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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 it 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 18, n. 32)

Week 14 in Ordinary Time: July 5-11, 2020

 

 

(The pastoral tool BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD: A LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY & WEEKDAY LITURGY includes a prayerful study of the Sunday liturgy from various perspectives. For the Lectio Divina on the liturgy of the past week: June 28 – July 4, 2020 please go to ARCHIVES Series 18 and click on “Ordinary Week 13”.

 

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

 

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July 5, 2020: FOURTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is Meek and Humble”

 

-BIBLE READINGS

Zec 9:9-10 // Rom 8:9, 11-13 // Mt 11:25-30

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 11:25-30): “I am meek and humble of heart.” 

          

The Gospel reading (Mt 11:25-30) is composed of two “periscopes” or units: the mystery of the Kingdom revealed to the “little ones” (verses 25-27) and the call of Jesus, the meek and humble of heart (verses 28-30). With this reading, the Church reminds the faithful that Jesus, the meek and humble one, reigns over all by the light of his wisdom and the yoke of his love. He is the instrument of revelation of the Father’s love. With Jesus, the yoke of submission to the divine saving will becomes easy and the burden resulting from the inexhaustible demands of the love of God and neighbor light. Indeed, those who surrender to the Father’s loving care experience the immense peace and serenity of the Kingdom of heaven.

 

The Gospel passage begins with Jesus’ prayer of thanksgiving addressed to his “Abba” – Father: “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will” (v. 25-26). The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 4, explain: “It is likely that his experience as a teacher inspires this thanksgiving. He has stumbled against the lack of comprehension on the part of many who took offense at him. The cities along the Lake of Galilee, where he has performed so many miracles, have painfully disappointed him. But there are ‘the childlike’, who have welcomed the revelation that remained hidden from ‘the wise and the learned’. The childlike are the disciples and all those whom Jesus has declared ‘blessed’. Their welcome compensates for the lack of understanding and the rejection to such a degree that Jesus exclaims, I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth.”

 

In Mt 11:27, we read Jesus’ astounding assertion: “All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father, except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.” Harold Buetow comments: “This principle, that only God the Father fully comprehends Jesus’ mission, and only Jesus fully understands God’s saving plan, is at the heart of Christianity. It is a principle that Jesus gradually reveals to the intellectually humble, open and trusting.” Jesus’ unique access to knowledge and love of God and intimate filial relationship make him the absolute revelation of God the Father. The “little ones”, in the lowliness of their faith and in their simplicity, openness and trust are those who are able to perceive in Jesus the true manifestation of God’s kindness and love.

 

Jesus’ prayer of praise and his declaration that he is the Father’s self-disclosure are followed by these words of exhortation: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves” (Mt 11:28-30). Harold Buetow remarks: “The heart of Jesus’ message is ‘Come to me’ – a call to personal relationship. The shift from ‘Keep the law’ to ‘Come to me’ is a significant one. A religion, which is experienced only as adherence to legalistic impersonal norms and not as a joyful life-giving relationship with the Author of life is false. In coming to the person of Jesus, we discover that, far from being burdened, we are liberated … Love makes every burden light.”

 

The following is a personal experience of finding rest in the Lord when one is “weary and heavily burdened” (cf. Rebecca Ondov in Daily Guideposts 2015, p. 270).

 

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Mt 11:28)

 

A new E-mail blipped on my laptop screen. It was an attachment for the “Picture of the Day” from my friend Edel. I clicked on it, and sunlight glinted off an expanse of snowcapped mountains that rimmed the grassy meadow where a rickety homestead barn stood. There were gaping holes in the sagging moss-covered roof. The door stood ajar and was canted at an angle, as if the burdens of the last hundred years rested on it. Many of the boards, which had served as siding, were missing.

 

That barn looks exactly like I feel – empty and weary, I thought. Although it was still early in the morning, I was exhausted. Everything that could go wrong had gone wrong.

 

In the stillness as I sat there looking, I heard, When you’re run-down, that’s when you’re open to the winds of the Holy Spirit. Invite Me in.

 

I’m such an independent person that oftentimes I hammer away at life, trying to fix things myself. But when I wilt from life’s troubles, cone to the end of myself, and earnestly seek God, that’s the beginning of the journey with Him.

 

I prayed the following prayer and amazingly, the rest of the day passed without any more calamities.

 

“Lord, the door of my heart is open wide. Fill me with Your Counselor, the Holy Spirit of peace, comfort and wisdom. Amen.”

 

 

B. First Reading (Zec 9:9-10): “See, your king comes to you humble.”

 

The Old Testament reading (Zech 9:9-10) contains a prophetic passage heralding the rise of a royal messiah. Zechariah, one of the twelve Minor Prophets, prophesies probably in the fifth and sixth century B.C. after the Israelites have returned from exile to a land ravaged by its Babylonian conquerors and to a demolished temple desolately waiting to be restored. With lyric poetry, the prophet Zechariah deftly depicts the coming of a peaceful king riding on a little donkey colt. Justice and peace would characterize his personality and mission. Moreover, a climate of humility and austerity would mark the arrival of the just savior. This is not common among the ancient king.

 

Harold Buetow comments: “Zechariah was a contemporary of Alexander the Great, who conquered the known world when he was 21 years of age and was, despite his having been educated under Aristotle, brash and arrogant. To the contrary, Zechariah saw a just savior (v. 9) as king, who would be mindful of the poor and lowly. He would come riding on a donkey, as cited by all four evangelists on Palm Sunday. This is in contrast to Alexander and the last kings of Judah, who rode, proud and war-like, on chariots and horses, aggressively using bows and arrows (v. 10). The Messiah will ride on the mount of the humble. This does not signify humiliation, but humility, serenity and peaceful intentions. Unlike other conquerors, the Messiah will establish peace by first establishing justice.”

 

Against the backdrop of the prophet Isaiah’s portrait of the “Suffering Servant” (cf. Is 53:11-12 and Is 66:2), Zechariah’s vision of a “just savior” and “meek king” acquires new wealth of meaning. The Suffering Servant is the object of the Lord God’s loving concern and favor. As the Servant-Son in whom the Father is well pleased, he would be “justified” by the Lord and made “victorious” for his “meek” stance and total submission to the divine saving will. Indeed, the signature quality of “humility” and “meekness” of the Suffering Servant-Messiah would be fully incarnated in Jesus Christ.

 

The following story illustrates that the grace of God and his benevolent hand surround the “little ones”, that is, the meek and the lowly (cf. “An Extraordinary Daughter” by Mary Kay Kusner in St. Anthony Messenger, p. 23-26).

 

I knew that something was wrong when I first laid eyes on my newborn daughter. Anna’s tiny forehead looked misshapen, and she was listless. As I held her and scanned her with my eyes, I noticed that her skin looked ashen. Minutes later, she was taken from me, rushed to the intensive care unit and put on a breathing machine. Within four days, the genetic tests were back: Anna had a chromosome abnormality … The doctors weren’t sure what this meant for Anna’s development but told us not to expect much. They predicted her I.Q. would be low – between 30 and 70. I was devastated. God had betrayed me. How could I ever believe again? Through all the sleepless nights and tears, I questioned: “Why? Why would God have kept nudging me to have a disabled child?” It made no sense. Just when I thought I had my life back under control, the rug was pulled out. I felt like a fool. All my life, I had been faithful, trusting. I thought Anna would be an answer to my prayer. Now none of that mattered. (…)

 

When Anna was about six weeks old, a strange incident occurred. She was lying on her back on our bed while I gently massaged her after her bath. Suddenly, I felt as if we were not alone. Anna looked past me, over my shoulder, to Someone who clearly adored her. My daughter smiled and I became almost bashful in the face of such love. I couldn’t see anything but felt the presence melt through me as I realized that Anna was seeing more that I did, that she was inviting me to see more too. After about a minute, the presence left and Anna looked right at me as if to say, “Why do you doubt, Mom?” I promised her to try to be more open after that.

 

Our boys adored their new sister from the start. They loved to make her laugh. David taught her how to burp and Jon wrestled with her on the floor. Matthew insisted that I never cut her curly hair. They didn’t notice her differences. When others stared at Anna, the boys got annoyed. “How do they know she’s different?” they asked me. Even though her eyes bulge and her forehead is flat, they don’t see it themselves. But I did. I was painfully aware of how different Anna looked. Sometimes I was embarrassed to take her out in public. Once, while riding in the van with the boys, I said out loud, “I wonder why God made Anna like she is.” After a few moments of silence, Matthew, who was almost 11, said, “Well, Mom, if God didn’t make her like she is, then she wouldn’t be Anna.” It took my breath away. “You’re right,” I said. “Thank you, Matthew.” It was a lesson of faith that made me begin to think twice. I loved Anna, but not as freely as a mom should. My boys were teaching me how unconditional love can be. (…)

 

One day at church, the fuller meaning of Anna finally hit home. Lorraine, a longtime friend, spotted us and waved from her pew. Anna, who was almost three, waved back, and I saw Lorraine laugh. When church ended, we were walking down the aisle toward the door. Lorraine was making her way toward us. “Hi, Anna, I saw you waved at me,” she said to Anna. Anna smiled and said, “Hi. Hi,” over and over. Then Lorraine looked at me and said with such directness, “Thank you for having Anna for all the rest of us.” Her comment brought tears to my eyes. I realized that Anna is a gift to others. She is her own person with her own worth, her own way of contributing to the world … Anna had taught me to be more open, to allow life to become what it can be, not to force it to be what I think it should be.

    

 

C. Second Reading (Rom 8:9, 11-13): “If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

 

Those who have responded to Jesus’ invitation “Come to me …” are obliged to make a fundamental choice for him and to live by his Spirit. This is the message of the Second Reading (Rom 8:9, 11-13). The contrast spirit-flesh introduced by Saint Paul represents competing fields of force or spheres of power. The self-centered person who lives by the desires of sinful flesh is doomed to death, that is, to suffer definitive alienation from God. On the other hand, the person animated by the life-giving Spirit experiences God’s gift of life and peace.

 

The liturgical scholar Adrian Nocent remarks: “The Christian lives in union with God and the Spirit. His baptism has, in principle, removed him from the sphere of the sinful flesh; he now lives a life that is the Spirit’s gift. This new situation entails radical consequences in daily living. He must be wholly dedicated to the struggle against the ascendancy of the sinful flesh, from which he has indeed been liberated, but to which the remnants of weakness in him still incline him; he must put to death the disordered actions of the sinful flesh so that he may be able to live. In other words, the Christian must actualize in himself the paschal mystery of crucifixion, joining Christ in the destruction of all evil in himself so that he may rise from the dead and live with Christ.”

 

The fascinating two stories that follow – circulated through the Internet - illustrate the marvelous effect of a person’s conversion and his core decision to put away the deeds of sinful flesh. How wonderful it is to finally respond to the divine call to live by the Spirit!

 

Story Number One: Many years ago, Al Capone virtually owned Chicago. Capone wasn’t famous for anything heroic. He was notorious for enmeshing the windy city in everything from bootlegged booze and prostitution to murder.

 

Capone had a lawyer nicknamed “Easy Eddie”. He was Capone’s lawyer for a good reason. Eddie was very good! In fact, Eddie’s skill at legal maneuvering kept Big Al out of jail for a long time. To show his appreciation, Capone paid him very well. Not only was the money big, but Eddie got special dividends, as well. For instance, he and his family occupied a fenced-in mansion with live-in help and all the conveniences of the day. The estate was so large that it filled an entire Chicago City block.

 

Eddie lived the high life of the Chicago mob and gave little consideration to the atrocity that went on around him. Eddie did have one soft spot, however. He had a son that he loved dearly. Eddie saw to it that his young son had clothes, cars, and a good education. Nothing was withheld. Price was no object. And, despite his involvement with organized crime, Eddie even tried to teach him right from wrong. Eddie wanted his son to be a better man than he was. Yet, with all his wealth and influence, there were two things he couldn’t give his son; he couldn’t pass on a good name or a good example.

 

One day, Easy Eddie reached a difficult decision. Easy Eddie wanted to rectify wrongs he had done. He decided he would go to the authorities and tell the truth about Al “Scarface” Capone, clean up his tarnished name, and offer his son some semblance of integrity. To do this, he would have to testify against The Mob, and he knew that the cost would be great. So, he testified. Within the year, Easy Eddie’s life ended in a blaze of gunfire on a lonely Chicago street. But in his eyes, he had given his son the greatest gift he had to offer, at the greatest price he could ever pay. Police removed from his pocket a rosary, a crucifix, a religious medallion, and a poem clipped from a magazine.

 

The poem read: “The clock of life is wound but once, and no man has the power to tell just when the hands will stop, at late or early hour. Now is the only time you own. Live, love, toil with a will. Place no faith in time. For the clock may soon be still.”

 

Story Number Two: World War II produced many heroes. One such man was Lieutenant Commander Butch O’Hare. He was a fighter pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington in the South Pacific.

 

One day his entire squadron was sent on a mission. After he was airborne, he looked at his fuel gauge and realized that someone had forgotten to top off his fuel tank. He would not have enough fuel to complete his mission and get back to his ship. His flight leader told him to return to the carrier. Reluctantly, he dropped out of formation and headed back to the fleet. As he was returning to the mother ship, he saw something that turned his blood cold; a squadron of Japanese aircraft was speeding its way toward the American fleet.

 

Laying aside all thoughts of personal safety, he dove into the formation of Japanese planes. Wing-mounted 50 calibers blazed as he charged in, attacking one surprised enemy plane and then another. Butch wove in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until all his ammunition was finally spent. Undaunted, he continued the assault. He dove at the planes, trying to clip a wing or tail in hopes of damaging as many enemy planes as possible, rendering them unfit to fly. Finally, the exasperated Japanese squadron took off in another direction.

 

Deeply relieved, Butch O’Hare and his tattered fighter limped back to the carrier. Upon arrival, he reported in and related the events surrounding his return. The film from the gun-camera mounted on his plane told the tale. It showed the extent of Butch’s daring attempt to protect his fleet. He had, in fact, destroyed five enemy aircraft. This took place on February 20, 1942, and for that action Butch became the Navy’s first Ace of W.W. II, and the first Naval Aviator to win the Medal of Honor.

 

A year later Butch was killed in aerial combat at the age of 29. His home town would not allow the memory of this WW II hero to fade, and today, O’Hare Airport in Chicago is named in tribute to the courage of this great man.

 

So, the next time you find yourself at O’Hare International, give some thought to visiting Butch’s memorial displaying his statue and his Medal of Honor. It’s located between Terminals 1 and 2.

 

SO WHAT DO THESE TWO STORIES HAVE TO DO WITH EACH OTHER? Butch O’Hare was “Easy Eddie’s” son.

 

 

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

 

1. What personal significance is it for you that the royal figure described by the prophet Zechariah was “meek, and riding on an ass”?

 

2. What is your response to Jesus’ invitation “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened”? Do you imitate him in being “meek and humble of heart”?

 

3. What is your fundamental option: to live by the Spirit or to live by the flesh? What does this choice entail for you – in your daily life?

 

 

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

 

O loving Father,

thank you for the gift of your Son Jesus,

the meek and humble One.

Teach us to be receptive as “little ones” to the light of wisdom

and perceive the beauty of your saving plan.

Grant us the grace to live the life of Christ in the Spirit

and reject the awful inclination of sinful flesh.

May we live forever in the glory of Christ

and relish the joy of the Holy Spirit,

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.

 

“I am meek and humble of heart.” (Mt 11:29)

 

 

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

 

By your obedient response to divine grace and in your daily effort to image in today’s world the compassion of Jesus, let the comfort and peace of God touch the lives of people who toil deeply and are heavily burdened.

 

 

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July 6, 2020: MONDAY – WEEKDAY (14); SAINT MARIA GORETTI, Virgin, Martyr

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Lord of Life … The Church Is His Bride”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Hos 2:16, 17c-18, 21-22 // Mt 9:18-26

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 9:18-26): “My daughter has just died, but come and she will live.”

 

Today’s Gospel (Mt 9:18-26) is a glorious celebration of life. It tells of the restoration of the fullness of life to a hemorrhaging woman and to a young dying girl. To both, Jesus brings life and brings it gladly. The woman healed of her bleeding and the little girl whom Jesus raised from the dead will die again. But because of Jesus’ benevolent actions on their behalf, their chances for eternal and unending life are enhanced. Their contact with Jesus is transforming and radically life-giving. In the same way, we are being challenged today to improve and enhance the quality of our own life and that of others. The Lord Jesus wants to give life and build a new world through us.

 

The following story testifies to the endeavors of Christian disciples of today to bring life to a death-dealing situation (cf. Deacon Darrell Smerz in “Missioner Tales” in Maryknoll, May-June 2012, p. 10).

 

A few years back, St. Mary’s Parish in Tomahawk, Wis., passed a resolution to adopt a sister parish. I contacted Father Leo Shea of Maryknoll and we were assigned a parish in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. A year later, our pastor and I visited that city, where Maryknoll Father David La Buda hosted us around many of the barrios. What a revelation! Of the many experiences, one stands out the most.

 

A 15-year old girl lay on a worn mattress on a dirt floor with one leg swollen three times the size of the other. The following day in the rain we placed her on a flat board in the uncovered back of a pickup truck to take her to the hospital 13 miles away. I held an umbrella over her head as we made the journey with her father. She was diagnosed with cancer and our parish paid for the amputation.

 

Months later the girl died, but she had remarked that the months after the amputation had given her great relief from pain. I’ll never forget that journey in the rain in the back of the open truck with the open umbrella over our heads.

   

 

B. First Reading (Hos 2:16, 17c-18, 21-22): “I will espouse you to me forever.”

 

This happened in Manila years ago. Our neighbor came for a chat. She informed us about an uncle who was a contract worker in Saudi Arabia earning a living for his family. After several years of hard work in that distant land, he discovered when he returned to the Philippines that the fruit of his sacrifice was squandered by his wretched wife who was running around with four different men. Enraged and hurt, he almost killed his wife who had prostituted herself with numerous partners. Deeply humiliated and despondent, he tried to alleviate his misery by getting drunk.

 

The plight of this aggrieved spouse is similar to the experience of the Old Testament prophet Hosea. The Jerusalem Bible gives a commentary on this pathetic prophet and his work: “Hosea, a native of the Northern Kingdom, was a contemporary of Amos, since his ministry began under Jeroboam II, though it continued through the reign of his successors; Hosea may even have lived to see the fall of Samaria in 721 B.C. It was a somber period for Israel with the victorious advance of Assyria (734-732 B.C.), internal rebellions (four kings assassinated in fifteen years), religious and moral corruption. Of Hosea’s life during those turbulent times we know nothing beyond his own domestic troubles, but these were to condition his ministry as a prophet … Hosea has married a wife whom he loves but who deserts him; his love remains however, and, having put her to the test, he takes her back. The prophet’s sad experience becomes a symbol of Yahweh’s dealings with his people … Israel, the bride of God, has become a faithless harlot and has aroused the anger and jealousy of her divine husband. God’s love remains; he will punish her, but only to bring her back and restore her to the joys of their first love.”

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Hos 2:16, 17c-18, 21-22) is one of the most beautiful passages ever proclaimed in the liturgical assembly. It is a tender appeal for a renewed love relationship. The Lord Yahweh seeks to renew the nuptial bond adulterated by Israel’s apostasies. As the loving, faithful spouse of Israel, God seeks to revive the spark that once characterized their covenant relationship. He desires to restore their bond as spouse-Lord and bride-people.

 

The magnanimous character of Yahweh can be easily gleaned in the following declarations he made to his chosen people: “I will espouse you to me forever: I will espouse you in right and in justice, in love and mercy. I will espouse you in fidelity, and you shall know the Lord” (Hos 2:21-22). The covenant bond is to be lived in righteousness and justice, in steadfast love and mercy. God’s relationship with his people is marked with integrity and faithfulness, with tenderness and abounding compassion. The response expected of Israel is to live in justice, mercy and fidelity. Then the bride-people Israel would have the pleasure of coming to “know the Lord” in an all-embracing way that entails obedience to the divine saving will.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we trust in Jesus, the Lord of life? What do we do to promote life in death-dealing situations?

 

2. How do the pathos and deep agony of the abandoned spouse, Hosea, impact us? What feelings are evoked in us by Israel’s betrayal of her spouse, the Lord God? In what ways are we the unfaithful spouse of Yahweh? How do we respond to God’s forgiving love and his gracious invitation to renew our nuptial covenant?

 

 

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

 

Dear Jesus,

you are the Lord of Life and the Bridegroom of the Church.

Animated by the Holy Spirit,

we choose to tread the path of love

and to affirm the power of life.

Help us to promote life in death-dealing situations

and to respond fully to your unending love.

With you we celebrate the triumph of life and love.

You live and reign,

forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

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

           

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

 

 “The woman was cured … the little girl arose.” (Mt 9:22, 25) // “I will espouse you to me forever.” (Hos 2:21).

 

  

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

 

By your charitable actions and care for the sick and suffering, let the healing power of Jesus prevail over death-dealing situations. // Pray especially for those who are experiencing the anguish of a betrayed nuptial relationship – for those whose marriage bond has been adulterated and shattered. Promote the beauty and integrity of the sacrament of matrimony.

 

 

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July 7, 2020: TUESDAY – WEEKDAY (14)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Us to Work in God’s Harvest … He Leads Us to Conversion”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Hos 8:4-7, 11-13 // Mt 9:32-38

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 9:32-38): “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few.”

 

Today’s Gospel episode (Mt 9:32-38) presents Jesus as having power to exorcise demons and to heal speechlessness. The people respond to his miraculous intervention with amazement, but the unbelieving Pharisees claim that Jesus works by demonic power. It is unfortunate that the Pharisees, who have witnessed the miracles, have closed their hearts to Jesus as the one sent by God. In spite of their resistance and defiance, Jesus continues to fulfill his saving mission in word and deed. He teaches in the synagogue, preaches the Good News about the Kingdom, and heals people of every kind of disease and sickness.

 

Jesus’ compassion is full of concern for the negligence and harassment to which the people are subject. The lowly ones are troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. They are an “abundant harvest” that needs to be gathered and brought into the Father’s kingdom. They need the care of good shepherds and the service of harvest workers. God is the ultimate Shepherd and Harvest Master, but he needs the collaboration of those who accept Jesus’ invitation to discipleship. Like Jesus, his followers need to shepherd the sheep and to help gather the Father’s “harvest”. Indeed, Christian discipleship entails pastoral activity and service.

 

The following vocation story of Sr. Mary Tiziana Dal Masetto, PDDM, gives insight into a disciple’s response to God’s call to work in his harvest and to care for his sheep.

 

My vocation came at an early time in my life. It dawned on me at my First Communion at age seven. I also asked myself, "What can I do to help Jesus?"

 

The question "What can I do for Jesus?" kept blossoming as my teenage life developed. Everything took place gradually and gently. I experienced wanting to spend time with Jesus. I was blessed with a grandmother who attended Mass every day; I would join her walking to the church. During winter, it was dark, and at times it was snowing. During summer, the light of the sun gave us a delightful and enjoyable time.

 

My desire to stay with Jesus grew further when my grandmother joined a prayer group whose members took turns praying the Rosary. The members of the group also had turns at night, so when my grandmother got sick, she asked me to take her turn. By this time, I already had my Confirmation at age eight. I continued to participate in the daily Holy Mass, going by bicycle and then keeping my turn to pray at night. I was so faithful to kneel on the bed and gaze at the picture of Jesus on the wall above my bed.

 

One day, when I was age twelve, our pastor read the Gospel of Matthew and explained how this tax collector was very prompt and generous in leaving behind all his business to follow Jesus. This story kept my mind and my heart occupied in imagining how this could have happened.

 

My turn for the night vigil came again. There I was at 1:00am when, while saying the Rosary, I stopped, and the whole scene of Matthew and Jesus came before me. I could hear the sweet voice of Jesus enlightening Matthew about what is important in life and how urgent it was for him to leave everything behind and to follow Him in love.

 

I remember feeling my heart throbbing. From kneeling on my bed, I found myself standing on it, as if Jesus were there in front of me, beckoning. I wanted to follow Him so much. Entranced, I walked towards the door of my room until I realized I was really in my room and had to go to bed. This experience was so sweet and attractive, and since I was already thinking about my life and my future, I felt that this was the answer to who I would be in life: a close follower of Jesus. This experience never left me even up until now.

 

Later, when I was fourteen years old, as my mother groomed me into becoming a young lady, I was already praying in the secret of my heart for a concrete way to enable me to follow Jesus more closely, more devoutly, and more exclusively.

My grandmother had many books on the saints. I became a voracious reader and was figuring out the lives of the saints – what part of each life was feasible for me to imitate. I also had the invitation to participate in the social life, like the celebration of marriages with all its day-long banquets, dancing, and music.

I remember being familiar with father's polkas, tangos, mazurkas, and waltzes, and how enjoyable the time was. This social life was part of my life, and often this kind of celebration was done in our home, where relatives, neighbors, and friends gathered for singing, playing, dancing, talking, and eating. I also experienced the gaze of a nice young man admiring me, and I felt very proud and happy about it. But the gaze of Jesus upon Matthew on that night when I was twelve kept coming back and attracting me, showing me how I could be united with Him in doing good around the world.

 

In the 50s, Italy experienced a strong wave of emigration to different parts of the world, and I was envisioning myself with Jesus and doing good everywhere. There were talks about Australia, Argentina, USA, Germany, France, and many other places. These were familiar in my town; even my father considered leaving Italy.

I just wanted to go with Jesus everywhere in the world to do good. So I had this great desire, this opening to follow Jesus as a missionary. That night, when the story of Matthew came alive for me for the first time, was the foundational experience of the Call of God for me.

 

At fourteen, I left home with the intention of studying and preparing myself to become totally consecrated to God. In my youthful ardor, I did not hesitate to express to Mother Mary Lucia my missionary dream, and with pleasure she said, "I will keep this in mind." In fact, throughout my formative years, she provided me opportunities for studies, travels, and the most varied experiences. My heart and mind were shaped into that missionary spirit of St. Paul. And at the age of twenty-seven, Mother Lucia sent me first to Brazil for the work of formation of young women aspiring for Religious Life. Then I was sent to the Philippines and to many other countries until I reached the USA, where I find myself still with that passion burning within me to help "Jesus Master" in drawing to Him new Pious Disciples who will adore, celebrate, and serve Him in the Eucharistic, Priestly, and Liturgical Ministries in the contemplative style of Divine Beauty.

 

And what I now enjoy in my heart is this prayer: "One thing I ask of the Lord, all the days of my life: that I may gaze on the loveliness of the Lord and contemplate His temple." – Psalm 27:4

    

 

B. First Reading (Hos 8:4-7, 11-13): “When they sow the wind, they shall reap the whirlwind.”

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Hos 8:4-7, 11-13) asserts that Israel’s sinful actions are self-destructive. The people choose kings on their own and appoint leaders without divine approval. Moreover, they fashion idols from their silver and gold which they adore. Like the farmers who reap what they sow, in sowing the evil wind they reap the violence of the whirlwind. They reject the Lord’s teachings and prefer to appease him with idolatrous sacrifice. They are precipitating to destruction. Their punishment will come through the hands of the Assyrian oppressors. Indeed, their affliction is the natural consequence of sin and not God’s arbitrary judgment.

 

Anne Nolan writes on the tragic death of Peaches Geldof (3 March 1989 – 7 April 2014), an English journalist, television presenter and model who died of substance abuse. Her reflection gives insight into the tragedy of today’s society that “sows the wind and reaps the whirlwind” (cf. Anne Nolan, “So Many Others Are Like Peaches” in Alive! June 2014, p. 6).

 

Peaches Geldof had such an anguished, tragic life. May God grant her eternal rest. She wanted to get her life in order, and tried hard to do so, especially for the sake of her children. She told Elle magazine about her first child: “His birth was like a rebirth for me. I honestly never thought anything in my life would ever be good. I’m obsessed with getting it right.” She added, “Even if it’s an archaic idea, I want Astala to have a mummy and daddy together forever. It’s a commitment. I want to be a good wife, a good mother, a good person.”

 

Sadly the task was too much for her. Deprived of a religious formation, she also felt she was “lacking something” and she sensed the need for “a spiritual path”. But without wise guidance she ended up in the Scientology cult.

 

Peaches was, to a large extent, the victim of her upbringing and of the circles in which she moved. “The very worst thing that happened to me started with my parents’ divorce; it really affected the rest of my life”, she said.

 

But who cared? Divorce is now “my right” and despite all the evidence we convince ourselves the kids will be ok. And it’s just tough if they are not! Peaches was high profile, but millions of other children are suffering because of their upbringing in a crazy society that can no longer tell right from wrong. But of this we can be sure: without God and the Church in our lives none of us can get it right.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we try to live out the compassion of Jesus who was moved with pity because the crowds pursuing him were like sheep without a shepherd? Do we pray that the master of the harvest may send out laborers for his harvest?

 

2. Did we ever try to sow the evil “wind”? What did we reap from sowing the evil “wind”?

 

 

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

 

Loving Jesus,

you pity the hapless crowds

who are troubled and abandoned.

They are like sheep without a shepherd.

Give us the gift of compassion

that we may respond in service

to the needs of the poor and vulnerable.

Together with you,

we pray that the Lord of the harvest

may send out laborers for his harvest.

We love you, dear Jesus.

Please never allow us to sow the evil wind

and thus reap the violence of the whirlwind.

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.

 

“His heart was moved with pity for them.”  (Mt 9:36) // “When they sow the wind, they shall reap the whirlwind.” (Hos 8:7)

 

 

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

 

By your words and actions, bring the compassion of Jesus to the people around you. Pray the following invocation: “O Jesus, eternal Shepherd of our souls; send good laborers into your harvest.” // By the grace of God, avoid self-destructive actions.

 

*** *** ***

July 8, 2020: WEDNESDAY – WEEKDAY (14)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Summons and Sends His Disciples … He Invites Us to Seek the Lord

 

BIBLE READINGS

Hos 10:1-3, 7-8, 12 // Mt 10:1-7

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 10:1-7): “Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

(Gospel Reflection by Sr. Mary Anthony E. Basa, PDDM) 

 

Jesus called the twelve disciples and sent them on a mission to the lost sheep of the people of Israel.  The foundation of the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master in Iligan City in Mindanao was on June 26, 2011.  I remember very well the time when the three of us (with Sr. John Paul and Sr. Elizabeth) were called to be the first Sisters in the new foundation.  Iligan is a place that I do not know much about and, though I can understand a little, I do not speak the language. It is also a place where the peace situation is not very stable. How can one assigned in the liturgical and biblical ministry cope with the limitations of language?  When one animates a liturgical celebration and shares the Bible, it should be in the vernacular.  

 

As we begin our mission, I have experienced how the grace of God works. I have realized that serving others is not just about knowing the language or being familiar with the place.  The message of God’s reign is preached in loving deeds and compassion. More than anyone else, I am the one who is formed and moved to conversion as I tend to the people of Iligan.  When the city was hit by typhoon “Sendong”, thousands of people lost their homes, loved ones and properties. The call to reach out to the lost sheep became a real mission and a pastoral challenge for us as Sister Disciples.  When God calls us for a mission, we need not fear because He will bless us with all the graces we need most in order to fulfil that mission.

 

 

B. First Reading (Hos 10:1-3, 7-8, 12): “It is time to seek the Lord.”

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Hos 10:1-3, 7-8, 12) continues to underline the guilt that leads to Israel’s destruction. The nation has prospered materially like a fruitful vine, but the economic well-being has merely corrupted the people and led them away from God. The more prosperous they are, the more idolatrous they have become. Their hearts are deceitful and, as divine discipline, they are to suffer for their sin. A new and more serious invasion from the Assyrians will obliterate their land, their leaders and their sacrilegious altars. The destruction will be so cruel that no one will want to survive. They will cry to the mountains and hills “Cover us … Fall upon us” to express their longing for death to end it all and to be buried in the land.

 

But the final words of God to the erring people, communicated to them by the prophet Hosea, are a plea for conversion: “It is time to seek the Lord!” Instead of seeking the fruits of false prosperity, leadership and worship, they must seek the Lord God. They must plow the field of their obdurate hearts, sow the seeds of justice, and cultivate true piety and righteousness. Then the forgiveness of God will be showered upon them and they will reap the rich harvest of divine benevolence.

 

The following story illustrates that conversion is a true blessing (cf. Virginia Heim, “I Want to Come Back” in 101 Inspirational Stories of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, ed. Sr. Patricia Proctor, Spokane: Franciscan Monastery of Saint Clare, 2006, p. 64-65).

 

I truly believe that God, in His wisdom, at some time and in some miraculous way, uses each of us as His instruments.

 

After my younger sister left home and married, she had a very difficult life. She had one son, the light of her life, but lost another son shortly after his birth. She was always strong, keeping her trials inside, but always there for me and our brood of six children.

 

As the years passed and our children grew up, we both decided to move upstate for our retirement years. I had been blessed over the years to continue practicing my faith and attending Mass in a regular basis. My sister, unfortunately, had been away from the sacraments for many years, but she always graciously drove my husband and me to our small parish. She would attend Mass with us, but did not partake of Holy Communion. I could see how sad she was and how much it troubled her, but I did not know what to do about it except pray.

 

A few years ago, on the Monday after Easter Sunday, my sister suggested we drive up to Stockbridge, Massachusetts to the Divine Mercy Shrine. First, we visited the church and then we walked about the grounds. As we strolled along, enjoying the day and each other’s company, suddenly we came upon a giant trailer with big black letters on the side that spelled out one single word: “Confessions”!

 

My sister stared for a moment and then said, “I’d love to go to confession, but I wouldn’t know what to say.” God must have leaned close to my ear because I heard myself saying, “Just say, ‘I’ve been away so long. I’m sorry. I want to come back.’” It must have been just what she needed to hear. She nodded, took a deep breath, and went inside the trailer.

 

From that moment forward, my sister’s faith blossomed until it became even stronger than mine. Two years ago, my sister died and though I miss her very much, I am consoled with the knowledge that she has returned to the fold of the Good Shepherd.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we thank Jesus for calling his disciples in order to send them out and become his loving compassion for others?

 

2. Do we believe that at this very moment Jesus is telling us: “It is time to seek the Lord!”?

 

 

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

 

Loving Jesus,

you exhort us: “It is time to seek the Lord!”

We thank you for calling us to conversion.

You send us to the “lost sheep”

that we may proclaim the transforming good news:

“The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Grant that we may be faithful to the grace of conversion.

Help us to correspond to the beauty of our vocation-mission

as Christian disciples in today’s world.

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.

 

“Jesus summoned his twelve disciples … Jesus sent out these twelve disciples.” (Mt 10:1,5) // “It is time to seek the Lord.” (Hos 10:12)

 

 

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

 

Let us thank the Lord for our vocation and mission as Christian disciples in today’s world. Let us discover meaningful ways to live out fully this gift of discipleship. // Let us be intent in inviting those who have gone astray, “It is time to seek the Lord!

 

*** *** ***

 

July 8, 2020: THURSDAY – WEEKDAY (14); SAINT AUGUSTINE ZHAO RONG, Priest,

AND COMPANIONS, Martyrs

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Sends Them to Proclaim the Kingdom … He Assures Us of God’s Unfailing Love”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Hos 11:1-4, 8e-9 // Mt 10:7-15

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 10:7-15): “Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.”

 

The Burnham couple, Martin and Gracia, who were serving in the Philippines as missionaries, was captured by the dreaded Abu Sayyaf, a terrorist group in Southern Philippines, whose primary activities were kidnapping and extortion. Gracia survived 14 months of terror in the jungle. On June 7, 2002, Martin died and Gracia was wounded in the shootout that resulted from the rescue attempt made by the Philippine Army. Gracia’s testimony revealed that Martin had been a missionary through and through. Thousands of people – including senators and ambassadors - attended Martin’s funeral at Wichita, Kansas. Gracia remarked: “They admired him most, perhaps, for what he stood for, what we all try to stand for. Nothing complicated. Just a simple, whole-hearted goodness. His death had not been in vain. He showed me what strength was. Faith. Faith in yourself, in those you love, and in God to be present in every moment of your life.” The missionary Martin Burnham is a modern-day example of a disciple sent by Jesus, one who had kept faith in him and had shown the world that faith is the inner strength to conquer evil. 

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Mt 10:7-15) is about the Lord who sends and the mission of the disciples he sent. The origin of the missionary vocation is Jesus who prepared the apostles for this important moment. It was Jesus who called them personally; it was he who selected the Twelve to be his companions and to be sent out to preach with the power to cast out devils. Taught by Jesus and present with him as he healed many from sickness and evil, the Twelve were sent out with tremendous healing power bestowed upon them. The task of those sent by Jesus is to bring the healing balm of peace and forgiveness to those wounded by sin and to drive out the power of evil.

 

            The missionaries of Jesus are to keep a simple lifestyle, bereft of material comforts and financial security. The Divine Master counsels the virtue of detachment, for without detachment the missionary’s attention cannot be centered on the Good News. Indeed, the life of missionaries is absolutely oriented to the task of preaching God’s kingdom. The missionaries must also contend with the possibility of not being welcomed and of not being listened to. In this case, they are simply replicating in their lives the destiny of the sending Lord who was rejected even by his neighbors in Nazareth. Indeed, the missionaries of all ages will be subjected to all kinds of trials. Their option is not violent reprisal, but humility and kindness. They accept the indignities of rejection and the painful process of “birthing” in order that the saving word of the Gospel may reach the ends of the earth.

    

 

B. First Reading (Hos 11:1-4, 8e-9): “My heart is overwhelmed.”

 

Today’s Second Reading (Hos 11:1-4, 8c-9) is a masterpiece of beauty and grace. Hosea’s description of God as a doting parent is one of the highpoints of revelation of divine love in the Hebrew Scriptures. Israel can self-destruct by her evil choices, but God is a loving parent. He does not give up on a wayward child. God has cared for his people since he called them out of Egypt and continues to teach them to walk in his ways. God cares for Israel like a mother who tenderly draws her child with love and affection. Israel however is an ungrateful child who needs to be disciplined and brought to his senses. The disobedient people may be subjected to a rigorous divine pedagogy, but God’s basic and ultimate stance is loving mercy: “My heart is overwhelmed … my pity is stirred … I will not give vent to my blazing anger … I will not destroy Israel again … for I am God and not man.”

 

The following story illustrates a remarkable response to God’s forgiving and unmitigated love (cf. Anne Nolan, “Just When We Think All Is Lost” in Alive! June 2014, p. 6).

 

On 1st October 1957 Jacques Fesch, the son of a wealthy banker, was guillotined for killing a policeman in Pairs. The police officer, aged 35, was a widower with a 4-year-old daughter. But in a strange twist, it’s the murderer who could end up being declared a saint.

 

Born in April 1930, the son of an atheist father and Catholic mother, Fesch idled his way through school, spent a short time in the army, then in a bank, before adopting a playboy lifestyle, living off his parents’ wealth.

 

At the age of 21, in a civil ceremony, he married a neighbor’s daughter who was expecting his daughter. Yet he continued to see other women. With one of these he had a son, whom he abandoned to state care. Soon after, he and his wife separated, but remained friends.

 

At this point he decided to buy a boat, sail off to the South Pacific and begin a new life in the sun. Tired of his antics, however, his parents refused to fund his venture. Fesch then came up with the idea of robbing a currency dealer, Alexander Silberstein. On 25 February he and a friend arrived at the dealer’s office. He pointed a gun at the dealer and demanded the cash from the till. His companion, meanwhile, has fled.

 

Silberstein tried to reason with him, but Fesch hit him twice across the head with the revolver butt, grabbed a small amount of cash and ran. Outside he tried to calmly mingle with the passers-by, but Silberstein arrived, shouting that he has been robbed.

 

Chased by the crowd Fesch was cornered. A policeman, Jean Vergne, drew his revolver and ordered him to raise his hands. Instead Fesch pulled out his own gun and shot the officer through the heart and wounded one of his pursuers in the neck. But the crowd overcame him. He knew he would face the guillotine.

 

Having abandoned his faith when he was 17, he mocked the many efforts to bring God back to his life. “No need to trouble yourself about me”, he told the prison chaplain. But one year after the murder, on the night of the 28 February 1955, Fesch experienced a dramatic change of heart.

 

“I was in bed, eyes open, really suffering for the first time in my life”, he wrote shortly before his death. “Then a cry burst forth from my breast, an appeal for help, ‘My God’, and instantly, like a violent wind which passes over with nobody knowing where it comes from, the spirit of the Lord seized me by the throat. It was a feeling of infinite power and kindness and, from that moment, I believed with an unshakable conviction that never left me.”

 

The experience changed the remaining two and a half years of his life. He apologized for all the suffering he had caused and led a holy, prayerful life. To a young Benedictine he wrote: “In prison there are two possible ways: You can rebel against your situation, or you can regard yourself as a monk.”

 

In the journal which he now kept he wrote: “The last day of struggle, at this time tomorrow I shall be in heaven! May I die as the Lord wishes me to die … In five hours I shall see Jesus.”

 

When his journal and letters were published after his death they created widespread interest in France, touching young people especially. Not everyone, however, wants him to be canonized: “a patron saint for gunmen”, said one newspaper.

 

But in 1987, Cardinal Lustiger of Paris explained: “Nobody is ever lost in God’s eyes, even when society has condemned him.” He believed that Fesch as a saint would “give great hope to those who see themselves irredeemably lost.”

 

 

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

 

1. As Christian disciples today, do we trust in God who is lovingly involved in our lives? What is the specific apostolic mission addressed to us by Christ today? 

 

2. Do we trust in our parent God who gives his wayward child a second chance to be loved?

 

 

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

 

Jesus Lord,

you have called us

and entrusted to us the Gospel

with its power to overcome evil.

You commission us to overcome

the death-dealing situations of today’s world

by the strength of your Holy Spirit.

You send us to touch the wounded

with the healing power of your love.

Help us to share with them the image

of a compassionate and merciful 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 day. Please memorize it.

 

“Go and make this proclamation.” (Mt 10:7) // “I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks.” (Hos 11: 4)

 

 

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

 

Pray for all missionaries that they may carry out their mandate with absolute trust in God and apostolic zeal. Be a missionary to a person close to you and in need of the healing power of the Gospel. // Let the people around you experience the forgiving love of our parent God.

 

*** *** ***

 

July 10, 2020: FRIDAY – WEEKDAY (14)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Strengthens Us in Persecution … He Summons Us to Go Back to God”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Hos 14:2-10 // Mt 10:16-23

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 10:16-23): “For it will not be you who speak, but the Spirit of the Father speaking through you.”

(Gospel Reflection by Sr. Mary Mercedes Pineda, PDDM)

 

Many say that it is not easy to follow Christ or to be a good Christian. Our Lord himself did not promise wealth, comfort, prestige, or power to those who have followed him. Rather, in today’s Gospel, Jesus made his chosen disciples aware of what awaits them once they accept Him as their Lord and Master; for example, rejection, opposition, persecution and discrimination.

 

As we journey through life and grow in our faith, we encounter these sad realities in various ways and degrees. We might experience them from people we love, from friends and associates, from strangers, from the community to which we belong, or in our workplace.

 

Rejection, opposition, persecution and discrimination are experienced due to differences in religious, political, cultural background and beliefs, perceptions and even sexual orientation. The Gospel values that as Christians we try to live in fidelity to God, are opposed to the values of the world and this could give rise to the harsh realities in families, communities and in society.

 

How do we react to persecution, opposition, discrimination and rejection? Is our response “flight or fight?” How do we bear with them?

 

I remember when I joined a pilgrimage to the Holy Land coming from Rome. In Tel-Aviv airport, I was segregated from the rest of our group, invited to go to the immigration office to be interrogated, simply because I was carrying a Philippine passport. Our group included priests, religious men and women, and families. I was the only one from Asia. The rest were Europeans and Americans, who passed immigration without any difficulty. It was indeed a humiliating and painful experience of rejection and discrimination. However, I remained calm and composed, talking to the Lord in silent prayer: “Lord Jesus, this is an unpleasant joke!   See, I’m not welcome in your country. But thank you for this unexpected experience, because this is a chance to practice patience and humility. Amen.”

 

Jesus promised to give us the inner strength to endure such occurrences and to persevere in following him whatever the cost. We have only to trust and believe that He is always with us and in us.

 

In this Gospel text (Mt 10:16-23), we are invited and challenged to learn to accept  these negative realities as occasions for growth in faith, in our maturity to follow Christ and lastly, an opportunity to renew our commitment to Jesus our Lord.

         

 

B. First Reading (Hos 14:2-10): “We shall say no more ‘Our god’ to the work of our hands.”

 

In today’s Old Testament reading (Hos 14:2-10) we hear a beautiful text that concludes the Book of the Prophet Hosea. The mood is upbeat and the message is replete with hope, based on God’s merciful love for his people. Today’s Hosea text is composed of three parts. The first part contains the prophet’s plea to Israel to return to the Lord. The erring people must confess their infidelity. They must renounce idolatry, false security based on military-political alliances, and empty worship. The second part delineates God’s promise of new life to a repentant people. God will heal their iniquities and the contrite people will once more experience the life-giving character of God’s love. Israel will flourish in beauty and plenty. The Lord God will renew the people and make them fruitful. The conclusion exhorts the wise to take to heart what the prophet Hosea has written. It is a final reminder that the righteous people walk in the paths of the Lord, but the sinners who ignore the Lord’s ways stumble and fall.

 

The following excerpt from a story of a stage actor-turned-priest gives insight into the dynamics of conversion (cf. Father Benjamin Francis, “All the World’s a Stage” in Amazing Grace for Survivors, ed. Jeff Cavins, et. al., West Chester: Ascension Press, 2008, p. 56-58).

 

Over the next two years, my life went through an amazing transformation. I quit all acting and started living in a little rooming house next to the Church of Saint Francis. I determined that I was not ever going to leave God again. I helped out at the church in any way I could and attended daily Mass. During this time, I thought back to my childhood dream of being a priest. No, I thought, remembering my sinful past. There’s no way I could be a priest after all the things that I have done.

 

After two years without slipping back into sin, I was still uncertain about what I should do. I stopped off at the bank one day, to see how I was doing financially. With the amount of money I had, I would be set for a least another two years of indecision. On the way back from the bank on the outskirts of Chinatown, I stopped by a church called St. Mary’s. On the lectern there was Bible sitting open. My eyes fell on the verse in Luke that says, “So therefore, no one of you can be my disciple who does not give up all his possessions … Sell your possessions and give to charity, make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven.”

 

Since I had just come from the bank, I knew to the cent how much money was in my account. I thought about my unsure future and looked to Jesus in the tabernacle. “Okay”, I prayed, “if I do this, you are going to take care of me from now on.” I took out my checkbook. “You get me to Rome, Jesus.” Slowly, I wrote a check to the parish for every cent I had, and I put it into the locked collection box. I was in God’s hands now.

 

I walked back to the house I was rooming in by the parish with a total dependence and trust in God. “I’m in your hands now”, I said again and again. I arrived back at St. Francis Church, and the little Filipino priest, Father Paul, came up to me enthusiastically. “Where have you been? I’ve been looking for you all day!”

 

At the same time I was praying at Saint Mary’s, a woman had visited Father Paul and had given him an envelope. “This is for the young man who is going to Rome to study to be a priest.” “I don’t know any young man going to Rome”, Father Paul had responded, confused. “Yes, you do”, the woman said. “He’s the one who reads the bingo numbers.”

 

Inside the envelope was exactly enough money to pay for a plane ticket to Rome. It wasn’t long after this, just after Christmas of 1975, that I found myself as a seminarian studying to be a priest in Rome. Every day in that seminary was an overwhelming gift for which I thanked God. It was hard to believe that I, Mr. Showbiz, was going to soon be a priest of God. To many, it may have seemed that I once lived an exciting life, but I knew that nothing was more blessed than the opportunity to serve God as a priest.

 

When I was ordained to the diaconate, my mother came to Rome. I asked her to consecrate me, her son, to the Blessed Mother. She smiled and said, “I already did that, long ago.” Then, for the first time, she told me that when I was very young, I had come down with a high fever. When the doctor told her that I might not live, she had relinquished all of her motherly rights to the Blessed Mother. I had been dedicated to my mother in heaven, and it had been she who had directed my road to Rome to be one of her Son’s priests. (…)

 

The Blessed Mother had kept calling me, and despite my failings, she had cleared the path to her Son and then worked tirelessly to put me on it. (…)

 

 

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

 

1. What is our response to persecution? Do we trust in divine assistance when faced with rejection and persecution?

 

2. Do we respond to Jesus who calls us to walk on the road of conversion? Are we a means of salvation for others?

 

 

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

 

O Jesus, font of strength,

you send us like sheep in the midst of wolves.

You counsel us

to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves

in the midst of a troubled world.

We trust in your saving help.

We trust that the Holy Spirit

will put his words into our mouth

and will defend us from all evil.

You have summoned us

to tread the path that leads to life.

Let us be faithful to the ways you have shown us.

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.

 

“Whoever endures to the end will be saved.” (Mt 10:22) // “Return to the Lord.” (Hos 14:2)

 

  

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

 

When experiencing rejection, trust in Jesus and pray for help and protection. When persecuted on account of your fidelity to Church teaching, ask the Lord for strength and endurance and the grace to refrain from a violent response. // Be deeply aware that conversion is an ongoing process and that you need to respond to the grace of God day by day.

 

 

*** *** ***

July 11, 2020: SATURDAY – SAINT BENEDICT, Abbot

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Exhorts Us Not to Fear … He Helps Us Experience the Holy”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 6:1-8 // Mt 10:24-33

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 10:24-33): “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body.”

(Gospel Reflection by Dr. Rachel Quinto, Holy Family Institute, Fresno, CA-USA)

 

Many years ago and for a very long time, I had a recurrent nightmare that would wake me up in the middle of the night in cold sweat. I dreamed that someone or something was chasing me in the dark shadows. I was alone and feared for my life. No matter how fast I ran or imagined hiding places where I would not be seen, I sensed that I could never escape this thing’s sinister grip. Strangely enough, even when I was paralyzed with fear and could not move, I was not overcome by my pursuer. When I finally managed to wake up, I would find myself exhausted, as if from an actual ordeal.

 

Back then, I understood healing to be physical or psychological and via human intervention. Using my background in psychology and medicine, I tried to analyze the origin of this unsettling subconscious experience in order to hopefully resolve it. But my intellectual efforts met with failure. The nightmares managed to come back over and over again to haunt me.

 

My breakthrough came in a most unusual manner. As I grew in faith, I began to know the healing power of the Word of God. After reflecting on this very same passage (Mt 10:24-33), I decided to take Jesus at his word. With all the conviction I could gather consciously, I resolved that when the chase happens again in my sleep, I will not run away. In fact, I am determined to turn around and face my pursuer unafraid. I am totally convinced that the Lord will protect me from all danger. In fact, with the Lord beside me, not a single hair on my head will be touched by this evil that has been after me for a long time. After all, am I not worth more than many sparrows?

 

Miraculously, just like that, the nightmares ended.

   

 

B. First Reading (Is 6:1-8): “I am a man of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

I made my annual retreat in January 2005 at our convent in Monrovia, in the foothills of the scenic San Gabriel Mountains. The theme of my annual retreat was the Eucharist. During the Sunday Mass with the parish community I received a special gift – a beautiful experience of the nearness of God and of the community of the angels and saints in heaven. While the choir and the assembly were singing the Sanctus, I was overwhelmed by the presence of the heavenly court, the saints and the faithful departed. The liturgy of the Eucharist celebrated right there and then at the Parish of Immaculate Conception gave me a foretaste of the heavenly liturgy. Indeed, it was a grace to have a glimpse of God’s “holy” presence. Likewise, that religious experience renewed my personal commitment to my Eucharistic mission as a PDDM sister.

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Is 6:1-8) is about Isaiah’s spiritual experience and his vocation as a prophet. Isaiah experiences the awesome “holiness” of God. This indicates God’s transcendence, his complete apartness from anything sinful, and his infinite power and grandeur. The triple-holy God initiates a love-service relationship with Isaiah by giving him an intimate experience of the divine life. Isaiah’s experience of God’s grandeur is a personal invitation to mission: Who shall I send?  Who will go for us? It involves total surrender to God. Indeed, like the prophet, we too are given glimpses of the sacred. These spiritual experiences call us to immerse ourselves into the mystery of the divine. God helps us by purging our unworthiness and fickleness and thus we become a “living” part of the saving mystery. Indeed, by his grace we become instruments of his loving plan to restore all creation through Jesus Christ.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we believe that God cares for us and that we are worth more than many sparrows? Do we try to overcome useless anxieties by putting our trust in the God who loves us?

 

2. Are we sensitive to various religious experiences that the loving God is giving us as a gift? What have I learned from the religious experience of the prophet Isaiah? Like Isaiah, are we willing to have our “unclean lips” purged and thus experience a deep spiritual cleansing that would prepare us to be mission partners in God’s plan of salvation? How do we respond to the triple holiness of God?

 

 

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

 

Jesus Lord,

you care for us

and assure us that we are worth more than many sparrows.

Deliver us from evil and useless anxieties.

Help us to trust in you.

Grant us the grace to respond to the holy presence of God

and his call to share in his plan of salvation.

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.

 

“So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Mt 10:31) // “And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’” (Is 6:8)

 

 

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

 

When anxieties come, remember the words of Jesus: do not to be afraid for we are worth more than many sparrows. Spend some quiet time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, drawing strength from the Eucharistic Master. // Pray that the people of today may be deeply grateful for the experience of the sacred and be utterly sensitive to the call to mission.

*** *** *** 

 

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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