A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 18, n. 40)

Week 22 in Ordinary Time: August 30 – September 5, 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 23-29, 2020 please go to ARCHIVES Series 18 and click on “Ordinary Week 21”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: August 30 – September 5, 2020.)

 

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August 30, 2020: TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

N.B. Today is the 60th anniversary of the definitive approval of the PDDM Congregation by Saint John XXIII, Pope.)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Take Up the Cross”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jer 20:7-9 // Rom 12:1-2 // Mt 16:21-27

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 16:21-27): “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself.” 

          

The Gospel reading (Mt 16:21-27) invites us to gaze more intently on the redemptive cross as we listen to the saving, efficacious Word proclaimed in the liturgical assembly and as we break the bread of the Eucharist. Having heard last Sunday the avowal of Peter, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” and the special pastoral authority granted to him by Jesus, we now meditate more intently on Christ’s passion prediction. According to Matthew’s Gospel account, “Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised”. Indeed, Jesus is announcing to his disciples his paschal destiny on the cross.

 

The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 4, comment: “For Jesus’ contemporaries, the cross was the infamous wood of punishment, the mere mention of which made one shudder. Who would not understand Peter’s violent reaction? How could the Messiah, the Son of God, be subjected to violent pain, then killed, in Jerusalem, by the religious leaders of the people? (…) Jesus feels Simon Peter’s reaction, though it is a human and spontaneous one, as an intolerable temptation coming from him. It reminds Jesus of Satan’s in the desert; he insidiously suggested to Jesus that he deviate from the way marked out by the Father… This sincere and enthusiastic faith of the typical believer had to confront – as must our own faith – in a harsh battle, the scandal of a Messiah suffering and put to death.”

 

After prophesying his paschal destiny on the Cross, Jesus delineates the meaning of the discipleship of the cross. Jesus thus connects the fate of his disciples with his own. Christian discipleship involves a share in his paschal sacrifice on the cross. Only in letting go of self and in letting God realize his mysterious, saving plan in us, can we achieve true life and happiness. Indeed, taking up one’s cross is a badge of discipleship.

 

The great humanitarian and peace-worker, Chiara Lubich, reinforces the vital role of the cross in Christian discipleship: “The cross is such a common thing. It never fails to come day by day. Taking this cross as it comes would be enough to make us saints. The cross is the emblem of the Christian. The world does not want it because it believes that it will avoid suffering by fleeing from the cross. People do not know that the cross opens wide the soul of the person who has understood it to the kingdom of light and love, to the love which this world is always seeking, but does not possess.”

 

The following modern day account gives insight into the intimate connection between carrying the cross and Christian discipleship (cf. “Help for the Neighborhood” in Poverello News, July 2014, p. 3-4).

 

One of the most devastating events that anyone can experience is the death of a child. Some parents never recover from the shock and grief. For others time heals some of the pain, but there remains a deep sadness, that never quite goes away.

 

Mayo and Karlene Ryan lived this parental nightmare. Their son, Timothy Ryan, lost his life in a tragic accident in 1986. Tim Ryan was a promising, delightful young man. He was a scholar and athlete, popular and respected at school and seemed to have endless potential, but less than one year after graduating from high school, Tim was gone, leaving behind shattered parents, family members and friends.

 

Mayo, a longtime Poverello board member, and Karlene, a volunteer here for many years, were overcome with sorrow. Faith, friends, and the passage of time lessened some of the pain, but at some point, they decided that helping someone else might be a way of bringing some closure to the tragedy, and at the same time honor the memory of Tim. At the time of his death, Mayo and Karlene asked that remembrances be sent to the Poverello House in Tim’s name, and the Timothy Ryan Memorial Fund was started.

 

The fund’s original purpose was to provide scholarships to men in the Poverello Resident Program. Over the years, the Timothy Ryan Memorial Fund has paid tuition to college and other vocational schools, provided specialized equipment, books and uniforms, and in general supported graduates of Poverello’s rehabilitation program in their training for a better life.

 

There had been fewer candidates for the scholarship in the past couple of years, so Mayo and Karlene decided to turn their attention to the neighborhood surrounding Poverello, one of the poorest areas in the city. Thanks to the Ryan Fund and Mayo and Karlene’s personal contributions, children from King, Lincoln, Kirk and Columbia Elementary Schools, 1,813 students in all, will begin their 2014-2015 school year with new backpacks, filled with items needed for school.

 

 

B. First Reading (Jer 20:7-9): “The word of the Lord has brought me derision.”

 

The Old Testament reading (Jer 20:7-9) is laden with pathos and deep emotion. Jeremiah expresses his deep frustration, with a pain bordering on despair, that his vocation to truth had caused him a lot of ridicule and scorn. He felt that God had “seduced” him into accepting a mission that brought him nothing but derision and suffering. Jeremiah had just had a serious confrontation with the idolatrous temple priest Pashur, who ordered the prophet flogged and locked in the stocks overnight for pronouncing unwelcome and distressing prophecies against Jerusalem and the people of Judah. The long-suffering and violently persecuted Jeremiah, having reached the limits of endurance, resolved: “I will not mention him. I will speak in his name no more” (Jer 20:9a). After the spate of revulsion and lament, however, Jeremiah made a “confession” about the irresistible power of God’s Word: “But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones. I grow weary holding it in; I cannot endure it” (Jer 20:9b).

 

The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 4, comment: “Jeremiah is a striking example of the irresistible force of God’s call, the seduction from which a person does not succeed in escaping. Nothing prepared Jeremiah for the mission he received. Extremely sensitive, timid, deeply attached to his fatherland and kin, he becomes a prophet of doom, obliged to antagonize the powerful and foretell ruin to those he loves … The whole initiative was from God who chose him before his birth … Jeremiah allowed himself to be seduced. God’s word is a devouring fire. Jeremiah is painfully experiencing that it is impossible from now on for him to evade his mission, whatever persecution he undergoes. And this is how weak and frail persons become capable, under the Spirit’s impulse, to speak on God’s part (2 Pet 1:21). No one can understand this without having experienced, at the very center of the torment, the invincible attraction exerted by God.”

 

Jeremiah’s submissive stance to faithfully serve the Word of God, notwithstanding persecution and difficulties, makes him a model of total surrender to the divine saving plan. He is a figure of the incarnate Word of truth, Jesus Christ, the ultimate prophet, who committed himself wholeheartedly to fulfill God the Father’s saving plan by undergoing the paschal mystery of his passion, death and resurrection to glory. In the lives of Jeremiah and Jesus, and in their prophetic ministry, we see that conflicts and suffering are intimately woven into the warp and woof of the history of salvation. The Christians of today are called to serve, through suffering and difficulties, the all-powerful Word of God, the font of judgment and salvation. In their service to the prophetic Word, which is “like a fire burning in their hearts”, they must deny themselves and surrender their lives to God as limpid witnesses of truth.

 

 

The following article by Paul Thigpen illustrates the prophetic ministry of Pope Paul VI and how the Christians of today are called to witness to God’s truth about the sanctity of life and “not to conform themselves to this age” (Rom 12:2a) (cf. “Paul VI, Pope and Prophet” in The Catholic Answer, July-August 2006, p. 4).

 

I read an article yesterday in the Washington Post by a woman planning to have a third child. She noted, with some perplexity, a certain reaction she has encountered to her pregnancy. Some people complain – in all seriousness – that she and others like her are just “showing off”, ostentatiously advertising their financial security. Only well-off families, they insist, can afford three children.

 

Well, just tell that to my parents. Mom and Dad barely eked out a living in our little family-owned business, a meat market where we kids grew up working alongside them to bring home the bacon. All five kids, that is. My folks would have been mystified by the notion that we five little ones were somehow a luxury they were presumptuous to take on. I was the third child, and I certainly never felt like a luxury.

 

Yet I don’t think Pope Paul VI, who became pontiff the year my baby sister was born (1963), would have been mystified at all by this disturbing attitude. Why not? Because he described the context for its development in his encyclical letter HUMANAE VITAE, whose 40th anniversary the Church commemorates on July 25. In this profound but controversial document on the transmission of human life, the Pope laid out the reasons why artificial contraception is gravely immoral. In it, he noted that the desire to contracept is only one of many modern attempts to extend our control over every aspect of life, including those aspects that represent a mystery not of our own making, much less of our own understanding.

 

In short, it’s an endeavor to play God, and a dangerous one indeed. When much of a society comes to believe – as ours has – that the miracle of life’s transmission is simply one more mechanical function to manipulate at will, then the “product of conception”, as they are now termed (we once called them “children”) are viewed as nothing more than a commodity. So we feel to abort them. We buy and sell them. We use them as lab rats. We figure their costs to see whether we can work them into our financial plan – just one more budget item to be added or subtracted, according to how many other luxury items we might rank ahead of them.

 

Pope Paul VI courageously declared that children are gifts from God to be gratefully received, not assets to be calculated or liabilities disposed of. Forty years later, we must acknowledge his prophetic insight – and mourn a world that has largely rejected his warning.

  

 

C. Second Reading (Rom 12:1-2): “Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice.”

 

In the Second Reading (Rom 12:1-2), Saint Paul exhorts the Christians to offer their lives in self-denial as a “living sacrifice” to God. The model of self-denial for the sake of doing God’s will is Christ himself. The liturgical scholar Adrian Nocent explains: “The same love that led the Son to give himself as a fragrant sacrifice to God should lead God’s adoptive sons to the same kind of self-surrender … Our age is rediscovering the prophetic stature and quality of the Christian … The Christian is sometimes forced to speak for there are silences that amount to surrender and compromise. (…) The period in which we live needs Christians who are prophetic, but prophecy must be inseparable from the attitude of the servant who gives his life. Without fanfare or ostentation, this servant lives a life that is grounded in truth and wholly given to God.”

 

To be truly given to God as a “living sacrifice” implies that Christians are not to conform themselves to the standards of this world, but rather allow God to transform them inwardly through the renewal of their mind. The ongoing conversion and renewal enable them to perceive the will of God – what is good and pleasing to him - what is perfect. Aware of the deception of today’s world, the Christians are called to decry the anomalies of our age. According to Harold Buetow, it is “an age in which the romance has been taken out of love, the commitment out of marriage, the responsibility out of parenthood, togetherness out of family, learning out of education, civility out of behavior, patience and tolerance out of relationships.”

 

Like a burning fire within, the irresistible word of the Lord compels us to resist evil. It strengthens us to speak for the reign of God. The following high-impact story, circulated through the Internet, illustrates the challenges for today’s Christians as well as the appeal of Saint Paul “not to conform … but be transformed”.

 

“Tennessee Football”: This is a statement that was read over the PA system at the football game at Roanne County High School, Kingston, Tennessee, by school principal Jody McLeod.

 

It has always been the custom of Roanne County High School football games, to say a prayer and play the National Anthem, to honor God and country. Due to a recent ruling by the Supreme Court, I am told that saying a Prayer is a violation of Federal Case Law. As I understand the law at this time, I can use this public facility to approve of sexual perversion and call it “an alternate life style”, and if someone is offended, that’s OK. I can use it to condone sexual promiscuity, by dispensing condoms and calling it, “safe sex”. If someone is offended, that’s OK. I can use this public facility to present the merits of killing an unborn baby as a “viable means of birth control”. If someone is offended, no problem … I can designate a school day as “Earth Day” and involve students in activities to worship religiously and praise the goddess “Mother Earth” and call it “ecology”. I can use literature, videos and presentations in the classroom that depict people with strong, traditional Christian convictions as “simple minded” and “ignorant” and call it “enlightenment” … However, if anyone uses this facility to honor GOD and to ask HIM to bless this event with safety and good sportsmanship, then Federal Case Law is violated.

 

This appears to be inconsistent at best, and at worst, diabolical. Apparently, we are to be tolerant of everything and anyone, except GOD and HIS commandments.

 

Nevertheless, as a school principal, I frequently ask staff and students to abide by rules with which they do not necessarily agree. For me to do otherwise would be inconsistent at best, and at worst, hypocritical … I suffer from that affliction enough unintentionally. I certainly do not need to add an intentional transgression. For this reason, I shall “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s” and refrain from praying this time.

 

However, if you feel inspired to honor, praise and thank GOD and ask HIM, in the name of JESUS, to bless this event, please feel free to do so. As far as I know, that’s not against the law – yet.

 

One by one, the people in the stands bowed their heads, held hands with one another and began to pray. They prayed in the stands. They prayed in the team huddles. They prayed at the concession stand and they prayed in the Announcer’s Box.

 

The only place they didn’t pray was in the Supreme Court of the United States of America – the Seat of “Justice” in the “one nation, under GOD”.

 

Somehow, Kingston, Tennessee remembered what so many have forgotten … We are given the freedom OF religions, not the freedom FROM religion. Praise GOD that HIS remnant remains! JESUS said, “If you are ashamed before men, then I will be ashamed of you before MY FATHER.”

 

 

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

 

1. Are you willing to share in the paschal destiny of Christ who suffered, died and rose to new life? Are you willing to deny yourself, take up the cross and follow Christ?

 

2. How does the prophet Jeremiah’s experience of pain and despair impact you? Do we look to Jeremiah as a model of submissive stance to God’s prophetic word?

 

3. Are we ready to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, our spiritual worship? Do we fight against conforming to the false values of this age? Do we endeavor to be transformed by the renewal of our mind?

 

 

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

 

Almighty God, we thank you for Jeremiah.

He suffered on account of his prophetic vocation,

but he obeyed your word and spoke on your behalf.

Like the faithful prophet Jeremiah,

may your searing word burn us from within and move us.

 

Father, we thank you for Peter, impetuous but sincere.

We are like Peter in many ways,

especially in our weakness and mistakes.

Help us to be true disciples.

Teach us to take up our cross daily

and to follow Christ to the end.

 

Loving Lord, we thank you for Paul.

He exhorts us to offer a “living sacrifice” and “spiritual worship”.

Let us be renewed in mind and heart.

Like Paul, help us to follow your saving will.

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.

 

            “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mt 16:24)

 

 

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

 

Pray for those who find the cross of their daily lives overwhelming and burdensome. In your own way and doing the best you can, try to alleviate the sufferings of the people around you.   

           

 

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August 31, 2020: MONDAY – WEEKDAY (22)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Was Rejected in His Own Country … The Apostles Proclaim His as Christ Crucified”

 

BIBLE READINGS

1 Cor 2:1-5 // Lk 4:16-30

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 4:16-30): “He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor. No prophet is accepted in his own native place.”

(Gospel Reflection by Heather Jacobs, Bluff City, TN – U.S.A. // Illustrative Account by Sr. Mary Margaret, pddm)

 

As I reflected on the Gospel reading, the question kept coming to mind, why did Jesus’ relations and countrymen respond to him the way they did?  Even though they saw the miracles and heard His profound wisdom, they still would not accept Him.

 

As I applied this question to my personal experiences, I realized that oftentimes we do the same thing with our own family members and those whom we have known for a period of time. When we’ve grown up with someone and known them through various stages of their life, we often take that person for granted.  There doesn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary about them.  They become another increment of our regular, predictable, everyday life and we can’t imagine that person as anything other than the ideas we’ve formed about them through our limited experiences of that person.

 

Often, we limit our knowledge, respect, and love for a person to the roles they’ve played in our own lives.  For example, when I think about my dad, it’s hard to think of him in any way other than as fulfilling the classic role of the father.  He helped raise me with discipline and love, and worked hard to provide for my needs.  All this is very important, but I must recognize that there’s more to him than just this, much more.  To know him more fully, I have to learn to step outside my own personal experiences of him and try to walk in his shoes.  A few years ago, my dad entered the deacon program.  Now, each time I go home to visit he seems more and more different from the person I grew up knowing.  It can be difficult to readjust and accept change, even when that change is positive.

 

I think a similar thing happened with Jesus’ relatives and countrymen. They helped raise Him, they fed Him, and played with Him. They helped clean Him and change Him when he got dirty as a young one. They helped teach and instruct Him. Suddenly, this man, who they thought they knew so well, returns and has profound wisdom and is working incredible miracles.  They grew up with Him, what’s so special about Him that such a change has occurred?  How and why did this change come about? If Jesus was a stranger to them and they didn’t have such preconceived ideas about Him, they probably would have accepted Him.

 

From this I realize that we need to learn to take a step back and try to view our acquaintances (especially those we know most closely) in a new way, rather than taking them for granted and just settling in our limited perspective of them.  Most of all, we need to step back and ask: how is God working in and through this person?  What is special and unique about this person?  And how can I love and know this person more fully and completely by recognizing who they are as an individual, not just according to the way I’ve chosen to perceive them from my limited experiences of them.

 

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The rejection that Jesus has experienced from his countrymen continues to be replicated in the life of today’s Christians. The following modern day account, circulated on the Internet, is an example.

 

This was sent by Father John Pitzer, formerly at Holy Ghost Church and now in New Orleans. Please offer your prayers and share with as many people as possible.

 

Dear Friends,

Just a few minutes ago I received the following text message on my phone from Sean Malone who leads Crisis Relief International (CRI). We then spoke briefly on the phone and I assured him that we would share this urgent prayer need with all of our contacts.

 

   "We lost the city of Queragosh (Qaraqosh). It fell to ISIS and they are beheading children systematically!!! Oh, dear God, what a world we are living in!!!!!

 

This is the city we have been smuggling food to. ISIS has pushed back Peshmerga (Kurdish forces) and is within 10 minutes of where our CRI team is working. Thousands more fled into the city of Erbil last night. The UN evacuated it's staff in Erbil. Our team is unmoved and will stay. Prayer cover needed!"

 

Please pray sincerely for the deliverance of the people of Northern Iraq from the terrible advancement of ISIS and its extreme Islamic goals for mass conversion or death for Christians across this region.

 

 

B. First Reading (1 Cor 2:1-5): “I came to you proclaiming Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

 

In today’s First Reading (1 Cor 2:1-5) Saint Paul personally exemplifies his assertion: “What seems to be God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and what seems to be God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.” From the perspective of human standards, Paul’s mission to the Corinthians should be a failure: he is plagued with illness, his appearance is not impressive and his personal delivery is weak. But the very existence of the faith community in Corinth is a powerful testimony of the presence of the Spirit and of the power of God at work. The very human limitation of Paul, that is, his lack of convincing rhetoric, manifests more clearly that faith does not rest on human wisdom but on God’s power. Saint Paul does not tantalize the Corinthians with human wisdom and eloquence, but simply proclaims the saving message centered on Jesus Christ and his death on the cross.

 

The following is a modern day example of Paul’s “God-dependent way” of delivering the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. “Generations Unite” in Marian Helper, Fall 2007, p. 29-31).

 

In the opening minutes of the new DVD, Generations Unite in Prayer: The Divine Mercy in Song, you see the prayerful faces of children and hear their eager voices singing the words given by our Lord to St. Faustina: “For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and the whole world.”

 

The children are not actors. Rather, they are an answer to the prayers of Trish Short. Two years ago, Trish prayed for the people and the resources needed to create a DVD that responds to Christ’s call to St. Faustina. “Encourage souls to say the Chaplet which I have given you”, He says. “Whoever will recite it will receive great mercy at the hour of death” (Diary of St. Faustina, 1541, 687). (…)

 

With Generations – the winner of a prestigious Telly Award for excellence in cinematography – Trish hopes to convince souls to approach Jesus with trust and to see Him for what He is: the love of our lives. She, for one, can attest to the power of the Chaplet.

 

One evening in the early 1990s, still suffering from the shame and guilt of having had two abortions, Trish took the advice of a friend. She knelt down by her bed and prayed the Chaplet for the first time. Suddenly, as never before, she felt Christ’s love and mercy break through her hardened heart. She made a good confession and knew she was forgiven. She also knew she had to tell others about the unfathomable mercy. “I once felt that the sins I’ve committed are unforgivable”, says Trish. “But, through the Chaplet, I learned that God’s mercy is a free gift that covers all sin. This is something that really can bring hope to a broken world.”

 

In particular, Trish’s focus in the DVD is on strengthening families. “I know what families are going through”, she says. “I come from a broken home. When we began this project, I knew the Lord wanted a strong witness of families – especially because fathers are leaving homes in droves, and there are so many problems with teens and drugs and sexual promiscuity.” (…)

 

Among those featured was Dr. Albert Kraft, a terminally ill Divine Mercy devotee, who sought to do one more thing for Jesus before he died. He was filmed in his bed surrounded by family members singing the Chaplet. He died shortly after the filming. His daughter Susan says his prayers were answered. He wanted to make it to the Divine Mercy Sunday to pray to Jesus and thank Him because he knew “this film would bring souls to Christ – the lost, the sinners, they would come back to Christ.”

 

 

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

 

1. Do we allow the adage “Familiarity breeds contempt” to take hold of us negatively and thus diminish our positive response to God’s marvelous actions and prophetic voice?  Are we open to the positive change that occurs in the people around us? Do we welcome the “surprises” that each new day brings to our life?

 

2. Like Paul do we experience our human poverty and limitations and do we make it an occasion to let the power of God’s Spirit reveal itself?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

you sent prophets

to speak your word of mercy to your erring people.

In their ministry of salvation,

they experienced the agony and the ecstasy

that their proclamation entails.

In the fullness of time,

you sent to us your divine Son, the Incarnate Word.

He is the ultimate prophet and message-bearer,

the radical revelation of your saving love.

Jesus was rejected in his own native place.

As Christian disciples,

we, too, are called to proclaim your word today

and thus experience the agony and ecstasy of prophecy.

Give us the grace to be faithful to our vocation.

And let our poverty manifest more fully

the power of the Spirit at work in us.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

            Amen.

     

 

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

           

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

 

“No prophet is accepted in his own native place.” (Lk 4:24) // “May your faith rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.” (I Cor2:5)

 

 

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

 

Pray that Christian disciples may be faithful to their prophetic ministry and be strengthened by the Holy Spirit in their task of witnessing to God’s message of truth, salvation and liberation. Offer a helping hand for modern day prophets who are being ostracized, abused and persecuted. Pray that our poverty and limitations may manifest more clearly the power of God.

 

 

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September 1, 2020: TUESDAY – WEEKDAY (22)

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Word Is Confirmed by His Deed … We Are Taught by His Spirit”

 

BIBLE READINGS

1 Cor 2:10b-16 // Lk 4:31-37

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 4:31-37): “I know who you are – the Holy One of God!”

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Lk 4:31-37) depicts the early phase of our Lord’s public ministry. Jesus is in the synagogue at Capernaum on a Sabbath, speaking the saving word of God and teaching with authority. The evangelist Luke describes the impact of his ministry on the worshipping assembly: “They were astonished at his teaching because he spoke with authority.” Jesus then manifests the power of God’s saving word by performing a healing sign. He cures a man possessed by an unclean spirit. His word is confirmed by his deed. Both word and action manifest that he is truly the Messiah sent from God.

 

Cardinal John Henry Newman remarks: “Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. In him God is fully and truly seen, so that he is absolutely the way, and the truth and the life. All our duties are summed up for us in the message he brings … Christ has brought from his Father for all of us the full and perfect way of life. Thus he brings grace as well as truth, a most surprising miracle of mercy.”

 

A contemporary Church mission that is dear to me is the Vladivostok Mission: Reviving the Catholic Church in Eastern Russia. A way of collaborating is to send Mass stipends. I sent $20.00 requesting that a Mass be offered for two special intentions. Fr. Myron Effing’s letter of acknowledgment, dated July 31, 2012, contains an update of their mission and shows that their Gospel proclamation follows the way of Jesus, that is, by word and deed.

 

More good news, Sister Mary Margaret! You remember that our Lesozavodsk parishioner Vladimir needed to fly to Korea for a cancer operation – he came through the operation just fine, but now the extra good news. The two tumors were not cancerous! The doctor said that it was extremely dangerous anyway, and could be fatal if it had burst accidentally. He has returned home. And he says that for the first time in 57 years he feels normal! Most of his life he has lived with fever and a high white cell blood count. He wants to write a personal letter to all those who helped him with the operation. The donations for him from America came to just over $5000. Donations from the Russian side came to $3500. Most of this came from the active work of the parishioners of Visitation Parish in Lesozavodsk. Congratulations to everybody! Thanks be to God!

 

 

B. First Reading (1 Cor 1:10b-16): “Natural persons do not accept what pertains to the Spirit of God: spiritual persons, however, can judge everything.”

 

Today’s first Reading (1 Cor 2:10b-16) gives insight into the meaning of God’s wisdom and its implication for us. Paul does not deny that the Gospel is wisdom, but it is a different kind of wisdom, which the world cannot understand. Just as no one knows the secrets of a man except himself, so only the Spirit of God can discern the mysteries of God. Only God’s Spirit knows all about God. Whoever possesses the Spirit of the Lord thinks as Christ does and judges all things rightly from a supernatural point of view. The truly spiritual person can receive the revelation of God – a revelation summed up in the wisdom of the cross. Whoever does not have the Spirit regards the Christian mystery as sheer nonsense. Paul asserts: “We have the mind of Christ”. This stupendous grace enables the apostles and Christian disciples to respond to the truths taught by the Spirit.

 

The following modern day anecdote of a missionary gives an idea how human wisdom works (cf. John Geitner, M.M. in “Missioner Tales” in Maryknoll, May/June 2014, p. 8).

 

Ten months after arriving in Hong Kong and completing some beginner’s lessons in the Cantonese language, I was assigned to teach English and religion at the Maryknoll Fathers’ School in Kowloon Tsai. In its primary and secondary sections there were 1,500 pupils. Most of them were non-Catholic children from the refugee squatter huts in the neighborhood. I lived at St. Peter in Chains Church just across the way. Outside of the church, there was an open veranda where local youngsters liked to play. After classes, I would meet them to practice my faltering Cantonese.

 

One day, a girl who appeared to be about 12 years old asked me, “Where are your parents?” I told them that they were in the States. She then asked me, “Where are your wife and children?” I replied that as a Catholic priest I was not married and did not have any children. She looked at me quizzically and then asked, “Well, when you die, who will bury you?”

 

 

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

 

1. How do we share in Christ’s prophetic ministry? How do we make the voice of truth resound in the world today? In imitation of Christ, are we ready to support our prophetic proclamation with prophetic action?

 

2. Are we receptive to the Spirit of Christ who enables us to put on the mind of Christ?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you are the true prophet.

The words you speak are confirmed

by marvelous signs and healing actions.

We thank you for revealing to us, by word and deed,

the mercy of God.

In you, we have received the vocation to proclaim the Gospel.

Give us the wisdom of the Holy Spirit

that we may fully discern and carry out the divine saving will.

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.

 

 “What is there about his word?” (Lk 4:36) // “But we have the mind of Christ.” (I Cor 2:16)

 

 

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

 

Endeavor to bring the word of God and his healing love to a painful predicament and/or an unjust social situation. Resolve to make meditation an important part of your daily life.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

September 2, 2020: WEDNESDAY – WEEKDAY (22)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Heals, Prays and Proclaims the Gospel … We Are His Co-Workers”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

1 Cor 3:1-9 // Lk 4:38-44

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 4:38-44): “To the other towns also I must proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God because for this purpose I have been sent.”

 

Today’s Gospel (Lk 4:38-44) depicts our Lord Jesus as in full swing in his public ministry. The paschal victory of Jesus is prefigured in the healing he carries out on behalf of Simon’s mother-in-law afflicted with a severe fever, the many others suffering with various diseases and those possessed by demons. The healing ministry of Jesus is a sign that the kingdom of wholeness has come. By his mission of healing, he asserts that sickness, suffering, and death do not have the ultimate word.

 

At daybreak, Jesus left and went to a deserted place. The “dawn” of Jesus is poised in earnest towards greater intimacy with the loving Father and the proclamation of the Gospel. The saving ministry of the healing Lord is sustained by his life of prayer and personal dialogue with the Father. Hence, the restoring touch of Jesus reaches out more extensively and the Good News is carried even farther, propelled by a life of recollection and prayer. Indeed, the ability to make core decisions for God’s kingdom is made possible by his profound communion with the Father in a relationship of prayer. Jesus’ tryst at the dawn of day and his deeds of healing invite us to sustain our own healing ministry by a life of prayer.

 

The following story of a consecrated religious, Sister Blandina Segale (cf. Margaret and Matthew Bunson, “Woman of the Wild, Wild West” in Our Sunday Visitor, March 25, 2007, p. 12) made me smile. I find her life of total dedication to the service of God’s people very inspiring and interesting. United with the Lord, she heals, prays and proclaims the Gospel.

 

One of the most intriguing Catholic women serving the people of the United States was Sister Blandina Segale, a Sister of Charity who cared for those who journeyed along the dangerous Santa Fe Trail. In 1872, Sister Blandina was sent alone to Trinidad, Colorado, a Wild West haven for outlaws and renegades. She was 22 at that time. Because she was a Catholic nun bent on aiding the local Native Americans and the poor, Sister Blandina was not welcomed to Trinidad with overwhelming enthusiasm. The residents of Trinidad faced hard lives and did not fancy the sort of concerns that a nun might have. They were not cruel or insulting toward her, but they obviously had little interest in her labors. That changed rather abruptly, however, when her “patron” announced one day that he expected one and all to treat her with respect and courtesy. If any of the good people of Trinidad caused Sister Blandina any problems, he would deal with them personally. Actually, he promised to shoot them down like dogs.

 

The townspeople knew the “patron” well, and some recalled that he had shot a man for snoring too loudly at a campsite, so he was a man to take seriously when he made a threat. The “patron” of Sister Blandina was William Bonney, known in history as Billy the Kid. She had given nursing care to one of Billy’s companions when he was shot and left for dead in an abandoned hut, and the famous outlaw was repaying her for her merciful care of his friend. He also appreciated her efforts for others. The first time they met, actually, Billy the Kid had come to town to scalp the four doctors who had refused aid to his wounded companion. Sister Blandina talked him out of it.

 

She had also saved the life of another man soon after arriving in Trinidad. Caught after fatally wounding a companion in a gun battle, the man was about to be dragged from the jail by an angry mob. Sister Blandina hurried to the bedside of the dying victim and talked him into forgiving his attacker. She and the sheriff then walked the murderer through the streets to the victim, who did forgive his assailant and then died. When Sister Blandina announced the deathbed scene to the angry men standing outside in the street, the mob thought it was all a bit peculiar, but they lost their enthusiasm for a hanging and let justice prevail in a courtroom. (…)

 

Sister Blandina was transferred to Santa Fe in time, where she continued establishing charitable institutions and programs. She labored for 21 years in the American West, becoming famous and respected … In time, Sister Blandina was assigned to Cincinnati, where she continued her labors with her sister, who was also a nun. She died in Cincinnati on February 23, 1941.

 

 

B. First Reading (1 Cor 3:1-9): “We are God’s co-workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.”

 

Today’s First Reading (1 Cor 3:1-9) gives us a glimpse into the fledging Christian community in Corinth and presents Saint Paul’s insight regarding “servants of God”. Paul contends that the jealousy, quarrels and divisions in the Corinthian community are proof of their spiritual immaturity. In light of God’s wisdom, factions, based on the alleged superiority of one minister over another or of one group over another, are absurd. Their false assessment of the apostles needs to be rectified. When one pits Paul against Apollos, this is acting like worldly people. In fact, both Paul and Apollos are simply God’s servants, fulfilling the roles assigned to them for the growth of the community. Each one does the work which the Lord gives him to do: Paul plants the seed; Apollos waters the plant, but it is God who makes the plant grow. With these beautiful farming images, Paul underlines the unity and cooperation that characterize the task of God’s ministers and emphasize the common goals that animate them.

 

The following modern day account gives insight into Paul’s climactic assertion: “We are God’s co-workers” (cf. Mike McGarvin in Poverello News, January 2014, p. 1-2).

 

Twenty-three years is a long time to work with someone, and can be viewed as quite an accomplishment. When two stubborn Irishmen work together for twenty-three years without beating each other to a pulp, it’s more like a miracle.

 

Jim Connell became Poverello’s Executive Director in 1990. Back then, I was still young enough to be a bit of a rebel and a hothead, someone who didn’t particularly like taking directions (my adolescence lasted longer than most).

 

Anyway, Jim was hired and he brought with him some very outlandish ideas, such as sticking to something called a “budget”. I’d heard this phrase before, but I thought it was a dirty word. So right away, we started clashing: Jim the businessman, me the freewheeling ex-hippie. There was bound to be a collision.

 

The reason the collision wasn’t fatal was that in spite of Jim’s strong personality, he was smart enough and knew the benefits of compromise. At some point he realized that when it came to me and money, he was dealing with someone who didn’t understand the constraints of limited funds. He started making deals with me.

 

I was willing to come to the table, because I figured that if he was offering a deal, then that meant I was victorious. Little did I know that his long-term strategy was to lure me into being more responsible. He basically told me that he was giving me a monthly homeless fund, and I could spend it however I saw fit. If I put up someone in a hotel, or brought some kid a new bicycle, he wouldn’t question it; but each month, when my “allowance” was spent, that was it until the next month. I readily agreed to this plan.

 

Crafty Jim had succeeded in doing something no other Director had been able to do: he forced me to think through how I spent money and use it more wisely; and he did it without fighting me tooth and nail. In fact, I went along with the plan, thinking I had “won”.

 

On the other hand, Jim was open to learning, and coming from a business background, he had much to absorb about the realities of homelessness. However, learn he did, and after a couple of years of wrangling, he saw more of where I was coming from, and I actually began to see that budgets weren’t necessarily bad things, although I bought a coffee cup that had printed on the side, “Budgets are for wimps.” My intention was to annoy Jim with the cup, but my heart wasn’t in the fight anymore. Jim had used tactical thinking and Irish charm to outflank me and get me surrender. (…)

 

Jim brought great insights and positive changes to our Resident Program, the efficiency of our food service, the expansion of other services and our financial accounting system. His contributions here have been enormous, and have made things run so much smoother than in the “good old days”.

 

 

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

 

1. Do I witness to the healing power of the Good News? Do I incarnate the healing compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ today? Do I derive strength and meaning for my healing ministry from deep communion with God in prayer?

 

2. Do we realize that as Christian disciples we are God’s servants for the nurturing of the Church? Do we relate to each other as God’s co-workers?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus, our healing Lord,

people are hurting more than before.

Hold the sick in your arms.

Comfort them.

Fill their lives with meaning.

Touch their sufferings with your gentle healing hand.

And though we pray for health and healing,

let us find you in the mystery of suffering

and continue to work as God’s co-workers.

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.

 

            “He laid his hands in each of them and cured them.” (Lk 4:40) // “We are God’s co-workers.” (I Cor 3:9)

 

 

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

 

Anointing of the sick is understood incompletely by many as “extreme unction” to be administered to a dying person, with the result that the person no longer has control of his/her faculties and so is incapable of receiving it with complete awareness, faith and devotion. As part of your healing ministry as a Christian, encourage a seriously ill person to receive the Anointing at the proper time. Thank the Lord for the gift of God’s co-workers and endeavor to be a true partner in God’s saving work.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

September 3, 2020: THURSDAY – SAINT GREGORY THE GREAT, Pope, Doctor of the Church

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Us to Put Out into the Depths … He Teaches Us that We Belong to Him and to God”

 

BIBLE READINGS

1 Cor 3:18-23 // Lk 5:1-11

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 5:1-11): “They left everything and followed Jesus.”

 

Some years ago our class at Maryhill School of Theology celebrated the “Misa ng Bayang Pilipino”, the Filipino inculturated form of the Roman Mass, with the barrio inhabitants of Talim Island, located in the middle of Laguna de Bay, a beautiful lake in the Philippines. We lodged there overnight, hosted by several families. The following sunrise, we went to celebrate the Morning Prayer beside the lake. As we sat on the sand, we heard the waves gently touching the shore. We gazed upon small boats, called “bancas”, lying upturned on the sand and fishing nets hanging on bamboo poles and fences to dry. Indeed, the “bancas” and the nets are the life-blood of fishermen. In light of this experience, I can vividly imagine the episode described by the evangelist Luke at the Lake of Gennesaret.  It is easy for me to glean the significance of Simon Peter and the other fishermen renouncing their boats and nets and leaving everything behind to follow Jesus.

 

            The mission of Jesus is to bring salvation to all, in accordance with the Father’s saving plan. Today’s Gospel (Lk 5:1-11) describes him preaching beside the lake. In order to minister more effectively to the great crowd pressing on him, Jesus gets into Simon’s boat and asks him to put out a short distance from the shore. Jesus then sits down and teaches the crowd from the boat. Seated on that improvised pulpit, his voice as true Teacher resounds as the people listen attentively to his saving word.

 

            The next scene portrays the power of the word of God. After proclaiming to the crowd on the shore, Jesus commands the boat owner, who has worked all night without a catch: “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”  If the night fishing has been unprofitable, the daytime fishing would be even more so. Hence, it seems preposterous for a village carpenter-turned-prophet to command that to a professional fisherman.  Simon, however, acts upon the Master’s word. As a result, they catch such a great number of fish that the nets begin to tear. They signal to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. All are “awed” by the catch. Simon falls at the knees of Jesus saying, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Jesus assures Simon and gives him a mission: “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”

     

            The reading concludes with an image of a dynamic response: “When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.” The Lord who proclaimed the saving word of God to the eager crowd at Lake Gennesaret and challenged Simon and his companions to put out into the depths is the same Lord who calls us today to discipleship. The response of Peter and his companions inspires us to make a total commitment to Jesus and follow him into the depths of his paschal destiny. Like them, we too must be willing to launch into the deep waters and thus share in the bounty of salvation.  

 

 

B. First Reading (1 Cor 3:18-23): “All belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God.”

 

In today’s first Reading (1 Cor 3:18-23) Saint Paul continues to exhort the Corinthians to stop being “wise” in the world but “fools” by Christ’s standard. The apostle cites Job 5:12-13 (“God traps the wise in their cleverness”) and Psalm 94:11 (“The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise; they are vain”) to substantiate his plea. In their prejudicial appraisal of the ministers of the Gospel, the Corinthians prove themselves to be “fools”, judging by the vanity of this world. They should not boast about human beings such as the leaders of the factitious groups to which they belong. Paul contends that they do not belong to such “leaders” but that all things belong to Christians. The leaders belong to the Christian community as “servants” for the good of all. The apostle Paul climactically asserts: “You belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.”

 

The following modern day account gives insight into her “belonging to God” (cf. “Nun’s Win Is Global News, Almost!” in Alive! July/August 2014, p. 8).

 

A young nun from Sicily made news all over the world by her landslide win in the final of the Italian State TV talent show, The Voice of Italy. During the course of the competition she sang a duet with Kylie Minogue; and Whoopie Goldberg star of the movie, Sister Act, tweeted a link to one of her appearances, saying: “For when you want a taste of sister act!”

 

Gossip magazines have splashed her on their covers in her religious garb, and featured her in articles. BBC News, reporting her win, said that “Sister Cristina Scuccia, wearing her nun’s habit and with a crucifix around her neck, became an internet sensation” when she first appeared on the show. The New York Times told how she won 62% of the votes cast in the final, the Italian media complaining “she may have had a little help from above”. It added that “the show’s host noted her very original way of accepting”, leading the audience in the Our Father while some of the show’s judges were unsure how to respond.

 

Even the leftwing UK Guardian devoted almost a page to the story, with a large picture of the 25-year-old Ursuline nun holding up her crucifix in one hand and the winner’s award in the other. It quoted her: “The last word of thanks, the most important goes of course to him in heaven. And my dream is to recite a Padre Nostro together … I want Jesus to enter into this.” (…)

 

Sr. Cristina’s win, however, was ignored by the Irish media. But thanks to the internet this kind of news blackout no longer works. (…)

 

The nun was invited to take part in the competition by the show’s producers and did so influenced by the call of Pope Francis to all Catholics to “get out” to others with the Good News. (…)

 

As a teenager Sr. Cristina had stopped going to Mass. Aged 20 and studying for a degree in accounting, she was engaged to be married. Then she played the lead role in a musical organized by the Ursuline Sisters to celebrate the centenary of their order’s beginnings. Thanks to the experience, the young woman began to reflect more deeply on her life and her faith and began to consider that she might have a religious vocation. She spent two years in Brazil with the sisters, working with poor children, before making her decision. She discovered, she says, that “to answer the call of Jesus is liberating: it does not disappoint.”

 

 

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

 

1. What is our personal response to the Master’s command: “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch”? Do we ever allow our human unworthiness and insufficiency to daunt us? Do we imitate the faith-response of Peter and his companions: “When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him”?

 

2. Do we act as “wise” fellows of this world or as “fools” for Christ? How does Paul’s affirmation that all belong to Christ and that Christ belongs to God impact you?

 

 

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

 

Lord and Master,

you challenged Peter to put out into the deep.

May we imitate Simon Peter’s faith response

and experience the bountiful catch.

May poverty and insufficiency never daunt us.

May we trust in your words: “Do not be afraid!”

Let us be heartened by the reality

that we belong to you and through you, we belong to God.

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.

 

            “Put out into deep water.” (Lk 5:4) // “All belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God.” (I Cor 3:23)

 

 

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

 

Pray for all Christians that we may realize the greatness of our vocation as “fishers of men”. Offer special prayers and acts of charity for the increase and perseverance of priestly and religious vocations. In your words and actions show to the world that you belong to Christ and, through Christ, you belong to God.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

September 4, 2020: FRIDAY – WEEKDAY (22)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Bridegroom-Messiah … He Manifests the Motives of Our Hearts”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

1 Cor 4:1-5 // Lk 5:33-39

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 5:33-39): “When the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast.”

 

Today’s Gospel (Lk 5:33-39) depicts Jesus as the Bridegroom-Messiah. He invites us to a new relationship that transcends mere legal observance and superficial piety. A loving relationship with the Bridegroom entails a radical transformation and infuses new meaning into such religious practices as fasting, an issue raised by some people when they observed that John’s disciples and the Pharisees fast, while Jesus’ disciples did not. Jesus answers them, “Can you make the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, they will fast in those days.” The reference to the Bridegroom being taken away is an allusion to the death of Jesus that led to his saving glory.

 

Indeed, in the new dispensation that resulted from the paschal event of the death and resurrection of Jesus, his disciples would fast, but not in the meaning given to this religious practice by the disciples of John and the Pharisees. Following a new lifestyle based on the radical salvation won for us by Christ’s saving death on the cross, the Christian disciples would also fast, but for the right reason. An erroneous notion of fasting has no place in the messianic kingdom ushered in by Christ. Indeed, the followers of Jesus would exercise various forms of salutary asceticism, in a spirit of receptivity to the coming of the Kingdom. They would carry these out in anticipation of the full joy that is prepared for them by the victorious Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, in the nuptial banquet in heaven. 

 

The radical newness of our relationship with Christ can be compared to a piece of new cloth which should not be sewn into an old cloak, for it will make the tear even greater. It can also be compared to new wine which should not be poured into an old wineskin for it will cause the skin to break and spill the wine. Indeed, the love-relationship with Christ, the Bridegroom, demands an exhilaratingly new vision and life-style, symbolically portrayed by Luke as “new wine” poured into fresh wineskins.

 

The Redemptorist John P. Fahey Guerra gives insight into Christian fasting as an opportunity to gauge our cooperation with God’s plan (cf. Ligourian, A Redemptorist Pastoral Publication, February 2012, p. 11).

 

We have formed attitudes, feelings, and beliefs about the poor and about poverty in our lives that are simply not in accord with our faith in the God of Jesus Christ. Many of these attitudes have become so habitual that they appear “natural” to us, and, as a consequence, we don’t see the need to reflect on them.

 

Fasting is a spiritual exercise that seeks to break the power these habits of mind and heart have over us. It is not deprivation for deprivation’s sake, but rather a distancing of ourselves from our present worldview so that our faith in God’s view of the world might take hold of us.

 

Our encounter with the poor family in Mexico was disconcerting to us; it broke the pattern of our comfortable view of the world. It questioned our way of living. It showed us that we were far from where we were called to be. Fasting is a way for us to intentionally bring into question our present way of living.

 

 

B. First Reading (1 Cor 4:1-5): “The Lord will manifest the motives of our hearts.”

 

In today’s First Reading (1 Cor 4:1-15) Saint Paul responds to the judgmental attitude of the Corinthians. The apostles are “servants of Christ” and “stewards of the mysteries of God”, charged with preaching divine revelation and not their own doctrines. What is required of them is trustworthiness, a conscientious devotion to the Master’s interests. The Corinthians have no right to pass judgment on them. Only the Lord, not even Paul himself, can judge the faithfulness of one’s service. Final judgment must wait until the Lord comes. He will expose what is hidden and manifest the intentions of our hearts. And then everyone will receive from God the praise he deserves. Hence, Paul and his companions should not be judged by human standards and certainly, not prematurely. Their “trustworthiness” as apostles is assessed by the Lord and will be brought to light at the Lord’s coming.

 

The following charming account illustrates how the Lord manifests the hidden thoughts of the heart (cf. Euphrasia Nyaki in “Missioner Tales” in Maryknoll, May/June 2014, p. 8-9).

 

One day while walking down the street in Joao Pessoa, a northeastern coastal city of Brazil, I saw a man sitting on the sidewalk, who appeared to be homeless and living on the streets. I had a pretty good hunch that he was going to ask me for a handout and knowing that I had nothing to give him that day, I tried to look in the other direction as I approached. When I got near to where he was sitting, I was surprised to hear him call to me.

 

“Hey, woman! Look at me!” he called out to me, “I’m not going to ask you for anything. I just want to see your beautiful face.”

 

As I turned to look at him, his face broke out into such a beautiful smile that I could not help but think of Jesus.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we respond to God’s eternal and faithful love incarnated in Christ, the messianic Bridegroom? Do we cherish the radical newness that God’s forgiving and renewing love brings to us through his Son Jesus Christ? Are we ready to share the tenderness of God’s love with the forlorn and abandoned of today’s world?

 

2. Do we trust in God who manifests the motives of our hearts?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you are the Bridegroom of the Church,

Renew us in your love

and pour “new wine” to our feasting.

Let us be faithful servants and trustworthy stewards.

Purify the motives of our hearts

that we may render God fitting 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.

 

“When the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.” (Lk 5:35) // The Lord will manifest the motives of our hearts.” (I Cor 4:5)

 

 

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

 

Pray for those whose marriage bond has been adulterated and shattered. Offer your contribution to promote the healing of nuptial relationships and the integrity of the sacrament of matrimony. By regular examination of the heart, be attentive as the Lord manifests to you your inner motivations.

 

 

*** *** ***

September 5, 2020: SATURDAY – WEEKDAY (22); BVM ON SATURDAY

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Lord of the Sabbath … His Apostles Experienced the Cost of Discipleship”

 

BIBLE READINGS

1 Cor 4:6b-15 // Lk 6:1-5

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 6:1-5): “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

 

The Pharisees, the religious experts, become more and more critical of everything Jesus does. In today’s Gospel account, the Pharisees accuse Jesus’ disciples of profaning the Sabbath, the seventh day. According to Jewish tradition, the Sabbath is to be kept holy and as a day of rest since God rested on the seventh day. The biblical scholar Samuel Oyin Abogunrin comments: “In order to make sure no one did any work during the day of rest (Friday evening until Saturday evening), the rabbis later added numerous additional regulations so that scrupulous people could be sure they obeyed the Torah rule properly. In the process they focused on doing the right thing and making sure others did the right thing; as often happens in such cases, some people lost sight of the true meaning of the Sabbath.”

 

In today’s Gospel reading (Lk 6:1-5), the Pharisees confront the disciples of Jesus for doing what is unlawful on a Sabbath. Eating the grain out of someone’s field in not unlawful, but plucking the grain and rubbing the kernels to remove the husks is tantamount to “plucking” and “winnowing”, farm tasks that break the Sabbath law. Jesus defends his disciples by appealing to sacred scriptures. He asks the Pharisees if what his disciples have done is wrong, what about David: he and his hungry men went into the house of God, took the bread and ate the bread which can be “lawfully” eaten only by priests. In this incident (cf. I Samuel 21:2-7) the disciplinary restriction of the law gives way before human need. Jesus then makes a climactic assertion: “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” Jesus is the “Son of Man” who ushers in the dawn of salvation even on a Sabbath.

 

The following story gives a glimpse into the perversion of the Law/religion as well as its true interpretation/meaning (cf. Anthony De Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations, New York: Image Books, 1988, p. 90-92).

 

Among the Jews, the observance of the Sabbath, the day of the Lord, was originally a thing of joy. But too many Rabbis kept issuing one injunction after another on how exactly it was to be observed, what sort of activity was allowed, until some people felt they could hardly move during the Sabbath for fear that some regulation or other might be transgressed.

 

The Baal Shem, son of Eliezer, gave much thought to this matter. One night he had a dream. An angel took him up to heaven and showed him two thrones placed above all others. “For whom they are reserved?” he asked. “For you” – was the answer – “if you make use of your intelligence, and for a man whose name and address is now being written down and given to you.”

 

He was then taken down to the deepest spot in hell and shown two vacant seats. “For whom are these prepared?” he asked. “For you” – the answer came – “if you do not make use of your intelligence and for the man whose name and address are being written down for you.”

 

In his dream Baal Shem visited the man who was to be his companion in paradise. He found him living among Gentiles, quite ignorant of Jewish customs, and, on the Sabbath, he would give a banquet at which there was a lot of merrymaking, and to which all his Gentile neighbors were invited. When Baal Shem asked him why he held this banquet, the man replied, “I recall that in my childhood my parents taught me that the Sabbath was a day of rest and for rejoicing; so on Saturdays my mother made the most succulent meals at which we sang and danced and made merry. I do the same today.”

 

Baal Shem attempted to instruct the man in the ways of his religion, for he had been born a Jew but was evidently quite ignorant of all the rabbinical prescriptions. But Baal Shem was struck dumb when he realized that the man’s joy in the Sabbath would be marred if he was made aware of his shortcomings.

 

Baal Shem, still in his dream, then went to the home of his companion in hell. He found the man to be a strict observer of the Law, always apprehensive lest his conduct should not be correct. The poor man spent each Sabbath day in a scrupulous tension as if he were sitting on hot coals. When Baal Shem attempted to upbraid him for his slavery to the Law, the power of speech was taken from him as he realized that the man would never understand that he could do wrong by fulfilling religious injunctions.

 

Thanks to this revelation given to him in a form of a dream, the Baal Shem Tov evolved a new system of observance whereby God is worshiped in joy that comes from the heart.

 

When people are joyful they are always good; whereas when they are good they are seldom joyful.

  

 

B. First Reading (1 Cor 4:6b-15): “We go hungry and thirsty and we are poorly clad.”

 

In today’s reading (1 Cor 4:6b-15) we continue to get insight into the Christian community in Corinth and the role of the apostles. Paul uses his experience and that of Apollos in the discussion of apostolic ministry. With this he hopes to convey his thoughts to the Corinthians more efficaciously. He contrasts the life of the apostles with the Corinthian community. Paul describes at what cost and under what conditions he and his fellow apostles labor for the sake of the Good News:  they go hungry and thirsty, clothed in rags, beaten and cursed, worn out with hard work, wandering from place to place, insulted and persecuted. The apostle cries out: “We are no more than this world’s garbage; we are the scum of the earth to this very moment.” This is antithetical to the smugness of the Corinthians, who in forming factions make pretence of spiritual superiority over their fellow Christians. This attitude perplexes Paul who questions them: “Well, then, how can you boast, as if what you have were not a gift?” Paul’s tirade is not meant to make the Corinthians feel ashamed, but to instruct them as his dear children. Indeed, the apostle Paul is their “father” in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.

 

The following article gives us an idea of what Saint Paul went through in preaching the Gospel to the nations (cf. “The Great Apostle: Introduction” in Concord, ed. Fr. Tom Fogarty, SSP, September 2014, p. 5-6).

 

Too many, if they know anything about him at all, see St. Paul as an early Christian writer, doubtless of importance to the early Christians but with little to link him to our times. Such a view could not be more wrong, not only because his profound teaching will be relevant in every age until the end of time but because he conveyed that teaching in such a passionate, exuberant and dramatic way in his immortal Letters. Little did he think, as he agonized over those relatively few converts he made personally, that all this heart-breaking work would eventually disappear – with the exception of the Church in Malta. Little did he think he was writing for the Christian ages to come and not just for those few unreliable Christians he made and often wept over.

 

And what a price he paid! True, conditions two thousand years ago were more difficult for everyone, not just for him. And perhaps most of all travel facilities – or the lack of them. But, let’s take a look.

 

On his third Missionary Journey, for example, he left Antioch walking north with the temperature in the nineties or higher and made, perhaps, twenty miles daily – not always because the road went uphill. It would thus have taken him ten days of constant walking to reach the gateway to Cilicia, a narrow pass into the Taurus Mountains. That pass, we are told, is 3,500 feet and the peaks of the mountains go as high as ten thousand feet. From that point Paul had still more than 1,000 miles

to go before reaching Troas where for the first time he could find a ship and get a little rest.

 

How he survived in the meantime is hard to say: perhaps some wild fruit during the day and at night some cheese from a friendly shepherd who might also give him shelter. Tourist he was not, rather a poor pilgrim … but also one on fire with the love of Jesus which in his thirty-plus years of mission never left him.

 

 

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

 

1. What does it mean for us personally that Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath? How do we keep the Lord’s Day holy?

 

2. Are we grateful for what the apostle Paul and the other apostles have done for the community of faith?

 

 

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

 

O Jesus Lord,

you are the Lord of the Sabbath.

Teach us the meaning of compassion

and help us discern the true demands of God’s commands.

We give you praise

for the apostolic work of Saint Paul and his fellow workers.

Help us to toil with them

for the spread of the Gospel.

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.

 

            “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.“ (Lk 6:5) // “I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.” (I Cor 4:15)

                                                                                                                                               

  

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

 

Make an effort to learn more about Saint Paul and his apostolic travails. Learn to celebrate Sunday as truly the Lord’s Day.

 

***

 

 

Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang  PDDM

 

 

PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI

SISTER DISCIPLES OF THE DIVINE MASTER

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