Archives:Year C-S17 - Year B-S16 - Year A-S15 - Year C-S14 - Year B-S13 - Year A-S12 - Year C-S11 - Year B-S10 - Year A-S9 - YYear C-S8

Year B-S7 - Year A-S6  - Year C-S5 - Year B-S4 - Year A-S3  - Year C-S2 - Year B

 

A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 17, n. 8)

Week 2 in Ordinary Time: January 20-26, 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: January 13-19, 2019, please go to ARCHIVES Series 17 and click on “Holy Family - Christmas”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: January 20-26, 2019.)

 

*** *** ***

 

 January 20, 2019: SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Manifests Himself at Cana”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 62:1-5 // 1 Cor 12:4-11 // Jn 2:1-11

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 2:1-11): “Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee.”

 

When I heard the news, I shuddered at the senselessness of what had happened. A wedding feast was held in the town near our convent. The bridegroom’s family, which, in the Filipino tradition, is usually the one responsible for the expenses of the wedding, provided what was necessary for the feast. But there were so many guests (and uninvited guests) that the food and drink ran out. The bride’s relatives taunted the bridegroom for not having provided enough. The bridegroom “lost face” and was overwhelmed with shame (“hiya”). In the evening, they found him hanging from a tree. The bridegroom killed himself. What was meant to be a joyful event became a tragedy.

 

            In light of this story, which took place in an Oriental context, it is easy to imagine how unfortunate and critical the situation was at Cana when the wine was running out. Harold Buetow comments: “To run out of wine at a wedding was more of a humiliation for the couple than it would be today. For one thing, hospitality in the East was a sacred duty; for another, running out of wine would show poor planning, or – worse - the couple’s lack of prosperity, which would mean the absence of God’s blessing.” In this distressing situation, Jesus Christ dramatically manifested the compassion and the saving power of God by changing water into wine, thus prefiguring the abundant joy and intense happiness of the messianic age that he would bring. At the wedding of Cana, there was a renewed epiphany of God’s love and mercy through the miraculous intervention of his beloved Servant - Son, fully consecrated to the realization of the divine redemptive plan.

 

            The miracle performed by Jesus at the wedding in Cana has a profound paschal and eucharistic significance. According to the evangelist John: “Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him” (Jn 2:11). In the biblical world, a “sign” is the initial manifestation of the reality to which it points. The “sign” of water being changed into wine at the Cana wedding feast foretells the way in which Jesus would fulfill his messianic mission, namely, by shedding his blood on the cross, and the glory it would bring.

 

            Indeed, the victorious paschal sign of Cana continues in the sacrament of the Eucharist. The 5th century musician, Romanus the Melodist, remarks: “When Christ changed the water into wine by his power, the crowd rejoiced, delighting in the taste of this wine. Today, it is at the banquet of the Church that we are all seated, for the wine is changed into the blood of Christ, and we drink it with blessed joy, glorifying the great bridegroom … for the true bridegroom is the son of Mary, the Word for all eternity, who has taken the form of a slave and who created all in his wisdom.”

 

 

B. Old Testament Reading (Is 62:1-5): “The bridegroom rejoices in his bride.”

 

On November 18, 2006, I attended the wedding of Jennifer, the daughter of a dear friend who is actively involved in the promotion of the Eucharistic-Marian movement in the Diocese of Fresno. The wedding invitation sent by John and Jennifer carried a poem of such tenderness and beauty that it evoked among us deep emotions of goodness and love. John composed this remarkable poem when he proposed to Jennifer. Their nuptial ceremony at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Fresno was very touching and inspiring. When the two pronounced their marriage vows, I also renewed my nuptial bond to Jesus Christ, my spiritual and eternal Spouse – the Bridegroom of my soul. The love relationship of John and Jennifer as man and wife made me focus on my own love relationship with Jesus and, on a broader level, on his intimate relationship with his Bride, the Church.

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Is 62:1-5) depicts the relationship between God and his people in intimate terms of marriage. The prophet Isaiah resounds a love song over messianic Jerusalem and speaks for God. In poetic imagery, the prophet foretells the glorious restoration of Israel after the exile. God and his chosen people, represented here by the city of Jerusalem, will be like newlyweds again. The poem extols the messianic age when the successful covenant between God and his people will be celebrated by a marriage. Jerusalem in her vindication will shine like a dawn and will receive a new name, the “Espoused One” and God’s “Delight”, indicating her new status and her glorious restoration as the beloved of God.

  

The nuptial imagery presented by the prophet Isaiah enhances the nuptial-epiphany-eschatological motif of the evangelist John’s account of the wedding at Cana (Jn 2:1-11), which prefigures the messianic banquet and contains the overwhelming freshness of a new world … of a new people. Indeed, the theme of Christ’s epiphany or manifestation of God’s glory is continued this Sunday. Since Jesus is truly the Word made flesh – every single act of his is an act of “glory revealed”. The Infant King revealed to the nations is JESUS – the Son of God and Servant of Yahweh, baptized at the River Jordan and anointed by the Spirit for his mission as the Messiah-Savior. At the wedding of Cana, Jesus reveals in anticipation the glory and power of his final act of exaltation on the cross and in resurrection. At the wedding of Cana, Jesus already gives us a glimpse of the glory of God that is truly his, and to which, all of us – the Church - are called to share intimately as God’s beloved “espoused”.

 

 

C. Second Reading (I Cor 12:4-11): “One and the same Spirit distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.”

 

Today’s Second Reading (I Cor 12:4-11) contains Saint Paul’s classic statement of “unity in diversity”. All gifts are given for the good of the community. All are important. All are needed for a thriving community. None can be dismissed as insignificant. To remember that gifts are given in order to be shared will make for more peaceful and loving communities. Spirit-laden and serving Christian communities, composed of loving and peaceful members, are an “epiphany” or manifestation of God’s glory in the “here and now”. In order to live in accord with our vocation to be the radiance of divine glory, we must not pervert the purpose of the gifts given us by God and his Holy Spirit. Moreover, we must avoid competition and divisions within our faith community.

 

The following story about Chad and Angel illustrates how the lay mission couple has used their spiritual gifts for the good of the Church (cf. Jospeh Fedora, “Love Grows in the Time of Mission” in MARYKNOLL, March 2009, p. 18-23). Chad and Angel have brought love, family and commitment to Brazil and manifested the saving power and the compassion of God on behalf of the needy and the poor.

 

Love of adventure drew them to Guam; love for each other drew them together; and love for God drew them to Maryknoll. Maryknoll Lay Missioner Angel Mortel was looking for a “radical change” in her life in 1990, when, at age 21, she applied for a teaching position at the Academy of Our Lady of Guam. “I guess I was eager to go into the unknown and see where the Holy Spirit would lead me”, she says. “It led me to Chad.” Chad is Maryknoll Lay Missioner Chad Ribordy who arrived in Guam from Wichita, Kansas, a couple of year earlier. He was teaching a course on peace and justice at the Academy when Mortel arrived. It wasn’t long before they became more than just colleagues.

 

“Island life is pretty conducive to romance. The sensual tropical breezes, long hot days and nowhere to go”, Mortel says, recalling her courtship with Ribordy. “Come on! Who wouldn’t fall in love in such a setting?”

 

Their attraction for each other, insists Mortel, was as spiritual as it was physical. “My mission vocation really began when I met Chad. In building my relationship with him, I learned a lot about opening my heart in love”, says the missioner from San Francisco. Ribordy was thinking about mission even before meeting Mortel. Prior to going to Guam, he considered serving in Liberia with another mission group, but just as he was about to ship out, civil war broke out in that African nation. “I, being only 24 and a presumed full life ahead of me, decided that the situation was too messy”, he says.

 

The couple returned to the United States and, in 1994, married. They moved to Washington, D.C., where Ribordy continued teaching at a high school while Mortel did graduate work in international development at American University. After her studies, she worked at Bread for the World. After living a couple of years in a community with other lay Catholics called Assisi Community, Ribordy and Mortel sent applications in 1997 to Maryknoll to become lay missionaries.

 

“I think mission is about moving out of your comfort zone, of feeling vulnerable, because it is in that sense of vulnerability that we are forced to let go and let God”, says Mortel. “I felt the need – and luckily Chad felt this too – to move even farther out of my comfort zone and that’s when we decided to join Maryknoll and go to Brazil.”

 

Moving to Sao Paulo entailed more for the couple than just letting go of the familiar – family, country, culture and language – it called for a radical trust in God and in each other. “I wouldn’t have been able to do it if Angel hadn’t been my partner”, says Ribordy. “She has always challenged me to become more the person God intended me to be.” Two years after arriving in Brazil, Mortel gave birth to Cecilia, and two years after that, to another daughter, Elisa.

 

As their children grew, so did their comfort with the language, culture and the city of Sao Paulo. So it was time to move out, once again, to unfamiliar terrain. They migrated from the city to the countryside, to a small farming community two hours southwest of Sao Paulo called Ibiuna. There Mortel participates in the diocese’s outreach program to pregnant women and mothers with children up to age 6. Ribordy gets his hands dirty with organic farming. (…)

 

“We go out in mission to spread the Good News that God is love”, says Mortel. “Missioners have such an important role in moving people to open themselves up to the love that is God.”

 

  

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

 

How does the “sign of Cana” impinge on our faith? Do we see in it the renewed epiphany of God’s love and the revelation of the glory of Christ in the totality of his death and exaltation? When we are experiencing the poverty of having “no more wine” of gladness in our life, what do we do? Do we turn to Christ, the source of Eucharistic wine and messianic joy?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus, Bridegroom of the Church,

at the wedding of Cana you changed water into wine

and gave us a “sign” of your paschal glory.

Look kindly on our poverty

and be mindful of our cry,

“We have no wine!”

Fill us with the sparkling wine of joy

that comes from your self-sacrificing love.

Increase in us the resolve

to share in the banquet of the kingdom

of a new world, a new wine, a new love.

We love you and adore you.

We thank you for the Eucharist

of joy-giving wine and life-giving bread.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.    

 

 

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

 

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

            

            “The headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine.” (Jn 2:9)

 

 

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

 

When the priest elevates the consecrated wine at Mass, make a conscious act of adoration and be mindful of what St. Ephraim proclaimed: “All earthly joys come together in wine; all of salvation is joined in the mystery of his blood.” Pray for engaged couples participating in pre-Cana formative activities and those who will be married today. 

 

 

*** *** ***

 

January 21, 2019: MONDAY – SAINT AGNES, Virgin, Martyr

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Bridegroom of the Church … He Is Priest through Suffering”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Heb 5:1=10 // Mk 2:18-22

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 2:18-22): “The bridegroom is with them.”

 

In today’s Gospel (Mk 2:18-22), Christ, the Bridegroom of the Church, invites us to a new relationship that transcends mere legal observances and superficial piety. A loving relationship with the Bridegroom entails a radical transformation and infuses new meaning into such religious practices as fasting. The Christian disciples would fast, yes, but for the right reason. Indeed, the followers of Jesus exercise various forms of salutary asceticism, in a spirit of receptivity to the coming of the Kingdom. They carry these out in anticipation of the full joy that is prepared for them by Christ-Bridegroom in the heavenly wedding feast.

 

The radical newness of our relationship with Christ can be compared to a piece of new cloth which should not be sewn onto an old cloak, for it will make the tear even greater. It can also be compared to new wine which should not be poured into an old wineskin for it will cause the skin to break and spill the wine. Indeed, the love-relationship with Christ, the Bridegroom, demands an exhilaratingly new vision and life-style, symbolically portrayed by Mark as “new wine being poured into fresh wineskins” (cf. Mk 2:22).

 

The following story is charming and funny, but it gives us an idea of what “fasting” from evil thoughts and unkind words means (cf. Anthony de Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations, New York: Image Books, 1988, p. 125).

 

There was once a priest so holy that he never thought ill of anyone. One day he sat down at a restaurant for a cup of coffee which was all he could take, it being a day of fast and abstinence, when, to his surprise, he saw a young member of his congregation devouring a massive steak at the next table. “I trust I haven’t shocked you, Father”, said the young fellow with a smile. “Ah! I take it that you forgot that today is a day of fast and abstinence”, said the priest. “No, no. I remember it distinctly.” “Then you must be sick. The doctor has forbidden you to fast.” “Not at all. I’m in the pink of health.” At that, the priest raised his eyes to heaven and said, “What an example this younger generation is to us, Lord! Do you see how this young man here would rather admit his sins than tell a lie?”

 

 

B. First Reading (Heb 5:1-10): “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered.”

 

Today’s First Reading (Heb 5:1-10) gives a beautiful insight into the priestly character of Christ’s sufferings. This reading helps us to appreciate the life-giving meaning of the Servant-Son’s obedient stance. It inspires us to a spirit of conversion and thankfulness for the infinite goodness and eternal salvation that flow forth from his priestly sacrifice on the cross. This remarkable text expresses the paschal glorification of Christ with new depth because its shows its connection to priestly mediation.

 

The Jesuit biblical scholar Albert Vanhoye, the foremost authority on the letter to the Hebrews, comments: “For Christ the path leading to the priesthood was a path of humility and suffering, a path of effective solidarity with human weakness. His priestly office consisted of prayer and supplications emerging from a situation of distress, and they were accompanied by a loud cry and tears. In this way Christ’s whole passion is presented as a priestly action that assumes human anguish in the presence of death and transforms it into an offering of prayer. This prayer was offered to God with reverent submission. Jesus did not pretend to impose his own will on God; instead, he let his Father choose the best solution. This is the reason why he was heard. The divine solution did not consist in preserving him from death; it transformed his sufferings and death into the instrument of definitive victory over evil and over death itself. Distorted by sin, human nature had to learn obedience so that it could forever be reintroduced into God’s intimacy. Since Christ was a Son he did not need this painful learning for himself, yet he accepted it because of his generous solidarity with us. Thus he became the perfect man, fully worthy of being accepted and even enthroned at God’s right hand, and he did that for the sake of all since perfection was the fruit of his complete solidarity with us.”

 

The following excerpt illustrates the sacrificial aspect in the life of the Vietnamese Archbishop Van Thuan, a prisoner in various Communist prisons for thirteen years, nine of them in solitary confinement (cf. Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, Testimony of Hope, Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2000, p. 77-80).

 

During the first months of my imprisonment, I found myself in the most Catholic part of the city of Nha Trang where I had been a bishop for eight years. From my cell, I could hear the bells of my cathedral ringing day and night, and throughout the whole day those of the parishes and religious communities nearby. I would have preferred to be in the mountains so that I would not have had to hear them.

 

In the silence of the night, I heard the sound of the ocean waves of the Pacific, which I used to watch from my office window. No one knew where to find me, though the prison was only a few kilometers away from my own house. Absurd life!

 

As I have already mentioned, on the evening of December 1, 1976, I was taken from the prison of Thu Duc. I was to embark on the ship of Hai Phong. That evening as all the prisoners waited to set sail, we were told to sit down on the ground in the dark. At a distance of only 3 kilometers, I could see the lights of the city of Saigon, the center of the diocese of which I had been named coadjutor on April 24, 1975. I knew my journey would take me far away. The pain this caused me was agonizing. I thought of the Apostle Paul at Miletus, when he gathered the elders of Ephesus knowing that he would never see them again. And yet, I could not gather my own! I could not comfort them or give them any advice. Within myself I said goodbye to all of them, and especially to my dear elderly Archbishop Phaolo Nguyen Van Binh, with a broken heart at the thought of never seeing him again.

 

I experienced a profound pastoral suffering in all of this, but I can testify that the Father did not abandon me and that he gave me strength.

 

 

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

 

1. Are we faithful to our covenant with Christ, the Bridegroom of the Church? How?

 

2. How do we imitate the obedient stance and the priestly sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ? Do we strive to love Christ more intimately; he who is the source of eternal salvation?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

when you took on flesh,

you made a marriage of mankind with God.

Help us to be faithful to your word.

Give us the grace to persevere

until you call us to the heavenly marriage feast.

We love you and adore you;

we praise and serve you, forever and ever.

Amen. 

 

***

Loving Father,

we thank you for the gift of the New Covenant,

sealed in the blood of your Son Jesus Christ.

His “reverent submission” to your saving will

earned for us our eternal salvation.

Help us to be intimately united

with the priestly sacrifice of your Servant-Son on the cross

and thus share in his ultimate victory over death and sin.

May we always live as your true children, 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.

 

“New wine is poured into new wineskins.” (Mk 2:22) // “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered.” (Heb 5:8)

 

 

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

 

When you attend a wedding, pay attention to the text and rituals used in the celebration, and see how they evoke the nuptial relationship between Christ and his Body, the Church. // By your charitable deeds and acts of justice, allow the priestly sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ to bear “abundant fruits” of healing in today’s world.                     

 

*** %%% *** %%% *** %%% ***

 

January 22, 2019: TUESDAY – WEEKDAY (2)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is Lord of the Sabbath … He Anchors Our Hope”

N.B. In USA, a Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Child

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Heb 6:10-20 // Mk 2:23-28

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 2:23-28): “The Sabbath was made for people, not people for Sabbath.”

 

The wind was howling when I opened the gate. The village leader asked shelter for women and children from an impending typhoon. I presented the urgent request to the Superior. She acted promptly with good judgment and compassion. We prepared a place for the evacuees. This happened in the 1970s when rules for convent enclosure were strictly enforced. Indeed, we felt that in a crisis situation charity takes precedence over cloister rules.

 

Today’s Gospel (Mk 2:23-28) presents Jesus as Lord even of the Sabbath. Like David, who disregarded the sanctity of the tabernacle to feed his men, Jesus manifests the same freedom and sensitivity to the needs of others. He shows that genuine human need subsumes norms governing human life and conduct. Rules are meant for the total good of the human person and the spirit of charity must prevail over all. Wisely guided by the principle – The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath – Christians cannot be too-rigid or too-lax in the observance of rules that promote the individual and the common good.

 

 

B. First Reading (Heb 6:10-20): “This hope we have as an anchor sure and firm.”

 

In today’s First Reading (Heb 6:10-20), the author of the letter to the Hebrews is aware of the danger of apostasy in the Christian community. His stern warning is meant to preserve the members from becoming sluggish, and his energetic encouragement is to help them persevere in the faith. Their zeal for works of charity should be matched by their perseverance in their Christian vocation, which is based on hope. Just as the patriarch Abraham was given the twofold support of a promise of numerous descendants and an oath to fulfill it, so the Christians benefit from this twofold support: the promise of eternal inheritance and the divine oath that guarantees the priesthood of Christ. The Christian hope is steadfastly anchored in what Christ has done in the eternal order by his priestly sacrifice.

 

Archbishop Van Thuan gives us an inspiring account of how a little fish brought him hope during the time of his imprisonment (cf. Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, Testimony of Hope, Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2000, p. 155-156).

 

I was in isolation in Hanoi when one day, a policewoman brought me a small fish for me to cook. As soon as I saw the wrappings, I immediately felt a start of joy, but I was careful not to show this externally. My happiness was not because of the fish, but because of the pages of the newspaper in which it was wrapped: two pages of the L’Osservatore Romano. At that time, when the Vatican newspaper arrived at the post office in Hanoi, it was often confiscated and sold at the market as paper. Those two pages had been used to wrap the little fish. Calmly, without bringing attention to myself, I washed those sheets of paper to remove the smell, and then dried them in the sun and preserved them as a relic.

 

For me, in that unbroken regime of isolation, those pages were a sign of communion with Rome, with Peter, with the Church, and an embrace from Rome. I would not have been able to survive without an awareness of being part of the Church.

 

Today we live in a world that rejects the values of the civilization of life, of love, and of the truth; our hope is in the Church, Image of the Trinity.

 

 

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

 

1. What is our attitude towards the rules and norms in society and in the Church?

 

2. Do we trust in God’s promise of eternal life, and do we rely on his oath that guarantees Christ’s priesthood on our behalf? Is our hope firmly anchored in Jesus Christ?

 

 

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

 

O loving Father,

teach us the wisdom and compassion of Jesus

that we may understand the meaning of the law in the Church.

Rules are meant for the well-being of the person

and to promote the common good.

Grant us the freedom of the spirit

and the charity that never fails.

We surrender to your all-embracing care.

We thank and bless you, now and forever.

Amen.

 

***

Loving Father,

we thank you for the promise of eternal salvation

and for the oath that assures us of Christ’s priesthood on our behalf.

Our hope of salvation is steadfastly anchored

in Jesus Christ, the eternal High Priest.

Let us be a prophetic witness to that hope.

He lives and reigns, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mk 2:28) // “Hold fast to the hope that lies before us. This we have as an anchor of the soul.” (Heb 6:18-19) 

 

 

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

 

Make an effort to understand, memorize and put into practice the Ten Commandments and the precepts of the Catholic Church. // By word and deed, offer a testimony of hope to those who are overwhelmed with trials, sufferings, and despair. Be ready to listen and to welcome them tenderly.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

January 23, 2019: WEDNESDAY – WEEKDAY (2); SAINT VINCENT, Deacon, Martyr (USA); SAINT MARIANNE COPE, Virgin (USA)

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Healing Love Transcends Barriers … He Is a Priest Forever Like Melchizedek”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Heb 7:1-3, 15-17 // Mk 3:1-6

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 3:1-6): “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to save life rather than to destroy it?”

 

In today’s Gospel (Mk 3:1-6), Jesus is angered and grieved at the hardness of heart of the Pharisees who object to his healing ministry on a Sabbath. Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath, declares that the Sabbath is made for man and not the other way around. He performs healings even on a Sabbath for he feels it is better to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, and to save life rather than to destroy it. His saving love is totally inclusive and greatly transcending. His saving works could not be restricted by a narrow-minded view of the Sabbath observance. There is no time or day when Jesus feels restricted to heal the sick and serve the needy. Jesus breaks down false restrictions and man-made barriers that militate against human well-being and dignity.

 

The following story illustrates the need to follow the non-restrictive stance of Christ and the necessity of overcoming barriers of alienation in our community (cf. Bill Zalot, “I Belong!” in The Word Among Us, Advent 2011, p. 62-65).

 

You Don’t Belong: Until I was twelve, I felt like a valued member of the church. This had a lot to do with the fact that my home parish was founded just before I was born and that for years, until a church could be built, we had Mass in the gymnasium of the parish school. The place was easily accessible to people like me who needed wheelchairs. I felt an intimacy and closeness to God there that I will never forget. There was no barrier, no silent sign telling me I didn’t belong.

 

Everything changed with the opening of our new church in 1988. Suddenly, the place where I always felt accepted became the place where I felt most rejected. This building had no way for me to get inside. There was no wheelchair ramp – just two flight of steps that said, You don’t belong.

 

Our pastor’s attitude affirmed my sense of rejection. “There’s no need to bring him here”, he would tell my parents. Thankfully, they ignored his advice and found ways to get me to Sunday Mass. Still his words angered me. I became determined to attend Mass – both to defy him and to obey a God who I thought would condemn me if I missed. Inside, though, I grew increasingly bitter and withdrawn.

 

Unbound! It took the help of other priests – a college chaplain, as well as those who succeeded our founding pastor – to reverse my attitude. These men were more like one of my heroes, St. Lawrence. He is the third century Roman martyr who saw the lame, the blind, and the poor members of the church as its true treasures. With their encouragement, I began to participate in parish life and to discover a God of mercy who loves me and welcomes me as I am.

 

In the process, I came to realize that I couldn’t let physical barriers dictate my mood. It was my responsibility to determine whether I would be positive and caring or negative and bitter. It was something I could choose to do. Just as I could freely choose to use my wheelchair to get around, I didn’t have to let anger and resentment keep me from moving forward with the Lord.

 

This realization made a huge difference in my life. For one thing, it helped me to forgive the pastor who had caused me so much pain. And as my bitterness slipped away, I felt myself grow. No longer was I content with being a Catholic who simply “follows the rules”. I wanted to embrace my faith and live it fully every day! I wanted to be near Jesus and get to know his word and his love for me – regardless of whether I felt welcome at church or was physically able to do the things that everyone else could do.

 

It has been a pleasant surprise to discover how many things I can do. Over the years, I have used my gifts to serve the parish as a lector, sponsor, religious-education teacher, and outreach committee member. I wrote a series of parish bulletin articles on the role of people with disabilities in the church today. I have represented our parish at archdiocesan conferences. All of this has been truly healing for me. (…)

  

 

B. First Reading (Heb 7:1-3, 15-17): “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”

 

Today’s First Reading (Heb 7:1-3, 15-17) helps us to contemplate the meaning of the priesthood of Christ. The author presents Christ’s priesthood in terms of its resemblance to that of Melchizedek in the book of Genesis. Melchizedek, a king of Salem and a priest of the Most High, blessed Abraham who was coming victoriously from a battle. Abraham offered tithes to him. The fact that Melchizedek is depicted as having no genealogy and no record of birth or death makes him an appropriate image of the “eternal” Priest: Jesus Christ. The figure of Melchizedek points to the Son of God who is infinitely superior and eternal. The name “Melchizedek” means righteousness and his title “king of Salem” means “king of peace”. His name and title evoke the blessings of justice and peace that Christ the Priest-Messiah would bring. He lives forever to intercede for us before God.

 

Msgr. Bernardo Antonini, a professed member of the JESUS PRIEST INSTITUTE, a branch of the Pauline Family founded by Blessed James Alberione, lived his priesthood under the guiding hand of the eternal High Priest Jesus Christ. The following biography prepared by the Society of St. Paul (SSP) underlines the glory of his priesthood.

 

Msgr. Bernardo Antonini was born in Cimego, Italy, on October 20, 1932, two years before his parents went to live in the Diocese of Verona. He entered the Verona Seminary and was ordained on June 26, 1955.

 

He was assigned to parish ministry at first but soon his gifts of mind were recognized and he took his Degree in Modern Languages at Catholic University and his Licentiate in Theology two years later. Meanwhile he had begun to teach in the Diocesan Junior Seminary until 1972. He was awarded his License in Sacred Scripture by the Pontifical Biblical Institute in 1975 and subsequently taught that subject for more than ten years meanwhile being Prefect of Young Priests, Director of Ongoing Clergy Formation and of the Center for Religious Formation in his Diocese.

 

Little did he know, however, what Divine Providence had in store for him. In 1977 he entered the JESUS PRIEST INSTITUTE where he met the Delegate Director, Fr. Lamera and shared with him his dreams of further apostolic initiatives. Under Fr. Lamera’s direction he remained strongly attached to his Diocese but also began to form his heart on the heart of Saint Paul and to understand better the urgency of bringing the Gospel to people everywhere with modern means. He also continued and increased his life-long devotion to Mary and was notable for his particular fidelity to the Holy Father.

 

His studies in modern languages had enabled him to acquire a good knowledge of Russian and, when Gorbachov began gradually to create more openness in Russian society toward the end of the eighties, he was released by his Bishop for his missionary work and went to Moscow on July 2, 1989, first working with the Apostolic Nuncio, and then with Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, the “Metropolitan” (or major Church figure in an area outside the normal Church confines).

 

From that time onwards his zeal had every opportunity to express itself. He was appointed Founder and Rector of the first Russian Seminary which he named, not surprisingly “Regina Apostolorum” – Queen of Apostles. He also taught Sacred Scripture, was a tireless preacher, and directed the local Catholic newspaper “Svet Evangelia” – “The Light of the Gospel”. During the Jubilee Year 2000, he was responsible for all the local initiatives: arranging pilgrimages, pastoral animation programs, Spiritual Exercises, Jubilee literature, organization of inter-religious dialogue and much more.

 

But he wished to work in poorer and deprived churches and so, on August 16, 2001, he transferred, with the permission of his Bishop, to be Vice-Rector of the local Seminary and Episcopal Vicar in Kazakhstan. But the end of his totally-committed life was near. On the Saturday before Palm Sunday he complained of a “stomachache” and some friends suggested he return to Italy for a check-up. However, he had just sent one of the priests to Italy for that purpose and he replied: “It’s not feasible to have two priests absent from the Diocese during Holy Week. Don’t worry. I will get over it.”

 

Tuesday of Holy Week saw him concelebrating with the Bishop at the Mass for the Blessing of Oils. In the evening he retired to his room. Next morning he was not in church (he was usually there before anyone else) and someone went to knock at his door. It was open. Inside he was still sitting upright at his desk as if working. He had written his last line and said his last word. After seventy utterly dedicated years in the Lord’s service he had gone to celebrate Easter in Paradise!

 

 

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

 

1. Is our love for our brothers and sisters all-inclusive, or do we give in to legalism, prejudices and other attitudes that create barriers and limit our care for them?

 

2. Do we value the gift of Jesus the eternal High Priest? Do we value the gift of the ordained priesthood? What do we do to help the ordained priests to be more efficacious in their ministry?

 

 

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

 

Thank you, loving Jesus,

for your courage to do good.

Give us the grace to overcome “barriers”

so that your healing love may touch the afflicted

at any moment and at any place.

Fill us with your all-inclusive compassion

and love that knows no seasons.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

***

God our Father,

we thank you for the gift of Jesus, the Priest.

He lives forever to intercede for us.

His ministry of intercession continues

in his ordained priests.

Help us to love and care for your priests.

Teach us to live fully

the dignity and value of our common priesthood.

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.

 

“Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” (Mk 3:4) // “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb 7:17)

 

 

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

 

Resolve to help the disabled and other people who are physically challenged and enable them to experience the healing power of God. // Pray for the priests and for priestly vocations. See what you can do to help priests in their ministry and those who are experiencing various difficulties.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

January 24, 2019: THURSDAY – SAINT FRANCIS DE SALES, Bishop, Doctor of the Church

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Touch Heals … He Offered Sacrifice Once-for-All”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Heb 7:25-8:6 // Mk 3:7-12

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 3:7-12): “The unclean spirits shouted, ‘You are the Son of God’, but Jesus warned them sternly not to make him known.”

 

In January 2014 I was in Cebú Island in the Philippines to attend the Santo Nino celebration. I had a chance to participate at the vigil novena in Saint Joseph’s Cathedral in Mandaue City. I was awed by the thousands of people who lined up in snake-like formation and were patiently waiting to touch the Santo Nino. At the fluvial parade the following morning, a great crowd was lined up on the seashore. Many thousands more were on the bridge. Hundreds of boats with thousands of devotees accompanied the transfer of the Santo Nino from a wharf in Mandaue to a pier in Cebu City. The number of devotees waiting by the seaside to welcome the Santo Nino was unbelievable. They want to “touch”, even if only with their gaze, the beloved Nino, who is the font of blessing and healing.

 

In today’s Gospel (Mk 3:7-12), a great crowd seeks Jesus. His pursuers are not only from his native Galilee, but also from Judea and the border regions to the south (Idumea), east (Transjordan) and north (Tyre and Sidon). Pressing upon Jesus, they yearn to be healed. Indeed, with his “touch”, Jesus has healed the man with the withered hand, made the paralytic walk and forgave his sins, cured Simon’s mother-in-law of fever, liberated the demoniac, and cleansed the leper. Jesus has cured so many that the sick crowd about him. There is power in Jesus’ touch. The sick and the needy, through time and space, would continue to seek Jesus and yearn for his touch, for all who touch him are made whole. 

 

 

B. First Reading (Heb 7:25-8:6): “He offered sacrifice once for all when he offered himself.”

 

In today’s First Reading (Heb 7:25-8:6), we focus our contemplative gaze upon Jesus, the eternal High Priest, whose once-for-all sacrifice upon the cross is infinitely efficacious. The saving sacrifice that he offered is his own self. Jesus is able, now and always, to save those who come to God through him. Jesus lives forever to plead with God for us all. Jesus, the holy Priest who offers the perfect sacrifice, is the “mediator” of the New Covenant. His perfect sacrifice on the cross has been the means of union between God and man. It has taken away sin – the barrier to that union – and has made possible our new and everlasting covenant with the compassionate and merciful God.

 

The sacrificial dimension of the Christian priesthood is illustrated anew in the life of Blessed Timothy Giaccardo, who offered his life for the Pauline Family and in a very special way, for the ecclesial approval of the religious congregation Pious Disciples of the Divine Master. Here is an excerpt from a brief biography prepared by the Society of St. Paul.

 

Fr. Giaccardo, the first priest of the Society of St. Paul, made Perpetual Vows on June 30, 1920, and took the name “Timothy” in religion in honor of St. Paul’s beloved disciple. Aware of his special devotion to the Pope, Fr. Alberione sent Fr. Timothy to Rome in January of 1926. There he founded the first St. Paul House outside Alba, in the area known as “St. Paul’s Vineyard” near the Basilica of St. Paul-outside-the-Walls.

 

He came back to Alba ten years later, in 1936, to be superior of the House there. He remained until 1946, during which time he was responsible for the many additions to the interior of the church Fr. Alberione had built. He was also actively engaged in the regular apostolate and priestly ministry in the Diocese.

 

He was appointed Vicar General of the Society of St. Paul in 1946 and went to reside in Rome. There, in a demonstration of remarkable fidelity to Fr. Alberione, he gave his considerable talents to the work of developing all the Pauline Congregations. He guided and sustained them as, one by one, they came into being, ensuring that each had a profound spirituality and an understanding of the special type of apostolate to which each one was called.

 

Meanwhile he personally practiced what he preached: a constant unrelenting effort to correct his defects and reach spiritual maturity. So successful was this effort that he attained the practice of perfect charity to the point of offering his life so that the Pauline Congregation Pious Disciples of the Divine Master (PDDM) would be recognized by the Church. The Lord accepted his offering and granted his request. He was stricken with leukemia and died in a short time, on Saturday, January 24, 1948. By no coincidence, this was the feast of St. Timothy and the Vigil of the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.

 

His funeral took place in the Basilica of St. Paul-outside-the-Walls on January 26 in the presence of a large number of clergy, civil authorities and people. His remains now lie in a place of honor in the Shrine of Mary, Queen of Apostles in Rome, not too far from the first House he founded there. (…) On May 13, 1989, the Pope, John Paul II, signed the Decree approving the miracle that decided that the Beatification of Fr. Giaccardo would take place on October 22, 1989, Mission Sunday.

 

  

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

 

1. Do we seek Jesus and yearn to “touch” him?

 

2. In the joys and sufferings of our daily life, do we associate ourselves with the once-for-all sacrifice that Jesus the eternal High Priest offered on the cross? Do we trust in the power of Christ’s ministry of intercession for us in heaven?

 

 

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

 

Jesus,

your touch heals

and your power drives out the evil that threatens us.

You are always there for us.

We extend our hand to touch you

and you allow yourself to be touched.

We praise and bless you

for you are our Savior, now and forever.

Amen.

 

***

O loving Father,

we give you glory and praise

for your beloved Son Jesus, the eternal High Priest.

His sacrifice on the cross won for us our salvation.

He lives forever to make intercession for us.

He is the mediator of the New Covenant sealed in his blood.

Help us to live out his priestly sacrifice

in the joys and sufferings of our daily life.

Through him, with him, and in him,

we give you glory and praise, now and forever.

Amen.

  

 

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

 

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

 

“He had cured many and, as a result, those who had diseases were pressing about him to touch him.” (Mk 3:10) // “He offered one sacrifice, once and for all, when he offered himself.” (Heb 7:27)

 

 

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

 

By your act of care and charity to the sick and the marginalized, let the healing touch of Jesus come to them. // Unite your sufferings, pains, difficulties and trials with the priestly sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. And in union with his priestly intercession in heaven, pray for those who suffer in any way.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

January 25, 2019: FRIDAY – THE CONVERSION OF SAINT PAUL

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Transforms His Persecutor Saul into an Apostle”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 22:3-16 or Acts 9:1-22 // Mt 15:15-18

 

 

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

 

The feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul provides wonderful insights into his spiritual journey, which can be summed up as “MISTICA” (spiritual experience), “METANOIA” (conversion-transformation) and “MISSIO” (mission of evangelization). Paul’s spiritual journey was a spiritual experience that produced a transformation and impelled him to assume a mission of evangelization. The converted Paul thus became an apostle of Christ to the nations.

 

Mistica: On the road to Damascus, Saul of Tarsus had a profound, dynamic spiritual experience. It was God’s initiative, grace and compassion that brought about Paul’s encounter with the Risen Lord. It was an experience of light – of revelation – of who Christ really is for Paul. Christ revealed himself not as an enemy, but as a personal Savior. Moreover, on the road to Damascus, it was revealed that Jesus of Nazareth lives on in his Body, the Church – the suffering Church. It was a knocked-down experience that left Paul vulnerable, defenseless and open to grace. He could not help but welcome the loving initiative of God. Saint Paul is a model for us of total receptivity and openness to grace.

 

Metanoia: Paul confessed: “I was once a blasphemer, a persecutor, a man filled with arrogance, but I have been mercifully treated … I thank Christ Jesus our Lord. He has strengthened me … made me his servant” (cf. I Tim 1:12-13). He experienced a change of heart, reorientation of goals, renewed vision and life transformation. From a bold persecutor of Christ-Church, he became a vessel of grace and the great apostle to the nations. As we look to Saint Paul as a model of true conversion, let us turn away from thoughts, words and actions that negate the love of Christ … from inconsiderate actions and words that wound the Church … from irresponsible deeds that do not promote the dignity and personal worth of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Above all, Saint Paul is our model of “christification”. Blessed James Alberione, the founder of the Pauline Family, exhorts us: “So then reach the point of Vivit in me Christus … when our thoughts and desires exist no more, but we live in Christ … It is not I anymore, but Christ in me. Transformation, transformation! In that way we have not only a body and soul, but another natural life – that is, the life itself of Christ.”

 

Mission-Evangelization: Paul’s mystic experience and conversion led to a special task or mandate: the mission of salvation … the call to evangelization. The Risen Lord who appeared to Paul made him a servant and witness to the nations. He mandated Paul to preach the Gospel that he may turn their darkness to light … that they may be brought back to God … that they may obtain forgiveness of sins and become part of God’s covenant people.

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Mk 16:15-18) about the missionary mandate to go out to the whole world and tell the Good News and about the signs of protection and power that will accompany the believers is fully exemplified in the life and person of Saint Paul. He went to the Gentile world to preach the Gospel of salvation. He was baptized by Ananias in Damascus. Totally obedient to Christ in faith, he became God’s vessel of salvation to the nations. He made the crippled man in Lystra walk. Through the apostle, God performed unusual miracles in Ephesus. Even handkerchiefs and aprons Paul had used were taken to the sick, and their diseases were driven away, and the evil spirits would go out of them. At Troas Paul resuscitated Eutychus, who fell from the third story to the ground during an evening fellowship meal while sitting drowsily by the window. When they picked him up, Eutychus was dead but Paul gave him back to them alive. After a shipwreck in Malta, Paul was bitten by a snake but was unharmed. Also in Malta, he healed the father of Publius, the chief of the island, and many others. Wherever he went, Paul was speaking a totally “new language” – the good news about Jesus as the Son of God – a marvelously “new language” of love and salvation.

 

The mystical and transforming experience of Saint Paul is replicated in the lives of many people through time and space. Here is a modern-day example (cf. Nathaniel Hurd, “Former Atheist Recounts His Journey to the Catholic Church” in Our Sunday Visitor, December 1, 2013, p. 22).

 

“These crazy Catholics are going to trample me to get to their bread”, I thought as the crowds pressed forward. It was Easter Sunday Mass 1998, outdoors in St. Peter’s Square. I was traveling with my friend Chris. He was a Catholic and a pilgrim. I was an unbaptized atheist and a tourist. Chris saw priests in cassocks and surplices, distributing the Body and Blood of Christ. I saw men in dresses, carrying bread. Fourteen years later, on October 11, 2012, I stood in that same square as a Catholic. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was the celebrant for the Mass starting the Year of Faith. I was preparing to receive Holy Communion, because seven years earlier, I had finally, fully accepted the gift of faith.

 

In my years as an atheist, agnostic and Episcopalian, I surprisingly remembered almost everything from that earlier Easter: Walking into St. Peter’s Square, thinking it was like two hands cupped together, waiting for people to fill it. Standing ahead of hundreds of thousands of people. Seeing flags from so many countries. Kenyans dancing when Pope John Paul II said “Happy Easter” in Swahili.

 

There is only one other sacred experience from my atheist years that I remembered so completely. My parents and I visited a cloistered convent when I was a teenager and heard the nuns sing evening prayer behind a screen. The prayer ended, and I sat transfixed. I thought it was only the beauty that moved me.

 

How did this atheist come to see the supernatural behind and beyond the beauty? First, Catholic friends modeled and shared the Faith. They answered my questions with respect and reason, not simplistic brush-offs. They stressed that they were sharing the teachings that Christ entrusted to his Church, not personal opinion. These friendships moved me to finally open the door to the divine.

 

God also provided moments of Grace. The first was during a run on Dec. 23, 2001. My thoughts were on the snow that covered the cornstalks, the river to my left and road under my feet. Although I had been thinking about faith over the past few years, I had not focused on Christianity. That moment I recognized the reality of one God in three Persons – Father, Holy Spirit and the Son who lived, died and rose for my sins. It was the start of seeing.

 

Easter 2002, I was baptized Episcopalian. However, I was a lazy disciple who took no responsibility for responding to the Lord. I eventually began to wonder if he was calling me to more than what I was receiving from my faith community. I stopped going to church.

 

On Good Friday two years later, a Catholic friend and colleague invited me to a “Way of the Cross” walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. It was the first Good Friday that the Passion was real and painful for me. The force of Christ’s challenge – “I did this for you. What are you doing daily for me?” – of the faith of the faithful around me, of the whole experience, overwhelmed and lifted me to an Easter Vigil Mass. I sat in back but felt as if I was in front on the altar experiencing Christ’s sacrifice. The power of the liturgy moved me to return for Easter Sunday and reconsider why I had been closed to Catholicism.

 

The more I learned the “what” and “why” of the Church and its teaching, the more it was clear that my original understanding had been based on stereotypes and misinformation. Only the Catholic Church seemed to be the sure way for me to know what Christ taught, how he wanted me to live and where I should go for whatever I needed to do. Only the Church seemed to be preserving and promoting the fullness of the Bible and the teachings of the apostles since Pentecost.

 

I entered a parish Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults program … I was received into full communion with the Church and received first Holy Communion at the Easter Vigil 2005. I was struggling to understand some of the teachings of the Church, but my faith in Christ, the Holy Spirit and the Church was strong.

 

God protected me during many trials. My mother threatened to cut off any communication with me. My father objected to the Church’s teaching that there is one Church and one way. For two years, my parents forbade me from visiting during Christmas and later banned me from using their car to go to Mass when I saw them.

 

Other obstacles were internal. I delayed going to daily Mass, thinking that I wanted to avoid “too much, too soon”. When I started going, I discovered what I had missed, what no one had explained to me: it is impossible to encounter God too much and too early. My personal and professional life changed. Daily Mass led to regular confession. When I returned to Rome, I returned as a Catholic. At St. Peter’s tomb, I made sure to pray for Christian unity.

  

 

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

 

Do we see the mystical experience as an important element in the conversion of Saint Paul and in our own personal conversion?

 

 

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

 (cf. Opening Prayer, Mass of the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul)

 

God our Father,

you taught the gospel to all the world

through the preaching of Paul your apostle.

May we who celebrate his conversion to the faith

follow him in bearing witness to your truth.

We ask 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.

 

“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4)

 

 

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

 

As we celebrate today the feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, resolve to be more open to the grace of his presence, especially in the Letters of Saint Paul, and to find ways to make people interested in them.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

January 26, 2019: SATURDAY – SAINTS TIMOTHY AND TITUS, Bishops

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is Misunderstood … He Is the Icon of Pastoral Ministry”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

2 Tm 1:1-8 or Ti 1:1-5 // Mk 3:20-21

 

 

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

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 3:20-21): “They said, ‘He is out of his mind.’”

 

Jesus comes down from the mountain with his twelve disciples. As before, people seek him for healing and crowd around him. Responding compassionately to their needs, he performs healings, especially exorcisms. The crowd is so great that Jesus and his companions could not even manage to eat. The situation alarms his over-protective relatives. They misinterpret Jesus’ intense preoccupation with the sick as madness. They try to take control of the situation and protect him from further folly. The relatives are appalled by his exaggerated ways and perceive his behavior as bordering on insanity. Thus Jesus is misunderstood and falsely perceived by his very own. In the same way, Christian disciples would experience rejection and misunderstanding as they proclaim the Gospel and carry out the ministry they have received from Christ.

 

The following charming story is about a Buddhist monk who, like Christ, is totally misunderstood and despised (cf. Anthony de Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations, New York: Image Books, 1988, p. 120-121).

 

Gessen was a Buddhist monk. He was also an exceptionally talented artist. Before he started work on any painting, however, he always demanded payment in advance. And his fees were exorbitant. So he came to be known as the Greedy Monk.

 

A geisha once sent for him to have a painting done. Gessen said, “How much will you pay me?” The girl happened to be entertaining a patron at that time. She said, “Any sum you ask for. But the painting must be done right now before me.” Gessen set to work at once and when the painting was completed he asked for the highest sum he ever charged. As the geisha was giving him his money, she said to her patron, “This man is supposed to be a monk, but all he thinks of is money. His talent is exceptional, but he has a filthy, money-loving mind. How does one exhibit the canvas of a filthy, money-loving man like that? His work is good enough for my underclothing!”

 

With that she flung a petticoat at him and asked him to paint a picture on it. Gessen asked the usual question before he started the work: “How much will you give me?” “Oh, any sum you ask for”, said the girl. Gessen named his price, painted the picture, shamelessly pocketed the money, and walked away.

 

Many years later, quite by chance, someone found out why Gessen was so greedy for money. Devastating famine often struck his home province. The rich would do nothing to help the poor. So Gessen had secret barns built in the area and had them filled with grain for such emergencies. No one knew where the grain came from or who the benefactor of the province was.

 

Another reason why Gessen wanted money was the road leading to his village from the city many miles away. It was in such bad condition that oxcarts could not move on it; this caused much suffering to the aged and the infirm when they needed to get to the city. So Gessen had the road repaired.

 

The final reason was the meditation temple which Gessen’s teacher had always desired to build but could not. Gessen built this temple as a token of gratitude to his revered teacher.

 

After the Greedy Monk had built the road, the temple, and the barns, he threw away the paint and brushes, retired to the mountains to give himself to the contemplative life, and never painted another canvas again.

  

 

B. First Reading (2 Tm 1:1-8): “I recall your sincere faith.”

 

In the First Reading (II Tm 1:1-8), Saint Paul underlines the obligations of Christian faith. Paul was martyred at Rome in the year 67. His second letter to Timothy represented his last will and testament. Paul exhorts the young pastor, Timothy, to exercise serving faith. The “gift of God” that Timothy received at ordination implies dutiful service to the faith community. Paul reminds Timothy that the divine gift received through “imposition of hands” needs to be continually exercised and rekindled for the common good. Timothy is likewise called to an enduring faith. Timothy needs to give witness to our Lord. He must endure sufferings for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.

  

The following inspiring article illustrates what it means to remain “in the faith and love that are ours in union with Christ Jesus” and how a Christian disciple could exercise a serving faith and an enduring faith in today’s world (cf. David Aquije, “The Bicycle Disciple” in Maryknoll, April 2010, p. 24-31). Fr. McCahill manifests his faith and shares this wonderful gift as he serves the sick poor in Bangladesh.

 

The day Maryknoll Father Robert McCahill arrived in Narail it was raining. The thin, 72-year old priest was physically exhausted and tired of looking for the place where he could begin a new phase of mission. Narail “was kind of miserable”, says the missioner, who for more than 35 years has been living in different villages of Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world, with a population of 150 million in a land the size of Iowa. Narail, a small, underdeveloped village without infrastructure in the southeast of the country, seemed to the missioner like “a good place to make a mark of Christianity, not for the purpose of conversion but simply for the idea of showing what a Christian is and does.”

 

McCahill was one of five Maryknoll priests who arrived in Bangladesh in 1975 to begin a ministry of Christian witness. For eight years, the missioners lived together, forming a Christian fraternity in Tangail, near Dhaka, the capital. Afterward, McCahill focused his mission on traveling to the interior of the country to help people, particularly children, who were in urgent need of medical assistance. Finding a place to begin his next stay can take McCahill months of research. He has his own criteria: the place should be poor, have no other foreigners or Christians and some of the people must be willing to allow him free use of a small piece of land where he can build his own shack.

 

A disciple of our times, McCahill arrives alone – with only a bag with a change of clothing and the essential elements to celebrate his own Mass – in any community where he might live for the next three years. There he sits in any tea shop – “tea stalls” he calls them – where men generally congregate to drink cha, sweet tea with milk that is the national drink, the way coffee is in the United States. Noting the presence of a foreigner, the rustic shop quickly fills up with people and McCahill responds honestly to all their questions. “I am Brother Bob, a Christian missionary”, the priest from Goshen, Indiana, tells them. “I am here to serve seriously sick people who are poor.” In the predominantly Muslim nation with a large Hindu minority, the questions that McCahill receives are many: has he come to convert, how does he finance the help he offers and why had he no family? He responds that the medical help he offers depends completely on the financial donations of his extended family and not on an organization; that his purpose is to live among people who are not Christian and treat them with love, respect and brotherhood; and that his family is all of humanity. McCahill describes the three years that he lives in each town this way: “The first year many are suspicious of me. The second year trust begins to build. The third year people’s affection is felt. They say, ‘He said he only came to do good and that is what he does’.”

 

In Narail, a short while before finishing his three years, McCahill continues getting up very early in the morning to dedicate time for prayer and meditation before beginning his mission work. This morning in October, he leaves his shack of jute-stick walls, a dirt floor and a corrugated roof and mounts his bicycle that will carry him over windy dirt roads through the beautiful countryside of Bangladesh’s fertile farmland, where ironically millions of people live in extreme poverty. The missioner pedals some miles to the next village of Bolorampur, where he visits Mehenaz, a 3-year-old girl who suffers from cerebral palsy as a result of a poorly handled delivery by a midwife in the village. Mehenaz’ grandmother brings the girl out of her hut and puts a mat on the ground. The missioner squats down in the style of the Bangladeshis and observes and assists the grandmother with the recommended physical therapy for the child. The girl’s mother isn’t there and McCahill is happy that someone else in the family has learned the exercises.

 

Afterward, amid the songs of wild birds and the smell of burning firewood, McCahill again mounts his bicycle and pedals several more miles to the village of Buramara. In Buramara, McCahill visits Liza, a 2-year-old who suffered serious burns on her left arm before her first birthday. The burns were so grave that her entire hand was fused to her forearm. McCahill was able to take the girl to a hospital in Dhaka where surgeons separated her hand from the forearm. Liza wears a brace so that the hand stays straight. The missioner explains that the child needs another surgery to straighten out two fingers that are bent. Liza cries easily and McCahill thinks it is because she is still in pain, but he tries to console her and make her laugh.

 

That is McCahill’s ministry. He mounts his bicycle and rides miles to his destination. It doesn’t matter if the roads are full of mud during the monsoon season in this tropical Asian land, east of India, on the Bay of Bengal. He arrives in a village and looks to help people who would otherwise be disabled and burdened for a lifetime by their physical conditions. With a small camera he takes photos of their conditions: cerebral palsy, burns, muscular dystrophy, cleft lips, hernias, tumors and broken bones caused by accidents. Every week he goes to Dhaka, traveling the same as the poor, in the old buses that are part of the complicated and dangerous Bengali transportation system. At a hospital in the capital, McCahill shows the photos to doctors who make their provisional diagnosis. With this information the missioner arranges for free treatment at one of the government hospitals in the city and eventually makes the eight- or nine-hour trip again with the children and their parents. “Not a great expense”, McCahill says. “I afford them their tickets. I usually provide the medicine. It’s not a matter of money; it’s a matter of love, the heart.”

 

Because he lives in a poor and predominantly Muslim country, McCahill relies on only a modest budget that comes from donations from his extended family for his ministry. “If I had lots of funds at hand to use, and lived apart (in a parish), people’s attitude to me would differ”, he says, adding the people would be tempted to wheedle money out of him. “People here understand I’m using more money for their needs than I use for my own needs.  No one can look at my life of service and say ‘he can only do that because he’s a rich American’.” For that reason McCahill shares the donations he receives through Maryknoll with other Christian communities that serve the poor in Bangladesh, especially communities of apostolic Sisters.

 

His is a life of service that he says began on Oct. 31, 1956. He was 19 years old and was interested in a career in political science. But that day as he was returning home from Seattle University, where he was studying, “I received – I can’t even describe it – an attraction to God like I had never felt before nor have needed since. The motivation I received in that moment was sufficient to keep me for life, as long as I continue to remember it.”

 

For years, McCahill has described his mission in a journal that he types every month on an antique Olivetti typewriter and shares with friends and family. “My mission”, he says, “is to show the love of Christ, the love of God for all people of all faiths; to be with them as a brother, to establish brotherhood by being a brother to them.”

 

***

 

C. Alternative First Reading (Ti 1:1-5): “To Titus, my beloved son in common faith.”

 

In the alternative First Reading (Ti 1:1-5) we hear from Saint Paul’s letter to Titus, a Gentile convert to Christianity, who became a fellow worker and helper in missionary work. Titus is Paul’s young legate in the island of Crete. Paul underlines his authority as a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. Paul has been chosen by God and sent to promote the faith of the God’s chosen people. Such a task will be accomplished through the help of Titus, Paul’s “loyal child in faith” who is faithful to his teaching. Paul charges Titus with the task of organizing the church in Crete. Such pastoral action is necessitated by the disruption caused by false teachers. In view of a more efficacious pastoral ministry, Paul’s invocation of blessing upon Titus becomes meaningful. He prays: “May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior give you grace and peace.”

 

Saint Paul’s relationship with the Church leader, Titus, is inspiring. The following modern-day account gives insight into the bond of charity and unity of faith that fellow workers in the Lord share (cf. Francis, Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, Testimony of Hope, Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2000, p. 111),

 

I would like to remember for a moment the “kingdom of the wretched”, as one deportee called it, the prison camp in the Solovetsky Islands of Russia. One deported remembered an image of love in the midst of that great hell:

 

Uniting their efforts, a Catholic bishop who was still young worked together with an emaciated old man – an Orthodox bishop with a white beard, ancient in days but strong in spirit, who energetically pushed the load … Any of us who would one day have the good fortune of returning to the world, would have to testify to what we have seen here and now. What we saw was the rebirth of pure and authentic faith of the early Christians: the union of Churches in the persons of the Catholic and Orthodox bishops who participated unanimously in the duties, united in love and humility.

 

This happened in Solovetsky, “alma mater” of the Soviet prison camps.

 

 

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

 

1. What do we do when, like Jesus, we are misunderstood and rejected?

 

2. Do we endeavor to remain in the faith and love that are ours as Christians united with Christ Jesus

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you are the most caring and compassionate person.

You gave yourself totally on our behalf.

You were misunderstood, rejected and despised.

Help us to realize that suffering is part of our discipleship.

When we are rejected, we cling to you.

When we are misunderstood,

we trust that in God’s time, our accusers will see the light.

Bless us, now and forever. Amen.

 

***

O gracious God,

faith is your gift – your offer of eternal life.

Thank you for your goodness!

Through the intercession of Saints Timothy and Titus, bishops,

let our faith response

be marked with strength of hope

and service of love.

May our Christian discipleship

be known for its serving and enduring faith.

We adore you and give you praise,

now and forever. Amen.   

 

 

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

 

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

 

“They said, ‘He is out of his mind’.” (Mk 3:20) // “Bear your share of hardship for the Gospel.” (II Tm 1:8) or “Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our savior.” (I Ti 1:4)

 

 *** 

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


Mother House - Home - About Us  - Liturgical Center - Pauline Family - New Logo -

Young Vocations - Nicaragua & Costa Rica - Lectio Divina - Eucharistic Adoration - Updated Events -

LA Convent Blessing - LA Project - Study Links