A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 14, n. 51)

Week 33 in Ordinary Time: November 13-19, 2016

 

 

(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 of Year C from various perspectives. For the Lectio Divina on the liturgy of the past week: November 6-12, 2016, 2016, please go to ARCHIVES Series 14 and click on “Week 32 in Ordinary Time”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: November 13-19, 2016.)

 

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November 13, 2016: SUNDAY – THIRTY-THIRD SUNDAY

IN ORDINARY TIME

“JESUS SAVIOR: In Him We Will Secure Our Lives”

 

 

BIBLICAL READINGS

Mal 3:19-20a // II Thes 3:7-12 // Lk 21:5-19

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 21:5-19): “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

 

The article, “A Tree Grows in Kenya” in GUIDEPOSTS magazine (January 2004) is about Wangari Maathai’s effort to fight off ecological destruction in her native land, Kenya. The author, Christopher Davis, narrates the gargantuan feat of this enterprising woman whose perseverance epitomizes this Sunday’s Gospel exhortation: “By your perseverance you will secure your lives” (Lk 21:19).

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The setting of this Sunday’s Gospel episode is the Jerusalem Temple where Jesus is teaching the people and proclaiming the Good News. A beautiful refurbishing of the Temple was begun about forty-six years before Jesus by Herod the Great. The Temple, though not yet complete, is already one of the wonders of the ancient world. Some of the granite stones in the Temple walls, as big as modern freight cars, are so expertly linked together without mortar that it is hard to see the joints. The magnificence of the Temple with its brilliant white marble and gold ornament awes the people. Today’s Gospel passage describes how some people are commenting on the Temple adorned with costly stones and votive offerings. In the midst of this enthused admiration, Jesus grimly utters a prophecy on the destruction of the Temple.

 

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

 

The basic theme that permeates today’s Gospel passage is the Lord’s absolute control of history and his ultimate victory. Despite all the evil that can be imagined, the hand of God guides our personal and cosmic destiny into a glorious triumph. This Sunday’s Gospel passage concludes beautifully with Jesus’ words of assurance. The promise that no harm will come to even one hair of a Christian disciple underlines the ultimate spiritual protection of those who endure persecution for the sake of Jesus. After this heartwarming assurance, Christ exhorts his disciples to manifest the sterling quality of perseverance – the courageous attitude that leads to ultimate victory in God.

 

 

B. First Reading (Mal 3:19-20a): “The sun of justice will shine on you.”

 

The readings at the end of one liturgical year and the beginning of another are focused on the “end times”, with the encouraging message of God’s decisive triumph over the power of evil. The day is coming when all that is evil will be brought to nothing. This was the message of hope addressed by the prophet Malachi to the returned exiles around 450 B.C. Malachi, whose name means “my messenger” or “Yahweh’s messenger” voices dire threats that will befall the confirmed sinners on judgment day. At the same time, he has words of hope for the just.

 

The Liturgical scholar, Adrian Nocent comments on this Sunday’s Old Testament reading (Mal 3:19-20a): “This text refers to a time of great discouragement for Israel. The exiles have been back home for fifty years, and the Temple has been rebuilt, yet there is great disillusionment. The returning exiles had not been well received; their possessions had been taken by others; they were isolated and poor; there was little concern for them. The city was insufficiently fortified and often subject to raids. All this had serious repercussions on the religious life of the people. They were disillusioned, and their faith was weak; fidelity to the covenant was undermined. The disillusionment is summed up in words that Malachi quotes a little before today’s periscope: It is vain to serve God (3:14). Malachi now endeavors to revive the people’s spirit by telling them that the Day of the Lord is coming. First, the wrath of God will be unleashed against the wicked and the arrogant. They will burn up like straw, and there will be neither root or branch left of them … Fire symbolizes the chastising wrath of God … The second phase of the Lord’s coming will be the appearance of the sun of righteousness, the rays of which bring healing … In this passage the sun symbolizes the powerful intervention of the Lord in defense of the poor and the oppressed … The clear vision of our destiny in God makes illegitimate any kind of morose disillusionment; on the contrary, it should, as in Malachi, rouse our courage and make us vigilant.”

 

The following personal testimony helps us realize that the radiance of the sun of righteousness is already shining in our midst through people of good will (cf. Sharon Foster in Daily Guideposts 2015, p. 339).

 

“Let your light shine!” I say to Bishop Oby, echoing back to him the words he has spoken to me countless times, over the twenty something years I have known him. Words he has spoken to countless others.

 

When I was discouraged, unemployed – despite my qualifications – single parent barely scraping by, he and his wife came to my family’s rescue. She sewed clothes for me so I would be presentable. He personally baked chickens and cakes to feed us. His countenance and voice were reassuring. “All right, daughter. Keep your head up!” What they did for my family, they did for many tohers in the rural North Carolina area where we lived.

 

When I finally found employment, they babysat my son so that I could work. Years later, Bishop Oby and his wife moved to Rhode Island. Less than a year ago, his wife passed away. Bishop Oby is now in Providence rehabilitation center and I know that he misses her. His strong body seems to be failing him. Now, I pray for him and it is my turn to give back what he gave to me. “The people in rehab center need to see the light that you showed me; don’t be discouraged”, I say quietly.

 

“You are right, daughter.” I hear hope creep back into his voice.

 

 

C. Second Reading (II Thes 3:7-12): “If anyone is unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.”

 

In the early Christian community of Thessalonica, however, there was a perverted notion and an unfortunate reaction concerning the Lord’s second coming (cf. II Thes 3:7-12). Some members believed that the Lord’s final advent was imminent. Instead of responding positively and constructively to the ad interim situation, they simply stopped working and waited idly for the unfolding of the parousia. Convinced they were already “saved”, they felt no need to work. They did not apply themselves to tasks and neglected the obligations of daily living. They ended up as freeloaders, busybodies and a burden to the Christian community.

 

The shepherd-sage Saint Paul condemned this irresponsibility and parasitism. He asserted the necessity and dignity of labor: “If anyone is unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.” Presenting himself as a model of human labor, he enjoined the freeloaders to work and procure their own food. Paul contended that the expectation of the “Day of the Lord” does not cancel the responsibilities of daily living. Indeed, in this ad interim situation, we must labor and toil mightily for the advent of God’s kingdom.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Both Desire and Saint Juste have planted seeds they received as part of a church distribution at a seed fair. They are both tending strips of peas and corn. The peas provide vital nitrogen to the soil for the next crop. Saint Juste depends on the crops he grows behind his small house. His cousin helps out, but it is backbreaking work, especially with no nearby water source to irrigate the crops. Saint Juste explains to me how bringing water close to the field, with a community water pump, for instance, would greatly help him and his neighbors.

 

Desire is a man with a heavy weight on his shoulders. He is nevertheless optimistic about the future. He attributes his optimism to the new agricultural venture. “I got seeds at a seed fair, and I know enough not to eat them but to plant them”, he laughs. “I am stronger now, I have more energy, and I have the energy to plant more.” He has ambitions to plant peanuts next. (…)

 

As I traveled back toward Port-au-Prince, I began to see more quake damage and an increase in traffic. Although international attention has focused on this devastated, choked, dusty wreck of a city, the key to a better life for Haitians lies back down the road, in the provinces.

 

 

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

 

What message do the tumultuous events in the world today and the threats of ecological-cosmic destruction bring to us? What is our attitude towards the last things? How do we respond to Jesus’ comforting words and vigorous challenge: “By your perseverance you will secure your lives”?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

Jesus assures us

that your victorious saving hand is at work.

Help us to be peaceful and life-giving

when confronted with the tumult of today’s history.

You control the course of our destiny.

We are attentive to Jesus who comes in the events of our life.

Although we do not know the hour

and the circumstances of the end time,

we wish to work perseveringly with Jesus

in the final realization of your Kingdom.

May we humbly and boldly trust in Jesus’ exhortation:

“By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

You live and reign, forever and ever. 

Amen.

 

 

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

           

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 Meditate on the ultimate victory of the good at the “Day of the Lord”. Resolve to overcome the forces of evil that seek to block God’s compassionate plan for each of us. With the grace of God and his assurance of ultimate victory, endeavor to overcome the poverty, injustice, oppression and falsehood that confront us daily in our community and society today.

               

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November 14, 2016: MONDAY – WEEKDAY (33)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Makes the Blind See … He Reveals the Father’s Message”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Rv 1:1-4; 2:1-5 // Lk 18:35-43

  

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 18:35-43): “What do you want me to do for you? Lord, please let me see.”

 

The need for true spiritual sight is the subject of today’s Gospel reading (Lk 18:35-43), which narrates the healing of the blind beggar at Jericho. In comparison to the blind beggar, the people crowding around Jesus seem to be fortunate for they could see the “miracle worker” from Nazareth with their physical eyes. But there is a deeper reality than physical sight.

 

The remark of Anthony Bloom, a physician who became Metropolitan and Patriarch of Moscow in 1965, is insightful: “If only we knew that we were blind, how eagerly would we seek healing … But the tragedy is that we do not realize our blindness … Blinded by the world of things we forget that it does not match the depth of which man is capable … To be aware only of the tangible world is to be on the outside of the fullness of knowledge, outside the experience of the total reality which is the world in God and God at the heart of the world. The blind man, Bartimaeus, was painfully aware of this because, owing to his physical blindness, the visible world escaped him. He could cry out to the Lord in total despair.”

 

To cultivate a positive attitude through faith in Jesus and trust in him will enable us “to see”. The following story enables us to appreciate the “gift of sight”, which is spiritual (cf. Marilyn Morgan King, “A Matter of Attitude” in Daily Guideposts 2010, p. 265).

 

My former neighbor Carla Gallemore had become blind as a result of “twilight sleep”, an anesthetic technique used during childbirth in the early twentieth century. “At one time I felt sight was my most precious gift, but I was wrong. Atittude is”, Carla said, and she proved it. Using a Braille typewriter, she wrote a very successful book, Once I Was Blind.

 

One day Carla called me and said, “Did you know The Miracle Worker is showing at the Fox? I’d like to see that movie.” “See it?” I asked. “Yes, I’ve learned to ‘see” with my ears and through other people’s eyes. I can follow a movie pretty well by listening. When I can’t, I’ll tap your arm and you can whisper to me what’s happening on the screen.”

 

So we went to the movie – the story of the young Helen Keller and her teacher Annie Sullivan – and found it to be extremely inspiring. I think Carla got more out of The Miracle Worker than I did, even though she had no sight. “It’s all a matter of attitude”, she said. “Keeping a hopeful mind and heart makes all the difference, whatever one’s handicap is.”

 

 

B. First Reading (Rv 1:1-4; 2:1-5): “Realize how far you have fallen and repent.”

 

We begin the weekday readings from the Book of Revelation. This was written when Christians were being persecuted because of their faith in Jesus Christ the Lord. The author’s concern is to give his readers hope and encouragement and to urge them to remain faithful through suffering and persecution. The Book of Revelation mainly consists of revelations and visions couched in a symbolic language that could be deciphered by Christians of that day, but would be enigmatic for others. Opinions vary regarding the interpretation of the details, but the central message of the book is clear: through Jesus Christ the Lord, God will finally and totally defeat all of his enemies, including Satan. When the victory is complete, God will reward the faithful ones with the blessings of “a new heaven and a new earth”.

 

The reading (Rev 1:1-9; 2:1-5) tells us that the book is “the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him”. It is both a message of Jesus Christ to his churches and from God about the coming judgment. The Lord promises a blessing on all who read, hear and heed the message. John is the mouthpiece for God and Jesus. In his prophetic ministry, angels intervene and figure extensively.

 

John addresses himself to the “seven churches in Asia”. Through his message to these churches, he intends to reach all the churches in Asia and the universal Church. John is commanded to deliver the Lord’s message to the church in Ephesus, which was founded by Saint Paul about 53-56 A.D. Ephesus is the commercial metropolis of Asia and the seat of the pre-consular government. Understandably, this cultural and political center is very open to syncretistic tendency, among which is the imperial cult and the worship of the goddess Artemis. The Lord commends the church in Ephesus for being hardworking and faithful. They have detected the deceit of false teachers and rejected them. They are patient in suffering and have endured. But this is what the Lord Jesus has against them: they have lost the love they had at first. They have abandoned brotherly love and this entails the loss of Christ’s love. The Lord therefore confronts them: “Realize how far you have fallen. Repent, and do the works you did at first.”  Unless they repent, the “lampstand” – symbol of God’s presence – will be taken away from them. The waning of brotherly love eventually leads to self-destruction.

 

The prophetic reproach delivered by John to the church in Ephesus is very relevant to the modern world’s situation. Unless we repent and recover our love for one another, we will perish. The following modern day crisis situation cries out for repentance and change of heart (cf. The Fresno Bee, August 30, 2015, p. 10B).

 

On August 26, about three hours after a troubled television reporter murdered two of his former colleagues on live television in Virginia; a judge in Colorado sentenced James Holmes to 12 lifetime sentences for the massacre of 12 people in Aurora, plus another 3,318 years behind bars.

 

“Get the defendant out of my courtroom”, Judge Carlos A. Samour, Jr. said in disgust as he instructed a deputy to banish the schizophrenic man from a society weary of gun crime.

 

The Virginia shooter committed suicide. But rest assured, America will meet another murderous madman today, and tomorrow, and the next day. There are thousands of them, and more to come, unless this nation gets serious about gun control and mental health care – and actually enforcing the gun ownership regulations that are already on the books. (…)

 

In our lifetimes, the United States has seen a president shot in the back seat of a car, a president shot as he exited a hotel, a U.S. senator shot in a hotel pantry, a civil rights leader shot on his hotel balcony, and thousands upon thousands of humbler and less heralded humans – school children, theatergoers, workers – annihilated in fusillades of bullets.

 

How many times must we watch before we take a good look at ourselves as a country … We know the answer. Too many more.

      

 

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November 15, 2016: TUESDAY – WEEKDAY (33); SAINT ALBERT THE GREAT, Bishop, Doctor of the Church

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Saves the Lost … We Need to Hear His Voice and Open the Door to Him”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Rv 3:1-6, 14-22 // Lk 19:1-10

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 19:1-10): “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”

 

The book Papa Mike was written by Mike McGarvin, the founder of Poverello House that serves the poor and the homeless in Fresno. Like Jesus, it is his mission to save the “lost”. Here is Papa Mike’s amusing account of a rescue.

 

One of the more disturbing events took place about half a block from Poverello. It was winter, and raining hard. The streets in that part of town often had poor drainage, and our block was exceptionally bad. I don’t remember why, but I was walking along F Street that day. I passed by a huge puddle that had formed in a gutter. It was clogged with leaves from the sycamore trees in the neighborhood, and for some reason I glanced down at the puddle. When I did, I spotted some bubbles coming up in the water. On closer inspection, I saw they were coming from a small fleshy object sticking out of the water.

 

With a shudder, I realized that the object was the very tip of someone’s nose. I reached down in the puddle and pulled a man’s head out, grabbed the shoulders, and pulled him onto the sidewalk. The standing water had been so deep that he had been completely submerged except for his nose. He was covered with leaves, so that he was invisible to any passerby. He was still alive, but I couldn’t wake him up. I ran to the Poverello and called 911. He had apparently got drunk, passed out in the gutter and stayed there all night. As the rain began to pour down, he slept right through it. The water kept rising, and if I hadn’t seen him, he would have been completely under water in a few minutes. When the paramedics came, they took him to the hospital. He survived, but he had hypothermia.

 

Today’s Gospel reading )Lk 19:1-10) presents another marginal who wants “to see” – just like the blind man at Jericho. The tax collector Zacchaeus wants specifically “to see” Jesus. Despised by others on account of his despicable trade, he seeks “to see” who Jesus is. Short in stature and impeded by a jostling crowd from “seeing” the Divine Master, he overcomes the difficulty by climbing a sycamore tree. When Jesus reached the spot where Zacchaeus is waiting, he looks up and, “seeing” him precariously perched in the tree, says: “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house”. The energetic tax collector responds to Jesus’ initiative by climbing down from the sycamore tree and by welcoming him into the banquet at his house. But more radically he renounces half of his possessions and makes a promise of four-fold restitution to anyone he has defrauded. Zacchaeus’ great desire “to see” Jesus is fulfilled. He experiences a great joy because the Savior of the “lost” has cast a compassionate glance upon him and rescued him.

  

 

B. First Reading (Rv 3:1-6, 14-22): “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him.”

 

The reading (Rv 3:1-6, 14-22) contains the Lord’s message to the church in Sardis and to the church in Laodicea. His reproach to Sardis is that, though they are reputed to be “alive”, they are actually dead. They are enthusiastic about spiritual gifts, but they have failed to follow God’s commands. They have managed to preserve the appearances of Christianity, but they are experiencing the spiritual death from which Christ has rescued them. They need to wake up and strengthen whatever good they have lest they lose them completely. Some of them have been faithful and will share in Christ’s victory at his coming. Those who refuse to obey what they have been taught will be erased from the book of life.

 

Addressing himself to the church in Laodicea, the Lord rebukes them for being smug and complacent. Since they are “lukewarm, neither hot nor cold”, the Lord will spit them out of his mouth. Laodicea is known for its clothing industry; it is a banking center and has a medical school that specializes in eye diseases. Unfortunately, the material prosperity that Christians enjoy in this city has vitiated them and has closed their heart to the grace of God. Their spiritual well-being has been compromised. Though materially prosperous, they are really “poor, naked and blind”. The Lord advises them to procure pure gold from him; to cover their nakedness with white clothing; and to apply ointment on their eyes that they may see. In effect, the Lord is telling them to draw out true riches, the fullness of salvation and complete healing from him. At the time of the visitation of the Lord, who stands at the door and knocks, they must listen to his voice, open the door of their heart, and welcome him. Then they will be victorious and joyfully participate with the Lord in the banquet of eternal life.

 

The following article/interview gives insight into the dynamics of moral and spiritual degradation and the possibility of conversion (cf. Gail Marshall, “Chowchilla Bus Kidnapper James Schoenfeld’s Own Words Add Insight to Crime” in The Fresno Bee, August 30, 2015, p. 1B, 3B-4B).

 

[On July 15, 1976], twenty-six school children from Dairyland Elementary School and their bus driver, Ed Ray, were abducted from their school bus by three young men, transported hours around the state in two vans, then buried alive in a moving van. In a daring escape, the bus driver and older boys clawed their way out of their underground prison, leading the younger children across a rock quarry in a sprint to freedom. (…)

 

The three male kidnappers were in their 20s. Frederick Newhall Woods, James Schoenfeld and his brother, Richard, were caught within two weeks and given life sentences after pleading guilty to kidnapping charges … James recently was released on parole after being incarcerated for 39 years. His younger brother, Richard, was released a couple of years ago. Woods remains in prison. (…)

 

Why? The young men were healthy and wealthy by any measure. They came from good homes, went to college. (…)

 

In his testimony, James describes an enviable early childhood as the middle child of three boys, raised in a “great” home with two parents. His father was a physician. By the time he was 14, his parents had taken him on two trips around the world. In their modest neighborhood in Palo Alto, they were minor celebrities. Their pictures were on the front page of the newspaper. Later, they moved to a more upscale neighborhood in Atherton, another Bay Area suburb. James changed.

 

“Why did you take the children?”

 

In Atherton, I was no longer something special. I was just – in fact I was not special at all, so I wanted to be – have that feeling again. I wanted to fit in with these new people that we moved next to. And, you know, my friend’s parents had twin Ferraris, you know, his and hers with telephones in them. I had no money of my own. My dad lent me some money. I bought a Jaguar. I found out that the insurance was more than I made in a whole year, so two months later I had to sell the Jaguar. I was 19. I was working full time as a busboy. I was also going to college.

 

I had envy issues trying to fit in with one crowd, and my other friends, they were getting married. They were buying houses. They were on their own career paths, and I was falling behind them and I just figured I need money. Money would solve all my problems. I felt I couldn’t earn my way out of my problem. (…)

 

“Why kidnapping?”

 

I saw a headline. Ronald Reagan put out a headline that the state of California had a billion-dollar surplus. I kept thinking the state’s got more than it needs. They won’t miss $5 million. I wasn’t going to commit any crime, risk my life or risk my reputation for anything less than a million, so a bank robbery wouldn’t work. A drug deal wouldn’t work. I didn’t know anything except kidnapping that I’d seen on TV that would provide sufficient reward. (…)

 

“Do you really understand what you did?”

 

(…) We took the victims by force. They were completely helpless. That leaves a victim with poor self-esteem. They might even question God. There are emotional, financial, spiritual and physical injuries. I put them in a place that endangered their life. There were a hundred things that could have happened that this really could have come out far worse.

 

“Where will you live now?”

 

My hope is to be able to help my mother and my hope is to reside with her and take care of her. She is 92 years old.

 

 

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

 

1. Are there moments in our life when we undergo the Zacchaeus experience and have tried to climb the “sycamore tree” in order “to see” Jesus? Identify them and relive the intense feelings and the challenges of these experiences. Personally and as a Church, in what ways do we participate in the saving mission of Jesus, the Son of Man who comes to seek and save what was lost?

 

2. Do we strive “to live” in the fullest sense by following God’s commands? In our relationship with Jesus, are “tepid, neither hot nor cold”? Are we willing to hear the voice of the Lord as he stands by the door and knock and are we ready to open the door of our heart to him?

 

  

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

 

Loving Father,

at times we feel miserable and sinful, rejected and unloved.

But in your kindness,

you allow us to experience moments of truth and healing light.

We thank you for the Zacchaeus experience within us

of wanting “to see” Jesus.

We therefore climb the “sycamore tree” to have a glimpse of him

who comes to seek the lost.

In our precarious perch on the “sycamore tree” of our lonely life,

we await your saving presence

and your kind invitation to come down and be with you.

As your loving gaze enfolds us

and as we climb down toward your welcoming heart,

we rejoice that God’s love is bigger than our frailties.

Like the radically transformed Zacchaeus,

may we let go of all the burdens of the sinful past.

Fill us with the joy of salvation

as we hear you say:

“Today salvation has come to this house …

For the Son of Man has come

to seek and save what was lost.”

We adore you now and forever.

Amen.  

 

            ***

Lord Jesus,

you stand by the door and knock.

Give us the grace to listen to your voice

and to open the door of our heart to you.

Help us to live truly in your merciful love

and follow your life-giving commands.

Make us share in your glorious banquet in heaven.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“He was seeking to see who Jesus was.” (Lk 19:3) // “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” (Rv 3:20).

 

 

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

 

As a way of participating in the mission of the Son of Man who came to seek and save what was lost, you may contribute through prayers, material resources and volunteer services to assist the poor and the needy, the “lost” and the marginalized. // Resolve to detach your heart from material riches/possessions and seek more and more the true riches the Lord God offers.

        

      

*** *** ***

 

November 16, 2016: WEDNESDAY – WEEKDAY (33); SAINT MARGARET OF SCOTLAND; SAINT GERTRUDE, Virgin

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Wants Us to Be Creatively Involved … In Him We Give Glory to the Thrice Holy God”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Rv 4:1-11 // Lk 19:11-28

  

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 19:11-28): “Why did you not put my money in the bank?”

 

Today’s Gospel parable (Lk 19:11-28) depicts the creative genius of God’s faithful servants as well as the disappointing cowardice of the feckless. The faithful servants are industrious and resourceful. Their creative use of the gold coins inspires us to be pro-active in dealing with the affairs of God’s kingdom. The “hole-in-the-ground” solution of the “play-it-safe” servant is downright disappointing. He does not dare to invest his talent, rationalizing that “what little talent I have will never be missed”. But this is not so.

 

According to the poet Michel Quoist (cf. “Breath of Life”) and paraphrasing him, if each note of music were to say “one note does not make a symphony”, there would be no symphony; if each word were to say “one word does not make a book”, there would be no book; if each brick were to say “one brick does not make a wall”, there would be no house; if each seed were to say “one grain does not make a field of corn”, there would be no harvest; if each one were to say “one act of love cannot save mankind”, there would never be justice and peace on earth.

 

Hence, with regards to the kingdom of God, we cannot remain uninvolved or partially involved; rather, we must be totally involved. Absolute personal commitment is required for salvation. It is exigent that we fully invest our talents to promote creatively and energetically the reign of God.

 

 

B. First Reading (Rv 4:1-11): “Holy is the Lord God almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come.”

 

This happened in 1977 when I was a young Sister assigned in Cebu Island, in the Philippines. One day, after a hectic morning, I went for an afternoon nap (“siesta”). The gentle breeze blowing through the window was refreshing and it lulled me into a deep, peaceful sleep. When I was fully rested, I heard a chorus of virile voices singing an Alleluia song of exquisite beauty and harmony. I thought I was in heaven, hearing the choir of angels singing to God their praises. Later on, I got to know that the heavenly song was being sung by seventy soldiers who were attending a “Cursillo” course at the nearby parish church.

 

The reading (Rv 4:1-11) tells us of John’s experience of heaven. He receives a special vision of the court of heaven where God sits enthroned. The seer speaks of God’s radiance. His face gleams like precious stones and an emerald rainbow surrounds his throne. This symbolic language intends to describe the transcendence of God and the beauty of heaven. John also speaks of “a sea of glass, clear as crystal” to indicate God’s inaccessible power and infinite majesty. The seer beholds “four living creatures”. They look like a lion, a bull, a man and an eagle and represent what is most splendid in animate life: the lion representing nobility, the bull representing strength, the human-like creature representing wisdom and the eagle representing swiftness. The “four living creatures” symbolize the whole of creation in which God is constantly present. Moreover, they are full of eyes to symbolize God’s astounding knowledge and unceasing vigilance over his creation. They have wings to indicate the swiftness with which God’s will is executed throughout the universe. Above all, day and night, the “four living creatures” sing unceasingly: “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was, who is and who is to come.” Cosmic praise is rendered to the all-powerful God, the Lord of creation.

 

Furthermore, John has a vision of “twenty-four elders” dressed in white and wearing crowns of gold. They represent the 12 tribes of Israel in the Old Testament and the 12 tribes of the New Israel in the New Testament. The group of “twenty-four elders” stands for the ideal Church in its entirety and the white robes they wear allude to Christ’s paschal victory in which they share. The glorification of the Church will be fully realized in heaven, but it has virtually taken place already in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Church must unceasingly join with nature in their praise, worship and glory of God. The seer then describes the “twenty-four elders” joining in the cosmic and heavenly liturgy. As the “four living creatures” sing songs of glory and thanksgiving to the one who sits on the throne, the “twenty-four elders” prostrate and throw their crowns down in front of the throne, saying: “Our Lord and God! You are worthy to receive glory, honor and power. For you created all things and by your will they were given existence and life.” The action symbolizes adoration, homage and submission to the Lord God, the creator of all things and the Lord of history.

 

 

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

 

1. What lesson do I derive from the actions of the faithful servants in the Gospel parable? What lesson do I glean from the stance of the “hole-in-the-ground” servant? 

 

2. Have you ever experienced a “glimpse of heaven”? How did it affect and move you? Do you endeavor to unite your daily acts of prayer and charity with the heavenly liturgy?

 

  

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

 

O loving God,

we thank you for the creativity and wholehearted dedication

of the enterprising servants.

They teach us to be fruitfully involved

in the affairs of your kingdom.

Deliver us from the twisted logic

of the “hole-in-the-ground” servant.

That we may make a real impact in today’s history,

let us be personally involved in the advent of your kingdom.

Help us to use our talents fully and creatively

in the service of the Gospel.

For the kingdom, the power and glory are yours, now and forever.

            Amen.     

 

***

(cf. Rv 4:8, 11)

Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,

who was, who is and who is to come.

Our Lord and God!

You are worthy to receive glory, honor and power.

For you created all things

and by your will they were given existence and life.”

 

 

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.

 

 “Well done, good servant! You have been faithful in this very small matter.” (Lk 19:17) // “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God almighty.” (Rv 4:8)

 

 

  

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

 

List some talents you have received from the Lord, which you have utilized fully at the service of the Church and on behalf of the community. List some talents, which you have failed to use. Beg God’s mercy and pardon for your failure to maximize them. Resolve to use them for the service of the Gospel. // Be deeply aware of the beauty of creation and unite yourself with the praise that is rendered to God by all living and created things. When the “Sanctus” is sung at Mass, be deeply conscious of the cosmic praise and heavenly worship taking place.

 

        

*** *** ***

 

November 17, 2016: THURSDAY – SAINT ELIZABETH OF HUNGARY, Religious

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Weeps Over Jerusalem … He Is the Lamb that Was Slain for Our Saving”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Rv 5:1-10 // Lk 19:41-44

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 19:41-44): “If you only knew what makes for peace.”

 

Today’s Gospel (Lk 19:41-44) is marked with pathos. Jesus weeps over the city of Jerusalem. His tears manifest his anguish, frustration and sorrow for an obdurate people who refuse the saving grace he offers. Unlike the blind man at Jericho and the tax collector Zacchaeus who were able to experience the gift of “seeing”, the leaders of the city remain “blind” because they have rejected Jesus as the Messiah. They refuse to acknowledge and “see” in his ministry the evidence of God’s benevolent plan. Jesus laments the impending destruction of Jerusalem. In rejecting him, the rebellious people likewise reject the “way” that leads to true peace and salvation. The leaders of Jerusalem choose instead armed resistance and violence, which would result in the total destruction of Jerusalem inflicted by the Roman general Titus and his army in 70 A.D.

 

The pathos in the following poem written by Judge Roy Moore from Alabama is akin to the anguished emotion of Jesus as he weeps over Jerusalem. Judge Moore was sued by the ACLU for displaying the Ten Commandments in his courtroom foyer. He has been stripped of his judgeship and now they are trying to strip his right to practice law in Alabama! The judge's poem sums it up quite well.

 

America the beautiful,
or so you used to be.
Land of the Pilgrims' pride,
I'm glad they'll never see.

Babies piled in dumpsters,
Abortion on demand,
Oh, sweet land of liberty;
your house is on the sand.

Our children wander aimlessly
poisoned by cocaine
choosing to indulge their lusts,
when God has said abstain

From sea to shining sea,
our Nation turns away
From the teaching of God's love
and a need to always pray

We've kept God in our temples,
how callous we have grown.
When earth is but His footstool,
and Heaven is His throne.


We've voted in a government
that's rotting at the core,
Appointing Godless Judges
who throw reason out the door,

Too soft to place a killer
in a well-deserved tomb,
But brave enough to kill a baby
before he leaves the womb.

You think that God's not angry,
that our land's a moral slum?
How much longer will He wait
before His judgment comes?

How are we to face our God,
from Whom we cannot hide ?
What then is left for us to do,
but stem this evil tide ?

If we who are His children,
will humbly turn and pray;
Seek His holy face
and mend our evil way:

Then God will hear from Heaven;
and forgive us of our sins,
He'll heal our sickly land
and those who live within....

But, America the Beautiful,
If you don't - then you will see,
A sad but Holy God
withdraw His hand from Thee.

   

 

B. First Reading (Rv 5:1-10): “The Lamb that was slain purchased us with his Blood from every nation.”

 

The reading (Rv 5:1-10) focuses on the Lamb that was slain to purchase us with his blood from every nation. In his vision, John sees a scroll in the right hand of the one who sits on the throne. It is covered with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. The perfectly sealed “scroll” indicates the mysterious will of God regarding all of human and cosmic history. No one in heaven or on earth or in the entire universe could open the scroll and execute the divine will. Who is qualified to know and put into execution God’s plan for history? The seer weeps bitterly at this desperate situation and his tears evoke the sufferings of those who despair in every time and space.

 

One of the elders said to John the comforting words: “Don’t cry. Look! The lion from Judah’s tribe, a great descendant of David, has won the victory, and he can break the seven seals and open the scroll.” John then beholds a Lamb standing “in the midst of the throne” and has “seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God that have been sent through the whole earth”. The position being “in the midst of the throne” symbolizes the Lamb’s close link with God, whose knowledge and power he shares. The image of “seven horns … seven eyes … seven spirits of God” indicates that the Lamb holds the fullness of power and insight and that he watches and supervises all that takes place on earth.

 

Moreover, the Lamb is surrounded by the “four living creatures” and the “elders”. The Lamb appears to have been slain, but is living and victorious. The Lamb Victor, who still carries the marks of its sacrifice, is Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah from the tribe of Judah and the house of David. The slain Lamb has the authority and the power to open the “seven-sealed” scroll. Thus the “four living creatures” and the “twenty-four elders” fall down before the Lamb in an act of adoration. Each with a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, symbolizing the prayers of God’s people, they sing a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to break open its seals. For you were killed and by your sacrificial death you bought for God people from every tribe, language, nation and race. You have made them a kingdom of priests to serve our God, and they shall rule on earth.”

 

What John witnesses is an enthronement ceremony of the Victorious Lamb. By receiving the scroll of the divine will and by accomplishing God’s saving plan, the Lord Jesus receives sovereignty over the nations. He has the power to guide the destiny of all peoples to a glorious end. The whole creation, represented by the “four living creatures”, and the entire Church, represented by the “twenty-four elders”, extol the dignity of the Paschal Lamb and celebrate his glory as our Savior in a beautiful liturgy that encompasses heaven and earth.

 

The following song is a favorite one in our chapel here in Fresno. I particularly like it because its melody is simple but beautiful. After having studied the text (Rv 5:1-10) using various biblical commentaries, the song becomes even more meaningful.

 

“Worthy Is the Lamb”: A song composed by Ricky Manalo, CSP

 

Refrain: Worthy is the Lamb that was slain

to receive honor and glory.

Worthy are the ones who believe

to receive the goodness of God.

 

1. Worthy are you, O Paschal Lamb.

Wisdom and strength belong now to you.

You laid down your life and died upon the cross:

we’ve become a people of hope.

 

2. Worthy are you, O Bread of Life.

Salvation and joy belong now to us.

By conquering death and rising to new life,

we’ve become a people of praise.

 

3. Worthy are you, O Risen Christ.

Wonders and signs, revealing your might.

Your power and glory shine upon our lives:

we’ve become your light for the world.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we share the anguish of Jesus for those who reject his saving grace? What do we do to help a secularized world turn to God and be converted to his ways?

 

2. Do we recognize and avow the radical salvation won for us by the victorious Paschal Lamb Jesus Christ? Do we let the unique role of Christ Savior shape our life and destiny?

 

  

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

 

Jesus Savior,

you wept over Jerusalem

for being blind to your gift of peace and salvation.

Give us the grace

to recognize your presence in our midst.

Let us follow your ways

and preserve us from destruction.

You are the Father’s benediction and blessing to us all.

We love you and thank you.

We resolve to follow you and serve you, now and forever.

Amen.  

 

            ***

(cf. Rv 5:10)

You are worthy to take the scroll

and to break open its seals.

For you were killed

and by your sacrificial death

you bought for God

people from every tribe, language, nation and race.

You have made them a kingdom of priests

to serve our God, and they shall rule on earth.

 

 

 

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.

 

“Jesus saw the city and wept over it.” (Lk 19:41) // “Worthy are you to receive the scroll and break open its seals.” (Rv 5:9)

 

  

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

 

Manifest your acceptance of Jesus as Savior by your acts of justice and compassion on behalf of the poor. // Let every moment and action of your life be an act of worship and praise to the Lamb who was slain for our saving.

  

 

*** *** ***

 

November 18, 2016: FRIDAY – WEEKDAY (33); THE DEDICATION OF THE BASILICAS OF SAINTS PETER

AND PAUL

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us True Worship … We Are Commissioned as His Prophets”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Rv 10:8-11 // Lk 19:45-48

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 19:45-48): “You have made it a den of thieves.”

 

Today’s Gospel (Lk 19:45-48) depicts Jesus driving away those who have made his house of prayer into a “den of thieves”. The religious practices in the Jerusalem temple have degenerated into a shameful market trafficking. Legal transactions in the name of religion, which trample the rights of the poor, are sanctioned and encouraged by temple authorities within its precincts. Jesus castigates the merchants for profaning the temple and the religious leaders for degrading the meaning of worship. Indeed, the God of freedom, who brought Israel from the bondage in Egypt, would not settle for false worship. Moreover, the passionate character of the liberating God and the integrity of his covenant love would not tolerate abuse and injustice to the poor, especially when done in the guise of religion. But God is compassionate, full of mercy and love. Ever faithful and true, the almighty God does not turn away from his sinful people. He sends his Son Jesus to renew the broken covenant and to teach them true worship. In a radical manifestation of divine love, our Savior Jesus Christ offers “true worship” on the cross of salvation.

 

The following story entitled “A Sunday Stranger”, circulated on the Internet, gives an idea of what true “worship” entails.

 

The parking lot filled rapidly on Sunday morning as members of the large church congregation filed into church. As usually happens in a church that size, each member had developed a certain comfort zone – a block of space within those four church walls that became theirs after the second or third sitting. It was as much a part of their experience as the recliner was to the television at home.

 

One morning a stranger stood at the edge of the parking lot near a dumpster. As families parked cars and piled out, they noticed him rummaging through the trash. “Oh no, I don’t believe it”, whispered a lady to her husband. “That’s all we need – a bunch of homeless people milling around here.” One worried little girl tugged on her dad’s sleeve. “But Daddy …” Daddy was busy sizing up the bearded stranger, whose baggy, outdated trousers and faded flannel shirt had dusted too many park benches. “Don’t stare at him, honey”, he whispered, and hurried her inside. Soft music filled the high-ceilinged sanctuary as churchgoers settled in their usual spots.

 

The choir sand an opening chorus, “In his presence there is comfort … in his presence there is peace …” Sunlight flooded the center aisle. The double doors swung open and the homeless man, sloppy and stooped, headed toward the front. “Oh no, It’s him!” somebody muttered. “What does he think he’s doing, anyway?” snapped an incredulous usher. The stranger set his bagful of dumpster treasures on the very first pew, which had been upholstered in an expensive soft teal fabric just three months ago. The music stopped. And before anyone had a chance to react, he ambled up the stairs and stood behind the fine, hand-crafted podium, where he faced a wide-eyed congregation.

 

The disheveled stranger spoke haltingly at first, in a low, clear voice. Unbuttoning and removing his top layer of clothing, he described Jesus, and the love he has for all people. “Jesus possesses sensitivity and a love that far surpasses what any of us deserves.” Stepping out of the baggy old trousers, the stranger went on to describe a forgiveness that is available to each and every one of us … without strings attached.

 

“Unconditionally he loves us. Unconditionally he gave his very life for us. Unconditionally and forever, we can have the peace and assurance that no matter who we are, where we’ve come from, or how badly we may have mistreated others or ourselves, there is hope. In Jesus, there is always hope. You see, my friends, it is never too late to change”, the man continued. “He is the author of change, and the provider of forgiveness. He came to bring new meaning to life.”

 

Men and women squirmed as the reality hit them like an electric current. The stranger tugged at his knotted gray beard, and removed it. “I’m here to tell you that we are loved with a love far beyond human understanding, a love that enables us to accept and love others in return.” Then tenderly he added, “Let’s pray together.” That wise pastor – under the guise of a homeless “nobody” – did not preach a sermon that day, but every person left with plenty to think about.

   

 

B. First Reading (Rv 10:8-11): “I took the small scroll and swallowed it.”

 

The reading (Rv 10:8-11) depicts the seer John being commissioned as God’s prophet to the nations. Ezekiel’s prophetic investiture (cf. Ez 2:8-3:3) inspires this account. John is commanded by a voice from heaven to take from the angel an “open” scroll. When he takes the little scroll and eats it, it tastes “sweet” as honey in his mouth. But after he swallows it, it turns “sour” in his stomach. That the scroll is “open” symbolizes that its message must not be kept secret but be communicated to the intended recipients. The action of “eating the scroll” indicates that the one being commissioned needs to assimilate completely and deeply its content or message. That the scroll is both “sweet and sour” symbolizes the double effect the prophetic message brings: that is, it announces the glorious victory of the faithful and the painful struggle that precedes it. The “sweet and sour” taste evokes the Christian paschal experience of beatitude and glory through suffering and death.

 

After eating the scroll, the prophet is told: “Once again you must proclaim God’s message about many nations, races, languages and kings.” The prophecy that John will proclaim contains judgments against peoples and their leaders. Since the prophetic truth disturbs and destabilizes, his message is dangerous for political powers and for the prophet himself. Indeed, the message of the prophet John and the Christian prophetic community through time and space is challenging, disquieting, transforming and life-giving.

 

The following article gives insight into what it means to be God’s prophet in today’s world (cf. Dashka Slater, “Call for Climate Justice” in Sierra, September/October 2015, p. 26-27).

 

On June 18, the Vatican released Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, subtitled “Care for Our Common Home”. Environmentalists hoped it would build momentum for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in December, while fossil fuel apologists attacked the pope’s credibility. (Rush Limbaugh went so far as to call the Pontiff a Marxist.)

 

But the papal letter’s significance goes far beyond its widely noted alarm about climate change to ask readers of all faiths to consider their relationship to the planet as a whole. “We are not faced with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social”, Pope Francis writes, “but rather one complex crisis which is both social and environmental.”

 

For environmental justice scholar, Sylvia Hood Washington, who is both Catholic and African-American, this holistic approach is what makes the encyclical so revolutionary. “When you have the pope clearly state that the degradation of the environment and the degradation of human beings is a sin? Praise be to God!” she says. “It’s a blessing to every human being who has wanted justice and equity.”

 

Hood Washington’s environmental ethos has a rigorous academic underpinning, but she also has a personal stake: Her mother died during an extended heat wave in Cleveland in 1988, the kind of disaster that will become more lethal as the planet warms. Heat waves, she points out, are particularly deadly for people with chronic diseases like the hypertension and diabetes that are epidemic in the black community.

 

“The climate of the earth, but also the internal climate of the body, has been changed by the industrial production of energy”, she says. “What we corrupt on the earth, we corrupt in ourselves.” (…)

 

But anyone who reads the encyclical with an open mind will be moved to action. “It’s a challenging document”, observes Patrick Carolan, executive director of the Franciscan Action Network. “If you’re reading it, you’re going to feel uncomfortable. St. Francis of Assisi taught us that you’re never transformed in your comfort zone. It’s not business as usual – it can’t be.”

 

 

 

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

 

1. How does the episode of the cleansing of the Temple impact us? What are the various elements and areas in our personal lives that need “cleansing”? What does “worship” mean to us personally? Do we strive to render God “true worship”?

 

2. Like the seer John, are we willing to take the “open” scroll, eat it and taste its sweetness and then feeling its sourness in the stomach, proclaim its prophetic contents to the nations? Are we willing to be God’s courageous prophets in today’s world?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you cleansed the temple from abusive merchants

and denounced false worship.

Purify us of hypocrisy and self-gain.

Teach us the meaning of true worship.

We can never truly love and praise you

if we continue to neglect the poor and marginal.

Give us the grace to make of our life

a pleasing “offering” to God.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

            Amen.

 

            ***

Loving God,

we thank you our vocation and mission

as your prophets in today’s world.

Help us to relish the sweetness of your word.

Give us the courage to proclaim your saving message to the nations.

Let us live by your Spirit

and rejoice in Christ’s love for us and one another.

You are worthy of honor, 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.

 

“My house shall be a house of prayer; but you have made it a den of thieves.” (Lk 19:46) // “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues and kings.” (Rv10:11)

 

 

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

 

By your acts of charity and animated by the spirit of true worship, contribute to the cleansing and rebuilding of God’s desecrated “temple” – today’s suffering people who are victims of crime, violence, oppression, exploitation and injustice. // Make an effort to study prayerfully the Word of God that you may proclaim God’s saving message more efficaciously to the people around you.

   

      

*** *** ***

 

November 19, 2016: SATURDAY – WEEKDAY (33); BVM ON SATURDAY

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Affirms the Reality of the Resurrection … The Prophetic Community Shares in His Paschal Destiny”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Rv 11:4-12 // Lk 20:27-40

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 20:27-40): “He is not God of the dead, but of the living.”

 

This happened in Veneto, Italy. Sr. Tiziana’s dad died of a massive stroke. Her mom was disconsolate and was crying her heart out at the funeral. Sr. Tiziana gently reminded her that the separation is temporary for she would be reunited with him in heaven. Her mom wailed: “But the Gospel says in the next life we will be like angels. In heaven, I will no longer be his wife.” Sr. Tiziana later confided: “I did not know what to say.” Of course, her mom’s fear of cessation of the relationship is unfounded. True love never ends.

 

Today’s Gospel (Lk 20:27-30) deals with the resurrection of the dead, a faith reality that surpasses human understanding. The Sadducees, a group of religious leaders who deny the existence of resurrected life, are bent on engaging Jesus in a reductio-ad-absurdum argument against the later doctrine of bodily resurrection. If there is a “resurrection” there would be struggles in heaven over marriage partners. Jesus’ first rebuttal also uses a reductio-ad-absurdum tactic. The Divine Master argues that the next existence, which has no place for death, makes marriage and remarriage irrelevant. He reduces to pieces the basic premise of the Sadducees that the life of the age to come is merely a continuation of this life and therefore needs marriage and human propagation lest it die out. The second rebuttal of Jesus is derived from the Torah. Since the Sadducees hold only to the Law of Moses, Jesus utilizes that to bolster his argument about the resurrected life. When God says: “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” this implies that his relationship with these patriarchs is everlasting and personal. God does not lose his friends to death. They live on and this is made possible through the Messiah’s resurrection.

 

It is through the resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God, that we are brought to true and eternal life. Our belief in our resurrection is based on our faith in the resurrected Christ. Harold Buetow remarks: “Christian belief in immortality is unique and special. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Good News of fullness of life in this age, and of the resurrection in the age to come. For us death is a door, not a wall – not a wall that ends growth and action like the Berlin wall, but a door into a Christmas-tree room full of surprises. Someone has compared death to standing on the seashore. A ship spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the open sea. She fades on the horizon, and someone says, ‘She’s gone.’ Just at the moment when someone says, ‘She’s gone’, other voices who are watching at her coming on another shore happily shout, ‘Here she comes’. Or to use another metaphor, what the caterpillar calls ‘the end’, the butterfly calls the ‘beginning’.”

  

 

B. First Reading (Rv 11:4-12): “These two prophets tormented the inhabitants of the earth.”

 

While the scene of the open scroll (Rv 10:8-11) underlines the prophetic mission of the Church, today’s reading about the “two witnesses” (Rv 11:4-12) delineates the consequences of this mission for the Church and the world. The seer John tells us that the witnesses are “two” because in the Jewish tradition, at least two witnesses are needed for a valid testimony. The reference to the “two witnesses” evokes the role of Moses and Elijah in salvation history. According to Jewish belief, Moses and Elijah are to return to preach repentance before the day of the Lord. Moreover, the image of the “two witnesses” is superimposed on the image of the “olive trees” and “lampstands” depicted by the prophet Zechariah (cf. Zec 4:3, 11). This symbolic device intends to describe the role and meaning of Christian witnessing. Indeed, the “two witnesses” which are “the two olive trees and the two lamps that stand before the Lord of the earth” symbolize the Church. Nourished by the Spirit and shining like a lamp, the Church bears witness to the radiance of God.

 

The “two witnesses” cannot be killed as long as their witnessing is not complete. In the symbolic city called “Sodom” (a typical example of moral perversion) or “Egypt” (which represents powers hostile to God’s people, oppressing and reducing them to slavery), they are killed by the “beast” that comes from the bottomless pit. The “beast” symbolizes the “anti-Christ” who musters and marshals the enemies of the “two witnesses”. Their dead bodies lie in the street of that sinful city and denied burial. This ultimate humiliation indicates the pitch of hatred to which pagans have been incited by the Christian message. The enemies rejoice that the troublesome Christian witnesses have been eliminated.

 

But the faithful witnesses are vindicated. After “three and a half days” of death and torment, “a life-giving breath comes from God” and raises them up. The enemies watch in consternation as a loud voice from heaven summons the two prophets: “Come up here!” As their enemies watch, the faithful witnesses go up into heaven in a cloud. This beautiful scene of salvation and glorification is meant to encourage the Christians to remain faithful during times of suffering and persecution. Indeed, the Christian faithful are called and destined to share in Christ’s paschal destiny of passion, death and resurrection.

 

The following modern-day account gives insight into the hardship that Christian witnessing entails as well as the hope for salvation (cf. Dominican Brother Augustine Marogi, “Persecuted, but not Abandoned” in Columbia, September 2015, p. 20-23).

 

Gardeners know that when a plant is uprooted and transplanted, its roots may have great difficulty receiving the water needed to remain alive. And as the plant adjusts to new soil, it may suffer “transplant shock” and never recover.

 

Uprooted human beings can suffer similar consequences as well. Forced to abandon their homes, refugees often experience their new surroundings as a vast, dark desert. Distraught and confused, fathers and mothers find themselves unable to provide loving care and security for their children. Despair becomes a real temptation. Such is the fate of displaced Christian families living in Iraq today.

 

After the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, overran the city of Mosul in northern Iraq and smaller towns in 2014, they gave Christians three options: convert to Islam, pay jizya (a submission tax) or leave. Otherwise, they would be slain. With little more than the clothes on their back, nearly all the Christian families abandoned the cities and villages where their roots could be traced back thousands of years. They fled into Kurdish areas where many have faced deplorable living conditions – in tents, partially completed buildings or even out in the open.

 

In response to this humanitarian crisis, the Knights of Columbus Christian Refugee Relief Fund was launched in August 2014. The initiative has helped to provide shelter and medical care for refugee families in need, mitigating their sufferings and giving hope amid dire circumstances. (…)

 

Redemptorist Archbishop Bashar Matti Ward of Erbil affirmed that both the spiritual and humanitarian support have given hope to his suffering people. “We remain confident in Christ that there is a future for Iraqi Christians in Iraq.”

 

 

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

 

1. What is our concept of death and dying? Is this concept illumined by faith in the living God, in whom all are alive? Do we believe that our future resurrected life will be that of “a person with a wholly illuminated soul” – where we are closer to being children of God and able to respond to the divine loving plan for each of us? How authentic is our liturgical confession: We believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting? How does this eschatological belief affect our daily living here and now? 

 

2. When called to witness our Christian faith in dire circumstances, do we turn to God and trust in his saving help? Do we take to heart the plight of persecuted Christians?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

you are the God of the living, not of the dead.

In Jesus, your Son and our Savior,

we live and move.

Help us to look forward to the resurrected life,

when all that is best in us will come through

and each of us will become

“a person with a wholly illuminated soul”.

May the Risen Christ whom we celebrate in every Eucharist

bring about more and more

our own resurrection and transformation.

We give you glory and praise, now and forever.

Amen.  

 

***

Lord Jesus,

you suffered what the persecuted Christians of today

are suffering.

Give them the grace to be courageous in their witnessing

and grant them the hope of glory.

Let the people of goodwill come to their aid

and may all hatred and violence cease.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“He is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” (Lk 20:38) // “They went up to heaven in a cloud.” (Rv 11:12)

 

 

 

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

 

Pray for widows/widowers who have lost their partners and are grieving for them. Pray for the grace of a happy death and a deeper experience of trust in Jesus’ almighty Father, the God of the living. In the month of November, visit a cemetery. Pray for the repose of the soul of the beloved dead and thank God for being the God of the living, and not God of the dead. // Do what you can to assist morally, spiritually and materially today’s persecuted Christians.

   

 

***

 

 

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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