A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday and Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 12, n. 8)

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time and Weekday 2: January 19-25, 2014 ***

 

 

(N.B. The pastoral tool BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD: A LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY LITURGY includes a prayerful study of the Sunday liturgy of Year A from three perspectives. For reflections on the Sunday liturgy based on the Gospel reading, please scroll up to the “ARCHIVES” above and open Series 3. For reflections based on the Old Testament reading, open Series 6. For reflections based on the Second Reading, open Series 9. Please go to Series 10 and Series 12 for the back issues of the Weekday Lectio.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: January 19-25, 2014. The weekday reflections are based on the First Reading. For the weekday reflections based on the Gospel Reading, please open Series 10.)

 

***

 

January 19, 2014: SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Lamb of God”        

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 49:3, 5-6 // I Cor 1:1-3 // Jn 1:29-34

 

 

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

 

On August 30, 2004, I had an enjoyable experience at the Sacramento State Fair. At the livestock section, I saw for the first time sheep and lambs at close range. When I was in Italy, I had seen shepherds tending their sheep, but only in passing and at a distance. Hence, that pleasant afternoon at the State Fair, I was aglow as I observed charming, huggable lambs in the stalls. My interest grew as I watched sturdy-looking sheep being shorn expertly by proud animal tenders. What really impressed me was the docility of the sheep as they submitted themselves to the sheepshearers. As each gentle sheep stood with its chin slightly elevated and resting on a bar, the beautiful eyes half-closed in total surrender, the atmosphere was of utter calmness and trust. The sheep being shorn were not tied! As I gazed on the lovable sheep at the Sacramento State Fair, I remembered the words of the prophet Isaiah about the Servant of Yahweh: “Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth”. Indeed, Isaiah’s prophecy anticipates John the Baptist’s witness about Jesus: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.

 

The Epiphany theme of the messianic revelation is prolonged through Ordinary Time, a liturgical season focused on the pastoral ministry of Jesus. The liturgical color of the Sundays in Ordinary Time (“ordinary” because the Sundays are in “ordinal” or in sequence) is green, which symbolizes hope, a pervading tone throughout this longest season of the Church year. The green color of these Sundays evokes the life-giving function of the Good Shepherd who leads us to “restful waters” and “meadows of green grass”. We are nourished at the table of the Word and the Eucharist and Jesus Master-Shepherd thus revives our soul.

 

On this second Sunday in Ordinary Time, the Gospel puts us in contact with Jesus Savior, the central object of John the Baptist’s witnessing and the sole reason for his baptizing. The Paschal Lamb who is slain to take away the sin of the world is Jesus, the Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father. The Lamb of God – Servant of Yahweh – proves his intimate filial relationship with God by fully submitting to the divine saving will, by his death on the Cross and rising to new life.

 

The baptismal event in which the Holy Spirit comes down upon Jesus to anoint him for the messianic mission is the occasion when John the Baptist recognizes Jesus as “the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit”. The Holy Spirit is the life-giving source of the Christ’s saving ministry and our new life as children of God. The Holy Spirit is the principle of our belonging to Christ. Indeed, the efficacious witnessing of John the Baptist and the Christian disciples depends on their openness to the Holy Spirit.

 

 

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

 

What does the witnessing of John the Baptist about Jesus as the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” and the “Son of God” mean to us personally? How does it affect our lives? Like John the Baptist, are we witnesses of Christ? Do we open up ourselves to the grace of the Holy Spirit, allowing him to anoint us for the messianic task of proclaiming the Gospel?

  

 

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

  

Loving Father,

Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God

who takes away the sin of the world.

Help us to be receptive to the grace of the Holy Spirit,

alive and at work in us.

Like John the Baptist,

may we be zealous precursors of Christ

and limpid witnesses of his sacrificial love.

Strengthened by the power of the Spirit of Jesus,

may we be instruments of your Son’s compassion

in today’s suffering and fragmented world.

Through him, with him, and in him,

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 week. Please memorize it.

 

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (Jn 1:29) 

 

 

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

 

At the Eucharistic celebration, pray with devotion the prayer at the breaking of the bread: “Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world”. Resolve to carry out the pastoral-sacrificial mission of Christ on behalf of the poor and needy, especially those devastated by natural calamities.

 

***

 

January 20, 2014: MONDAY – WEEKDAY (2); SAINT FABIAN, pope, martyr; SAINT SEBASTIAN, martyr

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Bridegroom and the Obedient One”

 

BIBLE READINGS

I Sm 1:15:16-23 // Mk 2:18-22

 

 

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

 

Christ, the Bridegroom of the Church, invites us to a new relationship that transcends mere legal observance and superficial piety. A loving relationship with the Bridegroom entails a radical transformation and infuses new meaning into such religious practices as fasting. The Christian disciples would fast, but for the right reason. Indeed, the followers of Jesus exercise various forms of salutary asceticism, in a spirit of receptivity to the coming of the Kingdom. They carry these out in anticipation of the full joy that is prepared for them by Christ-Bridegroom in the heavenly wedding feast.

 

The radical newness of our relationship with Christ can be compared to a piece of new cloth which should not be sewn onto an old cloak, for it will make the tear even greater. It can also be compared to new wine which should not be poured into an old wineskin for it will cause the skin to break and spill the wine. Indeed, the love-relationship with Christ, the Bridegroom, demands an exhilaratingly new vision and life-style, symbolically portrayed by Mark as “new wine being poured into fresh wineskins” (cf. Mk 2:22).

 

The following story is charming and funny, but it gives us an idea of what “fasting” from evil thoughts and unkind words means (cf. Anthony de Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations, New York: Image Books, 1988, p. 125).

 

There was once a priest so holy that he never thought ill of anyone. One day he sat down at a restaurant for a cup of coffee which was all he could take, it being a day of fast and abstinence, when, to his surprise, he saw a young member of his congregation devouring a massive steak at the next table. “I trust I haven’t shocked you, Father”, said the young fellow with a smile. “Ah! I take it that you forgot that today is a day of fast and abstinence”, said the priest. “No, no. I remember it distinctly.” “Then you must be sick. The doctor has forbidden you to fast.” “Not at all. I’m in the pink of health.” At that, the priest raised his eyes to heaven and said, “What an example this younger generation is to us, Lord! Do you see how this young man here would rather admit his sins than tell a lie?”

 

The Old Testament reading depicts the downward course of Saul’s rule as the first king of Israel. Through the prophet Samuel, Saul receives the divine order to put the sinful Amalekites under a “ban of destruction”. Like patriarch Abraham, Saul is being “tested” with a divine command. Whereas Abraham responded with an obedient faith, King Saul chooses to re-interpret the divine order. The victims of the ban, by being totally destroyed, are considered to be given over wholly to God in sacrifice. But Saul spares Agag, thwarting the divine decree of punishment. He also pounces on the spoil and withholds the best sheep and cattle for sacrifice. He probably thinks that sparing the best of the spoil as “sacrifice” would be pious and pleasing to God. Moreover, Saul has gone to Carmel to erect a monument for himself. The prophet Samuel thus utters an oracle against Saul: because he has rejected the command of the Lord, God too has rejected Saul as ruler. Obedience is better than sacrifice. Samuel compares Saul’s disobedience to the sin of divination, and his arrogance to idolatry.

 

Like Saul, obedience to God continues to be a challenge for us even today. But some choose to be faithful, as the following account shows (cf. Emily Simpson, “Couples Face Cross of Infertility” in Our Sunday Visitor, November 24, 2-13, p. 6-8).

 

For millions of Americans – as many as one-sixth of married couples – the face of the childless life remains what it always was, with the cross of infertility weighing all the heavier in a culture that no longer recognizes it as such. That cross, in many ways, is a cross of shattered expectations … The cross of infertility also brings with it a cross of seemingly endless doctor’s visits. (…)

 

Most couples trying unsuccessfully to conceive face those challenges. Catholic couples, however, face additional ones. First, they have to accept (then explain to others) that some options open to non-Catholics are off the table. “Everyone wants to know why we won’t try in-vitro fertilization”, said Jennifer Dornbush. “Especially when it’s the last viable medical option. They don’t understand why Catholics can’t go that route. Even when you explain, they don’t get it.”

 

Second, they have to live the childfree (or child-lite) life in a Catholic subculture that values large families. That’s a struggle for Mary Langley. Married at 37, she was thrilled when she gave birth to two children within a few years of getting married, and peacefully accepted her inability to conceive after that. Ten years later, however, in a Boston-area parish filled with large families, Langley often feels out of place. “Some assume we used contraception or that I waited to have children because of a career” she said. “They just have no idea. I would love to have more children. I would love to have been married earlier. It just wasn’t part of God’s plan.” (…)

 

Despite those struggles, the cross of infertility can bring blessings of a different sort. For Dornbush, the past 13 years have taught her about trusting God and letting go of the illusion of control. Langley said she’s grateful for the schooling humility that’s come with her small family. “It’s a trap when people have too high opinion of you”, she said. More opportunities for service outside the home also can present themselves.” (…) Dornbush, who works in the entertainment industry with her husband, agrees.

 

 

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

 

Are we faithful to our covenant with Christ, the Bridegroom of the Church? How? Do we believe that an interior attitude of obedience is better than external “sacrifice”? How do we live out our total obedience to God in daily life?

 

 

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

  

Lord Jesus,

when you took on flesh,

you made a marriage of mankind with God.

Give us the grace to persevere

until you call us to the heavenly marriage feast.

Teach us to fast from sin and reject evil ways

that we may worthily share in the supper of the Lamb.

You are the Bridegroom of the Church

and the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

You call us to drink the new wine

that is poured out from the fresh wineskins.

Help us to give you

the total obedience of our heart and life.

We love you and adore you;

we praise and serve 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.

 

            “Obedience is better than sacrifice.” (I Sm 15:22)

 

 

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

 

When you attend a wedding ceremony, pay attention to the text and rituals used in the celebration, and see how they evoke the nuptial relationship between Christ and his Body, the Church. When confronted with difficult choices for God in daily life, ask him to grant you the grace of an obedient heart.

 

***

 

January 21, 2014: TUESDAY – SAINT AGNES, virgin, martyr

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Lord of the Sabbath and God’s Anointed”

 

BIBLE READINGS

I Sm 16:1-13 // Mk 2:23-28

 

 

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

 

The wind was howling when I opened the gate. The village head asked shelter for women and children from an impending typhoon. I presented the urgent request to the Superior. She acted promptly with good judgment and compassion. We prepared a place for the evacuees. This happened in the 1970s when rules for convent enclosure were strictly enforced. Indeed, we felt that, in a crisis situation, charity takes precedence over cloister rules.

 

Today’s Gospel presents Jesus as Lord even of the Sabbath. Like David, who disregarded the sanctity of the tabernacle to feed his men, Jesus manifested the same freedom and sensitivity to the needs of others. He showed that genuine human need subsumes norms governing human life and conduct. Rules are meant for the total good of the human person and the spirit of charity must prevail over all. Wisely guided by the principle – The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath – Christians cannot be too rigid or too lax in the observance of rules that promote the individual and common good.

 

The Old Testament reading is about the election and anointing of an insignificant shepherd boy as the one to replace Saul as king of Israel. God has rejected the disobedient and presumptuous Saul. Following the divine order, the prophet Samuel anoints David, the youngest son of Jesse of Bethlehem. The least likely candidate among Jesse’s sons is God’s chosen one. At the anointing, the spirit of the Lord comes mightily upon David who is empowered to shepherd God’s flock. The God who chooses David to guide his people is the same loving God who calls forth the entire creation and all peoples into existence. The Lord God is the font of vocation. He is the author of the saving plan to redeem mankind through his Servant-Son Jesus Christ, the ultimate “Chosen One”.

 

The vocation and “anointing” of servants of God continue through salvation history. Here is a modern-day example (cf. Susan Hines-Brigger, “The Iron Friar” in St. Anthony Messenger, November 2013, p. 6).

 

For Father Daniel Callahan, a Franciscan Friar of the Atonement, exercising is a good way to connect his physical and spiritual health. He says it’s also a wonderful time to pray, pointing out that even Jesus went off into the desert to pray. “It’s my desert”, he says. “It’s a place to go and be with the Lord. I can talk to God.”

 

In fact, it was in a swimming pool where he had his conversion experience. Father Dan began searching for his spiritual home. He visited Graymore, the home of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, in Garrison, New York, in 1978 and joined the community two years later. After six years, he professed his final vows and was ordained the following year.

 

While he was ministering in South Central Los Angeles, his sister and brother-in-law invited him to do a triathlon. Father Dan had never done one and hadn’t trained, but figured he could swim, run, and bike, so why not? Soon after his time in Los Angeles, Father Dan was assigned as chaplain at St. Joseph’s Addiction Treatment and Recovery Center in Saranac Lake, New York. It was at a triathlon in Lake Placid, New York, that Father Dan began celebrating Mass for the athletes. “I was one of the athletes and preached in a way that would bring the race into the Gospel”, he says. (…)

 

He says running provides him with an opportunity to be accessible to people who may not connect with him on a faith level, but as an athlete. He appreciates the opportunity “to be able to meet them and bring them around to a deeper awareness of who Jesus Christ is, and to help people wake up to the presence and reality we have so immediately available to us because of God’s love and humility.

 

 

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

 

What is our attitude towards the rules and norms in the society and in the Church? Do we pray for and give our generous collaboration to those chosen and anointed by God for the service of his people?

 

 

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

 

O loving Father,

teach us the wisdom and compassion of Jesus

that we may grasp the meaning of the law and norms

in the society and the Church.

Rules are meant for the well-being of the person

and to promote the common good.

Grant your abundant blessings upon your “anointed” ones

that they may faithfully serve the flock entrusted to their care.

We thank and bless you, now and forever.

Amen.

 

  

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

 

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

 

            “Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand, anointed him.” (I Sm 16:13) 

 

 

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

 

Make an effort to understand, memorize, and put into practice the Ten Commandments and the precepts of the Catholic Church. Give a word of encouragement to your pastor and the priests ministering in your parish.

 

***

 

January 22, 2014: WEDNESDAY – WEEKDAY (2)

Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Healing Love Transcends Barriers and Makes Him Victorious”

 

BIBLE READINGS

I Sm 17:32-33, 37, 40-51 // Mk 3:1-6

 

 

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

           

Jesus is angered and grieved at the hardness of heart of the Pharisees who object to his healing ministry on a Sabbath. Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath, declares that the Sabbath is made for man and not the other way around. He performs healings even on a Sabbath. He feels it is better to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, and to save life rather than to destroy it. His saving love is inclusive and transcending. His saving works are not shackled by a narrow-minded Sabbath observance. There is no time or day when Jesus feels restricted to heal the sick and serve the needy. Jesus breaks down false restrictions and barriers to promote human well-being and dignity.

 

The following story illustrates the need to follow the non-restrictive stance of Christ and the necessity of overcoming barriers of alienation in our community (cf. Bill Zalot, “I Belong!” in THE WORD AMONG US, Advent 2011, p. 62-65).

 

You Don’t Belong: Until I was twelve, I felt like a valued member of the church. This had a lot to do with the fact that my home parish was founded just before I was born and that for years, until a church could be built, we had Mass in the gymnasium of the parish school. The place was easily accessible to people like me who needed wheelchairs. I felt an intimacy and closeness to God there that I will never forget. There was no barrier, no silent sign telling me I didn’t belong.

 

Everything changed with the opening of our new church in 1988. Suddenly, the place where I always felt accepted became the place where I felt most rejected. This building had no way for me to get inside. There was no wheelchair ramp – just two flight of steps that said, You don’t belong.

 

Our pastor’s attitude affirmed my sense of rejection. “There’s no need to bring him here”, he would tell my parents. Thankfully, they ignored his advice and found ways to get me to Sunday Mass. Still his words angered me. I became determined to attend Mass – both to defy him and to obey a God who I thought would condemn me if I missed. Inside, though, I grew increasingly bitter and withdrawn.

 

Unbound! It took the help of other priests – a college chaplain, as well as those who succeeded our founding pastor – to reverse my attitude. These men were more like one of my heroes, St. Lawrence. He is the third century Roman martyr who saw the lame, the blind, and the poor members of the church as its true treasures. With their encouragement, I began to participate in parish life and to discover a God of mercy who loves me and welcomes me as I am.

 

In the process, I came to realize that I couldn’t let physical barriers dictate my mood. It was my responsibility to determine whether I would be positive and caring or negative and bitter. It was something I could choose to do. Just as I could freely choose to use my wheelchair to get around, I didn’t have to let anger and resentment keep me from moving forward with the Lord.

 

This realization made a huge difference in my life. For one thing, it helped me to forgive the pastor who had caused me so much pain. And as my bitterness slipped away, I felt myself grow. No longer was I content with being a Catholic who simply “follows the rules”. I wanted to embrace my faith and live it fully everyday! I wanted to be near Jesus and get to know his word and his love for me – regardless of whether I felt welcome at church or was physically able to do the things that everyone else could do.

 

It has been a pleasant surprise to discover how many things I can do. Over the years, I have used my gifts to serve the parish as a lector, sponsor, religious-education teacher, and outreach committee member. I wrote a series of parish bulletin articles on the role of people with disabilities in the church today. I have represented our parish at archdiocesan conferences. All of this has been truly healing for me. (…)

 

Today’s Old Testament reading depicts the shepherd boy David, God’s “chosen one”, now at work to save Israel. In the battle against the Philistines the Israelites are the underdog. Goliath, a powerful and magnificently armed giant over nine feet tall, taunts Saul and his army encamped on the opposite hill. Saul and his men are terrified. Young David, sent by his father Jesse to bring provisions for his brothers in the Israelite camp, takes up the challenge. Trusting in the Lord, David’s fearless acceptance of the giant’s challenge shines out against the abject terror of the Israelites. David is convinced that the Lord does not need swords or spears to save his people who will be victorious. David overcomes Goliath with a sling and stone. The emboldened Israelites pursue the Philistines and rout them.

 

On this anniversary of the Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade (1973), all the dioceses of the United States are called to observe a Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children. It is likewise fitting to remember the many “Davids” in our society who fight courageously against gigantic death-dealing forces (cf. Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller, “Behind the Scenes of Pro-Life Movement” in Our Sunday Visitor, November 24, 2013, p. 18-19).

 

The faithful are supporting the pro-life movement in many small ways. Some contribute their art, legal or medical advice, knit blankets for babies, mail out requested materials, run crisis pregnancy centers, manage websites, make phone calls and otherwise contribute to protecting the dignity of life in all stages. “It is really a movement”, said Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. (…)

 

“The vast majority of people in the pro-life movement are unsung heroes”, Doerflinger told Our Sunday Visitor. Although many have never been heard of nor received public recognition, they continue to be “of enormous importance” with their contributions. “One of the great reasons for hope in the movement is the active involvement of so many young people”, he added. “There’s a new generation who are very enthusiastic and very committed.”

 

And there’s no such thing as too young. “My grandchild who is 18 months old, prays with us for the babies”, said Tama Kain, who teaches religion and English at St. Patrick School in McCook, Nebraska. Kain organized students to collect diapers for an annual project sponsored by the Lincoln Diocesan Council of Catholic Women who always exceed their goal of donating 50,000 diapers to Catholic Social Services and crisis pregnancy centers. The 50 participating St. Patrick students contributed 6,056.

 

When the collection ended in October, the students had a pro-life program and sang the song, “We Want to See the World”. The song was written by David Burke of Duluth, Georgia, a musician, composer of sacred songs and music leader at Mary Our Queen Church in Norcross. “When the melody came to me, I pictured an angel singing back and forth with children”, he said. “God sent me this sing to be heard by expectant parents contemplating an abortion.” The lyrics are a dialogue between unborn children who are asking their parents to bring them into the world. It’s the most requested song he’s ever written, and he makes the sheet music available for free to churches, schools and pro-life organizations (David-BurkeSongs.com).

 

When a group performed it at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C., Burke said, there was not a dry eye among the thousands attending. “God is using me as a vessel to bring his voice and message to the world in song”, he said. “I have a dream that some person comes to me someday and says my song made his or her parent choose life instead of abortion.” (…)

 

 

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

 

Is our love for our brothers and sisters all-inclusive or do we give in to legalism, prejudices and other attitudes that create barriers and limit our care for them? Do we believe that just as David slew Goliath by the power of God, we too will be victorious against the death-dealing forces in our society today through divine grace?

 

 

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

 

Thank you, loving Jesus,

for your courage to do good in spite of opposition.

You healed the man with the withered hand

even though the “legalistic mind” of the Pharisees

considered it improper and irreverent.

Give us the grace to overcome “barriers”

so that your healing love may touch the afflicted

at any moment and in any place.

Fill us with your all-inclusive compassion

and love that knows no seasons.

Make us courageous like the shepherd boy David

in our fight against the death-dealing forces of today’s world.

We love you, we praise you and we serve 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.

  

“The battle is the Lord’s.” (I Sm 17:47) 

 

 

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

 

Endeavor to help the disabled and other people who are physically challenged to experience the healing power of God. Pray for the right of the unborn and for all the victims of illegal and legalized abortion. Do what you can to promote the pro-life movement.

 

 

***

 

January 23, 2014: THURSDAY – WEEKDAY (2); SAINT VINCENT, deacon, martyr (USA); SAINT MARIANNE COPE, virgin (USA)

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Restores Life by His Healing Touch and He Is a True Friend”

 

BIBLE READINGS

I Sm 18:6-9; 19:1-7 // Mk 3:7-12

 

 

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

 

In January 2011, I was on Cebú Island in the Philippines to attend the Santo Nino celebration. I had a chance to participate in the vigil novena at Saint Joseph’s Cathedral in Mandaue City. I was awed by the thousands of people who lined up in snake-like formation and were patiently waiting to touch the Santo Niño. At the fluvial parade the following morning, a great crowd was lined up on the seashore. Many thousands more were on the bridge. Hundreds of boats with thousands of devotees accompanied the transfer of the Santo Niño from a wharf in Mandaue to a pier in Cebu City. The number of devotees waiting by the seaside to welcome the Santo Niño was unbelievable. They want to “touch”, even if only with their gaze, the beloved Niño, who is the font of blessing and healing.

 

In today’s Gospel, the great crowd seeking Jesus came not only from his native Galilee, but also from Judea and the border regions to the south (Idumea), east (Transjordan) and north (Tyre and Sidon). They were pressing upon Jesus to touch him, yearning to be healed. Jesus healed the man with the withered hand, made the paralytic walk and forgave his sins, cured Simon’s mother-in-law of fever, liberated the demoniac, and cleansed the leper with his “touch”. Jesus had cured so many that those who were sick were crowding about him to touch him. There was power in his touch. The sick and the needy, through time and space, would continue to seek Jesus and touch even the edge of his cloak, for all who touch him are made well. 

 

Today’s Old Testament reading depicts David as a victim of Saul’s rage and jealousy. David’s popularity grows with his victorious exploits and women sing praises of him to Saul’s disadvantage. “All that remains for him is the kingship”, Saul grumbles and he plots to kill him. Jonathan, Saul’s eldest son and heir, takes up the role of David’s protector. Jonathan extracts an oath from his father that he will not kill David. Saul relents and David serves him as before.

 

Jonathan’s covenant friendship with David is worthy to emulate. A friend in need is a friend indeed. The life of Saint Marianne Cope illustrates what it means to be a true “friend” for those in need (cf. James Breig, “Marianne Cope: America’s Other New Saint” in St. Anthony Messenger, October 2012, p. 41).

 

Barbara entered the convent and became a member of the Sisters of St. Francis in nearby Syracuse. Bearing her new religious name, Sister Marianne Cope taught school, was a principal, established two hospitals, and fostered medical education. Such talent and determination led to her being named Mother General of her order.

 

In 1883, Mother Marianne received a letter from the Sandwich Islands in the Pacific, which are now the state of Hawaii. It was an appeal from a priest for the Sisters of St. Francis to send someone to oversee “our hospitals and even our schools … Have pity on our poor sick.” The “poor sick” included those suffering from Hansen’s disease, the medical term for leprosy. The job description, which involved experience in both education and health care, fit one person: Mother Marianne. She replied, “I am hungry for the work and I wish with all my heart to be one of the chosen ones, whose privilege it will be to sacrifice themselves for the salvation of souls of the poor Islanders … I am not afraid of any disease; hence, it would be my greatest delight even to minister to the abandoned ‘lepers’.”

 

Mother Marianne led a delegation from her order to Hawaii and set about fulfilling the letter writer’s hopes. She told the sisters that their duty was, “To make life as pleasant and as comfortable as possible for those of our fellow creatures whom God has chosen to afflict with this terrible disease.” Up went a hospital on Maui; the care and treatment of lepers improved; a home for healthy girls whose parents had the disease was founded. Mother Marianne’s work naturally led her to meet another Catholic laboring in Hawaii: Father Damien Veuster, the Belgian priest who has been called “the Apostle to the Lepers”. After his death in 1889, Mother Marianne added his ministry to her own.

 

When she had left for the Sandwich Islands, Mother Marianne intended to stay only long enough to establish her order’s presence. Instead, she resigned her position with the order. Working with the victims of Hansen’s disease became her life’s mission. She died in Hawaii in 1918.

 

 

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

 

Do I seek Jesus and yearn for his healing touch? Do I make an effort to touch Jesus and experience the power that flows out from him? Do I have a friend who cares for me in my need? Am I a friend to those in need?

 

 

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

 

Jesus,

your touch heals

and your power drives the evil that threatens us.

You are always there for us.

We extend our hand to touch you

and you allow yourself to be touched.

Help us to extend a friendly hand to those in need.

Let us be true friends to the poor and forsaken.

We praise and bless you

for you are our Savior, 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.

 

“The Lord brought about a great victory for all Israel through David.” (I Sm 19:5)  

 

 

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

 

By your act of care and charity to the sick and the marginalized, let the healing touch of Jesus come to them. Be a kindly friend to them.

 

 

***

 

January 24, 2014: FRIDAY – SAINT FRANCIS DE SALES, bishop, doctor of the Church

(N.B. “Dies Natalis” of Blessed Timothy Giaccardo who offered his life for the PDDM)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Summons and Sends Disciples and Great Is His Generosity”

 

BIBLE READINGS

I Sm 24:3-21 // Mk 3:13-19

 

 

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

 

In yesterday’s Gospel episode we heard of the crowd pressing about Jesus, wanting to touch him and be healed. Jesus needs to withdraw into a boat to avoid being crushed. Against that chaotic setting, today’s episode of the call of the disciples is refreshing and peaceful. Jesus goes up the mountain and summons those whom he wants. They respond and come to him. He designates the “Twelve” and symbolically founds the twelve tribes of the new Israel, the Church – the new people of God. Their mission is to be with Jesus. The blessed intimacy with Jesus is a formative moment to learn the mysteries of the kingdom and the meaning of discipleship. But their life of intimacy is in view of mission: to send them forth to preach and have authority to drive out demons.

 

Jesus Christ lives on in the Church. He continues to call modern-day disciples that he may send them to preach the Gospel and exorcise evil powers. In 2003, we went to a nearby parish in Staten Island to attend the concert of John Michael Talbot. His beautiful music manifests a deep spirituality and reveals his intimate communion with God. As God’s troubadour, Talbot spreads the Gospel through his songs. During the concert, while he was singing and playing a guitar, the sound system squealed diabolically. The malfunction caused a great disturbance. John stopped singing and put down the guitar. He bowed down his head and prayed. He invoked God to cast out the spirit of disorder and begged him to restore the order needed to sing his praise. Immediately peace and order were restored. It was awesome! John continued his songs undisturbed. The power to cast out evil is given to Christian disciples even today.

 

Today’s Old Testament reading makes me remember an incident that happened in Bombay (now Mumbai) in 1984. A young Sister and I were walking home to our Prarthanalaya convent near the Bandra sea coast. A group of young men were sitting by the sea breakers. One of them eyed us with curiosity and called out: “Look at those girls!” His friend rebuked him: “Those are Sisters and you can’t fool with them.” I was touched by the respect he showed for us Sisters, who are totally consecrated to the Lord.

 

The biblical account depicts David as truly respectful and reverent with regards to God’s anointed. He could have taken revenge upon Saul, who has been pursuing him relentlessly and unjustly, but he shows extraordinary restraint not to harm the anointed of the Lord. Since piety holds back his hand from killing Saul, David looks to the Lord to vindicate him. David humbly presents himself to the king with a skillful speech so persuasive that Saul is reduced to tears. Saul responds with a confession of sin, an acknowledgement of David’s great generosity in sparing his life, and a prophetic announcement that David will be a king.

 

 

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

 

Do we treasure our vocation of intimacy with the Lord and faithfully respond to the mission we have received to preach the Gospel and cast out the power of evil? Do we show respect for the dignity of every human person and especially for those who have been “anointed” or “consecrated” for God’s service?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

we thank you for calling the “Twelve”

and for summoning us to a life of intimacy with you.

Teach us, form us, mould us and consecrate us to your service.

Give us the grace to share the Gospel with the nations.

Grant us the power to cast out the power of evil in today’s world.

Enable us to be gracious to those who have wronged us

and to show respect for every human person,

and especially for God’s anointed and the consecrated.

We love you and we put our trust in you.

We praise you and glorify you, now and forever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“Great is the generosity you showed me today.” (I Sm 24:18)

 

 

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

 

Pray for greater fidelity to the Christian vocation and mission. By your spiritual, moral and material help, promote and assist the priestly and religious vocations in the Church. Be gracious and forgiving to those who have wronged you.

 

***

 

January 25, 2014: SATURDAY – CONVERSION OF SAINT PAUL, THE APOSTLE

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Transforms His Persecutor Saul into an Apostle”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 22:3-16 or Acts 9:1-22 // Mk 16:15-18

 

 

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

 

The feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul provides wonderful insights into his spiritual journey. Paul’s spiritual journey was a spiritual experience that produced a transformation and impelled him to assume a mission of evangelization. The converted Paul thus became an apostle of Christ to the nations. On the road to Damascus, Saul of Tarsus had a profound, dynamic spiritual experience. It was God’s initiative, grace, and compassion that brought about Paul’s encounter with the Risen Lord. It was an experience of light – of revelation – of who Christ really is for Paul. Christ revealed himself not as an enemy, but as a personal Savior. Moreover, on the road to Damascus, it was revealed that Jesus of Nazareth lives on in his Body, the Church – the suffering Church. It was a knocked-down experience that left Paul vulnerable, defenseless and open to grace. He could not help but welcome the loving initiative of God. Saint Paul is a model for us of total receptivity and openness to grace.

 

The mystical and transforming experience of Saint Paul is replicated in the lives of many people through time and space. Here is a modern-day example (cf. Nathaniel Hurd, “Former Atheist Recounts His Journey to the Catholic Church” in Our Sunday Visitor, December 1, 2013, p. 22).

 

“These crazy Catholics are going to trample me to get to their bread”, I thought as the crowds pressed forward. It was Easter Sunday Mass 1998, outdoors in St. Peter’s Square. I was traveling with my friend Chris. He was a Catholic and a pilgrim. I was an unbaptized atheist and a tourist. Chris saw priests in cassocks and surplices, distributing the Body and Blood of Christ. I saw men in dresses, carrying bread. Fourteen years later, on October 11, 2012, I stood in that same square as a Catholic. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was the celebrant for the Mass starting the Year of Faith. I was preparing to receive Holy Communion, because seven years earlier, I had finally, fully accepted the gift of faith.

 

In my years as an atheist, agnostic and Episcopalian, I surprisingly remembered almost everything from that earlier Easter: Walking into St. Peter’s Square, thinking it was like two hands cupped together, waiting for people to fill it. Standing ahead of hundreds of thousands of people. Seeing flags from so many countries. Kenyans dancing when Pope John Paul II said “Happy Easter” in Swahili.

 

There is only one other sacred experience from my atheist years that I remembered so completely. My parents and I visited a cloistered convent when I was a teenager and heard the nuns sing evening prayer behind a screen. The prayer ended, and I sat transfixed. I thought it was only the beauty that moved me.

 

How did this atheist come to see the supernatural behind and beyond the beauty? First, Catholic friends modeled and shared the Faith. They answered my questions with respect and reason, not simplistic brush-offs. They stressed that they were sharing the teachings that Christ entrusted to his Church, not personal opinion. These friendships moved me to finally open the door to the divine.

 

God also provided moments of Grace. The first was during a run on Dec. 23, 2001. My thoughts were on the snow that covered the cornstalks, the river to my left and road under my feet. Although I had been thinking about faith over the past few years, I had not focused on Christianity. That moment I recognized the reality of one God in three Persons – Father, Holy Spirit and the Son who lived, died and rose for my sins. It was the start of seeing.

 

Easter 2002, I was baptized Episcopalian. However, I was a lazy disciple who took no responsibility for responding to the Lord. I eventually began to wonder if he was calling me to more than what I was receiving from my faith community. I stopped going to church.

 

On Good Friday two years later, a Catholic friend and colleague invited me to a “Way of the Cross” walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. It was the first Good Friday that the Passion was real and painful for me. The force of Christ’s challenge – “I did this for you. What are you doing daily for me?” – of the faith of the faithful around me, of the whole experience, overwhelmed and lifted me to an Easter Vigil Mass. I sat in back but felt as if I was in front on the altar experiencing Christ’s sacrifice. The power of the liturgy moved me to return for Easter Sunday and reconsider why I had been closed to Catholicism.

 

The more I learned the “what” and “why” of the Church and its teaching, the more it was clear that my original understanding had been based on stereotypes and misinformation. Only the Catholic Church seemed to be the sure way for me to know what Christ taught, how he wanted me to live and where I should go for whatever I needed to do. Only the Church seemed to be preserving and promoting the fullness of the Bible and the teachings of the apostles since Pentecost.

 

I entered a parish Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults program … I was received into full communion with the Church and received first Holy Communion at the Easter Vigil 2005. I was struggling to understand some of the teachings of the Church, but my faith in Christ, the Holy Spirit and the Church was strong.

 

God protected me during many trials. My mother threatened to cut off any communication with me. My father objected to the Church’s teaching that there is one Church and one way. For two years, my parents forbade me from visiting during Christmas and later banned me from using their car to go to Mass when I saw them.

 

Other obstacles were internal. I delayed going to daily Mass, thinking that I wanted to avoid “too much, too soon”. When I started going, I discovered what I had missed, what no one had explained to me: it is impossible to encounter God too much and too early. My personal and professional life changed. Daily Mass led to regular confession. When I returned to Rome, I returned as a Catholic. At St. Peter’s tomb, I made sure to pray for Christian unity.

 

 

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

 

Do we see the mystical experience as an important element in the conversion of Saint Paul and in our own personal conversion?

 

 

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

 (cf. Opening Prayer, Mass of the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul)

 

God our Father,

you taught the gospel to all the world

through the preaching of Paul your apostle.

May we who celebrate his conversion to the faith

follow him in bearing witness to your truth.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, 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.

 

“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4)

 

 

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

 

As we celebrate today the feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, resolve to be more open to the grace of his presence, especially in the Letters of Saint Paul, and to find ways to make people interested in them.

 

***

 

 

Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang  PDDM

 

 

PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI

SISTER DISCIPLES OF THE DIVINE MASTER

60 Sunset Ave., Staten Island, NY 10314

Tel. (718) 494-8597 // (718) 761-2323

Website: WWW.PDDM.US

Go back