A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday and Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 12, n. 49)

All Souls’ Day & Weekday 31: Nov. 2- 8, 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. 26-Nov. 1, 2014, please go to ARCHIVES Series 12 and click on “30th in Ordinary Time -Weekday 30”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: November 2-8, 2014.)

 

***

 

November 2, 2014: THE COMMEMORATION OF ALL THE FAITHFUL DEPARTED (ALL SOULS DAY)

 “JESUS SAVIOR: In Him They Shall Be Greatly Blessed”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Suggestion: Wis 3:1-9 // Rom 5:5-11 // Jn 6:37-40

 

 

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

 

In the 9th century Amalareus of Metz (ca. 780-850 A.D.) suggested a day of commemoration for all the dead, similar to the consecration of a day in memory of all the saints. But it was only after many years that his wish would be fulfilled. The commemoration of all the faithful departed was first celebrated on November 2, 998 through the initiative of St. Odilo (ca. 962-1049), the fifth abbot of Cluny, and approved by Pope Sylvester II (ca. 940-1003). The Pope’s successors continued to favor the celebration of this feast in numerous Cluny monasteries, which in turn contributed to the diffusion of this feast throughout the Latin churches.

 

There is an intimate connection between the feast of All Saints (November 1) and the feast of All Souls (November 2). Both celebrate the paschal mystery of Christ, which is the basic foundation for the Christian vision of death and life after death. Our contemplation of the saving event of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection, in which the saints intimately participated on earth and continue to share gloriously and eternally in heaven, leads us naturally and spontaneously to the prayer for all the departed. We pray that our beloved dead, by the mercy of God, may also share fully and intimately in Christ’s paschal victory and in his gift of eternal life in heaven.

 

On the feast of All Souls, no particular biblical readings are prescribed, in contrast to other feast days. But there is a wide range of lectionary texts proposed from the Masses for the Dead. One favorite text is Wisdom 3:1-9, which offers consoling words about the eternal destiny of our faithful departed: “They are in the hand of God … they are in peace … their hope is full of immortality … chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed.” Combined with appropriate New Testament readings (e.g. Rom 6:3-9 and Jn 6:37-40, etc.) that avow the divine saving plan and the final destruction of death through Christ’s death and resurrection, this Wisdom text is very appropriate for the liturgy of All Souls Day. The insightful readings from the Masses for the Dead help Christian believers come to grips with the mystery of death that leads to eternal life

 

Our commemoration of the faithful departed should take into consideration the human experience of loss, hurt, and grieving, as well as our faith in Christ’s paschal mystery. With our faith and hope in the victorious death of Jesus Christ, our Risen Lord, we are heartened that death does not have the ultimate word and is not a total destruction. Death is merely a “transitus” or passing over – the enigmatic door that leads to eternal life.

 

St. Augustine recognizes the human need to mourn for the dead and the Christian faith that mitigates our sorrow. He remarks: “It is inevitable that we should be sad when those we love depart from us by dying. Although we know they are not leaving us forever, that they have but gone a little ahead of us, that we who remain will follow them, nevertheless our nature shrinks from death, and when it takes a loved one we are filled with sorrow simply because of our love for that person. That is why the Apostle did not tell us that we should not be saddened, but that we should not be saddened in the same way as those who have no hope (…) Faithful hearts should be allowed, then, to mourn for their loved ones, but with a grief that can be healed; let them shed over our mortal condition tears that can be wiped away, tears that can be quickly checked by the joy of that faith which assures us that when believers die they go but a little distance from us that they may pass to a better state.”

 

Moreover, St. Augustine counsels us what to do on behalf of our beloved dead: “There is no doubt that the dead are helped by the prayers of holy Church, by the saving sacrifice, and by the alms dispensed for their souls; these things are done that they may be more mercifully dealt with by the Lord than their sins deserve (…) Due attention should be paid to the burial and construction of tombs for the dead, according to our means, for these are counted as good works in the scriptures. But people whose love for their dead is spiritual as well as physical should pay much greater, more careful and more earnest attention to those things – sacrifices, prayers, and almsgiving – which can assist those who though their bodies may be dead are still alive in spirit.”

 

On the feast of All Souls we are greatly reminded of our duty to offer suffrage for the poor souls in purgatory. The following excerpt from the life of Padre Pio could inspire us to pray more intensely for the souls in purgatory (cf. “Padre Pio and Purgatory” in the booklet PADRE PIO: A CATHOLIC PRIEST WHO WORKED MIRACLES AND BORE THE WOUNDS OF JESUS CHRIST IN HIS BODY by Bro. Michael Dismond, OSB, New York: Most Holy Family Monastery, p. 55-56).

 

One night Padre Pio was sitting alone in a room absorbed in prayer when an old man entered and sat next to him. “I looked at him but never thought of how he managed to get in the friary at that hour. I asked him: ‘Who are you? What do you want? The man answered: ‘Padre Pio, I am Pietro di Mauro, nicknamed Precoco. I died in this friary (in a fire) on September 18, 1908, in room number 4. I am still in Purgatory, and I need a Mass to free my soul from it. God has given me permission to come to you and ask for your prayers.’ After I had listened to his story, I said: ‘You can rest assured that I will celebrate Mass tomorrow for your liberation.’” Padre Pio then said that the Mass he celebrated the next day freed the man’s soul from Purgatory. One of the other priests at the friary later on checked the village records and found that such an individual had indeed died under the circumstances described by Padre Pio.

 

One day, some of the friars saw Padre Pio abruptly leave the table and begin to speak, as if he were speaking to someone. But no one was around Padre Pio to whom he could have been speaking. The friars thought Padre Pio was going crazy, and they asked him who he was speaking to. “Oh don’t worry, I was talking to some souls who were on their way from Purgatory to Heaven. They stopped here to thank me because I remembered them in my Mass this morning.”

 

Padre Pio said: “More souls of the dead from Purgatory than of the living climb this mountain to attend my Masses and seek my prayers.”

 

One time someone asked Padre Pio how Purgatory could be avoided. He replied, “By accepting everything from God’s hand. Offering everything up to Him with love and thanksgiving will enable us to pass from our deathbed to paradise.”

 

 

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

 

What is the meaning and importance of the Church’s feast of All Souls? What is the personal significance of this feast for us? How do we affirm the importance of Christ’s paschal elements in our celebration of the feast of All Souls? How does the human aspect of grieving enter into our celebration? How do we offer suffrage for our beloved dead and the poor souls in purgatory? In our memorial of the deceased, do we offer “sacrifices, prayers and almsgiving” on their behalf? Do we endeavor to visit the cemetery in November as part of our love and suffrage for our beloved dead?

 

 

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

(Cf. Blessed Alberione’s Prayer for the Souls in Purgatory)

 

Lord, my Creator and Redeemer,

I believe that in your justice,

you established purgatory for those souls who pass into eternity

before having totally paid their debts of sin or punishment.

I also believe that in your mercy you accept suffrages,

particularly the holy sacrifice of the Mass,

for their relief and liberation.

Stir up my faith

and infuse in my heart sentiments of pity

toward these dear suffering brothers and sisters.

Lord, Jesus Christ, King of glory,

through the intercession of Mary and all the saints

free the souls of the faithful departed

from the punishments of purgatory.

And through the intercession of St. Michael,

standard-bearer of the heavenly army,

guide them to the holy light

promised to Abraham and to his descendants.

I offer you, Lord, sacrifices and prayers of praise.

Accept them for these souls and admit them to eternal joy.

 

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.

And let perpetual light shine upon them.

May they rest in peace. Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“The souls of the just are in the hand of God … Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed.” (Wis 3:1, 5)

 

 

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

 

By your “sacrifices, prayers and almsgiving”, assist the poor souls in purgatory in their journey to heaven. In your daily endeavor to surrender to the saving will of God and to live a life of justice and charity, continue to manifest the communion of the Church in today’s world with the saints in heaven and with the poor souls in purgatory.

 

***

 

November 3, 2014: MONDAY – WEEKDAY (31); SAINT MARTIN DE PORRES, religious

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Be Hospitable to All”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Phil 2:1-4 // Lk 14:12-14

 

 

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

 

I grew up in a Filipino culture of reciprocity. One day when I was a teenager, I baked a delicious “Devil’s Food” cake and shared it with the family next door. Sure enough, they reciprocated. When their daughter baked a fantastic orange chiffon cake, they shared it with us. Indeed, when someone does something good, we have a feeling of indebtedness. The Filipinos call that sense of obligation “utang na loob” (debt of gratitude). With my cultural background of “utang na loob”, it is easy for me to understand the reciprocal relationship in the Jewish world.

 

To seek or give recompense is an honorable way of behaving, especially if it is meant to strengthen friendships, deepen family bonds, increase our potential, etc. But Jesus goes beyond mere human reciprocity. In today’s Gospel, he advises his host Pharisee that when he holds a banquet he should not invite his friends, brothers, relatives or wealthy neighbors lest he will be invited back and be repaid. He urges him instead to invite the poor, the crippled and the blind – those unable to reciprocate. Jesus’ perplexing advice should not be taken literally. The “radical” advice is a hyperbole – a Semitic exaggeration to teach a new way of behaving. He invites us to welcome and be hospitable to the unfortunate – not just to those who can reciprocate our good graces. He wants us to be good in a totally disinterested fashion – to be generous without expecting a reward. We must show concern for the poor and needy. In sharing God’s blessings with them, we mirror his compassion. Jesus teaches us that the kingdom of God is for all. Hence, our hospitality must likewise be all-inclusive – embracing all – especially the poor and vulnerable who are neglected by those who act merely reciprocally and with selfish motives.

 

Our friend Rosel is a member of the Holy Family Institute, founded by Blessed James Alberione. I am deeply touched by her compassion for the poor. When she celebrates her birthday, or that of her daughter, she does it in a very “Christian” way. Instead of hosting a party at their home in San Jose (CA-USA) she will send her hard earned dollars to her hometown in Cebu, Philippines to feed the poor. Hundreds and hundreds of poor, hungry children are able to enjoy a delicious meal on account of her generosity. Rosel follows literally the words of Jesus: “When you hold a banquet, invite the poor …”

 

***

 

In today’s First Reading (Phil 2:1-4), Saint Paul exhorts the Philippians to community harmony and humility. The apostolic exhortation begins with four premises: “If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy …” These conditions are real: they have been strengthened by Christ, comforted by his love, shared in the fellowship of the Spirit, and are the objects of God’s kindness and compassion. Since the Philippians are the beneficiaries of this grace-filled reality, they ought to live in harmony and humility. In this way, they will complete Paul’s joy – for they will be of one mind with Paul and one another and possess the same love. Consequently, they will look out for one another’s interests, not just for their own. They will not treat each other selfishly nor boastfully, but with care and great regard for one another.

 

The following report on an Ebola survivor, circulated on the Internet, illustrates what it means to regard the other as more important and to care for one another’s needs

 

Dr. Kent Brantly, one of the two US doctors who contracted the Ebola virus in Liberia, has spoken out for the first time. He released a statement from his isolation room at Emory University in Atlanta where he’s being treated after he was flown out of Liberia last week.

 

He is the first Ebola patient to receive the experimental serum, ZMapp. Below is the statement Brantly released:

 

“I am writing this update from my isolation room at Emory University Hospital, where the doctors and nurses are providing the very best care possible. I am growing stronger every day, and I thank God for His mercy as I have wrestled with this terrible disease. I also want to extend my deep and sincere thanks to all of you who have been praying for my recovery as well as for Nancy and for the people of Liberia and West Africa.

 

My wife Amber and I, along with our two children, did not move to Liberia for the specific purpose of fighting Ebola. We went to Liberia because we believe God called us to serve Him at ELWA Hospital.

 

One thing I have learned is that following God often leads to unexpected places. When Ebola spread into Liberia, my usual hospital work turned more and more toward treating the increasing number of Ebola patients. I held the hands of countless individuals as this terrible disease took their lives away from them. I witnessed the horror first-hand, and I can still remember every face and name.

 

When I started feeling ill on that Wednesday morning, I immediately isolated myself until the test confirmed my diagnosis three days later. When the result was positive, I remember a deep sense of peace that was beyond all understanding. God was reminding me of what He had taught me years ago, that he will give me everything I need to be faithful to Him.

 

Now it is two weeks later, and I am in a totally different setting. My focus, however, remains the same – to follow God. As you continue to pray for Nancy and me, yes, please pray for our recovery. More importantly, pray that we would be faithful to God’s call on our lives in these new circumstances.”

 

 

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

 

Does your behavior go beyond the bounds of human reciprocity? Do you imitate the generous stance of Jesus, who empties himself for others without counting the cost? Do you endeavor to live a life of harmony and humility within the community?

 

 

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

 

Jesus Master,

you teach us the way of hospitality and generosity.

You call us to be united with you,

and thus live in harmony and with humility.

Help us to open ourselves

to the needs of the poor and the unfortunate.

Teach us to care for the needs of others.

Fill our table with your blessings

that we may share them with our brothers and sisters

who do not have.

Lead us all to the heavenly feasting

where we will rejoice with you,

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.

 

“Invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind …” (Lk 14:13) // “Look out for one another’s interests, not just your own.” (Phil 2:4)

 

 

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

 

Eliminate “unnecessary” spending and look into the possibility of donating your resources to help feed the world’s poor and alleviate the sufferings of the needy. Continue to pray for the victims of the Ebola virus and for those who take care of those afflicted with this illness.

 

***

 

November 4, 2014: TUESDAY – SAINT CHARLES BORROMEO, bishop

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Invites Us to the Feast of the Kingdom and We Must Imitate His Attitude”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Phil 2:5-11 // Lk 14:15-24

 

 

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

 

The biblical scholar Eugene Maly remarks: “One of the most pleasant of human activities is the family or community meal. In its ideal form, it is a time when those who love one another not only share the food they eat, but also share with one another their hopes and fears, their experiences, and future plans. The love that already binds them is made stronger. The Scripture attests to the fact that a meal is expressive of a wide range of human attitudes and emotions … All mankind seems to be aware of the fact that a shared meal creates or strengthens a community of life among the participants. That is why this most human of activities would also be used to symbolize a community of life between human and divine participants.”

 

All are invited to the feast of the Kingdom. The end-time feast is for all peoples, with God himself as the gracious host. He is the Lord of the banquet who satisfies our deepest longings. Today’s Gospel parable underlines the need of a positive response to his invitation. The Church, which has a foretaste of the heavenly banquet, must go to the crossroads in order to invite everyone to the wedding feast. The banquet of salvation, offered to all peoples in the highways and byways, is abundant and gratuitous. But it demands a full response and commitment. 

 

The following personal reflection of a Filipino Religious Brother (he prefers to remain anonymous) gives us an idea of the positive response as well as the negative one that can be given to the Lord’s invitation to the feast of the kingdom.

 

Preparation for a wedding banquet is too tedious. It puts the host into great anxiety. The host will always look forward to the success of the occasion. The celebration is disappointing if the invited guests will not come despite all the preparation and invitations. Moreover, the story of the gospel is impossible today. We seldom see a rich man inviting people of a lower class to his banquet. This is impossible. If this will happen, the occasion is frowned upon by the wealthy and influential.

 

In reading the Gospel, the story reminds me of the experience of our parish priest in the province. He was organizing the Basic Ecclesial Community. He was scouting possible community-leaders to facilitate the barrio people in forming little communities and, at the same time, to train Special Eucharistic Ministers to serve in the parish. The parish priest invited first the town people, “taga-poblacion”. Some attended, but slowly they decreased in number until no one remained. The priest was disappointed.

 

The Basic Ecclesial Community is the trust and mission of the Diocese in response to the promulgation of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines. The Council would like to emphasize the importance of the community-based church wherein lay people can participate with their time, treasure and talents. Because of the priest’s disappointment, he, in turn, called the people from the barrio to attend seminars. The poor from the countryside gladly responded to the call. They started a series of seminars and special education about the basic tenets of faith, the Bible and the Doctrines. The presence of the “taga-barrio” and the “hijos/hijas de entresuelo” (sons and daughters of the nobility by mistresses in the countryside) annoyed the people in the “centro”.

 

The “taga-barrio” started to occupy a space in the parish. They became regular visitors of the parish priest and that made the town people indifferent to them. One morning, during the Novena Mass in preparation for the town fiesta, carts and muddy vehicles started to arrive. They were decorated with artificial flowers, twigs and leaves, giving a festive atmosphere that made the people wonder. This event astonished the people. Envy haunted the townsfolk when some of those from the barrio went in the procession with the priest at the beginning of the Mass. They were commissioned as Lay Leaders and Special Eucharistic Ministers to help the priest in distributing communion.

 

Even now, there are few Special Eucharistic Ministers from the “centro”. Indeed, the wealthy and influential are occupied more by their affairs and they have missed the call to associate with the poor and the little ones. This is still an issue in the parish among the nobles.

 

***

 

The Second Reading (Phil 2:1-11) presents the “kenosis” or self-emptying of Jesus as the ultimate paradigm of a perfect filial response to God. Jesus Christ is the supreme model of total surrender to the Father’s saving will. Harold Buetow explicates: “Jesus’ characteristic quality was self-renunciation. He did not want to dominate people, but to serve them; not in his own way, but in the Father’s, and not to exalt himself but to humble himself. His obedience went beyond that expected of an ordinary human being to that which was expected of a good slave: that is, obediently accepting even death – heroically, the degradation of even death on a cross! From that lowest point, Jesus’ upward movement began: God exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name. Jesus’ new name is Lord … It means that Jesus is the master of life, a cosmic influence over all creation … We give Jesus obedience, a love, and a loyalty we can give no one else. At his name, every knee must bend – not in broken submission to might and power, but to the influence of love. And all is, as was Jesus’ life, to the glory of God the Father.”

 

If we live in deep communion with Christ and assume his humble stance of servitude and self-emptying, harmony and unity would flourish in his body the Church. Indeed, our actions as Christian disciples need to be inspired by Saint Paul’s exhortation: “Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus”. The following personal testimony gives insight into what it means to have the same attitude as that of Jesus Christ (cf. Daniel Schantz in Daily Guideposts 2014, p. 322)

 

As a teacher in a Christian college, my life has been lived in a somewhat protected culture, but my son-in-law, who is also named Dan, lets his light shine in the often brutal world of business.

 

Dan is a gifted manager of some six hundred large vehicles for a utility company. He works with vendors, goes to meetings, inspects vehicles … and he is guided by his faith in all he does. For example, he maintains his vehicles scrupulously because he knows that the safety of his workers depends on attention to such details as worn tires and brakes or burned-out headlights.

 

He treats his staff with respect. If he has to correct a worker, he goes in person, face-to-face, the way the Bible says to do. “I was told that you are using a company vehicle for personal trips. Is this true or just a rumor?”

 

When he fills out performance reviews, he tells the truth, neither all nice nor all-negative. “I really appreciate your hard work, but your mileage records need a bit of work.”

 

It’s a large company, but when there is death in a worker’s family, Dan goes to the funeral to show support. “I’m sorry about your great loss. I will be praying for you.”

 

Little wonder that Dan is highly respected and appreciated.

 

I have learned that everything that I do has a spiritual dimension and not just Bible reading or Church attendance. Whether I am shopping for clothes, fixing a flat tire, or just driving down the freeway, my spiritual light is on and the meter is running.

 

 

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

 

What is our response to the Lord’s invitation, “Come to the feast”? How do we react to the negative response of those who have been invited to the heavenly feast? Do I strive to put on the same attitude that Jesus Christ had, especially with regards to self-emptying and service of the divine saving will?

 

 

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

 

O loving God,

you are the Lord of the banquet.

We thank you

for the “feast of rich food and choice wines”

you have prepared for us on your holy mountain.

In our daily celebration of the Eucharist,

we have a foretaste of the eternal joy

and the bounty of that heavenly feast.

Grant us the grace to respond positively

to the eternal “banquet of salvation”.

Let us put on the attitude of humble service of Jesus Christ

that we may totally rejoice in you.

We serve you and glorify you, now and forever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“Come, everything now is ready.” (Lk 14:17) // “The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had.” (Phil 2:5)

 

 

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

 

Pray that the invitation to the wedding feast of God’s kingdom may find a welcoming response in the hearts of our people. Endeavor to bring the bounty of God’s wedding feast to the poor and hungry of today’s distressed and suffering world. In your daily relationship with others, manifest Jesus’ attitude of humility and loving service.

 

***

 

November 5, 2014: WEDNESDAY – WEEKDAY (31)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Invites Us to Embrace the Cost of Discipleship and His Strength Is at Work in Us”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Phil 2:12-18 // Lk 14:25-33

 

 

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

 

In 2004 I watched the video, “Maximilian, Saint of Auschwitz” that had been stashed on a shelf in our community room. Produced as a joint venture by Saint Luke Productions and the Ignatius Press, the film depicts the radical discipleship of Maximilian Kolbe, who was arrested by the Gestapo in 1941 for his tireless work against the Nazi forces. The founder of the Militia of Mary Immaculate was sent to the infamous death camp of Auschwitz where he served in slave labor. He was frequently beaten and subjected to humiliations. On August 14, 1941, he was granted the crown of martyrdom when he offered his own life in place of another prisoner. Various scenes in the film powerfully delineate his spirit of renunciation and total dedication to the Lord. Two poignant episodes illustrate the saint’s uncompromising discipleship: when he was offering his ration of bread to a younger famished prisoner and when he was lying in the death bunker, naked and deprived of everything, waiting for the completion of his paschal sacrifice. Indeed, St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe exemplifies a disciple’s heroic response to the challenge posed by Christ: “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple … Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple … Anyone who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple”.

 

Today’s Gospel passage situates Jesus’ challenge in the context of his paschal journey to Jerusalem with great crowds accompanying him. Jesus addresses the crowds to enlighten them about the cost of discipleship. He confronts them with the real demands of being with him on his journey. They must renounce everything (be it family, or their own lives, or possessions) in order to be his disciples. Discipleship, which is a deliberate and total commitment to his person, entails renunciation, or a spirit of detachment. Jesus reinforces his message by narrating two parables concerning the need for reflection before taking decisive action. No one builds without planning carefully, and no king would wage a war without thoughtfully weighing the costs. Discipleship is an all-consuming vocation that must be accepted with mature deliberation. A Christian disciple cannot act on impulse, but only on a carefully considered program of involvement.

 

According to Robert Karris: “Those who want to follow Jesus on the way must weigh the costs … Jesus’ followers must not recoil before any sacrifice required of them to see their following of him through to the end, even if this means the sacrifice of all their possessions … Disciples must beware of letting their allegiance to Jesus deteriorate and become inactive.” A ruined builder and a conquered king are unpleasant images of a failed and compromised discipleship.

 

***

 

In today’s First Reading (Phil 2:12-18), Saint Paul continues his admonition to Christian conduct. The apostle acknowledges that his beloved Philippians have ever been obedient both when he was with them and now that he is imprisoned and away from them. Heartened by their obedient stance to the practical exigencies of faith, Saint Paul urges the Philippians “to work out their salvation with fear and trembling”. They are called to make the gift of salvation efficacious in their life and this is to be done “with fear and trembling”, that is, with a humble reverence and dependence born of faith in God. Indeed, salvation is a gift from God that needs to be responded to. It ought to be actually carried out, not by their own strength, but because God makes it possible for them to do so. God energizes the Christian’s desire and effort toward salvation.

 

Strengthened by God’s power in their lives, Saint Paul exhorts the Philippians to do everything without grumbling or questioning, a reference to the murmuring of the people of Israel in the desert when they contested God and his providence. Rather than a contentious or a negative presence, the believers are called to be blameless and innocent in the midst of a society that does not know God. Their Christian mission is “to shine like lights in the world” as they remain faithful to the Gospel, the “word of life”. If they do so, Paul will rejoice on the day of Christ’s final coming for indeed he has not run or toil in vain.

 

Saint Paul’s total commitment to the Gospel as a disciple of Christ is evident in his willingness to offer his life for the Philippians and the faith they offer to God. The possibility of martyrdom will not deter Paul, who will embrace his sacrificial destiny with joy – a joy to be shared with others.

 

The following current-day account “On Ebola’s Front Lines” (cf. The Week, October 31, 2014) gives insight into the meaning of Saint Paul’s words: “to be poured as a libation”.

 

The first time Dr. Steven Hatch suited up in protective gear at an Ebola treatment center in Suakoko, Liberia, he was confronted with the weight of his decision to volunteer here. A patient, sweating and heavily soiled, had collapsed in a corridor. “Literally every surface of his body was covered in billions of particles of Ebola”, he recalled. (…)

 

In his first two weeks in Liberia at a new clinic run by the charity International Medical Corps, Hatch has learned the ways of the Ebola ward. Much of West Africa is following a no hands rule to avoid contagion from the deadly virus, but doctors and nurses here, protected by layers of plastic and rubber armor, routinely touch the sick. Without a drug that can cure the disease, they offer patients fluids and medications to treat symptoms, but also the simplest of comforts, like feeding them and cleaning them up. (…)

 

Hatch’s journey to this remote center in a tropical forest began last month at a training course run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at a former Army base in Anniston, Alabama. An infectious-disease specialist in Worcester, Massachusetts, Hatch, 45, joined about two dozen other medical workers heading to West Africa. (…)

 

Hatch, married with 13-year-old twins, says he is at peace with his decision to treat Ebola patients. “I just don’t worry about my life”, he said. “When you’re scared, you get jumpy. When you get jumpy, you make bad decisions.”

 

Last Friday, he carried a malnourished 9-year-old girl, Blessing Gea, into the unit for those confirmed to have the disease. The next night, nurse Mulrroney, clad in full protective gear, tended to the lonely little girl. She let her lean against her as she squeezed a packet of peanut butter-based supplement into the child’s mouth. She changed her clothing, put new sheets on her bed, and wrapped her in a fuzzy blanket for the chilly night, stroking her head. Three days later, a blood test showed the girl had recovered from Ebola.

 

Hatch visited a new patient, a pastor who was gravely ill by the time he was admitted last week yet insisted on praying for the American doctor. “To see a guy lying in bed that’s got a 50/50 chance of living or dying pray for you?” Hatch said shaking his head. The next day, just before the pastor died, he prayed for Hatch again.

 

 

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

 

Am I ready to renounce anyone and/or anything that stands in the way of a total commitment to Jesus: even closest relations, precious possessions, and my very life? Do I wisely and realistically consider the cost of Christian discipleship? Like Saint Paul, am I ready to offer my life as a sacrificial offering for the love of others? Do I trust in God’s strength and not in my own power?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

your Son Jesus invites us

to consider the cost of discipleship.

Help us to love your Son unconditionally.

Give us the strength to be totally self-giving,

even to the point of sacrificing our own life

for the love of Jesus.

Grant that we may be totally open

to the riches of the kingdom.

Be with us as “we work out our salvation with fear and trembling”.

We give you praise, now and forever.

Amen.   

 

 

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

 

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

 

            “Everyone who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” (Lk 14:32) // “I am poured out as a libation upon the sacrificial service of your faith.” (Phil 2:17).

 

 

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

 

Pray to God for the grace and strength of total dedication. Exercise daily self-renunciation to prepare yourself for the greater challenges that lie ahead. As you daily carry out the work of salvation, be deeply aware of the power of God that is given you.

 

 

***

 

November 6, 2014: THURSDAY – WEEKDAY (31)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Rejoices at Finding the Lost and He Is Our True Value”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Phil 3:3-8a // Lk 15:1-10

 

 

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

 

This happened many years ago. My dad was sick with cancer and emotionally sensitive. My brother, Diko Pito, who was undergoing the development throes of teenage life, was also sensitive. My sick father and Diko Pito had an argument. The disagreement escalated to the point that my brother packed some belongings. He ran away from home weeping. My mom was not around when this happened. When she realized that my brother ran away, she immediately went to look for him. All of us were distressed. We could only hope and pray that he may be found. Finally, my mom came back with my “lost” brother. My mom found Diko Pito in the home of his best friend Augusto. My brother was intending to take the evening train to our province in Bicol to take refuge in the home of my Dad’s sister. We greatly rejoiced that Diko Pito was found … that he came back home, safe and sound.

 

With a pastoral parable Jesus underlines the heavenly rejoicing when the “lost” is “found”. A sheep has gone astray. The shepherd leaves the ninety-nine secure in the fold and searches diligently for the lost sheep. Because of the value of every single sheep, his is not merely a token search. When he finds the sheep, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy. Upon his arrival, he calls together his friends and neighbors to celebrate. In the same way, there is great rejoicing in heaven over a repentant sinner. Jesus reiterates his message by narrating a domestic parable. A woman loses one of her ten precious coins. A drachma coin is worth a day’s wage for a laborer, and is extremely valuable to the woman. She lights a lamp and sweeps the windowless room, searching diligently until she finds it. She rejoices when the lost coin is found. In just the same way there is great rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents.

 

Today’s parables contain a distilled essence of the Gospel: about a loving God who treasures us infinitely. Because of our extreme value, he patiently seeks us out when we are lost. He wants to bring us back close to his heart. God cares for sinners and rejoices at their conversion. In contrast, the Old Testament reluctant prophet Jonah was upset when the people of Nineveh heeded the warning of doom that God commissioned him to preach. He sulked when the people of Nineveh turned their hearts to God in repentance and averted self-destruction. Instead of rejoicing that the sinners were saved - that the “lost” were “found” – the punitive Jonah was angry at God for his mercy. But God is not Jonah and does not act like Jonah. Our loving and forgiving God rejoices when a sinner repents. When the “lost” is “found”, it is an experience of resurrection … it is new life!

 

***

 

In today’s First Reading (Phil 3:3-8a), Saint Paul asserts that Christ is the true value. Contesting the false teachers who wish to impose physical circumcision upon the Philippians, the apostle remarks that the Christian believers have received the “true circumcision” for they worship God by means of his Spirit and rejoice in their life of union with Christ Jesus. Indeed, the Christians are “the seed of Abraham” – the “sons of Abraham – because of their faith in Christ Jesus. They do not put their confidence in physical circumcision, which is not a guarantee for salvation. If there is any reason for confidence in Jewish “merits”, such as the physical sign of circumcision, Paul, as a Christian of Jewish background, can claim them as well as the Jews. He lists his Jewish pedigree and elite background as a member of the tribe of Benjamin. Moreover, he was a Pharisee so zealous that he persecuted the Church and kept the law blamelessly. But in comparison to having gained Christ, all these can be counted as “loss”. Paul’s encounter with Christ has completely changed his scale of values. All that seemed to be his advantage before now means nothing to him. The knowledge of Christ, with the life and love it entails, makes everything else relative and of less importance.

 

The following modern day testimony gives insight into Paul’s experience of Christ as the central value that “relativizes” all things (cf. Anne Nolan, “From Catwalk to Confession” in Alive! September  2014, p. 6).

 

After all the summer’s footballers, fashion models seem to be in the news this month. Like Amada Rosa Perez. Having grown up in a small village, Amada Rosa was “discovered” when she walked into a gym in Bogota, aged 18, and she went on to become one of Colombia’s top models and film star.

 

A charismatic queen of the catwalk in Europe and the US, she was a regular on magazine covers. Then she disappeared from the public eye. Five years later she reappeared, a very different person. Call it a religious conversion or simply a decision on her part to seek happiness in a very different direction.

 

Because behind all the glamour, her life was a serious mess. Desperately she turned to Yoga, Reiki, Feng-Shui, Tarot, without suspecting the hidden price she was paying: “The Devil always wants something in return”, she says. Deeply wounded by her experiences, she felt unsatisfied, directionless, submerged in fleeting pleasures, and at one point was so depressed she considered suicide.

 

Then, just like she had walked into a gym, one day she walked into a church. There she read, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I shall give you rest.” With that a light went on in her head. She went to confession and found the peace she had been longing for. Then a little bit of Ireland touched her life; she discovered the Legion of Mary and became a member.

 

Now, besides going to Mass daily, she prays the rosary, says the Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3pm and goes to confession frequently. But she also wants to share the peace and joy of her faith with others. For her, that’s part of being a Catholic. “Being a model means being a benchmark”, she says, “being someone whose beliefs are worthy of being imitated.”

 

“I grew tired of being a model of superficiality. I grew tired of a world of lies, appearances, falsity, hypocrisy and deception; a society full of anti-values that exalts violence, adultery, drugs; a world that exalts riches, pleasure, sexual immorality and fraud.”

 

“I want to be a model that promotes the true dignity of women, and not their being used for commercial purposes”, she says.

 

 

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

 

What does it mean to be lost and found? Are you willing to experience the joy of a loving God who rejoices when one sinner repents? With Saint Paul, will you be able to declare: “But whatever gains I had these I have come to consider loss because of Christ?” Do you consider Christ as the true value?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

you are gracious and forgiving.

Your Son Jesus is the Good Shepherd

who seeks the lost sheep.

His diligence is akin to a woman

who carefully sweeps her house

to find a lost precious coin.

There is great rejoicing in heaven

over one sinner who repents.

This is awesome!

We are grateful that you care for us

and love us, O Father.

And because Christ is our ultimate value,

we consider whatever gains we had as “loss”

and of secondary value.

We praise and thank 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.

 

“There will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Lk 15:10) // “But whatever gains I had, these I have come to consider a loss because of Christ.” (Eph 3:7)

 

 

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

 

Pray for the conversion of those who have gone astray, and by your kind words and deeds, be an instrument to bring them back home to God. Do what you can to help those who are searching for “lost” family members or friends. Every day be thankful to the Father for Jesus Savior, our true value.

 

***

 

November 7, 2014: FRIDAY – WEEKDAY (31)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Be Enterprising and He Is the Principle of Our Transformation”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Phil 3:17-4:1 // Lk 16:1-8

 

 

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

 

This experience was narrated by a teenager writing in a Filipino national magazine. A Chinese family moved into their neighborhood. For the local Filipino families there, the new neighbors were simply “aliens”. They did not have much sympathy for them. The Chinese immigrants are generally very good businessmen and often acquire more material resources than the local folks. The business acumen of the Chinese and their financial success sometimes generate a feeling of resentment among the natives. One day, the poor neighbors heard much bustling and activity from the Chinese home. They heard pigs being butchered and saw domestic helpers moving about laden with groceries. Enormous vessels of food were cooked outdoors. The aroma of delightful dishes stimulated not only the neighbors’ appetite, but also their curiosity. In the evening, the domestic helpers of the Chinese newcomers scurried through the neighborhood, lugging a most welcome gift for each poor family: a big wicker basket filled with delectable dishes to satisfy their hungry stomachs: “adobo” – a spicy pork dish, “pancit” – made of egg noodles and stir fry vegetables, and “leche flan” – a special creamy custard. There were also some nicely cooked white rice and delicious, ripe fruits to complete the treat. Instead of hosting a party for their relatives and friends, the well-to-do Chinese family celebrated the daughter’s birthday by preparing food baskets for their poor neighbors. The enterprising character of their charity slowly demolished the resistance of the local folks who eventually became their friends.

 

In today’s Gospel reading (Lk 16:1-8) Jesus narrates the parable of the crafty steward. According to the biblical scholar, Eugene Maly: “In the parable the manager, about to be dismissed, calls in the master’s debtors and reduces their bills (probably by renouncing part or all of his own commission) in order to gain their good will for the future. The lesson intended by Jesus is simply that we should be as enterprising about our future in the Kingdom as was the manager about his future. No judgment, good or bad, is made on the possession of goods.”

 

Indeed, in the parable of the wily manager is Jesus’ invitation to his disciples to be enterprising in the pursuit of the kingdom of God. At the conclusion of the parable, Jesus said to his disciples: “For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light”. In it is a powerful appeal to Christian followers, not only to be creative in the ways of kingdom stewardship, but also to be radically decisive when confronted with a crisis situation concerning God’s reign. Robert Karris remarks: “The steward was decisive when faced with a crisis, so too should Jesus’ listeners who are wavering in their decision to follow him and his kingdom message.”

 

***

 

Today’s First Reading (Phil 3:17-4:1) helps us to delve into our own vocation of transformation. The Christian journey of transformation is radically initiated at baptism, but needs to be perfected day by day, until the end time when “Christ will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body”. Saint Paul, responding so fully to the gift of baptismal transformation that he could truthfully confess: “It is no longer I who live; Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20), presents himself as an “imitator of Christ” – a model to be emulated by the pledging Philippians. Paul’s journey of configuration to Christ was not without difficulties and sacrifice. But remaining steadfast in his faith, he exhorted the Philippians to stand firm in the Lord.

 

The biblical scholar Adrian Nocent comments: “Saint Paul develops the thought that all who are baptized will share in the glory of the transfigured Christ. He urges the Philippians to follow his own example and not let their hearts become attached to earthly things. They are already citizens of heaven. How, then, could they glory in what is really a cause for shame or make anything earthly the goal of their life? The Christian is constantly confronted with choices he cannot evade. He must choose, and he must keep on choosing, since, though already a citizen of heaven, he still lives in that form of a servant which Christ himself assumed and in which he was humbled even to the point of dying (Phil 2:6-11). But the day of the Lord’s return will be the day when his fidelity will be rewarded: he will be transformed and become like the glorious Christ … We must change our ways, we must choose and follow the Apostle, that is, in the last analysis we must follow Christ on his paschal journey so that with him we may finally be transformed and glorified.”

 

We present below the inspiring profile of Jean Vanier, a modern-day example of a full response to the divine “gift of transformation” (cf. “Jean Vanier’s Gift for Living” by Carolyn Whitney-Brown in AMERICA, December 22-29, 2008, p. 22).

 

In August 1964, Jean Vanier was a 36-year-old former naval officer seeking to follow Jesus and the Gospels in a new way. He invited two men who had been living in an institution for people with intellectual disabilities to share a house with him in a French village. Since then, more than 132 similar communities, called L’Arche (the Ark), have developed in over 34 countries, welcoming people of all faiths and traditions. Its related network, called Faith and Light, included more than 1,500 communities. Jean Vanier has become internationally recognized for his profound reflections on social inclusion, peace, forgiveness and what it means to be human.

 

A celibate spiritual leader who is not a priest, a philosopher with a doctoral degree who is not a professor, Vanier is not easily categorized. When he turned 80 in the fall, the Canadian Globe and Mail newspaper commended his peacemaking, ecumenism and humanitarianism. The editorial endorsed Vanier as a worthy candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize, created to honor those who have “greatly contributed to fraternity among human beings across the world”. Jean Vanier was born into a distinguished Canadian family. His family was the last of Canada’s diplomats to flee Nazi-occupied France when he was 11. At age 13, Vanier decided to join the British Navy and again crossed the dangerous North Atlantic. In his early 20s, after reading Thomas Merton, getting to know Daniel Berrigan, S.J., visiting Friendship House and the Catholic Worker in New York City, and completing a 30-day Ignatian retreat, Vanier resigned from the Navy. For the next 14 years, he studied and prayed, became leader of an innovative community of international students near Paris, wrote a well-received doctoral thesis on Aristotle’s understanding of happiness, and was invited to teach at the University of Toronto.

 

In 1964 his long search to follow Jesus came into focus in a new way, when with Philippe Seux and Raphael Simi, he moved into a small house in Trosly, France. Within a year the community had grown, because Vanier was asked to take on the directorship of a local institution. A trip to India in 1969 deepened Vanier’s understanding of the spirituality and vision of Gandhi and expanded his critical understanding of poverty and community. Around that time L’Arche communities began to grow rapidly around the world, including 16 in the United States. If Vanier had any tendency to romanticize handicaps or spiritualize weakness, that changed when he himself became weak and dependent from a prolonged tropical infection in 1976 and endured a long recovery. He wrote to friends, “After twelve years at L’Arche as an assistant, I am now experiencing what it is like to be on the other side.”

 

His self-understanding deepened in 1980, when he spent a year living with people with more severe handicaps, whose pain touched his own anguish and even hatred. In learning to recognize his own hidden places of pain, Varnier learned to befriend weakness not just in others but in himself. “Let’s stop running away from ourselves and from the deepest part of our beings,” he encouraged people on retreat. “Let us simply stop and start listening to our own hearts. There we will touch a lot of pain. We will possibly touch a lot of anger. We will possibly touch a lot of loneliness and anguish. Then we will hear something deeper. We will hear the voice of Jesus; we will hear the voice of God: I love you. You are precious to my eyes and I love you “

 

For Vanier, movements inward and outward follow naturally like tides. He learned not to be an enemy of his inner contradictions and pain and began to speak more about “the teaching of Jesus that, if it had been followed, would have changed the history of the world – Love your enemies.”  Love is about coming out from behind barriers, he observed. “Do we want to win, or do we want to be in solidarity with others?” he asked a Harvard audience in 1988.

 

After September 11, 2001, Vanier participated in gatherings where people reaffirmed their vision of mutual acceptance, but he found that those evenings of prayer left him uneasy. “I felt as though people were not praying for a new just order between people and nations, but, motivated by fear, were praying to keep the status quo – no change, no insecurity …” In words that sound especially resonant now, as the economy dominates headlines, Vanier wrote that perhaps “certitudes will crumble, and stock exchanges will wobble again before more of us truly begin to search for new ways of living.” Vanier’s life offers one example of a new way of living. For him, life’s work is not simply internal growth or accepting one’s humanness. We each have something to offer. “The fundamental principle of peace is a belief that each person is important,” writes Vanier. “Even if you cannot speak, even if you cannot walk, even if you’ve been abandoned, you have a gift to give.”

 

 

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

 

1. Do I belong to “the children of light”? If so, do I respond positively to Jesus’ challenge to be creative and enterprising in promoting God’s kingdom?

 

2. How do we respond to the gift of baptismal transformation? Does our life witnessing catalyze the Christian transformation of others?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

grant us the grace to be enterprising

in the pursuit of your kingdom.

Help us to use creatively

the spiritual and material goods you have given us

by sharing them with the poor and needy.

Let the grace of transformation we have received

be turned into a “gift for living” for others.

May our transformation be complete.

Let it be a sign that our commonwealth is in heaven.

We praise and thanks you, now and forever.

Amen.

  

 

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

 

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

 

“The children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than the children of light.” (Lk 16:8) // “He will change our lowly body to conform to his glorified Body.” (Phil 3:21)

 

 

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

 

With the aid of material and spiritual possessions given you by the Lord, minister to the needs of the poor. Find a creative and enterprising way of relieving the plight of the poor. Through your work of active charity for the weak, the handicapped and the vulnerable, allow the grace of transformation to become a “gift of living” for others. Be attentive to the various signs of the Lord’s transfiguration in your life and all around you.

 

***

 

November 8, 2014: SATURDAY – WEEKDAY (31); BVM ON SATURDAY

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Use Our Goods Wisely and He Strengthens Us in All Things”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Phil 4:10-19 // Lk 16:9-15

 

 

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

 

Jesus teaches us to use our goods wisely. He wants us to convert the earthly goods into heavenly capital by sharing with others. Jesus calls us to give exclusive loyalty to God and not to succumb to the enslavement of earthly goods. One shows loyalty to God by sharing goods and resources with others, especially the poor and the needy. The Pharisees, who love money, sneer at his teaching. They regard wealth as a sign of God’s blessings or righteousness, which is not necessarily the case if their hearts are full of avarice. However, earthly wealth can be put to good use for God’s kingdom. Given as alms to the poor and needy, the benefactors obtain a place in the heavenly kingdom.

 

One day Sr. Mary Clare, a member of our community in Fresno, shared with us a tidbit at table. A rich British man sold his companies, his mansion and his beautiful car to share with the poor. He is now in Japan ministering to the homeless. The British benefactor remarked that houses and cars are meant to serve human needs, but they are not “important”. He believes what is really “important” is that we have Jesus in our lives … that we have love and respect for others.

 

The hurricane “Sandy” that devastated New York in 2012 brought about experiences of misery as well as compassion (cf. Fresno Bee, November 1, 2012, p. A1, A7).

 

In Manhattan at night, it was possible to walk downtown along an avenue and move in an instant from the mostly normal New York scene – delis open, people milling outside bars – into a pitch-black cityscape with police flares marking intersections.

 

People who did have power took to social media to offer help to neighbors. “I have power and hot water. If anyone needs a shower or to charge some gadgets or just wants to bask in the beauty of artificial light, hit me up”, Rob Hart of Staten Island posted on Facebook.

 

A respected New York steakhouse in the blackout zone, Old Homestead, realized its meat was going to go bad and decided to grill what was left and sell steaks on the sidewalk for $10. A center-cut sirloin usually goes for $47. “Give back to the people of New York”, said Greg Sherry, the steakhouse’s co-owner. He said it had served nearly 700 people on Wednesday.

 

***

 

In today’s First Reading (Phil 4:10-19) Saint Paul expresses his gratitude for the aid sent to him by the Philippians through Epaphroditus and for their concern for him. Though the apostle has learned to be satisfied in all circumstances, he is grateful for their help and their sharing in his ministry. Indeed, he has learned to be satisfied with what he has. He knows how to live in poverty and in abundance. This “sufficiency” is founded on the Lord. Saint Paul asserts: “I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.” He recalls, moreover, how the Philippians were the only church to help him in the early days of preaching the Good News and how they sent help to him when he was in Thessalonica. Their gifts are a sweet smelling sacrifice pleasing to God.  Indeed, their generosity redounds to their benefit on a spiritual level. Saint Paul assures them that God will supply whatever they need in accordance with the glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

 

The following modern-day account gives insight into Paul’s assertion that the Lord aids us with his power and strength (cf. “Brosnan: Catholic Faith Got Me Through Troubles” in Alive! September  2014, p. 2).

 

In his new film, “A Long Way Down”, Pierce Brosnan plays a depressed TV personality who contemplates suicide. At the recent New York premier of the movie he was asked by a journalist from the NY Daily News how he had coped with the various tragedies of his own life. Without hesitation he replied, “I would say faith, being Irish, being Catholic; it’s ingrained in my DNA.”

 

The actor lost both his first wife and his adopted daughter to ovarian cancer. His wife, Cassandra Harris, died in 1991. On 28 June 2013 he announced, “my darling daughter Charlotte Emily passed on to eternal life”. Aged 41, she was the mother of two children; a boy aged 8 and a girl of 14. Her husband and children were with her when she died.

 

Brosnan, most famous for his role as “James Bond”, has spoken frankly about his Catholic faith before. “Prayer helped me with the loss of my wife to cancer and with a child who had fallen on tough times. Now prayer helps me to be a father, to be an actor and to be a man”, he told RTE.ie in March 2011. “It always helps to have a bit of prayer in your back pocket. At the end of the day, you have to have something and for me that is God, Jesus, my Catholic upbringing, my faith.”

 

He added: “God has been good to me. My faith has been good to me in the moments of deepest suffering, doubt and fear. It is a constant, the language of prayer. I might not have got my sums right from the Christian Brothers or might not have got the greatest learning of literature from them but I certainly got a strapping amount of faith.”

 

He also revealed to the NY Daily News that he is quite good at painting. “I paint landscapes, figurative. I painted all my life”, he said. “In fact, I started as a commercial artist.”

 

 

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

 

1. Are we faithful stewards of the goods God loaned to us? Are we willing to share our earthly goods and personal resources with others, especially with the poor and needy?

 

2. Are we thankful for the graces we received from God and the help that other people extend to us? Do we rely on the strength of God in all things?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

you gave us the goods of the earth not to enslave us,

but to use them to minister to the needs of others

and to open for us the way to the heavenly kingdom.

Help us to use the earthly goods wisely

and to yearn for the truly “important” treasure

of your kingdom.

We love you, dear God,

our one and supreme good.

Help us to be thankful and to rely solely on your strength.

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.

 

“You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Lk 16:13) // “I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.” (Phil 4:13)

 

 

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

 

Make an inventory of your material and spiritual resources. Ask God for the grace to use them wisely and the opportunity to share them with others. Express your gratitude to God and others for the benefits and help received from them.

   

  

 

***

 

 

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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