A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 18, n. 47)

Week 29 in Ordinary Time: October 18-24, 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: October 11-17, 2020 please go to ARCHIVES Series 18 and click on “Ordinary Week 28”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: October 18-24, 2020.)

 

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October 18, 2020: TWENTY-NINTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

WORLD MISSION SUNDAY

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Repay to God

What Belongs to God”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 45:1, 4-6 // I Thes 1:1-5b // Mt 22:15-21

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 22:15-21): “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

          

After hearing in these past three Sundays the Parable of the Two Sons, the Parable of the Tenants and the Parable of the Marriage Feast, all of which were directed at Jesus’ opponents, the Sunday assembly now hears the second controversy story (Mt 22:15-21). In this episode concerning paying taxes to the emperor, the evangelist Matthew deals with an insidious trap brought to naught by Jesus.

 

The American scholar, Harold Buetow, introduces the Gospel story: “When the Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech (v. 15), the issue they decided to use was taxes. The Herodians whom the Pharisees enlisted were the party of the dynasty of Herod the Great, who was king by leave of the Romans, and so they were the toadies of the Romans. The Pharisees didn’t have much in common with the Herodians. But they often joined forces to gang up against Jesus. In order to make their plot less obvious, they sent their disciples (v. 16). These piously posed as men resolved only to follow their conscience. After beginning with unctuously flattering words, they proceeded to their loaded question: Is it morally acceptable to pay the census tax to the emperor or not? (v. 17). Now, the Christian Scriptures generally see Rome as a positive influence. Rome provided order and stability, and was, in the early days, the protector of the Church against Jewish zealots … But should a person pay taxes to an empire which worships pagan gods? to an emperor who considered himself a god? In the highly-charged atmosphere of oppression, Roman taxation posed a cruel dilemma to God-fearing Jews … If Jesus said the tax should not be paid, he would be open to a report of sedition by the Herodians to Rome and arrested for it. But to say the tax should be paid would be false to Israel’s most cherished hopes, would lose even good-willed Pharisees, and would constitute a public renunciation of his messianic character which so excited the enthusiasm of the people. What the Herodians and Pharisees wanted was some rash statement, either in favor of Roman rule or in total rejection of it.”

 

Recognizing their hypocrisy and evil intent, Jesus eluded the trap by asking them to show him a coin that pays the census tax. When they handed him the Roman coin, he asked them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” They replied “Caesar’s”. Jesus then confounded them with a masterly retort: “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God”.

 

The great preacher, Fulton Sheen, comments: “Our Lord took no sides, because the basic question was not God or Caesar, but God and Caesar. That coin used in their daily marketing showed they were no longer independent from a political point of view. In that lower sphere of life, the debt to the government should be discharged … Once again he was saying that his kingdom was not of this world; that submission to him is not inconsistent with submission to secular powers; that political freedom is not the only freedom. To the Pharisees who hated Caesar came the command: Give unto Caesar; to the Herodians who had forgotten God in their love of Caesar came the basic principle: Give unto God. Had the people rendered to God his due, they would not now be in their present state of having to render too much to Caesar. He had come primarily to restore the rights of God. As he told them before, if they sought first the kingdom of God and his justice, all these things such as political freedom would be added unto them.”

 

This Sunday’s Gospel reading underlines our primary duty to render to God his rights. Jesus challenges his opponents to be as observant in paying their debts to God as they are in paying their debts to the emperor. Celia Sirois remarks: “If the image of Caesar stamped on a coin means that the coin belongs to Caesar, then the image of God stamped on each and every human being means that each and every one belongs to God.”

 

Jesus Christ, the icon of God, is the model of what it means to manifest the divine image and of the righteous way of rendering to God what is due to him. Lawrence of Brindisi (1559-1619) asserts: “Christ undoubtedly gave Caesar what was Caesar’s and God what was God’s … Those therefore who resemble Christ in their lives, conduct, and practice of virtues, they are the ones who truly manifest the divine image; for the way to recover this image is by being absolutely just. Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s; that is, give each what belongs to him.”

 

The following story circulated on the Internet gives insight into what restoring the rights of God entails,

 

The Rosary Saves Brazil from Communism, 1962-1964: The world was in a state of fear and confusion. Russia was trying to make headway in converting as many countries as possible to Communism under their rule.  Impoverished nations with corrupt governments in turmoil were easy targets. Cuba had just fallen to the Soviets in 1960, and Brazil was another planned conquest. The president of Brazil, Joao Goulart, was pushing for a Communist form of government. He began to install known Communists into high governmental positions while at the same time dispatching representatives to convince the citizens that Communism was good for the country.

 

With Catholicism still strong in the country, Cardinal de Barros Camara told people through a weekly radio address that by following the directives of Our Lady of Fatima regarding prayer and penance, Brazil could overthrow the Communist threat.  In a speech, President Goulart mocked the rosary, saying that governmental control, not reciting the prayers of the rosary, would save the economy from collapse. During this time, he was lining his pockets with dollars given to Brazil in foreign aid from the U.S. and other countries.

 

A Brazilian woman named Dona Amelia Bastos was very concerned about this imminent danger. Her husband belonged to a group of men called the Anti-Reds who were opposed to Communism in Brazil. One night Dona Amelia listened as the Anti-Reds discussed the threat facing their beloved country.  She decided that she too could do something about it. Of her decision, she said, "I suddenly decided that politics had become too important to be left entirely to the men. Moreover, who has more at stake in what's happening to our country than we women?" 

 

She immediately formed a group called Campaign of Women for Democracy (CAMDE) and started to recruit as many people as possible to pray the rosary in large groups to thwart the plan for Communist takeover.  In a town called Belo Horizonte a group of 20,000 women reciting the rosary aloud broke up a pro-Communist rally. The success of this peaceful protest fed the impetus for the Catholic women to do more.

 

With the help of heaven and the strong influence of Archbishop Cardinal de Barros Camara, Dona Amelia recruited an amazing 600,000 women who marched in Sao Paulo to pray the rosary for peace. They called their protest, "March of the Family with God Toward Freedom." under the declaration,  "Mother of God, preserve us from the fate and suffering of the martyred women of Cuba, Poland, Hungary, and other enslaved nations."  Leone Brizola, a Communist high government official, left in a rage when his planned speech  was thwarted by the rattling of 3000 rosaries and the murmuring of the prayers in the assembly hall. Not one life was lost in this most amazing peaceful anti-Communist protest, which is described by many witnesses as, "One of the most moving demonstrations in Brazilian History."  Many more rosary rallies were held in major cities in spite of threats of military action against the crusading women.

 

Under this mounting pressure, on April 1, 1964 President Goulart fled the country along with many members of the government. 

 

Pray the rosary to protect our country from falling to corruption!

 

 

B. First Reading (Is 45:1, 4-6): “I have grasped the right hand of Cyrus to subdue the nations before him.”

 

The Old Testament reading (Is 45:1, 4-6) introduces us to one of the most fascinating figures in ancient history – Cyrus the Great, the “enlightened” king and general from Persia, whose benevolence made him an unwitting instrument of God’s plan of salvation. The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 4, explain: “Cyrus, king of Persia from 550 to 530 B.C., left the memory of a deliverer in the minds of the peoples of the Near East. In the empire formed by his conquests, he practiced a conciliatory policy aimed at winning the conquered peoples by its tolerance, by the lessening of the burdens laid on them, by economic programs. Israel did not forget that Cyrus quickly brought to an end, as soon as 538, the deportation to Babylon. He gave back the utensils of gold and silver taken from the Temple by Nebuchadnezzar and, above all, he published an edict authorizing the rebuilding of the Temple. Truly, Cyrus was, for Israel, a providential king; every reader of Sacred Scripture must concede it. This oracle from the Book of Isaiah says the same thing in its own way. It sees history as directed by God, its master, for the benefit of his people. (…) We must thank him for remembering his people.”

 

Cyrus, the benevolent Persian king, was destined and assisted by the Lord, to promote the divine loving plan to liberate the Jewish people from their exile in Babylon. Though a pagan who worshiped the god Marduk, Cyrus was empowered by God to be the instrument of liberation for the Jews, his chosen people. Indeed, God often works through people who may not even recognize his name. King Cyrus was an example of a political ruler who responded to the inner call and followed the promptings of his conscience. The divinely “anointed” Cyrus was truly a model of what it means to practice acts of justice and peace. Without knowing the Lord God explicitly, the remarkable King Cyrus “gave unto God” his due.

 

The following article, being circulated through the Internet, gives us an idea how a Christian in today’s world can render to God the homage of truth.

 

When Minister Joe Wright was asked to open the new session of the Kansas Senate, everyone was expecting the usual generalities, but this is what they heard:

 

“Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance. We know your Word says, “Woe to those who call evil good”, but that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values. We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. We have killed our unborn and called it choice. We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable. We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem. We have abused power and called it politics. We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition. We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression. We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment. Search us, O God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Amen!”

 

The response was immediate. A number of legislators walked out during the prayer in protest. In six short weeks, Central Christian Church, where Rev. Wright is pastor, logged more than 5,000 phone calls with only 47 of those calls responding negatively. The church is now receiving international requests for copies of this prayer from India, Africa and Korea. Commentator Paul Harvey aired this prayer on his radio program, “The Rest of the Story” and received a larger response to this program than any other he has aired.

 

With the Lord’s help, may this prayer sweep over our nation and wholeheartedly become our desire so that we again can be called “one nation under God”.

 

 

C. Second Reading (I Thes 1:1-5b): “Calling to mind faith, love and hope.”

 

In the Second Reading (I Thes 1:1-5b) we could feel the holy pride of Saint Paul bubbling with gratitude for the wonderful response of the Thessalonians to the Gospel. The community of believers in Thessalonica was marked by the work of faith, labor of love and firm hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. Their commitment, concern and constancy moved Saint Paul to thanksgiving and declare that God loves them and he has chosen them to be his own. The exemplary response of the Thessalonians was made possible by divine initiative. The Jesuit biblical scholar George Soares-Prabhu remarks: “Both the way in which the gospel was proclaimed by Paul (with intense conviction and a power to transform others) and the way it was received by the Thessalonians (with joy in spite of persecution) witnesses to the working of the Spirit.”

 

The following story circulated through the Internet is beautiful and awesome. It gives us an insight into the spiritual vitality of a community that is marked by active faith, caring love and enduring hope. It also illustrates how beautiful it is to be chosen and loved by God.

 

In Phoenix, Arizona, a 26-year-old mother stared down at the 6-year-old son who was dying of terminal leukemia. Although her heart was filled with sadness, she also had a strong feeling of determination. Like any parent, she wanted her son to grow up and fulfill all his dreams. Now that was no longer possible! The leukemia would see to that. But she still wanted her son’s dream to come true.

 

She took her son’s hand and asked, “Billy, did you ever think about what you wanted to be once you grow up? Did you ever dream and wish what would you do with your life?”

 

“Mommy, I always wanted to be a fireman when I grow up.”

 

Mom smiled back and said, “Let’s see if we can make your wish come true.”

 

Later that day she went to her local Fire Department in Phoenix, Arizona, where she met Fireman Bob, who had a heart as big as Phoenix. She explained her son’s final wish and asked if it might be possible to give her 6-year-old son a ride around the block on a fire engine. Fireman Bob said, “Look, we can do better than that. If you have your son ready at seven o’clock Wednesday morning, we’ll make him an honorary Fireman for the whole day. He can come down to the fire station, eat with us, go out on all the fire calls, the whole nine yards! And if  you give us his sizes, we can get a real fire uniform for him, with a real fire hat – not a toy – one with the emblem of the Phoenix Fire Department on it, a yellow slicker like we wear and rubber boots. They’re all manufactured right here in Phoenix, so we can get them fast.”

 

Three days later Fireman Bob picked up Billy, dressed him in his uniform and escorted him from his hospital bed to the waiting hook and ladder truck. Billy got to sit on the back of the truck and help steer it back to the fire station. He was in heaven. There were three fire calls in Phoenix that day and Billy got to go out on all three calls. He rode in the different fire engines, the Paramedic’s van and even the fire chief’s car. He was also videotaped for the local news program.

 

Having his dream come true, with all the love and attention that was lavished upon him, so deeply touched Billy, that he lived three months longer than any doctor thought possible. One night all of his vital signs began to drop dramatically and the head nurse, who believed in the hospice concept that no one should die alone, began to call the family members to the hospital. Then she remembered the day Billy had spent as a Fireman, so she called the Fire Chief and asked if it would be possible to send a fireman in uniform to the hospital to be with Billy as he made his transition.

 

The chief replied, “We can do better than that. We’ll be there in five minutes. Will you please do me a favor? When you hear the sirens screaming and see the lights flashing, will you announce over the PA system that there is not a fire? It’s the department coming to see one of its finest members one more time. And will you open the window to his room?”

 

About five minutes later a hook and ladder truck arrived at the hospital and extended its ladder up to Billy’s third floor open window --- 16 fire-fighters climbed up the ladder into Billy’s room! With his mother’s permission they hugged him and held him and told him how much they LOVED him.

 

With his dying breath, Billy looked up at the fire chief and said, “Chief, am I really a fireman now?”

 

“Billy, you are, and the Head Chief, Jesus, is holding your hand”, the chief said.

 

With those words, Billy smiled and said, “I know. He’s been holding my hand all day, and the angels have been singing.” He closed his eyes one last time.

 

 

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

 

1. Like Cyrus the Great, are we willing to be docile instruments of God’s saving plan?

 

2. Are we willing to repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God?

 

3. Is our Christian life marked with the work of faith, labor of love and enduring hope in our Lord Jesus Christ? Do we realize how deeply God loves us, and that we are chosen by him?

 

 

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

 

O loving God,

you have called us by name and we belong to you.

We desire to respond fully to your compassionate love.

You have chosen us for an awesome purpose.

Help us to spread the Gospel

through our witness of faith, labor of love and enduring hope

in our Lord Jesus Christ.

We praise and bless you, now and forever.

Amen.

 

  

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

 

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

 

“Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” (Mt 22:21)

 

 

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

 

Endeavor to build a more harmonious and just society by rendering your just contribution to the needs of the poor and the marginalized. That we may rightly render to God his due, make an effort to spend some quiet moments in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.   

 

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October 19, 2020: MONDAY – SAINTS JOHN DE BREBEUF & ISAAC JOGUES, Priests, AND COMPANIONS (USA)

N.B. Today the Pauline Family celebrates the memorial of Blessed Timothy Giaccardo, who offered his life for the PDDM Congregation.

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Essential One … He Reveals to Us the Riches of God’s Grace”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Eph 2:1-10 // Lk 12:13-21

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 12:13-21): “And the things you have prepared to whom will they belong?”

 

Disputes regarding family inheritance can be very bitter and destructive. A priest narrated to our Sisters an incident that he witnessed personally. He was called to assist a dying rich man. While he was praying over him and administering the last rites, the children were quarrelling in the kitchen over the inheritance. The priest was disappointed and frustrated.

 

We see in today’s Gospel (Lk 12:13-21) that this is probably the same feeling that Jesus has when someone in the crowd asks him: “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me”. Jesus’ response to the request shows that he is a wise Teacher. Refusing to be dragged into the litigation, he denies any jurisdiction over the dividing of inheritances: “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?” Then he turns to the crowd, warning them about the trap of earthly possessions: “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions”. As the Divine Master, he wants to show his disciples and would-be followers the true and efficacious way of dealing with earthly possessions. Jesus does this by narrating a parable about the hoarding Rich Fool. The latter is eagerly looking forward to a life of abundance and leisure, unaware that he is to die that very night.

           

            The final words of Jesus in the parable of the Rich Fool wield a cutting edge and a tone of judgment: “Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God” (Lk 12:21). The indictment against those who are obsessed with material possessions should make us focus on what is essential. Romano Guardini asserts: “Here is the sharp division between the essential and the non-essential … Eternal possessions or temporal possessions – which are essential? Naturally, the eternal ones, for the others fade away … The more deeply people realize that Christ is the essential, the less concerned they will be about everything else.”

 

 

B. First Reading (Eph 2:1-10): “God brought us to life in Christ and seated us with him in the heavens.”

 

The First Reading (Eph 2:1-10) delineates not only the abundant riches of God’s mercy and grace, but also the need for a dutiful response to his forgiving love. Once we fully realize how much God loves us, we are able to respond wholeheartedly and spontaneously in loving deeds. Deeply conscious that we are recipients of the undeserved gift of God’s love, we are filled with thanksgiving and contribute to the wellbeing of the Church, humanity, the entire creation and the whole world.

  

The liturgical scholar Adrian Nocent remarks: “We contemplate the superabundant grace the Father has bestowed on us. We are saved by grace. This grace is inexhaustibly rich and makes our actions good in God’s sight … As we contemplate it, we must grasp the marvelous coherence of God’s plan of salvation. But more than that, we must ask ourselves how we are to live out the mystery in our everyday lives.”

 

Here is an example of how one can respond to the mystery of undeserved grace in his everyday life (cf. Bob McGreevy, “Treated to a Blessing” in Amazing Grace for the Catholic Heart, ed. Jeff Cavins, et. al., West Chester: Ascension Press, 2004, p. 257-258).

 

Walking out into a crisp September afternoon, my mood soared. My co-workers and I had just completed the first milestone of a very important and complicated project. As an energy and environmental comfort specialist, I had sold a product for renovating the heating, cooling, lighting, and indoor air quality for a 220,000 square foot, ten-story building in Norristown, Pennsylvania.

 

“This deserves celebration”, I thought to myself as I walked into the convenience store next-door. As I looked at the shelves for something to treat myself to, a thought came to me: “Someone needs this more than I do.” It was not as if I was down to my last dollar and had to choose between buying myself something or giving to charity, but the thought seemed to be a direction – a prompting. Recently, I seem to be getting more direction from God in my life since I changed my morning prayer routine. My new routine involves sitting quietly and trying to be fully present to the Lord, to be open to what He wants me to do. I am no mystic. I do not hear audible voices, but I sense that this morning spiritual exercise has helped me to be more in tune with God’s plan for me each day. On this particular day, it would have been easy for me to brush the thought away and go ahead and buy myself a candy bar or cupcake. After all, the idea that interrupted my confectionary plans seemed totally subjective. I could choose to listen to this soft prodding or brush it aside. I turned on my heels and left the store.

 

Back outside, there were street maintenance vehicles and personnel working nearby. I watched what they were doing for a few minutes. A man alongside me explained that a transformer had blown the day before. The crew was working on the repair. As we were watching the scene, another man walked up to me and asked, “Can you spare fifty cents?” The middle-aged man looked homeless. He carried his belongings in a bag. He had probably slept outside on some park bench or in some doorway entrance. Despite his appearance, you could see that he was probably new to living on the streets. He was certainly down on his luck, but perhaps it was only a temporary situation. He had a pleading look in his eyes as he quietly said, “Even a dime would help.”

 

I reached into my pocket, and pulled out a twenty-dollar bill and gave it to him. The man looked at the bill and then back up at me, obviously surprised. Looking me square in the eyes, he said, “Thank you! You do not know how important this is to me.” He then turned and walked away with a livelier step than when he approached. I watched him pump his fist and mouth, “Yes!” That look in his eyes and that gesture of excitement gave me much more satisfaction that any treat could ever have offered.

 

 

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

 

1. How do I deal with material goods and temporal possessions? Is it obsessively, or with true freedom and wisdom? How do I respond to Christ’s indictment: “Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God”? Do I deeply realize that Christ is the essential? How does this realization affect my daily choices and actions? 

 

2. How do we manifest to the world that God is indeed rich in mercy? How do we share the rich treasures of divine grace with the people around us? Do we realize that as God’s handiwork, we are created in Christ Jesus for good works and that we are instruments of the divine saving grace?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father, source of all good and rich in mercy,

you give to us the greatest gift - your Son Jesus,

the essential one and the ultimate good.

He is the Divine Master

who invites us to trust in your providence

and deal wisely with earthly possessions.

Fill us with concern for the poor, hungry and needy

so that we may share with them your blessings.

Let us listen to the voice of Jesus.

In him you have shown us

the immeasurable riches of your grace.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.  

 

 

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

 

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

 

“One’s life does not consist of possessions.” (Lk 12:15) // “By grace you have been saved.” (Eph 2:8)

 

 

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

 

Thank the Lord for the blessings you have received from him. Then ask him to inspire you how to share the goods you have received from God with others.

 

 

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October 20, 2020: TUESDAY – WEEKDAY (29); SAINT PAUL OF THE CROSS, Priest (USA)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Be Ready … He Is Our Peace”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Eph 2:12-22 // Lk 12:35-38

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 12:35-38): “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.”

 

Christian faith entails readiness and expectation of eternal glory. In the Gospel (Lk 12:35-38), Jesus, the faith-filled person par excellence, invites us to deepen our faith and calls us anew to vigilant faith. The liturgical scholar Adrian Nocent remarks: “Each is called, during the night of faith, to stand ready for the final encounter unto which God calls. This invitation is most important. Everything else must take second place when it comes to having one’s lamp lit and trimmed, to being a faithful steward, to being always alert and watchful by the light of faith. That is the lesson of today’s celebration. The whole existence of the Church is a long, seemingly endless watch in which, century after century, she awaits her encounter with the Lord. She is ever alert and ready, confident as she is of the glory in store for her. Christ has promised that glory; more than that, he enables his Church to perceive the sign of it in the Eucharistic sacrifice.”

 

When my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer, I witnessed how he prepared for his final encounter with the Lord. Daily Communion and prayers were an important part of his preparation. A naturally compassionate man, he started to give his meager possessions as inheritance. I received a Hawaiian shirt, one hundred dollars in cash and two very small plastic statues of Santo Niño and Saint Joseph, which I greatly treasure. Above all, I witnessed how he was able to let go of a grudge that lurked in his heart. He requested us to wear white at his funeral. The day before the Lord took him, he was crying: “Lord, please come and take me with you!” When the final hour came, he was ready to go with the Lord.

 

 

B. First Reading (Rome 5:12, 15b, 17-19, 2b-21): “He is our peace; he made both one.”

 

In today’s First Reading (Eph 2:12-22), we hear of the redemptive and unifying work of Jesus. He brings peace and reconciliation and makes the Jews and Gentiles one people. He unites people of all races and brings them back to God through his paschal mystery and in the power of the Holy Spirit. In the pastoral ministry to the people of Israel and especially through his sacrificial act on the cross, Jesus Christ leads the dispersed flock back to God the Father.

 

Adrian Nocent remarks: “We had gone astray, but now we are led by a Shepherd who has given his life for us. We have become a single people and have access to the Father in the one Spirit … The Lord stands before us who have gone astray and need a guide: he stands before the peoples of our time as they seek for some unity in their lives. Each individual wants unity within himself; human groups seek for unity; the peoples of the earth are looking for common ways of thinking and for common life. There is only one hope of succeeding in this manifold quest for unity, and that is to find unity in Christ, who as Shepherd has shed his blood in order to bring peoples of the world together in unity and peace.”

 

The life-giving sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is in accord with the divine plan “to restore all things”. Every Christian disciple, by virtue of baptismal consecration and configuration to Jesus Shepherd-King has a duty to seek peace and to work for reconciliation in our fragmented world. As Christians, we have tremendous responsibility to promote unity within us and to bring healing to our wounded society and our deeply afflicted world. God calls us to incarnate in our lives the pastoral mission of Jesus. Our loving God the Father entrusts us today with the ministry of gathering his flock and challenges us to “restore all things in Christ” by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

R.W. Dellinger’s article, “GRYD: A More Comprehensive Anti-Gang Strategy” in The Tidings, Southern California’s Catholic Weekly, is very inspiring (cf. p. 4 of the July 10, 2009 issue). It illustrates the laudable effort of today’s concerned and responsible citizens to eliminate violence and crimes in our society. Capt. Mark Olvera, of the Los Angeles Police Department, and Father Stan Bosch are examples of those who continue the pastoral mission of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, in the here and now.

 

With more than 400 street gangs and 40,000 gang members – resulting in some of the nation’s worst youth-on-youth violence – the City of the Angels has the dubious distinction of being the gang capital of the U.S.A. Through the police department, Los Angeles has long tried to arrest and suppress its way out of this deadly urban dilemma. (…)

 

LAPD Capt. Mark Olvera – a classical Flamenco guitarist who, with wife Sylvia and sons Garrett, 17, and Joseph, 15, comprise the music ministry for the Saturday vigil Mass at Sacred Heart Church in Lincoln Heights – is on the front lines of the city’s new anti-gang strategy. The outwardly calm commander of what is euphemistically called “Shootin’ Newton”, part of which has been designated a gang-reduction GRYD (Gang Reduction and Youth Development) zone, is sitting at a round table in his back office of the grey-stone station on Central Avenue at 34th Street, right across from St. Patrick Church. Three paintings hang from the back wall, including an expensive Japanese watercolor. On top of a glass-front bookcase, an army of knick-knacks stand guard. An acoustic guitar rests nearby in a corner. The 52-year-old policeman born and raised in East L.A. explains that his wife, who decorated his office, wanted to make it as comfortable as possible as he was going to spend so much time there working – often 12-hour days that stretch from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Most Saturdays, after the evening Mass, he comes in to catch up on paperwork.

 

“It’s probably not written down anywhere, but the main thing with GRYD and its gang interventionists is to stop the retaliations. Once there’s a shooting, stop pay-backs by being on the scene. That’s the first goal,” Capt. Olvera explains. “The second goal is to let us know where there are hot spots so we can deploy for them. “But at the same time, the interventionists should be working to: ‘OK, let’s be preventive. Let’s make sure there is no shooting to begin with.’ And that’s where Father Stan Bosch (GRYD supervisor for both the Newton and 77th division areas, who is a Trinitarian priest as well as a trained psychotherapist) comes in with his counseling and wraparound services. He deals with the healing part at the scene and then after counseling families and gang members. “There’s also the reentry part – Who’s coming out of the probation camps?” he adds. “We can work with the probation and then connect the youths to services and Father Stan right away to get them out of harm’s way.” (…)

 

Still, Olvera admits that GRYD, which has only been in operation in the Newton area since April 1, is a work in progress. He and his staff are examining different ways of doing things and making changes based on what works. There’s one factor, however, that has really helped the team make inroads with certain gangs so far – Father Bosch’s connection with gang members through a shared Catholic faith. “The power of the symbolism of a Catholic priest working with these kids meant a lot,” he says. “I think we can really do things with that in terms of dealing with the violence. “Also, it’s a matter of tolerance,” the LAPD commander adds. To those who think it’s OK for a gang member to be killed, he replies, “That’s not the Christian way. None of these killings is OK. And that’s what we have to change. I think with GRYD we’re on the verge of changing that attitude.”

 

 

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

 

1. Do we respond fully to Jesus’ call to vigilant faith? How do we prepare for the triumphant return of the Son of Man who comes unexpectedly?

 

2. Why is Jesus Christ our peace and the font of unity, bringing people from all nations into one? Do we endeavor to be a source of peace and unity ourselves?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

your Son Jesus Christ is our Savior.

By his blood outpoured on the cross,

he made us one people of the new covenant.

Help us to heed the call of Jesus

for he is our peace and reconciliation.

Make us your faithful servants, 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.

 

“Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.” (Lk 12:37) // “He is our peace.” (Eph 2:14)

 

 

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

 

Pray that Christian disciples may learn to live in vigilant faith for the Lord’s coming. By our commitment to pursue justice, seek peace, protect human rights and give preferential concern to the poor and needy, let us allow our vigilant faith to make an impact on today’s fragmented society and prepare them for the definitive coming of the Lord’s kingdom at the end time. 

 

 

*** *** ***

October 21, 2020: WEDNESDAY – WEEKDAY (29)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Wants Us to Be Faithful Servants … He is the Mystery Revealed”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Eph 3:2-12 // Lk 12:39-48

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 12:39-48): “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much.”

 

In today’s Gospel (Lk 12:39-48), Jesus exhorts us to be ever ready because his coming is as uncertain as the coming of a thief. Peter asks a question which Jesus ignores because it is impertinent. The lesson of Jesus’ parable is meant for all disciples, but especially for Church leaders who are called to greater accountability. They are to be punished in proportion to their irresponsibility. The leaders of the faith community are called to greater fidelity in fulfilling the mission Jesus entrusted to them. Jesus warns them: “Much will be required of a person entrusted with much … and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

 

            My mother mirrors for me the quality of faithful vigilance. She was an elementary school teacher for 38 years. No matter how tired or stressed she was, she would prepare the following day’s lesson plan. School supervisors would come unannounced to check. She would rather be absent than go to school without a lesson plan. She did not want them to find her unprepared for that would be a big blot on her integrity as a teacher. But I suppose, even if there were no school supervisors, she would continue her good work just the same because of her loyalty to God and her sense of responsibility for the children entrusted to her care.

 

 

B. First Reading (Eph 3:2-12): “The mystery of Christ has now been revealed and the Gentiles are coheirs in the promise.”

 

Today’s First Reading (Eph 3:2-12) contains a very concise Christian message: by means of the Gospel the Gentiles have a part with the Jews in God’s blessings. As members of the same body, they share in the promise that God made through Christ Jesus. This is the saving “mystery” once hidden, but is now made known to Paul and to the apostles and prophet by the activity of the Holy Spirit. Paul is a minister of this “mystery”. God gives him the privilege of taking to the Gentiles the Good News about the infinite riches of Christ. Like Paul, the Church has a mission in the breaking down of barriers and the coming together of people. In union with Christ and through our faith in him we have the boldness to go into God’s presence with all confidence. The saving “mystery” needs to be contemplated in great depth before we can grasp its implications in daily life.

 

The following modern day account gives insight into how we can promote the divine saving plan in our daily life (cf. Scott Walker in Daily Guideposts 2010, p. 333).

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

God’s greatest gifts to us have been Drew, Luke and Jodi. We just didn’t know that He would also give us the surprise package of Lulu, George and Lian.

 

Father, help me to know that all children are my children because they are Your children. Amen.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we heed Jesus’ exhortation to be vigilant and faithful? How?

 

2. Are we grateful that the divine mystery of the salvation of all peoples has been revealed and fulfilled through Jesus Christ? How does this reality impact us?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you teach us to be ever ready for your second coming.

You warn us that from those who have received much,

much more will be demanded.

Teach us to prepare for your coming

by our faithful service and personal dedication.

Help us to be persevering and responsible servants

until you come again.

Be with us as we promote the divine saving plan

in our daily living.

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.

 

            “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much.” (Lk 12:48)  // “The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same Body.” (Eph 3:6)

 

 

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

 

When you are tempted to be lax in the responsibilities entrusted to you, remember the words of Jesus about faithful vigilance. Find in them inspiration for renewed commitment. Seek ways to promote the gathering of nations and the unity of all peoples in Jesus Christ.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

October 22, 2020: THURSDAY – WEEKDAY (29); SAINT JOHN PAUL II, Pope

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is a Prophet of Contradiction … In Him, We Are Rooted in Love”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Eph 3:14-21 // Lk 12:49-53

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 12:49-53): “I have not come to establish peace but division.”

 

I was in my third year of high school when I came across Leo Tolstoy’s novel, “War and Peace”. It was irresistible. I did not go to school for three days to read it from cover to cover. I am fascinated by the Russian “prophet” Tolstoy. I appreciate his commitment to Christ’s teaching on love, compassion and non-violence. Conscience-stricken and upset by the plight of the poor, Count Tolstoy opted for a simplified life and dedicated more greatly his literary pursuits to socio-religious themes. His wife Sonya did not share his zeal for reform and for his new lifestyle that was simple and austere – for example, making himself a brew of barley and acorns because coffee was a luxury! She was chagrined that he chose to work on pugnacious tracts that put people off, when he could be producing wonderful novels that would bring in lots of money. Tolstoy did not care about money, but she had to, otherwise what would become of their children? Unable to bear any longer the divisive and oppressive situation at home and detesting the luxury found in his estate, Yasnaya Polyana, the 82-year old Tolstoy left home on November 10, 1910, accompanied only by his doctor. He fell ill on a southbound train and died at a stationmaster’s house on November 20, 1910. Leo Tolstoy is a fascinating figure – a modern day example of a prophet of contradiction.

 

Today’s Gospel (Lk 12:49-53) presents the divisions that Jesus’ mission creates even in families. The way of Jesus catalyzes separations and provokes conflicts among those who had made a radical choice for him and those who had not. Aelred Rosser remarks: “The division Jesus speaks of with such force (listing several familial relationships for emphasis) is an inevitable consequence of well-lived faith. Into every life there comes a time when the choice to be truly Christian comes into conflict with another choice – perhaps a good choice. When that moment comes, we recognize the division Jesus brought into the world. The peace that comes from making the right choice is also something Jesus brought, but it is his peace, not the kind of peace the world gives.”

 

 

B. First Reading (Eph 3:14-21): “Rooted and grounded in love, you may be filled with the fullness of God.”

 

Today’s First Reading (Eph 3:14-21) contains Paul’s beautiful prayer of adoration and intercession for the Ephesians. In an intense and solemn posture of worship, the apostle kneels before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named. That God “names” the family indicates his power and authority over every family, which has a very important role in the divine saving plan. In a contemplative mood, Saint Paul prays that the faithful may be strengthened inwardly by the Spirit, that Christ dwell in their hearts through faith, that they be rooted in love so that they may have insight into the full extent of Christ’s love that surpasses all understanding, and that they may be filled with the fullness of God, who by nature is “love”. Saint Paul’s prayer concludes with a celebration of the glory of God whose power transforms the lives of believers: “To him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” In this prayer of glory and praise, Christ and the Church are deeply united, in the here and now and in the ages to come.

 

The following story gives insight into the meaning of being rooted and grounded in love (Anthony De Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations, New York: Image Books, 1988, p. 160).

 

It was time for monsoon rains to begin and a very old man was digging holes in his garden. “What are you doing?” his neighbor asked. “Planting mango trees” was the reply.

 

“Do you expect to eat mangoes from those trees?”

 

“No. I won’t live long enough for that. But others will. It occurred to me the other day that all my life I have enjoyed mangoes planted by other people. This is my way of showing them my gratitude.”

 

 

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

 

1. Are we willing to embrace the detachment, renunciation and opposition that the peace of Christ may entail? Are we willing to be fully united with Christ and become, in him, a “sign of contradiction” in today’s world? 

 

2. Are we rooted and grounded in love of Christ and do we allow ourselves to be strengthened by Christ in the Spirit?

 

 

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

 

You are the prophet of contradiction.

Grant us the grace to be faithful

when our radical choice for you creates division.

Help us to embrace the detachment and opposition

that our Christian commitment entails.

Let us experience the peace that you bring and

not the deceptive peace that the world offers.

Let our life be deeply rooted in you

and strengthen us inwardly by the power of the Holy Spirit.

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.

 

“Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” (Lk 12:51) // “To him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus!” (Eph 3:21)

 

 

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

 

While avoiding facile compromises and easy tradeoffs, endeavor to bring the peace of Christ to a distressing situation that needs healing and reconciliation. Have the courage to be a “sign of contradiction” when the situation calls for it. In your daily actions and choices, seek to be deeply rooted in the love of Christ.

 

 

 

*** *** ***

 

October 23, 2020: FRIDAY – WEEKDAY (29); SAINT JOHN OF CAPISTRANO. Priest

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Exhorts Us to Read the Signs of the Times … In Him, There Is One Faith”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Eph 4:1-6 // Lk 12:54-59

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 12:54-59): “You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and sky; why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”

 

In today’s Gospel episode (Lk 12:54-59) we see Jesus talking to a crowd. He is disappointed that they are able to read correctly the signs of the weather, but not the signs of God’s kingdom on earth in the person of Jesus. He exhorts the people to interpret correctly the “present time”, that is, the meaning of his mission. If only they were receptive, they should be able to perceive in the ministry of Jesus – in his words and deeds – that the kingdom of God has come. They should therefore respond to his call to conversion. The certainty of divine judgment should lead people to seek full reconciliation with God. Jesus warns them not to delay decision making for the kingdom. When God’s righteous judgment comes, they will wish that they had settled the issue before – just as a losing plaintiff wisely settles a legal case with a powerful opponent on the way to the magistrate and thus escapes punishment.

 

            As Christians in the modern world, we too are called to scrutinize the “signs of the times”. We are called to recognize and understand the distinctive characteristics, expectations, longings and needs of the people of today. We are called to be receptive to the signs of the kingdom value and the tasks it entails. The following story illustrates the receptive stance of a Christian disciple to the demands of the kingdom values (cf. Sarah Ball, “Stay-at-Home Help” in Guideposts, October 2012, p. 19)

 

Earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes. They all played out before me on the evening news. I clicked off the TV. Every scene of people in need made me want to rush out to do something. But rushing out to do anything was impossible for me right now. I was recovering from surgery for breast cancer. With drainage tubes in my side, expanders in my chest, not to mention all the medications I took for the pain, I could barely move. What help could I be to people in trouble?

 

I can pray for them, I thought. And pray I did. I prayed for God to comfort those who were grieving, to heal the injured, to speed recovery. But I still felt helpless. “Please, Lord, isn’t there anything I can do myself?” I can’t even lift a gallon of milk these days, I thought. How can I help anyone? I couldn’t go anywhere. And although I’ve fostered animals in the past, even taking care of one displaced pet seemed beyond me.

 

The next day I got word of another disaster looming – the one close to my home in Iowa. Weathermen were predicting massive flooding in my area. There was a call out for volunteers. Workers were frantically piling sandbags against buildings and strengthening the levees. And here I was, stuck at home – not in danger, but still on the couch. The only way I could help would be if the Lord dropped something in my lap.

 

During a call to a friend I told her about my frustrations. “My friend Francis is really in a bind”, she said. “She lives on the flood plain and has decided to evacuate her mobile home, but she can’t afford a storage facility for her things. She’s scared she’ll come home and find all of her furniture destroyed. I can’t take any of it because my place is too small.”

 

“She can store it here!” I said. “Our basement is nearly empty; there’s plenty of room. It’s perfect!” Friends moved Francis’ furniture into my house the next day. It was the answer to her prayers – and mine.

 

 

B. First Reading (Eph 4:1-6): “There is one Body, one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”

 

The theme of “the unity of the Body” is underlined in today’s reading from the letter to the Ephesians (4:1-6), which is called “the epistle of unity”. Jesus Christ is the Savior sent by the Father to gather all human beings in the unity of the one body and one Spirit. Their vocation is to serve one Lord and to share one faith and one hope. Immersed into the blood bath of Christ, they are reborn and renewed by that one baptism and become the beloved children of the one God and Father of all. Cognizant of this reality, Saint Paul exhorts the Ephesians to live a life worthy of the calling they have receive and to be always humble, gentle, patient and loving to one another.

 

In the following story, we have a glimpse of the spirit of love and unity at work in a domestic Church in Guatemala (cf. “Missioner Tales” in Maryknoll, March 2009, p. 6.)

 

A village in the highlands of Huehuetenango, Guatemala, where I served as a missioner, was having its annual festival for its patron saint. Standing on the fringes observing the comings and goings, I noticed a man and a woman and two children – a girl about 8 and a boy maybe 6 years old. Most likely they came from an outlying area, and from their clothing, I sensed they were quite poor. Quietly and respectfully, they stood as a family enjoying the music and the activities.

 

Nearby a man was selling ice cream cones. They were not expensive, maybe the equivalent of 10 cents. Suddenly, the father approached the ice cream man and bought just one cone. What I witnessed then made a lasting impression upon me. The father returned to his wife and children, and the four of them shared one ice cream cone.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we make an effort to read the “signs of the times” and ask the Lord for the grace not just to perceive them, but to be able to respond to them? 

 

2. Are we grateful to God for making us one Body – united in “one Lord, one faith, one baptism”? How do we promote the unity of the Body? 

 

 

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

 

Loving Jesus,

you exhort us to read the signs of your kingdom.

Give us the grace to be receptive to the “signs of the times”

and help us to carry out our duties

on behalf of the kingdom value.

We thank you for making us one Body,

united in one Lord, one faith and baptism.

Help us to build up daily the unity of the Body.

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.

 

“Why do you not know how to interpret the present time?” (Lk 12:56) // “There is one Body and one Spirit.” (Eph 4:4)

 

 

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

 

Pray for the grace to scrutinize the “signs of the times”. In your own little way, respond positively to the demands they entail. Be thankful for the one Body of Christ and by your daily acts of charity, promote the growth of the Body.

 

 

*** *** ***

October 24, 2020: SATURDAY – WEEEKDAY (29); SAINT ANTHONY CLARET, Bishop; BVM ON SATURDAY

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Ultimate Chance … He Is Head of the Body”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Eph 4:7-16 // Lk 13:1-9

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 13:1-9): “If you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”

 

In an article by Jerry Davis in Guideposts magazine (February 2004), he tells us about a remarkable journey that led him on the right path. He was kicked out of school repeatedly as a teenager. One sleepless, cold evening in February 1963, while living on charity at the Salvation Army in Kentucky, where he sought refuge, something clicked in his mind, as if everything had suddenly been put into focus for his 19-year-old eyes. Jerry narrated: “Somebody had to be looking out for me. Somebody who wouldn’t let me push him away, no matter how hard I tried. In fact, the farther I ran from God, the closer he seemed to pull me. I slipped out of bed and knelt in a patch of moonlight. Lord, I prayed, the words finally coming. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for your love. I don’t know what’s good for me. Please, I need your guidance.” The runaway college dropout found work at a Kentucky hospital and enrolled at a nearby college. That was the beginning of a long road that led to graduate school and a Ph.D. Today he is the president of a college in Missouri – the College of the Ozarks. Indeed, Jerry Davis has given us a testimony of what it means to be given another chance and what it takes to respond to that chance. His was a beautiful story of a positive response to the patient mercy of God.

 

            Today’s Gospel (Lk 13:1-9) underlines the Christian call to metanoia, which means conversion, repentance, and inner change, and encourages us with the reality of God’s patient mercy. In this account, Jesus calls for decision and conversion by referring to two contemporary disasters and by narrating the parable of the barren fig tree. Jesus dispels the popular belief that links disaster with punishment for sin. Indeed, in the present age, good fortune and disaster are not indications of a person’s spiritual state. In the judgment to come, however, the evil ones will experience the ultimate disaster - complete alienation from the life-love of God. Jesus dismisses the popular speculations regarding the personal culpability of the victims of the Galilean massacre and the Siloam accident by stressing the universal need for repentance. Unless all repent and respond positively to the Gospel, all will suffer the greater disaster of being alienated from God.

 

            The last section of the Gospel reading is Jesus’ parable of the barren fig tree which received a reprieve, or stay, from the impending punishment by the vineyard owner in response to the gardener’s compassionate plea: “Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down” (Lk 13:8-9). The biblical scholar, Samuel Oyin Abogunrin remarks: “The parable reminds us of the long-suffering of God but it also implicitly warns that those who persist in their sinful refusal to repent will suffer and eventually be cut down.”

 

 

B. First Reading (Eph 4:7-16): “Christ is the head from who the whole Body grows and builds itself up in love.”

 

Today’s First Reading (Eph 4:7-16) underlines that in the basic unity of the Body, there are diverse gifts from the Risen Christ so that each member may contribute in a unique way to the growth and well-being of the Church. Christ, who descended victoriously into the realm of death and ascended in glory into heaven, is the giver of gifts. The various gifts that the exalted Christ bestows empower the ministers and are meant to build up the Church. The Church leadership with its special ministries as Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers is integral to community harmony in Ephesus. The goal is to become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature. This means they will not take on a childish stance when confronted with false teachings brandied about by deceitful men. By speaking the truth in a spirit of love is to grow in every way to Christ, who is the Head, from whom the whole Body grows and builds itself up in love. When each separate part works together as it should, there is unity in an attempt to attain unity in Christ.

 

The following is a beautiful modern day example of how a member contributes to the building up of the Body of Christ (cf. “A New Side” in Extension, Fall 2014, p. 6-8).

 

Stepping into the shoes of the people you serve can change your ministry. Just ask Deacon Randy Canale of the Diocese of Lubbock, Texas. As a longtime minister to the sick, he experienced a bout with cancer that left him weakened and scarred. This event changed everything – his commitment to his ministry, the response he received from the sick and his understanding of God’s intentions.

 

Hospital Ministry: Hailing from Memphis, Tennessee, Randy started his career in the cotton business in 1966 at age 20, two years after he wed his high-school sweetheart, Cindy. His international company sent him to Texas, the largest cotton-producing state in the U.S. In 1975, Randy started his own cotton company in Lubbock, buying cotton from farmers and selling it to merchants and mills. The cotton business was perfect for him – allowing lots of time to socialize with people on both ends of the trade.

 

As he welcomed three sons into his family, Randy began to think more seriously about his faith – a part of his life that he sometimes neglected. With a Catholic upbringing and a wife who converted to Catholicism a few years after their wedding, Randy wanted more God in his life. In 1978, he started attending daily Mass at 6:45 a.m. at Christ the King Cathedral. It was peaceful and reflective. Soon, a fellow parishioner asked Randy to help with hospital ministry. Randy obliged. One Sunday, Randy went to the hospital and returned home several hours later – exhausted, but moved. He had brought Communion and prayers to people who otherwise would have been alone. He was hooked.

 

In 1992, his friend, Bishop Michael Sheehan of Lubbock, who is now Archbishop of Santa Fe, asked Randy to consider joining the diaconate. Randy laughed. He had no idea what a deacon did and wasn’t interested. He was happy with his life: he had active teenage boys, the cotton business was demanding, he enjoyed golf, and his hospital ministry was meaningful. He wasn’t looking for a new commitment.

 

While he thought of how to gracefully say “No”, Bishop Sheehan asked him to pray. When Randy asked God why he should become a deacon, he wasn’t thrilled with the response, “Why not you?” To further give him a nudge, Bishop Sheehan told him, “You’re already doing the work of a deacon; you just haven’t been ordained yet.”

 

Health Scare: During his diaconate training, Randy’s health took a major turn. In 1995, he was diagnosed with cancer of the parotid gland – the salivary gland located between the ear and jaw. Surgery removed the tumor, but in the process, he lost an eardrum and part of his sight. Speaking also became difficult. As he recovered, Randy continued training with a fresh commitment to the diaconate and renewed dedication to his ministry. When he was ordained in 1996, Randy said, “Becoming a deacon reaffirmed my faith and my need to serve, and helped me become a better bridge between people and the Church.”

 

But cancer was still waiting in the wings. In 1997, it was discovered in his left lung, and half that lung was removed. The following year, cancer was found in the other lung, and the bottom of his right lung was removed. After the surgery, doctors told him that he likely wouldn’t be around for long., but Randy said, “God had other plans for me.”

 

Randy’s cancer gave him a new appreciation for vulnerabilities and a different visage to show to the sick. His face has an indentation, his smile is crooked, his eye droops, his breath is short, and his voice is raspy. But it’s a combination that works. “His cancer is a special scar”, Cindy said. “People know he’s been through something and overcome it. It gives them hope to see he survived. One thing they know for certain – this person will understand me.”

 

For years, Randy has been visiting 30 to 40 people a week in all kinds of venues: hospitals, nursing homes and individual homes. He sees the young, the elderly, the remote and the forgotten. Sometimes, he meets people whose families have abandoned them.

 

Sacred Work: For Randy, ministering to the sick is sacred work. (…) In his humble, cheerful way, Randy brings the light of Christ to those who are infirm and physically unable to be part of a parish community, but want to keep their faith alive. Randy Canale, cancer survivor and dedicated deacon, gets in his car and brings them hope.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we respond to Christ’s call to conversion and apostolic fruitfulness? How do we react to the local and universal disasters that impinge upon our senses day after day through the mass media? What challenge does the parable of the barren fig tree give to us?

 

2. How do we contribute to the building up of the Body the Church? Do we build up ourselves in the love of Christ?

 

 

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

 

Father of mercy and goodness,

you revealed to us your patient mercy

by offering us the “ultimate chance”,

Jesus Christ, your beloved Son,

who loved us unto death on the cross.

Help us to welcome your forgiveness and love.

We are truly grateful for making as members of Christ’s Body.

Make us mature in faith

and personally dedicated in serving love.

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.

 

            “If you do not repent, you will all perish as they did.” (Lk 13:4)  // “We should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ.” (Eph 4:15).

 

 

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

 

Pray to the Lord for the gift of repentance and sincere conversion from sin, and for the gift of spiritual renewal. Pray for prisoners, especially those who have received the death penalty, and for all those who minister to their care. Do what you can do be a means of conversion for others. Let your daily acts of charity be for the building up of the Church.

 

***

 

 

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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