A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday and Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 12, n. 48)

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time & Weekday 30: Oct. 26 – Nov. 1, 2014 ***

 

 

(N.B. The pastoral tool BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD: A LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY LITURGY includes a prayerful study of the Sunday liturgy of Year A from three perspectives. For reflections on the Sunday liturgy based on the Gospel reading, please scroll up to the “ARCHIVES” above and open Series 3. For reflections based on the Old Testament reading, open Series 6. For reflections based on the Second Reading, open Series 9. Please go to Series 10 - Series 12 for the back issues of the Weekday Lectio. For the Lectio Divina on the liturgy of the past week: Oct. 19-25, 2014, please go to ARCHIVES Series 12 and click on “29th in Ordinary Time -Weekday 29”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: October 26 – November 1, 2014.)

 

***

 

October 26, 2014: 30th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 In the Pauline Family: SOLEMN FEAST OF JESUS THE DIVINE MASTER

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us the Great Commandment of Love”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Ex 22:20-26 // I Thes 1:5c-10 // Mt 22:34-40

 

 

I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS

 

This Sunday’s Gospel reading (Mt 22:34-40) is a controversy story concerning the greatest commandment in the Law. Today’s episode tells us of another relentless, but futile plot contrived by the Pharisees to embarrass and trip up Jesus. The biblical scholar Daniel Harrington gives an interesting background to this Gospel passage: “The questioners are the Pharisees in the person of a lawyer (vv. 34-35). Jewish teachers of Jesus’ time were frequently asked to summarize the law in a brief statement. For example, Hillel summarized the law in a way that is much like the so-called golden rule of Jesus (cf. Mt 7:12): ‘What you hate for yourself, do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole law; the rest is commentary. Go and learn.’ Jesus’ summary of the law consists of two commandments that encourage love of God (Dt 6:5) and love of neighbor (Lev 19:18). These two commandments are the threads on which the entire law hangs.”

 

Jesus is faithful to the Jewish tradition and deeply committed to a spirituality that emphasizes the essentials. The two commandments highlighted by Jesus are really one. The radical newness in Jesus’ retort to the Pharisees consists in putting the love of God and the love of neighbor as one. The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 4, remark: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. Particular and detailed prescriptions derive from this first commandment written in the Law (Dt 6:5). But all together, they can neither limit nor even foresee all concrete applications. To love – with all one’s heart, with all one’s soul, and with all one’s mind – has nothing to do with discharging a series of predetermined obligations. Love is constant attention to the other; it is inventive … The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself … The second commandment, which is like the first, must be understood and practiced in the same perspective as the first. Doing what is contrary to our neighbor’s good, in any domain whatever, never corresponds to God’s will, to the love we owe him.”

   

Jesus’ answer to the lawyer is also a revelation concerning Father, Son, and Spirit. The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 4 comment: “The Father, above us, nobody has ever seen; the Son became our brother through his incarnation and we find him in our neighbor; the Spirit dwells in our hearts. Father, Son, and Spirit are one in the indivisible Trinity. It is impossible to find the Father in prayer and the Spirit in the secret of our hearts if we do not recognize and serve the Son in the brothers and sisters with whom he identifies himself.

 

The following story gives more insight into the meaning of love (cf. Anthony De Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations, New York: Image Books, 1988, p. 60-61).

 

Two brothers – one, a bachelor, the other married – owned a farm whose fertile soil yielded an abundance of grain. Half the grain went to one brother and half to the other.

 

All went well at first. Then, every now and then, the married man began to wake with a start from his sleep at night and think, “This isn’t fair. My brother isn’t married; he’s all alone, and he gets only half the produce of the farm. Here I am with a wife and five kids, so I have all the security I need for my old age. But who will care for my poor brother when he gets old? He needs to save much more for the future than he does at present, so his need is obviously greater than mine.”

 

With that he would get out of bed, steal over his brother’s place, and pour a sackful of grain into his brother’s granary.

 

The bachelor brother too began to get the same attacks. Every once in a while he would wake up from his sleep and say to himself: “This simply isn’t fair. My brother has a wife and five kids and he gets only half the produce of the land. Now I have no one except myself to support. So is it just that my poor brother, whose need is obviously greater than mine, should receive exactly as much as I do?” Then he would get out of bed and pour a sackful of grain into his brother’s granary.

 

One night they got out of bed at the same time and ran into each other, each with a sack of grain on his back!

 

Many years later, after their death, the story leaked out. So when the townsfolk wanted to build a church, they chose the spot at which the two brothers met, for they could not think of any place in the town that was holier than that one.

 

The important religious distinction is not between those who worship and those who do not worship but between those who love and those who don’t.”

 

***

 

This Sunday’s Old Testament reading (Ex 22:20-26) is one of the most intriguing and socially challenging passages in the Bible. It delineates Israel’s call to “humanism”, that is, the proper attitudes to be assumed by God’s chosen people for the whole of human society. A truly strong society provides for its weakest members and that was the challenge of Israel as the people of God. Israel’s duty to protect and care for the poor, the weak and the vulnerable was based on its experience of God’s continual care and compassion. The demands of charity for the unfortunate were woven into the chosen people’s covenantal relationship with their loving and caring God.

 

The biblical scholar Eugene Maly comments: “Many studies have been made comparing Israel’s law code with those of other ancient peoples. Its humanism has been shown to excel that of others in many ways. Some examples are found in our first reading from Exodus. The alien or non-Israelite was not to be mistreated. The motive for this, Israel’s own experience as aliens in Egypt, is unique among the nations. Widows and orphans were the special object of concern in most societies. But there God himself is the divine kinsman who will come to their aid. In the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi interest was permitted on any loan. In Israel it was not to be demanded of the poor. The neighbor’s concern, which included consideration of the social condition, was every Israelite’s concern. It is true that these humanitarian laws say nothing about an attitude toward God. But the framework in which they were placed, the context of which they were a part, is that of a covenant between God and his people. That covenant says, in effect, God has saved you in his everlasting love. Therefore, you must hold him in love above every other object and show love and concern for his people.

 

Indeed, the social laws in Israel’s covenant tradition demanded that the people themselves be the instruments of God’s protection of the aliens, of widows and orphans, and the poor in the land. The chosen people were obliged to be caring like their compassionate and loving God, rich in mercy, especially with regards to the unfortunate and marginalized. This biblical “humanism” thus provided a strong basis for Jesus’ radical teaching on loving, as may be gleaned from this Sunday’s Gospel reading (Mt 22:34-40). Indeed, the intimate unity of love of God and love of neighbor is a hallmark of the new covenant. According to the Divine Master’s innovative lesson to his disciples, the neighbor is the Lord himself!

  

The love that animates Judeo-Christian “humanism” calls for a dedication and self-giving so complete that merely human will can never accomplish it. Because it is beyond our human effort, the obligations of love are made possible through the workings of grace. The following testimony by Erin Brock (N.B. Name changed to protect family’s privacy) illustrates that radical and sacrificial love of “neighbors” – in this case her parents - is possible through the grace of God. Cf. “Caregiver’s Testimonial” in OUR SUNDAY VISITOR, October 28, 2007, p. 11.

 

Erin Brock could be the poster child for the “sandwich generation”, those caught between raising children and caring for elderly or ill parents. She was just 39 and the youngest of her five children was 3 when her father had one stroke, then another, then major surgery. Erin immediately jumped in to help her mother care for him. That was 10 years ago. Her father died in June, yet she still divides her time between her husband and two youngest children and her 75-year-old-mother who has numerous health problems. Here she tells OSV the good, the bad, and the blessings.

 

Church Support: “We could have asked for respite from our parish’s Works of Mercy program, but my dad was very dysfunctional and very mean, and we didn’t want to subject anyone else to his verbal abuse. But I did have a lot of support and love from good, Catholic and Christian friends who lent an ear and prayed for me in caring for my dad, and now my mom. That’s so important!”

 

Two Regrets: “I wish I had tried to get more commitment from my sister and three brothers to help me. It’s been very, very hard, and nobody helps unless I’m the bad guy and tell them to get down here.”

 

“I regret sacrificing so much time with my kids to cater to my mom and dad. I have a better balance now, but only because I’ve learned to be more forceful.”

 

Two Blessings: “The most beautiful thing to come of this hardship is that my mother went back to church. She stopped going because my father would get drunk every Saturday night, and Mom had to be there with his coffee and breakfast when he woke up Sunday morning. When my dad went into the nursing home, I invited her to come to Mass with our family and she loved it! Now she goes weekly, is involved in our parish, watches EWTN. I never thought I’d see my mother as a prayerful, regular communicant.”

 

After I had pleaded with my dad, brought priests to him, and done everything I could to convince him to go to confession, God took care of it in the end and he received absolution and last rites. I believe the only way my dad could accept God’s mercy was because my mother showed him love and mercy for 54 years, giving him chance after chance.”

 

***

 

The Second Reading (I Thes 1:5c-10) illustrates the dynamics of love at work in the early Christian community of Thessalonica. Having experienced the saving love of Christ preached and witnessed to them by Paul and his companions, they opened their hearts to the Gospel and imitated their Christian example. Moreover, the life that they lived by the power of the Holy Spirit enabled them to spread their loving faith in God to every place. Indeed, they had turned away from false idols “to serve the living and true God” and to wait for the coming of his Son from heaven – his Son Jesus whom he raised from death and who is also our defender at the final judgment. Saint Paul was thus filled with gratitude for the extraordinary radiance of this young Church that had welcomed the saving word.

 

The miracle of divine love continues to be at work in today’s world. Conversion that leads us to embrace Christ Jesus in faith and to turn to the living and true God – the same saving grace that the Thessalonians had experienced in the time of Saint Paul – continues to be verified in the here and now. The following conversion and healing story circulated through the Internet illustrates this.

 

Nasir Siddiki Left to Die: by age 34, Nasir Siddiki, a successful businessman, had made his first million, but money meant nothing to him on his deathbed. Diagnosed with the worst case of shingles ever admitted to Toronto General Hospital, his immune system shut down and doctors left him to die.

 

The next morning I woke in a sterile room on the eighth floor of the hospital, my skin burning as though someone had doused me in gasoline and lit a match. I felt on fire from the inside out. My doctor arrived and looked at me in wonder. “The blisters are multiplying so fast I can literally watch them grow”, he said. “Your body isn’t fighting back.” The next morning, in addition to shingles, I had chicken pox from head to toe. I was put in strict isolation. That evening my temperature soared to 107.6 degrees – hot enough to leave my brain permanently scrambled. For days I continued to deteriorate. My nerve endings became so inflamed that a hair drifting across my skin sent shock waves of fire rippling through my body. By week’s end, I was listed in critical condition.

 

My Last Hope: In life, I’d been bold, self-confident, a risk taker. But facing death, I was terrified. I had no idea what might await me on the other side. I’d been raised as a Moslem in London, England, and I understood Allah was not a god who heals. My only hope was in medicine. I eventually slipped to near death. The doctors didn’t know I could hear them when they examined me. “His immune system has simply shut down”, one of them said. “He’s dying”, the other confirmed. “His immune system must be compromised by AIDS.” I don’t have AIDS! I wanted to shout, but I couldn’t form the words. Then it hit me. He said I’m dying! The doctors spoke quietly to my co-worker Anita. “In a few hours he’ll be dead”, they said. “If by some miracle he lives, he’ll probably be blind in his right eye, deaf in his right ear, paralyzed in his right side and he may be severely brain damaged from the high fever.” Then they left. They left me here to die! I felt like a drowning man going down for the third time. Gathering my strength I whispered a prayer. “God, if you’re real, don’t let me die!”

 

In His Presence: During the darkest hour of the night, I woke and saw a man at the foot of my bed. Rays of light emanated from him, allowing me to see his outline. I couldn’t see his face; it was too bright. No one had to tell me. I knew it was Jesus. The Koran mentions Jesus. Moslems believe he existed, not as the son of God, but as a good man and a prophet. I knew this wasn’t Mohammed. I knew it wasn’t Allah. Jesus was in my room. There was no fear, only peace. “Why would you come to a Moslem when everyone else has left me to die?” I wondered. Without words, he spoke to me. “I Am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” That’s all he said. He didn’t mention my illness. He didn’t mention my impending death. As suddenly as he appeared, he was gone.

 

The next morning, the same two doctors arrived to examine me. “The blisters have stopped growing!” “We don’t know what happened, but the shingles has gone into remission!”

 

The following day, still in pain and covered with blisters, I was discharged from the hospital with a suitcase full of drugs. “Don’t leave home”, the doctor cautioned. “It will be months before the blisters go away, and when they do you’ll be left with white patches of skin and scars. The pain could last for years.”

 

Stepping outside into the morning sun, I looked like a cross between a leper and the Elephant Man. When people saw me, they crossed to the other side of the street. However, my mind was not on my looks; my thoughts were on Jesus. There was no doubt in my mind that Jesus’ presence in my room had stopped the shingles virus. Whatever else Jesus may be, I realized that in his presence miracles happened.

 

That fact left me with one consuming question: Is Jesus the Son of God as the Christians claim, or is he just a prophet as I was taught?

 

At home that evening, in spite of the drugs, the pain and itching was so severe I almost had to tie my hands. Even so, I fell into a restless sleep wondering about Jesus.

 

Learning to Live: The next morning, I woke early and turned on the television. Flipping through the channels, I froze when I saw the following words across the screen: Is Jesus the Son of God?

 

I listened intently as two men spent the entire program discussing this topic – answering all of my questions. Before the show went off the air, one of the men led the television audience in a prayer. My body was aflame with pain, but I knelt in my living room anyway. Tears streaming down my face, I repeated the prayer and invited Jesus into my heart. Immediately a voracious spiritual hunger sprang up within me. I had to know more about Jesus. In spite of my doctor’s orders to stay inside, the next day I went out and bought a Bible. First I read the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Still ravenous, I started in Genesis and read through the Bible during my sleepless nights. Meanwhile, Anita brought me books and teachings tapes explaining the Gospel. I devoured them while continuing to study the Word of God. As my understanding of faith began to grow, I dug out a picture of how I looked before the shingles. I prayed and asked God to make me look that way again.

 

One week after my discharge from the hospital, I woke and found my pillow covered in blisters. I must have clawed them in my sleep, I thought. I crawled out of bed and stepped into the shower. What had started on my pillow was finished in the shower. Every blister fell off my body!

 

Instead of being covered with patches of white and scar tissue, my skin was simply red and raw. It slowly healed, returning to its pre-shingles condition. When it did, I not only looked human, I looked like I did before I got sick, except for the scars I still carry on my chest. None of the doctor’s dire predictions came true. My eyesight was 20/20. My hearing was normal. My speech was unimpaired. I suffered no brain damage. My healing was miraculous, swift and complete. I never suffered from lingering pain or any other complication. Not only did I have the worst case of shingles ever admitted to Toronto General Hospital. I also had the most miraculous recovery.

 

Jesus, the God of the Christians, showed up in the hospital room of a dying Moslem and healed me. But that wasn’t the greatest miracle he performed. The transformation that occurred in my heart was even more dramatic that the one that occurred in my body.

 

An international teacher and evangelist, Dr. Nasir Siddiki is the founder of Wisdom Ministries (WisdomMinistries.org). He lives in Tulsa, OK, with his wife Anita and their two sons.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we heed the Lord God’s command to be compassionate and to take care of the needy, the poor and the vulnerable among us? Do we imitate his merciful stance?

 

2. How do we strive to actualize in our daily life the twofold command of love of God and neighbor?

 

3. Do we welcome the loving grace which enables us to turn to God and serve him as “the true and living God”?

 

 

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

 

O loving God, you are living and true!

How compassionate are your ways!

You are merciful to the poor and the needy.

You are the benevolent protector of the weak and the vulnerable.

Your eternal love has saved us from slavery and oppression,

from death and destruction.

Let the grace of your saving love enable us

to be gracious and compassionate to all.

Help us to love and serve you

by embracing our needy brothers and sisters.

Grant us the grace of conversion and total configuration to you.

Teach us to share our faith and the saving word to the people of today

by the power of the Spirit.

Assist us in witnessing the love of Christ in our daily life.

May the Gospel be shared and received by all peoples and cultures.

We deeply commit ourselves to you

as we wait for the coming of the Lord Jesus at the end time.

He is our defender on judgment day and our loving savior,

now and forever. Amen.

  

  

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

 

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

 

“You turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to await his Son from heaven.” (I Thes 1:9b-10a)

 

  

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

 

By our preferential concern for the weakest and the needy in today’s society and by our acts of justice and charity on their behalf, let us live out God’s great commandment of love and help the people around us to turn to “the living and true God” and serve him wholeheartedly.

***

 

October 27, 2014: MONDAY – WEEKDAY (30)

 

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Compassion Surpasses the Sabbath Law and He Invites Us to Walk in Love”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Eph 4:32-5:8 // Lk 13:10-17

 

 

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

 

My cousin, a pharmacist, belongs to a medical mission team that goes to Vietnam to assist the sick. She suggested to their Franciscan director that since almost 75% of the team is of Filipino origin, it might be a good idea to do a medical mission also in the Philippines. The suggestion was well taken, but on account of the excessive red tape imposed by the Philippine government, they were not able to carry out their mission to the Filipinos.

 

In today’s Gospel reading (Lk 13:10-17), the ministry of compassion of Jesus is also threatened by a legalistic bind. A woman is crippled by a malady that makes her incapable of standing erect. Jesus releases her from her bondage while teaching at the synagogue on a Sabbath. The ruler of the synagogue, indignant that Jesus has broken the Sabbath rule but not daring to rebuke him directly, addresses the crowd: “There are six days when work should be done. Come on those days to be cured, not on the Sabbath day.” The woman has suffered for 18 years, and the ruler wants Jesus to wait one more day to cure her. But the compassionate ministry of Jesus cannot be bound nor postponed. The eruption of the kingdom of God cannot be suppressed by a faulty, legalistic interpretation of the Sabbath law. Jesus exposes the hypocrisy by arguing from the lesser to the greater: If you loosen animals on the Sabbath to refresh them, why not loosen a suffering “daughter of Abraham” from a crippling bondage. The kingdom of God is superior to the Sabbath law. The meaning of the Sabbath is fulfilled by works of compassion to those who yearn for the comfort and peace of God and a “rest” from their anguish.

 

***

 

In the reading (Eph 4:32-5:8), Saint Paul invites us to walk in love, just as Christ. As God’s beloved children, we must try to be like him. The perfect model of a child of God is Jesus Christ. He loves us and has given his life for us as a sweet smelling offering and sacrifice that pleases God. We follow Christ on the way of love, learning to lay down our life for others. Indeed, as God’s people we need to renounce all that is not compatible with our vocation to holiness. We should not be led by false teachings because the wrath of God comes upon the children of disobedience. Rather, our life must be characterized by “thanksgiving”. Moreover, since we have become God’s people, we are in the light and are obliged to live like those who belong to the light. It is the light that brings a rich harvest of every kind of goodness, righteousness and truth.

 

The following account gives insight into what it means to walk in the way of love (cf. Linda Neukrug in Daily Guideposts 2014, p. 18).

 

While in line at the coffee shop one morning, I watched as the shabbily dressed, skinny woman at the front line carefully counted out change for a cup of hot tea.

 

“Have a buttered roll with that”, the teenage counter girl told her. The woman hesitated, and the girl said, “My treat. It’s my birthday today. God bless you.” The older woman gratefully took the roll and, eyeing it hungrily, left the store.

 

When it was my turn, I said, “That was very nice of you to treat her on your birthday. Happy birthday!”

 

She blushed, and the young man at the next register laughed. “Oh, it’s always her birthday when that homeless lady comes in.” My jaw dropped. “You mean …” “I just feel bad that she doesn’t have enough to eat”, the girl mumbled.

 

I took my coffee and waved away the change. “That’s for you”, I told her. “God bless you.” “But it’s too much ---“

 

“That’s okay”, I said. “It’s my birthday.”

 

 

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

 

Are we truly persons of compassion or do we allow ourselves to be crippled by faulty, legalistic interpretations? Are we totally “free” to carry out works of compassion to those who yearn for the comfort and peace of God? Do we walk in love, just as Christ? How?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

we thank you for Jesus Master, the Lord of the Sabbath.

He teaches compassion

and the wisdom to surpass faulty, legalistic interpretation.

Help us to be “free” to carry out works of compassion

for those who are seeking “rest” from their anguish

and are yearning for your comfort and peace.

Give us the grace to walk in love, just as Christ.

We love you, dear Father, and serve 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.

 

“Ought she not to have been set free on the Sabbath day from this bondage?” (Lk 13:16) // “Live in love, as Christ loved us.” (Eph 5:2)

 

 

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

 

By your kind words and charitable deeds, alleviate the suffering of the afflicted and enable them to experience “rest” from their anguish. Be thankful to God for he truly loves us.

 

***

 

October 28, 2014: TUESDAY – SAINTS SIMON AND JUDE, APOSTLES

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Chooses the Apostles and He Builds the Church Upon the Apostolic Witnessing”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Eph 2:19-22 // Lk 6:12-16

 

 

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

 

In today’s Gospel (Lk 6:12-16), we hear that Jesus goes up to the mountain to pray and he spends the night in prayer to God. The night is fascinating. It can be a moment of deep commune with God and a time of profound prayer. Once again, before making a decisive decision crucial to his messianic mission, Jesus prays. When the day comes, he calls his disciples to himself and chooses the twelve apostles, who represent the “twelve” tribes of the New Israel, the Church. Among the “Twelve” are Simon called the “Zealot” and Jude Thaddeus. Prayer is likewise an important element in the life of the apostles. By the help of prayer, they are able to learn the wisdom of the cross and to fully embrace Christ’s paschal mystery.

 

As we celebrate the feast of Saints Simon and Jude, apostles, today’s First Reading (Eph 2:19-22) underlines that we are built upon the foundation laid down by the apostles and the prophets whose saving message is centered on the Christ-event. Through the power of Christ, we grow into a spiritual temple sacred in the Lord. We are no longer strangers or sojourners. Because of the reconciling activity of Jesus Christ, we have become fellow citizens with God’s people and his family members. The Gospel proclamation and apostolic witnessing are very important for the growth of the Church, whose glorious capstone and binding force is Jesus Christ himself.

 

The apostolic message goes out through all the earth. Saints Simon and Jude have carried the “light of faith” to the ends of the world, as the following biographical sketches show (cf. Wikipedia in the Internet).

 

Simon the Zealot is one of the most obscure among the apostles of Jesus. Little is recorded of him aside from his name. The name of Simon occurs in all of the synoptic gospels and Acts that give a list of apostles. He is called “zealot” because, in seeing the miracle at Cana, Simon left his home, parents and his bride and followed Christ. It is also said that after Pentecost, his mission was in a place called Mauretania in Africa.

 

In later tradition, Simon is often associated with St. Jude, as an evangelizing team. They share their feast day on 28 October. The most widespread tradition is that after evangelizing in Egypt, Simon joined Jude in Persia and Armenia or Beirut, Lebanon, where both were martyred in 65 A.D. This version is found in the Golden Legend.

 

He is buried in the same tomb as St. Jude Thaddeus, in the left transept of the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, under the altar of St. Joseph. In art, Simon has the identifying attribute of a saw because according to legend, he was put to death by a saw.

 

***

 

Jude was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus. He is generally identified with Thaddeus. The Armenian Catholic Church honors Thaddeus along with Saint Bartholomew as its patron saints. In the Roman Catholic Church he is the patron saint of desperate cases or lost causes.

 

Saint Jude’s attribute is a club. He is also often shown in icons with a flame around his head. This represents his presence at Pentecost, when he received the Holy Spirit with the other apostles. Another common attribute is Jude holding an image of Jesus Christ. In some instances he may be shown with a scroll or a book or holding a carpenter’s rule.

 

The legend reports that Saint Jude was born into a Jewish family in Panea, a town in Galilee later rebuilt by the Romans and renamed Caesarea Philippi. In all probability he spoke both Greek and Aramaic, like most of his contemporaries in that area, and was a farmer by trade. According to the legend, Saint Jude was a son of Clopas and his wife Mary, a cousin of the Virgin Mary. Tradition has it that Jude’s father, Clopas, was martyred because of his forthright and outspoken devotion to the Risen Christ.

 

Tradition holds that Saint Jude preached the Gospel in Judea, Samaria, Idumaea, Syria, Mesopotamia and Libya. He is also to have visited Beirut and Edessa. The apostles Jude and Bartholomew are traditionally believed to have been the first to bring Christianity to Armenia, and are therefore venerated as the patron saints of the Armenian Catholic Church. In his History Ecclesiastica, Eusebius relates that King Abgar of Edessa (now Sanhurfa in Turkey) sent a letter to Jesus seeking a cure for an illness afflicting him. With the letter he sent his envoy Hannan, the keeper of the archives, offering his own home city to Jesus as a safe dwelling place. The envoy painted a likeness of Jesus with choice paints (or alternatively, impressed with Abgar’s faith, Jesus pressed his face into a cloth and gave it to Hannan) to take to Abgar with his answer. Upon seeing Jesus’ image, the king placed it with great honor in one of his palatial houses. After Christ’s execution, Thomas the Apostle sent Jude to King Abgar and the king was cured. Astonished, he converted to Christianity, along with many people under his rule.

 

According to tradition, after his martyrdom, pilgrims came to his grave to pray and many of them experienced the powerful intercession of Saint Jude and thus the title, “The Saint for the Hopeless and the Desperate”. Saint Bridget of Sweden and Saint Bernard had visions from God asking each to accept Saint Jude as “The Patron Saint of the Impossible”.

 

Here is a novena to Saint Jude: “O Holy Saint Jude! Apostle and Martyr, great in virtue and rich in miracles, near kinsman of Jesus Christ, faithful intercessor for all who invoke you, special patron in time of need; to you I have recourse from the depth of my heart, and humbly beg you, to whom God has given such great power, to come to my assistance; help me now in my urgent need and grant my earnest petition. I will never forget thy graces and favors you obtain for me and I will do my utmost to spread devotion to you. Amen.”

 

 

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

 

What does it mean personally to be a community of faith based on “the foundation of the Apostles and the prophets?

 

 

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

(cf. Opening Prayer of the Mass – feast of Sts. Simon and Jude)

 

Father,

you revealed yourself to us

through the preaching of your apostles Simon and Jude.

By their prayers,

give your Church continued growth

and increase the number of those who believe in you.

Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, forever and ever.

Amen.  

 

 

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

 

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

 

“You are built upon the foundation of the Apostles and the prophets.” (Eph 2:20)

 

 

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

 

Continue the apostolic witnessing and the Gospel proclamation in today’s world by living a life of Christian charity that is manifested in compassion and care for the poor and vulnerable.

 

***

October 29, 2014: WEDNESDAY – WEEKDAY (30)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Us to Enter through the Narrow Gate”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Eph 6:1-9 // Lk 13:22-30

 

 

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

 

In the Poverello News (February 2004), I read this beautiful story, which illustrates the reality of a personal, total response to God’s offer of salvation presented in today’s Gospel reading.

 

On May 10, 1748, a ship was being violently buffeted by a brutal storm. The captain of the vessel, thinking that death was imminent, prayed in desperation. The captain, John Newton, was not the praying kind. Nicknamed “The Great Blasphemer”, he was a debauched, profane seaman who plied the most despicable trade imaginable: he was a slave trafficker. After his fervent prayer, the storm ceased and the sea calmed. Newton’s deliverance from death had a profound effect on him. He contemplated his life and saw, perhaps for the first time, the full extent of his misery, corruption, and moral ruin. That day was a turning point in his life, a day that ultimately led him to reject his loathsome profession, enter Christian ministry, and later become a key influence in the life of William Wilberforce, a man who had a major role in abolishing slavery in England. However, Newton is not known for his biography. He is best remembered for a hymn he composed. That hymn is today sung all over the world, heard mournfully played by bagpipes at funerals, and is still powerful enough to bring tears to many who hear it. The hymn is “Amazing Grace”. Perhaps it has so much force because it is Newton’s heart-felt confession:

 

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound,

That saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see.

 

John Newton’s conversion beautifully depicts the realization of Jesus’ words: “And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God. For behold some are last who will be first, and some who are first who will be last” (Lk 13: 29-30). His wholehearted response to God’s “amazing grace”, which saved a “wretch” like him, enabled him to participate in the feast of God’s kingdom.

 

Today’s Gospel reading continues to underline the rich significance of the Lord’s journey to Jerusalem. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem to undergo the death that leads to glory. Within the context of this paschal journey, someone asks: “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” Rather than answer him directly, Jesus prods him with a challenge: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough”. The narrow gate is open to all, but only for those who seek it. Indeed, the gift of salvation is not an indiscriminate prerogative. It must be willingly and fully embraced. We need to make a choice for the kingdom.

 

The biblical scholar, Samuel Oyin Abogunrin explains that the term “strive” (in Greek, agonizesthe) is the word from which the English “agony” is derived. According to him: “The struggle to enter must be so singularly motivated and focused as to be described as agony that involves the whole person: body, soul, and spirit. Christian life is a daily struggle to rise to a higher spiritual plane. It is wrong to sit back and relax after we have made a personal commitment to Christ. We cannot remain stagnant in our loyalty to God’s kingdom; unless we move forward we shall move backward.”

 

***

 

Today’s First Reading (Eph 6:1-9) contains a household code to regulate the relations between children and parents and between slaves and master. Just like the relation between wives and husbands, the spiritual principle to animate these relationships is Christ’s self-sacrificing love for others. There must be a reverence for fellow members in Christian families and households. By his victorious exaltation, the Risen Lord fills the universe. The glorified Christ brings his power and presence to bear in all human institutions. It is the Christian duty of children to obey their parents and thus enjoy God’s promise of abundant life. The parents are not to provoke their children to anger, but rather raise them with Christian discipline and instruction. The “slaves of Christ” are to carry out their duties responsibly and willingly, remembering that the Lord will reward everyone for the good work he does. The masters have responsible obligations to their subjects and realize that they also belong to the same Master in heaven, who judges everyone by the same standard. Indeed, in the context of the new life in Christ, the domestic relations take on a new meaning of love, reverence and respect.

 

In a funny vein, the following story gives insight into a beautiful relationship in a Christian household (cf. Fran-Alice Aberle, “Not by Bread Alone” in Guideposts, August 2014, p. 21).

 

Mom had a huge family, especially to my 11-year-old eyes. So when she decided to hold a family reunion at our house there was a lot to be done. My 12-year-old brother, 9-year-old sister and I had to pitch in. “There are four loaves of bread in the oven.” Mom said as she and Dad got ready to go into town for last minute supplies. “Do not start playing and forget to check on them. Take them out when they’re nice golden brown. If you burn the bread, you’re all in big trouble. It has to be perfect.”

 

We all promised. We knew how important the family bread recipe was. Richard, Lucia and I settled on the couch to wait. And wait. Finally we decided to wait outside. Surely a little playing to pass the time wouldn’t hurt.

 

Well, we lost track of how much time had passed until I smelled something burning. “The bread!” I screamed. “We forgot about Mom’s bread!”

 

We rushed inside and held our breath as Richard opened the oven door. There was the bread black and smoking. Richard slammed the door shut. We couldn’t bear to look at it.

 

“What are we going to do?” I cried. I was literally wringing my hands. “Mom says all things are possible with God”, Lucia piped up. “Let’s pray.” We all put a hand on the warm oven door and bowed our heads. “God, please heal Mom’s bread to a light golden brown like she told us”, I said. “If you don’t we’ll be in big trouble!” added Richard. “In Jesus’ name, amen”, Lucia said.

 

Tentatively, Richard opened the oven door again. Four golden brown loaves! We couldn’t believe it. They were perfect.

 

“Where’d you get the recipe for this bread?” one of my Mom’s sisters asked the next day. “It’s delicious!” “It’s the same recipe we’ve all used for years”, Mom said with a laugh. “No, this definitely tastes different”, her brother said. “It’s the best bread I’ve ever had!”

 

Everyone agreed. Finally we kids brought Mom into the kitchen and explained just why the bread tasted so good. It had a special ingredient – answered prayers!

 

 

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

 

Am I willing to enter through the narrow gate that leads to the feast of God’s kingdom? Do I respond to the “amazing grace” that comes from his forgiving love? Do I believe that God wants all to be saved? What do I do personally and concretely to contribute to the mystery of universal salvation? Do I participate in the feast of God’s kingdom with joy and gratitude?

 

Do I allow the principle of Christ’s sacrificial love to animate my human and social relations? Do I promote harmonious relationship in the domestic setting?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

your Son Jesus Christ invites us

to enter through the narrow gate to salvation.

Help us to share in his paschal sacrifice

and the feast of the kingdom.

Let us experience your “amazing grace”

and make us respond to it wholeheartedly.

Enable us to satisfy the world’s hunger

for the bread of life and the cup of salvation.

Let us promote harmony and unity

in the family and in the society

to help us prepare for the coming of your kingdom.

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.

 

            “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.” (Lk 13:24) // “You have a Master in heaven and with him there is no partiality.” (Eph 6:9)

 

 

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

 

Let your daily sacrifice be united with Christ and be a means of sharing in the banquet of God’s kingdom. Study the text of John Newton’s “Amazing Grace” and sing it in a spirit of prayer. Thank the Lord for your family, relatives and friends and do what you can to promote harmonious relationships at all levels.

  

***

 

October 30, 2014: THURSDAY – WEEKDAY (30)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Resolves to Journey to Jerusalem and He Gives Us Strength in our Spiritual Warfare”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Eph 6:10-20 // Lk 13:31-35

 

 

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

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Lk 13:31-35) is filled with pathos and drama. Tension mounts as Jesus continues his journey to Jerusalem. Some Pharisees bring the word that Herod wants to kill him. Marked by hostility, their intent is to daunt rather than to help him. But Jesus does not flinch in the face of danger. He remains firm on the course of his divine mission. In accordance with God’s saving plan, it is necessary that Jesus must continue his journey toward Jerusalem and embrace his paschal destiny of passion, death and resurrection. Jesus, however, will not go to Jerusalem before the allotted time. In the meantime he continues his public ministry of healing and exorcism. When eventually he enters the walls of Jerusalem, the praises “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” will resound within the city in his honor. Sadly, the “Hosanna” praises will turn into a note of rejection.

 

The inevitable suffering Jesus will endure does not cancel his tender love for Jerusalem, which symbolizes the heart of the chosen people. He laments: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You kill the prophets. You stone the messengers God has sent you! I wanted to put my arms around all your people, just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings but you would not let me!” Jesus bemoans the destruction that will come upon the obstinate people. However, at the end of his Jerusalem journey – after treading the way of the cross – Jesus Life triumphs!

 

The following modern day story gives a glimpse into Jesus’ resolve to embrace the paschal mystery (cf. Elizabeth Sherrill in Daily Guideposts 2014, p. 390).

 

Dr. Li, Chinese Physician: We’d gone to China in 1981 to investigate a rumor that churches were reopening. In Shanghai, sure enough, we attended Sunday service in a redbrick church with a standing-room-only congregation. Afterward, we talked with an elderly physician who’d studied in the United States in the 1930s. For two decades, Dr. Li said, this church had been boarded up. Three months before our visit, it had reopened. “Our first service in twenty-two years.”

 

The first service, that is, inside … The first Christmas Eve after the church closed in 1959 was just an ordinary night shift at the hospital for Dr. Li. It was cold and drizzly when he returned to his apartment at 10:30. He took off his damp coat – then, suddenly, put it back on. His wife put hers on too, and followed him outside. Through the icy drizzle they walked, left at the corner, across a square, turn right … headed to church. As they drew closer, they became aware of other silent walkers. From every side-street they came, alone or in twos or threes, until hundreds were standing shoulder to shoulder before the locked door. For two hours they stood in the rain. No hymns. No sermon. “But it was Communion all the same.”

 

For twenty-two years, this was their Christmas service. No one planned any of it. “Just, that night, year after year, we put on our coats and came.”

 

***

 

Today’s First Reading (Eph 6:10-20) is Saint Paul’s conclusion to his ethical exhortations. The apostle urges Christians to pray, stand alert and be ready to fight the evil forces around them. Christ is the head over all for God put all things under his feet and gave him to the Church as the supreme lord of all things (cf. Eph 1:22). Moreover, God has saved us in Christ, whose paschal victory is radical and complete. Our paschal mystery as Christians, however, is an ongoing endeavor towards completion. A spiritual warfare rages on. Paul exhorts us to build up our strength in union with Jesus. He advises us to put on the “armor of God” so that we may be able to resist the wiles of the devil and overcome the malevolent cosmic powers. The “armor of God” consists of truth as a belt, righteousness as a breastplate, the Gospel of peace as footgear, faith as a shield, salvation as helmet, and the word of God as the sword that the Holy Spirit gives.

 

Putting on the “armor of God” and standing ready to fight the spiritual battle need to be completed by prayer. The Christian soldiers need to pray on every occasion as the Spirit leads. Moreover they must pray for all God’s people, including the apostle Paul, who for the sake of the Gospel as its ambassador is now in prison. With humble trust, Saint Paul asks the beloved Ephesians to pray that he may proclaim the Gospel boldly as he should.

 

The following article gives insight into the meaning of putting on the “armor of God” (Lisa Bogart in Daily Guideposts 2015, p. 340).

 

Most mornings I dress without much thought. My day-to-day routine does not require that I wear anything more elaborate than a clean T-shirt with jeans or a blouse and dress pants. And yet I enjoy dolling up for special occasions. A fancy night out requires planning. It takes time to select a dress, coordinate the accessories, do my hair, and figure out the shoes. It’s fun to present my prettiest self and I like seeing my husband in a tuxedo.

 

Just like the dressing up for a party, putting on the armor of God takes effort and each piece is chosen with intention. What if I dressed with such deliberate care every day? I imagine I would feel safe, blessed, privileged.

 

Today when I dress, I will buckle the belt of truth. I will pick up the sword of the Spirit. I will slip on the shoes of readiness. Today I will use my wardrobe as a reminder of Who my daily companion is.

 

 

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

 

1. Like Jesus, are we resolved to go on a spiritual journey that will bring to completion the Father’s saving plan? 

 

2. Are we ready to fight in the ongoing spiritual warfare against the forces of evil? Do we intend to put on the “armor of God”? Do we pray in the name of Jesus that we may be strengthened?

 

 

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

 

Heavenly Father,

your Son Jesus journeys resolutely toward Jerusalem.

Totally committed to your saving will,

no threat of death can deter him.

Unite us to Jesus

that we may be strengthened in our paschal journey

and in our spiritual warfare against the forces of evil.

Clothe us with the armor of truth, justice and peace.

Help us to pray as we should and in the name of Jesus.

He lives and reigns, 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.

 

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem! I yearn to gather you together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.” (Lk 13:34) // “Put on the armor of God.” (Eph 6:13)

 

 

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

 

Be deeply aware that in our ongoing paschal journey a spiritual warfare is involved. Commit yourself to daily prayer in order to be strengthened spiritually by God’s mighty power.

 

***

October 31, 2014: FRIDAY – WEEKDAY (30)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Heals Our Infirmities and to Him Our Praise Is Due”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Phil 1:1-11 // Lk 14:1-6

 

 

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

 

            Today’s Gospel episode (Lk 14:1-6) underlines that Jesus’ compassionate stance cannot be hindered or obstructed by false legalism. One Sabbath Jesus goes to the home of a leading Pharisee to dine. The people there watch him closely and some of them, no doubt, with an intention to entrap him.  A man suffering from dropsy, a disease in which the body swells up with excess fluid, comes to Jesus. The Divine Master raises the issue: “Does our Law allow healing on the Sabbath or not?” The scholars of the Law and the Pharisees keep silent. Their silence is ominous and hostile. Jesus immediately heals the man whose legs and arms are swollen and sends him away. Jesus then prods the Pharisees and the scholars of the Law with a question: “Who among you, if your son or ox falls into a cistern would not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?” They are unable to answer. Just as Jesus is compassionate to the man with dropsy, he likewise shows concern for the Pharisees and the scribes by trying to open their minds to the absurdity of denying healing to a suffering person on the basis of a law of the Sabbath, the day given as a gift by God to refresh his people. Jesus teaches them and us not to postpone a good deed for someone in need. Jesus shows us that love for neighbor transcends false constraints.

 

Here is a news report I read in the Fresno Bee (July 24, 2006) about the rescue of a young boy from India, trapped for two days in a 60-foot deep irrigation shaft. The story broke into international prominence after the private Zee News channel lowered a camera into the pit and captured haunting images of a child crying helplessly in the dark. The news report helps us appreciate the logic of Jesus’ contention that if a son or ox falls into a cistern, we would immediately pull him out.

 

Prince fell into the freshly dug hole Friday evening when he was playing in Aldeharhi, a village in the northern state of Haryana. The shaft, covered only with an empty jute sack, was just wide enough to fit the boy and too narrow for an adult. When villagers and local police could not pull him out, they sought the help of the army. Over two days, soldiers from an engineering regiment scooped out drums of mud from an abandoned well 10 feet away from the hole, taking care not to use heavy machinery so soil would not cave in on the boy. Oxygen was pumped into the pit and rescuers talked to the boy to keep his morale up. Rescuers and TV viewers alike could watch the boy looking around timidly, munching on chocolate and biscuits and drinking milk from a can that had been lowered in by rope. With their bare hands, soldiers then created a pipe-reinforced connecting passageway to the irrigation shaft. One soldier reached Prince and, along with four others, took him back through the pipe and up the abandoned well. Making a gripping story even better, Prince was rescued on his birthday. Prince turned 5 on Sunday.

 

***

 

In the First Reading (Phil 1:1-11), Paul acknowledges with a spirit of thanksgiving and joy the signs of hope that fill the early Christian community in Philippi. He likewise prays that they may have greater love, understanding and insight so that they may be pure and blameless for the Lord’s definitive Advent at the end time. It is absolutely necessary that Christian disciples advance, upright and without stumbling, toward the “day of Christ” – his final coming.

 

The biblical scholar Pedro Ortiz comments on Paul’s Prayer of Thanksgiving: “After the greeting, Paul (following a general custom) adds a prayer of thanksgiving. He begins by giving thanks to God for the solidarity the Philippians have shown with him in his apostolic work, a solidarity born of their participation in the same faith in Christ and the same Spirit and concretely manifested in the help they have given Paul in his moments of need. Paul does not hide the sentiments of intimate affection he feels toward the entire community of Philippi. Now that he is in prison he feels in a special way that they are associated with him and his work, in their sending him Epaphroditus to help him and serve him in his need. In exchange for that Paul asks God that the love they already have may grow more and more and that it may be enriched with the intimate knowledge of God and the capacity to discern and choose always what is best. Thus they will be kept pure in a world in which evil prevails. And when the Lord comes for the eschatological judgment, he will find them irreproachable, producing a harvest of righteousness, that is, the good works they have accomplished. Thanks to the help of Christ Jesus and all redounding to the glory and praise of God.”

 

The following story illustrates Saint Paul’s assertion: “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus” (cf. Joshua Sundquist in Daily Guideposts 2015, p. 3).

 

My family was set to move from Virginia to Florida. Dad was leaving his job as an accountant to go to seminary. Afterwards, we would return to Virginia and he would become the assistant pastor at our church. Then the unexpected happened: I got cancer. Seminary plans were scrapped as my life hung in the balance for a year, and those plans never recovered even after I did.

 

I did not get the feeling Dad blamed me for his lost dream; he is a man of deeper faith than that. He was just confused as to why God would place such a burden on his heart if ministry was not meant to be a part of his career.

 

It’s been nineteen years since my family took that detour. I now live in the Washington, DC, metro area about two hours from where I grew up. Dad recently accepted a job as an accounting manager for the very church I attend, and he is elated. He thought he needed seminary to do God’s work, but it turns out God had a different plan.

 

I’m not naïve enough to think God is in the business of fulfilling all of our dreams in this lifetime, but sometimes He lays an idea in our hearts for a reason. And seeing His faithfulness in my dad’ career reminds me that there are times when what seems like a door shutting is actually a message that we need to wait patiently until God opens a different door in His own time.

 

 

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

 

1. Do I procrastinate with regards to acts of charity and delay for no valid reason the help urgently need? 

 

2. Do we trust that the good Lord who has begun a good work in us will bring it to completion? 

 

 

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

 

Loving Jesus,

your love is abounding.

You answer the cry of the poor.

Help us to compassionately serve

our needy brothers and sisters.

Teach us to respond immediately

to their urgent needs.

We put our trust in you.

We believe that the Father who has begun a good work in us

will bring it to completion until the day of your coming.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

            Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“He had healed him.” (Lk 14:4) // “The one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it.” (Phil 1:6)

 

 

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

 

Be deeply aware that the little kindness, caring and acts of charity that you do are a vital part of God’s saving plan. Make an effort to respond “timely” and immediately to the urgent needs of the people around you.

    

***

 

November 1, 2014: SATURDAY – ALL SAINTS

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the King of All Saints”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Rv 7:2-4, 9-14 // I Jn 3:1-3 // Mt 5:1-12a

 

 

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

 

Today is the Feast of All Saints. The saints are people who have given intense and incisive witness that salvation comes from God and from the Paschal Lamb, Jesus Christ. The Beatitudes have animated and shaped their lives. Single-heartedly, these exemplary followers of Christ have pursued the goal of holiness to which all are called by God. Through this joyful feast, we celebrate the holiness of God manifested in the lives of the saints. We also thank the Lord for the triumph of righteousness. Today we proclaim our communion with the saints and invoke their intercession for us.

 

The saints are myriads – from every nation, race, people, and tongue (Rv 7:2-4, 9, 14). But all have trod the path of the Beatitudes (Mt 5:1-12a). As children of God, we too are called to be holy. Like the saints, we strongly hope “to see God as he is” in our glorious destiny in heaven (I Jn 3:1-3).

 

The biblical scholar Eugene Maly comments: “On this Solemnity of All Saints, Matthew, I John, and Revelation remind us that this is our day. We are to be joyous as we celebrate the solemn festival here below. Our lifetime is a pilgrimage to the heavenly city above. Yet it is only in the total commitment of our personality to Christ that we can make our robes white in his lifeblood and can have the total fulfillment of our hopes. It is in him that we live – and hope to die. We are pilgrims on our way home. The path is found in the beatitudes, and the end is found in heaven. Happy Feast Day!”

 

The following story, “What Goes Around Comes Around” illustrates the moral fiber and the spirit of sainthood. It gives us a glimpse of “heaven”. It also shows how wonderful our world could be if we live out fully the Gospel spirit of mercy and of the entire Beatitudes.

 

One day a man saw an old lady stranded on the side of the road, but even in the dim light of day, he could see she needed help. So he pulled up in front of her Mercedes and got out. His Pontiac was still sputtering when he approached her. Even with a smile on his face, she was worried. No one had stopped to help for the last hour or so! Was he going to hurt her? He didn’t look safe; he looked poor and hungry. He could see that she was frightened, standing out there in the cold. He knew how she felt. It was that chill which only fear can put in you. He said, “I’m here to help you, ma’am. Why don’t you wait in the car where it’s warm? By the way, my name is Bryan Anderson.” Well, all she had was a flat tire, but for an old lady, that was bad enough. Bryan crawled under the car looking for a place to put the jack, skinning his knuckles a time or two. Soon he was able to change the tire. But he had to get dirty and his hand hurt.

 

As he was tightening up the lug nut, she rolled down the window and began to talk to him. She told him that she was from St. Louis and was only just passing through. She couldn’t thank him enough for coming to her aid. Bryan just smiled as he closed her trunk. The lady asked how much she owed him. Any amount would have been all right with her. She already imagined all the awful things that would have happened had he not stopped. Bryan never thought twice about being paid. This was not a job to him. This was helping someone in need, and God knows there were plenty who had given him a hand in the past. He had lived his whole life that way, and it never occurred to him to act any other way. He told her that if she really wanted to pay him back, the next time she saw someone who needed help, she would give that person the assistance needed, and Bryan added, “And think of me.” He waited until she started her car and drove off. It had been a cold and depressing day, but he felt good as he headed for home, disappearing into the twilight.

 

A few miles down the road, the lady saw a small café. She went in to grab a bite to eat, and take the chill off before she made the last leg of her trip home. It was a dingy looking restaurant. Outside were two old gas pumps. The whole scene was unfamiliar to her. The waitress came over and brought a clean towel to wipe her wet hair. She had a sweet smile, one that being on her feet for the whole day couldn’t erase. The lady noticed the waitress was nearly eight months pregnant, but she never let the strain and aches change her attitude. The old lady wondered how someone so little could be so giving to a stranger. Then she remembered Bryan. After the lady finished her meal, she paid with a hundred dollar bill. The waitress quickly went to get change for her hundred dollar bill, but the old lady had slipped right out the door. She was gone by the time the waitress came back. The waitress wondered where the lady could be. Then she noticed something written on the napkin. There were tears in her eyes when she read what the lady wrote: “You don’t owe me anything … I have been there too. Somebody once helped me out, the way I’m helping you. If you really want to pay me back, here is what you do: Do not let this chain of love end with you.” Under the napkin were four more $100 bills. Well, there were tables to clear, sugar bowls to fill, and people to serve, but the waitress made it through another day …

 

That night when she got home from work and climbed into bed, she was thinking about the money and what the lady had written. How could the lady have known how much she and her husband needed it? With the baby due next month, it was going to be hard … She knew how worried her husband was, and as he lay sleeping next to her, she gave him a soft kiss and whispered soft and low, “Everything is going to be all right. I love you, Bryan Anderson.”

 

Here is another example that holiness and sainthood continue to grace our life today. Ted Wojtkowski, as a young man, was privileged to witness one of the greatest acts of saintly heroism of the twentieth century. His encounter with Father Maximilian Kolbe changed his life and enabled him to be a man of hope (cf. Jay Copp, “Inspired by a Martyr” in Amazing Grace for the Catholic Heart, ed. Jeff Cavins, et. al., West Chester: Ascension Press, 2004, p. 26-29).

 

The year was 1939. In September, German tanks rumbled into Poland. The first village attacked by the Nazis was the home of Wojtkoswki, then a 20-year-old student. A patriot, Wojtkowski went underground. He and his buddies manned a shortwave radio to gather war news from London and then secretly printed leaflets to let villagers know what was occurring. Before long, Wojtkowski hopped on his father’s bicycle and headed toward Hungary. His destination was France, where he hoped to join the Polish army. The Nazis caught him at the border, jailed him, and sent him to Auschwitz on May 1, 1939.

 

Auschwitz was not a killing ground for Jews yet; the Nazis were using it for criminals and for foes of their regime, including priests and activists. Wojtkowski, living with eight-hundred men in a two-story barracks, was put to work building more barracks. The Nazis treated the prisoners brutally. Priests were especially singled-out for punishment – guards kicked them in the face and stomach and clubbed them over the head. When a prisoner escaped, all the others were ordered to stand in the sun for days, hands on their heads. After a second escape, ten prisoners were machine-gunned. The third escape occurred on or about July 28, 1941. One hundred members of Wojtkowski’s barracks were forced to stand in rows of ten. Ten of them would die. Wojtkowski stood in the eighth row. The camp commander ordered each row, one after the other, to step forward. He began a random selection. One, two, three were pulled from a group. Wojtkowski hoped that ten would be singled out before his row was reached.

 

A fourth, fifth, and sixth were picked. The sixth broke down. “My wife, my children …” he sobbed. “Who will take care of them?” A prisoner from the sixth row turned to the commander, “I will take the place of this man with the wife and children”, he said. Most remarkable of all was the volunteer’s demeanor. “His expression was so serene, so peaceful, not a shadow of fear”, Wojtkowski recalls. The commander, however, was not impressed. “You must be some kind of (expletive) priest”, he snarled. But he accepted him as one of the ten. The volunteer and nine others were locked in a bunker. The Nazis would not waste bullets on them. They would be starved to death. The man was indeed a priest, but not just any priest. He was Franciscan Father Maximilian Kolbe. Poles considered Kolbe a saint. His personal assistant Jerome Wierziba, once said of him: “He had something good in his face that emanated God. Just looking at him gave you peace of mind.”

 

Kolbe published religious magazines and newspapers read by more than one million Poles. He was widely admired, running the largest Catholic religious house in the world. Intensely devoted to the Blessed Mother, Kolbe supervised six-hundred-fifty friars at his City of the Immaculata, an evangelization center near Warsaw. The Nazis naturally regarded Kolbe with suspicion after they invaded Poland. When he resisted pressure to apply for German citizenship for which he was eligible, he was arrested on February 17, 1941.

 

When the guards were out of earshot, the prisoners shared information with one another about the fate of the ten in the bunker. Kolbe was leading the doomed in prayers and hymns, and a piece of bread had been smuggled in to be used in a Mass. After three weeks, Kolbe was the last to die. The Nazis, impatient to use the bunker to punish others, had a doctor inject poison into Kolbe to finish him off.

 

The more Wojtkowski thought about Kolbe’s self-sacrifice, the more astounded he was. Francis Gajowniczek, whom Kolbe had saved, was a peasant farmer. Kolbe, forty-seven, was one of the most accomplished men in Poland, a priest with many plans. Already he had begun a missionary center in Japan and was determined to open an evangelization center in each continent. And Kolbe, who possessed great drive and ambition, had given up all his dreams in a moment. He truly was a man of God, Wojtkowski realized. Kolbe saved not only Gajowniczek, but also Wojtkowski. Years of deprivation awaited Wojtkowski. There would be backbreaking labor and physical abuse. But Wojtkowski never lost his will to survive. “Father Kolbe inspired me”, he says. “After his sacrifice, I never thought I would die at Auschwitz. Someday I would be liberated and tell what happened.”

 

  

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

 

How does the vision of the great multitude of the redeemed and the beauty of the heavenly liturgy presented in the Book of Revelation affect you? Do you imagine your favorite saints to be participants in this heavenly worship? Do you wish to be united with the saints in their divine worship? What is the personal implication of the Gospel Beatitudes for you? Do you allow yourself to be inspired by the saints in the way they live the spirit of the Beatitudes?  Are you deeply aware of our Christian identity as children of God? Do you look forward with hope to our glorious destiny of eternal life with God, with all the saints in heaven?  

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

we thank you for the supreme gift of your Son Jesus Christ

whose glory is reflected in the lives of the saints.

The myriads of saints

“from every nation, race, people and tongue”

have trod the path of the Beatitudes.

Each saint has participated fully and uniquely

in the saving passion of your Son on the cross.

Let our lives be inspired

by their total configuration to Christ Redeemer.

In communion with the saints,

may we pursue our Christian vocation to holiness

and attain their glorious destiny with you in heaven.

Together with the multitude of the redeemed

and with all the saints in heaven,

we exclaim:

“Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving,

honor, power and might be to our God,

forever and ever.”

            Amen.  

 

 

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

 

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

 

“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.” (Mt 5:12a)

 

 

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

 

            Pray that we may respond fully to our Christian call to holiness. By incarnating the spirit of the Beatitudes, allow our fragmented world of today to have a glimpse of God’s infinite beauty and truth. Let those in need experience “a touch of the saints in heaven”.

   

  

 

***

 

 

Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang  PDDM

 

 

PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI

SISTER DISCIPLES OF THE DIVINE MASTER

60 Sunset Ave., Staten Island, NY 10314

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