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

 

A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

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N.B. The Lectio Divina for Easter Week and the Second Week of Easter is now ready. You can access it by going to ARCHIVES "Year B - Series 19" (cf. above) and click on “Easter Week" and "Easter Week 2".

 

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BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 19, n. 18)

Holy Week: March 28 – April 3, 2021

 

 

(The pastoral tool BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD: A LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY & WEEKDAY LITURGY includes a prayerful study of the Sunday liturgy from various perspectives. For the Lectio Divina on the liturgy of the past week: March 21-27, 2021 please go to ARCHIVES Series 19 and click on “Lent Week 5”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY:

March 28 – April 3, 2021.)

 

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March 28, 2021: PALM SUNDAY OF THE LORD’S PASSION, YEAR B

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Undergoes the Saving Passion”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Procession: Mk 11:1-10 or Jn 12:12-16 // Is 50:4-7 // Phil 2:6-11 // Mk 14:1-15:47

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 14:1-15:47): “The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ”

          

In John Hampsch’s book, The Healing Power of the Eucharist, there is a story about a Persian nobleman’s covenant fidelity. One day, the nobleman was walking in his garden when a man climbed over the wall and approached him. He was fleeing a lynch mob bent on killing him. The nobleman, who had authority to grant amnesty, had pity on this man because he was going to be killed. The nobleman was eating a peach at the time, so he broke off part of the peach and shared it with the man. When the clamoring mob finally came into the garden to pursue the man, the nobleman said, “What did he do?” The people replied, “He just committed a murder and the murder victim was your son.” The man was brokenhearted to learn that his son had been killed and that the culprit was the man with whom he had just shared his peach. But he said, “I’ve shared food with you. I am covenanted with you. We’ve shared food together, so you are free to live. Go in peace.” 

           

The biblical concept of covenant relationship is illustrated in this remarkable Near Eastern story. A meal is expressive of a bond of friendship. To share food with someone is to share the destiny of that person in covenant fidelity. Against this backdrop, the treachery of Judas (cf. Mk 14:10-11; 17-21; 43-47) is abominable. The nearness and intimacy of Judas to the Divine Master he betrayed made his crime “horrific”. Above all, the details about “eating together” highlight the enormity of the betrayer’s crime.    

           

Mark’s account of the passion of Christ is filled with pathos. In the style of a “bare-bones” narrative, it depicts Jesus as the Suffering Servant so poignantly portrayed and cruelly mistreated in the prophecy of Isaiah (cf. Is 52:13-53:12). In the supreme moment of his self-giving to the Father’s saving will through the paschal event of his passion and death, Jesus is the object of cold-blooded betrayal of an intimate friend, violent abuse by his persecutors, and cruel abandonment by his disciples.

           

Mark’s portrayal of the passion and death of Jesus acquires greater intensity when contemplated against the horizon of the Messiah’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The contrast between the two messianic episodes is wrenching. Guerric of Igny, an early Church writer, comments: “If today’s procession and passion are considered together, in the one Jesus appears as sublime and glorious, in the other lowly and suffering … In the procession the people meet Jesus with palm branches, in the passion they slap him in the face and strike his head with a rod … In the one he is mounted on an ass and accorded every mark of honor; in the other he hangs on the wood of the cross, torn by whips, pierced with wounds, and abandoned by his own.” 

           

Indeed, Jesus’ identification of himself as the Suffering Son of Man finds its climax at the foot of the cross. In the dark hour of Jesus’ death, the evangelist Mark wants us to recognize, in the words and deeds of Jesus, the ultimate act of self-giving and filial trust. We hear in Saint Mark’s account: “At noon darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which is translated, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Mk 15:33-34). Like the Psalmist who utters the cry of anguish, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (cf. Ps 22:1), Jesus vocalizes the sufferings and hopes of a virtuous man, stripped naked, with his garments cast lots upon.

 

Moreover, Mark dramatically depicts the abysmal depth of Jesus’ passion in the following words: “Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last” (Mk 15:38). Jesus’ death is followed by the rupture of the Temple veil from top to bottom. The horrendous death of Jesus evokes the climactic confession of the centurion: “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mk 15:39). The death of Jesus reveals that he - the Suffering Servant - is the Son of God … the Messiah … the Son of Man … the King of Israel. According to Virgil Howard, it is the mystery of the embodied Spirit of God ripping open heaven and challenging the power of evil in the world. It is the mystery of the divine Reign, present in the world as seed, secret, and promise. This “awesome” mystery is crystallized in the figure of the powerless, abandoned, mocked, tortured and crucified one – Jesus of Nazareth. 

 

 

B. First Reading (Is 50:4-7): “My face I did not shield from buffets and spitting knowing that I shall not be put to shame.”

 

On April 2, 2006, I viewed for the second time the excellent movie, “To Kill A Mockingbird”, based on Harper Lee’s 1960 Pulitzer Prize winning novel. In a racially divided small Southern town tinged with prejudice, the figure of the widowed attorney Atticus Finch, portrayed excellently by Gregory Peck, looms as a powerful testament of courage, morality and commitment to the cause of justice and right. One of the most powerful scenes in the movie for me was when Atticus, accompanied by his nine-year old son Jem, drove to the family of his defendant, Tom Robinson, a young black man falsely convicted of rape. Atticus was to break the terrible news to Helen that her husband Tom was shot and fatally wounded by the sheriff when the desperate Tom tried to escape.

 

Mr. Ewell, a wretched alcoholic and the violently abusive father of Mayella, the white girl who wrongly brought Tom Robinson to court, then appeared on the scene. He drunkenly confronted Atticus whom he despised as a “Nigger lover”. Spitefully glaring at the handsome and tall Atticus and leering at him with hate, he then spat on his face. Time seemed to freeze as Atticus steeled himself and “set his face like flint”. The young boy Jem witnessed as his father calmly wiped away the spit from his face with a white handkerchief and walked away with strength and dignity. At that moment, while the boy saw the ugly face of evil in this world, he also perceived the heroic stance of a courageous man in the face of horrendous indignity. The moral strength of Atticus evokes the noble figure of the Suffering Servant in the Old Testament reading (Is 50:4-7) and that of Jesus Christ in his glorious passion (Mk 14:1-15:47).

 

The passion narrative that is proclaimed on this Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion delineates the features of Jesus as the Suffering Servant most incisively. The evangelist Mark recounts an episode in which Jesus was tormented with insults and indignities: “The soldiers clothed him in purple and, weaving a crown of thorns, placed it on him. They began to salute him with, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and kept striking his head with a reed and spitting upon him. They knelt before him in homage. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him out to crucify him” (Mk 15:17-21). As the Church – the people of the New Covenant – contemplates this and other episodes of the Lord’s Passion, we realize more and more that the glorious passion of our Lord Jesus Christ is for the sake of the Covenant. We are overwhelmed by the love of Christ who had sacrificed every fiber of his being in fidelity to the Father’s covenant love and saving design for us.

 

The breadth, depth and height of the sacrificial offering of Jesus Christ by his passion, death and glorification can be gleaned more effectively when we take into account the Third Song of the Suffering Servant, which is contained in this Sunday’s Old Testament Reading (Is 50:4-7). The Third Servant Song introduces the mysterious figure of the Suffering Servant as one deeply receptive and obedient to the word of God, the source of salvation: “The Lord God has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear” (v. 4-5). The Servant must first be a disciple who listens and interiorizes God’s saving Word before he can speak the saving word that would sustain and give strength to the weary.

 

Deeply rooted in the saving word of Yahweh, the Servant is able to submit himself humbly to afflictions and to face the cruelty and ignominy of adversity: “And I have not rebelled, have not turned back. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting” (v. 5-6). Trusting resolutely in divine help, the Servant avows that he would be vindicated. He would not be disgraced, but rather prevail over persecutions and trials: “The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame” (v. 7).

      

 

C. Second Reading (Phil 2:6-11): “Christ humbled himself. Because of this God greatly exalted him.”

 

The Second Reading of today’s Mass (Phil 2:6-11), an ancient Christian hymn filled with beauty and laden with meaning, is a summary of the life of Jesus, especially of the Paschal Mystery. As “the Gospel in a nutshell”, it inspires us to imitate our noble model: to be selfless, humble, obedient and victorious like him. Furthermore, it reinforces our discipleship by asserting that in Jesus we have the strength to suffer. In uniting ourselves with his passion and obedient suffering, we receive the power to do as he did – all the way.

 

Harold Buetow comments: “The hymn traces the movement of the Son of God from heaven to earth and back to his Father: his existence before all time, his incarnation, his ministry, and his passion, death, resurrection and ascension. The hymn begins (v. 6) by invoking faith in Jesus’ identity. Though Jesus was divine, this was nothing he exploited. It was concealed throughout his mortal life. He did not stand on his dignity. In becoming man, Jesus divested himself, not of his divinity, but of the status of divine glory that was correctly his. Not only did he become a real man, but proffered himself without any exceptional privileges. More, he assumed the role of a servant. It all now comes to a climax: he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross (v. 5). This was the greatest expression of the hallmarks of Jesus’ life, which were humility and self-renunciation.”

 

The “obedience unto death” of Jesus Christ is the lowest depth of his humiliation. His utter self-giving on the cross, however, is life-giving and leads to his greatest glory. The final redemption of humankind and creation is achieved by the passion and death of Jesus on the cross. From the total abnegation that is his sacrificial death, the movement progresses upward – to his exaltation as Lord of heaven and earth. As with Jesus, God the Father will also raise to the loftiest height all who humble themselves and share in his Son’s self-emptying on the cross.

 

Harold Buetow exhorts: “Let us try to grow into a new person by imitating the example of our life-giving Savior who, though he lives in heaven, has nowhere on earth to lay his head; who, though he will return in the clouds, entered Jerusalem on a donkey; who, though he gives life to all creatures, gave himself up to be killed on a cross; who, though angels serve him, serves us; and who, though he was rich, emptied himself (kenosis) and made himself a poor slave.”

 

The mystery of Christ’s self-emptying and obedient suffering lives on in the Church today. The passion of Christ continues to be the passion of the Church and of every Christian disciple. The following article gives insight into this (cf. Maria Barbagallo, “A Voice for the Voiceless” in L’Osservatore Romano, February 27, 2015, p. 11).

 

Pope Francis’ recognition of Archbishop Romero’s martyrdom has stirred (also within me) a deep sense of gratitude. In a certain way, the Church’s official act also involves the heroism of the many men and women religious who have found themselves in similar situations of persecution and violence. Perhaps they were killed, unjustly slandered or even forced into exile. I believe that the year dedicated to consecrated life is a true gift from the Church to religious.

 

I clearly remember the dawn of 12 March 1977 in Guatemala: we heard our doorbell ringing. There were several Jesuits, called the “fathers of Zone 5” (which was a poor and marginalized area), who told us about the assassination of Fr. Rutilio Grande Garcia. And I also perfectly remember 24 March 1980: the day when the Archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Arnulfo Romero, was killed. The reality of those moments are perhaps only truly understood by men and women religious because they are the first ones – after the poor and oppressed – to pay the price of this absurd persecution. It is a campaign of hate justified by the suspicion that the religious are the main culprits of the people’s subversion.

 

Most of the men and women religious, but also in part local clergy, are the only voice for the “voiceless”. It is they who take on the responsibility of living beside the people, following their way of the Cross, their path of oppression and institutionalized injustice. (…)

 

Religious consecration began acquiring an increasingly sacrificial dimension. (…) Yes, religious consecration also has this dimension, the dimension of living “in difficulty” for the Kingdom of God.

 

 

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

 

1, Do I follow Jesus and accompany him in his entry into Jerusalem, the city that honors him with cries of “Hosanna” and ironically, the same city that cries out, “Crucify him”?

 

2. How does the Church participate in the life-giving sacrifice of Jesus? How do I live out the passion of Christ today?

 

3. Do I pray for the grace to be deeply united with Christ who humbled himself and was obedient to the point of death on the cross? How do I express his humble and obedient stance in my daily life?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

we thank you for the salvation that flowed forth

from the passion of your Servant-Son Jesus Christ.

Help us to participate fully

in his sacrificial offering on the cross

so that we may experience joyfully the Easter victory.

Enable us to render our eternal praise to Jesus Lord.

Help us to sing our joyful “Hosannas” to him,

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. 

 

           “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Mk 15:39) 

 

 

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

 

Pray for a salutary celebration of the Holy Week, especially the Easter Triduum of the Lord’s passion, death and resurrection. By your humble and obedient stance to the will of God and by your generous service to the poor, vulnerable, and persecuted, enable the light of the Easter mystery to shine in your life.

   

 

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March 29, 2021: MONDAY OF HOLY WEEK

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Was Anointed with Love”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 42:1-7 // Jn 12:1-11

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 12:1-11): “Let her keep this for the day of my burial.”

 

I remember vividly a beautiful gesture of love that I witnessed many years ago. I was in O’Connor Hospital at the bedside of Sr. Cornelia De Toffoli, the local superior of our religious community in San Jose, CA-USA. She was dying of cancer, but the outpouring of love and care given her was consoling. A nurses’ aide assigned that day spoke to me, “When I finish my duty, I will come and trim Sister’s toenails.” She came back in the afternoon with a nail clipper and lovingly did a pedicure on Sr. Cornelia. On the following day – March 29, 1996 – Sr. Mary Cornelia peacefully passed away. The kind gesture of that nurses’ aide, giving extra care outside official working hours to a dear patient, touched me deeply. Like Mary of Bethany in today’s Gospel, she “anointed” Sister’s feet with an “ointment of love”.

 

Today we contemplate Mary of Bethany’s loving gesture for the Divine Master, who had restored her brother, Lazarus, to life. Her prodigious love for Jesus is expressed in the quality and prodigal amount of ointment she used to anoint his feet. Jesus perceives the anointing as Mary’s last act of charity done to him. In Judaism, burying the dead ranked above almsgiving as a greater work of charity. There will always be the opportunity to give alms to the poor, but Mary’s anointing is an ultimate act done to Jesus in preparation for his burial. The precious ointment used by Mary fills the Bethany house with fragrance just as the scent of burial oils pervades a tomb. Mary’s “oil of love” exudes a fragrance of life that dispels the looming stench of death. As we journey with Jesus from Bethany to his paschal destiny in Jerusalem, we too are called to anoint his feet with our very own “ointment of love”.  Jesus Lord invites us to share intimately in his passion, death and resurrection.

 

 

B. First Reading (Is 42:1-7): “He will not cry out, nor make his voice heard in the street.” (First Oracle of the Servant of the Lord)

 

Today’s Old Testament reading comes from the first of the four songs of the “Suffering Servant” found in the book of Isaiah (42:1-9; 49:1-7; 50:4-11 and 52:13-53:12). In its original context of the Babylonian captivity, the “Suffering Servant” is the people of Israel, conceived in terms of its ideal destiny. Jesus Christ, however, personifies the mysterious figure and radically fulfills the ideal of the “Suffering Servant”.

  

            The figure of the “Suffering Servant” in the book of Isaiah represents the finest qualities of Israel and her leaders; he is the “chosen one” – the messianic king, prophet, teacher, and victim destined to bring forth justice to the nations in a nonviolent, non-aggressive way. He is meant to lead and console the people of God, restoring goodness and wholeness among them. Gently and quietly, the Servant of Yahweh is to carry out his saving mission, transforming the people from within and not by military prowess or by whipping them into conformity. By way of sacrificial love, the Servant of Yahweh is to accomplish the saving plan of the loving, compassionate God to reunite the people of God and achieve the true covenant. Yahweh’s beloved Servant is destined to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and to release from the dungeon those who live in darkness.

  

The following is a testimony of the imprisoned brothers at the penitentiary in Tehuacan, Puebla in Mexico (cf. “In Prison We Encountered Christ” in INQUIETUD NUEVA: Revista Catolica de Evangelizacion, Noviembre-Diciembre 2006, p. 75-77). Having experienced God’s all-inclusive, unconditional love in their lives, and having been liberated by Christ’s saving mission, they in turn became “manifestation” of God’s abiding love and “missionaries” of his living Word.

 

We are a group of prisoners who, despite the circumstances in which we are found, we have had the joy of listening to the word of God, which has been transforming our lives little by little. We wish to share our experiences to give testimony that God, infinitely merciful, is able to transform the heart of any man who lets himself get molded by him.

 

I still remember those moments of anguish and desperation when I first entered the CERESCO (common name for this prison). Before knowing God it felt like time did not go by, rather the hours extended eternally. There were moments in which solitude would get hold of me and the Evil one would attack, tempting me to escape, commit suicide, or to look for revenge, for there are many here paying for crimes they never committed, while the true criminals are “free” committing more crimes. When one is deprived of his freedom, it’s possible to get easily depressed, and that sometimes leads us to seek shelter using drugs.

 

Today, thanks to God, we have understood that nothing can bring us greater happiness than knowing Christ, our God and Savior. We do not need anything more, because he who has God has it all.  When one enters prison, many of us think that we are going to encounter bad people who will make our lives impossible. But God, who knows every man’s fears, did not allow this to happen. On the contrary, he puts people around us who give us courage. During our free time, many imprisoned brothers use this time to work and earn at least something to live off. In addition, work helps us to feel that here time does not pass by slowly.

 

Something that has changed our lives are the moments in which we have contact with the word of God, which is alive and effective, for its message is always destined to touch today’s humanity. Most of us have had the opportunity to rediscover God once again, especially when attending the penitentiary’s chapel. Some of us have even received some sacraments, such as First Communion. In a recent visit by the Bishop, we meditated on how God loves us so much that, even if we are imprisoned, he wanted to be with us to fill us with his blessings … We do not know if our mishandled cases will be solved or our sentences reduced, but our hope is in God, to whom we shall give an account of our lives one day.

 

Many times they have told us, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God” (Rom 8:28), words that pronounce a great truth, yet very difficult to accept when it is our time to suffer! Thanks to the evangelization we have received from the Missionaries Servants of the Word, we now come to the conclusion that perhaps, if we were not imprisoned, we would have never been interested in knowing Christ. Nevertheless, God took advantage of our failures to transform us into new men, thus confirming what Romans 8:28 says.

 

Today, we know that we too are called to be holy, and in spite of our errors, we can still reach it. The day that God allows us to obtain our freedom, the first thing that we will do is to thank him and remain in his love, not looking for revenge, but living a straight life. Through this testimony, which has not been easy to explain, we want to invite everyone, especially young people who enjoy their physical freedom, to value the dignity of being children of God, and avoid committing actions that go against this dignity enslaving you. We do not pay for our faults in one day, they mark us for life: even those we love end up paying for them.

  

 

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

 

1. Is my love for Jesus as generous and prodigious as that of Mary of Bethany?  Am I willing to anoint his feet with an “ointment of love”?

 

2. What do the following words from Isaiah’s first song of the Servant of Yahweh mean to you: “A bruised reed he shall not break … a smoldering wick he shall not quench”

 

 

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

 

Loving Jesus, the Servant of the Lord,

you journey to your paschal destiny.

Make our hearts a little Bethany

to give you welcome and comfort.

Like your friend Mary,

we anoint your feet with an “ointment of love”

in preparation for your victorious struggle against the power of death and sin.

Help us to be generous

in pouring out our life-love for you.

We love and serve you, our Lord and Master,

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.

 

“Mary anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair.” (Jn 12:3) // “A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench.” (Is 42:3)

  

 

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

 

In this Holy Week, by your act of practical charity, “anoint” with an “ointment of love” a person who is deeply distressed and troubled. Especially in this Holy Week, imitate the gentle stance of the Suffering Servant when provoked to anger or annoyance. 

 

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March 30, 2021: TUESDAY OF HOLY WEEK

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is a Light to the Nations … His Covenant Love Surpasses Betrayal”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 49:1-6 // Jn 13:21-33, 36-38

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 13:21-33, 36-38): “One of you will betray me; the cock will not crow before you deny me three times.”

 

One day, a Persian nobleman was walking in his garden when a man climbed over the wall and approached him. He was fleeing a lynch-mob bent on killing him. The nobleman, who had authority to grant amnesty, had pity on this man because he was going to be killed. The nobleman was eating a peach at the time, so he broke off part of the peach and shared it with the man. When the clamoring mob finally came into the garden to pursue the man, the nobleman said, “What did he do?” The people replied, “He just committed a murder and the murder victim was your son.” The man was brokenhearted to learn that his son had been killed and that the culprit was the man with whom he had just shared his peach. But he said, “I’ve shared food with you. I am covenanted with you. We’ve shared food together, so you are free to live. Go in peace.”

 

Like the compassionate Persian nobleman, Jesus is covenanted to us. The love of Jesus is stronger than our guilt and betrayals, our foibles and failings. The covenant of love that Jesus seals in the paschal meal is sacred. Jesus, on the night of the Last Supper, shares food with his disciples. But Judas will betray him and Peter will deny him. The perfect love of Jesus, however, asserts itself even in the face of denials and betrayals. He gives a morsel of food to Judas as a gesture of love. Judas does not respond, but simply carries out his evil intent of betrayal. Jesus warns Peter that he will deny him. Peter does not heed Jesus, but instead boastfully asserts his readiness to die for him. Peter soon realizes that he cannot rely on his purported love for Jesus for he is a weakling, but rather on Jesus’ rock-strength love for him. We too are called to trust in Jesus’ covenant love – a love stronger than death - a love radically revealed by his death on the cross. As we commit ourselves to Jesus, we overcome the evil effects of betrayals and denials. His healing love transforms us and we resolutely continue our Lenten journey from brokenness to wholeness.

 I

 

B. First Reading (Is 49:1-6): “I will make you a light to the nations that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (Second Oracle of the Servant of the Lord)

 

Jesus of Nazareth is destined to take away the sin of the world. He is the personification of the ideal “Servant of Yahweh” prefigured in the Book of Isaiah’s four oracles or “Songs”  (cf. Is 42:1-9; 49:1-7; 50:4-11 and 52:13-53:12). Against the backdrop of today’s Old Testament reading, the second “Song of the Servant of Yahweh”, we contemplate Jesus as the universal Savior whose vocation is to be a “light to the nations” and whose mission is to bring salvation to the “ends of the earth”.   As the ultimate “Servant”, his saving mission comes from the loving God who formed him as his servant “from the womb”.  Jesus is suffused with the entire caring passion of God for the world.

  

The Christian disciples of all ages are challenged to fully appropriate the saving mystery of Jesus Christ in their lives. As baptized Christians immersed into the Lord’s paschal destiny of death and rising, we are called to spread the light of God’s saving love to all nations. The following story illustrates how 22-year old John-Paul Deddens endeavors to carry out his vocation and mission as a torchbearer in today’s confused and troubled world (cf. “Torchbearers of the Faith” in Our Sunday Visitor, June 10, 2007, p. 10).

 

The 2007 Sex Out Loud Fair at the University of Illinois, Champaign, looked, for the most part, just like last year’s fair. Like last year, it took place in the student center. Like last year, Planned Parenthood handed out emergency contraception. Like last year, The Feminist Majority and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Alliance distributed literature about “safe sex”, “casual sex”, “group sex” and every kind of sex imaginable. And like last year, there were sex-toy raffles and other off-color activities designed to make light of sexual intimacy.

 

Unlike last year, however, was the theology of the body display set up directly across from the Feminist Majority booth. At the theology of the body display, on the table, sat a basket of Miraculous Medals wrapped in gold foil. “For your spiritual protection,” the students manning the table would say as they passed them out to passersby. Those same students also passed out literature and tapes on Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body and engaged attendees in discussions about the true meaning of sexuality.

 

The display was the brainchild of a 22-year old engineering major from Dayton, Ohio, John-Paul Deddens. With the help of the school’s Newman Center and Illinois Collegians for Life (ICFL), Deddens made it possible for the Catholic perspective on sex to have a place, for the first time, at the annual event. And that’s not all Deddens made possible during his time at the university. As a sophomore, he concluded that Illinois Collegians for Life was good at doing big things, hosting events and bringing in speakers, but it wasn’t doing the small, day-to-day things the pro-life movement needs.

 

Accordingly, Deddens founded Lifesavers, a sister organization to ICFL that organizes weekly trips to the local Planned Parenthood clinic. A year later, Deddens founded yet another organization, Students for Life Illinois (SFLI). Designed to serve as a resource for collegiate pro-life groups throughout the state, SFLI helps new groups get off the ground and helps existing groups work more effectively. Thus far, 19 colleges have joined the network, and the group will host its first major conference in Chicago this October.

 

Studying for classes and combating the culture of death doesn’t leave a lot of room in Deddens’ schedule for things like sleep. But he’s not complaining. “I come from a big family,” Deddens explained. “I have six sisters and two brothers. Growing up, people would comment on how big our family was, and not usually in the most positive way. I knew a lot of those people thought I should’ve been avoided, that I should have never been born. I do the work because I was born. I survived.” 

   

 

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

 

1. Are we guilty of denial and betrayal of Jesus? Do we trust in his love that surpasses all kinds of betrayal and denial?

 

2. How do I respond to the challenge of being a “Servant of Yahweh” today? Do I believe that God has formed me as “his servant from the womb”?

 

 

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

 

O merciful Jesus, the light to the nations,

forgive us for the sins of denial and betrayal against you.

Forgive us for breaking the covenant of love

that you have sealed with us

in the paschal meal, the Eucharist.

Help us to trust in you

and in your perfect love.

Give us strength to follow you faithfully on the way of the cross

toward the Easter glory.

You are our saving Lord,

now and forever. Amen.

   

 

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

 

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

 

“I will make you a light to the nations that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (Is 49:6) // “One of you will betray me … The cock will not crow before you deny me three times” (Jn 13:21, 38) 

 

 

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

 

Participate in the Rite of Reconciliation to invoke the grace of healing and in reparation for the sins of denial and betrayal committed against Jesus.

 

     

*** *** ***

March 31, 2021: WEDNESDAY OF HOLY WEEK

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Suffered Betrayal and Insults”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 50:4-9a // Mt 26:14-25

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 26:14-25): “The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to the man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed.”

 

I attended a very heart-rending funeral Mass in December 2012. The son of a dear friend was slain in his apartment. The police found the victim’s decomposing body and his house totally ransacked. The assailant had first gained the trust of the victim who became a benefactor to him and his wife and children. The bereaved sister wept bitterly and cried, “How could he do this to my brother? How could he betray and hurt him? How could he do this all for money?”

 

Today’s Gospel speaks of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas, an intimate friend. Betrayal is the worst crime to commit or experience. It tears us apart at the core of our existence and inflicts pain and sadness, humiliation and death. Judas betrays Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, the compensation for a slain servant. The enormity of the betrayal is underlined by the fact that Judas shares the same food dish with Jesus, who remains steadfast in his love for this erring disciple. The Lord is deeply distressed and wants to salvage him from his despicable act. Judas has a chance to admit his sin and turn to Jesus in sorrow. But Judas chooses instead to act on his evil intent and is personally responsible for his action. Today’s liturgy reminds us that betrayal is possible even at the Eucharistic table. The Church invites us to present to the Lord our sinful tendencies and weaknesses that we may have the strength to be faithful to the Son-Servant in his paschal suffering. Our prayerful contemplation will help us detest the sin of betrayal.

 

 

B. First Reading (Is 50:4-9a): “My face II did not shield from buffets and spitting.” (Third Oracle of the Servant of the Lord)

 

I like very much the movie, “To Kill a Mockingbird”, based on Harper Lee’s 1960 Pulitzer Prize winning novel. In a racially divided small Southern town tinged with prejudice, the figure of the widowed attorney Atticus Finch, portrayed by Gregory Peck, is a witness of courage and commitment to the cause of justice and right. One powerful scene in the movie is when Atticus, accompanied by his nine-year old son Jem, drove to the family of his defendant, Tom Robinson, a young black man falsely convicted of rape. Atticus was to break the terrible news to Helen that her husband Tom was fatally shot by the sheriff when the prisoner tried to escape. Mr. Ewell, a wretched alcoholic and the abusive father of Mayella, the white girl who wrongly brought Tom Robinson to court, appeared. He despised Atticus as a “Nigger lover”. Drunk and spitefully glaring at the handsome and tall Atticus, he spat on his face. Time seemed to freeze as Atticus steeled himself and “set his face like flint”. The young boy Jem witnessed as his father calmly wiped away the spit from his face and walked away with dignity. While Jem saw the ugly face of evil in this world, he also perceived the noble stance of a man faced with indignity. The moral strength of Atticus evokes the figure of the Suffering Servant in today’s Old Testament reading and that of Jesus Christ in his glorious passion.

  

The Third Servant Song introduces the mysterious figure of the Suffering Servant as one deeply receptive and obedient to the word of God, the source of salvation. The Servant must first be a disciple who listens and interiorizes God’s saving Word before he can speak the saving word that would sustain and give strength to the weary. Deeply rooted in the saving word of Yahweh, the Servant is able to submit himself humbly to afflictions and to face adversity. Trusting in divine help, the Servant avows that he would be vindicated. Indeed, he will not be disgraced, but will be victorious.

 

Like the Suffering Servant, Jesus is deeply attentive to the divine saving word and redeeming plan. But he surpasses the Old Testament figure, for Jesus himself is the incarnate and redeeming Word of God. Like the Suffering Servant, Jesus is struck by violent blows, spat upon, and mocked. But he exceeds the Old Testament model, for Jesus perfects God’s plan by his passion and death on the cross. Like the Suffering Servant, Jesus confides in the divine saving help. Surpassing the Old Testament prophetic personage, Jesus in his self-emptying is vindicated by the Father and raised to life and glory. 

    

 

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

 

1. Have we experienced betrayal or have we ever betrayed someone? What was the motive for the betrayal? What did we do to rectify the betrayed relationship?

 

2. What sentiments are evoked in us by the figure of the Suffering Servant who declared: “My face I did not shield from buffets and spitting … knowing that I shall not be put to shame”? What lessons can we draw from his non-violence and utmost trust in God? Do we look to Jesus Christ as the true Suffering Servant and imitate his covenant fidelity to the Father’s saving will?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus, the Suffering Servant of the Lord,

you were deeply troubled by the betrayal of Judas.

We too have betrayed and negated your love.

You have shared your body and blood with us

as food and drink in the Eucharistic meal.

But our thoughts, words and actions betray you

because they do not mirror your self-giving love for us.

We have also failed you

when we refused to love and care for our needy brothers and sisters

and when we refused to forgive those who have wronged us.

Loving Jesus, we turn to you with contrite hearts.

We surrender ourselves to your saving will.

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.

 

“Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” (Mt 26:21) // “My face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.” (Is 50:6)

 

 

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

 

If you have betrayed the trust of another person, make an effort to rectify and heal the hurtful situation.

              

 

*** *** ***

 

April 1, 2021: HOLY THURSDAY OF THE LORD’S SUPPER

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Eucharistic Lord and Master”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Ex 12:1-8 // I Cor 11:23-26 // Jn 13:1-15

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 13:1-15): “Jesus loved them to the end.”

 

At the Last Supper, Jesus washes the feet of his disciples, an expression of perfect love and readiness to serve and forgive others. In this dramatic scene, the Servant-Son of God becomes the servant of humankind. The foot washing signifies his self-emptying on the wood of the cross. It is an expression of a life totally at the service of the Father’s saving will. As Jesus Master carries out the servant’s task of foot-washing, so too must his disciples wash one another’s feet and serve one another. Baptized into Jesus’ saving death, we too must be consecrated to the service of God and love each other. We too must learn to serve to the point of sacrifice and be capable of loving “to the end”.

 

A volunteer at a shelter for the homeless experienced the deepest meaning of foot washing. It was a cold winter. Into the crowded dormitory staggered a huge man who dropped down onto the floor. In an instant, he was sleeping like a log. His feet stank terribly and those around him made uproar. They wanted to put him out into the street, but the sleeping man was in deep stupor. The volunteer went to the kitchen and came back with a basin filled with warm water, a bottle of dishwashing liquid and a towel. He removed the filthy boots and the grimy socks. The stench almost made him gag. He bathed the feet with water and soaped away the stench and the dirt. When the feet were clean, he wiped them with the dishtowel. The volunteer stood up after the foot washing. A lady resident, who seemed particularly hostile to him, approached him, took his “servant’s hands” and kissed them reverently. In the meantime, the man whose feet had been washed continued to sleep!

 

 

B. First Reading (Ex 12:1-8, 11-14): “The law regarding the Passover meal.”

 

Amnesia, the loss of memory, is dreadful. Anamnesis, the process of remembering, counteracts this. The celebration of rituals, which are corporate symbolic actions, helps us in the process of remembering. The celebration of the Jewish Passover is anamnesis or “memorial” in its deepest and perfect sense. The Old Testament reading for this Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Ex12:1-8, 11-14) describes in detail how the rite of Passover is celebrated and underlines the meaning of the feast: the liberation of God’s people from Egypt. On the night of the Passover, the Lord God deals a death blow to the first born in the land, both man and beast, but on the houses of the Israelites marked with blood of the sacrificial lamb, God “jumps over” and thus grants salvation to his chosen people.

 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, number 1363, explains: “In the sense of Sacred Scripture the memorial is not merely the recollection of past events but the proclamation of the mighty works wrought by God for men. In the liturgical celebration of these events, they become in a certain way present and real. This is how Israel understands its liberation from Egypt: every time Passover is celebrated, the Exodus events are made present to the memory of the believers so that they may conform their lives to them.”

 

On the night before Jesus Christ experienced his own “Passover” from death on the cross to his saving glorification, as a devout Jew, he celebrates the Jewish ritual Passover with his disciples. But he infuses it with new meaning: the liberation, not merely of the Jewish people, but of all the people for whom he offers his body and the ratification of the new covenant for all those redeemed by his sacrificial blood. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, number 1364, asserts: “In the New Testament, the memorial takes on new meaning. When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, she commemorates Christ’s Passover, and it is made present. As often as the sacrifice of the Cross by which “Christian Pasch has been sacrificed” is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out.”

 

The importance of rituals, such as the Jewish rite of Passover and the Eucharist, the celebration of the Christian Passover, can be gleaned from the following story (cf. “The Lady Sits Alone” in The Greatest Stories Ever Told, ed. Fulton Oursler, p. 169-173).

 

It began one May evening in the Café Royal in London. An army officer, just home from the wars, was dining alone. Presently he noticed a beautiful woman seated alone at a nearby table. Not much more than forty, he thought, and beautiful! So feminine, so lovely, and attired in such a discreet and exquisite style! The old soldier marveled at her solitude in the midst of soft light and gay dinner parties. Why would such a dream lady be dining alone? Only with an effort of the will did the observer turn back to his cooling soup; he felt young again and he knew he must not stare.

 

A moment later he noticed a man being seated at another nearby table. This newcomer was a tall well-knit man, with iron-gray hair, firm and yet somehow good-humored features. At once he noticed the lonely lady, so near and yet so far. The look of admiration that flashed into his eyes was unmistakable. Quietly he called the waiter, ordered dinner, and then borrowed the waiter’s pencil. Tearing a sheet of paper from a notebook, he wrote a message, folded it, and gave it to the waiter.

 

Now the observer watched intently. As he suspected, the note was carried directly to the lady who sat by herself. She showed no visible sign of surprise, but with sweet composure opened the note and read it. Then she folded it, thrust it to one side and, with merely a lift of her eyebrows, dismissed the waiter without any reply at all.

 

The observer sighed. Too bad! Good try, old fellow! It really was a shame to see so lovely a couple sitting lonely and apart, separated only by convention. Surely, he thought, these two could really get on famously together, if they were given a chance.

 

But there was no help for it. The gentleman demolished a plover egg and then attacked a dish of rare roast beef and Yorkshire pudding … The lady, meanwhile, had a lamb chop and little frizzly pantalets, a savory, and tea. Presently the tall gentleman was paying his reckoning. He stood up, and for a moment let sad eyes linger on the unresponsive lady.

 

Then he crossed over to her table. He bent low and whispered a few words. She stared at him blankly and made no sound, even when the tall gentleman pulled out a chair and sat down beside her. Still she said not a word to him. The waiter, pale and cadaverous, brought the lady’s bill. The gentleman reached for it, but with an imperious gesture she stopped him. Leaving a pound note in the waiter’s hand, she rose, and her visitor stood up with her. He followed her out into the spring night and the observer never saw them again.

 

At least, he decided, he would have his joke with the waiter. “This is a fine sort of thing”, he chuckled. “Flirtations going on in a nice restaurant like this!”

 

Then he noticed the waiter’s face. The light in the man’s eyes was like a prayer. “Ah, sir”, he said, “you do not understand! What you have seen tonight is a great love. This is the twenty-sixth time I have seen it. I saw it happen the very first time. That was how it began. Twenty-six years ago, at those very same tables, I served them both that night, as I did tonight. With one glance between them they fell in love with each other. I carried the note to her then, and when she didn’t answer he got up and came over anyhow. He was that smitten with her! And God bless them both, he is still that smitten with her and she with him. Every year on the anniversary of their first meeting they come here and go through the whole drama again. And may their love never, never, never die.”

 

 

C. Second Reading (I Cor 11:23-26): “For as often you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord.”

 

Today’s Second Reading (I Cor 11:23-26) contains the oldest written account of the institution of the Eucharist. Saint Paul is dealing with an unfortunate situation of disunity and selfish behavior within the Corinthian community and is presenting the idea of self-sacrifice as a corrective. Christ’s redeeming sacrifice, which the Eucharist actualizes and makes present, is all-inclusive and meant for all – including the poor and the marginalized.

 

Graziano and Nancy Marcheschi explain: “Saint Paul writes to the Corinthians to correct certain abuses that had crept into their celebration of the Eucharistic meal. To impress upon them the sacredness of what they were doing each time they gathered to bless the bread and wine, he repeats Jesus’ words that so clearly express the sacrificial nature of Eucharist. Paul begins by naming the night of the Last Supper as the night Jesus was handed over. Immediately the shadow of the cross looms over the Eucharistic meal. Then, to ensure his readers have not misread the past, Paul drives it home saying that every time they eat and drink the meal they proclaim the death of the Lord. As we celebrate today’s solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, Paul’s words help us understand the ongoing significance of the Eucharist in the life of the Church. What we commemorate is a supreme act of self-giving.”

 

Whenever we celebrate the Eucharist and communicate with his body and blood through the sacramental species of bread and wine, we experience the “real presence” of our Lord Jesus. Under the signs of bread and wine, the Eucharist is truly and really the body of Christ broken for our salvation and the sacred blood outpoured to seal the New Covenant by which we become God’s holy people.

 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1374-1375, asserts: “In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really and substantially contained. This presence is called real – by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be real too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present. It is by the conversion of the bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood that Christ becomes present in this sacrament. The Church Fathers strongly affirmed the faith of the Church in the efficacy of the Word of Christ and of the action of the Holy Spirit to bring about this conversion.”

 

The following story illustrates a “conversion” experience of a lady who returned to her Catholic roots through the transforming power and influence of the Eucharist (cf. Christine Trollinger, “One Last Mass” in Amazing Grace for the Catholic Heart, ed. Jeff Cavins, et. al. West Chester: Ascension Press, 2004, p. 247-249). It is a beautiful story to inspire us this Holy Thursday.

 

On my journey back to God and religion, I attended a candle lighting service with my husband, Gene, at his Baptist church a few days before Christmas. It seemed right to stick together in this journey, to find a common ground in one denomination. And I knew, with his strong Baptist upbringing, that Gene was not about to become Catholic.

 

That night in the Baptist church just happened to be one of the rare occasions where they celebrated what they term “The Lord’s Supper”. My husband reminded me that the Eucharist was just a symbol and that I could not partake until I became a Baptist. That was fine with me, of course, because I had long forgotten anyone mentioning the Church’s belief in Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist. An usher began passing the plate of little symbolic bread across from the left … the side I was one. As the man at my side prepared to hand it off to me, the plate literally flew out of my hands, into the air. Gene scrambled to catch it. Just as he caught the plate, the little cubes of bread fell back onto it. Needless to say, I was so embarrassed I wanted to crawl under the pew. It disquieted me so much that I could not shake the feeling that just maybe I should attend one last nostalgic midnight Mass just to be certain I should become a Baptist.

 

The following Saturday was Christmas Eve. From childhood memories I knew there was always confession on Saturday afternoon. I decided I should go to confession as I had been taught to do growing up. I wanted to properly prepare for this “last Mass”. As I entered the church, there was no one around but a workman putting up decorations. I could not figure out where the confessional was and he evidently saw my confusion. When he asked if I needed help, I explained I was there for confession. Giving me a strange look he replied: “Confessions have already finished today. We are getting ready for midnight Mass.”

 

My face flushed with embarrassment. “Sorry”, I said. “I’ll just be going. Thanks so much for your help!” I was pretty sure the man must have pegged me correctly as what my father called “A Christmas Cactus and an Easter Lily”. I turned to leave as fast as I could, deciding to forget the whole thing and just get on with becoming a Baptist. As I rushed toward the side door, I ran smack into what I assumed another workman. He grabbed my arm to keep me from falling and asked, “Can I help you?” “Oh! No, I was leaving”, I stammered. “I thought there were confessions at 4 p.m. I’ll just be on my way.” Then, out of his back pocket came a Roman collar. “Come on”, he said directing me to confessional. “I’m Father Mike.” I was too dumbfounded to do anything other than follow through with my original plan.

 

That night at the Mass, I was filled with such peace. As I joined the communion line, I truly felt God was blessing my sincere seeking His will. All the way toward the front of the church, I concentrated on how to receive the Eucharist. Things had changed a lot over the past twenty years. I was a bit nervous about the fact there was no longer an altar rail. I was very busy trying to listen and learn the seemingly new rubrics from those ahead of me in line. I did not want to be embarrassed again. I thought: “That looks easy … place one hand on the other … say ‘Amen!’ to whatever the priest is saying to you … take the host, eat and off I go … No problem!”

 

As I placed my cupped hands to receive the host, I had the overwhelming feeling that this little host was not just a bread cube. It felt extremely heavy in my hand. I stumbled and hit the floor on my knees. I was once again so embarrassed and confused I wanted to disappear. Until, that is, I heard a still, small Voice say to me, “It is I, your Jesus. I was not in 'The Lord’s Supper'. I am here. Welcome home!”

 

I returned to my seat very spiritually shaken. The rest of Mass was a blur to say the least! I felt very confused, blessed and very unworthy. And my journey home began. God writes straight on crooked lines, and in the following days, weeks and years I would learn just how faithful and loving He is. I now knew without any doubt, that as unworthy as I might be, I was called home to my Catholic roots.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we imitate the spirit of service of Jesus? Do we follow his command to wash one another’s feet? Do we see the intimate connection between Jesus’ servant-action of foot-washing and his death on the cross as God’s Servant-Son?

 

2. What is the importance of “remembering”? What is the importance of ritual celebration in the life of the Jewish people and the life of the Church? What is the importance of the Eucharist in the life of the Church and in my personal life?

 

3.  When we partake of the Eucharistic bread and wine, do we truly proclaim the death of the Lord and allow ourselves to be transformed?

 

 

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

(Cf. Prayer over the gifts, Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper)

 

Lord,

make us worthy to celebrate these mysteries.

Each time we offer this memorial sacrifice,

the work of our redemption is accomplished.

We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord. 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.

 

 “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord, until he comes.” (I Cor 11:26)

 

 

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

 

In the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, in which we commemorate in a special way the institution of the Holy Eucharist, pay particular attention to the aspect of “remembering” and the “presence in mystery” of the Passover event of Jesus Christ. You can be helped in your meditation by spending some quiet moments of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

April 2, 2021: FRIDAY OF THE PASSION OF THE LORD (GOOD FRIDAY)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Sheds His Blood for Us”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 52:13-53:12 // Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9 // Jn 18:1-19:42

 

 

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

  

John Rosengren, in the July 2006 issue of St. Anthony Messenger magazine, depicts the mission and martyrdom of Father Stan Rother in Guatemala (cf. p. 31-35). Murdered by three tall men wearing ski masks and civilian clothes in the parish rectory of Santiago Atitlan, the memory of the American missionary, Fr. Stan, lives on in his native Oklahoma and in his adopted homeland. John Rosengren writes:

 

Father Stan Rother so endeared himself to the Tzutijil (Mayans) over 13 years as their parish priest that they still feel his lost today, a quarter century after his death by a paramilitary death squad. Caught between the revolutionary poor and the military government in Central America’s longest and bloodiest civil war, Stan refused to preach rebellion, but his pastoral devotion to his people eventually cost him his life. July 28 marks the 25th anniversary of his death. Declared a martyr, and since proposed for sainthood by the bishops of Guatemala, Stan was an ordinary man who found extraordinary courage in his faith … In Santiago Atitlan, the room where Stan was murdered has been converted into a chapel visited annually by hundreds of people from as far away as Japan and Kenya. The church fills to capacity every year on the anniversary of his death for a memorial Mass attended by many children named after him. His heart rests in a shrine inside the church, part of a memorial to all of the Atitecos who have died for their faith.

 

The life and death of Fr. Stan Rother illustrates the insight given by the prophet Isaiah concerning the destiny and mission of the Suffering Servant: “The Lord was pleased to crush him in infirmity. If he gives his life as an offering for sin, he shall see his descendants in a long life, and the will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him. Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days; through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear” (Is 53:10-11). As can be gleaned from the above biblical passage that is taken from “The Fourth Song of the Suffering Servant” (cf. Is 52:13-53:12), the Servant remains one with all the people in sorrow, but is paramount in his innocence and total service of God.

 

Through the suffering and obedience of the Servant of Yahweh, the saving plan of God would be fulfilled. In the light of the Old Testament personage of the Suffering Servant and its full realization in the paschal sacrifice of Jesus, the Christian disciples regard suffering and sacrifice as an intimate participation in his mission and saving work. Jesus invites the baptized Christians, in the here and now, to drink the cup of redemptive suffering and to be immersed deeply into his paschal destiny. Deep intimacy with Jesus Christ entails a service of sacrificial love, which is the true greatness. Indeed, Jesus Christ’s greatest servitude and most acute suffering were accomplished on the saving cross. Those who want to be great must be willing to serve unreservedly in the manner of Jesus, the Suffering Servant of Yahweh. Those who want to follow the Divine Master and carry out his saving mission must tread the path of redemptive sacrifice that he brought to completion on the cross, the font of glory. 

 

 

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

 

What is the role and meaning of suffering and sacrifice in our personal life and as Christian disciples? What insights and personal implications can we glean from this “Song of the Suffering Servant”? How does the Good Friday celebration of the Lord’s Passion affect you personally?

 

 

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

 (Cf. Opening Prayer, Good Friday Celebration of the Lord’s Passion)

 

Lord,

by shedding his blood for us,

your Son Jesus Christ,

established the paschal mystery.

In your goodness, make us holy

and watch over us always.

We ask this through Christ our Lord. 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.

 

“Through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear.”  (Is 53:11b)

 

 

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

 

Pray for our modern day martyrs. Assist in any way you can those who suffer for Christ and for the sake of others. 

 

*** *** ***

April 3, 2021: THE EASTER VIGIL IN THE HOLY NIGHT

“JESUS SAVIOR: We Are His Easter People”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Gn 1:1-2:2 // Gn 22:1-18 // Ex 14:15-15:1 // Is 54:5-14 // Bar 3:9-15, 32-4:4 // Ez 36:16-17a, 18-28 // Rom 6:3-11 // Mk 16:1-7

 

 

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

 

The Easter Vigil, commemorating that holy night when the Lord Jesus rose from the dead, is regarded as the “mother of all holy vigils”. Saint Augustine reminds us: “We keep vigil on that night because the Lord Jesus rose from the dead. That life where there is no longer the sleep of death began for us in his flesh. Being thus risen, death will no more have dominion … If we have kept vigil for the risen one, he will see that we shall reign with him forever. The Easter Vigil makes present the coming of the Lord who broke the chains of death by rising triumphantly from the grave. The Church is thus strengthened and renewed.

 

Tonight’s reading from the Book of Exodus (14:15-15:1) narrates the first Passover in which the Jewish people were rescued from Egypt and, passing miraculously through the Red Sea, brought safely to freedom. In the light of Christ’s Easter event, that is, his Passover from death to life, what happened once upon a time in the past is happening again. The wonders of the miracle at the crossing of the Red Sea are made present anew in the “here and now” of the liturgical assembly. The Lord God once saved a single nation from slavery. Now he offers that salvation to all through baptism. As the catechumens listen to the readings and prayers, they perceive that they are indeed part of salvation history and that the passage or “transitus” from death to life will also be realized in them. The Easter light of faith shines upon them. The Easter Vigil is indeed a celebration of victory of life over death, of light over darkness, of the divine loving plan over human folly. It is a celebration which renews the Church from within.

 

I had a significant Easter experience in 1996 when I was doing my sabbatical study at Santa Clara University in San Jose, CA-USA. Sr. Mary Cornelia, the Superior of our community, died of cancer just before Holy Week. We deeply mourned her passing.  I was still despondent when we attended the Easter Vigil at the parish. During the blessing of the fire and the lighting of candles, I felt the warmth and the radiance of Christ enveloping me and driving away not only the chill of early springtime but also the sadness in my heart. As we entered the church, I saw that the stark sanctuary space had bloomed with gorgeous flowers. I listened attentively to the readings. When the rite of baptism came, I could not contain my tears of joy: ten catechumens from all races and walks of life received the sacraments of Christian initiation. I saw new life in the newly baptized and felt assured of Sr. Mary Cornelia’s rebirth to eternal life.

 

Truly the Church is kept “young” by the love of Christian believers who seek to share the faith with others. After the ceremony, I could not but exclaim with Saint Augustine: “We are an Easter people; and Alleluia is our song!”

 

 

***

 

            This story, narrated by Paul Harvey, is about Philip, a nine-year-old boy who joined a Sunday school class of eight-year-olds (cf. Stories for the Heart, compiled by Alice Gray, Multromah, Publishers Inc.: Sisters, Oregon, 1996, p. 15-16). The third-graders did not welcome Philip into their group, not just because he was older, but because he was “different”. Philip suffered from Down’s syndrome with its obvious manifestations: facial characteristics, slow responses and symptoms of retardation. One Easter day, the Sunday school teacher gave each child a plastic egg that pulls apart in the middle. On that beautiful spring day each child was to go outdoors and discover some symbol of “new life” and place that symbolic seed or leaf or whatever inside the plastic egg. The teacher would open the eggs, one by one, and each youngster would explain how his/her find was a symbol of “new life”. At the appointed time, all the children “oohed” and “aahed” at the lovely symbols of new life they had hidden in the plastic eggs: flower, butterfly, leaf, etc. When the last egg was opened, there was nothing inside. “That’s not fair”, someone said. Another one muttered, “That’s stupid!” Everyone laughed. Then the teacher felt a tug on his shirt. It was Philip. Looking up, he said: “It’s mine. I did do it. It’s empty. I have new life because the tomb is empty.”

 

The resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Servant of Yahweh and the Son of God, is the stupendous and radical event that infuses meaning to the entire salvation history. All the events of Jesus’ earthly life, especially his passion and death, acquired a deeper and transformed meaning in light of his glorious resurrection. Blessed James Alberione exhorts us: “Let us contemplate Jesus, the Risen Christ.  Behold, our life!  Like Jesus, the Divine Master, we pass through many sufferings and trials so as to come to glory. Was it not necessary for Jesus to suffer, and by his suffering, to enter his glory? And so it is for us. The way to heaven is similar to the way of Calvary where Jesus died. But he broke forth from his tomb gloriously in the resurrection.”

 

            Indeed, the resurrection of the Lord is a dynamic reality that transforms those who unite themselves with him in faith. The Easter people formed by the sacrificial offering of Christ on the cross and his glorious rising to new life are called to crystallize and incarnate his gift of compassion in today’s wounded and shattered world. With the rising of Jesus from the dead, our Lenten journey from brokenness to wholeness is complete!

 

 

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

 

1. What are the various paschal experiences in our life? Do we believe that we are an Easter people and that “Alleluia” is our song? Do we truly appreciate the signs and symbols of the Easter Vigil and participate fully in the Easter celebration?

 

2. Do we truly believe in the power of Christ’s resurrection? Do we allow this marvelous saving event to transform our lives? As an Easter people, are we ready to incarnate the Lord’s compassion in today’s world and be ardent messengers of the good news of his resurrection?

 

 

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

(Cf. Easter Vigil Opening Prayer) 

 

Lord God,

you have brightened this night

with the radiance of the risen Christ.

Quicken the spirit of sonship in your Church;

renew us in mind and body

to give you wholehearted service.

Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, forever and ever. Amen.   

 

 

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

 

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

 

“He has been raised; he is not here.” (Mk 16:6) 

 

 

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

 

Pay particular attention to the liturgy of Easter Sunday and let the joy of the resurrection event lift your minds, hearts and entire being. Write an Easter card or prepare an Easter gift for a person you know who is in most need of the joy of the Risen Lord.  

 

*** *** *** 

 

Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang PDDM

 

 

PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI

SISTER DISCIPLES OF THE DIVINE MASTER

3700 North Cornelia Avenue, Fresno, CA 93722 (USA)

Tel. (559) 275-1656

Website: WWW.PDDM.US

 


PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI

SISTER DISCIPLES OF THE DIVINE MASTER
3700 North Cornelia Avenue, Fresno, CA 93722 (USA)
Tel. (559) 275-1656
Website: 
WWW.PDDM.US


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