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A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 18, n. 1)

Advent Week 1: December 1-7, 2019

 

 

(The pastoral tool BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD: A LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY & WEEKDAY LITURGY includes a prayerful study of the Sunday liturgy from various perspectives. For the Lectio Divina on the liturgy of the past week: November 24-30, 2019 please go to ARCHIVES Series 17 and click on “Week 34 Ordinary Time”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: November 24-30, 2019.)

 

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December 1, 2019: FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

  “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Long Expected Savior”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 2:1-5 // Rom 13:11-14 // Mt 24:37-44

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 24:37-44): “Stay awake, that you may be prepared.”

 

I had filed my application for a religious visa at the U.S. Embassy in Manila, Philippines and was scheduled for an interview on September 3, 2002. At 4:30 A.M. I was on my way to Manila from our convent in Antipolo City. At 6:30 A.M. I was at the gate of the Embassy patiently waiting for what I thought was an 8:30 A.M. interview. I finally realized that I belonged to a group of about 50 applicants whose papers began to be processed at 8:30 A.M. There were several groups ahead of us and other groups waiting behind us. At 10:00 A.M. we were ushered into a big room where American consuls were interviewing the applicants. It was a challenging period of waiting for all of us. We had to stay awake, alert and ready to be called at any time. I could not afford to doze off or take a break for fear that I would miss my opportunity for the interview. At 2:30 P.M. my name was called. After a three-minute interview my visa was approved. I went home happy and relieved. My patient waiting and vigilant expectation paid off.

 

Today we enter into the season of Advent and begin a new liturgical year, a “sacrament” or sacred sign of the presence of Christ in time. The liturgical period of Advent is a time of waiting and interior preparation for our meeting with the Lord who came in the flesh, continues to come in our daily life, and will come definitively in glory at the end time to restore all things. Today’s Gospel reading (Mt 24:37-44) is at the heart of the season of Advent. It challenges us to live this period of messianic waiting with renewed watchfulness. It exhorts the community of disciples to vigilance.

 

In the Gospel reading, Jesus illustrates his eschatological message with three brief stories: the story of Noah and the flood (Mt 24:37-40a), the parable of two workers in the field and two women grinding at the mill (Mt 24: 40b-41), and the parable of the thief in the night (Mt 24:42-44). These parables are meant to underline the need to live righteously in vigilant expectation of the Lord’s judgment. They also indicate the unpredictable and mysterious character of the Lord’s coming as judge. Indeed, Jesus’ message tells us that, rather than knowing the exact time, it is more important that we be always vigilant and prepared.

 

Our preparation for the Lord’s “advent” challenges us to live our lives in the here and now with purpose, meaning and dignity. It means being a creative and energetic part of the glorious kingdom that Jesus inaugurated and actualized by his paschal mystery. The Christian disciples in today’s world are therefore marked by renewed vigilance in response to the Advent challenge offered by Jesus, the Divine Master: “Stay awake … Be prepared!” Like the provident householder wisely equipped to fight off the onslaught of the thief in the night, the followers of Christ are watchful and ready to receive the Lord’s daily visitation and welcome him at his glorious return in the end time. Creative and forceful vigilance is a vital characteristic of Christian discipleship.

 

 

B. First Reading (Is 2:1-5): “The Lord will gather all nations into the eternal peace of the kingdom of God.”

 

The new liturgical year brims with a vision of hope. The prophet Isaiah speaks ecstatically “in days to come” about the gathering of nations on Mount Zion, the people being nourished by the word of the Lord from Jerusalem, and the wondrous condition of the messianic age (Is 2:1-5). James Weaver comments: “In today’s reading, Jerusalem’s temple mount (the mountain of the Lord’s house) is the goal toward which the nations stream … A reign of peace is the predicted result of God’s instructions, walking in God’s ways and submission to God’s judgment. Tools of war beaten into tools of farming depict a future, difficult to imagine, in which the cultivation of the earth replaces violence and the threat of violence as the chief occupation of nations. In this reading, the condition of universal peace is submission to God.”

 

With the celebration of the Advent season, which prepares us for the coming of the Lord, the Church’s liturgy directs our attention not only to our need for vigilant expectation, but to the justice, peace and harmony that Christ’s reign would bring. The heart-warming image of weapons being recast into gardening tools and farming implements enkindles our desire to draw out beauty and abundance from the earth, instead of giving in to violence and hatred. Indeed, the prophetic vision of nations not raising the sword against another and not training for war again makes our Advent season this year a “fresh beginning like gentle dew from above”.

 

The mood of the Advent season, while intensely challenging and demanding, is basically hopeful and optimistic. It helps us focus on what we can do – to be servants and instruments of the messianic peace and justice. The true peace and security envisioned by the prophet Isaiah “in those days” would be ours to claim if we live by the word of the Lord and if we walk in his ways, especially in promoting human dignity and the true worth of every person. The following insight that I read in Maryknoll magazine (July- August 2007 issue, p. 28) is an example of how to live more meaningfully our Advent expectation as Church in today’s world.

 

In the last decade alone, more than 2 million children have died as a direct result of armed conflict, millions of people have been displaced and whole nations have been held hostage to fear. Extreme poverty, hopelessness and lack of access to basics like food, water, sanitation, housing, education and health care are the reality of life for millions of people. Ours is a world hunger for peace and security, but what do we mean by “security”? Think for a minute about how you experience or wish you experienced security. What would it look like? What do you need to imagine a secure life for you and your family? A safe and comfortable home? Enough money to pay necessary bills? A job that pays well? Assurances you will have sufficient resources in your old age? A car? A gun? A $500 billion annual military budget? Nuclear, biological or chemical weapons? Freedom of speech and assembly? What else would you add? …

 

The concept of human security is rooted in our faith tradition: that every person has intrinsic dignity and is of equal value before God. The security of one person or nation cannot be guaranteed while ignoring or undermining the security and well-being of others in the global community. At issue is how we define security, from which perspective and through what lens. Given the lack of future for millions of young people around the world, might not the most effective security measure be quality education and decent jobs that ensure that all people have access to a dignified life?

 

 

C. Second Reading (Rom 13:11-14): “Our salvation is nearer.”

 

In the Second Reading (Rom 13:11-14), Saint Paul sounds an intense wake-up call: “It is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand.” The day of the Lord – of judgment - is approaching. Our salvation is nearer. Every moment brings us closer to it. Let us therefore act on our good intentions. It is time to “put on the armor of light”. Let us now “put on the Lord Jesus Christ”.

 

Harold Buetow explains: “Today’s second reading is a reminder to live in such a way that we will be ready for Christ’s coming – during our lives, and at the hour of our death, and at the end of the world … As we begin our preparation for the historical coming of Christ at Christmas, his mysterious comings during our lives and at the time of our death, and at the end of the world, let us sort out our priorities … Let us be responsive to God’s presence in our family, our parish, our community, our world, and in nature. If we do that, Jesus’ comings will take care of themselves.”

 

The following article written by a Poverello House staff illustrates the need to respond to the grace of salvation (cf. “The Limits of Expectation” in Poverello News, April 2010, p. 3-4).  Let us pray that we may have the grace to embrace salvation. Let us rejoice at the “advent” of the Lord Jesus who calls us to conversion and invites us to walk and live in his transforming light.

 

Recently a homeless man got drunk one night and decided to climb our fence, because, as he explained later, he hadn’t seen a “No Trespassing” sign. Our resident program security guards caught him and expelled him.

 

This in itself wasn’t an unusual incident, until we discovered the climber’s identity. A few years ago, he and his family were proud Poverello House donors. He was working and supporting his wife and children, and seemed to be living a normal, middle-class life.

 

We don’t exactly know what happened since that time. He said something about a divorce and medical expenses, but certainly his drinking played a major role in the downfall, also. So now, he drinks his pain and regret away daily, and depends on us to feed him. It’s one of the most tragic situations we’ve encountered here. (…)

 

Occasionally, someone surprises us with a story of redemption. Big T is someone we all knew from his years of living in the streets. He is handsome, friendly, intelligent, funny, and seemingly capable of being a success. Yet, he perpetually languished in a state of homelessness.

 

Big T wasn’t a “joiner”. He never seemed interested in our Resident Program, or in any other program. When we opened the Village of Hope, we asked him to try it out; he refused. He usually camped by himself, apparently not trusting others.

 

The years went by. Big T was arrested for some outstanding warrants. He spent time in jail, which seemed like it might be a wake-up call for him. Now in his fifties, he wasn’t prepared for the menacing young gang-bangers he encountered, and swore he’d change his ways when he got out.

 

However, his ways didn’t change. Still good with a hustle, still not committing to anyone or anything, he stayed homeless. It seemed such a waste.

 

Then, one day, someone asked, “Has anyone seen Big T recently?” No one had.

 

We hadn’t seen him because Big T had been going through some changes. Maybe he was just weary of street life; maybe the fear he felt in jail made him rethink where he was headed. Whatever the reason, Big T found a small church, and for the first time in many years, made some commitments. He committed himself to God and to his little church family; he found a job and a place to stay; finally, he got in touch with a long-estranged daughter and started his relationship over with her.

 

He dropped by Poverello House one day with all of this news. He looked great, and sounded wonderful. You just never know.

 

 

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

 

How do we make use of the grace of the Advent season given us by the Lord? Are we creatively engaged in giving witness that Christ has come and is with us forever through the Church and the sacraments, and will come again gloriously at the end time to restore all things in his kingdom? Do we pray the beautiful Advent invocation: “Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!” with joyful hope? Are we thankful to the Lord for the gift of the new liturgical year? 

 

 

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

(An excerpt from Pope John Paul II’s “Prayer with Young People for Peace” – April 9, 1985)

 

Lord Jesus Christ,

give us your peace,

the peace that springs from your pierced heart,

peace in truth, in justice and in love.

Give us your peace,

but not for us to keep for ourselves …

Make us defenders of Abel wherever he lives:

Abel the poor and outcast,

Abel the elderly and without a proper job,

Abel the persecuted for his faith,

Abel the defenseless in his mother’s womb.

Forgive the Cains of our time

for they know not what they do.

Convert the oppressors and the violent to your peace.

Give enlightenment and courage

to the rulers and leaders of nations

to restrain the spiral of that crazy logic

that leads to resources being removed from life

and used instead for the purpose of death

and the destruction of the planet.

            May you, Jesus, be our peace.

May your Holy Spirit pacify our soul

with the sacrament of your Church

and that we ourselves may be peace for all our brothers …

Your eternal and universal Kingdom is approaching,

the Kingdom of truth and of life,

the Kingdom of sanctity and grace,

the Kingdom of justice, love and peace. 

 

 

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.

 

“So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” (Mt 24:44).

  

 

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

 

By your acts of justice and charity, especially to the needy and the distressed, contribute to the realization of the beautiful vision of peace, justice and harmony of nations of the messianic era.

 

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December 2, 2019: MONDAY – ADVENT WEEKDAY (1)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Heals Our Infirmities and He Gathers All the Nations”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 2:1-5 // Mt 8:5-11

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 8:5-11): “Many will come from the east and the west into the Kingdom of heaven.”

(Gospel Reflection by Bishop Joseph Mukala, India)

 

We are beginning a new spiritual journey with Jesus in this new liturgical year. It is indeed a new beginning for us. At this point, we cannot forget what the Responsorial Psalm invites us today, namely, to go up rejoicing to the house of the Lord. Our holy mother the Church teaches us that we are on a pilgrimage and during this pilgrimage many of us, along with the centurion of our Gospel, today request the Lord to heal us of our infirmities. But our faith is yet to be tested and verified. In the case of the centurion, the Lord gave him a super pass certificate when he said, “Truly I tell you in no one in Israel have I found such faith.” Yes, we would like to hear these words from the Lord in our regard. But we are still far from the disposition of the centurion as he approached the Lord for the cure of his servant.

 

What prevents us from having such faith as the centurion’s? Could it be that our faith is shallow due to our heavy dependence on our abilities or to the modern and present day challenges that draw us away from what is spiritual and transcendent? The centurion had to face certain challenges when he decided to go and meet the Lord and requested him to heal his servant. His own friends must have ridiculed him for seeking the assistance of a so-called Jewish preacher. His very own authority over his subjects could prevent him from having recourse to a so-called preacher with magic powers. In any case we can count on his deep faith in the authority of Christ, to whom he went and pleaded for the cure of his servant. With his love for his servant, along with the gift of faith that he received from God, he took the bold step in approaching Jesus with his request.

 

Look at the way Jesus responds to the request of the centurion when he said, “I will come and cure him.” We are in need of healing, both spiritual and mental. The Lord is ever ready to come under our roof and heal us. He gently tells us that he is ready to come and heal us if only we open ourselves to him and his healing power. The centurion knew that Jesus has power and authority to heal from a distance as he himself has power and authority to command and get things done. Hence, he humbled himself before Jesus and requested him to exercise his power and authority to heal his servant, without coming to his house. This is evident when he said, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed.”

 

At the beginning of this holy season of Advent, seek for healing that is more than physical. We all need healing of memories, such as the unjust dealing of a boss, the unkind word of a friend or a partner, etc.  Let us include all these intentions in our prayer during this period of waiting for the Lord who is born to us every day in the Eucharist and at Christmas. As the centurion acknowledged the power and authority of Jesus in healing his servant, let us also be conscious of our need for the presence of the Lord in our lives – that he may heal us of our spiritual, psychological and mental agonies and wounds. In the same measure, let us also be conscious of people who need our presence for their healing, especially those who are close to us, like the servant who was very close to his master, the centurion.

 

 

B. First Reading (Is 2:1-5): “The Lord will gather all nations into the eternal peace of the Kingdom of God.”

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Is 2:1-5) reminds me of something very inspiring that I found in the comics section of a daily newspaper. I cut it out and kept it in a folder to keep me upbeat. Bill Keane’s “Family Circus” cartoon shows the Mom looking out of the window and the Dad sitting in an armchair with a newspaper. Probably upset by grim news reports, the Dad remarks: “Sometimes I worry about the future of this country.” The Mom answers, “I don’t!” as she gazes at a vision of harmony and peace in the backyard while her children play with other kids: the eldest son is carrying piggyback a delighted black kid; the daughter and a Hispanic friend are doting over the baby doll in the baby carriage; the daughter’s twin brother is giving a lecture on space rockets to a enthusiastic brown-skinned friend; an Oriental little girl is reading a book to the attentive toddler; and a bird perched on a kid’s telescope is singing a happy song.

 

The vision of harmony and the spirit of hope presented in the cartoon, “Family Circus”, are offered to us more intensely by the liturgy of the Advent season. Today’s readings present the healing not only of the centurion’s servant, but the healing of relationships and of the nations. In the First Reading (Is 2:1-5), the prophet Isaiah presents the Lord as gathering all nations into the eternal peace of the kingdom of God. In the days to come, all nations will make their way to the mountain of God, and Jerusalem will become the center of instruction for all nations. In the mind of Isaiah, the recognition of Jerusalem as the goal of the nations is tantamount to recognizing the Lord God as sovereign. Above all, the recognition and acceptance of the Lord’s instructions are the keys to world peace, when swords will be beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. We too are called to “walk in the light of the Lord” that we may be able to radiate the light of salvation to all. With all the nations, we are called to make our way back to the new Jerusalem, the city of God.

 

 

C. First Reading for Year A (Is 4:2-6): “There will be splendor for the survivors.”

 

The Old Testament reading (Is 4:2-6) depicts the glorious destiny of the remnants of Israel. The survivors of the death-dealing Babylonian invasion have experienced “purgation”, that is, a cleansing of sin to make Jerusalem holy. The purge is ultimately an experience of salvation. There will be unlimited joy and splendor for the survivors and the Lord God would again be with his people. He would be present to them as he was during the march of the Israelites through the desert. God’s presence would be like a sheltering cloud and a guiding flaming fire. The prophet Isaiah beholds that “on that day, the branch of the Lord will be luster and glory”. This poetic image of hope evokes the coming of the Messiah in the time of grace that the Lord God chooses to fulfill his promise for his Chosen People, Israel.

 

The following story gives us a glimpse into the experience of the “remnants” or “survivors” of Israel and their joy of salvation (cf. Betty Sonderman, “God Bless America” in Reminisce: The 25th Anniversary Collection, ed. Catherine Cassidy, et. al, Milwaukee, Readers Digest Association, Inc., 2015, p. 66).

 

In February 1945, my parents, my brother and I had been confined in the Santo Tomas internment camp near Manila, in the Philippines, for three years after the Japanese took over the island. I was 7 when I told my mother about the shadow of a huge bird I had seen going across the hot, dry grounds of the camp a week before. She told me not to say anything about what I had seen. It was not a bird, of course, but a low-flying American plane.

 

For some time, the Filipinos outside our fence had been singing “God Bless America” as their way of letting us know that American troops were coming soon to liberate us. On a warm tropical night soon after the tanks of the 1st Cavalry Division and a flying column of American soldiers crashed through the gates of the internment camp, overpowered the guards and liberated us.

 

For the first time, we could leave our rooms at night. The next morning, the American soldiers shared their rations with internees, many of whom were near starvation.

 

There had been a lot of bombing around Manila the nights before our liberation. I recall my father telling us, “Look, there where the sky is red. That’s a rocket, and there are bombs.” “The rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air”, someone suddenly said. People had tears in their eyes. I didn’t understand the words then. Patriotic songs were forbidden in the camp.

 

When all of us arrived back in America, I was able to go to school, learning to read and write and sing. Now I love to sing, and “God Bless America” is my favorite song. Every time we sing it in my church choir, I still get a thrill.

 

 

 

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

 

Like the centurion, do we have the faith, trust and love to seek healing from our Lord Jesus? Do we welcome his transforming Advent into our life? What do we do to promote the healing of the sick, the healing of relationships, and the healing of nations? Do we look forward to the coming of the Messiah and rejoice in the joy given by God to the “redeemed”?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

we thank you for the season of Advent,

a season of new beginning and a time to seek healing.

It is a season of joy for the “redeemed”.

Please come into our life with your healing power.

Make us whole in mind, body and soul.

Bring healing to the nations and to all creation.

We rejoice in the joy that your advent brings.

Maranatha! Come, O Christ the Lord!

 

 

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 come and cure him.” (Mt 8:7) // “Let us walk in the light of the Lord.” (Is 2:5) // “The branch of the Lord will be luster and glory for the survivors of Israel.” (Is 4:2)

 

 

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

 

Pray not only for healing, but also to be a healer. Do something kind and comforting for a sick relative or friend. Do what you can to promote justice and peace in your family and in the family of nations and thus hasten the definitive coming of God’s kingdom on earth.

 

 

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December 3, 2019: TUESDAY – SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER, Priest

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Be Childlike and He Is Filled with the Spirit”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 11:1-10 // Lk 10:21-24

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 10:21-24): “Jesus rejoices in the Holy Spirit.”

(Gospel Reflection by Bishop Joseph Mukala, India)

 

We have, on many occasions, extolled the attitude of children, praising them for their innocence, dependence, simplicity and joy. Everyone has a word or a touch for a child. We see God in a child being carried by a mother or walking along with the father.

 

We want to know more about God, but we know that the knowledge of God does not come from reading big books or attending lectures by scholars, but rather on one’s knees in prayer. The Holy Spirit inspires the simple to know God and come closer to him, in humility and openness to surrender to him. The prophets of old and great men of the history of Israel longed for the day when they would see and experience the messianic times. But that grace was not given to them, though in their own way they were happy and they fulfilled the mission entrusted to them by God. They found happiness and joy in being men of God, speaking His words and carrying out His plans. Yes, they were like children in the hands of God ready to accept whatever was demanded of them. 

 

Simplicity and humility are key words when it comes to being chosen by God for his mission. Every Christian has a mission to fulfill for we are all missionaries. A simple old lady from a village in a far flung area fulfills a mission. Her childlike simplicity and humility are qualities that make her a member of the Body of Christ. She is there to build up the Body of Christ through her joy and happiness. It is not always the learned and the wise that really bring joy and happiness to the body of Christ, but also the simple and ordinary people. Let us be simple and humble to receive the child Jesus into our lives.

 

 

B. First Reading (Is 11:1-10): “The Spirit of the Lord God shall rest upon him.”

  

Today’s Old Testament reading (Is 11:1-10) is from the prophet Isaiah who lived in Jerusalem in the latter part of the 8th century B.C., when there was terrible socio-political turmoil caused by the Assyrian Empire’s threat and invasion. Many kingdoms were crushed. Judah’s kinsmen in the northern Kingdom of Israel were routed by the Assyrians and sent into exile in 722 B.C. Despite the disaster experienced by the northern Kingdom, the prophet Isaiah predicted that the Kingdom of Judah would be spared. Isaiah envisioned a future when Judah and Israel, kingdoms of the North and South, would be reunited. The enemy siblings, Judah and Israel, would finally be reconciled through the saving work of a Spirit-filled messianic king, a shoot sprouting from the “stump of Jesse”. This future Davidic king would reign with a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord. He would judge the poor with justice and defend the rights of the helpless. The ideal King would be after God’s own heart. His Kingdom would be a reign of harmony, peace and reconciliation – reconciliation among the members of God’s creation and creation’s reconciliation with its Creator. The prophet Isaiah’s idyll of animal enemies living together serenely and harmoniously is a beautiful portrait of God’s benevolent plan and the glorious destiny he meant for his people and the entire creation.

 

However, the prophecy of the ideal Davidic King announced by Isaiah would not be fulfilled in his lifetime. That prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the “anointed one” and consecrated by the Spirit of Yahweh for the mission of universal salvation. In the fullness of time would be the advent of the Messiah and the definitive realization of the divine redemptive plan through the paschal sacrifice of that messianic King.

 

Finally, today’s Advent liturgy invites us to consider the shadows and pain in today’s world that do not correspond to the messianic idyll of peace and harmony announced by the prophet Isaiah. The Benedictine liturgical scholar, Adrian Nocent remarks: “How can we see the golden age in a world that is adrift, a world in which virtue and vice are so mingled? We can only respond by pointing to the fact that the Good News is being preached to the poor, the blind see, and the dead rise – since the Church accomplishes all these miracles in the spiritual order. The outlook of faith and a hope grounded in faith – these alone can enable us to see the presence of the golden age in its beginnings. Advent is the season of Christian optimism.”

 

The following article, “There’s No Place Like Home” about a hapless victim (cf. Poverello News, September 2007 issue) illustrates how some people of goodwill endeavor to hasten in today’s wounded world the advent of God’s kingdom. By their works of justice for the poor and needy, Papa Mike and the staff of the Poverello House remind us that the promotion of the messianic idyll is our task and challenge.

 

Like millions before him, he saw California as the Promised Land, a place abounding in hope and prosperity. For some reason, Little Rock, Arkansas had become a dead end. Maybe he had his own problems that made it hard for him to make it in his hometown, or maybe home had grown too small for him. Whatever the reason, he wanted to get away from failure or pain, so he looked westward with longing and naïve dreams of success. He was going to hook up with some distant relatives when he got to Fresno, live with them temporarily, and find a job. Not the most practical plan, but one that is all too familiar to us at Poverello House. Arriving at the bus station, he set out to get the lay of the land, and almost immediately, was mugged and robbed. Everything, including the names and phone numbers of relatives he’d never met, was stolen. He was savagely beaten, and ended up in the hospital with a broken wrist and cracked ribs. He was released, hurting, penniless, and depressed, and somehow made his way to Poverello House. Word on the street was that he could find help there.

 

At lunchtime, homeless people pointed out Mike McGarvin to him. He approached and asked Mike for help. What did he want? Just to go back home, where he knew people, where he wouldn’t be assaulted and robbed within ten minutes of arriving. Mike doesn’t do much “Greyhound therapy” anymore; more often than not, people are stuck in town because they’ve blown their money on drugs. However, something about this sad man in his late twenties appealed to Mike. As he does with anybody asking for a bus ticket, Mike told the man he could be on his way home if he passed a drug test. The test came out clean, so Mike bought him a ticket, loaded him with enough food for the trip, and put him on the bus for home.

 

Unlike so many who have been able to find a new life in the Golden State, this man instead discovered how mean the streets of California can be. As with so many others we assist, we will never know if our efforts to help this man will enable him to find his way in the world. However, Mike sent him off with a silent prayer for his safety. He left with the assurance that on the hardscrabble streets of Fresno, there is a place of refuge called Poverello House, and a big man with an equally big heart, known on those streets as Papa Mike.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we act as Spirit-filled people of God? Are we like children in the hands of God? Are we able to trust God and rely on him with childlike simplicity?

 

2. How does the messianic vision of peace and harmony impact you? How do you resolve to make the vision of messianic peace and harmony a lived possibility and reality?

  

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

the Spirit of the Lord is upon you.

Together with you, we rejoice in the Spirit.

We love God the Father with childlike trust.

With your grace, help us to surrender to his saving will.

Maranatha! Come, O Christ the Lord!

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 rejoices in the Holy Spirit.” (Lk 10:21) //“The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him.” (Is 11:2)

 

 

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

 

Pray for a more childlike trust as God’s presence mysteriously unfolds in our life. Do something kind and comforting for a needy “little one” in your midst. To be more open to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, spend some quiet moments in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.  

 

 

*** *** ***

December 4, 2019: WEDNESDAY – ADVENT WEEKDAY (1); SAINT JOHN DAMASCENE, Priest, Doctor of the Church

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Healing and Feeding Good Shepherd”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 25:6-10a // Mt 15:29-37

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 15:29-37): “Jesus heals many and multiplies the bread.”

(Gospel Reflection by Bishop Joseph Mukala, India)

 

Jesus ushers in God’s kingdom in our hearts and in our lives. There is a sense of joy and feasting here. Returning to the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus goes up the mountain and sits down. Prophetic tradition speaks of the gathering, not only of the scattered people of Israel, but of all peoples on the holy mountain (cf. Is 25:6) and of God coming for them and feeding them there. Ezekiel prophesies (cf. Ezek 34:13-16) that God himself would shepherd his people and feed the sheep in pleasant pastures. Moreover, he would bandage those that are hurt and heal those who are sick. The advent of Jesus fulfills the divine promise of a healing and nourishing Shepherd. Jesus heals the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many other sick people placed at his feet. Jesus feels sorry for the hungry crowd and feeds them by multiplying the loaves of bread and fish. Witnessing the healing, the people give praise to God. Nourished by the loaves and fish, they feel satisfied. The celebration of the kingdom has begun and at the center of it all is Jesus Christ.

 

Saint Francis Xavier, known as the “Apostle of the Indies” and the “Apostle to the Far East”, incarnates the love of the healing and feeding Good Shepherd. The following notes about him, circulated on the Internet, are interesting.

 

Francis Xavier, born Francisco de Jasso y Azpilicueta (7 April 1506 – 3 December 1552) was a pioneering Roman Catholic missionary born in the Kingdom of Navarre (now part of Spain) and co-founder of the Society of Jesus. He was a student of Ignatius of Loyola and one of the first seven Jesuits, dedicated at Montnartre in 1534. He led an extensive mission into Asia, mainly in the Portuguese Empire of the time. He was influential in the spreading and upkeep of Catholicism most notably in India, but also ventured into Japan, Borneo, the Moluccas, and into other areas which had thus far not been visited by Christian missionaries. In these areas, being a pioneer and struggling to learn the local languages in the face of opposition, he had less success than he had enjoyed in India. It was a goal of Xavier to one day reach China.

 

St. Francis Xavier is noteworthy for his missionary work, both as organizer and as pioneer. He is said to have converted more people than anyone else has done since Saint Paul. By his compromises in India with the Christians of St. Thomas, he developed the Jesuit missionary methods along lines that subsequently became a successful blueprint for his order to follow. His efforts left a significant impression upon the missionary history of India and, as one of the first Jesuit missionaries to the East Indies, his work is of fundamental significance to Christians in the propagation of Christianity in China and Japan, India (…)

 

Pope Benedict said of both Ignatius of Loyola and Francis Xavier: "Not only their history which was interwoven for many years from Paris and Rome, but a unique desire — a unique passion, it could be said — moved and sustained them through different human events: the passion to give to God-Trinity a glory always greater and to work for the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ to the peoples who had been ignored.” As the foremost saint from Navarre and one of the main Jesuit saints, he is much venerated in Spain and the Hispanic countries where Francisco Javier or Javier are common male given names. The alternative spelling Xavier is also popular in Portugal.

 

 

B. First Reading (Is 25:6-10a): “The Lord invites us to his feast and will wipe away the tears from all faces.”

   

Today’s Old Testament reading (Is 25:6-10a) depicts the definitive triumph of God’s kingdom at the end time. The fulfillment of God’s saving plan is imaged as a “feast of rich food and choice wines”. On that day of great feasting, the people redeemed would exclaim: “Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us! This is the Lord for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us” (Is 55:9). This bountiful banquet on the mountain of God is a symbol of eternal salvation, companionship and joy – of the delightful sharing in the riches of God and intimate communion in his delectable life.

 

The biblical scholar Eugene Maly comments: “One of the most pleasant of human activities is the family or community meal. In its ideal form, it is a time when those who love one another not only share the food they eat, but also share with one another their hopes and fears, their experiences and future plans. The love that already binds them is made stronger. The Scripture attests to the fact that a meal is expressive of a wide range of human attitudes and emotions … All mankind seems to be aware of the fact that a shared meal creates or strengthens a community of life among the participants. That is why this most human of activities would also be used to symbolize a community of life between human and divine participants … The Isaiah reading describes in rich imagery what is commonly referred to as the eschatological or end-time meal. In his description of this meal, the author is trying to bring home to the people the exquisite joy of that final day when they would be united with the Lord forever. A common life and common love are symbolized.”

 

Moreover, all peoples are invited to this grandiose banquet. The end-time feast is for all peoples, with God himself as the gracious host. He is the Lord of the banquet who satisfies our deepest longings. In Jesus Christ is the advent of the messianic banquet. In Jesus, God not only feeds the hungry but he also acts to make the lame walk, open the eyes of the blind, heal the sick. In him is total nourishment and healing.

 

As children of God and as disciples of Jesus, we are called to be instruments to respond to the needs of the world’s poor. The following story illustrates how God uses us to feed the hungry (cf. Carol Ermo, “Mysterious Ways” in Guideposts, September 2013, p. 39).

 

Brr. I hugged the warm Crockpot I was carrying as I walked to the building site. We’re hardy folks here in Wisconsin, but that fall day was beyond brisk. The women in my church group were bringing lunch to some Habitat for Humanity volunteers building a house in a working-class neighborhood. We’d made brownies, sandwiches and, most important, a huge batch of chili. Nearing the site, I wondered if chili would be enough to warm the bellies of the hungry crew.

 

Except there was no activity. No hammering. No saw buzzing. No drills whirring. No one working inside or out. Only one car was parked on the street. A man climbed out, pulling his jacket tight. “Didn’t anyone tell you ladies?” he said. “There’s no build today.” “No build? Why” I asked. “Windows didn’t come in”, the man explained. There’s not much to do without them. It’s so cold, we figured we’d hold off until they’re delivered.”

 

The pot of chili felt heavy. All that work we’d put in, chopping onions, browning the beef, mixing in the spices and waiting for it to cook. Now we had this enormous batch and no one to eat it. Maybe we’d split it up. My family would have supper for weeks. Then a thought popped into my head that didn’t seem to come from me. Take it to the homeless shelter.

 

The shelter? They planned way ahead and I was sure they already had a meal for the day. Then again, they could freeze the chili and serve it some other time. The women and I piled back into the car and drove to the shelter. A crowd of people huddled outside the cafeteria doors. “What’s going on?” I asked the shelter coordinator. “The group that was supposed to fix the meal today didn’t come in”, she said. “We’ve got all these people and nothing to feed them.” “You have something now”, I said.

 

There was enough chili for everyone … even for two stragglers who arrived after I thought the pot was empty. I shouldn’t have been surprised. This crew wasn’t the one we’d been planning to serve, but the Master Builder had a greater plan.

 

 

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

 

What is your response to the divine offer of total participation at the “banquet of salvation”? How do you prepare yourself for the heavenly feast? How do you image the compassionate Jesus who heals the sick and feeds the hungry?

 

 

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

 

O loving God,

you are the Lord of the banquet.

We thank you

for the “feast of rich food and choice wines”

you have prepared for us on your holy mountain.

The “banquet of salvation” at the end time

celebrates the definitive triumph of your kingdom

and the glory of your Paschal Lamb.

In our daily celebration of the Eucharist,

the supper of the Lamb,

we have a foretaste of the eternal joy

and the bounty of that heavenly feast.

Help us to imitate the compassionate Jesus,

who heals the sick and feeds the hungry.

Grant us the grace to live in charity and integrity

that we may participate fully and joyfully

in the eternal “banquet of salvation”.

You live and reign, 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.

 

“On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all people.” (Is 25:6) // They all ate and were satisfied.” (Mt 15:37)

 

 

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

 

Pray that the Christian disciples may be heartened by the “banquet of salvation” prepared for us by the Lord at the end time and prefigured in the Eucharist. By your small acts of charity and good deeds, prepare to participate fully at the heavenly feasting. Endeavor to alleviate the hunger of the world’s poor and to satisfy their need for a nourishing and bountiful meal. Show your compassionate care to the sick.

 

*** *** ***

 

December 5, 2019: THURSDAY – ADVENT WEEKDAY (1)

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is Our Rock and Foundation”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 26:1-6 // Mt 7:21, 24-27

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 7:21, 24-27): “Whoever does the will of my Father will enter the Kingdom of heaven.”

(Gospel Reflection by Bishop Joseph Mukala, India)

 

The Lord announced that the Kingdom of God is at hand (cf. Lk 17:21, Mk 1:15). Everyone is urgently searching for an entry into this kingdom where the Lord promises righteousness, peace and prosperity. The conditions that the Lord puts forward are not difficult for one who is seriously seeking the kingdom. That person is ready to dig deep and lay a firm foundation on Christ-rock so that it could stand even in difficult and trying times. While this digging is going on, we need to root out all that is not compatible with the kingdom so that the foundation may be strong. Then it could take in the shocks and violence, persecutions and rebuff, ridicule and scorn of an unbelieving world. The Church is attacked on every front. We are considered old-fashioned when we do not conform ourselves with the world on issues of life, death penalty, values, health care, etc.

 

Advent is a time to search the innermost recesses of our lives and to build a strong foundation. With a firmly grounded Christian life, nothing can detract us in our discipleship. St. Paul asserts that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, (cf. Rom 8:35). Who are the mother, brothers and sisters of Jesus? They are those who hear the word and put it into practice. Those who are transformed by it can be sure that no persecutions or attacks could overcome them.

 

 

B. First Reading (Is 26:1-6): “Let in a nation that is just, one that keeps faith.”

  

Advent is a propitious time to build our lives on Christ, our Rock Foundation. That we may be solidly founded on Christ, “he who comes in the name of the Lord”, we need to live by his words and follow his heavenly Father’s will. Our lives must correspond to the truth of faith that we profess. Today’s Old Testament reading (Is 26:1-6) undergirds the Christian call for integrity in our faith. The prophet Isaiah speaks of God’s promise of a “fortified city”, built in response to the hope of the “poor”. The gates of his “strong city” are open to the just and those who keep faith in him, but not to the proud and the tyrants. Isaiah refers to the Lord as an eternal “Rock”, which is a metaphor for total dependability. Indeed, the Lord God will always protect the humble and those who trust in his saving word.

           

The following account illustrates how a sterling modern woman built a house, put her trust in God, built her family life on the Rock Foundation and drew strength from the word of God (cf. Elizabeth Sherill, “The Glory of Ruth” in Guideposts, October 2007, p. 101-104).

 

It was on a radio newscast on June 15, 2007, that I heard about the death of my friend Ruth: “Mrs. Billy Graham, wife of the well-known evangelist, died yesterday at eighty-seven.” Ruth had been ill for a long time, her face in their Christmas card photo a little thinner each year, until all I recognized were those lively and compassionate eyes. In my desk I found the file of our correspondence. Here were dozens of letters in Ruth’s bold, energetic handwriting, the words slanting backward till they almost lay on their sides. Embossed above them on each sheet was Little Piney Cove, North Carolina.

 

I saw myself driving for the first time up that steep mountain road to a rustic cabin nestled in the shelter of a cliff, seemingly the home of long-ago pioneers. Hand-hewn chestnut beams, rough plastering, an immense fireplace. In fact, on that first visit in the 1950s, the house was brand-new, designed cellar to roof by Ruth herself. Over the years the house came, for me, to stand for the woman herself: a woman for whom imagination often took the place of money. Because Bill took only a modest salary, a tight budget for the new house was her first challenge. “I wanted it to look”, she told me, “as though it had stood here forever.” But where would she find massive chestnut timbers like the pioneers used? From old abandoned cabins she tracked down in the hills and hollows. (…)

Imagination, love, humor – all were present in that house on the mountain.

 

But the chief thing the house reflected was a woman’s hourly, moment-by-moment reliance on God. In large German script on the broad wooden mantel above the fireplace six words were incised in gold: Eine Feste Burg Ist Unser Gott. These opening words of Martin Luther’s great hymn, “A mighty fortress is our God”, explained the confidence with which Ruth met the never-ending challenge of being a wife and a mother. God was the secure place from where she was able to fight all of the daily battles with dishes and disruptions and the differing needs of husband and children.

 

I don’t think Ruth’s Bible ever saw a shelf. It was open constantly, whatever room she was in, not just as an aid to prayer, but as a practical guide to every problem the day presented. Worship and daily living were, for Ruth, not separate things. Chores, games, school work, nature, study – she wove all of it into the fabric of faith.

 

 

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

 

Do we seek protection in the fortified “city of God” and strength from the Lord, the “eternal Rock”? Do we truly seek the will of the Father and his kingdom by building our life upon Christ, the foundation Rock? 

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

You are the rock-foundation of our life.

Instill our day-to-day options with your wisdom.

Make us firm in our choices for you.

Help us as we work for the advent of your kingdom.

Maranatha! Come, O Christ the Lord!

You live and reign, forever and ever.

            Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“The Lord is an eternal Rock.” (Is 26:4)  

 

 

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

 

When buffeted with challenges and difficulties in life, seek the protection of God and draw strength from his life-giving word. Share the inner strength of God with the people around you whose faith seems to be weak.

 

*** *** ***

 

December 6, 2019: FRIDAY – ADVENT WEEKDAY (1)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Joy-Giving Light”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 29:17-24 // Mt 9:27-31

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 9:27-31): “Believing in Jesus, two who were blind were cured.”

(Gospel Reflection by Bishop Joseph Mukala, India)

 

All those who sought Jesus for a cure or miracle needed to have faith in him and his power to heal. When that was not evident, he evoked that faith from them. In today’s Gospel passage, he asked whether they believed that he could do what they were imploring from him. They humbly answered “yes”. The two intercessors did not complain to Jesus that they were blind nor did they lament their situation. No! Rather, they just accepted in all humility their limitations and expressed their faith in Jesus who could cure and make them whole. Without trust and confidence in him, nothing much could be done for them. With their faith-filled “Yes”, Jesus granted them their request. The two blind men knew what the Messiah would do in his time. So they called upon him using the messianic title, “Son of David” that he might bring sight to their blindness. They were right in calling Jesus “Son of David”. Their simple faith and humility were eventually rewarded.

 

It is strange that Jesus asked them not to share the news with others. Is this possible? Jesus is not interested in being a sensation; he does not want people to have the wrong idea about his mission. But the healed blind men ignored his appeal and went about telling everyone what happened. They had regained not only physical sight, but also “in-sight”. Finally they could see who Jesus really is - the word of God and healer. They could not keep it for themselves. Indeed, the “good” news had to be shared.

 

B. First Reading (Is 29:17-24): “On that day, the eyes of the blind shall see.”

   

Blindness is often a metaphor for lack of knowledge and for obduracy of heart. The two blind men in today’s Gospel who followed Jesus, crying out, “Son of David, have pity on us!” already “know” Jesus and trust in him. Spiritually they are not blind. The miracle that restores their physical sight is a confirmation of the light of faith that enlightens their soul and enables them to perceive Jesus as the Messiah.

 

In the Old Testament reading (Is 29:17-24) there is the metaphor of blindness and deafness to indicate the mendacious state of the people in Judah. They have no “knowledge” of the ways of God and refuse to listen to his life-giving word. As a consequence of their “hardness”, tyrants oppress them and cause misery and affliction. The Lord God, however, promises redemption and transformation. The removal of ruthless tyrants is a messianic sign, as well as the return of the “knowledge of God” upon the land. The image of the deaf able to hear and the blind able to see, and the image of the Lebanon trees being transformed into an orchard and finally into a forest indicate a great reversal. God, in his marvelous goodness, is able to lead the people “out of gloom and darkness” into the light of the knowledge of God. The prophet Isaiah completes his messianic vision with the following words: “Those who err in spirit shall acquire understanding, and those who find fault shall receive instruction.”

 

The following is an example of a physically blind person who has learned to “really see” and to bask in the joy-giving “light” of God (cf. Karen Valentin in Daily Guideposts 2014, p. 383).

 

Janet Eckles, a fellow Latina and author, invited my family and me to her home. I’d been looking forward to meeting her after hearing about her book Simply Salsa. After losing her sight, struggling in her marriage, and grieving the murder of her teenage son, she began to encourage others in their own struggles.

 

She was every bit the radiant and energetic spirit I imagined. Meeting her was inspiring and exciting, but I was mortified when my father spoke about his fear of going blind. He’d had an optical stroke that blinded his left eye and later had cataracts removed in his right one. “I don’t know what I’d do if I ever went completely blind”, he said. “I don’t think I could handle that!”

 

Janet grabbed his hand and said with a laugh, “Are you kidding me? Going blind is the best thing that ever happened to me! I learned to appreciate things I had taken for granted before. It led me to new and exciting career, and I discovered things I could do in spite of my blindness and found adventure in that.”

 

Father wasn’t trying to offend, and Janet wasn’t at all insulted. Instead, she assured my father and reminded all of us that we can find joy and purpose in whatever circumstances come our way.

 

 

 

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

 

Do we welcome the “advent” of Christ into our life to bring about our rebirth “out of gloom and darkness” into the light of the knowledge of God?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you are our light and salvation.

Heal the blindness of our heart.

In your light we see light.

Help us to work for the advent of your joy-giving light to others

that they too may have a seeing heart.

Maranatha! Come, O Christ the Lord!

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.

 

“And out of gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see.” (Is 29:18) 

 

 

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

 

Pray for those who are blinded in heart that they may see light. Gently introduce someone to the radiant light of Christ in the Word and the Eucharist.

    

 

*** *** ***

December 7, 2019: SATURDAY – SAINT AMBROSE, Bishop, Doctor of the Church

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Merciful One”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 30:19-21 // Mt 9:35-10:1, 5a, 6-8

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 9:35-10:1, 5a, 6-8): “At the sight of the crowds, Jesus’ heart was moved with pity for them.”

(Gospel Reflection by Bishop Joseph Mukala, India)

  

The Gospel reading (Mt 9:35-10:1, 5a, 6-8) underlines that Jesus Christ, the Master and the Healer, the Shepherd and the Guide, is “the Merciful One”. He visits God’s people, teaches in the synagogue and preaches the Good News of the Kingdom. He sees the crowd and is moved with pity for them because they are troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. His compassionate heart motivates him to dispatch his disciples on an “Advent mission”, that is, to proclaim the Gospel of salvation, a gift gratuitously received and that is to be gratuitously shared.

 

Pope Francis illustrates how to carry out the “Advent mission” entrusted to us by “the Merciful One” (cf. Nicole Winfield, “Pope Bolsters Charity Office to Be Near Needy” in Fresno Bee, November 29, 2013, p. A20).

 

When he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis was known to sneak out at night and break bread with the homeless, sit with them literally on the street and eat with them, as part of his aim to share the plight of the poor and let them know someone cared.

 

That’s not easy to do now that he’s a pope. But Francis is still providing one-on-one doses of emergency assistance to the poor, sick and aged through a trusted archbishop. Konrad Krajewski is the Vatican Almoner, a centuries-old job of handling out alms – and Francis has ramped up the job to make it an extension of his own personal charity.

 

As Americans gathered for Thanksgiving on Thursday, Krajewski described how Francis has redefined the little known office of papal almoner and explained the true meaning of giving during a chat with journalists over coffee and pastries a few steps from the Vatican gates. “The Holy Father told me at the beginning: ‘You can sell your desk. You don’t need it. You need to get out of the Vatican. Don’t wait for people to come ringing. You need to go out and look for the poor’,” Krajewski said.

 

He gets his marching orders each morning: a Vatican gendarme goes from the hotel where Francis lives to Krajewski’s office across the Vatican gardens, bringing a bundle of letters the pope has received from the faithful asking for help. On top of each letter, Francis might write “You know what to do” or “Go find them”.

 

And so Don Corrado, as he likes to be called, hits the streets of Rome and beyond. He visits homes for the elderly in the name of the pope, writes checks to the needy in the name of the pope – even traveled to the island of Lampedusa in the name of the pope after a migrant boat capsized, killing more than 350 people.

 

Over four days on Lampedusa, Krajweski brought 1,600 phone cards so the survivors could call loved ones back home in Eritrea to let them know they had made it. He also prayed with police divers as they worked to raise the dead from the sea floor. “This is the concept: Be with people and share their lives, even for 15, 30 minutes, an hour”, he said.

 

The existence of the Vatican Almoner dates back centuries: It is mentioned in a papal bull from the 13th-century. Pope Innocent III, and Pope Gregory X, who ruled from 1271-1276, organized it into an official Holy See office for papal charity. Until Krajewski came along, the almoner was typically an aging Vatican diplomat who was serving his final years before being allowed to retire at age 75.

 

 

B. First Reading (Is 30:19-21, 23-26): “The Merciful One will show you mercy when you cry out.”

 

Today’s First Reading (Is 30:19-21, 23-26) is one of the most comforting texts in the Sacred Scriptures. It assures us that the Merciful One will show mercy when we cry out to him. He will be gracious to those who trust in him. He will guide and show us the way and will be the Teacher to counsel us. He will give us the bread we need and the water we thirst for. Nature will produce abundantly and there will be prosperity. Above all, on the day of great distress and judgment, God will be a healer for those who have recourse to him. He will bind up the wounds of his people and heal the bruises brought about by his just punishment. The Advent figure of “the Merciful One” is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

   

On December 6 we celebrate the optional memorial of a 4th century saint, Saint Nicholas, bishop of Myra in Asia Minor, a model pastor noted for charity. Like Jesus, he is also a “merciful one”. He is popularized as Santa Claus, patron of children. He is also patron of bankers, pawnbrokers, sailors, perfumers, brides, unmarried women, travelers, fishermen, dock workers, brewers, poets, and prisoners, as well as of Russia, Greece, Sicily, Lorraine and Apulia in Italy, where his relics are enshrined in Bari. The life of charitable Saint Nicholas is filled with the “joy-giving light” of Christ. In celebrating Saint Nick we too share in that joy. The following personal account is heartwarming (cf. Nadine N. Doughty, “Season Started with St. Nick” in Country, December/January 2009, p. 61).

 

I wasn’t quite asleep, after all. A tiny sound of crackling cellophane roused me, and I opened my eyes. There, in the living room, I saw a plump figure – doing what, exactly? I shut my eyes quickly. It was St. Nicholas at work, and if he saw me awake, he might vanish!

 

No, it wasn’t Christmas Eve. In our family, we observed St. Nicholas’ Day weeks earlier. Every December 6, the generous saint of giving would celebrate his feast day by filling children’s stockings with goodies. My parents, who had German and Austrian roots, referred to the day as Nicolo, and every year they had my three brothers, my sister and me hang stockings on the old fieldstone fireplace. They’d even driven special nails into the mortar between the stones, just for that purpose.

 

Ready and Waiting: My red knee sock, my sister’s green one and my brothers’ white crew socks all made for a cheerful display. But it was nothing to the sight we knew would greet us the next morning! During the night, our parents said, good St. Nick would come to fill those stockings with delightful small surprises, and we’d see them as soon as we woke up. It made it almost impossible for us to fall asleep that night.

 

Sure enough, the next morning, the sight of those bulging stockings had us so excited that we usually didn’t wait until our parents were awake to raid them! What caused us such excitement? Living during the Great Depression was enough to make us see just about anything he’d leave as a genuine treat. So we’d exclaim over such riches as a pocket comb, or the notebooks we each got, every one with a cover in a different color. The older kids might get a penknife. I still recall fondly the colored pencils I got, and a blue velvet hair ribbon that I kept for years.

 

Sweet Treats: We’d all be thrilled to find apple and banana-shaped marzipan, a delectable almond-and-sugar candy that was a rare treat for us. And at the very bottom of each stocking were tucked a traditional orange and some nuts we could crack and crunch. We didn’t usually eat those oranges right away, but kept them so we could savor the anticipation of the rare and delicious flavor! After we showed everyone our treasures, the Christmas season was officially on. There’d be projects to sew, carve, draw or paint as gifts for every family member. Some had already been started, but now we knew we had to hurry to finish them in time for Christmas.

 

As we grew older, we’d start to give more elaborate Christmas gifts, often ones that required special shopping trips. Nicolo, though, remained our family’s simple, fun and special way to begin the Christmas season.

 

 

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

 

Are our hearts like that of Jesus, filled with compassion for others? What do we do to live fully our “Advent mission” as instruments of “the Merciful One”?

 

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

in you is the advent of “the Merciful One”.

You bind our wounds

and heal the bruises caused by our sinful offenses.

You nourish us with the food of eternal life

and make us drink at the font of salvation.

You have lightened our hearts with the Gospel you preach.

Now you dispatch us on an “Advent mission” to the nations.

Be with us and help us mirror to them your divine mercy.

Maranatha! Come, O Christ the Lord!

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

  

“He was moved with pity for them.” (Mt 9:36)

 

 

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

 

Pray for all missionaries in the world. By your kind words and charitable deeds to the people around you, especially the poor, the sick and the needy, let them experience the saving power of the Gospel and the compassionate heart of “the Merciful One”.

 

*** *** *** 

 

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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