions.  In her book God Will Provide, p. 36-37, Patricia Treece remarks: “About surrendering possessions: it isn’t what you have; it’s whether it has you. Or to put it another way, it’s what you do with it. [Saint] John XXIII is a great example of not letting what you have, have you. At a certain point in the young priest’s career, he was named to head a student hostel. Suddenly he had to furnish small personal living quarters for himself. John had an artistic bent and discovered he enjoyed ‘decorating’ with the modest financial gift his dad gave him (unlike religious order priests, diocesan clergy take no vow of poverty). But he writes in his Journal that having set up his first home ‘in a suitable manner’, God let him see more than ever the beauty of the spirit of poverty. He then prays that he will always “keep this feeling of detachment from anything that is mine.”

 

 

B. First Reading (Ez 24:15-24): “Ezekiel shall be a sign for you: all that he did you shall do when it happens.”

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Ez 24:15-24) is filled with pathos. The faithful prophet loses his wife, “the delight of his eyes”. The death of his beloved wife, with its brutal grief, becomes another occasion to deliver a prophetic message to the rebellious Jews. The Lord has ordered the bereaved Ezekiel not to show signs of mourning. The prophet is stripped not only of “the delight of his eyes” but even of the comfort of mourning her loss. The death of the wife and the abstention from mourning foreshadow what the rebellious people will have to go through at the destruction of Jerusalem. Their grief will be too great for mourning. To mourn for the destroyed city is in vain. It is useless to wail, but only to acknowledge one’s sins.

 

The story of Bernice Bouchet gives insight into “the raw grief that is too great for mourning” over the destruction of Jerusalem. Bernice was born in Rangoon, Burma in 1935 of a Burmese mom and of a French-origin dad. She lost her dad when the Japanese invaded Burma during World War II. To escape the horrors of the Japanese occupation, her mom tried to reach Calcutta with Bernice and her younger brother Brian. The mom died in the jungles of Nagaland. On the day her mom died, Bernice and Brian were taken captive by Naga warriors and separated from each other. She would never see her brother again. Bernice would survive the captivity and would enter the PDDM congregation in Allahabad, India. She is now known as Sr. Maria Lucia, one of the first two PDDM vocations who entered in India. Here is her account (cf. Bernice Bouche, Dall’Irrawaddy a Monte Berico, transcribed from tape-recorded accounts and edited by Domenico Cascasi, 1983, manuscript, p. 60-61).

 

One of the men took my brother on his shoulder. The other took me on his and we went through the jungle trail. Then the one who was carrying my brother took another trail. I uttered a desperate cry: “My brother! I want my brother!” But I could not do anything. He was on another trail. I cried bitterly. I punched the head of the man carrying me, but what could a seven-year-old do against him? I could no longer see my brother, but I could hear his screams and his voice: “Bernice! Bernice!”

 

His voice gradually faded in the forest. A sword pierced my heart and my soul. I could no longer hear him. What could I do? What more could I say? I stopped to shout and to cry. From that moment on, more than the shock and fear, the sorrow has rendered me mute. I was not able to speak a word for two years.

 

 

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

 

1. How do we respond to Christ’s radical challenge to make a fundamental option for his person? What do the following words of Christ mean to us personally: “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven”?

 

2. How does the faithful prophet Ezekiel inspire us? Do we believe that even our human tragedy can be an occasion for proclaiming God’s message?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

like the rich young man

we want to follow you and seek eternal life.

Help us to respond to the challenge of radical discipleship.

Give us the wisdom and courage to “renounce” our possessions

so that they may not control or possess us.

Help us to use all the resources you have given us

to minister to the poor

and promote your kingdom of love, justice, and peace.

Grant that, like Ezekiel, even human tragedy

can be an occasion to proclaim your saving word.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

     

 

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

           

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

 

“If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor.” (Mt 19:21) // “Thus you shall know that I am the Lord.” (Ez 24:22)

 

 

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

 

Take stock of your material possessions. Resolve to share your material resources with the needy and give to the poor. // Pray for the bereaved and for the victims of violence and persecution.    

 

 

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August 18, 2020: TUESDAY – WEEKDAY (20)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Invites Us to Pursue the Kingdom of God … He Invites Us To Depend on God”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Ez 28:1-10 // Mt 19:23-30

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 19:23-30): “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”

 

The kingdom of God is an incomparable treasure that surpasses all earthly goods. It makes everything else relative and secondary. Jesus Master teaches us to discern what is true, just, and good. He comes to reorient our lives toward God and empowers those with receptive hearts to choose the heavenly kingdom. Those who fail to respond to Jesus’ radical challenge to follow him feel despondent, just like the rich young man who walks away sad - impeded by his possessions from pursuing wholeheartedly the heavenly kingdom.

 

The Danish theologian, Soren Kierkegaard, underlines the meaning of Christian discipleship: “To follow Christ means denying one’s self, and hence it means walking the same way as Christ walked in the humble form of a servant – needy, forsaken, mocked, not loving worldliness and not loved by the worldly-minded … He who in self-abnegation renounces the world and all that is the world’s, forsakes every relationship which otherwise tempts and holds captive … He who, if it becomes necessary, certainly does not love his father or mother or sister or brother less than before, but loves Christ so much more that he may be said to hate those others: he walks absolutely alone, alone in the whole world … Eternity will not ask about what worldly possessions you left behind in the world. But it will ask you what treasure you have accumulated in heaven.”

 

In today’s Gospel reading (Mt 19:23-30), having seen the rich young man walk away from the offer of heavenly treasure, Jesus exclaims: “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” But he also asserts that with God all things are possible. The Drexel family illustrates what it means to pursue the heavenly kingdom in today’s world (cf. Patricia Treece, God Will Provide, Brewster: Paraclete Press, 2011, p. 38-39).

 

There are people who live in well-decorated mansions who also never let their enjoyed possessions come between them and God. Consider the parents of St. Katherine Drexel (d. 1985), the American heiress. Katherine’s father, Francis Drexel, and her mother, Emma Bouvier Drexel, were one of the richest couples in America. They used their money to do immense good as philanthropists, while they enjoyed a town mansion (with a chapel), a country estate (where their daughters ran catechism classes for the workers’ children), trips to Europe, and the best teachers for their children’s private education.

 

Reared to do good, the Drexel girls in turn lived exemplary lives, making praiseworthy use of enormous inherited incomes (to ensure that no one married any of his girls for money, Francis Drexel left all his wealth to charities, allowing his daughters to enjoy the interest on the immense sum during their lifetimes). Katherine, becoming a nun, dedicated herself and her riches to helping raise black and native Americans out of poverty through education. She became so detached from her resources – as the longest-lived she inherited from her sisters, each childless – that she never tried to break her father’s will; that upon  his last daughter’s death left the fortune to charities named almost a century earlier, some of which no longer needed help.

 

Katherine’s order founded several schools – elementary, high, vocational, and even a university – that relied heavily on this money. But if God wanted the schools to continue, she believed, God would provide for them. And he did.       

 

 

B. First Reading (Ez 28:1-10): “You are a mortal and not God, however you may think yourself like a god.”

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Ez 28:1-10) is an oracle of judgment against the city of Tyre, a rival-ally of the kingdom of Judah. Tyre is built on an island very near the coast. At the time of Ezekiel, it is the center and symbol of Phoenician political-economic power. Tyre rejoices at the destruction of Jerusalem, cheering that is does not have any longer a commercial rival. Puffed up with pride for its riches, the king of Tyre claims himself to be a god. Through the prophet Ezekiel, the Lord God condemns Tyre: “You think you are wiser than Daniel … Your wisdom and skill made you rich with treasures of silver and gold … How proud you are of your wealth … Because you think you are as wise as god, I will bring ruthless enemies to attack you.”

 

Against the backdrop of Tyre’s pride and foolish use of wisdom, the following modern day accounts of humble trust in divine providence becomes more meaningful (cf. Patricia Treece, God Will Provide, Brewster: Paraclete Press, 2011, p. 130-131).

 

As a young fellow, George Muller (d. 1898) was not particularly devout but eventually he surrendered to God. This German landed in Bristol, England, where – now a Protestant clergyman – he pushed to the maximum the scriptural promise “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mt 6:33). First he stopped taking a regular salary for his preaching. Then he sold all he had and gave what he received to the poor. With his wife’s agreement, they gave away their household goods and furnishings.

 

Yet they got along. Muller then felt led to open an orphanage that he ran on the following principles: he made the financial needs known to God, but to no one else. He forbade all his helpers to tell anyone but God as well. He never sought credit or borrowed. He never used money that was donated for anything other than what the giver specified. Thus, if there was no food, but money had been given for coal, for coal it went. It is no exaggeration to claim that the Protestant clergyman spent a lot of time in prayer. Occasionally he was praying right up until the meal the food was needed for. But the meal’s provisions always arrived.

 

George Muller’s whole life became a witness to the absolute reliability of divine providence – as were the experiences of the earlier Catholic priest St. Joseph Cottolengo (d. 1842), who ran a hospital and a whole complex of shelters in Turin, Italy, for every type of impoverished unfortunate from the blind, insane, deaf, and crippled to wayward girls. Cottolengo called his whole undertaking simply The Little House and, like Muller, looked completely to divine providence to meet the huge and varied needs of such a place. In fact, Cottolengo turned down a subsidy offered by a king because “we are cared for by the King of kings”. Now, if one or two of these two men’s needs were met but not all, and if this happened once or even a few times over a long period, it would be reasonable to cite coincidence or luck. They had huge needs and those needs were indeed met day after day, year after year. Who or what met them? Divine providence.

 

 

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

 

1. How does the Lord’s challenge to the rich young man affect me? Am I willing to renounce earth’s goods for the sake of the kingdom of God? How do I give witness to my fundamental choice for Jesus Christ? Do I believe that with God everything is possible and that with divine grace we gain eternal life?

 

2. Do we rely on our own powers? Do we believe that our accomplishments are due to our efforts and merits? Do we allow divine providence to enter our life?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

we thank you for the challenge of Jesus Christ,

the wisdom from on high.

Help us to respond fully to Christ’s call

to embrace radically the Kingdom value.

Be with us as we hold on to his words

that with your grace everything is possible.

Never let us trust in our merits and power.

Grant us the gift of eternal life in your kingdom

where 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.

  

“They will inherit eternal life.” (Mt 19:29) // “You are man, not a god.” (Ez 28:2)

 

 

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

 

When you are in crisis with regards to your basic needs, affirm your trust in divine providence. Make an effort to share the gifts and resources God has given you with the poor and the needy.

 

 

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August 19, 2020: WEDNESDAY – WEEKDAY (20); SAINT JOHN EUDES, Priest

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Reveals God’s Generosity … He Will Shepherd God’s Flock”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Ez 34:1-11 // Mt 20:1-16

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 20:1-16): “Are you envious because I am generous?”

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Mt 20:1-16) is about a landowner who went out at various hours of the day to the market place to hire laborers for his vineyard. At the end of the day all the laborers, including those who were hired at the last hour, were paid a full day’s wage. The bible scholar Eugene Maly explains: “Jesus was telling a simple agricultural story whose meaning was not in details but in the story itself. In the Father’s kingdom all are equally loved and human standards are not to be used to measure God’s generosity. God forgives and loves as the world does not know how to forgive and love. The Church must do likewise.”

 

The following modern day story by Marc Levy and published in Fresno Bee (August 17, 2008, p. A3) gives a glimpse into the immense love of God and his generous stance.

 

MARIETTA, Pa: A former tough-on-crime Pennsylvania lawmaker has adopted a new and unpopular cause, taking into his home three sex offenders who couldn’t find a place to live – a stand that has angered neighbors, drawn pickets and touched off a zoning dispute. As cities across the nation pass ever-tighter laws to keep out people convicted of sex crimes, Tom Armstrong said he is drawing on his religious belief in forgiveness and sheltering the three men until he can open a halfway house for sex offenders … Nearly 100 Pennsylvania municipalities have ordinances restricting where sex offenders may live. The ordinances generally bar them from moving in next to schools, playgrounds or other places where children might gather.

 

In early June, Armstrong quietly allowed a rapist and two other sex offenders who had served prison time to move into his 15-room century-old home 75 miles west of Philadelphia after another town blocked his plans for another halfway house … A Republican, Armstrong served 12 years in the Legislature before he was defeated in a primary in 2002. He was known for taking conservative positions on abortion, taxes and crime but also for his role in later years supporting prisoners’ rights. Over the past two decades, he also took in homeless veterans, and more recently he has been a mentor to ex-cons.

 

 

B. First Reading (Ez 34:1-11): “I will save my sheep that they may no longer be food for their mouths.”

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Ez 34:1-11) is an indictment against false and wicked shepherds. They have failed in their responsibilities to God’s flock: they have not taken care of the weak, healed the sick, bandaged the wounded, and sought the lost sheep. The false shepherds have taken care only of themselves and have cruelly treated the sheep. God will take over the shepherds’ tasks. God himself will be the good shepherd tending the sheep, rescuing the scattered flock, seeking the lost and leading them to green pastures. God will not allow false shepherds to pillage the sheep.

 

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux is a sterling example of one who follows the heart and the ways of the Good Shepherd. The following notes on Saint Bernard, circulated on the Internet, give insight into his life.

 

SAINT BERNARD: Born in 1090 at Fontaines, near Dijon, France; died at Clairvaux, 21 August 1153. His parents were Tescelin, lord of Fontaines, and Aleth of Montbard, both belonging to the highest nobility of Burgundy. Bernard, the third of a family of seven children, six of whom were sons, was educated with particular care, because while yet unborn, a devout man had foretold his great destiny. At the age of nine years, Bernard was sent to a much renowned school at Chatillon-sur-Seine, kept by the secular canons of Saint-Vorles. He had a great taste for literature and devoted himself for some time to poetry. His success in his studies won the admiration of his masters and his growth in virtue was no less marked. Bernard’s great desire was to excel in literature in order to take up the study of Sacred Scripture, which later on became, as it were, his own tongue. “Piety was his all”, says Bossuet. He had a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin and there is no one who speaks more sublimely of the Queen of Heaven. Bernard was scarcely nineteen years of age when his mother died. During his youth, he did not escape trying temptations, but his virtue triumphed over them, in many instances in a heroic manner, and from this time he thought of retiring from the world and living a life of solitude and prayer.

 

St. Robert, Abbot of Molesmes, had founded in 1098 the monastery of Citeaux, about four leagues from Dijon, with the purpose of restoring the Rule of St. Benedict in its rigor. Returning to Molesmes, he left the government of the new abbey to St. Alberic, who died in the year 1109. St. Stephen had just succeeded him (1113) as third Abbot of Citeaux when Bernard, with thirty young noblemen of Burgundy, sought admission into the order. Three years later, St. Stephen sent the young Bernard at the head of a band of monks, the third to leave Citeaux, to found a new house at Vallee d’Absinte, or Valley of Bitterness, in the Diocese of Langres. This Bernard named Claire Valee of Clairvaux on the 25th of June, 1115, and the names of Bernard and Clairvaux thence became inseparable.

 

The beginnings of Clairvaux were trying and painful. The regime was so austere that Bernard’s health was impaired by it, and only the influence of his friend William of Champeaux and the authority of the General Chapter could make him mitigate his austerities. The monastery, however, made rapid progress. Disciples flocked to it in great numbers, desirous of putting themselves under the direction of Bernard. His father, the aged Tescelin and all his brothers entered Clairvaux as religious, leaving only Humbeline, his sister, in the world. And she, with the consent of her husband, soon took the veil of the Benedictine Convent of Jully. Clairvaux was becoming too small for the religious who crowded there, it was necessary to send out bands to found new houses.

 

 

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

 

1. Have we tried to shrink God to our size and wanted to make our thoughts his thoughts and our ways his ways? Do we avail ourselves of the compassionate love of God that transcends our painfully limited ways and thoughts? Do we ever begrudge God’s generosity? Or instead, do we rejoice with God in his infinite goodness for all his people and creation? 

 

2. Do we try to imitate the heart and the ways of the Good Shepherd?

 

 

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

 

Almighty God,

you are our loving Father.

You showed justice to laborers of the first hour

and kindness to workers of the later hour.

Help us to imitate your benevolence and generosity

so that no one among us would lack the basic necessities of life.

We are laborers in your vineyard

and we need personal dedication as farmhands

in the great field of your kingdom.

In every way and in all our thoughts,

let us live by the spirit of the Gospel

and follow your heart and ways as the Good Shepherd.

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 am generous.” (Mt 20:15) // “I myself will look after and tend my sheep.” (Ez 34:11).

 

 

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

 

Pray for greater personal dedication of all laborers in God’s vineyard and a deeper insight into the infinite mercy of God. By your acts of charity and solidarity with those who are experiencing the various hardships in today’s society (unemployment, poverty, insecurity etc.), let them experience the immense love of the Good Shepherd.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

August 20, 2020: THURSDAY – SAINT BERNARD, Abbot, Doctor of the Church

N.B. Today is the foundation day of the Pauline Family.

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Invites Us to the Banquet of Salvation … He Gives Us a New Heart”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Ez 36:23-28 // Mt 22:1-14

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 22:1-14): “Invite to the wedding feast whomever you find.”

 

Today’s Gospel parable (Mt 22:1-14) underlines the need for a positive and total response to the feast of the kingdom. The banquet of salvation is abundant and gratuitous, but it demands personal commitment and the daily weaving of the “wedding garment” of integrity and holiness by the way we live. The Church, which has a foretaste of the heavenly banquet, must go to the crossroads in order to invite everyone to the wedding feast. The community of believers has the duty to communicate to all peoples the superabundant riches of the banquet of salvation as well as the demands of the kingdom of heaven. Indeed, the Church needs to help unbelievers realize that it is a great misfortune to reject the bounteous feast of God’s kingdom and that it is a great tragedy to willfully exclude oneself from participating at the end-time “banquet of salvation”.

 

The Eucharist is the celebration and anticipation of the heavenly banquet. The Christian disciples who partake of the Lord’s sacramental meal on earth believe that on “that day” of his definitive coming, they shall take their place at the stupendous banquet of the victorious Lamb. In participating at the Lord’s Supper, they have the serious responsibility of manifesting to others the real nature of the true Church as the Bride of Christ - enrobed in a garment of salvation and covered with a mantle of justice.

 

The Gospel parable’s lesson on the necessity of wearing a “wedding garment” at the Lord’s banquet of salvation inspires me to do little good deeds with deeper meaning and greater spiritual intention. I was assigned in Los Angeles from 2007-2009. Our convent is located in downtown Los Angeles, which is within walking distance from the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. When I go for the morning mass, I carry a plastic bag and pick up the trash strewn carelessly along the way. It is perplexing why there is so much litter when the city government provides trashcans in strategic places. Moreover, when I use a public restroom, I clean it up and make it ready for the next user. I feel that through these small acts of service, I am building a better world. Indeed, through little good deeds I am slowly weaving the “wedding garment” that enables me to participate more fully at the Eucharist and at the “banquet of salvation” at the end time. 

 

 

B. First Reading (Ez 36:23-28): “I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you.”

Today’s Old Testament reading (Ez 36:23-28) depicts God’s promise of a regenerated people. Because of their reprehensible idolatry and defilement, the chosen people has been exiled and scattered. But now God intends to demonstrate to the nations the holiness of his great name by recreating his people. He intends to gather them from the nations and bring them back to their own land. He will purify them from all their idols and defilements. And the climax of divine action: God will make them radically new and transform completely his chastised people. He will give them a new heart and a new mind. He will take away their stubborn heart of stone and give them an obedient heart. God will put his spirit in them and it will give them an inner abiding power to follow his life-giving commands. Then Israel will truly be his people, and he will be their God.

 

The following story of a forty-four-year-old former world champion steer wrestler on the rodeo circuit gives insight into the meaning of a “new heart” … “a new spirit … a “new creation” (cf. John Patterson, “A Heart to Give” in Chicken Soup for the Soul” Stories of Faith, ed. Jack Canfield, et. al. Cos Cob: CSS Publishing, 2008, p. 28-31).

 

(…) Finally, the doctor recommended a heart transplant, even though my medical problems posed a great risk. Having been a gambler in my rodeo days, I didn’t like the odds they were giving me, but I saw no other option. Being accepted by a transplant team was no easy task. As a diabetic and double amputee, some teams wouldn’t even consider me. And even if I was accepted, I would have to go on a waiting list, which could take months or years. Even if I got lucky and received a heart, there were no guarantees that the surgery would work.

 

When I had the bypass surgery years earlier, I was put on a heart-lung machine to keep my heart pumping during surgery, and then an electrical impulse restarted my heart to function on its own. But this time, someone else’s heart would be placed in my body. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that the only One who could make a brand new heart start beating was Almighty God, and I figured I had alienated Him completely the day I cursed Him. I was tired of the anger and bitterness, and I didn’t want to live what life I had left tugging against my circumstances. So, I made my peace with God.

 

Eventually, I was accepted as a transplant candidate, and on the day after Christmas, I went into the hospital with hope and apprehension to wait for a new heart. It was like living with life and death at the same time. One minute I thought of being healthy again; the next minute the reality surfaced that I might die. Finally on January 22nd, the doctor told me a heart had been located. I gathered my family together. As they prepared me for surgery, I felt complete peace.

 

Suddenly, the doctor came and told us there was a problem. Hesitantly, he said, “We have a seventeen-year-old boy on a ventilator who probably won’t make it through the night without a heart.” He paused awkwardly: “I don’t know how to ask you this, but would you consider giving him the heart?” He emphasized that the heart was originally intended for me, and it was my choice. I could keep it, since there was no way of knowing when another heart would become available or how long my body would make it without one.

 

From the moment I was notified a heart had been donated, I had gone from disbelief to elation, from apprehension to acceptance, and now I wasn’t sure what I was feeling. How do I choose who lives or dies? The tough part was knowing what my family would go through if I didn’t receive another heart. I didn’t want to make my wife a widow. I wanted to live and see my grandchildren grow up. The easy part was knowing who needed the heart most. It was the toughest and the easiest decision I ever made.

 

The young man survived the surgery, and one week later I received my new heart, an even better physiological match for my body than the previous one. Several months later, one of the doctors told me that he knew no one in medical history who had chosen to give up a donor heart to someone else.

 

That was seven years ago. Today, it takes extra energy for me to walk, but I enjoy going places and meeting people. I wear shorts everywhere I go, no matter what the season or weather. I want people to see my prostheses and ask questions, so I can tell them about my medical miracles. When they ask, I tell them that God gave me new legs so I could walk with Him. Then, I explain how He gave me two new hearts – this physical heart transplanted into my chest cavity and a spiritual one deep in my soul, which overflows with His love.

 

 

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

 

1. What is our response to the Lord’s invitation, “Come to the feast”? What is the symbolism of the “wedding garment” mentioned in today’s gospel and its significance for us?

 

2. What does it mean for us personally to have a “new heart” … a “new spirit” … a “ new creation”?

 

 

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

 

O loving God,

we thank you for the “feast of rich food and choice wines”

you have prepared for us on your holy mountain.

The “banquet of salvation” at the end time

celebrates the definitive triumph of your kingdom

and the glory of your Paschal Lamb.

In our daily celebration of the Eucharist,

we have a foretaste of the eternal joy

and the bounty of that heavenly feast.

Grant us the grace to weave a “wedding garment” of integrity and holiness

that we may be ready to participate fully and joyfully

in the eternal “banquet of salvation”.

Above all, grant to us, O Lord, a heart renewed

and recreate in us your spirit.

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.

 

            “Many are invited, but few are chosen.” (Mt 22:14) // “I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you.” (Ez 36: 26)

 

 

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

 

By your small acts of charity and good deeds, strive to weave a “wedding garment” of integrity and holiness that will enable you to participate fully at the heavenly feasting. Animated with a new heart and new spirit give thanks for all the goodness that God continually does for us.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

August 21, 2020: FRIDAY – SAINT PIUS X, Pope

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us the Meaning of Love … He Calls Us to Rise from the Grave

of Sin and Despair”

 

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Ez 37:1-14 // Mt 22:34-40

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 22:34-40): “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself.”

(By Warren Padilla: Member: Pastoral Assistance and Community Education Mission)

 

            Can you still remember your emotions when you first fell in love? What was your reaction? Didn’t you feel so excited and high, thinking about your beloved? You spent sleepless nights dreaming of being with your sweetheart. Oh, how love can be the most exciting thing in the world! If there is anything that makes a person so excited, it is love.       

 

In like manner, there is nothing in the Christian life that is as exciting as the life of holiness. It can be said that the holiest people are the most excited people in the world. Wouldn’t you like to be excited, the way saints are? Well, be in love. If you love your fellowman the way Christ loves, you will be amazed how interesting life can be. Then the other blessings of God that you need will flow like a river into your life. That is why in today’s Gospel Jesus was asked by the Pharisees, “Teacher, which commandment of the law is the greatest?”

           

Jesus answered: “You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it; you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments the whole law is based, and the prophets as well.”

           

A Christian can be considered obedient to God only if he obeys first and foremost, the greatest commandment of God. This is the foundation of holiness, the first thing that makes him pleasing to God. On the other hand, the unwillingness of a person to live up to this great commandment equally becomes the basis for his condemnation – the greatest failure he can ever commit.

           

It is impossible for a Christian to reconcile hatred and ill-feeling with his/her love of God and neighbor. You can never be with God if you have in your heart feelings of remorse, indifference, resentment and jealousy. You can never please God while trying to avoid somebody who has caused you trouble. There is no such thing as loving the Lord, when at the same time you bear grudges towards a certain person. The happiest people in the world are those Christians who are in love with God and with their fellowmen. In other words, loving God and hating your fellowman can never go together. You have to be filled with love towards one another in order to be with God. A Christian then is a person of love. The more in love you are, the holier you become.

 

 

B. First Reading (Ez 37:1-14): “Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. I will bring you back from your graves, O my people Israel.”

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Ez 37:1-14) is fascinating, evocative and beautiful. Ezekiel’s vision of dry bones takes place in Babylon where Ezekiel is led out by the spirit of the Lord into a plain in which the remains of those who have perished in battle are unburied. By speaking the word of God, the dry bones take on flesh. By invoking the spirit from the “four winds” to come, the dead bodies are brought back to life. Ezekiel’s mystical vision symbolizes his mission to the exiles. Through his prophesying, the despairing will receive a new spirit that will enable them to rise from their lost hope and to lead a new life in the land of Israel. Indeed, the origin and future of Israel are found only in God. Israel has existed and can exist only by the action and grace of God. It is so for its birth and it is also for its rebirth. The Lord alone has the power to bring Israel back to life, to its own self and to its own land. Ezekiel’s vision of hope thus plays a vital role in the rebirth of Israel as a people after the exile.

 

The following modern day account is very inspiring and, like Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones being raised to life, brings hope to a despairing world (cf. http://www.faith2share.net).

 

JOHN TAE-SUK LEE (1962-2010): The Unknown Korean “Saint” of Sudan: John Tae-Suk was a South Korean missionary to southern Sudan, who was a medical practitioner before he became a Roman Catholic priest. He died on 14 January 2010 at the age of 48 from colon cancer but not before leaving behind a truly wonderful legacy and motivating thousands of people to do the same as he did; mainly, to feel and show unconditional love towards those less fortunate and to know that happiness exists everywhere, even in a country suffering from war, poverty and disease.

 

After his ordination in 2001, he traveled to Tonj, a town in southern Sudan deeply affected by war. He provided medical services, built a medical clinic with his own hands, established a school, gave music lessons, created a brass band with the children, and much more. However, the most touching mission he did was his tender ministration at the Tonj leper colony. Leprosy (or, rather, Hansen’s disease) is prevalent in that particular region and John Lee spent countless hours cleaning wounds, bandaging rotting limbs, driving out to make personal visits to those who could not move, and procuring medicine to alleviate the patients’ pain. He worked tirelessly to save the lives of those others had abandoned, while giving the people of Tonj hope through music and education.

 

John Tae-Suk was known to have a special way with the young people of Tonj. They were drawn to his winning personality and radiant smile. The locals knew the gentle confessor as “Fr. Jolly” – a name that stuck. He built the local school with the help of students and taught math and music. John Lee also started the Don Bosco Brass Band and found that music lifted up the youth, who were in dire circumstances. The Brass Band is now the most famous music group in southern Sudan.

 

John was extremely bright and had a joyful temperament. His, all too brief, life shows the great feats just one missionary can accomplish. As a result of his work there is now an infinitely higher standard of care for the victims of Hansen’s disease in southern Sudan.

 

After his death a Korean television documentary about Fr. John’s life in Tonj was adapted into a powerful film, “Don’t Cry for Me Sudan”. Within 10 minutes of watching him most people are reduced to tears. Some 120,000 people have watched the film in Seoul alone. Members of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, the largest Buddhist denomination in South Korea, were greatly moved by the scenes depicting Fr John tending the lepers. Venerable Jaseung, the head of the order admitted that he was unsure whether to show it to Buddhist monks and lay people for fear they would convert to Catholicism after seeing it. “It depicts the good life of a Catholic missioner and I was worried some of us would convert to Catholicism after being moved by the film”, he said, but he went ahead because he believed that Fr. John was a good role model for Buddhists. “If we could have one Buddhist cleric like him, the better it would be for Buddhism”, he said.

 

Meanwhile, Catholics who are devoted to John Tae-Suk Lee are becoming greatly dissatisfied with his nickname, “the Schweitzer of Sudan”. For in some respects John Lee was an even better missionary than the Franco-German doctor and theologian. Albert Schweitzer was a great man, but is often charged with having held a snooty, superior attitude towards Africans. This could never be said of John Tae-Suk Lee, who is regarded by the southern Sudanese as a healer, friend and now an intercessor in heaven.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we love God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind? Do we love him with everything we have: a love that is whole-hearted, dynamic, and carried out with conviction, courage and commitment?

 

2. How does Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones taking on flesh and coming to life by the breath of the Spirit impact you? What are the various desperate situations you are experiencing that need the consoling message of the prophet Ezekiel?

 

 

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

 

Jesus said: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind …You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:37, 39).

“This is my prayer to thee, my Lord – strike, strike at the penury in my heart. Give me strength never to disown the poor or bend my knees before insolent might, and give me the strength to surrender my strength to thy will with love.” (Rabindranath Tagore)

 

Jesus said: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind …You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:37, 39).

“Grant me to recognize in other men, Lord God, the radiance of your face.” (Teilhard de Chardin)

 

Jesus said: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind …You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:37, 39).

“Give us patience and fortitude to put self aside for you in the most unlikely people: to know that every man’s and any man’s suffering is our own first business, for which we must be willing to go out of our way and to leave our own interests.” (Caryll Houselander)

  

 

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.

 

             “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind …You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt 22:37, 39) // “O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them.” (Ez 37:12)

 

 

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

 

Offer a concrete act of charity on behalf of the poor, the marginalized and the lonely, and the victims of man-made and natural calamities. That we may experience hope in the midst of despair and discouragement, make an effort to spend some quiet time of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.

 

 

 

*** *** ***

August 22, 2020: SATURDAY – THE QUEENSHIP OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Practice What We Preach … He Is the Glory of God

Dwelling in Our Midst”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Ez 43:1-7ab // Mt 23:1-12

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 23:1-12): “They preach but do not practice.”

(By Rodelio F. Paglinawan - Member: Society of Mary Queen of Apostles)

 

            In today’s Gospel, we can learn two things that may be beneficial for our day-to-day living. These are (1) the practice of what we preach and (2) the virtue of humility. Although these two can be taken separately, they are closely intertwined in this gospel.

 

            I remember a story about a teacher who taught her pupils to keep themselves and their surroundings clean and neat at all times. She even taught them how to help clean their houses. She told them how she hated the sight of a dirty house and its filthy surroundings. Her pupils were happy about the lesson, but hated the way it was taught to them. They thought that their teacher was conceited. One day, her pupils visited her in her house. To their disgust, they saw a lot of spider webs in her house. The floors were littered with so many things and a few cats feasted at the table on the leftover food. The teacher was so embarrassed when she saw her pupils’ reaction at what they had witnessed.

 

            This story is told and retold in so many ways in our lives. We may be bragging about something that we have done and keep to ourselves the things that we failed to do. We may be bragging about a noble idea, which we cannot do ourselves. In both cases, traces of the story could be figured out. It will then be very embarrassing for us to face our own challenge and fail to meet the standard we ourselves have set. Humility is the best weapon we could have to counter this. Humility enables us to be what we should be, say only what we must say, and do only what we can, accepting our human limitations in the process. It is better to be humble than to be humiliated.

 

            Trying our best to be Christ-like every day of our lives is the goal of every Christian. Saying what we mean, and meaning what we say could help us a lot. It would be better for us to avoid saying great things, which we ourselves cannot do. Now, I remember how most of my classmates in the seminary would put it: “the more we speak the more mistakes we commit; no talk, no mistake!” I am not promoting a speechless society here though. What I would like to underline is that we should only speak of the things that could add to the glory of God and his Church. Anything that would demean anyone in our community could also hurt the One whose image and likeness resides in them. Practicing what we preach … will make us humbler. Humility makes us nearer to the Almighty.

 

 

B. First Reading (Ez 43:1-7ab): “The glory of the Lord entered the temple.”

 

We end the series of readings taken from the Book of Ezekiel on a very positive note. Today’s Old Testament reading (Ez 43:1-7ab) tells us of the return of the glory of God in the renewed temple. Led by a guide, the prophet Ezekiel sees the reconstituted temple being filled by the glory of the Lord. Ezekiel is overwhelmed and falls to his face. The spirit takes him to the inner court where God speaks to the prophet promising to make his reconstituted people his eternal dwelling place: “I will live here among the people of Israel and rule them forever.” Through Ezekiel’s prophetic vision, God assures us that he will dwell in our midst forever. This promise is accomplished in Jesus Christ, the true temple of God as well as the ultimate manifestation of divine glory.

 

The following story gives insight into the spiritual presence of God in a people who care for each other’s needs (cf. Richard Bauman, “The Tablecloth” in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stories of Faith, ed. Jack Canfield, et. al., Cos Cob: CSS Publishing, 2008, p. 69-71).

 

A young minister had been called to serve at an old church that at one time had been a magnificent edifice in a wealthy part of town. Now the area was in a state of decline and the church was in bad shape. Nevertheless, the pastor and his wife were thrilled with the church and believed they could restore it to its former magnificence.

 

When the minister took charge of the church early in October 1949, he and his wife immediately went to work painting, repairing and attempting to restore it. Their goal was to have the old edifice looking its best for Christmas Eve services. Just two days before Christmas, however, a storm swept through the area, dumping more than an inch of rain. The roof of the old church sprung a leak just behind the altar. The plaster soaked up the water as if it were a sponge and then crumbled, leaving a gaping hole in the wall.

 

Dejected, the pastor and his wife looked at the defaced wall. There was obviously no chance to repair the damage before Christmas. Nearly three months of hard work had been washed away. Yet the young couple accepted the damage as God’s will and set about cleaning up the damp debris.

 

It was a depressed minister and his wife who attended a benefit auction for the church youth group that afternoon. One of the items put up for a bid was an old gold-and-ivory-colored lace tablecloth, nearly fifteen feet long. Seized with an inspiration, the pastor was the high bidder at $6.50. His idea was to hang the ornate cloth behind the altar to cover the ragged hole in the wall.

 

On the day before Christmas, snowflakes mingled with the howling wind. As the pastor unlocked the church doors, he noticed an older woman standing at the nearby bus stop. He knew the bus wouldn’t be there for at least half an hour, so he invited her inside to keep warm. She wasn’t from the neighborhood, she explained. She had been in the area to be interviewed for a job as a governess to the children of a well-known wealthy family. She had been a war refugee; her English was poor and she didn’t get the job.

 

Head bowed in prayer, she sat in a pew near the back of the church. She paid no attention to the pastor, who was hanging the tablecloth across the unsightly hole. When the woman looked up and saw the cloth, she rushed to the altar. “It’s mine!” she exclaimed. “It’s my banquet cloth!” Excitedly she told the surprised minister its history and even showed him her initials embroidered in one corner. She and her husband had lived in Vienna, Austria, and had opposed the Nazis before the Second World War. They decided to flee to Switzerland, but her husband said they must go separately. She left first. Later she heard that he had died in a concentration camp.

 

Touched by her story, the minister insisted she take the cloth. She thought about it for a moment but said no, she didn’t need it any longer, and it did look pretty hanging behind the altar. Then she said goodbye and left.

 

In the candlelight of the Christmas Eve services, the tablecloth looked even more magnificent. The white lace seemed dazzling in the flickering light of the candles, and the golden threads woven through it were like brilliant rays of a new dawn. As members of the congregation left the church, they complimented the pastor on the services and on how beautiful the church looked.

 

One older gentleman lingered, admiring the tablecloth, and as he was leaving he said to the minister: “It’s strange. Many years ago my wife – God rest her – and I owned such a tablecloth. She used it only on very special occasions. But we lived in Vienna then.” The night air was freezing, but the goosebumps on the pastor’s skin weren’t caused by the weather. As calmly as he could, he told the man about the woman who had been to the church that very afternoon. “Can it be”, gasped the old man, tears streaming down his cheeks, “that she is alive? How can I find her?”

 

The pastor remembered the name of the family who had interviewed the woman. With the trembling old man at his side, he telephoned the family and learned her name and address. In the pastor’s old car they drove to her home on the other side of the town. Together they knocked on her apartment door. When she opened it, the pastor witnessed the tearful, joyful and thrilling reunion of husband and wife.

 

If one link in the fragile chain of events had been broken, the husband and wife might never have found each other. If the rain hadn’t come, if the church roof hadn’t leaked, if the pastor decided not to go to the auction, if the woman hadn’t been for a job or standing on that corner at just the right time … The list of ifs is virtually endless.

 

It was simply God’s will. And, as it has been said many times, He works in mysterious ways.

 

 

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

 

1. Like some scribes and Pharisees rightly castigated for their vanity and hypocrisy, are we also guilty of these faults? If so, what do we do?

 

2. Do we believe that the glory of the Lord dwells in Christ’s temple, his body the Church? Do we welcome the mystery of the divine indwelling in the people redeemed by Christ’s blood?

 

 

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

 

O loving God,

deliver us from falsehood and deception.

Give us the grace to imitate Jesus the Divine Master.

Teach us to follow his humble ways.

May his mind enlighten us,

his will strengthen us,

and his heart enflame us.

Let his glory dwell in us

and let us see his presence

in the living temple, the Church.

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.

 

“You have but one teacher.” (Mt 23:8) // “The temple was filled with the glory of God.” (Ez 43:5)

 

  

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

 

Pray for all teachers that they may always be limpid, credible and authentic in the way they teach. Practice daily examination of conscience to help you imitate the Divine Master in his humility and integrity and have the grace to practice what you preach. // Be attentive to the indwelling of God in the new temple of Christ, the Church.

 

***

 

 

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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