A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 18, n. 51)

Week 33 in Ordinary Time: November 15-21, 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: November 8-14, 2020 please go to ARCHIVES Series 18 and click on “Ordinary Week 32”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: November 15-21, 2020.)

 

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November 15, 2020: THIRTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

WORLD DAY OF THE POOR

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Be Trustworthy

in View of the Kingdom”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Prv 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31 // 1 Thes 5:1-6 // Mt 25:14-30

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 25:14-30): “Since you were faithful in small matters, come share your master’s joy.”

 

The bible readings of this Sunday, the second to the last Sunday of the liturgical year, prepare us for the anticipated return of Jesus on the last day. The Gospel reading (Mt 25:14-30) not only directs our eyes toward the final event of the Lord’s coming, the end and fulfillment of the entire salvation history, but also helps us live the present in the light of its completion. The Parable of the Talents, proclaimed in the Gospel reading, stimulates our hope and revives our fervor in the efficient service of God in this ad interim time before the parousia.

 

In the Parable of the Talents (Mt 25:14-30), Jesus tells us the story of the master who distributed various amounts of money to three servants before going away on a journey. The Greek word that describes these amounts is “talents”, which became the source of the English term “talent” as the description of the natural ability that can be improved by diligent practice. Two servants invested their talents and doubled the amount; the other one dug a hole in the ground and buried the talent entrusted to him by the master. The master returned and demanded a reckoning. Indeed, the point of the story is not the uncertainty of the time of the parousia, but the reckoning that will come and the responsibility expected of us.

 

Harold Buetow reflects on the meaning of this parable: “Sometimes we Christians, in favor of smooth security, are smugly disinclined to take the bold risks that others take on behalf of their business and personal ventures. Today’s liturgy on this next-to-last Sunday of the Church year tries to set us straight. Jesus’ story of the talents teaches us to boldly prefer taking active risk in our lives over passive complacency … The standard of God’s judgment of every person is relative to the talents given: the greater the gifts, the greater the responsibility. We are the servants in today’s Gospel parable, and the absentee master is a symbol of Christ; his return is a scene of judgment … The punishment for the worthless man - who had done nothing, really – was as harsh as that for more positive sins. We are not all equal in talent, but we are all called to collaborate in the work of the Gospel according to our personal opportunity, ability, and gifts. The reason why the master, perhaps paradoxically, took away what little the worthless servant had and gave it to the most profitable servant was that it is with using God’s gifts as it is with learning a language or playing gold: if we do not use it, we lose it … Many people, by external standards, will be “successes’. They will own nice homes, eat in the best restaurants, dress well, and, in some cases, perform socially useful work. Yet, too few people are putting themselves on the line, getting involved in something noble enough for their talents that are worth failing at. Jesus wants us to know that salvation will come to those who are prepared to risk their lives for him.”

 

The Parable of the Talents reinforces our responsibility to be trustworthy, active and efficient servants in this time of waiting for the Master’s return. The following story gives insight into “trustworthiness” in daily living (cf. Patty Kirk in Daily Guideposts 2014, p. 153).

 

My husband, Kris, and I are different bents regarding planning. He loves considering best case, worst case, and likeliest case scenarios. I, in contrast, despise planning. Planning evokes all the terrors fermenting below the surface of my faith. I don’t even like thinking about retirement or the loan needed to pay for the girls’ schooling, much less talking about it. My go-to response is fear! In my view, the guy in Jesus’ parable who buries his master’s money is not lazy but terrified. If it were up to me, we’d never discuss the future at all.

 

Not, mind you, that I’m more trusting than Kris. When problems arise – as they inevitably do, despite our plans – Kris’ mustard seed is definitely bigger and more robust than mine. “God will take care of us”, he says. And he believes it. Planning, paradoxically, is part of letting God do just that.

 

Kris likes a joke in which a drowning man, turns down help from a rowboat, then a speedboat, then a helicopter, saying “God will rescue me.” Later, in heaven, he asks God why He didn’t answer that prayer. “Well”, God responds, “I sent you a rowboat, then a speedboat, then a helicopter …”

 

Planning, Kris argues, is good stewardship of the opportunities God sends. I fear I’ll never learn this, but I keep trying.

 

Father, help me remember not only Your provision but Your expectations of us as its stewards. Replace my fears with good judgment and ever-growing trust.

 

 

B. First Reading (Prv 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31): “She works with loving hands.”

 

The Old Testament reading (Prov 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31) from the “wisdom book” depicts a woman of sterling quality – a feminine ideal of integrity, personal dedication and productive toil. The “worthy wife” to whom the husband “entrusted his heart” responds fully and creatively to his gift of love.  Her response of love bears fruit in works of charity to the needy and is animated by a reverential “fear of God”. Her assets are not outward charm, which could be seductive, and fleeting physical beauty, but her inner strength, prudence, wisdom and generosity to the poor. Indeed, this noble woman is to be valued more than precious pearls. Her good works deserve to be rewarded and commended. She is praiseworthy for her integral love response, creative fidelity and religious spirit.

 

Harold Buetow remarks: “This passage shows the worthy wife to be a model of energetic faithfulness to the small tasks which God gives all of us, male and female, every day. That’s the passage connection with the Gospel. Like the profitable servant we are called to be, the worthy wife takes what has been given her and improves upon it. She thus improves the lives of all she touches.”

 

The creative fidelity and fruitful toil of the “worthy wife” in the Book of Proverbs reinforce what the Lord Jesus enunciates as a challenge in this Sunday’s Gospel reading (Mt 25:14-30), that is, the duty of Christian disciples to make profitable use of the gifts given them for the good of the community and the kingdom. The “talented” servants, waiting for his return, must respond to the trust given them by the Lord by acting responsibly and creatively, with a dash of “adventure” and some risk taking.

  

Jenny Williams, the main character in Elaine Long’s novel, “Jenny’s Mountain”, seems to me a modern-day reincarnation of the “worthy wife” in the Book of Proverbs (cf. Readers’ Digest Condensed Book, vol. 2, 1988). The beautiful twenty-three year old Jenny, remarkable for her great intelligence and integrity, is a faithful wife and an excellent mother. She is personally dedicated to her daily tasks. She is fruitful in all her endeavors as a woman miner, a table waitress and a student. She aced her GED (= General Equivalency Diploma) exams. Jenny is truly a model of energetic faithfulness. Through her vigorous toil, the mountain – her mountain - in Colorado yields its treasures up to her. Above all, she is a self-sacrificing friend and a courageous defender of the afflicted. The following is an interesting episode of the visit of her friend, Karen whom she has helped to escape the abusive, violent clutch of the alcoholic miner Tully Stocker. 

 

While they ate, Jenny told Karen about her job at Mom’s Bar and her plans for the mine. After dinner, when the dishes were done and the children were asleep, Jenny said, “Why don’t you sit in the rocking chair?” She then took the Navajo blanket from the bed and wrapped it around her shoulders.

 

Sitting down on the floor and leaning back against the bed, she asked, “Did someone from Hope House meet your bus?” “Yes,” said Karen. “The house director. He looked over the passengers and picked me out at once.” She laughed. “I know now that it wasn’t hard to guess which one I was. I saw plenty of first-timers while I was there – all subdued, all ashamed.” “How long did you stay at Hope House?” “A month. Then they helped me get a job, and I rented a room, but I went to the house almost every night for meetings, to talk with other women just like me. The meetings were the only things that kept me going. Can you believe that after the first weeks I started to feel ashamed about running on Tully? One night I even talked about coming back.”

 

Jenny sat up straight. “Karen, you wouldn’t have.” “Oh, yes, I would. I was that sick. But at the meeting, after I’d described the situation that made me leave, someone said, ‘And what about Jenny?’” Karen stopped and looked at her friend. “That was the first time I really thought about how brave you were to get me out of there.” She shook her head slowly, “I knew I couldn’t go back and make it all for nothing.” (…) Karen put her hand over Jenny’s. “You still give me courage. And I’m going to need it.”

 

 

C. Second Reading (1 Thes 5:1-6): “Let the day of the Lord not overtake you like a thief.”

 

In today’s Second Reading (1 Thes 5:1-6), Saint Paul exhorts the Thessalonians to stay awake and sober. They must be personally involved and absolutely ready for the Day of the Lord. It will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. The Day of the Lord has a twofold connotation: salvation for the just and judgment for the evil ones. The authors of the book Days of the Lord, vol. 4, remark: “For certain people, it will be catastrophic because, living heedlessly – in peace and quiet, as they see it – they will be taken unawares. For others who remain watchful, this coming will hold no surprise. It will happen in the night of the world; but Christians are not in darkness, for they are the children of light. They behave as in full daylight. They remain at all times spiritually awake, ready to welcome the Lord as a friend they have waited for; to him, they will joyfully open the door.”

 

The following story is a powerful example of how a believer prepared himself for the Day of the Lord (cf. Deena Burnett Bailey, “September 11 Journeys of Faith: A Glimpse of Heaven” in Guideposts, September 2011, p. 60-61). It came unexpectedly, but when it came he was ready.

 

I was married to Tom Burnett, one of the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93. Terrorists hijacked the plane, intending to fly it to Washington D.C., perhaps aiming for the White House. Tom managed to call me several times from the plane and he told me that he and other passengers were going to try to wrest control of the cockpit from the hijackers. Thanks to the bravery of those passengers, the plane didn’t reach its target but instead crashed in a field in rural Pennsylvania, killing all aboard.

 

A ray of light cut through the darkness of that day for me – Tom’s faith. In the months leading up to September 11 a profound change had come over him, a deepening of his connection to God. At the time neither he nor I understood why. Then on September 11, it became clear to me.

 

Tom grew up Catholic. Unlike me, raised a Baptist, he seldom talked about his faith, though his rock-solid commitment to God was one of the things that drew me to him. After we married and had kids, I would go to church with him and I began to understand how he drew spiritual sustenance from the liturgy. The public prayer and sharing of faith experiences that I’d grown up with just wasn’t part of his makeup.

 

One day in the fall of 2000 Tom got home from work and said, “Deena, have you noticed that I haven’t been coming home for lunch lately?” We lived in California, where Tom was an executive at a medical-device company. Though he traveled frequently on business, whenever he was at the office he made a point of heading home to have lunch with me.

 

“I figured you were busy”, I said. “Actually, I’ve been going to Mass”, he said. I looked at him, puzzled. He went on, “A parish near the office has a noon Mass and I’ve been attending every day.”

 

“Why?” I asked. Tom paused. “I don’t know how else to say this. I feel like God is trying to tell me something. Maybe if I go to church every day, I’ll be able to hear better.”

 

Now I was really surprised. Tom never talked like this. “What do you think it is?” I asked. “I don’t know”, he said. “I have some sense that it’s going to affect a lot of people. And … well, this is the weird part, I think it might even involve the White House somehow.”

 

I had no idea what to make of this. Neither did Tom. Still, he kept attending Mass daily. He prayed more often and more openly, and we talked a lot about his growing relationship with God.

 

Tom never grew any more certain about the message being sent to him. But that didn’t matter. What mattered was the wonderful closeness that he shared with me.

 

That’s why, even as the events of September 11 were unfolding, I had no doubt about the source of Tom’s courage aboard Flight 93 that day. And I believe his experience offers a ray of light through any darkness. A light that shines through my life even now, and forever.

 

 

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

 

1. How does the figure of the God-fearing exemplary wife of the Book of Proverbs inspire me? Will I try to imitate her? How?

 

2. What lessons do I derive from the actions of the faithful servants in the Gospel parable? What lessons do I glean from the stance of the “one-talented servant”?

 

3. How do I prepare for the Day of the Lord so that it will not overtake me like a thief in the night?

 

 

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

 

O loving God,

we thank you for the beautiful example

of the exemplary wife who works with loving hands.

She fears you in a holy way.

By her good deeds, she gives you praise.

O mighty God,

we thank you for the energetic creativity

and wholehearted dedication of the “multi-talented servants”.

They teach us to be fruitfully involved in the affairs of your kingdom.

Deliver us from the perverted logic of the “play-it-safe” servant

who prefers to dig a hole in the ground and makes your treasure idle.

That we may make a real impact in today’s history,

may we be personally involved in making your kingdom come.

Help us to use our talents fully and creatively

for the service of the Gospel.

Thank you for the life-witness of Saint Paul

who exhorts us to be ready for the Day of the Lord.

As children of light,

may we imitate him in living the life of Christ

and radiate his Gospel to the world.

Please do not allow the Day of the Lord to overtake us as a thief,

but rather, let it be for us a saving grace.

For the kingdom, the power and glory are yours, 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.

 

“Since you were faithful in small matters … Come, share your master’s joy.” (Mt 25:23)

 

 

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

 

Pray for the grace of a holy death and for greater readiness for the coming of the Day of the Lord. By your acts of justice, kindness and compassion, manifest that you are children of light, eager to welcome the Day of the Lord. To help us experience the Day of the Lord as a grace event, make an effort to spend some quiet moments of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.

 

 

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November 16, 2020: MONDAY – WEEKDAY (33); SAINT MARGARET OF SCOTLAND; SAINT GERTRUDE, Virgin

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Makes the Blind See … He Reveals the Father’s Message”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Rv 1:1-4; 2:1-5 // Lk 18:35-43

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 18:35-43): “What do you want me to do for you? Lord, please let me see.”

 

The need for true spiritual sight is the subject of today’s Gospel reading (Lk 18:35-43), which narrates the healing of the blind beggar at Jericho. In comparison to the blind beggar, the people crowding around Jesus seem to be fortunate for they could see the “miracle worker” from Nazareth with their physical eyes. But there is a deeper reality than physical sight.

 

The remark of Anthony Bloom, a physician who became Metropolitan and Patriarch of Moscow in 1965, is insightful: “If only we knew that we were blind, how eagerly would we seek healing … But the tragedy is that we do not realize our blindness … Blinded by the world of things we forget that it does not match the depth of which man is capable … To be aware only of the tangible world is to be on the outside of the fullness of knowledge, outside the experience of the total reality which is the world in God and God at the heart of the world. The blind man, Bartimaeus, was painfully aware of this because, owing to his physical blindness, the visible world escaped him. He could cry out to the Lord in total despair.”

 

To cultivate a positive attitude through faith in Jesus and trust in him will enable us “to see”. The following story enables us to appreciate the “gift of sight”, which is spiritual (cf. Marilyn Morgan King, “A Matter of Attitude” in Daily Guideposts 2010, p. 265).

 

My former neighbor Carla Gallemore had become blind as a result of “twilight sleep”, an anesthetic technique used during childbirth in the early twentieth century. “At one time I felt sight was my most precious gift, but I was wrong. Atittude is”, Carla said, and she proved it. Using a Braille typewriter, she wrote a very successful book, Once I Was Blind.

 

One day Carla called me and said, “Did you know The Miracle Worker is showing at the Fox? I’d like to see that movie.” “See it?” I asked. “Yes, I’ve learned to ‘see” with my ears and through other people’s eyes. I can follow a movie pretty well by listening. When I can’t, I’ll tap your arm and you can whisper to me what’s happening on the screen.”

 

So we went to the movie – the story of the young Helen Keller and her teacher Annie Sullivan – and found it to be extremely inspiring. I think Carla got more out of The Miracle Worker than I did, even though she had no sight. “It’s all a matter of attitude”, she said. “Keeping a hopeful mind and heart makes all the difference, whatever one’s handicap is.”

 

 

B. First Reading (Rv 1:1-4; 2:1-5): “Realize how far you have fallen and repent.”

 

We begin the weekday readings from the Book of Revelation. This was written when Christians were being persecuted because of their faith in Jesus Christ the Lord. The author’s concern is to give his readers hope and encouragement and to urge them to remain faithful through suffering and persecution. The Book of Revelation mainly consists of revelations and visions couched in a symbolic language that could be deciphered by Christians of that day, but would be enigmatic for others. Opinions vary regarding the interpretation of the details, but the central message of the book is clear: through Jesus Christ the Lord, God will finally and totally defeat all of his enemies, including Satan. When the victory is complete, God will reward the faithful ones with the blessings of “a new heaven and a new earth”.

 

The reading (Rev 1:1-9; 2:1-5) tells us that the book is “the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him”. It is both a message of Jesus Christ to his churches and from God about the coming judgment. The Lord promises a blessing on all who read, hear and heed the message. John is the mouthpiece for God and Jesus. In his prophetic ministry, angels intervene and figure extensively.

 

John addresses himself to the “seven churches in Asia”. Through his message to these churches, he intends to reach all the churches in Asia and the universal Church. John is commanded to deliver the Lord’s message to the church in Ephesus, which was founded by Saint Paul about 53-56 A.D. Ephesus is the commercial metropolis of Asia and the seat of the pre-consular government. Understandably, this cultural and political center is very open to syncretistic tendency, among which is the imperial cult and the worship of the goddess Artemis. The Lord commends the church in Ephesus for being hardworking and faithful. They have detected the deceit of false teachers and rejected them. They are patient in suffering and have endured. But this is what the Lord Jesus has against them: they have lost the love they had at first. They have abandoned brotherly love and this entails the loss of Christ’s love. The Lord therefore confronts them: “Realize how far you have fallen. Repent, and do the works you did at first.”  Unless they repent, the “lampstand” – symbol of God’s presence – will be taken away from them. The waning of brotherly love eventually leads to self-destruction.

 

The prophetic reproach delivered by John to the church in Ephesus is very relevant to the modern world’s situation. Unless we repent and recover our love for one another, we will perish. The following modern day crisis situation cries out for repentance and change of heart (cf. The Fresno Bee, August 30, 2015, p. 10B).

 

On August 26, about three hours after a troubled television reporter murdered two of his former colleagues on live television in Virginia; a judge in Colorado sentenced James Holmes to 12 lifetime sentences for the massacre of 12 people in Aurora, plus another 3,318 years behind bars.

 

“Get the defendant out of my courtroom”, Judge Carlos A. Samour, Jr. said in disgust as he instructed a deputy to banish the schizophrenic man from a society weary of gun crime.

 

The Virginia shooter committed suicide. But rest assured, America will meet another murderous madman today, and tomorrow, and the next day. There are thousands of them, and more to come, unless this nation gets serious about gun control and mental health care – and actually enforcing the gun ownership regulations that are already on the books. (…)

 

In our lifetimes, the United States has seen a president shot in the back seat of a car, a president shot as he exited a hotel, a U.S. senator shot in a hotel pantry, a civil rights leader shot on his hotel balcony, and thousands upon thousands of humbler and less heralded humans – school children, theatergoers, workers – annihilated in fusillades of bullets.

 

How many times must we watch before we take a good look at ourselves as a country … We know the answer. Too many more.

 

    

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

 

1. Have we made the invocations of the blind man of Jericho our own: “Son of “David, have pity on me!” … “Lord, please let me see”?

 

2. How do we value the revelations God, through Jesus Christ, reveal to us? How does the message of the Lord Jesus to the church in Ephesus impinge on us?

 

  

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

 

Jesus Master,

you made the blind man of Jericho “see”.

Your gift of sight and insight

enabled him to follow you,

giving glory to God.

Your marvelous work

inspired the people who witnessed it

to give praise to God.

Grant me the gift of sight and insight.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.  

 

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Loving God,

we thank you for your “revelation” in Jesus Christ.

Help us to act on his saving message

so that we may be ready at the final judgment

to face your mercy and your justice.

And when our practice of Christian charity wanes,

bring us back to our senses.

Let our love for one another be renewed.

Increase our love for Jesus day by day.

We give you glory and praise, now and forever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“Lord, please let me see.” (Lk 18:41) // “You have lost the love you had at first.” (Rv 2:4)

 

 

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

 

Exercise the gift of sight and insight by identifying one wonderful thing that happened to you today and by thanking God for it. // Ask God for the grace of repentance and forgiveness every time you backslide in the duty of fraternal love. By his grace, resolve to do better in exercising Christian fraternal love.

 

 

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November 17, 2020: TUESDAY – SAINT ELIZABETH OF HUNGARY, Religious

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Saves the Lost … We Need to Hear His Voice and Open the Door to Him”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Rv 3:1-6, 14-22 // Lk 19:1-10

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 19:1-10): “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”

 

The book Papa Mike was written by Mike McGarvin, the founder of Poverello House that serves the poor and the homeless in Fresno. Like Jesus, it is his mission to save the “lost”. Here is Papa Mike’s amusing account of a rescue.

 

One of the more disturbing events took place about half a block from Poverello. It was winter, and raining hard. The streets in that part of town often had poor drainage, and our block was exceptionally bad. I don’t remember why, but I was walking along F Street that day. I passed by a huge puddle that had formed in a gutter. It was clogged with leaves from the sycamore trees in the neighborhood, and for some reason I glanced down at the puddle. When I did, I spotted some bubbles coming up in the water. On closer inspection, I saw they were coming from a small fleshy object sticking out of the water.

 

With a shudder, I realized that the object was the very tip of someone’s nose. I reached down in the puddle and pulled a man’s head out, grabbed the shoulders, and pulled him onto the sidewalk. The standing water had been so deep that he had been completely submerged except for his nose. He was covered with leaves, so that he was invisible to any passerby. He was still alive, but I couldn’t wake him up. I ran to the Poverello and called 911. He had apparently got drunk, passed out in the gutter and stayed there all night. As the rain began to pour down, he slept right through it. The water kept rising, and if I hadn’t seen him, he would have been completely under water in a few minutes. When the paramedics came, they took him to the hospital. He survived, but he had hypothermia.

 

Today’s Gospel reading )Lk 19:1-10) presents another marginal who wants “to see” – just like the blind man at Jericho. The tax collector Zacchaeus wants specifically “to see” Jesus. Despised by others on account of his despicable trade, he seeks “to see” who Jesus is. Short in stature and impeded by a jostling crowd from “seeing” the Divine Master, he overcomes the difficulty by climbing a sycamore tree. When Jesus reached the spot where Zacchaeus is waiting, he looks up and, “seeing” him precariously perched in the tree, says: “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house”. The energetic tax collector responds to Jesus’ initiative by climbing down from the sycamore tree and by welcoming him into the banquet at his house. But more radically he renounces half of his possessions and makes a promise of four-fold restitution to anyone he has defrauded. Zacchaeus’ great desire “to see” Jesus is fulfilled. He experiences a great joy because the Savior of the “lost” has cast a compassionate glance upon him and rescued him.

  

 

B. First Reading (Rv 3:1-6, 14-22): “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him.”

 

The reading (Rv 3:1-6, 14-22) contains the Lord’s message to the church in Sardis and to the church in Laodicea. His reproach to Sardis is that, though they are reputed to be “alive”, they are actually dead. They are enthusiastic about spiritual gifts, but they have failed to follow God’s commands. They have managed to preserve the appearances of Christianity, but they are experiencing the spiritual death from which Christ has rescued them. They need to wake up and strengthen whatever good they have lest they lose them completely. Some of them have been faithful and will share in Christ’s victory at his coming. Those who refuse to obey what they have been taught will be erased from the book of life.

 

Addressing himself to the church in Laodicea, the Lord rebukes them for being smug and complacent. Since they are “lukewarm, neither hot nor cold”, the Lord will spit them out of his mouth. Laodicea is known for its clothing industry; it is a banking center and has a medical school that specializes in eye diseases. Unfortunately, the material prosperity that Christians enjoy in this city has vitiated them and has closed their heart to the grace of God. Their spiritual well-being has been compromised. Though materially prosperous, they are really “poor, naked and blind”. The Lord advises them to procure pure gold from him; to cover their nakedness with white clothing; and to apply ointment on their eyes that they may see. In effect, the Lord is telling them to draw out true riches, the fullness of salvation and complete healing from him. At the time of the visitation of the Lord, who stands at the door and knocks, they must listen to his voice, open the door of their heart, and welcome him. Then they will be victorious and joyfully participate with the Lord in the banquet of eternal life.

 

The following article/interview gives insight into the dynamics of moral and spiritual degradation and the possibility of conversion (cf. Gail Marshall, “Chowchilla Bus Kidnapper James Schoenfeld’s Own Words Add Insight to Crime” in The Fresno Bee, August 30, 2015, p. 1B, 3B-4B).

 

[On July 15, 1976], twenty-six school children from Dairyland Elementary School and their bus driver, Ed Ray, were abducted from their school bus by three young men, transported hours around the state in two vans, then buried alive in a moving van. In a daring escape, the bus driver and older boys clawed their way out of their underground prison, leading the younger children across a rock quarry in a sprint to freedom. (…)

 

The three male kidnappers were in their 20s. Frederick Newhall Woods, James Schoenfeld and his brother, Richard, were caught within two weeks and given life sentences after pleading guilty to kidnapping charges … James recently was released on parole after being incarcerated for 39 years. His younger brother, Richard, was released a couple of years ago. Woods remains in prison. (…)

 

Why? The young men were healthy and wealthy by any measure. They came from good homes, went to college. (…)

 

In his testimony, James describes an enviable early childhood as the middle child of three boys, raised in a “great” home with two parents. His father was a physician. By the time he was 14, his parents had taken him on two trips around the world. In their modest neighborhood in Palo Alto, they were minor celebrities. Their pictures were on the front page of the newspaper. Later, they moved to a more upscale neighborhood in Atherton, another Bay Area suburb. James changed.

 

“Why did you take the children?”

 

In Atherton, I was no longer something special. I was just – in fact I was not special at all, so I wanted to be – have that feeling again. I wanted to fit in with these new people that we moved next to. And, you know, my friend’s parents had twin Ferraris, you know, his and hers with telephones in them. I had no money of my own. My dad lent me some money. I bought a Jaguar. I found out that the insurance was more than I made in a whole year, so two months later I had to sell the Jaguar. I was 19. I was working full time as a busboy. I was also going to college.

 

I had envy issues trying to fit in with one crowd, and my other friends, they were getting married. They were buying houses. They were on their own career paths, and I was falling behind them and I just figured I need money. Money would solve all my problems. I felt I couldn’t earn my way out of my problem. (…)

 

“Why kidnapping?”

 

I saw a headline. Ronald Reagan put out a headline that the state of California had a billion-dollar surplus. I kept thinking the state’s got more than it needs. They won’t miss $5 million. I wasn’t going to commit any crime, risk my life or risk my reputation for anything less than a million, so a bank robbery wouldn’t work. A drug deal wouldn’t work. I didn’t know anything except kidnapping that I’d seen on TV that would provide sufficient reward. (…)

 

“Do you really understand what you did?”

 

(…) We took the victims by force. They were completely helpless. That leaves a victim with poor self-esteem. They might even question God. There are emotional, financial, spiritual and physical injuries. I put them in a place that endangered their life. There were a hundred things that could have happened that this really could have come out far worse.

 

“Where will you live now?”

 

My hope is to be able to help my mother and my hope is to reside with her and take care of her. She is 92 years old.

 

 

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

 

1. Are there moments in our life when we undergo the Zacchaeus experience and have tried to climb the “sycamore tree” in order “to see” Jesus? Identify them and relive the intense feelings and the challenges of these experiences. Personally and as a Church, in what ways do we participate in the saving mission of Jesus, the Son of Man who comes to seek and save what was lost?

 

2. Do we strive “to live” in the fullest sense by following God’s commands? In our relationship with Jesus, are “tepid, neither hot nor cold”? Are we willing to hear the voice of the Lord as he stands by the door and knock and are we ready to open the door of our heart to him?

 

  

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

 

Loving Father,

at times we feel miserable and sinful, rejected and unloved.

But in your kindness,

you allow us to experience moments of truth and healing light.

We thank you for the Zacchaeus experience within us

of wanting “to see” Jesus.

We therefore climb the “sycamore tree” to have a glimpse of him

who comes to seek the lost.

In our precarious perch on the “sycamore tree” of our lonely life,

we await your saving presence

and your kind invitation to come down and be with you.

As your loving gaze enfolds us

and as we climb down toward your welcoming heart,

we rejoice that God’s love is bigger than our frailties.

Like the radically transformed Zacchaeus,

may we let go of all the burdens of the sinful past.

Fill us with the joy of salvation

as we hear you say:

“Today salvation has come to this house …

For the Son of Man has come

to seek and save what was lost.”

We adore you now and forever.

Amen.  

 

            ***

Lord Jesus,

you stand by the door and knock.

Give us the grace to listen to your voice

and to open the door of our heart to you.

Help us to live truly in your merciful love

and follow your life-giving commands.

Make us share in your glorious banquet in heaven.

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.

 

“He was seeking to see who Jesus was.” (Lk 19:3) // “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” (Rv 3:20).

 

 

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

 

As a way of participating in the mission of the Son of Man who came to seek and save what was lost, you may contribute through prayers, material resources and volunteer services to assist the poor and the needy, the “lost” and the marginalized. // Resolve to detach your heart from material riches/possessions and seek more and more the true riches the Lord God offers.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

November 18, 2020: WEDNESDAY – WEEKDAY (33), THE DEDICATION OF THE BASILICAS OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL, APOSTLES; SAINT ROSE PHILIPPINE DUQUESNE, Virgin (USA)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Wants Us to Be Creatively Involved … In Him We Give Glory to the Thrice Holy God”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Rv 4:1-11 // Lk 19:11-28

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 19:11-28): “Why did you not put my money in the bank?”

 

Today’s Gospel parable (Lk 19:11-28) depicts the creative genius of God’s faithful servants as well as the disappointing cowardice of the feckless. The faithful servants are industrious and resourceful. Their creative use of the gold coins inspires us to be pro-active in dealing with the affairs of God’s kingdom. The “hole-in-the-ground” solution of the “play-it-safe” servant is downright disappointing. He does not dare to invest his talent, rationalizing that “what little talent I have will never be missed”. But this is not so.

 

According to the poet Michel Quoist (cf. “Breath of Life”) and paraphrasing him, if each note of music were to say “one note does not make a symphony”, there would be no symphony; if each word were to say “one word does not make a book”, there would be no book; if each brick were to say “one brick does not make a wall”, there would be no house; if each seed were to say “one grain does not make a field of corn”, there would be no harvest; if each one were to say “one act of love cannot save mankind”, there would never be justice and peace on earth.

 

Hence, with regards to the kingdom of God, we cannot remain uninvolved or partially involved; rather, we must be totally involved. Absolute personal commitment is required for salvation. It is exigent that we fully invest our talents to promote creatively and energetically the reign of God.

 

 

B. First Reading (Rv 4:1-11): “Holy is the Lord God almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come.”

 

This happened in 1977 when I was a young Sister assigned in Cebu Island, in the Philippines. One day, after a hectic morning, I went for an afternoon nap (“siesta”). The gentle breeze blowing through the window was refreshing and it lulled me into a deep, peaceful sleep. When I was fully rested, I heard a chorus of virile voices singing an Alleluia song of exquisite beauty and harmony. I thought I was in heaven, hearing the choir of angels singing to God their praises. Later on, I got to know that the heavenly song was being sung by seventy soldiers who were attending a “Cursillo” course at the nearby parish church.

 

The reading (Rv 4:1-11) tells us of John’s experience of heaven. He receives a special vision of the court of heaven where God sits enthroned. The seer speaks of God’s radiance. His face gleams like precious stones and an emerald rainbow surrounds his throne. This symbolic language intends to describe the transcendence of God and the beauty of heaven. John also speaks of “a sea of glass, clear as crystal” to indicate God’s inaccessible power and infinite majesty. The seer beholds “four living creatures”. They look like a lion, a bull, a man and an eagle and represent what is most splendid in animate life: the lion representing nobility, the bull representing strength, the human-like creature representing wisdom and the eagle representing swiftness. The “four living creatures” symbolize the whole of creation in which God is constantly present. Moreover, they are full of eyes to symbolize God’s astounding knowledge and unceasing vigilance over his creation. They have wings to indicate the swiftness with which God’s will is executed throughout the universe. Above all, day and night, the “four living creatures” sing unceasingly: “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was, who is and who is to come.” Cosmic praise is rendered to the all-powerful God, the Lord of creation.

 

Furthermore, John has a vision of “twenty-four elders” dressed in white and wearing crowns of gold. They represent the 12 tribes of Israel in the Old Testament and the 12 tribes of the New Israel in the New Testament. The group of “twenty-four elders” stands for the ideal Church in its entirety and the white robes they wear allude to Christ’s paschal victory in which they share. The glorification of the Church will be fully realized in heaven, but it has virtually taken place already in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Church must unceasingly join with nature in their praise, worship and glory of God. The seer then describes the “twenty-four elders” joining in the cosmic and heavenly liturgy. As the “four living creatures” sing songs of glory and thanksgiving to the one who sits on the throne, the “twenty-four elders” prostrate and throw their crowns down in front of the throne, saying: “Our Lord and God! You are worthy to receive glory, honor and power. For you created all things and by your will they were given existence and life.” The action symbolizes adoration, homage and submission to the Lord God, the creator of all things and the Lord of history.

 

 

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

 

1. What lesson do I derive from the actions of the faithful servants in the Gospel parable? What lesson do I glean from the stance of the “hole-in-the-ground” servant? 

 

2. Have you ever experienced a “glimpse of heaven”? How did it affect and move you? Do you endeavor to unite your daily acts of prayer and charity with the heavenly liturgy?

 

  

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

 

O loving God,

we thank you for the creativity and wholehearted dedication

of the enterprising servants.

They teach us to be fruitfully involved

in the affairs of your kingdom.

Deliver us from the twisted logic

of the “hole-in-the-ground” servant.

That we may make a real impact in today’s history,

let us be personally involved in the advent of your kingdom.

Help us to use our talents fully and creatively

in the service of the Gospel.

For the kingdom, the power and glory are yours, now and forever.

            Amen.     

 

***

(cf. Rv 4:8, 11)

Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,

who was, who is and who is to come.

Our Lord and God!

You are worthy to receive glory, honor and power.

For you created all things

and by your will they were given existence and life.”

 

 

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.

 

 “Well done, good servant! You have been faithful in this very small matter.” (Lk 19:17) // “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God almighty.” (Rv 4:8)

 

 

  

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

 

List some talents you have received from the Lord, which you have utilized fully at the service of the Church and on behalf of the community. List some talents, which you have failed to use. Beg God’s mercy and pardon for your failure to maximize them. Resolve to use them for the service of the Gospel. // Be deeply aware of the beauty of creation and unite yourself with the praise that is rendered to God by all living and created things. When the “Sanctus” is sung at Mass, be deeply conscious of the cosmic praise and heavenly worship taking place.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

November 19, 2020: THURSDAY – WEEKDAY (33)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Weeps Over Jerusalem … He Is the Lamb that Was Slain for Our Saving”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Rv 5:1-10 // Lk 19:41-44

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 19:41-44): “If you only knew what makes for peace.”

 

Today’s Gospel (Lk 19:41-44) is marked with pathos. Jesus weeps over the city of Jerusalem. His tears manifest his anguish, frustration and sorrow for an obdurate people who refuse the saving grace he offers. Unlike the blind man at Jericho and the tax collector Zacchaeus who were able to experience the gift of “seeing”, the leaders of the city remain “blind” because they have rejected Jesus as the Messiah. They refuse to acknowledge and “see” in his ministry the evidence of God’s benevolent plan. Jesus laments the impending destruction of Jerusalem. In rejecting him, the rebellious people likewise reject the “way” that leads to true peace and salvation. The leaders of Jerusalem choose instead armed resistance and violence, which would result in the total destruction of Jerusalem inflicted by the Roman general Titus and his army in 70 A.D.

 

The pathos in the following poem written by Judge Roy Moore from Alabama is akin to the anguished emotion of Jesus as he weeps over Jerusalem. Judge Moore was sued by the ACLU for displaying the Ten Commandments in his courtroom foyer. He has been stripped of his judgeship and now they are trying to strip his right to practice law in Alabama! The judge's poem sums it up quite well.

 

America the beautiful,
or so you used to be.
Land of the Pilgrims' pride,
I'm glad they'll never see.

Babies piled in dumpsters,
Abortion on demand,
Oh, sweet land of liberty;
your house is on the sand.

Our children wander aimlessly
poisoned by cocaine
choosing to indulge their lusts,
when God has said abstain

From sea to shining sea,
our Nation turns away
From the teaching of God's love
and a need to always pray

We've kept God in our temples,
how callous we have grown.
When earth is but His footstool,
and Heaven is His throne.


We've voted in a government
that's rotting at the core,
Appointing Godless Judges
who throw reason out the door,

Too soft to place a killer
in a well-deserved tomb,
But brave enough to kill a baby
before he leaves the womb.

You think that God's not angry,
that our land's a moral slum?
How much longer will He wait
before His judgment comes?

How are we to face our God,
from Whom we cannot hide ?
What then is left for us to do,
but stem this evil tide ?

If we who are His children,
will humbly turn and pray;
Seek His holy face
and mend our evil way:

Then God will hear from Heaven;
and forgive us of our sins,
He'll heal our sickly land
and those who live within....

But, America the Beautiful,
If you don't - then you will see,
A sad but Holy God
withdraw His hand from Thee.

   

 

B. First Reading (Rv 5:1-10): “The Lamb that was slain purchased us with his Blood from every nation.”

 

The reading (Rv 5:1-10) focuses on the Lamb that was slain to purchase us with his blood from every nation. In his vision, John sees a scroll in the right hand of the one who sits on the throne. It is covered with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. The perfectly sealed “scroll” indicates the mysterious will of God regarding all of human and cosmic history. No one in heaven or on earth or in the entire universe could open the scroll and execute the divine will. Who is qualified to know and put into execution God’s plan for history? The seer weeps bitterly at this desperate situation and his tears evoke the sufferings of those who despair in every time and space.

 

One of the elders said to John the comforting words: “Don’t cry. Look! The lion from Judah’s tribe, a great descendant of David, has won the victory, and he can break the seven seals and open the scroll.” John then beholds a Lamb standing “in the midst of the throne” and has “seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God that have been sent through the whole earth”. The position being “in the midst of the throne” symbolizes the Lamb’s close link with God, whose knowledge and power he shares. The image of “seven horns … seven eyes … seven spirits of God” indicates that the Lamb holds the fullness of power and insight and that he watches and supervises all that takes place on earth.

 

Moreover, the Lamb is surrounded by the “four living creatures” and the “elders”. The Lamb appears to have been slain, but is living and victorious. The Lamb Victor, who still carries the marks of its sacrifice, is Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah from the tribe of Judah and the house of David. The slain Lamb has the authority and the power to open the “seven-sealed” scroll. Thus the “four living creatures” and the “twenty-four elders” fall down before the Lamb in an act of adoration. Each with a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, symbolizing the prayers of God’s people, they sing a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to break open its seals. For you were killed and by your sacrificial death you bought for God people from every tribe, language, nation and race. You have made them a kingdom of priests to serve our God, and they shall rule on earth.”

 

What John witnesses is an enthronement ceremony of the Victorious Lamb. By receiving the scroll of the divine will and by accomplishing God’s saving plan, the Lord Jesus receives sovereignty over the nations. He has the power to guide the destiny of all peoples to a glorious end. The whole creation, represented by the “four living creatures”, and the entire Church, represented by the “twenty-four elders”, extol the dignity of the Paschal Lamb and celebrate his glory as our Savior in a beautiful liturgy that encompasses heaven and earth.

 

The following song is a favorite one in our chapel here in Fresno. I particularly like it because its melody is simple but beautiful. After having studied the text (Rv 5:1-10) using various biblical commentaries, the song becomes even more meaningful.

 

“Worthy Is the Lamb”: A song composed by Ricky Manalo, CSP

 

Refrain: Worthy is the Lamb that was slain

to receive honor and glory.

Worthy are the ones who believe

to receive the goodness of God.

 

1. Worthy are you, O Paschal Lamb.

Wisdom and strength belong now to you.

You laid down your life and died upon the cross:

we’ve become a people of hope.

 

2. Worthy are you, O Bread of Life.

Salvation and joy belong now to us.

By conquering death and rising to new life,

we’ve become a people of praise.

 

3. Worthy are you, O Risen Christ.

Wonders and signs, revealing your might.

Your power and glory shine upon our lives:

we’ve become your light for the world.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we share the anguish of Jesus for those who reject his saving grace? What do we do to help a secularized world turn to God and be converted to his ways?

 

2. Do we recognize and avow the radical salvation won for us by the victorious Paschal Lamb Jesus Christ? Do we let the unique role of Christ Savior shape our life and destiny?

 

  

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

 

Jesus Savior,

you wept over Jerusalem

for being blind to your gift of peace and salvation.

Give us the grace

to recognize your presence in our midst.

Let us follow your ways

and preserve us from destruction.

You are the Father’s benediction and blessing to us all.

We love you and thank you.

We resolve to follow you and serve you, now and forever.

Amen.  

 

            ***

(cf. Rv 5:10)

You are worthy to take the scroll

and to break open its seals.

For you were killed

and by your sacrificial death

you bought for God

people from every tribe, language, nation and race.

You have made them a kingdom of priests

to serve our God, and they shall rule on earth.

 

 

 

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.

 

“Jesus saw the city and wept over it.” (Lk 19:41) // “Worthy are you to receive the scroll and break open its seals.” (Rv 5:9)

 

  

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

 

Manifest your acceptance of Jesus as Savior by your acts of justice and compassion on behalf of the poor. // Let every moment and action of your life be an act of worship and praise to the Lamb who was slain for our saving.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

November 20, 2020: FRIDAY –WEEKDAY (33)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us True Worship … We Are Commissioned as His Prophets”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Rv 10:8-11 // Lk 19:45-48

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 19:45-48): “You have made it a den of thieves.”

 

Today’s Gospel (Lk 19:45-48) depicts Jesus driving away those who have made his house of prayer into a “den of thieves”. The religious practices in the Jerusalem temple have degenerated into a shameful market trafficking. Legal transactions in the name of religion, which trample the rights of the poor, are sanctioned and encouraged by temple authorities within its precincts. Jesus castigates the merchants for profaning the temple and the religious leaders for degrading the meaning of worship. Indeed, the God of freedom, who brought Israel from the bondage in Egypt, would not settle for false worship. Moreover, the passionate character of the liberating God and the integrity of his covenant love would not tolerate abuse and injustice to the poor, especially when done in the guise of religion. But God is compassionate, full of mercy and love. Ever faithful and true, the almighty God does not turn away from his sinful people. He sends his Son Jesus to renew the broken covenant and to teach them true worship. In a radical manifestation of divine love, our Savior Jesus Christ offers “true worship” on the cross of salvation.

 

The following story entitled “A Sunday Stranger”, circulated on the Internet, gives an idea of what true “worship” entails.

 

The parking lot filled rapidly on Sunday morning as members of the large church congregation filed into church. As usually happens in a church that size, each member had developed a certain comfort zone – a block of space within those four church walls that became theirs after the second or third sitting. It was as much a part of their experience as the recliner was to the television at home.

 

One morning a stranger stood at the edge of the parking lot near a dumpster. As families parked cars and piled out, they noticed him rummaging through the trash. “Oh no, I don’t believe it”, whispered a lady to her husband. “That’s all we need – a bunch of homeless people milling around here.” One worried little girl tugged on her dad’s sleeve. “But Daddy …” Daddy was busy sizing up the bearded stranger, whose baggy, outdated trousers and faded flannel shirt had dusted too many park benches. “Don’t stare at him, honey”, he whispered, and hurried her inside. Soft music filled the high-ceilinged sanctuary as churchgoers settled in their usual spots.

 

The choir sand an opening chorus, “In his presence there is comfort … in his presence there is peace …” Sunlight flooded the center aisle. The double doors swung open and the homeless man, sloppy and stooped, headed toward the front. “Oh no, It’s him!” somebody muttered. “What does he think he’s doing, anyway?” snapped an incredulous usher. The stranger set his bagful of dumpster treasures on the very first pew, which had been upholstered in an expensive soft teal fabric just three months ago. The music stopped. And before anyone had a chance to react, he ambled up the stairs and stood behind the fine, hand-crafted podium, where he faced a wide-eyed congregation.

 

The disheveled stranger spoke haltingly at first, in a low, clear voice. Unbuttoning and removing his top layer of clothing, he described Jesus, and the love he has for all people. “Jesus possesses sensitivity and a love that far surpasses what any of us deserves.” Stepping out of the baggy old trousers, the stranger went on to describe a forgiveness that is available to each and every one of us … without strings attached.

 

“Unconditionally he loves us. Unconditionally he gave his very life for us. Unconditionally and forever, we can have the peace and assurance that no matter who we are, where we’ve come from, or how badly we may have mistreated others or ourselves, there is hope. In Jesus, there is always hope. You see, my friends, it is never too late to change”, the man continued. “He is the author of change, and the provider of forgiveness. He came to bring new meaning to life.”

 

Men and women squirmed as the reality hit them like an electric current. The stranger tugged at his knotted gray beard, and removed it. “I’m here to tell you that we are loved with a love far beyond human understanding, a love that enables us to accept and love others in return.” Then tenderly he added, “Let’s pray together.” That wise pastor – under the guise of a homeless “nobody” – did not preach a sermon that day, but every person left with plenty to think about.

   

 

B. First Reading (Rv 10:8-11): “I took the small scroll and swallowed it.”

 

The reading (Rv 10:8-11) depicts the seer John being commissioned as God’s prophet to the nations. Ezekiel’s prophetic investiture (cf. Ez 2:8-3:3) inspires this account. John is commanded by a voice from heaven to take from the angel an “open” scroll. When he takes the little scroll and eats it, it tastes “sweet” as honey in his mouth. But after he swallows it, it turns “sour” in his stomach. That the scroll is “open” symbolizes that its message must not be kept secret but be communicated to the intended recipients. The action of “eating the scroll” indicates that the one being commissioned needs to assimilate completely and deeply its content or message. That the scroll is both “sweet and sour” symbolizes the double effect the prophetic message brings: that is, it announces the glorious victory of the faithful and the painful struggle that precedes it. The “sweet and sour” taste evokes the Christian paschal experience of beatitude and glory through suffering and death.

 

After eating the scroll, the prophet is told: “Once again you must proclaim God’s message about many nations, races, languages and kings.” The prophecy that John will proclaim contains judgments against peoples and their leaders. Since the prophetic truth disturbs and destabilizes, his message is dangerous for political powers and for the prophet himself. Indeed, the message of the prophet John and the Christian prophetic community through time and space is challenging, disquieting, transforming and life-giving.

 

The following article gives insight into what it means to be God’s prophet in today’s world (cf. Dashka Slater, “Call for Climate Justice” in Sierra, September/October 2015, p. 26-27).

 

On June 18, the Vatican released Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, subtitled “Care for Our Common Home”. Environmentalists hoped it would build momentum for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in December, while fossil fuel apologists attacked the pope’s credibility. (Rush Limbaugh went so far as to call the Pontiff a Marxist.)

 

But the papal letter’s significance goes far beyond its widely noted alarm about climate change to ask readers of all faiths to consider their relationship to the planet as a whole. “We are not faced with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social”, Pope Francis writes, “but rather one complex crisis which is both social and environmental.”

 

For environmental justice scholar, Sylvia Hood Washington, who is both Catholic and African-American, this holistic approach is what makes the encyclical so revolutionary. “When you have the pope clearly state that the degradation of the environment and the degradation of human beings is a sin? Praise be to God!” she says. “It’s a blessing to every human being who has wanted justice and equity.”

 

Hood Washington’s environmental ethos has a rigorous academic underpinning, but she also has a personal stake: Her mother died during an extended heat wave in Cleveland in 1988, the kind of disaster that will become more lethal as the planet warms. Heat waves, she points out, are particularly deadly for people with chronic diseases like the hypertension and diabetes that are epidemic in the black community.

 

“The climate of the earth, but also the internal climate of the body, has been changed by the industrial production of energy”, she says. “What we corrupt on the earth, we corrupt in ourselves.” (…)

 

But anyone who reads the encyclical with an open mind will be moved to action. “It’s a challenging document”, observes Patrick Carolan, executive director of the Franciscan Action Network. “If you’re reading it, you’re going to feel uncomfortable. St. Francis of Assisi taught us that you’re never transformed in your comfort zone. It’s not business as usual – it can’t be.”

 

 

 

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

 

1. How does the episode of the cleansing of the Temple impact us? What are the various elements and areas in our personal lives that need “cleansing”? What does “worship” mean to us personally? Do we strive to render God “true worship”?

 

2. Like the seer John, are we willing to take the “open” scroll, eat it and taste its sweetness and then feeling its sourness in the stomach, proclaim its prophetic contents to the nations? Are we willing to be God’s courageous prophets in today’s world?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you cleansed the temple from abusive merchants

and denounced false worship.

Purify us of hypocrisy and self-gain.

Teach us the meaning of true worship.

We can never truly love and praise you

if we continue to neglect the poor and marginal.

Give us the grace to make of our life

a pleasing “offering” to God.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

            Amen.

 

            ***

Loving God,

we thank you our vocation and mission

as your prophets in today’s world.

Help us to relish the sweetness of your word.

Give us the courage to proclaim your saving message to the nations.

Let us live by your Spirit

and rejoice in Christ’s love for us and one another.

You are worthy of honor, glory and praise,

now and forever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“My house shall be a house of prayer; but you have made it a den of thieves.” (Lk 19:46) // “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues and kings.” (Rv10:11)

 

 

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

 

By your acts of charity and animated by the spirit of true worship, contribute to the cleansing and rebuilding of God’s desecrated “temple” – today’s suffering people who are victims of crime, violence, oppression, exploitation and injustice. // Make an effort to study prayerfully the Word of God that you may proclaim God’s saving message more efficaciously to the people around you.

 

 

*** *** ***

November 21, 2020: SATURDAY – THE PRESENTATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Affirms the Reality of the Resurrection … The Prophetic Community Shares in His Paschal Destiny”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Rv 11:4-12 // Lk 20:27-40

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 20:27-40): “He is not God of the dead, but of the living.”

 

This happened in Veneto, Italy. Sr. Tiziana’s dad died of a massive stroke. Her mom was disconsolate and was crying her heart out at the funeral. Sr. Tiziana gently reminded her that the separation is temporary for she would be reunited with him in heaven. Her mom wailed: “But the Gospel says in the next life we will be like angels. In heaven, I will no longer be his wife.” Sr. Tiziana later confided: “I did not know what to say.” Of course, her mom’s fear of cessation of the relationship is unfounded. True love never ends.

 

Today’s Gospel (Lk 20:27-30) deals with the resurrection of the dead, a faith reality that surpasses human understanding. The Sadducees, a group of religious leaders who deny the existence of resurrected life, are bent on engaging Jesus in a reductio-ad-absurdum argument against the later doctrine of bodily resurrection. If there is a “resurrection” there would be struggles in heaven over marriage partners. Jesus’ first rebuttal also uses a reductio-ad-absurdum tactic. The Divine Master argues that the next existence, which has no place for death, makes marriage and remarriage irrelevant. He reduces to pieces the basic premise of the Sadducees that the life of the age to come is merely a continuation of this life and therefore needs marriage and human propagation lest it die out. The second rebuttal of Jesus is derived from the Torah. Since the Sadducees hold only to the Law of Moses, Jesus utilizes that to bolster his argument about the resurrected life. When God says: “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” this implies that his relationship with these patriarchs is everlasting and personal. God does not lose his friends to death. They live on and this is made possible through the Messiah’s resurrection.

 

It is through the resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God, that we are brought to true and eternal life. Our belief in our resurrection is based on our faith in the resurrected Christ. Harold Buetow remarks: “Christian belief in immortality is unique and special. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Good News of fullness of life in this age, and of the resurrection in the age to come. For us death is a door, not a wall – not a wall that ends growth and action like the Berlin wall, but a door into a Christmas-tree room full of surprises. Someone has compared death to standing on the seashore. A ship spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the open sea. She fades on the horizon, and someone says, ‘She’s gone.’ Just at the moment when someone says, ‘She’s gone’, other voices who are watching at her coming on another shore happily shout, ‘Here she comes’. Or to use another metaphor, what the caterpillar calls ‘the end’, the butterfly calls the ‘beginning’.”

  

 

B. First Reading (Rv 11:4-12): “These two prophets tormented the inhabitants of the earth.”

 

While the scene of the open scroll (Rv 10:8-11) underlines the prophetic mission of the Church, today’s reading about the “two witnesses” (Rv 11:4-12) delineates the consequences of this mission for the Church and the world. The seer John tells us that the witnesses are “two” because in the Jewish tradition, at least two witnesses are needed for a valid testimony. The reference to the “two witnesses” evokes the role of Moses and Elijah in salvation history. According to Jewish belief, Moses and Elijah are to return to preach repentance before the day of the Lord. Moreover, the image of the “two witnesses” is superimposed on the image of the “olive trees” and “lampstands” depicted by the prophet Zechariah (cf. Zec 4:3, 11). This symbolic device intends to describe the role and meaning of Christian witnessing. Indeed, the “two witnesses” which are “the two olive trees and the two lamps that stand before the Lord of the earth” symbolize the Church. Nourished by the Spirit and shining like a lamp, the Church bears witness to the radiance of God.

 

The “two witnesses” cannot be killed as long as their witnessing is not complete. In the symbolic city called “Sodom” (a typical example of moral perversion) or “Egypt” (which represents powers hostile to God’s people, oppressing and reducing them to slavery), they are killed by the “beast” that comes from the bottomless pit. The “beast” symbolizes the “anti-Christ” who musters and marshals the enemies of the “two witnesses”. Their dead bodies lie in the street of that sinful city and denied burial. This ultimate humiliation indicates the pitch of hatred to which pagans have been incited by the Christian message. The enemies rejoice that the troublesome Christian witnesses have been eliminated.

 

But the faithful witnesses are vindicated. After “three and a half days” of death and torment, “a life-giving breath comes from God” and raises them up. The enemies watch in consternation as a loud voice from heaven summons the two prophets: “Come up here!” As their enemies watch, the faithful witnesses go up into heaven in a cloud. This beautiful scene of salvation and glorification is meant to encourage the Christians to remain faithful during times of suffering and persecution. Indeed, the Christian faithful are called and destined to share in Christ’s paschal destiny of passion, death and resurrection.

 

The following modern-day account gives insight into the hardship that Christian witnessing entails as well as the hope for salvation (cf. Dominican Brother Augustine Marogi, “Persecuted, but not Abandoned” in Columbia, September 2015, p. 20-23).

 

Gardeners know that when a plant is uprooted and transplanted, its roots may have great difficulty receiving the water needed to remain alive. And as the plant adjusts to new soil, it may suffer “transplant shock” and never recover.

 

Uprooted human beings can suffer similar consequences as well. Forced to abandon their homes, refugees often experience their new surroundings as a vast, dark desert. Distraught and confused, fathers and mothers find themselves unable to provide loving care and security for their children. Despair becomes a real temptation. Such is the fate of displaced Christian families living in Iraq today.

 

After the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, overran the city of Mosul in northern Iraq and smaller towns in 2014, they gave Christians three options: convert to Islam, pay jizya (a submission tax) or leave. Otherwise, they would be slain. With little more than the clothes on their back, nearly all the Christian families abandoned the cities and villages where their roots could be traced back thousands of years. They fled into Kurdish areas where many have faced deplorable living conditions – in tents, partially completed buildings or even out in the open.

 

In response to this humanitarian crisis, the Knights of Columbus Christian Refugee Relief Fund was launched in August 2014. The initiative has helped to provide shelter and medical care for refugee families in need, mitigating their sufferings and giving hope amid dire circumstances. (…)

 

Redemptorist Archbishop Bashar Matti Ward of Erbil affirmed that both the spiritual and humanitarian support have given hope to his suffering people. “We remain confident in Christ that there is a future for Iraqi Christians in Iraq.”

 

 

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

 

1. What is our concept of death and dying? Is this concept illumined by faith in the living God, in whom all are alive? Do we believe that our future resurrected life will be that of “a person with a wholly illuminated soul” – where we are closer to being children of God and able to respond to the divine loving plan for each of us? How authentic is our liturgical confession: We believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting? How does this eschatological belief affect our daily living here and now? 

 

2. When called to witness our Christian faith in dire circumstances, do we turn to God and trust in his saving help? Do we take to heart the plight of persecuted Christians?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

you are the God of the living, not of the dead.

In Jesus, your Son and our Savior,

we live and move.

Help us to look forward to the resurrected life,

when all that is best in us will come through

and each of us will become

“a person with a wholly illuminated soul”.

May the Risen Christ whom we celebrate in every Eucharist

bring about more and more

our own resurrection and transformation.

We give you glory and praise, now and forever.

Amen.  

 

***

Lord Jesus,

you suffered what the persecuted Christians of today

are suffering.

Give them the grace to be courageous in their witnessing

and grant them the hope of glory.

Let the people of goodwill come to their aid

and may all hatred and violence cease.

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.

 

“He is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” (Lk 20:38) // “They went up to heaven in a cloud.” (Rv 11:12)

 

 

 

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

 

Pray for widows/widowers who have lost their partners and are grieving for them. Pray for the grace of a happy death and a deeper experience of trust in Jesus’ almighty Father, the God of the living. In the month of November, visit a cemetery. Pray for the repose of the soul of the beloved dead and thank God for being the God of the living, and not God of the dead. // Do what you can to assist morally, spiritually and materially today’s persecuted Christians.

 

***

 

 

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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