A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 15, n. 45)

Week 26 in Ordinary Time: October 1-7, 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: September 24-30, 2017, please go to ARCHIVES Series 15 and click on “Week 25”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: October 1-7, 2017.)

 

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 October 1, 2017: TWENTY-SIXTH 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: A Pastoral Tool for the LECTIO

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 21:28-32): “He changed his mind and went. Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.”

          

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.

  

 

B. First Reading (Ez 18:25-28): “By turning from wickedness, a wicked person shall preserve his life.”

 

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.

   

 

C. Second Reading (Phil 2:1-11): “Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus.”

 

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)

 

 

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.

 

 

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October 2, 2017: MONDAY – THE HOLY GUARDIAN ANGELS

  “JESUS SAVIOR: He Entrusts Us to Guardian Angels … He Rescues His People and Brings Them Home”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Zec 8:1-8 // Mt 18:1-5, 10

  

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 18:1-5, 10): “Their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”

 

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.

 

 

B. First Reading (Zec 8:1-8): “I will rescue my people from the land of the rising sun and from the land of the setting sun.”

 

Today’s First Reading (Zec 8:1-8) contains God’s message of blessings for his suffering people, whose disobedience led to their exile. God longs to help them because of his deep love for them. He promises to return to Jerusalem and dwell in it. His indwelling will generate life. In contrast to the desolation of the abandoned and semi-destroyed city, it will again be populated. Old men and women, young girls and boys, will again revel in the presence of God. In view of his saving will to reunite the whole people around the Temple, God will intervene to bring his people from the land of their exile. He will bring them back from the east (“the land of the rising sun”) and from the west (“the land of the setting sun”) to live in Jerusalem. He will actualize once again the ancient covenant in which they become God’s people and God rules over them faithfully and justly.

 

The saving plan of God to reintegrate his people on a universal scope is carried out throughout history in an awesome way. The following is an inspiring example (cf. Fr. Dwight Longenecker, “Intellectual Search Brought Rabble-Rouser to the Faith” in Our Sunday Visitor, August 25, 2013, p. 13).

 

Admirers of G.K. Chesterton had cause for rejoicing earlier this month when it was announced that a British bishop will appoint a cleric to begin his investigation into a possible canonization cause of the British writer and thinker. Whether or not Chesterton is eventually canonized, one thing is sure – he has played a vital role in bringing many to the Faith, including the dramatic conversion of literary scholar Joseph Pearce. (…)

 

England in the late 1960s and early 70s was receiving waves of immigrants from Pakistan and India, and many homegrown English felt threatened. By the time Pearce was 15 in 1976, he had joined the right-wing National Front – a racist, neo-Nazi gang with political pretensions. Within a year he had left school and become the editor of the gang’s newspaper.

 

Scrapping up for a good fight, he linked up with the loyalist paramilitary groups in Ulster to defend his country’s heritage from the Irish nationalists. Taking on their anti-Catholic bitterness, Pearce rallied round his new tribe with the intention of being a full-time right-wing revolutionary. In 1982 he was jailed for six months for publishing material that was likely to incite racial hatred.

 

The visit to Britain of Pope John Paul II in 1982 was another flash point. He joined the Protestant nationalist protests against the visit, and when he got out of jail went straight back to his editorship of the paper. By 1985 he was sentenced to a full year, but his second incarceration was of a different order.

 

During his first prison term, Pearce had come across Chesterton’s writings. First attracted to the Catholic convert’s personality and politics, he soon found that he was reading Chesterton’s defense of the Catholic faith. Against this offense, Pearce, who was raised nominally Anglican, had no defense. Consequently, on his second entrance to prison, Pearce declared his religion to be Catholic, and he recounts how in the first night in solitary confinement he clutched a rosary, fingering the beads and opening his heart to God’s love.

 

On his release in 1986, he decided to leave his political involvement. He later left London and moved into the country, got a job in a book warehouse and, with only a substandard high school education, started to research and write a biography of Chesterton. In 1989, at Our Lady, Mother of God Church in Norwich, Pearce finally was received into the Church. (…)

 

Pearce was looking for answers. His sharp intellect and bright curiosity turned him toward one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. However, the story of any conversion to the Catholic faith is always a journey of both the head and the heart. Pearce’s intellectual search was also a search for reconciliation instead of division and love instead of hatred.

 

Chesterton once said that the universe was a riddle, and the Catholic faith was the key that unlocked the riddle. For Pearce, the Faith was also the key that unlocked the prison house of his hate-filled heart and opened it to the Light of Life and the joy of Everlasting Freedom.

 

 

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 give heed to the words of blessing from God or do we choose to stay in our own misery and refuse to be consoled by his comforting words? How do we promote the divine saving plan of universal salvation?

 

 

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.

 

***

O loving God,

we thank you for your words of comfort.

Be with us

and let us rejoice in your presence and blessings.

Bring us close to you

and let all people, young and old,

from the land of the rising sun

to the land of the setting sun

find their home in you.

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.

 

           “Their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.” (Mt 18:10)  //“I will rescue my people.” (Zec 8:7)

 

 

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 thankful to God for the conversion experience of many people in today’s world. By your kind words and actions, be an instrument of healing and conversion for those who have been alienated from God.

 

 

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October 3, 2017: TUESDAY – WEEKDAY (26)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Journeys to Jerusalem and He Endures Our Affliction … Peoples and Nations Seek Him”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Zec 8:20-23 // Lk 9:51-56

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 9:51-56): “He resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.”

 

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.

 

 

B. First Reading (Zec 8:20-23): “Many people shall come to seek the Lord in Jerusalem.”

 

Today’s First Reading (Zec 8:20-23) depicts a vision of hope and grandeur. Many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to worship the Lord and to pray for his blessing. They will seek the Lord Almighty for they recognize that peace and salvation are in him alone. God is always ready and anxious to receive his people. There will be no more disdain or mockery. Strangers will want to integrate with God’s chosen people and Israel will be a means of salvation. The foreigners will say to the Jew: “We want to share in your destiny because we have heard that God is with you.” This phenomenon of universal integration will reverse the process of dispersion brought about by the ambitious builders of the tower of Babylon (cf. Gen 11:1-9). In Jesus Savior, the restoration of all things, all peoples and nations, is brought about.

 

The process of universal restoration in Christ goes on. The World Youth Day events, organized by the Church, promote the unification of peoples from every nation and culture. The following article gives insight into this (cf. Eddie O’Neill, “Mile-High Memories” in Our Sunday Visitor, August 25, 2013, p. 9-10).

 

In August 1993, David Letterman moved from his TV home on NBC to CBS, pitcher Nolan Ryan got his 324th and final win, and in Denver, Colorado, hundreds of thousands of Catholic pilgrims from around the globe converged for World Youth Day.

 

As the first World Youth Day in North America and the first in an English-speaking nation, the Aug.11-15 event is regarded as ground-breaking. From the heights of the Mile-High City, the world witnessed Blessed John Paul II’s endearing love for the young people of the Church and, in turn, their love for him. It would be a model for future World Youth Days, including last month’s event in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

 

Before 1993, World Youth Day largely consisted of two days – a Saturday night vigil and a Sunday Mass with the pope. Now, the event is a weeklong opportunity for prayer, celebration, fellowship, catechesis, with the pope present for several days. Those involved in youth ministry in the United States point to Denver as a watershed event in the way the Church now approaches its work with young people. (…)

 

That week in August certainly had an effect on Leslie Elliott, the director of music and liturgy at Holy Innocents Church in Victorville, California. Then 15, Elliott traveled to Denver with her home parish, Our Lady of the Desert in Apple Valley, California. “The preparation for World Youth Day and the experience of the week really changed me, my worldview and my experience of Catholicism”, she told Our Sunday Visitor.

 

She remembers the thousands of fellow pilgrims from around the world whom she met with big hugs and even bigger smiles. She recalls the thunderous roar of “Pope John Paul II, we love you!” as the pope arrived at Mile High Stadium. While Denver was Elliott’s first World Youth Day, it wasn’t her last. She attended Toronto in 2002 and Madrid in 2011, this time leading a group of young pilgrims.

 

Elliott, who has served as a World Youth Day coordinator for a neighboring parish, said that each World Youth Day has helped her better understand her vocation. “They have helped me to have a deeper sense of hope and trust in God’s plan for me”, she said.

 

 

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. Are we concerned and involved in promoting God’s plan of universal salvation? How do we contribute to the realization of this saving plan?

 

 

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 live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

***

God our Father,

we praise and bless you

for calling the peoples of the earth

to climb the mountain of Zion

and share in the blessings you have reserved

for all the nations.

Give us the grace to be faithful in proclaiming the Gospel

so that peoples of all nations will come to worship you

and invoke your blessings.

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.

 

 “Jesus resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem...” (Lk 9:51) //“Many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord.” (Zec 8:22)

 

 

 

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 aware of important events in the Church, such as World Youth Day, International Eucharistic Congress, World Mission Sunday, etc. and resolve to broaden your vision and deepen your concern for the spread of the Catholic faith.

     

 

*** *** ***

 

October 4, 2017: WEDNESDAY – SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Lays Down the Demands of Discipleship … He Is the Fortified City”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Neh 2:1-8 // Lk 9: 57-62

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 9:57-62): “I will follow you wherever you go.”

 

Before sending out seventy-two disciples ahead of him, Jesus clarifies the meaning of discipleship. In today’s Gospel (Lk 9:57-62), 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”.

 

 

B. First Reading (Neh 2:1-8): “If it please the king, send me to the city of my ancestors and I will rebuild it.”

 

In the First Reading (Neh 2:1-8) we begin to hear from the Book of Nehemiah whose mission includes the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem. Today’s account is situated in 445 B.C. in the 20th year of the reign of King Artaxerxes I (465-425 B.C.). Having heard of the distressing situation of the city of Jerusalem, Nehemiah – a pious believer – prays to God to help him in his mission to restore the walls of Jerusalem. He pleads that the king, whom he serves as wine steward, may be merciful to him. Four months later, as he serves the king, Artaxerxes takes notice that the dear servant looks sad. Nehemiah answers that he is indeed sad because the city where his ancestors are buried is in ruins and its gates destroyed by fire. Having prayed to God, he then presents to King Artaxerxes his request to go to Judah to rebuild the city of his ancestors. He also asks official letters for the governors of West-of-Euphrates instructing them to let him travel to Judah as well as a letter to Asaph, keeper of the royal forests, to supply him with the timber needed for the construction of the ruined city. Amazingly, King Artaxerxes grants him all he asks for, because God’s favor is upon Nehemiah. He also receives a military escort for the journey as well as a political post as governor of Judah. Nehemiah, who will serve for twelve years, will truly be a compassionate and unselfish governor who honors God. The kind-hearted and devout Nehemiah will put all his energy into the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem and for the good of God’s people.

 

Nehemiah’s concern for the restoration and viability of the holy city Jerusalem can shed light on today’s issue of closing parish doors (cf. Charles Pope in “Pastoral Answers” in Our Sunday Visitor, August 25, 2013, p. 15).

 

From a pastoral point of view, it seems evident that bishops do not close parishes, people close parishes. The fact remains that many parishes filled to overflowing back in the 1950s now sit increasingly empty. This is a teachable moment, and we must accept some very painful facts. When only 25 percent of Catholics go to Mass nationwide, and when Catholics stop having many children or effectively handing on the Faith to their children, this is what happens.

 

The Church simply cannot maintain parishes and other institutions such as schools and hospitals, when Catholics are largely absent. Pastorally speaking, people – not bishops alone – close parishes. Many parishes, schools, seminaries, and convents now sit largely empty. And as they become empty, bills are unpaid, maintenance is deferred, and the situation eventually becomes critical. Decisions have to be made.

 

Pastorally, one would hope that long before things go utterly critical, that bishops, working together with communities that are going into crisis, can speak honestly and work for solutions. But this is not simply the responsibility of the bishop; it is the responsibility of all the people of God to have such honest discussions. Thus, we are left with difficult but teachable moments about what happens when the Faith handed down to us is largely set aside by the vast majority of Catholics.

 

It’s time to evangelize and make disciples, as Christ commands.

     

 

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. How does the figure of Nehemiah inspire us? What are the virtues of his character that we can emulate? Like him, do we show great zeal for the city of God?

 

 

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.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen. 

 

***

Loving Father,

we thank you for the faith of our fathers.

Help us to imitate them in their zeal to build your house

and in their complete trust in you.

Grant that we may imitate the pious believer, Nehemiah,

in his humble stance

and his personal dedication for the good of your people.

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.

 

“I will follow you wherever you go.” (Lk 9:57) //“The favoring hand of my God was upon me.” (Neh 2:8)

 

 

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

 

Pray in thanksgiving for the gift of Christian vocation and the call to holiness. Do what you can to promote priestly and religious vocations in the Church. // Be deeply concerned and involved in the Faith transmission and formation of the children and the youth. This is a way to build God’s house.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

October 5, 2017: THURSDAY – WEEKDAY (26); BLESSED FRANCIS XAVIER SEELOS

JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Us to Proclaim the Gospel and to Be Bearers of Peace … He Is the Living Word

that Strikes to the Heart”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Neh 8:1-4a, 5-6, 7b-12 // Lk 10:1-12

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 10:1-12): “Your peace will rest on him.”

 

The book, Stories for the Heart, compiled by Alice Gray (Multnomah Press: Sisters, Oregon, 1996, p.239), contains a heartwarming story, “Picture of Peace” by Catherine Marshall. Her story gives us a glimpse of what true peace is all about.

 

There once was a king who offered a prize to the artist who would paint the best picture of peace. Many artists tried. The king looked at all the pictures. But there were only two he really liked, and he had to choose between them. One picture was of a calm lake. The lake was a perfect mirror for peaceful towering mountains all around it. Overhead was a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. All who saw this picture thought that it was a perfect picture of peace. The other picture had mountains, too. But these were rugged and bare. Above was an angry sky, from which rain fell and in which lightning played. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a foaming waterfall. This did not look peaceful at all. But when the king looked closely, he saw behind the waterfall a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rock. In the bush a mother bird had built her nest. There, in the midst of the rush of angry water, sat the mother bird on her nest – in perfect peace.

 

Which picture do you think won the prize? The king chose the second picture. Do you know why? “Because,” explained the king, “peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart. This is the real meaning of peace.”

 

Today’s Gospel (Lk 10:1-12) tells us about the mission of the seventy-two disciples who are called to be peace-bearers. The peace that they are sent forth to bring comes from the sacrificial love of Christ, and it is the true peace welling up from within. The peace-bearing mission of Christ’s disciples has a universal character. In Luke’s account, we hear: “The Lord appointed seventy-two others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit.” The number “seventy-two” stands for the number of all the nations; and the Christians disciples are to reach out to all the nations and preach the Good News. Harold Buetow adds a depth of meaning to the number seventy-two symbolism. He remarks: “In the Gospel Jesus sends seventy-two disciples like lambs among wolves (v. 3) to spread his message of peace – a reminder that, when Moses was worn down with work, the Lord had him designate seventy-two elders to help him … We must not only be grateful for his salvation but must actually share it by carrying our responsibilities. Although we can’t offer instant solutions to all problems or suffering, Jesus’ Good News can alone provide true peace.”

 

            The evangelist Luke expresses the magnitude of the missionary task of the seventy-two disciples in terms of “abundant harvest” as we can glean from Jesus’ exhortation to his disciples: “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest” (Lk 10:2). The plentiful harvest refers to the extensive missionary work that the followers of Christ need to carry out on behalf of the entire human race. Indeed, the task of preaching the Gospel of peace to humankind entails the self-sacrificing ministry of apostolic “reapers” to gather the fruitful harvest of the redeemed into the barns of God’s kingdom.

 

            Luke’s account of mission-sending underlines, moreover, the urgency of the Gospel task. According to the commands of Jesus, the disciples are to travel light, salute no one along the road, and not be deterred by those who refuse to welcome them. There is an impelling quality and resoluteness in the task of proclaiming the Reign of God and in spreading the message of peace. The disciples sent by Jesus must not be waylaid nor indulge in distractions or petty matters, but rather, trust in the providence of God as they experience their own vulnerability and the people’s hostility. Indeed, the time of salvation has come. The kingdom of God is at hand. The mission of the Christ’s disciples is urgent and they must keep moving.

 

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 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. 

 

 

B. First Reading (Neh 8:1-4a, 5-6, 7b-12): “Ezra opened the book of the law, blessed the Lord, and all the people answered, Amen! Amen!”

 

Two of our postulants who were teaching catechism at the San Jose Elementary School in Antipolo (Philippines) prepared their class to celebrate the Rite of Penance. They engaged the children actively and creatively. One little girl brought her family’s tablecloth to cover the teacher’s desk that would serve as a makeshift altar. Some brought flowers and candles. Others were trained to proclaim the bible readings and to offer the prayer intentions. The whole class learned some easy and delightful sung responses. The priest proclaimed the Parable of the Prodigal Son in the vernacular and, in simple terms, explained to the children the meaning of the Gospel reading. During the celebration of the Word, the class was unusually attentive and focused. Some were shedding tears. When the catechists asked why they were weeping, they replied: “It is because we are sorry for our sins!”

 

Today’s Old Testament passage (Neh 8:1-4a, 5-6, 7b-12) describes a liturgy of the Word where the Law “which the Lord had given to Israel” is proclaimed and explained to the people, enabling them to understand what is read. When Ezra, the priest-scribe, reads from the book of the Law, the people weep from the sheer emotion of hearing God’s Word. They have recognized the special character of the word proclaimed, producing a remarkable effect in their lives. Indeed, the community that actively seeks the Law, not only hears it, but also understands its vital significance. The reading from the Law, constituted by the Pentateuch or the first five books of the Bible, has shed light on their fragile and feckless inner core and they respond with tears. The liturgical reading from the Law is not meant, however, to condemn, but to be a font of joy and strength for that assembly who hungers for the life-giving Word of God. Moreover, the divine Word moves them to vital social action and impels them to share compassionately their resources with the needy.

 

Aelred Rosser comments: “Notice the basic liturgical structure in this first reading. The people assemble, hear the Word of God, receive explanatory instruction and encouragement and then respond in worship and prayer. The framework of our own liturgy is not very different. Ezra reads the law to people who are very much in need of hearing it. Their highly emotional and heartrending response indicates that they need both the encouraging words of the law’s promise as well as, perhaps, the discipline which the law requires of them. The combination of sorrow for sin and the joy of being forgiven always produces healing tears. The occasion presented here is certainly a high holy day, perhaps Yom Kippur, the New Year. Notice that the long and arduous ceremony (from daybreak till midday) is followed by a feast celebrated in the classic way: rich food, good drink and special provisions for the poor. It is a tradition that we would do well to follow.”

 

 

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

 

1. Do we heed the exhortation of Jesus: “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest”? As disciples of Christ in mission are we resolute and decisive in proclaiming the Reign of God and its message of peace? Do we travel light or are we are encumbered with a heavy load? Are we distracted or do we have focus? Are we truly bearers of peace? Does our evangelical mission beget tranquility in others?

 

2. Do we experience the importance of the proclamation of the Word of God in the liturgy? Like the liturgical assembly in Ezra’s time, do we endeavor to listen to the Word with receptive hearts, willful attention and self-sacrifice? Do we invest time, effort, love and creativity in order to glean the meaning and challenge of God’s Word for us? Do we try to hear and understand the Word, both personally and as members of the faith community? Do we respond to the social challenge of God’s living Word? 

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

we pray for more laborers to reap the harvest of the human race.

Help us that we too may be self-giving reapers

in that fruitful harvest.

Make us instruments of your peace.

May the peace that you have bestowed upon us

rest on the people we are to bless.

Do not let discouraging results overwhelm us,

nor encouraging achievements inflate us.

Let us truly rejoice in your peace

and in the assurance that having done your saving will,

our names are written in heaven.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

***

My Divine Teacher,

you open the Scroll before me

every time that the Scriptures are proclaimed during the Liturgy

or during my private prayer.

I want to listen to you …

I intend to set aside every preoccupation of mine,

judgment, preconceived categories …

I want to bring silence within myself

so that your voice pronounces in me and for me

the Word of God.

I am waiting that you open the Scroll

and find the passage written today for me …

If you are the one reading for me,

there will always be a text or a phrase

which is meaningful for my situation.

If my heart is filled with you,

I immediately find the Word meant for me.

You are the Word of Life

and we 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 day. Please memorize it.

 

            “Go on your way; behold I am sending you.” (Lk 10:3) //“They understood the words that had been expounded to them.” (Neh 8:12)

 

 

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

 

Pray for an increase of priestly and religious vocations in the Church. Pray for peace in the world and those called to be special peace-bearers in today's situations of violence and conflict. By your kind words and charitable speech, be a bearer of God’s peace, harmony and reconciliation. // To help us contemplate more deeply the breadth, depth and height of the challenge of the living Word, Jesus Christ, make an effort to spend an hour in Eucharistic Adoration. 

 

 

*** *** ***

 

October 6, 2017: FRIDAY – WEEKDAY (26); SAINT BRUNO, Priest: BLESSED MARIE ROSE DUROCHER, Virgin (USA)

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Experienced Rejection … He Calls

to Penitence”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Bar 1:15-22 // Lk 10:13-16

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 10:13-16): “Whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”

 

In today’s Gospel reading (Lk 10:13-16), 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”.

 

 

B. First Reading (Bar 1:15-22): “We have sinned in the Lord’s sight and disobeyed him.”

 

Today and tomorrow we shall hear from the prophet Baruch. Today’s Old Testament reading (Bar 1:15-22) is a moving penitential prayer in which the people acknowledge their responsibility for the catastrophe and deportation they have experienced and continue to experience. The exiles avow: “We have sinned in the Lord’s sight and disobeyed him.” The painful thoughts and the raw feelings of the Jewish people at the destruction of Jerusalem and their captivity are crystallized in this prayer. They humbly recognize that they have been rebellious throughout Israel’s history and have refused to obey the word of the Lord. When the people abandon the Lord God to serve kings and foreign gods, they lose God’s blessings and suffer the curse of the land of the exile. The chastised people thus confess their sins and declare: “The Lord God is righteous, but we are still covered with shame.”

 

The spirit of penitence that characterizes the exiles’ prayer is likewise present in a modern-day penitent who narrates the following story (cf. Anonymous, “The Long List of Sin” in 101 Inspirational Stories of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Sr. Patricia Proctor, Spokane: Franciscan Monastery of Saint Clare, 2006, p. 138).

 

In the summer of 2005, a retired priest filled in for a month at the northern Arizona parish where I was living. That same week I received an e-mail from someone in my Medjugorje prayer group which spoke about confession and gave a very long list of common (and often) grave sins.

 

Reading that list, I recognized a large number that I had committed as a teen or young adult. Some, while knowing they weren’t the best things to do, I hadn’t really thought of as sins, such as partying or drinking to excess, but others were just plain embarrassing to admit to. I knew that it was unlikely that I’d confessed them before. It nagged at me that there were so many un-confessed big sins in my life. The problem, however, was recognizing what had or had not been confessed.

 

So, just to be on the safe side, I brought the whole list with me, unaware that the new priest had already arrived and was handling confession that night. I was dismayed, how does one explain such things to someone who has no past experience or connection with me?

 

The desire to chicken out was strong. It would have been very easy to make a simple confession of the usual sins, yet something held me to my resolve. I chose to be honest and explain my intention, and why this was important to me. I asked if he had the time that night to hear this confession as it was a long list. He looked a little nervous, but agreed to hear the whole thing.

 

While difficult and embarrassing, I was surprised to discover in this priest a wonderful spiritual advisor. During the time he was there, my spiritual life blossomed. Thinking about the change, I believe it was due to Father hearing my complete confession.

 

 

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. Do we thank the Lord for calling us to the grace of repentance and for giving us the opportunity to confess our sins in the sacrament of reconciliation? 

 

 

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.

You are our saving Lord, now and forever.

            Amen.

 

            ***

Loving Father,

we have sinned against you

and we merit the senseless miseries in our life.

You are righteous

and we are covered with shame.

Take away the curse of disobedience,

bathe us in the tears of repentance

and wrap us in your life-giving grace.

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.

 

“And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” (Lk 10:16) //“We did evil in the sight of the Lord, our God.” (Bar 1:22)

 

 

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. // Be reconciled with a person whom you have hurt and share God’s forgiveness with someone who has hurt you.

      

 

*** *** ***

 

October 7, 2017: SATURDAY – OUR LADY OF THE ROSARY

ESUS SAVIOR: He Rejoices at the Return of the Disciples in Mission … He Calls Us Back”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Bar 4:5-12, 27-29 // Lk 10:17-24

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 10:17-24): “Rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

 

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 in today’s Gospel episode (Lk 10:17-24), 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.”

     

 

B. First Reading (Bar 4:5-12, 27-29): “He who brought disaster upon you will bring you back enduring joy.”

 

In the reading (Bar 4:5-12, 27-29) we hear that through the prophet Baruch, God addresses a message of consolation to Israel in exile. Their present situation is not final. It is true that Jerusalem is like a widow bereft of her children, who have been sent into exile because of their sins. But God tells his people not to fear, assuring them that he who brought these calamities upon them will rescue them and bring them everlasting love. The confession of sins pronounced earlier by a deeply chastised people (which we heard yesterday in the First Reading) simply underlines the compassionate character of a loving God who is ever mindful and forgiving. Hence, the Lord’s invitation for the sinful people is to turn back and serve him with greater determination and thus experience everlasting joy.

 

The following story of mercy and forgiveness in today’s here and now is very consoling (cf. Dale Recinella, “It Is Never Too Late” in 101 Inspirational Stories of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Sr. Patricia Proctor, Spokane: Franciscan Monastery of Saint Clare, 2006, p. 187-189).

 

After many years of general prison ministry, in 1998 I was asked to begin ministry cell-to-cell in Florida’s death row and solitary confinement. Florida has the third largest death row in the U.S., with over 370 men, and has over 2,000 men in long-term solitary confinement in the two prisons at which I serve as a Catholic lay chaplain. On behalf of the Catholic Church, the bishop of Florida, and under the pastoral supervision of my priest and bishop, I go cell-to-cell in ministry to the men inside. (…)

 

I can testify to you that the power of the sacrament of confession and of the Holy Spirit is greater than the darkness of death row, even of the death house.

There was a man who desired to become a Catholic because of the influence of Pope John Paul II. After a year of preparation for entry into the Catholic Church, he was suddenly scheduled for execution. His execution date turned out to be just days after the death of John Paul II. Our Catholic governor even considered delaying the execution out of respect for the pontiff.

 

The morning before his execution, the bishop came to the death house to administer his first confession, his first Communion and his confirmation. This was done with him standing in a narrow cage called a holding cell, with shackles upon his ankles and chains on his wrists.

 

When the bishop pronounced the words of absolution and then of confirmation, his whole body jerked as though he had been jolted by electricity. He even began to fall back against the rear of the cage, in a manner called the resting in the spirit. The guards who were watching were astonished. They said for a moment that he became luminous.

 

The next day, during his last hours in the death house, he told me that John Paul II had visited him during that moment and told him that Jesus would come for him at the moment of his death. Nothing anyone could say could dissuade him from this belief.

 

A few hours before the execution, the warden came down to his cell with a message from the mother of the victim of the crime. She had asked the warden to inform the condemned man that she forgave him and bore him no ill will. The reconciliation offered by the sacrament of confession had been actualized on this side of the great divide between the temporal and the eternal.

 

He died in peace, at one with God.

 

My testimony is this. Nothing – absolutely nothing that any man can say, build or do as an obstacle or a barrier – not even the mountain of concrete, steel and despair that is death row – is able to prevent the power of the sacrament and the Holy Spirit from entering and remaining in the willing human heart.

   

 

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. How do we respond to God’s call to turn back to him and serve with greater determination? Do we trust that the redeeming God will bring us everlasting joy?

 

 

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”.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

***

Loving Father,

we thank you for giving us the courage

to trust in your merciful love.

You want us to go back to you

and serve you with greater determination.

We renounce our evil ways and sinfulness

and we open our hearts to your forgiveness.

Let us rejoice in your forgiveness

and the gift of everlasting joy.

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) //“He will, in saving you, bring you back enduring joy.” (Bar 4:29)

 

      

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. Endeavor to be the “childlike” disciples envisioned by the Gospel. // Pray for those on death row and the most hardened criminals in our society today. Unite your sacrifice and suffering with Jesus for the conversion of souls.

  

 

***

 

 

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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