A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 18, n. 52)

Week 34 in Ordinary Time: November 22-28, 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 15-21, 2020 please go to ARCHIVES Series 18 and click on “Ordinary Week 33”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: November 22-28, 2020.)

 

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November 22, 2020: OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE UNIVERSE

(THIRTY-FOURTH SUNDAY OR LAST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Shepherd-King”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Ez 34:11-12, 15-17 // 1 Cor 15:20-26, 28 // Mt 25:31-46

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 25:31-46): “The Son of Man will sit upon his glorious throne and he will separate them one from another.”

 

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.

 

 

B. First Reading (Ez 34:11-12, 15-17): “As for you my flock, I will judge between one sheep and another.”

 

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.

 

 

C. Second Reading (1 Cor 15:20-26, 28): “Christ will hand over the kingdom to his God and Father so that God may be all in all.”

 

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.

 

“Come, you who are blessed by my Father … Inherit the kingdom prepared for you.” (Mt 25:34)

 

 

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 of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.

 

 

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November 23, 2020: MONDAY – WEEKDAY (34); SAINT CLEMENT I, Pope and Martyr; SAINT COLUMBAN, Abbot; BLESSED MIGUEL AGUSTIN PRO, Martyr (USA)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Father’s Totus Tuus … His Name Is Written on Their Foreheads”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

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

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 21:1-4): “He noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins.”

 

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, especially today’s Gospel about the widow who gives all (Lk 21:1-4), invite us to respond to God with a generous and total love. As we are completing the Church’s year of grace, 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.

 

 

B. First Reading (Rv 14:1-3, 4b-5): “His name and his Father’s name are written on their foreheads.”

 

The reading (Rv 14:1-3, 4b-5) reminds me of a story I heard, when I was a young Sister, from Sr. Maria Stella Lilli, an Italian PDDM missionary assigned in the Philippines in the 1970s and 1980s. It is about a very hardworking Sister. As she toils for the Lord and his people, she does not even give her body the legitimate rest it needs. Her reason: “Morir es descanzar” … “To die is to rest.” One day she dies and as she enters the gate of heaven, she sees a comfortable, oversized reclining chair waiting for her. She sighs with pleasure as she claims the chair. Reclining on it, she remarks contentedly: “Finally, here is my merited rest!” But then the big boss Saint Peter comes. He nudges her good-naturedly and says: “Hey! What are you doing there? Get up! You have something to do. Here in heaven the virgins follow the Lamb wherever he goes.”

 

Today’s reading is about John’s vision of the Lamb, the symbol of Jesus Christ, and his people. The Lamb stands on Mount Zion, the unshakable rock and the mountain of the Messiah-King, to indicate that he has full and definitive powers. With him are 144,000 people who have the name of the Lamb and of his Father written on their foreheads. To have God’s name on the forehead signifies belonging and total consecration to his service. The 144,000 are those who have been sealed by God for salvation (cf. Rv 7:4). The seer sees them standing before the throne of God singing “a new song”, which only they could learn. The gathering of the redeemed singing “a new song” is the antitype to the worship paid to the beast, with its forces of evil. They are “virginal” and undefiled. They have not prostituted themselves with idolatry. Jewish prophetic language often speaks of idolatry as sexual immorality. These holy and virginal people follow the Lamb wherever he goes. This indicates their total participation in Christ’s paschal destiny of passion, death and glory.

   

 

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

 

1. 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? 

 

2. Do you wish to belong to the “144, 000” redeemed and do you intend to follow the Lamb wherever he goes even to his paschal destiny of “through death to glory”?

 

 

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.

Amen.   

 

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Almighty God,

we gaze at the Paschal Lamb Jesus Christ,

victoriously standing on Mount Zion.

Help us to sing the “new song” of the redeemed.

Grant that we may follow the Lamb wherever he goes

and make us faithful, holy and true.

We give you honor 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.

 

“This poor widow put in more than all the rest” (Lk 21:3) // “These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever he goes.” (Rv 14:4b)

 

 

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. // Like the “144,000” redeemed, resolve to follow the Lamb Jesus Christ, especially in the challenges of daily life.

 

 

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November 24, 2020: TUESDAY – SAINT ANDREW DUNG-LAC, Priest, Martyr, AND COMPANIONS, Martyrs

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Prepares Us for the Last Things … He Reaps the End Time Harvest”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

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

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 21:5-11): “There will not be left a stone upon another stone.”

 

The setting of today’s Gospel (Lk 21:5-11) 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.

 

 

B. First Reading (Rv 14:14-19): “The time to reap has come because the earth’s harvest is fully ripe.”

 

My mom conceived when my dad was sick with tuberculosis. She felt she could not afford to have another baby and took contraceptive pills. One night she had an awful dream: two children with long-handled sickles were running after her. She woke up perspiring and trembling with fear. The following morning she went for confession. The priest protracted the absolution and asked her to help the baby live. My mother went to a friend – a nurse – for help. The baby survived. He became a dentist and he cared for my mom in her old age.

 

The “sickle”, a farming instrument for reaping, figures prominently in today’s reading (Rv 14:14-19). John narrates his vision of the harvest at the end time: the first pair of angels gathers the grain (the just) and a second pair harvests the grapes (the unjust) that are to be thrown into the winepress of God’s wrath. At the harvest of the earth, John sees one sitting on the cloud who looks like a human being, “with a gold crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand”. This represents Jesus Christ who wears the crown of a conqueror, but the sickle shows that he comes now as a judge. The Lord Jesus carries out the eschatological harvest and gathers the faithful ones in heaven. The injunction he receives to gather the harvest comes from the temple to indicate that it is the Father who is the master of the harvest.

 

John’s vision continues with a grim description of another angel swinging his sickle over the earth, cutting the grapes from the vine and throwing them into the wine press of God’s furious anger. The gathering of “the grapes of wrath” signifies the execution of God’s punishment. From the time of the post-exilic prophets, God’s judgment against sinners has been compared to the work of a vintager, crushing grapes underfoot. Indeed, at the end time, the fate of the “assembly of the just” is assured in heaven. The wicked and the reprobate have a “bloody” end.

   

 

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

 

1. 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”?

 

2. Do we give attention to the reality of the final judgment? Do we wish to join the “assembly of the just” and escape “the winepress of God’s furious anger”?

 

  

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.

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.

 

            ***

O loving God,

let us be included in the harvest of you Kingdom

and join the assembly of the just made perfect in heaven.

Deliver us from sin

so as to avoid the wrath of your righteous anger.

You are merciful and just in all your ways.

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.

 

“All that you see here – the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone.” (Lk 21:6) // “The time to reap has come.” (Rv 14:15)

 

 

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. // Pray for the grace of a happy death and let everyday of your life be a preparation for the final judgment.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

November 25, 2020: WEDNESDAY – WEEKDAY (34), SAINT CATHERINE OF ALEXANDRIA, Virgin, Martyr

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Wants Us to Persevere … His Is the Song of the Lamb and of Moses”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

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

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 21:12-19): “You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.”

 

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.

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Lk 21:12-19) 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.

 

 

B. First Reading (Rv 15:1-4): “They sang the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb.”

 

The reading (Rv 15:1-4) tells us that John sees in the sky another mysterious sight: the seven angels with seven plagues, which signify the final expression of God’s anger and point to the consummation of history. But before the seven plagues unfold, the seer beholds a sea of glass mixed with fire, symbolizing God’s transcendence and holiness. Moreover, he beholds “the victors over the beast” standing beside the sea and singing the “song of Moses” and the “song of the Lamb”. The “victors over the beast” are the faithful Christians. Like Moses, they have followed the Lamb across the “Red Sea of tribulation” into the new “Promised Land” – the heavenly Jerusalem. With harps given by God, they sing a hymn to the omnipotence and justice of God in salvation history. They avow that the Lord God Almighty is the absolute Master. The acclaim that all his interventions are perfect, especially the redemption accomplished by the Lamb and the consummation of history to be described in the vision of the “seven bowls of plagues”. They assert that all nations, seeing the marvels of God and his just actions, will come to worship God.

 

The following modern day account gives insight into the role of music in giving worship to God and in building a community of God-worshippers (cf. Rick Hamlin, Daily Guideposts 2015, p. 69).

 

“Don’t sing here, Daddy!” my kids would tell me when I was tempted to sing out loud on the streets or in the car or at the dinner table or in the subway. “Okay, okay”, I’d say, but that’s the irrepressible power of music.

 

The other morning I was on the subway heading to work, closing my eyes, meditating on a passage from the book of Psalms, when, above the rumble of the train, I heard a woman singing one of my favorite hymns: “Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty, all thy works shall praise thy name from earth and sky and sea …”

 

I opened my eyes to see a handsome West Indian woman in a black dress, singing as she was handing out tracts: “God in three persons, blessed Trinity.”

 

“I love that hymn”, I told her, “But that’s not the tune I usually sing it to. Do you know this tune?” I sang it back to her. She hummed along with me. Then I sang along with her version, the two of us forming an impromptu choir. The train was coming to my station.

 

“Amen, brother”, she said as the doors opened. “Amen to you too, sister”, I said, darting off.

 

When I got to the office I e-mailed my now-grown sons. “You can be glad you weren’t with your old man when he burst into song on the subway today. Just to let you know, I wasn’t alone. Sang ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ with a woman on the train.” I could picture them rolling their eyes, but just as they’d get the message I added: “Music is a great way to connect.”

 

It is. With the best part of yourself, with your neighbors, and with our Creator.

 

Thank You, Lord, for giving us music to make our spirits sing.

 

 

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

 

1. 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”

 

2. Do we unite our “song of praise” to God with the entire Church and creation as they sing the “great and marvelous works” the Lord God has done?

 

 

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.      

 

            ***      

(Cf. Rv 15: 3-4)

Great and wonderful are your works, Lord God almighty.

Just and true are your ways, O king of the nations.

Who will not fear you, Lord, or glorify your name?

For you alone are holy.

All the nations will come and worship before you,

for your righteous acts have been revealed.

 

 

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) // “Great and wonderful are your works, Lord God almighty.” (Rv 15:3)

 

  

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. // At Mass, do you very best to sing for the Lord and, united with the whole Church, give God praise and glory. Let the song that you sing be fully expressed in your daily life of love and service to one another.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

November 26, 2020: THURSDAY – WEEKDAY (34)

THANKSGIVING DAY (USA)

“DIES NATALIS” OF BLESSED JAMES ALBERIONE

PAULINE FAMILY BIBLICAL YEAR (November 26, 2020 – 2021)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Assures Us that Our Redemption Is Near … Just and True Are His Ways”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Rv 18:1-2, 21-23; 19:1-3, 9a // Lk 21:20-28

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 21:20-28): “Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”

 

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 (Lk 21:20-28) 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.

    

 

B. First Reading (Rv 18:1-2, 21-23; 19:1-3, 9a): “Fallen is Babylon the great.”

 

In today’s reading (Rv 18:1-2, 21-23: 19:1-3, 9a), John describes the fall of “Babylon”, a codeword for the Roman Empire, as well as the heavenly rejoicing for the Babylonian defeat. It also gives a glimpse into the wedding feast of the Lamb. Today’s passage begins with a death sentence pronounced on Babylon: “She has fallen! Great Babylon has fallen!” This is uttered by a powerful angel whose splendor brightens the whole world. This elegy is followed by the heaving of a big millstone into the sea. This is an action symbolizing the destruction of the Roman Empire, which is the seat of sins and vices of the ancient world. Just as a large stone thrown into the sea would disappear without a trace, so “Babylon”, that is, Rome, will be annihilated. Rome has used her commercial-political power to propagate her false standards of life. Rome has spellbound and misled the world by means of vices and idolatry.

 

The vision of the fall of Babylon is followed by the roar of a large crowd of people in heaven saying: “Alleluia! Salvation, glory, and might belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments.” Their song celebrates God’s justice as manifested by the punishment of Babylon. God punishes Babylon/Rome for killing his servants. The Lord God avenges the blood of the martyrs.

 

What follows is a glimpse of the wedding feast of the Lamb. The bride of the Lamb, the Church, is the antitype of the prostitute Babylon. The bride has been given a clean shining linen robe to wear, symbol of the good deeds of God’s people. The righteous are to share in the salvation of the Lamb at that great wedding banquet in heaven. The wedding of the Lamb symbolizes the joyful, intimate and glorious union of Christ with the community of the elect. Indeed, as the angel says: “Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb.”

 

The victorious note of the wedding of the Lamb becomes more vivid against the backdrop of the apocalyptic destruction suffered by the “prostitute” Babylon and her lamentation. The following modern day article gives insight into the meaning of an apocalyptic destruction (cf.  “Fighters Struggle to Contain California Blazes” in The Week, September 25, 2015, p. 5).

 

Wildfires swept through drought-parched Northern and Central California this week, destroying more than 1,000 homes and businesses and charring the landscape for hundreds of square miles. As many as 30,000 firefighters struggled to contain the infernos, which claimed at least one life and forced thousands to flee their homes, some with only 30 minutes warning. The Valley fire – which struck Lake, Napa and Sonoma counties and was at one point destroying 2,000 acres an hour – reduced to ashes the entire village of Middletown, where some of the 1,300 inhabitants had to drive through walls of flames and explosions to escape. “I felt it was the End Times”, said resident Janis Irvin. (…) Summer after summer, Western wildfires produce apocalyptic images and “tear-jerking” anecdotes of residents who have lost their homes.

 

 

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

 

1. 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?

 

2. Do we have reverential fear for the justice of our loving and merciful God? Do we seek to walk on the right path and follow his righteous ways? Do we look forward to share in the wedding of the Lamb?

 

  

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. 

 

            ***

(Cf. Rv 19:1-7)

Alleluia, alleluia!

Salvation, glory and power to our God;

his judgments are honest and true.

 

Alleluia, alleluia! Sing praise to our God, all you his servants: all who worship him, reverently great and small.

 

Alleluia, alleluia!

The Lord, our all-powerful God is King:

let us rejoice, sing praise and give him glory.

 

Alleluia, alleluia!

The wedding feast of the Lamb has begun

and his bride is prepared to welcome him.

 

 

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) //“Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” (Rv 19:9a)  

 

 

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. // In your daily life as Christian disciples, clothe ourselves with compassion, mercy, kindness and gentleness that you may be ready to join in “the wedding of the Lamb”.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

November 27, 2020: FRIDAY –WEEKDAY (34)

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Words Will Not Pass Away … The Martyrs Give Witness to Him”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

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

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 21:29-33): “When you see these things happening, know that the Kingdom of God is near.”

 

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.

   

 

B. First Reading (Rv 20:1-4, 11-21:2): “The dead were judged according to their deeds. I saw a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.”

 

The reading (Rv 20:1-4, 11-21:2) presents John’s vision of the spiritual warfare, the final judgment and the new heaven and the new earth. John sees an angel from heaven throwing the dragon (that is, the Devil or Satan) into the abyss, locking over it and sealing it so that he could not deceive the nations until the “thousand years” are completed. The time indication “thousand years” is not a chronological fact but a theological statement about the salvation already inaugurated in the “present” by Jesus the Messiah, the victor and restorer of Paradise. Likewise, John sees the vision of those who have been executed because they have given witness to Jesus and the word of God. The reference to the fact that they come to life and reign with Christ for a “thousand years” means that the faithful ones already share in Christ’s glory and resurrection. Revelation 20:7-10 describes the total defeat of Satan. Set loose from prison after the “thousand years” are over, he marshals the evil forces to fight against God’s people. But fire comes down from heaven and destroys them. Thrown into the “lake of fire and sulfur”, the Devil, together with the beast and the false prophet, will languish there day and night, forever and ever. The Book of Revelation assures the faithful that though the spiritual warfare may be ongoing and of long-duration, God is in complete control. The almighty Lord is utterly victorious over evil.

 

John then gives a description of the resurrection of the dead and the final judgment. The image of God sitting on the throne symbolizes God’s absolute dominion; nothing can thwart his will. All are to be judged according to what they have done. Whoever does not have his name written in the book of the living is thrown into the lake of fire. The “lake of fire” is the “second death” and those who undergo this death must abandon hope of a new resurrection. The wicked suffer eternal punishment.

 

Finally, the seer gives a very beautiful description of the new heaven and the new earth that is the destiny of the faithful ones. The first creation has disappeared and there is a new creation that befits redeemed humanity. The brutal forces of evil and death are no more. John describes the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared and ready, like a bride dressed to meet her husband. God dwells in the Holy City Jerusalem and the intimate nuptial relationship between God and his people is fully and perfectly established. The intimacy that the first man enjoyed in Paradise and that Israel experienced in the desert and the temple is now granted to all members of the People of God.

 

The following account helps us to appreciate the faithful witness of the martyrs (cf. “The pro-consular Acts of the martyrdom of Saint Cyprian, bishop” in the Liturgy of the Hours, Office of the Readings of September 16). Saint Cyprian, decapitated on September 14, 258, is the patron of North Africa and Algeria. Indeed, we believe that for the martyrs it is the fulfillment of God’s promise that “he will wipe away all tears from their eyes … there will be no more grief or crying or pain … the old things have disappeared”.

 

Then governor Galerius Maximus read the sentence from the tablet: “It is decided that Thascius Cyprian should die by the sword.” Cyprian responded: “Thanks be to God!”

 

After the sentence was passed, a crowd of his fellow Christians said: “We should be killed with him!” There arose an uproar among the Christians, and a great mob followed him. Cyprian was then brought out to the grounds of the Villa Sexti, where, taking off his outer cloak and kneeling on the ground, he fell before the Lord in prayer. He removed his dalmatic and gave it to the deacons, and then stood erect while waiting for the executioner. When the executioner arrived, Cyprian told his friends to give the man twenty-five gold pieces. Cloths and napkins were being spread out in front of him by the brethren. Then the blessed Cyprian covered his eyes with his own hands, but when he was unable to tie the ends of the linen himself, the priest Julian and the sub-deacon Julian fastened them for him.

 

In this way the blessed Cyprian suffered, and his body was laid out at a nearby place to satisfy the curiosity of the pagans. During the night, Cyprian’s body was triumphantly borne away in procession of Christians who, praying and bearing tapers and torches, carried the body to the cemetery of the governor Macrobius Candidianus which lies on the Mappalian Way near the fish ponds. Not many days later the governor Galerius Maximus died.

 

The most blessed martyr Cyprian suffered on the fourteenth of September under the emperors Valerian and Gallienus, in the reign of our true Lord Jesus Christ, to whom belong honor and glory for ever. Amen.

 

 

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

 

1. 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?

 

2. Do we trust that in God who is on our side we are victors in the spiritual warfare against evil? Do we submit ourselves to God’s reign and do we look forward to the final judgment and “the new city Jerusalem, coming down out of the heaven, from God”?

 

 

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.  

 

            ***

Loving Father,

you have absolute domain over all.

Through the death and rising of your Son Jesus Christ,

death and evil are vanquished.

Be with us at the last judgment.

Let us rejoice in the vision of the Holy City, the new Jerusalem,

coming down out of heaven,

prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

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.

 

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Lk 21:33) // “I saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.” (Rv 21:2)

 

 

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. // By spiritual and material support, assist the Christians persecuted for their faith. Spend some quiet moments before the Blessed Sacrament and pray over the “last things”.

 

 

*** *** ***

November 28, 2020: SATURDAY – WEEKDAY (34); BVM ON SATURDAY

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Exhorts Us to Be Vigilant … He Is Coming Soon!”

 

BIBLE READINGS

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

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 21:34-36): “Be vigilant that you may have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent.”

 

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 (Lk 21:34-36) 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.  

   

 

B. First Reading (Rv 22:1-7): “Night will be no more for the Lord God will give them light.”

 

The liturgical readings from the Book of Revelation conclude with John’s vision of Eden regained. Today’s reading (Rv 22:1-7), which we proclaim on the last day of the liturgical year, summarizes the promises of God to the elect. These promises are definitively fulfilled in the new city Jerusalem. John depicts an image of blessedness and immortality for those who dwell in the holy city Jerusalem, the dwelling place of God. The unique source of life is God and the Lamb. The river of life-giving water, sparkling like a crystal, flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb. On each side of the river is the tree of life which bears fruit twelve times a year. Its leaves are for the healing of the nations, in the sense that those who share in God’s new world are never to undergo suffering, sickness and death. Nothing accursed will be found anymore: nothing will prove an occasion of sin and no one will incur God’s anger because of sin.

 

In the new city Jerusalem, the liturgical ministry is brought to perfection. God is the object of worship and adoration of his servants. The heavenly liturgical service is a font of joy and a great privilege that the communion of saints enjoy. They will see God face and his name will be written on their foreheads. “To see God face to face” is a privilege denied to Moses because it is unattainable in this world. But the devout have always aspired to the vision of God and this holy aspiration is finally fulfilled in the eschatological era.

 

John asserts that in the heavenly Jerusalem night will be no more, nor will there be any need of light from lamp or sun. The Lord God will be their light in the sense that they will have deeper insight. They will relish the radiance of divine love revealed. With God, the saints will live and reign forever.

 

Finally, in John’s angelic vision is a challenge to heed God’s revelation: “These words are true and can be trusted.” Jesus asserts: “I am coming soon! Happy are those who obey the prophetic words of this book.” The nearness of the Lord’s coming evokes faithfulness to his word. The advent of the Lord inaugurates a city full of light and life. What a beautiful “new heaven and new earth” to which we are heading!

 

I was enrolled at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute in St. Anselm University in Rome in the 1980s. One of my most beloved professors was the Benedictine monk, Fr. Salvatore Marsili. In the summer of 1983 we celebrated the golden anniversary of his priestly ordination. The students gathered together in the church of St. Anselm for a beautiful Eucharistic celebration. What impressed me was the final song that we sung: Lucien Deiss’ “Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!” It was full summer, but we were singing a typically Advent song. Verse 4 of the song was evocative: “Yes, I come very soon! Amen! Come, O Lord Jesus!” One day the next autumn, after finishing our class, I was standing by the enclosed monastery garden. I saw Fr. Marsili walking by the corridor with a painful gait. I greeted him and asked. “How are you, Father?” He responded, “Male, male!” (“I don’t feel well!”) Our beloved Fr. Marsili died a few weeks later. His “Maranatha” invocation had been heard. The Lord Jesus came to bring him to the heavenly Jerusalem where the liturgical ministry, to which his whole monastic life was devoted, is made perfect.

 

 

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

 

1. 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?

 

2. Do we long for the new city Jerusalem? How do the beautiful images of living water, abundant fruit, throne of grace, unending light, etc. affect us?

 

 

 

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.  

 

            ***

(A prayer composed by Lucien Deiss)

We pray to you, Lord Jesus, Son of David,

radiant morning star,

to come and dispel the gloomy night.

Refresh us with your life-giving water.

Your whole Church cries out with one voice:

“Come, Lord Jesus, come.”

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) // “Behold, I am coming soon!” (Rv 22:7)

 

 

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 persecution of Christians, the terror of war and ecological destruction, etc. // Let your heart and mind be filled with the beautiful images of John’s vision in Revelation 22 and let these images generate goodness, kindness and compassionate acts of mercy and love.

 

***

 

 

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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