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A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 16, n. 43)

Week 25 in Ordinary Time: September 23-29, 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 from various perspectives. For the Lectio Divina on the liturgy of the past week: September 16-22, 2018, please go to ARCHIVES Series 16 and click on “Week 24 Ordinary”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: September 23-29, 2018.)

 

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 September 23, 2018: TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY

IN ORDINARY TIME

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Son of Man Handed Over

and Killed”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Wis 2:12, 17-20 // Jas 3:16-4:3 // Mk 9:30-37

 

 

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

 

A, Gospel Reading (Mk 9:30-37): “The Son of Man is to be handed over … Whoever wishes to be first will be the servant of all.

               I visited the California State Fair in Sacramento on August 29, 2003. It was very enriching and educational. The organizers, personnel, and the contributors to the fair had done an extraordinary service, not only to the American nation, but also to the general progress of peoples and the enhancement of the quality of life of God’s beloved creation. One of the most enjoyable features I experienced at the Fair was at the Fine Arts section of the Expo Center Buildings where I saw an interesting piece of art entitled “Napping in the Garden”. The artist depicted the corpus of Christ, stretched in the form of a cross, lying serenely in a cosmic garden of incredible beauty and surrounded with ministering angels and created beings. The artist’s message for me was clear and incisive. The one “napping in the garden” is the Servant of Yahweh, who offered his ultimate service on the cross of sacrifice and is now at the center of adoration and ministry of the entire cosmos. Indeed, the artistic depiction of Christ “napping in the garden” has captured the lesson of this Sunday’s Gospel on primacy in service: “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all” (Mk 9:35). 

            Today’s Gospel (Mk 9:30-37) begins with a description of the itinerary of Jesus. His public ministry in Galilee over, Jesus is moving towards Jerusalem, willfully avoiding popular acclaim based on an erroneous messianic concept. The biblical scholar, Daniel Harrington remarks: “The reason for the secrecy about the journey through Galilee seems to be Jesus’ desire to instruct his disciples about his passion and resurrection.” Indeed, it is Jesus’ intention to rectify the false adulation that honors him principally as a political leader, miracle worker and breadbasket king, and not as the Suffering Servant to redeem the world from sin. The three prophecies of his passion and resurrection are meant to distill his disciples’ messianic perception based on the primacy of temporal powers, and not on service to God’s saving will (cf. Mk 8:31-33; 9:30-32; 10:30-34).

            Today’s account contains Jesus’ second prediction of his paschal destiny to his non-comprehending disciples: “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise” (Mk 9:31). Although there may have been an allusion to Jesus’ betrayal by Judas, the more basic meaning of the verb paradidotai (“to be delivered”, “to be handed over”) refers to the divine saving plan in which Jesus’ death is pivotal. The prediction that the Son of Man would be delivered or handed over does not imply constraint on the part of Jesus but rather an attitude of filial obedience and the fulfillment of God’s plan. Indeed, the one who handed over the Son is the Father, in accordance with St. John’s assertion: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (Jn 3:16) and with St. Paul’s conviction: “He did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” (Rom 8:32). 

            The biblical expert Eugene Maly reflects on the principle that animated Christ’s paschal destiny: “The principle is: God makes us all that we are by his love. We must be as open to that love as a slave is to the Master’s bidding. Here the working concept, on the human side, is responsible openness, acceptance. This can be expressed in many different ways. The most striking way, the one illustrated above all by Jesus, is acceptance of the Father’s love that asks the obedience of death. That is total acceptance, total openness and total self-giving.” 

            The response of the disciples to the Divine Master’s patient endeavor to make them grasp the true meaning of the messianic mission is bewilderment. They do not understand the Master’s sayings and they are afraid to question him. They are not willing to accept the painful element of Christ’s paschal destiny and are incredulous to the promise of his resurrection and glory. Since their narrow vision is incapable of grasping the implications of Christ’s paschal mystery, their personal concerns degenerate to authority issues and power struggles. Upon arrival in Capernaum, they remain silent when asked by Jesus what they were arguing on the way, for they had been discussing among themselves who is the greatest.

            The Divine Master, however, utilizes the disheartening and embarrassing moment to teach them anew. The detail concerning the posture of Jesus is significant; sitting down is the position taken by teachers in Mark’s culture. As the supreme Teacher, Jesus sits down to impart a very important lesson to his not-so-receptive disciples: to rank first, one must be the last in worldly esteem and first in service. To reinforce his teaching on the meaning of true greatness, Jesus resorts to a symbolic action. “Taking a child, he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them, ‘Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the one who sent me’” (Mk 9:36-37). The child that Jesus puts in their midst is a symbol of the anawim: “the poor ones of Yahweh” - the humble ones of the earth, those without legal status and therefore insignificant and helpless. To perform an act of service and love to “the poor ones of Yahweh” is a mark of true greatness. The primacy in service is a sterling quality of Christian discipleship.

 

B. First Reading (Wis 2:12, 17-20): “Let us condemn him to shameful death.”

 

I was born in a small Philippine town near the picturesque Mayon Volcano that is renowned for its beauty and its perfect cone. When I reminisce about my hometown, I also remember our hardworking houseboy named Julian. A no-nonsense orphan, it was his dream to go to school. My parents made arrangements so that he could be a working student. One day, when he was going to school to enroll and pay his tuition, his half-brother accosted him, asking for money. The half-brother grew up with bad companions and was addicted to gambling and drinking. He detested Julian’s clean character and resented that he was the “good boy”. Though threatened with a gun, Julian refused to give up his hard-earned money. His half-brother shot him to death. Our quiet neighborhood was convulsed by the injustice suffered by an innocent boy.

 

The conflict between good and evil is verified again and again in human experience. The life of Julian replicates that of the “just one” referred to in today’s Old Testament reading and the paschal destiny of the “Son of Man” mentioned in the Gospel reading. The life of the “just one” is a reproach to those who do evil. The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 5, comment on the Old Testament reading (Wis 2:12, 17-20): “Those who do evil are intolerant of contradiction, whatever its form. They strive to silence it. But nothing is more unbearable to them than the living reproach and permanent challenge of the life of just persons in their midst … Through their very lives, led in conformity with God’s law, the just denounce the misconduct of the impious … This passage from the Book of Wisdom applies to a multitude of men and women of all times, persecuted, tortured, put to death because they stood, by their mere presence, unshakable witnesses to right and justice.”

 

Jesus Christ is the “just one” par excellence. The unmerited injustice suffered by the “just one” mentioned by the Book of Wisdom adds poignancy and intensity to the figure of the Suffering Servant-Messiah delineated in the Gospel reading: “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.” Ironically, while Jesus embraces his paschal destiny, his uncomprehending disciples compete for greatness. Ever sagacious, the Divine Master Jesus utilizes the occasion to instruct them. The way of the just is a life of service to the “poor ones of Yahweh”, a symbol of which is the little child around whom Jesus wrapped his arms. In order to be the first in the heavenly kingdom, ushered in by the Suffering Servant Jesus, we must become the last and the servant of all.

 

 

C. Second Reading (Jas 3:16-4:3): “The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace.”

 

The Christian disciples, immersed through baptism into the paschal mystery of the Servant-Son of God, are called to be “first” in the Kingdom of God by following the way of obedience and loving servitude. In reality, however, there are lapses and failures in their response to their grace-filled, but exigent vocation. This is the experience of the early Christian community animated and served by Saint James (Jas 3:16-4:3). There are jealousy and selfish ambition, as well as disorder and every foul practice. There are fights and quarrels. There are members even ready to kill on account of their evil desires and passions. James rightly assesses that their life is not what it is meant to be. Even their “prayer” is not properly motivated. The Jesuit biblical scholar Jerome Neyrey remarks: “James keeps on insisting that the roots of evil and sin are within us … Despite conversion and baptism, Christians are not perfect yet and must strive to let God’s grace rule their hearts progressively in every way.”

 

St. James thus exhorts the community to live by “the wisdom from above”. True wisdom is community building and bears fruits of goodness and peace. Without faith in God and the wisdom from him, true goodness is not possible. Indeed, a world without God is a cruelly violent world. It is therefore expedient for Christians to be receptive to the grace of God – to be open to the transforming divine love - as a slave is to the master’s bidding and as a child to a brand new world.

 

Harold Buetow explains: “James joins all those Jewish writings like the Book of Wisdom which were always of one mind that true wisdom is “from above”, from God. People imbued with God’s wisdom are pure enough to approach God. Such people are peaceable, maintaining a right relationship between person and person and between people and God. They are gentle, knowing how to forgive even when strict justice may give them the right to condemn. They are compliant, allowing themselves to be persuaded, knowing when to yield. They are full of mercy and good fruits, giving sympathy to people who are in trouble, even though they have brought these troubles on themselves. They are constant, not hesitating to make decisions. And they are sincere, having no trace whatsoever of hypocrisy.”

 

The following story impressed me deeply for it depicts the unfortunate situation of those who are not animated with “the wisdom from above” (cf. “The Window”, Author Unknown, in A 2nd Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul, ed. Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, Deerfield Beach: Health Communications, Inc., p. 178-179). It illustrates the wise saying of St. James: “You covet but do not possess. You kill and envy, but you cannot obtain” (Jas 4:3). It makes us feel sorry for our sins and our frailties and helps us feel the need to turn back to God.

 

There were once two men, both seriously ill, in the same small room of a great hospital. Quite a small room, it had one window looking out on the world. One of the men, as part of his treatment, was allowed to sit up in bed for an hour in the afternoon (something to do with draining the fluid from his lungs). His bed was next to the window. But the other man had to spend all his time flat on his back.

 

Every afternoon when the man next to the window was propped up for his hour, he would pass the time by describing what he could see outside. The window apparently overlooked a park where there was a lake. There were ducks and swans in the lake, and children came to throw them bread and sail model boats. Young lovers walked hand in hand beneath the trees, and there were flowers and stretches of grass, games of softball. And at the back, behind the fringe of trees, was a fine view of the city skyline.

 

The man on his back would listen to the other man describe all of this, enjoying every minute. He heard how a child nearly fell into the lake and how beautiful the girls were in their summer dresses. His friend’s descriptions eventually made him feel he could almost see what was happening outside.

 

Then one afternoon, the thought struck him: Why should the man next to the window have all the pleasure of seeing what was going on? Why shouldn’t he get the chance? He felt ashamed, but the more he tried not to think like that, the worse he wanted a change. He’d do anything! One night as he stared at the ceiling, the other man suddenly woke up, coughing and choking, his hands groping for the button that would bring the nurse running. But the man watched without moving – even when the sound of breathing stopped. In the morning, the nurse found the other man dead, and quietly took his body away.

 

As soon as it seemed decent, the man asked if he could switch to the bed next to the window. So they moved him, tucked him in, and made him quite comfortable. The minute they left, he propped himself up on one elbow, painfully and laboriously, and looked out of the window.

 

It faced a blank wall.

 

 

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

 

How do we respond to Christ’s paschal destiny: “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise”? Do we engage in power games and authority struggles? Do we entertain the temptation of worldly power and ambition? Is our Christian discipleship marked by the sterling quality of service to “the poor ones of Yahweh” – the needy and the helpless?  

 

 

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

 

O Jesus Master,

we are afraid of our own paschal destiny.

Help us to catch a glimpse of its glorious end.

We struggle for primacy and engage in power games.

Help us to be the “last”

and seek the true greatness that lies in service.

We ignore the cry of the poor

and fail to care for “the little ones”.

Touch our hearts

that we may serve them with compassion.

Lord Jesus,

you are the crucified Messiah who comes to our aid.

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.

 

“The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him.” (Mk 9:31)

 

 

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

 

Pray for our civil and religious leaders that they may be animated by a true sense of Christian service. Contribute in some way to alleviate the sufferings and respond to the needs of “the little ones of Yahweh”.

 

 

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September 24, 2018: MONDAY – WEEKDAY (25)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Us to Radiate the Light of God’s Word … He Teaches Us to Tread the Path of Wisdom”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Prv 3:27-34 // Lk 8:16-18

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 8:16-18): “A lamp is placed on a lamp stand so that those who enter may see the light.”

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Lk 8:16-18) helps us to understand the role of Christians in the world. We are to shine and manifest to others, by the way we live, the light of God’s word. Just as a lamp is intended to give light, so the word of Jesus is to be received and become a light for our soul and irradiated to others. We are the light of the world. Our Christian discipleship involves public witnessing of the spiritual light received from God. We reflect the light of Christ in the same way that a glowing bride reflects the radiance that comes from love. In order that those who are entering God’s kingdom may continue to see the light and be channels of that light, we need to be receptive to his word. Jesus exhorts us: “Take care, then, how you hear.”  When we open our hearts to the word of God, we become richer and richer in the life it engenders and nourishes. When we do not listen to the word of God and fail to act upon it, the spiritual life that has earlier germinated withers away.

 

The following article illustrates the beauty and power of spiritual light that fills our heart and the tremendous value of personal receptivity that enables us to experience the true “gift of sight” (cf. Marilyn Morgan King in Daily Guideposts 2010, p. 387).

 

As highly as I value the faces of the people I love, vibrant colors, the beauty of the mountains and the mystery of night, there is one thing I love more. It’s an un-nameable splendor, a mystery far greater than I, not personal to me, and it lives in the heart of every being. Now and then I’ve caught glimpses of it in silent prayer, and I’ve come to know it as vast and boundless, all-loving and ablaze with the light of the Spirit.

 

Though I may someday lose my physical sight, I’ll be okay, because I’ll remind myself of Helen Keller’s words: “The best and most beautiful things cannot be seen or touched. They must be felt with the heart.”

 

And I’ll pull up some of the many inspiring images I’ve stored in my heart to feed my soul when it’s hungry for beauty. Often, as I’m falling asleep or waking up, images appear behind my closed eyelids - of wisteria flowers, or the sad-glorious stained glass window by Marc Chagall; or a twenty-foot-high rhododendron bush with my love smiling in front of it; or of a sometimes flaming, sometimes softly glowing Nebraska sunset.

 

Sometimes I have even seen an image of Jesus holding a little lamb snuggled against His cheek. That’s when I remember my Aunt Alta’s words as she was dying: “Oh! He is beautiful!” Now I think I know Who she saw with her blind eyes.

 

 

B. First Reading (Prv 3:27-34): “The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked.”

 

For three days, starting today, some passages from the Book of Proverbs will be proclaimed as the liturgy’s First Reading. The Book of Proverbs is a collection of moral and religious teachings in the form of sayings and proverbs. Much of it has to do with practical, everyday concerns. It speaks not only of religious morality, but also of common sense and good manners. The Book of Proverbs depicts the universal wisdom or common sense that allows individuals and communities to conduct their lives reasonably and responsibly. This wisdom, however, is brought under God’s guidance.

 

Today’s passage (Prv 3:27-34) reports five sayings about being a good neighbor: doing good to those who need it; not delaying a charitable deed; not plotting evil against a trusting neighbor; not to pick a quarrel with an innocent one; not to imitate the violent. These “wisdom sayings” are reinforced by delineating the Lord’s twofold ways: The Lord hates people who do evil but gives his friendship to the righteous; the Lord puts a curse on the homes of wicked men, but blesses the home of the righteous; the Lord is stern with the arrogant, but shows favor to the humble. Indeed, we are being invited to tread the path of wisdom, together with the community of the anawim or the poor of Yahweh. True knowledge of God steers us away from the path of evil and violence and leads us into the path of life and communion with God.

 

The following modern day account illustrates the benevolent, or wicked ways, of dealing with one’s neighbors (cf. Karen Valentine in Daily Guideposts 2010, p. 357).

 

When my parents moved from New York City to Florida, they left their spacious rent-controlled apartment a block from Central Park. I was living in the Bronx at the time and the lease on my apartment had a while to go, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to live in Manhattan.

 

A young woman whom I knew and trusted was interested in subleasing my Bronx apartment, and I wrote an enthusiastic letter to the landowner, who agreed to the arrangement with no problem. I breathed a sigh of relief and moved to Manhattan worry-free.

 

Some months later I was shocked to learn that the woman whom I thought I could trust owed thousands of dollars in rent and, without a word, had fled to another state. Since the lease was under my name, I was left holding the bill. I felt betrayed, foolish and terrified by the thought of having to pay back the rent. Because I didn’t want my family to worry, I kept the problem to myself. Most of all, I felt alone.

 

The one place I did turn to was my church. I needed a shoulder to cry on and lots of prayer. As I expected, my friends listened to my troubles and prayed with me to repair the damage done. What I didn’t expect was by the next day my church had cleared the debt. I couldn’t believe it.

 

Grateful is a pale reflection of how I felt. By lifting my burden, they showed me that I was family. I had no need to feel alone.

 

 

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

 

1. How do we respond to the light of God’s word? Do we allow this light to fill our hearts and allow its radiance to enlighten the morbid shadows around us? Are we channels of God’s light for others?

 

2. Do we treat our neighbors reasonably, responsibly and compassionately?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

we thank you for the light of God’s word.

Your light shines in the world’s darkness,

but the darkness has not overcome it.

Help us to light the lamp of truth

so that those seeking to enter your kingdom

may see your life-giving light.

Teach us to listen to your word.

By our responsible and compassionate acts,

may we be good neighbors to others,

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“He places the lamp on a stand so that those who enter may see light.” (Lk 8:16) // “The dwelling of the just the Lord blesses.” (Prv 3: 33)

 

 

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

 

By our daily acts of charity and compassion to our brothers and sisters, let us help overcome the shadows of sin and death that darken our world.

 

 

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September 25, 2018: TUESDAY – WEEKDAY (25)

 “JESUS SAVIOR: His Family Hears and Acts on God’s Word … He is the Just One”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Prv 21:1-6, 10-13 // Lk 8:19-21

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 8:19-21): “My mother and my brother are those who hear the word of God and act upon it.”

 

Today’s Gospel (Lk 8:19-21) continues to challenge us to respond fully to the word of God. The mother of Jesus and other relatives come to see Jesus, but are prevented by the thick crowd. They stand outside and call for him. The Divine Master wisely uses the occasion of their visit to assert that the fundamental relationship to him lies not through blood ties or other earthly connections, but through hearing and acting upon the word of God. While his kin are waiting, Jesus delineates what constitutes his spiritual family – those who hear and obey the divine word are the authentic family members. In light of Mary’s response at the Lord’s annunciation, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word”, the mother of Jesus passes the criterion with flying colors. Mary is the supreme model of one who hears and acts upon the word. Mary is the exemplar of receptivity to the divine word. In her womb, the word of God becomes flesh and she brings forth the Savior of the world. Mary is truly the mother of Jesus and is thus the most privileged member of the “family of God”.

 

In a humorous vein, the following story gives insight into the meaning of “family” (cf. Davida Dalton, as told to Jo Ellen Johnson, “In His Mother’s Footsteps” in Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul, ed. Jack Canfield, et. al., Deerfield Beach: Health Communications, Inc., 1997, p. 108-109).

 

It was a busy day in our Costa Mesa, California home. But then, with 10 children and one on the way, every day was a bit hectic. On this particular day, however, I was having trouble doing even routine chores – all because of one little boy.

 

Len, who was three at the time, was on my heels no matter where I went. Whenever I stopped to do something and turned back around, I would trip over him. Several times, I patiently suggested fun activities to keep him occupied. “Wouldn’t you like to play on the swing set?” I asked again.

 

But he simply smiled an innocent smile and said, “Oh, that’s all right, Mommy, I’d rather be in here with you.” Then he continued to bounce happily along behind me.

 

After stepping on his toes for the fifth time, I began to lose my patience and insisted that he go outside and play with the other children. When I asked him why he was acting this way, he looked up at me with sweet green eyes and said, “Well, Mommy, in Primary my teacher told me to walk in Jesus’ footsteps. But I can’t see him, so I’m walking in yours.”

 

I gathered Len in my arms and held him close. Tears of love and humility spilled over from the prayer that grew in my heart – a prayer of thanks for the simple, yet beautiful perspective of a three-year-old boy.

 

 

B. First Reading (Prv 21:1-6, 10-13): “Various proverbs.”

 

The passage from the Book of Proverbs (21:1-6, 10-13) opens with three sayings about the Lord God and is followed by a body of traditional wisdom offering advice on a wide range of subjects. Today’s reading underlines that God is absolutely in control. He controls even the heart of a king as easily as he directs the flow of a running stream. Moreover, he also proves man’s heart and perceives one’s deepest motives. We may rationalize and exculpate our evil actions, but God knows and rightly judges our wicked ways. Furthermore, what pleases him are not external “sacrifices” bereft of meaning, but justice and right. The other sayings indicate that the way of the wicked is devious and that we need to walk in the way of God’s commands. We must learn to avoid evil and to listen to the cry of the poor so that when we call for help we might be heard.

 

The following modern day account helps us understand how God proves man’s heart and how he comes to the aid of those who cry out to him for help (cf. William Joseph, “The Fix” in Guideposts, September 2014, p. 48-52).

 

Near my church, I found a supermarket that sold doughnuts by the half dozen. A package of those always perked me up. Temporarily, anyway. Then I’d have to give a sermon or run a Bible study, and I’d buy another package. One was never enough. I didn’t want anyone to notice how many doughnuts I ate. It was none of their concern. I scoped out other doughnut shops in town. Before long, I knew where every Krispy Kreme and Dunkin’ Donuts was and could vary my visits. Now I needed a whole dozen to feel satisfied. I’d ditch the boxes in a garbage can on the street, not at home or at church, where someone might get suspicious. I felt ashamed, and shame made me want to eat more doughnuts. (…)

 

At least I’m not like Dad, I thought, sitting in the Krispy Kreme parking lot that morning. I glanced at the four boxes on the passenger seat. I’d done all I could to live an upstanding life. I was married, had kids, a wife I adored. I was a pastor and led a congregation. I was doing God’s work. I could always scale back on the doughnuts if I wanted to. Eat just one or two, the way I used to. But could I? (…)

 

Now, three of the boxes lay empty. I opened the fourth and crammed another doughnut into my mouth. I could hardly taste it, yet I couldn’t stop. My eyes welled with tears of shame and helplessness. I felt sick to my stomach, the way I usually felt these days. Sluggish, moody and constantly stressed. Kim worried about my lack of energy, and my doctor had warned me to watch my weight, which had ballooned from 210 to 290. Nobody knew the real reason, except me. I’d kept my doughnuts a secret from everyone. Why was I doing this to myself? I was acting just like … Dad?

 

I shook my head. It was too scary to think about. There’s a big difference between doughnuts and booze, I told myself. Deep inside a little voice whispered, Yes, but an addiction is an addiction.

 

The next morning I woke up dizzy. Aches and pains coursed through my body, like I had the flu. I stayed in bed all week and missed giving my next sermon. I’d never done that before. I missed the one after that too. Finally, Kim begged me to see my doctor. “You’ve got an infection in your blood”, he said, “from untreated diabetes.” He prescribed an antibiotic and shot me a grave look. “If you hadn’t come in for treatment today, you would have been in a very serious trouble. Maybe even life-threatening.

 

I’d heard words like that before. Your father had so much alcohol in his blood; he’s lucky to be alive, his doctor had said. Now mine said the same. I’d lost control, just as Dad had. I thought I would never understand him. Now I did. I was an addict, just like him.

 

Back home, I worked up my courage, picked up the phone, and called the only person who could help me. The only one who would understand. “Doughnuts?” Dad asked, chuckling. “Let me guess. You feel powerless. Not able to stop once you start. Going on even after you’ve lost the taste. You feel shame and remorse.” He cleared his throat. “Well, I was exactly the same way, son. Then I started going to those meetings I told you about. Sharing my story and my pain with others. I’ve been sober ever since.”

 

I swallowed hard. “How did you make the cravings go away?” “You turn it over”, he said. “You give it up to God. You pray and you fight for sobriety every day. Honesty is the key. And you know what? It gets better. In fact, it gets better. In fact, it gets great!”

 

For the first time, I understood those years Dad had spent himself drinking into a stupor, hiding from the family. Both of us had been chasing after something you can’t put in a bottle or bake into a doughnut. We were trying to fill a hole in our lives, to satisfy a spiritual longing. I’d felt helpless when it came to Dad’s alcoholism and I’d turned to my own addiction to cover up that feeling. I’d stopped trusting God. I’d put my faith in doughnuts to make me feel whole.

 

Dad had gotten better, and I could too. Prayer was the first step. I asked God for strength, not to stop eating doughnuts but to get honest about my situation. (…)

 

It wasn’t easy, but prayer and honesty, love and understanding saw me through. I haven’t touched a doughnut in over 20 years – I’ve been “clean” all that time. Dad stayed sober till the end of his life. He was my hero and inspiration. I saw how much we were alike, and that drew us closer, both to each other and to God.

 

 

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

 

1. Do I truly hear the word of God and act upon it? Do I look upon Mary as the model of hearing and acting upon his word?

 

2. Do I believe that God is in absolute control of our destiny and that he proves the depths of man’s heart? Do we turn over to God our miseries and pains, our enslavements and helplessness, our need for direction and meaning in life?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

we thank you for giving us

the true criterion of kinship with you.

Help us to look upon Mary

as the supreme model of hearing and acting upon the word

so that we may truly belong to your family.

In your name,

let us be brothers and sisters to one another.

We bless and thank you

for making us a part of the family of God.

Guide us constantly in the way of God’s commands.

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.

 

 “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.” (Lk 8:21) // “It is the Lord who proves hearts.” (Prv 21:2)

 

 

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

 

By your prayers and concrete acts of charity, be a brother or a sister to those in need. Let the good Lord prove the deepest motives in your heart and purify your thoughts, actions and intentions.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

September 26, 2018: WEDNESDAY – WEEKDAY (25); SAINTS COSMAS AND DAMIAN, Martyrs

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Sends Them to Proclaim the Gospel and to Heal … He Teaches Us that God Is Trustworthy”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Prv 30:5-9 // Lk 9:1-6

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 9:1-6): “He sent them to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.”

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Lk 9:1-6) is about the Lord who sends, and the mission of those he sends. Jesus sends them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He summons his disciples and selects the Twelve. Tutored by Jesus, and present with him as he heals many from sickness and evil, the Twelve go out into the world with tremendous power bestowed upon them. Luke narrates: “They set out and went from village to village proclaiming the good news and curing diseases everywhere.” The task of those sent by Jesus is to bring the healing balm of forgiveness to those wounded by the virulence of sin and to denounce evil wherever its presence is obvious, openly confronting it by appealing to the power of Christ. Pope Paul VI remarks: “The Church is a continuation and extension of his presence, called above all to carry on the mission of Jesus and his work of evangelization without ceasing. Never can the Christian community be shut in on itself.”

 

The following inspiring story illustrates that the apostolic spirit lives on in the world today (cf. Oliver Costantino, “Helping to Save Lives” in Maryknoll, May/June 2014, p. 35-36).

 

Ten years ago, my pediatrician, Doctor Benitez, told my family that he was going on a mission trip to Bolivia. My parents asked my brothers and me if we would like to contribute any money to his mission. We all pitched in and gave Doctor Benitez $250. When he returned from Bolivia, he told us that the money was used to pay the medical expenses for a girl from a homeless family. She was burned in a fire and left to die.

 

That was my first experience of giving. I do not remember, but my parents tell me that I was proud that the money saved a life. That experience started a longtime support of Doctor Benitez and his missions. The following year my family had a fund-raising party. We raised over $3,000 and collected over 200 pairs of shoes. The party was a huge success, and we felt happy to be helping others.

 

In 2004, Doctor Benitez decided to go to Uganda, where his friend Lawrence Mulinda was born and raised. This time we sent him with $500 and all of our used clothes and shoes. Again, the money was used to save a life. While Doctor Benitez was touring a hospital in a small village, he noticed a newborn baby who looked as if she were starving to death. When he asked about her, the doctor told him that she had a cyst under her tongue that made it impossible for her to nurse. Since that was the only way to feed a baby, she was waiting to die. Doctor Benitez asked how much money it would cost to do the simple surgery. He was told that it was very expensive because she would have to be taken to the capital and they would have to pay for transportation, the hospital bill and hotel for her mother. Doctor Benitez asked again and they finally told him $500 should take care of it. He pulled our donation out of his pocket and handed it to the nun who was the administrator of the hospital. Baby Winnie’s life was saved.

 

Throughout the years we have continued to support the mission in Uganda, financially as well as through prayer. We have watched the village of Kayenje grow with a new church, school, teacher’s home and convent. I love to think about the difference the little we do makes in a country like Uganda.

 

Last summer my mother and brother had the opportunity to go to Uganda on a mission. The entire trip was rewarding. They were able to clothe, feed and care for the children’s medical needs. My brother even held a soccer clinic and brought enough balls, cleats, shin guards and new uniforms for the two teams in the village. My mother says the greatest blessing of the trip was getting to meet Baby Winnie. She is now 9 years old, and her parents came to meet my mom and thank our family for saving her life. My mother reminded them that God saved her life, not us.

 

Our experience of giving to the poor in Uganda is definitely an act of charity, but I love that God gives me the opportunity to perform an act of charity every day, and I do it with a smile. As Pope Francis says, “We all have the duty to do good.”

 

 

B. First Reading (Prv 30:5-9): “Give me neither poverty nor riches; provide me only with the food I need.”

 

Today’s Old Testament Reading (Prv 30:5-9) carries the words of a wise man, Agur, son Jakeh. Agur asserts that God keeps every promise he makes. God is like a shield for all who seek his protection. God’s word is flawless; it should never be vitiated or manipulated. Trusting in the divine word, the obedient sage Agur makes a prayer: for truth and for the food he needs. Manifesting his vulnerability and dependence, the sage asks that God may guard him from falsehood and from extreme poverty that may tempt him to steal and thus bring disgrace to the divine name.

 

The following modern day account gives us an insight into how an “obedient sage”, assisted by divine grace, lives a peaceful life in a challenging world (cf. Laura Bradford, “Why Me?”  in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings, ed. Jack Canfield, et. al., Cos Cob: CSS, 2009, p. 212-215).

 

I sit alone in my chair … relaxed, content, and at peace. (…) As I sit, I study the faces in a smattering of pictures on my wall. Their smiles serve as visible reminders of personal victories over life’s battles.

 

One photo is of my mother when she was my age. She’s stylishly dressed in a black suit and a crisp, white blouse – attire reflecting her position as a hotel executive. But it’s her schoolgirl grin that reveals the woman inside. My mother possessed a boundless love of life. I got such a kick out of her spunk. In her day, business executives were almost exclusively male. But Mom elbowed her way to the top … because she had to. There was no one else to support the family.

 

Thirty years earlier, Dad died in a car accident. He left no savings or life insurance. At age twenty-nine, Mom faced the responsibility of providing for three children. Immediately after Dad’s death, she retreated to her bedroom for a week of weeping. But when she came out, she never looked back. Her elderly mother moved in to serve as our 24/7 baby sitter. Then Mom charged headlong into the working world.

 

She started as a banquet waitress in a luxury hotel, working long hours – even around the clock, if she could. Determined to succeed, she became the most resourceful, insightful person in her department. The rich and the famous regularly called on her to serve at their sumptuous feasts.

 

But at home, Mom cut corners wherever she could. Our clothes were secondhand, but adequate. We ate well, due to the kindness of our neighbors and friends. We learned never to turn on a lamp or an appliance unless there was no alternative. Believe it or not, Mom and Granny used to ration “luxury” items such as Kleenex.

 

Sometimes Mom struggled to pay the mortgage, but we had a roomy home, heated by a lone fireplace. Granny got up before dawn to start the fire. Then, we’d all dash out of bed to bask in its warmth.

 

Mom didn’t own a car until I was in my teens. We were told, “You have two good feet to get around.” Public transportation was available for longer trips.

 

Every summer we tended a large garden, yielding bountiful crops of vegetables and berries. What couldn’t be used fresh was canned or frozen.

 

In her “spare” time, Mom made ballet costumes and attended recitals, little league games, and parent-teacher conferences. When she should have been sleeping, she’d take us to the beach or the zoo. On rare occasions, we’d go to the theater or symphony. She did everything possible to enrich our time together.

 

Mom was a living encyclopedia on how to survive in hard times. Best of all, she came through it all victoriously – grinning from ear to ear.

 

 

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

 

1. As Christian disciples today, do we trust in the loving God who is totally involved in our lives? What is the specific apostolic mission entrusted to us by Christ today? Do we believe in the Gospel’s power against the forces of evil? 

 

2. Do we trust in God who is trustworthy and who give us the grace we need to cope with life’s challenges.?

 

 

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

 

Jesus Lord,

you summon us and entrust to us the Gospel

with its power of action against evil.

You send us to touch the wounded world

with the healing power of your love.

Grant us the grace we need

to proclaim the Good News and cure diseases.

Teach us to trust in the word of God.

He is a shield for all who seek his protection.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen. 

 

 

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

 

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

 

“They proclaim the Good News and cure diseases everywhere.” (Lk 9:6) // “God is a shield to those who take refuge in him.” (Prv 30:5)

 

 

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

 

Pray for all missionaries that they may carry out their mandate with absolute trust in God and apostolic zeal. Be a missionary to a person close to you and in need of the healing power of the Gospel. Be an instrument of God’s providence for the destitute.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

September 27, 2018: THURSDAY – SAINT VINCENT DE PAUL, Priest

“JESUS SAVIOR: Herod Wants To See Him … He is the Wisdom Incarnate

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Eccl 1:2-11 // Lk 9:7-9

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 9:7-9): “John I beheaded. Who then is this about whom I hear such things?”

 

In India I was struck by a powerful image given to us by a priest in a retreat conference. A stone is submerged in the bottom of a river – for days and days, for months and months, for years and years, for ages and ages – but never soaked and drenched. It is impervious. At the core it remains dry and lifeless. The impenetrable stone surrounded by clear waters is a pathetic image of Herod Antipas who is resistant to grace. He is licentious and feckless. He lives in incestuous union with Herodias. John the Baptist censures him severely for taking his brother’s wife. Herod retaliates by having him arrested and imprisoned. On account of a senseless oath to a stepdaughter who delighted him with a sensuous dance, he has John the Baptist beheaded. Herod is also superstitious.

 

In the Gospel reading (Lk 9:7-9), the wild news about Jesus of Nazareth being John the Baptist raised from the dead baffles Herod. He keeps trying to see Jesus. But when he finally sees Jesus in a mock trial before the latter’s passion and crucifixion, he would want to see him perform some miracle and be entertained with religious prodigies. Jesus however would not respond to his frivolous questions and requests. The Son of God would remain silent. Too sated with self-centered pleasure-seeking, Herod would not able to recognize the presence of grace standing before him. Herod would not be moved to repentance conversion by the Word of God. Respecting his fundamental choice, the incarnate love would have difficulty penetrating his heart wholly taken up by frivolity and corruption.

 

The following story illustrates the tragedy of making evil choices and of being impervious to divine grace (cf. David Schantz, Daily Guideposts 2010, p. 22).

 

My minister-father was a storyteller, and the best part of Sunday was listening to his stories from the pulpit. One of my favorites was about an exceptional contractor who built beautiful homes. There was always a long waiting list of customers.

 

One day the contractor told his foreman, “I need to go East for a few months, and while I’m gone I want you to build this house for me.” He showed the foreman the plans. “I want this to be the best house you’ve ever built for me. Spare no expense. I want it done right.”

 

When his boss left, the foreman got to thinking, “This is a big project. I could make some extra money on it by substituting grade-B materials where they won’t show. I could pocket the difference.”

 

When the boss returned, he was impressed. “The house is beautiful!” He put his arm around the foreman’s shoulders. “The reason I wanted you to make this house special is that I want you to have it as an expression of my gratitude for your years of service to me.”

 

The foreman’s face fell, knowing that he had cheated only himself.

 

 

B. First Reading (Eccl 1:2-11): “Nothing is new under the sun.”

 

For the next three days we shall be hearing from the book of Ecclesiastes. The title “Ecclesiastes” given to the book is the Greek translation of the Hebrew name “Qoheleth”, which means “one who convokes the assembly”. The purported author is “Qoheleth, David’s son, king in Jerusalem”. Qoheleth is not to be identified with King Solomon. The unknown author who presents himself as “Qoheleth” uses the fiction of a wise and rich king, for wisdom is usually associated with royalty and the riches enable him to conduct his examination of life’s realities. Qoheleth lived sometime between 300 and 200 B.C. He was probably a teacher in Jerusalem and one of the more honored members of the Jerusalem academic community.

 

Today’s passage (Eccl 1:2-11) asserts that all things are vanity. The relentless monotony - in the world of toil, in the sun that rises and sets each day, in the wind that keeps on blowing in one direction and in the other, and in the rivers that keep on flowing into the sea without ever filling it – symbolizes man’s failure to accomplish anything. We keep on explaining, but we never really say anything. We keep seeing and hearing, but we never know what it is all about. We pride ourselves with new achievements, but they are not really “new”, they have simply been forgotten and are destined to be forgotten. Qoheleth’s ritornello is “vanity” (in Hebrew, hebel), something that is transient, worthless and empty.

 

The Book of Qoheleth presents a totally negative portrayal of life and an assessment that all things are vain and futile. But this is so in order to give priority to the service of God. Qoheleth’s fairly well organized series of reflections on life is a good backdrop for the radical revelation about the meaning of life that the Son of God would bring in the fullness of time.

 

The following “wisdom stories” illustrate a basic approach to life that surpasses Qoheleth’s principle “all things are vanity” (cf. Anthony De Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations, New York: Image Books, 1988, p. 32). Reality is not “vanity”. There is meaningfulness in reality to which we can respond positively and graciously.

 

A Rabbi once asked a pupil what was bothering him. “My poverty” was the reply. “So wretched is my condition that I can hardly study and pray.” “In this day and age”, said the Rabbi, “the finest prayer and the finest study lie in accepting life exactly as you find it.

 

***

On a bitterly cold day a Rabbi and his disciples were huddled around a fire. One of the disciples, echoing his master’s teaching, said, “On a freezing day like this I know exactly what to do!” “What?” asked the others. “Keep warm! And if that isn’t possible, I still know what to do.” “What?” “Freeze.”

 

***

Present Reality cannot really be rejected or accepted. To run away from it is like running away from your feet. To accept it is like kissing your lips. All you need to do is see, understand, and be at rest.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we make habitual and chronic evil choices so that we become impervious to God’s grace? Are we like Herod Antipas in our behavior and choices?

 

2. How does Qoheleth’s observation “all things are vanity” impact you?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus, the incarnate Wisdom of God,

you preach the Good News

and call people to conversion.

Please help us to listen to your voice

and make a fundamental choice for you.

Help us to avoid the tragic choices of Herod.

Do not allow us to pursue mere “vanities”.

Teach us to respond to divine grace

and let us be filled with the love and blessings of God.

You are our glorious Savior, 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.

 

            “And Herod kept trying to see him.” (Lk 9:9) // “All things are vanity!” (Eccl 1:2)

 

 

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

 

Pray that our daily choices might be responsible and in accordance to the will of God. Make an effort to enlighten the people around you in making the “right” choice for our Savior Jesus. Pray to the Holy Spirit so that you may discern what is vain and what is truly meaningful in life.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

September 28, 2018: FRIDAY – WEEKDAY (25); SAINT WENCESLAUS, Martyr; SAINT LAWRENCE RUIZ AND COMPANIONS, Martyrs

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Predicts His Passion and Glorification … He Is the Lord of Time”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Eccl 3:1-11 // Lk 9:18-22

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 9:18-22): “You are the Christ of God. The Son of Man must suffer greatly.”

 

I visited the California State Fair for the first time on August 29, 2003. I had a great time at the Fine Arts section of the Expo Center Building where I saw a painting entitled “Napping in the Garden”. The body of Christ, stretched in the form of a cross, is sleeping peacefully in a cosmic garden of incredible beauty. Jesus Christ is surrounded by ministering angels and created beings. The artist’s message for me is incisive. The one “napping in the garden” is the Servant of Yahweh, who offered his ultimate service on the cross. The “Messiah of God” is now at the center of adoration and ministry of the entire cosmos.

 Jesus, acknowledged by Peter as the “Messiah of God”, presents himself to his disciples as the Suffering Servant. In today’s Gospel (Lk 9:18-22), he predicts his passion and glorification. The Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law. He will be put to death, but three days later he will be raised to life. Although Jesus speaks of suffering and death, what triumphs ultimately is the power of life. There is redemption in his total self-giving.

 

The following story gives us a glimpse of the saving glory that comes in living out our paschal destiny (cf. Roberta Messner in Daily Guideposts 2010, p. 27).

 

For forty years I suffered with head and mouth pain from tumors caused by an incurable disorder. I lived from moment to moment and went to great lengths to get my mind off the relentless pain. Then a curious thing happened: I began to notice that whenever I turned my thoughts to others instead of dwelling on myself, I experienced an incredible sense of well-being. Whether I was planning to give, anticipating the act of giving or doing the giving myself, I could feel my entire body change.

 

One of the most difficult aspects of living with intractable pain is getting started in the morning. So before turning in each night, I placed a gift for someone at work alongside my car keys. It might be as simple as an article clipped from a magazine or coupons for laundry detergent or a tea bag in a new herbal flavor. Or it might be a pair of earrings I really wanted for myself that God nudged me to give away.

 

I mentioned my newfound approach to my physician, Dr. Brownfield. He told me that my discovery was supported by both the Bible and medical science. “Giving releases endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, Roberta. Studies have actually shown that volunteers, some of the most devoted givers of all, lead happier, healthier and longer lives.” He closed our time together that day with a prayer that God would continue to bless me with the abundant life He promises in His Word, the giving life.

 

Since that day I’ve continued to give in the ways God directs. And I hadn’t needed a single dose of breakthrough pain medicine. I’ve come to understand that giving is a God-given tool – like exercise and a balanced diet – that helps us to live the full life He has in mind for us.

 

 

B. First Reading (Eccl 3:1-11): “There is a time for everything under the heavens.”

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Eccl 3:1-11) is a piece of poetic beauty. It depicts the vicissitudes of life, which are totally under God’s control. There is “a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot the plant …” God rules over these events and the succession of these events. He runs things off according to his own time and at the right time. Man cannot even dispose of such time as planting, much less of birth and death. Life and death lie beyond human control. Indeed, what can we get from our human toil if it is not done in accordance with God’s will … if it is not done at the “right time”? God has set the right time for everything. The Lord God has also put within us the desire for eternity (the “timeless”), but we can never fathom his absolute dominion of eternity and infinity. Qoheleth thus advises us just to do the best we can while we are still alive. In the midst of a temporal existence, he also advises us to eat and drink and enjoy what is God’s gift.

 

The following modern day account gives insight into how we can we live our life reasonably and more consonant with “God’s time” (cf. Michelle Mach, “The Lunch Hour” in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings, ed. Jack Canfield, et. al., Cos Cob: CSS, 2009, p. 309-310).

 

I clutched a yogurt in one hand as I tried to eat and catch up on customer e-mail during the noon hour. Even fifteen minutes in the employee lunchroom seemed too much of a luxury. My company, like many companies, had cut costs by mot replacing people as they left. The survivors are expected to take up the slack. For me, this meant no lunch hour, plus taking work home in the evening or on the weekend. (…)

 

I felt trapped. Then a chance conversation with a stranger’s six-year-old daughter changed my outlook. The young girl was positively bouncy, standing in line with her mom at the grocery store. “Good day at the school?” I asked. A nod. “What’s your favorite subject?” “Lunch.”

 

I smiled at the answer. I remembered when that had been my answer. At lunch, there were no adults to tell you what to do and when to do it. You could sit and talk with your friends or play an exuberant game of four-square. You could draw pictures or swing on the monkey bars. The time was yours to do whatever you wanted. Sometimes we planned our time, bringing stickers or Chinese jacks for a weeklong tournament. Sometimes we were more spontaneous, only deciding what to do while we were eating our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and slurping our little paper cartons of milk.

 

The brief encounter left me wondering: What had happened to lunch?

 

I knew that by law I was entitled to a lunch break at work. So I decided to simply start taking it. The office was located in the downtown area of a small town and I set out to explore it. A few blocks away was a local art museum with free admission. At the end of another street, I was startled to discover some horses grazing in a field. A cute gift boutique made for pleasant and sometime humorous browsing particularly looking through the leftover holiday items and laughing at the sometimes funny things, like jack-o’-lantern sunglasses and temporary Santa tattoos that no one had the foresight to buy. (…)

 

When I decided to take back my lunch hour, I braced myself for catty remarks or stares from my co-workers, but they never materialized. I watched in amazement as some of my co-workers started to drift away occasionally from their own desks during lunch. We started inviting each other out for walks during good weather and discovered that we had other topics of conversation beyond the now common complaints about work.

 

 

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

 

1. How does Jesus’ pronouncement of his passion impinge on us? Do we see the intimate connection between Jesus’ self-giving passion and his glorification?

 

2. Do we trust that in the midst of life’s continuous changes, God is in control? Do we surrender our plans and our entire selves to God who makes things work for good “in his time”?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

we thank you for your beloved Son, the Suffering Servant.

Give us the grace to be Christian disciples marked by self-giving.

Help us to trust in you, the Lord of time and history.

You are in control of the past, the present and the future.

We dwell in “your time”.

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.

 

“The Son of Man must suffer greatly … and on the third day be raised.” (Lk 9:22) // “There is an appointed time for everything.” (Eccl 3:1)

 

 

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

 

Through concrete acts of charity to those experiencing fears and difficulties, manifest your intimate participation in the paschal destiny of Jesus, our self-giving Lord and the “Messiah of God”.  Try to be more “patient” and learn to do things in “God’s time”.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

September 29, 2018: SATURDAY – SAINTS MICHAEL, GABRIEL AND RAPHAEL, ARCHANGELS

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is Supreme Over All the Angels”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Dn 7:9-10, 13-14 or Rv 12:7-12a // Jn 1:47-51

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 1:47-51): “Above the Son of Man you will see the angels of God ascending and descending.”

 

In today’s Gospel reading (Jn 1:47-51), Jesus promises Nathanael a vision of angels: “You will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” The angelic revelation that Jesus proposes to his would-be disciple Nathanael evokes the vision of Jacob in the Book of Genesis. In a dream, the patriarch Jacob sees a stairway to heaven and God’s messengers going up and down. There is an interchange between heaven and earth. Like the angels on Jacob’s ladder, Jesus will join the above and the below, the heavenly and the earthly. Since Jesus Christ is supreme over all the angels, his unifying function surpasses that of the angels. The Son of Man is the shekinah, the dwelling place of God and the locus of divine glory. Jesus is thus the connecting point of heaven and earth. In his very person, God is revealed and in Jesus we have access to God.

 

The angels are at the service of God and his saving plan. Today’s feast of the archangels helps us to contemplate their role in salvation history. The homily of Saint Gregory the Great that is read at the Office of the Readings gives interesting insight into the ministry of the archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.

 

The word angel denotes a function … They can only be called angels when they deliver some message … Those who proclaim messages of supreme importance are called archangels. And so it was that not merely an angel but the archangel Gabriel was sent to the Virgin Mary. It was only fitting that the highest angel should come to announce the greatest of all messages.

 

Some angels are given proper names to denote the service they are empowered to perform … Thus Michael means “Who is like God?”; Gabriel is “The Strength of God”, and Raphael is “God’s Remedy”.

 

Whenever some act of wondrous power must be performed, Michael is sent, so that his action and his name make it clear that no one can do what God does by his superior power. So also our ancient foe desired in his pride to be like God, saying: “I will ascend into heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of heaven; I will be like the Most High.” He will be allowed to remain in power until the end of the world when he will be destroyed in the final punishment. Then, he will fight with the archangel Michael, as we are told by John: “A battle was fought with Michael the archangel.”

 

So too Gabriel, who is called God’s strength, was sent to Mary. He came to announce the One who appeared as a humble man to quell the cosmic powers. Thus God’s strength announced the coming of the Lord of the heavenly powers, mighty in battle.

 

Raphael means, as I have said, God’s remedy, for when he touched Tobit’s eyes in order to cure him, he banished the darkness of his blindness. Thus, since he is to heal, he is rightly called God’s remedy.

 

 

B. First Reading (Dn 7:9-10, 13-14): “Countless thousands ministered to him.”

 

In the Old Testament reading (Dn 7:9-10, 13-14), Daniel’s vision of the “son of man” coming on the clouds of heaven and receiving dominion, glory and kingship originally represented the vindication of the persecuted people of Israel. The image of the human figure enthroned in glory, however, later came to be applied to the expected Messiah. Christians see the fulfillment of this apocalyptic vision in the person of Jesus Christ.

 

The prophet’s vision of the “son of man” is preceded by that of the “Ancient One” or “the One who has been living forever”. His clothes are white as snow and his hair like pure wool. He sits on a throne that blazes with fire. Thousands and thousands are ministering to him. As we celebrate the feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, we imagine these archangels as leading the throng of those who lovingly serve God, the “Ancient One”. The archangels and the other ministering angels in heaven, by God’s compassionate plan, bless us with their “presence” and assistance.

 

The following personal account gives insight into the reality of angelic protection (cf. Joan Wester Anderson, “Invisible Guardians” in Chicken Soup for Christian Soul, ed. Jack Canfield, et. al., Deerfield: Health Communications, Inc., 1997, p. 168-171).

 

In 1980, 25-year old Dave Carr of Bangor, Maine, started to feel one of those inner urges that defy logic and reason. He had a strong impulse to open a gathering place for the homeless or people down on their luck. (…) Finally Dave drove to downtown Bangor about 10:00 one September evening. It wouldn’t hurt to at least look at possible sites … He parked and walked through the neighborhoods, looking at abandoned buildings. Some possibilities, but nothing definite.

 

At 1:00 A.M. Dave was ready to call it quits. But he hadn’t investigated Brewer yet, the city that lies across the Penobscot River from Bangor. He would look at a few sites there, then head home. The street was deserted as Dave started walking up the bridge. Then a car approached from Brewer. As its headlights caught him, the car slowed. Uneasily Dave realized that there were three men inside. Despite the cool night air, their windows were rolled down. “Let’s throw him over!” Dave heard one of them say. The car stopped, its doors opened, and all three jumped out and came toward him.’

 

Horrified, Dave suddenly recalled the murder of the street person. It had been on this bridge! Had these men done it? He would be no match for them; he knew his only option was to pray that he survived the icy water. But as he looked down, he realized that the tide had gone out, and only rocks and dirt were directly below him. “God, help me”, Dave murmured.

 

Immediately he felt a presence near him, something unseen but definitely there. A warm safe feeling flooded him, His fear vanished, and he knew, without knowing how he knew, that he was not alone.

 

Now the men were almost upon Dave. All three were large, muscular – and leering. “Get him!” one shouted.

 

Suddenly they stopped. “They all stared at me, then looked to the right and left of me”, Dave says. “They seemed terrified. One said, ‘Oh, my God!’ They turned and began shoving one another to get back to the car. And when they sped away – it sounded like they tore the transmission right out – I could still hear them cursing and yelling, ‘Run, run!’”

 

Dave stood for a moment on the deserted bridge, basking in the warmth that still surrounded him. What was it? What had the men seen? Whatever it was, it had shielded him from certain death. “Thank you, God”, he whispered.

 

He felt exalted, so buoyant that he decided to go on to Brewer and finish his search. As he crossed the rest of the bridge, Danny, a friend of his, drove by, honked at him, and kept going, unmindful of Dave’s narrow escape. Dave waved, still surrounded by peace. (…)

 

The next day he ran into Danny again. “Sorry I didn’t stop for you last night on the bridge”, Danny said. “But I had passengers and I never could have fit all of you in my car, too.” “All of us?” Dave asked, puzzled. “Those three huge guys walking with you”, Danny explained. “They were the biggest people I had ever seen. One must have been at least seven feet tall!”

 

Dave never resisted a heavenly nudge again. He opened and founded a Bangor coffeehouse in 1986, which is still running today under a friend’s management. At least 100 people are fed every night, with coffee, hugs – and the word of the Lord.

 

 

C. Alternative First Reading (Rv 12:7-12ab): “Michael and his angels battled with the dragon.”

 

The alternative First Reading (Rv 12:7-12ab) underlines the role of the archangel Michael in the victorious battle in heaven against Satan and his followers. Michael’s heavenly victory symbolizes his permanent dominion over satanic forces. The hymn of victory that follows celebrates Michael’s victory over Satan. The same primordial victory won by the archangel Michael will be won by God’s people on earth against the “huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan”. The Church faces a “vanquished enemy” and the Christian life, although a trial, is a radical victory by God’s faithful people, washed in the Blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ.

 

The following anecdotes circulated on the Internet concerning two Popes’ experience of the Archangel Michael’s assistance are very interesting.

 

Rome, 600 A.D.: During a plague which greatly depopulated the city of Rome, Pope Gregory I (Gregory the Great) ordered a penitential procession in which he himself carried a statue of the Blessed Virgin. As the procession reached the bridge across the Tiber, the singing of angels was heard. Suddenly Gregory saw an apparition of a gigantic archangel, Michael, descending upon the mausoleum of Emperor Hadrian. In his right hand, Michael held a sword, which he thrust into its scabbard. Gregory took the vision as an omen that the plague would stop, which it did, and so he renamed the mausoleum the Castel Sant' Angelo (Castle of the Holy Angel) in Michael's honor.

 

The Vatican, 1902: One day, after celebrating Mass, the aged Pope Leo XIII was in conference with the Cardinals when suddenly he sank to the floor in a deep swoon. Physicians who hastened to his side could find no trace of his pulse and feared that he had expired. However, after a short interval the Holy Father regained consciousness and exclaimed with great emotion: "Oh, what a horrible picture I have been permitted to see!" He had been shown a vision of the activities of evil spirits and their efforts against the Church. But in the midst of the horror the archangel Michael appeared and cast Satan and his legions into the abyss of hell. Soon afterwards the pope composed the following prayer to Saint Michael:

Holy Michael, the archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray: and do you, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the divine power, thrust into hell Satan and all the other evil spirits who wander through the world seeking the ruin of souls.

 

The Pope ordered this prayer to be recited daily after Low Mass in all the churches throughout the Christian world. And so it was. However this practice was swept away in the 1960s by liturgical changes made in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, except in a few churches (for example in the Archdiocese of Boston the traditional Low Mass in Latin, followed by the prayer to Saint Michael in English, is still said in the Holy Trinity Church at 140 Shawmut Ave., Boston, on Sundays starting at 12:00 noon).

 

 

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

 

Do we thank God for the ministry of the archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, and do we invoke their protection and assistance in our needs? Do we imitate the goodness of the angels and their function to connect the earthly and the heavenly?

 

 

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

(cf. Concluding Prayer – Liturgy of the Hours, September 29: Feast of the Archangels)

 

God our Father,

in a wonderful way

you guide the work of angels and men.

May those who serve you constantly in heaven

keep our lives safe from all harm on earth.

Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, 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.

 

            “You will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”  (Jn 1:51)

 

 

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

 

Imitate Saint Michael in his ministry to manifest the supreme power of God. Imitate Saint Gabriel in his ministry to proclaim the good news about Christ. Imitate Saint Raphael in his ministry of healing and providing remedy to the afflicted.

 

 

 *** 

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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