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A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Praised be Jesus Christ!

I would like to share with you an apostolic joy. My book "Breaking the Bread of the Word: A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday Liturgy, Year C" (ST PAULS Publishing) was a finalist in the "JAIME CARDINAL SIN 2016 CATHOLIC BOOK AWARDS" held during the 37th Manila International Book Fair. Fortunately or unfortunately, since it was the lone entry in the Homiletics category, it won the BEST BOOK IN HOMILETICS award! The award was given by the Asian Catholic Communicators, Inc. on September 14, 2016. Through these awards the ACCI acknowledge authors and publishers for continually upholding Christian values in their published materials. Bishop David of the Diocese of Caloocan awarded the plaque to Sr. Noelle Ledesma, pddm, who represented me.

Here is the list of the awardees and the publishers:

FAMILY LIFE: “How to Avoid Jerks and Jerkettes – Bo Sanchez (Shepherd’s Voice Publications, Inc.)

YOUTH AND CHILDREN: “Hugging the Trees” – Russell Molina (The Bookmark, Inc.)

INSPIRATIONAL: “Detox” – Wilfredo Samson, SJ (Claretian Communications, Inc.)

MINISTRY: “Indigenous Earth Wisdom” – Judy Carino-Fangloy, Mercu Dulawan, Vicki Macay, Maria Elena Regpala, Lucia Ruiz (Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary)

SPIRITUALITY: “Thirty Days with Lolo Kiko” – Bro. Jess N, Matias, OFS (Claretian Communications, Inc.)

THEOLOGY: “Light which Dims the Stars” – Colm McKeating (ST PAULS Publishing)

HOMILETICS: “Breaking the Bread of the Word” – Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang, PDDM (ST PAULS Publishing)

LITURGY: “Eukaristiya Kapiling si Jesus sa Tuwina” – Most Rev. Broderick Pabillo, DD (Paulines Publishing House)

The book award is for me a confirmation of our PDDM vocation as contemplative apostles, “hidden but animating”. May God be praised now and forever!

In Jesus Master,

Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang, pddm

 

 

 

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 14, n. 44)

Week 26 in Ordinary Time: September 25 – October 1, 2016

 

 

(The pastoral tool BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD: A LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY & WEEKDAY LITURGY includes a prayerful study of the Sunday liturgy of Year C from various perspectives. For the Lectio Divina on the liturgy of the past week: September 18-24, 2016, please go to ARCHIVES Series 14 and click on “Week 25 in Ordinary Time”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: September 25 – October 1, 2016.)

 

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September 25, 2016: SUNDAY – TWENTY-SIXTH SUNDAY

IN ORDINARY TIME

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Wants Us to Care for Lazarus”

 

 

BIBLICAL READINGS

Am 6:1a, 4-7 // I Tm 6:11-16 // Lk 16:19-31

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 16:19-31): “You received what was good, Lazarus what was bad; now he is comforted, whereas you are tormented.”

 

I love to read the “Missioner Tales” in Maryknoll, the magazine of the Mayknoll missionaries. The July-August 2004 issue contains an experience shared by Catherine Erisman, a Maryknoll sister. Her story, which illustrates the compassionate attitude totally lacking in the Rich Man mentioned in this Sunday’s Gospel parable, contains the hope that the pathetic Joseph, too poor to buy toothpaste, will have a better lot in heaven.

 

I was making pastoral rounds at Bugando Hospital in Mwanza, Tanzania, when a patient held my hand and made a request. Joseph, emaciated by AIDS, asked: “Could you please bring me some toothpaste?” Supplies like that are not available in the hospital, so I brought him a tube I bought at the local store. When I stopped in to visit him the following day, I was told that Joseph had died. I picture him standing before God with a stunning smile.

 

The parable of “The Rich Man and Lazarus” is to be seen against the backdrop of Jesus’ desire to teach his disciples the right use of money. The Pharisees, however, react negatively to his teaching on material wealth: “The Pharisees, who loved money, heard of all this and laughed at him” (Lk 16:9). Through this parable of the reversal of fortune of the rich man and Lazarus, the Divine Master reinforces his teaching that wealth must be rightly used to give solace to the poor.

 

The biblical scholar, Jerome Kodell remarks: “The rich man was oblivious to the needs of the beggar at his gate. He did not realize the seriousness of the present opportunity in preparing for the eternal future. It was not his wealth that kept him from Abraham’s bosom, but his untrustworthy stewardship.” Carroll Stuhlmueller concurs: “Because every Jewish landowner was Yahweh’s tenant (Lv 25:23), he owed taxes to Yahweh’s representatives, the poor, and was thus expected to share the land with them in the form of alms … The rich man’s sin consisted in his blind indifference to the agony of the poor.

   

This Sunday’s proclamation of the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus is an indictment against the rich of today who do not care for the poor and whose callousness to the world’s afflictions is such that it cannot be penetrated even “if someone should rise from the dead” (Lk 16:31). Although this parable is a call to conversion, it also underlines the definitive character of divine judgment. The final destiny of the saved and the lost in the afterlife is unalterable. In the afterlife a reversal of fortune will take place. Those who were poor and destitute will be comforted. The chilling words of condemnation, however, will haunt the selfish and callous of heart – they who have been blind and deaf to the needs and agonizing cries of the poor: “My child, remember that you have received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here; whereas you are tormented” (Lk 16:31).

 

The parable of the rich man and Lazarus is an urgent invitation to conversion now … lest it be too late! It is an appeal to relieve the plight of the poor now … lest we be condemned eternally for our apathy and indifference to their agony.

        

 

B. First Reading (Am 6:1a, 4-7): “Their wanton revelry shall be done away with.”

 

This happened in September 2007 at our convent in Los Angeles. I was paged and requested to go down to our Liturgical Apostolic Center and meet a visitor. He happened to be Msgr. Romy Ranada, a colleague and faculty member at the Maryhill School of Theology in the Philippines where I used to teach. He made a stopover in Los Angeles on his way to Mexico, Washington D.C. and Rome, promoting the cause of beatification of the Servant of God, Msgr. Aloysius Schwartz (1930-1992), an American missionary who dedicated his life to relieve the sufferings of the orphans, the abandoned, the sick and the poor in Korea, Mexico and the Philippines. I had heard of the Boys’ Town and the Girls’ Town in the Philippines as places of refuge for orphans and troubled youth, but I had never heard anything about its founder. I was fascinated to know that the founder of these two charitable institutes was Msgr. Aloysius Schwartz, a native of Washington D.C. Msgr. Al was indeed a very humble and self-effacing man. He spent his life on this earth loving God and serving the poor. His holy life of dedication to the poor is a counterpoint to the pathetic image of the complacent and uncaring rich portrayed in today’s Old Testament reading (Am 6:1a, 4-7) and the Gospel reading (Lk 16:19-31). Pope Francis promulgated the heroic virtues of the Servant of God Aloysius Schwartz on January 22, 2015.

 

Prophet Amos in today’s First Reading laments the self-indulgence and fraternal indifference of “the complacent in Zion” while their hapless brothers and sisters in the Northern Kingdom are about to be destroyed by their enemies, the Assyrians. The rich elite in Judah do not commiserate with the plight of their kinsmen. They are insensitive to the imminent collapse of the tribes of “Joseph” in the Northern Kingdom who also belong to the Chosen People of Yahweh. In an effort to shake them up, Amos - the “angry prophet” - lambastes the effete rich who luxuriate while remaining blind to the misery of their poor and ill-fated kinsmen and neighbors. Their uncaring and nauseating behavior would result in alienation and destruction. The tribe of Judah, of the Southern Kingdom, would likewise suffer from Assyrian encroachment in the latter part of the eighth century B.C. Judah would be annihilated, though not by the Assyrians, but by the Babylonian invaders. The city of Jerusalem, the pride of the tribe of Judah, would be razed to the ground in 587 B.C. by the army of King Nebuchadnezzar and its elite rich led to a humiliating and punishing exile in Babylon.

 

James Weaver comments: “What the prophet fiercely denounces in particular is that these complacent of Zion insulate themselves from the disintegration of the north. So many luxuries they enjoy, yet they are not made ill by the collapse of Joseph. (…) What kind of brother satisfies expensive tastes while his younger brother suffers? The solidarity one expects of a brother, Amos is saying, cannot be found among Judah’s elite, people who prefer good food and drink to coming to the aid of family.”

 

 

C. Second Reading (I Tm 6:11-16): “Keep the commandment until the appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

Today’s Second Reading (I Tm 6:11-16) provides better insight if we consider the two verses preceding it. Saint Paul reminds Timothy about the danger of wealth and money: “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and are caught in the trap of many foolish and harmful desires, which pull them down to ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a source of all kinds of evil. Some have been so eager to have it that they have wandered away from the faith and have broken their hearts with many sorrows” (cf. verses 9-10).

 

Timothy, a leader of a Christian community, must not succumb to seductions of worldly riches, but rather pursue the virtues and qualities of true discipleship. He must “compete well for the faith” in order to reach the goal of eternal life. Paul reminds Timothy of the “noble confession” he made at his baptismal consecration and ordination, as well as the faith confession Jesus himself made before Pontius Pilate, which climaxed in Christ’s passion and death on the cross. With this powerful reminder, Paul admonishes Timothy to fulfill God’s command faithfully until the Lord’s coming. Timothy’s task is to bear faithful witness to Christ and the Gospel, just as Jesus bore faithful witness before Pilate. His duty as bishop includes the pursuit of justice and righteousness - of love, patience and gentleness - on behalf of the people he serves. Indeed, Timothy’s pastoral commission involves striving for justice and care for the poor.

 

Aelred Rosser concludes: “The letter to Timothy advises the young bishop about his new role as a leader of the community. It also reveals the kind of persons we ought to be. We are to have integrity, which means putting everything together for God and fellow human beings.”

 

Mother Teresa of Calcutta exemplifies the power of love that ministers to the needy and the pursuit of gentleness that benefits the world’s poor. A person of profound integrity and tremendous dedication, she became God’s instrument to alleviate the pain and hunger, the fear and despair, of the “Lazarus” in our world today. As we celebrate the centenary of the birth of Mother Teresa, it is our joy to present the following excerpt that depicts her boundless love for the poor and destitute (cf. Paul Cheruthottuputam, SDB, “The Power of a Smile” in L’Osservatore Romano, September 10, 2010, p. 6-7).

 

Mother Teresa’s Contribution to Church and Society: It is difficult to judge the impact Mother Teresa had on the Church and society. It would be true to say that her dedication to helping those who couldn’t help themselves has been an inspiration to the world. I know of a young man who volunteered in her Kalighat home for the dying. Inspired by her philosophy of service, he made a film entitled “My Karma” which won several international awards. Not only did this Hindu Bengali youth quit his job as an officer in the Indian navy and now works in a Muslim slum in Narekeldanga area of Calcutta, calling Mother Teresa his mother and Mahatman Gandhi his father. Mother Teresa did more than inspire. She taught that the greatest way to show God’s love is to meet the needs of others, one person at a time, here and now. She offered no magical solution to the problems and injustices in the world. But, she showed how we can make a difference in the life of one person at a time!

 

The Nirmal Hriday (home for the dying), her first institution started in 1952 in the temple precincts of Calcutta’s presiding deity, Kali, is still the hallowed place which makes her friends and foes stand in awe. It was the place where Mother Teresa met every journalist who interviewed her for the first time. Since its creation, some 50,000 men, women and children taken from the streets have been transported to this home. Of these, one half died surrounded by love and kindness. For those who survived, the Sisters helped to find a job or they were sent to homes where they could live happily,

 

Her Shishu Bavan (home for babies) as well as other orphanages have offered shelter and hope to countless children around the world. Many of the children that were raised in them went on to become productive citizens and some even joined her mission. The leper colony which Mother Teresa founded with monies from her 1971 Pope John XXIII Peace Prize has offered a place where the outcasts can find acceptance. When she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, she convinced the committee to cancel the official banquet and use the money to buy meals for 15,000 poor. She opened houses for alcoholics, drug addicts, AIDS patients, and the homeless and destitute in Rome. Mother Teresa also supported the rehabilitation of women prisoners with the help of late West Bengal Marxist Chief Minister, Jyoti Basu.

 

Mother Teresa and Her Critics: She has been praised by many individuals, governments and organizations; however, she has also faced a diverse range of criticisms. (…) Attacking the wrinkled, hunched-over Sister of Calcutta, accusing her of being a goggle-eyed fanatic and a mad and disgusting celebrator of poverty, is the aetheistic equivalent of mugging an old woman 

 

To take us into Mother Teresa’s word, celebrated British journalist Malcom Muggeridge sets up a contrast between his commonplace perception of the world and those of Mother Teresa. Early in his book Something Beautiful for God (Harper & Row, 1971) Muggeridge mentions a brief stay (as the assistant editor of The Statesman newspaper) in Calcutta in the 1930s during which he became disgusted by the slums and wretched social conditions. He remembers self-righteously asking people, “Why don’t the authorities do something?” And he quickly left. Mother Teresa, by contrast, saw the same squalor and stayed – armed, as Muggeridge puts it, only with “this Christian love shining about her”. Muggeridge remarks, “As for my expatiations on Bengal’s wretched social conditions – I regret to say that I doubt whether in any divine accounting, they will equal one single quizzical half smile bestowed by Mother Teresa on a street urchin who happened to catch her eye” (p. 220).

 

Mother Teresa had a short response to her critics: “No matter who says what, you should accept it with a smile and do your own work.”

 

Mother Teresa’s Spirituality: (…) As much as she believed in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, she believed that in the bodies of the poorest of the poor, she touched the body of Jesus. (…) Maintaining constant union with God was the hallmark of her spirit of prayer. Have you seen any of her photos without those gnarled hands clutching her Rosary beads? For she knew there was no other way to know what God wanted every moment of the day except by asking Him for the grace to know His divine will and then to do it with all her heart! (…) The striking aspect of Mother Teresa’s spirituality is that she never did anything more than what she insisted with every Missionary of Charity Sister – the spirituality of the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, and the fourth vow, to give “wholehearted and free service to the poorest of the poor”.

                

 

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

 

What is our attitude to the poor man – Lazarus, who lies at our doorstep? Do we care at all; or are we indifferent to his needs and agony? How do we incarnate in our daily life the Father’s loving compassion for them? If we are playing today the part of the callous and selfish rich man, are we willing to receive the grace of conversion and be transformed into the image of God’s compassion for the poor and destitute?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

look with kindness upon the Lazarus at our doorstep.

Give us the grace to listen to the cry of the poor

and attend to their needs.

Do not let us be callous to their agony and torment.

Please enfold us with the strength of your compassion

that we may be impelled

to cradle the “Lazarus” of today in our bosom.

We ask this in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

who though rich, became poor,

so that by his poverty we might become rich,

forever and ever.

Amen.      

 

 

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

           

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

 

“But now he is comforted here; whereas you are tormented.” (Lk 16:31)

 

 

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

 

Pray for the conversion of heart of all those who are callous to the plight of the poor. Share your time, talents, material resources, and spiritual riches with the poor and needy in today’s society. 

          

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September 26, 2016: MONDAY – WEEKDAY (26); SAINTS COSMAS AND DAMIAN, Martyrs

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Be Little Ones …

Like Job He Was Subjected to Suffering”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jb 1:6-22 // Lk 9:46-50

  

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 9:46-50): “The one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest.”

 

As Jesus comes closer to his passion, he strains to prepare his disciples for his death and its meaning in God’s plan. In today’s Gospel reading (Lk 9:46-50), we hear that they fail to understand and are unresponsive to his second prediction of the passion. Their self-centered focus has blinded them to the divine purpose. Very inappropriately, they begin to argue who is the greatest and quarrel about their status in God’s kingdom. The Divine Master is ever patient and, to help them overcome their obtuseness, he takes a child. Placing the little one by his side, Jesus asserts that to receive and care for such a “child” is to receive him. He likewise declares that the least is the greatest in the kingdom. Jesus drills into his disciples the following truth: that the greatest loves even the lowliest and has the greatest need for God. A “child” is thus a model of discipleship and the “little one” among us – the poor, the weak, the humble and vulnerable - becomes the object of our caring discipleship.

 

The life of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus is a beautiful response to Jesus, who teaches us to care for the “little one” and shows the way of the “little one”. The following insights into her spirituality are circulated on the Internet.

 

Thérèse entered the Carmel of Lisieux with the determination to become a saint. But, by the end of 1894, six full calendar years as a Carmelite made her realize how small and insignificant she was. She saw the limitations of all her efforts. She remained small and very far off from the unfailing love that she would wish to practice. She understood then that it was on this very littleness that she must lean to ask God's help … Thérèse found a passage from Proverbs that struck her with particular force: If anyone is a very little one, let him come to me (cf. Proverbs 9:4). And from the book of Isaiah (66:12-13), she was profoundly struck by another passage: As a mother caresses her child, so I shall console you, I shall carry you at my breast and I shall swing you on my knees. She concluded that Jesus would carry her to the summit of sanctity. The smallness of Thérèse, her limits, became in this way grounds for joy, more than discouragement.

 

It is only in Manuscript C of her autobiography that she gave to this discovery the name of “little way”, “petite voie”. Echoes of this way, however, are heard throughout her work. From February 1895 she would regularly sign her letters by adding very little, toute petite, in front of her name. It was on this view then, that she based her extraordinary refusal to consider her daily faults important.  Because of her lack of illusions in her view of human beings, she assigned to these things no more significance than they deserved. "I have long believed that the Lord is more tender than a mother. I know that a mother is always ready to forgive trivial, involuntary misbehaviour on the part of her child. Children are always giving trouble, falling down, getting themselves dirty, breaking things - but all this does not shake their parents’ love for them. "

 

This “little way” of Therese is the foundation of her spirituality: “I rejoice to be little because only children, and those who are like them, will be admitted to the heavenly banquet.” She developed an approach to the spiritual life that people of every background can understand and adopt. This is evident in her approach to prayer: "For me, prayer is a movement of the heart; it is a simple glance toward Heaven; it is a cry of gratitude and love in times of trial as well as in times of joy; finally, it is something great, supernatural, which expands my soul and unites me to Jesus. . . . I have not the courage to look through books for beautiful prayers ... I am like a child who does not know how to read; I say very simply to God what I want to say, and He always understands me.”  

 

 

B. First Reading (Jb 1:6-22): “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

 

The Book of Job deals with the suffering of the innocent. It has a universal quality for in it is an eloquent presentation of our human struggle to understand the justice of God. Job is a remarkable figure: blameless, upright, God-fearing and avoiding evil. He has seven sons and three daughters and an abundance of livestock and servants. God delights in Job, but Satan (the Adversary) impeaches Job’s integrity. Satan is skeptical and in front of the heavenly court suggests that Job is virtuous simply because he gets something out of it. If Job were to lose all the blessings bestowed upon him, he would flagrantly curse God. Satan is permitted to test Job’s integrity. In quick succession, four messengers rush in reporting disaster. Job’s blessings are taken away: his livestock, his servants and his children. Job’s cosmos (world) is reduced to chaos. But in all this, Job did not sin and did not say anything disrespectful to God.

 

The following modern day account gives insight into the “graciousness” with which Job responds to his “loss” (cf. Joshua Sundquist in Daily Guideposts 2010, p. 45).

 

I was skiing too fast. But I was only sixteen and I was a bit, well, reckless. As I came over a crest onto the steep section of the trail, I could see that my momentum was carrying me straight toward an unsuspecting skier about twenty feet below. I threw my foot sideways, sharply turning my ski – as an amputee, I use only one – so I skidded around him.

 

On my next turn, though, something felt wrong. I stopped by the side of the trail and looked down. My ski was cracked, on the verge of breaking in two. What a disaster! I thought. I didn’t have the money for a new ski, so that crack spelled the end of my first season of ski racing. How could You let this happen, God?

 

But it wasn’t more than week later that my friend Justin showed up on my doorstep, holding a single orange ski. “I was skiing in some deep snow powder”, he said,. “One of my skis popped off and I couldn’t find it in the snow. I remember what happened to you and I wanted to give you the other one.”

 

“Wow!” I said. “Thanks!”

 

As I inspected my new ski, I thought about how grateful I was that Justin hadn’t just stuck it in the closet, feeling bitter about his loss. Instead, he’d allowed his mishap to be the solution to mine.

 

Lord, don’t let bitterness about the past keep me from bringing a brighter future to someone else.

 

 

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

 

1. How do we heed Jesus’ invitation to care for the little ones in our midst and to pursue the Kingdom as a “child” who greatly needs divine help?

 

2. What is our reaction when the blessings we have received are taken away? Do we learn to be gracious in our loss?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

we thank you for teaching us the “little way”.

You teach us to receive a “child” in your name.

You also teach us

that the least is the greatest

in the heavenly kingdom.

Help us to care for the “little ones” among us,

especially the poor and vulnerable.

Give us the wisdom to pursue the kingdom

following the path of humility

and total dependence on his grace.

We love you Jesus

and we offer ourselves totally you.

You are our saving Lord, now and forever.

Amen.

 

***

Loving God,

in moment of trial and terrible loss,

Job chose to be gracious.

When all that we have in this world is counted as “loss”,

help us to use his words of surrender:

“The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;

blessed be the name of the Lord!”

Let us continue to trust in you, our saving God.

We glorify and serve you, now and forever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“Whoever receives this child in my name receives me … The one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest.” (Lk 9:48) // “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Jb 1:22)

 

  

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

 

Be greatly aware of the Church’s social teaching concerning the option for the poor and vulnerable. By prayer, word and action, show your care for the weakest among us – the unborn, those dealing with disabilities or terminal illness, the poor and marginalized. // In moments of loss, learn from the humble and faithful stance of the proverbial “patient Job”.

   

 

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September 27, 2016: TUESDAY – SAINT VINCENT DE PAUL, Priest

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Journeys to Jerusalem … He Endures Our Affliction”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jb 3:1-3, 11-17, 20-23 // Lk 9:51-56

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 9:51-56): “He resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.”

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Lk 9:51-56) is about Jesus’ departure for Jerusalem. The evangelist Luke presents the call to radical discipleship within the context of Jesus’ decisive journey to his paschal destiny. The Gospel passage begins with 9:51, the turning point in Luke’s narrative: “When the days for Jesus to be taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.” Jesus’ decision to go to Jerusalem is not a casual decision, but a deliberate one. He is resolved to do the Father’s will. Christian discipleship demands total participation in his Easter itinerary of dying on the cross and life-giving glory. To journey with Jesus to Jerusalem is to walk along the road of faith – the old rugged road that leads to Calvary.

 

The following modern day account gives insight how in daily life we “walk along the road of faith” (cf. Jon Sweeney in Guideposts 2014, p. 206).

 

I have long been drawn to old roads. I look at well-worn tracks to the forest or up the mountain and wonder who walked them for the first time and what the land looked like then. Sometimes I imagine deer or moose trekking along a ridge down from the mountain to a stream, and eventually men following, until a path is formed and then a road is built in its place.

 

Walking these roads every day, I am sometimes reminded of other important “roads” in my life.

 

Traveling along the road of faith, I am never alone. My great-grandmother used to challenge me as a boy. She told me to learn the Bible, inspiring me to follow her example by reading it every day and memorizing many verses. Then my grandparents asked me to love the Lord and, more importantly, showed me how to do it in the hands-on ways that their compassion went out to the elderly, whom they served every week in nursing homes.

 

My parents, too, shined a light down that path of faith that can sometimes be dark and tough to follow. Also, aunts and uncles, friends and mentors have walked the path before me. I am able to follow their well-worn treads. Because of them all, I know which way to go.

 

 

B. First Reading (Jb 3:1-3, 11-17, 20-23): “Why is light given to the toilers?”

 

The Old Testament reading (Jb 3:1-3, 11-17, 20-23) is taken from the Book of Job, the story of a good man who suffers total disaster. After losing all his children and property, he prostrates on the ground and declares: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” The “patient” Job’s affliction is not over. A repulsive disease attacks him. Sores break out all over Job’s body. Sitting by a garbage dump, he scrapes his sores with a piece of broken pottery. Three friends of Job hear of his plight and come to comfort him. When they see Job’s pitiable condition, they begin to weep and wail. Then they sit there on the ground with him for seven days and nights without saying a word because they see how much he is suffering.

 

Finally Job breaks the silence. The proverbial “patience of Job” comes to an end. In today’s reading, Job pours out his lamentation. He begins with the most radical possible declaration of his misery by uttering a rejection of life itself. He curses the day on which he was born. Job prays for death: “I wish I had died in my mother’s womb or died at the moment I was born.” There is bewilderment about God’s goodness: “Why let men go on living in misery? Why give light to men in grief?” Job prefers an untroubled non-existence to his present anguish.

 

The following modern day account gives insight into Job’s despair and illustrates his complaint that those in grief wait for death, but it never comes (cf. John Gallagher, “Don’t Jump” in Amazing Grace for Survivors, ed. Jeff Cavins, et. al., West Chester: Ascension Press, 2008, p. 199-206).

 

As a man in this world of ours, I am expected to hold a job, make enough money to pay my bills, provide for my four children, and be there for my wife. But sometimes in the hustle and bustle of everyday life all the tasks and responsibilities build up into an overwhelming stress. That’s what happened to me nine years ago. On the outside everything looked great. I had an MBA, a job as a financial analyst, a wife and four children. But on the inside, everything began falling apart. My company was cutting back, and I feared not being able to provide for my family. Life began to overwhelm me. (…)

 

As time went on, my situation only worsened. In addition to the pain, anxiety surged as heart palpitations took my breath away. Sleepless nights become the norm, and eating became a chore. I simply had no appetite. I lost sixty pounds and wore two sets of clothing to hide how thin I had become. Feelings were absent. I could not concentrate and felt powerless. My wife and kids were supportive and loving, but everyone was getting frustrated.

 

I tried everything I could think of to put an end to the darkness.  From a multitude of doctors, to healing Masses and prayers. Nothing seemed to help. I felt betrayed by God. Yet, the demands to function in my life did not abate. But I reached the point where I could not go on. I was a shadow of my former self. Suffering was one thing, but the feeling of abandonment and loneliness was unbearable.

 

Yes, I had tried to kill myself by breathing in exhaust fumes, but I had suddenly stopped when I realized my link with God, though thin and torn, was not completely worn away. He still had a hold on me. I knew my life was only mine to live, not to take.

 

At the hospital, my blood pressure was still very high, and so they took me to the cardiology department in an attempt to lower my blood pressure before tackling other problems. My wife stood patiently by the hospital bed. She showed me pictures of our kids. The pictures were meant to cultivate some feelings of happiness in me. Instead, I felt all the more desperate, convinced that the best was all behind me now. Then Trish left the room to phone the children.

 

Alone in my room, I thought that the best of my life was now in the past and could only haunt me. My twisted thinking led me to imagine that the doctors would commit me to an insane asylum. Near my bed, a pleasant breeze drifted in from the window, which was ajar. I looked at the window as an end to my suffering. I arose from my bed and approached the window. The raw throbbing in my head had dulled my thought process so I acted without much thought beyond a drive to escape. I looked down the three stories. I can do it, I thought. I will do it.  I jumped, relieved that the pain would finally go away. It did not.

 

I landed on my legs, and then crumbled. Rage exploded inside me. I’m still alive, I cried. I could not even kill myself. I lay on the asphalt bleeding and cursing my survival. Landing on my legs had saved my life, but they were now crushed and broken. The police and ambulance arrived in minutes. (…)

 

Then on January 20, 2008, I discovered there was still another chapter left in all of this. I read a newspaper story about a high school student who had survived a nine-story jump. What struck me was that he was willing to speak out about his experience. It was then that I realized that sharing my story would help others. And that is just what is happening. Now that I have begun speaking out, people come forward to thank me. Some are dealing with depression in their own families. Reaching out to others has helped our own family to heal. Instead of hiding, Trish and I are sharing the truth about the pain we went through. Our children too have told us they now understand.

 

I never would have chosen the path of pain I have walked. But no, I can see that by turning to God through it all, Trish and I have grown closer to Him and to each other. I am a living proof that no matter how bad things get, there is always a road towards healing that is paved with angels.

 

 

 

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

 

1. Are we ready to follow Jesus resolutely on the road to Jerusalem?

 

2. Did we ever experience so much pain and suffering that, like Job, we curse the day we were born?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

after your public ministry in Galilee

and when the time drew near for you to be taken up to heaven,

you resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.

We too would like to journey with you to Jerusalem

and participate intimately in the paschal destiny of your death and rising.

Help us to follow you on the old rugged road that leads to Calvary.

You bore our afflictions and suffered human miseries.

Let us never despair in moments of trial and intense affliction.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

  

 

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

 

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

 

 “Jesus resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem...” (Lk 9:51) // “Why is life given to the bitter in spirit?” (Jb 3:20)

 

 

 

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

 

Pray that you may have the grace to understand and experience the meaning of Christian discipleship. Pray in thanksgiving for all those who are able to follow Christ resolutely on the road to Jerusalem. Be an instrument of God’s hope and strength to the despairing. 

      

      

*** *** ***

 

September 28, 2016: WEDNESDAY – WEEKDAY (26); SAINT WENCESLAUS, Martyr; SAINT LAWRENCE RUIZ AND COMPANIONS, Martyrs

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Lays Down the Demands of Discipleship … He Teaches Us to Submit to God’s Mighty Power”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jb 9:1-12, 14-16 // Lk 9:57-62

  

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 9;57-62): “I will follow you wherever you go.”

 

Before sending out seventy-two disciples ahead of him, Jesus clarifies the meaning of discipleship. In today’s Gospel (Lk 9:57-62), he meets three candidates and utilizes this occasion to underline the exigent character of Christian discipleship. To the first, who makes an enthusiastic offer of allegiance: “I will follow you wherever you go”, Jesus presents the challenge of sacrifice: “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” The second asks permission to go first and bury his father, that is, he wants to attend to his family before he follows Christ. Jesus asserts that all filial obligations are subordinate to his urgent call to proclaim the kingdom of God, which demands an immediate response. The third is willing to follow but asks to say farewell to his family at home. Jesus challenges him to a total renunciation and wholehearted dedication. The call of Christian discipleship demands an irrevocable response and entails wholehearted dedication.

 

In light of today’s Gospel I re-read my vocation story as a Pious Disciple of the Divine Master. Christ has showered me with overwhelming mercy and love. I heard his urgent call to follow him and I responded readily to his gift of vocation. I was a B.S. Premed student at the University of the Philippines when I got to know about the PDDM Congregation. I entered the convent after my third year of college. One month after my entrance, the major Superior asked me to go back to school and finish my B.S. degree. My name was among the list of 80 students that would be interviewed in 1971 for admission at the U.P. College of Medicine. But my dream to become a doctor was subordinate to my religious vocation. I left school altogether after Premed and underwent intense preparation for my religious consecration. I made my first religious profession in 1974 and was deeply happy with my life as a consecrated person. However, I continued to nurture my dream to become a medical doctor, which I presented several times to our major Superior. Before my finals vows in 1980 I requested again to be given a chance to become a medical doctor. But I was told in serious terms to make a decision: to follow Christ or to pursue my “career” outside the convent. My tears flowed when I pronounced my decision to follow Christ and to let go of my dream. In 1989 I became a “doctor” – not a “Doctor of Medicine” – but a “Doctor in Sacred Liturgy”.

 

 

B. First Reading (Jb 9:1-12): “How can one be justified before God?”

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Jb 9:1-12, 14-16) contains Job’s answer to his friends as they try to delve into the meaning of Job’s sufferings. The friends of Job explain suffering in terms of retributive justice. Since God, so they assume, always rewards good and punishes evil Job’s sufferings can only mean that he has sinned. For Job that is too naïve.  An unusually good and righteous man, Job feels he does not deserve such a cruel punishment. He is baffled how God can let such evil happen to him. He wants to be justified and to regain his honor as a good man. But he feels completely helpless for God is impeachable in his power as well as in his judgment. It is impossible to “sue” God or to establish his innocence if God condemns him. However, out of frustration, the suffering Job continues his tirade against God whom he accuses of being irresponsible, or worse, of being responsible for his misery.

 

The following story illustrates that Job’s experience of “unmerited” suffering is replicated through time and space (cf. Jon Sweeney in Daily Guideposts 2014, p. 70).

 

My friend Brent lives next door and was known throughout our neighborhood as a mild-mannered, quiet, thoughtful person. This all came to an abrupt end one morning when he watched his only daughter suffer a terrible tragedy. I don’t even want to reveal what the tragedy was, but suffice it to say that Brent’s daughter was hurt more than any other teenager should ever be – and Brent was furious with God.

 

It was shocking to see. Sitting in his living room, Brent explained bitterly, “The deal is over. God is supposed to love us, and I don’t see any love left.” He was mad, but his anger masked a very deep sadness and sense of loss.

 

What does someone say in this sort of situation? I had no idea, even though I had read the books and articles and heard the sermons that explained how God is love and is ready and waiting to love us, even, and especially, when awful things happen.

 

But what do you say to your friend who already knows all of that? I just listened … and listened for the better part of a year. At the end of that year, I began to see Brent’s daughter heal. And just when I was about to suggest to Brent what I’d wanted to suggest earlier – that God is good and wants all that is good even though the world often offers what is painful – he beat me to it.

 

Today, Brent and his daughter and God are all back on the same page. Of course, they always were.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we realize the cost of Christian discipleship, and are we ready to pay the price of commitment? 

 

2. Like Job, do we sometimes rage against God’s “justice” or “lack of justice” when we suffer “undeservedly”?

 

 

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

 

Jesus Lord,

you are God’s faithful servant.

We thank you for your obedience

to the divine saving will.

Help us to listen to your call

and answer it readily.

Teach us to serve

with whole-hearted dedication.

Let the pain of sacrifice

be turned into the joy of self-giving

and let our discipleship

be filled with beauty and grace.

Grant us insight into the meaning of suffering.

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.

 

            “I will follow you wherever you go.” (Lk 9:57) // “How can a man be justified before God?” (Jb 9:2)

 

 

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

 

Pray in thanksgiving for the gift of Christian vocation and the call to holiness. Express your gratitude by acts of kindness to the people around you. Be patient and continue to trust in God’s wisdom and care of you, even in the midst of intense suffering.

    

 

*** *** ***

 

September 29, 2016: THURSDAY – 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.

          

 

*** *** ***

 

September 30, 2016: FRIDAY – SAINT JEROME, Priest, Doctor of the Church

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Experienced Rejection … He Surrendered to God’s Awesome Plan”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jb 38:1, 12-21; 40:3-5 // Lk 10:13-16

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 10:13-16): “Whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”

 

In today’s Gospel reading (Lk 10:13-16), Jesus warns the recipients of his public ministry in Galilee of the dire consequences of their impenitence. The lakeside towns of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum have received so much in terms of divine grace, but fail to bear fruits of conversion. They do not surrender themselves to Jesus and are deaf to his word. Jesus works miracles in their midst and proclaims the Good News to them, but they refuse to accept him as the Messiah. Because of their resistance to grace, they merit judgment more severe than the people of Tyre and Sidon, ancient cities notorious for wickedness and impiety. The life-giving Gospel that Jesus preaches cannot be ignored. There are unfortunate and death-dealing consequences in rejecting his divine offer of salvation. To reject Jesus is thus to opt for self-destruction.

 

Like Jesus, his disciples of today will meet hostility and rejection as the following article shows (cf. “Hands off the Cross” in L’Osservatore Romano, July 25, 2012, p. 9).

 

The Russian Orthodox Church cannot stand by and watch while Christianity is persecuted in Europe, according to Fr. Philip Ryabykh, a representative of the Patriarchate of Moscow to the Council of Europe, in an interview with the Voice of Russia. He was referring to the two British citizens fired for their refusal to remove the crosses around their necks in the workplace. The cases of Nadia Eweida, an employee of British Airways at Heathrow Airport, and Shirley Chaplin, a nurse, will soon be examined by the European Court of Human Rights and Orthodox representatives, together with Russian lawyers, have already guaranteed their support. Fr. Philip called this an “unprecedented situation”.

 

The two women have appealed to the Court to recognize that the freedom of religion has been violated and that they have been discriminated against because of their religious ties. British authorities – the Voice of Russia says – did not expect the case to be brought before the Strasbourg Court and has proposed a law that allows employers to dismiss employees who refuse to hide their religious confession.

 

“The decision of the Strasbourg Court will apply to all countries that are members of the Council of Europe, including Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova – that is, countries where Orthodox Christianity is the most common denomination”, Fr. Philip says. It is a tradition among Orthodox Christians to wear a crucifix and, he warned, “if the Strasbourg Court’s decision turns out not in favor of these women, this would create a dangerous precedent which, I believe, would be very dangerous. This may become a start of persecution against Christianity in Europe”.

 

 

B. First Reading (Jb 38:1, 12-21; 40:3-5): “Have you ever in your lifetime commanded the morning and entered into the sources of the sea?”

 

In today’s Old Testament reading (Jb 38:1, 12-21; 40:3-5), God speaks directly to Job “out of the storm”, a traditional setting for the manifestation of divine power. The Lord does not address Job’s complaint about unmerited suffering, but poses a series of counter questions. The Lord begins his interrogation with a pointed reminder of Job’s finiteness: “Who are you to question my wisdom with your ignorant, empty words? Stand up now like a man and answer the questions I ask you.” Then God interrogates Job about the marvels of creation. Does Job understand any of these? Can he do any of them? Has Job ever commanded a day to dawn? Has he entered into the sources of the sea or walked on the floor of the ocean? Like a teacher springing a surprise quiz, the Lord God is involving Job in the process of learning. God is leading Job out of a limited world into the larger world.

 

The Lord continues: “Job, you challenged Almighty God, will you give up now, or will you answer?” Confronted by God’s mighty wisdom and power, Job is overwhelmed and responds humbly: “I spoke foolishly, Lord. What can I answer? I will try not to say anything else. I have already said more than I should.” Job’s complete inability to understand God’s ways is clearly demonstrated. He finally allows himself to be caught up into the mystery of God and the universe. Acknowledging the vanity of his efforts, Job acknowledges the divine mystery that is beyond human reach.

 

Job’s experience invites us to be more receptive to the divine mystery revealed in creation. The following personal account is inspiring and insightful (Marilyn Morgan King in Daily Guideposts 2010, p. 298).

 

This afternoon I received an e-mail from my friend Lucinda, who hasn’t been well for some time. Some days she just can’t even get out of bed. Yet the final paragraph of her letter reads:

 

I think I shall dress so that I can drive to the park to watch the sunset if there is one … of course, with all the buildings I can only see the upper part of the sky, but even that can be glorious. I have not seen a sunrise or sunset for many years, and I do so miss them.

 

Lucinda’s letter made me realize something. Right now in my life, I’m able to watch the sunrise nearly every day, yet I often fail to notice it. We live in a little valley with the mountains in the north, west and south, so we rarely have a chance to watch a sunset. But every morning, unless the sky is overcast, I can watch the sunrise. As my eyesight becomes more and more precious to me in its long good-bye, I must remember to value the beauty I can see now.

 

Tomorrow morning I’ll not miss the sunrise as it streams in through our breakfast room window, spilling colors on the table like a prism. And like Lucinda, I might even drive out of the valley in the early evening to watch the sunset.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we suffer rejection and hostility for our Christian faith? What is our response to such a situation?

 

2. Are we receptive to the divine presence revealed in creation? Do we trust in God’s wisdom and saving plan for us? Like Job do we allow ourselves to be taken intimately into the mystery of God and the universe? Do we “stand under the mystery” rather than breaking our heads in order “to understand the mystery”?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you experienced hostility and rejection

in the lakeside towns of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum.

Forgive us, Jesus, for our lack of response to your merciful love.

Give us the grace never to reject you again.

Fill us with courage to be faithful.

Teach us to be responsive to the presence of God

revealed in nature and in the daily events of life.

Draw us into the depths of the Father’s saving mystery.

You are our saving Lord, 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 whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” (Lk 10:16) // “Have you ever in your lifetime commanded the morning and shown the dawn its place?” (Jb 38:12)  

 

 

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

 

Through prayer, word and action, seek to overcome the hostility and “persecution” against the Church in the modern world. Make a daily effort to see the presence of God in creation and in daily events of life. Allow yourself to be enfolded by the loving wisdom of God and submit to his mysterious ways.

  

      

*** *** ***

 

October 1, 2016: SATURDAY – SAINT THERESE OF THE CHILD JESUS, Virgin, Doctor of the Church

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Rejoices at the Return of the Disciples in Mission … He Grants Us the Joy of Restoration”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jb 42:1-3, 5-6, 12-17  // Lk 10:17-24

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 10:17-24): “Rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

 

The Divine Master experiences misunderstanding and rejection from the towns along Lake Galilee where he has performed many miracles. Many have painfully disappointed him. But in today’s Gospel episode (Lk 10:17-24), the seventy-two disciples who returned rejoicing from their mission have filled Jesus with joy. They have subjected demons through the power of his name. Rejoicing with them, Jesus makes them understand that the source of their joy should not be in having subjected the demons, but in having their names written in heaven. His disciples, in welcoming him as their true Master and Lord, have proven themselves “childlike” in character. They have opened themselves up to the spiritual revelation that Jesus gives, but which “the wise and the learned” of this world refuse to perceive. Through Jesus, God the Father is revealed. God is no longer an enigma, for through Jesus we can “see” God as the fullness of love. No wonder Jesus turns to his disciples and exclaims: “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see!”

 

As Christian disciples in today’s world, we too must be “childlike” in our stance. We are able to rejoice because we are assured of the divine presence wherever we are and in whatever “storms” we encounter. The following story, circulated on the Internet, will give insight into this and will make us smile.

 

A little girl walked to and from school daily. Though the weather that morning was questionable and clouds were forming, she made her daily trek to school. As the afternoon progressed, the winds whipped up, along with lightning.

 

The mother of the little girl felt concerned that her daughter would be frightened as she walked home from school. She also feared the electric storm might harm the child. Full of concern, the mother got into her car and quickly drove along the route to her child’s school. As she did, she saw her little girl walking along. At each flash of lightning, the child would stop, look up and smile. More lightning followed quickly and with each, the little girl would look at the streak of light and smile.

 

When the mother drew up beside the child, she lowered the window and called, “What are you doing?” The child answered, “I am trying to look pretty because God keeps taking my picture.”

     

 

B. First Reading (Jb 42:1-3, 5-6, 12-17): “But now my eye has seen you and I disown what I have said.”

 

In the first part of today’s Old Testament reading (Jb 42:1-3, 5-6) is Job’s response to God’s challenging question: Is it really necessary for him to condemn the Lord in order to affirm his innocence? God however remains kind to Job though the latter has overstepped his limits in his search for understanding and in protesting his innocence. God does not intend to destroy Job for he actually delights in him. Job’s final answer is humble and recognizes God’s power and purpose. He admits that God’s ways are beyond his ability to understand. The Lord’s marvelous works are too great for him to know.

 

God finally vindicates Job and restores him. The second part of today’s reading (verses 12-17) depicts the joy of restoration. The Lord blesses the latter days of Job more than his earlier ones. His livestock are returned, but double the quantity. He begets seven new sons and three new daughters, who are so beautiful. Job lives to a hundred and forty years, long enough to see his grandchildren and even his great grandchildren.

 

The following story depicts a modern day “joy of restoration” (cf. Gay Behrensmeyer, “Music Lesson” in Mysterious Ways: Mini-Sampler by Guideposts, p. 5-6).

 

My organ teacher, John Hildreth, and I always met at an old Episcopalian church in town. I’d taken lessons from him for 30 years, but now I was ready to give up. My playing just wasn’t what it used to be. I sat on the organ bench, wondering how to tell him. He would be so disappointed.

 

“Take a listen to this recording”, John said, “and I’ll be right back.” He hit play and stepped out of the sanctuary. The melody coming from the speakers was beautiful, rich with notes that seemed to float from all directions. The organist’s coordination between the manual keys and the foot pedals was spot on. I closed my eyes and took it all in. Gosh, Lord, I thought, if I could play like that, I’d never quit.

 

Before our new choir director arrived, I’d been more confident. Then the criticism began. “You’re playing too fast”, she’d say. “Now it’s too slow … can’t you play something more contemporary?” Then last month, a member of the congregation said, “You know, you missed a note in the last piece.” I could’ve cried.

 

Clearly I was losing my touch. Much as I’d miss playing, what was the point if the music didn’t sound good anymore? I’d have to find a different way to praise God. But how?

 

Soon John returned. He turned the tape off. “That was lovely!” I blurted out. “I wish I could play that well.”

 

John gave me a quizzical look. “That was you playing. It’s a performance from a few weeks ago.”

 

And with that, I had my answer.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we trust in Jesus as the true revelation of the Father? Are we the “little ones” who are willing to savor the rich and life-giving revelation of Jesus?

 

2. Are we willing to imitate the final humble stance of Job before God and his mysterious ways? Do we look forward to the “joy of restoration”?

 

 

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

 

O loving Father,

thank you for the gift of your Son Jesus,

the meek and humble One.

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

and perceive the beauty of your saving plan.

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

and reject the awful pride of the “wise and learned”.

Help us to surrender to your awesome and mysterious ways.

Bless us with the “joy of restoration”.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

     

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

 

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

 

            “He rejoiced in the Holy Spirit.”  (Lk 10:21) // “The Lord blessed the latter days of Job.” (Jb 42:5)

     

 

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

 

Pray that Christian disciples may always be “childlike” and receptive to the divine revelation given to us in Jesus Christ each day. In experiences of suffering that one cannot understand, trust in God and look forward to the “joy of restoration”.

  

 *** 

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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