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A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 14, n. 31)

Week 13 in Ordinary Time: June 26 - July 2, 2016

 

 

(The pastoral tool BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD: A LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY & WEEKDAY LITURGY includes a prayerful study of the Sunday liturgy of Year C from various perspectives. For the Lectio Divina on the liturgy of the past week: June 19-25, 2016, please go to ARCHIVES Series 14 and click on “Week 12 in Ordinary Time”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: June 26 – July 2, 2016.)

 

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June 26, 2016: SUNDAY – THIRTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Us to Radical Discipleship”

 

 

BIBLICAL READINGS

I Kgs 19:16b, 19-21 // Gal 5:1, 13-18 // Lk 9:51-62

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 9:51-62): “He resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem. I will follow you wherever you go.”

 

I saw Franco Zeffirelli’s movie, “Brother Sun and Sister Moon”, many years ago when I was a novice. It portrays the life of St. Francis of Assisi. The most evocative scene in the film, for me, was when Francis divested himself of all his garments to indicate that he was renouncing everything to follow Christ and serve him in a life of poverty. Stripped naked, he was totally consecrated to the following of Christ. He was absolutely free and available to carry out the divine, saving will. That poignant scene of radical discipleship would always be a source of inspiration in my life of total consecration to the Lord. St. Francis of Assisi is an example of a Christian disciple who followed Christ unreservedly, with absolute commitment and dedication.

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Lk 9:51-62) on radical discipleship is composed of two sections: Jesus’ departure for Jerusalem with his consequent experience of Samaritan inhospitality (verses 51-56) and the hardships of the apostolic calling (verses 57-62). The evangelist Luke presents the call to radical discipleship within the context of Jesus’ decisive journey to his paschal destiny. The Gospel passage begins with 9:51, which is a turning point in Luke’s narrative: “When the days for his (Jesus) being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.”

 

Thus the evangelist Luke portrays an enchanting portrait of Jesus as the faithful and resolute Son who, in word and deed, teaches the way that leads to everlasting life with God. Christian discipleship means to follow Jesus resolutely on the road to Jerusalem towards the fulfillment of his paschal suffering and eventual glorification. The following of Christ demands total participation in his Easter itinerary of dying on the cross and life-giving glory. In the context of the paschal journey to Jerusalem, the meaning and challenge of Christian discipleship are powerfully delineated.

  

Indeed, Christian discipleship demands radical commitment and resoluteness or uncompromising singleness of purpose on the part of those called to be disciples. It leads to spiritual freedom and inner joy, to a sense of wholeness and well-being. Our total surrender to Christ as his true disciples leads to true security, our unconditional response to eternal life, and our single-hearted devotion to the victory of the kingdom of God.

  

 

B. First Reading (I Kgs 19:16b, 19-21): “Then Elisha left and followed Elijah as his attendant.”

 

In today’s Old Testament reading (I Kgs 19:16b, 19-21) we hear the vocation story of Elisha and his positive response to the divine call to be a prophet. The call to prophetic ministry comes from God who orders Elijah “You shall anoint Elisha, son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah, as prophet to succeed you” (v. 16b). Elijah carries out the Lord’s command. He comes upon Elisha, a prosperous farmer, plowing the field with a team of twelve oxen. The biblical author narrates that Elisha is “following” the twelfth oxen. That day is truly significant for henceforth he will no longer be following “oxen”, but instead, it is the Lord Yahweh whom he will follow. Elijah throws his cloak over the toiling farmer, and the latter understands what the symbolic gesture means. The mantle symbolizes the personality and rights of the owner, and since the hair shirt mantle of the prophets is part of their official dress, casting Elijah’s mantle on Elisha indicate an invitation, an investiture and an initiation to the prophetic ministry.

 

Elisha’s response is immediate. He abandons the oxen he is “following” and runs after Elijah, the instrument of God’s call. Elisha requests permission from the master-prophet to kiss his father and mother goodbye while manifesting to him his resolve, “I will follow you”. Elijah does not object to the legitimate request for a devout, filial leave-taking. Elisha then shows his unreserved response to God’s plan by slaughtering his twelve oxen. He burns the plow as fuel to cook the oxen and serves the boiled meat as food for his people. Then Elisha leaves and follows Elijah as his attendant. Indeed, Elisha renounces and leaves behind his former way of life, symbolized by the leave-taking from his parents and the destruction of his farm equipment. His acceptance of the prophetic call is complete. In destroying the tools of his trade, he is vulnerable, and in a no “fall back” position. He does not have any security. Elisha is an eloquent model on how to respond to the call of God, who destines us for a special service to his people.

 

In the light of the vocation response of Elisha, the Gospel reading (Lk 9:52-62) about Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and the various would-be disciples he meets on the road takes on greater meaning. The response required of them is a full response to the person of Jesus Christ, who “resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem” (Lk 9:51). His “journey” to Jerusalem is a symbol of the Lord’s irrevocable decision to be at the service of the divine saving will and expresses his radical resolve to undergo the ultimate “Passover”. The disciples of Jesus are therefore destined to follow him on the road to Jerusalem and are called to participate intimately in his paschal sacrifice and glorification. Christian discipleship is a radical and absolute commitment to the person of Jesus Christ and his paschal destiny. To follow Christ “on the road to Jerusalem” entails a radical dedication to the service of the Kingdom of God.

 

The following is an imaginary first person account of the vocation of Madre Maria Scholastica Rivata, the first Pious Disciple of the Divine Master. This is prepared by Christin Jezak, Pauline Cooperator, and Sr. Tiziana Dal Masetto, PDDM.

 

I was still a young child, and life seemed to be all roses and flowers. Loved by good parents, and surrounded by the most attentive care, the happy days passed quickly. With my silver voice, I filled the house with joyful cries and tormented mother with many questions. Oh! Beloved Mamma! Those days were too beautiful, and trials came to visit this little thoughtless creature. And the first came with a great suffering! After a brief illness, my beloved mother died. Who can understand it? Only those who have experienced it can understand this intense pain, this misfortune, to lose someone so dear! But how does one recover from such heartbreak? Less than a year later, I received my First Communion and encountered the Divine Master who would change my life. Oh most intimate life!

 

Father always desired the best for me. There was a young man, Andrea, who wished for my hand in marriage. Father said, “He is a good young man and he also has means; you may have a happy life with him.” When I pondered marrying Andrea and saw him after our Sunday Mass I experienced a sudden fear. Filled with this fear, I rushed home. Entering the house, I hurried to my room in which there was a beautiful statue of the Sacred Heart. I stood before the Sacred Heart and told Him: “Lord, you alone are my all. You are my everything!” I descended the stairs and went to my father to tell him: no, I will not accept his hand.

 

From that moment forward, I began to do more spiritual reading, which led me to read St. There of Lisieux’s Story of a Soul. This book instilled in me a strong desire to enter the religious life. My continued hunger for books led me to the great apostle of modern times Blessed James Alberione’s bookstore. After searching for a book one day, he asked me, “When are you coming to St. Paul?” That same day, in the marketplace I ran into my good friend Eufrosina, who had already joined Alberione’s order of religious women for St. Paul. She also invited me to visit with her contagious enthusiasm. At the age of 24, I knew this was the place I wanted to be.

 

Fr. Alberione knew my Divine Master Jesus and introduced me to a way of life spent for Him and the people of our times. He gave me a special book called Women of the Gospel. He knew the need for people who will proclaim the Good News with their lives like the women who followed Jesus and announced the Resurrection. In 1923, Fr. Alberione gathered all of us Sisters in the kitchen and announced, “Set aside, Orsola and Matilde for a mission I will entrust to them. Observe silence, silence, silence!”

 

This special mission developed into the Pious Disciples of the Divine Master on February 10, 1924, which consisted of myself and seven others. It was then that I took the name of Sr. Mary Scholastica. I promised to strive each day to become a disciple ever more in accordance with the desires of the Divine Master and Mary Most Holy, to live their life in an intense Eucharistic, priestly, liturgical apostolate which encompasses my entire being, mind, heart, will and energy.

 

There were many trials to gain the official approval of the Pious Disciples of the Divine Master. This caused me much heartache and humiliation for many years … There was even a time that I was sent to Egypt to spread the Gospel! Finally, on Holy Thursday, April 3, 1947, we received approval by the Church through a decree signed by the Bishop of Alba soon followed by the Pope’s approval on January 12, 1948. After all these years, we were finally official! My heart was filled with so much joy!

 

From this moment I was transferred to Argentina as a missionary to live a life of hiddenness, silence and prayer. I sacrificed myself like a little grain of wheat. My prayers were planted in the earth to help grow this precious Congregation and spread it worldwide. Upon returning to Italy in 1963, I continued to live my life to the end. I embraced the whole world through my Eucharistic Adoration. I loved being an intercessor for my Priests and for the apostles of the Word of God with the Media, even for the conversion of politicians and many other needs …

 

My passion has always been my Eucharistic Divine Master burning within my heart like the Sun. This is my story lived in the service of charity and longing to unite myself to HIM in the eternal dance of the heavenly joy.

 

 

C. Second Reading (Gal 5:1, 13-18): “You were called for freedom.”       

 

The Second Reading (Gal 5:1, 13-18) tells us that Christian discipleship is not all hardship or liability for it results in true liberation. Freedom is what we have for Christ has set us free! We are all called to freedom. Christian freedom, however, is not licentiousness, but a Spirit-animated condition that enables us to love and serve one another. This freedom in the Spirit leads us to live the perfection of God’s law: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

 

Aelred Rosser remarks: “Christians agree to be intimately united with the person of Jesus and are therefore brought into a kind of freedom that cannot be understood apart from faith. It is the freedom to do what our best nature (our redeemed nature) is eager to do. The seemingly endless struggle for genuine freedom is part of the Christian life … The gift of salvation is precisely that – a gift. There are no strings attached. The accepting of gifts given in pure love does not create in the recipient an obligation to reciprocate. It creates an eagerness to respond with a like love. What could be more free than an eager response to love?”

 

The following article fascinates me (cf. “Order and Chaos” in POVERELLO NEWS, May 2010, p. 3-4). It illustrates the mystery of freedom that leads to perverted “freedom” and the consequent chaos and disorder it generates. More happily, the article also presents the resoluteness of the Poverello staff to pursue the freedom of loving and serving our brothers and sisters in great need.

 

Chaos is, for humans, an intolerable state. People who have lived in war-torn lands, characterized by wanton destruction and day-to-day unpredictability, often experience numerous mental and physical problems that result from the horrors they witness. Urban areas where crime and disorder are rampant create such a tremendous anxiety for residents that many exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

 

Although chaos is intolerable, many people are nevertheless drawn toward it. Those whose lives lack purpose often prefer the constant excitement of crisis and chaos to divert their own attention from their own tedious and futile endeavors. For example, drug addicts seem to crave the madness that comes with their use of illegal substances. This is why sobriety, with its emphasis on order and responsibility, is such a hard sell with addicts.

 

At Poverello House, many of those we see are people in perpetual crisis. After dealing with them for a while, one starts to discern a pattern. When given a second or third chance at a new start, they inevitably seem to turn away and choose a course toward more chaos. The addict, after obtaining health, salvaging torn relationships, recovering financially and experiencing the spiritual peace that comes with sustained sobriety, will often opt to start dabbling in drugs again, with predictable results; the woman who is escaping domestic violence will cast herself back in the maelstrom of the destructive relationship, even after ample evidence that by doing so she is endangering herself and the lives of her children; a mentally ill person, after experiencing relief from his torment through psychiatric medications, stops taking them, and relapses into paranoia, delusional thinking, or hallucinations.

 

What motivates such people to steer a course toward chaos and despair? It would take an expert in mental and emotional pathology to adequately answer that question, but our experience at Poverello House gives us a perspective that might offer some insight.

 

Human nature is such that we all incline toward the familiar and comfortable. Most people, if given the choice between entering two rooms, one full of strangers, the other full of old acquaintances and good friends, would naturally choose the latter. The same gravitational pull of familiarity exists on the streets. Skid rows or jails are harsh, dirty, and dangerous, but for many, they represent communities that are comfortable and forgiving. Behaviors that would be deplored in other parts of town are ignored in such settings; people who have been rejected in other arenas of life can find acceptance, or at least tolerance, on the streets or while incarcerated. As hard to believe as it might be for someone unfamiliar with homelessness, street life for some is emotionally comfortable, because people grow accustomed to it.

 

There is a price to pay for that comfort or acceptance, however. When these people surround themselves with like-minded compatriots, who are willing to put up with their aberrant behavior, they receive little in the way of corrective criticism. With peer support for their self-destructive ways, they continue to create chaos in their lives. They stumble from crisis to crisis, and gradually come to depend on others to extricate them from their messes.

 

Dependency breeds contempt and rationalization, and so many homeless people we know are angry; they depend on Poverello and other organizations for their sustenance, but they also resent the fact that they are dependent. The anger fuels more hopelessness and depression, which prompts them to seek out the excitement of a crisis once again, completing the horrible cycle. The amazing thing is that this process is generally unconscious; the afflicted person can’t, or won’t, see what is happening to himself.

 

We once had a young man in our Resident Program who was in his mid-twenties, but had already been in thirteen drug rehab programs before he came to ours. He never finished our program, and was irate but manipulative while he was here. He began using heroin again the day he left the program. His pattern was set, and probably the rest of his life will be spent getting high on drugs, getting in trouble, and either going to jail or to yet another program. He had absolutely no insight into his condition.

 

Whether or not such people are hopeless is not for us at Poverello to determine. We need to set boundaries when we help them, because otherwise, they’ll burn out our staff and use up scarce resources; but help them we must, because that’s our mission and our role in the community. When their crises take them all the way down to the streets, Poverello is here to try to pick them up, and give them yet another opportunity to get it right.

 

  

 

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

 

Are we ready to follow Jesus resolutely on the road to Jerusalem? Are we ready to pay the price of discipleship? Do we embark on the road to Jerusalem with inner peace and joy knowing that Jesus directs our steps towards the heavenly goal?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you call us to a radical discipleship.

You invite us to journey with you to Jerusalem

and share in the paschal destiny of your death and rising.

Help us to accept the cost of discipleship.

May we uphold you above all things.

Let us give heed to your reproach,

“No one who sets a hand to the plow

and looks to what was left behind

is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Help us to be faithful to you

and persevere on the road to Jerusalem.

We love and serve you.

We thank and adore you,

now and forever.

Amen.    

 

 

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

 

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

 

“No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Lk 9:62).

 

 

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

 

Pray for the increase and perseverance of priestly and religious vocations in the Church. Translate the precious gift of Christian vocation you have received into a meaningful service to the community, especially the poor, the sick, and the needy in today’s society. 

        

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June 27, 2016: MONDAY – WEEKDAY (13); SAINT CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA, Bishop, Doctor of the Church

     “JESUS SAVIOR: He Invites Us to Follow Him Unconditionally … He Calls Us to Social Responsibility”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Am 2:6-10.13-16 // Mt 8:18-22

  

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 8:18-22): “Follow me.”

(Gospel Reflection by Sr. Mary Gemma Victorino, PDDM)

 

Jesus' invitation is not a sweet and gentle word; his is a strong challenge: "Foxes have dens, birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head." To another who also wanted to follow him, but set the condition of first "burying his father and mother", he gave an uncompromising reply - "Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead."

 

What does he want to say here? There is nothing more important than following him and announcing his gospel. Such following and preaching asks unconditional detachment, clarity of priorities, total trust and utmost generosity.

 

I experienced this truth early in life. A month after I graduated from college, the persistent call from the Lord Jesus to follow him in consecrated religious life came back to me. When I asked permission from my elderly father to attend the discernment retreat for young ladies contemplating the religious life, he grudgingly gave me permission, coupled with an ultimatum: "Okay, you may go and stay over the weekend but if you don't return consider me dead."

 

I didn't return home after the retreat. Where did I get the strength to disobey my father and face the pain of detachment?  Looking back after all these years, I think it is love for the Master and his Word plus the faith and conviction that his Word carries power and makes things happen.

 

His powerful command “Follow me” gave me the strength to get out of my comfort zone and put my most important relationships in their proper place. Nothing is more important than finding out what is God's will for me, the reason why I have been created in the first place. In being an obedient disciple, that is, a follower of Jesus, I have brought home an important message as well to my beloved father. In fact, after we had reconciled, he confessed and proclaimed, "I think I now understand your mission: when I see you, I remember God."

  

 

B. First Reading (Am 2:6-10, 13-16): “They trample the heads of the weak into the dust of the earth.”

 

The Old Testament text for the most part of this week is taken from the Book of the prophet Amos. Originally a shepherd and a dresser of sycamore trees from the Judean town of Tekoa, Amos is commissioned by God to prophesy to the people of the northern kingdom of Israel, about the middle of the 8th century B.C. It seems to be a time of prosperity, religious piety and security. On the contrary, the society’s prosperity, which is limited to the wealthy, merely feeds on injustice and on the oppression of the poor. Moreover, Israel’s religious observance is insincere. Its security is false and imaginary.

 

In today’s reading (Am 2:6-10, 13-16), Amos charges Israel with crimes against the Lord God and brotherhood. The rapacious rich exploit the poor, which is contrary to the conduct expected of a faithful Israelite. The weak and the lowly are victimized: “sold for a pair of sandals”. There is moral degradation: “son and father go to the same prostitute”. The people’s religious practices are empty and in reality vehicles of social injustice. In contrast to their evil crimes is the Lord’s benevolence. The Prophet Amos reminds them of God’s saving acts on behalf of Israel, in particular the Exodus from the slavery of Egypt and the entry into the Promised Land. Israel ought to respond with gratitude and obedience to God’s beneficence, but refuses to do so. On account of Israel’s repeated sins and crimes, there will be just judgment and devastating punishment.

 

Unfortunately, the social injustice and moral degradation denounced by the prophet Amos continues to exist in the modern world. Here is an example (cf. Araceli Lorayes, “Child Prostitution: The Tribe of Lost Souls” in Philippine Panorama, June 9, 1986, p. 5-6).

 

According to Justice Corazon Juliano Agrava, founder of the Tahanan Outreach Program for Boys, in the past most child prostitutes were girls kept in sex dens. Although even the number of female child prostitutes seems to have increased, what appears to be new is the greater degree of homosexual activity involving boys as young as seven and foreigners – Europeans, Americans, Arabs and Japanese. (…)

 

Tourism has of course exerted its own drawing factor. In retrospect, it is clear that the come-ons to promote the Philippines – beautiful smiles, the Philippines as the last great bargain in the Orient – have conveyed to many Westerners and Japanese one message only: cheap sex, whether adult or child. And, in fact, child sex is cheap; the rate for a child prostitute ranges from 100 pesos to 600 pesos, equivalent to $5 up to $30 – hardly more than the cost of a medium-priced pair of shoes in the West.

 

For the children, particularly in the urban areas, the great push factor is poverty – not merely the lack of money, but also its brutalizing effect on the individual and its corrosive effects on the family. The majority of child prostitutes started out as cigarette vendors to supplement family income when they were enticed into prostitution either by friends already engaged in it or by teenage pimps. Other children ran away from unbearable homes where they were maltreated. (…)

 

So desperate is the struggle to keep body and soul together that provision of the most basic creature needs evokes a pathetic gratitude. Agrave noted that the boys under the Silungan program, which was especially formulated for those they termed “endangered boys”, had a strong sense of loyalty to their foreign “friends”. “The children do not know that what they are doing is wrong”, she said. “So when they can get a good night’s rest, a meal, a bath, they are beholden to these people. They just tell you that their customers are foreign, but not who they are.”

   

 

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

 

1. Do we respond fully to Jesus’ invitation “Follow me” and embrace the unconditional detachment it entails?

 

2. Are we guilty of social injustice by ignoring it, by condoning it, or by perpetuating it? What is God calling us to do?

 

 

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

 

Jesus Lord,

you call us to follow you,

but the cost of discipleship is dear.

Give us the grace to follow you unconditionally

through all the detachment and hardships it entails.

You are the center of our life

and the font of our joy.

Give us the courage, wisdom and strength

to fight social injustice

and to care for the poor and the weak.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

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

           

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

 

“Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.” (Mt 8:22) // “I brought you up from the land of Egypt and led you through the desert.” (Am 2:10)

 

   

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

 

Pray that many may respond in public service to God’s call offered in Jesus’ name. Promote vocations to priestly ministry and religious life in the Church today. // Be aware of the social issues and of the Catholic social teachings in the public sector. Reinforce the Catholic social teaching by your life witnessing.

    

 

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June 28, 2016: TUESDAY – SAINT IRENAEUS, Bishop, Martyr

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Masters the Raging Sea … He Calls Us to Accountability”

    

 

BIBLE READINGS

Am 3:1-8; 4:11-12 // Mt 8:23-27

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 8:23-27): “Jesus rebuked the winds and the sea and there was great calm.”

 

One warm, beautiful morning, my Sisters accompanied me to the pier in Manila where I boarded a ship to Cebu Island. After putting my things in the cabin, I went to the upper deck and had a great time watching the activity on the pier as the crew prepared for sailing. When the ship began to move, there was the soothing sound of parting waters. I also felt the cooling sensation of the sea breeze. And then I heard something fascinating – the amplified voice of a crew in devout prayer to the Lord God who masters the storms and the raging seas, asking for blessing and protection for all of us sea travelers. I felt so peaceful and secure in that sea voyage knowing that everything had been entrusted to God who has dominion over all – even violent storms and turbulent seas.

 

God, the Creator of the sea and its boundaries, is the Almighty One who directs the course of each individual’s life. Everything that happens in the universe is under the power of God’s dominion and control. God has sovereign mastery over the elements, particularly over the sea, which seems difficult to control. He also manifests his power, not only over nature, but above all, over the raging inner storms in our lives.

 

           The Gospel picture of Jesus who sleeps through a raging storm (Mk 8:23-27) is perplexing and challenging. At times we panic when we are buffeted by the storms of life, and Jesus seems asleep and unaware. At times we despair because Jesus seems to pay no heed. But the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, is in control. He is fully concerned and involved in our fear and distress. As the Omnipotent One, he can pacify the tumults and “storms” of our daily life.

 

Harold Buetow comments: “Life presents all kinds of storms: disease, natural disasters, epidemics, and famines; and human anger, hatred, prejudice, injustice, betrayal, and selfishness. For Christians, acceptance of Jesus is not a guarantee that we will sail on trouble-free waters. To the contrary, Jesus invites us to travel on uncharted waters and to make for unfamiliar shores – and all this as darkness falls. The risk of faith demands a radical trust that, whatever our particular storm, Jesus is present; being conscious of his presence will give us a calm peace in all the storms of our life.”

 

The following personal account gives insight into what trust in the Lord and a miracle of faith mean (cf. Pam Kidd in Daily Guideposts 2010, p. 72).

 

We are on a bus driving through an off-road thicket, deep in a moonless landscape. There is no electricity for miles, and I can see nothing as I stare out the window into the darkness. The bus rumbles to a halt, and my husband David and I and our fellow passengers stumble toward a pontoon boat. Within minutes we’re anchored in the middle of a forbidding bay. “This is the strangest tourist attraction I’ve ever seen”, I whisper nervously to David.

 

Earlier, after we’d arrived on the Lake of Vieques for a special holiday, our taxi driver had said, “Put the Bioluminiscent Bay at the top of your agenda.” So here we are, listening to the pilot of the boat say, “To experience the miracle of the bay, you must jump into the water.”

 

No one moves.

 

This is ridiculous. The water is black as the night. We all wait.

 

Suddenly David stands up and jumps into the unknown. In the pool of darkness, his body takes on a bright glow. His every movement radiates a flowing blue-green light. Mesmerized, I jump in, and others follow. I wave my arms and make angel wings and then twirl and swirl in a trail of fairy dust. By now, everyone is laughing and splashing as our every move turns the night magical. The moment seems part fantasy, part science fiction as the energy of our bodies sets trillions of microorganisms aglow.

 

Later, back on the boat heading for the shore, I think of the fear that wrapped around us. There in a dark bay, magic was waiting – waiting for someone who believed enough to take a chance and jump in.

 

Father, take away my toe-first inclinations and fill me with a leaping faith.

   

 

B. First Reading (Am 3:1-8; 4:11-12): “The Lord God speaks – who will not prophesy!”

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Am 3:1-8; 4:11-12) gives insight into the role of Amos, called by God to prophesy against Israel. Amos puts in proper perspective Israel’s privilege as God’s chosen people. Election entails greater responsibility and a harsher punishment. Through the prophet Amos, God excoriates Israel: “Of all the nations on earth, you are the only one I have favored and cared for. That is what makes your sins so terrible, and that is why I must punish you for them.”

 

In today’s passage, we hear a series of rhetorical questions taken from the animal world and human daily life. The rhetorical momentum makes us realize that nothing happens by chance. Israel’s impending doom is not without cause. The catastrophic events to which Amos alludes happen for a reason. Moreover, there is a reason for the prophet’s intervention: the divine call. Indeed, when the Lord God speaks – who will not prophesy? Amos must proclaim Israel’s doom because God wills him to do so. He is seized by an inner compulsion to speak the truth – even if it is detestable and unwelcome.

 

Like the prophet Amos, Pope Francis courageously challenges the structuralized violence and injustice of today’s society. At the risk of his life, he denounces the Mafia, an organized crime syndicate (cf. Associated Press, “Pope Denounces Mafia in Jail Visit” in Fresno Bee, June 22, 2014, p. A27).

 

Cassano all’Jonio: Pope Francis journeyed Saturday to the heart of Italy’s biggest crime syndicate, met the father of a 3-year-old boy slain in the region’s drug war, and declared that all monsters are automatically excommunicated from the Catholic Church. During his one-day pilgrimage to the southern region of Calabria, Francis comforted the imprisoned father of Nicola Campolongo in the courtyard of a prison in the town of Castrovillari. In January the boy was shot, along with one of his grandfathers and the grandfather’s girlfriend, in an attack blamed on drug turf wars in the nearby town of Cassano all’Jonio. The attackers torched the car with all three victims inside. (…)

 

Calabria is the power base of the “ndrangheta”, a global drug-trafficking syndicate that enriches itself by extorting businesses and infiltrating public works contracts in underdeveloped Calabria. During his homily at an outdoor Mass, Francis denounced the “ndrangheta” for what he called its “adoration of evil and contempt for the common good”.

 

“Those who go down the evil path, as the Mafia do, are not in communion with God. They are excommunicated”, he warned. (…)

 

The Pope, who met with nearly 1,000 members of families of Mafia victims at the Vatican earlier this year also stopped to pray at a spot in a small town where a priest was beaten to death earlier this year in a botched extortion attempt.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we feel abandoned and neglected by Jesus when the life-storms are violent and he seems to be “sleeping”? Do we panic? Or rather, do we believe in faith that God is in control? Do we place our trust in Jesus whom even wind and sea obey?

 

2. Do we realize that our evil choices have negative consequence and that our negation of God’s loving plan is death-dealing?

 

 

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

 

Loving God,

your Son Jesus Christ slept through the raging sea.

When life-threatening storms buffet us,

help us to call on Jesus our Savior.

He is the powerful Lord who masters the winds and the raging seas.

May our faith be steadfast and strong.

May we hold on to you and to Jesus

as we journey through the turbulence and the violence of this world.

Help us to be accountable

and teach us to make the right choices.

You live and reign forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

             “Jesus rebuked the wind and the sea, and there was a great calm.” (Mt 8:26b) // “The Lord God speaks – who will not prophesy!” (Am 3:8)

 

 

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

 

Pray to God that we may be able to feel his presence and serenity even in the midst of life’s storms. Offer comfort and assistance to those whose faith is wavering and whose lives are deeply upset by trials and difficulties. // Pray for the grace to be socially involved and engaged in promoting the common good.

     

 

*** *** ***

 

June 29, 2016: WEDNESDAY – SAINTS PETER AND PAUL, APOSTLES

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Apostles Peter and Paul

Are the Pillars of the Church”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 12:1-11 // II Tm 4:6-8, 17-18 // Mt 16:13-19

  

 

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

 

We celebrate today the solemn feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the two great pillars of the Church. These two great apostles remind us that the cost of Christian discipleship is dear. By their pastoral ministry and self-sacrificing service to the Gospel, they have witnessed to the nations that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God and the Savior of the world.

 

Today’s bible readings underline their intimate participation in Christ’s paschal mystery and his saving power. The Acts of the Apostles (12:1-10) narrates that King Herod Agrippa has Peter arrested and put into prison in Jerusalem so that he may be tried before the people after the Passover. Peter is under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. On the very night before Herod is to bring him to trial, Peter, secured by double chains and sleeping between two soldiers, is rescued by an angel from imminent death. This miraculous divine intervention on behalf of Peter evokes God’s marvelous works on the night of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and at the Passover event of Jesus Christ from death to life. The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 7, remark: “This was during the week of the Passover … The deliverance of Peter, whom God frees from prison at night, and precisely at this period of the year, assumes the value of a parable. For the Church, it is still the time of Exodus. During the night of this world, it prays with confidence, remembering the Pasch of Christ and giving thanks for the marvels God has accomplished, including thanksgiving ahead of time for the crowning marvel: when Christ himself, and no longer an angel, will come back to snatch her finally forever from the hands of her enemies.”

 

In the Second Reading (II Tim 4:6-8, 17-18), we hear about the apostle Paul who is also a prisoner for Christ and an intimate participant in his paschal mystery. Undergoing the humiliating conditions of a captive in Rome, he entertains no illusions as to the outcome of his trial. Knowing that he would be condemned to death, he does not allow the specter of death to daunt him. Confronted by the certainty of martyrdom, he avows God’s benevolent protection and recognizes the divine saving plan at work in his life. Trusting fully in the Lord Jesus and knowing that he had done all he could to proclaim the Gospel, Paul compares his life to a spiritual sacrifice and speaks of his upcoming death as a “passage” – a Passover toward the divine kingdom. Knowing that he has competed well in his endeavor for Christ and that he has kept the faith in him, he is sure of the “crown of righteousness” that the Lord Jesus has prepared for him and all those who long for Christ’s coming. 

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Mt 16:13-19) speaks of Peter’s confession of faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and the subsequent investiture of Peter at Caesarea Philippi with the “keys” of the Kingdom of heaven. The “keys” symbolize the authority and governance entrusted to the apostle Peter to lead the young church after Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus declares that Peter is the “rock” upon which he would build his Church. Peter will take on a role of primacy and a service of authority on behalf of the entire spiritual edifice, the Church, whose cornerstone and ultimate foundation is Jesus Christ himself. As willed by Jesus Christ, Peter’s ministry as a “rock” foundation of the Church and his service of authority as a recipient of the “keys” will live on through time and space.

 

In our celebration of the God-given gift to the Church of its great apostolic pillars, Sts. Peter and Paul, we are invited to consider anew our vocation and mission as Church and to pray for the Pope and all those who have received the special mission as stewards of the mysteries of salvation. The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 7, conclude: “Peter and Paul, with their contrasting charisms put at the service of one and the same gospel, illustrate the nature of the Church of Christ and of the ministry entrusted to those whom the Lord chooses. Through the faith of which the apostles are witnesses and guides, the community of believers is solidly founded on Christ, the cornerstone that nothing can dislodge. Whatever may happen, despite all the trials, God delivers his friends as he freed his Christ from the power of death. Like their Master and Lord, those who exercise their responsibilities in the Christian community have only one ambition, to stay the course, to remain faithful to their mission as stewards of the mysteries of salvation, and to make themselves, without counting the cost, the servants of the servants of God, the messengers of his love.”

 

As we celebrate the solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, I thank the Lord for the opportunity he gave me to spend several years of my apostolic life in Rome, under the shadows of Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican City and Saint Paul’s Basilica on Via Ostiense. I was enrolled at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute, but it was a great joy for me to help our Sisters at the souvenir shops in Saint Peter’s Basilica during my free time. I had a chance to meet pilgrims from five continents of the world and savor the “universality of the Church”. The Sisters take daily turns for Eucharistic Adoration at the Blessed Sacrament Chapel in Saint Peter’s Basilica and offer special prayers for the Church and the Pope. One Wednesday afternoon, after our work at the Cupola’s souvenir shop and while walking in the courtyard to board our van, we were asked by the Vatican police to stay put. From the other part of the courtyard, there was a tremendous activity as the Pope’s entourage arrived. When we saw Pope John Paul II, we cried out, “Viva il Papa!” Pope John Paul II, who was boarding the Pope-Mobile for his Wednesday audience with the pilgrims, turned and waved to us like a loving father. Now he is a canonized saint.

 

I likewise remember when I would go to the SSP Provincial House at Via Alessandro Severo, near the Basilica of St. Paul, to pray at the tomb of our Founder, Blessed James Alberione, and the first Pauline priest, Blessed Timothy Giaccardo, who were both beatified by Pope John Paul II. These two great pillars of the Pauline Family were deeply influenced by Saint Paul. The first foundation of the Pauline Family in Rome, at Via Alessandro Severo, received vital assistance from the kind Benedictines at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.  In my prayer, I thank the Lord for the gift of the Pauline Family and our father Saint Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles.

 

 

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

 

1. What insights does the celebration of the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul give us about the nature and the ministry of the Church?

 

2. How did Saint Peter and Saint Paul participate intimately in Christ’s Paschal Mystery?

 

3. For the members of the Pauline Family: what will you do to make the celebration of the Pauline Centenary meaningful and transforming?

 

 

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

 

O gracious Father,

you fill our hearts with joy

as we honor your great apostles:

Peter, our leader in the faith,

and Paul, the fearless preacher.

Peter raised up the Church from the faithful flock of Israel.

Paul brought your call to the nations,

and became the teacher of the world.

Each in his chosen way

gathered into unity the one family of Christ.

Both shared the martyr’s death

and are praised throughout the world.

Grant us the grace to imitate

Saint Peter’s pastoral ministry to the Church

and Saint Paul’s zeal to proclaim the Gospel to the nations.

We give you glory and praise

and we pledge to love and serve you, now and forever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“Upon this rock I will build my church.” (Mt 16:18)

 

 

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

 

Meditate on the marvels God has accomplished in the Church through the life witness and ministry of Saints Peter and Paul. Make an effort to read and reflect on the Pauline letters and be inspired by St. Paul’s teachings. In any way you can, enable the people of today to experience the pastoral and evangelizing ministry of Sts. Peter and Paul.

                           

*** *** ***

 

June 30, 2016: THURSDAY – WEEKDAY (13); THE FIRST MARTYRS OF THE HOLY ROMAN CHURCH

N.B. Today the Pauline Family celebrates the Solemnity of Saint Paul, the Apostle.

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Has Power to Heal … He Is the True Prophet”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Am 7:10-17 // Mt 9:1-8

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 9:1-8): “They glorified God who had given such authority to men.”

(By Mario Domino, St. Christopher Parish, San Jose, CA-USA)

 

Matthew’s description of the healing of the paralytic is not as elaborate as Mark’s (2:1-12). Matthew was more intent on proving Jesus’ messianic fulfillment: the establishment of a new kingdom. In order to do that, Jesus proves that he has power and authority.

 

Matthew shows that Jesus cures not only physical ills but, most significantly, spiritual ills. First, he tells the paralytic that his sins are forgiven him. Then, showing he can discern people’s thoughts, he rebukes the scribes by telling the paralytic to take up his stretcher and walk.

 

In a very convincing manner, he shows us that just as he has the authority to forgive sins, he also has the power to cure physical ills.

 

From this reading, we should take solace in the restorative powers of Jesus. He can indeed alleviate our physical ills but, more importantly, he does forgive our sins

 

***

 

Jesus Christ is the “holistic healer” par excellence. In imitation of Christ, his disciples endeavor to heal broken lives through “holistic” ways as illustrated in the following account (cf. Gladys Gonzales, M.M., “Healing Broken Lives” in Maryknoll, July/August 2014, p. 24-28).

 

Much of Tanzania’s landscape is surrounded by large boulders, which entrepreneurs are removing to construct buildings. The process is leaving huge holes, like craters, rendering the land unusable, causing massive erosion, and pushing out wildlife, flora and fauna. Added to that is the plight of the women who labor to break the stones to construct the buildings. (…)

 

Many of the women have lung problems. Many are completely blind or have impaired vision caused by the stone chips, particles and dust covering not only their faces but their whole bodies as they work day after day under a blazing sun. They have no hope of ever leaving this work until their bodies completely give out. I am working to help them holistically, that is, restoring their whole being, body and spirit, to health.

 

During my 18 years as a missioner in Tanzania I have discovered the importance of holistic healing working not only with women’s groups but also youth groups and children with HIV … I came to understand that the whole person is involved in any activity. That is what is meant by holistic. So I moved from formal teaching to informal teaching and the art of holistic healing. I believe that through nurturing, listening and responding to the deeper wisdom of our whole being, we can heal ourselves and the world. (…)

 

As a Maryknoll Sister, I am committed to carry on our charism: “to be an active participant in the mission of God: a mission of peace, healing, wholeness and love.”

   

 

B. First Reading (Am 7:10-17): “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”

 

Rhoel Gallardo, a member of the Claretian missionary congregation, and Raul Ventigan, a member of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (CICM), a missionary congregation founded in Belgium, were my students at Maryhill School of Theology in Metro Manila, Philippines. After his ordination, Fr. Rhoel was sent to work in the predominantly Muslim-populated Basilan Island, in southern Philippines, where he died a martyr’s death. The notorious Abu Sayaf Islamic rebel group kidnapped and tortured him. Fr. Rhoel was ordered to rape the catechists who were captured with him. But he refused to obey their sadistic command. He defied their mockery and brutality by turning to God in prayer. They eventually shot him to death. Fr. Raul was a young medical doctor when he entered the seminary. As part of his missionary training, he worked for four years in Haiti. He then returned to the Philippines to finish the last year of his group’s theology program. After ordination, he was sent back to Haiti, his mission land. His medical expertise helped him greatly in his pastoral ministry to the poor and the sick. A few months after his return to Haiti, he succumbed to a health condition and was found dead on his bed. Fr. Rhoel and Fr. Raul - two young Filipino missionaries sent out by our Lord Jesus to minister to his people – exemplify God’s gift of missionary vocation to the Church and to the world.

 

The missionary and prophetic vocation is God’s initiative. The Old Testament reading (Am 7:12-15) reinforces the reality that an apostolic and prophetic vocation originates from God alone. Amos is a prophet through God’s personal intervention. A shepherd and a dresser of sycamore trees, the prophet Amos, from the village of Tekoa – some ten miles south of Jerusalem – in the southern kingdom of Judah, is called by God to prophesy in the more economically prosperous Israel, the northern kingdom of the Hebrew people, during the time of “the schism of Israel” in the eighth century B.C. The name “Amos” means “burden” and the name “Tekoa” probably means, “to sound the ram’s horn”. Carrying a burden of destruction, his prophetic message is sounded loud across the northern kingdom and reverberated long afterward in Jerusalem. Preaching at Bethel, the elite spiritual center of the northern kingdom, Amos causes intense disturbance and annoyance when he inveighs against the immorality, sacred prostitution, social injustice at the shrine and the detestable corruption of Israel’s political and religious institutions. The priest Amaziah of the Bethel temple, who sees him as a threat to the unity and integrity of the Israel kingdom, tries to evict him: “Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah! There earn your bread by prophesying, but never again prophesy in Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary and a royal temple.”

 

The response of Amos to the greatly outraged Amaziah gives us a glimpse of the vocation-mission of a prophet as one called directly by God and sent out to declare the divine message. Amos denies that he is a member of a band of prophets who earn their living by foretelling oracles or visions. He does not belong to a group of “professionals”, but is chosen from obscurity and commissioned by God himself for a special task. Summoned by God to speak, it is his absolute responsibility to declare the divine word that both summons and judges the people of Israel. Indeed, the coming of a prophet is a grace since it attests to a faithful and loving God who never abandons his own.

  

  

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

 

1. Do we turn to Jesus Lord and seek healing? Do we help our sick brothers and sisters to come to Jesus and be healed? Do we care for their spiritual-physical needs?

 

2. Do we believe that as Christian disciples immersed into the paschal destiny of Christ the prophet we too are prophets? How do we carry out our prophetic ministry?

 

 

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

 

Loving Jesus,

we turn to you and seek total healing.

Forgive us our sins

and heal our weary soul and broken spirit.

Let our ailing bodies be restored to health,

according to the Father’s compassionate will.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

***

Lord Jesus,

give us the grace to speak your word:

a word of life and truth

as well as a word of justice and judgment.

You word is living and active.

It strikes to the heart

and pierces more surely than a two edged sword.

Help us to be true prophets of your word.

We serve and glorify you, now and forever.

Amen.

 

  

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

 

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

 

“Your sins are forgiven … Rise and walk.” (Mt 9:5) // “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.” (Am 7:15)

 

 

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

 

Pray for a sick person and, if possible, assist that person to have access to the sacraments of reconciliation and the anointing of the sick. // Pay particular attention to the word of God proclaimed in the liturgy and find concrete ways to introduce your family and friends to the bread of the Word offered in the Eucharist.

      

 

*** *** ***

 

July 1, 2016: FRIDAY – WEEKDAY (13); SAINT JUNIPERO SERRA, Priest (U.S.A.)

  “JESUS SAVIOR: He”

 

    

BIBLE READINGS

Am 8:4-6, 9-12 // Mt 9:9-13

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 9:9-13): “Those who are well do not need a physician. I desire mercy not sacrifice.”

(Gospel Reflection by Rosemary Farrell, St. Christopher Parish, San Jose, CA-USA)

 

This short passage (Mt 9:9-13) contains the heart of the gospel message, the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is LOVE.  The calling of Matthew to discipleship is of great significance to us all.   As a tax collector, Matthew belonged to a highly disreputable profession and would have been regarded as a social outcast by his fellow Jews.  The prior calling by Jesus of the fishermen, Peter, Andrew, James and John would not have excited public interest, but Matthew was conspicuous because of his despised profession and because of the other outcasts who associated with him.  However, all were called by Jesus in their failings and imperfections, whether these were highly visible and open to public scrutiny, as in the case of Matthew, or not; so too have we all been called in our imperfections, whether they have received public scrutiny, if we happen to be politicians or celebrities, or are known only to ourselves and to God.

Do not be afraid, I am with you.  I have called you each by name.  Come and follow me, I will bring you home; I love you and you are mine.    (David Haas)

 

This is the love of God, calling us just as we are, to be illumined in the light of His love; to be healed and transformed and to become His love to the world.

Even if your sins are scarlet, they can become snow white; even if they are as wool dyed crimson, they can be white as fleece.       (Isaiah 1:18)

 

While dining with Matthew and others who are deemed outcasts, Jesus overhears the skepticism of some of the Pharisees.  He refers them to the scripture that says, “It is kindness that I want, not animal sacrifices” and tells them to go and find out what that means.  Here, Jesus is referring to the words of the prophet Hosea:

What I want from you is plain and clear: I want your constant love, not your animal sacrifices.  I would rather have my people know me than burn offerings to me.  (Hosea 6:6)

 

Hosea was not alone in uttering words like these; we hear them also from his contemporary, fellow prophets Isaiah, Amos, and Micah who completes his exhortation with the famous dictum:

The Lord has told us what is good. What He requires of us is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God. (Micah 6:8)

 

How do these words resonate with us today?  Kindness, justice, humility and above all, love, we can certainly understand.  We have each been called to know and love the God who is love, and to become His love for others; through this love, all the fruits of the Spirit will grow in us. 

 

Hosea and the other prophets spoke out against animal sacrifice which was still practiced in the Temple in Jerusalem as atonement for sin in Jesus’ time and would continue until the Temple’s destruction in 70 AD.  The Pharisees, who were critical of Jesus dining with tax collectors and sinners, would have zealously performed the Temple sacrifices, but in referencing Hosea Jesus tells them that external duties and observances are inferior to Knowledge of God and the love and compassion that emanates from that Knowledge.  We may be tempted to dismiss the word “sacrifice”, in the prophetical writings that Jesus referred to, as something belonging to the distant past and not applicable to us today as long as we do not allow external religious observances to take precedence over compassion, kindness and mercy towards our brothers and sisters.  Perhaps we should contemplate the suffering of animals in factory farms and the billions of God’s creatures who are still sacrificed each day, no longer as sin offerings but to provide us with food that we do not need; it is easy to survive and be healthy on foods from purely non-animal sources. 

Our task must be to widen the circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.     (Albert Einstein)

        

 

B. First Reading (Am 8:4-6, 9-12): “I will send famine upon the land: not a famine of bread or thirst for water, but for hearing the word of the Lord.”

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Am 8:4-6, 9-12) is a prophetic judgment against Israel and is preceded by Amos’ vision of a basket of fruit. The Hebrew words for “end” and “fruit” sound alike. Making use of a pun, the prophet indicates that the “end” of unrepentant Israel is definite.

 

The vicious plans of corrupt merchants to make more money at the expense of the poor prove that their impending doom is merited. Instead of heeding the call to conversion, they intend to cheat, to overcharge and “to buy the lowly man for silver and the poor man for a pair of sandals”. As a consequence of Israel’s evil deeds, there will be darkness and lamentation, and there will be famine in the land. But for Israel, the greatest anguish is not for physical bread or water, but the longing for the word of God. They will hunger and thirst for a message from the Lord, but to no avail. Indeed, it is not possible for Israel to presume and decide on its own terms when and how to return to the Lord – as if God were at its disposal. The conversion journey can be undertaken only in response to God’s mercy and loving initiative.

 

On July 4 the American people celebrate Independence Day. This civic observance is an occasion for the Americans to commit themselves to God and to the works of justice and freedom for all. Like the prophet Amos, the words of the various statesmen and founding fathers of the U.S.A. remind us that God is at the root of the nation’s existence and destiny. The following statements they made are insightful (cf. “In God We Trust” in Fresno Bee, July 4, 2013, p. A19).

 

George Washington: Commander-in-Chief in the American Revolution; Signer of the Constitution; First President of the Unites States: “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.”

 

John Adams: Signer of the Declaration of Independence; One of Two Signers of the Bill of Rights; Second President of the United States: “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

 

James Madison; Signer of the Constitution; Fourth President of the United States: “Before any man can be considered as a member of civil society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the universe.”

 

Thomas Jefferson: Signer and the Principal Author of the Declaration of Independence; Third President of the United States: “And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever?”

 

John Quincy Adams: Diplomat; Sixth President of the United States: “Is it not in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? – that it forms a leading event in the progress of the Gospel dispensation? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon earth? – That it laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity?” (…)

 

Benjamin Franklin: Signer of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution: “I’ve lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: That God governs in the affairs of men. If a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We’ve been assured in the sacred writings that unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it. I firmly believe this, and I also believe that without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel.”

 

 

John Jay: Co-Author of the Federalist Papers; First Chief-Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court: “The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the word of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore to read it and to regulate your life by its precepts.” // “Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation, to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.”

 

 

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

 

1. How does the call and response of the tax collector Matthew impinge on you? Do we put our trust in the Divine Physician who calls us to be healed and transformed and to become his love in the world?

 

2. Do we hunger for the word of God, heed it and act upon it?

 

 

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

 

O loving Jesus, Divine Physician,

you did not come to call the righteous but sinners.

You call us just as we are.

Your healing love transforms us

that we may become in turn

your healing love to the world.

We hunger for your Word.

Speak, Lord, and we listen with loving heart.

We give you thanks 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.

 

“I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” (Mt 9:13) // “A famine for hearing the word of the Lord” (Am 8:11)

 

 

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

 

Meditate on the graciousness of God’s call and of the ongoing response we need to give to him. Through your compassionate ways, let the healing love of Jesus be felt by the persons close to you. Be thankful for the blessings God has bestowed upon the American nation and endeavor to share these blessings with the less fortunate.

 

  

*** *** ***

 

July 1, 2016: SATURDAY – WEEKDAY (13); BVM ON SATURDAY

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the New Wine and Bridegroom …

He Is the Promise of Restoration”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Am 9:11-15 // Mt 9:14-17

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 9:14-17): “Can the wedding guests mourn a long as the bridegroom is with them?”

 

In the reading (Mt 9:14-17), John the Baptist’s disciples, probably prompted by the Pharisees, ask Jesus why they and the Pharisees fast, but his disciples do not. Jesus retorts with a rhetorical question: “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?” In today’s Gospel, Jesus underlines a deeper truth that goes beyond the question of fasting. In the Bible, the marriage feast is a symbol of the kingdom of God. Jesus - the Bridegroom – invites us into the fullness of the kingdom, depicted as a marriage feast. As the Bridegroom of the Church, he brings in the radical newness of the reign of God. The radical newness is depicted in the image of “new wine” in fresh wineskins and of a “piece of unshrunken cloth” that will tear an old cloth if patched into it. Elements of Judaism that were either a temporary dispensation (e.g. the animal sacrifice) or a mere preparation for something better are surpassed by the Bridegroom Jesus Christ. He blesses us in a new way that shatters old categories and conventions. In his public ministry, Jesus did not require his disciples to fast the way the Pharisees and the disciples of John did. In the post-resurrection Church, “fasting”, with its many expressions, is still appropriate as long as it looks forward to the culmination of the kingdom. Fasting is done in the spirit of the Church-Bride waiting for Christ-Bridegroom’s return at the end time.

 

The radical newness of the kingdom and the “fasting” it entails can be perceived in the life of Mother Teresa of Calcutta (cf. Mother Teresa: Her Essential Wisdom, ed. Carol Kelly-Gangi, New York: Barnes and Noble, 2006, p. 97, 69, 64).

 

My sister and I used to read the same books. One day my sister read a book and passed it to me. As soon as I read two pages, I felt it would be a sin to read that book. Later I asked my sister whether she had read the book. She replied that she had and had found nothing wrong in it. There was no sin in my sister reading the book, but in conscience I could not read it. (…)

 

By our vow of chastity we renounce God’s natural gift to women to become mothers – for the greater gift – that of being virgins for Christ, of entering into a much more beautiful motherhood. (…)

 

I can’t bear being photographed but I make use of everything for the glory of God. When I allow a person to take a photograph, I tell Jesus to take one soul to heaven out of Purgatory.

   

 

B. First Reading (Am 9:11-15): “I will bring about the restoration of my people Israel. I will plant them upon their own ground.”

 

The Book of Amos ends positively with a joyful glimpse of the restoration of Israel (9:11-15). The earlier threats and oracles of doom are counterpoised by the overwhelming reality of God’s mercy and fidelity. The kingdom of David will be rebuilt and the nations finally reunited. A picture of abundant fruitfulness deepens the promise of the nation’s restoration: the grain will grow faster than can be harvested; the vine will grow faster than the wine can be made; the mountains will drip with sweet wine; etc. The entirety of Amos’ prophetic proclamation, that is, the threats of just punishment and the promise of restoration, reminds Israel that sinfulness is death-dealing and that conversion to God is life-giving.

 

Israel’s experience of death and grace, of punishment and hope of tomorrow, of raw ugliness and awesome beauty, can also be gleaned in our daily life. The following article gives insight into this (cf. Amy Bunt, “Beauty beneath the Surface” in Country, February/March 2013, p. 16).

 

I live in the Arizona desert, where flowers are sparse, rocks and bushes replace green grass, and the four seasons are more likely one long summer with a few cold December and January days. But the desert had such an abundance of rain one year that I was determined to see how it affected the landscape. Surely there must be something wonderful under all that dirt.

 

I used to think that to see anything beautiful, I had to get as far away from the desert as possible. But I was wrong. The desert often seems harsh and void of life, but below the surface is a kind of beauty that will come to life if enough rain falls from the heavens.

 

During that one rainy season, I went hiking in Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction, which is reputedly the site of an elusive gold mine. I didn’t go to the park that day looking for a gold mine, but I found one among the acres of golden flowers that surrounded my every step. The abundance reminded me of a Midwestern spring; the only dirt I saw was on the dusty path I was following.

 

Life often seems like a dusty path that we walk day in and day out. But instead of being surrounded by flowers in bloom, we often find ourselves surrounded by heartache, disappointment and sadness. Maybe it’s the loss of a job, a wayward child, or the death of a loved one that leaves a void so big and so painful you wonder if anything beautiful can ever come out of it.

 

I don’t know what surrounds your dusty path, but I know that God surrounds mine. He is kind enough to send rain and bring forth such beauty that I am left in awe and wonder. He has proven to me that beauty can come from ashes.

 

Life gives joy and sometimes takes it away. In moments of sadness, I look long and hard at the dry ground and wonder if life will ever spring from it again. It is then that I realize that God gives me a hope that doesn’t fade. Through faith he tells me to keep walking on my dusty path and to look for beauty, because it will surely come again.

 

Will my path always be lined with flowers? No. They will fade and be replaced by heartaches and disappointments of life, but those won’t last forever, either. Spring will come again and flowers will return. Someday I will walk among the fields of gold once more and will smile and say that life is good because God is good.

 

 

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

 

1. Do I realize the radical newness of the kingdom of God that Jesus brings? How do I live out the radical newness of the kingdom?

 

2. Do I allow myself to be shaped by visions of hope, beauty and grace; or do stubbornly cling to the shadows of sin, fear and death?

 

 

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

 

Jesus Lord,

you are the Bridegroom of the Church.

You call us to share in the feast of your kingdom.

You offer us to savor the “new wine” in fresh wineskins.

Teach us to practice true “fasting” on behalf of your kingdom.

Help us to express in our life

the beauty of the Gospel

and the radical newness that your life brings.

Let us welcome the hope of tomorrow.

You live and reign,

forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“Pour new wine into fresh new wineskins.” (Mt 9:17) // “I will bring about the restoration of my people Israel.” (Am 9:14)

 

 

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

 

Examine the actions and choices in your life that are not “new wine” in new wineskins and ask the Lord for the grace to overcome them. With the strength of the Holy Spirit, carry out the “fasting” (e.g. from excessive use of digital media, etc.) that will benefit you spiritually and promote the kingdom of God. // Be deeply aware of the “touches” of beauty, joy and goodness in your life.

  

 *** 

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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