A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday and Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 12, n. 52)

Christ the King & Weekday 34: Nov. 23-29, 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: November 16-22, 2014, please go to ARCHIVES Series 12 and click on “33RD Sunday in Ordinary Time- Weekday 33”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: November 23-29, 2014.)

 

***

 

November 23, 2014: OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE UNIVERSE

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Shepherd-King”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Ez 34:11-12, 15-17 // I Cor 15:20-26, 28 // Mt 25:31-46

 

 

I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS

  

On this last Sunday of the liturgical year, the Church celebrates the solemnity of Christ the King. The feast of his kingship intensifies our expectation of his coming again in glory. Indeed, the end of the Church year is a traditional and opportune time for the Church to focus on the end time, which includes the last judgment. What we celebrate is the person of Jesus and the global mystery of him as the Christ who came, who comes, and who will come again.

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Mt 25:31-46), the passage that concludes Jesus’ eschatological discourse, is most appropriate for the feast of Christ the King. The last judgment scene that is described in the Gospel presents us with a different kind of king: a Shepherd-King who exercises his power and authority in favor of his people and whose sole criterion for judging our worthiness for citizenship in his kingdom is our exercise of love. The evangelist Matthew’s picture of the last judgment sheds full light on the nature and the object of Jesus’ saving mission as Shepherd-King and on the divine plan to reserve the kingdom for the little and the poor ones. The judgment scene enhances and is the summit of Christ’s teaching on service and love of neighbor. All will be judged on what has been done or not been done on behalf of the little ones who are Christ’s brothers and sisters.

 

The works of mercy that are done as an exercise of love can be interpreted literally – the whole world has more than its share of the homeless and the hungry – but we need to go beyond what is obvious. Harold Buetow remarks: “If we have compassionate hearts, which is the badge of nobility in Jesus’ Kingdom, there will swim into our vision thousands of ways to be of help to people who need us.”

 

The following modern day account is an example of how to share in the mission of the Shepherd-King (cf. Julie Garmon in Daily Guideposts 2014, p. 387).

 

I hurried home from running errands, dropped my shopping bags, and cheked by phone messages. “Hi, you don’t know me, but I read Daily Guideposts. I need a huge favor, hon. Call me please, and I’ll explain.”

 

Her voice sounded friendly but a huge favor? I still have to bake pecan pies, wrap presents, and write a blog post for a ministry site. Sighing, I dialed her number.

 

She lived in another state and asked me to visit a friend of hers – a ninety-five-year-old woman in a home not far from me. Hospice had been called in. “My friend’s a retired marine. She never married … such a sweet heart. Wish I could be there. Please wish her a merry Christmas for me, if it suits you to go.”

 

It didn’t suit me at all.

 

Jotting down the address, I promised to visit, but explained it probably wouldn’t be today or tomorrow. Graciously, she thanked me. I turned on my computer to sift through the facts for the blog, but all I could think about was the phone call. Lord, here’s chance to care about someone and I’m too busy writing about ministry.

 

I called the home, and the caretaker said to come on over.

 

The dear woman smiled from her worn recliner – short gray hair, pale-blue eyes, and so tiny. “Hi”, she said. “Come in.” Stepping inside her warm, cozy room, I bent beside her. She reached for my hand and gave a strong squeeze. “Merry Christmas”, she said softly.

 

As she welcomed me, a stranger, I blinked back tears. I hadn’t brought Christmas to her. Just the opposite. Kneeling in that small, quiet room, the gift of Christmas joy was given to me.

 

***

 

The fascinating Gospel scenario of the last judgment acquires greater depth and meaning against the backdrop of the Old Testament reading (Ez 34:11-12, 15-17). The prophet Ezekiel has stinging words of indictment against the false leaders of Israel who have failed in their responsibility for God’s people. These leaders seek their own political agenda and personal gain and do not care for the sheep, which are dispersed, alienated and killed by enemies. The political and religious catastrophes experienced by Israel, especially the Babylonian conquest and exile, are proof of their utter neglect. In today’s reading, we hear Ezekiel speaking a message of hope and consolation. God himself will shepherd Israel and heal the wounds and misery inflicted on his people by bad rulers and imperious foreign invaders. Under the staff of God, the benevolent Shepherd, a happy future is possible for the distressed and grieving people.

 

The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 4, comment: “In civilizations and cultures where pastoral experience is strong, the metaphor of shepherd is very rich. This is the case in the Bible. Shepherds exercise an undisputed authority over their flock, but at the same time they are very close to their sheep, surround them with care and thoughtfulness, know whether each one of the ewes is doing well or not, drive them with much prudence. This is why the Bible compares leaders of the people, kings, and even God, to shepherds. The passage from the Book of Ezekiel, read this year for the feast of Christ, the King of the universe, belongs to this tradition … God does not entrust to others the care of the flock he owns; like a good shepherd, he himself looks after it … God, the Good Shepherd, will intervene to maintain order in his flock. He will not allow the weak to be bullied by the strong; he will push these away in order to protect the more vulnerable.”

  

At the end of the liturgical year, let us meditate on the goodness of the Master-Shepherd and his sacrificial love for us so that we may respond with greater love and compassion to his special “presence” in the weak, the needy and the most vulnerable of today’s society. Jesus identifies himself with all who need to be served. Indeed, whatever we do to the “least” of our brothers and sisters, we do to Jesus himself. Mother Teresa of Calcutta asserts: “If sometimes our poor people have had to die of starvation, it is not because God did not care for them, but because you and I did not give, were not instruments of love in the hands of God, to give them that bread, to give them that clothing; because we did not recognize Christ, when once more Christ came in distressing disguise.”

 

The following poem, entitled “Indifference” by G.A. Studdart-Kennedy (in Redemption: An Anthology of the Cross, ed. George Stewart, New York: Doran Co., 1927), is intense and haunting. In the midst of today’s apathy and indifference, Christ the King-Shepherd is willing to suffer anew the trauma of Calvary and release more intensely the saving energy of his death on the cross.

 

When Jesus came to Golgotha they hung him on a tree.

They drove great nails through hands and feet, and made a Calvary.

They crowned him with a crown of thorns.

Red were his wounds and deep,

for those were crude and cruel days,

and human flesh was cheap.

 

When Jesus came to our small town they simply passed him by.

They never hurt a hair of him; they only let him die.

For men had grown more tender,

and they would not give him pain.

They only just passed down the street,

and left him in the rain.

 

Still Jesus cried, “Forgive them, for they do know not what they do.”

And still it rained the winter rain that drenched him through and through.

The crowds went home and left the streets without a soul to see.

And Jesus crouched against a wall and cried for Calvary.

 

***

 

The Second Reading (I Cor 15:20-26, 28) is very important because it underlines the cosmic character of Christ’s kingship. Saint Paul speaks of the all-encompassing authority of Jesus the King as a result of his resurrection: “For Christ must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” The resurrection of Christ, the “first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” is the beginning of an entire harvest of risen people. This phenomenon of destruction of death and of being raised to new life is geared towards this cosmic goal: that God may be all in all.

 

Mary Ehle comments: “Because death (sin) came through Adam and we are linked to Adam because of our human nature, it was necessary that the resurrection of the dead also come through a man, through Christ.  This new life can only come through him, who through his own death and resurrection erased the stain of sin and triumphed over death. As a result of his resurrection, he now reigns as king. At the end of time, Christ, having brought all things under him, will himself be subjected to the one who drew all things to him. As it occurs in this passage, subjected does not carry a negative connotation. Rather, it simply implies that everything is ordered to Christ first, and then to the Father. In the end, all will be one in God through Christ. Christ rose. Christ reigns. Christ will come again in glory. We will rise. The Lord is fully and completely God forever. This we celebrate on the solemnity that draws the Sundays of the liturgical year to a close.”

 

The following article circulated through the Internet illustrates the total participation of Christ’s apostles/disciples in the mystery of his death and rising to eternal life. They have the heart of Christ-Shepherd and, having laid down their life for the sheep, they now participate in the glory of his kingdom. Their life of pastoral sacrifice promoted the cosmic goal that God may be all in all.

 

Do you know how they died?

 

1.      Matthew suffered martyrdom in Ethiopia, killed by a sword wound.

2.      Mark died in Alexandria, Egypt after being dragged by horses through the streets until he was dead.

3.      Luke was hanged in Greece as a result of his tremendous preaching to the lost.

4.      John faced martyrdom when he was boiled in a huge basin of boiling oil during a wave of persecution in Rome. However, he was miraculously delivered from death; John was then sentenced to the mines on the prison island of Patmos. He wrote his prophetic book of Revelation on Patmos. The apostle John was later freed and returned to serve as Bishop of Edessa in modern Turkey. He died an old man, the only apostle to die peacefully.

5.      Peter was crucified upside down on an X-shaped cross. According to church tradition, it was because he told his tormentors that he felt unworthy to die in the same way that Jesus Christ died.

6.      James the Just, the leader of the church in Jerusalem, was thrown over a hundred feet down from the southeast pinnacle of the Temple when he refused to deny his faith in Christ. When they discovered that he survived the fall, his enemies beat James to death with a fuller’s club. This was the same pinnacle where Satan had taken Jesus during the temptation.

7.      James the Great, Son of Zebedee, was a fisherman by trade when Jesus called him to a lifetime of ministry. As a strong leader of the Church, James was ultimately beheaded at Jerusalem. The Roman officer who guarded James watched amazed as James defended his faith at his trial. Later, the officer walked beside James to the place of execution. Overcome by conviction, he declared his new faith to the judge and knelt beside James to accept beheading as a Christian.

8.      Bartholomew, also known as Nathaniel, was a missionary to Asia. He witnessed for our Lord in present day Turkey. Bartholomew was martyred for his preaching in Armenia where he was flayed to death by a whip.

9.      Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross in Patras, Greece. After being whipped severely by seven soldiers, they tied his body to the cross to prolong his agony. His followers reported that, when he was led toward the cross, Andrew saluted it in these words: “I have long desired and expected this happy hour. The cross has been consecrated by the body of Christ hanging on it.” He continued to preach to his tormentors for two days until he expired.

10.  Thomas was stabbed with a spear in India during one of his missionary trips to establish the church in the sub-continent.

11.  Jude was killed with arrows when he refused to deny his faith in Christ.

12.  Matthias, the apostle chosen to replace the traitor Judas Iscariot, was stoned and then beheaded.

 

 

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

 

1. How does the assurance that the Lord God himself will pasture his sheep impinge on you?

 

2. How did you care for the needy? Did you try to manifest to them the compassionate heart of the Shepherd-King?

 

3. Do you look forward to the integration of all creation and the ultimate triumph of Christ the King at the end time? In what way do you promote the cosmic goal that God may be all in all?

 

  

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

 

O loving God,

give us the grace to experience more deeply

the caring heart of the Shepherd-King

and to follow him more intimately

into his kingdom of love, justice and peace.

Together with the community of the redeemed

and the entire renewed creation, we cry out with joy:

“For the kingdom, the power and the 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.

 

“That God may be all in all.” (I Cor 15:28c)

 

 

 

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

 

Pray that, at the end of the liturgical year, our hearts may be filled with thanksgiving for the many graces and benefits we have received through the Church year. By your corporal works of mercy and other acts of compassion on behalf of our needy brothers and sisters, allow the kingdom of God to triumph more decisively so that we may attain our goal: “That God may be all in all.” To help direct more intently our words and actions to God’s kingdom and his ultimate triumph, make an effort to spend some quiet moments in Eucharistic Adoration.

 

***  

November 24, 2014: MONDAY – SAINT ANDREW DUNG-LAC, priest, martyr, AND HIS COMPANIONS, martyrs

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Father’s TOTUS TUUS”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Rv 14:1-3, 4b-5 // Lk 21:1-4

 

 

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

  

We are almost at the end of the liturgical year. Through the sacred liturgy, the Church helps us to be thankful for the divine compassion and the providence bestowed on us every moment of our life. Likewise, the bible readings in these days invite us to respond to God with a generous and total love. As we are completing the Church’s year of grace 2014, it is fitting to meditate upon the totus tuus quality of God’s relationship with us, as well as the totus tuus character of the response he demands from us.

 

The biblical scholar Eugene Maly comments: “Totus tuus“totally yours” … Such total self-giving is characteristic of biblical religion. It is not to be understood as a purely human initiative. Rather, it is the expected response to the redemptive love of God. It is he who loves first. Then empowered by that love, we can love God and neighbor in turn…God’s initial love is always a presupposition. Our lives are, or should be, one large thank you to a loving God. And the thank you must be expressed wholeheartedly. The Gospel reading exhibits this theme. The widow who gave her two small copper coins gave all that she had to live on. This was her version of totus tuus to God.  Because it was that, it was worth much more than the huge donations of the wealthy … The emphasis is on the completeness of the human gift … Jesus is the Father’s totus tuus to us. When we respond, it must also be in the once and for all spirit of totus tuus. In Christianity, God has given his all once and for all. We are asked to respond in the same way … That is why we say right here and now to God: Totus tuus, Lord”.

 

Here is a daily life example of a totus tuus gift to God (cf. Rick Hamline in Daily Guideposts 2014, p. 60).

 

In the middle of a busy morning at the office, I’d just finished a long e-mail to a colleague when the phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number but answered. A faint voice said, “I’m Bernadette.”

 

“I’m Rick Hamlin”, I replied, trying to remember if there was a Bernadette in any story I was working on. “May I help you?”

 

“I need someone to pray for me”, she said. My friend Mary is very sick from cancer. They’ve just put her on hospice care. I don’t know what to do …” Her voice broke.

 

They knew each other from childhood. They talked on the phone every day. The cancer had come very quickly. Bernadette was in shock. Each time she visited her friend she was afraid of dissolving in tears. “If I could just pray with someone”, she said.

 

I found myself asking, “Want me to pray with you right now?”

 

“Yes, please”, she said.

 

I closed my eyes and lowered my voice, hoping none of my colleagues would interrupt. I’m not sure what I said, but I trusted that the right words would come. “Be with Mary and Bernadette”, I ended. “Amen.”

 

“Amen”, Bernadette said. “Thank you, sir. That was nice of you.”

 

She hung up, and I returned to work. Maybe Bernadette was supposed to get my number. Perhaps praying for her was the most important thing I would do all day.

 

Dear Lord, let me know how to say yes when You call.

 

 

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

 

Why is the donation of the poor widow in the Jerusalem temple most valuable and significant? How does her offering evoke Christ’s total gift of himself? In what does Christ’s totus tuus to the Father consist? Why is Christ himself the Father’s totus tuus gift to us? Do we strive to make of our life a totus tuus gift to God? 

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

we thank you for creating us in your image,

for redeeming us in your Son,

and for sanctifying us through the power of your life-giving Spirit.

Jesus Christ is your totus tuus gift to us.

On the cross of sacrifice,

he was the Priest and Victim par excellence.

By his passion and death on the cross,

you revealed your unmitigated love and compassionate care for us.

Dear Lord God,

we love you.

Like the widow who offered her last two coins at the Jerusalem temple,

let us learn to give all and everything – our totus tuus

and be sustained by faith in your providence.

Bless us, loving God.

United with Jesus, the eternal Priest and perfect victim,

make our entire life a totus tuus gift to 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.

 

“This poor widow put in more than all the rest” (Lk 21:3)

 

 

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

 

Pray that our response to God’s compassionate love may be total, generous and wholehearted. By your personal dedication and service to the poor and needy, avow to God the totus tuus character of your love for him and your neighbors.

 

***

 

November 25, 2014: TUESDAY – WEEKDAY (34); SAINT CATHERINE OF ALEXANDRIA, virgin, martyr

 

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Prepares Us for the Last Things”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Rv 14:14-19 // Lk 21:5-11

 

 

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

 

The setting of today’s Gospel is the Jerusalem Temple, where Jesus is teaching the people and proclaiming the Good News. A beautiful refurbishing of the Temple began about forty-six years before Jesus’ birth by Herod the Great. The Temple, though not yet complete, is already one of the wonders of the ancient world. Some of the granite stones in the Temple walls, as big as modern freight cars, are so expertly linked together without mortar that it is hard to see the joints. The magnificence of the Temple with its brilliant white marble and gold ornamentation awes the people. Today’s Gospel passage describes how some people are commenting on the Temple adorned with costly stones and votive offerings. In the midst of this enthused admiration, Jesus grimly utters a prophecy on the destruction of the Temple: “All that you see here – the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down” (Lk 21:6).

 

At his last appearance in the Temple, Jesus makes a final statement on its destruction. Indeed, there is an intimate connection between the destruction of Jerusalem and the events at the end of the world. The crisis that Jerusalem faces in Jesus’ ministry is a harbinger of the crisis that Jesus and his message, and above all, his coming as the Son of Man, will bring to all. Jesus does not give a definite date for the destruction of the Temple; neither does he give a specific time for the parousia, or his second coming. At the brink of his paschal sacrifice, Jesus asserts the faith reality that God will triumph over all the forces of evil. By predicting the destruction of the Temple and by giving warning signs of cosmic destruction, Jesus prepares his disciples spiritually for what is ahead - for the “last things”.

 

Harold Buetow remarks: “So what do we do now about our thoughts on the last things? For one thing, within ourselves we ought to develop a deeper spirit of responsibility so that we seek to become dependable rather than dependent, givers rather than takers, generous rather than addicted to self- interest … Outside ourselves, we are to be busy with the calamities around us; not just deplore the world’s trouble spots, but to help their victims.”

 

The following story is very heartening and encouraging (cf. Tom Price, “The Other Haiti” in AMERICA, October 18, 2010, p. 23-25). It is a modern day example of a responsible and creative stance in a cataclysmic situation. It inspires hope and teaches us how to promote the advent of the kingdom of God in the here and now … with toil and labor!

 

Try to imagine Haiti, ravaged by a massive earthquake last January, and images of rubble, masonry at crazy angles and huge homeless camps come to mind. Port-au-Prince, the capital, is still dotted with the camps that people spontaneously formed after the quake and white Land Cruisers of the United Nations and other relief agencies. While cleanup is underway, collapsed buildings and debris overwhelm the landscape. In Leogane, west of the capital and close to the center of the quake, barely a building is left standing. To see how the nation is changing and to glimpse its future, you have to take a road out of Port-au-Prince.

 

I recently traveled to Haiti for Catholic Relief Services to document the plight of rural Haitians. There I observed a number of projects fully or partially funded by C.R.S. that provide short-term jobs, grant micro-loans to small businesses, subsidize daily meals for Catholic schoolchildren and help local communities plant trees and grow food. A small agricultural school teaches men and women farming techniques to enrich the soil, increase crop yields and channel runoff. I also saw how the Haitian countryside has been affected by the quake.

 

In the southern and western departments (or provinces) island life is beginning to look more normal. The people here are poor, but the buildings are intact. Yet the quake has brought enormous pressures: Some 110,000 internally displaced people live in the Sud Department – more than the 80,000 of whom live in the two largest camps in Port-au-Prince to which the prominent visitors and film crews come. Many of the displaced people now in Sud lost their homes in the capital during the quake and have returned to their rural roots in these provincial towns to stay with family. The two neighboring departments of Grand Anse and Nippes also “host” displaced Haitians from the capital, almost 200,000 of them. With their arrival, household sizes in Sud have swelled by an average of five people. In rural areas like the small coastal town of Carrefour, I met many families who had left Port-au-Prince.

 

Meprilant Desire is philosophical when he talks about making ends meet with extra mouths to feed. “God gave them to us, so we make do. Some days we get enough, some days we don’t,” he smiles. Desire now supports nine children, four of his own and five who fled the quake. Recently widowed, he is caring for them alone. Straight across the dirt road that runs through the town, his neighbor Frisca Saint Juste, 23, has a similar story. He is sheltering his cousin and his cousin’s three children, plus his mother and father.

 

Both Desire and Saint Juste have planted seeds they received as part of a church distribution at a seed fair. They are both tending strips of peas and corn. The peas provide vital nitrogen to the soil for the next crop. Saint Juste depends on the crops he grows behind his small house. His cousin helps out, but it is backbreaking work, especially with no nearby water source to irrigate the crops. Saint Juste explains to me how bringing water close to the field, with a community water pump, for instance, would greatly help him and his neighbors. Desire is a man with a heavy weight on his shoulders. He is nevertheless optimistic about the future. He attributes his optimism to the new agricultural venture. “I got seeds at a seed fair, and I know enough not to eat them but to plant them”, he laughs. “I am stronger now, I have more energy, and I have the energy to plant more.” He has ambitions to plant peanuts next.

 

 

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

 

What message do the tumultuous events in the world, natural and man-made calamities and the threats of ecological destruction, bring to us? What is our attitude towards the “last things”?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

your Son Jesus predicted the destruction of  the Jerusalem Temple,

the jewel of the city

and the unique center of worship

for the people of the first covenant.

In his prophecy and revelation,

Jesus assures us

that your victorious saving hand is at work.

Your mighty hand controls the course of our destiny.

Through the paschal mystery of your Son,

your saving hand will be victorious

over the evil that can be imagined in today’s world.

We are attentive to the ongoing coming of Jesus

in the events of our life.

Although we do not know the hour

and the circumstances of the end time,

nor the specific moment

of the ultimate coming of Jesus in his glory,

we resolve to work perseveringly

in the final realization of his Kingdom.

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.

 

“All that you see here – the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone.” (Lk 21:6)

 

 

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

 

Pray for the Jewish people and today’s city of Jerusalem in the Holy Land. In the Eucharistic celebration, proclaim the memorial acclamation with devotion and conviction. Allow the assurance of Christ’s coming to brighten your life and encourage you to labor mightily for the Kingdom of God. 

 

***

November 26, 2014: WEDNESDAY – WEEKDAY (34)

(In the Pauline Family: Feast - BLESSED JAMES ALBERIONE)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Wants Us to Persevere”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Rv 15:1-4 // Lk 21:12-19

 

 

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

 

The article, “A Tree Grows in Kenya” in GUIDEPOSTS magazine (January 2004) deals with the inspiring effort of Wangari Maathai to fight off ecological destruction in her native land, Kenya. The author, Christopher Davis, narrates the gargantuan feat of this enterprising woman, whose perseverance epitomizes today’s Gospel exhortation: “By your perseverance you will secure your lives”.

 

In 1960 Wangari won a Kennedy scholarship to study in America. She earned a master’s in biology from University of Pittsburgh, then became the first woman from Kenya ever to earn a Ph.D. Wangari returned to her county in 1966 and was shocked by what she found. The forests had been cut down for lumber. Heavy rains washed most of the good soil away, since there was no longer vegetation to protect it. Rivers were silt-choked, the soil leached of nutrients. Nothing grew and nothing bloomed anymore … Worst was what had happened to Kenya’s most precious resource – people. Men abandoned farms for jobs in overcrowded cities, leaving wives and children behind. Trees in the countryside were so scarce that women walked miles to gather a few sticks for a fire – the center of village life.

 

“There were so many problems,” Wangari says. “I did not know where to start, except to pray.” Then she remembered what the missionaries said: Every forest begins with a single seed. She planted a tree. Then another. Then hundreds. In 1977 she founded a group called the Green Belt Movement, which promotes tree planting in rural areas and trains farmers in eco-friendly farming methods. Since the group started, it has planted some 20 million trees in Kenya and has changed the way Kenyans look at their environment.

 

On October 8, 2004, Wangari Maathai was announced the winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize. The patient perseverance of the tree planter, Wangari, who did not allow herself to be overwhelmed by a disastrous situation, but exhibited creative and life-giving attitudes under duress, anticipates the victorious quality of God’s coming at the end time. Indeed, by living out the spirit of stewardship and care of God’s creation, she presents to the world of today the patient endurance that leads to life.

 

The biblical scholar Carroll Stuhlmueller remarks: “Christians must adjust to a long period of waiting and persecution. In doing so, they are following the sorrowful way of the cross, taken by Jesus to arrive at glory.” Indeed, the basic tone that permeates the Gospel passage concerning the Temple destruction and the end time is the absolute assurance of the Lord’s control of history and his ultimate victory. Despite all the evil that can be imagined, the hand of God that guides our personal and cosmic destiny will emerge victorious.

 

This Sunday’s Gospel passage concludes beautifully with Jesus’ reassuring words: “Not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your life.”  The promise that no harm will come to even one hair of a Christian disciple is simply a graphic statement depicting the ultimate spiritual protection of those who endure persecution for the sake of Jesus. After giving this heartwarming assurance, Christ then exhorted his disciples to manifest the sterling quality of perseverance – the courageous attitude that will help us participate in the ultimate victory of God.

 

***

Today we commemorate the “dies natalis” or birthday into eternal life of our dear Founder, Blessed James Alberione (1884-1971). He has given the Church new instruments to express the Gospel message, new means to invigorate the work of evangelization, new capacities and deep awareness of the importance of the mass media in the Christian mission in the modern world. Deeply aware of the “last things”, he lived and worked with his “eyes” focused on heaven.  Here is an account of Blessed Alberione’s definitive encounter with the Lord Jesus in his paschal mystery (cf. Luigi Rolfo, JAMES ALBERIONE: Apostle for our Times, New York: Alba House, 1987, p. 400-401).

 

Pope Paul VI decided to pay a visit to the dying Father Alberione … The Pope appeared around 5:00 p.m., as the sun was setting … “Oh, Father Alberione!” he exclaimed drawing near to his bedside. Sister Judith tried at that time to get the attention of the patient. “Primo Maestro, the Holy Father has arrived.” But he had already lost consciousness some hours earlier and did not react. If his spirit, which had always had the rock of Peter, the Pope, as its supreme point of reference had been alert, it would certainly have been moved in that moment and would have taken in all the extraordinary significance of that visit.

 

The Holy Father took off his red mantle, recollected himself in silence for some moments, then asked how long he had been in this condition. He was told that his agony had lasted two days, with alternating critical moments and slight improvements and long stationary phases. He turned then to Father Zanoni to ask if he had received all the sacraments. At an affirmative reply, he invited those present to join him in prayer. He knelt alongside the bed and began the “Our Father” and the “Hail Mary”. He got up. ‘Let us give him an absolution yet”, he said, and immediately after, he quietly pronounced the sacramental formula of absolution in Latin, concluding with benediction. He then placed his hand on the head of the dying priest with affection and veneration, while his lips moved in silent prayer. He smiled at the nurse and moved toward the exit passing before the old desk which had followed our Founder in all of his moves since 1936, the year which he definitively established himself in Rome. ( …)

 

“Is this his study?” the Pope asked. “Yes”, someone replied. And after having observed the old piece of furniture, he wrote this on a blank page of a register opened on it: In nomine Domini, Paulus PP. VI. 26 November 1971 … The Pope wanted to see very quickly the sanctuary of the Queen of the Apostles and left again for the Vatican at 5:30 p.m. To Father Alberione there remained another hour of life on earth … But the manifestation of life became even weaker and uncertain and terminated entirely at 6:25 p.m. on Friday, November 26, 1971. From that moment on, Father Alberione was no longer here: he had passed to the Father’s house.

 

 

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

 

Do we endeavor to persevere in the love and service of our Lord Jesus? Do we trust that though we will be hated by all because of his name, “not a hair on our head will be destroyed”? Do we dedicate ourselves, in toil and labor, to promote the advent of the kingdom of God? How do we respond to Jesus’ comforting words and vigorous challenge: “By your perseverance you will secure your lives”

 

 

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

 

O loving God, victorious over all,

we reverence your name.

Teach us to love and serve you faithfully

and to trust in your protection.

Help us to act responsibly and compassionately.

Let us be creatively involved

in helping our brothers and sisters

overcome the pain and distress of today’s fragmented world.

Help us promote your kingdom of justice, peace and love.

We eagerly await

the glorious advent of your Son Jesus Christ

at the end time.

We give you thanks and praise.

We adore 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.

 

            “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.” (Lk 21:19)

 

 

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

 

Pray that the Christian disciples may continue to promote God’s kingdom in toil and labor. Assist the victims of natural and man-made calamities to cope with the pain and hardship of their situations.

 

***

 

November 27, 2014: THURSDAY – WEEKDAY (34)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Assures Us that Our Redemption Is Near”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Rv 18:1-2, 21-23 // Lk 21:20-18

 

 

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

 

            July 16, 1990: A terrible earthquake jolted the island of Luzon in the Philippines and wrought havoc and misery. People were entombed alive in the collapsed buildings. One young man was buried for two weeks in the basement of a ruined hotel in Baguio City. On the 13th day he lost hope of being rescued and decided to hasten his death. He started to bang his head viciously against a concrete slab, but a pair of invisible hands gently restrained him from killing himself. A serene feeling took hold of him and there was the assurance that redemption was at hand. He relaxed his battered body on the cold slab. On the 14th day the rescuers found him and were able to break through. He was liberated from his tomb of death. As he weakly mouthed his words of thanks (“Salamat! Salamat!”) to the rescuers, his family and friends wept for joy. The young man’s advent yearning for redemption was fulfilled. 

 

Today’s Gospel presents us with apocalyptic images: “There will be signs in the sun, the moon and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and waves …”. These images are not meant to frighten us, but rather, they are an invitation for us to open ourselves to the saving intervention of Christ and the grace of his kingdom. We have nothing to dread, for in his final coming Christ will avow his victory and lordship as redeeming Master. We should look forward with expectation to his message of hope: “Your redemption is near!” In our preparation for the different “advents” of Christ in our life and history, let us strive to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father.

 

 

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

 

How do we respond to Christ’s message of hope: “Your redemption is near”? Do we allow its liberating promise to penetrate our lives so that we look critically at our present time, discern what really matters, and engage in our daily work with courage and joy? Do the convulsions of today’s distressed world lead us to dismay and fear; or do we consider them as a prelude to the redemptive final consummation of the salvation worked by Christ, the Son of Man, on the cross?

 

 

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

 

Father,

you are the wellspring of hope.

Make us realize that the convulsions of your beloved creation

are a prelude to the Son of Man’s final coming.

In the midst of the travails and miseries of today’s world,

help us to trust in his Message:

“Your redemption is at hand.”

We praise and bless you, now and forever.

Amen. 

 

 

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

 

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

 

“Your redemption is at hand.” (Lk 21:28) 

 

 

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

 

When the world events as presented by today’s mass media daunt you, trust in the Lord’s assurance that our redemption is at hand. Fast from the excessive use of digital media as a way of preparation for his advent.

 

***

November 28, 2014: FRIDAY – WEEKDAY (34)

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Words Will Not Pass Away”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Rv 20:1-4, 11-21:2 // Lk 21:29-33

 

 

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

 

 In today’s Gospel (Lk 21:29-33), Jesus underlines that the signs of the arrival or “advent” of God’s kingdom are as obvious as the change of season. Jesus remarks that “the fig tree and all the other trees” – when their buds open – they indicate that summer is near. The trees seem “dead” during winter, but with the annual return of sap through the bare spiky twigs, the trees burst with new life. Just as the blossoming trees in spring indicate that summer is coming, so also the occurrences of messianic “signs” and apocalyptic convulsions point to the coming of the kingdom. One “sign” is the imminent destruction of the Jerusalem temple. The Parable of the Fig Tree emphasizes the certainty of the fulfillment of salvation history. It is ongoing, but it will be completed. The “blossoming” of the tress likewise evokes the future destiny of the Church: only after the faith community has withered the storms of winter and experienced the agony of “paschal” death will the kingdom be near. The final words of Jesus are powerful: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” The words of Jesus endure because of his absolute authority. As the Son of God, he is not just a foreteller of the course of history, but its origin, meaning, purpose and goal.

 

Like the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, the 9/11 tragedy is an apocalyptic “sign” – not of total destruction – but of the power of life. The faith, love, prayers and heroism that emerge from the rubble and ashes of 9/11 show that evil does not have the final word. The Lord Jesus has the ultimate say for “heaven and earth will pass away, but his words will not pass away”. We believe that in the midst of tragic events the kingdom of God is near at hand and that God is in control. Here is a faith testimony about the 9/11 event (cf. Brigitte Weeks in Daily Guideposts 2014, p. 279).

 

The elevator stopped at the twenty-second floor and I got off, just as I did every weekday. “Hey”, Elizabeth said, “I heard there’s been a plane crash somewhere downtown.” We had no information and no idea of the enormity of what was happening on that September day in 2001.

 

We all crowded together with questions that had no answers. There was a portable TV in the conference room, so we strained to make sense of the blurry images of what was happening only a mile and a half from our office. We were transfixed and horrified. As the truth of the disaster became clearer, those with family and friends in the financial district tried to make contact. We held hands with those who could get no response, while the sounds of police cars and fire trucks became one high-pitched wail.

 

As information trickled in, we began to feel panicked, helpless, unable to function. I felt a kind of unimaginably heavy responsibility because I was the boss. “Let’s go to my apartment”, I said. It was within walking distance, and we could stay together and find out more what was happening. Ten of us came together and prayed. Some prayers were simple: “Help us.” Others were the same prayer that was being said all over the city: “I am safe. Are you safe? I love you.”

 

As we prayed for all those who would never say those words, and for those whose lives were forever changed, we were grateful for the hands we held and the comfort we share.

 

Lord, comfort those who will never forget, and bring Your peace to the nations of the world.

 

 

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

 

Do we believe in the saving power of Jesus who said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away”? How do we collaborate with Jesus in bringing salvation history to completion?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you are the Lord of history.

You are its origin, purpose, meaning and goal.

You bring the divine saving plan to completion.

Your word of love and Gospel of salvation will endure.

Help us to cooperate with you

in bringing forth the advent of God’s kingdom.

We trust in you who said,

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away”.

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.

 

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away”. (Lk 21:33)

 

 

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

 

In the midst of today’s culture of death, renew your trust in God, the Lord of history. In your daily life, make choices that will promote the saving design of God.

 

***

 

November 29, 2014: SATURDAY – WEEKDAY (34); BVM ON SATURDAY

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Exhorts Us to Be Vigilant”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Rv 22:1-7 // Lk 21:34-36

 

 

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

 

 I had filed my application for a religious visa at the U.S. Embassy in Manila, Philippines, and was scheduled for an interview on September 3, 2002. At 4:30 A.M. I was on my way to Manila from our convent in Antipolo City. At 6:30 A.M. I was at the gate of the Embassy patiently waiting for what I thought was an 8:30 A.M. interview. I finally realized that I belonged to a group of about 50 applicants whose papers began to be processed at 8:30 A.M. There were several groups ahead of us and other groups waiting behind us. At 10:00 A.M. we were ushered into a big room where American consuls were interviewing the applicants. It was a lengthy period of waiting. We had to stay awake, alert, and ready to be called at any time. I could not afford to doze off or take a break for fear that I would miss my opportunity for the interview. At 2:30 P.M. my name was called. After a three-minute interview my visa was approved. I went home happy and relieved. My patient waiting and vigilant expectation paid off.

 

The Gospel proclaimed today – the end of the liturgical year - challenges us to prepare for the Lord with vigilance and renewed watchfulness. Jesus instructs his disciples how to live until the closing of the age: “Stay awake … Do not become drowsy … Be vigilant at all times … Pray that you may have the strength to stand before the Son of Man!” The followers of Christ are watchful to receive the Lord’s daily visitation and ready to welcome him at his glorious return in the end time. Creative and forceful vigilance is a vital characteristic of Christian discipleship. It enables us to be ready for the unforeseen but sure advent of the Lord.  

 

 

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

 

Are we intent on living righteously in constant readiness for the coming of the Son of Man? What does our renewed vigilance for the Lord’s coming consist in?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you want us to be vigilant at all times

that we may be ready for the day of your coming

and may have strength to escape the imminent tribulations.

Give us the grace to make you the center of our life

so that your final advent may be for us a day of salvation.

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.

 

“Be vigilant at all times and pray.” (Lk 21:36)

 

 

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

 

With fraternal solicitude seek to alleviate the various forms of poverty and injustice in our local and world community, e.g. the tragedy of hunger, the plight of the homeless, the loneliness of the elderly, the terror of war and ecological destruction, etc. 

  

 

***

 

 

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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