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A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 17, n. 26)

Sixth Week of Easter: May 26 – June 1, 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: May 19-25, 2019 please go to ARCHIVES Series 17 and click on “Easter Week 5”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: May 26 – June 1, 2019.)

 

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May 26, 2019: SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Lives On in the Spirit”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 15:1-2, 22-29 // Rv 21:10-14, 22-23 // Jn 14:23-29

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 14:23-29): “The Holy Spirit will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.”

 

This is a heartwarming story about an Italian couple, members of the Holy Family Institute, founded by Blessed James Alberione. The members of this Pauline Secular Institute are consecrated to God as married couples. Every day, this couple would pray together the Rosary. One day, the husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer. They humbly accepted the divine will. Since the husband’s days were numbered, the couple prepared for his departure. They made sure that they would be present to each other even after his death. When the husband passed away, the wife continued to pray their daily rosary by means of the taped voice he left behind. For the loving widow, praying with the taped rosary was a way of experiencing her husband’s “presence”. Their love was deepened by a spiritual “presence” that transcends physical absence.

 

The Italian couple’s experience helps us to understand the Gospel of today about the love of Christ living on in the Church through the power of the Spirit. Jesus Christ, as the glorified Risen Lord, continues to live on, in the here and now of the Church, as a “new” presence. Indeed, today’s Gospel reading (Jn 14: 23-29) is a suitable preparation for the forthcoming feast of the Lord’s Ascension, for it speaks of the love of Christ and his abiding presence through the Holy Spirit. As part of the Farewell Discourse of Jesus, today’s Gospel passage depicts his return to the bosom of the Father and the consequent sending of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who guarantees that Jesus’ words would remain and bear abundant fruit in the lives of the disciples.

 

Today’s Gospel proclamation underlines the nature of Christ’s testament of love, which we reflected upon in last Sunday’s liturgy (Jn 13:31-33a, 34-35). The evangelist John records the words of Jesus to his disciples: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. Yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me” (Jn 15:23-24). Jesus speaks of love, the pivotal Christian virtue, and links it with being true to his word. To love the Lord and to keep his word are the same, for is he not the Word of God? Moreover, to receive his word is to receive the Father and the Son, since abiding with the word of the Lord testifies to the reality of divine presence. Indeed, the specific quality of Christian love is the intimate communion and indwelling of the Father and the Son with the disciples.

 

Abiding with the Word of God, with its consequent communion in the love of the Father and the Son, is made possible when the Holy Spirit comes into the hearts of Christ’s disciples. That is why Jesus Master, in his farewell discourse, made this astounding promise: “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you” (Jn 14:26). The editors of the Jerusalem Bible remark: “In place of the departed Christ, the faithful will have the Spirit. He is the parakletos, who intercedes with the Father, and whose voice is heard in human courts. He is the Spirit of truth, leading men and women to the very fullness of truth, teaching them to understand the mystery of Christ – his fulfillment of the scriptures, the meaning of his words, of his actions, and of his signs, all hitherto obscure to the disciples.”

  

The Divine Master then links the promised coming of the Holy Spirit with a peace blessing: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid” (Jn 14:27-28). “SHALOM!” “PEACE!” This customary Jewish greeting and farewell evokes the perfect happiness and the deliverance that the Messiah would bring. At the brink of his ultimate Passover, Jesus gives the perfect benediction and farewell blessing to his disciples. The peace that Jesus bequeaths to them is the spiritual serenity and harmony resulting from profound communion with God and his saving will.  

 

Furthermore, the leave-taking of Jesus is associated with a call to rejoicing: “If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I” (Jn 14:28). Those who truly love Jesus would experience that his “homecoming” into the bosom of the Father is a cause for rejoicing. Christ’s return to the Father, who sent him, with the saving mission brought to completion, is a glorious moment and font of joy for his disciples.

 

 

B. First Reading (Acts 15:1-2, 22-29): “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities.”

 

A “paraclete” is one who cheers, encourages, persuades, exhorts, stirs up, urges forward and calls on to greater courage and newness. Harold Buetow narrates how the wife of the great American author, Nathaniel Hawthorne played the part of a “paraclete”.

 

When the heartbroken Nathaniel Hawthorne went home to tell his wife that he was a failure and had been fired from his job in the customhouse, she surprised him with an exclamation of joy. “Now,” she said triumphantly, “you can write a book!” “Yes,” replied Nathaniel, “and what shall we live on while I’m writing it?” To his amazement, she opened a drawer and pulled out a substantial amount of money. “Where on earth did you get that?” he exclaimed. “I’ve always known you were a man of genius,” she told him. “I knew that someday you would write a masterpiece. So every week, out of the housekeeping money you gave me, I saved a little. So here is enough to last us for a whole year!” From her confidence and encouragement came one of the greatest novels of United States literature, The Scarlet Letter.

 

The divine Paraclete, sent by the Father in the name of Jesus, not only encourages and gives strength to the disciples. He also teaches them about everything and reminds them of all that Jesus had done and taught. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is the “memory of the Church”. The Spirit, the heart and soul of the Church’s living tradition, pushes it forward. It gives it the courage and audacity needed to confront new situations, seeking and finding bold solutions, while drawing on its memory of the living Word.

 

The role of the Holy Spirit in the Church of the Risen Lord is evident in today’s First Reading (Acts 15:1-2, 22-29). The passage reports on the burning issue presented to the Council of Jerusalem by the Church in Antioch whether a non-Jew who becomes a believer in Christ should be compelled to undergo circumcision in order to be saved. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Council of Jerusalem - the Church’s first Ecumenical Council – makes a radical and significant decision to officially break ties with Judaism. Thus the Christian assembly arrives at a newer way of defining itself centered on the faith in Jesus, without compelling the Gentile converts to become Jews in order to attain salvation, knowing by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that the ultimate and final word of God is not the Torah, but Jesus Christ. Salvation is brought about, not with the observance of Jewish law, but through faith in Jesus Christ. Under the impulse of the Holy Spirit and the freedom that he brings, the Gospel of the Risen Lord spread to the ends of the earth.  

 

 

C. Second Reading (Rv 21:10-14, 22-23): “The angel showed me the holy city coming down out of heaven.”  

 

The activity of the indwelling Spirit in the “here and now” is in view of the new city of Jerusalem (cf. Rv 21:10-14, 22-23), which represents the ultimate bliss and divine presence, to which we are journeying. Saint John’s end-time vision of the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God inspires us to strive for that heavenly home and experience the fullness of light and life because of God’s presence. The heavenly Jerusalem is a city of light inasmuch as God and the Lamb are its perfect luminaries. Here there is no night – symbol of death, shadows and insecurity – because light and life spring forth eternally from God.

  

The following story about the passing into the heavenly Jerusalem of a remarkable lady illustrates that spiritual realities are mysterious but true (cf. “Mother’s Effort” by Margaret Sitte in Amazing Grace for the Catholic Heart, Jeff Cavins, et. al., West Chester: Ascension Press, 2004, p. 72-72).

 

Although Mother raised two children during the fifties and sixties, there was another child she could never forget. Mark was a beautiful red-headed baby who entered the world prematurely. He struggled to breathe from the beginning. Six hours after his birth, he gasped his last breathe.

 

One of Mother’s greatest regrets was never having held her baby son while he was alive. She was still in the hospital on the day of Mark’s funeral, so my dad carried the little coffin into her hospital room for her to say goodbye. A mother can never forget the love for her child, and so it was with my mother. She got on with her life, but when people asked her how many children she had, she usually answered “three”. So as teenagers, when my brother and I bought her a mother’s ring, we made sure there were three stones surrounding her ruby birthstone; two “diamonds” to represent the April birthdays of her living children and the “aquamarine” for Mark’s March birthday.

 

When my mother was ninety-four, she broke her hip. She stayed in the hospital three weeks, but then returned home, living independently by late April. In early May, she called me one day, her voice full of joy.

 

“Margaret, when I woke up this morning, there was a tall, handsome, red-haired man standing beside my bed”, she said. “I was immediately flooded with peace and joy. I knew instantly it was Mark. He told me, ‘It won’t be long. I will be coming for you.’” She repeated the story to my brother a few weeks later while they visited Mark’s grave at the cemetery on Memorial Day.

 

Mother steadily improved, and I forgot about Mark’s visit. Mother, however, started putting her affairs in order, wanting to sell her rental property, emptying closets, and repeatedly saying she wanted to clean out her house and have a rummage sale.

 

In mid-August, Mother fell and needed hospitalization; in early September she experienced a stroke. When she could not speak, she would often gaze upon the mother’s ring we had given her. On December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, she was humming “Joy to the World” with some carolers as she sat eating supper at 6 p.m. Within the hour, she had passed away.

 

The next day at the funeral home, the funeral director handed me a small black bag containing Mother’s jewelry. As I opened the bag and her mother’s ring fell into my hand, all at once I remembered Mother’s visitor. I realized Mark had come for her. It was a comfort to know she did not leave this world alone.

    

 

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

 

Do we believe that we belong to a “Spirit-filled community”, where the Holy Spirit teaches and reminds us with the words and wisdom of the Risen Lord and makes him fully present to us? Is our love for Jesus strong enough to enable us to act upon his word? What do we do with the benediction of “peace” that the Divine Master bequeaths to us?

 

 

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

 

O Risen Lord,

in your homecoming to the Father,

you promised to send us the Holy Spirit,

your Easter gift.

The Spirit of wisdom rouses our hearts

 “Rise up! People of Easter!

Rise up! Take courage!”

Help us to be receptive to the Holy Spirit

who teaches us everything

and reminds us of all that you have told us.

Let us dwell in your peace

and make us channels of your peace

in today’s world that aches to receive the Good News.

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 Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” (Jn 14:26)

 

 

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

 

Today, after praying for the power of the Holy Spirit, bring the peace of Christ to a person or any human situation and community in need of it. 

 

 

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 May 27, 2019: MONDAY – EASTER WEEKDAY (6); SAINT AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY

MEMORIAL DAY (USA)

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Spirit Will Strengthen Us … He Opens the Hearts to the Good News”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 16:11-15 // Jn 15:26-16:4a

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 15:26-16:4a): “The Spirit of truth will testify to me.”

 

In the Gospel (Jn 15:26-16:4a) we hear that Jesus is deeply concerned for his disciples. They will experience rejection and suffering in an unbelieving world. Because of their intimate union with him, they will meet the same fate from unbelievers who think they are serving God by persecuting them. Jesus assures his disciples that the Advocate will come – the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father. Indeed, assailed by the world’s hatred and in order not to give up the faith, the disciples would need the sustained help of the Holy Spirit, who gives witness to Jesus. They are called to bear witness just as Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, bears witness to God unto death. The testimony of the Christian disciples in an unbelieving world is powered by the witness of the Holy Spirit, sent by Jesus to be the “Helper” of the Church.

 

The following article gives insight into the conflicts and duress that Christian disciples are experiencing in today’s world (cf. “Media Could Learn from Allen” in Alive! April 2014,  p. 8).

 

John Allen Jr. is a new associate editor of the Boston Globe, with the task of covering global Catholicism … In a recent report for the Globe he told the remarkable story of how Catholicism “is growing by leaps and bounds” in the heart of the Muslim world.

 

Due to persecution and war, the Arab Christian population of the Middle East has fallen from 20% to 5% in a century, and some communities face extinction. But “the Arabian Peninsula today is, improbably, seeing one of the most dramatic Catholic growth rates anywhere in the world”, wrote Allen. “The expansion is being driven not by Arab converts, but by foreign expats whom the region increasingly relies on for manual labor and domestic service.”

 

Thanks to the arrival of Filipinos, Indians, Sri-Lankans, Pakistanis, Koreans and so on, the peninsula’s Catholic population is now estimated at 2.5 million. Saudi Arabia alone has 1.5 million Catholics with up to 400,000 in Kuwait and Qatar and about 140,000 in Bahrain.

 

“Despite the triple handicaps of being poor, lacking citizenship rights, and belonging to a religious community often viewed with suspicion, these folks are trying to put down roots for the faith, and having some surprising success”, wrote Allen.

 

Indeed, the King of Bahrain has agreed to donate land for the Catholic Church to be called “Our Lady of Arabia”, which will serve as the cathedral for Northern Arabia. At present Catholics attend Mass in Western embassies, especially Italy’s, or in a private home, or on the grounds of a foreign-owned oil company. The bishop of the area, a 69-year old Italian, sees the Bahrain king’s decision as “a good sign of dialogue which should be imitated by other countries.”

 

But he admitted that the region is one of the world’s most difficult places to be a Christian. Apart from pressures from radical Islamic movements, Christian workers are offered better salaries or other perks if they convert and their work hours can make it virtually impossible to attend Mass.

 

“In the Arabic world in general, this is a time of cruel fanaticism”, said Bishop Camillo Ballin. “We don’t want to provoke the fanatics by making ourselves a target.” As a result, the new cathedral will have no cross at the top or other outward sign it is a Christian.

 

In contrast to Bahrain, Saudi Arabia is a complete “no-go area” for any church, despite its large Catholic minority. “Muslims preach that the entire country is a big mosque, and they say you can’t build a church inside a mosque”, said the bishop. “The day we can build a church in Saudi Arabia will be a glorious day not just for the Saudis but for the whole world.”

     

 

B. First Reading (Acts 16:11-15): “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul taught.”

 

The reading (Acts 16:11-15) is very significant. The Gospel is proclaimed for the first time in Europe. Paul’s evangelization of Europe begins with his missionary activity in Philippi, a prominent city in the district of Macedonia. Philippi holds the key to land communication between Europe and Asia Minor and it has a certain status as a town settled by Roman citizens. On the Sabbath, Paul and his companions go to the Jewish place of prayer outside the city beside a river. There they meet a group of women worshippers, including Lydia from the city of Thyatira, a wealthy dealer in purple cloth. The Risen Lord opens the heart of this “God-fearing” woman to listen to the Gospel proclaimed by Saint Paul. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Lydia is receptive to what Paul says about the Christ. She responds in faith to the saving message and is baptized together with her household. United with them as “a believer in the Lord”, she persuades Paul and his companions to partake of the gracious hospitality she offers in her home.

 

The Risen Lord manifests his “living presence” when he “opens” the heart of Lydia to receive the Gospel. Something similar occurs during Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Britain in September 2010 (cf. “’A Triumph of Enthusiasm over Cynicism’, Says Salmond” in The Tablet, September 25, 2010, p. 7).

 

The success of the Scottish leg of Pope Benedict’s visit to Britain has been described by First Minister Alex Salmond as “a triumph of enthusiasm over cynicism”, writes Sam Adams. Mr. Salmond made the comment during a conversation with the visit’s coordinator, Lord Patten, after witnessing first hand the remarkable and perhaps unexpected welcome given to the Pope by the Scottish people on Thursday.

 

Fears of widespread protests or, worse still, public apathy proved to be unfounded as people turned out in their tens of thousands to cheer Benedict in Edinburgh and Glasgow on day one of the tour. Poor ticket sales for the pastoral events and media criticism of the Pope over his handling of the clerical-abuse crisis and his attitude towards issues such as homosexuality provoked downbeat expectations for his reception in Edinburgh, so the scale of support the Pope received in Scotland took many observers by surprise.

 

An estimated 125,000 people lined Princes Street in the Scottish capital to see him driven past in the Popemobile following his welcome to the United Kingdom by the Queen and spiritual leaders at the Palace of Holyroadhouse.

 

Benedict set the tone for the rest of the four-day visit during his opening speech at Holyroadhouse, in which he warned against the influence of “aggressive forms of secularism” in society. He expanded on this theme during his homily at the Mass in Bella Houston Park in Glasgow, where he had been given a raucous welcome by 65,000 flag-waving supporters in the early evening sunshine.

 

Pope Benedict called on Catholics to help evangelize a culture threatened by the “dictatorship of relativism”, in order to counter those who were trying to “exclude religious beliefs from public discourse, to privatize it or even to paint it as a threat to equality or liberty”.

 

“Society today needs clear voices which propose our right to live, not in the jungle of self-destruction and arbitrary freedoms, but in a society which works for the true welfare of its citizens and offers them guidance and protection in the face of their weakness and fragility”, said the Pope, appealing to lay Catholics to “put the case of the promotion of faith’s wisdom and vision in the public forum”.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we open ourselves to the power of the Holy Spirit who strengthens us in persecution and duress?

 

2. Do we allow our hearts to be opened by the Lord that we may listen with renewed sensitivity to the Gospel? Do we imitate Saint Paul in his zeal to spread the Good News to all people and to the ends of the world?

 

 

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

 

Father,

we thank you for the Spirit of truth. He is our Advocate and “Helper”

in a secularized world that demands our Christian witness.

We thank you for the missionary zeal of Saint Paul

and his fellow apostolic workers.

Open our hearts

to the transforming presence of the Risen Lord.

Let the Easter victory reign over all.

We love and adore you, now and forever.

            Amen. Alleluia.

 

 

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.

 

“The Advocate will testify to me.” (Jn 15:26) // “The Lord opened her heart.” (Acts 16:14)

 

  

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

 

Pray for the persecuted Christians in today’s world. When you read the newspaper, watch television, log on to the Internet, etc., identify the Gospel elements, focus on them and promote them in your conversation with your family, relatives, and friends.

             

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May 28, 2019: TUESDAY – EASTER WEEKDAY (6)

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Spirit Is Our Advocate … They Believed in Him and Were Saved”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 16:22-34 // Jn 16:5-11

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 16:5-11): “But if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you.”

 

Parting can be heartbreaking. When I was eight years old, my parents decided to transfer the whole family from Guinobatan, a small peaceful town at the foot of picturesque Mount Mayon in Albay province, to Manila, a large chaotic city where my father was employed. When we were boarding the train, I caught a glimpse of my farmer grandparents – standing together in silence – their venerable faces poignant with sadness. I will never forget the pained expression they wore. I wanted to run and embrace them. Tears welled up in my eyes and grief filled my young heart. My beloved grandparents tried to be strong. I knew I had to do just that.

 

In today’s Gospel (Jn 16:5-11) Jesus talks to his disciples of his imminent departure. Sadness and perplexity come upon them. But he assures them that his going to the Father is beneficial: for unless he goes away the Advocate will not come to them. Jesus’ earthly departure is a gain. He will send from the bosom of the Father the Holy Spirit, his Easter gift. The Spirit of the Risen Lord Jesus is the Advocate-Judge who will prove the claims of Jesus as Son of God and condemn the world for their sin of unbelief. As an Easter people, we need to be receptive to the Spirit-Advocate who continues to witness to Jesus in today’s world. As we live the divine life shared with us by the death and resurrection of Christ, we testify in the Spirit that Jesus Christ is the righteous one. He triumphs over Satan and is victorious over sin and death.

 

 

B. First Reading (Acts 16:22-34): “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you and your household will be saved.”

 

In the reading (Acts 16:22-34), Saint Paul and his companions continue their Gospel work in Philippi. One day as they are going to the place of prayer, a slave girl with an occult spirit accosts them. She earns a lot of money for her owners by telling fortunes. The possessed follows the missionaries, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God! They announce to you how you can be saved!” She does this for many days until Paul becomes so upset that he exorcises the evil spirit. The owners, realizing the loss of financial profit, seize Paul and Silas and drag them to the Roman officials, falsely charging them with civil disturbance. The magistrates order them to be whipped. After the severe beating, the missionaries are put in the innermost cell for the night, with their feet chained to a stake. Paul and Silas, however, are irrepressible. Despite their wounds, they pray and sing in prison as the criminals listen. About midnight, in a divine intervention that evokes the Easter event, Paul and Silas experience deliverance. They are also able to proclaim the Good News of salvation to the jailer and his family. Responding in faith, the jailer and his family are baptized and celebrate their new-found faith with a meal shared with Paul and Silas. The night in prison has become a saving event and a “celebration” that resembles an Easter Vigil.

 

The Easter event experienced by the jailer and his family in Philippi continues to live on in the people of today. The life of Thea Bowman, a Franciscan sister born in Mississippi at the tail-end of the Depression is an example (cf. “A Soulful Pray-er” by Vincent Rougeau in America, April 12-19, 2010, p. 23-24).

 

Thea Bowman’s home was the fertile Delta region of Mississippi. Its rich alluvial soil supported huge plantations that produced the prodigious wealth on display in places like Vicksburg, Natchez, and Memphis. Enormous numbers of slaves were required to keep the money flowing, and well into the 20th century the descendants of these slaves labored as sharecroppers to provide the cheap labor vital to this economic system. A relatively small class of wealthy, white landowners and a very small white middle-class were supported by poor blacks, who far outnumbered them. Consequently, the Delta became an area of the South with some of the most rigid and harshly enforced Jim Crow laws and social practices.

 

Thea (born Bertha) Bowman was born into the relatively privileged (but materially modest) household of the only black doctor and one of the few black schoolteachers in Canton, Miss. They were an educated couple who, when blessed with their only child late in life, provided the loving home and high expectations that would ground Sister Thea for her entire remarkable life.

 

It is hard for us to imagine today the leap of faith that was required for young Bertha Bowman to leave the tightly knit confines of the black community in Canton to become a nun in La Crosse, Wis. Attracted by the improved educational opportunities made available by the opening of a Catholic mission to blacks, Bertha’s family become involved with Holy Child Jesus parish and eventually converted to Catholicism. The parish school was staffed by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, strong, inspiring women who lovingly encouraged young Bertha’s intellectual gifts and who modeled the unimaginable – a loving community of faith made up of blacks and whites. These women ultimately set the example that moved Bertha to leave everything she had ever known.

 

In 1953, at the age of 15, she became a Franciscan aspirant at the motherhouse in La Crosse. In 1958, Sister Mary Thea became a professed sister. She would remain dedicated to her vocation as a nun for the rest of her life – no easy task for anyone, but particularly not for an African-American woman in an all-white congregation during the tumultuous decades that followed the Second Vatican Council.

 

The council created an opportunity for Sister Thea to find her authentic spiritual voice, which knitted together her black Southern self, her remarkable intellect and her fierce devotion to her Catholic faith. She earned her doctorate in English at Catholic University of America in 1972 and went on to teach in and chair the English department at Viterbo College in Wisconsin. Her life as a graduate student in Washington, D.C., exposed her to the intellectual ferment of the civil rights movement, and as she befriended men and women from around the world, she began to realize the rich possibilities offered by life in a cosmopolitan community. She would later make extended trips to Europe and Africa. Ultimately, the seeds were planted for her ministry of African-American expression in Catholic worship and, more generally, greater cross-cultural awareness in the church.

 

Thea Bowman’s life was cut short by cancer in 1990, but during the 1980s, she achieved international renown by sharing and spreading the African-American spiritual traditions of her Mississippi childhood. An accomplished singer, she demonstrated through song, dance, body movement, moaning, humming, and chant that people of African descent had important messages and gifts to offer the universal church. (…) Perhaps the most enduring symbol of Sister Thea’s legacy is the Lead Me, Guide Me hymnal, a collection of hymns in the African-American tradition for use in Catholic churches.

 

 

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

 

1. Do I experience painful but beneficial departure? Do I open my heart to the presence of the Spirit-Advocate who testifies to the world about Jesus, the Risen Lord and the Son of God?

 

2. How do the trials and sufferings of Saint Paul and Silas make them better apostles and missionaries? Do you wish to imitate them in transforming situations of duress into occasions of grace?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

Saint Paul and Silas suffer beatings and imprisonment

for the sake of the Gospel.

Yet their faith is undaunted

through the power of the Spirit-Advocate.

They pray and sing songs of trust in moments of trial.

When things are difficult for us,

let us imitate the apostles

in their trust and total surrender to you.

Help us to welcome the Spirit-Advocate in our life

and be attentive to his inspiration.

May we always look forward with hope

to the Easter triumph of the Risen Christ.

We bless and glorify you, now and forever.

Amen. Alleluia.

 

 

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.

 

“If I go, I will send the Advocate to you.” (Jn 16:7) // “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you and your household will be saved.” (Acts 16:31)

 

 

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

 

Recall some significant “departure” moments in your life and see how they have contributed to strengthen your character. Let the suffering, trial, and difficulty you are experiencing at the moment be united with the heart of Jesus and the heavenly Father’s saving will. Offer them to God for an apostolic intention.

 

 

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May 29, 2019: WEDNESDAY – EASTER WEEKDAY (6)

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Spirit Guides Us to All Truth … His Gospel Is Proclaimed to All Cultures

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 17:15, 22-18:1 // Jn 16:12-15

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 16:12-15): “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you to all truth.”

 

The following story entitled “Half Truths” is humorous, but it can give us an idea of the importance of Jesus’ promise to his disciples concerning the Spirit of truth who would guide us to the fullness of truth.

 

The first mate had somehow gotten drunk, so that night the captain wrote in the record for the day, “Mate drunk today.” The mate begged the captain to take it out of the record, for it might cost him his job with the ship’s owners. It was also his first offense. But the captain refused saying, “It’s a fact and into the log it goes.” Some days later the mate was on the bridge and it was his turn to keep the log. He duly recorded the location, speed, and distance covered that day. Then he added, “The Captain, sober today.” The captain protested that this would leave an altogether false impression – that it was an unusual thing for him to be sober. But the mate answered in the very words of the captain, “It’s a fact and so into the log it goes.”

 

A thing may be true, but the time and manner of telling and the circumstances may give an entirely false impression of another’s action or character. Many of us are languishing in situations of incomplete truth or are suffering the painful consequences of half-truths. Indeed, many lack complete understanding. Our contact with Jesus Truth-Way-Life, the glorified Lord and Redeemer, inspires us to seek the fullness of truth and nurtures in us a faith seeking understanding.

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Jn 16:12-15) underlines the life-giving promise of Jesus about the coming of the Spirit of truth who will guide his disciples to all truth. The role of the Holy Spirit in our life is to make the mission and message of Jesus clear in every age. The revelation of God’s saving love by Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is complete, but our understanding is incomplete. We need the guidance and the memory of the Holy Spirit to enable us to grasp, understand and accept the import, the personal implication and the challenge of Christ’s paschal destiny as a suffering and glorified Lord. Through the guidance of the Spirit of truth, we become more united with the Paschal Mystery of the incarnate Truth, Jesus Christ.

   

 

B. First Reading (Acts 17:15, 22-18:1): “What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you.”

 

Today’s reading (Acts 17:15, 22-18:1) is again from the second missionary journey of St. Paul the Apostle. After being persecuted in Thessalonica and Berea, he is escorted to safety in Athens by Christian believers. While waiting for Silas and Timothy to rejoin him in Athens, Paul holds discussions with people in the public square as well as with Jews and “God-fearers” in the synagogue. Athens is a center of Greek intellectual life and Hellenistic learning and piety. Paul attracts the attention of philosophers who bring him to the Areopagus, the city council of Athens. The apostle takes the opportunity to expound his teaching to the city’s philosophers and leading politicians. Paul’s speech in Athens is notable because he attempts “to inculturate” the Gospel message to an academic world. He first recasts the Easter proclamation (that is, Jesus is the Son of God whom God has raised from the dead) as “one God, one Lord”, who is the author of salvation. Paul deems it wise to use initially an approach that corresponds with the Greek rhetoric. In this the apostle manifests a readiness to accept the best in the culture and philosophy of the Gospel recipients.

 

Saint Paul, however, cannot and does not dilute the Easter message. He is impelled to proclaim to the Greek intellectuals the radical salvation that Jesus Christ won for us by his death and resurrection. A sharp reaction ensues when Paul proclaims that “the man whom God has appointed to judge the world with justice” God has confirmed “by raising him from the dead”. Some scoff at Saint Paul; some dismiss him with a polite “We should like to hear you on this some other time”; but a few become believers, including Dionysius, a member of the Court of Areopagus, and a woman named Damaris. After achieving rather modest success among the intellectuals, the irrepressible Paul moves on to spread the Good News to Corinth, the capital of the Roman province of Achaia.

 

The missionary zeal of Saint Paul is absolutely inspiring. He uses all means to proclaim the Gospel. In light of his experience, we need to examine our hearts and see how we can be more efficacious in our Gospel proclamation. The following incident in the life of the great world leader Mahatma Gandhi can also help us in our examination of conscience (cf. Anthony De Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations, New York: Image Books, 1988, p. 80).

 

In his autobiography, Mahatma Gandhi tells how in his student days in South Africa he became deeply interested in the Bible, especially the Sermon on the Mount.

 

He became convinced that Christianity was the answer to the caste system that had plagued India for centuries, and he seriously considered becoming a Christian.

 

One day he went to a church to attend Mass and get instructions. He was stopped at the entrance and gently told that if he desired to attend Mass he was welcome to do so in a church reserved for blacks.

 

He left and never returned.

 

  

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

 

1. What is the role of the Holy Spirit in my life? Is my personal life immersed in “the truth” of God’s love, revealed by his Son in the Holy Spirit?

 

2. Do we use all means to proclaim efficaciously the Gospel to all people? Are we ready to suffer rejection and the lack of response to the Gospel proclamation?

 

 

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

 

 

God our Father,

we thank you for Saint Paul,

the great apostle to the Gentiles.

He creatively proclaimed the Gospel

to all peoples and cultures.

He showed us the need to “inculturate” the Gospel

without diluting it.

Guide us by the Spirit of truth

as we share the Good News to all the nations.

We love you and we serve you,

now and forever.

Amen. Alleluia.

 

 

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 Spirit of truth will guide you to all truth.” (Jn 16:13) // “What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you.” (Acts 17:23)

 

 

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

 

Offer a special prayer and sacrifice for the mass media and the digital communications that they may be used to promote the truth and not to distort the truth. Be sensitive to the riches and beauty of other cultures and be a part of the process of Gospel “inculturation”, that is, of letting the faith unfold from the culture of the people we are evangelizing.

 

*** *** *** *** *** *** ***

 

N.B. Where the Ascension is observed today, please go to the PDDM INTERNET LIBRARY to get the Lectio Divina for the liturgy of the Lord’s Ascension.

 

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May 30, 2019: THURSDAY – EASTER WEEKDAY (6)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Will Change Our Grief into Joy … His Apostles Toil for the Gospel”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 18:1-8 // Jn 16:16-20

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 16:16-20): “You will grieve, but your grief will become joy.”

 

In the Gospel reading (Jn 16:16-20) we hear Jesus talking to his disciples about sadness and gladness. He prepares them for his impending death and the grief that they will experience in a “little while”. But their grief will give place to the joy of resurrection. His impending passion will plunge his disciples into great sorrow, but his victory over death will, in a “little while”, turn their grief into joy. As Christian disciples we continually experience desolation and consolation, trial and triumph, sadness and gladness, death and resurrection. They form the warp and the woof of our daily life. Through these complementary experiences, we develop a spiritual “insight” that enables us to see the presence of God even in the midst of difficulties. They help us grow in faith and trust as we pursue the divine through various crises and adversities. Indeed, life in the Risen Christ enables us to savor a joy that is deeply profound and enduring.

 

The following story circulated through the Internet gives us a glimpse into the joy that results from being totally united with God’s life-giving will.

 

Pam has known the pain of considering abortion. More than 24 years ago, she and her husband Bob were serving as missionaries to the Philippines and praying for a fifth child. Pam contracted amoebic dysentery, an infection of the intestine cause by a parasite found in contaminated food or drink. She went into a coma and was treated with strong antibiotics before they discovered she was pregnant.

 

Doctors urged her to abort the baby for her own safety and told her that the medicines had caused irreversible damage to her baby. She refused the abortion and cited her Christian faith as the reason for her hope that her son would be born without the devastating disabilities physicians predicted. Pam said the doctors didn’t think of it as life; they thought of it as a mass of fetal tissue.

 

While pregnant, Pam nearly lost their baby four times but refused to consider abortion. She recalled making a pledge to God with her husband: if you will give us a son, we’ll name him Timothy and we’ll make him a preacher.

 

Pam ultimately spent the last two months of her pregnancy in bed and eventually gave birth to a healthy baby boy on August 14, 1987. Pam’s youngest son is indeed a preacher. He preaches in prison, makes hospital visits, and serves with his father’s ministry in the Philippines. He also plays football. Pam’s son is Tim Tebow    

 

 

B. First Reading (Acts 18:1-8): “Paul stayed with then and worked and entered into discussions in the synagogue.”

 

The Acts of the Apostles continues in today’s reading (Acts 18:1-8) to depict the mission of Saint Paul the Apostle. After doing his very best though only with modest success in Athens, Paul goes to Corinth, a great commercial center with corresponding wealth and luxury. There he meets Aquila and Priscilla, who have recently arrived from Italy because the Emperor Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul stays and works with them for they are “tentmakers” like him. Paul supports his day-to-day activity by the work of his hands since he does not want to be a burden to the Church he serves. The apostle’s fundamental ministry, however, is to proclaim the Gospel, which he does while plying his trade. Moreover, every Sabbath he holds discussions in the synagogue, trying to convince both Jews and Greeks. The arrival of his co-workers Silas and Timothy from Macedonia, with financial assistance from the believers there, enables Paul to devote himself full time to preaching the Word.

 

In his work of evangelization in Corinth, Paul again experiences opposition and abuse. With the symbolic shaking of the dust from his clothes, Paul disclaims responsibility for the Jews’ rejection of the Gospel and asserts that he will bring it to the Gentiles. Like his mission in Athens, Saint Paul’s work of evangelization in Corinth is not a failure. Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, together with his household and many other people in Corinth who heard the message, believe and are baptized.

 

The trials and sacrifices of Saint Paul and the first apostles as well as the grace of vocation continue to be experienced by the Gospel workers in our time. The following story illustrates this (cf. James Martin, SJ, “God Is Ready” in America, March 8, 2010, p. 18).

 

At one point in my Jesuit training, I spent two years working in Nairobi, Kenya, working with the Jesuit Refugee Service. There I helped East African refugees who had settled in the city start small businesses to support themselves. At the beginning of my stay, cut off from friends and family in the States, I felt a crushing loneliness. After a few months of hard work, I also came down with mononucleosis, which required two months of recuperation. So it was a trying time.

 

Happily, I worked with some generous people, including Uta, a German Lutheran lay volunteer with extensive experience in refugee work in Southeast Asia. After I had recovered from my illness, our work flourished. Uta and I helped refugees set up about 20 businesses, including tailoring shops, several small restaurants, a bakery and even a small chicken farm. Uta and I also started a small shop that sold the refugee handcrafts. It was located in a sprawling slum in Nairobi.

 

It was a remarkable turnaround – from lying on my bed, exhausted, wondering why I had come here, anguished that I would have to return home, puzzled what I could ever accomplish, to busily working with refugees from all over East Africa, managing a shop buzzing with activity and realizing that this was the happiest and freest I had ever felt.

 

One day I was walking home from our shop. The long brown path started at a nearby church on the edge of the slum, which was perched on a hill that overlooked a broad valley. From there the bumpy path descended through a thicket of floppy-leaved banana trees, thick ficus trees, orange day lilies, tall cow grass and cornfields. On the way into the valley I passed people, silently working in their plots of land, who looked up and called out to me as I passed. Brilliantly colored, iridescent sunbirds sang from the tips of tall grasses. At the bottom of the valley was a little river, and I crossed a flimsy bridge to get to the other side.

 

When I climbed the opposite side of the hill, I turned to look back. Though it was around five in the afternoon, the equatorial sun blazed down on the green valley, illuminating the long brown path, the tiny river, the people, the banana tree, flowers and grass. Quite suddenly I was overwhelmed with happiness. I’m happy to be there, I thought. After some loneliness, some illness and some doubts, I felt that I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we believe that if we open ourselves to the Easter event our trials and sadness will be transformed into triumphs and joy?

 

2. Do we realize the importance and dignity of human labor? Do we realize the fundamental character of the work of evangelization? How does Saint Paul inspire us?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

we bless and praise you for giving us Saint Paul

as the model for Gospel proclamation.

He suffers rejection and opposition,

but he is not discouraged

because the Holy Spirit, the Easter gift, empowers him.

Help us to imitate Saint Paul

in his apostolic zeal and his physical-spiritual toil

to proclaim the saving Word to all nations.

Together with the apostle Paul

and animated by the Spirit of Jesus,

help us to endure the “little while” trials of daily life.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen. Alleluia.

 

 

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 grief will become joy.” (Jn 16:20) // “They believed and were baptized.” (Acts 18:8)  

 

 

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

 

Through prayer, word and action, be present to a grieving and/or troubled person and assure him/her that his/her sorrow will be turned into joy. Sanctify your daily human labor by uniting it with the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist and by offering it for an apostolic intention.

 

 

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May 31, 2019: FRIDAY – THE VISITATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Fruit of Mary’s Womb and Is Present in Her Visitation”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Zep 3:14-18a or Rom 12:9-16 // Lk 1:39-56

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 1:39-56): “And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

 

Today we celebrate the feast of the visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Christ-bearer, into the home of Elizabeth (cf. Lk 1:39-56). It is a profound meeting between two wonderful women, each carrying a very special baby with a vital role in salvation history. Mary’ son, Jesus, is the Messiah, while Elizabeth’s son, John, is the Messiah’s precursor. Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit at Mary’s greeting and the child in her womb leaps for joy at the coming of Jesus, the fruit of Mary’s womb. This grace-filled event foreshadows the joyful outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Jesus Christ’s glorification.

 

Mary’s visit to assist Elizabeth exemplifies the spirit of service that marks Christian discipleship. But more remarkable than her assistance to a needy pregnant cousin, Mary’s incomparable service and ministry in salvation history is her divine motherhood. Her “FIAT” to the saving plan made possible the incarnation of the Son of God. Saint Bede the Venerable remarks: “Above all other servants, she alone can truly rejoice in Jesus, the Savior, for she knew that he who was the source of eternal salvation would be born in time in her body, in one person both her own son and her Lord.” United with the saving mission of her Son and Lord Jesus, Mary of Nazareth is truly the servant of God – the handmaid of the Lord.

 

Today’s feast also invites us to be truly concerned with a social issue that militates against the service of life that the Mother of God exemplifies. Abortion is a negation of a person’s right to life … a direct attack against an innocent human being, who is a gift of God. The following words of Mother Teresa of Calcutta are insightful (cf. Amazing Grace for the Catholic Heart, ed. Jeff Cavins, et. al., West Chester: Ascension Press, 2004, p. 228-231).

 

And God loved the world so much that he gave his son. God gave his son to the Virgin Mary, and what did she do with him? As soon as Jesus came into Mary’s life, immediately she went in haste to give that good news. And as she came into the house of her cousin, Elizabeth, Scripture tells us that the unborn child – the child in the womb of Elizabeth – leapt with joy. While still in the womb of Mary, Jesus brought peace to John the Baptist, who leaps for joy in the womb of Elizabeth. (…)

 

But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child – a direct killing of the innocent child – murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love. The father of that child, whoever he is, must also give until it hurts. By abortion, the mother does not learn to love but kills even her own child to solve her problems. And by abortion, the father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world. Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching the people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. That is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.

 

 

B. First Reading (Zep 3:14-18a): “The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst.”

 

On this feast of the visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the First Reading is from the book of the prophet Zephaniah (3:14-18a). He, who prophesied under King Josiah of Judah, is both the prophet of the “day of wrath” and the harbinger of the promise of salvation. His foreboding of doom merely underlines the consoling message that God is in our midst – to bring salvation out of a painful situation. The enigmatic prophet Zephaniah makes an ardent appeal to trust in the mighty Lord who is “in our midst”. The prophet’s words underline the transforming effect and the joy that the presence of the Lord brings. This passage adds special meaning to the feast of the visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the “Christ-bearer”. In a deeper sense, Mary’s visitation is actually the Lord Jesus’ visitation. In Mary’s visitation to her cousin Elizabeth, she makes possible for the Savior to be “in our midst”. The Son that Mary carries in the womb is the one who will rejoice over us and renew us in his love.

 

Our joy as a faith community is based on the Lord’s presence. Hence, even in trials and distress, it is possible to rejoice because our life is secure in the hands of God. There is joy in sufferings as long as we open ourselves to the mystery of the Lord’s visitation and the love of Mary, the Mother of our Savior. The following story, circulated on the Internet, gives insight into the mystery of the Lord’s visitation and the triumph of love over affliction.

 

My Italian Grandmother was a wonderful woman. "Nanny" had a loving, vibrant soul that she carried around in a short, heavyset body. She had a passion for life that expressed itself in so many ways. It was in the hugs she gave, the meals she cooked, and the flowers she grew. It was even in the temper she lost from time to time. I think one of the reasons I was never taught Italian by my Dad was he was afraid I might learn the meaning of some of those words Nanny said when she was upset.

 

Nanny raised four sons and then helped my Mom and Dad raise me and my two brothers as well. I always felt blessed growing up in her home as a boy. She worked hard, laughed loud, and was never afraid of what life threw at her. Life wasn't that easy on her either. She suffered from health problems all her life and even survived an operation for a brain tumor. When she fell and broke her hip in her eighties, my Dad was forced to admit that he could no longer take care of her at home.

 

It was with a heavy heart that Dad moved Nanny into a nursing home. She lost weight and was confined to a wheelchair. Yet, even as her body shrunk and withered, her spirit stayed strong. The nurses there loved her and her zest for life. Even her Italian temper brought smiles to them as they learned a few "choice" words of Italian from her as well. Our whole family gathered together for her 90th birthday in the nursing home dining room. It was a wonderful celebration of her life and the love we all had for her.

 

Shortly after that birthday, however, life gave her the toughest challenge of all as age and illness started to take her mind from her too. The dementia grew worse and worse over the last few years of her life. At times when I visited her she didn't know who I was. It was heartbreaking to see her this way. She spoke less and less and stayed in her bed more and more. Sometimes all I could do was just sit by her bed and hold her hand.

During one of these visits I was holding her hand while she slept and remembering the person she used to be. My soul was in mourning that life could take everything from her like this. At that moment she awoke. Her eyes gazed up at me and I could tell she didn't recognize me. She looked down at my hand holding hers and instead of pulling hers away, she smiled at me. Then she closed her eyes and went peacefully back to sleep. I could see then that even though her mind didn’t remember me, her spirit still remembered love and that was enough.

 

 

C. Alternative First Reading (Rom 12:9-16): “Contribute to the needs of the holy ones; exercise hospitality.”

 

The alternative reading (Rom 12:9-16) consists of a series of instructions or maxims about charitable acts. To serve the Lord is what motivates Christian conduct and the desire to meet the needs of believers. The charitable works of the faith community is founded on the love of Christ experienced to the utmost extent. Like Mary who visited Elizabeth to assist her in her need, the Christian disciples are called to respond to the needs of others.

 

The following story illustrates the fulfillment of Paul’s maxim: “Contribute to the needs of the holy ones; exercise hospitality” (cf. Gilbert Roller, “More Than Coincidence” in GUIDEPOSTS, February 2014, p. 31).

 

My mother wasn’t impulsive, especially regarding her finances. That’s why I was shocked when she said she’d donated most of her life savings to two missionaries who had knocked at her door in Texas. “You did what?!” I sputtered. “When?” “A few months back”, she said. “These nice young people needed money to build a chapel in Mexico.” No, they hadn’t given her any documentation. No, she hadn’t heard from them since. I didn’t want to upset her, but I had to tell her that I thought she’d fallen for a scam. “I don’t think the Lord would have moved me to help if it wasn’t for real”, she said.

 

At the time, I was a young professor at Asbury University in Kentucky, teaching music theory, and my wife and I weren’t on the best financial footing. We could have used that money. For years – even after I got my tenure and we raised three sons – I imagined finding the drifters who had swindled Mom, though I wasn’t sure what I’d do if I did. Only when Mom died and my sons became missionaries – real ones – did I let the matter go.

 

I retired in 1993. My wife and I took a cross-country trip to California, staying at campgrounds along the way. One evening, somewhere in Missouri, I’d just set up our tent when a man wandered over from his RV. “I see by your license plate you’re from Kentucky”, he said. “What do you do?” “Retired now”, I said. “But I used to teach music theory.” “Music”, the man said. “Hmm. You know anyone by the name of Roller?” How’d he know that? “Yes, actually, my name is Roller”, I said.

 

The man smiled. “Many years ago, my wife and I met a woman in Texas named Roller. She had a son in Kentucky who taught music. She gave us quite a lot of money. Viola Roller.”

 

My mom. My blood ran cold. Here I was, finally face-to-face with one of so-called missionaries!

 

“Hang on”, the man said, ducking into his RV before I could react. He came out and handed me a photo. A simple adobe building with a cross on the roof, and a sign in front: Roller Capilla. “Roller Chapel”, the man said. “Named for the woman who made it possible.”

 

 

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

 

1. Do we imitate Mary’s neighborly concern for her cousin Elizabeth as well as her maternal devotion and apostolic zeal as Christ-bearer?

 

2. Are we grateful for the many occasions of the Lord’s visitation in our life?

 

 

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

 

Jesus Lord,

we thank you for sharing with us

the ineffable goodness of Mary, your blessed Mother.

Help us to imitate Mary

in her maternal devotion, faithful discipleship and apostolic zeal.

Grant that in the spirit of Mary,

the handmaid of the Lord,

we may be instruments of your grace-filled “visitation”

to the poor and the needy,

the weak and the marginalized,

the “anawim” and the chosen people of God.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen. Alleluia.

 

 

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.

 

“And how does this happen to me that the mother of the Lord should come to me?” (Lk 1:43) // “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty Savior.”  (Zep 3:17) // “Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality.” (Rom 12:13)

 

 

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

 

Be an instrument of the Lord’s visitation. Like Mary, the “Christ-bearer”, bring the Lord’s healing love to a person who needs his saving presence, e.g. the sick, the homebound, the lonely, the grieving, etc. 

 

 

*** *** ***

June 1, 2019: SATURDAY – SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Pray in His Name … The Scriptures Testify He is the Christ”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 18:23-28 // Jn 16:23b-28

 

 

I.

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 16:23b-28): “My father loves you because you have loved me and believed in me.”

 

In the Gospel (Jn 16:23b-28), Jesus tells his disciples that those who love him will be loved by his heavenly Father. Those who believe in him as the Son of God will share in the joy of his glory as the Risen Lord. They will likewise enter into a new and intimate relationship with God the Father in prayer. At the birth of his kingdom and in his victory over sin and death, they will efficaciously pray and intercede. Jesus exhorts his disciples to ask the Father anything in his name. This will be given to them and their joy will be complete. Easter is a time to trust in the power of prayer. Easter invites us not only to rejoice in the Lord, but also to intercede in his name.

 

The following story gives witness to the power of prayer (cf. Susan Orneck, “Air Lift” in Guideposts, May 2012, p.65).

 

San Diego to Tampa – a long flight. I was on my way home from a real-estate agent workshop. If only I could relax, I thought as I shifted in my seat. Even a lucky upgrade to first class wasn’t enough to calm me down. My nephew had been diagnosed with melanoma. Jordan was in his early twenties, just starting a career as a songwriter. He faced his disease with incredible courage, believing in God’s plans for his life, whatever they were. Lord, I am so worried about him, I thought.

 

I noticed the man sitting next to me – long hair, ratty T-shirt, headphones and tattoos. He looked like a rocker dude from the seventies. “I’m traveling with my band”, he confirmed as the flight attendant served us a beverage. “Really? My nephew wants to be a songwriter.” He pulled off his headphones and asked me more about Jordan. I talked about his cancer, how much I feared losing him. Usually I was good at keeping my feelings in check. But here, with a complete stranger, I suddenly felt free to share how anxious I was. “I see him fighting so hard”, I said, starting to cry. “Chemotherapy is so difficult. I don’t know where he finds the strength to bear it.”

 

“I had cancer myself a few years ago”, my seatmate said after a moment. “I know how hard it can be.” A tear streaked down his cheek. He grabbed my hand and held it tight. “You can pray for your nephew’, he said. “I’ll pray with you.” A woman spoke up from across the aisle. “I’d like to pray for him too.” “Me too”, said the man behind me. I hadn’t known everyone was listening!

 

The next thing I knew our entire cabin was on its feet and holding hands – including the two flight attendants. I didn’t know anything about leading a prayer circle so I just spoke from the heart about Jordan. For the first time since his diagnosis I didn’t feel so alone in my fear. God was with me 30,000 feet above the earth, and so were these people who were praying – and would continue to pray – for my nephew.

 

Jordan’s cancer went into remission. He is still writing songs. And I am still lifted up by what I learned about the power of prayer.

 

 

B. First Reading (Acts 18:23-28): “Apollos established from the Scriptures that the Christ is Jesus.”

 

In the reading (Acts 18:23-28), Saint Paul begins his third missionary journey. From his home base in Antioch, he proceeds to Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the believers. In the meantime we are introduced to a Jew named Apollos, born in Alexandria, a very eloquent speaker who is well-versed in the Scriptures. Apollos goes to Ephesus where he speaks boldly in the synagogue. With great enthusiasm, he speaks accurately the facts about Jesus, which he knew through his association with a movement of reform preached by John the Baptist. Priscilla and Aquila take Apollos under their patronage and explain to him more correctly the “Way of God”. With a letter of recommendation, Apollos moves to Achaia, where he becomes a great help to the church in Corinth. He engages the Jews in public debates and is able to prove from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah. Through the instruction of Priscilla and Aquila, Apollos’ biblical knowledge acquires a radically new element: that Jesus is not merely a Teacher, but the “Messiah” revealed and foretold in the Scriptures. Thus the bible scholar Apollos is transformed into a believer in, and a preacher of, Jesus as the “Messiah”.

 

The radical newness of Christian faith that Apollos experienced continues to transform the hearts of people throughout history. Here is an example.

 

The story is told of an Indian Christian evangelist who was distributing the Gospels to passengers in a train speeding through Central India. One man in anger took the copy, tore it into small pieces, and threw them out the open window.

 

That seemed to be the end of the matter, but actually it was only the beginning … for a man was walking along the railroad track that day. He saw this little piece of paper, picked it up and in his own language saw written on it the words, “The Bread of Life”. He did not know what that meant, so he asked around among his friends. One told him, “That comes out of a Christian book. You must not read it or you will be defiled.”

 

He bought a New Testament and someone showed him the passage with Jesus’ words, “I am the Bread of Life.”

 

That started it! He studied the Gospels and light flooded into his heart. Later he became a preacher of the Gospel. And so it was that a little piece of paper, through the power of the Spirit, became the bread of life in this man’s life.

 

 

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

 

Do we trust in the power of prayer? Do we believe that whatever we ask the Father in the name of Jesus will be given us? Do we allow ourselves to be transformed by the radical newness of our faith: Jesus is the Messiah?

 

 

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

 

Jesus Savior, the life-giving Word,

you assure us of the power of prayer.

You tell us that whatever we ask the Father in your name

will be given to us.

We turn to you in humble supplication.

Prompted by the Holy Spirit

we pray that the heavenly kingdom may come

and his saving will be done.

Give us the grace to know you,

serve you

and love you more and more.

We treasure the Father’s love for you and for us.

We desire to serve you, now and forever.

Amen. Alleluia!

 

 

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.

 

“Whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.” (Jn 16:23b) // “He established from the Scriptures that the Christ is Jesus.” (Acts 18:28)

 

 

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

 

Make a serious effort to offer a prayer of intercession on behalf of the people of today, especially those being led astray by false teachings and erroneous moral principles. By your words and deeds, manifest to the people around the radically new and transforming element of Christian faith: Jesus is the Messiah.

 

 

*** 

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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