A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 18, n. 48)

Week 30 in Ordinary Time: October 25-31, 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 18-24, 2020 please go to ARCHIVES Series 18 and click on “Ordinary Week 29”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: October 25-31, 2020.)

 

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October 25, 2020: THIRTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

N.B. Today the Pauline Family celebrates the 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: A Pastoral Tool for the LECTIO

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 22:34-40): “You shall love the Lord your God and your neighbor as yourself.”

          

The 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.”

 

 

B. First Reading (Ex 22:20-26): “If you wrong the widow and the orphan, my wrath will flare up against you.”

 

The 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.”

 

 

C. Second Reading (I Thes 1:5c-10): “You turned from idols to serve the living and true God and to await his Son from heaven.”

 

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 shall love the Lord your God … You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt 22:38-39)

 

  

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.  

 

 

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October 26, 2020: MONDAY – WEEKDAY (30)

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Compassion Surpasses the Sabbath Law … 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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 13:10-17): “This daughter of Abraham, ought she not to have been set free on the Sabbath day?”

 

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.

 

 

B. First Reading (Eph 4:32-5:8): “Walk in love, just as Christ!”

 

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.

 

 

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October 27, 2020: TUESDAY – WEEKDAY (30)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Blesses Small Beginnings … He Loves the Church”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Eph 5:21-33 // Lk 13:18-21

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 13:18-21): “When it was fully grown, it became a large bush.”

 

The first parable in today’s Gospel reading (Lk 13:18-21) is about the mustard seed, the smallest seed in the world. Planted in the ground, it grows and becomes a large bush. Birds come and make their nests in its shady branches. In this parable, Jesus contrasts the insignificant beginning of the extremely small seed and the enormous size of the full-grown bush. The image of a tiny mustard seed growing into the grandiose bush underlines the universal expanse of God’s kingdom that would encompass all nations, as well as Israel. The second parable is about the yeast’s leavening force that makes the dough rise. Even a minimal amount of yeast has a natural tendency to expand, producing a great change in the dough to make it fit to be baked into a loaf of bread. Likewise, there is something inherently dynamic in the kingdom of God. Its power of good is transforming.

 

Jesus invites us to extol the power of small beginnings. We are called to sow the seed of the kingdom in today’s world as well as to trust in the power of the Holy Spirit who animates the growing kingdom. Let us do our part in sowing the seed and in manifesting to the world the dynamic and transforming power of the heavenly kingdom. We are to be seeds of the kingdom and to exhibit the transforming power of good in today’s world. The experience of Mike McGarvin, the founder of the Poverello House in Fresno, gives insight into the mustard seed beginning and the dynamic power of his compassionate ministry to the poor and needy (cf. Mike McGarvin, PAPA MIKE, 2003, p. 73-74).

 

My job was with a local newspaper, the Fresno Bee … There was a void in my life, because I had been so used to serving the Pov, and now I wasn’t doing anything. It was this restlessness, and the unbearable heat in our trailer, that compelled me to start checking out Chinatown. Fresno’s Chinatown is a tiny area southwest of downtown proper. It was near to where the Fresno Bee building was located, and it piqued my interest. In many ways, it reminded me of the Tenderloin district in San Francisco. There were small struggling businesses, a lot of cheap bars, single room occupancy hotels, prostitutes, and homeless people everywhere. It had a few mysterious and charming street names, such as “Fagan’s Alley” or “China Alley”, but it was dreary and gritty rather than romantic.

 

It was 1973, just a few months after we had moved back to Fresno. I went to a day-old bread store, loaded up on loaves, got some peanut butter and jelly, and went to work. I took it all back to our trailer, and Mary and I made up a bunch of sandwiches. I got some disposable cups, a jug of ice water, and drove the short distance to Chinatown. I was working nights, so I had days free, and I started going to Chinatown daily, taking the sandwiches and the water, walking and giving them out. People were suspicious at first, but as time went on, they started warming up to me. It helped that I was big, had a black belt in judo, and wasn’t intimidated.

 

The homeless people I encountered had no place to go. There was a rescue mission in town, but at that time it didn’t have a day program. Most of these folks were typical skid row types – older alcoholics and drug addicts, worn-out prostitutes, and poor, disabled men. They hung out on the streets in the summer heat and the winter cold because there was nowhere to turn. They weren’t wanted by anyone. The businesses didn’t want them around, because they scared customers away and littered the area. The police didn’t want them around, because they were nothing but trouble. I had stumbled onto a whole community of outcasts. That old Poverello spirit was starting to take hold of me again. I loved going out and seeing the smiles on the faces when I handed out sandwiches. I enjoyed the jokes and stories I’d hear. I liked getting to know people by name, and many of them seemed to crave not only the food, but also the attention.

 

My routine in Chinatown started out just a few days a week, but like the Pov up in San Francisco, it slowly became a bigger part of my life. It wasn’t long before I was going seven days each week. It was getting a little pricey on my new salary, so I started hitting up my church, Mount Carmel, to donate some money to buy bread and the peanut butter. That got some people interested. I figured out pretty quickly that I might be able to get more than money out of the church. I was meeting some good-hearted people and some of them wanted to join me. After about a year, I was ready for help, although I wasn’t sure how these church folks would react to some of the hardened street characters. There weren’t many who hit the streets with me, but quite a few helped by preparing the food.

 

 

B. First Reading (Eph 5:21-33): “This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the Church.”

 

The reading (Eph 5:21-33) underlines that the personal relationship between wife and husband is based on Christ’s self-sacrificing love for others. Marriage between a man and a woman draws its strength and meaning from the covenant love of Christ and his Body, the Church. The mutual submission and sacrificial aspect that animates the love relationship of spouses testify to the presence and fullness of the Spirit in their lives. Their marriage covenant is thus modeled on the “great mystery” of union between Christ, the Head, and his Body, the Church. The New Covenant ratified in Christ’s blood enhances the love relationship and nuptial bond of a man and a woman with beauty, fidelity and grace.

 

Moreover, the marriage of man and woman, when nurtured at the Eucharist and nourished by “the bread of the covenant”, can serve as a reflection, however imperfect, of the union between Christ, the Bridegroom, and his Bride, the Church. Such a marriage can be a model of self-giving love in today’s world and a sacrament of God’s covenant love and intimate relationship with his people on earth.

 

The following article in the Irish newspaper, Alive! (July/August 2009 issue, p. 6) extols the decision of a young Catholic couple to trust in God and accept the divine will. The moral commitment of Austin and Nuala Conway gives us an insight into Christian marriage as sacrament-covenant and inspired by God’s fidelity.

 

The parents of Ireland’s first ever set of sextuplets decided to put their trust in God rather than follow doctors’ immoral advice during their pregnancy. “These babies are a wonderful gift from God. Whatever God laid out for our lives we were taking it”, said 26-year-old Nuala Conway of Dunamore Co Tyrone. Doctors warned the married couple about the risks of a multiple pregnancy, and “more or less” advised them to have several of their unborn babies aborted. But the young Catholic couple rejected such a heartless solution and opted to trust in God and accept his will. “Doctors gave us a couple of days to think about it, but we knew without discussion what we both wanted”, said Nuala. “Whatever God laid out for our lives, we were taking it.”

 

The four girls and two boys, weighing between 1 lb 7 oz and 2 lb 7 oz, were delivered by Caesarian section 14 weeks early at Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital, with the aid of 30 medical staff. In an interview with the Sunday Express, Mrs. Conway said, “I prayed as much as I could for a child. I would have been happy with one, but God blessed us with six, which is amazing.” It wasn’t until just three months before the birth that a scan showed she was carrying six babies. “I’m in love with every single one of them. I fell in love when they were in the womb. When one moved they would all move and I could definitely feel 24 limbs kicking”, she said.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we believe in the power of small beginnings and in the transforming power of the kingdom of God? Do we trust greatly in God who can do all things in us?

 

2. In the Eucharist do we renew our covenant with the Eucharistic Master, avow our faith in him and make an act of unconditional fidelity in him? How do we live out our covenant bond with our wife/husband?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

we are fascinated how a mustard seed,

can grow into a large bush to shelter the birds of the sky.

We are awed

by the leavening power of a small amount of yeast.

We thank and praise you

for the miracle of the mustard-seed beginning of your kingdom,

which continues to extend its life-giving fruitfulness

to all peoples of the earth.

We thank you for the dynamic power

of the heavenly kingdom.

Help us to appreciate small beginnings

and to believe in the dynamic power of the Gospel.

You are our hope and our joy, now and forever.

Amen.

 

            ***

Lord Jesus,

may we love and serve you alone.

We pray for married couples

that they may mirror limpidly the love relationship

between Christ and his body the Church.

Let us promote the integrity of family life

and holiness of Christian marriage in today’s world.

We adore you as our Eucharistic Master,

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.

 

“What is the kingdom of God like?” (Lk 13:18) //“Christ loved the Church.” (Eph 5:25)

 

  

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

 

Pray that people who sow the seed of the heavenly kingdom in today’s world may be blessed by the Lord. By your compassionate acts of love and service, and by trusting in the dynamic power of the Gospel, do your part in making the kingdom of God come. // By your personal dedication and service to one another as husband and wife and/or as family members, promote the integrity and holiness of marriage and family life.

 

*** *** ***

October 28, 2020: WEDNESDAY – SAINTS SIMON AND JUDE, APOSTLES

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Chooses the Apostles … 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, 2020: THURSDAY – WEEKDAY (30)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Resolves to Journey to Jerusalem … 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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 13:31-35): “It is impossible that a prophet should die outside of Jerusalem.”

 

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.”

 

 

B. First Reading (Eph 6:10-20): “Put on the armor of God, that you may be able, having done everything, to hold your ground.”

 

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 30, 2020: FRIDAY – WEEKDAY (30)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Heals Our Infirmities … 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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 14:1-6): “Who among you, if your son or ox falls into a cistern, would not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?”

 

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.

 

 

B. First Reading (Phil 1:1-11): “The one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

 

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 naďve 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.

 

 

*** *** ***

October 24, 2020: SATURDAY – WEEEKDAY (30)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Blesses the Humble … He Is Our Life”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Phil 1:18b-26 // Lk 14:1, 7-11

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 14:1, 7-11): “Everyone who exalts himself will be bumbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

 

In 2003 Mike McGarvin wrote a very interesting book, “Papa Mike”, about his conversion and his service to the poor, the marginalized and the homeless. After reading the book, I concluded that Mike McGarvin is a living example of one who had humbly recognized his human frailty and weakness and turned to God for salvation. He is a realization of the words of Jesus: “The one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk 14:11b). The following anecdote that Mike wrote in his book made me chuckle for it fittingly illustrates the other aspect of Jesus’ lesson on humility: “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled” (Lk 12:14a).

 

At St. Boniface and Poverello, I got a real slice of life. The Tenderloin was the bottom of the social barrel, and all sorts of desperate cases drifted in and out …There was a regular at Poverello who was exceptional. He looked like a typical street person: dirty, a ratty beard, deteriorating, mismatched clothes. One day someone told me that he had once been a chess champion, ranked eighth in the United States. He had been involved in a love relationship that didn’t work out, and it had taken him over the edge. He started drinking too much, and eventually landed on the streets in San Francisco.

 

One evening, a volunteer, who was a lawyer, looked out over the coffeehouse and said, “I’ll bet these people aren’t smart enough to play chess.” I was offended by his remark, but immediately thought of a way to cool this guy’s arrogance. I pointed to the chess champion, and said, “I’ve seen that guy play a little chess; why don’t you try him out?” The lawyer played three games with him, and the old wino beat him resoundingly every time. The attorney fancied himself an excellent chess player, so he was devastated. He came back up to the counter, and kept saying over and over, “I can’t believe that old drunk beat me three times.”

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Lk 14: 1, 7-11) tells us that on a Sabbath day Jesus had gone for a meal to the house of a leading Pharisee. Jesus noticed how the guests were choosing the places of honor at table. In this meal setting populated with “social climbers”, the Divine Master narrated to the guests a parable that ends with a powerful dictum: “For everyone who exalts himself with be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk 14:11). The biblical scholar, Eugene Maly explains the faith context of this parable: “Jesus is not concerned with ordinary social etiquette. He has more in mind than that … This is a Kingdom talk. This is the way it is in the Kingdom of God. A presupposition of the saying is that God issues the invitation to the Kingdom banquet. And he issues it to the lowly, the humble, those who recognize their total dependence on God’s salvation. These are the ones who will be exalted. But those who say, ‘Look at me, Lord! See my strength, my wealth, my influence’, are the ones who will be humbled. This humility, this total openness to the strength of God, leads to greatness.”

 

Indeed, the kingdom parable of Jesus underlines the meaning of humility, which is basically a total dependence on God who wills our salvation. The Divine Master took the way of humility in his pilgrimage to Jerusalem to bring to fulfillment his life-giving paschal destiny on the cross. Jesus crystallized the meaning of humility in his very person. He is the Servant-Son totally consecrated to the saving will of God. With deep humility as faithful servant and in filial obedience, Jesus humbly pursued the Father’s saving plan and fully committed his entire being to God. The lowly one of Yahweh trusted in the marvelous action of God – he who humbles and exalts. St. Paul and an early Christian hymn acclaim: “Jesus humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him” (Phil 2:8-9).

 

 

B. First Reading (Phil 1:18b-26): “For to me life is Christ and death is gain.”

 

Saint Paul the Apostle is a privileged example of the laborer of the “last hour” who benefited from the abundant riches of God’s grace. A persecutor of Christian faith, he was converted and experienced the undeserved free bounty of God. Saint Paul is a model of a true response to divine love radically revealed in Jesus Christ. In the reading (Phil 1:18b-26), the Apostle is writing to the Philippians from a prison in Ephesus circa 56 A.D. Awaiting a possible death sentence, he reflects that for him both life and death take their meaning from Christ. Saint Paul asserts that with his whole being, he would bring honor to Christ, whether he live or die. Death for him is gain for he would relish the heavenly reward. To continue to live in this world, however, would mean a more fruitful labor for the Gospel. This would benefit more greatly the community of faith and encourage them to live a life worthy of the Gospel. Having been evangelized and brought under the power of the Gospel, they are to reflect in their life and their belonging to Christ.

 

The following personal testimony of Fr. Jose Maniyangat, circulated on the Internet, powerfully illustrates the necessity of responding faithfully and obediently to our Christian vocation through life and death.

 

I was born on July 16, 1949 in Kerala, India to my parents, Joseph and Theresa Maniyangat. I am the eldest of seven children: Jose, Mary, Theresa, Lissama, Zachariah, Valsa and Tom. At the age of fourteen, I entered St. Mary’s Minor Seminary in Thirivalla to begin my studies for the priesthood. Four years later, I went to St. Joseph’s Pontifical Major Seminary in Alwaye, Kerala to continue my priestly formation. After completing the seven years of philosophy and theology, I was ordained a priest on January 1, 1975 to serve as a missionary in the Diocese of Thirivalla.

 

On Sunday April 14, 1985, the feast of Divine Mercy, I was going to celebrate Mass at a mission church in the north part of Kerala, and I had a fatal accident. I was riding a motorcycle when I was hit head-on by a jeep driven by a man who was intoxicated after a Hindu festival. I was rushed to a hospital about 35 miles away. On the way, my soul came out from my body and I experienced death. Immediately, I met my Guardian Angel. I saw my body and the people were mourning for me. At this time my angel told me: “I am going to take you to Heaven; the Lord wants to meet you.” He also said that, on the way, he wanted to show me hell and purgatory.

 

Hell: First, the angel escorted me to hell. It was an awful sight! I saw Satan and the devils, an unquenchable fire of about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, worms crawling, people screaming and fighting, others being tortured by demons. The angel told me that all these sufferings were due to un-repented mortal sins. Then, I understood that there are seven degrees of suffering or levels according to the number and kinds of mortal sins committed in their earthly lives. The souls looked very ugly, cruel and horrific. It was a fearful experience. I saw people whom I knew, but I am not allowed to reveal their identities. The sins that convicted them were mainly abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, hatefulness, un-forgiveness and sacrilege.

 

The angel told me that if they had repented, they would have avoided hell and gone instead to purgatory. I also understood that some people who repent from these sins might be purified on earth through their sufferings. This way they can avoid purgatory and go straight to heaven. I was surprised when I saw in hell even priests and Bishops, some of whom I never expected to see. Many of them were there because they had misled the people with false teaching and bad example.

 

Purgatory: After the visit to hell, my Guardian Angel escorted me to purgatory. Here too, there are seven degrees of suffering and unquenchable fire. But it is far less intense than hell and there was neither quarreling nor fighting. The main suffering of these souls is their separation from God. Some of those who are in purgatory committed numerous mortal sins, but they were reconciled with God before their death. Even though these souls were suffering, they enjoy peace and the knowledge that one day they will see God face to face.

 

I had a chance to communicate with the souls in purgatory. They asked me to pray for them and to tell the people to pray for them as well, so that they can go to heaven quickly. When we pray for these souls, we will receive their gratitude through their prayers, and once they enter heaven, their prayers become even more meritorious. It is difficult for me to describe how beautiful my Guardian Angel is. He is radiant and bright. He is my constant companion and helps me in all my ministries, especially my healing ministry. I experience his presence everywhere I go and I am grateful for his protection in my daily life.

 

Heaven: Next, my angel escorted me to heaven passing through a big dazzling white tunnel. I never experienced this much peace and joy in my life. Then immediately heaven opened up and I heard the most delightful music, which I never heard before. The angels were singing and praising God. I saw all the saints, especially the Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph, and many dedicated holy Bishops and priests who were shining like stars.

 

And when I appeared before the Lord, Jesus told me: “I want you to go back to the world. In your second life, you will be an instrument of peace and healing to my people. You will walk in a foreign land and you will speak in a foreign tongue. Everything is possible for you with my grace.” After these words, the Blessed Mother told me: “Do whatever he tells you. I will help you in your ministries.”

 

Words cannot express the beauty of heaven. There we find so much peace and happiness, which exceed a million times our imagination. Our Lord is far more beautiful than any image can convey. His face is radiant and luminous and more beautiful that a thousand rising suns. The pictures we see in the world are only a shadow of his magnificence. The Blessed Mother was next to Jesus. She was so beautiful and radiant. None of the images we see in this world can compare with her real beauty.

 

Heaven is our real home; we are all created to reach heaven and enjoy God forever.

 

 

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

 

1. What does Jesus’ teaching on humility mean to us, personally and concretely? Are we willing to replicate in our life the humble stance of Jesus, the Servant of Yahweh and the Son of God?

 

2. Do we give honor and glory to God in all our being, whether by life or by death?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

your only begotten Son Jesus is the humble Servant

in whom you are most pleased.

We praise and thank you for the mystery of his kenosis and self-emptying.

Help us to realize more and more that the feast of your kingdom is for all.

Fill us with zeal and apostolic strength

to spread your gracious saving invitation to all peoples,

especially the poor and lowly.

We ask this through Christ our Lord

who lives and reigns forever and ever.

Amen.

 

***

Lord Jesus,

you are the center of our life.

Whether we die or live, we belong to you.

Let us proclaim your goodness in everything we do

and by a holy life.

With Saint Paul we declare:

“For to me life is Christ and death is gain.”

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.

 

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk 14:11) //“For to me life is Christ and death is gain.” (Phil 1:21)

 

  

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

 

In a spirit of humility, renew your total dependence on God and his saving will. When you suffer some “humiliation” be gracious and make it an occasion to exercise the virtue of “humility”. // Today be deeply conscious that whatever you do is being offered to the Lord and for an apostolic intention.

 

***

 

 

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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