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A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

Dear Readers,

As part of our continuing effort to nourish people with the bread of the Word, we have published “THE FIRST READING AND THE SECOND READING OF THE SUNDAY MASS, YEAR A”. To help defray the expenses, we request a donation of $10.00/book order. Free shipping in the USA. To order, please write or call the following:

The PDDM Sisters

3700 North Cornelia Avenue

Fresno, CA 93722

Tel. (559) 275-1656

 

God bless you abundantly!

Prayerful wishes from the PDDM Sisters

 

 

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BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 17, n. 51)

Week 33 in Ordinary Time: November 17-23, 2019

 

 

(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: November 10-16, 2019 please go to ARCHIVES Series 17 and click on “Week 32 Ordinary Time”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: November 17-23, 2019.)

 

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November 17, 2019: THIRTY-THIRD SUNDAY

IN ORDINARY TIME

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

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Mal 3:19-20a // 2 Thes 3:7-12 // Lk 21:5-19

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

C. Second Reading (2 Thes 3:7-12): “If anyone is unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.”

 

In the early Christian community of Thessalonica, however, there was a perverted notion and an unfortunate reaction concerning the Lord’s second coming (cf. 2 Thes 3:7-12). Some members believed that the Lord’s final advent was imminent. Instead of responding positively and constructively to the ad interim situation, they simply stopped working and waited idly for the unfolding of the parousia. Convinced they were already “saved”, they felt no need to work. They did not apply themselves to tasks and neglected the obligations of daily living. They ended up as freeloaders, busybodies and a burden to the Christian community.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

Jesus assures us

that your victorious saving hand is at work.

Help us to be peaceful and life-giving

when confronted with the tumult of today’s history.

You control the course of our destiny.

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

Although we do not know the hour

and the circumstances of the end time,

we wish to work perseveringly with Jesus

in the final realization of your Kingdom.

May we humbly and boldly trust in Jesus’ exhortation:

“By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

You live and reign, forever and ever. 

Amen.

 

 

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

           

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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November 11, 2019: MONDAY – WEEKDAY (33); THE DEDICATION OF THE BASILICAS OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL; SAINT ROSE PHILIPPINES DUCHESNE, Virgin (USA)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Makes the Blind See … He Is Our Refuge in Terrible Affliction”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

1 Mc 1:10-15, 41-43, 54-57, 62-63 // Lk 18:35-43

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

B. First Reading (1 Mc 1:10-15, 41-43, 54-57, 62-63): “Terrible affliction was upon Israel.”

 

As we are about to conclude the liturgical year, this week’s Old Testament readings are taken from the books of Maccabees. They describe the onslaught of Greek culture upon the Jewish people through the instigation of Alexander the Great and his successors. The books’ strong religious theme emphasizes that God is at work in history and rewards those who are loyal to him. Today’s reading (1 Mc 1:10-15, 41-43, 54-57, 62-63) presents the wicked ruler Antiochus Epiphanes, a descendant of one of Alexander’s generals. Priding himself to be a manifestation of a god and considering himself as “illustrious”, Antiochus Epiphanes, the king of Syria, aims to unite all peoples in his kingdom by imposing upon them the Greek culture. He wants them to abandon their particular traditions and religious practices and adopt his religion. The decree of Hellenization is divisive. Many Jews, finding the Greek culture attractive and convenient, especially those engaged in trade and commerce with the Hellenists, connive in dismantling their religion. However, some heroic Jews resolve to maintain their fidelity to the covenant even to the point of risking their lives. They prefer to die rather than break the holy covenant. Indeed, terrible affliction is upon Israel.

 

The oppressive stance of Antiochus Epiphanes continues to be verified in a new form today (cf. Denyse O’Leary, “Quebec Charter Aims to Put Religion Under Wraps” in Our Sunday Visitor, October 13, 2013, p. 4).

 

Could wearing a cross become a crime in Canada? Or a firing offense? In late August, a Montreal newspaper leaked details of a proposed secularist charter for the Canadian province of Quebec. Officially unveiled Sept. 10, the Charter of Quebec Values claims “an obligation to remain independent of religious authority”.

 

Proposed by the Parti Quebecois, which is the province’s governing party, it would ban the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols in public places. Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms would then be amended to limit claims for accommodation of religious beliefs and practices.

 

Included is a ban on public sector employees – civil servants, teachers, doctors, nurses, police, day care staff, municipal and university staff – wearing a hijab, turban, kippa, large visible crucifix or any other “ostentatious” religious symbols at work.

 

Elected members of the Quebec legislature would be exempt from the regulations. Also, crucifixes that are of mere historic significance could remain, even in political venues. The multitude of locations named for religious significance would not be changed under the proposed charter.

 

But Quebec’s secularist lawmakers are serious about driving religion out of the public square and mind. The Parti Quebecois of Canada’s Parliament, has expelled its only female and ethnic member for dissent, leaving only four seated members. Maria Mouranti, a Catholic of Lebanese origin who now sits as an Independent, wears a crucifix.

 

“Firing women from day care centers because they’re wearing a cross or a scarf, or a man from a hospital because he’s wearing a kippa or a  turban – I can’t adhere to such a policy”, Mourani told reporters Sept. 13. (…)

 

The Catholic Church has responded cautiously, aware of the risk of triggering counter-productivity from secularists. Church authorities have pointed out, however, that the proposed charter would enable social injustices. For example, Muslim men would have no problem fulfilling its requirements because they would be permitted beards; but Muslim women might be forced out of the work force if head scarves are forbidden, contributing to their isolation and victimization.

 

Also, there is a transparency issue: as Montreal Archbishop Christian Lepine put it, if nuns who run a kindergarten funded by the government are not permitted to wear habits, “Why not? That’s who they are. They’re nuns. Why hide the fact that they are nuns?”

  

    

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

 

1. Have we made the invocations of the blind man of Jericho our own: “Son of “David, have pity on me!” … “Lord, please let me see”?

 

2. Do we have the resolve to be faithful to our covenant relationship with our loving God? Do we trust that he will be our strength in affliction?

 

  

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

 

Jesus Master,

you made the blind man of Jericho “see”.

Your gift of sight and insight

enabled him to follow you,

giving glory to God.

Your marvelous work

inspired the people who witnessed it

to give praise to God.

Grant me the gift of sight and insight.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.  

 

***

Almighty God,

you scorn the proud and love the humble.

Give us the strength to be faithful.

Let us give witness to you

in a world that is hostile to sacred signs.

Help us to love you to the end.

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.

 

“Lord, please let me see.” (Lk 18:41) //“They preferred to die rather than profane the holy covenant.” (I Mc 1:63)

 

 

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

 

Exercise the gift of sight and insight by identifying one wonderful thing that happened to you today and by thanking God for it. // In a world that is secularized and greatly hostile to religious symbols, resolve to give a sign of the “sacred” by your concrete acts of charity.

 

 

 

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November 12, 2019: TUESDAY – WEEKDAY (33)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Saves the Lost … He Strengthens Us to Live with Integrity and Give Faithful Witness to God”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

2 Mc 6:18-31 // Lk 19:1-10

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

  

 

B. First Reading (2 Mc 6:18-31): “I will leave to the young a noble example of how to die willingly and generously for the revered and holy laws.”

 

The Old Testament readings for today and tomorrow depict the courage of the faithful Jews who would rather die than profane the holy covenant with God. Today’s reading (2 Mc 6:18-31) presents the martyrdom of the 90-year-old scribe Eleazar, who is worthy of his old age. He leaves to the young an example of how to die willingly and generously for the revered and holy laws. Keeping his integrity before the Lord, he demonstrates that fidelity to the law of God is a supreme value. Eleazar wisely spurns the deception urged by his pagan and/or “paganized” friends, for his conscience recognizes the evil that can result socially from “scandal”. The seven young Maccabee brothers follow Eleazar in his martyrdom. Eleazar is considered the “teacher” of the seven young brothers on the path to martyrdom. Indeed, his courage and integrity have impacted not only the youth but the whole Jewish nation.

 

The martyrdom of Dominic Collins relives the courage and integrity of the Old Testament hero Eleazar (cf. “Lives of the Saints: The Irish Martyrs” in ALIVE! September 2013, p. 15).

 

Dunboy Castle fell to the English on 17 June, 1602. The garrison was massacred with the exception of the Jesuit, Dominic Collins, and two others from whom the victors hoped to extract information. The three were taken to Cork City to be interrogated. Dominic’s companions proved to be minor catches and were soon sent to the gallows. The English commander, Sir George Carew thought Collins had more to reveal and interrogated him personally. He might at least gain a propaganda victory by “turning” Collins. Even some of his family tried to persuade Dominic to feign conversion and then change back again. But even to save his life he would not do evil.

 

Carew eventually gave up and on 31st October 1602 he sent Dominic to Youghal, the home town he had left 15 years before. He was paraded through the streets to the place of execution. He spoke to the crowd telling them that his sole ambition was to serve God and defend the faith, and that it was for this he was dying. He was then hanged. That night some local Catholics took his body away and buried it in a secret place. Immediately he was venerated as a martyr and his fame quickly spread through Ireland and Europe. Many favors and cures were attributed to his intercession.

  

 

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

 

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

 

2. Do I live a life of integrity and total dedication to God? Or do I tend to compromise when faithfulness is not convenient?

 

  

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

 

Loving Father,

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

But in your kindness,

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

We thank you for the Zacchaeus experience within us

of wanting “to see” Jesus.

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

who comes to seek the lost.

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

we await your saving presence

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

As your loving gaze enfolds us

and as we climb down toward your welcoming heart,

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

Like the radically transformed Zacchaeus,

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

Fill us with the joy of salvation

as we hear you say:

“Today salvation has come to this house …

For the Son of Man has come

to seek and save what was lost.”

We adore you now and forever.

Amen.  

 

            ***

O loving God,

we thank you for the courage and faith

of the Old Testament hero Eleazar.

He spurned deception

and offered his life for the holy covenant.

May his example help us to live with integrity

and total devotion to your divine will.

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 was seeking to see who Jesus was.” (Lk 19:3) //“He died, leaving in his death a model of courage and an unforgettable example of virtue.” (II Mc 6:31)

 

 

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

 

As a way of participating in the mission of the Son of Man who came to seek and save what was lost, you may contribute through prayers, material resources and volunteer services to assist the poor and the needy, the “lost” and the marginalized. // In your daily living, take care to live with integrity and resolve to avoid actions that lead to scandal and the moral degradation of others, especially the youth.

 

 

*** *** ***

November 20, 2019: WEDNESDAY – WEEKDAY (33)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Wants Us to Be Creatively Involved … In Him We Will Live Forever”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

2 Mc 7:1, 20-31 // Lk 19:11-28

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

B. First Reading (II Mc 7:1, 20-31): “The creator of the universe will give you back both breath and life.”

 

We are almost at the end of the liturgical year and coasting toward a new one. In our spiritual journey as a worshipping community, we have experienced our vulnerability as well as the courage and strength that come from God. As the liturgical year draws to a close, our attention is drawn gently towards the transitory character of human existence and our eternal destiny with God. The “last things” fascinate us and the reality of the “end time” provokes us. Today’s liturgy of the Word enriches us with profound insights on life and death.

 

The Old Testament reading (II Mc 7:1-2, 9-24) portrays the intense sacrifices of the Jewish martyrs who trusted in the faithful God who would bring them back to life. The faith declaration that “the King of the world will raise them up to live again forever” is a radical expression of the gradually developing belief of Israel in the resurrection of the body. Explicit belief in the resurrection only appeared in Judaism during the persecution of the Greek king Antiochus IV (167-164 B.C.).

 

The biblical scholar Eugene Maly explains: “For a long time Israel of the Old Testament period had no positive conviction of a life after death. True, they thought that the deceased went to Sheol. But Sheol was a shadowy place of shadowy existence. Israel had no conviction of a fullness of life after death. But Israel had a hope. It was in a God who willed that fullness of life and would somehow bring it about … The real breakthrough in the expression of this hope came in the second century B.C.  In the book of Daniel we read, ‘Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever …’ (12:2). It is no accident that this revelation was realized at a time of persecution of the just. The book of Second Maccabees was written as a theological reflection on that same persecution. Our reading is part of a story of a Jewish mother and her seven sons who were put to death for their faith. And we read of their affirmations of the resurrection of the body, powerful statements that need no commentary of themselves.”

 

The following story is fascinating and illustrates that there is comfort and strength from beyond (cf. Deborah Sudduth-Snyder, “A Rose for Kate” in Guideposts, July 2010, p. 33-34). God’s mysterious hand is at work to encourage us in loving and to assure us of the power of love that transcends death.

 

I love you. Just three simple words. So why couldn’t I say them to my aunt Kate, a woman who had meant so much to me through the years. I walked into my apartment and collapsed on the couch. I had taken off from work that morning and had hopped on a bus to visit my aunt at the nursing home. I’d stood by her bed, trying to tell her how much I loved her. But the woman I saw before me – frail, pale, with glazed eyes, only patches of stubble where short sandy blonde hair had once been – scared me silent. I knew that Aunt Kate didn’t have much time left. But that made it so much harder. Saying “I love you” felt like saying goodbye.  And I couldn’t bring myself to do that.

 

Just a few months earlier, Aunt Kate and I had hiked at Warren Dunes State Park on the shore of Lake Michigan, a beautiful trail we had hiked so many times before, when my brother, Chris, and I were just kids and came to visit her in the summertime. Aunt Kate had always led the way on those outings, but this time she had to turn back. I knew that cancer was finally taking its toll. Still, to me, Aunt Kate was invincible. She was fearless and independent. The great outdoors was her playground. She never married and never had children, so she treated Chris and me like her own. She taught us how to hike and swim. We rode horses and camped out in the woods. It was Aunt Kate who had made a nature lover out of a city girl like me.

 

Then there was our garden. There was no room to plant anything where I lived, so Aunt Kate let me grow whatever I wanted at her house. “Garden? More like a jungle”, my dad had said when he saw it. My favorites were the yellow roses that Aunt Kate and I planted. Even after a harsh Michigan winter, they grew back year after year. I lay back against the couch and prayed, Lord, help me let her know how much I love her, before it’s too late.

 

That garden we planted popped into my mind. Flowers. That’s what I could give Aunt Kate. Yellow roses, like the ones we had grown together all those years ago. In the morning I went out to the florist and chose a beautiful bouquet. On the card I wrote the words I had such trouble saying aloud. The next day the nurse called to tell me that my aunt had received my gift. Good, I thought. On my next visit, I’ll be able to say it in person.

 

But the following day I got another call. One I hadn’t wanted to receive. Aunt Kate passed away. I was devastated. The funeral was hard to get through, but not as difficult as visiting the nursing home one last time to collect my aunt’s things. “She requested that you care for her flowers”, the nurse told me, handing me the roses, my card still taped to the vase. Silently I took them from her.

 

When I got back home, I set the flowers by the window and removed the card. Through tear-blurred eyes, I read the words I had written: “I love you.” Did she know, Lord, how much I loved her? Could she even read the card? I wondered. I wiped my eyes and the card came into focus. There were some light gray marks near the bottom. I looked more closely at the card. Below “I Love You”, in shaky pencil, just dark enough for me to make out, my aunt Kate had written “U 2”. 

 

 

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

 

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

 

2. How does the courageous witnessing of the Jewish martyrs impinge on us? How does their faith in the God of life inspire us? Do we allow ourselves to be strengthened by God in every good deed and word? Do we pray that we may persevere in the love of God and endure in our witnessing of Christ?

 

  

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

 

O loving God,

we thank you for the creativity and wholehearted dedication

of the enterprising servants.

They teach us to be fruitfully involved

in the affairs of your kingdom.

Deliver us from the twisted logic

of the “hole-in-the-ground” servant.

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

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

Help us to use our talents fully and creatively

in the service of the Gospel.

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

            Amen.     

 

***

O loving God,

you are the God of the living.

To you all are alive and in you all exist.

Your infinite power

conquers sin and death.

We believe that you will raise us up

to live again forever.

Help us to endure with Christ

and overcome the trials of life.

We serve and extol you, now and forever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

 “Well done, good servant! You have been faithful in this very small matter.” (Lk 19:17) //“The Creator of the universe will give you back both breath and life.” (II Mc 7:23)

 

  

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

 

List some talents you have received from the Lord, which you have utilized fully at the service of the Church and on behalf of the community. List some talents, which you have failed to use. Beg God’s mercy and pardon for your failure to maximize them. Resolve to use them for the service of the Gospel. // Pray that the sustaining power of God and the reality of resurrection may continue to be felt by Christian disciples in their daily life. By your acts of justice, charity and peace, allow the loving plan of the Lord of life to be operative in the here and now.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

 

November 21, 2019: THURSDAY – THE PRESENTATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Weeps Over Jerusalem … He Will Help Us to Stand Up for the Faith”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

2 Mc 2:15-29 // Lk 19:41-44

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   

 

B. First Reading (I Mc 2:15-29): “We will keep to the covenant of our ancestors.”

 

Today’s episode recounted in the First Reading (I Mc 2:15-29) marks the start of the Maccabean revolt against the Greeks. Mattathias and his family are of priestly descent. The officials of King Antiochus Epiphanes attempt to force the people into apostasy. They invite Mattathias, a person of prominence, to be the first to obey the king’s edict by offering a pagan sacrifice on the altar. No amount of flattery and persuasion could dissuade Mattathias from being faithful to the covenant. He asserts: “My sons, my relatives and I will continue to keep the covenant that God made with our ancestors. With God’s help we will never abandon his Law or disobey his commands.” Not everyone is disposed to resist the king’s order and risk one’s life. When someone comes forward to comply, Mattathias kills him in a just fury. He also kills the royal official who is forcing the people to sacrifice and he tears down the altar. Mattathias and his family flee to the wilderness to prepare their defenses. They invite those who are faithful to the covenant to follow them. This incident at Modein is decisive in adopting an aggressive response of resistance to the king’s attempt to impose his religion upon the Jewish people.

 

Mattathias’ courageous stance should inspire us to stand up for our faith today. The following illustrates what it means to be pro-active in our faith defense (cf. Teresa Tomeo, “Stand Up for the Faith” in Our Sunday Visitor, October 13, 2013, p. 17).

 

We don’t have to just sit there and take it. Whether it’s one more biased news story on what Pope Francis allegedly said or another commentary on how the Catholic Church needs to conform to the world instead of the other way around, we can do something about the attacks on our faith – attacks that have been coming at us at a rapid-fire pace. Having a proactive versus a reactive approach is always something I advocate with my radio listeners, and I was recently reminded of just how successful the proactive approach can be.

 

The topic of engaging the culture was front and center during a recent Vatican conference in Rome, where I heard some very encouraging real life stories about very proactive Catholics. They didn’t have a media platform but were able to get themselves before a large audience – not just once, but regularly. (…)

 

One of my fellow panel members was a Catholic mother based in Australia who pens a popular column in a major daily newspaper. Angela Shahanan told attendees how frustrated she was with the Australian media’s coverage of women’s issues, especially coverage of stories relating to motherhood and moms like her who chose parenting as their vocation versus work outside the home. So one day she decided to write a letter to the editor. Her letter was published and because it received so much response – much of it negative but a lot of responses – the powers at the publication asked her to start contributing additional opinion pieces and a columnist was born.

 

During the same session, one of the attendees, an attorney based in Nigeria, shared a similar story. He had written a letter to the editor of his local paper in response to several biased stories pertaining to the Church in Africa. He too soon found himself not just writing additional op-ed pieces for publication but covering issues and events related to the Church. He told me he was a lawyer by training and that law is still his full-time profession, but he does a lot of writing as well. (…)

 

The bottom line is our willingness to engage the culture … Given the powerful influence of the mass media and the misinformation machines that love to pounce on the pope and all things Catholic, we have to do what we can to defend and explain, in a Christ-like manner, the truth and beauty of our faith. We are not responsible for what so-and-so decides to do with the information, but we are all called to evangelize and this type of evangelization can have a far-reaching effect. As Blessed Mother Teresa said, “God doesn’t expect us to be successful; only faithful.” The important thing is to at least give it a shot and let God do the rest.

   

 

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

 

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

 

2. Like Mattathias, do we have zeal for God, and do we have the courage to be faithful?

 

  

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

 

Jesus Savior,

you wept over Jerusalem

for being blind to your gift of peace and salvation.

Give us the grace

to recognize your presence in our midst.

Let us follow your ways

and preserve us from destruction.

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

We love you and thank you.

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

Amen.  

 

            ***

Almighty God,

you are our strength and our hope.

Help us to live with integrity.

Give us the courage to be faithful

and never succumb to the pagan temptation

of secularization and godlessness.

Strengthen us with the power of the Holy Spirit

and make us faithful followers of Jesus Christ

to the point of life-sacrifice.

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 saw the city and wept over it.” (Lk 19:41) //“We will keep to the covenant of our fathers.” (I Mc 2:20)

 

  

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

 

Manifest your acceptance of Jesus as Savior by your acts of justice and compassion on behalf of the poor. // Resolve to delve into the meaning and the challenges of our Catholic faith and be ready to stand up for the faith.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

November 22, 2019: FRIDAY – SAINT CECILIA, Virgin, Martyr

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us True Worship … In Him

We Offer Joyful Sacrifice”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

1 Mc 4:36-37, 52-59 // Lk 19:45-48

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

   

 

B. First Reading (I Mc 4:36-37, 52-59): “They celebrated the dedication of the altar and joyfully offered burnt offerings.”

 

Today’s reading (I Mc 4:36-37, 52-59) tells us of Judas Maccabeus and his brothers, the sons of the zealous religious rebel Mattathias. With the grace of God, they are victorious against their pagan enemies. They resolve to rebuild and rededicate the Temple that has been desecrated by the Greek king Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Their army assembles and goes up to Mount Zion. There they find the Temple abandoned, the altar profaned, the gates burned down and the courtyards in a forest of weeds. They repair the Temple inside and out, build a new altar and fix the courtyards. They make new utensils for worship and bring the lamp stand, the altar of incense and the table for the bread into the Temple. They light the lamps on the lamp stand and there is full light in the Temple. The new altar is dedicated and hymns are sung to the accompaniment of harps, lutes and cymbals. All the people worship and praise the Lord for giving them victory. The assembly decides that the Feast of Dedication should be celebrated annually for eight days. This is the origin of the Jewish annual feast of Hanukkah, a feast of joy and praise because the “disgrace” has been removed from among the people.

 

The dedication of the Jerusalem Temple celebrated by Judas Maccabeus and his people involves ritual elements that include music and songs. Christian tradition likewise gives importance to songs and music in the liturgy. Saint Cecilia is the patroness of music. It has been reported that “Cecilia sang in her heart while the musical instruments sounded for her wedding.” Here are some biographical notes about this virgin and martyr, the patroness of sacred music because of the song of God in her heart (cf. Catholic Encyclopedia on the Internet).

 

SAINT CECILIA: This saint, so often glorified in fine arts and in poetry, is one of the most venerated martyrs of Christian antiquity. About the middle of the fifth century originated Acts of Martyrdom of Saint Cecilia. They inform us that Cecilia, a virgin of a senatorial family and a Christian from her infancy, was given in marriage by her parents to a noble pagan youth Valerianus.  When after the celebration of marriage, the couple had retired to the wedding chamber, Cecilia told Valerianus that she was betrothed to an angel who jealously guarded her body; therefore Valerianus must take care not to violate her virginity. Valerianus wished to see the angel, whereupon Cecilia sent him to the third milestone on the Via Appia where he should meet Bishop (Pope) Urbanus. Valerianus obeyed, was baptized by the Pope, and returned a Christian to Cecilia. An angel then appeared to the two and crowned them with roses and lilies.

 

When Tiburtius, the brother of Valerianus, came to them, he too was won over to Christianity. As zealous children of the Faith both brothers distributed rich alms and buried the bodies of the confessors who had died for Christ. The prefect, Turcius Almachius condemned them to death; an officer of the prefect, Maximus appointed to execute this sentence, was himself converted and suffered martyrdom with the two brothers. Their remains were buried in one tomb by Cecilia.

 

And now Cecilia herself was sought by the officers of the prefect. Before she was taken a prisoner, she arranged that her house should be preserved as a place of worship for the Roman Church. After a glorious profession of faith, she was condemned to be suffocated in the bath of her own house. But as she remained unhurt in the overheated room, the prefect had her decapitated in that place. The executioner let his sword fall three times without separating the head from the trunk, and fled, leaving the virgin in her own blood. She lived three days, made dispositions in favor of the poor, and provided that after her death her house should be dedicated as a church. Urbanus buried her among the bishops and confessors, i.e. in the Catacomb of Callistus.

 

Her church in the Trastevere quarter of Rome was rebuilt by Paschal I (817-824), on which occasion the Pope wished to transfer thither relics; at first, he could not find them and believed that they had been stolen by the Lombards. In a vision he saw Saint Cecilia, who exhorted him to continue his search, as he had already been very near to her, i.e. near her grave. He therefore renewed his quest; and soon the body of the martyr, draped in costly stuffs of gold brocade and with the cloths soaked in her blood at her feet, was actually found in the Catacomb of Praetextatus. They may have been transported thither from the Catacomb of Callistus to save them from earlier depredations of the Lombards in the vicinity of Rome. The relics of Saint Cecilia with those of Valerianus, Tiburtius, and Maximus, also those of Popes Urbanus and Lucius, were taken up by Pope Paschal, and reburied under the high altar of Saint Cecilia in Trastevere. The monks of a convent founded in the neighborhood by the same Pope were charged with the duty of singing the daily Office in this basilica. From this time the veneration of the holy martyr continued to spread and numerous churches were dedicated to her.

   

 

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

 

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

 

2. Do we experience the importance of being consecrated to the Lord? Do we see the importance of places of worship and of ritual elements that promote the Church’s worship? Do we see the importance of music and songs in the liturgy?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you cleansed the temple from abusive merchants

and denounced false worship.

Purify us of hypocrisy and self-gain.

Teach us the meaning of true worship.

We can never truly love and praise you

if we continue to neglect the poor and marginal.

Give us the grace to make of our life

a pleasing “offering” to God.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

            Amen.

 

            ***

Loving Father,

Jesus Christ is the true Temple

and we are “living stones” in that Temple

by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Grant that we may be totally consecrated to your living will.

Let our life of faith, hope and love

be a song of praise and a sound of music

to your greater glory.

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.

 

“My house shall be a house of prayer; but you have made it a den of thieves.” (Lk 19:46) //“They celebrated the dedication of the altar and joyfully offered sacrifices of deliverance and praise.” (I Mc 4:56)

 

 

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

 

By your acts of charity and animated by the spirit of true worship, contribute to the cleansing and rebuilding of God’s desecrated “temple” – today’s suffering people who are victims of crime, violence, oppression, exploitation and injustice. // Make an effort to give your very best at the Eucharistic celebration. Bring to it you conscious, active and fruitful participation.

    

 

*** *** ***

November 23, 2019: SATURDAY – WEEKDAY (33); SAINT CLEMENT 1, Pope, Martyr; SAINT COLUMBAN, Abbot; BLESSED MIGUEL PRO, Priest; BVM ON SATURDAY

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Affirms the Reality of the Resurrection … He Is Our Vindication”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

1 Mc 6:1-13 // Lk 20:27-40

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

  

 

B. First Reading (I Mc 6:1-13): “On account of the evils I did in Jerusalem, I am dying in bitter grief.”

 

Today’s Old Testament reading ( Mc 6:1-13) underlines how God has vindicated the Jewish people by giving King Antiochus his due. He experiences defeat after defeat, frustration after frustration. He goes into a fit of deep depression because things do not turn out as he has hoped. He remains ill for a long time. The author of Second Maccabees tells us that even the eyes of this godless man crawl with worms and his stink is so bad that no one is able to come close enough to him (cf. II Mc 9: 9). Waves of despair sweep over the tyrant and he finally realizes he is going to die. He then remembers the evil he did in Jerusalem when he despoiled the Temple of sacred objects and tried without any good reason to destroy the inhabitants of Judea. His wrongdoing against God’s chosen people is the reason why these terrible things happen to him and why he is to die in deep despair in a foreign land. Indeed, the misery of King Antiochus is a lesson on retribution: vengeance on evil tyrants and a fearful end for them. His destiny is an invitation to walk on the path of right and justice.

 

The following is a modern-day example of our call to stand before God with a clear conscience (cf. “When We Stand before God” in Alive! September 2013, p. 7).

 

Robert Bolt is best remembered for his famous 1960 play about Saint Thomas More, A Man for All Seasons … The English playwright was an agnostic, but he had a profound regard for Henry VIII’s chancellor. More had surrendered his powerful position, his wealth and eventually his life out of loyalty to Christ, the Church and his conscience. Cost what it may, he would not do evil. (…)

 

In 1961 Bolt took part in an anti-nuclear protest in London. Arrested, he was given a month in jail. As he was writing the script for Lawrence of Arabia at the time, his absence put the film in danger, with producer Sam Spiegel standing to lose a fortune. Going to the prison, Spiegel prevailed on Bolt to sign a pledge to keep the peace, and he was freed.

 

“This surrender, in total contrast to Sir Thomas More’s refusal to save his life by signing a royal document, had, according to Bolt’s friends, a profound effect on his life and self-confidence”, wrote John Calder in 1995. In an obituary for Bolt he continued: “the guilt lasted for years. It may account for a decline in his stage writing thereafter.”

 

Put to the test, Bolt failed. But had he been a believer he might have found peace by humbly seeking God’s forgiveness and trying to repair the harm he had done.

 

 

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

 

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

 

2. What lessons do you glean from the fearful destiny of the tyrant Antiochus? Are there moments in our life when we experience true remorse and penitence for our sins?  

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

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

In Jesus, your Son and our Savior,

we live and move.

Help us to look forward to the resurrected life,

when all that is best in us will come through

and each of us will become

“a person with a wholly illuminated soul”.

May the Risen Christ whom we celebrate in every Eucharist

bring about more and more

our own resurrection and transformation.

We give you glory and praise, now and forever.

Amen.  

 

***

O loving God,

you are loving and forgiving.

Forgive us the wrong we have done.

Lord, if you ever mark our guilt,

who would survive?

Look kindly upon us

and accept the sacrifice of our contrite heart.

We adore and worship you, now and forever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“He is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” (Lk 20:38) //“His designs had failed.” (I Mc 6:8)

 

 

 

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

 

Pray for widows/widowers who have lost their partners and are grieving for them. Pray for the grace of a happy death and a deeper experience of trust in Jesus’ almighty Father, the God of the living. In the month of November, visit a cemetery. Pray for the repose of the soul of the beloved dead and thank God for being the God of the living, and not God of the dead. // Resolve to avoid evil thoughts, words and actions that we may be spared from just punishment and avoid self-inflicted miseries.

 

*** *** *** 

 

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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