A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 18, n. 6)

Epiphany – Christmas: January 5-11, 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: December 29, 2019 – January 4, 2020 please go to ARCHIVES Series 18 and click on “Holy Family - Christmas”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: January 5-11, 2020.)

 

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January 5, 2020: THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD

  “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Epiphany of God’s Glory

and Peace”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 60:1-6 // Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6 // Mt 2:1-12

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 2:1-12): “We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”

          

Today’s feast of Epiphany reminds me of O. Henry’s classic story, “The Gift of the Magi” about a poverty stricken, but self-sacrificing married couple, Dell and Jim. Out of deep love, they sold their most precious possessions in order to present to each other the best Christmas gift one could ever give. Dell sold the beautiful hair that rippled down to her knees like brown cascades to buy Jim a grand platinum chain for his gold watch heirloom. Jim sold his gold watch to get money for a set of beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jeweled rims, to adorn the gorgeous tresses of Dell. Jim ended up with a precious chain for a watch that had been sold for her sake. Dell received the coveted adornments for her beautiful tresses that had been unselfishly sacrificed for him. O. Henry concluded the beautiful story of self-giving in the following words:

 

The magi, as you know, were wise men – wonderfully wise men – who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones … And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in the last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts such as they are the wisest. Everywhere they are the wisest. They are the magi.

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Mt 2:1-12) depicts the journey of magi from the east in search of the King of the Jews. They had seen his star at its rising and wanted to do him homage. The insidious King Herod met them privately and told them hypocritically to look for the child that he too might adore him. The star guided the magi and preceded them until it stopped over the place where the child was. The evangelist Matthew narrates: “On entering the home they saw the child and Mary his mother. Then, they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh” (Mt 2:11). The magi were a caste of wise men variously associated with interpretation of dreams, Zoroastrianism, and astrology. In Church tradition, their number settled at three, deduced from the three gifts that they brought to the Child or from the belief that they represented the three races of those who came to Christ and welcomed his Gospel: the Semites, the Black and the Indo-Germanic.

 

In Matthew’s Gospel, the magi from the East who came to do homage to the King of the Jews represented the fulfillment of the messianic prophecy: “The wealth of the nations shall be brought to you … All from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the Lord” (Is 60:5-6) // “The kings of Tarshish and the Isles shall offer gifts; the kings of Arabia and Seba shall bring him tribute. All kings shall pay him homage, all nations shall serve him” (Ps 72:1-11). Eventually, the Christian tradition gleaned a deeper meaning from the threefold gift of the magi to the Child in Bethlehem. St. Irenaeus (c. 135-202) remarks: “Myrrh signified that he, for our mortal human race, would die and be buried; gold, that he was the King whose reign would be without end; incense, that he was God who came to make himself known in Judea, and to show himself to those who never sought him.”

  

In the context of the Christmas-Epiphany liturgy which celebrates the stupendous manifestation of the Father’s love in his beloved Son Jesus, born of the ever-virgin Mother Mary, the enchanting figures of the magi from the East offer us a lesson in gift–giving. In her article, “Journeying with the Magi” (cf. The WORD Among Us, Advent 2003, p. 50), Louise Perrotta exhorts us: “The magi presented Jesus with a sampling of the ancient world’s costliest gifts. They gave the best. Finding much to ponder in these offerings, the Church Fathers often interpreted them as symbols of what every Christian is called to present to God: the gold of charity and good works, the incense of prayer and faith, the myrrh of purifying suffering and belief in the resurrection. During this season, we might consider how to make such an offering in our own lives. While it is always right to turn to God for what we need, this season encourages us to find ways of giving him what we value most, beginning with our very selves. As we give ourselves to Jesus, we will find ourselves side by side with the magi.”

 

The beautiful homage of the gift-giving Magi as they encountered the Christ-Child in Bethlehem, together with Mary his Mother, gently leads us to the divine gift-giver: the loving God the Father who loved the world so much that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but may have eternal life (cf. Jn 3:16). The Son of God, Jesus, the Word made flesh, is the paramount GIFT – the Father’s gift to us – the sign of his great love for us. Indeed, the Son of God made flesh, born as a child, is the most powerful sign of the Father’s will to bring us salvation. As the Christmas liturgy proclaims: “UNTO US A CHILD IS BORN! UNTO US A SON IS GIVEN!” He is the sign of the Father’s marvelous love and the means of salvation. The Child who is the Father’s gift to us is JESUS, humankind’s model of ultimate self-giving.

 

 

B. First Reading (Is 60:1-6): “The glory of the Lord shines upon you.”

 

It was the day after Christmas in 2007 at the Cathedral of the Our Lady of Angels. The peaceful garden and the enormous sanctuary were blazing with beauty coming from myriads and myriads of potted red poinsettias. The intense red splendor of the poinsettias was utterly fitting for the feast of the first Christian martyr, St. Stephen, which we were celebrating that December 26. There were merely a handful of worshippers for the 7:00 daily morning Mass in comparison with the thousands and thousands that came for the Christmas midnight Mass and the liturgical celebrations on December 25. The visiting priest who presided at Mass led us incisively into the spirit of the Christmas season and helped us contemplate the mature commitment needed by those who follow the Christ Child, as exemplified by St. Stephen.

 

The presiding priest also informed us of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and requested prayers for the people of Pakistan. The bad news about the trouble in the nuclear-armed Pakistan cast a shadow of sadness on my holiday spirit. I was despondent as images of the suffering Pakistani nation came into my mind. I tried to ward off specters of rampage, carnage and vengeance in that deeply convulsed nation. I prayed for the deceased Benazir Bhutto and all the other victims of violence, hatred and war. I prayed deeply for the safety of the civilians, especially my former student, Sr. Catherine Sardar, a Pakistani. However, as I studied later that day the bible readings of the feast of Epiphany, Isaiah’s prophecy and the Gospel event of the Lord’s “manifestation” mercifully dispelled my gloom. The comforting words of the Scriptures replaced the fearful images with a vision of hope. Indeed, darkness and sadness do not have the ultimate word. The celebration of the Christmas-Epiphany mystery warmly assures us that the birthday of the Lord is the birthday of peace.

 

The Old Testament reading (Is 60:1-6) proclaimed on this feast of Epiphany presents a prophetic vision of Jerusalem’s future glory even as “darkness covers the earth and thick clouds cover the peoples” (v. 2). This passage needs to be seen against the following historical context: the fall of the kingdom of Judah and the destruction of the city of Jerusalem (587 B.C.), the period of the Babylonian exile and captivity (587 B.C. – 538 B.C.), and the promise and beginning of the exiles’ return (538 B.C. – 520 B.C.). In its original context, the passage delineates the future grandeur of Jerusalem, restored and rebuilt. It portrays not only the glorious restoration of the defeated and disgraced Jewish nation, but also the universal vocation and assembly of all nations called to give praise to Yahweh.

 

The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 1, comment: “The prophet’s gaze focuses on Jerusalem, toward which he sees a long and joyous procession of her children who “were from afar”, i.e. from the Exile from which God has delivered them. On the summit of Zion, the newly reconstructed Temple blazes with the light of candelabra. What a marvelous and glorious spectacle! … Then, in his ecstatic view, all is changed. The city appears to him brightly illuminated, ablaze with the glory of the Lord upon it, while the rest of the world remains in darkness. Toward the glittering light, it is no longer the throng of exiles or the procession of the feast of Tabernacles that is marching up, but the countless multitudes of nations and kings from every land. They bear their offerings – gold, incense, riches – while singing the praises of the Lord. The prophet sees this transfigured Jerusalem, and he lets us see what looms beyond the horizon of history, the point toward which all eyes look, the assembly place for all the nations marching toward the full manifestation – Epiphany – of the Lord.”

 

The “epiphany” of Yahweh’s glory in Jerusalem and the gathering of nations envisioned in the Book of Isaiah find absolute fulfillment in the marvelous “epiphany” of the Word of God made flesh - Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In the Christ Child, born of Mary in Bethlehem, is God’s ultimate “epiphany” or manifestation of love. In the incarnation of the Divine Word is the full revelation of the Father’s saving plan to bring peace and unity to all nations, and to bring redemption to all. Isaiah’s vision of the future glory of Jerusalem gives us a glimpse of the final “Epiphany” – the ultimate manifestation of love in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The “Christian Epiphany” is the grandiose expression of the splendor of God and his abounding love for us.

 

 

C. Second Reading (Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6): “Now it has been revealed that the Gentiles are co-heirs of the promise.”

 

Today’s Second Reading (Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6) delineates the special “epiphany” experienced by Saint Paul, the “prisoner of Christ Jesus” for the sake of the Gentiles. By divine grace, he was set apart to proclaim the Good News to non-Jews. A privileged recipient of divine “epiphany”, Saint Paul became a herald of God’s “secret plan”, that is, by means of the gospel the Gentiles have a part with the Jews in divine blessings. All are called to be members of the same body and share in the promise that God made through Jesus Christ. Paul’s experience of “epiphany” made him in turn an instrument of God’s continuing revelation of life and love to the nations.

 

Indeed, the Second Reading gets to the heart of the Epiphany celebration. The biblical scholar Eugene Maly remarks: “The reading speaks of God’s secret plan now revealed, a plan, we learn elsewhere, that God had intended from the beginning. It was a plan that the prophets of the Old Testament had hinted at, but whose full meaning even they did not know. Only with Jesus Christ was it fully revealed. Epiphany, God manifest in Jesus Christ, is the whole message of the Scriptures … The Christian Epiphany took place not as an act of divine self-satisfaction, but for us. God hoped that we would be amazed at it all, that we would react like the magi and give him ourselves as gifts, that we would be awestruck by this supreme act of love and begin to love him in return. Will he be disappointed?”

 

On this feast of Epiphany, we thank God for Love’s pure love revealed. We are also grateful to him for the ongoing “epiphany” of his saving love in today’s world. The history of the world and that of the Church is that of a developing “epiphany”. It is a mystery of love that is revealed each day. Like Saint Paul, we have a part in the unfolding of that revelation. As Christian disciples in the “here and now”, we are called to manifest God’s love to all by proclaiming and witnessing to the Good News of salvation.

 

The feast of Epiphany is marked by “gift-giving”. The following Christmas story gives us a glimpse into the ongoing “epiphany” of God’s all-embracing love that is unfolding in today’s world and it also teaches us what “gift-giving” means (cf. Claudia Girsham, “A West Texas Christmas” in Country, December/January 2010, p. 26-27). May the spirit of Christmas and the Lord’s Epiphany fill our hearts and guide us through the days of the New Year 2011 and the forthcoming years.

 

The winter whistled across the west Texas plains. Tumbleweeds drifted into our barbed-wire fence, and laundry froze stiff on the line. Christmas 1944 was just days away, and I hoped a deep snow would come with it. One morning, my brother, Bobby, and I stepped outside and watched a battered truck pull up beside the rundown house at the end of the road. Kids piled out and scattered across the yard, moving too fast to count.

 

After lunch, I heard someone in the backyard. It was one of the new kids, and he was on my red scooter. I tried to be nice, because I knew Mother was watching me, but I didn’t want him on that scooter. The boy’s name was Herbert, and he wanted to know if we had anything else to play with. Bobby picked up a baseball and asked if he wanted to play catch. Herbert threw down my scooter, and I quickly escaped down the road with it, where I had a not-so-nice discussion about the new kids with our neighbors Patsy and Jane Palmer.

 

On top of that, we still didn’t have a Christmas tree and Mother had just told us we weren’t going to my grandparents this year. My father had only one day off, and we didn’t have enough time or money for the trip. No family at Christmas! No grandmother to hug me and fix my favorite food. No granddaddy to dance his jig and make us laugh. No aunts, uncles or cousins. It would be the first Christmas I could remember without family. I didn’t say much, but I wanted to cry. The howling wind just made it worse.

 

The next day, Herbert and two of his brothers were in our yard again. Mother made sugar cookies and handed them out the kitchen door to us. Those boys gobbled them down as if they’d never eaten cookies before. While we sat on the doorstep, I mentioned that Santa Claus was coming on Saturday. Herbert munched his cookie and matter-of-factly told us Santa had never been to his house. I felt so terrible I didn’t know what to say. At supper, I told Mother what Herbert had said. She looked at my dad, and I saw the sadness in her eyes. My father told us that Santa might have trouble finding Herbert’s family because they probably moved a lot.

 

The next morning, Mother rushed off to see Mrs. Phillips and Mrs. Palmer. They were planning something. When Daddy got home, Mother told us we were going to do something to help Herbert’s family. It had to be a secret; we couldn’t talk about it at all, not even with our friends. We had no money to buy gifts, so Mother asked us to make or find something to give the children. The Phillips and Palmer families would do the same. We didn’t have many store-bought toys. Bobby had a slingshot, but the rubber band was broken. I had an old rubber Betsy Wetsy. I hated that doll, and I didn’t think the neighbors would like her any better than I did. I wanted to give something special that they’d really love.

 

That night, my mind churned as I tried to think of the perfect gift. When I came up with an idea, I really wished I hadn’t. I liked the scooter better than anything I had. It wasn’t new when I got it, but I thought it was the best scooter in the world because Aunt Winnie had given it to me. I tossed and turned, trying to make up my mind. The next morning, I told my parents I wanted to give Herbert my scooter. They looked surprised. “Are you sure?” my father asked. I was. Daddy suggested I paint it a different color so Herbert wouldn’t recognize it. That night, Daddy brought home a paper sack with a small can of pretty blue paint and a little bell for the handlebars. Mother put newspapers on the kitchen floor, and Bobby and I painted the scooter.

 

Then Bobby got his baseball from his bedroom and wrote “Babe Ruth” on it in black crayon so Herbert wouldn’t know it had been his. It must have been hard for him to give up that beat-up ball as it was for me to give away my scooter. He and J.C. Phillips played a lot of catch. The lump in my throat was so big I could hardly swallow. I wanted to hug Bobby, which is what Mother did, but I figured he’d kick me in the shin.

 

On Christmas Eve, Daddy brought home our tree, a blue spruce from the nursery where he worked. After supper, we walked down to the Palmers’ with our gifts for Herbert’s family. The Phillips family was already there. It was like a grand, happy party. Mrs. Palmer made punch, and Mother and Mrs. Phillips brought fudge and cookies.

 

As we walked home, a million stars twinkled in the clear black sky. The Christmas star seemed to shine right down on us. It didn’t look like we’d be getting any snow tonight. We walked quietly, holding hands. I felt like my heart would explode with love and happiness. I started singing O Holy Night, and the family joined in. We sang the rest of the way home.

 

Daddy was reading the Christmas story from the Bible when we heard a car pull up. Who could be visiting us this late on Christmas Eve? We couldn’t believe our eyes: Aunt Frances, Uncle Raney and their children, Judy and little Raney, had driven from California to surprise us. Mother fried the hen she’d planned for Christmas dinner. We decorated the tree, sang carols and hung up our socks. Overnight, we got about a foot of snow. Big flakes were still fluttering down when I went out to help Daddy feed the dogs. I could hear kids talking.

 

Daddy and I sneaked over to where we could see Herbert’s porch without him seeing us. Herbert was yelling, “He came! He came!” I blinked back tears. Daddy took my hand, and we walked back to our very full little house.

 

I’ve often wondered if Herbert and his family weren’t really angels sent down to help us understand the joy of giving and the spirit of Christmas. Our gifts were small, but the Lord poured out his blessings in a way I will never forget.

   

 

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

 

Why is the Divine Word made flesh the greatest and ultimate “Epiphany” of our loving God? What is our response to the Father’s gift of Christian Epiphany? What are the lessons we can glean from the magi and their search for the newborn King? Are we ready to welcome the various “epiphanies” of God’s love in our lives and in the world today? Are we willing to be “epiphanies” and manifestations of God’s saving love for the people of today and their quest for meaning in life?

  

 

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

 

Loving Father,

we thank you for the great “Epiphany” of love

that you have given us in the incarnate Word,

Jesus Christ – your only begotten Son.

In Jesus,

the radiance of your love shines upon us with healing rays,

transforming us into people of joy and lovers of light.

Help us to respond fully

to the radiant beauty streaming from the Holy Child.

Transformed by the great “Epiphany” of the Christ Child,

may we in turn be “epiphanies” of your compassionate love

for a troubled world

and for the people of today,

who are in quest for meaning and for the gift of peace.

We glorify you and adore you, now and forever.

Amen.

 

 

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

           

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

 

“They offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (Mt 2:11)

 

 

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

 

By your acts of charity to the poor and the needy, endeavor to be living “epiphanies” of the Father’s saving love in today’s world. Pray for peace and be a channel of God’s peace, especially for the victims of violence and strife. To help experience more deeply the mystery of the Lord’s Epiphany, make an effort to spend some quiet moments before the Blessed Sacrament.

 

 

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January 6, 2020: MONDAY – CHRISTMAS WEEKDAY; SAINT ANDRE BESSETTE, Religious (USA)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Great Light”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

1 Jn 3:22-4:6 // Mt 4:12-17, 23-25

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 4:12-17, 23-25): “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

 

In today’s Gospel reading (Mt 4:12-17, 23-25), Matthew declares that Jesus’ return to Galilee is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen” (cf. Is 91-2). The expression, “the people who sit in darkness” originally refers to the oppressed Israelites, but as used here by Matthew, it also includes the Gentiles. The Gospel of salvation is for everyone, of every time and place. In Jesus, the great light of liberation has dawned over the suffering people of all nations.

 

Aelred Rosser remarks: “With the coming of Christ, a new age dawned over the world. And Christ brings more than a new age; he ushers in the final age, for in the mystery of incarnation heaven and earth are reconciled, the redemption of humankind is accomplished, death has been conquered and the reign of justice and peace has been established. Now all we need to do is to make these realities visible by following in the footsteps of Jesus.”

 

The following missioner tale gives insight into how the saving light of Christ is being radiated in today’s world through the kind efforts of people of good will (cf. Susan Nagele, MKLM, in Maryknoll, January/February 2015, p. 8-9).

 

Suffering with a lot of pain, Mariamu came early to the clinic in Mombasa, Kenya, where I am a doctor serving with the Maryknoll Lay Missioners. Mariamu was an elderly Muslim woman who was upset because an insect had crawled inside her ear earlier in the morning. She couldn’t get it out and said it was biting her.

 

I looked into the ear and, sure enough, the insect was wiggling. A retired German doctor who had built the clinic proceeded to clean out the ear with water, but nothing came out. At the same time, a retired Irish doctor showed up and confirmed what we saw – something big lodged in Mariamu’s ear canal. With three doctors in the little clinic, I felt we should be able to do something,

 

I went to my medical bag that contains useful tools I’ve collected over 30 years. I found my alligator forceps and put on my headlamp. The nurse and Irish doctor held Mariamu’s head while I proceeded to pull out a blob, which I later realized was the insect’s abdomen. The nurse rinsed the ear with water again but still not much came out. So I aimed my forceps and got out some legs. The nurse rinsed again and now I could see the critter clearly. I grabbed the thorax and pulled out an insect about one inch long with two wings on each side. It was still wiggling.

 

Mariamu was instantly relieved. And thanked me profusely. I just said thanks be to God I had the necessary tools and eyes good enough to see what was biting and wiggling!

 

 

B. First Reading (I Jn 3:22-4:6): “Test the spirits to see whether they belong to God.”

 

Today’s First Reading (I Jn 3:22-4:6) helps us to understand the implication of the Christmas mystery. The mystery of the Incarnation is a central affirmation of our Christian faith. To deny that Christ came in the flesh is to deny his role as Savior. The Christmas mystery is at the heart of our belief. The Son of God, who is intimately united with God the Father, took on a human nature. Any spiritual movement in the Church that denies this reality is a deception. The crucial test of those who claim to be teachers in the Church is faith in the Incarnation. To be truly genuine, faith in the incarnate Word entails love of neighbor. Faith and love indicate, therefore, belonging to God. Moreover, the presence of the Holy Spirit testifies to Christ dwelling among us.

 

The following excerpt from the life of Blessed Charles de Foucauld testifies how he finally opened up himself to the Christmas mystery, that is, to the saving presence of Jesus Christ, who became incarnate in his personal life (cf. Patricia Treece, God Will Provide, Brewster: Paraclete Press, 2011, p. 115-116).

 

When he was about five, Charles experienced the tragic deaths of his father and mother, and then – before Charles’ very eyes – his only living grandmother, who, taking the by then six-year-old orphan and his three-year-old sister for a walk, was charged by a herd of cows. The grandmother, French Vicomtesse de Foucauld, successfully dragged aside the walking boy and then the cart containing the girl and then died of fright.

 

Charles’ mother had been “both virtuous and extremely religious”. A biographer described her as gliding “dolefully through the household, convinced that life was but one long ordeal intended to make one worthy of heaven”. She passed on that kind of faith to her little son; faith that sees life only as an ordeal meted out by a stern God could not sustain such a tragedy, and died with his family. He tried to “behave” but was prone to emotional outbursts.

 

Once the maternal grandfather, the only grandparent left, who took the children in, died, Charles went wild, using the fortune he inherited to give himself up to an outwardly glamorous, inwardly miserable, playboy lifestyle. Educated as a military officer, he was sent home from a colonial post, because he deliberately flaunted his mistress before the officers’ wives and daughters.

 

When war broke out he straightened up out of loyalty to his military mates, was reinstated, and after honorable service, became a noted explorer. Yet always he remained too marked by his early traumas to be easy with spiritual realities. Sudden conversion at age twenty-eight through a saintly priest and a cousin changed all that completely.

 

His discovery that God was real led him into deep surrender and inner change. So profoundly had he retooled himself from inner misery to joy in the Lord, that he experienced the highest mystical event possible in this life, the mystical marriage. Charles of Jesus, as he was now called, wanted to live like Jesus in Nazareth, that is, in silent oneness with God without public ministry. But whereas Jesus had all the joys of his mother, Joseph, the kin, and neighbors, Charles sought out ever more solitary hermitages. From them he wrote time and again to his spiritual director back in France, “My usual state is pleasure in the presence of Jesus”, or, “I am happy very happy.”

 

He would have liked companions to join him as he lived among Muslims in today’s Algeria as “their little brother”. But his extreme lifestyle attracted no one. He remained alone but in deep companionship with Jesus. In 1916, living in his final hermitage among the Taureg tribe in Algeria’s Sahara, he was murdered by anti-French marauders. Then, having died a happy man but, like Jesus, apparently a failure, he was resurrected as a role model for many who lived out his spirituality.

 

 

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

 

Do we truly believe in the mystery of Christmas – of the Son of Man became man for our saving? How do we translate this faith in the Christmas mystery into love of neighbor? Do we let the light of Christ dispel the gloom and darkness that our fragmented and secularized world is experiencing?

 

 

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

  

Ever-living God,

we believe in the Christmas mystery of the Word-made-flesh.

Help us to translate into daily life

the saving power of the Incarnation

by our concrete acts of love and service to one another.

By our faith and love,

let us manifest to the world that we belong to you.

Let your Holy Spirit help us

incarnate the spirit of Christmas every day of our life.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

            Amen

 

 

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

           

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

 

            “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mt 4:17) // “Every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh belongs to God.” (I Jn 4:2)

 

 

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

 

By a concrete act of charity to a needy person today manifest to the world your faith in the Christmas mystery. 

 

 

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January 7, 2020: TUESDAY – CHRISTMAS WEEKDAY; SAINT RAYMOND OF PENYAFORT, Priest

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Life-Giving Bread”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

1 Jn 4:7-10 // Mk 6:34-44

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 6:34-44): “Multiplying the loaves, Jesus shows himself as a prophet.”

 

Contemplating today’s Gospel reading (Mk 6:34-44), we continue to relish the beauty of the Christmas mystery: the Word became flesh … the Word became bread. The Son of God, who became man for us, is also the font of nourishment. Jesus incarnates God’s pastoral care and loving providence for his people. Although the apostles need time with Jesus, he responds first to the greater need of the crowd that has pursued him to their place of refuge. They too need a shepherd and to be fed. He “teaches them many things” and nourishes them with the bread of the word. But he does even more. Jesus multiplies the bread and the fish and prepares for them a banquet so rich that there is an abundance of leftovers. Indeed, the incarnate Word is also the bread of the Word and the bread of the Eucharist. Jesus in the Christmas mystery is God’s word of love enfleshed. He is the self-giving Lord in the Eucharist.

 

The following modern day account makes us realize that the Christmas spirit of the self-giving Lord lives on in the here and now (cf. Jeffrey Snyder, “Couple Surprises UCP” in Fresno Bee, December 25, 2014, p. A22).

 

At United Cerebral Palsy of Central California Center for Arts and Technology in Fresno, 130 adults with disabilities pursue their goals each day.

 

Wednesday a group of about 10 of our students decided to celebrate the conclusion of their summer accomplishment by having lunch at the new Denny’s near Herndon and Clovis avenues. Once there, they were warmly welcomed by the staff and treated like royalty! Their waiter, David, even continued to “high five” one of our students during the entire time he took their orders. Other guests of the restaurant engaged our students in conversation, and everyone enjoyed a wonderful spirit of community and friendship.

 

At the end of the meal when it was time to pay the bill, our UCP group was very surprised to hear that they had been treated to lunch by the very friendly, anonymous couple who just left! Wow! Thank you to that wonderful couple and to everyone who shared in our students’ celebration of life!

 

 

B. First Reading (I Jn 4:7-10): “God is love.”

 

The First Reading (I Jn 4:7-10) helps us to contemplate God who is love. He has first loved us. He loves gratuitously, unmotivated by any worthiness on our part. He radically revealed his love by sending his Son Jesus as our Savior. God sent his only-begotten Son into the world so that we might have eternal life. God loves us so much that we too must love one another. Whoever loves proves that he is born of God. The one who loves “knows” God, because love is the very nature of God. The one who does not love does not “know” God and does not belong to him. The love revealed by God in Jesus is perceived by faith and must be responded to in faith. We “manifest” our communion with God by our love for each other.

 

The following story, written by a parishioner and inserted in the Parish Bulletin of St. Mary Queen of Apostles Church in Fresno, gives insight into the meaning of the divine love in which we share. The writer, who identifies herself as “The Saint Benedict Catholic Worker”, tells of her ministry to a dying cop, John. On October 20, 2012, he went home to God. He was 61 years old and deeply loved. As a Fresno County Sheriff’s Lieutenant, John was instrumental in supporting the presence and ministry of the Saint Benedict Catholic Worker at the jail.

 

The days were growing colder, darkness came earlier, and fog had begun to appear, lying across the city like a shroud. Winter’s penetrating chill had settled in – bleak and unrelenting. It was during this time that John’s illness, COPD, became unresponsive to the medications that had controlled his pain and made it easier for him to breathe. The disease was unyielding and brought on an avalanche of pain and suffering. His hands and feet had turned a bluish-purple due to lack of circulation, this cold now literally took his breath away and at night, as I sat vigil with him while he tried to sleep, I could hear the wheezing in his chest and a rattling sound that came with each effort to bring air into his lungs. Like the snow of winter, “snow on snow on snow”, John’s illness was interminable and the darkness it brought, at times, seemed impenetrable.

 

One evening, as I returned home to John’s house (where I have been living and taking care of him for the past year), I noticed, as I came through the darkened hallway, a light on in my bedroom. As I entered, I discovered that the light had filled the room with a warm, welcoming glow. My bed had also been turned down in a tender effort of loving care. John, despite the bleak midwinter of his pain and suffering, penetrated the darkness through his simple act of love, Jesus’ incarnate love, the Word made flesh – the Word made real.

 

What John’s actions that night revealed was the love of Christ, a love that melts winters, however bleak, and pierces the darkness with the love that Christ came into this world to teach us. His act of loving kindness released the love he needed to give and that I needed to receive. It also helped each of us to live in the realness of Christ’s love through the simplest acts we did for one another and for others. This love brought much joy into our daily lives and helped prepare for his final journey home to God. And during that final journey both John and I received, and experienced, the lesson that despite the hardship of winter and the seemingly impenetrable darkness that one may be experiencing, that the power of Christ’s love overcomes even the harshest winter and the darkest night.

 

Christina Rossetti, in her poem, In the Bleak of Midwinter, asked “What can I give him, poor as I am?” Her answer was a simple act of love, “I must give my heart” … We believe that if you ask God he will reveal what is in your heart to give. 

 

 

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

 

Do we relish the reality that God is love? How do we incarnate in our daily life this reality? Do we imitate Jesus in compassionately responding to the needs and hungers of the people around us?

 

 

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

 

Father,

you reveal yourself to us by sending your Son Jesus, our Savior.

In Christ, our Shepherd and the Lord of the banquet,

we have experienced that you are “love”.

Help us to share in the gift of eternal life.

O almighty God,

you love us so much.

Give us the grace to respond to your love

by caring for each other and by serving one another.

By our word and deed,

let us manifest to the world that “God is love”.

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.

 

            “They all ate and were satisfied.” (Mk 6:42) // “God is love.” (I Jn 4:8) 

 

 

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

 

Through words and deeds of kindness on behalf of a needy and/or sick person, manifest the love of God made incarnate in Christ Jesus.

 

 

*** *** ***

January 8, 2020: WEDNESDAY – CHRISTMAS WEEKDAY

 “JESUS SAVIOR: In Him We Do Not Fear”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

1 Jn 4:11-18 // Mk 6:45-52

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 6:45-52): “They saw Jesus walking on the sea.”

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Mk 6:45-52) makes us realize that the incarnate Word is also the Lord of creation. Immediately after the multiplication of the loaves and fish and the feeding of the hungry crowd, Jesus is depicted as calming a wind-swept sea on behalf of fearful disciples. Jesus comes to the rescue of his disciples tossed about in the boat by a raging sea. Only God has mastery over the sea, and Jesus’ calming of the sea manifests his supernatural character. Moreover, Jesus calms not only the raging sea but also the fearful disciples. He says to them: “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!” The Son of God manifests his great love and saving power especially in our distress and crisis-filled situations.

 

The following personal experience illustrates the need to surrender to the saving presence of God in our life (cf. Julia Attaway in Daily Guideposts 2015, p. 15).

 

Maggie is not well. I wish I could say what is wrong with my eleven-year-old, but it’s not simple. “I am broken”, she says. She is clinically depressed, anxious, fearful, erratic, suicidal. She has a good therapist, a social worker who comes to our home, medication, a supportive family, but things are not getting better. My heart bleeds as I watch my beautiful, bright, creative child suffer and shrink and suffer some more.

 

I am afraid. I am afraid for her and for us and for me. “Will she recover?” I ask God.

 

God replies quietly, I am with you. And that is all. God gives me no answers, hands me no solutions. I watch my child suffer and pull the feelings from my heart to offer to God one by one: grief, sadness, love, hope, longing, determination, and what seems like either resignation or acceptance.

 

I say to my Lord, “I love You, even in all this. I will serve You, whatever happens.” It’s all I can do. It’s all I can give. It’s everything.

 

Lord Jesus, let every drop of suffering unite me with You more.

 

 

B. First Reading (I Jn 4:11-18): “If we love one another, God remains in us.”

 

Today’s First Reading (I Jn 4:11-18) helps us in our contemplation of the Christmas-Easter mystery. The love of God is made incarnate in Jesus Christ. The divine love is fully “manifest” in his expiatory life, suffering, and death. The “epiphany” of God’s love continues to be experienced by those who put their faith in the Son and by their love for one another. Indeed, by loving one another as brothers and sisters, God dwells in us and his love is made perfect in us. The presence of the Spirit likewise “manifests” that God dwells in us. The indwelling is further testified by our fearless proclamation that Jesus is the savior of the world. Our union with God in love gives us true confidence to face Judgment Day for, indeed, perfect love drives out the morbid fear of punishment. In the Christmas-Easter mystery, Jesus Savior continues to teach us how to abide in God’s love.

 

The following missioner tale gives us a glimpse into what God’s love entails (cf. Deborah Northern, MKLM, in Maryknoll, January-February 2015, p. 9).

 

Serving as a Maryknoll lay missioner in El Salvador, I would walk each day to my ministry site. Often a man who obviously had mental health and alcohol issues would join me as I walked. I could not understand much of what he had to say and was impatient to get to the office, so I did not pay much attention to him.

 

One day, noticing that I was brushing him off, he said to me, “I am not asking you for money. The only thing I ask from you is respect.” His words made me realize that I was in mission to serve the poor and disenfranchised, but by not giving this man a little attention, I was not fulfilling my mission. From then on, I was more conscious of listening and giving respect to all people I met.

 

 

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

 

Are we ready to love and serve one another, especially the most vulnerable, and manifest to the world the love of God who dwells in us? In crisis-filled situations, do we turn to Jesus and respond to his exhortation, “Take courage, it is I, do not fear”?

 

 

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

 

God our Father,

you love us so tenderly

and we feel that love aflame within us.

Help us to radiate the warmth of your love,

to share the gentleness of your peace,

to offer the strength of your saving help,

and to manifest the beauty of your healing grace

to a wounded world that longs for the glory of Christmas.

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.

  

“They saw him walking on the sea.” (Mk 6:49) // “If we love one another, God remains in us.” (I Jn 4:12) 

 

 

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

 

Make a difference in the life of others by showing them little acts of tender love, e.g. a warm smile, an encouraging word, a token of gratitude, etc.

 

*** *** ***

 

January 9, 2020: THURSDAY – CHRISTMAS WEEKDAY

  “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Messiah”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

1 Jn 4:19-5:4 // Lk 4:14-22a

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 4:14-22): “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled.”

 

Today’s Gospel passage (Lk 4:14-22) tells us that Jesus came to Nazareth, where he grew up, and goes according to his custom into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and participates in the liturgy. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah is handed to him and, unrolling the scroll, he solemnly proclaims the messianic prophecy: “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord” (Lk 4:18-19). This passage is an excellent summary of the messianic work of Jesus, “the anointed” of the Spirit. The Gospel passage concludes with Jesus returning to his place and with the eyes of all in the synagogue looking intently at him. He solemnly proclaims: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:21). This is an astounding revelation and a challenging moment of truth. Jesus of Nazareth declares himself to be the long-awaited Messiah and the fulfillment of the messianic yearning through the ages. He radically avows that the moment of salvation is already being achieved in his person.

 

Like Jesus, we too are called to proclaim the saving Gospel. The following personal account illustrates what it means to be empowered for preaching the Good News (cf. Pablo Diaz in Daily Guideposts 2015, p. 294).

 

This year marks my fortieth anniversary of preaching the Gospel. It was the fall of 1975. I was a member of the youth ministry of my home church on the Lower East Side of New York City. Every Saturday at noon, the group met for prayer before heading out to the streets to hand out literature, visit the sick, and hold what we called a “street service”.

 

On the day that my life was changed forever, Sylvia, our fearless leader and a single mom, looked at me, pointed, and said, “Pablo, you are going to preach today. Get ready.”

 

My heart started pounding, my hands got sweaty, and the butterflies in my stomach kicked in. I thought to myself, What am I going to say? What if one of my friends sees me? What if nothing comes out of my mouth? I had never done public speaking, never mind preaching.

 

We walked out of the church, headed east, and positioned ourselves on the corner of East Broadway and Clinton Street. A light rain was coming down. We sang a few songs without music until it was my turn. We had no microphone. I opened my mouth, and words began to come out. I raised my voice as loud as possible, so the people there could hear me.

 

The longer I spoke, the more empowered and confident I felt. It was an incredible feeling, unlike anything else I had ever experienced. When I finished, my heart was filled with great joy.

 

 

B. First Reading (I Jn 4:19-5:4): “Those who love God must also love their brother and sister.”

 

In today’s First Reading, (I Jn 4:19-5:4) the epistle-writer John continues to underline that the love of God generates and inspires ours. If God has loved us, we must have a similar love for one another. Christ’s command is simple: whoever loves God must love his brothers and sisters also. Saint John reiterates that love is intimately linked with faith in Christ. Those who believe that Jesus is the Christ are children of God. They ought to be loved in the same way that we love God our Father. True love for God entails love for his children. Faith in Christ gives us the power to love and to overcome the evil forces that prevent us from incarnating the love of God. Love triumphs over the world.

 

The life witness of Sr. Bridget Haase, an Ursuline nun, exemplifies the love of God that is manifested in loving service to our brothers and sisters, especially the poor and the needy (cf. John Feister in St. Anthony Messenger, December 2009, p. 30-31).  

 

Sister Bridget Haase has been a teacher all along, from her first class of 40 first-graders (“hardly room for a desk, but it was a wonderful year!” she says) to less typical assignments. Those started with a TV show, Charles Kuralt’s Christmas in Appalachia, in the mid-1970s. She watched the show and felt a voice in her heart. “I’m a person who always follows my heart, because that’s where God speaks to us”, she says. The next summer, on break from her Illinois teaching assignment, Sister Bridget spent a few weeks as a volunteer, teaching Bible school at a Glenmary parish outreach in eastern Kentucky. She returned to Appalachia the next summer, and felt her heart telling her that she should move into full-time ministry in the mountains.

 

She and another sister were assigned the following year to work “up Sandylick Holler” near Dunlow, West Virginia. She lived for five years in a converted three-room shed heated, not uncommonly for the area, with a wood stove. “We shared an outhouse with our beloved neighbor, Bird”, she fondly recalls.

 

There were no Catholic schools in that region; in fact, in rural West Virginia, Catholics were suspect. Bridget went to volunteer her teaching skills at the public school and was rejected. “I was a Catlick,” she recalls. “I finally asked the principal if I could have all the children that the other teachers didn’t want, who I noticed sitting in the back of the room, just coloring all day long.” The principal hesitated, but eventually relented. “I think they grew in trust of who I was, and then I was able to teach.” She earned the title “Church Lady” from the locals.

 

She had plenty of humorous stories from her time in the hills, like when Bird, in an act of kindness to the sisters, hunted squirrels and lined the outhouse seat with fur for cold days. (Bridget delicately persuaded him to move the skins to the wall.) Her most touching story, though, is of a family, some of the very poor, who are typically rejected even locally as “white trash”, a term that plays on racism as well as poverty.

 

Bridget went, by invitation, “up the holler” (hollow) to have Thanksgiving dinner at Delana and Elam’s house with their five young children. The house was less than meager and the meat at dinner was questionable, but Bridget ate. Afterward Delana said to Bridget, “I mean hain’t never, never anyone come to our home for a meal and never, ever on Thanksgiving Day. But you done come, and Miss Bridget, I don’t have to look anywhere else for Jesus. He done come to our home and he stands in front of us.”

 

When she heard that, says Bridget, “It shifted everything.” She had tried to see God in the poor, but now the tables were turned. “The poor had seen God in me”, she recalls. “And I realized through Delana and Elam, this is what life’s all about. I see God in you. You see God in me. We are God-bearers, and everything is a reflection of God … It doesn’t have to do with who you are, what you’re doing; it has to do with the fact that God is present here in this moment.”

 

 

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

 

Do we believe that Jesus is the Messiah? Do we believe that in Christ, love triumphs over all? Does our love of God entail service to our needy brothers and sisters?

 

 

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

 

O gracious Father,

your Son Jesus radiates  the glory of your love and mercy.

Let our lives be a reflection

of the saving Christmas mystery.

Let the fire of love that you have kindled in our hearts

bring warmth and joy to all,

especially to the poor and the lowly.

We bless you and adore 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.

 

“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Lk 4:21) // “And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.” (I Jn 5:4)  

 

 

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

 

Pray for those who are experiencing great difficulties and challenges in loving and serving God and neighbor. When you are in the same situation, persevere with faith, confident that love triumphs over all.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

January 10, 2020: FRIDAY – CHRISTMAS WEEKDAY

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Cleanses the Leper”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

1 Jn 5:5-13 // Lk 5:12-16

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 5:12-16): “The leprosy left him immediately.”

 

The Son of God became flesh for our saving. Today’s Gospel reading (Lk 5:12-16) depicts the compassionate act of Jesus on behalf of the leper who falls prostrate before him, pleading: “Lord, if you wish, you can make him clean.” Lepers are considered a menace to society and are thoroughly ostracized at the time of Jesus. But our Savior breaks through social prohibitions to help the outcasts. Jesus does not stand at a distance fearing contamination. He “touches” the leper and accompanies it with the efficacious words: “I do will it. Be made clean.” The afflicted leper is made clean by his faith in Jesus and is victorious.

 

In the modern times, our beloved Pope Francis, like Jesus and Saint Francis of Assisi, reaches out to touch lovingly a “leper” (cf. Gina Loehr, “A Loving Kiss” in St. Anthony Messenger, October 2014, p. 28).

 

Vinicio Rivia is used to rejection. The large tumors and discolored spots covering his body make his appearance a fearful one.

 

“Go away! Don’t sit next to me!” a man once blurted out when Vinicio boarded a bus. Even Vinicio’s father won’t touch him. Such responses are all too common.

 

But Pope Francis is not a common man. When he encountered Vinicio at a public audience, his response was entirely different. Without hesitation, the Holy Father warmly embraced the disfigured man, kissed his head and blessed him.

 

As Vinicio later pointed out, although neurofibromatosis isn’t contagious, Pope Francis didn’t know that. Moved by compassion, the Pope made this kiss at his own risk. Fear or revulsion didn’t stop the Holy Father from offering this gesture of wholehearted acceptance, a gesture that touched the suffering man profoundly. “I felt only love”, Vinicio reported.

 

Love trumped fear in this beautiful moment. Like his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis allowed love to triumph when he encountered Vinicio. Though some may treat this man like a modern day leper, Pope Francis reached out as if to say, “I accept you and I love you.” As one mother of a son with neurofibromatosis noted, “The Pope, by his action, is embracing all the families of all those suffering with this condition.”

 

Both St. Francis and Pope Francis have brought joy to others through their courageous love. But such acts of Christ-like compassion also affect the person doing it.

 

“Just think of what happened to St. Francis when he embraced the leper”, Pope Francis said in a homily months before meeting Vinicio. “His life changed.” Perhaps our lives will also change if we, like both men named Francis, reach out to others with heartfelt acceptance.

 

 

B. First Reading (I Jn 5:5-13): “The spirit, the water, and the blood.”

 

Today’s First Reading (I Jn 5:5-13) asserts that faith is belief and total surrender to Jesus. He is the Son of God who, in the Christmas mystery, becomes man to save us. He comes “by water and Blood”. He is proclaimed “Son of God” by the heavenly Father in the baptism at the River Jordan. Jesus is again declared “Son of God” upon the cross by the Roman centurion. Indeed, Jesus brings to completion the messianic mission he embraced in baptism by the outpouring of his Blood on the cross.

 

The Holy Spirit is a witness to the saving events of Christ’s baptism and his bloody sacrifice on the cross. Moreover, through the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist, the Spirit continues to testify in the Church to the reality of Jesus’ baptism and sacrificial death. As the faithful responds to the Spirit’s testimony, the saving events of Jesus become, for that person, a revelation of the Father. It is for this reason that the witness of the Spirit is called the “testimony of God”. The Spirit, the water and the Blood are, therefore, part of God’s testimony. To deny them is to reject God’s own witness and is tantamount to accusing the Father of being a liar. The content of the witness is the eternal life that God wishes to share with us in his beloved Son Jesus Christ.

 

We are called to be faithful Christian witnesses in the here and now. From the blood bath of the Columbine High School tragedy, the heroic witnessing of a teenage girl emerged awesome (cf. chapter 5 of Sr. Mary Rose McGeady’ book, “Please Forgive Me, God”).

 

The two kids walked into the schoolyard an arsenal of weapons hanging from their bodies and hidden inside their black trench coats. Their first two victims were a 17-year-old girl and 15-year-old freshman boy, both classmates, who were shot in the head and the back immediately outside the front entrance to the school. Once inside, the two killers strode quickly through the school, first to the cafeteria then upstairs to the library, pointing guns at their terrified classmates, casually deciding who should live and who should die. As each shot rang out, and each innocent life was snuffed out, we’re told the kids laughed triumphantly, and then moved on to the next victim … In one particularly nightmarish sequence, one of the killers confronted a girl trembling on the ground, and asked if she believed in God. Knowing full well the safe answer, the girl stood her ground. “There is a God”, she said quietly, “and you need to follow along God’s path”. “There is no God”, the boy gunman said, and shot her in the head. (…) The girl proclaimed her belief in God, knowing that her answer would be the last words she ever spoke.

 

 

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

 

Like the trusting leper, do we turn to Jesus in our distress and afflictions? Do we treasure the testimony given by “the Spirit, the water and Blood”? Do we endeavor to give faithful witnessing to Christ through “the water and Blood” by the power of the Spirit?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

the spirit of your Son Jesus,

continues to give witness to him

through the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist.

By the power of the Spirit,

help us to witness faithfully in today’s world

the great love you have for us

in sending us Jesus our Savior.

Let us live fully our baptismal consecration

and enable us to embrace the Eucharistic sacrifice.

You live and reign,

forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“Be made clean.” (Lk 5:13) // “And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” (I Jn 5:11)

 

 

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

 

By your kind words and deeds let your Christian testimony shine in today’s world. When you make the sign of the cross and do other religious acts, such as vocal prayer, kneeling at Mass, etc., do them in such as a way as to inspire and give witness to your Christian faith.

 

*** *** ***

January 11, 2020: SATURDAY – CHRISTMAS WEEKDAY

“JESUS SAVIOR: John the Baptist Gives Witness to Him”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

1 Jn 5:14-21 // Jn 3:22-30

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 3:22-30): “The friend of the bridegroom rejoices at the bridegroom’s voice.”

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Jn 3:22-30) presents John the Baptist’s final witness to Jesus. The Baptist has previously confessed that he is not the Messiah and that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The people leave him to seek the baptism of Jesus. Devoted disciples of John try to talk to him into waking up that Jesus is taking the people away from him. The “prophet of the Most High” mentioned in the canticle of Zechariah makes a final declaration that he is not the Christ. John the Baptist celebrates Jesus as the bridegroom who has finally come to claim his bride. His final witness to Jesus consists in living out the implication of his mission: “he must increase; I must decrease”.

 

The following story is an example of how to imitate John the Baptist in his selfless Christian witnessing (cf. Chaplain Samuel Boone, “The Ministry of Presence” in Guideposts, December 2011, p. 58).

 

Christmas time can be lonesome for soldiers. I remember being stuck on an Army base in Germany one Christmas Eve with a case of the flu. My buddies went out partying while I could barely move from my bunk. The one person who dropped by was a chaplain. “Son”, he said, “you look like you could use some chicken soup.”

 

I didn’t put much stock in religion then, but the fact that this was a busy man – he had a Christmas Eve service to put on after all – made time to see me made an impression. He even brought by some of his wife’s chicken soup. That’s what military chaplains call the ministry of presence. You can’t expect the soldiers under your care to waltz into your office. You’ve got to reach them where they are: in the mess hall, at their posts, in the barracks.

 

That good man changed my life. I got well, dropped by the chapel, made a profession of faith and eventually became a chaplain myself.

 

 

B. First Reading (I Jn 5:14-21): “God hears us in regard to whatever we ask.”

 

In the First Reading (I Jn 5:14-21), the author of the First Letter of John concludes with an exhortation to confident prayer: if we ask anything according to the will of God, our prayer is heard. The experience of God’s love made “manifest” in Jesus inspires this prayer of trust and surrender. We should pray especially for the forgiveness of those who have sinned and be cautious about the “deadly sin” of the apostates. Their rejection of the whole witness of God and their deliberate apostasy – choosing darkness over light, death over life, hatred over love – is death-dealing. Hence, the disciples must avoid the lethal “idolatry” of the “antichrists” who deny the incarnation of Christ and who reject God’s gift of Christmas.

 

The following story, “Winter Morning Guest”, by John Edmund Haggai, illustrates the power of true prayer (cf. Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stories of Faith, ed. Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, Cos Cob: CSS, 2008, p. 134-136).

 

One winter morning in 1931, I came down to breakfast – and found the table empty. It was cold outside. The worst blizzard on record had paralyzed the city. No cars were out. The snow had drifted up two stories high against our house, blackening the windows.

 

“Daddy, what’s happening?” I asked. I was six years old. Gently Dad told me our fuel and food supplies were exhausted. He’d just put the last piece of coal on the fire. Mother had eight ounces of milk left for my baby brother, Tom. After that – nothing.

 

“So what are we going to eat?” I asked. “We’ll have our devotions first, John Edmund”, he said in a voice that told me I should not ask questions. My father was a pastor. He arrived as a teenager in the United States with no money and barely a word of English – nothing but his vocation to preach. He knew hardship of a kind few see today. Yet my parents consistently gave away at least ten percent of their income, and no one but God ever knew when we were in financial need.

 

That morning, Dad read the scriptures as usual, and afterwards we knelt for prayer. He prayed earnestly for the family, for our relatives and friends, for those he called the “missionaries of the cross” and those in the city who’d endured the blizzard without adequate shelter.

 

Then he prayed something like this: “Lord, Thou knowest we have no more coal to burn. If it can please Thee, send us some fuel. If not, Thy will be done – we thank Thee for warm clothes and bedcovers, which will keep us comfortable, even without fire. Also, Thou knowest we have no food except milk for Baby Thomas. If it can please Thee …” For someone facing bitter cold and hunger, he was remarkably calm. Nothing deflected him from completing the family devotions – not even the clamor we now heard beyond the muffling wall of snow.

 

Finally someone pounded on the door. The visitor had cleared the snow off the windowpane, and we saw his face peering in. “Your door’s iced up”, he yelled. “I can’t open it.” The devotions over, Dad jumped up. He pulled; the man pushed. When the door finally gave, an avalanche of snow fell into the entrance hall. I didn’t recognize the man, and I don’t think Dad did either because he said politely, “Can I help you?”

 

The man explained he was a farmer who’d heard Dad preach in Allegan three years earlier. “I awakened at four o’clock this morning”, he said, “and I couldn’t get you out of my mind. The truck was stuck in the garage, so I harnessed the horses to the sleigh and came over.” “Well, please come in”, my father said. On any other occasion, he’d have added, “And have some breakfast with us.” But, of course, today there was no breakfast.

 

The man thanked him. And then – to our astonishment – he plucked a large box off the sleigh. More than sixty years later, I can see the box as clear as yesterday. It contained milk, eggs, butter, pork chops, grain, homemade bread and a host of other things. When the farmer had delivered the box, he went back out and got a cord of wood. Finally, after a very hearty breakfast, he insisted Dad take a ten-dollar bill.

 

Almost every day Dad reminded us that “God is the Provider”. And my experience throughout adult life has confirmed it. “I have never seen the righteous forsaken nor their children begging for bread” (Psalm 37:25). The Bible said it. But Dad and Mom showed me it was true.

 

 

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

 

Like John the Baptist are we willing to give witness to Jesus? Do we entrust ourselves to God in confident prayer? Do we believe that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears it? Do we pray for the forgiveness of sinners and do we keep alive the Christmas mystery in our hearts?

 

 

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

 

            Loving Father,

we believe in the power of prayer.

We believe that if we ask anything according to your will,

you hear it.

We pray especially for the forgiveness of sin.

Give us the grace to be faithful

and let the spirit of Christmas be alive in our hearts

every day of our life.

You live and reign,

forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“He rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice.” (Jn 3:29) // “If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” (I Jn 5:14)

 

 

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

 

When you ask God anything in prayer, let it be accompanied by “If it is according to your will”. 

 

***

 

 

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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