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A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 17, n. 39)

Week 21 in Ordinary Time: August 25-31, 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: August 18-24, 2019 please go to ARCHIVES Series 17 and click on “Week 20 Ordinary Time”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: August 25-31, 2019.)

 

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August 25, 2019: TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

   “JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Us to the Feast of the Kingdom”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 66:18-21 // Heb 12:5-7, 11-13 // Lk 13:22-40

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 13:22-30): “They will come from east and west and recline at the table of the kingdom of God.”

 

In the Poverello News (February 2004), I read this beautiful story which is an example of one’s total response to God’s offer of salvation.

 

On May 10, 1748, a ship was being violently buffeted by a brutal storm. The captain of the vessel, thinking that death was imminent, prayed in desperation. The captain, John Newton, was not the praying kind. Nicknamed “The Great Blasphemer”, he was a debauched, profane seaman who plied the most despicable trade imaginable: he was a slave trafficker. After his fervent prayer, the storm ceased and the sea calmed.

 

Newton’s deliverance from death had a profound effect on him. He contemplated his life and saw, perhaps for the first time, the full extent of his misery, corruption, and moral ruin. That day was a turning point in his life, a day that ultimately led him to reject his loathsome profession, enter Christian ministry, and later become a key influence in the life of William Wilberforce, a man who had a major role in abolishing slavery in England.

 

However, Newton is not known for his biography. He is best remembered for a hymn he composed. That hymn is today sung all over the world, heard mournfully played by bagpipes at funerals, and is still powerful enough to bring tears to many who hear it. The hymn is “Amazing Grace”. Perhaps it has so much force because it is Newton’s heart-felt confession:

 

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound,

That saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see.

 

John Newton’s conversion beautifully depicts Jesus’ words: “And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God. For behold some are last who will be first, and some who are first who will be last”. His wholehearted response to God’s “amazing grace” that saved a “wretch” like him enables him to participate in the feast of God’s kingdom.

 

Today’s Gospel delves into the rich significance of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and teaches us about God’s plan of salvation for all. The evangelist Luke reminds us that Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem to fulfill the saving plan of his passion, death and resurrection. It is in the context that someone asks the common enough question: “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” Jesus does not answer directly, but prods him with a challenge: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough”. The Divine Master thus underlines the need to respond to the call of God’s kingdom that is offered to all.

  

The invitation to God’s kingdom is urgent and impelling. Aelred Rosser asserts: “We have a taste of carpe diem literature here. Seize the day! The mini-parable makes the point that we must acknowledge Jesus as master when the opportunity, call, or challenge comes. It’s possible that we will no longer recognize them when they come. God will never stop offering moments of grace, and the Spirit will prompt us all our lives with impulses to reform and do the right thing. The danger is not that grace will dry up and the opportunity for eternal happiness will be withdrawn. No, God is faithful. The danger is that we will dry up and will develop such a thick crust of insensitivity that grace will have difficulty soaking in.  And yet, in the end, it is God’s will to save us.  This is the good news. It is never too late.”

    

 

B. First Reading (Is 66:18-21): “They shall bring all your brothers and sisters from all the nations.”

 

When I was a student in Rome, I wanted to participate in the Pope’s Easter Sunday Mass at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City. One day I was given the chance. Together with one PDDM Sister who had worked many years as a missionary abroad and was in her native Italy for a visit, I headed off very early to the Vatican for the Eucharistic celebration to be presided by Pope John Paul II. That Easter Sunday was drenched with early spring rain and was quite chilly. We waited for about two hours sitting patiently and praying silently as the gentle drops of rain fell upon us like an Easter benediction. The pilgrims gathered at St. Peter’s Square were from all over the world. They were from different races, cultures and nations. They were serene and peaceful, wrapped in a raincoat or protected by an umbrella, and quite undeterred by the rain. As I surveyed that delightful throng of peoples from all nations, I was overwhelmed with fascination. The prophet Isaiah’s glorious vision of the gathering of peoples in Jerusalem (Is 66:18-21) was being fulfilled there and then in the assembly of Christian believers, the Church - the “new city” Jerusalem. Moreover, immersed in that beautiful mosaic of peoples, cultures and tongues, I was savoring the truth that Jesus revealed concerning universal salvation: “And people will come from the east and the west, and from the north and the south and will recline at the table of the kingdom of God” (Lk 13:29). When Pope John Paul started the Mass, the rain had abated. Gathered around the Eucharistic table, the pilgrims from all nations rejoiced in the joy of the Risen Lord, who underwent the rigors of the paschal destiny of his suffering and death, in order to bring about the salvation of all peoples and the entire creation. At the end of the Easter Mass, the Holy Father extended his Easter greetings to the nations of the world in more than one hundred languages. That Easter experience of “universal salvation” and the intense “catholic” character of the Church was a precious moment to cherish. It was for me a source of abounding delight.

 

This Sunday’s Old Testament reading (Is 66:18-21), the finale of Isaiah’s prophecy, depicts his vision of “the gathering of nations of every language” on the holy mountain, Jerusalem, and underlines the missionary vocation of the redeemed “to proclaim the glory of the Lord among the nations”. In poetic language, the prophet Isaiah makes it very clear how encompassing and all-inclusive is God’s saving plan. The vocation of Israel is to broaden its horizons and realize that God wills all people to be saved, and not just the Jews. In the divine plan of salvation, messengers will be sent to nations that do not yet know the Lord. The messengers of God will proclaim his glory to distant lands – to all directions surrounding Jerusalem: to Tarshish in southern Spain, to Put and Lud in northern Africa, to Tubal near the Black Seas, to Mosoch in Asia Minor, and to Javan in the Greek Ionian Islands. In effect, the message of salvation needs to be proclaimed to the ends of the earth.

 

Moreover, the prophet Isaiah declares that peoples of all nations will journey to Jerusalem, using every possible means of transportation: “on horses and in chariots, in carts, upon mules and dromedaries”. Indeed, there is a cultic dimension to this pilgrimage. Peoples from all nations would be presented as “an offering to the Lord” just as “the Israelites bring their offering to the house of the Lord in clean vessels”. All peoples will offer a pure sacrifice pleasing to God. The corporate worship of earth’s peoples is a sign of the ultimate unity willed by God. Isaiah then climaxes his universal mission with a tremendous statement about the Gentiles taking their place in the priesthood: “Some of those I will take as priests and Levites, says the Lord” (Is 66:21).

 

The liturgical scholar Adrian Nocent remarks: “How can we avoid seeing in these texts an image of the Church, which Vatican Council II speaks of as a sign lifted up among the nations (in an allusion to Is 11:12) and a sign under which the scattered children of God may be gathered together (cf. Jn 11:52)? The vision of the prophet is to be found again in the Apocalypse: an immense throng from every nation, race, people, and tongue, all standing before the throne and his Lamb (Apoc 7:9). The Church of our day must live by this vision; it is this vision that explains her missionary activity. She is a sign of Christ, who, being lifted up from the earth, draws to himself God’s scattered children.”

 

 

C. Second Reading (Heb 12:5-7, 11-13): “Those whom the Lord loves, he disciplines.”

 

The Second Reading (Heb 12:5-7, 11-13) asserts that those whom the Lord loves, he disciplines. Graziano and Nancy Seitz Marcheschi remark: “Trials are a sign of God’s love, God’s way of tilling the soil to bring forth the peaceful fruit of righteousness … The author suggests that discipline is a real proof of filial relationship, presumably because fathers might not love illegitimate children enough to invest time and effort in their upbringing … Christ is our model. He was God’s only Son, yet he endured the discipline of the cross … If we suffer without understanding, pain is meaningless. But when we see God’s hand in the discipline, we can endure. Then our grace is inestimable, and we can even rejoice in what others see as sorrow.”

 

The following testimony circulated on the Internet, “An Iranian Muslim Encounters the Living Word” by Afshin Javid, is remarkable. It illustrates the divine call to universal salvation, the full response to that call in Jesus Christ, and the discipline of suffering it entails. Afshin and his wife now lead a church in North Vancouver and recently started a ministry called I AM THIRSTY .

 

I was born into a Shiite Muslim family in Iran. At age 12, I began to fulfill my duties toward Allah: praying, fasting and reading his book every day, doing all I could to make him happy. In my teens, I joined the Hezbollah militant group; three years later, I had to leave Iran. At age 17, I was in Malaysia. I was arrested for possession of 30 illegal passports, and imprisoned. My Sunni Muslim captors asked me to teach the Koran, and to lead the mosque in the prison.

 

Jinns: In the Koran, it is believed that there are good and bad jinns, or genies and that it is not taboo to use their powers. I had gained powers from these spiritual forces, and one day, while I was reading the Koran in my jail cell, a dark spirit appeared that was more powerful than I could handle. I tried sending it away or fighting it, but I had no strength. I read the scriptures and called the Shahada, the statement of faith, but nothing helped. I cried out: “God, would you help me?” and I heard a voice saying, “Bring the name of Jesus.” I felt like I was drowning; without thinking, I said “Jesus, if you are true, help me!” Before I finished, everything was back to normal. That was not the point of my conversion, rather, the point of confusion. I wondered: why would Jesus Christ help me, when I believed in Mohammed? That question ate at me, until I couldn’t stand it anymore. I knew the problem could not lay with me, because I believed Islam so deeply that I was willing to kill for it. I prayed and fasted for two weeks, and asked the same question again and again. I said to God: “I want to know if there is one way to you, or many different ways. I want to know the way you have called me to.” After two weeks without an answer, I was upset and decided God didn’t exist and if he did, he couldn’t hold me responsible at the Day of Judgment, because I had asked about him and he didn’t respond. I told him that, from then on, I would follow my own desires. It felt as if I’d drawn a line for God on the ground.

 

Forgiveness: It was then that the cell was filled with his presence. Simultaneously, I felt all the weight of my sins and how I deserved to die. I cried out: “Forgive me!” I repeated that again and again, until I felt a touch on my shoulder and a voice said, “I forgive you.” At that very moment I felt forgiven; and the burden of my sins was lifted off my shoulders. In Islam, we are never sure of our forgiveness in the present; we must wait until the Day of the Judgment to know if we have been forgiven. I asked: “Who are you, that you forgive me and I feel forgiven at this very moment?” He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” I asked, “What does that mean? What is your name?” He said, “I am Jesus Christ, the living God”; and the moment he spoke those words, I fell on the floor as though I had no bones in my body. Tears fell from my eyes. All my emotions ran through me at once. I had lost total control. I was sad and happy; I was angry, yet joyful. Sad because I had been away from the house I belonged to; joyful to know where I belonged to have the knowledge of truth. I was angry that they had lied to me, and I had wasted so many years trying to please a god you can never be sure of. I cried at his feet. Two hours passed, until he said, “Afshin, look up”. I saw images of people from all over the world; I could see their sins, and I was overwhelmed. I said, “Lord, I live amongst all these sinners.” And he said, “Afshin, how easily did I forgive you?” I said, “Very easy, Lord.” He replied, “I can forgive them as easily, but who is going to tell them?”

 

Go Tell Them: I said, “Me, Lord, I will go. I will tell them.” He said, “Go, tell them; I’ll be with you.” I ran from the cell, while the Lord stood there. I told some of the other prisoners how I had become a Christian. But it didn’t go as I’d hoped. Malaysia was still a Muslim country. Some accused me of having gone mad; some called me an infidel. But the Lord’s presence protected me. I told people stories of how Jesus had done many miracles, but after a while, I asked myself: “How do you know these stories are true?” I decided that, if I told stories for the glory of God, it didn’t matter if they weren’t true. But then I felt rebuked. I felt him say, “I am the God of all truth; I don’t need lies to be glorified.” I said, “I don’t know where these stories come from. I just tell them as they come to mind. Would you send me a Bible? I will read that, and I will tell it accordingly to the stories that are written.” The next day, a fellow prisoner approached me, looking at me in a strange way. I knew he was a convicted murderer and I stood ready to fight, filled with anger. He looked at me straight in the eyes, and said: “This is for you; this is what you asked for”, and handed me a book. Nothing was written on the cover, but I knew what it was.

 

The Wrong Bible: I snatched the Bible from his hand, ran to my cell and held it close. I cried, kissed the book and said, “Thank you, God; you’re so great. I prayed, and you gave me what I prayed for.” I thought, “This God is so almighty; he’s so prompt to answer the prayers of his people.” When I opened the book, I realized that God had made a mistake. He had sent me the wrong Bible! It was written in a language I couldn’t read. I said, “God, thank you for sending me this Bible, but I cannot read this.” I felt him say, “Read it”. I said, “You know I cannot.” I was prompted in my heart: “Read”. And I said, “I cannot. I’ll wait, and tomorrow you’ll have someone send me a Farsi one.” He said, “Read this book now.” I knew I had to show God I couldn’t read it, to get him to provide me with the Farsi Bible. So I ran my eyes over the words, expecting God to notice that I understood none of them. But then, I found myself actually reading and understanding every word! I found someone who could read and understand the words, and told him what I thought it said. He asked how I understood English. I replied, “Is that the language I understand?” So, now I could read and understand English; yet when I tried to read an English newspaper, I couldn’t. I picked up the Bible again and I could read and understand. How was that possible? The Lord said to me: “You asked to read the Bible, not the newspaper.” I was amazed; for when I read the Bible, every story I had told about Jesus Christ was there in the exact same details.

 

The Living Word: As written in the Revelation, the whole world will pass away, but not one word of this Book will perish. Muslims were told that the Bible had been altered, and I’d never considered how foolish it is to believe a human could change the words of the living God. The Lord had proven to me that it was his living Word. People say how great it is that I have seen the Lord; but I respond with Jesus’ words: “Blessed are you who have not seen, and yet believe.” I am a man of little faith. God, in his mercy and grace, choose me according to his will, to show himself to me for his purposes. I am the least of all, the chief of all sinners and for that reason, God has chosen me to bear one message: that he is able to forgive all sinners as he has forgiven me. As Christians, we must realize the weight of responsibility of this message that is upon our shoulders. The Lord Jesus said: “You are the light of the world; you are the salt of the earth.” I ask myself always: “If I am the light and people are not coming from out of darkness to the light, how bright is my life? If I am the salt of the earth and the whole earth is rotting away, how salty am I? Am I good to be trampled upon, or preserved? I ask the Lord for help and say, “No more am I satisfied with a mediocre Christian life. I want to see your kingdom come; your will be done. I want to see your name be hallowed in the life of many, and to witness for you according to your purposes.” May God’s grace, mercy and love guard your heart. May his word burn like fire within your bones, so that you would not be able to keep quiet. May today be the day that you make a new covenant with the Lord and say, “Have me all; have me all.”

             

 

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

 

Do I believe that God wants all to be saved? What do I do to contribute to the fulfillment of God’s plan of universal salvation? Do I participate in the feast of God’s kingdom with joy and gratitude?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

your beloved Son Jesus Christ challenges us

to enter through the narrow gate that leads to salvation.

Help us to respond to that challenge

that we may have a share

in the feast of your kingdom.

Let us commit ourselves

to your plan of salvation

and experience the words of Jesus:

“And people will come from the east and the west

and from the north and the south

and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.”

            You are the Lord of the banquet,

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.

 

“And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.” (Lk 13:29) 

 

 

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

 

Study the text of John Newton’s “Amazing Grace” and sing it in a spirit of prayer. In any way you can, help the people in your parish community to celebrate more meaningfully the Eucharistic feast.

 

 

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August 26, 2019: MONDAY – WEEKDAY (21)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Rejects Hypocrisy … They Await Him, the Son Raised from the Dead”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

1 Thes 1:1-5, 8b-10 // Mt 23:13-22

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 23:13-22): “Woe to you, blind guides.”

 

In today’s Gospel (Mt 23:13-22), Jesus calls for integrity of heart. When our thoughts, words and actions do correspond to our ideals, we have integrity. Jesus confronts the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy and lack of integrity. To shake them up from complacency, he pronounces a series of woes upon them. The “woe” pronouncements manifest his concern for their self-destructive ways and serve as warnings of the unfortunate things to follow unless they change their ways. The scribes and Pharisees have rejected Jesus as Savior and likewise prevent others from entering the kingdom of God through Jesus. They have been zealous missionaries, but because of their false teachings their converts become worse than before. Their ridiculous discussions on what makes an “oath” binding express their perversion and evasion of truth. In an act of love, Jesus Master attempts to tear away their “masks” to bring them back to their senses and avert dire consequences.

 

The following story illustrates the hapless destiny of the fraudulent and hypocrite (cf. Anthony De Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations, New York: Image Books, 1988, p.132-133).

 

A seeker in search of a Master who would lead him to the path of holiness came to an ashram presided by a Guru who, in addition to having a great reputation for holiness, was also a fraud. But the seeker did not know him.

 

“Before I accept you as my disciple”, said the Guru, “I must test your obedience. There is a river flowing by the ashram that is infested with crocodiles. I want you to wade across the river.”

 

So great was the faith of the young disciple that he did just that. He walked across the river, crying, “All praise to the power of my Guru!” To the Guru’s astonishment, the man walked to the other bank unharmed.

 

This convinced the Guru that he was more of a saint than he himself had imagined, so he decided to give all his disciples a demonstration of his power and thereby enhance his reputation for holiness. He stepped into the river, crying, “All praise to me! All praise to me!”

 

The crocodiles promptly seized him and devoured him.

 

 

B. First Reading (I Thes 1:1-5, 8b-10): “You turned to God from idols to await his Son, whom he raised from the dead.”

 

In today’s First Reading (I Thes 1:1-5, 8b-10), Saint Paul bubbles with gratitude for the wonderful response of the Thessalonians to the Gospel. The community of believers in Thessalonica is marked by works of faith, labors of love and firm hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. Their commitment, concern and constancy inspire Paul to declare that God loves them and he has chosen them to be his own. The Thessalonians are imitators of Paul and of the Lord. They are also models for all believers. The news about their faith in God has gone everywhere. The people in Macedonia and Achaia speak of their hospitality and, above all, of their conversion: how they turned away from idols to God, to serve the true and living God and to await his Son Jesus, raised from the dead to be our deliverer.

 

The life of the poet Francis Thompson gives us insight into the conversion experience of the Thessalonians (cf. Wikipedia on the Internet).

 

Francis Thompson (16 December 1859 – 13 November 1907) was an English poet and ascetic. Born in Preston, Lancashire, his father Charles was a doctor who converted to Roman Catholicism, following his brother Edward Healy Thompson, a friend of Cardinal Manning. Thompson was educated at Ushaw College near Durham and then studied medicine at Owens College, now University of Manchester. He took no real interest in his studies and never practiced as a doctor, moving instead to London in 1885 to try to become a writer. Here he was reduced to selling matches and newspapers for a living.

 

During this time, he became addicted to opium, which he first had taken as medicine for ill health. Thompson started living on the streets of Charing Cross and sleeping by the River Thames, with the homeless and other addicts. He was turned down from Oxford University, not because he was unqualified, but because of his drug addiction. He would pick up newspapers and send letters to the editor. The editors would reply saying that there is a genius greater than Milton among us. Thompson left no return address, however, so the newspaper could not contact him.

 

Thompson lived a life of destitution until 1888 when he was “discovered” after sending his poetry to the magazine Merrie England. He was sought out by the editors of Merrie England, Wilfred and Alice Meynell, and rescued from the verge of starvation and self-destruction. Recognizing the value of his work, the couple gave him a home and arranged for the publication of his first book Poems in 1893. The book attracted the attention of sympathetic critics in St. James’ Gazette and other newspapers, and Coventry Patmore wrote a eulogistic notice in the Fortnightly Review of January 1894.

 

Thompson subsequently lived as an invalid in Wales at Storrington. A lifetime of extreme poverty, ill-health, and an addiction to opium took a heavy toll on Thompson, even though he found success in his last years. Thompson attempted suicide in his nadir of despair, but was saved from completing the action through a vision which he believed to be that of a youthful poet Thomas Chatterton, who had committed suicide almost a century earlier. Shortly afterwards, a prostitute – whose identity Thompson never revealed – befriended him, gave him lodgings and shared her income with him. Thompson was later to describe her in his poetry as his savior. She soon disappeared, however, never to return. He would eventually die from tuberculosis at the age of 48.

 

His most famous poem “The Hound of Heaven” describes the pursuit of the human soul by God. (…) The 182-line poem was the source of much of Thompson’s posthumous reputation. One of the most loved and possibly one of the more difficult Christian poems to read, “The Hound of Heaven” has been loved for over a century. It is not, however, a poem that most people can read without some background.

 

The following explanation is offered: “The name is strange. It startles one at first. It is so bold, so new, so fearless. It does not attract, rather the reverse. But when one reads the poem this strangeness disappears. The meaning is understood. As the hound follows the hare, never ceasing in its running, ever drawing nearer in the chase, with unhurrying and imperturbed pace, so does God follow the fleeing soul by His Divine Grace. And though in sin or in human love, away from God it seeks to hide itself, Divine Grace follows after, unwearyingly follows ever after, till the soul feels its pressure forcing it to turn to Him alone in that never ending pursuit. (cf. Neumann Press, Book of Verse, 1988)

 

 

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

 

1. Do I have sentiments and attitudes that do not build up integrity of heart? Am I guilty of hypocrisy? If so, what do I do to overcome this?

 

2. Like the Thessalonians, have we really turned to God from idols to await his Son, whom he raised from the dead?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you love us deeply.

You care for our well-being.

You wish to convert us

from our hypocrisy and evil ways.

Help us to have integrity of heart

and seek true holiness in you.

Live in us that we may live in you.

Teach us to be steadfast in faith

even in trials and persecutions.

Let us be glorified in you, and you in us,

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

***

Loving God,

we thank you for the Gospel

that has come to us through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Help us to turn away from idols to serve you,

the true and living God.

Bless us with your wisdom and grace

as we await your Son Jesus Christ,

raised from the dead as our Redeemer.

We bless 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 week. Please memorize it.

 

“Woe to you, blind guides.” (Mt 23:16) //“You turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” (I Thes 1:9)

 

 

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

 

Today make a conscious effort to unite with Jesus every act of charity that you do, every kind word that you speak, every gracious thought that you think and every compassionate sentiment that you feel. // Pray for those suffering from drug addiction and substance-alcohol abuse. Do what you can to help them overcome their addiction and be completely healed of their brokenness.

 

 

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August 27, 2019: TUESDAY – SAINT MONICA

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Us to Greater Authenticity … His Disciples Share the Gospel and Their Very Selves”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

1 Thes 2:1-8 // Mt 23:23-26

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 23:23-26): “But these you should have done, without neglecting the others.”

 

In today’s Gospel (Mt 22:23-26), we continue to listen to Jesus’ “woe” pronouncements that are meant to lead us on the path of authenticity and integrity. He laments the legalism and externalism of the scribes and Pharisees. They are preoccupied with minutiae like paying the tithe on seasoned herbs, but neglect the really important teachings of the Law, such as justice, mercy, and faithfulness. The perversion of their priorities is such that they are virtually straining out the gnat while swallowing the camel. Their concern for external observance is symbolized by vessels that are washed merely on the outside. Inner purity, however, is not obtained by external correctness in religious observance, but by cleaning up our inner dispositions. Sometimes we have moments of hypocrisy when we try to appear what we are not, especially in the area of personal worth. We also tend to have recourse to legalism because it presents the easy way out of our moral obligations. Indeed, trying to be good is more demanding than merely looking good. It is also easier to fulfill religious observances than concern ourselves with works of justice and compassion and to endeavor to translate our faith into action.

 

The following story gives insight into the Christian call for greater authenticity and charity (cf. Anthony De Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations, New York: Image Books, 1988, p. 33-34).

 

There was once a woman who was religious and devout and filled with love for God. Each morning she would go to church. And on her way children would call out to her, beggars would accost her, but so immersed was she in her devotions that she did not even see them.

 

Now one day she walked down the street in her customary manner and arrived at the church just in time for service. She pushed the door, but it would not open. She pushed it again harder, and found the door was locked.

 

Distressed at the thought that she would miss service for the first time in years, and not knowing what to do, she looked up. And there, right before her face, she found a note pinned to the door.

 

It said, “I’m out there!”

 

 

B. First Reading (I Thes 2:1-8): “We were determined to share with you not only the Gospel of God, but our very selves as well.”

 

In the reading (I Thes 2:1-8), we hear of the generous and selfless service of Saint Paul and his companions. The apostles share the Good News and their very selves. They evangelize by word and deed – by their life and teaching. The apostles are upright and without deception. They are men of integrity and sterling qualities. Hence, they are marvelous models for all who must transmit the Gospel through ages to come. The response of the Thessalonians to the Gospel and to the personal witnessing of Saint Paul and his companions is marvelous. They rightly discern that what they hear is the word of God and not merely human words. The apostles are grateful to God for their faith response and heartened that God works in those who believe.

 

The life of Saint Monica is an example of how a Christian believer shares with others, especially with her family, the Gospel of God and her very self as well (cf. Wikipedia on the Internet).

 

Saint Monica (AD 331-387), also known as Monica of Hippo, was an early Christian saint and the mother of St. Augustine of Hippo. She is honored in the Roman Catholic Church where she is remembered and venerated for her outstanding Christian virtues, particularly her suffering caused by the adultery of her husband and a prayerful life dedicated to the reformation of her son, who wrote extensively of her pious acts and life with her in his Confessions. Popular Christian legend recalls Saint Monica to have wept every night for her son Augustine.

 

Because of her name and place of birth, Monica is assumed to have been of Berber origin. She was married early in life to Patricius, who held an official position in Tagaste (present-day Souk Ahras, Algeria). Patricius was a pagan, though like so many at that period, his religion was no more than a name. His temper was violent and he appears to have been of dissolute habits. Consequently Monica’s married life was far from being a happy one, more especially as Patricius’ mother seems to have been of a like disposition with himself. There was, of course, a gulf between husband and wife. Her alms, deeds and her habits of prayer annoyed him, but it was said that he always held her in a sort of reverence. Monica was not the only matron of Tagaste whose married life was unhappy, but, by her sweetness and patience, she was able to exercise a good example amongst the wives and mothers of her native town. They knew that she suffered as they did, and her words and example had a proportionate effect.

 

Monica had three children: Augustine the eldest, Navigius the second, and a daughter Perpetua. Monica had been unable to secure baptism for her children and she experienced much grief when Augustine fell ill. In her distress she asked Patritius to allow Augustine to be baptized. Patricius agreed, but on the boy’s recovery withdrew his consent.

 

All Monica’s anxiety now centered in Augustine. He was wayward and, as he himself tells us, lazy. He was sent to school at Madaraus. Her husband Patricius subsequently became a Christian. Meanwhile, Augustine had been sent to Carthage to pursue his studies, and here he lived dissolutely. Patricius died very shortly after converting to Christianity and Monica decided not to marry again.

 

At Carthage Augustine had become a Manichean and when on his return home he shared his views regarding Manichaeism, Monica drove him away from her table. However, she is said to have experienced a strange vision that convinced her to reconcile with her son.

 

It was at this time that she went to see a certain holy bishop, whose name is not given, but who consoled her with the now famous words, “the child of tears shall never perish”. Monica followed her wayward son to Rome where he had gone secretly. When she arrived he had already gone to Milan, but she followed him. Here she found St. Ambrose and through him she ultimately had the joy of seeing Augustine convert to Christianity, after seventeen years of resistance.

 

In his book Confessions, Augustine wrote of a peculiar practice of his mother in which she “brought to certain oratories, erected in the memory of the saints, offerings of porridge, bread and wine”. When she moved to Milan, the bishop Ambrose forbade her to use the offering of wine since “it might be an occasion of gluttony for those who were already given to drink”. So Augustine wrote of her: “In place of a basket filled with fruits of the earth, she had learned to bring to the oratories of the martyrs a heart full of purer petitions, and to give all that she could to the poor – so that the communion of the Lord’s body might be rightly celebrated in those places where, after the example of his passion, the martyrs had been sacrificed and crowned” (Confessions 6.2.2).

 

Mother and son spent six months of true peace at Rus Cassisiacum (present-day Cassago Brianza) after which time Augustine was baptized in the church of St. John the Baptist at Milan. Africa claimed them, however, and they set out on their journey, stopping at Civitavecchia and at Ostia. Here, death overtook Monica and the finest pages of Augustine’s Confessions were penned as the result of the emotion he then experienced.

 

St. Monica is a patroness of those experiencing difficult marriages and disappointing children, victims of adultery or unfaithfulness, victims of verbal abuse, and the conversion of relatives.

 

 

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

 

1. How do we respond to the Christian call to greater authenticity, interiority and charity?

 

2. Like Saint Paul are we determine to share with others the Gospel of God and our very selves as well?

 

 

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

 

Jesus Master,

you call us to greater authenticity, interiority and charity.

Help us to purify our inner dispositions.

Grant us honesty and integrity of heart.

Be with us Jesus.

Let your spirit of love shape our life.

May we witness to the world

the beauty of being a true Christian.

May we hold fast to the sacred traditions handed on to us

in and through the Church.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

***

O loving God,

we thank you for the example

of Saint Paul the Apostle and all the saints

in sharing with others the Gospel and their very selves.

Help us to bring to fruition

the message of salvation you have entrusted to us.

Give us the grace

to give the light of hope to the world.

Make us true and loving disciples of Jesus Christ.

We give you glory and praise, now and forever.

Amen.  

 

 

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

 

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

 

 “You have neglected the weightier things of the law.” (Mt 23:23) //“We were determined to share with you not only the Gospel of God, but our very selves as well.” (I Thes 2:8)

 

 

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

 

Open your eyes to the people around you today. Thank the Lord for the goodness you see. Beg the Lord for the grace to assist those who are lonely and needy. // Pray for greater harmony in family relationships. Be a channel of peace for feuding family members and those experiencing misunderstanding.

 

 

*** *** ***

August 28, 2019: WEDNESDAY – SAINT AUGUSTINE, Bishop, Doctor of the Church

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us the Meaning of True Religion … Working Night and Day His Disciples

Proclaim the Gospel”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

2 Thes 2:9-13 // Mt 23:27-32

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 23:27-32): “You are the children of those who murdered the prophets.”

 

In today’s Gospel reading (Mt 23:27-32) Jesus completes his litany of woes against the scribes and Pharisees. To pronounce a “woe” on someone or some groups is to express grief at their sorry state and to warn them of the dire consequences to follow. Indeed, it is terrible for the scribes and Pharisees because on account of their hypocrisy they are like whitewashed tombs that look fine on the outside, but are full of bones and decaying corpses on the inside. So wide is the gap between external appearance and internal reality that Jesus’ opponents may be compared to “whitewashed tombs”, the interior of which is the supreme degree of rottenness and uncleanness. They appear righteous, but inside they are filled with wrongdoing.

 

In the last “woe” that Jesus pronounces against the scribes and Pharisees, he condemns their practice of building fine tombs for the prophets and of decorating the monuments of the righteous. They do not really honor them, but instead perpetuate the violence committed by their ancestors. As descendants of those who have persecuted the prophets, they do not make an effort to renounce their wicked ways. They continue to persecute and shed the blood of the innocent. This final “woe” evokes the violent death that Jesus would suffer on the cross through the instigation of the scribes and Pharisees and of the persecution that the Christian community would endure through the ages.

 

The following story and lesson give insight into the perversion of religion and into the meaning of true religion (cf. Anthony de Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations, New York: Image Books, 1988, p. 73).

 

A Hindu Sage was having The Life of Jesus read to him When he learned how Jesus was rejected by his people in Nazareth, he exclaimed, “a rabbi whose congregation does not want to drive him out of town isn’t a rabbi.”

 

And when he heard how it was the priests who put Jesus to death, he said with a sigh, “It is hard for Satan to mislead the whole world, so he appoints prominent ecclesiastics in different parts of the globe.”

 

The lament of a bishop: “Wherever Jesus went there was a revolution; wherever I go people serve tea!”

 

When a million people follow you, ask yourself where you have gone wrong.

 

 

B. First Reading (I Thes 2:9-13): “Working night and day we proclaimed to you the Gospel of God.”

 

Today’s First Reading (I Thes 2:9-13) underlines the deep concern of Paul and his fellow missionaries for the Thessalonians. They are so full of love for them that they not only want to share with them the Good News from God but even their own lives. Saint Paul and his companions show concern for their converts by their working for their keep so as not to be a burden to them. It is easy to imagine Paul, the tentmaker, preaching the Gospel even while he is employed in his workshop. He toils from sunrise to sunset and he prays “night and day”. They also show their concern by their upright and blameless conduct toward the believers and by exhorting and encouraging them as a father treats his children. The Thessalonians respond positively to the work of evangelization. They have accepted the Gospel not as man’s message but as God’s message that is at work in those who believe. And for this reason they are filled with praise and thanksgiving to God.

 

The life of Saint Augustine illustrates both the dynamic of conversion as well as the loving concern of the apostles in their work of evangelization (cf. Wikipedia on the Internet).

 

Augustine was born in 354 in the municipium of Tagaste (now Souk Ahras, Algeria) in Roman Africa. His father, Patricius, was a pagan and his mother Monica was a Christian. It is assumed that his mother Monica was of Berber origin on the basis of her name, but as his family were honestiores, an upper class of citizens known as honorable men, Augustine’s first language is likely to have been Latin. At the age of 11, he was sent to school at Madaurus (now M’Daourouch), a small Numidian city about 19 miles south of Tagaste. There he became familiar with Latin literature as well as pagan beliefs and practices. His first insight into the nature of sin occurred when he and a number of friends stole fruit they didn’t even want from a neighborhood garden. This echoes nicely with his conversion which also involved a garden later in life.

 

At age 17, through the generosity of fellow citizen Romanianus, Augustine went to Carthage to continue his education in rhetoric. Although raised as a Christian, Augustine left the Church to follow the Manichaean religion, much to the despair of his mother Monica. As a youth Augustine lived a hedonistic lifestyle for a time, associated with young men who boasted of their sexual exploits with women and urged inexperienced boys, like Augustine, to seek out experiences or to make up stories about experiences in order to gain acceptance and avoid ridicule. It was during this period that he uttered his famous prayer, “Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.”

 

At a young age, he began an affair with a young woman in Carthage. Possibly because his mother wanted him to marry a person of his class, the woman remained his lover for over thirteen years and gave birth to his son Adeodatus, who was said to have been extremely intelligent. He abandoned her finally on his conversion in 389 when the boy was 17.

 

During the years 373 and 374, Augustine taught grammar in Tagaste. The following year he moved to Carthage to conduct a school of rhetoric and would remain there for the next nine years. Disturbed by the unruly behavior of the students in Carthage, in 383 he moved to establish a school in Rome, where he believed the best and brightest rhetoricians practiced. However, Augustine was disappointed with the Roman schools where he was met with apathy. Once the time came for his students to pay their fees, they simply fled. Manichaean friends introduced him to the prefect of the City of Rome Symmachus, who had been asked to provide a professor of rhetoric for the imperial court of Milan.

 

While still in Carthage, he had begun to move away from Manichaeism, in part because of a disappointing meeting with the Manichaean bishop Faustus of Mileve, a key exponent of Manichaean theology. In Rome he is reported to have completely turned away from Manichaeism and instead embraced Scepticism of the New Academy movement. At Milan his mother pressured him to become a Christian. Augustine’s own studies in Neoplatonism were also leading him in this direction and his friend Simplicianus urged him that way as well. But it would be the bishop of Milan, Ambrose, who had the most influence over Augustine. Like Augustine, Ambrose was a master of rhetoric, but older and more experienced.

 

Ambrose baptized Augustine, along with his son Adeodatus on the Easter Vigil in 387 in Milan. A year later, in 388, Augustine completed his apology “On the Holiness of the Catholic Church”. That year Adeodatus and Augustine returned to Africa, Augustine’s home country, during which trip Augustine’s mother Monica died. Upon their arrival, they began a life of aristocratic leisure at Augustine’s family property. Soon after, Adeodatus, too passed away. Augustine then sold his patrimony and gave the money to the poor. The only thing he kept was the family house, which he converted into a monastic foundation for himself and a group of friends.

 

He became a famous preacher (more than 350 preserved sermons are believed to be authentic) and was noted for combating the Manichaean religion to which he had formerly adhered. In 395 he was made coadjutor Bishop of Hippo and became full Bishop shortly thereafter, hence the name “Augustine of Hippo”, and gave his property to the Church of Tagaste. He remained in that position until his death in 430.

 

Augustine worked tirelessly in trying to convince the people of Hippo to convert to Christianity. Though he had left the monastery, he continued to lead a monastic life in the Episcopal residence. He left a Rule for his monastery that led to his designation as the “patron saint of regular clergy”.

 

Much of Augustine’s later life was recorded by his friend Possidius, bishop of Calama (present-day Guelma, Algeria), in his Sancti Augustini Vita. Possidius admired Augustine as a man of powerful intellect and a stirring orator who took every opportunity to defend Christianity against its detractors. Possidius also described Augustine’s personal traits in detail, drawing a portrait of a man who ate sparingly, worked tirelessly, despised gossip, shunned the temptations of the flesh, and exercised prudence in the financial stewardship of his See.

 

Augustine was canonized by popular acclaim and later recognized as a Doctor of the Church in 1298 by Pope Boniface VIII. His feast day is 28 August, the day on which he died. He is considered the patron saint of brewers, printers, theologians, those with sore eyes, and a number of cities and dioceses.

  

 

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

 

1. Are we, too, guilty of some blatant hypocrisy that we could be called “whitewashed tombs”?  If so, what can be done about it?

 

2. Like Saint Paul and Saint Augustine, do we work ceaselessly to proclaim the Gospel? Do we show true concern for the people being evangelized?

 

 

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

 

Almighty God,

your ways are just and merciful.

Teach us the meaning of religion

and give us the grace to worship you in spirit and truth.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

***

Lord God,

we thank you for the ceaseless toil

of Saint Paul and all the apostles

for the spread of the Gospel.

Help us to give witness to the Good News

by our pure conduct and blameless life.

Teach us to encourage

those called to share in the kingdom glory.

We thank you for the positive response

of many peoples to the Gospel,

welcoming it as your life-giving message.

We give you glory and praise, now and forever.

Amen.

 

  

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

 

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

 

“Woe to you, hypocrites” (Mt 23:27) //“We proclaimed to you the Gospel of God.” (I Thes 2:9)

 

 

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

 

At the Eucharistic celebration, participate in the ritual action consciously, actively and meaningfully so that you may be able to translate the meaning of the Eucharist into daily life. // To enhance the process of evangelization, introduce your family and friends to the practice of Lectio Divina, the prayerful reading of the Word of God.

 

*** *** ***

 

August 29, 2019: THURSDAY – THE PASSION OF JOHN THE BAPTIST

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Death Is Prefigured in the Passion of John the Baptist … He Makes Us Abound in Love”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

1 Thes 3:7-13 // Mt 6:17-29

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 6:17-29): “I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist”

 

 Today we recall the martyrdom of John the Baptist – his beheading by King Herod, who was tricked into it by his sister-in-law and wife, Herodias. It was made possible by her daughter Salome’s delightful dance that elicited a grandiose oath from the king, “I will grant you whatever you ask of me, even to half of my kingdom.”  Through the Gospel account (Mk 6:17-29), we realize how evil gains increasing momentum in Herod’s soul, inciting him from sensuousness to murder.

 

John the Baptist is the precursor of Christ in birth and death. Saint Bede the Venerable comments: “There is no doubt that blessed John suffered imprisonment and chains as a witness to our Redeemer, whose forerunner he was, and gave his life for him. His persecutor had demanded not that he should deny Christ, but only that he should keep silent about the truth. Nevertheless he died for Christ. Does Christ not say: I am the truth? Therefore, because John shed his blood for the truth, he surely died for Christ. Through his birth, preaching and baptizing, he bore witness to the coming birth, preaching and baptism of Christ, and by his own suffering he showed that Christ also would suffer.”

 

The persecution of Christians in today’s world results in the blood bath and the sacrificial passion of modern martyrs (cf. “Mob Murders Christian Couple” in Alive! December 2014, p. 3).

                                            

A Christian couple had been burnt alive by a mob in Pakistan after a Muslim mullah claimed they had desecrated the Koran. The married couple, in their twenties, had three children.

 

The owner of the brick factory where they worked is said to have locked them in an office so that they could not escape. Loudspeaker announcements from mosques in nearby villages branded them as “blasphemous”, saying they had burnt verses from the Koran and should be killed. A senior police officer said that at least 1,200 people gathered, broke their legs to prevent them from running away, then threw them into the factory furnace.

 

The killings have left Pakistan’s tiny Christian minority in fear and demanding the repeal of the “blasphemy laws”.

 

 

B. First Reading (1 Thes 3:7-13): “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all.”

 

In today’s First Reading (I Thes 3:7-13), Saint Paul, who is anxious to know how the faith of the Thessalonians is bearing up under pressure and persecution, gets Timothy’s assurance that the converts have remained steadfast. Their faith is so consoling to Paul in the midst of his own trouble and suffering. Paul is full of thanksgiving to God for the joy he has received from the Thessalonians and for the mutual encouragement. Paul prays constantly that he will be able to see them personally and thus supply them with whatever is still lacking in their faith. Above all, he prays that the Lord may make them increase and abound in love for one another and for all. As the believers flourish in love they will also grow in holiness and thus be ready to be in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all the saints in heaven.

 

The following story gives insight into the profound dimensions of Christian love (cf. Michael Massano, “Missioner Tales” in Maryknoll, September-October 2011, p.11).

 

About 10 years ago Samueli came to our House of Compassion, where the poorest of the poor are welcomed here in Musoma, Tanzania. He had been a pushcart worker loading sugar, rice and wood to be carried to local stores. When he began drinking heavily, his family abandoned him.

 

One of our volunteers discovered Samueli in a hospital, where he had been brought after he was found unconscious in the street. Father Godfried Biseko, founder of our home, asked the hospital to release Samueli to come and live with us.

 

Recently he became too weak to walk and is now confined to a wheelchair. But he loves to go outside to greet the sun. At the end of the day, as I get him ready and promise to see him tomorrow, he smiles. I smile too, having watched Samueli grow more content and self-confident as he has felt welcome.

 

The breastplate prayer of St. Patrick says, “Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ around me, Christ within me”. I cannot help but rejoice in the presence of Jesus shining through a man called Samueli.

 

 

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

 

1. Are we willing to give witness to Christ even to the point of sacrifice? How does the courageous witnessing of John the Baptist impact our own witnessing in today’s world?

 

2. Does our faith bear up under troubles and duress? Do we turn to God and to the community of faith for inner strength and encouragement?

 

 

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

 

God our Father,

you called John the Baptist

to be the herald of your Son’s birth and death.

As he gave his life in witness to truth and justice,

so may we strive to profess our faith in your Gospel.

Help us to show to the world

that your “foolishness” is wiser than human wisdom

and that your “weakness” is stronger than human strength.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

***

Heavenly Father,

we thank you for the inner strength you give us

when our faith is subjected to trials.

We thank you for the mutual encouragement we receive

as a community of faith.

Lord of mercy and compassion,

make us increase and abound in love for one another.

Help us to be blameless in holiness

for the coming of your Son Jesus Christ.

We give you glory and praise, now and forever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

            “Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man.” (Mk 6:20) //“May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all.” (1 Thes 3:12)

 

  

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

 

Inspired by John the Baptist’s life witnessing, endeavor to live fully the Christian virtues in today’s world. Pray that the Christians in the modern world may have the wisdom, courage and strength to proclaim Christ crucified. In any way you can, assist the persecuted Christians in today’s world. // Resolve to bring God’s strength and consolation to a person who is deeply distressed and discouraged.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

August 30, 2019: FRIDAY – WEEKDAY (21)

N.B. Today is the definitive approval of the PDDM congregation.

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Wants Us to Keep the Lamp Burning … He Calls His Disciples to Holiness”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

1 Thes 4:1-8 // Mt 25:1-13

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 25:1-13): “Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!”

 

The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 4, comment on today’s parable of the Ten Virgins (Mt 25:1-13): “Like many others, this parable is based on a fact, a situation of ordinary life. It tells of a custom connected with the wedding celebration … A parable is not a narrative of an event, retold with exactitude down to its minutest details. Storytellers can legitimately put in exaggerated traits that fit their purposes. This is done knowingly and fools no one. This being understood, the lesson of the parable is clear. We shall be kept waiting for the Lord’s coming; unforeseeable, it will happen suddenly. At that moment, everything will be lost for those who were taken by surprise. Others will not be able to help them. The improvident ones will find a closed door in the kingdom where the wedding of the Son of Man is celebrated.”

 

Today we are invited to prepare for our final encounter with God. If our eyes are focused on that glorious goal, we are more likely to keep our spiritual lamps lit for that reception. The bridegroom is on his way. We must rise to meet him. The liturgical scholar Adrian Nocent remarks: “Each is called, during the night of faith, to stand ready for the final encounter unto which God calls. This invitation and summons is most important. Everything else must take second place when it comes to having one’s lamp lit and trimmed.”

 

The following story illustrates a person’s ultimate encounter with the Lord at the hour of death (cf. Patricia Normile, “Caregivers Need Care Too” in Saint Anthony Messenger, May 2010, p. 22-26).

 

A hospice visitor, Deacon Amado Lim of Blue Ash, Ohio, knew Richard well. World War II veteran, great story teller, a man with a fine sense of humor, Richard (name has been changed) was a joy to visit. Then one evening Deacon Lim noted that he looked unusually sad. “I asked him why”, says the deacon. He said, “I was afraid.”

 

Richard continued, “I’ve shared many stories, but there’s one story I’ve not told you or anyone.” When Richard’s unit attacked a Nazi hiding place in Belgium, they met heavy fire and his best friend was mortally wounded. “I became livid”, Richard said. “I entered the building with my gun blazing. I saw two Nazi soldiers fall. I rushed toward them. They sprawled on the floor, covered with blood. I saw their faces. They were barely 12 years old – children! They didn’t say anything, just looked at me. Their faces were pleading, begging for mercy. My adrenaline pumped furiously. I shot them both. The faces of those boys have haunted me ever since. I cannot erase their images from my mind. Now I’m dying. I’m afraid to stand before God. He’ll never forgive me for what I did to those boys.”

 

Deacon Lim invited Richard to describe God. To Richard, God was a just God who rewards good and punishes evil. Voice trembling, Richard said that he couldn’t imagine God forgiving anyone who hurts children. Deacon Lim asked Richard to read aloud Bible stories describing God’s mercy. When the repentant criminal crucified on Calvary begged, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”, Jesus replied, “Amen I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk 23:42-43). Richard wept.

 

When Deacon Lim returned later, Richard smiled. “I’m no longer afraid. Jesus forgave the criminal. He forgives me because he knows how sorry I am.” Richard died two days later. 

  

 

B. First Reading (I Thes 4:1-8): “This is the will of God, your holiness.”

 

In today’s First Reading (I Thes 4:1-8), Saint Paul exhorts the Thessalonians to live a life pleasing to God by following the instructions he and his companions gave by the authority of the Lord Jesus. He urges them to progress even more. The will of God is their sanctification. The goal of God’s call is for them to be holy. This entails living a life of sexual restraint and fidelity in a world of immoral and godless Gentiles “who do not know God”. It calls for proper ethical behavior that rejects greed and exploitation of our brothers and sisters. God has given us the Holy Spirit that we may grow in holiness. Whoever rejects Paul’s teaching rejects God, whose word the apostle makes known.

 

Saint Paul’s instruction on the Christian call to holiness is even more urgent and relevant in today’s society. The following article gives us an interesting insight into the need for holiness (cf. “Sinners Set on Being Saints” in Alive! July/August 2013, p. 3).

 

Matthew Warner blogs about things Catholic. Recently he questioned why the world doesn’t take Catholicism seriously. The blog provided much food for thought.

 

“We can talk about catechesis and community and leadership and orthodoxy”, he said. “We can complain about politics and how we need more preaching from the pulpit. But here is the core of the problem, the practical reason why people are not convinced of the Catholic faith anymore. We Catholics don’t look or act any differently to non-Catholics. It’s that simple.”

 

He spelt it out a bit more. “If we believe our faith and action in this life have eternal consequences, why don’t we act like it? If the Creator of everything is truly present in the Eucharist, why don’t our actions show this? If our relationship with God is truly the most important relationship, why don’t our daily schedules reflect that? If our marriages and families are our greatest blessings, why do we sacrifice them for our careers?”

 

And there was a lot more along that line. “Not only is our religion a fraud, but so are we Christians”, he said. “That’s what Catholics as a whole communicate about Catholicism.” His parents’ generation, he argued, left the Church without leaving the pews. Now they wonder why their kids find it silly to stand in the pews of a Church that never really understood, professing creeds that they never really believed.

 

Warner recognized that the Church needs inspirational leadership and solid catechesis and so on. But above all the Church must focus on what she does best, her competitive advantage: creating saints. “How many saints is your parish creating? That is the ultimate metric”, he said. “A saint is a powerful weapon in this culture war. They are compelling in every age and from every angle.” But saints are made, above all, by example. “As children we learn more by what we see our parents do than any words they say. We’ve forgotten this when it comes to handing on the faith.”

 

Putting it simply he said, “if we want the world to take Catholicism seriously, we must first take it seriously ourselves. That means making radical changes to the way we live our lives. When the world sees you, they don’t have to see a saint, but at least let them see a sinner set on sainthood.”

 

 

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

 

1. What is the personal significance of the wedding feast of the Bridegroom mentioned in today’s Gospel? In what ways are we the foolish bridesmaids? In what ways are we the wise bridesmaids? How do we deepen our spirit of preparedness for the Lord’s coming?

 

2. What is the personal meaning for us of Paul’s assertion that it is the will of God that we become holy? How will this change our life?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

let our lamps be burning at your return.

Help us to prepare worthily for our encounter with you

at the hour of our death.

We resolve to follow

the path of holiness and righteousness.

We commit ourselves

to do acts of mercy and justice,

of goodness and love,

so that the final “hour”

will be an encounter with your saving grace

and a joyful participation in the wedding banquet.

We love and serve you, now and forever.

Amen.

 

***

Gracious Father,

we thank you for revealing to us your gracious will.

This is your will: our sanctification.

Help us to live a life of integrity

that befits our call to holiness.

Help us to trust in the power of the Holy Spirit

who helps us grow in holiness.

Transform us into the likeness of Christ day by day

and let us be a sign to the world of our true destiny.

We give you glory and praise, now and forever.

Amen.   

 

 

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

 

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

 

“The bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him.” (Mt 25:1-13) //“This is the will of God, your holiness.” (I Thes 4:3)  

 

 

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

 

In order to keep our lamps burning for the Lord’s coming, participate actively, consciously and fruitfully in the Eucharist and offer an act of charity daily on behalf of the weak and the needy. // Pray to the Lord to help you overcome your personal defects and sinful passions. In your own little way show to the world what it means to be holy and receptive to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who transforms us into the likeness of God day by day.

    

 

*** *** ***

 

August 31, 2019: SATURDAY – WEEKDAY (21); BVM ON SATURDAY

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Wants Us to Be His Enterprising Servants … His Disciples Are to Grow in Love”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

1 Thes 4:9-11 // Mt 25:14-30

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 25:14-30): “Since you have been faithful in small matters, come share your master’s joy.”

 

In today’s Gospel reading (Mt 25:14-30), Jesus tells us the story of the master who distributed various amounts of money to three servants before going away on a journey. The Greek word that describes these amounts is “talents”. From this is derived the English term “talent” to describe the natural ability that can be improved by diligent practice. Two servants invested their talents and doubled the amount; the other one dug a hole in the ground and buried the talent entrusted to him by the master. The master returned and demanded a reckoning. The point of the story is not the uncertainty of the time of the Lord’s final coming, but the reckoning that will come and the responsibility expected of us. The Parable of the Talents teaches us not to be complacent and lazy, but to be diligent and enterprising. God want us to be creatively involved in the work of the kingdom. We need to be courageous and trustworthy servants in this time of waiting for the Master’s return.

 

The following testimony of Eli Doroteo of Antipolo City, Philippines, gives insight into the personal implication of today’s Gospel.

 

It is still fresh in my memory the spiritual exercise we had with Sr. Mary Celine, PDDM, during our retreat sometime in April 1999. The exercise was to divide our life into three segments and list in each of the three segments our experiences, most especially the downside in our life. Also, in each of the segments, we had to write God’s graces that helped us through those trials.

 

I was moved to tears when I discovered that in the three segments of my life, God was always present in my life in my MUSIC MINISTRY. In the first and second segments, I was a church choir member that started in Aklan and next in my stint with MIESCOR and in Muntinlupa. In the third segment (and until now), I sing the Responsorial Psalm during the Eucharistic celebrations. I realized that this is my calling – God gifted me with a talent of singing and of serving him in the Church.

 

As indicated in the Gospel of today, each of us has a God-given talent. The more we receive from God, the more we should be responsible to him at the judgment hour. This reminds me of the movie “Spiderman”. Peter’s uncle said, “With great power comes great responsibility”. In capsule form, this is what the Gospel of today is all about. A man who left his precious possessions to his servants represents God in the parable; he is a risk-taker here. This, I think, is God’s way when he calls a person to answer a particular need; he endows the person with a specific charism. The specific charism, when nurtured, becomes his distinctive identity. When exercised to its full potential, the charism becomes the person’s contribution to the Church and becomes his special mission.

 

 

B. First Reading (I Thes 4:9-11): “You have been taught by God to love one another.”

 

In today’s First Reading (I Thes 4:9-11), Saint Paul continues to exhort the Thessalonians to live a life of holiness through fraternal charity. They certainly know that they are to love one another. God himself has taught them through the apostles who have proclaimed God’s word among them. They have in fact responded by their love for one another and by their love for their fellow Christians in Macedonia. But Paul asserts: “Nevertheless we urge you, brothers and sisters, to progress even more.” Taking note of a problematic situation in the community where “idlers” and “busybodies” who, in expectation of the Lord’s imminent coming, neglect their own work to disturb others and live at their expenses, Paul urges them to grow in love by living quietly, by minding their own affairs, and by working with their own hands. Growth in love is important not only for the Christian community itself but also for the edification of non-Christians.

 

The following poem “The Handwriting on the Wall”, circulated on the Internet, gives us an example of growth and progress in charity.

 

A weary mother returned from the store,

Lugging groceries through the kitchen door.

Awaiting her arrival was her 8-year old son,

Anxious to relate what his younger brother has done.

 

“While I was out playing and Dad was on a call,

T.J took his crayons and wrote on the wall!

It’s on the new paper you just hung in the den

I told him you’d be mad at having to do it again.

 

She called his full name as she entered the room.

He trembled with fear – he knew that meant doom!

For the next ten minutes, she ranted and raved

About the expensive wallpaper, and how she had saved.

 

Lamenting all the work it would take to repair,

She condemned his actions and total lack of care.

The more she scolded, the madder she got,

Then stomped from his room totally distraught!

 

She headed for the den to confirm her fears.

When she saw the wall, her eyes flooded with tears.

The message she read pierced her soul with a dart.

It said, “I love Mommy”, surrounded by a heart.

 

Well, the wallpaper remained, just as she found it.

With an empty picture frame hung to surround it.

A reminder to her, and indeed to all,

Take time to read the handwriting on the wall.

  

 

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

 

1. In this time of vigil for the Lord’s coming at the end time, am I his enterprising servant? Do I endeavor to make the talents I have received bear abundant fruits for the glory of God and the good of the Church? Have I failed to maximize the talents and grace given me by the Lord? 

 

2. Do we endeavor to love and to progress in fraternal charity? What are the difficulties we experience? How do we overcome them?

 

 

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

 

O loving God,

we thank you for enriching us with many talents.

Help us to be enterprising and creative in using them

for your glory and for the sake of your kingdom.

Help us to entrust ourselves totally to Jesus Christ.

In him, you have chosen us – lowly and despised –

for your own saving purpose.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

***

Lord,

you have taught us to love in Christ.

Give us the grace

to respond to the Spirit of love at work in our heart.

Help us to progress even a little each day

that we may be able to say at the end:

“We have loved like Christ!

We have loved our brothers and sisters to the end!”

We give you glory and praise, now and forever.

Amen.     

 

 

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

 

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

 

            “Well done, my good and faithful servant … Come, share your master’s joy.” (Mt 25:21) //“You have been taught by God to love one another.” (I Thes 4:9)

 

  

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

 

List five talents you have received from the Lord, which you have utilized fully at the service of the Church and on behalf of the community. Thank the Lord for all these gifts received. List five talents, which you have failed to use wisely for the benefit of all. Beg God’s mercy and pardon for your failure to invest them fully. // Today, endeavor to give an example of patient loving and generous giving in the spirit of our Savior Jesus Christ.

 

*** 

 

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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