A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 15, n. 46)

Week 27 in Ordinary Time: October 8-14, 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: October 1-7, 2017, please go to ARCHIVES Series 15 and click on “Week 26”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: October 8-14, 2017.)

 

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 October 8, 2017: TWENTY-SEVENTH 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 9, 2017: MONDAY – WEEKDAY (27); SAINT DENIS, Bishop, AND COMPANIONS, Martyrs;

SAINT JOHN LEONARDI, Priest

  “JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Be a Neighbor … His Cry of Distress Is Heard”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jon 1:1-2:2, 11 // 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 (Jon 1:1-2:1, 11): “But Jonah made ready to flee away from the Lord.”

 

Today we start reading from the Book of Jonah, which portrays God as a God of love and mercy, who would rather forgive and save even enemies of his people, than punish and destroy them. In the reading (Jon 1:1-2:2, 11), God chooses Jonah to be his prophet to the people of Nineveh, to warn them of their sinfulness. But Jonah makes a desperate attempt to flee from God’s call. The story of his flight is a masterpiece of irony. Jonah confesses that he worships “the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the seas and the dry land”, but why does he escape to Tarshish and believe that Tarshish is far enough to escape from the Lord? When the storm breaks at sea, the sailors pray to their gods but Jonah sleeps. He seems to be humane to the sailors that he is willing to be thrown into the sea to placate the raging waters, but deep in his heart he is far from humane in his attitude to the hated Ninevites, the would-be recipients of his saving mission.

 

Jonah is a reluctant prophet, recalcitrant and a bit silly. But God does not give up on him as he would not give up on the Ninevites. At the Lord’s command a large fish swallows Jonah and he stays inside the whale for “three days and three nights”. It is in the belly of the fish that Jonah comes to his senses, experiencing the despairing situation to the bitter end. According to Saint Augustine, Jonah’s own passion prophesies that of Christ’s death and resurrection. Like Jonah’s supplication from the belly of the whale, Jesus’ cry of distress from the belly of the earth is heard by God. For both of them, their cry of distress becomes a prayer of thanksgiving.

 

The prayer for supplication in the midst of distress does not remain unheeded as the following modern account testifies (cf. Katie Powers, “Running on Faith” in Guideposts, October 2013, p. 60-64).

 

April 15, 2013, 3:00 P.M. MEDICAL Tent A, the Boston Marathon. My fourth year volunteering as a nurse. Our 150-person medical team was busy that afternoon - mostly treating runners with minor injuries and dehydration. I was taking the vitals of a female runner who felt light-headed – a typical post-race complaint. But there was nothing typical about the sound I heard while listening to her heartbeat, Thump, thump, BOOM! A powerful force shook the tent and reverberated through my body.

 

I yanked the stethoscope out of my ears and looked at the TV above my patient’s cot showing live footage from the finish line, about a hundred yards away. Plumes of smoke covered the picture. Probably just a celebratory cannon shot for Patriots’ Day, I thought, turning back to her.

 

BOOM! A thunderous explosion louder than the first rocked the ground beneath us. Sirens wailed. An acrid smell filled the air. I looked at the other volunteers as we struggled to make sense of everything. “Stay calm, and remain with your patients while we figure out what’s going on”, our medical coordinator, John, said over the loudspeaker.

 

Seconds later, I heard the screams of pain. Runners started staggering into the tent covered in blood and soot, their expressions frozen with shock. First responders wheeled in others with gruesome shrapnel wounds and missing limbs. Word spread that the sound we’d heard were bombs. Our first-aid tent was now a trauma unit. (…)

 

John continued to direct us while a trauma doctor relayed instructions to him “We need to prepare for triage”, John said. Patients would be quickly assessed 3, 2, or 1, according to the seriousness of their injuries. The most badly injured ones – the 3s – were sent to the back of the tent, where a handful of ambulances were waiting to transport them to one of the city’s major hospitals. “Stay calm and do what you are trained to do”, he added. “Treat one patient at a time.”

 

A rookie volunteer turned to me, trembling. “I’m a primary-care nurse. I’m not qualified to treat these kinds of injuries”, he said. I knew how he felt. No one could have been prepared for this. “You can do this!” I said, grabbing his face with my hands, willing him not to give up. And, in a way, maybe I was willing myself as well. “We have the supplies we need and we’ll work together to handle anything God sets in front of us.” “Okay, okay”, he said.

 

I didn’t want anyone else to be afraid either. Almost unwittingly, I thrust my hand up and waved it. “Does anyone want to pray?” I called out. “Prayer is powerful! It will give us strength!” Before I knew it, several volunteers had gathered around me. I said the first prayer that came to my mind, the Our Father. But when I came to the line “Give us this day our daily bread”, I quickly changed it to “Give us this day our skills and supplies.” Today, those were our daily bread. And when we got to the part about forgiveness, I found it difficult to say. How could we forgive this atrocious act of terror?

 

I followed the Our Father with a line from the prayer to Saint Michael that I said daily before leaving my house: “Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.”

 

I looked around the tent. The pandemonium ceased as we all sprang into action. We worked together like a well-oiled machine. Then, a man was wheeled past me with two bones protruding from where legs should have been. Blood was everywhere and his face was completely void of color. More people in horrifying shape entered the tent. I repeated the prayer as we worked. “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name …” Others joined in. Over the next two hours I continued praying that prayer with patients and volunteers. Hoping to comfort them and, in turn, comforting myself. I felt God’s presence at every cot. (…)

 

We processed an incredible 97 patients in the first 20 minutes following the explosions. Three people were killed and there were 264 injuries, but no one died in the tent that day. (…)

 

I’ll never understand why tragedies like this happen, why senseless acts of terror occur. But I know who helps us get through them. The One who gives us the strength to rise above fear when we aren’t sure we can …

   

 

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 find ourselves, like Jonah, trying to flee the Lord and his wise and compassionate plan? Do we ask ourselves why we flee from the Lord?

 

 

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.

We love you and adore you, now and forever.

Amen.

 

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O loving God,

forgive us for running away

from your compassionate plan and loving wisdom.

Like the reluctant prophet Jonah,

we are lost in our own prejudices and selfish perceptions.

Bless us with the light of faith.

Let us follow you.

And teach us to speak your word of mercy

to the people in today’s society.

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.

 

 “Who is my neighbor?” (Lk 10:29) //“From the belly of the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord, his God.” (Jon 2:1)

 

 

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. // In distressing situations, let prayers of supplication be lifted up to the Lord, trusting that he will give us the grace and strength we need.

 

 

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October 10, 2017: TUESDAY – WEEKDAY (27)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Welcome His Word …

He Calls Us Turn Away from Evil”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jon 3:1-10 // 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 (Jon 3:1-10): “The Ninevites turned from their evil way and God repented of the evil he had threatened.”

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Jon 3:1-10) is about the mission of the reluctant prophet Jonah to the “doomed” Ninevites. The Benedictine scholar, Irene Nowell, gives us a background: “The Book of Jonah was written in Palestine around the 5th century B.C., when the Jews were still recovering from the Babylonian Exile, a serious threat to their existence … The returning Jews were convinced that they had suffered exile because of their infidelity to God. As a result, they developed an attitude of exclusivity and rigorous observance of the law. They avoided anything that might lead them away from God, such as foreign customs or even foreign wives … The author told this story to an audience that desired to avoid other peoples in order to be faithful to God. The story of Jonah presents the shocking truth that other nations may also be dear to the heart of God. It is a hard truth, conveyed through a powerful story.”

 

Inwardly hoping that the Ninevites would remain in their evil ways, and thus receive their just punishment from God’s wrath, the extremely prejudiced Jonah couches his message as a prophecy of doom: “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed”. He deliberately omits any reference to God’s mercy in his preaching lest those wicked people repent. Spontaneous repentance, however, is the response of the Ninevites to the morbid threat of Jonah. The people of Nineveh believe God’s message, put on sackcloth and turn away from their evil ways. Seeing that they have repented, the merciful God does not inflict upon them the punishment they deserve.

 

The forgiveness that God has shown to the wicked Ninevites is the same gift that we need to offer to those who have offended us. The following story gives us an insight (cf. Marcus Weaver, “A Different Man” in Guideposts, September 2013, p. 52).

 

I sat on my bed with my Bible, trying to tear my eyes off the T-shirt crumpled on a chair beside me. The shirt was stained - with blood. A few weeks earlier, I’d survived one of the worst mass shootings in American history, at the Century movie theaters in Aurora, Colorado. A gunman had burst into a theater and fired dozens of rounds from a shotgun, killing 12 people. I was shot in the shoulder, one of the 58 injured. My friend Rebecca, who’d come with me that night to watch the new Batman movie, was one of the dead.

 

Now my shoulder was healing. My heart was slowly healing. Even my soul seemed to be healing. At least I knew it would heal if I could take some time to pray and collect myself. That’s why I was in my bedroom, clutching my Bible and staring at my T-shirt. I’d kept the shirt as proof I’d survived that nightmare. Somehow, God had saved me.

 

Yes, but saved me for what? My Bible was open to II Corinthians: “For it is God who said, ‘Let light shine out in darkness’.” My bedroom was dark. It was daytime, but I’d pulled the blinds and closed the door. I wanted to be alone. The days after the shooting had been a blur of media interviews, people rushing to help. Somewhere in there I’d said something about forgiving the killer. After that, all anyone wanted to ask was, “Do you forgive him, Marcus? How can you forgive something like that?”

 

I’d become known as the victim who forgave the killer. Inside, I was numb. For some reason, every time I read that passage about light and darkness, I heard something else: “Who do you really need to forgive, Marcus?” That was the question, wasn’t it? I knew forgiveness was the path I should take as a Christian. But James Holmes, the suspect with the dyed orange hair and crazed eyes, wasn’t the only one I needed to forgive. I’d carried my own darkness into that theater. A lifetime’s worth. Who did I need to forgive? I closed my eyes and remembered.

 

My parents weren’t married when I was born. In fact, my dad was engaged to another woman. He married her and walked out of my life. By the time I was old enough to know such things, my mom had married another man, Herbert Weaver. He’d been in the military, then went to work for the finance division of General Motors. He earned a good salary and seemed stable and upright. But Herbert was a monster. After he and Mom had two kids of their own, he treated me like an outcast. The abuse started with yelling. Then came vicious whippings with an extension cord. I was just seven the first time I ran away from home. Herbert always found me and dragged me back. He chained me to my bed. Once, he filled a trash can with concrete and chained me to that. He abused Mom too. We were all terrified of him. (…)

 

The gunman had wounded my body. But all these years later, Hebert Weaver was still tearing away at my soul. He damaged me because I let him. Because, like a wrestler, I refused to let him go.

 

“Do you forgive him, Marcus?” The reporters’ words echoed in my mind. I looked at my shirt. At my Bible. At the light behind the blinds. The silhouette was gone. In its place I saw plain old Herbert Weaver, a man who lashed out at others because he couldn’t face his own torment. His fate was in God’s hands too. I could let him go. I could let God’s light fill the shadow in my soul.

 

I took a breath. I closed my Bible, setting it beside my bloodstained shirt. I opened the blinds; sunlight streamed in. It was a beautiful summer day. I knew it wouldn’t be long before James Holmes had a court date. My phone would ring and the reporters would ask their question again. I knew what my answer would be. And this time, I knew exactly what it meant.

 

 

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. What does the conversion experience of the Ninevites and the Christian disciples tell me? What are its implications?

 

 

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.

 

***

(“For All Who Preach the Gospel” by Henri Nouwen)

Dear Lord,

many people experience our era

as an apocalyptic time full of dangers and threats.

I pray now for all who witness for you in this time –

ministers, priests, and bishops,

men and women who have dedicated their lives to you,

and all those who try to bring the light of the Gospel

into the darkness of this age.

Give them courage, strength, perseverance, and hope;

fill their hearts and minds with knowledge of your presence,

and let them experience your name as their refuge from all dangers.

Most of all, give them the joy of your Spirit,

so that wherever they go and whomever they meet

they will remove the veil of depression, fatalism, and defeatism

and will bring new life to the many who live in fear.

Be with all who bring the Good News into this present darkness.

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) //“When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do with them.” (Jon 3:10)

 

 

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. // Pray for the conversion of sinners that they may renounce what is evil and turn to God in a spirit of repentance. Extend your help and collaboration to the prison ministry and for the priestly vocations.      

 

 

*** *** ***

 

October 11, 2017: WEDNESDAY – WEEKDAY (27); SAINT JOHN XXIII, Pope

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Pray …

He Incarnates the Divine Mercy”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jon 4:1-11 // 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 (Jon 4:1-11): “You are concerned over a plant. And should I not be concerned over Nineveh, the great city?”

 

Today’s First Reading (Jon 4:1-11) underlines the need for the education of Jonah’s heart. Disappointed that the Ninevites have repented and have experienced the clemency of God, Jonah is greatly displeased and angry with God. The indignant prophet feels that the Lord has robbed his life of all meaning by showing mercy, rather than blazing wrath, to the Ninevites, his enemies. Jonah’s misery is senseless and self-inflicted. The irony is that Jonah, an unworthy object of God’s mercy, begrudges that same mercy to others. The person of Jonah is a satire on the narrow-minded Israelites who, despite their long experience of God’s mercy, resent the limitless extent of divine mercy. But God continues to be patient with the sulking Jonah. He uses a gourd plant to teach him the grandeur and universal scope of divine mercy. Jonah is concerned with the plant, which costs him no labor and which he does not cause to exist. Should not God be concerned with Nineveh, the great city, with more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between good and bad, not to mention the many cattle? Should not God have mercy on his creation? The story is open ended. Like Jonah, we are challenged to answer these questions.

 

The following story gives insight into the gracious character of God’s loving mercy (cf. Anne Nolan, “Honor Made Him a Brave Man” in Alive! September  2013, p. 6).

 

Recently I read a marvelous report about a German ace pilot in World War II, Lt. Franz Stigler. On 20th December Stigler, aged 28, spotted a lone Allied bomber returning to England after bombing Bremen, and gave chase. It turned out that the bomber was holed all over by flak and bullets and was down to a single engine. One gunner was dead, the other unconscious and the rest of the 10-man US crew were wounded and in shock.

 

The pilot, 21-year-old Charlie Brown, had worked miracles to get the plane this far, but was losing height fast and would probably not make it back to England. Stigler quickly took in the scene, even spotting crew members huddled together, and eased his finger off the trigger. But instead of just letting the bomber escape, he decided to try and save it and its crew.

 

Up ahead he knew, were antiaircraft batteries along the coast, and they would quickly take down the low-flying airplane. Stigler signaled to Brown to head for neutral Sweden, but his signs were misunderstood and taken as hostile. He now decided to accompany the plane, risking being shot down himself, but gambling that the gunners on the ground would hold fire if they saw his Messerschmitt alongside the enemy. If reported he could also face court martial and execution for treason. Having done all he could, Stigler saluted and headed back to the base, not knowing if the bomber ever made it home.

 

Not till 42 years later, then living in Vancouver, did he learn that Charlie Brown had pulled it off. Retired to Florida, Brown was, in 1985, finally free to tell his story at a veteran’s reunion. For the next five years he tried in vain to trace the Luftwaffe pilot, finally writing his story for a newsletter for German fighter pilots. There Stigler came across it by chance.

 

Only when the two men met did all the pieces of the jigsaw fall into place. From their meeting came a friendship that lasted until both died in 2008. But their story is told in a new book, A Higher Call, by Adam Makos. And what was the “higher call”; why did Stigler not finish off the bomber? Because he saw himself as an honorable man.

 

The first time he went into combat as a young man was with a  much admired officer who told him he might be tempted to fight dirty to survive, but honor was everything. “You follow the rules of war for you, not for your enemy”, said the officer. “You fight by rules to keep your humanity. So you never shoot your enemy if he is floating down on a parachute.” Stigler remembered the lesson. On that day in 1943 he muttered: “I will not have this on my conscience for the rest of my life.”

 

 

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. Do we allow ourselves to be embraced by God’s all-inclusive love and do we strive to imitate his loving mercy that has no barriers or confines?

 

 

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.

 

***

Heavenly Father,

you are a gracious and merciful God,

slow to anger, rich in clemency and loathe to punish.

We have been the object of your loving mercy.

Do not let us begrudge this mercy to others.

Help us to avoid the recalcitrant stance

of the sulking and narrow-minded Jonah.

Let us imitate your love “without frontiers”

and may we rejoice in your all-embracing mercy.

We praise and glorify 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.

 

“Lord, teach us to pray.” (Lk 11:1) //“Have you reason to be angry?” (Jon 4:4)

 

 

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. // When you are tempted to be parochial and when you refuse to be all-inclusive in your love and service of others, call to mind the story of Jonah and the lesson of the gourd plant.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

October 12, 2017: THURSDAY – WEEKDAY (27)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us Persevering and Trusting Prayer … He Teaches Us to Trust in the Lord”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Mal 3:13-20b // 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 (Mal 3:13-20b): “The day is coming, blazing like an oven.”

 

At times, the power of evil seems so overwhelming that even persons of faith began to falter. This is evident in the following account:

 

Archbishop Romero offers her a chair. Marianela prefers to talk standing up. She always comes for others, but this time she comes for herself. Marianela Garcia Vilas, attorney for the tortured and disappeared of El Salvador, does not come this time to ask the archbishop’s solidarity with one of the victims … This time she has something personal to say to him. As mildly as she can, she tells him that the police had kidnapped her, bound, beat, humiliated, stripped her – and they raped her. She tells it without tears or agitation, with her usual calm, but Archbishop Romero has never before heard these vibrations of hatred, echoes of disgust, calls for vengeance. When Marianela finishes, Archbishop Romero, who always gives advice and comfort, is weeping like a child without mother or home. He who always gives assurance, the tranquilized assurance of a neutral God who knows all and embraces all – Archbishop Romero doubts. He weeps and doubts.

 

 

In today’s First Reading (Mal 3:13-20b) is the encouraging message of God’s decisive triumph over the power of evil. The day is coming when all that is evil will be brought to nothing. This is the message of hope addressed by the prophet Malachi to the returned exiles around 450 B.C. Malachi, whose name means “my messenger” or “Yahweh’s messenger”, voices dire threats that will befall the confirmed sinners on judgment day. At the same time, he has words of hope for the just.

 

The liturgical scholar, Adrian Nocent comments: “This text refers to a time of great discouragement for Israel. The exiles have been back home for fifty years, and the Temple has been rebuilt, yet there is great disillusionment. The returning exiles had not been well received; their possessions had been taken by others; they were isolated and poor; there was little concern for them. The city was insufficiently fortified and often subject to raids. All this had serious repercussions on the religious life of the people. They were disillusioned, and their faith was weak; fidelity to the covenant was undermined. The disillusionment is summed up in words that Malachi quotes a little before today’s pericope: It is vain to serve God (3:14). Malachi now endeavors to revive the people’s spirit by telling them that the Day of the Lord is coming. First, the wrath of God will be unleashed against the wicked and the arrogant. They will burn up like straw, and there will be neither root or branch left of them … Fire symbolizes the chastising wrath of God … The second phase of the Lord’s coming will be the appearance of the sun of righteousness, the rays of which bring healing … In this passage the sun symbolizes the powerful intervention of the Lord in defense of the poor and the oppressed … The clear vision of our destiny in God makes illegitimate any kind of morose disillusionment; on the contrary, it should, as in Malachi, rouse our courage and make us vigilant.”

 

In our times, people oppressed and wounded by structuralized violence and injustice can draw hope from Malachi’s words. In them, Bishop Romero’s anguish – and that of many hapless victims in today’s world – finds a fitting answer.

 

The biblical scholar, Eugene Maly explains the impact of the apocalyptic or end-time message: “The underlying conviction of the apocalyptic authors was not that the end was coming now, but that the end would witness God’s victory … It is the absolute assurance of the Lord’s control of history and of his ultimate victory at the end that is at the heart of apocalyptic literature. Despite all the evil that can be imagined, he will emerge victorious … We look forward to the second coming of the Lord. The certainty of that coming is a prominent part of the Christian faith. The assurance of it is to brighten our lives and encourage us to labor mightily for the kingdom of God.”

 

 

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. Are there times when we feel that the power of evil is overwhelming and we begin to falter? How do we respond to the powerful images presented to us by the prophet Malachi? How does the image of the blazing fire relentlessly burning the wicked stubble in the field impact us? How does the image of the sun’s healing rays console us? 

 

 

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.

 

***

Lord Jesus,

help us to trust fully

that you are in absolute control.

Let our eyes gaze confidently

toward your final victory.

Grant us the strength and faith we need

to persevere in trials

and to overcome the forces of evil

that assail us and wound our society.

May the options we make

and our actions in daily life

be shaped by your final victory.

We adore you as our triumphant Lord,

now and forever.

            Amen.

 

      

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

 

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

 

            “For everyone who asks receives.” (Lk 11:10) //“But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.” (Mal 3:13-20b)

  

 

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. // Resolve to overcome the forces of evil that block God’s compassionate plan for each of us. With the grace of God and his assurance of ultimate victory, endeavor to overcome the poverty, injustice, oppression and falsehood that confront us daily in our community and society today.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

October 13, 2017: FRIDAY – WEEKDAY (27)

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Exorcises by the Finger of God … He Prepares Us for the Day of the Lord”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jl 1:13-15; 2:1-2 // 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 (Jl 1:13-15; 2:1-2): “The day of the Lord is coming; a day of darkness and of gloom.”

 

Today’s First Reading (Jl :13-15; 2:1-2) was written in the 5th or 4th century B.C. during the time of the Persian Empire. The prophet Joel describes a terrible invasion of locusts and a devastating draught in Palestine. The tragedy is overwhelming: the harvest has failed, the yield has dried up and withered, there is no grain or wine for temple offering, the land instead of a blessing has become a curse. The prophet sees in this event a sign of the coming Day of the Lord, a time when the Lord will punish those who oppose his righteous will. The Day of the Lord is a day of final conflict and will unleash God’s terrible might. The prophet Joel therefore calls the people to repent and do penance, and to assemble for a communal lament and prayer of supplication to the Lord. This present catastrophe impels them to rally close about the Lord God and his temple to seek salvation.

 

The following excerpt describing a natural disaster gives insight into the Day of the Lord, a day of “destruction” leading to a new era of blessing and grace (cf. Richard Martin Stern, Tsunami! in Reader’s Digest Condensed Books, vol. 4, New York: The Reader’s Digest Association, 1988, p. 115-118).

 

Jimmy Silva had appeared on the top of the bluff, and with him, Joe Hines. They stood silent, looking seaward. Because of the sheer drop-off on the ocean side of the point, they were unable to see the enormous swell as it met the rocks, but the solid sheet of water flung skyward at impact, high above the top of the rocks, told the story all too well.

 

They watched in near disbelief as that sheet of water, now reinforced from behind, crashed down upon the top of that point. It caught up Todd’s parked car, threw it high into the air and carried it forward across the land on the swell’s crest, to slam it down finally into the waters of the bay, where it disappeared.

 

Peter said, “Look at the channel! That incoming wave is thirty feet high and still building!” “More like forty”, Joe Hines said. “Houses there are sixty feet above high water.” Johnny Silva said, “There go the first houses. See there, middle of the peninsula. And the wave isn’t even slowing.”

 

It was not. The huge mass of solid water was sweeping across the peninsula, burying houses within its monstrous body, bringing the sea itself across the land until the ocean and the bay were one, the peninsula no longer visible. Still the wave swept on, its top a dirty whitish gray color now, frothing as a breaker froths, neither slowing nor collapsing in the manner of surf, but continuing its relentless surge. It reached and engulfed the coast highway and slammed itself at last against the solid mass of the high bluff with a crash and a shock that could be heard and felt by those above, as if there had been a massive underground explosion.

 

Solid water and spray flew high and fell like a cloudburst on the onlookers, leaving them drenched and stunned. “We ought to get underwater pay”, one of the cameramen said, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. No one even smiled.

 

Unbelievably, almost as rapidly as it had come, the water began to recede. The backwash uncovered the bay, the scattered and smashed boats torn from their moorings. It uncovered the peninsula, displaying wreckage of the cheek-by-jowl houses, some shattered, some still partially standing in drunken attitudes, as if the slightest push would bring them crashing to the ground.

 

What remained of the beach on the ocean side of the peninsula was gradually visible again, but what had been smooth, plump contours were now gaunt, jagged stretches of rock, with the wreckage of houses, carried seaward by the backwash, strewn along the shore as far as one could see.

 

The entire process had taken only a matter of minute or so. And now all was changed. The seas retained their stormy character; the wind still gusted in howling fury, still snatching spray from the wave tops. But the monster wave was suddenly gone, retreated back into its watery lair, its fury spent, and the scene, instead of turbulently chaotic, seemed by comparison almost peaceful.

 

 

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. Do we prepare ourselves for the coming of the day of the Lord, a day of destruction and gloom for those who oppose his righteous will?

 

 

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.

 

            ***

Loving Father,

be near to us in our distress.

The day of your coming

is a day of darkness and gloom

for those who have rejected your plan

of justice and peace.

Listen to our plea for mercy

and save us from calamity.

Deliver us from evil, Lord.

Bring us into the joy of your kingdom.

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.

 

“It is by the finger of God that I drive out demons.” (Lk 11:20) // “The day of the Lord is coming.” (Jl 1:13-15)

 

 

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. // Take to heart the sufferings of the victims of natural and man-made calamities. Do what you can to aid them in their distress.

      

 

*** *** ***

 

October 14, 2017: SATURDAY – WEEKDAY (27); SAINT CALLISTUS I, Pope, Martyr; BVM ON SATURDAY

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Mother Is Greatly Blessed … He Will Defend Us on the Day of Judgment”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jl 4:12-21 // 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 (Jl 4:12-21): “Apply the sickle for the harvest is ripe.”

 

The reading (Jl 4:12-21) underlines that the day of judgment has come for sinful and warring nations, who surge upon God’s chosen people as hordes of locusts. They are very wicked and the image of a ripe harvest and fruitful vine signifies it is time for the execution of just punishment upon them. Moreover, the prophet Joel conveys God’s assurance of blessings and protection upon his people. Joel’s vision reaches its high point with the presence of God in the midst of the people. This divine presence is the source of refuge and strength for the beleaguered and the suffering. Indeed, the Lord who dwells on Mount Zion promises to defend them in time of adversities.

 

The following story gives a glimpse into the exquisite quality of God’s benevolent promise of presence and protection (cf. Brad Steiger and Sherry Hansen Steiger, Christmas Miracles, Avon: Adams Media Corportaion, 2001, p. 47-50).

 

During the push to Berlin during the latter stages of World War II, Bryan Potter and a group of other bone-weary GIs were quartered in a brick farmhouse and told to get a good night’s rest. The order was as unnecessary as telling a starving man to eat everything on his plate. The men were cold and exhausted in the bleak December of 1944, and although there was little to burn in the fireplace and the antiquated kitchen stove, any warmth at all was greatly appreciated.

 

They had just finished a sparse, but somehow comforting and filling meal, when one of the men started tapping his fork on his metal mess kit. “Fellas”, he said, when he had everyone’s attention. “Do you know what today is?” (…) And then the realization seemed to strike everyone in the crowded kitchen at the same time.

It was Christmas Eve. (…)

 

One of the men shifted uncomfortably on the hard wooden bench, then spoke up before he lost his nerve. “I think we should do something to observe Christmas Eve – you know, like singing a Christmas hymn. Something like ‘Silent Night’ or ‘Little Town of Bethlehem’.”

 

“If he had been expecting ridicule from the hardened, tough men around him, he received none that cold and lonely Christmas Eve far away from our homes”, Potter recalled. “Softly at first, as some of us struggled to remember the words, we began singing ‘Silent Night’. Then as we got more into the spirit of the hymn, our voices became stronger and stronger until the rafters of that old farmhouse were reverberating. By the time we got to the third verse, most of us were just humming along, but even that had a good Christmas sound to it.”

 

Then, suddenly, someone carrying a bright light slammed open the kitchen door and shouted: “Everyone out! A mortar shell is about to hit!” Potter and his buddies scrambled for the door, ran several yards, then threw themselves headlong on the frozen, snow-packed German terrain. Seconds later, the demolished farmhouse erupted in a fiery explosion and began to rain pieces of brick down on them. Nazi mortar fire had scored a direct hit on their temporary sanctuary.

 

“It was a good thing for us that even though we were bone-tired, we simply reacted on our training and our war-honed instincts”, Potter said. “None of us thought to stop to ask the stranger with the bright light just how he knew that a mortar shell was about to hit the specific target of our particular farmhouse.”

“Whoever the guy was, he didn’t burst in among us and shout, ‘Heads up! The Jerries are going to start shelling!’ He told us to get out because a round was about to hit us. That statement required special and specific knowledge, and if any of us had stopped to interrogate the fellow concerning the source of such intelligence, none of us would have survived the direct hit.”

 

Peter and his buddies spent the rest of the night in the ruins of a barn, huddled around a sheltered fire. One of the men commented that Christmas Eve was the perfect night to sleep on a pile of straw near mangers and cattle pens. “Later, when some of us had a chance to talk about the incident, a couple of the guys were already calling it a miracle”, Potter said. “After discussing it at great length, we all agreed that the man who burst into the farmhouse was not carrying a bright light, he was the light.

 

“When we compare our collective memories, we concluded that the stranger was surrounded by a brilliant kind of illumination. We were convinced that an angel saved our lives on Christmas Eve in 1944 by warning us to get out of the farmhouse immediately before the mortar shell hit us.”

   

 

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 on judgment day and the threat of destruction, we will be saved by the Lord as long as we trust in him?

 

 

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.

  

            ***

Loving Father,

we thank you for your indwelling

and the abundant graces you pour upon us.

Be our refuge and strength

on the day of distress and trial.

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) //“The Lord is a refuge to his people.” (Jl 4:16)

 

 

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. // When you are distressed and anxious about something, pray and put your trust in the Lord. Be an instrument of God’s comfort to those whose hearts are filled with fear and anxiety.

  

 

***

 

 

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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