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A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

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N.B, Please let us continue to pray for deliverance.

 

ORATIO IMPETRATA

TO SUBDUE THE CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC

  

Loving God,

you are the author of Life

and the Lord of creation.

We thank you for the wonders of our being

and the marvels of creation.

We trust in you

for your faithfulness

is our buckler and our shield.

With you the terror of the night

does not overwhelm us

nor the plague that prowls in the darkness.

We now turn to you

as the pandemic of the Corona Virus

casts its shadows of death upon us.

Deliver us from this calamity

and free us from this pestilence.

Spare us from the scourge of this disease.

Heal those who are afflicted

and welcome into your bosom the victims deceased.

Help us to work together in a concerted effort

to fight this torment.

Be near to us

and let the Spirit of life

breathe its healing comfort upon us.

Restored in your grace,

may we give you thanks and praise

in the assembly of the redeemed

as we proclaim the healing power of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ,

now and forever. Amen.

 

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BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 19, n. 8)

Week 2 in Ordinary Time: January 17-23, 2021

 

 

(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 10-16, 2021 please go to ARCHIVES Series 19 and click on “Baptism – Week 1 Ordinary”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY:

January 17-23, 2021.)

 

Also enclosed is the Lectio Divina for the Solemn Feast of Santo Niño, which is celebrated in the Philippines on the Sunday after the Baptism of the Lord. This year 2021 is very significant. It is the 500th anniversary of the evangelization of the Philippines, the land of my origin The Filipino Christians are deeply grateful for the light of faith they have received.

 

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January 17, 2021: SECOND WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Invites Us to Come and See”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

I Sm 3:3b-10, 19 // I Cor 6:13c-15a, 17-20 // Jn 1:35-42

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 1:35-42): “They saw where he was staying and they stayed with him.”

          

In today’s Gospel reading (Jn 1:35-42) Jesus Christ initiates the dialogue of discipleship: “What are you looking for?” Andrew and his companion respond with a question pregnant with meaning: “Where are you staying?” Jesus answers them, “Come and you will see”. Instead of a pat answer, Jesus offers an invitation to journey with him on the path of discipleship and into a deeper personal relationship with him. The positive and ready response of the disciples to the Incarnate Word’s invitation is inspiring: “They went and saw where Jesus was staying, and they stayed with him.” As the Word made flesh dwelt among us and stayed with us through his eternal healing presence, so the first disciples remain with Jesus, the incarnate Word and divine Teacher.

 

Having experienced the life-giving intimacy and power of Jesus, the Word of life, the disciple Andrew shares the Word. His inevitable response is to find someone else to share the joy of his personal encounter with the Messiah. His mission of sharing the Word bears fruit. Basil of Seleucia remarks: “Andrew was the first to become an apostle … Taking Peter with him; Andrew brought his brother to the Lord, thus making him his fellow-disciple. This was Andrew’s first achievement: he increased the number of apostles by bringing Peter to Christ, so that Christ might find in him the disciples’ leader.”

 

The call of the first Christian disciples reminds me of my own vocation and personal response to God’s call, which I report below.

 

When I was a teenager, my father was diagnosed with cancer of the liver. The doctors believed that he would not live more than three months. I vowed that I would become a nun if God would heal my father. My father was healed and was to live thirty more years, instead of just three more months.

 

A year after my father was healed, my three younger brothers and I went for vacation in my Auntie’s home in the province of Albay. Fr. Peter Barrisoro, a priest from the Society of St. Paul, was also there for a few days of rest. One pleasant afternoon, we were in the yard conversing with him while he was cleaning his motorcycle. My talkative and impertinent kid brother blurted out that I would like to be a sister. The priest became enthusiastic and told me that he would like to introduce me to the Pious Disciples of the Divine Master, whose convent is in Antipolo, near Manila.

 

Fr. Pete invited me to visit the Sisters whom he knew very well since he was their chaplain. A few days after we returned to Manila, he picked me up. Together with another young lady, we went to the convent in Antipolo. When its gate was opened and I saw the verdant, peaceful garden, a sense of serenity and harmony swept over me. In the chapel, I saw a Sister in flowing blue mantle praying before the exposed Blessed Sacrament. There and then I felt an indescribable fascination for this life of total consecration to God. What intensified my desire to be a religious was the witness of charity, joy and goodness of the community. In the convent, I felt the presence of God most intensely and Christ’s invitation, “Come and see” became more impelling. After finishing another school year in the University of the Philippines, I entered the convent on May 3, 1970.

 

The origin of my religious vocation is God who had manifested himself to me most strongly in the paschal event of my father’s sickness and healing. A family crisis was an occasion for him to draw me to himself in a most intimate way. Moreover, God used an impertinent kid brother and many kindly persons as instruments to help me discern my religious vocation. One day I finally made a decisive step toward accepting the Divine Master’s invitation, “Come and see”. I went with him, saw where he was staying and stayed with him.

 

 

B. First Reading (I Sm 3:3b-10, 19): “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

 

Marion Bond West, an inspirational writer and mother of hyperactive twins, was in the kitchen frying chicken for dinner one busy day. As she stirred the chicken pieces sizzling in the pan, she heard an inner voice commanding her: “Go, look for your boys!” She concluded, “I must be imagining things”. But the inner voice came back with insistence: “Go, look for your boys!” Reluctantly, she switched off the stove and, leaving the chicken pieces soaking in the oil, went to look for her twins. When she reached the laundry room, she almost fainted. One little boy was crouched inside the electric dryer with an astronaut’s helmet on his head. The twin brother was ready to blast him off as in a rocket ship. Marion’s ability to listen and respond to the inner voice paid off.

 

After focusing on the mystery of the Lord’s incarnation during the Christmas-Epiphany season, we now enter into the ordinary season of the liturgical year. In today’s liturgy, the Church invites us to delve into the meaning of the call and response to the Word of God. We hear in today’s First Reading (I Sm 3:3b-10, 19), the moving example of God’s call of the young boy, Samuel, who serves in the temple of the Lord. There is humor in the boy’s running back and forth to the old priest Eli, with his eager, “Here I am. You called me.” The biblical narrator explains: “At that time Samuel was not familiar with the Lord, because the Lord had not revealed to him anything yet” (v.7). After the third time, the priest, Eli, perceives that the voice is coming from the Lord. He then teaches young Samuel to listen and respond to the summoning voice. In his limpid innocence and energetic readiness, the boy becomes for us a model of receptivity and openness to the voice of God. “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” is his response to the Lord who reveals his presence to him.

 

The text of the first reading skips verses 11-18. These verses, however, are necessary for a better understanding of the concluding verse: “Samuel grew up, and the Lord was with him, not permitting any word of his to be without effect” (v.19). The omitted passage narrates the Lord’s message of indictment to the house of Eli and Samuel’s unpleasant role of communicating this painful message to Eli. The latter humbly resigns to God’s justice, saying: “He is the Lord; let him do what he thinks is good” (v.18).

 

Indeed, Samuel grows up to be an honest and truthful prophet. He proclaims the voice of the Lord courageously and never leaves it unheeded. In this light, today’s concluding verse about Samuel, “not allowing any word of the Lord to be without effect” (v.19), evokes the powerful proclamation of Yahweh, which we heard in the First Reading of last Sunday’s feast of the Lord’s Baptism: “My word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it” (cf. Is 55:11). Indeed, the word of the Lord – God’s dabar – is dynamic and efficacious. It demands a personal response of which Samuel is a model.

 

 

C. Second Reading (I Cor 6:13c-15a, 17-20): “Your bodies are members of Christ.”

 

Today’s Second Reading (I Cor 6:13c-15a, 17-20) exhorts the Corinthians to live their life consistent with their vocation and dignity as “members of Christ’s body”. Joined to the Lord and made holy by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the Christian disciples are to live with integrity in the midst of society’s moral depravity and in a climate of extreme sexual license. The bad example of dissolute morals and the prevailing licentiousness in the notorious “sin city” – Corinth – continue to impinge on the young Christian community and some of the baptized committed fornication and incest. The no-nonsense spiritual father Paul – writing from Ephesus – confronts these terrible issues that vitiate their total response to Christ. Saint Paul reminds them that “their bodies are members of Christ” and that they are a “temple of the Holy Spirit”. Because of their intimate union with Christ in the Spirit through baptism, they are not to adulterate themselves with sin, especially fornication and sexual abuse, but rather they must cleave to Christ who had offered his life for them.

 

Indeed, the Christians have tremendous dignity and responsibility as members of the “body of Christ” and as a “temple of the Holy Spirit”. Everything we do must be an expression of holiness and our total consecration and belonging to God, in Jesus Christ through the indwelling of the life-giving Spirit. Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians to live their vocation and dignity as members of the Christian body is extremely relevant for today’s Christians called to live a life of integrity in the midst of temptations and moral fragmentation.

 

The following account of Papa Mike, the founder of the POVERELLO HOUSE in Fresno, concerning his first girlfriend and the later one who became his wife illustrates the contrast between the life that he lived before knowing Christ and what he became after he followed Christ and was baptized in the Catholic Church (cf. Papa Mike by Mike McGarvin, 2003, p. 19-20; p. 64, 68-71).

 

As I matured, I had no desire to have a girlfriend. I think that this was due to my dad’s unfaithfulness – relationships, in my mind, meant pain. This continued into high school, where I managed to make a few female friends, but I kept them at arm’s length. That changed when I met Buckwheat during my senior year. Her real name was Sally, but I nicknamed her Buckwheat. She lived in my neighborhood, and like everyone else I got hooked up with, she had a world of family problems. There was no father in her life, and her mom was pretty casual about how she raised her. I met her when she was seventeen. She claimed that she had been gang-raped when she was twelve years old. That, combined with her upbringing, apparently had an impact on her, and she was promiscuous.

 

When we started going together, she immediately wanted the relationship to get physical, but I was very reluctant. I think I had doubts about my masculinity; I know that the things I’d seen in my dad’s basement had affected me. I don’t recall feeling any moral hesitancy, just a fear of involvement. She kept pushing the issue, and I finally relaxed and began having sex with her. Once that got started, it became the basis of our relationship. However, it took a bizarre twist. Whenever we’d get it on, she wanted more, so I began calling friends, who would come and finish things up. You’d think that I would have at least felt strange and jealous, but I didn’t. I guess I didn’t know what a normal relationship was like. (…)

 

God was transforming my life through Poverello. Joining the Catholic Church gave me a new outlook, and my life had meaning now … I’d become pretty serious about my faith then, and Poverello was the center of it all. Even though my life was more or less on track now, and I had found companionship and purpose at Poverello and in the Church, I still found myself longing for the special, intimate relationship of a marriage … I did take a step of becoming a Secular Franciscan, which would allow me to marry while still striving to follow the way of St. Francis. That’s where Mary Malsbury (from Fresno) came in … She also visited a few times in San Francisco. When she did, I gave her a kind of litmus test to see if this was really going to work out.

 

Our “dates” up there consisted of volunteering at the Poverello. Mary was a country girl, and really pretty innocent. Poverello was the center of my life, so I wanted to see if Mary and Pov would get along. She was willing to give it a shot. Her first night turned out to be quite an experience for her. A drag queen named Gwendolyn came in. Gwendolyn approached Mary and asked her for some lipstick. I was serving coffee, and Mary came up and whispered in my ear, “That guy,” she nodded in his direction, “wants to borrow my lipstick. What do I do?” “Well,” I replied, “if Gwendolyn wants lipstick, give Gwendolyn some lipstick.” So she did. That night proved to me she was marriage material …

 

We got married at the Third Order Hall, a meeting place for secular Franciscans … Within a couple of months after our wedding, our first child, Michael, was conceived … A year after Michael was born, we did something I never thought I’d do: We moved to Fresno … Mary had come from a close-knit family, and she missed them terribly … It was a sad day for me when we left. I was leaving behind the best friends I’d ever known, people who had embraced me at my worst and loved me into sanity. I was leaving the Pov, which was the place that filled my life with purpose and meaning. Worst of all, I was leaving Father Simon, who in many ways had become like a real father to me, and Brother Kurt. I was emotionally mixed about it all. On the one hand, I was happy to be making a sacrifice for my wife, and I was excited about our new life together. On the other hand, it felt like a part of me was being torn out.

 

 

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

 

What do the vocation stories of Samuel and Andrew mean to you personally? Do you hear God calling you? Will you say to God, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening”? What is it like to be with Jesus? What are the challenges and difficulties you have in living out your vocation as a member of “the body of Christ” and as a “temple of the Holy Spirit”?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

we thank you for the “come and see” experience with Jesus

and for letting us dwell in him.

Help us to be faithful to our vocation and dignity

as members of “the body of Christ”

and as “temples of the Holy Spirit”.

In Christ and in the Spirit,

let us adore and glorify you

in the spiritual body, the Church,

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. 

 

“They went and saw where Jesus was staying, and they stayed with him.” (Jn 1: 39)

 

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

 

Assist the vocational ministry in your parish or diocese and see how you can contribute spiritually and materially to a candidate in priestly or religious life. Pray for the perseverance of all priests and religious. To celebrate the gift of Christian-priestly-religious vocation in the Church and in order to give homage to Jesus, the source of all vocations, make an effort to spend some quiet moments of Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.

 

 

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SANTO NIÑO, YEAR B (For Filipino Communities)

Is 9:1-6 

Eph 1:3-6, 15-18

Mk 10:13-16

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HAIL, SEÑOR SANTO NIÑO!

 

 

Lectio 1: Mk 10:13-16

 

Today’s Gospel episode of Jesus blessing the children (Mk 10:13-16) follows his teaching about the sacredness of marriage. This is significant in that to accept the Lord’s teaching on marriage requires the openness of children and a sense of dependence on God’s strength matching the child’s sense of dependence on the parents. Only a childlike trust will enable the Christian disciples to live up to the demands of the day-to-day relationships they have in the family and elsewhere. Jesus shows compassion and concern for the children who are being prevented from coming to him. Reacting with righteous indignation, he orders the disciples to let the children come to him and holds the little ones as models for those who receive the kingdom of God. It is only to those who are receptive as children that the kingdom of God belongs. Those who are childlike have a central place in the community of faith. Today’s Gospel invites us to be like “children,” of which the Santo Niño is the sterling model, in being sensitive and receptive to God’s kingdom and saving plan.

 

 

Lectio 1: Is 9:1-6

 

In today’s First Reading, the prophet Isaiah offers words of consolation to God’s people. He expresses the joy of a future liberation as “a great light” dispelling the shadows of darkness. He likewise underlines that this saving event will be ushered by the birth of a child, whose “dominion is vast and forever peaceful”. The Filipino Christians, as they celebrate today the feast of the Santo Niño, experience profound truth and deeper meaning in Isaiah’s prophecy. The “child born to us” … the “son given to us” is Jesus, the Señor Santo Niño. The “great light” that shone upon the land of gloom is the light of faith that Jesus has gifted to the Filipino people.

 

The feast of Santo Niño is a celebration of the gift of Christian faith that the Filipinos received, symbolized in Ferdinand Magellan’s gift of an image of the Infant Jesus 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 first Christian nation in Asia. They attest to the dynamism of the saving Gospel that the Santo Niño has won for all the nations, including the Filipino nation.

 

SEÑOR SANTO NIÑO 

 

Refrain:

Señor Santo Niño, with your scepter guide our people

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

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

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

 

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.)

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.)

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.)

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.)

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.)

 

 

Lectio 2: Eph 1:3-6, 15-18

 

Today’s Second Reading extols God who bestows spiritual blessings in Christ. His Son Jesus is his “gift” to us. In Jesus Christ, we become children of God. Incorporated into the divine life of Christ, we, too, become santo niños and santa niñas in today’s world. Called to a life of holiness and filled with spiritual blessing, we, too, become channels of God’s blessings for others.

 

The devotion to the Santo Niño has impacted me personally. My terminally ill dad who died in 1997 in Cebu Island gave me miniature statues of St. Joseph (three inches) and the Santo Niño (two inches) as “inheritance.” I have brought them with me in my various missionary assignments. The Santo Niño statue reminds me of how dear I am to my dad “Jose” and how wonderful it is to have a caring family. The second Santo Niño statue I have is more than a foot tall and it stands on a wooden base that is almost a foot tall. Vested in a flowing red cape, it looks very regal and elegant. It was given to me in January 2010 by my friend Cory who hails from Cebu. The face of the Niño is sweet and welcoming. In the privacy of my room, I pray to him daily and invoke his abundant blessings. I got my third statue, another small one and worth a dollar, from a poor vendor outside the Basilica of the Santo Niño after attending Mass during the feast of the Santo Niño in January 2011. It is a souvenir from the first Sinulog festival I ever attended and reminds me of my duty to serve and care for God’s “little ones”.

 

 

Meditatio

 

How do we translate into life our love for the Santo Niño?

 

 

Oratio

(From the Novena to the Santo Niño)

 

O Señor Santo Niño, you are our king and our God, we worship you.

You are our strong defender, we turn to you.

You are the patron of Cebu, the Philippines, and the world,

we come to you.

You have made extraordinary wonders

through your miraculous image in those chosen islands, remember us.

Look down at this poor soul that comes to you for help.

Lead us with your wisdom; discipline us with your truth;

console us with your tenderness, protect us with your might. Amen.

 

 

Contemplatio

 

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

 

“A son is given to us.” (Is 9:5)

“He has blessed us in Christ.” (Eph 1:3)

 

 

Actio 

 

Bring the love of the Señor Santo Niño to the “little ones”—the poor, the needy, the vulnerable, and the defenseless.

 

 

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January 18, 2021: MONDAY – WEEKDAY (2)

N.B, Today the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. is celebrated. (USA)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Bridegroom of the Church … He Is Priest through Suffering”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Heb 5:1-10 // 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 (Heb 5:1-10): “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered.”

 

Today’s First Reading (Heb 5:1-10) gives a beautiful insight into the priestly character of Christ’s sufferings. This reading helps us to appreciate the life-giving meaning of the Servant-Son’s obedient stance. It inspires us to a spirit of conversion and thankfulness for the infinite goodness and eternal salvation that flow forth from his priestly sacrifice on the cross. This remarkable text expresses the paschal glorification of Christ with new depth because its shows its connection to priestly mediation.

 

The Jesuit biblical scholar Albert Vanhoye, the foremost authority on the letter to the Hebrews, comments: “For Christ the path leading to the priesthood was a path of humility and suffering, a path of effective solidarity with human weakness. His priestly office consisted of prayer and supplications emerging from a situation of distress, and they were accompanied by a loud cry and tears. In this way Christ’s whole passion is presented as a priestly action that assumes human anguish in the presence of death and transforms it into an offering of prayer. This prayer was offered to God with reverent submission. Jesus did not pretend to impose his own will on God; instead, he let his Father choose the best solution. This is the reason why he was heard. The divine solution did not consist in preserving him from death; it transformed his sufferings and death into the instrument of definitive victory over evil and over death itself. Distorted by sin, human nature had to learn obedience so that it could forever be reintroduced into God’s intimacy. Since Christ was a Son he did not need this painful learning for himself, yet he accepted it because of his generous solidarity with us. Thus he became the perfect man, fully worthy of being accepted and even enthroned at God’s right hand, and he did that for the sake of all since perfection was the fruit of his complete solidarity with us.”

 

The following excerpt illustrates the sacrificial aspect in the life of the Vietnamese Archbishop Van Thuan, a prisoner in various Communist prisons for thirteen years, nine of them in solitary confinement (cf. Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, Testimony of Hope, Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2000, p. 77-80).

 

During the first months of my imprisonment, I found myself in the most Catholic part of the city of Nha Trang where I had been a bishop for eight years. From my cell, I could hear the bells of my cathedral ringing day and night, and throughout the whole day those of the parishes and religious communities nearby. I would have preferred to be in the mountains so that I would not have had to hear them.

 

In the silence of the night, I heard the sound of the ocean waves of the Pacific, which I used to watch from my office window. No one knew where to find me, though the prison was only a few kilometers away from my own house. Absurd life!

 

As I have already mentioned, on the evening of December 1, 1976, I was taken from the prison of Thu Duc. I was to embark on the ship of Hai Phong. That evening as all the prisoners waited to set sail, we were told to sit down on the ground in the dark. At a distance of only 3 kilometers, I could see the lights of the city of Saigon, the center of the diocese of which I had been named coadjutor on April 24, 1975. I knew my journey would take me far away. The pain this caused me was agonizing. I thought of the Apostle Paul at Miletus, when he gathered the elders of Ephesus knowing that he would never see them again. And yet, I could not gather my own! I could not comfort them or give them any advice. Within myself I said goodbye to all of them, and especially to my dear elderly Archbishop Phaolo Nguyen Van Binh, with a broken heart at the thought of never seeing him again.

 

I experienced a profound pastoral suffering in all of this, but I can testify that the Father did not abandon me and that he gave me strength.

 

 

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. How do we imitate the obedient stance and the priestly sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ? Do we strive to love Christ more intimately; he who is the source of eternal salvation?

 

 

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. 

 

***

Loving Father,

we thank you for the gift of the New Covenant,

sealed in the blood of your Son Jesus Christ.

His “reverent submission” to your saving will

earned for us our eternal salvation.

Help us to be intimately united

with the priestly sacrifice of your Servant-Son on the cross

and thus share in his ultimate victory over death and sin.

May we always live as your true children, 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.

 

“New wine is poured into new wineskins.” (Mk 2:22) // “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered.” (Heb 5:8)

 

 

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. // By your charitable deeds and acts of justice, allow the priestly sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ to bear “abundant fruits” of healing in today’s world.                         

 

*** %%% *** %%% *** %%% ***

 

January 19, 2021: TUESDAY – WEEKDAY (2)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is Lord of the Sabbath … He Anchors Our Hope”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Heb 6:10-20 // 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 (Heb 6:10-20): “This hope we have as an anchor sure and firm.”

 

In today’s First Reading (Heb 6:10-20), the author of the letter to the Hebrews is aware of the danger of apostasy in the Christian community. His stern warning is meant to preserve the members from becoming sluggish, and his energetic encouragement is to help them persevere in the faith. Their zeal for works of charity should be matched by their perseverance in their Christian vocation, which is based on hope. Just as the patriarch Abraham was given the twofold support of a promise of numerous descendants and an oath to fulfill it, so the Christians benefit from this twofold support: the promise of eternal inheritance and the divine oath that guarantees the priesthood of Christ. The Christian hope is steadfastly anchored in what Christ has done in the eternal order by his priestly sacrifice.

 

Archbishop Van Thuan gives us an inspiring account of how a little fish brought him hope during the time of his imprisonment (cf. Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, Testimony of Hope, Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2000, p. 155-156).

 

I was in isolation in Hanoi when one day, a policewoman brought me a small fish for me to cook. As soon as I saw the wrappings, I immediately felt a start of joy, but I was careful not to show this externally. My happiness was not because of the fish, but because of the pages of the newspaper in which it was wrapped: two pages of the L’Osservatore Romano. At that time, when the Vatican newspaper arrived at the post office in Hanoi, it was often confiscated and sold at the market as paper. Those two pages had been used to wrap the little fish. Calmly, without bringing attention to myself, I washed those sheets of paper to remove the smell, and then dried them in the sun and preserved them as a relic.

 

For me, in that unbroken regime of isolation, those pages were a sign of communion with Rome, with Peter, with the Church, and an embrace from Rome. I would not have been able to survive without an awareness of being part of the Church.

 

Today we live in a world that rejects the values of the civilization of life, of love, and of the truth; our hope is in the Church, Image of the Trinity.

 

 

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 trust in God’s promise of eternal life, and do we rely on his oath that guarantees Christ’s priesthood on our behalf? Is our hope firmly anchored in Jesus Christ?

 

 

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.

 

***

Loving Father,

we thank you for the promise of eternal salvation

and for the oath that assures us of Christ’s priesthood on our behalf.

Our hope of salvation is steadfastly anchored

in Jesus Christ, the eternal High Priest.

Let us be a prophetic witness to that hope.

He lives and reigns, 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.

 

“The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mk 2:28) // “Hold fast to the hope that lies before us. This we have as an anchor of the soul.” (Heb 6:18-19) 

 

 

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. // By word and deed, offer a testimony of hope to those who are overwhelmed with trials, sufferings, and despair. Be ready to listen and to welcome them tenderly.

 

 

*** *** ***

January 20, 2021: WEDNESDAY – WEEKDAY (2); SAINT FABIAN, Pope, Martyr; SAINT SEBASTIAN, Martyr

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Healing Love Transcends Barriers … He Is a Priest Forever Like Melchizedek”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Heb 7:1-3, 15-17 // 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 (Heb 7:1-3, 15-17): “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”

 

Today’s First Reading (Heb 7:1-3, 15-17) helps us to contemplate the meaning of the priesthood of Christ. The author presents Christ’s priesthood in terms of its resemblance to that of Melchizedek in the book of Genesis. Melchizedek, a king of Salem and a priest of the Most High, blessed Abraham who was coming victoriously from a battle. Abraham offered tithes to him. The fact that Melchizedek is depicted as having no genealogy and no record of birth or death makes him an appropriate image of the “eternal” Priest: Jesus Christ. The figure of Melchizedek points to the Son of God who is infinitely superior and eternal. The name “Melchizedek” means righteousness and his title “king of Salem” means “king of peace”. His name and title evoke the blessings of justice and peace that Christ the Priest-Messiah would bring. He lives forever to intercede for us before God.

 

Msgr. Bernardo Antonini, a professed member of the JESUS PRIEST INSTITUTE, a branch of the Pauline Family founded by Blessed James Alberione, lived his priesthood under the guiding hand of the eternal High Priest Jesus Christ. The following biography prepared by the Society of St. Paul (SSP) underlines the glory of his priesthood.

 

Msgr. Bernardo Antonini was born in Cimego, Italy, on October 20, 1932, two years before his parents went to live in the Diocese of Verona. He entered the Verona Seminary and was ordained on June 26, 1955.

 

He was assigned to parish ministry at first but soon his gifts of mind were recognized and he took his Degree in Modern Languages at Catholic University and his Licentiate in Theology two years later. Meanwhile he had begun to teach in the Diocesan Junior Seminary until 1972. He was awarded his License in Sacred Scripture by the Pontifical Biblical Institute in 1975 and subsequently taught that subject for more than ten years meanwhile being Prefect of Young Priests, Director of Ongoing Clergy Formation and of the Center for Religious Formation in his Diocese.

 

Little did he know, however, what Divine Providence had in store for him. In 1977 he entered the JESUS PRIEST INSTITUTE where he met the Delegate Director, Fr. Lamera and shared with him his dreams of further apostolic initiatives. Under Fr. Lamera’s direction he remained strongly attached to his Diocese but also began to form his heart on the heart of Saint Paul and to understand better the urgency of bringing the Gospel to people everywhere with modern means. He also continued and increased his life-long devotion to Mary and was notable for his particular fidelity to the Holy Father.

 

His studies in modern languages had enabled him to acquire a good knowledge of Russian and, when Gorbachov began gradually to create more openness in Russian society toward the end of the eighties, he was released by his Bishop for his missionary work and went to Moscow on July 2, 1989, first working with the Apostolic Nuncio, and then with Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, the “Metropolitan” (or major Church figure in an area outside the normal Church confines).

 

From that time onwards his zeal had every opportunity to express itself. He was appointed Founder and Rector of the first Russian Seminary which he named, not surprisingly “Regina Apostolorum” – Queen of Apostles. He also taught Sacred Scripture, was a tireless preacher, and directed the local Catholic newspaper “Svet Evangelia” – “The Light of the Gospel”. During the Jubilee Year 2000, he was responsible for all the local initiatives: arranging pilgrimages, pastoral animation programs, Spiritual Exercises, Jubilee literature, organization of inter-religious dialogue and much more.

 

But he wished to work in poorer and deprived churches and so, on August 16, 2001, he transferred, with the permission of his Bishop, to be Vice-Rector of the local Seminary and Episcopal Vicar in Kazakhstan. But the end of his totally-committed life was near. On the Saturday before Palm Sunday he complained of a “stomachache” and some friends suggested he return to Italy for a check-up. However, he had just sent one of the priests to Italy for that purpose and he replied: “It’s not feasible to have two priests absent from the Diocese during Holy Week. Don’t worry. I will get over it.”

 

Tuesday of Holy Week saw him concelebrating with the Bishop at the Mass for the Blessing of Oils. In the evening he retired to his room. Next morning he was not in church (he was usually there before anyone else) and someone went to knock at his door. It was open. Inside he was still sitting upright at his desk as if working. He had written his last line and said his last word. After seventy utterly dedicated years in the Lord’s service he had gone to celebrate Easter in Paradise!

 

 

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 value the gift of Jesus the eternal High Priest? Do we value the gift of the ordained priesthood? What do we do to help the ordained priests to be more efficacious in their ministry?

 

 

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.

 

***

God our Father,

we thank you for the gift of Jesus, the Priest.

He lives forever to intercede for us.

His ministry of intercession continues

in his ordained priests.

Help us to love and care for your priests.

Teach us to live fully

the dignity and value of our common priesthood.

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.

 

“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) // “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb 7:17)

 

 

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 priests and for priestly vocations. See what you can do to help priests in their ministry and those who are experiencing various difficulties.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

January 21, 2021: THURSDAY – SAINT AGNES, Virgin, Martyr

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Touch Heals … He Offered Sacrifice Once-for-All”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Heb 7:25-8:6 // 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 Nino 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 Nino. 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 Nino from a wharf in Mandaue to a pier in Cebu City. The number of devotees waiting by the seaside to welcome the Santo Nino was unbelievable. They want to “touch”, even if only with their gaze, the beloved Nino, 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 (Heb 7:25-8:6): “He offered sacrifice once for all when he offered himself.”

 

In today’s First Reading (Heb 7:25-8:6), we focus our contemplative gaze upon Jesus, the eternal High Priest, whose once-for-all sacrifice upon the cross is infinitely efficacious. The saving sacrifice that he offered is his own self. Jesus is able, now and always, to save those who come to God through him. Jesus lives forever to plead with God for us all. Jesus, the holy Priest who offers the perfect sacrifice, is the “mediator” of the New Covenant. His perfect sacrifice on the cross has been the means of union between God and man. It has taken away sin – the barrier to that union – and has made possible our new and everlasting covenant with the compassionate and merciful God.

 

The sacrificial dimension of the Christian priesthood is illustrated anew in the life of Blessed Timothy Giaccardo, who offered his life for the Pauline Family and in a very special way, for the ecclesial approval of the religious congregation Pious Disciples of the Divine Master. Here is an excerpt from a brief biography prepared by the Society of St. Paul.

 

Fr. Giaccardo, the first priest of the Society of St. Paul, made Perpetual Vows on June 30, 1920, and took the name “Timothy” in religion in honor of St. Paul’s beloved disciple. Aware of his special devotion to the Pope, Fr. Alberione sent Fr. Timothy to Rome in January of 1926. There he founded the first St. Paul House outside Alba, in the area known as “St. Paul’s Vineyard” near the Basilica of St. Paul-outside-the-Walls.

 

He came back to Alba ten years later, in 1936, to be superior of the House there. He remained until 1946, during which time he was responsible for the many additions to the interior of the church Fr. Alberione had built. He was also actively engaged in the regular apostolate and priestly ministry in the Diocese.

 

He was appointed Vicar General of the Society of St. Paul in 1946 and went to reside in Rome. There, in a demonstration of remarkable fidelity to Fr. Alberione, he gave his considerable talents to the work of developing all the Pauline Congregations. He guided and sustained them as, one by one, they came into being, ensuring that each had a profound spirituality and an understanding of the special type of apostolate to which each one was called.

 

Meanwhile he personally practiced what he preached: a constant unrelenting effort to correct his defects and reach spiritual maturity. So successful was this effort that he attained the practice of perfect charity to the point of offering his life so that the Pauline Congregation Pious Disciples of the Divine Master (PDDM) would be recognized by the Church. The Lord accepted his offering and granted his request. He was stricken with leukemia and died in a short time, on Saturday, January 24, 1948. By no coincidence, this was the feast of St. Timothy and the Vigil of the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.

 

His funeral took place in the Basilica of St. Paul-outside-the-Walls on January 26 in the presence of a large number of clergy, civil authorities and people. His remains now lie in a place of honor in the Shrine of Mary, Queen of Apostles in Rome, not too far from the first House he founded there. (…) On May 13, 1989, the Pope, John Paul II, signed the Decree approving the miracle that decided that the Beatification of Fr. Giaccardo would take place on October 22, 1989, Mission Sunday.

 

  

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. In the joys and sufferings of our daily life, do we associate ourselves with the once-for-all sacrifice that Jesus the eternal High Priest offered on the cross? Do we trust in the power of Christ’s ministry of intercession for us in heaven?

 

 

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.

 

***

O loving Father,

we give you glory and praise

for your beloved Son Jesus, the eternal High Priest.

His sacrifice on the cross won for us our salvation.

He lives forever to make intercession for us.

He is the mediator of the New Covenant sealed in his blood.

Help us to live out his priestly sacrifice

in the joys and sufferings of our daily life.

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 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) // “He offered one sacrifice, once and for all, when he offered himself.” (Heb 7:27)

 

 

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. // Unite your sufferings, pains, difficulties and trials with the priestly sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. And in union with his priestly intercession in heaven, pray for those who suffer in any way.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

January 22, 2021: FRIDAY – WEEKDAY (2)

N.B. On this anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Roe vs. Wade (1973), all dioceses of the United States shall observe a day of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life and of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion”.

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Summons and Sends Them … He Is the Mediator of the New Covenant”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Heb 8:6-13 // 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 (Heb 8:6-13): “He is mediator of a better covenant.”

 

In today’s First Reading (Heb 8:6-13), the author cites the majestic passage from the prophet Jeremiah (Jer 31:31-34) which announces the ratification of a “new covenant”. This “new covenant” is brought about through the mediation of Jesus, that is, through the priestly offering of himself on the cross. Jesus is the “mediator of the new covenant” because by his sacrifice he becomes the means of union between God and men. He has taken away “sin”, the barrier to that union. The “newness” of the covenant in Christ consists in its interiority (God’s law is written in the hearts); in personal intimacy with God, and in the forgiveness of sins.

 

The following modern-day article gives insight into the reality that an important gift, as well as radical challenge of the “new covenant”, is the forgiveness of sins (cf. Fred Bauer in Daily Guideposts 2010, p. 175).

 

According to anthropologists, ancient tribes often practiced unlimited retaliation for offenses committed against them. And if one tribe responded more harshly than another, they raised the ante until all-out war resulted. Then, according to our Judeo-Christian heritage, the Law of Moses was given. These laws, which contain far more than the Ten Commandments, number more than six hundred and include such teachings as “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” (Exodus 21:24). These laws were less harsh than previous practices, limiting retaliation. But forgiveness was still on the back burner.

 

Then Jesus came along and espoused something that was revolutionary: unconditional forgiveness. Check your Bible concordance and note how many times Jesus spoke about it. He told His followers to practice unlimited forgiveness (seven times seventy, or without end), which is spelled out in Matthew 5:44: “But I say unto you: Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; do good to them that hate you; and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.”

 

Once I interviewed the renowned missionary E. Stanley Jones. While working in India, he told me he became a friend of Mahatma Gandhi, who, though a Hindu, was a great admirer of Christ. According to Jones, Gandhi considered Christ’s statement about forgiving one’s enemies Jesus’ most memorable commandment and the most difficult to keep. Difficult? Yes. Impossible? Not with God’s grace.

 

 

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 treasure the gift of the “new covenant” ratified in the blood of Christ and are we faithful followers of Christ, the “mediator of the new covenant”?

 

 

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,

we thank you for your priestly sacrifice on the cross

by which you ratified the “new covenant” with your blood.

Help us live out this “new covenant”

by which our sins are forgiven

and we enter into an intimate relationship with God.

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.

 

“Jesus summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him.” (Mk 3:13) // “He is mediator of a better covenant.” (Heb 8:6)

 

 

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. Likewise, also promote the Church’s inter-religious dialogue with the Jews, try to discover and savor the Jewish “roots” of the “new covenant”.

 

 

*** *** ***

January 23, 2021: SATURDAY – WEEKDAY (2); SAINT VINCENT, Deacon, Martyr; SAINT MARIANNE COPE, Virgin (USA); BVM ON SATURDAY

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is Misunderstood … By His Blood He Obtains for Us Eternal Salvation”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Heb 9:2-3, 11-14 // Mk 3:20-21

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 3:20-21): “They said, ‘He is out of his mind.’”

 

Jesus comes down from the mountain with his twelve disciples. As before, people seek him for healing and crowd around him. Responding compassionately to their needs, he performs healings, especially exorcisms. The crowd is so great that Jesus and his companions could not even manage to eat. The situation alarms his over-protective relatives. They misinterpret Jesus’ intense preoccupation with the sick as madness. They try to take control of the situation and protect him from further folly. The relatives are appalled by his exaggerated ways and perceive his behavior as bordering on insanity. Thus Jesus is misunderstood and falsely perceived by his very own. In the same way, Christian disciples would experience rejection and misunderstanding as they proclaim the Gospel and carry out the ministry they have received from Christ.

 

The following charming story is about a Buddhist monk who, like Christ, is totally misunderstood and despised (cf. Anthony de Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations, New York: Image Books, 1988, p. 120-121).

 

Gessen was a Buddhist monk. He was also an exceptionally talented artist. Before he started work on any painting, however, he always demanded payment in advance. And his fees were exorbitant. So he came to be known as the Greedy Monk.

 

A geisha once sent for him to have a painting done. Gessen said, “How much will you pay me?” The girl happened to be entertaining a patron at that time. She said, “Any sum you ask for. But the painting must be done right now before me.” Gessen set to work at once and when the painting was completed he asked for the highest sum he ever charged. As the geisha was giving him his money, she said to her patron, “This man is supposed to be a monk, but all he thinks of is money. His talent is exceptional, but he has a filthy, money-loving mind. How does one exhibit the canvas of a filthy, money-loving man like that? His work is good enough for my underclothing!”

 

With that she flung a petticoat at him and asked him to paint a picture on it. Gessen asked the usual question before he started the work: “How much will you give me?” “Oh, any sum you ask for”, said the girl. Gessen named his price, painted the picture, shamelessly pocketed the money, and walked away.

 

Many years later, quite by chance, someone found out why Gessen was so greedy for money. Devastating famine often struck his home province. The rich would do nothing to help the poor. So Gessen had secret barns built in the area and had them filled with grain for such emergencies. No one knew where the grain came from or who the benefactor of the province was.

 

Another reason why Gessen wanted money was the road leading to his village from the city many miles away. It was in such bad condition that oxcarts could not move on it; this caused much suffering to the aged and the infirm when they needed to get to the city. So Gessen had the road repaired.

 

The final reason was the meditation temple which Gessen’s teacher had always desired to build but could not. Gessen built this temple as a token of gratitude to his revered teacher.

 

After the Greedy Monk had built the road, the temple, and the barns, he threw away the paint and brushes, retired to the mountains to give himself to the contemplative life, and never painted another canvas again.

  

 

B. First Reading (Heb 9:2-3, 11-14): “He entered once for all into the Sanctuary with his own Blood.”

 

In today’s First Reading (Heb 9:2-3, 11-14) the author speaks of two tabernacles: the one in the Holy Place and the one in the Holy of Holies, which can be accessed only by the High Priest. Just as the High Priest has right of access to the Holy of Holies, the sacrificial life of Jesus gives him right of access to the heavenly tabernacle. By his death offered for our salvation, Christ passes through the veil of separation and enters the sanctuary in heaven into the presence of the living God. The death of Jesus is the efficacious sacrifice that atones for the sins of humanity. Moreover, his very sacrifice surpasses and replaces the various Old Testament rituals of atonement and purification. It is through the eternal Spirit that Jesus offers himself as a perfect sacrifice to God. His sacrificial death enables us to serve and worship the living God.

 

The following account is an example of what it means “to worship the living God” in the sacrificial charity of our daily life (cf. Elizabeth Sherrill in Daily Guideposts 2015, p. 269).

 

What made Corrie ten Boom risk her life to save Jewish people living in occupied Holland? It must have been some great event, I thought, some dramatic soul-stirring call from God.

 

“No”, she said, “it was a simple, very ordinary moment.”

 

By 1942, it was dangerous for Jews to appear in the streets of Haarlem. So Corrie, a watchmaker and repairer, started going to the homes of her Jewish customers to pick up and deliver work. One evening this took her to the house of a doctor and his wife. They were chatting over cups of rationed tea stretched with rose leaves, when from upstairs a child’s voice pipe, “Daddy, you didn’t tuck us in!”

 

Excusing himself, the doctor hurried upstairs. Corrie and her hostess kept chatting. Nothing had changed. Everything had changed. At any minute, Corrie realized, there could be a knock on the door of this house. This mother, this father, these children could be herded into the back of a truck.

 

Still carrying on their conversation, still sipping tea, Corrie silently dedicated her life to the Jewish inhabitants of Holland. “Lord Jesus, I offer myself for Your people in any way, any place, any time.”

 

Out of a daily domestic moment grew a heroine of the Dutch resistance, whose story of loss, suffering and unstoppable joy inspires even today.

 

 

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

 

1. What do we do when, like Jesus, we are misunderstood and rejected?

 

2. How does Christ’s sacrificial death impact us personally? Are we willing to be washed in his blood and offer ourselves as a “living sacrifice to God”?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you are the most caring and compassionate person.

You gave yourself totally on our behalf.

You were misunderstood, rejected and despised.

Help us to realize that suffering is part of our discipleship.

When we are rejected, we cling to you.

When we are misunderstood,

we trust that in God’s time, our accusers will see the light.

Bless us, now and forever. Amen.

 

***

Jesus, mediator of the new covenant,

by your sacrificial death you obtain salvation for us.

Let you life-giving blood purify us from the guilt of sin

and enable us “to worship the living God”.

Help us to offer our lives in the service of our needy brothers and sisters.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“They said, ‘He is out of his mind’.” (Mk 3:20) // “He took his own blood and obtained eternal salvation for us.” (Heb 9:12)

 

 

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

 

When you are misunderstood and falsely criticized, stand firm and unite your sufferings with Christ. // Let the “sacrificial charity” that you carry out on behalf of our needy brothers and sisters be a pleasing offering to God.

 

 

*** *** *** 

 

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

 


PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI

SISTER DISCIPLES OF THE DIVINE MASTER
60 Sunset Ave., Staten Island, NY 10314
Tel. (718) 494-8597 or (718) 761-2323
Website: 
WWW.PDDM.US


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