Archives: Year B-S19 -Year A-S18 - Year C-S17 - Year B-S16 - Year A-S15 - Year C-S14 - Year B-S13 - Year A-S12 - Year C-S11 - Year B-S10 - Year A-S9 - YYear C-S8

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

 

A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

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N.B. The Lectio Divina for the Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time and for the Twenty-seven Week in Ordinary Time is ready. You can access it by going to ARCHIVES "Year B - Series 19" (cf. above) and click on "Ordinary Week 26" and "Ordinary Week 27".

 

Please go to our website www.pddm.us and click on "PDDM Internet Library". It contains the Lectio Divina of all the readings for the Sunday Cycle (A, B & C) and the Weekday Cycle (I & II). A fruit of 12 years apostolic work, this pastoral tool is most useful for liturgy preparation.

 

Please go to our website www.pddm.us and click on "Guardian of the Redeemer". You will hear the hymn tone we have composed for Pope Francis' Prayer to Saint Joseph and you will be able to download the music sheet.

 

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BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 19, n. 43)

Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time: September 19-25, 2021

 

 

(The pastoral tool BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD: A LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY & WEEKDAY LITURGY includes a prayerful study of the Sunday liturgy from various perspectives. For the Lectio Divina on the liturgy of the past week: September 12-18, 2021 please go to ARCHIVES Series 19 and click on “Ordinary Time Week 24”.

 

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

September 19-25, 2021.)

 

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SEPTEMBER 19, 2021: TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Son of Man Handed Over

and Killed”

 

BIBLICAL READINGS

 Wis 2:12, 17-20 // Jas 3:16-4:3 // Mk 9:30-37

 

 

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

 

A, Gospel Reading (Mk 9:30-37): “The Son of Man is to be handed over … Whoever wishes to be first will be the servant of all.

               I visited the California State Fair in Sacramento on August 29, 2003. It was very enriching and educational. The organizers, personnel, and the contributors to the fair had done an extraordinary service, not only to the American nation, but also to the general progress of peoples and the enhancement of the quality of life of God’s beloved creation. One of the most enjoyable features I experienced at the Fair was at the Fine Arts section of the Expo Center Buildings where I saw an interesting piece of art entitled “Napping in the Garden”. The artist depicted the corpus of Christ, stretched in the form of a cross, lying serenely in a cosmic garden of incredible beauty and surrounded with ministering angels and created beings. The artist’s message for me was clear and incisive. The one “napping in the garden” is the Servant of Yahweh, who offered his ultimate service on the cross of sacrifice and is now at the center of adoration and ministry of the entire cosmos. Indeed, the artistic depiction of Christ “napping in the garden” has captured the lesson of this Sunday’s Gospel on primacy in service: “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all” (Mk 9:35). 

            Today’s Gospel (Mk 9:30-37) begins with a description of the itinerary of Jesus. His public ministry in Galilee over, Jesus is moving towards Jerusalem, willfully avoiding popular acclaim based on an erroneous messianic concept. The biblical scholar, Daniel Harrington remarks: “The reason for the secrecy about the journey through Galilee seems to be Jesus’ desire to instruct his disciples about his passion and resurrection.” Indeed, it is Jesus’ intention to rectify the false adulation that honors him principally as a political leader, miracle worker and breadbasket king, and not as the Suffering Servant to redeem the world from sin. The three prophecies of his passion and resurrection are meant to distill his disciples’ messianic perception based on the primacy of temporal powers, and not on service to God’s saving will (cf. Mk 8:31-33; 9:30-32; 10:30-34).

            Today’s account contains Jesus’ second prediction of his paschal destiny to his non-comprehending disciples: “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise” (Mk 9:31). Although there may have been an allusion to Jesus’ betrayal by Judas, the more basic meaning of the verb paradidotai (“to be delivered”, “to be handed over”) refers to the divine saving plan in which Jesus’ death is pivotal. The prediction that the Son of Man would be delivered or handed over does not imply constraint on the part of Jesus but rather an attitude of filial obedience and the fulfillment of God’s plan. Indeed, the one who handed over the Son is the Father, in accordance with St. John’s assertion: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (Jn 3:16) and with St. Paul’s conviction: “He did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” (Rom 8:32). 

            The biblical expert Eugene Maly reflects on the principle that animated Christ’s paschal destiny: “The principle is: God makes us all that we are by his love. We must be as open to that love as a slave is to the Master’s bidding. Here the working concept, on the human side, is responsible openness, acceptance. This can be expressed in many different ways. The most striking way, the one illustrated above all by Jesus, is acceptance of the Father’s love that asks the obedience of death. That is total acceptance, total openness and total self-giving.” 

            The response of the disciples to the Divine Master’s patient endeavor to make them grasp the true meaning of the messianic mission is bewilderment. They do not understand the Master’s sayings and they are afraid to question him. They are not willing to accept the painful element of Christ’s paschal destiny and are incredulous to the promise of his resurrection and glory. Since their narrow vision is incapable of grasping the implications of Christ’s paschal mystery, their personal concerns degenerate to authority issues and power struggles. Upon arrival in Capernaum, they remain silent when asked by Jesus what they were arguing on the way, for they had been discussing among themselves who is the greatest.

            The Divine Master, however, utilizes the disheartening and embarrassing moment to teach them anew. The detail concerning the posture of Jesus is significant; sitting down is the position taken by teachers in Mark’s culture. As the supreme Teacher, Jesus sits down to impart a very important lesson to his not-so-receptive disciples: to rank first, one must be the last in worldly esteem and first in service. To reinforce his teaching on the meaning of true greatness, Jesus resorts to a symbolic action. “Taking a child, he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them, ‘Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the one who sent me’” (Mk 9:36-37). The child that Jesus puts in their midst is a symbol of the anawim: “the poor ones of Yahweh” - the humble ones of the earth, those without legal status and therefore insignificant and helpless. To perform an act of service and love to “the poor ones of Yahweh” is a mark of true greatness. The primacy in service is a sterling quality of Christian discipleship.

 

B. First Reading (Wis 2:12, 17-20): “Let us condemn him to shameful death.”

 

I was born in a small Philippine town near the picturesque Mayon Volcano that is renowned for its beauty and its perfect cone. When I reminisce about my hometown, I also remember our hardworking houseboy named Julian. A no-nonsense orphan, it was his dream to go to school. My parents made arrangements so that he could be a working student. One day, when he was going to school to enroll and pay his tuition, his half-brother accosted him, asking for money. The half-brother grew up with bad companions and was addicted to gambling and drinking. He detested Julian’s clean character and resented that he was the “good boy”. Though threatened with a gun, Julian refused to give up his hard-earned money. His half-brother shot him to death. Our quiet neighborhood was convulsed by the injustice suffered by an innocent boy.

 

The conflict between good and evil is verified again and again in human experience. The life of Julian replicates that of the “just one” referred to in today’s Old Testament reading and the paschal destiny of the “Son of Man” mentioned in the Gospel reading. The life of the “just one” is a reproach to those who do evil. The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 5, comment on the Old Testament reading (Wis 2:12, 17-20): “Those who do evil are intolerant of contradiction, whatever its form. They strive to silence it. But nothing is more unbearable to them than the living reproach and permanent challenge of the life of just persons in their midst … Through their very lives, led in conformity with God’s law, the just denounce the misconduct of the impious … This passage from the Book of Wisdom applies to a multitude of men and women of all times, persecuted, tortured, put to death because they stood, by their mere presence, unshakable witnesses to right and justice.”

 

Jesus Christ is the “just one” par excellence. The unmerited injustice suffered by the “just one” mentioned by the Book of Wisdom adds poignancy and intensity to the figure of the Suffering Servant-Messiah delineated in the Gospel reading: “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.” Ironically, while Jesus embraces his paschal destiny, his uncomprehending disciples compete for greatness. Ever sagacious, the Divine Master Jesus utilizes the occasion to instruct them. The way of the just is a life of service to the “poor ones of Yahweh”, a symbol of which is the little child around whom Jesus wrapped his arms. In order to be the first in the heavenly kingdom, ushered in by the Suffering Servant Jesus, we must become the last and the servant of all.

 

 

C. Second Reading (Jas 3:16-4:3): “The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace.”

 

The Christian disciples, immersed through baptism into the paschal mystery of the Servant-Son of God, are called to be “first” in the Kingdom of God by following the way of obedience and loving servitude. In reality, however, there are lapses and failures in their response to their grace-filled, but exigent vocation. This is the experience of the early Christian community animated and served by Saint James (Jas 3:16-4:3). There are jealousy and selfish ambition, as well as disorder and every foul practice. There are fights and quarrels. There are members even ready to kill on account of their evil desires and passions. James rightly assesses that their life is not what it is meant to be. Even their “prayer” is not properly motivated. The Jesuit biblical scholar Jerome Neyrey remarks: “James keeps on insisting that the roots of evil and sin are within us … Despite conversion and baptism, Christians are not perfect yet and must strive to let God’s grace rule their hearts progressively in every way.”

 

St. James thus exhorts the community to live by “the wisdom from above”. True wisdom is community building and bears fruits of goodness and peace. Without faith in God and the wisdom from him, true goodness is not possible. Indeed, a world without God is a cruelly violent world. It is therefore expedient for Christians to be receptive to the grace of God – to be open to the transforming divine love - as a slave is to the master’s bidding and as a child to a brand new world.

 

Harold Buetow explains: “James joins all those Jewish writings like the Book of Wisdom which were always of one mind that true wisdom is “from above”, from God. People imbued with God’s wisdom are pure enough to approach God. Such people are peaceable, maintaining a right relationship between person and person and between people and God. They are gentle, knowing how to forgive even when strict justice may give them the right to condemn. They are compliant, allowing themselves to be persuaded, knowing when to yield. They are full of mercy and good fruits, giving sympathy to people who are in trouble, even though they have brought these troubles on themselves. They are constant, not hesitating to make decisions. And they are sincere, having no trace whatsoever of hypocrisy.”

 

The following story impressed me deeply for it depicts the unfortunate situation of those who are not animated with “the wisdom from above” (cf. “The Window”, Author Unknown, in A 2nd Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul, ed. Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, Deerfield Beach: Health Communications, Inc., p. 178-179). It illustrates the wise saying of St. James: “You covet but do not possess. You kill and envy, but you cannot obtain” (Jas 4:3). It makes us feel sorry for our sins and our frailties and helps us feel the need to turn back to God.

 

There were once two men, both seriously ill, in the same small room of a great hospital. Quite a small room, it had one window looking out on the world. One of the men, as part of his treatment, was allowed to sit up in bed for an hour in the afternoon (something to do with draining the fluid from his lungs). His bed was next to the window. But the other man had to spend all his time flat on his back.

 

Every afternoon when the man next to the window was propped up for his hour, he would pass the time by describing what he could see outside. The window apparently overlooked a park where there was a lake. There were ducks and swans in the lake, and children came to throw them bread and sail model boats. Young lovers walked hand in hand beneath the trees, and there were flowers and stretches of grass, games of softball. And at the back, behind the fringe of trees, was a fine view of the city skyline.

 

The man on his back would listen to the other man describe all of this, enjoying every minute. He heard how a child nearly fell into the lake and how beautiful the girls were in their summer dresses. His friend’s descriptions eventually made him feel he could almost see what was happening outside.

 

Then one afternoon, the thought struck him: Why should the man next to the window have all the pleasure of seeing what was going on? Why shouldn’t he get the chance? He felt ashamed, but the more he tried not to think like that, the worse he wanted a change. He’d do anything! One night as he stared at the ceiling, the other man suddenly woke up, coughing and choking, his hands groping for the button that would bring the nurse running. But the man watched without moving – even when the sound of breathing stopped. In the morning, the nurse found the other man dead, and quietly took his body away.

 

As soon as it seemed decent, the man asked if he could switch to the bed next to the window. So they moved him, tucked him in, and made him quite comfortable. The minute they left, he propped himself up on one elbow, painfully and laboriously, and looked out of the window.

 

It faced a blank wall.

 

 

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

 

How do we respond to Christ’s paschal destiny: “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise”? Do we engage in power games and authority struggles? Do we entertain the temptation of worldly power and ambition? Is our Christian discipleship marked by the sterling quality of service to “the poor ones of Yahweh” – the needy and the helpless?  

 

 

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

 

O Jesus Master,

we are afraid of our own paschal destiny.

Help us to catch a glimpse of its glorious end.

We struggle for primacy and engage in power games.

Help us to be the “last”

and seek the true greatness that lies in service.

We ignore the cry of the poor

and fail to care for “the little ones”.

Touch our hearts

that we may serve them with compassion.

Lord Jesus,

you are the crucified Messiah who comes to our aid.

You live and reign forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him.” (Mk 9:31)

 

 

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

 

Pray for our civil and religious leaders that they may be animated by a true sense of Christian service. Contribute in some way to alleviate the sufferings and respond to the needs of “the little ones of Yahweh”.

 

 

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September 20, 2021: MONDAY – SAINTS ANDREW KIM-TAE-GON, Priest, AND PAUL CHONG HA-SANG, AND COMPANIONS, Martyrs

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Us to Radiate the Light of God’s Word … He Builds God’s House”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Ezr 1:1-6 // Lk 8:16-18

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 8:16-18): “A lamp is placed on a lamp stand so that those who enter may see the light.”

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Lk 8:16-18) helps us to understand the role of Christians in the world. We are to shine and manifest to others, by the way we live, the light of God’s word. Just as a lamp is intended to give light, so the word of Jesus is to be received and become a light for our soul and irradiated to others. We are the light of the world. Our Christian discipleship involves public witnessing of the spiritual light received from God. We reflect the light of Christ in the same way that a glowing bride reflects the radiance that comes from love. In order that those who are entering God’s kingdom may continue to see the light and be channels of that light, we need to be receptive to his word. Jesus exhorts us: “Take care, then, how you hear.”  When we open our hearts to the word of God, we become richer and richer in the life it engenders and nourishes. When we do not listen to the word of God and fail to act upon it, the spiritual life that has earlier germinated withers away.

 

The following article illustrates the beauty and power of spiritual light that fills our heart and the tremendous value of personal receptivity that enables us to experience the true “gift of sight” (cf. Marilyn Morgan King in Daily Guideposts 2010, p. 387).

 

As highly as I value the faces of the people I love, vibrant colors, the beauty of the mountains and the mystery of night, there is one thing I love more. It’s an un-nameable splendor, a mystery far greater than I, not personal to me, and it lives in the heart of every being. Now and then I’ve caught glimpses of it in silent prayer, and I’ve come to know it as vast and boundless, all-loving and ablaze with the light of the Spirit.

 

Though I may someday lose my physical sight, I’ll be okay, because I’ll remind myself of Helen Keller’s words: “The best and most beautiful things cannot be seen or touched. They must be felt with the heart.”

 

And I’ll pull up some of the many inspiring images I’ve stored in my heart to feed my soul when it’s hungry for beauty. Often, as I’m falling asleep or waking up, images appear behind my closed eyelids - of wisteria flowers, or the sad-glorious stained glass window by Marc Chagall; or a twenty-foot-high rhododendron bush with my love smiling in front of it; or of a sometimes flaming, sometimes softly glowing Nebraska sunset.

 

Sometimes I have even seen an image of Jesus holding a little lamb snuggled against His cheek. That’s when I remember my Aunt Alta’s words as she was dying: “Oh! He is beautiful!” Now I think I know Who she saw with her blind eyes.

 

 

B. First Reading (Ezr 1:1-6): “Those who are any part of God’s people, let them go up and build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem.”

 

Today we begin to read from the Book of Ezra, which describes the return of some of the Jewish exiles from Babylon and the restoration of life and worship in Jerusalem. Today’s Old Testament reading (Ezr 1:1-6) marks a momentous event: the edict of the Persian king Cyrus which marks the end of the Babylonian exile. In the first year that Cyrus is an emperor (538 B.C.), he issues a decree of liberation and a command to the Jewish exiles: “May God be with all of you who are his people. You are to go and rebuild the Temple of the Lord, the God of Israel; the God who is worshiped in Jerusalem.” He likewise orders the Babylonians to assist those exiles who need help to return. They are to give them provisions as well as free-will offerings. In the Jewish faith perspective, the benevolent ruler, King Cyrus, is an instrument of God’s saving plan. Thus the families of Judah and Benjamin, the priests and Levites, and everyone else whose heart God has moved prepare to go up to Jerusalem to build the house of the Lord.

 

The Pauline Family’s apostolic endeavor to construct the Church of Saint Paul in Alba, Italy gives us insight into the task and challenge of the Jews as they return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Lord’s temple (cf. Luigi Rolfo, SSP, James Alberione: Apostle for our Times, New York: Alba House, 1987, p. 243-245)

 

The Institute would multiply its appeals among its friends and Cooperators in order to receive some material help. And the Cooperators, most of whom found themselves in very modest economic conditions, responded to these appeals with generosity and an interest which could be hard to match in these times of ours in which people are much better off. (…)

 

The church could be opened to the public for worship and so it was on Sunday, October 28, 1928. That morning, the venerable Joseph Francis Re, bishop of Alba, conferred the diaconate on eight young Paulines. In the afternoon, he went to bless the new church whose construction he had authorized and which he had always followed with great interest. (…)

 

The ceremony of the benediction was followed by an entire week of festivities, which it would perhaps be more proper to call a week of special prayers. In fact, in the new church Masses were celebrated without interruption from 4:00 a.m. till noon. At 9:00 each day there was a sung Mass with a homily. At 12:00 noon the Blessed Sacrament was solemnly exposed and adoration, which concluded at 3:00 p.m. with the solemn chanting of vespers, a sermon and benediction, was begun. (…)

 

Those who were present at those festivities may have forgotten all the details. But, most probably, they could never forget the effect which was produced in the soul by the prayers and certain Gregorian chants of the Pauline Family when it was reunited in the new church. It was truly a massive choir upon which the slight echo from the cupola conferred a very special solemnity. Many times, when the religious silence of the function was unexpectedly interrupted by a prayer or a song by the whole community, people who were to be found but occasionally in church were seen to weep with emotion.

  

 

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

 

1. How do we respond to the light of God’s word? Do we allow this light to fill our hearts and allow its radiance to enlighten the morbid shadows around us? Are we channels of God’s light for others?

 

2. Do we take to heart our duty and responsibility to contribute to the house of God and to help it make secure?

 

  

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

 

Lord Jesus,

we thank you for the light of God’s word.

Your light shines in the world’s darkness,

but the darkness has not overcome it.

Help us to light the lamp of truth

so that those seeking to enter your kingdom

may see your life-giving light.

Teach us to listen to your word.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

***

O loving God,

we thank you for using human instruments

to promote your saving plan.

The Persian King Cyrus liberated your people in Babylon

and gave them the opportunity

to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple.

We too are called, in the here and now,

to build up the Church,

the temple of living stones.

Help us to do our very best

to promote the holiness and integrity of the Church.

And as members of the Church,

let us radiate your divine glory

to all peoples of the earth.

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 places the lamp on a stand so that those who enter may see light.” (Lk 8:16) //“They prepared to go up to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem.” (Ezr 1:5)

 

 

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

 

By our daily acts of charity and compassion to our brothers and sisters, let us help overcome the shadows of sin and death that darken our world. // Seriously consider the possibility of becoming actively involved in Church ministry. If you are already involved, be very grateful to God for this opportunity to do your very best in the Lord’s temple.

 

 

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September 21, 2021: SAINT MATTHEW, APOSTLE, EVANGELIST

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Matthew to Follow Him … He Is the Source of Gifts to Build Up the Church”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Eph 4:1-7, 11-13 // Mt 9:9-13

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 9:9-13): “Follow me. And standing up, he followed him.”

 

The Fresno-based Poverello House is a nonprofit, nondenominational organization whose mission is to enrich the lives and spirits of all who pass their way, to feed the hungry, offer focused rehabilitation programs, temporary shelter, medical, dental and other basic services to the poor, the homeless, the disadvantaged, without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex or disability through Providential and community support. Its founder is Mike McGarvin, a man who had experienced God’s mercy and transforming compassion through a saintly Franciscan priest, Fr. Simon Scanlon. They met at the “Poverello Coffee House” which Fr. Simon opened in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, notorious for its poverty, prostitution and violence. Mike narrates: “Gradually my life of self-indulgent destruction was being replaced by a life of service … I began seeing people through Father Simon’s eyes. He, in turn, saw people through Christ’s eyes, and he deeply believed that Jesus walked among the poor and the outcast. It was a revelation to me. The more I got to know the people who came to Poverello, the more compassion I felt for them.”

  

Today’s Gospel reading (Mt 9:9-13) is not only a concise presentation of Matthew’s vocation story, but also a powerful theology of the Christ, as full of compassion and mercy. The liturgical scholar, Adrian Nocent explains: “St. Matthew records his own calling in a simple, straightforward way … Christ chooses and calls; the person chosen and called immediately leaves everything and follows Jesus … Jesus comes to dine with Matthew and the other disciples in Matthew’s house at Capernaum; they are joined at table by many tax collectors and sinners, to whose ranks Matthew belonged until now.  It is easy to see the point Matthew wants to make, namely, that Jesus has come into the world to save not only the Jews but others as well, including sinners. When Jesus is challenged for eating with sinners, we observe that he does not justify himself but simply speaks of himself as a physician. A physician does not have to justify his presence among the sick; neither does Jesus. Matthew is thus, once again, offering us a theology of the Christ. Jesus is characterized by mercy, because his Father is mercy itself and he, Jesus, has been sent in order to communicate God’s mercy.

 

 

B. First Reading: Eph 4:1-7, 11-13: “It was his gift that some should be apostles, others evangelists.”

 

Today’s First Reading (Eph 4:1-7, 11-13) is about the unity and growth in the Body of Christ and the various gifts received from Christ for the building up of the Church. Saint Paul urges the believers to live a life worthy of their Christian calling. The Holy Spirit, the single inner source of Christian life, moves all members toward what promotes peace and harmony. Within this basic unity, there are gifts from the Risen Christ so that each member may contribute in a unique way to the growth and progress of the Church. The one who “gave gifts to mankind” has appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers. Saint Matthew is an example of those whose roles are essential to the life of the Church. The giftedness of the Church is in view of the unity in our faith and the growth in the knowledge of Christ. We endeavor to become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s stature.

 

The following profile of a parishioner shows how one’s “gifts” are used for Church ministry and the building of the Body of Christ (cf. Jessi Emmert, “Francis O’Brien: Constant Fixture at His Parish” in Our Sunday Visitor, December 30, 2012, p. 12).

 

Francis O’Brien, a retired military officer, is a vital part of St. Peter Chanel Catholic Church in Roswell, Georgia. He leads the Rosary before the 8:00 a.m. daily Mass, serves as a lector when needed and is secretary of the parish’s pro-life committee. “He’s the type of person who is quiet”, said Yakaly Fernandez, a fellow parishioner. “He will do things without anybody knowing, and that’s what I think is amazing.” O’Brien is a fixture in the parish. “He’s there every single morning”, Fernandez said.

 

O’Brien loves his parish because of its active and vibrant culture. “We have perpetual Eucharistic adoration, which is a great thing for a parish”, he said. “I take part in that.”

 

O’Brien’s wife, Judy, is also involved at St. Peter Chanel and serves on the pro-life committee with him. The parish is the closest one to the couple’s home, and they have been attending since the parish began in 1998. O’Brien described how they have seen the church grow throughout the years. “In the beginning, Mass was being held in school gymnasiums and so on, then to the temporary sanctuary, and now we’re in the permanent church”, he said.

 

O’Brien is also involved in a Catholic outreach, “The Society of St. Francis and St. Therese” that sends out postcards to the public, offering a free course in Catholicism. He has used his retirement in a beautiful way that gives back to the Church. His passion for stewardship, evangelization, service and commitment to life represent the qualities of a strong and focused parishioner.

 

O’Brien is a symbol of the countless men and women who serve in parishes around the world. While they may not have an official title in the Church, their dedication and servants’ hearts make the ministry of the Catholic Church possible. Their silent but steadfast work may often go unnoticed, but they deserve a standing ovation for their loyalty and love.

 

  

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

 

1. What is our response to Jesus’ call addressed personally to each of us, “Follow me”? Are we willing to welcome fully into our hearts Jesus and the gift of divine mercy that he brings? 

 

2. How do we promote the unity and vitality of the Church? What are the “gifts” we have received from the Risen Christ and how do we use them for the building up of the Church?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you are kind and merciful.

In calling Matthew,

and in dining with sinners and tax collectors,

you reveal that you are truly the divine physician

who comes to heal our sickness and infirmities.

Help us to cling to your words:

“I desire mercy, not sacrifice.

I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

            ***

Loving Father,

we are many parts of the one body.

We thank you for the oneness and fullness that you give us

through Christ in the Spirit.

May the “gifts” we have received

be wisely used for service

and to build up the Body of 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 week. Please memorize it.

 

“Follow me.” (Mt 9:9) //“But grace was given to each of us.” (Eph 4:7) 

 

 

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

 

By your vocation, ministry and compassionate acts of mercy, resound in today’s world God’s call to Matthew and to us all: “Follow me!” // Identify your “gifts” received from the Risen Christ and, in imitation of Saint Matthew, put them to use for the building up of Christ’s Body, the Church.

 

 

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September 22, 2021: WEDNESDAY – WEEKDAY (25)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Sends Them to Proclaim the Gospel and to Heal … In Him Mercy Comes to Us”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Ezr 9:5-9 // Lk 9:1-6

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 9;1-6): “He sent them to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.”

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Lk 9:1-6) is about the Lord who sends, and the mission of those he sends. Jesus sends them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He summons his disciples and selects the Twelve. Tutored by Jesus, and present with him as he heals many from sickness and evil, the Twelve go out into the world with tremendous power bestowed upon them. Luke narrates: “They set out and went from village to village proclaiming the good news and curing diseases everywhere.” The task of those sent by Jesus is to bring the healing balm of forgiveness to those wounded by the virulence of sin and to denounce evil wherever its presence is obvious, openly confronting it by appealing to the power of Christ. Pope Paul VI remarks: “The Church is a continuation and extension of his presence, called above all to carry on the mission of Jesus and his work of evangelization without ceasing. Never can the Christian community be shut in on itself.”

 

The following inspiring story illustrates that the apostolic spirit lives on in the world today (cf. Oliver Costantino, “Helping to Save Lives” in Maryknoll, May/June 2014, p. 35-36).

 

Ten years ago, my pediatrician, Doctor Benitez, told my family that he was going on a mission trip to Bolivia. My parents asked my brothers and me if we would like to contribute any money to his mission. We all pitched in and gave Doctor Benitez $250. When he returned from Bolivia, he told us that the money was used to pay the medical expenses for a girl from a homeless family. She was burned in a fire and left to die.

 

That was my first experience of giving. I do not remember, but my parents tell me that I was proud that the money saved a life. That experience started a longtime support of Doctor Benitez and his missions. The following year my family had a fund-raising party. We raised over $3,000 and collected over 200 pairs of shoes. The party was a huge success, and we felt happy to be helping others.

 

In 2004, Doctor Benitez decided to go to Uganda, where his friend Lawrence Mulinda was born and raised. This time we sent him with $500 and all of our used clothes and shoes. Again, the money was used to save a life. While Doctor Benitez was touring a hospital in a small village, he noticed a newborn baby who looked as if she were starving to death. When he asked about her, the doctor told him that she had a cyst under her tongue that made it impossible for her to nurse. Since that was the only way to feed a baby, she was waiting to die. Doctor Benitez asked how much money it would cost to do the simple surgery. He was told that it was very expensive because she would have to be taken to the capital and they would have to pay for transportation, the hospital bill and hotel for her mother. Doctor Benitez asked again and they finally told him $500 should take care of it. He pulled our donation out of his pocket and handed it to the nun who was the administrator of the hospital. Baby Winnie’s life was saved.

 

Throughout the years we have continued to support the mission in Uganda, financially as well as through prayer. We have watched the village of Kayenje grow with a new church, school, teacher’s home and convent. I love to think about the difference the little we do makes in a country like Uganda.

 

Last summer my mother and brother had the opportunity to go to Uganda on a mission. The entire trip was rewarding. They were able to clothe, feed and care for the children’s medical needs. My brother even held a soccer clinic and brought enough balls, cleats, shin guards and new uniforms for the two teams in the village. My mother says the greatest blessing of the trip was getting to meet Baby Winnie. She is now 9 years old, and her parents came to meet my mom and thank our family for saving her life. My mother reminded them that God saved her life, not us.

 

Our experience of giving to the poor in Uganda is definitely an act of charity, but I love that God gives me the opportunity to perform an act of charity every day, and I do it with a smile. As Pope Francis says, “We all have the duty to do good.”

 

 

B. First Reading (Ezr 9:5-9): “In our servitude our God has not abandoned us.”

 

Today’s First Reading (Ezr 9:5-9) can be understood better if we read chapters 7 and 8 of the Book of Ezra. A third benevolent Persian king Artaxerxes becomes an instrument of God’s saving plan. By divine grace the priest-scribe Ezra has won the favor of King Artaxerxes, who gave him everything he asks for. King Artaxerxes decrees that all the Israelite people in his empire, that so desire, be permitted to go with Ezra to Jerusalem. He sends Ezra to investigate the conditions in Jerusalem and Judah in order to see how well the Law entrusted by God is being obeyed. He also assures Ezra that anything he needs for the Temple he may get from the royal treasury.

 

When Ezra arrives in Jerusalem he is crushed with grief for the sins committed by the returned exiles. They have intermarried with non-Jews and the “abominations” of the spouses have corrupted the Israelites. Their marriages have brought them into contact with the worship of other gods and led them into the sin of idolatry. Ezra’s prayer of lament for the sin of his people is climaxed by a proclamation of divine mercy: “You have been gracious to us … You have let us escape from slavery, and have given us new life.” But the present favor is in jeopardy. Israel has transgressed against God’s commandment. Their religious integrity has been compromised by consorting with idolaters. Indeed, the rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple-building is a secondary issue to the real issue of the building up of the chosen people, the dwelling place of God. The book of Ezra concludes with a gracious note: the returned exiles promise to do what God’s Law demands and they end their sinful marriages with foreigners.

 

The experience of divine mercy and new life narrated in the Book of Ezra continues to be felt in the here and now. Here is an example (cf. Fr. Edward Wolanski, CP, “A Successful Mission” in 101 Inspirational Stories of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Sr. Patricia Proctor OSC, Spokane: Franciscan Monastery of Saint Clare, 2006, p. 127-128).

 

I was sent to preach a parish mission in a small parish church. There was a family who was helping the pastor prepare for the mission. They were very devoted to Our Lady of Fatima. For six months before the mission, this family and two other families gave up their Saturday mornings to come to the church and pray the rosary for the success of the mission. This was especially difficult for the children, but they believed their prayers would help.

 

On the opening day of the mission only thirty-five people came. The pastor, the three families and I were all very disappointed. After the first service I went with the pastor to the confessionals. The first person who entered my confessional began by saying, “Father, it had been forty years since my last confession.” The second person who came began with, “Father, it has been twenty-five years since my last confession.” I was overwhelmed. The third person who came in said, “Father, I don’t know how long since it has been since my last confession.” One after the other, with few exceptions, all had been away from the sacrament for a long, long time.

 

I came out of the confessional thinking I was the last one in the church, only to find the pastor coming out of his confessional. We met in the center aisle, and before I could tell him of the wonderful experience I had, he excitedly told me: “I have never heard confessions like that in all my priesthood. People who have been away for years and years came.” I then shared my experience with him and we both looked to the tabernacle and gave thanks to the Lord and Our Lady.

 

The next day we shared with the three families what had happened and how their prayers during those six months helped so many people find the courage to approach the sacrament. We all agreed that the mission was successful, not because of the number who attended, but because of those who found new life through the sacrament of reconciliation.

     

 

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

 

1. As Christian disciples today, do we trust in the loving God who is totally involved in our lives? What is the specific apostolic mission entrusted to us by Christ today? Do we believe in the Gospel’s power against the forces of evil? 

 

2. Do we recognize the divine mercy that enfolds us in our life and do we feel the need to respond to God’s gracious love?

 

 

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

 

Jesus Lord,

you summon us and entrust to us the Gospel

with its power of action against evil.

You send us to touch the wounded world

with the healing power of your love.

Grant us the grace we need

to proclaim the Good News and cure diseases.

Teach us to trust in the word of God.

He is a shield for all who seek his protection.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen. 

 

***

Loving Father,

you are good and merciful.

You do not allow our servitude to sin

to last forever.

Your Son Jesus Christ breaks the bondage of evil

and raises us to new life.

Make us true “living stones” of the Church,

your dwelling place in the Spirit.

Let us 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.

 

“Jesus sent them to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” (Lk 9:1) //“Thus he has given us new life to raise again the house of our God.” (Ezr 9:8)

 

 

 

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

 

Pray for all missionaries that they may carry out their mandate with absolute trust in God and apostolic zeal. Be a missionary to a person close to you and in need of the healing power of the Gospel. // Be deeply aware of the divine mercy that enfolds you and resolve to take seriously the gifts you have received from God for the building up of the Church, the people of God.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

September 23, 2021: THURSDAY – SAINT PIUS OF PIETRELCINA, Priest

“JESUS SAVIOR: Herod Wants To See Him … He Urges Us to Build the House of God”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Hg 1:1-8 // Lk 9:7-9

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 9:7-9): “John I beheaded. Who then is this about whom I hear such things?”

 

In India I was struck by a powerful image given to us by a priest in a retreat conference. A stone is submerged in the bottom of a river – for days and days, for months and months, for years and years, for ages and ages – but never soaked and drenched. It is impervious. At the core it remains dry and lifeless. The impenetrable stone surrounded by clear waters is a pathetic image of Herod Antipas who is resistant to grace. He is licentious and feckless. He lives in incestuous union with Herodias. John the Baptist censures him severely for taking his brother’s wife. Herod retaliates by having him arrested and imprisoned. On account of a senseless oath to a stepdaughter who delighted him with a sensuous dance, he has John the Baptist beheaded. Herod is also superstitious.

 

In the Gospel reading (Lk 9:7-9), the wild news about Jesus of Nazareth being John the Baptist raised from the dead baffles Herod. He keeps trying to see Jesus. But when he finally sees Jesus in a mock trial before the latter’s passion and crucifixion, he would want to see him perform some miracle and be entertained with religious prodigies. Jesus however would not respond to his frivolous questions and requests. The Son of God would remain silent. Too sated with self-centered pleasure-seeking, Herod would not able to recognize the presence of grace standing before him. Herod would not be moved to repentance conversion by the Word of God. Respecting his fundamental choice, the incarnate love would have difficulty penetrating his heart wholly taken up by frivolity and corruption.

 

The following story illustrates the tragedy of making evil choices and of being impervious to divine grace (cf. David Schantz, Daily Guideposts 2010, p. 22).

 

My minister-father was a storyteller, and the best part of Sunday was listening to his stories from the pulpit. One of my favorites was about an exceptional contractor who built beautiful homes. There was always a long waiting list of customers.

 

One day the contractor told his foreman, “I need to go East for a few months, and while I’m gone I want you to build this house for me.” He showed the foreman the plans. “I want this to be the best house you’ve ever built for me. Spare no expense. I want it done right.”

 

When his boss left, the foreman got to thinking, “This is a big project. I could make some extra money on it by substituting grade-B materials where they won’t show. I could pocket the difference.”

 

When the boss returned, he was impressed. “The house is beautiful!” He put his arm around the foreman’s shoulders. “The reason I wanted you to make this house special is that I want you to have it as an expression of my gratitude for your years of service to me.”

 

The foreman’s face fell, knowing that he had cheated only himself.

 

 

B. First Reading (Hg 1:1-8): “Build the house that I may take pleasure in it.”

 

Within these two days we shall hear more accounts concerning the reconstruction of the Jerusalem temple – this time from the book of Haggai, the first prophet of post-exilic Israel. The foundation of the Jerusalem temple has been laid out in the spring of 536 B.C. by the first group of returned exiles from Babylon. No additional progress has been made and in 520 B.C. the temple still lies in ruins. The people feel they are too poor to take up the undertaking. They say: “This is not the right time to rebuild the house of the Lord.” Their excuse however is unjustifiable. They live in well-built houses while the temple decays. In today’s reading (Hg 1:1-8), the prophet Haggai invites the people to reflect on their experience. Although they have labored for food, drink, clothing and wages, the results are poor and unsatisfying. Haggai asserts that the blessings of the Lord God do not accompany the people because of their failure to build the temple. Things will change if it is rebuilt. When the temple is completed, blessing will replace judgment and the Lord will dwell in the temple-community again. Indeed, for the prophet Haggai the physical restoration of the temple-building has a symbolic value. To rebuild the temple-building means to restore the relationship of the community with God.

 

Against the backdrop of today’s reading, Mark Shea’s article, “In Defense of Beauty” enables us to understand the purpose and importance of the Catholic Church’s artistic and cultural tradition, which offers its riches in the service of God (cf. Our Sunday Visitor, February 5, 2012, p. 9-12).

 

“Why does the Church have all those gold cups and fancy paintings?” (…) This remains the substance of the charge to this day: that the evangelical counsel of poverty is contradicted by the art, the gold, the finery, the gorgeousness of the Catholic artists and cultural tradition and that the only true Christian is more or less walking barefoot in the snow like St. Francis. (…)

 

Catholics who seek to defend the Faith should not give that point short shrift. St. Dominic certainly didn’t. Instead, he founded an order of beggars and revived obedience to the evangelical counsels of chastity, obedience and poverty that had fallen on hard times in his day. Other Catholics from the Discalced Carmelites to the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal have done the same over the centuries.

 

What they have not done, however, is demand that the Church sell off its artistic legacy or start celebrating Mass with paper plates and Styrofoam cups. Indeed, what is remarkable is that those who have most strongly embraced the evangelical counsels of poverty for themselves and urged them upon the faithful have also insisted on the gorgeousness of the Church in its work of worship to God. Servant of God Dorothy Day, who was not exactly a fan of Donald Trump-like opulence and who had a heart for the poor as big as any saints who ever lived, said, “For Christ himself housed in the tabernacles in the Church, no magnificence is too great, but for the priest who serves Christ, and for the priesthood of the laity, no such magnificence, in the face of the hunger and homelessness of the world, can be understood.”

 

This distinction between the gorgeousness that is properly devoted to God and the temperance we should practice toward ourselves should get our attention. (…) Jesus said, “Let her alone, let her keep it for the day of my burial. The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me” (Jn 12:8). This gives us a clue about how reformers from St. Dominic to Dorothy Day could call for radical poverty, yet have no objection to lavish beauty in the service of God. For Jesus himself had no objections to the worshipper lavishing what she had on God. In this, he was acting in obedience to what his Father had revealed in the Old Testament. (…)

 

[In Exodus 25-32] God calls the Israelites to put their very best into the worship of him. The sanctuary was to be made of the finest materials they had and worked with the best craftsmanship. It was to be not merely functional, but beautiful. Scripture (which almost never mentions colors) dwells on the scarlet, red and blue materials of the Tabernacle and lays out in minute detail the way the precious metals of gold and silver (as well as bronze) are to be used to create the place that will be the Dwelling Place of God. In this, we hear something of the unique sort of love and joy that is known by those who create beautiful things with their hands: the joy of beauty. (…)

 

The essence of worship is sacrifice and that all, rich and poor, are called to worship. So [Jesus] likewise welcomes the sacrifice of Mary’s jar of ointment, expensive as it is, as a fitting adornment to the greatest sacrifice of all: his own crucifixion in just a few days’ time. (…)

 

But as Jesus also showed in accepting the anointing of Mary, we are not to be stingy with God in the slightest – because he has been absolutely lavish with us by pouring out the very life of his Son for our salvation.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we make habitual and chronic evil choices so that we become impervious to God’s grace? Are we like Herod Antipas in our behavior and choices?

 

2. Do we give priority to our daily subsistence rather than cultivate personal relationship with our loving God? Do we endeavor to live a life of true worship even at the cost of sacrifice?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus, the incarnate Wisdom of God,

you preach the Good News

and call people to conversion.

Please help us to listen to your voice

and make a fundamental choice for you.

Help us to avoid the tragic choices of Herod.

Do not allow us to pursue mere “vanities”.

Teach us to respond to divine grace

and let us be filled with the love and blessings of God.

You are our glorious Savior, now and forever.

Amen.

 

***

Loving Father,

at times our priorities are totally warped

so that we allow the cares of daily living to overwhelm us.

We fail to give you glory and praise

and even disdain the external symbols and signs of true worship.

Forgive us for our failure

towards the Church of “living stones”

and for neglecting our duties

to our poor and needy brothers and sisters.

Let our lives be sanctified as temples of the Holy Spirit.

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 Herod kept trying to see him.” (Lk 9:9) //“Build the house that I may take pleasure in it and receive my glory.” (Hg 1:8)

 

 

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

 

Pray that our daily choices might be responsible and in accordance to the will of God. Make an effort to enlighten the people around you in making the “right” choice for our Savior Jesus. // When you enter the church-building be deeply aware that it is a sacred space meant for prayer and community worship. Observe reverent silence in this sacred place.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

September 24, 2021: FRIDAY – WEEKDAY (25)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Predicts His Passion and Glorification … He Is the Temple of Splendor”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Hg 2:1-9 // Lk 9:18-22

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 9:18-22): “You are the Christ of God. The Son of Man must suffer greatly.”

 

I visited the California State Fair for the first time on August 29, 2003. I had a great time at the Fine Arts section of the Expo Center Building where I saw a painting entitled “Napping in the Garden”. The body of Christ, stretched in the form of a cross, is sleeping peacefully in a cosmic garden of incredible beauty. Jesus Christ is surrounded by ministering angels and created beings. The artist’s message for me is incisive. The one “napping in the garden” is the Servant of Yahweh, who offered his ultimate service on the cross. The “Messiah of God” is now at the center of adoration and ministry of the entire cosmos.

 Jesus, acknowledged by Peter as the “Messiah of God”, presents himself to his disciples as the Suffering Servant. In today’s Gospel (Lk 9:18-22), he predicts his passion and glorification. The Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law. He will be put to death, but three days later he will be raised to life. Although Jesus speaks of suffering and death, what triumphs ultimately is the power of life. There is redemption in his total self-giving.

 

The following story gives us a glimpse of the saving glory that comes in living out our paschal destiny (cf. Roberta Messner in Daily Guideposts 2010, p. 27).

 

For forty years I suffered with head and mouth pain from tumors caused by an incurable disorder. I lived from moment to moment and went to great lengths to get my mind off the relentless pain. Then a curious thing happened: I began to notice that whenever I turned my thoughts to others instead of dwelling on myself, I experienced an incredible sense of well-being. Whether I was planning to give, anticipating the act of giving or doing the giving myself, I could feel my entire body change.

 

One of the most difficult aspects of living with intractable pain is getting started in the morning. So before turning in each night, I placed a gift for someone at work alongside my car keys. It might be as simple as an article clipped from a magazine or coupons for laundry detergent or a tea bag in a new herbal flavor. Or it might be a pair of earrings I really wanted for myself that God nudged me to give away.

 

I mentioned my newfound approach to my physician, Dr. Brownfield. He told me that my discovery was supported by both the Bible and medical science. “Giving releases endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, Roberta. Studies have actually shown that volunteers, some of the most devoted givers of all, lead happier, healthier and longer lives.” He closed our time together that day with a prayer that God would continue to bless me with the abundant life He promises in His Word, the giving life.

 

Since that day I’ve continued to give in the ways God directs. And I hadn’t needed a single dose of breakthrough pain medicine. I’ve come to understand that giving is a God-given tool – like exercise and a balanced diet – that helps us to live the full life He has in mind for us.

 

 

B. First Reading (Hg 2:1-9): “One moment yet and I will fill this house with glory.”

 

In today’s First Reading (Hg 2:1-9), we hear again from the prophet Haggai. His message to Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah; to Joshua, the high priest; and to the Jewish people is about the splendor of the new temple. Haggai speaks in 520 B.C. on the final day of a week’s celebration of the feast of Tabernacles. It is on this festival during Solomon’s reign that the First Temple was dedicated. The temple being rebuilt by the returned Jewish exiles lacks the splendor of Solomon’s temple. God thus speaks to the people through the prophet Haggai exhorting them not to be discouraged, but to continue the work of rebuilding the temple. The Lord God assures his people: “I am with you … I will fill this house with glory … Greater will be the future glory of this house … In this place I will give you peace.” Indeed, the true glory of the temple is not the material adornment, but the continuing presence of God. The full meaning of Haggai’s message will be realized in the messianic age – in the glorified body of the Risen Christ, the splendor of the Father.

 

The following story illustrates that where the love of Jesus Christ dwells, the splendor of beauty and grace shines (cf. Judy Newton, “A Simple Celebration” in Country, December-January 2013, p. 8).

 

The lights of the little country church shone upon the snow, welcoming us as we made our way to Christmas Eve services. It was a simple country church filled with farm folk who, after bedding their animals down for the night, came here from miles around. Times were hard in the 1940s, but anyone could see the hope and faith on the faces of these hardworking people.

 

My parents, my sister and I had come to celebrate the birth of our Savior with friends and family. Warmed by the stove and the seasonal cheer, we were secure in the knowledge of our love for one another.

 

The program began with pieces recited by the smaller children, and then came the play. There were no flashing lights, no sound system or other modern equipment, but the church glowed with love as the actors told the Nativity story.

 

After the program, Santa gave each child a small brown paper bag filled with candies, nuts and an orange. When the church was over, we went to my grandparents’ house to exchange gifts. Grandma and Grandpa, Mom and Dad, aunts, uncles and cousins filled the house to overflowing.

 

That country church is gone now, lost to fire, and a lot of those people have gone on to be with the Lord. But neither time nor flames can hurt the memories of those holidays long ago.

 

 

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

 

1. How does Jesus’ pronouncement of his passion impinge on us? Do we see the intimate connection between Jesus’ self-giving passion and his glorification?

 

2. When things are not as splendid as we expect them to be, do we feel discouraged? Do we believe that God’s indwelling in us, through Christ in the Spirit, is the true splendor and the utmost joy to fill our hearts?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

we thank you for your beloved Son, the Suffering Servant.

Give us the grace to be Christian disciples marked by self-giving.

Help us to trust in you, the Lord of time and history.

You are in control of the past, the present and the future.

We dwell in “your time”.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

            Amen.

 

            ***

Loving Father,

we thank you for assuring us,

“Fear not … I am with you!”

We thank you for the gift of Jesus,

the splendor of your love,

who fills our hearts with grace and beauty.

Let the glory of the Risen Christ abide in us

and help us irradiate the light of his saving presence

to all nations.

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.

 

“The Son of Man must suffer greatly … and on the third day be raised.” (Lk 9:22) //“I will fill this house with glory.” (Hg 2:7)

 

 

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

  

Through concrete acts of charity to those experiencing fears and difficulties, manifest your intimate participation in the paschal destiny of Jesus, our self-giving Lord and the “Messiah of God”. // Be attentive to the divine splendor that enfolds us. Seek to share the beauty of God’s love with those who are despondent and discouraged.

 

 

*** *** ***

September 26, 2021: SATURDAY – WEEKDAY (25); BVM ON SATURDAY

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches the Disciples the Meaning of His Death … All Nations Dwell in Him”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Zec 2:5-9, 14-15a // Lk 9:43b-45

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 9:43b-45): “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men. They were afraid to ask him about this saying.”

 

In today’s Gospel reading (Lk 9:43b-45), Jesus speaks again about his death. The response of the disciples to the Divine Master’s patient effort to make them understand his messianic mission is bewilderment. They fail to grasp what Jesus means and they are afraid to question him. It is because they do not want to be confronted with the painful element of Christ’s paschal destiny. They are afraid to stare at the specter of Jesus’ impending death. In the first prediction, Jesus has underlined the harsh implications of his passion for his disciples. To be true followers of Jesus they too need to carry their cross. This is an aversive proposition for the disciples. Hence, when the Master brings out the issue again, they remain silent. They willfully choose not to understand. Bereft of the paschal vision, their personal concerns degenerate into authority issues and power struggles.

 

The following story presents in a humorous vein what it means “to refuse to understand” (cf. Anthony De Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations, New York: Image Books, 1988, p. 172).

 

A bishop had decreed that woman housekeepers for priests should be at least fifty years of age. He was startled, in the visitation of his diocese, to discover a priest who thought he was observing the law by keeping two housekeepers, each one of whom was twenty-five years of age.

    

 

B. First Reading (Zec 2:5-9, 14-15a): “See, I am coming to dwell among you.”

 

Starting today and in the next few days we shall be hearing from the priest-prophet Zechariah, whose prophecies are dated from 520 B.C. to 518 B.C. His visions deal with the restoration of Jerusalem, the rebuilding of the temple, the purification of God’s people and the messianic age to come. The messianic Jerusalem will bring back the golden days of Moses when God is presented as leading his people by columns of cloud and fire.

 

Today’s First Reading (Zec 2:5-9, 14-15a) is about the vision of an angel with a measuring line. He measures the city in order to rebuild it. Another angel appears to give a message of blessing and hope. He announces that Jerusalem will have many more people than before. The Lord God himself will be the wall of fire to encircle the city to protect it and he will dwell there in all his glory. Zechariah’s prophecy underlines the universal character of the divine saving plan: “At that time many nations will come to the Lord and become his people.”

 

That “many nations shall join themselves to the Lord” and that “the Lord comes to dwell among the nations” has been realized through the paschal sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The martyrdom of San Lorenzo Ruiz and his companion martyrs, saints from various nations, illustrates the fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy of universal salvation. Here is an account of their martyrdom (cf. Wikipedia on the Internet).

 

Lorenzo Ruiz was born in Binondo, Manila, to a Chinese father and a Filipino mother who were both Catholic. His father taught him Chinese while his mother taught him Tagalog.

 

Ruiz served as an altar boy at the convent of Binondo church. After being educated by the Dominican friars for a few years, Ruiz earned the title of escribano (calligrapher). He became a member of the Cofradia del Santissimo Rosario (Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary). He married Rosario, a native, and they had two sons and a daughter. The Ruiz family lead a generally peaceful, religious and content life.

 

In 1636, while working as a clerk in Binondo Church, Ruiz was falsely accused of killing a Spaniard. Ruiz sought asylum on board a ship with three Dominican priests: Saint Antonio Gonzales; Saint Guillermo Courtet; Saint Miguel de Aozaraza, a Japanese priest; Saint Vicente Shiwozuka de la Cruz; and a lay leper Saint Lazaro of Kyoto. Ruiz and his companions left for Okinawa on 10 June 1636, with the aid of the Dominican fathers and Fr. Giovanni Yago.

 

The Tokugawa shogunate was persecuting Christians by the time Ruiz had arrived in Japan. The missionaries were arrested and thrown into prison, and after a year, they were transferred to Nagasaki to face trial by torture. He and his companions faced different type of torture. One of these was the insertion of needles inside their fingernails.

 

On 27 September 1637, Ruiz and his companions were taken to Nishizaka Hill, where they were tortured by being hung upside down in a pit. This form of torture was known as tsurushi in Japanese or horca y hoya in Spanish. The method was supposed to be extremely painful: though the victim was bound, one hand is always left free so that victims may be able to signal that they recanted, and they would be freed. Ruiz refused to renounce Christianity and died from blood loss and suffocation. His body was cremated and his ashes thrown into the sea.

 

According to Latin missionary accounts sent back to Manila, Ruiz declared these words upon his death: “Ego Catholicus sum et animo prompt paratoque pro Deo mortem obibo. Si mille vitas haberem, cunctas ei offerrem.” In English this may be rendered: “I am a Catholic and wholeheartedly do accept death for the Lord. If I had a thousand lives, all these I shall offer to him.” This may be reconstructed into Tagalog or Pilipino as “Isa akong Katoliko at buong-pusong tinatanggap ang kamatayan para sa Panginoon. Kung ako man ay may isanlibong buhay, lahat ng iyon ay iaalay ko sa Kanya.”

   

 

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

 

1. Are we willing to understand the meaning of the passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ and their personal implications for our life?

 

2. Do we believe that God dwells among us and that his indwelling is not only in Jerusalem, but among the nations? What do we do to promote evangelization and the vitality of the Church-faith community? How do we imitate the faith of our fathers and the faith of the martyrs?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you speak to us about your passion.

Help us to listen with the heart

and understand what it means to be your disciple.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

***

Loving Father,

you manifest your glory in our midst.

We thank you for surrounding the Church,

the new city Jerusalem,

with your glory and protection.

Give us the grace to spread the Good News of salvation to all

that all nations may dwell in this city

and be filled with your glory.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.     

 

     

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

 

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

 

“The Son of Man is to be handed over to men.” (Lk 9:44) //“Many nations shall join themselves to the Lord on that day.” (Zec 2:15)

    

 

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

 

Pray for the grace to understand and follow the divine saving will and foster a discipline of prayerful silence before the Blessed Sacrament. // Take note of the cultural diversity and multi-ethnic character of the faith community. Be grateful to the Lord for this gift and resolve to give your very best to enhance the universal character of the Church.

 

*** *** *** 

 

Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang PDDM

 

 

PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI

SISTER DISCIPLES OF THE DIVINE MASTER

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

Tel. (559) 275-1656

Website: WWW.PDDM.US

 


PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI

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


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