A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 15, n. 41)

Week 22 in Ordinary Time: September 3-9, 2017

 

 

(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 of Year C from various perspectives. For the Lectio Divina on the liturgy of the past week: August 27 – September 2, 2017, please go to ARCHIVES Series 15 and click on “Week 21”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: September 3-9, 2017.)

 

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 September 3, 2017: TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

“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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September 4, 2017: MONDAY – WEEKDAY (22)

LABOR DAY is observed today (USA).

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Was Rejected in His Own Country … We Will Be Always with Him!”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

I Thes 4:13-18 // 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 (I Thes 4:13-18): “God, through Jesus, will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”

 

Today’s First Reading (I Thes 4:13-18) is a Pauline masterpiece. This beautiful passage declares that God will unite with him the faithful departed. Animated with divine wisdom, Paul assures the Thessalonians, distressed about the destiny of their loved ones who died before the Lord’s parousia or final coming. They need not fear that their beloved dead would miss the glorious deliverance. Indeed, that we shall be united with the Lord always should be a deep consolation for us all.

 

The liturgical scholar, Adrian Nocent, comments: “Saint Paul is trying to instill hope into the Christians of Thessalonica. His message, in brief, is that the resurrection of Jesus is what gives meaning to every Christian life, and that God will take to himself those who have died with Christ. We died with Christ in baptism; we shall also share his resurrection. The confusion in the minds of the Thessalonians provides Paul with an occasion for describing what will happen at the end of time. He works with images, but his point is clear. His essential teaching is that all, whether already dead or still living when Christ comes, will be taken up with Christ into glory.”

 

In light of Saint Paul’s words of wisdom, we believe that death is a participation in the death and resurrection of Christ. It is also our last act of self-giving to our heavenly Father. As an intimate participation in Christ’s paschal mystery, death is life’s completion. It leads to eternal and intimate union with God. The following story can help us appreciate the beauty of this tremendous mystery and realize that the faithful departed are indeed with God (cf. Brian Clark, “September 11 Journeys of Faith: Vision of Hope” in Guideposts, September 2011, p. 54-55).

 

I lay on my side in bed, a week after the attack, waiting for the comfort of sleep, still trying to make sense of everything that had happened. Tomorrow, I was supposed to return to work at Euro Brokers’ new office space. I was one of the company’s executives. People expected me to be there, but was I really ready to go back? After what I’d been through?

 

It was still so surreal. I’d survived. Scrambled down 84 floors from my office in the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Some in the media were calling me a hero, because I’d stopped to pull a man from the rubble on the eighty-first floor. But surely anyone would have done the same. The truth, Stanley Praimnath has saved my life as much as I’d saved his. If not for him … I shuddered at what might have been. Just minutes after we got out, the building collapsed. I thought of the colleagues I’d lost, more than 60 in all. I’d never see them again.

 

I closed my eyes and I was back there in the South Tower with Stanley, holding onto each other, the stairwell lit only by my flashlight, pushing past huge pieces of drywall, water cascading down the steps. The air was thick with dust. Hacking, coughing, we got to the seventy-fourth floor, and suddenly it was like we’d entered another world. The lights were on. I could breathe again. We hurried on.

 

On the sixty-eighth floor we met a man coming up. Jose Marrero. He’d worked in the Euro Brokers’ security department for years, a friend to everyone he met. He was a handsome man, in his mid-thirties, with a 100-watt smile that told everyone that things were right with the world. But that day he was drenched in sweat, breathing hard, holding a walkie-talkie to his ear. “Jose”, I said, “where are you going?”

 

“I can hear David Vera’s voice up above”, he said. “I’m going to help him.”

 

“Dave’s a big boy”, I said. “He’ll get out on his own. Come on down with us.”

 

“No”, Jose said. “Dave needs help. I’ll be all right.”

 

It was the last time I saw him alive. I opened my eyes, staring into the empty darkness of my bedroom. My wife stirred and put her arm around me. Had Jose made it all the way to Dave Vera? Where was he when the tower came crashing down? He’d never again know his wife’s touch. He’d had his whole life ahead of him. Like so many of the others. Now, there was nothing.

 

My thought faded: tired …

 

I was awake again. I’ve gotta get some sleep. I was lying on my back looking at the foot of the bed. I never sleep like this. Why don’t I turn over? And then, suddenly, there was the image of Jose, standing inches from my feet. He was wearing the most unusual shirt, blousy and brilliant white. I stared at him. Jose, you’re alive. How did you do it?

 

He just smiled that glorious ear-to ear grin. He was okay, joyful even, like he was in on some kind of wonderful secret, and he seemed to be telling me, “You’ll figure it out.”

 

Then he was gone as quickly as he had appeared. Still, there was something that lingered. A powerful, reassuring presence. Jose is with God, I thought. But more than that, I sensed God was with me.

 

 

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. Are we heartened by the truth that God, through Jesus, will bring with him those who have fallen asleep and that we shall always be with the Lord? 

 

 

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.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

            Amen.

 

***

O loving God,

we believe that Jesus died and rose again

and that you will take back with Jesus

those who have died believing in him.

We believe that the faithful departed

will experience the fullness of life

through the power of Christ’s death and resurrection.

In the spirit of the wisdom-filled Saint Paul,

let us be messengers of hope to the bereaved.

Help us assure the grieving

that their deceased loved ones are in your care.

We are deeply consoled

that we shall be always with you

and live in your presence, 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.

 

“No prophet is accepted in his own native place.” (Lk 4:24) //“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” ( I Thes 4:14)

 

 

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. // By your acts of kindness and compassion to the bereaved and the grieving and by your words of comfort, let them experience the hope of resurrection in Jesus Christ.

 

 

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September 5, 2017: TUESDAY – WEEKDAY (22)

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Word Is Confirmed by His Deed …

He Died for Us that We May Live Together with Him”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

I Thes 5:1-6, 9-11 // Lk 4:31-37

 

 

I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS

 

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 (I Thes 5:1-6, 9-11): “Jesus Christ died for us so that we may live together with him.”

 

In today’s First Reading (I Thes 5:1-6, 9-11), Saint Paul exhorts the Thessalonians to stay awake and sober. They must be personally involved and absolutely ready for the Day of the Lord. It will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. The Day of the Lord has a twofold connotation: salvation for the just and judgment for the evil ones. The authors of the book Days of the Lord, vol. 4, remark: “For certain people, it will be catastrophic because, living heedlessly – in peace and quiet, as they see it – they will be taken unawares. For others who remain watchful, this coming will hold no surprise. It will happen in the night of the world; but Christians are not in darkness, for they are the children of light. They behave as in full daylight. They remain at all times spiritually awake, ready to welcome the Lord as a friend they have waited for; to him, they will joyfully open the door.”

 

The reason for Christian optimism is God’s saving activity. We are not destined to wrath, but for that future salvation that comes on the Day of the Lord. He died for us that we may live together with him. That definitive salvation is already at work in the present. With this assurance, we are to console and encourage one another as we look forward to the Day of the Lord.

 

The following story is a powerful example of how a believer prepares himself for the Day of the Lord (cf. Deena Burnett Bailey, “September 11 Journeys of Faith: A Glimpse of Heaven” in Guideposts, September 2011, p. 60-61).

 

I was married to Tom Burnett, one of the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93. Terrorists hijacked the plane, intending to fly it to Washington D.C., perhaps aiming for the White House. Tom managed to call me several times from the plane and he told me that he and other passengers were going to try to wrest control of the cockpit from the hijackers. Thanks to the bravery of those passengers, the plane didn’t reach its target but instead crashed in a field in rural Pennsylvania, killing all aboard.

 

A ray of light cut through the darkness of that day for me – Tom’s faith. In the months leading up to September 11 a profound change had come over him, a deepening of his connection to God. At the time neither he nor I understood why. Then on September 11, it became clear to me.

 

Tom grew up Catholic. Unlike me, raised a Baptist, he seldom talked about his faith, though his rock-solid commitment to God was one of the things that drew me to him. After we married and had kids, I would go to church with him and I began to understand how he drew spiritual sustenance from the liturgy. The public prayer and sharing of faith experiences that I’d grown up with just wasn’t part of his makeup.

 

One day in the fall of 2000 Tom got home from work and said, “Deena, have you noticed that I haven’t been coming home for lunch lately?” We lived in California, where Tom was an executive at a medical-device company. Though he traveled frequently on business, whenever he was at the office he made a point of heading home to have lunch with me.

 

“I figured you were busy”, I said. “Actually, I’ve been going to Mass”, he said. I looked at him, puzzled. He went on, “A parish near the office has a noon Mass and I’ve been attending every day.”

 

“Why?” I asked. Tom paused. “I don’t know how else to say this. I feel like God is trying to tell me something. Maybe if I go to church every day, I’ll be able to hear better.”

 

Now I was really surprised. Tom never talked like this. “What do you think it is?” I asked. “I don’t know”, he said. “I have some sense that it’s going to affect a lot of people. And … well, this is the weird part, I think it might even involve the White House somehow.”

 

I had no idea what to make of this. Neither did Tom. Still, he kept attending Mass daily. He prayed more often and more openly, and we talked a lot about his growing relationship with God.

 

Tom never grew any more certain about the message being sent to him. But that didn’t matter. What mattered was the wonderful closeness that he shared with me.

 

That’s why even as the events of September 11 were unfolding, I had no doubt about the source of Tom’s courage about Flight 93 that day. And I believe his experience offers a ray of light through any darkness. A light that shines through my life even now, and forever.

 

 

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. How do I prepare for the Day of the Lord so that it will not overtake me like a thief in the night?  

 

 

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.

 

***

O loving God,

we thank you for Saint Paul

who exhorts us to be ready for the Day of the Lord.

As children of light,

may we imitate him in living the life of Christ

and radiate the light of the Gospel to the world.

Please do not allow the Day of the Lord

to overtake us as a thief,

but rather, let it be for us a saving grace.

For the kingdom, the power and glory are yours,

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.

 

 “What is there about his word?” (Lk 4:36) //“Our Lord Jesus Christ died for us so that we may live together with him.” (cf. I Thes 5:9-10)

 

  

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. // Pray for the grace of a holy death and for greater readiness for the coming of the Day of the Lord. By your acts of justice, kindness and compassion, manifest that you are children of light, eager to welcome the Day of the Lord. 

      

*** *** ***

 

September 6, 2017: WEDNESDAY – WEEKDAY (22)

  “JESUS SAVIOR: He Heals, Prays and Proclaims the Gospel … His Gospel Is Proclaimed to the Whole World”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Col 1:1-8 // 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 (Col 1:1-8): “The Gospel has come to you just as in the whole world.”

 

We begin today the semi-continuous reading of Saint Paul’s letter to the faith community in Colossae, a town in Asia Minor east of Ephesus. Though not established by him, Paul feels responsible for the Colossians as he sends out workers from Ephesus, the capital of the Roman province of Asia. Epaphras, a Colossian who is described by Paul as a “dear fellow servant” and “Christ’s faithful worker”, has brought the faith to Colossae. Epaphras, who may have been converted by Paul at Ephesus, reports to Paul of the love that the Spirit has given to the Colossians.  In today’s reading (Col 1:1-8), Saint Paul thanks God for their faith in Christ Jesus and for their love for all God’s people. Indeed, the Gospel that has been proclaimed to the Colossians and abroad is growing and bringing abundant blessings upon the believers.

 

Like Saint Paul, the apostle of Christ Jesus, and his fellow worker Epaphras, we too are called to proclaim the Gospel and experience its abundant fruits in our daily life. The following story gives a glimpse into the fruition of Christian faith (cf. Scott Walker, October 24 Reflection in Daily Guideposts 2010, p. 333).

 

All of our children are now in college or graduate school: Drew, a student at the University of South California Law School; Luke, a senior at Samford University; and Jodi, a sophomore at Furman University. Over the years many older friends told us that our children would grow up before we realized it. They were right!

 

But we have anything but an “empty nest”. My wife Beth is the international student relations adviser at Baylor University. One of her responsibilities is to find host families in our community of Waco, Texas, who will befriend international students. This year we have adopted three students: Lulu, a pre-dentistry student from Singapore; George, a prelaw student from the Philippines; and Lian, a graduate student in photo-journalism from China.

 

This afternoon I received an e-mail from George’s father. Tonight Lulu ate dinner with us and is spending the night. Yesterday Beth had lunch with Lian. Our life is enriched by our friendship with these wonderful young adults from Asia. They are now part of our family.

 

Beth and I are discovering that when we extend friendship and hospitality to God’s children, we receive far more than we give. And when we embrace people from around the world, God is able to multiply goodness and love between cultures and nations.

   

 

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 imitate Saint Paul and his fellow workers in proclaiming the Gospel and in letting it bear abundant blessings to all?

 

 

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. 

 

***

Lord God,

we give you thanks for the spread and growth of the Gospel.

Give us the grace to be Christ’s faithful workers

in proclaiming the Good News of salvation to all.

Let our faith in Christ grow,

our love for one another inspire

and our hope of final union with Christ Savior be satisfied.

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) //“The Gospel is bearing fruit and growing.” (Col 1:6)

 

  

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. // By your kind words and acts of charity, let the Gospel spread and bear abundant fruits. See what you can do to utilize the digital media to proclaim the saving Gospel.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

September 7, 2017: THURSDAY – WEEKDAY (22)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Us to Put Out into the Depths … In Him We Share the Lot of the Saints in Light”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Col 1:9-14 // 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 (Col 1:9-14): “God delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the Kingdom of his beloved Son.”

 

In today’s First Reading (Col 1:9-14), Saint Paul prays for the Colossians: that God may give them the knowledge of his will – with all the wisdom and understanding that his Spirit gives. This “knowledge” is not conceptual, but personal. It is a personal experience of God’s loving plan to save us in his Son Jesus Christ. True knowledge of the divine will implies living a life that is pleasing to God. It bears fruit in good deeds and is a total commitment to the divine saving will. The Christian believers are sure to encounter difficulties in their “walking in a manner worthy of the Lord”. Hence, Saint Paul prays that they may be strengthened by God’s glorious power. Then they will be able to endure everything with patience. Paul now invites: “Let us give thanks to the Father for having made you worthy to share in the lot of the saints in light.” God is worthy to receive thanks and praise because it is he who rescued us from the power of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of his beloved Son. Through the paschal mystery of his Son Jesus Christ, we have redemption and our sins forgiven.

 

The following story is an example of a call and response to share “in the lot of the saints in light” (cf. Linda Lochtefeld, “A Different Light” in 101 Inspirational Stories of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Sister Patricia Proctor, Spokane: Franciscan Monastery of Saint Clare, 2006, p. 11-12)

 

I grew up a Protestant, active in my church until I went to college. I never paid much attention to other faiths until I met my husband-to-be. Joe was a Catholic from a very Catholic community. I began attending church with Joe and tried to learn about his faith. When we got engaged, I decided to join the Church – mainly because it was important to Joe and his family. I believe I joined the Church with my head and not my heart, which is why things began to fall apart shortly after our wedding.

 

Within a year after our son, Lee, was born, my mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Suffering had begun. I was very confused. I got angry at everything and everybody: my husband, the doctors, and God. All I saw everywhere, including the church, was suffering and I couldn’t handle it. I felt that God had abandoned all of us. I quit going to church. My actions and attitudes became full of sin. I emotionally began leaving my marriage and unknowingly went into a deep depression.

 

In 1997, a few years after my mother’s death, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I hit bottom. I had never been more terrified in my life. Worst of all, I had no faith. When I checked into the hospital for surgery, I was asked what church I attended, what my faith was. I had no answer. I felt abandoned by God, but He was there watching over me, along with my husband, who never left my side.

 

After surgery, I turned on the TV trying to calm down, and that’s when I found the channel with the camera on the crucifix in the chapel at the hospital. I left that channel on all night. Every time I woke up there’s a soft glow from the TV filling the room – and there was Jesus on the cross. I stared at Him and began to see His suffering in a different light. For the first time I started to see within my heart the beauty and love of our crucified Savior on the cross. My life began to change.

 

My mother-in-law gave me a tape of the rosary that Joe and I played and prayed together whenever the fear set in. During this time, I experienced one of the greatest healings of all, through the sacrament of reconciliation. I had only gone to confession once, when I first joined the church fifteen years previously. As a Protestant I had been taught that all I had to do was tell God I was sorry for my sins, and He would forgive me. I had been doing that over and over since my surgery, but I couldn’t stop feeling guilty for the many, many sins of my past.

 

Finally, I made an appointment to see our priest, Father Daniel Conlon, now bishop of Steubenville, to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation in his office. Before my confession, I wrote down everything I could think of then, even though I dreaded facing Father with my embarrassing sins. I felt this push from the Holy Spirit and I couldn’t stop. I poured out my past amidst tears and Kleenex. Father counseled me, and then he stood up, laid hands on me and prayed over me. He told me that in the name of Jesus, my sins were forgiven. I felt numb as I left his office.

 

In the days ahead, I became aware that a change was happening. Every time I would begin to think about the past, my thoughts immediately would turn to something else. Later, I would realize that I had not spent any time thinking about my guilt or my sins. Thoughts and feelings that I couldn’t seem to control before were being cleansed completely from my mind. My past was being lifted once and for all.

 

 

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. How does this Pauline faith affirmation impact us: God rescued us from the power of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of his beloved Son. Through him we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins?

 

 

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!”

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

***

Loving Father,

grant us a true knowledge of your will.

Help us to live in a way that pleases you.

Make us bear fruit of good deeds.

Let our faith grow and produce abundantly.

We give you thanks, God our Father,

for calling us to share in the lot of the saints in light,

through Jesus your beloved Son.

Through him we have redemption,

the forgiveness of our sins.

We give you glory and praise,

now and forever.

Amen.

  

 

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

 

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

 

            “Put out into deep water.” (Lk 5:4) //“Let us give thanks to the Father for having made you worthy to share the lot of the saints in light.” (Col 1:12)

 

 

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. // At the end of the day, find a quiet place and moment, and pray meditatively Col 1:12-13. Consider also the possibility of celebrating the sacrament of reconciliation one of these days.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

September 8, 2017: FRIDAY – THE NATIVITY OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

 “JESUS SAVIOR: His Mother Mary’s Birth Is a Prelude

to Salvation”

 

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Mi 5:2-4a or Rom 8:28-30 // Mt 1:1-16, 18-23 or 1:18-23 (short form)

 

 

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

 

Today we celebrate the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Her birth means that the coming of Jesus Savior is near. Her coming into the world is the dawn of salvation. Saint Andrew of Crete, bishop, remarks: “This radiant and manifest coming of God to men most certainly needed a joyful prelude to introduce the great gift of salvation to us. The present festival, the birth of the Mother of God, is the prelude, while the final act is the foreordained union of the Word with flesh. Today the Virgin is born, tended and formed, and prepared for her role as Mother of God, who is the universal King of the ages … Therefore, let all creation sing and dance and unite to make worthy contribution to the celebration of this day … The creature is newly prepared to be a divine dwelling for the Creator.”

 

Just like the Christ Child, the Child Mary is a promise of salvation. The birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary is likewise a sign of salvation. In view of the redemptive mission of the Christ Child, Mary’s birthday ushers in the fulfillment of the divine promise. The following story narrated by Sue Monk Kidd in an old issue of Guideposts magazine gives us an idea of the redemptive role not only of the Christ Child, but also of the Mother of God, who also became a child for us.

 

In 1977, the Baptist Church in Melba, a rural American town, was about to close its doors forever. Over the years, churchgoing had dropped off alarmingly. Some hurts and misunderstandings had divided and shattered the congregation. All that remained was about a dozen people on the verge of giving up. That handful of people gathered in the church one Sunday to vote whether to continue services or close down for good. Their meeting was interrupted when a child appeared – a child of only seven years – who wanted to join the Sunday school and the church service. Angela, for that was her name, returned the next Sunday, and the next and the next. That child became the reason for the Melba Baptist Church to go on. They struggled to live in order to nurture a young spirit from one Sunday to the next. Angela was their glimmer of hope. She was their future. The child’s appearance saved the congregation from extinction and sure death. The Melba Baptist Church has become renovated and increased in membership. As far as they are concerned, the little girl who came alone to the church that long-ago Sunday was sent by God. 

 

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 1:1-16, 18-23): “She has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit.”

 

Steven Gemmen’s story, “Where Love Grows” in Guideposts magazine (October 2004, cf. p. 44-48) is a touching account of how he welcomed into his life the child conceived by his wife, Heather, a victim of sexual assault. Steve narrates how his anger at the rapist found its outlet in the baby. In the sixth month of his wife’s rape-pregnancy, however, Steve was given the grace to understand that the little creature in his wife’s womb had nothing to do with the crime of the father, an unidentified African-American young man who broke into their home. Steve accepted the baby as his own although there were bad times. Steve remarks: “Our lives haven’t been the same since that terrible night. They never will be. I’d thought nothing could make me love this child. That’s true. Nothing can make us love anyone or anything. Love is not a choice. It is the sovereign gift of God. And it was his gift that the child who stirred within Heather would make the unbearable not just bearable but miraculous.”

 

Steve’s compassionate stance towards his wife and the baby gives insight into the goodness of Joseph, foster-father and guardian of Jesus, born of Mary. Today’s Gospel story concerns the birth of Jesus (Mt 1:18-24) and delineates the important role of Mary and Joseph in salvation history. In the fulfillment of the messianic mission and divine saving plan, Mary and Joseph, the righteous man to whom she is betrothed, play a vital part. Joseph of Nazareth enables Jesus to be born into the royal line of David by assuming the legal obligations of paternity. Mary’s virginal conception and birth of Jesus underlines the divine origin of the Son and of the absolute newness that now breaks forth in the history of human beings.

 

The Venerable Bede (c. 673-735) contemplates the role of Mary as the ever virgin mother of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: “It is indeed fitting in every respect that when God decided to become incarnate for the sake of the whole human race none but a virgin should be his mother, and that, since a virgin was privileged to bring him into the world, she should bear no other son but the son who is God …And so Mary gave birth to her firstborn son, the child of her own flesh and blood. She brought forth the God who had been born of God before creation began, and who, in his created humanity, rightfully surpassed the whole creation.”

 

 

B. First Reading (Mi 5:1-4): “This is the time when she who is labor is to give birth.”

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Mi 5:1-4) helps define the character of the child that is in Mary’s womb – the ruler of Israel of which she is the bearer. Micah foretells of an ideal messianic king who will inaugurate a new era after Israel’s period of exile. The mission of this highly idealized ruler is characterized as a good shepherd who protects his flock and keeps them from being scattered. This new king will be great and he himself will be peace. Prophesying in the late eighth century at about the same time as Isaiah, Micah pronounces an oracle that seems to identify Bethlehem as the city of a yet unborn ruler’s birth. This fascinating oracle contributes to a profound vision of Jesus as Messiah. As we celebrate the nativity of Mary, we extol her as the one who gives birth to Jesus, the King-Shepherd of the house of David who will bring justice and peace. The Blessed Mother is an intimate collaborator of the divine Savior in bringing forth a new people of God.

 

The following story of a young wife’s journey to the Catholic faith helps us appreciate the role of Mary in the divine work of salvation (cf. Rebecca Lengenfelder, “One in Faith” in Amazing Grace for Survivors, ed. Jeff Cavins, et. al., West Chester: Ascension Press, 2008, p. 70-72).

 

Little by little, the Catholic faith started to make sense to me … There was still one major hurdle I could not get over – Mary. I longed to be completely one with Kris, but I could not fully share his faith if it meant idolatry. I understood that Catholics ask Mary to take their intentions to her Son, Jesus, who is the one they worship, but years of having it impressed upon me that this was idolatry, blocked me from accepting a devotion to Mary.

 

I was raised with the idea of putting out a fleece. (Gideon does this in Judges 6:36-40) as a way of asking for a sign. Whether or not there was dew on the fleece in the morning determined his answer from God.) So I said: “OK, Lord, I want you to send me an unmistakable sign that could only come from you, that this Catholic devotion to Mary is right and that the Catholic religion is the true faith.” If he sent me that sign, I would become Catholic.

 

Two weeks before my due date, I began praying this daily. Instead of another long labor, the scheduled C-section would be more predictable. I was given an epidural in the delivery room. While lying on the table after the epidural, I suddenly felt very sick. Darkness clouded my brain as if I was on the verge of losing consciousness, and there was ringing in my ears. I gasped for breath, but I felt like a two-hundred-pound weight was crushing my lungs. Everyone was busy around the room, not noticing my crisis. Suddenly, my mind flashed to the doctor’s dire prediction that both the baby and I would likely die.

 

I tried to tell someone that I could not breathe, but no words came out. The only thing that came was tears. One of the student nurses, Risa, a friend from nursing school, noticed me crying. I finally expressed to her that I could not breathe. My heartrate skyrocketed, and the monitors started going crazy. This is it, I thought, I’m dying. All of a sudden, I started praying the Rosary. One mystery after another, I knew them and prayed out loud. Kris entered the room after washing up and putting on a gown. I had an oxygen mask on by then. He could tell I was praying, but did not realize it was the Rosary.

 

Once I started praying the Rosary, a restful calm surged through me and vanquished all fear. The tears kept streaming, but now they were tears of joy. It was my sign! I had never learned how to pray the Rosary! I never read about it or listened to one being prayed. I always left the room when Kris or his family began the Rosary. But suddenly, as if through a divine infusion, I knew each mystery from the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries, just as they are taken from the life of Jesus in the Gospel.

 

My spirit soared! God had answered my prayers and let me know that I could become a Catholic. It was okay to honor Our Blessed Mother and ask for her intercession. As my second baby daughter, Alexandria (Ali), was lifted up for me to see, I was giddy with excitement and joy. Ali, my little girl, was joining a family that would be completely one. (…)

 

On April 15, 1995, three days before Ali’s first birthday, I was confirmed and welcomed into the Catholic Church. Kris bought me a new diamond for my wedding ring and we had it blessed to mark this occasion. When we look back, Kris and I still felt dumbfounded that we ever gave each other a chance but now, we thank God that we did.

 

 

C. Alternative First Reading (Rom 8:28-30): “Those whom God knew beforehand and predestined.”

 

In the alternative reading (Rom 8:28-30), Saint Paul assures the Romans that all things work for good for those who love God. He stimulates their zeal and enthusiasm in the midst of difficulties and persecution by reminding them that God’s plan of salvation leads to the glory that is their destiny. Called to be conformed to the image of his Son, nothing will ever happen to them that has not been foreseen by God and directed to their greater good from all eternity. God is in control of everything. The ultimate goal is to be configured to Jesus Christ, who in his paschal sacrifice, is totally glorified. On this feast of the birthday of Mary, we contemplate the Virgin Mother as one whom God has set apart, called for a specific purpose and glorified with and in her Son Jesus Christ.

 

Immaculee Ilibagiza, a great Marian devotee, survived the genocide on her native Rwanda. In the following incident, we realize the truth that all things work for good for those who love God (cf. Immaculee Ilibagiza, “The Road to the Rebels” in Amazing Grace for Survivors, ed. Jeff Cavins, et. al., West Chester: Ascension Press, 2008, p. 40-41).

 

“Dear God”, I prayed, walking as fast as I could and holding my father’s rosary tightly in my hand. “Only You can save me. You promised to take care of me, God – well, I really need taking care of right now. There are devils and vultures at my back, Lord. Please protect me. Take the evil from the hearts of these men, and blind their hatred with Your holy love.”

 

I walked without looking at my feet, not knowing if I was about to stumble over rocks or bodies, putting all my trust in God to guide me to safety. We were moving very briskly, but the killers were all around us now, circling us, slicing the air with their machetes. We were defenseless, so why were they waiting to strike?

 

“If they kill me, God, I ask You to forgive them. Their hearts have been corrupted by hatred, and they don’t know why they want to hurt me.”

 

After walking a half a mile like that, I heard Jean Paul say, “Hey, they’re gone … they’re gone!”

 

I looked around, and it was true. The killers had left us. Jean Paul said later that it was probably because they knew the RPF soldiers were close by, but I knew the real reason, and I never stopped thanking God for saving us on the road. A few minutes later we saw an RPF roadblock and several dozen tall, lean, stone-faced Tutsi soldiers standing guard. I broke into an all-out run and dropped to my knees in front of them. I closed my eyes and sang their praises.

 

“Thank God, thank God, we’re saved! Thank God you’re here. Bless you! Bless you all!”

 

  

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

 

What is the meaning of the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary? Why is her birth a sign of salvation? Just like Jesus and Mary, are we willing to be “signs” of God’s love and compassion in today’s world?

 

 

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

(Cf. Opening Prayer of the Mass “Birth of Mary”) 

 

Father of mercy,

give your people help and strength from heaven.

The birth of the Virgin Mary’s Son

was the dawn of salvation.

May this celebration of her birthday

bring us closer to lasting peace.

Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, 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.

 

            “This child has been conceived in her.” (Mt 1: 20)

 

 

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

 

To celebrate the Blessed Virgin Mary’s birthday, thank God immensely for her deep collaboration in salvation history and offer acts of mercy and kindness in her honor.

      

*** *** ***

 

September 9, 2017: SATURDAY – SAINT PETER CLAVER (USA)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Lord of the Sabbath … By His Death We Are Reconciled to God”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Col 1:21-23 // 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 (Col 1:21-23): “Christ has now reconciled you to present you holy and unblemished before him.”

 

In today’s First Reading (Col 1:21-23), Saint Paul reinforces the idea that God made peace through his Son’s sacrificial death on the cross by applying it to the personal experience of the Colossians. In their pre-Christian pagan past, they were alienated from God by the evil things they did and thought. But their former existence has given to a new one through Christ’s reconciling action by his death on the cross. Through the death of Jesus they are reconciled to God and are presented to him “holy, without blemish and irreproachable before him”. Paul urges the Colossian believers to maintain this present state of holiness and blamelessness. They must continue to be faithful and steadfast in keeping the Gospel that has been proclaimed to them. The apostle Paul is at the service of this transforming life-giving Gospel that has been proclaimed to the world.

 

Christ’s act of reconciliation lives on in today’s here and now through the works of his ministers. The following story is an example (cf. Daniel Longland, “Won’t Go to Confession” in 101 Inspirational Stories of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Sister Patricia Proctor, Spokane: Franciscan Monastery of Saint Clare, 2006, p. 17).

 

I am a priest in the Diocese of Plymouth in England, and for seven years I was the Catholic chaplain in a rather large local hospital there. One day as I was visiting patients, a man told me that he did not want to see me. I said, “Okay, that is all right.” Each day as I passed his bed, I would greet him and then walk on.

 

On one occasion he called me and said, “Listen, if I wanted to receive the sacraments again after more than sixty years, I know I would have to go to confession and I cannot do that.” I assured him that going to confession would be quite easy, and that I would ask him the questions. We talked for a long time and finally he said he would go to confession. I made an appointment for him for three days later.

 

The following day as I passed his bed he called to me and said, “Sorry, but I cannot possibly tell you what I have been doing all these years. I won’t go to confession.” I sat at the foot of his bed and asked him, “What are you afraid to tell me?” To my amazement, he told me about all the sins he thought he could not tell in two or three days’ time. When he finished talking, I asked him, “Is there anything else you have to tell me?” He said, “No, that is everything.”

 

I asked him if he was truly sorry for all these faults and failings because he had now confessed everything! Then I told him about God’s love for him and for us all. I gave him absolution and anointed him. He was so happy!

 

The next day when I went to the hospital, I was informed that the man had died that night. All I could say was, “God is so great! His love is beyond understanding”.

  

 

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. How do we respond to the affirmation that God has reconciled us to himself in Christ and that we are called to stand before him “holy, without blemish and irreproachable”?

 

 

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.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

***

 Lord God,

we thank you for the ministers of the Gospel.

Above all, we thank you for Christ’s death on the cross

which reconciled us to you.

Let us be steadfast in faith, hope and love

and keep us “holy, blameless and irreproachable” in your sight.

Teach us how to be of service to the Gospel

and imitate Saint Paul and the apostles in their missionary zeal.

We bless and adore you, now and forever.

Amen.     

 

 

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

 

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

 

“The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.“ (Lk 6:5) //“God has now reconciled you in the fleshly Body of Christ through his death.” (Col 1:22)

 

                                                                                                                                               

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

 

Endeavor to celebrate Sunday as truly the Lord’s Day. // In any way you can, enable your friends and family members to appreciate the meaning and importance of the sacrament of reconciliation.

  

 

***

 

 

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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