A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday and Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 12, n. 44)

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time & Weekday 26: Sept. 28-Oct. 4, 2014***

 

 

(N.B. The pastoral tool BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD: A LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY LITURGY includes a prayerful study of the Sunday liturgy of Year A from three perspectives. For reflections on the Sunday liturgy based on the Gospel reading, please scroll up to the “ARCHIVES” above and open Series 3. For reflections based on the Old Testament reading, open Series 6. For reflections based on the Second Reading, open Series 9. Please go to Series 10 - Series 12 for the back issues of the Weekday Lectio. For the Lectio Divina on the liturgy of the past week: September 21-27, 2014, please go to ARCHIVES Series 12 and click on “25th in Ordinary Time -Weekday 25”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: September 28 – October 4, 2014.)

 

***

 

September 28, 2014: SUNDAY – 26th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Say Yes to God’s Kingdom”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Ez 18:25-28 // Phil 2:1-11 // Mt 21:28-32

 

 

I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Mt 21:28-32) is part of Matthew’s narrative section on the approaching coming of the Kingdom of heaven. It immediately precedes the episode of Jesus’ encounter with priests and elders in the Jerusalem temple wherein the latter contest his authority. The point of contention is the authority by which Jesus has entered the city, cleansed the temple, healed the lame and the blind, and taught. Against this backdrop of polemic and controversy, the evangelist Matthew presents three parables on the necessity of making a continual “yes” to the saving act of God. The Parable of the Two Sons, the Parable of the Wicked Tenants, and the Parable of the Wedding Feast underline the urgent need to belong to God’s heavenly kingdom.

 

The Jesuit biblical scholar, Daniel Harrington comments on the first parable: “The Parable of the Two Sons assumes that Jesus’ preaching of God’s kingdom is a pivotal moment in Israel’s religious history. Just as the second son initially refused the father’s command but later repented and obeyed so the tax collectors and prostitutes are now reforming their lives in response to Jesus and are entering the kingdom. Just as the first son promised to obey but did nothing, so the professedly and publicly religious opponents of Jesus fail to act upon Jesus’ message of the kingdom. The opponents’ culpability consists in their refusal of Jesus’ preaching and stands in sharp contrast to the openness and resolve of those whom they despise … The conversion of the tax collectors and sinners to the way of righteousness should inspire Jesus’ opponents to accept his preaching, and not to regard him with suspicion and hostility.”

 

In light of the Parable of the Two Sons, the French theologian Yves de Montcheuil asserts that the only sign of belonging to the kingdom is faithfulness to the will of God. He remarks: “This parable alludes in the first place to the Jews and the Gentiles; but it also applies to each one of us. We said yes when we recognized the legitimacy of God’s law and promised to submit to it; but very often we go on living as before without troubling ourselves about the will of God. We think we live in the kingdom because our yes was once sincere yet the force of daily habit eludes the will of God who is calling us to the kingdom … Entry into the kingdom requires of us a continuing and living desire to accept God’s will for us at each moment of our life. It is a yes said over and over again.

 

The following modern day account illustrates how to make a continuing “yes” to the offer of God’s kingdom (cf. Patricia Lorenz in Daily Guideposts 2014, p. 23).

 

When a friend’s sister asked me to be her personal chauffeur when she came to Florida to visit her mother in a nursing home, I accepted the job gladly, thinking, This will be an easy way to earn some extra money.

 

I picked up Sondra at the airport, drove her twenty miles to her mother’s nursing home, then returned later that evening to pick her up and take her to another relative’s house. I made two trips back and forth each day, plus took her shopping a couple of times. I’d come home each night dead tired and somewhat crabby from all the driving.

 

She paid me on the last day, but because I have an old gas guzzler, it took half the money just to pay for the fuel I’d used. The rest netted me less than three dollars an hour for the time, not to mention the wear and tear on my car.

 

When she asked me to do it again a few months later, I hesitated. But then I thought about my time with Sondra: I’d enjoyed our conversations in the car; she shared interesting stories about her family and friends; I’d learned about driving in new neighborhoods.

 

I certainly wasn’t volunteering the way many of my friends do at church, but I was giving my time to a woman in need. The best part is that my friendship with Sondra grew each time she returned to visit her mother. The miles I put on my old car with Sondra are definitely some of the happiest ever.

*** 

 

The Old Testament reading (Ez 18:25-28) sheds light on the frustration of the people in Israel who suffer relentlessly from the onslaughts and domination of the Babylonians. Experiencing disaster upon disaster, the people cry out bitterly: “Whose fault is it?” Some of the more cynical may have cited a proverb about children paying for their parents’ misdeeds: “Fathers have eaten green grapes, thus their children’s teeth are on edge” (Ez 18:1). Indeed, some blame others and even God for their misfortune. Through the prophet Ezekiel, God declares that his way is just and that each is personally accountable for one’s actions.

 

The biblical scholar Toni Craven comments: “Ezekiel passionately argues that each generation is responsible for its actions. He declares that the judgment of God falls only upon the sinner. The present generation is in no better or worse position before God on account of the sins of the previous generations. God will not destroy Israel for past sins, only for present sins. Each generation receives life or death according to its own actions. If the wicked should now turn from their evil ways, God would forgive them, and the present generation would live. The prophet appeals to the people to turn back to God, declaring that God takes no pleasure in anyone’s death.”

 

Against the beautiful backdrop of the Ezekiel reading, which is an appeal to the house of Israel for conversion and a call to return to God that they may live, the Parable of the Two Sons (Mt 21:28-32) acquires greater meaning. The “no-no” of the repentant son happily becomes a “yes-yes” stance. The “yes-yes” attitude of the righteous son becomes a “no-no” - a rejection of the Father’s will. Indeed, conversion is always possible. However, the danger of infidelity is also a stark reality.

 

The following personal testimony of the “no-no” but eventually “yes-yes” son is very inspiring (cf. “Meet El Serio” in Extension, Fall 2014, p. 14-16).

 

When he was a teenager, Jaime Torres used his leadership skills to create a gang. Now, he is using those same abilities to lead gang members out of trouble.

 

In 1986, at age 14, Jaime moved to California with his parents and three brothers. His parents found work – as a janitor and seamstress – and sent the boys to school. As Jaime looked for something to do, he found a gang. He shaved his head, wore baggy clothes and started writing rap songs about the power of gangs. But his gang didn’t bring him power – still a “nobody” and it was dangerous. So, he started his own gang. People followed him, but so did trouble. Drugs. Alcohol. Crime. Threats to his life. And worse, the death of friends.

 

Jaime’s parents drove him to Rogers, Arkansas, to start a new life. Again, Jaime was lost. He continued with gang life and drugs, and was arrested. He felt trapped. Desperate. And then came a moment of grace. He joined a youth group at a Catholic church and something clicked. He realized that “Jesus was looking for people in the streets, like gang members. Jesus was an ally.” So, Jaime begged Jesus to help him out of his situation. “Jesus didn’t want people in the streets to end up in jail or cemetery”, he said. Suddenly, Jaime imagined a new mandate – he could help Jesus find people on the streets and keep them safe and alive.

 

Jaime took his mandate seriously. In fact, he gave himself a nickname: El Serio (the Serious). As he explained, “When you’re in a gang, it’s serious. You could lose your life. If Jesus comes into your life, He’s serious, and you need to listen.”

 

He gave up drugs and alcohol, and started writing a new kind of rap song – “Jesus en el Barrio” (Jesus in the Neighborhood). With his bald head, sunglasses and crucifix dangling from his neck, Jaime started performing “Jesus en el Barrio” to crowds that got bigger and bigger. To reach even more listeners, he produced a CD. People wanted to hear his song, but they also wanted to hear his story. And it turns out; they wanted help with their own problems. Jaime knew he could do something.

 

In 2003, Jaime started Fuerza Transformadora (Transforming Force or FT), a movement to reach out to young people who were facing the same challenges he had faced. He asked for weekly meeting space at Saint Vincent de Paul Church in Rogers. After Masses, he made announcements: “If you’re struggling with your family or with drug problems, we have a group for you. Come see me.” He went to parks where kids were milling about and brought them bulletins for Mass. He walked the streets, found addicts and talked to them. He went to high schools and gave presentations to students. The weekly meetings grew. (…)

 

In addition to Fuerza Transformadora, Jaime now works for the Diocese of Little Rock. He is married and has a child. But despite his mainstream activities, he remains in a class of his own. When he enters a room, people stop. With three CDs under his belt, he knows his audience. He knows his mission. He knows how to bring the Church into hostile territory – places of drugs, gangs, and violence – and how to find followers. He understands the importance of the Church adapting to those on the margins, so they don’t fall through the cracks.

 

***

The Second Reading (Phil 2:1-11) presents the “kenosis” or self-emptying of Jesus as the ultimate paradigm of a perfect filial response to God. Jesus Christ is the supreme model of total surrender to the Father’s saving will. Harold Buetow explicates: “Jesus’ characteristic quality was self-renunciation. He did not want to dominate people, but to serve them; not in his own way, but in the Father’s, and not to exalt himself but to humble himself. His obedience went beyond that expected of an ordinary human being to that which was expected of a good slave: that is, obediently accepting even death – heroically, the degradation of even death on a cross! From that lowest point, Jesus’ upward movement began: God exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name. Jesus’ new name is Lord … It means that Jesus is the master of life, a cosmic influence over all creation … We give Jesus obedience, a love, and a loyalty we can give no one else. At his name, every knee must bend – not in broken submission to might and power, but to the influence of love. And all is, as was Jesus’ life, to the glory of God the Father.”

 

If we live in deep communion with Christ and assume his humble stance of servitude and self-emptying, harmony and unity would flourish in his body the Church. Indeed, our actions as Christian disciples need to be inspired by Saint Paul’s exhortation: “Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus”.

 

The beauty and the power of allowing the “self-emptying” Christ to live in us and mold us can be verified in the life of the first Australian saint, Mary MacKillop (cf. Patricia Treece, “Mary MacKillop’s Rocky Road to Holiness” in THE WORD AMONG US, October 2010, p. 20-24).

 

Good mothers generally produce good people. But Australian Mary MacKillop (1842-1909) went beyond the very real goodness of her siblings to sanctity. She said once to her mother: “I learned everything from you.” Beyond that single statement, Mary’s heroic virtue and deep insights into God’s ways remain swathed in divine mystery. She kept no journal. She had no confessor who outlived her and wrote of her inner life.

 

But if the roots remain hidden, there is no shortage of evidence that Mary saw life from an uncommon point of view. Even from age sixteen, when she worked as a teacher to support her entire family of ten – including her devout but hopelessly improvident father – she believed, above all, that God would bring good for her out of anything he permitted. And because she believed this with all her heart, she never let trials embitter her or turn her into a grim, dour woman.

 

“I cannot tell you what a beautiful thing the will of God seems to me”, Mary once wrote.  And most of the time – even the holy have tough days – she lived that peacefully and joyously.

 

Blessed Are the Wronged: The daughter of Scottish immigrants, Mary MacKillop had a pioneering spirit that served her well in her mission of bringing free Christian education to the children of farmers, miners, and railway workers who were settling new areas of Australia. She “was not daunted by the great desert, the immense expanses of the outback, nor by the spiritual wilderness which affected so many of her fellow citizens”, said John Paul II at her beatification in 1995. “Rather, she boldly prepared the way of the Lord in the most trying situations.”

 

It was through a trying situation, in fact, that God led Mary into the work he was calling her to do. She had been teaching for a decade when one day, the school superintendent came to test the pupils in her absence. Without anyone knowing about it, a fellow teacher presented Mary’s students as his, and his as hers. “Her” students performed so poorly that Mary was fired.

 

Rather than seek revenge, Mary took this treachery as a sign that she should follow Fr. Julian Tenison Woods, a priest who wanted to launch a new religious order. She accepted his invitation, becoming not just its first sister but also its Mother Superior.

 

This new order – the Josephites (Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart) – had the simple, non-controversial mission of reaching and teaching the poorest children in the country. It grew quickly, and soon many other sisters were joining Mary. They and their leader would hardly seem to merit anyone’s wrath. Yet time and time again, God permitted Mary’s goodness to be tested by determined adversaries. Being wronged – sometimes by even decent or even good people – and reacting with heroic virtue became a theme of her road to holiness.

  

“A Terrible Mistake”: Consider a day in 1871, just four years after the Josephites’ founding, when Mary was twenty-nine. Now aptly named Mary of the Cross, she knelt on a bare convent floor, wearing a brown habit of the most durable material available. The local bishop had just come in with several of his priests, and the baby-faced Mother Superior was positioned for his blessing.

 

Instead, Mary was summoned to the convent chapel. There, she knelt again before the frail and failing bishop, now formally decked in his robes and miter, crosier in hand. He had been kind and supportive of Mary, but now, because he had been led to believe false reports, he was expelling her from the Josephites, and excommunicating her to boot.

 

Mary didn’t fall into the false humility that would have made her think she deserved this treatment. “The dear old bishop has made a terrible mistake”, she wrote her mother. But she was neither devastated nor furious.

 

As Mary saw it, the mistake offered her a privileged sharing in Christ’s cross for God’s good and redemptive purposes – for herself and others. And since God, in his great love, had permitted it, she found no reason to think badly of anyone involved – they just were his instruments, after all. Later, Mary wrote of feeling “like one in a dream”, at peace during that terrible moment: “I seemed not to realize the presence of the Bishop and priests. I know I did not see them; but I felt, oh, such a love for their office, a love, a sort of reverence for the very sentence I then knew was being in full force passed upon me. I do not know how to describe the feeling, but I was intensely happy and felt nearer to God that I had ever felt before. The sensation of the calm, beautiful presence of God I shall never forget.”

 

Five months later, just six days before he died, the bishop realized that he had been duped into believing lies about Mary. He admitted his mistake and restored her status. That was made easier because she had never spoken a word against him or treated him as an adversary. Even when a newspaper trumpeted the injustices she had suffered, Mary was far from rejoicing that “her side” had won; she could only express sadness that her vindication came at the cost of undermining the bishop’s authority. (…)

 

 

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

 

1. With regards to God’s invitation to work in his vineyard, can we compare ourselves to the first son who initially refused, but changed his mind and finally abided to the divine saving will? Or, can we compare ourselves to the second who initially responded positively, but sadly failed to respond completely? Do we believe that entrance into the kingdom requires a continual renewal of our “yes” to God?

 

2. Do we impeach the way of God and consider it unjust? What is our reaction to God’s declaration that his way is just and that it is our way that is unfair? What is our response to the divine call to conversion and his invitation to turn away from wicked ways?

 

3. Do we endeavor to put on the mind of Christ and participate in his “self-emptying” and glorification?

 

 

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

 

Almighty God,

just and true are your ways.

Help us to say “Yes” to your saving initiative

and embrace fully the beauty of your grace.

Teach us to put on the mind of Christ

and imitate his self-emptying that leads to glory.

Jesus humbled himself until death - death on the cross.

You thus exalted him as Lord of all creation.

With Jesus, we thank and praise you, now and forever.

Amen.  

 

 

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

 

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

 

“He changed his mind and went.” (Mt 21:29) // “Is it my way that is unfair?” (Ez 18:25b) // “Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 2:5)

 

 

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

 

Pray for those who have revoked the “yes” of their baptismal commitment to God through devious actions and perverted ways. Pray for those who are turning to God anew and seeking to renew the “yes” of their filial love for God. Renew your response of “yes” to God by your loving service to the poor and the marginalized in your community/society.

 

***

September 29, 2014: MONDAY – SAINTS MICHAEL, GABRIEL, AND RAPHAEL, ARCHANGELS

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is Supreme Over All the Angels”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Dn 7:9-10, 13-14 or Rv 12:7-12a // Jn 1:47-51

 

 

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

 

In today’s Gospel reading (Jn 1:47-51), Jesus promises Nathanael a vision of angels: “You will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” The angelic revelation that Jesus proposes to his would-be disciple Nathanael evokes the vision of Jacob in the Book of Genesis. In a dream, the patriarch Jacob sees a stairway to heaven and God’s messengers going up and down. There is an interchange between heaven and earth. Like the angels on Jacob’s ladder, Jesus will join the above and the below, the heavenly and the earthly. Since Jesus Christ is supreme over all the angels, his unifying function surpasses that of the angels. The Son of Man is the shekinah, the dwelling place of God and the locus of divine glory. Jesus is thus the connecting point of heaven and earth. In his very person, God is revealed and in Jesus we have access to God.

 

The angels are at the service of God and his saving plan. Today’s feast of the archangels helps us to contemplate their role in salvation history. The homily of Saint Gregory the Great that is read at the Office of the Readings gives interesting insight into the ministry of the archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.

 

The word angel denotes a function … They can only be called angels when they deliver some message … Those who proclaim messages of supreme importance are called archangels. And so it was that not merely an angel but the archangel Gabriel was sent to the Virgin Mary. It was only fitting that the highest angel should come to announce the greatest of all messages.

 

Some angels are given proper names to denote the service they are empowered to perform … Thus Michael means “Who is like God?”; Gabriel is “The Strength of God”, and Raphael is “God’s Remedy”.

 

Whenever some act of wondrous power must be performed, Michael is sent, so that his action and his name make it clear that no one can do what God does by his superior power. So also our ancient foe desired in his pride to be like God, saying: “I will ascend into heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of heaven; I will be like the Most High.” He will be allowed to remain in power until the end of the world when he will be destroyed in the final punishment. Then, he will fight with the archangel Michael, as we are told by John: “A battle was fought with Michael the archangel.”

 

So too Gabriel, who is called God’s strength, was sent to Mary. He came to announce the One who appeared as a humble man to quell the cosmic powers. Thus God’s strength announced the coming of the Lord of the heavenly powers, mighty in battle.

 

Raphael means, as I have said, God’s remedy, for when he touched Tobit’s eyes in order to cure him, he banished the darkness of his blindness. Thus, since he is to heal, he is rightly called God’s remedy.

***

 

In the Old Testament reading (Dn 7:9-10, 13-14), Daniel’s vision of the “son of man” coming on the clouds of heaven and receiving dominion, glory and kingship originally represented the vindication of the persecuted people of Israel. The image of the human figure enthroned in glory, however, later came to be applied to the expected Messiah. Christians see the fulfillment of this apocalyptic vision in the person of Jesus Christ.

 

The prophet’s vision of the “son of man” is preceded by that of the “Ancient One” or “the One who has been living forever”. His clothes are white as snow and his hair like pure wool. He sits on a throne that blazes with fire. Thousands and thousands are ministering to him. As we celebrate the feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, we imagine these archangels as leading the throng of those who lovingly serve God, the “Ancient One”. The archangels and the other ministering angels in heaven, by God’s compassionate plan, bless us with their “presence” and assistance.

 

The following personal account gives insight into the reality of angelic protection (cf. Joan Wester Anderson, “Invisible Guardians” in Chicken Soup for Christian Soul, ed. Jack Canfield, et. al., Deerfield: Health Communications, Inc., 1997, p. 168-171).

 

In 1980, 25-year old Dave Carr of Bangor, Maine, started to feel one of those inner urges that defy logic and reason. He had a strong impulse to open a gathering place for the homeless or people down on their luck. (…) Finally Dave drove to downtown Bangor about 10:00 one September evening. It wouldn’t hurt to at least look at possible sites … He parked and walked through the neighborhoods, looking at abandoned buildings. Some possibilities, but nothing definite.

 

At 1:00 A.M. Dave was ready to call it quits. But he hadn’t investigated Brewer yet, the city that lies across the Penobscot River from Bangor. He would look at a few sites there, then head home. The street was deserted as Dave started walking up the bridge. Then a car approached from Brewer. As its headlights caught him, the car slowed. Uneasily Dave realized that there were three men inside. Despite the cool night air, their windows were rolled down. “Let’s throw him over!” Dave heard one of them say. The car stopped, its doors opened, and all three jumped out and came toward him.’

 

Horrified, Dave suddenly recalled the murder of the street person. It had been on this bridge! Had these men done it? He would be no match for them; he knew his only option was to pray that he survived the icy water. But as he looked down, he realized that the tide had gone out, and only rocks and dirt were directly below him. “God, help me”, Dave murmured.

 

Immediately he felt a presence near him, something unseen but definitely there. A warm safe feeling flooded him, His fear vanished, and he knew, without knowing how he knew, that he was not alone.

 

Now the men were almost upon Dave. All three were large, muscular – and leering. “Get him!” one shouted.

 

Suddenly they stopped. “They all stared at me, then looked to the right and left of me”, Dave says. “They seemed terrified. One said, ‘Oh, my God!’ They turned and began shoving one another to get back to the car. And when they sped away – it sounded like they tore the transmission right out – I could still hear them cursing and yelling, ‘Run, run!’”

 

Dave stood for a moment on the deserted bridge, basking in the warmth that still surrounded him. What was it? What had the men seen? Whatever it was, it had shielded him from certain death. “Thank you, God”, he whispered.

 

He felt exalted, so buoyant that he decided to go on to Brewer and finish his search. As he crossed the rest of the bridge, Danny, a friend of his, drove by, honked at him, and kept going, unmindful of Dave’s narrow escape. Dave waved, still surrounded by peace. (…)

 

The next day he ran into Danny again. “Sorry I didn’t stop for you last night on the bridge”, Danny said. “But I had passengers and I never could have fit all of you in my car, too.” “All of us?” Dave asked, puzzled. “Those three huge guys walking with you”, Danny explained. “They were the biggest people I had ever seen. One must have been at least seven feet tall!”

 

Dave never resisted a heavenly nudge again. He opened and founded a Bangor coffeehouse in 1986, which is still running today under a friend’s management. At least 100 people are fed every night, with coffee, hugs – and the word of the Lord.

 

***

 

The alternative First Reading (Rv 12:7-12ab) underlines the role of the archangel Michael in the victorious battle in heaven against Satan and his followers. Michael’s heavenly victory symbolizes his permanent dominion over satanic forces. The hymn of victory that follows celebrates Michael’s victory over Satan. The same primordial victory won by the archangel Michael will be won by God’s people on earth against the “huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan”. The Church faces a “vanquished enemy” and the Christian life, although a trial, is a radical victory by God’s faithful people, washed in the Blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ.

 

The following anecdotes circulated on the Internet concerning two Popes’ experience of the Archangel Michael’s assistance are very interesting.

Rome, 600 A.D.: During a plague which greatly depopulated the city of Rome, Pope Gregory I (Gregory the Great) ordered a penitential procession in which he himself carried a statue of the Blessed Virgin. As the procession reached the bridge across the Tiber, the singing of angels was heard. Suddenly Gregory saw an apparition of a gigantic archangel, Michael, descending upon the mausoleum of Emperor Hadrian. In his right hand, Michael held a sword, which he thrust into its scabbard. Gregory took the vision as an omen that the plague would stop, which it did, and so he renamed the mausoleum the Castel Sant' Angelo (Castle of the Holy Angel) in Michael's honor.

The Vatican, 1902: One day, after celebrating Mass, the aged Pope Leo XIII was in conference with the Cardinals when suddenly he sank to the floor in a deep swoon. Physicians who hastened to his side could find no trace of his pulse and feared that he had expired. However, after a short interval the Holy Father regained consciousness and exclaimed with great emotion: "Oh, what a horrible picture I have been permitted to see!" He had been shown a vision of the activities of evil spirits and their efforts against the Church. But in the midst of the horror the archangel Michael appeared and cast Satan and his legions into the abyss of hell. Soon afterwards the pope composed the following prayer to Saint Michael:

Holy Michael, the archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray: and do you, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the divine power, thrust into hell Satan and all the other evil spirits who wander through the world seeking the ruin of souls.

The Pope ordered this prayer to be recited daily after Low Mass in all the churches throughout the Christian world. And so it was. However this practice was swept away in the 1960s by liturgical changes made in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, except in a few churches (for example in the Archdiocese of Boston the traditional Low Mass in Latin, followed by the prayer to Saint Michael in English, is still said in the Holy Trinity Church at 140 Shawmut Ave., Boston, on Sundays starting at 12:00 noon).

 

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

 

Do we thank God for the ministry of the archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, and do we invoke their protection and assistance in our needs? Do we imitate the goodness of the angels and their function to connect the earthly and the heavenly?

 

 

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

(cf. Concluding Prayer – Liturgy of the Hours, September 29: Feast of the Archangels)

 

God our Father,

in a wonderful way

you guide the work of angels and men.

May those who serve you constantly in heaven

keep our lives safe from all harm on earth.

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.

 

            “You will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”  (Jn 1:51)

 

 

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

 

Imitate Saint Michael in his ministry to manifest the supreme power of God. Imitate Saint Gabriel in his ministry to proclaim the good news about Christ. Imitate Saint Raphael in his ministry of healing and providing remedy to the afflicted.

***

September 30, 2014: TUESDAY – SAINT JEROME, priest, doctor of the Church

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Journeys to Jerusalem and He Endures Our Affliction”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jb 3:1-3, 11-17, 20-23 // Lk 9:51-56

 

 

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

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Lk 9:51-56) is about Jesus’ departure for Jerusalem. The evangelist Luke presents the call to radical discipleship within the context of Jesus’ decisive journey to his paschal destiny. The Gospel passage begins with 9:51, the turning point in Luke’s narrative: “When the days for Jesus to be taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.” Jesus’ decision to go to Jerusalem is not a casual decision, but a deliberate one. He is resolved to do the Father’s will. Christian discipleship demands total participation in his Easter itinerary of dying on the cross and life-giving glory. To journey with Jesus to Jerusalem is to walk along the road of faith – the old rugged road that leads to Calvary.

 

The following modern day account gives insight how in daily life we “walk along the road of faith” (cf. Jon Sweeney in Guideposts 2014, p. 206).

 

I have long been drawn to old roads. I look at well-worn tracks to the forest or up the mountain and wonder who walked them for the first time and what the land looked like then. Sometimes I imagine deer or moose trekking along a ridge down from the mountain to a stream, and eventually men following, until a path is formed and then a road is built in its place.

 

Walking these roads every day, I am sometimes reminded of other important “roads” in my life.

 

Traveling along the road of faith, I am never alone. My great-grandmother used to challenge me as a boy. She told me to learn the Bible, inspiring me to follow her example by reading it every day and memorizing many verses. Then my grandparents asked me to love the Lord and, more importantly, showed me how to do it in the hands-on ways that their compassion went out to the elderly, whom they served every week in nursing homes.

 

My parents, too, shined a light down that path of faith that can sometimes be dark and tough to follow. Also, aunts and uncles, friends and mentors have walked the path before me. I am able to follow their well-worn treads. Because of them all, I know which way to go.

 

***

 

The Old Testament reading (Jb 3:1-3, 11-17, 20-23) is taken from the Book of Job, the story of a good man who suffers total disaster. After losing all his children and property, he prostrates on the ground and declares: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” The “patient” Job’s affliction is not over. A repulsive disease attacks him. Sores break out all over Job’s body. Sitting by a garbage dump, he scrapes his sores with a piece of broken pottery. Three friends of Job hear of his plight and come to comfort him. When they see Job’s pitiable condition, they begin to weep and wail. Then they sit there on the ground with him for seven days and nights without saying a word because they see how much he is suffering.

 

Finally Job breaks the silence. The proverbial “patience of Job” comes to an end. In today’s reading, Job pours out his lamentation. He begins with the most radical possible declaration of his misery by uttering a rejection of life itself. He curses the day on which he was born. Job prays for death: “I wish I had died in my mother’s womb or died at the moment I was born.” There is bewilderment about God’s goodness: “Why let men go on living in misery? Why give light to men in grief?” Job prefers an untroubled non-existence to his present anguish.

 

The following modern day account gives insight into Job’s despair and illustrates his complaint that those in grief wait for death, but it never comes (cf. John Gallagher, “Don’t Jump” in Amazing Grace for Survivors, ed. Jeff Cavins, et. al., West Chester: Ascension Press, 2008, p. 199-206).

 

As a man in this world of ours, I am expected to hold a job, make enough money to pay my bills, provide for my four children, and be there for my wife. But sometimes in the hustle and bustle of everyday life all the tasks and responsibilities build up into an overwhelming stress. That’s what happened to me nine years ago. On the outside everything looked great. I had an MBA, a job as a financial analyst, a wife and four children. But on the inside, everything began falling apart. My company was cutting back, and I feared not being able to provide for my family. Life began to overwhelm me. (…)

 

As time went on, my situation only worsened. In addition to the pain, anxiety surged as heart palpitations took my breath away. Sleepless nights become the norm, and eating became a chore. I simply had no appetite. I lost sixty pounds and wore two sets of clothing to hide how thin I had become. Feelings were absent. I could not concentrate and felt powerless. My wife and kids were supportive and loving, but everyone was getting frustrated.

 

I tried everything I could think of to put an end to the darkness.  From a multitude of doctors, to healing Masses and prayers. Nothing seemed to help. I felt betrayed by God. Yet, the demands to function in my life did not abate. But I reached the point where I could not go on. I was a shadow of my former self. Suffering was one thing, but the feeling of abandonment and loneliness was unbearable.

 

Yes, I had tried to kill myself by breathing in exhaust fumes, but I had suddenly stopped when I realized my link with God, though thin and torn, was not completely worn away. He still had a hold on me. I knew my life was only mine to live, not to take.

 

At the hospital, my blood pressure was still very high, and so they took me to the cardiology department in an attempt to lower my blood pressure before tackling other problems. My wife stood patiently by the hospital bed. She showed me pictures of our kids. The pictures were meant to cultivate some feelings of happiness in me. Instead, I felt all the more desperate, convinced that the best was all behind me now. Then Trish left the room to phone the children.

 

Alone in my room, I thought that the best of my life was now in the past and could only haunt me. My twisted thinking lead me to imagine that the doctors would commit me to an insane asylum. Near my bed, a pleasant breeze drifted in from the window, which was ajar. I looked at the window as an end to my suffering. I arose from my bed and approached the window. The raw throbbing in my head had dulled my thought process so I acted without much thought beyond a drive to escape. I looked down the three stories. I can do it, I thought. I will do it.  I jumped, relieved that the pain would finally go away. It did not.

 

I landed on my legs, and then crumbled. Rage exploded inside me. I’m still alive, I cried. I could not even kill myself. I lay on the asphalt bleeding and cursing my survival. Landing on my legs had saved my life, but they were now crushed and broken. The police and ambulance arrived in minutes. (…)

 

Then on January 20, 2008, I discovered there was still another chapter left in all of this. I read a newspaper story about a high school student who had survived a nine-story jump. What struck me was that he was willing to speak out about his experience. It was then that I realized that sharing my story would help others. And that is just what is happening. Now that I have begun speaking out, people come forward to thank me. Some are dealing with depression in their own families. Reaching out to others has helped our own family to heal. Instead of hiding, Trish and I are sharing the truth about the pain we went through. Our children too have told us they now understand.

 

I never would have chosen the path of pain I have walked. But no, I can see that by turning to God through it all, Trish and I have grown closer to Him and to each other. I am a living proof that no matter how bad things get, there is always a road towards healing that is paved with angels.

 

 

 

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

 

1. Are we ready to follow Jesus resolutely on the road to Jerusalem?

 

2. Did we ever experience so much pain and suffering that, like Job, we curse the day we were born?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

after your public ministry in Galilee

and when the time drew near for you to be taken up to heaven,

you resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.

We too would like to journey with you to Jerusalem

and participate intimately in the paschal destiny of your death and rising.

Help us to follow you on the old rugged road that leads to Calvary.

You bore our afflictions and suffered human miseries.

Let us never despair in moments of trial and intense affliction.

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.

 

 “Jesus resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem...” (Lk 9:51) // “Why is life given to the bitter in spirit?” (Jb 3:20)

 

 

 

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

 

Pray that you may have the grace to understand and experience the meaning of Christian discipleship. Pray in thanksgiving for all those who are able to follow Christ resolutely on the road to Jerusalem. Be an instrument of God’s hope and strength to the despairing. 

***

October 1, 2014: WEDNESDAY – SAINT THERESE OF THE CHILD JESUS, virgin, doctor

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Lays Down the Demands of Discipleship and He Teaches Us to Submit to God’s Mighty Power”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jb 9:1-12, 24-16 // Lk 9:57-62

 

 

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

 

Before sending out seventy-two disciples ahead of him, Jesus clarifies the meaning of discipleship. He meets three candidates and utilizes this occasion to underline the exigent character of Christian discipleship. To the first, who makes an enthusiastic offer of allegiance: “I will follow you wherever you go”, Jesus presents the challenge of sacrifice: “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” The second asks permission to go first and bury his father, that is, he wants to attend to his family before he follows Christ. Jesus asserts that all filial obligations are subordinate to his urgent call to proclaim the kingdom of God, which demands an immediate response. The third is willing to follow but asks to say farewell to his family at home. Jesus challenges him to a total renunciation and wholehearted dedication. The call of Christian discipleship demands an irrevocable response and entails wholehearted dedication.

 

In light of today’s Gospel I re-read my vocation story as a Pious Disciple of the Divine Master. Christ has showered me with overwhelming mercy and love. I heard his urgent call to follow him and I responded readily to his gift of vocation. I was a B.S. Premed student at the University of the Philippines when I got to know about the PDDM Congregation. I entered the convent after my third year of college. One month after my entrance, the major Superior asked me to go back to school and finish my B.S. degree. My name was among the list of 80 students that would be interviewed in 1971 for admission at the U.P. College of Medicine. But my dream to become a doctor was subordinate to my religious vocation. I left school altogether after Premed and underwent intense preparation for my religious consecration. I made my first religious profession in 1974 and was deeply happy with my life as a consecrated person. However, I continued to nurture my dream to become a medical doctor, which I presented several times to our major Superior. Before my finals vows in 1980 I requested again to be given a chance to become a medical doctor. But I was told in serious terms to make a decision: to follow Christ or to pursue my “career” outside the convent. My tears flowed when I pronounced my decision to follow Christ and to let go of my dream. In 1989 I became a “doctor” – not a “Doctor of Medicine” – but a “Doctor in Sacred Liturgy”.

 

***

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Jb 9:1-12, 14-16) contains Job’s answer to his friends as they try to delve into the meaning of Job’s sufferings. The friends of Job explain suffering in terms of retributive justice. Since God, so they assume, always rewards good and punishes evil Job’s sufferings can only mean that he has sinned. For Job that is too naïve.  An unusually good and righteous man, Job feels he does not deserve such a cruel punishment. He is baffled how God can let such evil happen to him. He wants to be justified and to regain his honor as a good man. But he feels completely helpless for God is impeachable in his power as well as in his judgment. It is impossible to “sue” God or to establish his innocence if God condemns him. However, out of frustration, the suffering Job continues his tirade against God whom he accuses of being irresponsible, or worse, of being responsible for his misery.

 

The following story illustrates that Job’s experience of “unmerited” suffering is replicated through time and space (cf. Jon Sweeney in Daily Guideposts 2014, p. 70).

 

My friend Brent lives next door and was known throughout our neighborhood as a mild-mannered, quiet, thoughtful person. This all came to an abrupt end one morning when he watched his only daughter suffer a terrible tragedy. I don’t even want to reveal what the tragedy was, but suffice it to say that Brent’s daughter was hurt more than any other teenager should ever be – and Brent was furious with God.

 

It was shocking to see. Sitting in his living room, Brent explained bitterly, “The deal is over. God is supposed to love us, and I don’t see any love left.” He was mad, but his anger masked a very deep sadness and sense of loss.

 

What does someone say in this sort of situation? I had no idea, even though I had read the books and articles and heard the sermons that explained how God is love and is ready and waiting to love us, even, and especially, when awful things happen.

 

But what do you say to your friend who already knows all of that? I just listened … and listened for the better part of a year. At the end of that year, I began to see Brent’s daughter heal. And just when I was about to suggest to Brent what I’d wanted to suggest earlier – that God is good and wants all that is good even though the world often offers what is painful – he beat me to it.

 

Today, Brent and his daughter and God are all back on the same page. Of course, they always were.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we realize the cost of Christian discipleship, and are we ready to pay the price of commitment? 

 

2. Like Job, do we sometimes rage against God’s “justice” or “lack of justice” when we suffer “undeservedly”?

 

 

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

 

Jesus Lord,

you are God’s faithful servant.

We thank you for your obedience

to the divine saving will.

Help us to listen to your call

and answer it readily.

Teach us to serve

with whole-hearted dedication.

Let the pain of sacrifice

be turned into the joy of self-giving

and let our discipleship

be filled with beauty and grace.

Grant us insight into the meaning of suffering.

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.

 

            “I will follow you wherever you go.” (Lk 9:57) // “How can a man be justified before God?” (Jb 9:2)

 

 

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

 

Pray in thanksgiving for the gift of Christian vocation and the call to holiness. Express your gratitude by acts of kindness to the people around you. Be patient and continue to trust in God’s wisdom and care of you, even in the midst of intense suffering.

 

***

October 2, 2014: THURSDAY – THE HOLY GUARDIAN ANGELS

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Entrusts Us to Guardian Angels and He Is Our Redeemer”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jb 19:21-27 // Mt 18:1-5, 10

 

 

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

 

Jesus continues to teach his disciples not to despise the little ones. They are so important to God that he has given his angels charge over them. If children need angelic guardians, we can safely assume that adults need them. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, number 336, asserts about angels: “From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession. Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.” Angels, who are pure spiritual creatures, live constantly in the presence of God and convey God’s will to us and his protection. Like the angels, we are intelligent beings created by God to glorify him and be happy with him in heaven.

 

The famed Mother Angelica of EWTN has this to say about angels (cf. Mother Angelica’s Answers, Not Promises, Mother Angelica with Christine Allison, New York: Pocket Books, 1987, p. 197-199).

 

I will never forget an incident that happened when I was ten or eleven years old. I was still living in Canton, Ohio, and had gone to the town square in the early evening to run some errands for my mother. There was a parking lot in the middle of the square, and for some reason it was blocked off by a big chain that day so cars could not enter. I blithely strolled across the street when I suddenly heard someone screaming, and I looked around only to see a pair of headlights coming at me. I was temporarily blinded, and then felt two hands pick me up and swing me over the chain barricade.

 

The car had run a red light and sped on. Slowly I realized what had happened. Dozens of people ran up to ask how I had leaped over the chain. I had no idea how I had gotten there.

 

I ran home and burst into the house looking for my mother. I was pale and trembling and started crying. “Mother, I almost got killed tonight.” Then she, too, started crying and said, “I know, Rita, I know.”

 

Later, I learned that my mother had sensed somehow that I was in danger earlier that afternoon and had knelt down to pray, asking God to save my life. Clearly, God had sent my angel to do just that. I will never forget that odd sensation of being lifted up, literally lifted, by two hands over a chain that separated me from death.

 

You and I, and everyone who ever lived, all have guardian angels. They are powerful friends, probably the most powerful friends you will ever have. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always needed all the friends I could get, and therefore have been on very close terms with my angel since the day of near-tragedy. I call my angel Fidelis, which is Latin for faithful, and faithful he has been, for I know I’ve been on tough assignments. (…)

 

God loves you so much that he gave you a guardian angel, a friend who prays for you, cheering you on, concerned for your salvation. If you’ve been overcome by loneliness, you should remember the friend God has given you as part of your birthright. He is with you every moment of the day.

 

***

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Jb 19:21-27) reminds me of my Benedictine professor at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute in Rome. Fr. Phillip Rouillard, who teaches the Rite of Christian Funerals, shared at class that he would like used at his Funeral Mass the passage from the Book of Job in which the beleaguered Job declares, “I know that my Redeemer lives …”

 

In today’s episode, Job feels utterly alone, abandoned and rejected by his family, friends and loved ones. To add insult to injury, his well-meaning but tactless friends insist on Job’s culpability. Job seeks reprieve and laments: “You are my friends. Take pity on me! The hand of God has struck me down. Why do you hound me as though you were divine? Haven’t you tormented me enough?” Protesting his innocence, Job wishes that his declaration be chiseled in stone to speak for him after he is gone. Then Job makes a startling faith statement in a deliverer or “Vindicator” whom he will certainly see with his own eyes. His inmost being is consumed with longing for his “redeemer”, who is seen in Christian perspective as a figure of Jesus Christ.

 

Job’s “leap of faith” in a redeemer is made famous by Handel’s “Messiah” (“I know that my redeemer liveth and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.”). Likewise, the following lyric, composed by Samuel Medley, is deeply inspired Job’s faith declaration and underlines its Christian implication (cf. the song “I Know that My Redeemer Lives”).

 

I know that my Redeemer lives!

What joy the blest assurance gives!

He lives, he lives, who once was dead;

He lives, my everlasting head!

 

He lives triumphant from the grave.

He lives eternally to save.

He lives in majesty above.

He lives to guide his church in love.

 

He lives to silence all my fears.

He lives to wipe away my tears.

He lives to calm my troubled heart.

He lives all blessings to impart.

 

He lives, all glory to his name!

He lives my Savior, still the same.

What joy this blessed assurance gives:

I know that my Redeemer lives!

 

 

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

 

1. Do I believe in the presence of an angel who is ever at my side to light and guard, to protect and guide me?

 

2. Do we believe that Jesus Christ is the “Vindicator”, our Redeemer who lives forever? How does this faith statement impact our daily life?

 

 

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

 

            God our Father,

in your loving providence

you send your holy angels to watch over us.

Hear our prayers,

defend us always by their protection

and let us share your life with them forever.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

***

 Loving Father,

when you call us home,

let us be heartened by the loving sacrifice

of Jesus on the cross.

He is our Vindicator-Redeemer.

We know that he lives forever

and by him, we are led into the beatitude of eternal life

and the joy of your paternal embrace.

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.

 

           “Their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.” (Mt 18:10) // “I know that my Vindicator lives.” (Jb 19:25) 

 

 

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

 

Pray the beautiful prayer “Angel of God, my guardian dear …” and if you have not done it yet, give a name to your guardian angel. By your kind deeds and compassionate acts, be an “angel” to the people around you. Be deeply aware of the “last things” and renew your faith: “I know that my Redeemer lives.”

 

***

October 3, 2014: FRIDAY – WEEKDAY (26)

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Experienced Rejection and He Surrendered to God’s Awesome Plan”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jb 38:1, 12-21; 40:3-5 // Lk 10:13-16

 

 

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

 

Jesus warns the recipients of his public ministry in Galilee of the dire consequences of their impenitence. The lakeside towns of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum have received so much in terms of divine grace, but fail to bear fruits of conversion. They do not surrender themselves to Jesus and are deaf to his word. Jesus works miracles in their midst and proclaims the Good News to them, but they refuse to accept him as the Messiah. Because of their resistance to grace, they merit judgment more severe than the people of Tyre and Sidon, ancient cities notorious for wickedness and impiety. The life-giving Gospel that Jesus preaches cannot be ignored. There are unfortunate and death-dealing consequences in rejecting his divine offer of salvation. To reject Jesus is thus to opt for self-destruction.

 

Like Jesus, his disciples of today will meet hostility and rejection as the following article shows (cf. “Hands off the Cross” in L’OSSERVATORE ROMANO, July 25, 2012, p. 9).

 

The Russian Orthodox Church cannot stand by and watch while Christianity is persecuted in Europe, according to Fr. Philip Ryabykh, a representative of the Patriarchate of Moscow to the Council of Europe, in an interview with the Voice of Russia. He was referring to the two British citizens fired for their refusal to remove the crosses around their necks in the workplace. The cases of Nadia Eweida, an employee of British Airways at Heathrow Airport, and Shirley Chaplin, a nurse, will soon be examined by the European Court of Human Rights and Orthodox representatives, together with Russian lawyers, have already guaranteed their support. Fr. Philip called this an “unprecedented situation”.

 

The two women have appealed to the Court to recognize that the freedom of religion has been violated and that they have been discriminated against because of their religious ties. British authorities – the Voice of Russia says – did not expect the case to be brought before the Strasbourg Court and has proposed a law that allows employers to dismiss employees who refuse to hide their religious confession.

 

“The decision of the Strasbourg Court will apply to all countries that are members of the Council of Europe, including Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova – that is, countries where Orthodox Christianity is the most common denomination”, Fr. Philip says. It is a tradition among Orthodox Christians to wear a crucifix and, he warned, “if the Strasbourg Court’s decision turns out not in favor of these women, this would create a dangerous precedent which, I believe, would be very dangerous. This may become a start of persecution against Christianity in Europe”.

***

 

In today’s Old Testament reading (Jb 38:1, 12-21; 40:3-5), God speaks directly to Job “out of the storm”, a traditional setting for the manifestation of divine power. The Lord does not address Job’s complaint about unmerited suffering, but poses a series of counter questions. The Lord begins his interrogation with a pointed reminder of Job’s finiteness: “Who are you to question my wisdom with your ignorant, empty words? Stand up now like a man and answer the questions I ask you.” Then God interrogates Job about the marvels of creation. Does Job understand any of these? Can he do any of them? Has Job ever commanded a day to dawn? Has he entered into the sources of the sea or walked on the floor of the ocean? Like a teacher springing a surprise quiz, the Lord God is involving Job in the process of learning. God is leading Job out of a limited world into the larger world.

 

The Lord continues: “Job, you challenged Almighty God, will you give up now, or will you answer?” Confronted by God’s mighty wisdom and power, Job is overwhelmed and responds humbly: “I spoke foolishly, Lord. What can I answer? I will try not to say anything else. I have already said more than I should.” Job’s complete inability to understand God’s ways is clearly demonstrated. He finally allows himself to be caught up into the mystery of God and the universe. Acknowledging the vanity of his efforts, Job acknowledges the divine mystery that is beyond human reach.

 

Job’s experience invites us to be more receptive to the divine mystery revealed in creation. The following personal account is inspiring and insightful (Marilyn Morgan King in Daily Guideposts 2010, p. 298).

 

This afternoon I received an e-mail from my friend Lucinda, who hasn’t been well for some time. Some days she just can’t even get out of bed. Yet the final paragraph of her letter reads:

 

I think I shall dress so that I can drive to the park to watch the sunset if there is one … of course, with all the buildings I can only see the upper part of the sky, but even that can be glorious. I have not seen a sunrise or sunset for many years, and I do so miss them.

 

Lucinda’s letter made me realize something. Right now in my life, I’m able to watch the sunrise nearly every day, yet I often fail to notice it. We live in a little valley with the mountains in the north, west and south, so we rarely have a chance to watch a sunset. But every morning, unless the sky is overcast, I can watch the sunrise. As my eyesight becomes more and more precious to me in its long good-bye, I must remember to value the beauty I can see now.

 

Tomorrow morning I’ll not miss the sunrise as it streams in through our breakfast room window, spilling colors on the table like a prism. And like Lucinda, I might even drive out of the valley in the early evening to watch the sunset.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we suffer rejection and hostility for our Christian faith? What is our response to such a situation?

 

2. Are we receptive to the divine presence revealed in creation? Do we trust in God’s wisdom and saving plan for us? Like Job do we allow ourselves to be taken intimately into the mystery of God and the universe? Do we “stand under the mystery” rather than breaking our heads in order “to understand the mystery”?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you experienced hostility and rejection

in the lakeside towns of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum.

Forgive us, Jesus, for our lack of response to your merciful love.

Give us the grace never to reject you again.

Fill us with courage to be faithful.

Teach us to be responsive to the presence of God

revealed in nature and in the daily events of life.

Draw us into the depths of the Father’s saving mystery.

You are our saving Lord, now and forever.

            Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” (Lk 10:16) // “Have you ever in your lifetime commanded the morning and shown the dawn its place?” (Jb 38:12)  

 

 

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

 

Through prayer, word and action, seek to overcome the hostility and “persecution” against the Church in the modern world. Make a daily effort to see the presence of God in creation and in daily events of life. Allow yourself to be enfolded by the loving wisdom of God and submit to his mysterious ways.

  

***

October 4, 2014: SATURDAY – SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI, religious

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Rejoices at the Return of the Disciples in Mission and He Grants Us the Joy of Restoration”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jb 42:1-3, 5-6, 12-17 // Lk 10:17-24

 

 

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

 

The Divine Master experiences misunderstanding and rejection from the towns along Lake Galilee where he has performed many miracles. Many have painfully disappointed him. But the seventy-two disciples who returned rejoicing from their mission have filled Jesus with joy. They have subjected demons through the power of his name. Rejoicing with them, Jesus makes them understand that the source of their joy should not be in having subjected the demons, but in having their names written in heaven. His disciples, in welcoming him as their true Master and Lord, have proven themselves “childlike” in character. They have opened themselves up to the spiritual revelation that Jesus gives, but which “the wise and the learned” of this world refuse to perceive. Through Jesus, God the Father is revealed. God is no longer an enigma, for through Jesus we can “see” God as the fullness of love. No wonder Jesus turns to his disciples and exclaims: “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see!”

 

As Christian disciples in today’s world, we too must be “childlike” in our stance. We are able to rejoice because we are assured of the divine presence wherever we are and in whatever “storms” we encounter. The following story, circulated on the Internet, will give insight into this and will make us smile.

 

A little girl walked to and from school daily. Though the weather that morning was questionable and clouds were forming, she made her daily trek to school. As the afternoon progressed, the winds whipped up, along with lightning.

 

The mother of the little girl felt concerned that her daughter would be frightened as she walked home from school. She also feared the electric storm might harm the child. Full of concern, the mother got into her car and quickly drove along the route to her child’s school. As she did, she saw her little girl walking along. At each flash of lightning, the child would stop, look up and smile. More lightning followed quickly and with each, the little girl would look at the streak of light and smile.

 

When the mother drew up beside the child, she lowered the window and called, “What are you doing?” The child answered, “I am trying to look pretty because God keeps taking my picture.”

***

Marked by the spirit of poverty, Saint Francis of Assisi is a true Gospel bearer, a channel of God’s peace and a promoter of the integration of creation. Circulated on the Internet, the following article helps us understand what it means to proclaim that the kingdom of God is at hand.

 

It has been argued that no one in history was as dedicated as Francis to imitate the life, and carry out the work, of Christ in Christ’s own way … This is important in understanding Francis' character and his affinity for the Eucharist and respect for the priests who carried out the sacrament… He and his followers celebrated and even venerated poverty. Poverty was so central to his character that in his last written work, the Testament, he said that absolute personal and corporate poverty was the essential lifestyle for the members of his order … He believed that nature itself was the mirror of God. He called all creatures his “brothers” and “sisters,” and even preached to the birds and supposedly persuaded a wolf to stop attacking some locals if they agreed to feed the wolf. In his “Canticle of the Creatures” (“Praises of Creatures” or “Canticle of the Sun”), he mentioned the “Brother Sun” and “Sister Moon,” the wind and water, and “Sister Death.” He referred to his chronic illnesses as his “sisters."

 

His deep sense of brotherhood under God embraced others, and declared that he considered himself no friend of Christ if he did not cherish those for whom Christ died … Francis' visit to Egypt and attempted rapprochement with the Muslim world had far-reaching consequences, long past his own death, since after the fall of the Crusader Kingdom it would be the Franciscans, of all Catholics, who would be allowed to stay on in the Holy Land and be recognized as Custodians of the Holy Land on behalf of Christianity. (…)

 

Francis preached the teaching of the Catholic Church that the world was created good and beautiful by God but suffers a need for redemption because of the primordial sin of man. He preached to man and beast the universal ability and duty of all creatures to praise God (a common theme in the Psalms) and the duty of men to protect and enjoy nature as both the stewards of God's creation and as creatures ourselves … Legend has it that on his deathbed, St. Francis thanked his donkey for carrying and helping him  throughout his life, and his donkey wept. 

 

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In the first part of today’s Old Testament reading (Jb 42:1-3, 5-6) is Job’s response to God’s challenging question: Is it really necessary for him to condemn the Lord in order to affirm his innocence? God however remains kind to Job though the latter has overstepped his limits in his search for understanding and in protesting his innocence. God does not intend to destroy Job for he actually delights in him. Job’s final answer is humble and recognizes God’s power and purpose. He admits that God’s ways are beyond his ability to understand. The Lord’s marvelous works are too great for him to know.

 

God finally vindicates Job and restores him. The second part of today’s reading (verses 12-17) depicts the joy of restoration. The Lord blesses the latter days of Job more than his earlier ones. His livestock are returned, but double the quantity. He begets seven new sons and three new daughters, who are so beautiful. Job lives to a hundred and forty years, long enough to see his grandchildren and even his great grandchildren.

 

The following story depicts a modern day “joy of restoration” (cf. Gay Behrensmeyer, “Music Lesson” in Mysterious Ways: Mini-Sampler by Guideposts, p. 5-6).

 

My organ teacher, John Hildreth, and I always met at an old Episcopalian church in town. I’d taken lessons from him for 30 years, but now I was ready to give up. My playing just wasn’t what it used to be. I sat on the organ bench, wondering how to tell him. He would be so disappointed.

 

“Take a listen to this recording”, John said, “and I’ll be right back.” He hit play and stepped out of the sanctuary. The melody coming from the speakers was beautiful, rich with notes that seemed to float from all directions. The organist’s coordination between the manual keys and the foot pedals was spot on. I closed my eyes and took it all in. Gosh, Lord, I thought, if I could play like that, I’d never quit.

 

Before our new choir director arrived, I’d been more confident. Then the criticism began. “You’re playing too fast”, she’d say. “Now it’s too slow … can’t you play something more contemporary?” Then last month, a member of the congregation said, “You know, you missed a note in the last piece.” I could’ve cried.

 

Clearly I was losing my touch. Much as I’d miss playing, what was the point if the music didn’t sound good anymore? I’d have to find a different way to praise God. But how?

 

Soon John returned. He turned the tape off. “That was lovely!” I blurted out. “I wish I could play that well.”

 

John gave me a quizzical look. “That was you playing. It’s a performance from a few weeks ago.”

 

And with that, I had my answer.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we trust in Jesus as the true revelation of the Father? Are we the “little ones” who are willing to savor the rich and life-giving revelation of Jesus?

 

2. Are we willing to imitate the final humble stance of Job before God and his mysterious ways? Do we look forward to the “joy of restoration”?

 

 

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

 

O loving Father,

thank you for the gift of your Son Jesus,

the meek and humble One.

Teach us to be receptive as “little ones” to the light of wisdom

and perceive the beauty of your saving plan.

Grant us the grace to live the life of Christ in the Spirit

and reject the awful pride of the “wise and learned”.

Help us to surrender to your awesome and mysterious ways.

Bless us with the “joy of restoration”.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

     

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

 

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

 

            “He rejoiced in the Holy Spirit.”  (Lk 10:21) // “The Lord blessed the latter days of Job.” (Jb 42:5)

     

 

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

 

Pray that Christian disciples may always be “childlike” and receptive to the divine revelation given to us in Jesus Christ each day. In experiences of suffering that one cannot understand, trust in God and look forward to the “joy of restoration”.

 

 

***

 

 

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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