A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 18, n. 45)

Week 27 in Ordinary Time: October 4-10, 2020

 

 

(The pastoral tool BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD: A LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY & WEEKDAY LITURGY includes a prayerful study of the Sunday liturgy from various perspectives. For the Lectio Divina on the liturgy of the past week: September 27 – October 3, 2020 please go to ARCHIVES Series 18 and click on “Ordinary Week 26”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: October 4-10, 2020.)

 

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October 4, 2020: TWENTY-SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Sings the Song of the Vineyard

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 5:1-7 // Phil 4:6-9 // Mt 21:33-43

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 21:33-43): “He will lease his vineyard to other tenants.”

          

Today’s Gospel parable (Mt 21:33-43) presents the drama of man’s wickedness and God’s faithful and patient love. As a “parable of contention”, it is originally directed against the smugness, vanity and self-seeking of the religious leaders of Israel. The parable of the Lord of the vineyard, for all its ominous content and warning, contains a note of hope. Cardinal Jean Danielou comments: “God’s patience has been strained to its farthest limit in this tragedy of Christ, the Lord of the vineyard’s son, rejected by the tenants, crucified, treated by his own people as a stranger and an outcast. But from the lowest depths arises a sudden hope … The tragedy of Good Friday, when Israel rejected him that was sent, becomes in God’s plan the means whereby the vine planted in Israel was to break out in a new and vigorous growth.”

 

The true vine is Jesus Christ, the son of the Lord of the vineyard. The grace of God bears its plenitude of fruit in him. Jesus saves us from destruction - the harsh destiny of the wicked, abusive tenants in the old vineyard. By his sacrificial obedience to the Father’s saving will, the “Song of the Vineyard” is transformed from a tone of reproach to an exultant song of praise and thanksgiving. United with Christ, the Church exults in the fruitful harvest of “life in the Spirit” that the “new vineyard” produces.

 

The following story gives insight into the drama of the Lord of the vineyard and his unrequited benevolence (cf. M. Adams, “No Charge” in A 3rd Serving of Chicken Soup for the Soul, ed. Jack Canfield, et. al., Deerfield: Health Communications, Inc., 1996, p. 100-101).

 

Our little boy came up to his mother in the kitchen one evening while she was fixing supper, and he handed her a piece of paper that he had been writing on. After his mother dried her hands on an apron, she read it, and this is what it said:

 

For cutting the grass                                                              $5.00

For cleaning up my room this week                                       $1.00

For going to the store for you                                                                .50

Baby-sitting my kid brother while you went shopping              .25

Taking out the garbage                                                          $1.00

For getting a good report card                                              $5.00

For cleaning up and raking the yard                                     $2.00

Total owed                                                                            $14.75

 

Well, I’ll tell you, his mother looked at him standing there expectantly, and boy, could I see the memories flashing through her mind. So she picked up the pen, turned over the paper he’d written on, and this is what she wrote:

 

“For the nine months, I carried you while growing inside me, No charge. For all the nights that I’ve sat up with you, doctored and prayed for you, No Charge. For all the trying times and all the tears that you’ve caused through the years, there’s No Charge. For all the nights that were filled with dread, and for the worries I knew were ahead, No Charge. For the toys, food, clothes, and even wiping your nose, there’s No Charge, Son. And when you add it all up, the full cost of real love is No Charge.”

 

Well, friends, when our son finished reading what his mother had written, there were great big old tears in his eyes, and he looked straight up at his mother and said, “Mom, I sure do love you.”

 

And then he took the pen and in great big letters he wrote: “PAID IN FULL.”

  

 

B. First Reading (Is 5:1-7): “The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel.”

 

This Sunday’s liturgy continues to assure us that the ways of God are just. But it also underlines that the people who are the object of his benevolence are disappointing for they do not always respond to his caring love. In the Old Testament reading (Is 5:1-7) we hear Isaiah’s “Song of the Vineyard” and the sad tones of a disappointed vineyard cultivator who laments the poor quality of the grapes produced at the harvest. His best efforts to produce high quality grapes failed. The “Song of the Vineyard” is a metaphor of God’s unrequited love and goodness for his people. It sums up the whole drama of sacred history: God’s faithful love and the people’s infidelity and negation of that love.

 

The biblical scholar Eugene Maly comments: “God is love, and he has first shown his love for us … While God loves us with an unfathomable love that will never be withdrawn, still that love must be accepted and responded to by us. If there is no response manifested in our lives, then we have made a mockery of God’s love for us … Isaiah’s canticle of the rejected lover is surely to the point. All that the owner did for his vineyard is depicted in aching words to emphasize the tremendous love of God for his people. And yet the vineyard (Israel) brought forth only wild grapes. There was nothing for God to do but punish her.”

 

The following story of the tragic end of Clark gives us an inkling of how unfortunate it is to waste the graces and opportunities showered upon us by God (cf. Mike McGarvin, Papa Mike, Fresno, 2003, p. 102-105)

 

Life at Poverello House is always interesting. You never knew who might be coming through the door. I think it’s safe to say that the majority of homeless people we’ve met had been born into poverty; often the addicts and alcoholics were products of homes in which their parents abused booze and drugs. Sometimes, though, we’d run across someone who had fallen from great heights. Clark showed up somewhere around 1987 or 1988. Although disheveled like a typical homeless person, he possessed a sort of faded elegance. He piqued my curiosity; I didn’t need to strike up a conversation, however, because he buttonholed me and started talking. Once he started, he rarely stopped. Clark claimed that he came from an upper-class Arizona family, that he had hobnobbed with Barry Goldwater and other prominent people, and that he had been C.E.O. of a local hospital. Yeah, sure, I thought. I was shocked to find out it was all true. It got stranger. My wife brought out her birth certificate one day, and there was Clark’s signature. It turned out that he was one of the most successful leaders in the hospital’s history. On top of that, he had been appointed to a special health care commission by then-Governor Ronald Reagan. He had been a hero in the Pacific Theater of World War II, a well-loved commander of a PT boat. He had at one time been a dashing, handsome member of Fresno’s elite, written about in society’s columns.

 

What had happened? As time went on, I got to know his ex-wife and one of his sons. At its simplest level, Clark had a booze problem. When he hit the streets, he was drinking prodigious amounts of alcohol. On an average day, he’d have a fifth or more of hard liquor, as well as several bottles of beer and wine. His drinking had been going on for years, and I don’t know when it started getting out of control. What I do know is that his descent was gradual. After leaving as C.E.O. of the hospital, he had several lesser jobs in the health care industry, each one a step down from the last. He had many friends, often ex-employees, and they cushioned his fall for years. Finally, however, his life was so unmanageable that he hit the skids. (…)

 

Clark continued to live on the streets and drink. Amazingly, he kept going, even though he was now in his eighties and could barely walk because of edema in his ankles. He got around all over town with his shopping cart full of rotting food and junk. His looks and behavior got more bizarre as time went on. (…)

 

He gradually came less and less to Poverello. I got a call from his ex-wife one day; he was in the V.A. Hospital, and didn’t look good. I went up to visit him. It had been a while since I’d seen him, and he couldn’t talk because of all the tubes hooked up to him. It was the first conversation I had with him in which I was able to get a word in edgewise. I talked uninterrupted for a long time; I knew he’d be checking out soon, and I wanted to leave him with some words of comfort. I told him I’d pray for him. He could hear me, and he formed his eyes into a squint, but I’m not sure what he was trying to convey. The next day I got a call – Clark had died. He was a unique, talented man who had once had it all. He left behind broken family members who are still, to this day, trying to make sense of his life.

   

 

C. Second Reading (Phil 4:6-9): “Do these things and the God of peace will be with you.”

 

Saint Paul wants the Christian community to grow into a spiritual “fruitfulness”. By instilling in them the necessity of prayer and the importance of virtues, he wants them to relish God’s gift of peace, a fruit of the Spirit. Harold Buetow comments on today’s Second Reading (Phil 4:6-9): “Paul presents advice on how to achieve the peace of God from the God of peace. His essential advice is prayer – prayer which should not be a negative flight from anxiety, but positive requests which, along with thanksgiving, apply to everything, tears as well as laughter, anxiety as well as calm. Prayer implies, in addition to gratitude, a perfect submission to the will of God. God is greater than all our troubles and can give us his peace, which is beyond anything we can come up with on our own. For the God of peace to be with us, Paul lists qualities for us to cultivate. … For Paul, those virtues and others all form a single reality: life in Christ.”

 

Still in view of letting the faithful experience God’s peace, Saint Paul exhorts the community of believers to put into practice what they have learned and received; the words they have heard from him and the actions they have seen in him. The following story, “Irish Blessing”, circulated through the Internet, gives us an idea of the things we must do and of the fruitfulness that our actions and attitude must produce in order that the peace of God may reign in the world.

 

His name was Fleming, and he was a poor Scottish farmer. One day, while trying to make a living for his family, he heard a cry for help coming from a nearby bog. He dropped his tools and ran to the bog. There mired to his waist in black muck, was a terrified boy, screaming and struggling to free himself. Farmer Fleming saved the lad from what could have been a slow and terrifying death.

 

The next day, a fancy carriage pulled up to the Scotsman’s sparse surroundings. An elegantly dressed nobleman stepped out and introduced himself as the father of the boy Farmer Fleming had saved.

 

“I want to repay you”, said the nobleman. “You saved my son’s life.”

 

“No, I can’t accept payment for what I did”, the Scottish farmer replied, waving off the offer. At that moment, the farmer’s own son came to the door of the family hovel.

 

“Is that your son?” the nobleman asked.

 

“Yes”, the farmer replied proudly.

 

“I’ll make you a deal. Let me provide him with the level of education my own son will enjoy. If the lad is anything like the father, he’ll no doubt grow to be a man we both will be proud of.” And that he did.

 

Farmer Fleming’s son attended the very best schools and, in time, graduated from St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London, and went on to become known throughout the world as the noted Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of Penicillin.

 

Years afterward, the same nobleman’s son who was saved from the bog was stricken with pneumonia. What saved his life this time? Penicillin.

 

The name of the nobleman? Lord Randolph Churchill

 

His son’s name? Sir Winston Churchill.

 

 

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

 

1. What are the painful and poignant themes in Isaiah’s “Song of the Vineyard”? What is tragic about being an “unfruitful vine”? What is the personal lesson of the “Song of the Vineyard” for us? How do we respond to the challenge to be a “fruitful vine”?

 

2. Why is the Gospel of today an echo of Isaiah’s “Song of the Vineyard”? Why is God’s disappointment intense with regards to the chosen people he loves? How is the mystery of divine expectation fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the fruitful vine?

 

3. Do we overcome anxiety by making our requests known to God in prayer and petition, and with a spirit of thanksgiving? Do we steep our minds and hearts in all things that are noble and good that the peace of Christ may dwell in us?

 

 

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

 

Almighty God,

you are the vineyard owner and the vine dresser.

Forgive us for being unresponsive to your compassionate care

and for producing wild grapes on lovingly-tended vines.

Bring us back to you and renew us.

Engraft us into the holy and fruitful vine Jesus Christ.

United with him, may we bear abundant fruit.

Fill us with whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely and gracious;

with what is good and worthy of praise.

We adore you and love 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.

 

 “The kingdom of God will be given to a people that will produce its fruit.” (Mt 21:43)

 

 

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

 

Pray that today’s Christian disciples may be fruitful in producing acts of charity, justice and goodness. Endeavor to spend quiet moments of prayer with Jesus in his sacred Word and the Eucharist. Let the grace of the Lord God help you translate his holy inspiration into action to alleviate the sufferings of the world’s poor and let them experience God’s gift of peace.

 

 

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October 5, 2020: MONDAY – WEEKDAY (27); BLESSED FRANCIS XAVIER SEELOS, Priest (USA)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Be a Neighbor … He Reveals Himself to Paul the Apostle”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Gal 1:6-12 // Lk 10:25-37

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 10:25-37): “Who is my neighbor?”

 

Tim Montanari’s story, “Saving Melissa” in Guideposts magazine (July 2004) is notable in that it shows what it means to be a neighbor to one in need. Tim, a police officer in charge of the anti-vice squad at St. Petersburg, Florida, met Melissa Collora, the sweet little girl he used to babysit, after thirteen years as a crack-addicted prostitute, caught in a drug deal in an alley of a notorious neighborhood. Tim remembered being at the Collora’s home on steamy summer days when he was 15 or so, playing football in the yard with her brothers. Melissa, about three, would sit on the swing-set clutching her teddy bear, watching them with big brown eyes, so sweet and innocent. When she was eight, Mr. Collora died and her mother remarried. Melissa’s stepfather abused her. In 1993 her mother committed suicide. Melissa went to live with relatives outside New York City, where she discovered crack cocaine and life on the street. Tim, a man of faith who tries to see the best in people, made every effort to help Melissa, to no avail. “That girl’s a lost cause,” the officers in his squad said. “Why do you keep trying?” One day, Melissa was ready for a change and appealed to him for help. Tim’s court testimony on her behalf was instrumental in having Melissa’s imminent ten-year sentence at a state prison commuted to treatment at the Walter Hoving Home in New York. Now Melissa is doing well and recovering. Tim Montanari asserted, “What I did for her wasn’t much, but I think it was the best thing I could have done.”

 

            The Gospel reading on the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:25-37), which is set in the context of Jesus’ paschal journey to the cross, underlines an important element of Christian discipleship: love of neighbor. The parable of the Good Samaritan delineates the Christian exigency of active service. Together with the story of the two pious disciples, Martha and Mary (Lk 10:38-42) on the pre-eminence of listening to the word of Jesus, the parable of the Good Samaritan helps depict Luke’s comprehensive image of discipleship as love of Jesus present in our neighbor (active charity) and in his living Word (contemplative prayer).

 

The parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us that the concept of “neighbor” is not a matter of blood ties, nationality, or religious communion. There is no theoretical definition of neighbor or practical limits to those whom we could consider a neighbor. Our “neighbor” is the one to whom we draw near because he or she is in need of our help and evokes our compassion. Harold Buetow, moreover, sees in this thought-provoking parable a new definition of neighbor: “In the Book of Leviticus, the neighbor was one to be loved, such as a countryman. The new definition of neighbor is one who loves.”

 

Furthermore, Luke’s parable helps us to focus on the figure of Christ, our ultimate “neighbor”. The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 6, p. 129, write: “He is the Good Samaritan par excellence, beyond all comparison. No one has been or will ever be so completely the neighbor of each person. He did not encounter them by chance on the road. He voluntarily came to seek them, he, the Word of God who has taken flesh. He not only did everything for them, but he handed himself over for them; he died and rose that they might have everlasting life.”

 

 

B. First Reading (Gal 1:6-12): “The Gospel preached by me is not of human origin but through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”

 

Today we begin the semi-continuous reading of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. The recipients of this letter are the predominantly Gentile converts in north Galatia who are of Indo-Aryan origin and related to the Celts. Paul writes the letter around 54-55 A.D. from Ephesus during his 3rd missionary journey. The dominant motif of the letter is: salvation through Christ according to the Father’s plan. Paul opposes all those who refute or jeopardize this reality.

 

In today’s reading (Gal 1:6-12), after greeting the Galatians, Paul does not make an act of thanksgiving as he often does in his letters, but goes directly to the point. He berates them for allowing themselves to the influenced so quickly and easily by those who have distorted the Gospel. The culprits are the “Judaizers”, that is, Christians who believe and insist that converts to Christianity should also observe Jewish practices, such as circumcision and dietary restrictions. The situation is so serious that he condemns anyone who perverts the Gospel proclaimed by him. The troublemaking “Judaizers” have likewise challenged Paul’s authority as an “apostle” on the grounds that his commission did not come from Christ personally. Moreover, they have also accused him of opportunism.

 

Thus Saint Paul promptly defends his position as an apostle. He contends that his authoritative commission comes from the Risen Lord himself. He asserts: “The Gospel I preach is not of human origin. I did not receive it from anyone, nor did anyone teach it to me. It was Jesus Christ himself who revealed it to me.” For Paul, there is no other good news except the Gospel of salvation in Christ that he proclaims. His open attitude towards non-Jews is not currying favor nor to be interpreted as opportunism. He is simply a servant following the divine will.

 

The following story illustrates in a humorous vein the foolish stance of the gullible Galatians (cf. Anthony De Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations, New York: Image Books, 1988, p. 70).

 

A Guru promised a scholar a revelation of greater consequence than anything contained in the scriptures. When the scholar eagerly asked for it, the Guru said, “Go out into the rain and raise your head and arms heavenward. That will bring you to the first revelation.”

 

The next day, the scholar came to report: “I followed your advice and water flowed down my neck. And I felt like a perfect fool.”

 

“Well”, said the Guru, “for the first day that’s quite a revelation, isn’t it?”

 

 

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

 

1. Did we ever ask the Divine Master the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” If yes, in what spirit or attitude did we pose that question? Are we truly neighbors to those in need? Do we respond to them with compassion? Do we trust that Jesus is the Good Samaritan par excellence and our true neighbor? 

 

2. Do we cling to the true meaning of the Gospel or do we allow ourselves to be swayed by false teachings that pervert the spirit of the Gospel? How are we faithful to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ?

 

 

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

 

Jesus Master,

we no longer wish to ask,

“Who is our neighbor?”

But rather, we examine our heart and ask,

“Are we neighbors to those in need?” 

You are the Good Samaritan, our ultimate neighbor.

With you living in us and we living in you,

may we incarnate your love

and serve those in need.

Give us the grace to perceive and to live out

the true spirit of the Gospel you have share with us.

We love you and adore you, now and forever.

Amen.

  

 

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

 

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

 

           “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Lk 9:23) // “The Gospel came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Gal 1:12)

 

  

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

 

Pray for all of our neighbors in need of love and compassion. By your kind words and deeds be a Good Samaritan and a true neighbor to those in need. At Mass, pay particular attention to the proclamation of the lectionary text from the Galatians.

 

 

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October 6, 2020: TUESDAY – SAINT BRUNO, Priest

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Welcome His Word … Saint Paul Proclaims His Gospel to the Gentiles”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Gal 1:13-24 // Lk 10:38-42

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 10:38-42): “Martha welcomed him into her house. Mary has chosen the better part.”

 

One thing I have in common with Sr. Mary Adele Tozzi, now deceased, is a love for pasta. One day as we were enjoying a delicious serving of spaghetti cooked “al dente” and topped with dense tomato sauce and grated Parmesan cheese, she narrated a modern version of the Lord’s visit to Martha and Mary.

 

Jesus entered a village where a woman named Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening attentively to his words. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord replied, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. A plate of pasta and a glass of wine will do.”

 

 

           We hear in today’s Gospel (Lk 10:38-42) that in the course of his paschal journey to Jerusalem, Jesus stops in Bethany to rest in the home of Martha and Mary. They receive him with solicitude and hospitality. Martha’s type of hospitality, however, is full of anxiety and her concern misdirected. She is more concerned with the serving than the one served. Hence, Martha’s misguided hospitality provokes a good-natured reproach from Jesus. He invites her to sort out her priorities and examine her concerns. Jesus wants her to set aside the anxieties of a fretful hostess bent on preparing a perfect meal. It is important advice given by the Divine Master journeying toward the Easter glory. Martha’s desire to prepare a perfect meal and her anxiety for the “details of hospitality” detract from what really matters: to listen to Jesus, the life-giving Word.

   

            In the context of the total paschal event in which Jesus becomes the Bread broken and shared for the life of the world, we can perceive that the true host in the Bethany home is Jesus himself. He breaks the bread of the living Word for Mary, whose spiritual hunger is satisfied as she peacefully sits beside the Lord at his feet, listening to him speak. As the host of the spiritual feast, Jesus also wants the hardworking Martha to be nourished by the bread of the Word. He seeks from her the hospitality that really matters – the one that her sister lavishes upon him. Indeed, Mary of Bethany is an image of a true disciple. She chooses the better part - the primary one - to listen to the Lord’s saving Word in order to act upon it.

 

 

B. First Reading (Gal 1:13-24): “God was pleased to reveal his Son to me so that I might proclaim him to the Gentiles.”

 

The reading (Gal 1:13-24) is a personal account of Paul’s conversion, vocation and mission. He narrates to the Galatians that from a bold persecutor of “the church of God”, he was chosen by the gracious God to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. He reminds the Galatians that he was ultra-devoted to the Jewish religion and traditions. But God in his grace destined him even before he was born to be his servant. God graciously revealed his Son to him so that he might proclaim him to the nations. Paul’s response to God’s call is immediate, radical and intense. Because of his radical “conversion”, the persecuted communities of Judea rejoice. Although it is God himself who chose him for a mission to the nations, Paul sought contact with other apostles as well. Indeed, Paul wants to prove to the Galatians that his mission of evangelization is legitimate in the eyes of God and in the minds of the Church authorities in Jerusalem.

 

The following modern-day account gives insight into Saint Paul’s experience of radical conversion (cf. Elizabeth Sherrill in Guideposts 2014, p. 373).

 

Mitsuo Fuchida, Japanese Commander: I flew to Japan to meet a man I’d hated for thirty years – the commander who led the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor.

 

Mitsuo Fuchida, a small, erect man of seventy-two, met me at my hotel in Kyoto. As a translator repeated his words, I saw a boy dreaming of serving his divine emperor by driving Western colonial powers out of Asia. “When we lost the war, most of my officers committed suicide. But I had a wife and children.” He moved them to a farm where, as he worked the fields, news of the war crimes trials in Tokyo came over the radio. “It was then I learned about atrocities in our prisoner-of-war camps.” In his eyes, I read the horror and disillusionment of this patriotic man.

 

It was in a train station that someone handed him a leaflet written by an American ex-prisoner of war. “But … the American wrote that he loved us! The Japanese who’d tortured him!” This was because, the leaflet said, Jesus did.

 

Fuchida recognized that name: Jesus was one of the gods of the enemy. Fuchida purchased a Bible and, alone in the farmhouse, discovered there were not many gods but One, Who loved all people; Who came to earth not as an emperor but a common workingman; Who said as he was tortured and killed, “Father, forgive them, for they know what they do.”

 

“Why then … this Jesus had prayed for me too!” Tears trembled in his eyes as he said this. By now I was fighting tears too.

 

To his countrymen, conversion made him a traitor; he and his wife received death threats. “We do not care. It is better to die and be with Jesus.”

 

 

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

 

1. Are we hospitable? Why or why not? In what ways are we Martha? In what ways are we Mary? Is our Christian discipleship characterized by receptivity and true listening to the Word of God? 

 

2. How does Paul’s experience of conversion impact us? Do we believe that we too have been set apart by God for a particular mission in his compassionate saving plan?

 

 

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

(Adapted from a prayer composed by Blessed Alberione for the PDDM Sisters)

 

Come, Jesus Master,

deign to accept the hospitality

we offer you in our heart.

We want to prepare for you

the comfort and the reparation,

which you found in Bethany,

with your two loving disciples, Martha and Mary.

In the joy of welcoming you,

we pray that you may grant to us in our contemplative life

that intimacy which Mary enjoyed,

and the acceptance of our active life

in the spirit of the faithful and hard-working Martha.

Cherish and sanctify us,

as you loved and sanctified the family of Bethany.

In the friendly hospitality of that house

you spent your last days on earth,

preparing for us the gifts of the Eucharist,

of the priesthood,

of your own life.

Jesus Master, Way and Truth, and Life,

grant that we may correspond to this great love

by sanctifying our apostolic services

for the glory of God and the salvation of humanity.

You live and reign forever and ever.

Amen.

 

***

(Cf. Opening Prayer, Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul)

God our Father,

you taught the Gospel to all the world

through the preaching of Paul your apostle.

May we who celebrate his conversion to the faith

follow him in bearing witness to your truth.

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.

 

 

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.

 

“Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken away from her.” (Lk 10:42) // “God set me apart and called me through his grace.” (Gal 1:15)

 

 

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

 

Thank the Lord for the gift of himself and his life-giving Word. Endeavor to translate the Word you have received into your daily living. Continue to meditate on the conversion and mission of Saint Paul the Apostle and let his personal experience impact your life.

 

 

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October 7, 2020: WEDNESDAY – OUR LADY OF THE ROSARY

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Pray … His Grace Is Bestowed Upon Saint Paul”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Gal 2:1-2, 7-14 // Lk 11:1-4

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 11:1-4): “Lord, teach us to pray.”

 

Today’s Gospel (Lk 11:1-4) presents Jesus praying in a certain place. When he had finished, one of his disciples asks, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” It is the custom of a rabbi to teach his disciples to pray and John the Baptist has done it. Jesus, the Divine Master, is happy to do it. Prayer is turning the heart toward God. When we pray we enter into a living relationship with God. The Christian disciples intuit that right relationship to the Father and to Jesus can be sought in prayer.

 

In response to their legitimate request, Jesus teaches his disciples the Lord’s Prayer. It begins with a distinctive address for God – “Abba” – which means “Father”. “Abba” is a term of endearment used by Jewish children for their fathers. The word expresses the most intimate and personal relationship we could imagine of God. In the Jewish scriptures, “Abba” contains also something of what the word “Mother” signifies to us: tenderness, mercy and love. Jesus teaches us to pray first for the glorification of God’s name on earth (“Hallowed be your name”) and the full establishment of his kingdom (“Your kingdom come”). Then he shows us how to present to God our needs – our need for his continual protection and providence day by day and our need for his strength in the “final test”, so as not to succumb to temptation. Jesus underlines, moreover, that our petition for divine forgiveness is deeply linked to our resolve to forgive everyone in debt to us.

 

The following story illustrates the power of the Lord’s Prayer (cf. Helen Tutt, “A Gentle Prompt” in Guideposts, September 2012, p. 39).

 

It was nearly midnight. The halls of the hospital were quiet as I started my nursing shift. I flipped through the dayshift report to see which of the patients I would be handling as the charge nurse that night. When I got to one name on the list I froze. Mrs. C. Jackson. It had been years since I heard her name, but I had never forgotten it.

 

Mrs. Jackson taught second grade in our small Texan town. To my shy, sensitive daughter, Dana, she was a tyrant. Dana had always been a timid little girl. In a group of strangers she could usually be found hiding behind my skirt. But Mrs. Jackson had no patience for shyness. Often when Dana got home from school she would collapse right into my arms, sobbing over some harsh words from her elderly teacher. By the end of the year I disliked Mrs. Jackson just as much as Dana did.

 

But Mrs. Jackson was my patient now. I was determined to give her the same care I gave everyone else. But as I made my way to her room, all of my old anger came back, worse than ever. What kind of care did Mrs. Jackson ever show Dana? I thought. I stopped outside her door and put a smile on my face. I would show Mrs. Jackson the caring respect I gave to all of my patients, but I certainly wouldn’t have to feel it!

 

I pushed open the door. Is that really Mrs. Jackson? I wondered. The woman in the bed was so tiny and frail, nothing like the ogre in my memories. I was shocked at the change in her. She had frightened my little girl so much – now she looked completely helpless. Moving to her side, I heard her softly speaking. “And forgive us our …” she whispered. “And forgive us our …” Her forehead creased in frustration. She struggled to remember the words, but remained stuck on the same line.

 

Instinctively I took both of her hands in mine. “And forgive us our trespasses”, I said. “As we forgive those who trespass against us.” We finished the prayer together. Mrs. Jackson lay back into her pillows. I felt lighter too. My anger and bitterness was gone, carried off with the words I had just spoken. I hadn’t realized how heavy a burden I had carried until God took it away with a simple prayer.

 

 

B. First Reading (Gal 2:1-2, 7-14): “They recognized the grace bestowed upon me.”

 

In today’s First Reading (Gal 2:1-2, 7-14), Saint Paul continues his personal account to the Galatians. Prompted by God and accompanied by Barnabas and Titus, Paul goes back to Jerusalem to confer with Cephas/Peter and other Church leaders fourteen years after his previous visit. In a private meeting with them, he explains the Gospel message that he proclaims to the Gentiles. The leaders recognize that God has given him the task of preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles, just as he has given Peter the task of preaching the Gospel to the Jews. James, Peter and John acknowledge the grace that God has bestowed upon Paul. They shake hands with him and Barnabas as a sign that they are partners in the Gospel. The leaders in Jerusalem do not make any requirement regarding following Jewish prescriptions. All they ask is that the needy in their group should be remembered, which is exactly what Paul is eager to do. Indeed, solidarity with the poor is a mark of new life in Christ.

 

Paul accomplishes his objective in Jerusalem, but not all difficulties are resolved.  While visiting Antioch, Peter succumbs to the influence of Judaizers and acts in a way that contradicts the universal meaning of the Gospel. Paul rebukes Peter who is clearly wrong. Thus Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, upholds that salvation won through the mediation of Jesus Christ is for all nations. Christians are not required to follow the Mosaic law on circumcision and dietary practices. In order to be saved one does not need to become a “Jew”.

 

The following story gives insight into Paul’s difficult endeavor to let Christian disciples understand the universal meaning of the Gospel of salvation (cf. Anthony De Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations, New York: Image Books, 1988, p. 74-75).

 

An ancient philosopher, dead for many centuries was told that his teachings were being misrepresented by his representatives. Being a compassionate and truth loving individual, he managed, after much effort, to get the grace to come back to earth for a few days.

 

It took him several days to convince his successors of his identity. Once that was established, they promptly lost interest in what he had to say and begged him to disclose to them the secret of coming back to life from the grave.

 

It was only after considerable exertion that he finally convinced them that there was no way he could impart this secret to them, and told them that it was infinitely more important for the good of humanity that they restore his teaching to its original purity.

 

A futile task! What they said to him was: “Don’t you see that what is important is not what you taught but our interpretation of what you taught? After all, you are only a bird of passage, whereas we reside here permanently.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we treasure the Lord’s gift of prayer and do we allow the power of the Lord’s Prayer to transform our life?

 

2. Like Saint Paul do we realize that God is at work in us by his power and that his grace has been bestowed upon us for a particular mission in God’s saving plan?

 

 

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

 

Father,

hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come.

Give us each day our daily bread

and forgive us our sins

for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,

and do not subject us to the final test.

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.

 

“Lord, teach us to pray.” (Lk 11:1) // “They recognized the grace bestowed upon me. “ (Gal 2:9).

 

 

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

 

Thank Jesus for teaching us to pray the Lord’s Prayer and make a conscious effort to translate into life the contents of this prayer. Be deeply aware of the grace bestowed upon you by the Risen Lord for the service of his Gospel of salvation to all nations.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

October 8, 2020: THURSDAY – WEEKDAY (27)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us Persevering and Trusting Prayer … He Bestows Upon Us the Spirit”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Gal 3:1-5 // Lk 11:5-13

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 11:5-13): “Ask and you will receive.”

 

In today’s Gospel (Lk 11:5-13), Jesus Master exhorts us to persevere in prayer and to trust that our prayer to the “Abba” is answered. In the parable of the Friend at Midnight, he tells us that a homeowner locked in for the night and already in bed with his children, obliges to give loaves of bread to an imploring and persistent friend. Through this parable Jesus teaches us to humbly present our needs to God. In contrast to the “sleeping friend” inconvenienced by a midnight request, our Father in heaven never sleeps and is ever ready to help us. God does not have to be cajoled into giving us what we need, but it is fitting that we acknowledge intensely our needfulness for his grace. The exaggerated case of a father giving his children snakes or scorpions drives home the absurdity of thinking of the heavenly Father as harsh and cruel whenever our prayers are not answered. God always responds to our prayers in ways that are best for us, though not always according to our expectation or liking. The loving God wants the best for us - to the point of bestowing upon us the Holy Spirit, his ultimate blessing. Jesus thus encourages us: “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

 

Mother Angelica of EWTN gives insight into the meaning of persevering and trusting prayer (cf. Mother Angelica with Christine Allison, “Mother Angelica’s Answers, Not Promises”, New York: Pocket Books, 1987, p. 102-104).

 

There is such a thing as a persevering prayer, and I want to mention it now so that you can get your head out of “gimme” mentality with God. I’m not saying, “Don’t ask him for things”. I’m simply saying that you might need to ask and ask and ask, and that this might be His way of drawing you closer to Him or of building your faith or of increasing your holiness.

 

A woman from Louisiana called the live show one evening when our guest was Sister Breige McKenna, who has a healing ministry. The woman had an eleven-year-old boy who was paralyzed from the neck down. “For five years I have prayed for his healing, Mother, and I’ve asked for the courage to stick with it. I’ve received more strength than I ever knew was possible, and I know and believe in my heart that my son is a perfect human being. But should I keep praying for his recovery?”

 

Sister Breige answered with a story. She told the woman about a family of seven from the Midwest. Their youngest child was a little boy who had a brain tumor. In her beautiful Irish accent, she explained, “The doctors had thrown up their hands. ‘No hope. No hope,’ they said. But the family continued to pray for the boy’s recovery. “Every night before bed they would gather in Tommy’s room and pray for him together. Two years passed, and the boy grew worse. ‘God’s made up His mind’, the father said, and he stopped praying completely. But the mother and the children persevered. Slowly, Tommy started showing improvement. Day by day, he started to get better. And today, he is as normal and healthy a child as you have ever seen. It was the father who told me this story”, Sister Breige continued. “’If Tommy had been healed instantly’, he said, ‘the other children would never have known about the power of prayer and the need for sticking with it. And neither would I.’”

 

God permitted this child’s condition only because He knew that this family – all seven of them – would be transformed by it. So always keep praying for your needs no matter what. Never, ever stop asking God for His intervention and His mercy. (…)

 

We all have worries and concerns about ourselves and other people. When there is pain, especially another person’s pain, we want a resolution immediately, and we see only one course of acceptable action. “Take the pain away.” “Help me find a job.” “Bring my wife back.” “Heal my son’s drug problem.” But God is answering your prayer for this resolution in many ways, through many voices and even through Silence. Listen to Him. His answer may not be the answer you want or expect right now, but He is telling you something at this very moment. Open your heart to Him and let Him in.

 

 

B. First Reading (Gal 3:1-5): “Did you receive the Spirit from works of the law or from faith in what you heard?”

 

In today’s First Reading (Gal 3:1-5), Saint Paul continues his efforts to make the Galatians see the absurdity of going backward after the experience of “new life” in the Spirit. By a series of rhetorical questions, the apostle wants them to reflect on their past and present lives. The Galatians have already been justified by faith and blessed by God; and all of that independently of the Law. Having received the Gospel of Jesus, the crucified Messiah, they received the Spirit, experienced great things and even performed miracles. Has that “experience” come from legal observance or from faith? The only way Paul can understand how they could turn against their own experience is that they must have been bewitched. The Galatians are indeed foolish to exchange the experience of new life in the Spirit by allowing themselves to be subjugated by the “law of the flesh”, a direct allusion to circumcision.

 

The following story gives insight into the absurdity that the “foolish Galatians” manifest by succumbing to the influence of the “Judaizers” - those who believe that Gentile converts should observe the Mosaic law (cf. Anthony De Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations, New York: Image Books, 1988, p. 66).

 

“What a pretty baby you have there!”

 

“This is nothing! You should see his photographs!”

 

Words (and concepts) are indicators, not reflections of reality. But, as the mystics of the East declare, “When the Sage points to the moon, all that the idiot sees is the finger!”

 

 

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

 

1. Do we respond positively to Jesus’ teaching on persevering and trusting prayer? What is our reaction when our prayers do not seem to be answered?

 

2. Do we allow ourselves to be swayed by false teachings? Are we like the “foolish Galatians” who are absurd in embracing the enslaving message of false teachers?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

we thank you for teaching us

persevering and trusting prayer.

Even when our prayers seem unheeded,

we desire to persevere in them.

We trust in you for you act in ways that will be best for us

and for our greater good.

Help us never to reject our “new life” in the Spirit,

the ultimate blessing.

You are our loving Savior, 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.

 

            “For everyone who asks receives.” (Lk 11:10) // “Did you receive the Spirit from works of the law, or from faith in what you have heard?” (Gal 3:2)

  

 

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

 

Today be very conscious of the power of persevering and trusting prayer and of God’s awesome response to our prayer. Carry out a ministry of intercession for the people around you and for today’s fragmented society. Pray for the grace not to be bewitched or seduced by false teachings.

 

 

 

*** *** ***

 

 

October 9, 2020: FRIDAY – WEEKDAY (27)

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Exorcises by the Finger of God … He Fulfills Abraham’s Faith”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Gal 3:7-14 // Lk 11:15-26

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 11:15-26): “If it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.”

 

In today’s Gospel episode (Lk 11:15-26), Jesus drives out a demon from a mute man and cures him of his affliction. But his compassionate act is perceived very negatively. Some accuse him of exorcising through the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons. Others ask for a further sign to make them believe. Jesus argues that Beelzebul is not so foolish as to allow “infighting” and self-destruction. But rather, the Lord Jesus routs out demons by “the finger of God” and brings about the “in-breaking” of God’s kingdom. Jesus exorcises demons victoriously. He is the “stronger one” who vanquishes the forces of evil. He is the mighty one who deserves our loyalty. With regards to our relation with Jesus, there is no middle ground. Those who are not for him are against him and they scatter. The example of the wandering unclean spirit that brings back seven more wicked spirits to the place originally possessed reinforces the need to commit wholeheartedly to Jesus. If the place vacated by the demon is not incorporated into the kingdom of God, it is still Beelzebul’s and even more susceptible to his domination. To be totally free from “inner demons” we need to belong wholeheartedly to Jesus, who reigns over us.

 

Mike McGarvin (“Papa Mike”) of the Poverello House in Fresno gives insight into the human struggle to be free from “inner demons” (cf. Poverello News, August 2011, p.1-2).

 

When a friend handed me an out-of-print book entitled Skid Row Beat, by Loren Christensen, my curiosity was piqued. When my friend explained the author was an ex-cop and a black belt in three martial arts, I was pretty much sold. I started reading and couldn’t put it down. I’m not necessarily recommending the book; it’s definitely not for the faint-of-heart. The author worked a police beat in Portland’s extensive skid-row district for many years. As a rookie policeman, he was shocked by what he saw. In later years as a veteran on the force he was more callused. However, his book makes it clear that he was able to grasp the humanity behind the debris and see humor in some of the revolting situations. (…)

 

Christensen divided his book into four sections: Sex, Violence, Excretions and Characters. Those categories sum up what I’ve seen down here over the course of almost forty years. Homelessness isn’t pretty, and I’ve gagged many times at the sights and smells I’ve encountered.

 

There’s only one category that I think the author omitted: Jesus. My entry into Christianity was through the Franciscan perspective. My early training in San Francisco encouraged me to believe that in every food line on skid row, Jesus is mysteriously present.

 

As Poverello grew, I came into contact with more and more Protestant and Evangelical volunteers. Like the Franciscans, these people believed that Christ was out there among the prostitutes, winos and addicts, but they also were confident about Jesus changing the hearts and minds of people who seemed beyond hope. Some of them were disappointed when they faced the stubborn reality of hopeless resistance to change; others hung in there and nurtured along some miracles.

 

Finally, I began meeting people from Twelve-Step programs who had faith in a Higher Power. For some of them, that Power was Christ. A.A. (Alcoholics Anonymous) and N.A. (Narcotics Anonymous) are spiritual programs, and have been responsible for helping countless addicts find recovery, against all odds. Many people who were down and out at Poverello House now have homes, jobs, and happy, purposeful lives thanks to Twelve Step programs. (…)

 

The Catholics, Protestants and people in A.A. and N.A. changed how I viewed the human destruction of homelessness. Believe me, the ugliness is real, and it’s something that repels many people with good intentions. However, beyond the ugliness, the deeper reality is spiritual. The spiritual reality helps me to realize that each person walking into Poverello House, no matter how physically degraded or emotionally tortured, is a precious child of God. Without that belief, I doubt that I’d have the heart to continue showing up here each day.

 

 

B. First Reading (Gal 3:7-14): “Those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham who had faith.”

 

In today’s First Reading (Gal 3:7-14), Saint Paul continues his argument against the “Judaizers” by citing the Scriptures. Paul has perceived, through the concrete experience of life, the futility of the Law petrified in traditions and institutions, but no longer in the hearts. Jesus has been condemned by the Law to die on the cross and was considered “accursed”. Paul himself in his zeal for the Law persecuted innocent people and approved the stoning of Stephen. Hence, for Paul, salvation and justification cannot come from the Law.

 

The apostle now presents the story of Abraham to illustrate that the righteousness of the patriarch consists in faith and not in the works of the Law. The true descendants of Abraham are those who, like him, live by faith, and not simply those bound to him by racial ties. All nations will be blessed in him. Those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham. Paul likewise underlines the “curse” that the Law imposes – the state of slavery, the fear and dehumanization experienced by those who try to observe the detailed legal prescriptions. By dying on the cross, Jesus Christ frees us from the “curse” of the Law. In Christ, the promise of God to Abraham is fulfilled, namely that the nations will be blessed. Through faith in Christ, we receive the Spirit promised by God.

 

Two stories here follow: one to illustrate “non-faith” (cf. Anthony De Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations, New York: Image Books, 1988, p. 62-63) and the other “living faith”, from a message circulated on the Internet.

 

An atheist fell off a cliff. As he stumbled downward, he caught hold of the branch of a small tree. There he hung between heaven above and the rocks a thousand feet below, knowing he wasn’t going to be able to hold on much longer.

 

Then an idea came to him. “God!” he shouted with all his might. Silence! No one responded. “God!” he shouted again. “If you exist, save me and I promise I shall believe in you and teach others to believe.”

 

Silence again! Then he almost let go of the branch in shock as he heard a mighty Voice booming across the canyon. “That’s what they all say when they are in trouble.”

 

“No, God, no!” he shouted out, more hopeful now. “I am not like the others. Why, I have already begun to believe; don’t you see, having heard your Voice for myself. Now all you have to do is save me and I shall proclaim your name to the ends of the earth.”

 

“Very well”, said the Voice. “I shall save you. Let go of that branch.”

 

“Let go of the branch!” yelled the distraught man. “Do you think I’m crazy?”

 

***

From Carol, “Nativity Group Prayer Circle”, Nativity Church, Burke, VA, posted on October 1, 2014:

 

A friend just got a text message from her brother asking her to shower him and his parish in prayer. He is part of a mission and ISIS has taken over the town they are in today. He said ISIS is systematically going house to house to all the Christians and asking the children to denounce Jesus. He said so far not one child has. And so far all have consequently been killed. But not the parents. The UN has withdrawn and the missionaries are on their own. They are determined to stick it out for the sake of the families - even if it means their own deaths.

 

He is very afraid, has no idea how to even begin ministering to these families who have seen their children martyred. Yet he says he knows God has called him for some reason to be his voice and hands in this place at this time. Even so, he is begging prayers for his courage to live out his vocation in such dire circumstances. And, like the children, accept martyrdom if he is called to do so. She asked me to ask everyone we know to please pray for them. These brave parents instilled such a fervent faith in their children that they chose martyrdom. Please surround them in their loss with your prayers for hope and perseverance.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we trust in the power of Jesus to drive away demons? Do we commit ourselves totally to Jesus and allow him to deliver us from all evil?

 

2. What does it mean to have the faith of Abraham? Do we try to live by that faith in our daily life?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

we thank you for the gift of your Son Jesus Christ

who liberates us from the power of sin and evil.

Let your beloved Son-Savior reign in our hearts

that we may be delivered from all that could harm us.

In Jesus Christ we are victorious

and we rejoice in the glory of his name.

Help us to imitate the faith of Abraham

and let us rejoice in the fulfillment of that faith

through your Son Jesus, who died for us on the cross.

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.

 

“It is by the finger of God that I drive out demons.” (Lk 11:20) // “Those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham who had faith.” (Gal 3:7)

 

 

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

 

Humbly turn to Jesus for deliverance from all that could harm us. Be an instrument of compassion and liberation for those in the bondage of sin and evil. Imitate the faith of Abraham by trying to surrender to the divine saving will every moment of your life.

 

 

*** *** ***

October 10, 2020: SATURDAY – WEEKDAY (27); BVM ON SATURDAY

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Mother Is Greatly Blessed … Through Faith in Him We Become God’s Children”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Gal 3:22-29 // Lk 11:27-28

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 11:27-28): “Blessed is the womb that carried you. Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”

 

In today’s Gospel episode (Lk 11:27-28), in contrast to Jesus’ detractors who hurl indignities upon him, whom they falsely accuse of diabolic connivance, a woman in the crowd esteems him. She indirectly shows her admiration for Jesus by uttering words of praise for his mother. Jesus delights in her praises, but wants to make their meaning complete. Mary is undoubtedly blessed for having carried him in her womb and for nursing him at her breasts. But in the context of Christian discipleship, in which spiritual relationship is above physical relationship, Jesus asserts that those who hear the word of God and observe it are more blessed. Mary is blessed to be his mother, but as the first and true disciple, she is even more blessed for listening to the word of God and acting upon it.

 

We too are blessed to have Mary as our mother. Mary continues to teach us conversion of heart and obedience to God’s saving word. The following story circulated on the Internet shows how Mother Mary aids her children in distress.

 

The Rosary Converts Pompeii from Satanic Influence, Late 1800's

 

Bartolo Longo was born in 1841 to a devout Catholic family. When Bartolo grew up he decided to study law. Naples at that time was undergoing a tremendous spiritual crisis. Paganism and Satanism of all sorts were abounding. Bartolo was not immune to these influences and became a satanic priest, much to the chagrin of his family who tried their hardest to get him to convert.

 

As Satanism began to torment his mind, his family convinced him to make a good confession. Alberto Radente, a saintly Dominican priest, helped lead him back to the Catholic faith and encouraged his devotion to the rosary. Bartolo had a miraculous conversion and in 1870, he became a third order Dominican and chose to live a life in penance for all the terrible sins he had committed against the Church.

 

One day, he nearly succumbed to the sin of despair, feeling that God could never forgive the tremendous sins he had committed against the church.  At that moment he received divine inspiration and remembered the Blessed Virgin’s promise that she would help in all their necessities those who propagate her rosary.

 

He set out to restore the dilapidated chapel at Pompeii and promote the rosary to whoever would listen. Pamphlets about the rosary were distributed to help the people learn to pray this powerful devotion. He tried to find an image of Our Lady of the Rosary worthy of hanging in the chapel, but was only offered a worm-eaten painting with an image that he felt was coarse and not worthy of veneration, however he accepted it from the convent in which it was stored.

 

As Bartolo continued his work of propagating the rosary, the chapel’s membership grew tremendously and many miracles began to be associated with Our Lady of Pompeii. Cures and spiritual conversions occurred due to the devotions through this new shrine. The people pledged their support to have a large church built that would properly honor Our Lady of the Rosary.

 

In 1894, Bartolo and his wife gave the church over to the care of the Vatican. The original image found in the convent was restored for the last time in 1965 and Pope Paul VI crowned the heads of Jesus and Mary with diadems given by the people of Pompeii. On October 26, 1980, Bartolo Longo was beatified by John Paul II who called him “the man of the Madonna” and the “Apostle of the Rosary”.

 

Pray the rosary to receive Our Holy Mother's heavenly aid in saving souls!

 

 

B. First Reading (Gal 3:22-29): “Through faith you are all children of God.”

 

In the First Reading (Gal 3:22-29), Paul explains to the Galatians the meaning of the Law. Like the pedagogue in the ancient times, the Law provided discipline and restraint until the individual reached the age or gains the skill of self-discipline and self-restraint. The Law was in charge until Christ came to justify us with God through faith. Now that the time for faith is here, the Law is no longer in charge. It is through faith that we are all children of God. Saint Paul makes a beautiful assertion that we are baptized into union with Christ and clothed with the life of Christ himself. So fully are we transformed into Christ that there is no longer the difference between Jews and Gentiles, slave and freeman, male and female among us. We are all now one in Christ Jesus. And if we belong to Christ then we are heirs of Abraham and inherit the fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham.

 

Against this Pauline vision, which is yet to be fully realized in the family of nations, the initiative of Pope Francis to gather the Israeli and Palestinian Presidents and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomaios I in the Vatican Gardens on June 8, 2014, to pray for peace brings us hope. The following are excerpts from the prayers for peace that representatives of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities recited in that encounter (cf. L’Osservatore Romano, June 13, 2014, p. 8).

 

Jewish Community: Lord of Peace, Divine Ruler, to whom peace belongs! Maker of Peace, Creator of all things! May it be Your will to put an end to war and bloodshed in the world, and to spread a great and wonderful peace over the whole world, so that one nation shall not lift a sword against another nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. Help us and save us all.

 

***

Christian Community: Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, harmony; where there is error, truth; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned. And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

 

***

Muslim Community: Praise to God, merciful, compassionate, king, holy, peace, faith, sovereign, precious, mighty, proud, creator, maker, former. O God, You are peace, and peace is from You, and to You peace returns. You are blessed and You are glorified. O Master of splendor and honor, inspire us, O Lord, with peace and reveal to us peace and make us dwellers in the realm of peace, among those who do not live in fear or sorrow.

 

 

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

 

1. What role does Mary carry out in our life? Do we look upon her as truly blessed as the Mother of God and as a true disciple who hears the word of God and keeps it?

 

2. Do we believe that through faith we are all children of God? What do we do to promote the unity of God’s children?

 

 

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

 

O loving Father,

we thank you for Jesus,

your beloved Son and Word made flesh.

We thank you for Mary,

who carried him in her womb

and nursed him at her breasts.

We thank you for her beatitude

as the mother of Jesus and the disciple of the Word.

Help us to imitate Mary

in hearing the Word and acting upon it.

Let Mary guide us in our quest for peace and unity.

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.

 

           “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”  (Lk 11:28) // “Through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:26)

 

 

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

 

Practice daily Bible reading and meditation that, like Mary, we may learn to hear the word of God and observe it. Pray for the unity of God’s children and do what you can to promote interreligious dialogue.

 

***

 

 

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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