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A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy



Third Week of Lent: March 24-30, 2019



(The pastoral tool BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD: A LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY & WEEKDAY LITURGY includes a prayerful study of the Sunday liturgy from various perspectives. For the Lectio Divina on the liturgy of the past week: March 17-23, please go to ARCHIVES Series 17 and click on “Lent Week 2”.




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March 24, 2019: THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is God’s One More Chance




Ex 3:1-8a, 13-15 // 1 Cor 10:1-6, 10-12 // Lk 13:1-9





A. Gospel Reading (Lk 13:1-9): “If you do not repent, you will all perish as they did.”


In an article by Jerry Davis in GUIDEPOSTS magazine (February 2004), he tells us about a remarkable journey that led him on the right path. He was kicked out of school repeatedly as a teenager. One sleepless, cold evening in February 1963, while living on charity at the Salvation Army in Kentucky where he sought refuge, something clicked in his mind, as if everything had suddenly been put in focus for his 19-year-old eyes. Jerry narrated: “Somebody had to be looking out for me. Somebody who wouldn’t let me push him away no matter how hard I tried. In fact, the farther I ran from God, the closer he seemed to pull me. I slipped out of bed and knelt in a patch of moonlight. Lord, I prayed, the words finally coming. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for your love. I don’t know what’s good for me. Please, I need your guidance.” The runaway college dropout found work at a Kentucky hospital and enrolled at a nearby college. That was the beginning of a long road that led to graduate school and a Ph.D. Today he is the president of a college in Missouri – the College of the Ozarks. Indeed, Jerry Davis has given us a testimony of what it means to be given another chance and what it takes to respond to that chance. His was a beautiful story of a positive response to the patient mercy of God.


            Today’s Gospel reading underlines the Christian call to metanoia, which means conversion, repentance, and inner change, and heartens us with the reality of God’s patient mercy. Jesus calls for decision and conversion by referring to two contemporary disasters and by narrating the parable of the barren fig tree. The first disaster was the Galilean massacre. Notorious for his harsh rule and insensitivity to Jewish religious beliefs, Pilate had caused the death of some Galileans while they were offering sacrifice, probably in the Jerusalem temple during the Passover. The other disaster involved what was probably a construction accident at the Siloam reservoir in Jerusalem. Jesus negates the popular speculations regarding the personal culpability of the victims of the Galilean massacre and the Siloam accident. At the same time he stresses the universal need for repentance. Unless all repent and respond positively to the Gospel, all will suffer the greater disaster of being alienated from God. The last section of the Gospel reading is Jesus’ parable of the barren fig tree which received a reprieve, or stay, from the impending punishment by the vineyard owner in response to the gardener’s compassionate plea. The parable reminds us of the long-suffering of God, but it is also a warning that those who persist in their sinful refusal to repent will suffer and eventually be cut down.


            In the context of the Father’s saving plan, Jesus Christ, his beloved Son and Servant, is God’s “one more chance” - the ultimate chance. Jesus is the final opportunity, the culmination of God’s long history of opportunities. He is the means of reconciliation with our Father in heaven. The Christian community is urgently challenged to respond positively to this loving offer of salvation. As privileged recipients of God’s magnanimous love we need to embrace the ultimate chance in Jesus Christ, the true and faithful gardener of God’s vineyard.



B. Old Testament Reading (Ex 3:1-8a, 13-15): “I AM sent me to you.”


It was early dawn on February 27, 2007. I was at the Manila International Airport checking in for my flight back to the States. There was a long queue of passengers. I whiled away my time by conversing with a Filipina who was returning to Nagoya, Japan. Married to a Japanese native, she works as a part time caregiver in a nursing home in Nagoya. I remarked that Filipino caregivers are known for their tender, loving care. She concurred and narrated a story about a Filipino caregiver who transformed a grouchy Japanese elderly lady. After experiencing tender, loving care from her caregiver, the patient became less irritable. She began to smile and was transformed into a pleasant person with a sweet disposition. The compassionate Filipino caregiver brought about her “conversion”.


This incident gives insight into a merciful God who calls us to conversion and transformation. God’s compassion fully revealed and actualized in his Son Jesus Christ is already at work in the Exodus events of the unconsumed burning bush and the call of Moses (cf. Ex 3:1-8a, 13-15). Both the theophany in the form of a burning bush and the conversation between the Lord and Moses in which God revealed himself as “I am who am” underline the Lord’s boundless mercy and his benevolent plan to liberate his long-suffering people. Faithful to his promise, God guides the completion of salvation history as it gradually unfolds.


The reality of conversion, both in the community and personal level, is a response to the grace of God who seeks us. Conversion is a continuing growth in holiness and Christian commitment through the merciful kindness and grace of God. The biblical scholar, Eugene Maly remarks: “We do not make ourselves Christians. God’s grace does that. Neither do we grow as Christians by our efforts alone. Again, it is God’s love that empowers all growth. Maybe that explains why the first reading from Exodus is given us this Sunday. It reminds us of the kind of God we have, a God whose name tells us of his presence in our midst, a presence that makes reform a joyful process.”



C. Second Reading (I Cor 10:1-6, 10-12): “The life of the people with Moses in the desert was written down as a warning to us.”


 In today’s Second Reading (I Cor 10:1-6, 10-12), Saint Paul exhorts the Christian community in Corinth to be steadfast and to learn from the mistakes and triumphs of our Israelite ancestors. Opportunities to respond to God’s call have been neglected and rejected in the past as could be verified in the history of the Chosen People. Paul thus makes use of Israel’s experience of chastisement as admonition and to warn Christians not to be overconfident and presumptuous, but to be vigilant and faithful. Indeed, the drama of the obdurate Israelites in the desert must not be repeated. The graces and loving interventions of God on our behalf must not remain fruitless.


The following personal witness of David Paul Hammer, an inmate on federal death row in Terre Haute, Indiana, gives us a glimpse into the redemptive quality of divine grace (cf. AMERICA, October 26, 2009, p. 17-18). David was baptized a Catholic and is now a Providence Associate with the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. His inspiring response to God’s call to conversion and the gift of repentance heartens us in our Lenten journey of transformation.


While sitting at the defense table in a federal court, I listened intently with tears flowing, as the father of the man I was on trial for killing spoke. From the witness stand he read the last letter he would ever receive from his son. That is when I realized that my actions had stolen the life of a son, a brother, an uncle, and that nothing I could do could repay those I have harmed. I have never been able to explain my actions or why I killed Andrew Marti. No words can explain the taking of a human life. Each day I live with what I have done.


I sought forgiveness from Andrew’s family and from God. I received both, but forgiving myself has not come easily. However much time I have on earth will be spent trying to make amends for the pain I have caused. Forgiven, I am no longer the man I once was. And because I cannot undo my past, I do what is possible from where I am. I have taken up art.


The following facts detail my criminal past. While an outpatient at the drug treatment unit of a large medical center in Oklahoma City, I took two people hostage at gunpoint. The incident took place in the emergency room and ended after the local SWAT team overpowered me; no one was hurt. My treatment for PCP usage and addiction ended, and I was carted off to jail. After several months, I pled guilty to robbery, kidnapping and pointing a deadly weapon, for which I was sentenced to 22 years. The robbery occurred prior to the hospital incident, when I broke into a farmhouse and stole various items while the occupants were eating dinner. It was considered a robbery because people were at home when it took place.


I escaped twice from state prisons in Oklahoma. The first escape resulted in an additional 10-year sentence. During the second escape in 1983, I robbed and shot a former prison inmate who had raped me in prison. He recovered from his wounds and testified against me. I was sentenced to a consecutive term of 1,200 years. At age 25, having spent 74 days as an escapee, I found myself serving 1,232 years in a maximum-security prison.


I was transferred to the Federal Bureau of Prisons and confined at the U.S. Penitentiary/Allenwood, in White Deer, Pa. There in 1996, I killed my cellmate Andrew Marti by strangling him. I pled guilty and was sentenced to death. I have spent nearly 32 years in incarceration (since January 1978).


Creating art does not come easily for me. I don’t particularly enjoy drawing or painting, but at times feel compelled to express myself on paper or canvas. I have had no formal art training or schooling. Whatever artistic talents I possess I consider God’s gifts to me. I have noticed over the years that my work often reflects the mood I’m in while creating it. I tend to become totally absorbed as a drawing materializes. It is as if with each line or shading, I am leaving more than ink or paint; I am leaving bits of myself. Since each piece is filled with meaning and emotion, the process can be exhausting. (…)


I have been involved in a project for the last eight years, where my artwork is made into holiday cards that are sold to raise funds for children who have been abused or at risk of abuse. Each year I receive letters and notes from people who have received the cards and from the organizations that have received the sale proceeds. Last October at mail call, the highlight of my day, I received a large envelope from the St. John Bosco Children’s Home in Mandeville, Jamaica. This is a child care facility sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy that has received funding from the card project. I found a long letter and drawings from the boys at St. John Bosco, made for me as a thank you. The feeling in my heart and the tears in my eyes at their simple acts of kindness reminded me that God connects us all in many ways. He connected me with these Jamaican boys through art – drawings made with crayons, colored markers and pencils.


Art is not always found on the walls of museums or in private collections. It can be found in the expressions of an inmate on death row or an orphan in a boys’ home. Wherever it is found, art has a way of connecting the world.





What is our response to Christ’ call to conversion and apostolic fruitfulness? How do we react to the local and universal disasters that impinge upon our senses day after day through the mass media? What personal lesson do we derive from the parable of the barren fig tree? 





Father of mercy and goodness,

you reveal to us your patient mercy

by offering us the ultimate chance,

Jesus Christ, your beloved Son.

He suffered for us

and irrigated our barren hearts

with the blood of his sacrifice

that we may bring forth a rich harvest

Do not let us suffer the fate of the unfruitful fig tree,

destined for ultimate destruction.

In our Lenten journey to the Easter glory,

help us to be responsive

to the “amazing grace” won for us by Jesus,

the compassionate gardener of our souls.

He lives and reigns, forever and ever.






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


            “If you do not repent, you will all perish as they did.” (Lk 13:4, 5)





Pray to the Lord for the gift of repentance and sincere conversion from sin, and for the gift of spiritual renewal. Pray for prisoners, especially those who have received the death penalty, and for all those who minister to their care.  



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“JESUS SAVIOR: The Angel Announces Him to Mary”




Is 7:10-14, 8-10 // Heb 10:4-10 // Lk 1:26-38





A. Gospel Reading (Lk 1:26-38): “Behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son.”


Today the liturgical assembly listens devoutly to the Gospel proclamation of the annunciation of the birth of our Lord Jesus (Lk 1:26-38). The first recipient of this Good News is Mary, the virgin maiden of Nazareth, chosen to be the Mother of Jesus. The annunciation of the Lord brought about the dawn of salvation and this joyful message brings hope and consolation to people through the ages. The Church writer, Venerable Bede, remarks: “Today’s reading of the Gospel calls to mind the beginning of our redemption, for the passage tells us how God sent an angel from heaven to a virgin. He was to proclaim the new birth, the incarnation of God’s Son, who would take away our age-old guilt; through him it would be possible for us to be made new and numbered among the children of God. And so, if we are to deserve the gifts of the promised salvation, we must listen attentively to the account of its beginning.” 


On this feast of the Lord’s Annunciation we marvel at the immensity of God’s love and his saving design. We are awed by the vital role of Mary in salvation history – as the mother of Christ the Savior, the Son of God. We are also grateful for her maternal intervention in our life. The following article on the Internet is a beautiful example of a Marian “miracle”.


Benedictine College’s consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary on September 8, 2013, is just the most recent chapter in the story of the school’s relationship with Mary. “Our Lady’s intercessions date as far back as 1856 when she saved the founder of St. Benedict’s Abbey – Fr. Henry Lemke’s life during a torrential thunderstorm and flood. (…) Fr. Henry Lemke wrote in his diary about an 1856 incident where he was lost in a storm and prayed for Mary’s intercession. As soon as he said the prayer, a light appeared on the horizon. He stumbled toward it and found that it was a lantern hanging in the window of a cottage.


The mother and daughter who lived in the cottage sheltered him and told him that a lady dressed in white appeared to the child in the night. This had awakened the mother who hung the lantern. Wrote Lemke: “O you dearest Mother of God, it was through the pure and unsullied soul of a child that you effected that the mother would place a lamp in the window just about the very time when I was calling out for help because I feared for my life. The Mother of God worked a miracle.”


Two years later, Benedictine College was founded and the “lady dressed in white” appeared to another girl in a small town – St. Bernadette of Lourdes, France.



B. First Reading (Is 7:10-14; 8:10): “Behold the virgin shall conceive.”


Today’s Old Testament reading (Is 7:10-14; 8:10) speaks of a prophetic sign directed to King Ahaz, who is anxious and trembling for the imminent siege of Jerusalem in 735 B.C. by the kings of Syria and Israel. Confronting his lack of trust in the Lord, the prophet Isaiah declares: “The Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.” With the sign of the conception and birth of a child, God wants to manifest to King Ahaz that the Lord Yahweh is in perfect control of human history and destiny. Indeed, God is with us and intimately involved in our affairs. The “sign” announced by the prophet Isaiah is an invitation to Ahaz to trust in God alone – in the realization of the Covenant and his continual protection. King Ahaz ought not to rely on the political and military interventions of the Assyrians for salvation from his enemies. The conception and birth of a child by the king’s young wife is meant to indicate Yahweh’s abiding presence and merciful intervention on behalf of his people. The weakling ruler, however, does not accept the birth of his son, Hezekiah, as a “sign” of salvation and of God’s solicitude for the house of David. Trusting more in political security, Ahaz sends gold and silver to the King of Assyria and woefully becomes Assyria’s vassal.


The “sign” of a child used by the prophet Isaiah to challenge the feckless Ahaz is surpassed and radically fulfilled in the mystery of the Lord’s Annunciation. It is through the message of an angel that we learn of the incarnation of the Son of God. It is not a sign among many, but THE sign of God par excellence. The feast of the Annunciation celebrates the mystery of the Son of God conceived by the Blessed Virgin Mary in her womb in order to give him a body. This body, formed from the flesh and blood of the Virgin Mother by the power of the Holy Spirit, is the “body” that brings salvation to all through the paschal event of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.


The Indian Nobel laureate poet, Rabindranath Tagore, remarks that the birth of every child is a sign that God has not given up on the world. God continues to surround us with “signs” of salvation and of his care and love. The following story narrated by Sue Monk Kidd in an old issue of GUIDEPOSTS magazine illustrates how the appearance of a child in the languishing church community of Melba becomes a sign of the divine will to bring life and salvation.


In 1977, the Baptist Church in Melba, a rural American town, was about to close its doors forever. Over the years, churchgoing had dropped off alarmingly. Some hurts and misunderstandings had divided and shattered the congregation. All that remained was about a dozen people on the verge of giving up. That handful of people gathered in the church one Sunday to vote whether to continue services or close down for good. Their meeting was interrupted when a child appeared – a child of only seven years – who wanted to join the Sunday school and the church service. Angela, for that was her name, returned the next Sunday, and the next and the next.


That child became the reason for the Melba Baptist Church to go on. They struggled to live in order to nurture a young spirit from one Sunday to the next. Angela was their glimmer of hope. She was their future. The child’s appearance saved the congregation from extinction and sure death. The Melba Baptist Church has become renovated and increased in membership. As far as they are concerned, the little girl who came alone to the church that long-ago Sunday was sent by God.



C. Second Reading (Heb 10:4-10): “As it is written of me in the scroll, behold, I come to do your will, O God.”


Today’s Second Reading (Heb 10:5-10) gives us a profound insight into the “why” of the Lord’s incarnation. The Son of God became man so that through his “body” he could offer a sacrifice of perfect obedience to the Father’s saving will. The effect of Christ’s perfect sacrifice is our salvation and redemption. Through the offering of the body of Christ for all, we have been sanctified and consecrated to the loving, merciful God the Father.


The following AOL news report gives insight into the sacrificial-saving aspect of the Lord’s incarnation.


An 8-year-old helped rescue six of his relatives from a fire at their mobile home, but sadly he wasn’t able to make it out himself. Brave Tyler Doohan was laid to rest with a special title: honorary firefighter.


CNN says Tyler was able to wake up 6 people to alert them of the fire and get them out safely. He then ran back inside the mobile home to try to save his disabled grandfather. Fire Chief Chris Ebmeyer explained what happened next. “By that time, the fire had traveled to the back of the trailer”, Ebmeyer said. “Unfortunately, they both succumbed to heat and smoke.


The boy and his grandfather were found together on a bed in the back room. It appears Tyler had been trying to lift him. With this comes the example that even though he was 8 years of age, he was able to display that amount of courage that most people can’t in their entire lives.”


The funeral for Tyler, his grandfather and step-grandfather was held Wednesday, January 29, 2014 … Since the tragedy, Tyler’s neighbor has started a fundraiser for the family who lost everything in the fire. As of January 30th, supporters have donated more than $60,000 – far exceeding the $15,000 goal.





1. Do we imitate Mary’s “Yes” to the saving will of God? In what ways do we live out our openness to divine grace?


2. What is the personal significance of the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God in our life? Are we ready to welcome the Lord’s annunciation and incarnation as a saving sign that transforms our life?


3. Do you imitate Christ in his total submission to the Father’s saving will? Do you declare “through Christ, with Christ and in Christ” with a receptive heart: Behold, I come to do your will, O God




(cf. Alternative Opening Prayer of the Mass of the Annunciation)


Almighty Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

you have revealed the beauty of your power

by exalting the lowly virgin of Nazareth

and making her the mother of our Savior.

May the prayers of this woman

bring Jesus to the waiting world

and fill the void of incompletion

with the presence of her child,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, forever and ever.






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


“May it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38)





Any time today pray and meditate on the beautiful prayer, “The Angelus”. By your acts of kindness and charity, enable the people around you to welcome and experience God’s ultimate sign of love in Jesus Christ. 



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March 26, 2019: TUESDAY – LENTEN WEEKDAY (3)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Incarnates God’s Forgiving Love”




Dn 3:25, 34-43 // Mt 18:21-35





A. Gospel Reading (Mt 18:21-35): “Unless each of you forgives your brother and sister, the Father will not forgive you.”


In the Gospel reading (Mt 18:21-35), the parable of the unforgiving servant underlines the Christian duty of forgiveness. Our belonging to the kingdom requires unlimited forgiveness, which is to take the place of retaliation. We have experienced the immeasurable forgiveness of God. As a result, we must reflect his forgiving love to others. All of us are indebted to the merciful God. To refuse to forgive puts us outside his kingdom and, consequently, outside the realm of his forgiving love. A merciless stance makes us impermeable to the dew of God’s healing love. Personal resentment is self-destructive. Keeping a grudge alive saps our strength. But responding to Jesus’ call for merciful forgiveness is healing and liberating. Lent is the season to address our deep need for forgiveness. It is a privileged time to experience the miracle of brokenness being transformed to wholeness.


The following story illustrates the tragedy of refusing to forgive (cf. Anthony De Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations: New York: Image Books, New York, 1988, p. 119-120).


Laila and Rama were lovers, but too poor to get married as yet. They lived in different places separated by a broad river that was infested with crocodiles.


One day Laila heard that her Rama was dangerously ill with no one to nurse him. She rushed to the river bank and pleaded with the boatman to take her across, even though she did not have the money to pay him.


But the wicked boatman refused unless she agreed to sleep with him that night. The poor woman begged and pleaded with him to no avail, so in sheer desperation, she consented to the boatman’s terms.


When she finally got to Rama, she found him near to death. But she stayed with him for a month and nursed him back to health. One day Rama asked how she had managed to cross the river. Being incapable of lying to her beloved, she told him the truth.


When Rama heard her tale, he fell into rage, for he valued virtue more than life itself. He drove her out of the house and refused to look at her again.



B. First Reading (Dn 3:25, 34-43): “We ask you to receive us with humble and contrite hearts.”


The Old Testament reading (Dn 3:25, 34-43) contains the prayer of Azariah from the flaming furnace. Azariah, Hananiah and Mishael are three young provincial administrators of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar who have defied the royal order to worship the king’s statue. They are willing to suffer death rather that worship a god other than the God of Israel. They are thrown into a fiery furnace, but God lets them experience deliverance within the furnace. Accompanied by an angel of salvation, the three young men start walking around in the flames, singing hymns to God and praising him as Lord.


In the midst of this saving event, Azariah then offers a beautiful prayer of deliverance for God’s covenant people, which includes a confession of the nation’s guilt. He avows that God is always just and true and that the Jewish people are guilty of every sin. Their disobedience has resulted in their being handed over to lawless, hateful, and defiant enemies. He pleads to God not to break his covenant and not to withhold his mercy from his people. With repentant hearts and humble spirits, the three young men implore God to miraculously rescue them and thus bring glory to his name. After surviving the ordeal of the blazing furnace, Azariah, Hananiah and Mishael are promoted by King Nebuchadnezzar to higher positions in the province of Babylon.


Jesus Christ incarnates God’s forgiving love. In light of this love, we are able to see the areas in our personal life and in the society that need to be redressed and healed. The following is an example of a sinful situation in today’s society that needs healing (cf. Alive!, February 2013, p. 5). Like Azariah, we need to present it to God with humble and contrite hearts.


Canada’s official statistics has disclosed that an average of one baby per week survives an abortion attempt in the country, but is left uncared for until it dies. According to figures for the period 2000 to 2009 some 491 babies were born alive in abortions and left to die.


Lawyer Andre Schutten has pointed out that Canada recognizes the baby as a human being as soon as it emerges alive from its mother, and questioned why there have been no homicide investigations into the live births. “Why have there been no criminal prosecutions? Why no outcry? And why are the provinces funding this explicitly criminal activity?” he asked.


A profile blogger wrote: “It’s bad enough that the babies are being killed in the womb, but now we learn that even those protected under Canadian law are apparently being left to die.


Jill Stanek, a former nurse in Chicago turned pro-life activist, has described witnessing babies being born alive after failed abortions, then being brought to a “soiled utility room” and left to die.





1. Have we experienced the tremendous forgiving love of God? Are we able to share his forgiving love with those who have “wronged” us?


2. Are we willing to suffer the trial of the “blazing furnace” as part of our promise to follow God unreservedly? Are we willing to recognize, confess, and rectify the sins of modern society and our national guilt?





Jesus, our saving Lord,

you have shown us the true meaning of forgiving love,

especially upon the cross.

Open our hearts to the flood of God’s forgiving love.

Teach us to forgive “seventy times seven”.

Grant us a merciful heart.

Unite us all in the kingdom of God

and let us experience the joy of eternal life.

We thank you, dear Jesus, for your sacrificial death

and the grace of salvation.

You live and reign, forever and ever.




Loving Father,

we have sinned as a nation and as a people.

We have turned away from you

and rejected the gift of life.

We are guilty of every sin.

But we come to you

with repentant hearts and humble spirits.

Accept our repentance

as our sacrifice to you today.

Lead us on the narrow path

that leads to eternal life.

You live and reign, forever and ever.






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


“Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him.” (Mt 18:27) // “But with contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received.” (Dn 3:37)





Forgive from the heart the one who offended or “wronged” you. // By prayer and penance and by active participation in pro-life activities, protect the life of the unborn and the babies that are born.



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March 27, 2019: WEDNESDAY – LENTEN WEEKDAY (3)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us the Meaning of the Law”




Dt 4:1, 5-9 // Mt 5:17-19





A. Gospel Reading (Mt 5:17-19): Whoever keeps and teaches the law will be called great.”


The Gospel (Mt 5:17-19) tells us that Jesus did not come to do away with the Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets, but to make their meaning come true.  The emendations he made were meant to bring to maturity the principles and practices of the Mosaic covenant and to make them more faithful to its basic intent, which is love. Jesus’ approach to the Law is very healthy and refreshing. His emphasis is on mercy, all-inclusive love and personal commitment and not on legalistic minutiae, petty details and external prohibitions. He wants to reap the richness and fruitfulness resulting from true obedience to the covenant. Jesus did this by his life-giving sacrifice on the cross.


Lent is a time of spiritual insight. The Lenten season is a privileged moment to delve into the Christian understanding of the Law, which is essentially a commandment of love. The Gospel command of love transcends mere legal observance. It demands true sacrifice and is exercised in the freedom and wisdom of the Holy Spirit.


The following story is a caricature of a perverse law observance and a powerful example of how one can follow the letter of the law while disregarding its meaning and intent (cf. Anthony De Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations: New York: Image Books, New York, 1988, p. 89-90).


Mullah Nasruddin found a diamond by the roadside but according to the Law, finders became keepers only if they first announced their find in the center of the marketplace on three separate occasions.


Now Nasruddin was too religious-minded to disregard the Law and too greedy to run the risk of parting with his find. So on three consecutive nights when he was sure that everyone was fast asleep he went to the center of the marketplace and there announced in a soft voice, “I have found a diamond on the road that leads to the town. Anyone knowing who the owner is should contact me at once.”


No one was the wiser for the Mullah’s words, of course, except for one man who happened to be standing at his window on the third night and heard the Mullah mumble something. When he attempted to find out what it was, Nasruddin replied, “I am in no way obliged to tell you. But this much I shall say: Being a religious man, I went out there at night to pronounce certain words in fulfillment of the Law.”


To be properly wicked, you do not have to break the Law. Just observe it to the letter.



B. First Reading (Dt 4:1, 5-9): “Keep the commandments and your work will be complete.”


In today’s Old Testament reading (Dt 4:1, 5-9), Moses exhorts the covenant people to keep the Lord’s commands that they may live and take possession of the land God is giving them. Moses underlines the fundamental loyalty that is essential to Israel’s unique relationship with God. Loyalty to God entails faithful observance of the life-giving laws that originate from him. No other nation has a god so near as the God of Israel. Moreover, no other nation has laws so just as those life-giving laws that God has stipulated for his people. The Lord God answers them whenever they call for help and blesses them for their obedience to his gracious will. To be faithful to God’s word entails ordering one’s life according to the commandments and transmitting these to the next generation.


Jesus did not come to do away with the Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets, but to make their meaning come true. Lent is a time of spiritual insight. The Lenten season is a privileged moment to delve into the Christian understanding of the Law, which is essentially a commandment of love and is life-giving.


The importance of the law for the life of God’s people makes us lament today’s tragedy of the perversion and rejection of the divine law. The following case is an example (cf. Mary Ann Gogniat Eidemiller, “Four Decades after Roe, the Fight for Life Continues” in Our Sunday Visitor, January 20, 2013, p. 10).


By her own later admission, Norma Leah McCorvey lied about getting raped as a ruse to comply with the Texas law permitting abortion in instances of rape. But she had no proof that her pregnancy had resulted from a crime, so she was unable to terminate her third child.


The year was 1969, and two Dallas attorneys took up her case to challenge the pro-life laws in Texas. The case ended up in U.S. Supreme Court with McCorvey as plaintiff, given the anonymous name of Jane Roe, with the defendant in the suit being District Attorney Henry Wade of Dallas County.


McCorvey gave birth to the baby in the meantime, so for her, the ensuing legal battle was no longer moot. But on January 22, 1973, Roe v. Wade became the landmark decision that gave women the constitutional right to abortion, based on an implied right to privacy in the Ninth and 14th Amendments.


Among other points, the court said that the fetus was a “potential life” but not a person, and, therefore, had no rights of its own.


The decision also defined the conditions permitting or prohibiting abortion during pregnancy. The woman’s right to privacy in the first trimester was so strong that it was unregulated, thereby establishing abortion on demand. In the second trimester, states could regulate abortion only to protect the loosely-defined health of the mother. In the third trimester, a state could regulate abortion to promote the interest of the viable or potentially viable fetus.


At the same time that Roe v. Wade was passed, the Doe v. Bolton decision defined maternal health (a cause for abortion) as “all factors – physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age – relevant to the well-being of the patient”. In other words, the right to abortion beyond the first trimester was expanded to include any vague definition of “maternal health”. (…)


As for McCorvey, she later claimed that two ambitious lawyers had used her as “a pawn” in Roe v. Wade. She changed her mind about abortion, was baptized a Christian in 1995 and in 1998 was received into the Catholic Church. She remains active in the pro-life movement.





1. Do I make an effort to understand the true meaning and purpose of the law?


2. What is my response to God’s commands? How do I put the Christian command of love into practice?





Lord Jesus,

you are the Divine Master.

You taught us the true meaning of the law

and fulfilled it through your sacrifice on the cross.

Give us the freedom of the Spirit.

Help us fulfill the Gospel love command in our daily life.

We praise and love you, Law-giver and Law-fulfiller.

You live and reign, forever and ever.






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


“I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” (Mt 5:17b) // “Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees which I am teaching you to observe.” (Dt 4:1)





Today reflect on the role of laws in society and in the Church. Let this realization impinge positively on your daily life.



*** *** ***


March 28, 2019: THURSDAY - LENTEN WEEKDAY (3)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Invites Us to Gather with Him”




Jer 7:23-28 // Lk 11:14-23





A. Gospel Reading (Lk 11:14-23): “Whoever is not with me is against me.”


In the Gospel (Lk 11:14-23), we hear that as Jesus journeys to the cross, the opposition intensifies. A crowd has just witnessed the exorcism of a demon. Some of them attribute his power to Beelzebul, the prince of demons. Others demand further signs. Jesus retorts to the skeptical crowd that Satan is not so foolish as to allow infighting. A divided force shatters. But Jesus is stronger than Satan and his army. He drives away demons by the “finger of God”. Jesus conquers evil and heals our afflictions through the power of God. He therefore challenges the crowd to gather with him.


With regards to the ongoing cosmic conflict between good and evil, we need to fight for the sake of good with Jesus and by the “finger of God”. And with regards to the kingdom value that Jesus brings, we cannot evade decisions. We cannot remain uncommitted. We cannot refuse to make sacrifices or take risks.  To refuse to gather with Jesus is to side with Satan. Indeed, a non-committal stance is self-destructive. Lent is a time to gather with Jesus and renew our fundamental commitment for him. But our core decision for Christ necessitates self-renunciation.


The following story is fascinating. It gives insight into the sacrificial aspect of loving and opting for Jesus Christ (cf. “The Slave Girl” in Anthony de Mello, The Song of the Bird, New York: Image Books, 1984, p. 158).


A Moslem king fell passionately in love with a slave girl and had her transferred from the slave quarters to the palace. He planned to marry her and make her his favorite wife, but, mysteriously, the girl fell seriously ill on the very day she entered the palace. She grew steadily worse. Every known remedy was given to her, but to no avail. The poor girl now hovered between life and death.


In despair the king made an offer of half of his kingdom to anyone who would cure her. But who would attempt to cure an illness that had baffled the best physicians of the realm? Finally a hakim appeared who asked to be allowed to see the girl alone. After he had spoken with her for an hour he appeared before the throne of the king who anxiously awaited his verdict.


“Your majesty”, said the hakim. “I do indeed have an infallible cure for the girl. And so sure I am of its effectiveness that, were it not to succeed, I should willingly offer myself to be beheaded. The medicine I propose, however, will prove to be an extremely painful one – not for the girl, but for Your Majesty.” “Mention the medicine”, shouted the king, “and it shall be given her, no matter the cost.”


The hakim looked at the king with compassionate eye and said, “The girl is in love with one of your servants. Give her permission to marry him and she will be instantly cured.”


Poor king! He wanted the girl too much to let her go. He loved her too much to let her die.



B. First Reading (Jer 7:23-28): “This is the nation that will not listen to the voice of the Lord God.”


Today’s Old Testament reading (Jer 7:23-28) exposes the people’s disobedience and the absurdity of their false worship. Judah’s false worship is two-sided: the worship of false gods and the meaningless worship of the one true God, with its misplaced emphasis on external cultic activity. God is not interested in their burnt offerings and animal sacrifices unless they live a life of justice as a covenant people. He does not command those false rituals. But he did command them, when he brought them out of Egypt, to obey him so that he would be their God and they would be his people. They were stubborn and refused to listen to God and the prophets sent to them. God now commands Jeremiah to speak words of warning and threats of punishment to his people. They will most likely refuse to listen. Faithfulness has died and is no longer talked about.


Likewise in his ministry, Jesus encounters people with hardened hearts. The sad reality of sinful disobedience continues with full force even now (cf. Russel Shaw, “Disturbing Demographic Trends Finally Get Widespread Notice” in Our Sunday Visitor, January 27, 2013, p. 6).


The disruptive results for individuals and society spawned by the revolution in attitudes and behavior regarding sex, marriage, family and childbearing that erupted a half-century ago have become too obvious to ignore. These things were predictable – in fact, some people actually predicted them from the start – but by now their impact has grown so painfully apparent that even secular voices are being raised in alarm.


The problems are increasingly visible in the United States. They include an aging population with fewer young workers to support the elderly, along with a disturbingly high incidence of disabilities among children born to parents who put off having them until their 30s and 40s and then, in many instances, resorted to drugs or reproductive technologies to achieve pregnancy. (…)


Religious sources, some of them anyway, began warning about such things a long time ago. In his 1968 encyclical condemning contraception, Humanae Vitae (“Of Human Life”), Pope Paul VI spoke of “insurmountable limits” to what people can rightly do to, and with their bodies, and of the personal and social imperatives requiring that those limits not be ignored. The pope was ignored when he wasn’t laughed at. But he was right. (…)


Jonathan Last sees two large explanations for what has happened in recent decades: “the waning of religion in American life” and the shattering of the “iron triangle” that previously linked sex, marriage and child-bearing.


No doubt that is so. As Pope Paul VI said back in 1968, “The innocent practice of regulation of birth demands that husband and wife acquire and possess solid convictions concerning the true values of life and of the family.” That was necessary then, and it’s just as necessary today.





1. What is our response to Christ’s challenge: “Whoever is not with me is against me and whoever does not gather with me scatters”?


2. Do I listen to the voice of the Lord and walk in his ways? What is the root cause of my disobedience and its consequence?





Loving Jesus,

our strength to fight evil is from you.

If we do not gather with you,

we are doomed.

If we choose not to commit ourselves to you

and evade making a fundamental option for you,

we turn against you.

Let us align ourselves with you that we may live.

You cast out evil by the “finger of God”.

United with you, we are victorious.

For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours,

now and forever.






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


“Whoever is not with me is against me and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” (Lk 11:23) // “Walk in all the ways that I command you, so that you may prosper.” (Jer 7:23b)





Make an effort to overcome self-destructive tendencies and addictions. Continue to fight against structuralized evil in the modern society.  



*** *** ***


March 29, 2019: FRIDAY – LENTEN WEEDAY (3)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Us to Love God and Neighbor”




Hos 14:2-10 // Mk 12:28-34





A. Gospel Reading (Mk 12:28-34): “The Lord our God is one Lord and you shall love the Lord your God.”


The newspaper report about the alleged dumping of five discharged hospital patients in Los Angeles’ Skid Row saddened me. The dumping of the homeless patients is a symptom of a fragmented society that has failed in its task of loving and caring for one another. Today’s situation of social ills that need healing should be confronted by the message we hear in today’s Gospel (Mk 12:28-34): “Love the Lord your God with all your heart … Love your neighbor as yourself.”


The true meaning of love of God and neighbor has been crystallized in the very life and person of Jesus, especially in his self-gift and sacrificial love on the cross. Because God, in his Son Jesus has loved us so much, we too are enabled to love. The commandments to love God and neighbor originate from the energizing, empowering love that the Lord has for us. In accepting God’s love for us, our commitment to love God and neighbor is made possible in a wholehearted way.


Lent is a grace-filled season for loving and serving God and neighbor. We must not be sparing in loving and serving God and neighbor, but must give all, otherwise we will be shortchanged. Rabindranath Tagore, the great Bengali poet, in his Gitanjali tells the story of a beggar going from door to door asking for alms. He suddenly sees his celestial king approaching in a chariot, and he dreams of the king showering upon him bountiful gifts. But to his surprise, the king asks him what he has to give. After staring, confused and undecided, he finally peers into his sack of meager possessions, takes out a tiny grain of corn, and gives it to the king. Later he says, “But how great my surprise when at the day’s end I emptied my bag on the floor to find a little grain of gold among the poor heap! I bitterly wept and wished that I had had the heart to give my all.



B. First Reading (Hos 4:2-10): “We will not say to the works of our hands: our god.”


Today’s Old Testament reading (Hos 14:2-10) is a very beautiful passage composed of two parts: the plea to Israel to return to the Lord and God’s promise of new life for Israel. In the first part, the prophet Hosea exhorts the people to be converted and suggests a prayer of repentance to be presented to the Lord: “Forgive all our sins and accept our prayer, and we will praise you as we have promised.” The people resolve to reject idols and no longer to put confidence in political maneuvers and military alliances. In turn God declares his compassionate mercy for the repentant people. He will heal their infidelity and will let Israel flourish in beauty and plenty. He will bring his people back to him and love them with all his heart. He will answer their prayers and take care of them. Like an evergreen tree, God will shelter them and make them fruitful. Those who follow the divine ways will live, but the sinners will stumble and fall.


Like Hosea, and even more than him, Jesus Christ calls people to conversion and to experience the wonderful effect of divine forgiveness and grace. The conversion of the Italian actress Claudia Koll gives an insight into this (cf. ALIVE! February 2012, p. 16).


CLAUDIA KOLL: Born in Rome in May 1965, Koll was brought up a Catholic, but when she left home to become an actress she also left the Church, she said, doing as she pleased, in a spirit of rebellion. Her lifestyle and career in the movies, including a number of porn roles, left her psychologically vulnerable.


Then, one day in 2000, during a session of vaguely Buddhist meditation, she suddenly found herself overcome by a terrifying sense of being in the presence of evil. She began to recite the Our Father and felt the threat recede. It was the beginning of her conversion.


Having returned to faith, she went on to found an association, “The Works of the Father”, that is dedicated to missionary and caring work in Africa. She also heads the Academy of Arts that was founded on the principles set out in John Paul II’s Letter to Artists. Her aim here is to help young people live in the world of fame and glamour in a healthy Christian way. Since her conversion she has traveled all over Italy giving her testimony and inviting young people to return to prayer and to faith in God.





1. Do we love God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind? How do we carry out the fraternal and social aspect of the divine command to love? Do we love our neighbor as ourselves?


2. How do we respond to God’s call to conversion offered to us in Jesus Christ?





Lord Jesus you said:

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart

 with all your soul,

and with all your mind …

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”


“This is my prayer to thee, my Lord

– strike, strike at the penury in my heart.

Give me strength never to disown the poor

or bend my knees before insolent might,

and give me the strength to surrender my strength

to thy will with love.” (Rabindranath Tagore)


Lord Jesus you said:

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart

 with all your soul,

and with all your mind …

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”


“Grant me to recognize in other men, Lord God,

the radiance of your face.” (Teilhard de Chardin)


Lord Jesus you said:

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart

 with all your soul,

and with all your mind …

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”


“Give us patience and fortitude to put self aside for you

in the most unlikely people:

to know that every man’s and any man’s suffering

is our own first business,

for which we must be willing to go out of our way

and to leave our own interests.” (Caryll Houselander)





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


 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart … You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mk 12:30-31) // “Straight are the paths of the Lord, in them the just walk.” (Hos 14:10)





Pray for the grace of perfect love for our neighbor. Offer a concrete act of charity on behalf of the poor, the marginalized and the lonely, and the victims of man-made and natural calamities.



*** *** ***

March 30, 2019: SATURDAY – LENTEN WEEKDAY (3)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Be Humble”




Hos 6:1-6 // Lk 18:9-14





A. Gospel Reading (Lk 18:9-14): “The tax collector went home justified, not the Pharisee.”


The story entitled “The Brown Vest” in Guideposts (January 2004, cf. p. 70-73) presents a contrast of two characters: the retired engineer, John, who sat on the board of elders and the humble Harvey who served as pastor of the congregation. John worked hard. He served on committees. He gave generously, but he never let slip an opportunity to tell Pastor Harvey what he was doing wrong. “Your sermons aren’t spiritual enough”, was one recurring grievance against Pastor Harvey. Then there was the ever-touchy subject of church finances. John told Pastor Harvey at the board meeting: “We squander too much of our resources helping people who are better off learning to help themselves. We need to work more at spreading the gospel.” Pastor Harvey answered gently: “Of course, John. But I think we must also share with those who are less fortunate.” There was no doubt that the elder John was open and straight. One day the self-righteous John was diagnosed with cancer. Pastor Harvey visited him often in the hospital and at home where he returned for hospice care. One Friday afternoon before John was about to die, he motioned Pastor Harvey closer. He said, “You know, Pastor, for a guy who does so much wrong, you really aren’t a bad sort.”


Today’s Gospel parable (Lk 18:9-14) also presents a contrast of two characters: the self-righteous Pharisee and the repentant tax collector. The prayer of the Pharisee is directed to God but is self-centered. He thanks God that he is not like the tax collector, whom he regards as a sinner. The tax collector, by contrast, prostrates himself before God. He humbly prays: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” The tax collector clings to no merit of his own, but simply begs God for mercy. The tax collector, and not the Pharisee, is in the right with God when he goes home. He receives God’s favor because in his humility he believes that God can be merciful to him and forgive him his sins. No human deeds could merit God’s merciful forgiveness. Only the sacrifice of the incarnate Son has that power. Because of Christ’s life-giving sacrifice, the Spirit bestows forgiveness on the humble. Lent invites us to take a humble stance before God because he humbles the proud and exalts the lowly.



B. First Reading (Hos 6:1-6): “What I want is love, not sacrifice.”


Today’s Old Testament reading (Hos 6:1-6) contains some of the most evocative words of conversion in the Bible. Israel’s words, however, are false and deceptive. The beauty of their expression cannot save their ugly and insincere heart. The people makes a discourse about returning to the Lord, trusting in his healing hand, trying to know his ways, and looking forward to the Lord who will surely come like the dawning day and the spring rain falling upon the earth. But the Lord is not impressed with their words. He sees through their hypocrisy and their failure to know him as a loving God. He chides them for their pretended conversion. Their love for God is as transitory as the morning mist that quickly disappears. The fidelity of Israel is as tenuous as the dew that disappears before the morning sun. Their purported conversion and their pious practices are therefore meaningless. The Lord God therefore tells them what he wants from them plainly and clearly: “I want your constant love, not your animal sacrifices. I would rather have my people know me than have them burn offerings for me.” Indeed, words and rituals have meaning and value only when they manifest the interior spirit of obedience and adoration before God.


In Jesus Savior is true conversion. His disciples are channels of conversion. On February 22, 2013, God gave me an opportunity to meet in person “Papa Mike” (Mike McGarvin), the founder of the Poverello House in Fresno. Sr. Francis Christine of the Holy Cross Center for Women in Fresno introduced me and my friends (Pat, Cecilia and Melissa) to this modern day “icon” of conversion. Listening to “Papa Mike” as he narrated his conversion was sheer grace. The following is his written account (cf. Mike McGarvin, Papa Mike, Fresno: Poverello House, 2003, p. 119-120).


On June 8, 1994, my heart grieved while the angels sang anthems of praise. On that day, quietly, in the serene obscurity of a Franciscan hospice, Father Simon Scanlon departed from the fragile confinement of his earthly body and arrived in a better place. May he rest in peace.


Were it not for Father Simon, there would have been no Poverello House in Fresno, and I doubt that I would still be numbered among the living. Father Simon directed the Poverello in San Francisco’s Tenderloin. It was into his little storefront coffee house that I stumbled back in the late 1960s. I was a mess, to put it mildly. I was a raging, drug-abusing hippy who was full of hatred, especially toward myself.


For many years, I had been pursued by the Hound of Heaven, and He used a humble, loving Franciscan priest to finally free me. If there’s one word that best describes Father Simon, it is love: unconditional, unrelenting, penetrating. When I looked in a mirror back then, I saw a despicable failure. When Father Simon looked at me, he saw a child of God, hurt and confused by life’s turbulence. It was his acceptance, his warmth, and his glowing spirit that subtly began to turn me around. (…)


After spending so much time with Father Simon at the San Francisco Pov, it was second nature to give as he had given me. That’s how the Poverello House started in Fresno. In gratitude to Father Simon, I began, as best as I could, to imitate his actions, which were merely an outgrowth of his love-filled soul.





1. In our relationship with God, what role do we usually play: the self-righteous Pharisee who enumerates his virtues and despises the sinner, or the repentant tax collector who beats his breast, praying: “O God, be merciful to me a sinner” (Lk 18:13)?


2. What are my experiences of conversion? Have I been guilty of insincere or feigned conversion and of practicing empty rituals?





O loving Jesus, meek and humble,

in you is God’s forgiveness and true conversion.

Teach us constant love and faithfulness.

Grant us a listening heart and an obedient spirit

that we may experience you

as the rising dawn and the dew from heaven.

You live and reign,

forever and ever.






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


“For it is love that I desire, not sacrifice.” (Hos 6:6) // “The one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Lk 18:14) 





In a spirit of repentance, pray slowly and meaningfully three times the ancient Jesus-prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Pray for a person whom we have held in contempt. Be thankful for the grace of conversion. By your life-witnessing and concern for others, allow yourself to become God’s instrument of conversion for others. 




Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang PDDM





60 Sunset Ave., Staten Island, NY 10314

Tel. (718) 494-8597 // (718) 761-2323

Website: WWW.PDDM.US



60 Sunset Ave., Staten Island, NY 10314
Tel. (718) 494-8597 or (718) 761-2323

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