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A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 16, n. 29)

Week 11 in Ordinary Time: June 17-23, 2018

 

 

(The pastoral tool BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD: A LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY & WEEKDAY LITURGY includes a prayerful study of the Sunday liturgy of Year C from various perspectives. For the Lectio Divina on the liturgy of the past week: June 10-16, 2018, please go to ARCHIVES Series 15 and click on “Week 10 Ordinary”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: June 10-16, 2018.)

 

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 June 17, 2018: ELEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR B

N.B. Today is FATHER’S DAY (USA).

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Shows the Power of Small Beginnings”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Ez 17:22-24 // 2 Cor 5:6-10 // Mk 4:26-34

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 4:26-34): “It is the smallest of all seeds and becomes the largest of plants.”

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Mk 4:26-34), which is composed of two parables, is very encouraging. The parable of the growing seed (verses 26-29) tells about a farmer who scatters seed in his field. While he sleeps at night and is up and about during the day, all the while the seed sprouts and grows. The farmer does not know how it happens, but the growing seed yields ripe grain for harvest. In this parable, Jesus underlines the inevitable growth of the kingdom of God. The kingdom has already irrupted into the world in Jesus’ ministry. Just as the scattered seed leads mysteriously to harvest, the heavenly kingdom has an irresistible power to grow and reach its full destiny. The kingdom grows because of the God-driven principle that powers its growth and maturation.

 

The second parable (verses 30-34) is about the mustard seed, the smallest seed in the world. Planted in the ground, it grows and becomes the biggest of all plants. Birds come and make their nests in its shady branches. In this parable, Jesus contrasts the insignificant beginning of the extremely small seed and the enormous size of the full-grown bush. The image of a tiny mustard seed growing into the grandiose bush underlines the universal expanse of God’s kingdom that would encompass all nations, as well as Israel.

 

Jesus invites us to extol the power of small beginnings. We are called to sow the seed of the kingdom in today’s world as well as to trust in the Holy Spirit who powers the growing kingdom. Let us do our part in sowing the seed, and God will bless our humble initiative on behalf of his kingdom. The following experience of a thoughtful woman, which is circulated on the Internet, can help us understand more deeply the miraculous result of small beginnings.

 

Several times my daughter had telephoned to say, “Mother, you must come to see the daffodils before they are over”. I wanted to go, but it was a two-hour drive from Laguna to Lake Arrowhead. “I will come next Tuesday”, I promised a little reluctantly on her third call.

 

Next Tuesday dawned cold and rainy. Still, I had promised and reluctantly I drove there. When I finally walked into Carolyn’s house I was welcomed by the joyful sounds of happy children. I delightfully hugged and greeted my grandchildren. “Forget the daffodils, Carolyn! The road is invisible in these clouds and fog, and there is nothing in the world, except you and these children, that I want to see badly enough to drive another inch.” My daughter smiled calmly and said, “We drive in this all the time, Mother.” “Well, you won’t get me back on the road until it clears, and then I’m heading home!” I assured her. “But first we’re going to see the daffodils. It’s just a few blocks”, Carolyn said. “I’ll drive. I’m used to this.”

 

“Carolyn”, I said sternly, “please turn around.” “It’s all right, Mother, I promise. You will never forgive yourself if you miss this experience.” After about twenty minutes, we turned onto a small gravel road and saw a small church. On the far side of the church I saw a hand lettered sign with an arrow that read, “Daffodil Garden”.  We got out of the car, each took a child’s hand, and I followed Carolyn down the path. Then, at the corner, I looked up and gasped. Before me lay the most glorious sight. It looked as though someone had taken a great vat of gold and poured it over the mountain peak and its surrounding slopes. The flowers were planted in majestic, swirling patterns, great ribbons and swaths of deep orange, creamy white, lemon yellow, salmon pink, and saffron and butter yellow. Each different-colored variety was planted in large groups so that it swirled and flowed like its own river with its own unique hue. There were five acres of flowers.

 

“Who did this?” I asked Carolyn. “Just one woman”, Carolyn answered. “She lives on the property. That’s her home.” Carolyn pointed to a well-kept A-frame house, small and modestly sitting in the midst of all that glory. We walked up to the house. On the patio, we saw a poster. “Answers to the Questions I Know You Are Asking” was the headline. The first answer was a simple one. “50,000 bulbs”, it read. The second answer was “One at a time, by one woman. Two hands, two feet, and one brain.” The third answer was “Began in 1958.”

 

For me, that moment was a life-changing experience. I thought of this woman whom I had never met; who, more than fifty years before, had begun, one bulb at a time, to bring her vision of beauty and joy to an obscure mountaintop. Planting one bulb at a time, year after year, this unknown woman had forever changed the world in which she lived. One day at a time, she had created something of extraordinary magnificence, beauty and inspiration. The principle her daffodil garden taught is one of the greatest principles of celebration.

 

 

B. First Reading (Ez 17:22-24): “I have lifted high the lowly tree.”

 

Jesus’ message on the inevitable growth of the heavenly kingdom is reinforced by the prophecy of Ezekiel that we hear in the reading (Ez 17:22-24). The tender shoot becomes a majestic cedar in accordance with God’s saving plan and compassionate intervention. The sprout that God plants on Israel’s highest mountain grows branches and birds of every kind find shelter there. This beautiful dynamic image of a growing tree symbolizes Israel’s hope of glory. The future of Israel is entirely in the hands of God, who can cut down the tall trees and make the low trees grow tall. His saving will is to lift up Israel and bring this nation to its glorious destiny. God is the Lord of history. He intervenes directly in order to bring life or death according to his divine will. His sovereignty is absolute and over all. We need to trust him and surrender to him.

 

The following charming story circulated on the Internet gives insight into the mysterious ways of our loving and sovereign God.

 

“Three Trees”: Once upon a mountain top, three little trees stood and dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up. The first little tree looked up at the stars and said: “I want to hold treasure. I wanted to be covered with gold and filled with precious stones. I’ll be the most beautiful treasure chest in the world.” The second little tree looked out at the small stream trickling by on its way to the ocean. “I want to be traveling mighty waters and carrying powerful king. I’ll be the strongest ship in the world!” The third little tree looked down into the valley below where busy men and women worked in a busy town. “I don’t want to leave the mountain top at all. I want to grow so tall. When people stop to look at me, they’ll raise their eyes to heaven and think of God. I will be the tallest tree in the world.”

 

Years passed. The rain came, the sun shone, and the little trees grew tall. One day three woodcutters climbed the mountain. “This tree is beautiful. It is perfect for me.” With a swoop of his shining ax, the first tree fell. “Now I shall be made into a beautiful chest. I shall hold wonderful treasure!” the first tree said. The second woodcutter looked at the second tree and said, “This tree is strong. It is perfect for me.” With a swoop of his shining ax, the second tree fell. “I shall be a strong ship for mighty kings.” The third tree felt her heart sink when the last woodcutter looked her way. She stood straight and tall and pointed bravely to heaven. But the woodcutter never even looked up. “Any kind of tree will do for me”, he muttered. With a swoop of his shining ax the third tree fell.

 

The first tree rejoiced when the woodcutter brought her to a carpenter’s shop, but the carpenter fashioned the tree into a feed box for animals. She was coated with sawdust and filled with hay for hungry animals. The second tree smiled when the woodcutter took her to a shipyard, but no mighty sailing ship was made that day. Instead the once strong tree was hammered and sawed into a simple fishing boat. She was too small and too weak to sail to an ocean, or even a river. Instead she was taken to a little lake. The third tree was confused when the woodcutter cut her into strong beams and left her in the lumberyard. “What happened?” The once tall tree wondered. “All I ever wanted was to stay on the mountain top and point to God.”

 

Many days and nights passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams. But one night, golden starlight poured over the first tree as a young woman placed her newborn baby in the feedbox. “I wish I could make a cradle for him”, her husband whispered. The mother squeezed his hand and smiled as the starlight shone on the smooth and sturdy wood. “The manger is beautiful”, she said. And suddenly the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in the world.

 

One evening a tired traveler and His friends crowded into the old fishing boat. The traveler fell asleep as the second tree quietly sailed out into the lake. Soon a thundering and thrashing storm arose. The little tree shuddered. She knew she did not have the strength to carry so many passengers safely through with the wind and the rain. The tired man awakened. He stood up, stretched out His hand, and said “Peace”. The storm stopped quickly as it had begun. And suddenly the second tree knew he was carrying the king of heaven and earth.

 

One Friday morning the third tree was startled when her beams were yanked from the forgotten pile. She shuddered when the soldiers nailed a man’s hands to her. She felt ugly and harsh and cruel. But on Sunday morning when the sun rose and the earth trembled with joy beneath her, the third tree knew that God’s love had changed everything. It had made the third tree strong. And every time people thought of the third tree, they would think of God. That was better than being the tallest tree in the world.

 

The next time you feel down because you don’t get what you want, sit down and be happy because God is thinking of something better for you.

 

 

C. Second Reading (II Cor 5:6-11): “Whether we are at home or away we aspire to please God.”

 

In the reading (II Cor 5:6-11), Saint Paul affirms that our life is a matter of faith, not of sight. Faith is not static but a dynamic ongoing response to God. The purpose of faith is to acknowledge God’s saving will even as we remain as exiles from our heavenly home. We long for our true home and courageously seek for it. More than anything else, we want to please the Lord, whether in our home here or there. Christ is our judge whose Gospel reevaluates all things and it serves as a new basis for distinguishing between good and evil. Each one will received recompense according to what he has done, good or bad in this bodily life.

 

The life of Zelle and Louis Martin, soon to be canonized saints, shows what it means to walk by faith and to endeavor to please the Lord (cf. “Historic First: Church to Canonize Married Couple in Joint Ceremony” in Alive! April 2015, p. 5).

 

For the first time in her 2,000 year history the Catholic Church is to declare a husband and wife together to be saints. The two-in-one canonization will signal in a powerful way that the Church sees the sacrament of marriage, lived in love, as a principal path to holiness for lay people.

 

Cardinal Angelo Amato has disclosed that Louis and Zelie Martin, whose youngest child, the much-loved Therese of Lisieux, is already a saint, will be enrolled among the saints during the Synod on the Family in October. (…)

 

Louis and Zelie were married in Alencon, France in 1858, a mere three months after they first met. Five months earlier the Mother of God had appeared to Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes. Louis was a watchmaker while Zelie ran her own business making the famous Point d’Alencon lace. She continued to work while rearing her children.

 

They went on to have nine children, only five of whom survived into adulthood. Many years later Zelie told her second daughter, Pauline: “From the time we had our children we lived only for them; they made all our happiness, and we would never have found it save in them … I wished to have many children, in order to bring them up for Heaven.”

 

Zelie was an enthusiastic, chatty letter-writer and some of the 200 letters to different members of her family have survived, giving a marvelous glimpse into the life of an extraordinary couple.

 

They were a well-to-do family, focused on God, attending Mass each morning at 5:30, devoted to the poor, inspired by hope and having to face an immense amount of suffering, especially with the death of four of their children.

 

For some time Zelie had been anxious about her health. Then in October 1876, aged 44, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. To her sister-in-law she wrote: “If God permits that I die of this, I shall do my best to be resigned, and to bear my disease patiently, in order to shorten my Purgatory.”

 

The doctor advised against an operation, but gave her a prescription. When she asked, “What use is it?”, he bluntly replied, “None. I only do it to please my patients.” It was a stunning blow, but she was grateful that he told her the full truth, and regarded the visit as “priceless to me”. The following summer, wracked by pain she was still determined to take part in Mass at least on Sundays. That August she died. Her youngest child, Therese, was aged 4.

 

A heart-broken Louis moved his family to Lisieux to be nearer their cousins. He lived for further 18 years, dying in 1894.

 

The couple’s feast day is 13th July, the date of their marriage.

 

 

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

 

Do we believe in the power of small beginnings and in the inevitable growth of the kingdom of God? Do we trust greatly in the power of God who can do all things in us?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

we are fascinated how a seed,

scattered and sown in the ground by a dutiful farmer,

can grow into a vigorous plant and yield a rich harvest.

We are awed even more greatly

by the irresistible growth of the heavenly kingdom,

sown by Jesus into the field of salvation history

through his saving ministry.

We thank and praise you

for the miracle of the mustard-seed beginning of your kingdom,

which continues to extend its life-giving fruitfulness

to all peoples of the earth.

Help us to put our trust in you

and to believe in the power of small beginnings.

You are our hope and our joy, 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.

 

            “Once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants.” (Mk 4:32)

 

 

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

 

Pray that people who sow the seed of the heavenly kingdom in today’s world may be blessed by the Lord. By your compassionate acts of love and service, and by trusting in the power of small beginnings, do your part in sowing the seed of the kingdom.

 

 

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June 18, 2018: MONDAY – WEEKDAY (11)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Counters Evil with Good … He Has Suffered Injustice”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

1 Kgs 21:1-16 // Mt 5:38-42

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 5:38-42): “But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.”

 

The law of retaliation contained in the Old Testament (that is, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”) is meant to moderate vengeance and to keep violence within limits. It restricts the punishment inflicted by the avenger to injury proportionate to the damage done by the aggressor. In today’s Gospel reading (Mt 5:38-42), we hear Jesus’ radical teaching on non-retaliation, which seeks to break the cycle of revenge. The righteous man is called not just to respond with proportionate vengeance to an injury inflicted by an aggressor, but to take no vengeance at all. Jesus teaches us “to offer no resistance to one who is evil”. The Divine Master’s teaching of non-resistance to an evildoer is not an invitation to suicide, or to let true justice be trampled upon, but a call to counter evil with good, hatred with love, vengeance with forgiveness. Love, though vulnerable and paradoxical, is the only force capable of overcoming evil. By his passion and death on the cross, Jesus showed how forgiving love can overcome the ugly forces of evil and sin that lead to violence. With his life of non-retaliation and reconciliation, a new world order has begun.

 

The following story gives us insight into the ways of the non-vengeful who seek to overcome evil with good (cf. Anthony de Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations, New York: Image Books, 1988, p. 65).

 

A traveler was walking along the road one day when a man on horseback rushed by. There was an evil look in his eyes and blood on his hands. Minutes later a crowd of riders drew up and wanted to know if the traveler had seen someone with blood on his hands go by. They were in hot pursuit of him. “Who is he?” the traveler asked. “An evil-doer”, said the leader of the crowd. “And you pursue him in order to bring him to justice?” “No”, said the leader, “we pursue him in order to show him the way.”

 

Reconciliation alone will save the world, not justice, which is generally another word for revenge.

 

 

B. First Reading (I Kgs 21:1-16): “Naboth has been stoned to death.”

 

Today’s Old Testament Reading (I Kgs 21:1-16) depicts the criminal acts of the idolatrous royal couple Ahab and Jezebel. King Ahab wants to possess Naboth’s vineyard next to his palace to make it into his vegetable garden. Naboth the Jezreelite does not want to part with his ancestral heritage and refuses the king’s offer to barter or to buy it. The disappointed Ahab is sullen and angry. His wife Jezebel plots the death of Naboth using false charges and witnesses so that they can seize the property. The innocent Naboth is stoned to death. Jezebel’s infamous strategy and Ahab’s tacit acquiescence illustrate the pervasive and destructive power of the state when it moves against its own citizens.

 

The suffering of the innocent goes on through history. One case in Sudan is an example (cf. “A Christian Woman in Sudan Sentenced to Death” in L’Osservatore Romano, 23 May 2014, p. 3).

 

In Sudan last week, a court sentenced a Christian woman, who is 8 months pregnant, to death on charges of apostasy. 27-year old Meriam Yeilah Ibrahim, a doctor, has a 20-month-old child in prison with her. The judge of a court in Khartoum concluded that the woman had abandoned her faith, as her father was a Muslim. She was also sentenced to 100 lashes on charges of adultery for having married a Christian.

 

According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a human rights protection group, the woman is a daughter of a Muslim Sudanese man and an Orthodox Ethiopian mother. After her father abandoned her at the age of 6, Meriam was raised in the Christian faith. But because of her father, Sudanese law considers her a Muslim by birth. This would make marriage to a non-Muslim invalid. According to the group’s spokesman, Kiri Kankhwende, in similar cases in the past, the Sudanese government had waited for the woman to give birth before proceeding with the death sentence.

  

 

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

 

1. Do I strive to conquer vengeful instincts and to overcome evil with good? Do I practice the ethic of non-violence and the Christian way of forgiving love?

 

2. Are there evil streaks in me that could lead to acts of injustice against my neighbors?

 

 

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

 

Jesus, meek and humble of heart,

your example transcends the ugly ways of the violent.

By your life of forgiving love and reconciliation,

you show us how to break the cycle of vengeance in this world.

Give us the grace to be peaceful.

Let your love be upon us

that we may respond to evil with good,

to hatred with love.

Lead us on the path of true justice and peace.

We give you glory and praise, now and forever.

Amen.

 

 

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

           

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

 

“Offer no resistance to one who is evil.” (Mt 5:39) //“Naboth had been stoned to death.” (I Kgs 21:14)

 

 

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

 

If someone offends you, put into practice the teaching of Jesus of non-retaliation and reconciliation through the power of good. // Pray to God for forgiveness for all the innocent victims of injustice in today’s world and see in what way you can help them concretely.

 

 

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June 19, 2018: TUESDAY – WEEKDAY (11); SAINT ROMUALD, Abbot

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Love Our Enemies … He Calls Us Away from Our Wicked Ways”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

1 Kgs 21:17-29 // Mt 5:43-48

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 5:43-48): “Love your enemies.”

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Mt 5:43-48) contains the Divine Master’s radical teaching on magnanimous love even of enemies. Harold Buetow comments: “Jesus teaches largeness of heart and mind … Our love for our enemies – those we do not like or who do not like us – is not of the heart but of the will. Therefore, to love them need not be an emotional experience, but must be a decision to commit ourselves to serve the best interests of all other people … We see that the apex of God’s kind of perfection is compassion, a willingness to suffer for others. Those who love in such an unconditional and non-selective way are true children of the God of limitless love … In our dealings with other people, both friends and enemies, we are to be magnanimous: large-minded, wide open, generous – and holy.”

 

The Amish community’s compassionate act to reach out to the family of Charles Roberts, the suicide-attacker of 10 Amish girls, illustrates the grandiose love that forgives and embraces all (cf. Internet article of Daniel Burke, Religion News Service).

 

It was October 2, 2006, and Charles Carl Roberts IV had just shot 10 Amish schoolgirls before turning the gun on himself. Five girls died. Five others were seriously wounded. The shooting shocked this quiet, rural county and horrified countless outsiders glued to the nonstop media coverage. “Not only was my son not alive, he was the perpetrator of the worst crime anyone could ever imagine”, Terri Roberts said. After the shooting, the world was riveted by the remarkable display of compassion shown by the Amish, as the quiet Christian sect embraced the Roberts family and strove to forgive the troubled sinner. (…)

 

On the day of the shooting, Terri crawled into a fetal position, feeling as if her insides were ripped apart. Her husband Chuck, a retired policeman, cried into a tea towel, unable to lift his head. He wore skin off his face wiping away his tears. Family and friends poured into the Roberts’ home in Strasburg, Philadelphia, a small town about six miles from Nickel Mines, where the shooting occurred.  No one knew what to say. “What do you say, ‘At least it’s not as bad as so-and-so’? There was nothing that anyone could imagine that would have been worse than that day”, she said.

 

Later that evening, an Amish neighbor named Henry, whom Terri calls her “angel in black” arrived at their house. Chuck had begun a second career as an “Amish taxi”, driving families to destinations farther away than horses and buggies could carry them. After the shooting, Chuck feared he could never face the Amish again. “Roberts, we love you”, Henry insisted and continued to comfort Chuck for nearly an hour. Finally, Chuck looked up. “Thank you, Henry”, he said. “I just looked at that and said, ‘Oh Lord, my husband will heal through this.’ I was just so thankful for Henry that day”, Terri said.

   

 

B. First Reading (I Kgs 21:17-29): “You have provoked me by leading Israel into sin.”

 

In today’s Second Reading (I Kgs 21:17-29), God sends Elijah the Tishbite to confront and condemn King Ahab for the murder of Naboth and for stealing the victim’s ancestral heritage. The prophet speaks God’s word of condemnation. The murderous, covetous and idolatrous couple would suffer the same fate as Naboth even to the goriest detail: the dogs shall lick up their blood too. In II Kgs 9:30-37 we learn of the horrible end of Jezebel who instigated her husband Ahab to idolatry and sin. The palace officials threw her down from the window and her blood scattered on the wall and the horses. Jehu, the new king of Israel, drove his chariot and horses over her body. The men who are to bury her find nothing except her skull and the bones of her hands and feet.

 

Hearing the words of divine judgment, King Ahab is remorseful. His humble stance before the forthcoming punishment wins for him a reprieve. The destruction of his house is postponed to the next generation. Ahab, however, is “not-so-totally-converted”. The king will be wounded by an arrow in his future battle with the Syrians and die. The chariot drenched by his blood will be cleaned up at the pool of Samaria. There the dogs shall lick up his blood as the Lord has said will happen. 

 

By speaking God’s word, the prophet Elijah continues to be an instrument of the divine saving will. The following story, “A Speeding Ticket Lesson”, circulated on the Internet, illustrates a “prophetic” way to confront an evil situation.

 

Jack took a long look at his speedometer before slowing down: 73 in a 55 zone. Fourth time in as many months. How could a guy get caught so often? When his car had slowed to 10 miles an hour, Jack pulled over, but only partially. Let the cop worry about the potential traffic hazard. Maybe some other car will tweak his backside with the mirror. The cop was stepping out of his car, the big pad in his hand.

 

Bob? Bob from the church? Jack sunk farther into his trench coat. This was worse than the coming ticket. A cop catching a guy from his own church. A guy who happened to be a little eager to get home after a long day at the office. A guy he was about to play golf with tomorrow. Jumping out of the car, he approached the man he saw every Sunday, a man he’d never seen in uniform.

 

“Hi, Bob. Fancy meeting you like this.” “Hello, Jack.” No smile. “Guess you caught me red-handed in a rush to see my wife and kids.” “Yeah, I guess.” Bob seemed uncertain. Good. “I’ve seen some long days at the office lately. I’m afraid I bent the rules a bit – just this once.” Jack toed at a pebble on the pavement. “Diane said something about roast beef and potatoes tonight. Know what I mean?” “I know what you mean. I also know that you have a reputation in our precinct.” Ouch. This was not going in the right direction. Time to change tactics.

                                                                                              

“What’d you clock me at?” “Seventy. Would you sit back in your car please?” “Now wait a minute here, Bob. I checked as soon as I saw you. I was barely nudging 65.” The lie seemed to come easier with every ticket. “Please, Jack, in the car.”

 

Flustered, Jack hunched himself through the still-open door. Slamming it shut, he stared at the dashboard. He was in no rush to open the window. The minutes ticked by. Bob scribbled away on the pad. Why hadn’t he asked for a driver’s license? Whatever the reason, it would be a month of Sundays before Jack ever sat near this cop again. A tap on the window jerked his head on the left. There was Bob, a folded paper in hand. Jack rolled down the window a mere two inches, just enough room for Bob to pass him his slip. “Thanks.” Jack could not keep the sneer out of his voice.

 

Bob returned to his police car without a word. Jack watched him retreat in the mirror. Jack unfolded the sheet of paper. How much was this one going to cost? Wait a minute. What was this? Some kind of joke? Certainly not a ticket. Jack began to read.

 

Dear Jack,

Once upon a time, I had a daughter. She was six when killed by a car. You guessed it – a speeding driver. A fine and three months in jail and the man was free. Free to hug his daughters, all three of them. I had only one, and I’m going to have to wait until Heaven before I can ever hug her again. A thousand times I tried to forgive that man. A thousand times I thought I had. Maybe I did, but I need to do it again. Even now. Pray for me. And be careful, Jack, my son is all I have left.

Bob

 

Jack turned around to see Bob’s car pull away and head down the road. Jack watched until it disappeared. A full 15 minutes later, he too, pulled away and drove slowly home, praying for forgiveness and hugging a surprised wife and kids when he arrived.

 

 

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

 

1. Do I strive to conquer the vengeful instincts and to overcome evil with good? Do I practice the ethic of non-violence and the Christian way of forgiving love?

 

2. Do I believe in divine justice and retribution? Do I make an effort to renounce my wicked ways?

 

  

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

 

Loving Father,

in you mercy and justice have embraced.

Thank you for the gift of your Son Jesus Christ.

Through his self-giving,

we realize that Christian holiness demands compassion.

It challenges us to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Give us the strength to love unconditionally

and to learn the ways of justice and peace

Let us draw courage from the truth that we belong to Christ

and that he leads us on the right path.

You live and reign, 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.

 

“Love your enemies.”  (Mt 5:44) //“He has humbled himself before me.” (I Kgs 21:29)   

 

 

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

 

By an act of kindness and compassion to a needy person or an offensive person, or by a forgiving stance to an injury suffered personally, enable the Gospel of saving love to spread. Help people to understand the meaning and implication of divine justice and the necessity of responding to the Word of God calling us to conversion.

 

 

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June 20, 2018: WEDNESDAY – WEEKDAY (11)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Do Good Deeds … He Ensures Prophetic Succession

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

2 Kgs 2:1, 6-14 // Mt 6:1-6, 16-18

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 6:1-6, 16-18): “And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”

 

From today’s Gospel reading (Mt 6:1-6, 16-18), we realize that doing the right deed for selfish reasons is “phony” and not commendable. Jesus takes up three traditional Jewish good deeds: almsgiving, prayer and fasting. While encouraging his disciples to practice them, he warns about the manner of practicing them. These traditional acts of righteousness are meaningless when done hypocritically and in view of self-seeking. Jesus criticizes pious self-display and not the pious actions themselves. Almsgiving, prayer and fasting are meaningful only when they are motivated by a sincere and faithful relationship with God and one’s fellow human beings. The Father of Jesus – our own Father too – who sees acts hidden from human sight will surely reward good deeds done for the glory of God and the good of others. God the Father rewards good deeds, both those done in secret and those carried out in public witnessing, as long as they are properly motivated, i.e. to secure God’s glory and to promote the well-being of our brothers and sisters. While teaching his disciples not to be hypocrites and self-seeking, Jesus Christ also encourages them to let their light shine before others so that those who see their good deeds may glorify the heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:16).

 

After the 8:00 A.M. Easter Sunday Mass at our parish of St. Christopher in San Jose (CA-USA), our community of three, plus a friend, went for breakfast at a nearby restaurant in our Willow Glen neighborhood. We enjoyed freshly brewed coffee and placed our order. Mine was a bowl of fresh fruit and Eggs Benedict. Easter joy was in the air as we shared the meal. When we asked for the bill, the waiter told us that an “Easter bunny” took care of it. We greatly appreciated the kindness of our secret benefactor. We prayed that God the Father, who sees good deeds done in secret, may reward and fill him with Easter blessings.

      

 

B. First Reading (II Kgs 2:1, 6-14): “A flaming chariot came between them and Elijah went to heaven.”

 

Today’s Old Testament reading II Kgs 2:1, 6-14) depicts the ascension of Elijah into heaven and the prophetic succession of Elisha. Elijah has responded to a series of commands from God that progressively separated him from his people and his land. Today’s episode narrates the final separation. Obeying God’s command, Elijah goes to Jordan. The devoted and determined disciple Elisha follows him and witnesses the parting of the Jordan River which the prophet Elijah effects using his mantle. Elisha begs the master for a “double portion” of his spirit. The eldest son in Israel generally receives a double share of the paternal inheritance.  Elisha’s request means that he be recognized as the spiritual heir of the master. He is begging to receive a share of the power that will enable him to succeed the prophet. It is a difficult request because Elijah may have extraordinary powers, but he cannot create prophets. The master tells him that if the disciple sees him being taken up to heaven, his wish will be granted.  Suddenly a chariot of fire pulled by horses of fire comes between them and Elijah is taken up to heaven. Elisha receives the prophetic power. The repetition of the miracle of the parting of the Jordan water using the master’s “miraculous” mantle confirms Elisha as Elijah’s successor. The fifty prophets from Jericho see him strike the water and divide it. They acclaim: “The power of Elijah is on Elisha.”

 

The following article gives insight into the “prophets” and witnesses in the modern world (cf. Judith Sudilovsky, “Argentina Priest Caters to Spiritual Needs of Poor” in Our Sunday Visitor, January 12, 2014, p. 6).

 

At the entrance to Villa Carcoba, on the outskirts of the city of Buenos Aires, sit piles of rubbish and construction waste. Perched on this pile is a group of young boys armed with homemade slingshots taking aim at the windows of a building that looms above them. All the windows are covered with bars and netting.

 

“This is how they pass their time”, said parish priest Jesuit Father Jose Maria di Paola, 51, who is known to everybody – not only in this poorest of parishes but in the entire country – as “Padre Pepe”. He swings his beat-up white Fiat sedan down onto the street that leads from paved roads and grassy parks into the chaos of rutted dirt roads, roaming bands of mangy dogs and groups of loitering youth.

 

Two years ago Father di Paola – who belongs to the group of priests of the villas beloved and supported by Pope Francis, when he was archbishop and cardinal of the city – voluntarily left another slum, Villa 21-24, known as the most dangerous villa in Buenos Aires proper. This was after numerous threats against his life by drug traffickers who had become rampant in the rambling shanty town of 40,000 inhabitants, mostly immigrants from Paraguay and Bolivia.

 

As the economy and social conditions of neighboring countries continue to deteriorate, immigration to Argentina increases and the population and distress in these densely populated centers of poverty, family violence and drug crime continue to grow, noted the Jesuit.

 

Having grown up in a working-class neighborhood to immigrant parents, Pope Francis always has been close to the common people, especially the most poor. “Pope Francis gave a new presence to the villas”, said Father di Paola. “Before, in a sense, they had been orphaned. When then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio came he gave special attention to the villas. There was not a week that we did not speak with him telling him our problems and giving suggestions.”

 

Funding for programs in the villas comes from international bishops’ conferences as well as some local Church funds. Father di Paola counts as one of his successes a spiritual retreat he was able to organize for 700 men from Villa 21-24 – an almost unheard of number.

 

“There is the problem of addiction … but the crux of the problem is spiritual - it is an unresolved spiritual question in each person”, he said. “We have to help them find a place for their own spiritual path so they can find … a meaning in their life.

 

For 14 years, Father di Paola served in the villa parish of Caacupe in Villa 21-24, leading a team of four other priests and numerous professionals and volunteers who worked also in three other neighboring villas to keep youths away from drugs by providing them with social activities and emotional support. They created a home for street children as well as rehabilitation programs for drug addicts and a small farm, breaking through the state bureaucracy with little or no support from state agencies. It was only in 2009, after he and the other priests of Villa 21-24 came out with a declaration denouncing the growing drug trafficking in the villa, that threats against his life became more menacing. (…)

 

Following the threats in Villa 21-24, together with then Cardinal Bergolio, Father di Paola decided to leave for a northern rural parish in the province of Santiago del Estero, not merely for his own safety, but for the safety of the people with whom he was working.

 

Eight months ago Father di Paola was ready to come back to his work with the marginalized youth of the villas and was given responsibility over Villa Carcoba – one of the oldest slums outside Buenos Aires – and three other slums encompassing a population of 35, 000.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we do our “good deeds” with proper motivation, or do we carry them out as an occasion for self-seeking? Do we believe that God the Father who sees in secret will reward us for all good deeds done for his glory and the salvation of his people?

 

2. Do we imitate the prophetic spirit of Elijah and Elisha on behalf of God’s people? Do we ask the Lord for the grace of prophetic witnessing?

 

 

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

 

Heavenly Father,

we praise and thank you

for you see all our humble efforts to love and serve you.

You search the secrets of our heart

and all our actions are known to you.

Teach us always to work with supernatural intentions.

Deliver us from self-seeking and hypocrisy.

May our prayer, fasting and almsgiving

be done always for your greater glory

and the good of souls.

Grant us the prophetic power of Elijah and Elisha.

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.

 

“Your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” (Mt 6:4) //“Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.” (II Kgs 2:11)

 

 

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

 

In every good you do and in your pain and suffering, give glory and praise to God and seek the salvation of souls. Emulate the wholehearted prophetic witnessing of Elijah and his successor Elisha.

 

 

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June 21, 2018: THURSDAY – SAINT ALOYSIUS GONZAGA, Religious

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Pray … He Is Prefigured by Elijah and Elisha”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Sir 48:1-14 // Mt 6:7-15

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 6:7-15): “This is how you are to pray.”

 

When I was a postulant, we had a retreat with an Irish Carmelite priest. To help us understand better the meaning of prayer, he narrated a story about two hermits. Each one planted a papaya and took care that it should grow well and be fruitful. They even prayed for the papaya. One hermit tried to make God understand what needs to be done for the papaya: “Lord, please send some rain today for the papaya”; “The sun is too hot; please send some cool breeze for the papaya;” etc. But his papaya was unhealthy and scrawny. When he visited his friend, he noticed that the papaya he planted was sturdy and extremely fruitful. “What is your secret?” he asked. The other hermit responded, “I prayed and asked God, Please take care of the papaya!”

 

In today’s Gospel (Mt 6:7-15), Jesus teaches us the true meaning of prayer and how to pray. God our Father knows our needs even before we make our request. But he wants us to ask in confidence and trust. In prayer we do not so much inform God of some situation or micromanage him, as express our dependence and faith in him. The “Lord’s Prayer” that Jesus teaches us is a model of total surrender to God: “Your will be done …” Mother Teresa of Calcutta remarks: “Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at his disposition, and listening to his voice in the depths of our hearts.”

 

 

B. First Reading (Sir 48:1-14): “Elijah was enveloped in a whirlwind and Elisha was filled with the twofold portion of his spirit.”

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Sir 48:1-14) gives a summary of the exploits of Elijah and Elisha, great prophets of the northern kingdom of Israel. Both are obedient instruments of God’s word and they stand up to wicked kings and authorities. Their prophetic careers underline the destruction and devastation that await those who forsake God. Indeed, the prophet Elijah and his successor Elisha, are God-fearing men of principles, in marked contrast to the kings of Israel, among whom the author of the Book of Sirach finds none to praise.

 

The sterling quality of the prophetic careers of Elijah and Elisha can also be verified in the following clergy who have inspired hearts, formed lives and brought the faithful closer to Christ (cf. “We Love Our Priests” in Our Sunday Visitor, June 1, 2014, p. 10-11).

 

FATHER MATTHIAS CREMER, Priests of the Sacred Heart Monastery, Hales Corners, Wisconsin: Rarely in life do we meet someone who makes such an impression on us that even after many years we can still recall with fervor the emotion attached to such an encounter. Such was the case with Father Matthias Patrick Cremer, who taught at Priests of the Sacred Heart Monastery in Hales Corners, Wisconsin, and where I first called on him back in 1992. He was a scholar, linguist, teacher, preacher, mentor, incredible athlete and survivor. Yes, survivor.

 

He had escaped the clutches of Adolf Hitler, whose aides had their eye on the young Cremer as he trained in Germany with other athletes from the national team for the 1936 Summer Olympic Games in Berlin. Cremer had set records in the discus and javelin events and was widely considered to be one of Germany’s leading contenders. Hitler desired him for his bodyguard; however the young Cremer wanted no part of this evil, despite that it could have given him a comfortable life.

 

His story of survival and eventual exile is impressive in itself but only secondary to why I was drawn to this man. I heard of his great love for our Lord and His mother; his gentle nature, generosity and passion for his faith. I was determined to be in the presence of one so selfless.

 

During our one and only visit, I knew I’d met a true servant of Jesus. His imposing physical figure stood in stark contrast to his mild manner. And his genuine concern for me personally was my lesson in love and humility, and so much more than I could have asked for.

 

(By Joan Brigman Krueger: Racine, Wisconsin)

 

***

 

FATHER MICHAEL J. ESSWEIN, St. Peter Catholic Church, Kirkwood, Missouri: Father Mike Esswein has been a holy inspiration to our family through his profound love of God and neighbor. His physical life is a constant challenge, but he is always a steadfast beacon of joy and grace.

 

While Father Mike was in the seminary, he was involved in an automobile accident that left him quadriplegic with only limited movement of his arms and hands. At the accident scene, his first prayer to God was that he could still fulfill his childhood vocation dream of becoming a Catholic priest.

 

During his rehabilitation, his vocation goal seemed doubtful as initially his hands were not functional enough to even grasp the host during Mass. Through constant prayer, a final surgery on his neck miraculously provided him just enough digital dexterity to grasp a host.

 

Even though he is confined to a wheelchair and daily carries many physical crosses, he is always thankful to God for his life as a devoted, loving priest. Our family is in awe of his humility, compassion, wisdom and joy he shares. When any of us are burdened by one of life’s challenges, we are inspired by the graceful, angelic life of Father Mike. We are blessed that he is part of our Christian family.

 

(By Ken and Pam Kopp: Des Peres, Missouri)

  

 

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

 

1. What is the significance of prayer for me personally?  What are my experiences of prayer?  Do I try to glean the true meaning of the “Lord’s Prayer”?

 

2. How do the life and ministry of the great prophets Elijah and Elisha inspire us? Do we imitate their example of complete dedication to the word of God?

 

 

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

 

Our Father, who art in heaven,

hallowed be thy name;

thy kingdom come;

thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread;

and forgive us our trespasses

as we forgive those who trespass against us;

and lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

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.

  

“This is how you are to pray.” (Mt 6:9) //“His words were as a flaming furnace.” (Sir 48:1)

 

 

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

 

When you pray the Lord’s Prayer, mean what you say. Spend more time today in silent prayer. Pray to God for the grace to be persons of integrity like Elijah and Elisha and to be totally obedient to the divine word.

 

 

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June 22, 2018: FRIDAY – WEEKDAY (11); SAINT PAULINUS OF NOLA, Bishop; SAINTS JOHN FISHER, Bishop, AND THOMAS MORE, Martyrs

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Seek True Treasures … He Helps to Fight Evil and to Do Good

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

2 Kgs 11:1-4, 9-18, 20 // Mt 6:19-23

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 6:19-23): “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”

 

In today’s Gospel (Mt 6:19-23), Jesus gives instructions on choosing between God and earthly treasures. Jesus Master counsels us not to store up treasures on earth because “earthly treasures” are fragile, alienable and perishable. There is nothing on earth that is worth putting our heart into in an absolute way. Only the Lord God is the eternal and absolute treasure. Our heart should be placed in him. He should be the object of our love, self-surrender and sacrifice. In view of this fundamental option, our principal concerns and interests are to store up treasures in heaven. Jesus also talks about the “eye” as the “lamp of the body”. In the ancient world the term “eye” is understood as expressing a person’s attitude. To say that “the eye is the lamp of the body” means that one’s attitude controls what one does or says. A healthy “eye” means that one’s personal attitude is sincere and open to God’s guidance. Hence, to make wise choices for the heavenly treasures would require a healthy “eye”, that is, a personal attitude that is enlightened by the wisdom of God. Storing up treasures in heaven needs true insight and perspective that is enlightened by the Spirit of God.

 

            The following story, “The Seven Jars of Gold” illustrates the tragedy and misery of hoarding false treasures as well as the possibility of being “enlightened” and of rectifying our dismal acts and unfortunate choices (cf. Anthony De Mello, The Song of the Bird, New York: Image Books, 1984, p. 134-135).

 

A barber was passing under a haunted tree when he heard a voice say, “Would you like to have the seven jars of gold?” He looked around and saw no one. But his greed was aroused, so he shouted eagerly, “Yes, I certainly would.” “Then go home at once”, said the voice. “You will find them there.”

 

The barber ran all the way home. Sure enough, there were the seven jars – all full of gold, except for one that was only half full. Now the barber could not bear the thought of having a half-filled jar. He felt a violent urge to fill it or he simply would not be happy.

 

So he had all the jewelry of his family melted into coins and poured them into half-filled jar. But the jar remained as half-filled as before. This was exasperating! He saved and skimped and starved himself and his family. To no avail. No matter how much gold he put into the jar it remained half-filled.

 

So one day he begged the king to increase his salary. His salary was doubled. Again the fight to fill the jar was on. He even took to begging. The jar devoured every gold coin thrown into it but remained stubbornly half-filled.

 

The king now noticed how starved the barber looked. “What is wrong with you?” he asked. “You were so happy and contented when your salary was smaller. Now it has been doubled and you are so worn out and dejected. Can it be that you have the seven jars of gold with you?”

 

The barber was astonished. “Who told you this, Your Majesty?” he asked.

 

The king laughed. “But these are obviously the symptoms of person to whom the ghost has given the seven jars. He once offered them to me. When I asked if this money could be spent or merely hoarded, he vanished without a word. That money cannot be spent. It only brings with it the compulsion to hoard. Go and give it back to the ghost this minute and you will be happy again.”

       

 

B. First Reading (II Kgs 11:1-4, 9-18, 20): “They anointed him and shoted” ‘Long live the king!’.”

 

Old Testament reading (II Kgs 11:1-4, 9-18, 20) continues to depict the struggle between good and evil that marks salvation history. Today’s episode happens in Judah where Athaliah, the daughter of the infamous King Ahab of Israel, usurps the throne of David by purging all legitimate claimants. The courageous Jehosheba, the wife of the priest Jehoiada, saves her infant nephew Joash by hiding him in a bedroom in the Temple. Queen Athaliah rules the land of Judah for six years. In the seventh year, Jehoiada stages a countercoup that defeats the power-crazy Athaliah. The priest Jehoiada crowned the seven-year old Joash as king and mediates two covenants: the first, between the Lord and the king and the people; the second, between the king and the people. The people of Judah renew their covenant with the Lord and manifest that they are the Lord’s people by destroying the cult of Baal that has been promoted by the idolatrous Athaliah. The newly crowned king is escorted by Jehoiada, the guards and the people to the palace where he takes his place on the throne. King Joash will rule the kingdom of Judah for 40 years.

 

The compassion and womanly instinct that prompted Jehosheba to save the life of her nephew Joash can be verified in many occasions. Richard Feloni’s article “Make A Stand Founder Vivienne Harr” circulated on the Internet gives insight into this.

 

Harr was only 8 when she saw photographer Lisa Kristine's image of two young Nepalese brothers carrying heavy stones down a mountain. When she learned that these boys were slaves, she immediately decided that she wanted to end child slavery. So in May of 2012, she did what many kids do, and set up a lemonade stand near her home in Fairfax, California, except the money she earned didn't go towards candy and toys. She charged "Whatever's in your heart" and gave all proceeds to charities fighting for her cause. As word got out about her mission, Harr continued to sit at her increasingly popular lemonade stand every day, and in December, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg invited her to sell her lemonade in Times Square. By the end of the day she had raised $101,320. She told her parents that she wasn’t going to stop until child slavery no longer existed.

  

 

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

 

1. Do I truly seek to store up treasure in heaven? What are my priorities, interests and choices? Do I strive to keep the “eye” – the “lamp of my body” healthy? Do I cultivate true insight and a supernatural perspective in life?

 

2. Do I have the courage shown by the priest Jehoiada and his wife Jehosheba to fight evil and to do good?

 

  

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

 

O Jesus Divine Master,

we thank you for teaching us where to put our hearts

and where to store up treasure.

Help us to seek God as the only and absolute good.

Let us not be tantalized

by the false treasures of this earth.

Give light to the “eye” of our soul.

Grant us true insight

that we may seek the eternal treasure in heaven

with love, devotion and sacrifice.

Give us the wisdom, grace and strength

to fight evil and to do good.

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.

 

“For where your treasure is, there also your heart will be.” (Mt 6:21) //“Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord as one party and the king and the people as the other.” (II Kgs 11:17)

 

 

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

 

Get rid of superfluous goods and strive to share more fully your earthly and supernatural goods with the needy. Pray to God for the grace and strength to fight the evil influences that surround us, especially the evil caused by the misuse and abuse of the modern media.

 

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June 23, 2018: SATURDAY – WEEKDAY (11); BVM ON SATURDAY

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Delivers Us from Anxiety … He Strengthens Us to Resist Evil and to do Good”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

1 Kgs 19:19-21 // Mt 5:33-37

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 6:24-34): “Do not worry about tomorrow.”

 

In today’s Gospel (Mt 6:24-34), Jesus continues to shape us into disciples whose priorities are straight and who totally depend on God. He wants us to serve God and not mammon. Our possessions have a way of possessing us, but that cannot happen if we make a core decision for God. Our fundamental option for Christ and our radical choice for the kingdom values eliminate useless anxieties. Indeed, Jesus wants us to be free from excessive concern about food and clothing.  What are they in comparison to the infinite value of the kingdom of God and his righteousness?  He invites us to reflect on God’s care as shown in nature. The birds in the sky neither sow nor reap nor gather food into barns yet the heavenly Father feeds them. He gives color and beauty to wild flowers and clothes them with a splendor that surpasses Solomon’s regal attire. If that is how God cares for the birds and wild flowers, how much more would he care for us – more important in his sight. Jesus urges us not to worry, for worrying is unproductive and counterproductive, a vicious killer of joy in our life. If we put our heart in God and seek his kingdom and his righteousness, all other matters will be in place and our needs taken care of.

 

The following story gives insight into the meaning of Jesus’ exhortation not to worry about tomorrow for there is no need to add to the troubles each day brings (cf. Anthony De Mello, The Song of the Bird, New York: Image Books, 1984, p. 21).

 

The Japanese warrior was captured by his enemies and thrown into prison. At night he could not sleep for he was convinced that he would be tortured the next morning.

 

Then the words of his master came to his mind. “Tomorrow is not real. The only reality is now.”

 

So he came to the present – and fell asleep.

 

The person over whom the future has lost its grip. How like the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. No anxieties for tomorrow. Total presence in the now. Holiness!

  

 

B. First Reading (II Chr 24:17-25): “They murdered Zechariah between the sanctuary and the altar (Mt 23:35).”

 

The Old Testament reading (II Chr 24:17-25) encourages us to continue to do good and resist evil. King Joash of Judah does not persist in following the way of the Lord. After the death of his counselor and benefactor Jehoiada, the Priest, Joash falls from a good life and succumbs to idolatry. Jehoiada’s son, Zechariah prophesies that the king’s rejection of the Lord will have dire consequences.  Joash’s response is to silence the bad news. On the king’s orders, the people stone Zechariah in the temple courtyard. King Joash, who has abandoned God, has forgotten about the loyal service that Zechariah’s father had given him. He, who as an infant was rescued by Jehoiada from death, instigates the killing of his redeemer’s beloved son. As Zechariah is dying, he calls out to the idolatrous king: “May the Lord see what you are doing and punish you.” Punishment is inevitable. A small Syrian army overtakes a larger Judean army. King Joash suffers the indignity of being murdered by his own servants.

 

Today’s Bible reading invites us to persevere in doing good and warns us not to succumb to evil. The need to persist in doing noble acts, even if unrequited, can also be gleaned in the following article (cf. “The Unseen Harvest” in Poverello News, June 2014, p. 5-6).

 

A police officer we know (we’ll call him Brett) was driving near Poverello one hot summer day after he had finished his shift. He saw a man dressed in dirty, ragged clothing and carrying a backpack. However, what got Brett’s attention was that the man was barefoot, and each step he took on the blistering sidewalk looked like torture. Brett had to gas up his police vehicle at the city yard nearby, but after he did so, he drove by the same area, and saw the man again. He pulled up to him and rolled down his window.

 

When he greeted him with a friendly, “How’s it going?”, the man immediately became hostile. “I just got out of jail! I didn’t do nothing wrong. Why are harassing me?” he shouted.

 

Brett tried to calm him down. “Look”, he said, “I’m not stopping you to give you any trouble. I just noticed that you didn’t have any shoes, and I thought your feet must be hurting, that’s all. I have some boots at home that might fit you.”

 

Brett said that the look in the man’s eye was one of absolute astonishment. It was as if he couldn’t understand that a police officer wasn’t trying to arrest or hassle him. After a long silence, he responded, “Yeah, that would be nice. Some boots would help.”

 

Brett replied, “Okay, I’m off duty right now. The boots are at my house. It’ll take me twenty minutes to drive there, and about twenty to thirty minutes to drive back. You go over there under the overpass where it’s shady. Stay there, and I’ll be back with some socks and boots. Got that? Stay there, okay?”

 

The man assured Brett that he would wait, and Brett took off. When he returned with the boots, the man was nowhere to be seen. Brett drove around for about fifteen minutes looking for him, but he had vanished.

 

Brett told us, “You know, I felt pretty stupid, like I had been conned. Was that a stupid thing to do?”

 

Not only was that not a stupid thing to do; it was a compassionate, noble act. Whenever we go out of our way to show kindness to someone in need, there is never a guarantee that we’ll get the results we expect. In fact, we are often very disappointed. In Galatians 6:9, Saint Paul tells us, “Let us not become weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

 

If everyone who performed kind acts simply gave up because his charity was misused, there wouldn’t be anyone left to help the poor, and the world would be a much darker place. Compassion is wonderful and motivating virtue, but without the companion virtues of faith and perseverance, compassion transforms itself quickly into anger and cynicism.

 

In over forty years at Poverello House, we hadn’t reaped a huge harvest for our investments of love, but we know that there is a bigger picture. God sees things very differently that we do, and so we persevere in charity and faith, because we believe He knows the rest of the story, which is the harvest that we can’t see right now.

 

  

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

 

1. Do I put my total trust in God, not worrying about tomorrow and not giving in to useless anxieties?

 

2. Do I persevere in my resolve to fight evil and to do good? Do I continue to act charitably even if my effort is not reciprocated and does not produce the result I imagine?

 

 

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

 

Jesus Master,

we trust in divine providence.

We look at the birds of the sky

and the immense field of wildflowers,

radiant with color and beauty.

You care for them.

How much more will you care for us!

Deliver us from useless anxieties.

Give us the grace to seek you

and the kingdom of God and his righteousness.

Help us to persevere in overcoming evil with good.

Let us live day by day in your grace.

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.

 

“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” (Mt 6:33) //“Because you have abandoned the Lord, he has abandoned you.” (II Chr 24: 20)

 

  

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

 

When the present socio-economic situation threatens you with fear and anxieties, turn to God and assert more strongly your fundamental option for him as the one and absolute good. Do not allow unrequited charity to discourage you.

 

 

 *** 

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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