A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 18, n. 8)

Week 2 in Ordinary Time: January 19-25, 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: January 12-18, 2020 please go to ARCHIVES Series 18 and click on “Baptism – Ordinary Week 1”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: January 19-25, 2020.)

 

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January 18, 2020: SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

N.B. In the Philippines the Feast of Santo Niño is observed.

  “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Lamb of God”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

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

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 1:29-34): “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

          

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.

 

 

B. First Reading (Is 49:3, 5-6): “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

 

Jesus of Nazareth – the Servant of Yahweh - was destined to take away the sin of the world. The Son of Mary was the personification of the ideal “Servant of Yahweh” prefigured in the Book of Isaiah’s four oracles or “Songs”  (cf. Is 42:1-9; 49:1-7; 50:4-11 and 52:13-53:12). Against the backdrop of this Sunday’s Old Testament reading (Is 49:3, 5-6), which is part of the second “Song of the Servant of Yahweh” (Is 49:1-7), we contemplate Jesus as the universal Savior whose vocation is to be a “light to the nations” and whose mission is to bring salvation to the “ends of the earth”. As the ultimate “Servant”, his saving mission came from the loving God who formed him as his servant “from the womb”.

  

Jesus is truly the sacrificial Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is the beloved Servant-Son who fulfilled his mission to Israel, to all the nations and the entire creation by his radical submission to the Father’s saving plan. Indeed, the meaning of “service” and “mission” was utterly fulfilled by him in his paschal sacrifice.

 

The Christian disciples of all ages are challenged to fully appropriate the saving mystery of Jesus Christ in their lives. As baptized Christians immersed into the Lord’s paschal destiny of death and rising, we are called to spread the light of God’s saving love to all nations. The following story illustrates how 22-year old John-Paul Deddens endeavors to carry out his vocation and mission as a torchbearer in today’s confused and troubled world (cf. “Torchbearers of the Faith” in Our Sunday Visitor, June 10, 2007, p. 10). Like Jesus Christ, the ultimate “Servant of Yahweh”, John-Paul Deddens was “formed as God’s servant from the womb”.

 

The 2007 Sex Out Loud Fair at the University of Illinois, Champaign, looked, for the most part, just like last year’s fair. Like last year, it took place in the student center. Like last year, Planned Parenthood handed out emergency contraception. Like last year, The Feminist Majority and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Alliance distributed literature about “safe sex”, “casual sex”, “group sex” and every kind of sex imaginable. And like last year, there were sex-toy raffles and other off-color activities designed to make light of sexual intimacy.

 

Unlike last year, however, was the theology of the body display set up directly across from the Feminist Majority booth. At the theology of the body display, on the table, sat a basket of Miraculous Medals wrapped in gold foil. “For your spiritual protection,” the students manning the table would say as they passed them out to passersby. Those same students also passed out literature and tapes on Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body and engaged attendees in discussions about the true meaning of sexuality.

 

The display was the brainchild of a 22-year old engineering major from Dayton, Ohio, John-Paul Deddens. With the help of the school’s Newman Center and Illinois Collegians for Life (ICFL), Deddens made it possible for the Catholic perspective on sex to have a place, for the first time, at the annual event. And that’s not all Deddens made possible during his time at the university. As a sophomore, he concluded that Illinois Collegians for Life was good at doing big things, hosting events and bringing in speakers, but it wasn’t doing the small, day-to-day things the pro-life movement needs. Accordingly, Deddens founded Lifesavers, a sister organization to ICFL that organizes weekly trips to the local Planned Parenthood clinic. A year later, Deddens founded yet another organization, Students for Life Illinois (SFLI). Designed to serve as a resource for collegiate pro-life groups throughout the state, SFLI helps new groups get off the ground and helps existing groups work more effectively. Thus far, 19 colleges have joined the network, and the group will host its first major conference in Chicago this October.

 

Studying for classes and combating the culture of death doesn’t leave a lot of room in Deddens’ schedule for things like sleep. But he’s not complaining. “I come from a big family,” Deddens explained. “I have six sisters and two brothers. Growing up, people would comment on how big our family was, and not usually in the most positive way. I knew a lot of those people thought I should’ve been avoided, that I should have never been born. I do the work because I was born. I survived.”

 

 

C. Second Reading (I Cor 1:1-3): “Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

Like Isaiah’s prophetic figure of the “Suffering Servant” led meekly to slaughter, the divine Son Jesus is the ultimate “Suffering Servant” who would bring to completion the Father’s universal plan of salvation. The vocation and mission of the Servant-Son Jesus Christ is replicated in the life of Saint Paul and the Church. We too are called to fulfill the Father’s compassionate plan to bring salvation to all peoples of the earth. This Sunday’s Second Reading (I Cor 1:1-3), Paul’s power-packed greeting to the Corinthians, presents the beauty and dignity of our call to holiness in Jesus Christ. It also delineates the unity that binds all peoples everywhere who worship our Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, we belong to Jesus Savior who is “their Lord and ours”.

 

Adrian Nocent explains: “In the opening words of his First Letter to the Corinthians, Saint Paul speaks of himself as called by God’s will to be an apostle of Jesus Christ. As John the Baptist was called to bear witness to Jesus, Paul has now been chosen to proclaim the good news of Christ. But the faithful, too, are the object of a divine choice; because of that call, they form a holy people and call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, they too have been chosen by the Lord and set apart to be witnesses to Christ. If Paul has been chosen for the apostolate, the body of Christians has been chosen for holiness. The holiness is lived within the communion of the Church that calls upon the name of its Messiah and has for its principal function the offering of praise and adoration; these will in turn be the basis of the Church’s witness and apostolate.”

 

As we begin the season of Ordinary Time, we are invited to behold the immense and universal expanse of our Christian vocation. Aware that we have been anointed by the Spirit of power in baptism, we open our hearts daily to the outpouring of grace and the peace that comes from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us likewise share this gift of grace and peace with others that we may continue to grow in the “mystery of salvation”.

 

On the Sunday after the feast of the Lord’s Baptism the Church in the Philippines celebrates the feast of Santo Niño. It is a celebration of the gift of Christian faith that the Filipinos received, symbolized in Ferdinand Magellan’s gift of an Infant Jesus image to the Queen of Cebu in 1521. The following lyrics, sung at the festival, narrate the evangelization of the Philippines and express the faith of the only Christian nation in Asia and attest to the dynamism of the Gospel. Together with the universal Church, the Filipino nation invokes the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is Lord of all - “their Lord and ours”!

 

“SENOR SANTO NIÑO”

 

Refrain:

Senor Santo Niño, with your scepter guide our people

who hail you King forever, for the world is your kingdom.

Senor Santo Niño, in your hands the world is resting.

Proclaim your truth and justice; bring to all your peace and love.

 

Verse 1:

One day to these lands as gift and in pledge

God sent you to us, O Beloved Child.

And always you have been the light of our souls,

the guide of our people, the fire in our hearts. (R.)

 

Verse 2:

The ship you were sailing arrived at our shores

to conquer this land, the pearl of the seas.

But you have decided to stay on our soil,

to conquer our people and dwell among us. (R.)

 

Verse 3:

The queen and the rajah, accepting the faith,

received you in their arms and fell on their knees.

They worshipped your image and called on your name

to ask for your blessing and help in their needs. (R.)

 

Verse 4:

More ships to the Orient with soldiers arrived,

and searching for gold they found you instead.

Legazpi, Urdaneta, the rajah, the queen,

their subjects, our people proclaimed you their king.  (R.)

 

Verse 5:

Now as one nation we pay you our respect.

Our people did pledge a long time ago.

We ask you to hear the prayers of all:

the sad and forsaken, the poor and the sick. (R.)

   

 

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. 

 

 

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January 20, 2020: MONDAY – WEEKDAY (2); SAINT FABIAN, Pope, Martyr; SAINT SEBASTIAN, Martyr

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Bridegroom of the Church … He Is the Obedient One”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

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

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 2:18-22): “The bridegroom is with them.”

 

In today’s Gospel (Mk 2:18-22), Christ, the Bridegroom of the Church, invites us to a new relationship that transcends mere legal observances 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, yes, 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?”

 

 

B. First Reading (1 Sm 15:16-23): “Obedience is better than sacrifice. Because you have rejected the command of the Lord, he, too, has rejected you as ruler.”

 

The reading (1 Sm 15:16-23) 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

 

1. Are we faithful to our covenant with Christ, the Bridegroom of the Church? How?

 

2. 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.

Help us to be faithful to your word.

Give us the grace to persevere

until you call us to the heavenly marriage feast.

We love you and adore you;

we praise and serve you, forever and ever.

Amen. 

 

***

Lord Jesus,

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 day. Please memorize it.

 

“New wine is poured into new wineskins.” (Mk 2:22) //“Obedience is better than sacrifice.” (I Sm 15:22)

 

 

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

 

When you attend a wedding, 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.

 

 

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January 21, 2020: TUESDAY – SAINT AGNES, Virgin, Martyr

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is Lord of the Sabbath … He

Is God’s Anointed”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

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

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 2:23-28): “The Sabbath was made for people, not people for Sabbath.”

 

The wind was howling when I opened the gate. The village leader 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 (Mk 2:23-28) presents Jesus as Lord even of the Sabbath. Like David, who disregarded the sanctity of the tabernacle to feed his men, Jesus manifests the same freedom and sensitivity to the needs of others. He shows 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 the common good.

 

 

B. First Reading (1 Sm 16:1-13): “Samuel anointed David in the presence of his brothers, and the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him.”

 

The Old Testament reading (1 Sm 16:1-13) 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

 

1. What is our attitude towards the rules and norms in society and in the Church?

 

2. 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 understand the meaning of the law in the Church.

Rules are meant for the well-being of the person

and to promote the common good.

Grant us the freedom of the spirit

and the charity that never fails.

We surrender to your all-embracing care.

We thank and bless you, now and forever.

Amen.

 

***

O loving Father,

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.

 

“The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mk 2:28) //“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.

 

 

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January 22, 2020: WEDNESDAY – WEEKDAY (2)

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Healing Love Transcends Barriers …

He Is Victorious”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

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

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 3:1-6): “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to save life rather than to destroy it?”

 

In today’s Gospel (Mk 3:1-6), 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 for 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 totally inclusive and greatly transcending. His saving works could not be restricted by a narrow-minded view of the 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 man-made barriers that militate against 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 every day! 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. (…)

  

 

B. First Reading (1 Sm 17:32-33, 37, 40-51): “David overcame the Philistine with sling and stone.”

 

The reading (1 Sm 17:32-33, 37, 40-51) 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.

 

Today it is 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

 

1. 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?

 

2. 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.

Give us the grace to overcome “barriers”

so that your healing love may touch the afflicted

at any moment and at any place.

Fill us with your all-inclusive compassion

and love that knows no seasons.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

***

Loving Jesus,

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.

 

“Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” (Mk 3:4) //“The battle is the Lord’s.” (I Sm 17:47) 

 

  

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

 

Resolve to help the disabled and other people who are physically challenged and enable them 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, 2020: THURSDAY – WEEKDAY (2); SAINT VINCENT, Deacon, Martyr (USA); SAINT MARIANNE COPE, Virgin (USA)

  “JESUS SAVIOR: He Touches the Leper …He Helps Those in Distress”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

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

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 3:7-12): “The unclean spirits shouted, ‘You are the Son of God’, but Jesus warned them sternly not to make him known.”

 

In January 2014 I was in Cebú Island in the Philippines to attend the Santo Niño celebration. I had a chance to participate at the vigil novena in 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 (Mk 3:7-12), a great crowd seeks Jesus. His pursuers are 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). Pressing upon Jesus, they yearn to be healed. Indeed, with his “touch”, Jesus has 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. Jesus has cured so many that the sick crowd about him. There is power in Jesus’ touch. The sick and the needy, through time and space, would continue to seek Jesus and yearn for his touch, for all who touch him are made whole. 

 

 

B. First Reading (I Sm 18:6-9; 19:1-7): “My father Saul is trying to kill you.”

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (I Sm 18:6-9; 19:1-7) 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

 

1. Do we seek Jesus and yearn to “touch” him?

 

2. 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 out 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.

We praise and bless you

for you are our Savior, now and forever.

Amen.

 

***

Jesus,

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.

 

“He had cured many and, as a result, those who had diseases were pressing about him to touch him.” (Mk 3:10) //“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. // 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, 2020: FRIDAY – SAINT FRANCIS DE SALES, Bishop, Doctor of the Church

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Summons and Sends Them … Great

Is His Generosity”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

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

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 3:13-19): “Jesus summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him.”

 

In yesterday’s Gospel episode we hear of the crowd pressing about Jesus, wanting to touch him and be healed. Jesus had to withdraw into a boat to avoid being crushed by them. Against that rather chaotic setting, today’s episode of the call of the disciples (Mk 3:13-19) seems so refreshing and peaceful. Jesus goes up the mountain and summons his chosen ones. And they 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 demands of discipleship. But the life of intimacy is in view of mission: that he may send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.

 

Jesus Christ lives on in the Church. He continues to call his disciples that he may send them to preach the Gospel and exorcise evil powers. In 2003, I was in our convent in Staten Island to give a liturgy course to our novices. After the course, we went to a nearby parish 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, he spreads the Gospel through his songs. During the concert, while John 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 prayed. He invoked God to cast out the spirit of disorder and to restore the order needed to sing his praise. Immediately peace and order were restored. John continued his songs undisturbed. It was awesome. The power to cast out evil is given to Christian disciples even today. 

 

 

B. First Reading (I Sm 24:3-21): “I will not raise a hand against my lord for heis the Lord’s anointed.”

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (I Sm 24:3-21) 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.

 

Today’s 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

 

1. 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?

 

2. 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.

We love you and we put our trust in you.

We praise you and glorify you now and forever.

Amen.

 

***

Lord Jesus,

enable us to be gracious to those who have wronged us

and to show respect for every human person,

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.

 

“Jesus summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him.” (Mk 3:13) //“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 priestly and religious vocations in the Church. // Be gracious and forgiving to those who have wronged you.

 

 

*** *** ***

January 25, 2020: SATURDAY – THE CONVERSION OF SAINT PAUL

“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, which can be summed up as “MISTICA” (spiritual experience), “METANOIA” (conversion-transformation) and “MISSIO” (mission of evangelization). 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.

 

Mistica: 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.

 

Metanoia: Paul confessed: “I was once a blasphemer, a persecutor, a man filled with arrogance, but I have been mercifully treated … I thank Christ Jesus our Lord. He has strengthened me … made me his servant” (cf. I Tim 1:12-13). He experienced a change of heart, reorientation of goals, renewed vision and life transformation. From a bold persecutor of Christ-Church, he became a vessel of grace and the great apostle to the nations. As we look to Saint Paul as a model of true conversion, let us turn away from thoughts, words and actions that negate the love of Christ … from inconsiderate actions and words that wound the Church … from irresponsible deeds that do not promote the dignity and personal worth of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Above all, Saint Paul is our model of “christification”. Blessed James Alberione, the founder of the Pauline Family, exhorts us: “So then reach the point of Vivit in me Christus … when our thoughts and desires exist no more, but we live in Christ … It is not I anymore, but Christ in me. Transformation, transformation! In that way we have not only a body and soul, but another natural life – that is, the life itself of Christ.”

 

Mission-Evangelization: Paul’s mystic experience and conversion led to a special task or mandate: the mission of salvation … the call to evangelization. The Risen Lord who appeared to Paul made him a servant and witness to the nations. He mandated Paul to preach the Gospel that he may turn their darkness to light … that they may be brought back to God … that they may obtain forgiveness of sins and become part of God’s covenant people.

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Mk 16:15-18) about the missionary mandate to go out to the whole world and tell the Good News and about the signs of protection and power that will accompany the believers is fully exemplified in the life and person of Saint Paul. He went to the Gentile world to preach the Gospel of salvation. He was baptized by Ananias in Damascus. Totally obedient to Christ in faith, he became God’s vessel of salvation to the nations. He made the crippled man in Lystra walk. Through the apostle, God performed unusual miracles in Ephesus. Even handkerchiefs and aprons Paul had used were taken to the sick, and their diseases were driven away, and the evil spirits would go out of them. At Troas Paul resuscitated Eutychus, who fell from the third story to the ground during an evening fellowship meal while sitting drowsily by the window. When they picked him up, Eutychus was dead but Paul gave him back to them alive. After a shipwreck in Malta, Paul was bitten by a snake but was unharmed. Also in Malta, he healed the father of Publius, the chief of the island, and many others. Wherever he went, Paul was speaking a totally “new language” – the good news about Jesus as the Son of God – a marvelously “new language” of love and salvation.

 

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

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