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A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 16, n. 51)

Week 33 in Ordinary Time: November 18-24, 2018

 

 

(The pastoral tool BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD: A LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY & WEEKDAY LITURGY includes a prayerful study of the Sunday liturgy from various perspectives. For the Lectio Divina on the liturgy of the past week: November 11-17, 2018, please go to ARCHIVES Series 16 and click on “Week 32 Ordinary”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: November 18-24, 2018.)

 

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 November 18, 2018: THIRTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Will Gather His Elect

from the Four Winds”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Dn 12:1-3  // Heb 10:11-14, 18 // Mk 13:24-32

 

 

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

 

A, Gospel Reading (Mk 13:24-32): “He will gather his elect from the four winds.”

 

I remember how the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center affected me.  I was watching the footage of the buildings collapsing and the terrible inferno and confusion that ensued.  I sat aghast and exclaimed, “This is the apocalypse now!”  Indeed, there was terror and tribulation.  The sun was literally darkened. However, the catastrophe began to dispel progressively as the power of goodness and solidarity began to take the upper hand.  From the rubble of the 9/11 collapse sprang forth the heroism and courage of the American people.  Indeed, the 9/11 events give us a glimpse of God’s final victory over the evil forces that assail the world then and today.

 

The radical intervention of God to destroy the ultimate power of evil in the end-time is the theme of today’s Gospel reading (Mk 13:24-32). While the end-time description, with its dark imagery of trials, tribulations, and turmoil is scary, there is also the note of consolation, which takes form in the glorious figure of the Son of Man, Jesus, coming in the clouds to gather his faithful and chosen ones from the four winds of the earth.  The heart of this powerful apocalyptic device is the belief that God would one day intervene in a cataclysmic way to destroy evil and restore the fullness of life and abounding peace.  Ultimately, the specter of doom gives way to the hope of a new creation, where the sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its light, and the stars will fall before the splendor of the Son of Man.

 

The message of the second to the last Sunday of the liturgical year is a call to vigilance and watchfulness.  With regards to the end-time or eschaton, Jesus asserts: “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father”.  Indeed, to know the exact day or hour may satisfy our curiosity, but has no true importance for our salvation.  What is important is to scrutinize the signs of salvation and fully participate in it.  Learning a lesson from the fig tree that has sprouted tender leaves, foretelling that summer is near, we must live in an attitude of expectation for the imminent coming of the Lord.  We must discern the progressive comings of Christ in the events of our personal lives, and in the life of the Church and the world.

 

Finally, as Christian disciples, we must be people of expectation.  The Jesuit scientist and theologian, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin asserts: “Expectation – that is perhaps the supreme Christian function and the most distinctive characteristic of our religion.  Historically speaking, that expectation has never ceased to guide the progress of our faith like a torch… Christmas, which might have been thought to turn our gaze toward the past, has only fixed it further in the future.  The Messiah, who appeared for a moment in our midst, only allowed himself to be seen and touched for a moment before vanishing again, more luminous and ineffable than ever, into the depths of the future… We Christians have been charged with keeping the flame of desire ever alive in the world… The flame must be revived at all costs.  At all costs we must renew in ourselves the desire and the hope for the great coming.” 

 

 

B. First Reading (Dn 12:1-3): “At that time your people shall escape.”

 

JULY 16, 1990: It was a beautiful and quiet afternoon during our annual retreat. I was in my room preparing for the evening Mass when the earth quaked violently. The tremors convulsed every beam of the house and shook me out of my wits. The sound of objects falling to the ground hit me with frightening intensity. I cried to the Lord for help and with great terror pleaded with him to save us from that calamity. After some more horrendous moments, the earth ceased to convulse. I breathed a sigh of relief and tried to collect my wits. After a few minutes, however, the earth’s foundation started to shake again with greater violence and fury. I left my room in panic. I saw two grim faced Sisters who had been making their Eucharistic adoration solemnly carrying the monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament. They were processing out of the chapel and heading outdoors. Finally, after an eternity of terror and distress, the earth became still. The Philippines had suffered one of the strongest earthquakes ever. Later in the afternoon and throughout the week, news reports of demolished buildings, trapped and injured people, and those who had died reached us. As we prayed intensely for the dead and the other victims, especially those trapped in the rubble, we also thanked the Lord that we were among those whose lives had been spared. By the grace of God, we had escaped unharmed from a natural disaster. That experience of salvation helped me perceive the meaning of the following astounding words in the book of Daniel: “It shall be a time unsurpassed in distress … At that time your people shall escape” (Dan 12:1).

 

This is the second to the last Sunday of the liturgical year. The Old Testament reading (Dan 12:1-3) proclaimed today is an “apocalypse” – a revelation of ultimate salvation. The revelation of this truth is carried out by recounting past events as prophecies. This Sunday’s passage is taken from the Book of Daniel, which was addressed to a people experiencing terrible socio-political and spiritual upheaval under the duress of the Syrian pagan king, Antiochus IV Epiphanus.

 

The Book of Daniel’s apocalyptic narratives were composed to console God’s people who were suffering persecution for their religion 165 years before Christ. According to the authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 5: “They aim at encouraging the readers to remain steadfast in their faith and assiduous in their observance of the Lord’s laws in spite of external pressures, persecutions, and the bad example of those who have faltered. They want to show that God always has the last word and that faithfulness to his laws is always rewarded. Finally, the author envisions the end of salvation history, which he calls the end-time. On this Sunday, we read a few verses of this apocalypse (Dan 12:1-3). History appears as an unceasing and always to be renewed struggle between good and evil, a sort of hydra – or dragon (Rev 12:3) – with seven heads, that rises with more vigor than ever each time one thinks one has mastered it. This experience threatens with discouragement those who heroically undertake this battle. Memory of past victories can give them heart for a moment. But how can one forget that today’s or tomorrow’s successes will be certainly challenged, like all the others, by new and increasingly aggressive assaults of evil? At this point, we see the apocalyptic writers revealing to us that at the end of history we shall see, after a last and especially violent confrontation, the dazzling and definitive victory of good. Although set at the horizon of history, the denouement is not far away. In order for it to happen, the decisive intervention of an up to then hidden force will be necessary.”

 

Against the backdrop of the Old Testament apocalyptic reading, the Gospel passage of this Sunday acquires greater depth and perspective. The intense and energizing words of the Gospel underline the radical and decisive saving intervention of God in the course of history. The Son of Man, greater than Michael, the great prince and guardian of God’s people mentioned in the Old Testament reading, will come after the days of utter tribulation with great power and glory and he will gather his elect from the four winds. 

 

Towards the end of the liturgical year, the apocalyptic elements of this Sunday’s Old Testament reading and Gospel reading reinforce the saving truth that God’s love and care will prevail notwithstanding continuing confrontations and threats of disasters. Our attention should not be distracted by the frightening biblical imagery of the end time, of which no one knows the day or the hour. This Sunday’s liturgy invites us rather to focus on the great saving event that will be accomplished at the definitive coming of the Son of Man. The ongoing reality of the paschal struggle against the forces of evil should not daunt us and the panoramic vision of the glorious victory of the elect at the end time should bolster our faith with strength and hope. In the context of God’s saving love, the thought of our own death and the inevitable event of the Lord’s final coming to recapitulate all creation should evoke in us a sense of joyful expectation and a greater commitment to the Christian task of building God’s kingdom of justice, peace and love.

  

 

C. Second Reading (Heb 10:11-14, 18): “By one offering he had made perfect forever those who are being consecrated.”

 

This Sunday’s Second Reading (Heb 10:11-14, 18) reiterates the superiority of Christ’s priesthood on account of his perfect, “once and for all”, saving sacrifice on the cross. The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 5, comment: “In the sanctuary of heaven into which he entered after finishing his work, Christ our high priest, seated at the right hand of God, waits for all things on earth to come to their conclusion. And we also are waiting, but standing, for the Day to come. To live in this attitude of watchfulness and study the signs of the coming of the Lord, allows us to discern, in the little or great events of our personal lives, of the life of the Church, and of the life of the world, the comings of Christ, unceasing, discreet, but decisive as he beckons to us and calls us to follow him day by day.”

 

The paschal sacrifice accomplished by Jesus the Priest-Victim on the cross assures us of the glorious fulfillment of salvation in the eschaton or at the end time. The saving past ensures the saving future. The biblical scholar Eugene Maly remarks: “He who is coming has already come. It will be a final divine yes to a world already touched by his saving hand.”

 

This was the faith of the Servant of God, Dr. Takashi Nagai, who experienced the “apocalyptic” destruction of the atomic bomb that hit Nagasaki on September 9, 1945, during World War II. In that “doomsday” in Nagasaki, he perceived the sacrificial participation of the victims in the holocaust of Jesus Christ. Trusting in the words of Jesus, “The heavens and the earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away”, he showed us how to be faithful to God and overcome evil with good. Thus for Takashi Nagai, doomsday became salvation. The following is an excerpt from the inspiring account, “Takashi Nagai: Prophet of Nagasaki” (cf. The Word Among Us, September 2006, p. 15-20).

 

Nagai was less than half a mile from the epicenter of the second atomic bomb dropped by the American forces on Japan. Hiroshima had been devastated a few days earlier, and now the city of Nagasaki had been bombed: Nagasaki, the home of the largest Catholic cathedral in Asia; Nagasaki, the home of Japan’s largest and most vibrant Catholic community. In an instant, 40,000 people were killed; another 32,000 would die within hours; and tens of thousands more were wounded.

 

Nagai had survived the blast only because his building, made of reinforced concrete, was able to withstand the force of the initial blast, and he was in the far end of the building. When he made his way out of the office, the devastation that he saw horrified him. Bloated, skinless corpses were strewn about the ground. Bodies hung upside down in stone walls and fences, headless or limbless. Fires had broken out everywhere, and the few who survived were crawling or stumbling toward him, croaking, “Water, water. I’m burning up.” With a small band of doctors and nurses, Nagai labored all that day and the next, treating the wounded and encouraging his colleagues. When he wasn’t giving orders or comforting the wounded, Nagai took up the Japanese tradition of the Nembutsu – a short saying repeated over and over. But instead of quoting Confucius, he prayed the Scriptures: “The heavens and the earth will pass away, but my words will never vanish.”

 

A couple of days later, at his first opportunity, an exhausted Nagai walked to the site of his house and found his wife Midori’s charred bones amidst the wreckage that was once their kitchen. Kneeling beside her, he discovered a melted blob that had been her rosary lying next to her. Even as he wept, he was filled with gratitude that she had died praying. He was grateful, too, that a few days earlier he had sent their two children, Makoto and Kayano, to stay with their grandmother in the safety of the mountains.

 

In one sense, the irony could not be richer. A brilliant young doctor, Nagai had been on the cutting edge of Japan’s research into radiology, and he had been diagnosed just months earlier as having a form of leukemia stemming from radiation poisoning. He had been given only a few more years to live and it seemed as if in his own body he were living out the city’s fate. But in the midst of the irony were also the beginnings of a prophetic calling. Takashi Nagai had converted to Catholicism eleven years earlier, and his relationship with the Lord was already on solid footing when Nagasaki was destroyed. But this day of horror and devastation moved him into a new way of living his faith – a way of living that demonstrated how much one person can do to turn the tide of fear, anger, hopelessness, or cynicism. Faced with so much destruction and sadness, this once-proud unbeliever did battle in the only way that mattered: through trust in God’s strength working though his weakness.

 

As sick as he was, and as devastated as he was, Nagai sensed that the bombing needed a Christian response, that anger and vengeance – or despair and resignation – should not have the last word. So rather than begin a new life with his children in another city, Nagai decided to remain in Nagasaki and live among the ruins. With the help of some friends, Nagai built a makeshift hut on the side of his old house and with only the barest essentials, he and children moved back home. The hut was only about seven feet by ten feet, constructed of charred beams, heat-warped tin, and a thin mat. Nagai knew he would not live much longer and that he would leave his children as orphans in a harsh environment. Still, rather than descend into bitterness or anger, he spent his time praying, reflecting, and preparing his children for the hardships and challenges that would be their lot.

 

Many other residents followed Nagai’s examples and returned home. Their district of Urakami became a jumble of rubble, ash, and pathetic looking huts. The scene may have been depressing, but many of the residents were heartened as they drew strength from Nagai’s faith and simplicity. Gradually, a small community formed around Nagai. People who had lost loved ones or who were dying of radiation poisoning sought out the “wise man of Nagasaki” for words of comfort and wisdom. People came from all over Japan – people bearing the humiliation of defeat, the physical and psychological wounds of war, or simply everyday questions about life. Even dignitaries, such as Emperor Hirohito, visited him, while others, like Pope Pius XII, wrote to him and sent him gifts. Everyone, it seems, wanted to get a taste of the peace and trust that flowed from him. (…)

 

When Takashi Nagai died on May 1, 1951, more than 20,000 people attended the funeral. Bells were rung in his memory throughout Japan – in Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines as well as in Christian churches … (Today) Takashi Nagai remains a powerful witness, telling us that we can reject the world’s logic of vengeance and hatred. He continues to tell us that it is possible to embrace Jesus’ call to mercy, love, and hope.

      

 

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

 

Do we allow the negative elements of apocalyptic imagery to daunt and overwhelm us? Or, do we allow our hearts to be consoled by the image of the glorious Son of Man, coming on the clouds to gather his chosen and faithful ones from all over the earth?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

your son Jesus, our Savior,

will gather his elect from the four winds.

Grant that we may be vigilant at all times

and that we may have the strength to stand before him.

You live and reign,

forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“The Son of Man will gather his elect form the four winds, from the ned of the earth to the end of the sky.” (Mk 13:27)

 

 

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

 

Pray for all the victims of violence, war, and other cataclysmic events. Do what you can to bring comfort and healing to their painful situation.    

 

 

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November 19, 2018: MONDAY – WEEKDAY (33)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Makes the Blind See … He Reveals the Father’s Message”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Rev 1:1-4; 2:1-5 // Lk 18:35-43

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 18:35-43): “What do you want me to do for you? Lord, please let me see.”

 

The need for true spiritual sight is the subject of today’s Gospel reading (Lk 18:35-43), which narrates the healing of the blind beggar at Jericho. In comparison to the blind beggar, the people crowding around Jesus seem to be fortunate for they could see the “miracle worker” from Nazareth with their physical eyes. But there is a deeper reality than physical sight.

 

The remark of Anthony Bloom, a physician who became Metropolitan and Patriarch of Moscow in 1965, is insightful: “If only we knew that we were blind, how eagerly would we seek healing … But the tragedy is that we do not realize our blindness … Blinded by the world of things we forget that it does not match the depth of which man is capable … To be aware only of the tangible world is to be on the outside of the fullness of knowledge, outside the experience of the total reality which is the world in God and God at the heart of the world. The blind man, Bartimaeus, was painfully aware of this because, owing to his physical blindness, the visible world escaped him. He could cry out to the Lord in total despair.”

 

To cultivate a positive attitude through faith in Jesus and trust in him will enable us “to see”. The following story enables us to appreciate the “gift of sight”, which is spiritual (cf. Marilyn Morgan King, “A Matter of Attitude” in Daily Guideposts 2010, p. 265).

 

My former neighbor Carla Gallemore had become blind as a result of “twilight sleep”, an anesthetic technique used during childbirth in the early twentieth century. “At one time I felt sight was my most precious gift, but I was wrong. Atittude is”, Carla said, and she proved it. Using a Braille typewriter, she wrote a very successful book, Once I Was Blind.

 

One day Carla called me and said, “Did you know The Miracle Worker is showing at the Fox? I’d like to see that movie.” “See it?” I asked. “Yes, I’ve learned to ‘see” with my ears and through other people’s eyes. I can follow a movie pretty well by listening. When I can’t, I’ll tap your arm and you can whisper to me what’s happening on the screen.”

 

So we went to the movie – the story of the young Helen Keller and her teacher Annie Sullivan – and found it to be extremely inspiring. I think Carla got more out of The Miracle Worker than I did, even though she had no sight. “It’s all a matter of attitude”, she said. “Keeping a hopeful mind and heart makes all the difference, whatever one’s handicap is.”

 

 

B. First Reading (Rv 1:1-4; 2:1-5): “Realize how far you have fallen and repent.”

 

We begin the weekday readings from the Book of Revelation. This was written when Christians were being persecuted because of their faith in Jesus Christ the Lord. The author’s concern is to give his readers hope and encouragement and to urge them to remain faithful through suffering and persecution. The Book of Revelation mainly consists of revelations and visions couched in a symbolic language that could be deciphered by Christians of that day, but would be enigmatic for others. Opinions vary regarding the interpretation of the details, but the central message of the book is clear: through Jesus Christ the Lord, God will finally and totally defeat all of his enemies, including Satan. When the victory is complete, God will reward the faithful ones with the blessings of “a new heaven and a new earth”.

 

The reading (Rev 1:1-9; 2:1-5) tells us that the book is “the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him”. It is both a message of Jesus Christ to his churches and from God about the coming judgment. The Lord promises a blessing on all who read, hear and heed the message. John is the mouthpiece for God and Jesus. In his prophetic ministry, angels intervene and figure extensively.

 

John addresses himself to the “seven churches in Asia”. Through his message to these churches, he intends to reach all the churches in Asia and the universal Church. John is commanded to deliver the Lord’s message to the church in Ephesus, which was founded by Saint Paul about 53-56 A.D. Ephesus is the commercial metropolis of Asia and the seat of the pre-consular government. Understandably, this cultural and political center is very open to syncretistic tendency, among which is the imperial cult and the worship of the goddess Artemis. The Lord commends the church in Ephesus for being hardworking and faithful. They have detected the deceit of false teachers and rejected them. They are patient in suffering and have endured. But this is what the Lord Jesus has against them: they have lost the love they had at first. They have abandoned brotherly love and this entails the loss of Christ’s love. The Lord therefore confronts them: “Realize how far you have fallen. Repent, and do the works you did at first.”  Unless they repent, the “lampstand” – symbol of God’s presence – will be taken away from them. The waning of brotherly love eventually leads to self-destruction.

 

The prophetic reproach delivered by John to the church in Ephesus is very relevant to the modern world’s situation. Unless we repent and recover our love for one another, we will perish. The following modern day crisis situation cries out for repentance and change of heart (cf. The Fresno Bee, August 30, 2015, p. 10B).

 

On August 26, about three hours after a troubled television reporter murdered two of his former colleagues on live television in Virginia; a judge in Colorado sentenced James Holmes to 12 lifetime sentences for the massacre of 12 people in Aurora, plus another 3,318 years behind bars.

 

“Get the defendant out of my courtroom”, Judge Carlos A. Samour, Jr. said in disgust as he instructed a deputy to banish the schizophrenic man from a society weary of gun crime.

 

The Virginia shooter committed suicide. But rest assured, America will meet another murderous madman today, and tomorrow, and the next day. There are thousands of them, and more to come, unless this nation gets serious about gun control and mental health care – and actually enforcing the gun ownership regulations that are already on the books. (…)

 

In our lifetimes, the United States has seen a president shot in the back seat of a car, a president shot as he exited a hotel, a U.S. senator shot in a hotel pantry, a civil rights leader shot on his hotel balcony, and thousands upon thousands of humbler and less heralded humans – school children, theatergoers, workers – annihilated in fusillades of bullets.

 

How many times must we watch before we take a good look at ourselves as a country … We know the answer. Too many more.

 

    

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

 

1. Have we made the invocations of the blind man of Jericho our own: “Son of “David, have pity on me!” … “Lord, please let me see”?

 

2. How do we value the revelations God, through Jesus Christ, reveal to us? How does the message of the Lord Jesus to the church in Ephesus impinge on us?

 

  

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

 

Jesus Master,

you made the blind man of Jericho “see”.

Your gift of sight and insight

enabled him to follow you,

giving glory to God.

Your marvelous work

inspired the people who witnessed it

to give praise to God.

Grant me the gift of sight and insight.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.  

 

***

Loving God,

we thank you for your “revelation” in Jesus Christ.

Help us to act on his saving message

so that we may be ready at the final judgment

to face your mercy and your justice.

And when our practice of Christian charity wanes,

bring us back to our senses.

Let our love for one another be renewed.

Increase our love for Jesus day by day.

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.

 

“Lord, please let me see.” (Lk 18:41) // “You have lost the love you had at first.” (Rv 2:4)

 

 

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

 

Exercise the gift of sight and insight by identifying one wonderful thing that happened to you today and by thanking God for it. // Ask God for the grace of repentance and forgiveness every time you backslide in the duty of fraternal love. By his grace, resolve to do better in exercising Christian fraternal love.

 

 

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November 20, 2018: TUESDAY – WEEKDAY (33)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Saves the Lost … We Need to Hear His Voice and Open the Door to Him”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Rv 3:1-6, 14-22 // Lk 19:1-10

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 19:1-10): “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”

 

The book Papa Mike was written by Mike McGarvin, the founder of Poverello House that serves the poor and the homeless in Fresno. Like Jesus, it is his mission to save the “lost”. Here is Papa Mike’s amusing account of a rescue.

 

One of the more disturbing events took place about half a block from Poverello. It was winter, and raining hard. The streets in that part of town often had poor drainage, and our block was exceptionally bad. I don’t remember why, but I was walking along F Street that day. I passed by a huge puddle that had formed in a gutter. It was clogged with leaves from the sycamore trees in the neighborhood, and for some reason I glanced down at the puddle. When I did, I spotted some bubbles coming up in the water. On closer inspection, I saw they were coming from a small fleshy object sticking out of the water.

 

With a shudder, I realized that the object was the very tip of someone’s nose. I reached down in the puddle and pulled a man’s head out, grabbed the shoulders, and pulled him onto the sidewalk. The standing water had been so deep that he had been completely submerged except for his nose. He was covered with leaves, so that he was invisible to any passerby. He was still alive, but I couldn’t wake him up. I ran to the Poverello and called 911. He had apparently got drunk, passed out in the gutter and stayed there all night. As the rain began to pour down, he slept right through it. The water kept rising, and if I hadn’t seen him, he would have been completely under water in a few minutes. When the paramedics came, they took him to the hospital. He survived, but he had hypothermia.

 

Today’s Gospel reading )Lk 19:1-10) presents another marginal who wants “to see” – just like the blind man at Jericho. The tax collector Zacchaeus wants specifically “to see” Jesus. Despised by others on account of his despicable trade, he seeks “to see” who Jesus is. Short in stature and impeded by a jostling crowd from “seeing” the Divine Master, he overcomes the difficulty by climbing a sycamore tree. When Jesus reached the spot where Zacchaeus is waiting, he looks up and, “seeing” him precariously perched in the tree, says: “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house”. The energetic tax collector responds to Jesus’ initiative by climbing down from the sycamore tree and by welcoming him into the banquet at his house. But more radically he renounces half of his possessions and makes a promise of four-fold restitution to anyone he has defrauded. Zacchaeus’ great desire “to see” Jesus is fulfilled. He experiences a great joy because the Savior of the “lost” has cast a compassionate glance upon him and rescued him.

  

 

B. First Reading (Rv 3:1-6, 14-22): “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him.”

 

The reading (Rv 3:1-6, 14-22) contains the Lord’s message to the church in Sardis and to the church in Laodicea. His reproach to Sardis is that, though they are reputed to be “alive”, they are actually dead. They are enthusiastic about spiritual gifts, but they have failed to follow God’s commands. They have managed to preserve the appearances of Christianity, but they are experiencing the spiritual death from which Christ has rescued them. They need to wake up and strengthen whatever good they have lest they lose them completely. Some of them have been faithful and will share in Christ’s victory at his coming. Those who refuse to obey what they have been taught will be erased from the book of life.

 

Addressing himself to the church in Laodicea, the Lord rebukes them for being smug and complacent. Since they are “lukewarm, neither hot nor cold”, the Lord will spit them out of his mouth. Laodicea is known for its clothing industry; it is a banking center and has a medical school that specializes in eye diseases. Unfortunately, the material prosperity that Christians enjoy in this city has vitiated them and has closed their heart to the grace of God. Their spiritual well-being has been compromised. Though materially prosperous, they are really “poor, naked and blind”. The Lord advises them to procure pure gold from him; to cover their nakedness with white clothing; and to apply ointment on their eyes that they may see. In effect, the Lord is telling them to draw out true riches, the fullness of salvation and complete healing from him. At the time of the visitation of the Lord, who stands at the door and knocks, they must listen to his voice, open the door of their heart, and welcome him. Then they will be victorious and joyfully participate with the Lord in the banquet of eternal life.

 

The following article/interview gives insight into the dynamics of moral and spiritual degradation and the possibility of conversion (cf. Gail Marshall, “Chowchilla Bus Kidnapper James Schoenfeld’s Own Words Add Insight to Crime” in The Fresno Bee, August 30, 2015, p. 1B, 3B-4B).

 

[On July 15, 1976], twenty-six school children from Dairyland Elementary School and their bus driver, Ed Ray, were abducted from their school bus by three young men, transported hours around the state in two vans, then buried alive in a moving van. In a daring escape, the bus driver and older boys clawed their way out of their underground prison, leading the younger children across a rock quarry in a sprint to freedom. (…)

 

The three male kidnappers were in their 20s. Frederick Newhall Woods, James Schoenfeld and his brother, Richard, were caught within two weeks and given life sentences after pleading guilty to kidnapping charges … James recently was released on parole after being incarcerated for 39 years. His younger brother, Richard, was released a couple of years ago. Woods remains in prison. (…)

 

Why? The young men were healthy and wealthy by any measure. They came from good homes, went to college. (…)

 

In his testimony, James describes an enviable early childhood as the middle child of three boys, raised in a “great” home with two parents. His father was a physician. By the time he was 14, his parents had taken him on two trips around the world. In their modest neighborhood in Palo Alto, they were minor celebrities. Their pictures were on the front page of the newspaper. Later, they moved to a more upscale neighborhood in Atherton, another Bay Area suburb. James changed.

 

“Why did you take the children?”

 

In Atherton, I was no longer something special. I was just – in fact I was not special at all, so I wanted to be – have that feeling again. I wanted to fit in with these new people that we moved next to. And, you know, my friend’s parents had twin Ferraris, you know, his and hers with telephones in them. I had no money of my own. My dad lent me some money. I bought a Jaguar. I found out that the insurance was more than I made in a whole year, so two months later I had to sell the Jaguar. I was 19. I was working full time as a busboy. I was also going to college.

 

I had envy issues trying to fit in with one crowd, and my other friends, they were getting married. They were buying houses. They were on their own career paths, and I was falling behind them and I just figured I need money. Money would solve all my problems. I felt I couldn’t earn my way out of my problem. (…)

 

“Why kidnapping?”

 

I saw a headline. Ronald Reagan put out a headline that the state of California had a billion-dollar surplus. I kept thinking the state’s got more than it needs. They won’t miss $5 million. I wasn’t going to commit any crime, risk my life or risk my reputation for anything less than a million, so a bank robbery wouldn’t work. A drug deal wouldn’t work. I didn’t know anything except kidnapping that I’d seen on TV that would provide sufficient reward. (…)

 

“Do you really understand what you did?”

 

(…) We took the victims by force. They were completely helpless. That leaves a victim with poor self-esteem. They might even question God. There are emotional, financial, spiritual and physical injuries. I put them in a place that endangered their life. There were a hundred things that could have happened that this really could have come out far worse.

 

“Where will you live now?”

 

My hope is to be able to help my mother and my hope is to reside with her and take care of her. She is 92 years old.

 

 

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

 

1. Are there moments in our life when we undergo the Zacchaeus experience and have tried to climb the “sycamore tree” in order “to see” Jesus? Identify them and relive the intense feelings and the challenges of these experiences. Personally and as a Church, in what ways do we participate in the saving mission of Jesus, the Son of Man who comes to seek and save what was lost?

 

2. Do we strive “to live” in the fullest sense by following God’s commands? In our relationship with Jesus, are “tepid, neither hot nor cold”? Are we willing to hear the voice of the Lord as he stands by the door and knock and are we ready to open the door of our heart to him?

 

  

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

 

Loving Father,

at times we feel miserable and sinful, rejected and unloved.

But in your kindness,

you allow us to experience moments of truth and healing light.

We thank you for the Zacchaeus experience within us

of wanting “to see” Jesus.

We therefore climb the “sycamore tree” to have a glimpse of him

who comes to seek the lost.

In our precarious perch on the “sycamore tree” of our lonely life,

we await your saving presence

and your kind invitation to come down and be with you.

As your loving gaze enfolds us

and as we climb down toward your welcoming heart,

we rejoice that God’s love is bigger than our frailties.

Like the radically transformed Zacchaeus,

may we let go of all the burdens of the sinful past.

Fill us with the joy of salvation

as we hear you say:

“Today salvation has come to this house …

For the Son of Man has come

to seek and save what was lost.”

We adore you now and forever.

Amen.  

 

            ***

Lord Jesus,

you stand by the door and knock.

Give us the grace to listen to your voice

and to open the door of our heart to you.

Help us to live truly in your merciful love

and follow your life-giving commands.

Make us share in your glorious banquet in heaven.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“He was seeking to see who Jesus was.” (Lk 19:3) // “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” (Rv 3:20).

 

 

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

 

As a way of participating in the mission of the Son of Man who came to seek and save what was lost, you may contribute through prayers, material resources and volunteer services to assist the poor and the needy, the “lost” and the marginalized. // Resolve to detach your heart from material riches/possessions and seek more and more the true riches the Lord God offers.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

November 21, 2018: WEDNESDAY – THE PRESENTATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Wants Us to Be Creatively Involved … In Him We Give Glory to the Thrice Holy God”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Rv 4:1-11 // Lk 19:11-28

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 19:11-28): “Why did you not put my money in the bank?”

 

Today’s Gospel parable (Lk 19:11-28) depicts the creative genius of God’s faithful servants as well as the disappointing cowardice of the feckless. The faithful servants are industrious and resourceful. Their creative use of the gold coins inspires us to be pro-active in dealing with the affairs of God’s kingdom. The “hole-in-the-ground” solution of the “play-it-safe” servant is downright disappointing. He does not dare to invest his talent, rationalizing that “what little talent I have will never be missed”. But this is not so.

 

According to the poet Michel Quoist (cf. “Breath of Life”) and paraphrasing him, if each note of music were to say “one note does not make a symphony”, there would be no symphony; if each word were to say “one word does not make a book”, there would be no book; if each brick were to say “one brick does not make a wall”, there would be no house; if each seed were to say “one grain does not make a field of corn”, there would be no harvest; if each one were to say “one act of love cannot save mankind”, there would never be justice and peace on earth.

 

Hence, with regards to the kingdom of God, we cannot remain uninvolved or partially involved; rather, we must be totally involved. Absolute personal commitment is required for salvation. It is exigent that we fully invest our talents to promote creatively and energetically the reign of God.

 

 

B. First Reading (Rv 4:1-11): “Holy is the Lord God almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come.”

 

This happened in 1977 when I was a young Sister assigned in Cebu Island, in the Philippines. One day, after a hectic morning, I went for an afternoon nap (“siesta”). The gentle breeze blowing through the window was refreshing and it lulled me into a deep, peaceful sleep. When I was fully rested, I heard a chorus of virile voices singing an Alleluia song of exquisite beauty and harmony. I thought I was in heaven, hearing the choir of angels singing to God their praises. Later on, I got to know that the heavenly song was being sung by seventy soldiers who were attending a “Cursillo” course at the nearby parish church.

 

The reading (Rv 4:1-11) tells us of John’s experience of heaven. He receives a special vision of the court of heaven where God sits enthroned. The seer speaks of God’s radiance. His face gleams like precious stones and an emerald rainbow surrounds his throne. This symbolic language intends to describe the transcendence of God and the beauty of heaven. John also speaks of “a sea of glass, clear as crystal” to indicate God’s inaccessible power and infinite majesty. The seer beholds “four living creatures”. They look like a lion, a bull, a man and an eagle and represent what is most splendid in animate life: the lion representing nobility, the bull representing strength, the human-like creature representing wisdom and the eagle representing swiftness. The “four living creatures” symbolize the whole of creation in which God is constantly present. Moreover, they are full of eyes to symbolize God’s astounding knowledge and unceasing vigilance over his creation. They have wings to indicate the swiftness with which God’s will is executed throughout the universe. Above all, day and night, the “four living creatures” sing unceasingly: “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was, who is and who is to come.” Cosmic praise is rendered to the all-powerful God, the Lord of creation.

 

Furthermore, John has a vision of “twenty-four elders” dressed in white and wearing crowns of gold. They represent the 12 tribes of Israel in the Old Testament and the 12 tribes of the New Israel in the New Testament. The group of “twenty-four elders” stands for the ideal Church in its entirety and the white robes they wear allude to Christ’s paschal victory in which they share. The glorification of the Church will be fully realized in heaven, but it has virtually taken place already in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Church must unceasingly join with nature in their praise, worship and glory of God. The seer then describes the “twenty-four elders” joining in the cosmic and heavenly liturgy. As the “four living creatures” sing songs of glory and thanksgiving to the one who sits on the throne, the “twenty-four elders” prostrate and throw their crowns down in front of the throne, saying: “Our Lord and God! You are worthy to receive glory, honor and power. For you created all things and by your will they were given existence and life.” The action symbolizes adoration, homage and submission to the Lord God, the creator of all things and the Lord of history.

 

 

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

 

1. What lesson do I derive from the actions of the faithful servants in the Gospel parable? What lesson do I glean from the stance of the “hole-in-the-ground” servant? 

 

2. Have you ever experienced a “glimpse of heaven”? How did it affect and move you? Do you endeavor to unite your daily acts of prayer and charity with the heavenly liturgy?

 

  

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

 

O loving God,

we thank you for the creativity and wholehearted dedication

of the enterprising servants.

They teach us to be fruitfully involved

in the affairs of your kingdom.

Deliver us from the twisted logic

of the “hole-in-the-ground” servant.

That we may make a real impact in today’s history,

let us be personally involved in the advent of your kingdom.

Help us to use our talents fully and creatively

in the service of the Gospel.

For the kingdom, the power and glory are yours, now and forever.

            Amen.     

 

***

(cf. Rv 4:8, 11)

Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,

who was, who is and who is to come.

Our Lord and God!

You are worthy to receive glory, honor and power.

For you created all things

and by your will they were given existence and life.”

 

 

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.

 

 “Well done, good servant! You have been faithful in this very small matter.” (Lk 19:17) // “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God almighty.” (Rv 4:8)

 

 

  

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

 

List some talents you have received from the Lord, which you have utilized fully at the service of the Church and on behalf of the community. List some talents, which you have failed to use. Beg God’s mercy and pardon for your failure to maximize them. Resolve to use them for the service of the Gospel. // Be deeply aware of the beauty of creation and unite yourself with the praise that is rendered to God by all living and created things. When the “Sanctus” is sung at Mass, be deeply conscious of the cosmic praise and heavenly worship taking place.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

November 22, 2018: THURSDAY – SAINT CECILIA, Virgin, Martyr

THANKSGIVING DAY (U.S.A.)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Weeps Over Jerusalem … He Is the Lamb that Was Slain for Our Saving”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Rv 5:1-10 // Lk 19:41-44

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 19:41-44): “If you only knew what makes for peace.”

 

Today’s Gospel (Lk 19:41-44) is marked with pathos. Jesus weeps over the city of Jerusalem. His tears manifest his anguish, frustration and sorrow for an obdurate people who refuse the saving grace he offers. Unlike the blind man at Jericho and the tax collector Zacchaeus who were able to experience the gift of “seeing”, the leaders of the city remain “blind” because they have rejected Jesus as the Messiah. They refuse to acknowledge and “see” in his ministry the evidence of God’s benevolent plan. Jesus laments the impending destruction of Jerusalem. In rejecting him, the rebellious people likewise reject the “way” that leads to true peace and salvation. The leaders of Jerusalem choose instead armed resistance and violence, which would result in the total destruction of Jerusalem inflicted by the Roman general Titus and his army in 70 A.D.

 

The pathos in the following poem written by Judge Roy Moore from Alabama is akin to the anguished emotion of Jesus as he weeps over Jerusalem. Judge Moore was sued by the ACLU for displaying the Ten Commandments in his courtroom foyer. He has been stripped of his judgeship and now they are trying to strip his right to practice law in Alabama! The judge's poem sums it up quite well.

 

America the beautiful,
or so you used to be.
Land of the Pilgrims' pride,
I'm glad they'll never see.

Babies piled in dumpsters,
Abortion on demand,
Oh, sweet land of liberty;
your house is on the sand.

Our children wander aimlessly
poisoned by cocaine
choosing to indulge their lusts,
when God has said abstain

From sea to shining sea,
our Nation turns away
From the teaching of God's love
and a need to always pray

We've kept God in our temples,
how callous we have grown.
When earth is but His footstool,
and Heaven is His throne.


We've voted in a government
that's rotting at the core,
Appointing Godless Judges
who throw reason out the door,

Too soft to place a killer
in a well-deserved tomb,
But brave enough to kill a baby
before he leaves the womb.

You think that God's not angry,
that our land's a moral slum?
How much longer will He wait
before His judgment comes?

How are we to face our God,
from Whom we cannot hide ?
What then is left for us to do,
but stem this evil tide ?

If we who are His children,
will humbly turn and pray;
Seek His holy face
and mend our evil way:

Then God will hear from Heaven;
and forgive us of our sins,
He'll heal our sickly land
and those who live within....

But, America the Beautiful,
If you don't - then you will see,
A sad but Holy God
withdraw His hand from Thee.

   

 

B. First Reading (Rv 5:1-10): “The Lamb that was slain purchased us with his Blood from every nation.”

 

The reading (Rv 5:1-10) focuses on the Lamb that was slain to purchase us with his blood from every nation. In his vision, John sees a scroll in the right hand of the one who sits on the throne. It is covered with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. The perfectly sealed “scroll” indicates the mysterious will of God regarding all of human and cosmic history. No one in heaven or on earth or in the entire universe could open the scroll and execute the divine will. Who is qualified to know and put into execution God’s plan for history? The seer weeps bitterly at this desperate situation and his tears evoke the sufferings of those who despair in every time and space.

 

One of the elders said to John the comforting words: “Don’t cry. Look! The lion from Judah’s tribe, a great descendant of David, has won the victory, and he can break the seven seals and open the scroll.” John then beholds a Lamb standing “in the midst of the throne” and has “seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God that have been sent through the whole earth”. The position being “in the midst of the throne” symbolizes the Lamb’s close link with God, whose knowledge and power he shares. The image of “seven horns … seven eyes … seven spirits of God” indicates that the Lamb holds the fullness of power and insight and that he watches and supervises all that takes place on earth.

 

Moreover, the Lamb is surrounded by the “four living creatures” and the “elders”. The Lamb appears to have been slain, but is living and victorious. The Lamb Victor, who still carries the marks of its sacrifice, is Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah from the tribe of Judah and the house of David. The slain Lamb has the authority and the power to open the “seven-sealed” scroll. Thus the “four living creatures” and the “twenty-four elders” fall down before the Lamb in an act of adoration. Each with a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, symbolizing the prayers of God’s people, they sing a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to break open its seals. For you were killed and by your sacrificial death you bought for God people from every tribe, language, nation and race. You have made them a kingdom of priests to serve our God, and they shall rule on earth.”

 

What John witnesses is an enthronement ceremony of the Victorious Lamb. By receiving the scroll of the divine will and by accomplishing God’s saving plan, the Lord Jesus receives sovereignty over the nations. He has the power to guide the destiny of all peoples to a glorious end. The whole creation, represented by the “four living creatures”, and the entire Church, represented by the “twenty-four elders”, extol the dignity of the Paschal Lamb and celebrate his glory as our Savior in a beautiful liturgy that encompasses heaven and earth.

 

The following song is a favorite one in our chapel here in Fresno. I particularly like it because its melody is simple but beautiful. After having studied the text (Rv 5:1-10) using various biblical commentaries, the song becomes even more meaningful.

 

“Worthy Is the Lamb”: A song composed by Ricky Manalo, CSP

 

Refrain: Worthy is the Lamb that was slain

to receive honor and glory.

Worthy are the ones who believe

to receive the goodness of God.

 

1. Worthy are you, O Paschal Lamb.

Wisdom and strength belong now to you.

You laid down your life and died upon the cross:

we’ve become a people of hope.

 

2. Worthy are you, O Bread of Life.

Salvation and joy belong now to us.

By conquering death and rising to new life,

we’ve become a people of praise.

 

3. Worthy are you, O Risen Christ.

Wonders and signs, revealing your might.

Your power and glory shine upon our lives:

we’ve become your light for the world.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we share the anguish of Jesus for those who reject his saving grace? What do we do to help a secularized world turn to God and be converted to his ways?

 

2. Do we recognize and avow the radical salvation won for us by the victorious Paschal Lamb Jesus Christ? Do we let the unique role of Christ Savior shape our life and destiny?

 

  

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

 

Jesus Savior,

you wept over Jerusalem

for being blind to your gift of peace and salvation.

Give us the grace

to recognize your presence in our midst.

Let us follow your ways

and preserve us from destruction.

You are the Father’s benediction and blessing to us all.

We love you and thank you.

We resolve to follow you and serve you, now and forever.

Amen.  

 

            ***

(cf. Rv 5:10)

You are worthy to take the scroll

and to break open its seals.

For you were killed

and by your sacrificial death

you bought for God

people from every tribe, language, nation and race.

You have made them a kingdom of priests

to serve our God, and they shall rule on earth.

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

“Jesus saw the city and wept over it.” (Lk 19:41) // “Worthy are you to receive the scroll and break open its seals.” (Rv 5:9)

 

  

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

 

Manifest your acceptance of Jesus as Savior by your acts of justice and compassion on behalf of the poor. // Let every moment and action of your life be an act of worship and praise to the Lamb who was slain for our saving.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

November 23, 2018: FRIDAY – WEEKDAY (33); SAINT CLEMENT I, Martyr; SAINT COLUMBAN, Abbot; BLESSED MIGUEL AGUSTIN PRO, Priest, Martyr (U.S.A.)

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us True Worship … We Are Commissioned as His Prophets”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Rv 10:8-11 // Lk 19:45-48

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 19:45-48): “You have made it a den of thieves.”

 

Today’s Gospel (Lk 19:45-48) depicts Jesus driving away those who have made his house of prayer into a “den of thieves”. The religious practices in the Jerusalem temple have degenerated into a shameful market trafficking. Legal transactions in the name of religion, which trample the rights of the poor, are sanctioned and encouraged by temple authorities within its precincts. Jesus castigates the merchants for profaning the temple and the religious leaders for degrading the meaning of worship. Indeed, the God of freedom, who brought Israel from the bondage in Egypt, would not settle for false worship. Moreover, the passionate character of the liberating God and the integrity of his covenant love would not tolerate abuse and injustice to the poor, especially when done in the guise of religion. But God is compassionate, full of mercy and love. Ever faithful and true, the almighty God does not turn away from his sinful people. He sends his Son Jesus to renew the broken covenant and to teach them true worship. In a radical manifestation of divine love, our Savior Jesus Christ offers “true worship” on the cross of salvation.

 

The following story entitled “A Sunday Stranger”, circulated on the Internet, gives an idea of what true “worship” entails.

 

The parking lot filled rapidly on Sunday morning as members of the large church congregation filed into church. As usually happens in a church that size, each member had developed a certain comfort zone – a block of space within those four church walls that became theirs after the second or third sitting. It was as much a part of their experience as the recliner was to the television at home.

 

One morning a stranger stood at the edge of the parking lot near a dumpster. As families parked cars and piled out, they noticed him rummaging through the trash. “Oh no, I don’t believe it”, whispered a lady to her husband. “That’s all we need – a bunch of homeless people milling around here.” One worried little girl tugged on her dad’s sleeve. “But Daddy …” Daddy was busy sizing up the bearded stranger, whose baggy, outdated trousers and faded flannel shirt had dusted too many park benches. “Don’t stare at him, honey”, he whispered, and hurried her inside. Soft music filled the high-ceilinged sanctuary as churchgoers settled in their usual spots.

 

The choir sand an opening chorus, “In his presence there is comfort … in his presence there is peace …” Sunlight flooded the center aisle. The double doors swung open and the homeless man, sloppy and stooped, headed toward the front. “Oh no, It’s him!” somebody muttered. “What does he think he’s doing, anyway?” snapped an incredulous usher. The stranger set his bagful of dumpster treasures on the very first pew, which had been upholstered in an expensive soft teal fabric just three months ago. The music stopped. And before anyone had a chance to react, he ambled up the stairs and stood behind the fine, hand-crafted podium, where he faced a wide-eyed congregation.

 

The disheveled stranger spoke haltingly at first, in a low, clear voice. Unbuttoning and removing his top layer of clothing, he described Jesus, and the love he has for all people. “Jesus possesses sensitivity and a love that far surpasses what any of us deserves.” Stepping out of the baggy old trousers, the stranger went on to describe a forgiveness that is available to each and every one of us … without strings attached.

 

“Unconditionally he loves us. Unconditionally he gave his very life for us. Unconditionally and forever, we can have the peace and assurance that no matter who we are, where we’ve come from, or how badly we may have mistreated others or ourselves, there is hope. In Jesus, there is always hope. You see, my friends, it is never too late to change”, the man continued. “He is the author of change, and the provider of forgiveness. He came to bring new meaning to life.”

 

Men and women squirmed as the reality hit them like an electric current. The stranger tugged at his knotted gray beard, and removed it. “I’m here to tell you that we are loved with a love far beyond human understanding, a love that enables us to accept and love others in return.” Then tenderly he added, “Let’s pray together.” That wise pastor – under the guise of a homeless “nobody” – did not preach a sermon that day, but every person left with plenty to think about.

   

 

B. First Reading (Rv 10:8-11): “I took the small scroll and swallowed it.”

 

The reading (Rv 10:8-11) depicts the seer John being commissioned as God’s prophet to the nations. Ezekiel’s prophetic investiture (cf. Ez 2:8-3:3) inspires this account. John is commanded by a voice from heaven to take from the angel an “open” scroll. When he takes the little scroll and eats it, it tastes “sweet” as honey in his mouth. But after he swallows it, it turns “sour” in his stomach. That the scroll is “open” symbolizes that its message must not be kept secret but be communicated to the intended recipients. The action of “eating the scroll” indicates that the one being commissioned needs to assimilate completely and deeply its content or message. That the scroll is both “sweet and sour” symbolizes the double effect the prophetic message brings: that is, it announces the glorious victory of the faithful and the painful struggle that precedes it. The “sweet and sour” taste evokes the Christian paschal experience of beatitude and glory through suffering and death.

 

After eating the scroll, the prophet is told: “Once again you must proclaim God’s message about many nations, races, languages and kings.” The prophecy that John will proclaim contains judgments against peoples and their leaders. Since the prophetic truth disturbs and destabilizes, his message is dangerous for political powers and for the prophet himself. Indeed, the message of the prophet John and the Christian prophetic community through time and space is challenging, disquieting, transforming and life-giving.

 

The following article gives insight into what it means to be God’s prophet in today’s world (cf. Dashka Slater, “Call for Climate Justice” in Sierra, September/October 2015, p. 26-27).

 

On June 18, the Vatican released Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, subtitled “Care for Our Common Home”. Environmentalists hoped it would build momentum for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in December, while fossil fuel apologists attacked the pope’s credibility. (Rush Limbaugh went so far as to call the Pontiff a Marxist.)

 

But the papal letter’s significance goes far beyond its widely noted alarm about climate change to ask readers of all faiths to consider their relationship to the planet as a whole. “We are not faced with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social”, Pope Francis writes, “but rather one complex crisis which is both social and environmental.”

 

For environmental justice scholar, Sylvia Hood Washington, who is both Catholic and African-American, this holistic approach is what makes the encyclical so revolutionary. “When you have the pope clearly state that the degradation of the environment and the degradation of human beings is a sin? Praise be to God!” she says. “It’s a blessing to every human being who has wanted justice and equity.”

 

Hood Washington’s environmental ethos has a rigorous academic underpinning, but she also has a personal stake: Her mother died during an extended heat wave in Cleveland in 1988, the kind of disaster that will become more lethal as the planet warms. Heat waves, she points out, are particularly deadly for people with chronic diseases like the hypertension and diabetes that are epidemic in the black community.

 

“The climate of the earth, but also the internal climate of the body, has been changed by the industrial production of energy”, she says. “What we corrupt on the earth, we corrupt in ourselves.” (…)

 

But anyone who reads the encyclical with an open mind will be moved to action. “It’s a challenging document”, observes Patrick Carolan, executive director of the Franciscan Action Network. “If you’re reading it, you’re going to feel uncomfortable. St. Francis of Assisi taught us that you’re never transformed in your comfort zone. It’s not business as usual – it can’t be.”

 

 

 

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

 

1. How does the episode of the cleansing of the Temple impact us? What are the various elements and areas in our personal lives that need “cleansing”? What does “worship” mean to us personally? Do we strive to render God “true worship”?

 

2. Like the seer John, are we willing to take the “open” scroll, eat it and taste its sweetness and then feeling its sourness in the stomach, proclaim its prophetic contents to the nations? Are we willing to be God’s courageous prophets in today’s world?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you cleansed the temple from abusive merchants

and denounced false worship.

Purify us of hypocrisy and self-gain.

Teach us the meaning of true worship.

We can never truly love and praise you

if we continue to neglect the poor and marginal.

Give us the grace to make of our life

a pleasing “offering” to God.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

            Amen.

 

            ***

Loving God,

we thank you our vocation and mission

as your prophets in today’s world.

Help us to relish the sweetness of your word.

Give us the courage to proclaim your saving message to the nations.

Let us live by your Spirit

and rejoice in Christ’s love for us and one another.

You are worthy of honor, 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 week. Please memorize it.

 

“My house shall be a house of prayer; but you have made it a den of thieves.” (Lk 19:46) // “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues and kings.” (Rv10:11)

 

 

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

 

By your acts of charity and animated by the spirit of true worship, contribute to the cleansing and rebuilding of God’s desecrated “temple” – today’s suffering people who are victims of crime, violence, oppression, exploitation and injustice. // Make an effort to study prayerfully the Word of God that you may proclaim God’s saving message more efficaciously to the people around you.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

November 24, 2018: SATURDAY – SAINT ANDREW DUNG-LAC, Priest, AND COMPANIONS, Martyrs

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Affirms the Reality of the Resurrection … The Prophetic Community Shares in His Paschal Destiny”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Rv 11:4-12 // Lk 20:27-40

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 20:27-40): “He is not God of the dead, but of the living.”

 

This happened in Veneto, Italy. Sr. Tiziana’s dad died of a massive stroke. Her mom was disconsolate and was crying her heart out at the funeral. Sr. Tiziana gently reminded her that the separation is temporary for she would be reunited with him in heaven. Her mom wailed: “But the Gospel says in the next life we will be like angels. In heaven, I will no longer be his wife.” Sr. Tiziana later confided: “I did not know what to say.” Of course, her mom’s fear of cessation of the relationship is unfounded. True love never ends.

 

Today’s Gospel (Lk 20:27-30) deals with the resurrection of the dead, a faith reality that surpasses human understanding. The Sadducees, a group of religious leaders who deny the existence of resurrected life, are bent on engaging Jesus in a reductio-ad-absurdum argument against the later doctrine of bodily resurrection. If there is a “resurrection” there would be struggles in heaven over marriage partners. Jesus’ first rebuttal also uses a reductio-ad-absurdum tactic. The Divine Master argues that the next existence, which has no place for death, makes marriage and remarriage irrelevant. He reduces to pieces the basic premise of the Sadducees that the life of the age to come is merely a continuation of this life and therefore needs marriage and human propagation lest it die out. The second rebuttal of Jesus is derived from the Torah. Since the Sadducees hold only to the Law of Moses, Jesus utilizes that to bolster his argument about the resurrected life. When God says: “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” this implies that his relationship with these patriarchs is everlasting and personal. God does not lose his friends to death. They live on and this is made possible through the Messiah’s resurrection.

 

It is through the resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God, that we are brought to true and eternal life. Our belief in our resurrection is based on our faith in the resurrected Christ. Harold Buetow remarks: “Christian belief in immortality is unique and special. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Good News of fullness of life in this age, and of the resurrection in the age to come. For us death is a door, not a wall – not a wall that ends growth and action like the Berlin wall, but a door into a Christmas-tree room full of surprises. Someone has compared death to standing on the seashore. A ship spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the open sea. She fades on the horizon, and someone says, ‘She’s gone.’ Just at the moment when someone says, ‘She’s gone’, other voices who are watching at her coming on another shore happily shout, ‘Here she comes’. Or to use another metaphor, what the caterpillar calls ‘the end’, the butterfly calls the ‘beginning’.”

  

 

B. First Reading (Rv 11:4-12): “These two prophets tormented the inhabitants of the earth.”

 

While the scene of the open scroll (Rv 10:8-11) underlines the prophetic mission of the Church, today’s reading about the “two witnesses” (Rv 11:4-12) delineates the consequences of this mission for the Church and the world. The seer John tells us that the witnesses are “two” because in the Jewish tradition, at least two witnesses are needed for a valid testimony. The reference to the “two witnesses” evokes the role of Moses and Elijah in salvation history. According to Jewish belief, Moses and Elijah are to return to preach repentance before the day of the Lord. Moreover, the image of the “two witnesses” is superimposed on the image of the “olive trees” and “lampstands” depicted by the prophet Zechariah (cf. Zec 4:3, 11). This symbolic device intends to describe the role and meaning of Christian witnessing. Indeed, the “two witnesses” which are “the two olive trees and the two lamps that stand before the Lord of the earth” symbolize the Church. Nourished by the Spirit and shining like a lamp, the Church bears witness to the radiance of God.

 

The “two witnesses” cannot be killed as long as their witnessing is not complete. In the symbolic city called “Sodom” (a typical example of moral perversion) or “Egypt” (which represents powers hostile to God’s people, oppressing and reducing them to slavery), they are killed by the “beast” that comes from the bottomless pit. The “beast” symbolizes the “anti-Christ” who musters and marshals the enemies of the “two witnesses”. Their dead bodies lie in the street of that sinful city and denied burial. This ultimate humiliation indicates the pitch of hatred to which pagans have been incited by the Christian message. The enemies rejoice that the troublesome Christian witnesses have been eliminated.

 

But the faithful witnesses are vindicated. After “three and a half days” of death and torment, “a life-giving breath comes from God” and raises them up. The enemies watch in consternation as a loud voice from heaven summons the two prophets: “Come up here!” As their enemies watch, the faithful witnesses go up into heaven in a cloud. This beautiful scene of salvation and glorification is meant to encourage the Christians to remain faithful during times of suffering and persecution. Indeed, the Christian faithful are called and destined to share in Christ’s paschal destiny of passion, death and resurrection.

 

The following modern-day account gives insight into the hardship that Christian witnessing entails as well as the hope for salvation (cf. Dominican Brother Augustine Marogi, “Persecuted, but not Abandoned” in Columbia, September 2015, p. 20-23).

 

Gardeners know that when a plant is uprooted and transplanted, its roots may have great difficulty receiving the water needed to remain alive. And as the plant adjusts to new soil, it may suffer “transplant shock” and never recover.

 

Uprooted human beings can suffer similar consequences as well. Forced to abandon their homes, refugees often experience their new surroundings as a vast, dark desert. Distraught and confused, fathers and mothers find themselves unable to provide loving care and security for their children. Despair becomes a real temptation. Such is the fate of displaced Christian families living in Iraq today.

 

After the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, overran the city of Mosul in northern Iraq and smaller towns in 2014, they gave Christians three options: convert to Islam, pay jizya (a submission tax) or leave. Otherwise, they would be slain. With little more than the clothes on their back, nearly all the Christian families abandoned the cities and villages where their roots could be traced back thousands of years. They fled into Kurdish areas where many have faced deplorable living conditions – in tents, partially completed buildings or even out in the open.

 

In response to this humanitarian crisis, the Knights of Columbus Christian Refugee Relief Fund was launched in August 2014. The initiative has helped to provide shelter and medical care for refugee families in need, mitigating their sufferings and giving hope amid dire circumstances. (…)

 

Redemptorist Archbishop Bashar Matti Ward of Erbil affirmed that both the spiritual and humanitarian support have given hope to his suffering people. “We remain confident in Christ that there is a future for Iraqi Christians in Iraq.”

 

 

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

 

1. What is our concept of death and dying? Is this concept illumined by faith in the living God, in whom all are alive? Do we believe that our future resurrected life will be that of “a person with a wholly illuminated soul” – where we are closer to being children of God and able to respond to the divine loving plan for each of us? How authentic is our liturgical confession: We believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting? How does this eschatological belief affect our daily living here and now? 

 

2. When called to witness our Christian faith in dire circumstances, do we turn to God and trust in his saving help? Do we take to heart the plight of persecuted Christians?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

you are the God of the living, not of the dead.

In Jesus, your Son and our Savior,

we live and move.

Help us to look forward to the resurrected life,

when all that is best in us will come through

and each of us will become

“a person with a wholly illuminated soul”.

May the Risen Christ whom we celebrate in every Eucharist

bring about more and more

our own resurrection and transformation.

We give you glory and praise, now and forever.

Amen.  

 

***

Lord Jesus,

you suffered what the persecuted Christians of today

are suffering.

Give them the grace to be courageous in their witnessing

and grant them the hope of glory.

Let the people of goodwill come to their aid

and may all hatred and violence cease.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“He is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” (Lk 20:38) // “They went up to heaven in a cloud.” (Rv 11:12)

 

  

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

 

Pray for widows/widowers who have lost their partners and are grieving for them. Pray for the grace of a happy death and a deeper experience of trust in Jesus’ almighty Father, the God of the living. In the month of November, visit a cemetery. Pray for the repose of the soul of the beloved dead and thank God for being the God of the living, and not God of the dead. // Do what you can to assist morally, spiritually and materially today’s persecuted Christians.

 

 

 *** 

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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