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A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 15, n. 9)

Week 3 in Ordinary Time: January 22-28, 2017

 

 

(The pastoral tool BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD: A LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY & WEEKDAY LITURGY includes a prayerful study of the Sunday liturgy of Year C from various perspectives. For the Lectio Divina on the liturgy of the past week: January 15-21, please go to ARCHIVES Series 15 and click on “Week 2”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: January 22-28, 2017.)

 

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 January 22, 2017: SUNDAY – THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Great Light that Shines in Our Darkness”

 

 

BIBLICAL READINGS

Is 8:23-9:3 // I Cor 1:10-13, 17 // Mt 4:12-23

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 4:12-23): “Jesus went to Capernaum, so that what had been said through Isaih might be fulfilled.”

          

On the evening of January 9, 2005, the feast of the Lord’s Baptism which concludes the Christmas season, I dismantle the crib and other décor. I complain silently: “Christmas is so short and there is not enough time to savor it.” After packing the holiday stuff, I console myself by listening to some nice Christmas music by Perry Como. As he sings “The Christmas Feeling”, these words catch my attention: “How I love that Christmas feeling! How I treasure its friendly glow … Christmas helps you to remember, to do what other folks hold dear. What a blessed place the world would be if we have that Christmas feeling all year!” A few days later, I came across a family-oriented magazine, which contains Denise Mallas’ article, “My Merry Christmas Sign” (cf. Family Circle, December 21, 2004, p. 20-21). Her insights dispel my post-holiday blues. Denise writes:

 

Last year, as I packed up the last of Christmas things, I remembered the little wooden Merry Christmas sign in the living room. I had forgotten it. I went to get it. It still hung on the wall. I reached for it, then slowly drew my arm back. My heart told me to leave it there. I just wasn’t ready to close Christmas for the year yet. I wanted that little piece of it to remain with my family just a while longer …

 

There is something about the Christmas season that none of us really wants to give up. We don’t want to pack away that warm feeling of loving our fellow man. We want to keep that giving spirit in our hearts. We want to love being alive and sharing our lives with others. We want to keep our families close to us. We want our friends to keep knowing how much we care.

 

My little sign … it will still be there on the wall. I can’t help but smile each time I walk by. It will stay there, daily reminding me that the spirit of loving each other does not end with the Christmas season but should happen each and every day. You see… LOVE IS ALWAYS IN SEASON.

 

 

The idea that the spirit of Christmas is not over, but rather, in a continual process of realization in our lives, is what this Sunday’s liturgy is trying to communicate. The fullest meaning of the Christmas feast we celebrate is this: Jesus, the Son of God, came to be the light of the world. With his saving work, the darkness of sin and death has vanished. The reign of God is at hand. United with Christ, his disciples are called for a special mission to the nations – to spread the Good News that the great light of liberation has dawned. Indeed, Christmas is the festival of the great light, Jesus Christ.

  

            What Isaiah utters as prophecy about “the great light” becomes full reality in Jesus of Nazareth. Hearing that John the Baptist has been arrested, Jesus withdraws from the Judean region and returns to the Gentile-permeated Galilee. In New Testament times, Galilee is at least half Gentile in population, half pagan in cult, and bilingual (using Greek and Aramaic). Leaving his hometown of Nazareth, Jesus settles in the strategically situated lakeside town of Capernaum, on the border of Zebulun and Naphtali. The location of the commercially prosperous Capernaum is ideal for reaching a larger audience, both Jews and foreigners. In fulfillment of the prophetic words of Isaiah, Galilee would be the first to hear of Yahweh’s salvation … its people would be the first to experience the public ministry of the great light, Jesus Christ.

 

This Sunday’s Gospel passage (Mt 14:12-23) about Jesus’ public ministry that began in “Galilee of the Gentiles” is a summary presentation of “the dawning of the ages” – the messianic realization of the time of salvation. In a few power-packed verses, the evangelist Matthew sketches the gradual unfolding and realization of the messianic plan. The arrest of John the Baptist (v. 12) signals the beginning of the new Covenant to be ratified in Jesus’ blood. Jesus’ proclamation of the coming of the Kingdom to the “Galilee of the Gentiles” depicts him as the realization of Isaiah’s prophecy about the “great light” to the nations (v. 16). His call of the first disciples by the lake of Capernaum (v. 18-22) augurs the time of the Church, the community of Christian disciples. The first healings he wrought confirm the efficacious and transforming salvation he brings as the longed-for Messiah. Indeed, Jesus’ inaugural ministry in Galilee, the crossroad of pagan cultures and commerce, prefigures his universal mission and the mission of the Church to be the light of salvation.

 

 

B. First Reading (Is 8:23-9:3): “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

 

Today’s Gospel passage is to be read against the backdrop of Isaiah’s prophecy about the great light shining in the land of darkness (cf. Is 8:23-9:3). This Old Testament passage that is proclaimed today is likewise used as part of the First Reading at the Christmas midnight Mass. In this fascinating oracle, we hear Isaiah offering words of consolation to a devastated nation. In 734 B.C. the Assyrians, led by Tigleth-Pileser III, conquer the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali. Since the region of Zebulun and Naphtali is farthest north and closest to Assyria, this area is the first in Israel to experience the destroying wrath of the invaders. This Galilean territory is then detached from the kingdom of Israel and erected into an Assyrian province. The prophet Isaiah, however, knows that God will not forget his people and thus encourages those in exile and the remnants in the devastated land. The prophet expresses the joy of future liberation as a great light shining on the land of gloom. This prophecy is fulfilled in the coming of Jesus in the land, proclaiming the light of the Gospel to the nations.

 

As his disciples, we are called to participate fully in the radiance of Jesus Christ and to spread the light of his Gospel. The liturgical scholar, Adrian Nocent remarks: “The light of the Good News ia always being offered to us, for the work of evangelization goes on. But we are not simply to observe the work or to be recipient of it – we are to share in it. The prophecy read today and the Gospel pericope are addressed to us in order to stir us to action. In fact, Christ stirs us to action at two levels. There is the inner spiritual movement incumbent upon us: the kingdom is at hand, proclaimed to us by the light we received at our baptism, and we must therefore unwearyingly carry on the work of our own conversion. But we must also leave all things and follow Christ in order to share with him the task of preaching the gospel. The gospel is demanding, for we must take steps that are costly to our weak nature if we are to see the light and accept it. And yet the extension of the kingdom depends in part on us. The Church is already established, of course, and its supporting pillars are the apostles. But each of us is called to work for the expansion of the Church and the spreading of the Good News. The sacrifices required of us in the pursuit of this goal may be hard ones. The apostles, the first ones whom Christ called, responded without hesitation.”

 

In the November 2007 issue of Maryknoll magazine is an article about the Maryknoll nun, Sr. Bernie Lynch whose vocation story inspired others to serve (cf. Margaret Gaughan, “Bernie, Still A Nun”, p. 33-35). The pictures of Sr. Bernie as a postulant doing garden work, as a novice at prayer and at play, and as a newly professed Sister bathing a baby in Chinatown and aboard a ship heading for her assignment in Peru are some of the most impressive pictures I have ever seen expressing grace, beauty and joy in the Lord. Responding to the “great light” Jesus Christ, Sr. Bernie became a light giver and has inspired others to be light givers.

 

Whatever happened to Bernie the nun? Bernie, the subject of the popular 1956 book “Bernie Becomes a Nun”, is still a nun. “I get e-mails and letters from people who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, telling me that “Bernie Becomes a Nun” was part of their required reading in the eighth grade,” says Maryknoll Sister Bernadette Lynch, the Brooklyn, N.Y. native whose journey to the convent comes alive in the pages. “Many Sisters say the book inspired them to enter the convent.”

 

Lynch, who served in Latin America for almost 40 years and is now a member of the Maryknoll Sisters mission awareness team that visits U.S. schools and parishes, says she regarded her role in the making of the renowned book as “part of my mission assignment.” The book, she explains, started out as an article in Cosmopolitan magazine. The author, Maryknoll Sister Maria Del Rey Danforth, wanted to present religious life – not just Maryknoll, but any Catholic religious order – as an attractive option for young women through the story of someone their age who embraced it.

 

She teamed up with photographer George Barris and they looked for a young Sister to follow as she re-enacted her path to the convent. “I was chosen because I fit the criteria: they needed someone who had both parents living, was not an only child (I had two sisters) and whose home was within 50 miles of Maryknoll, “ says Lynch, omitting the fact that she was also photogenic. Lynch who at age 19 had joined Maryknoll in 1949, was doing her practice teaching in New York City when the project with Danforth and Barris began in 1954. To accommodate her teaching schedule, most of the photos were taken during summer vacation and school breaks. (…)

 

The Cosmopolitan article was so well received that Farrar, Straus and Cudahy Publishers of New York expanded it into a book, which hit bookstores at about the time Lynch left for her first overseas assignment in Peru. She began teaching grade school and doing parish catechetical instruction in the cities of Lima and Arequipa, and later moved to the highlands to work with indigenous women. In 1978 she helped open a house of prayer in Peru’s Juli Prelature, where she served for 13 years. “My faith journey was deepening and I wanted to share prayer with people,” the 77-year-old missioner explains … Lynch left Peru in the early 1990s to respond to a growing need for missioners to work with people with HIV/AIDS, serving first in El Salvador and then in Guatemala.

 

In her current work of mission education and promotion, she is again a storyteller. Now, however, she tells the stories of others. They are people she met during her years in overseas mission …”These people are missioners,” Lynch tells U.S. audiences. “You don’t have to be a nun or a priest to be a missioner. We are called to be missioners in our own way.” Much has changed in religious life and in all of life since Bernie became a nun, but the effervescent Sister with the winning smile is committed to the same mission: making God’s love visible and inspiring others to do the same.

 

 

C. Second Reading (I Cor 1:10-13): “That all of you may agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you.”

 

The reading (I Cor 1:10-13) is about the unfortunate division in the Church of Corinth. The church leader Chloe reports the presence of cliques and contentious groups among the Corinthians. Some identify themselves as followers of Paul; others favor the dazzling eloquence of Apollos; others champion Cephas or Peter; and there are others who simply claim they belong to Christ. The division belies the purpose of common baptism. In an effort to let them come to their senses, Paul asks rhetorically: “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” Indeed, the Christ in whom they are baptized has been crucified for all – to unify all. Paul’s specific mission as an apostle is to proclaim the Gospel and he does it without relying on human wisdom, but by the power of the Spirit lest the union the cross signifies be jeopardized.

 

Christian discipleship is a call to unity. The Christian community must be united if it were to be an efficacious presence of Christ in the world. The following article gives insight into the current quest for Christian unity (cf. Kurt Koch, “The Spiritual Ecumenism of Conversion” in L’Osservatore Romano, January 23, 2015, p. 1).

 

In the Church of Rome, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity ends with the Bishop of Rome celebrating Vespers in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls, with the participation of representatives of other Christian Churches and ecclesial communities. This well-established tradition of prayer for Christian unity within the ecumenical community was launched by Blessed Pope Paul VI on 4 December 1965. Shortly before the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, he invited ecumenical observers to a liturgical celebration in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls to thank them for their participation at the Council and to take his leave of them.

 

He used these deeply sensitive words: “Thus, your departure will not put to end, for Us, to the cordial spiritual relationships that your presence in the Council gave rise to. It does not end, for Us, a dialogue which began in silence but which impels us on the contrary to study how e may be able to successfully continue it. The friendship endures.” (Speech during the Celebration to Implore Christian Unity, 4 December 1965)

 

It is particularly appropriate to recall, with gratitude this liturgical event celebrated 50 years ago, as it was the first public prayer for Christian unity presided by a Pope within the ecumenical community.

 

 

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

 

Are we intent on keeping the spirit and joy of Christmas alive through the year? Do we believe that the love Jesus, brought to us in the mystery of the incarnation and the entire paschal mystery, is always in season?  How do we participate in the mission of Jesus, the great light, to dispel the darkness of sin and death from the people dwelling in the land of gloom? 

  

 

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

  

Loving Father,

your beloved Son Jesus, the “great light”,

is your most precious gift to us.

We thank you, Father,

for in his saving love and healing ministry,

the anguish of body and spirit flees away

and the darkness of doubt is brightened by faith.

We thank you for the prompt and radical response

of Peter and Andrew, James and John

to the call of Jesus:

“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men”.

Their participation in the saving love of Jesus

transforms them into bearers of light.

O dear Father,

fill us with compassion and apostolic zeal.

We adore you; we bless you;

we thank you and serve you, now and forever.

Amen.  

  

 

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

           

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

 

“The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light.” (Mt 4:16) 

 

  

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

 

Meditate on the miracle of the light dispelling darkness and on the miracle of vocation to ministry. In any way you can, and especially in your service to the poor, the sick and the lonely, participate in Christ’s mission as a “great light”. 

 

 

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January 23, 2017: MONDAY – DAY OF PRAYER FOR THE LEGAL PROTECTION OF THE UNBORN CHILDREN (USA); Saint Vincent, Deacon, Martyr (USA); SAINT MARIANNE COPE, Virgin (USA)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Was an Object of Blasphemy … He Takes Away Sin by His Sacrifice”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Heb 9:15, 24-28 // Mk 3:22-30

  

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 3:22-30): “It is the end of Satan.”

 

In today’s Gospel episode (Mk 3:22-30), the scribes who have come from Jerusalem to observe are vicious. Having witnessed the exorcisms performed by Jesus, they accuse him of demonic possession and collusion. The Divine Master refutes their tortured reasoning, tainted with cold venom and vitiated with jealousy. Indeed, Satan is not so foolish as to align with Jesus in destroying his very self. Rather, Jesus expels demons through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus is the “stronger one” who overpowers Satan and subdues his household. Jesus exorcises through the power of the Holy Spirit. To declare that the power at work in Jesus is “demonic” and that the Holy Spirit that animates him is “unclean” is blasphemy. The animosity of the scribes is such that they willfully reject the power of God’s saving grace to work in them. Hence, in this sense, forgiveness is not for them.

 

The following story could give us an idea of the misunderstanding and rejection that Jesus suffered both from his kinsmen and opponents – the same experience that his disciples and people of good will continue to have today (cf. Anthony de Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations, New York: Image Books, 1988, p. 124).

 

A family of five was enjoying their day at the beach. The children were bathing in the ocean and making castles in the sand when in the distance a little old lady appeared. Her gray hair was blowing in the wind and her clothes were dirty and ragged. She was muttering something to herself as she picked up things from the beach and put them into a bag. The parents called the children to their side and told them to stay away from the old lady. As she passed by, bending every now and then to pick things up, she smiled at the family. But her greeting wasn’t returned. Many weeks later they learned that the little old lady had made it her lifelong crusade to pick up bits of glass from the beach so children wouldn’t cut their feet.

 

 

B. First Reading (Heb 9:15, 24-28): “Christ, who offered once to take away the sins of many, will appear a second time to those who eagerly await him.”

 

In today’s reading (Heb 9:15, 24-28) we hear that Jesus is the mediator of the New Covenant because, by his sacrifice on the cross, he delivers us from sin. Through him we receive the eternal blessings that God has promised. His life-giving sacrifice is definitive and final. It continues eternally in heaven on our behalf. Jesus’ priestly act surpasses the Day of Atonement sacrifice offered by the Old Testament High Priest. Through his once-and-for-all sacrifice, Christ has effectively made salvation available through time and space. He will appear a second time not to deal with sin, but to bring into eternal glory and salvation those who trust in him.

 

The eternal value of Christ’s efficacious sacrifice is made present in the Holy Mass. Hence, the “weight” of one Holy Mass is beyond our imagining. The following true story was related by Sr. M. Veronica Murphy, an elderly nun, who heard it from the lips of the late Reverend Father Stanislaus, SS.CC.

 

One day many years ago, in a little town in Luxemburg, a Captain of the Forest Guards was in deep conversation with the butcher when an elderly woman entered the shop. The butcher broke off the conversation to ask the old woman what she wanted. She had come to beg for a little meat but had no money. The Captain was amused with the woman and the butcher. “Only a little meat, but how much are you going to give her?” he wondered.

 

“I am sorry I have no money but I’ll hear a Mass for you”, the woman told the butcher. Both the butcher and the Captain were indifferent about religion, so they at once began to scoff at the old woman’s idea. “All right then”, said the butcher. “You go and hear a Mass for me and when you come back I’ll give you as much as the Mass is worth.”

 

The woman left the shop and returned later. She approached the counter and the butcher said, “All right then, we’ll see.” She took a slip of paper and wrote on it: “I heard a Mass for you.” He placed the paper on the scales and a tiny bone on the other side, but nothing happened. Next he placed a piece of meat instead of the bone, but still the paper proved heavier. Both men were beginning to feel ashamed of their mockery but continued their game. A large piece of meat was placed on the balance, but still the paper held its own. The butcher, exasperated, examined the scales but found they were correct. “What do you want, my good woman? Must I give you a whole leg of mutton? At this he placed the leg of mutton on the balance, but the paper outweighed the meat. A larger piece of meat was put on, but again the weight remained on the side of the paper. This so impressed the butcher that he was converted and promised to give the woman her daily ration of meat.

 

As for the Captain, he left the shop a changed man and became an ardent lover of daily Mass. Two of his sons became priests, one a Jesuit and the other a Father of the Sacred Heart. Father Stanislaus finished the story by saying, “I am from the Religious of the Sacred Heart and the Captain was my father.” From the incident the Captain became a daily Mass attendant and his children were trained to follow his example.

 

 

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

 

1. Are we guilty of jealousy and unable to recognize the grace at work in other persons? What do we do about this?

 

2. Do we believe in the eternal value of Christ’s once-and-for-all sacrifice? Do we truly welcome his gift of redemption, and look forward to the glory of his final coming at the end time?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you were misunderstood and viciously accused.

But as for us, we embrace your love.

Let the power of your Holy Spirit be with us.

Help us to bring order and justice

to a world convulsed with the violence of evil and sin.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

***

Jesus Lord,

you are the mediator of the New Covenant.

Through you, we receive

the eternal blessings that God has promised.

By your “once-and-for-all” sacrifice on the cross

we are saved.

We adore you and praise you

as our saving Lord.

Help us to be faithful to you so that,

as we look forward to your final coming,

we may give efficacious witness

that you are indeed Christ, the eternal High Priest,

living on in the heavenly sanctuary,

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.

 

           “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness.” (Mk 3:26) // “Christ, offered once to take away the sins of many, will appear a second time.” (Heb 9:28)

 

 

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

 

Pray for perpetrators of blasphemy against God, especially those who do this making use of the means of social communication. Make an effort today to spread the Good News to the people around you. // By your life of holiness and service, manifest to the world the efficacy of Christ’s once-and-for-all sacrifice.

 

 

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January 24, 2017: TUESDAY – SAINT FRANCIS DE SALES, Bishop, Doctor of the Church

“JESUS SAVIOR: His True Family Does the Will of God … He Comes to Do God’s Will”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Heb 10:1-10 // Mk 3:31-35

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 3:31-35): “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

 

In today’s Gospel (Mk 3:31-35), the relatives of Jesus misunderstand his public ministry as “crazy” and “overdone”. They want to take charge of him. They probably have pleaded with Mary to come and see the frantic situation involving her son Jesus. They arrive when a crowd is sitting around Jesus and listening to him. The relatives send in a message, asking for him. Jesus uses the moment to declare what true family means to him. Those who do the will of God are his mother, his brother and his sister. Jesus redefines the sacred boundary of the family in a radical way. The biological family is replaced with the larger family of God, that is, those who do the will of God, of whom his mother Mary is foremost. Jesus subordinates natural kinship to a higher bond of relationship based on the obedience of faith. Indeed, the “family of God” inaugurated by Jesus is greatly inclusive and faith-intensive.

 

The following missioner tale illustrates the beauty and warmth of belonging to a spiritual family based on the love and service of God and his people (cf. Jason Obergfell, “Missioner Tales” in Maryknoll, May/June 2011, p. 11).

 

Recently, Maryknoll Sister Marilyn Bell passed away in Bolivia after countless years of service here. She was a tough woman who was active until a few months before her death, which is why she died in Cochabamba, Bolivia, where I serve as a Maryknoll lay missioner, rather than in the United States. Although no one from Marilyn’s biological family in the States was able to attend her funeral, her death brought together her Maryknoll family of priests, Brothers, Sisters and lay missioners who also serve in Bolivia.

 

Just last year being in mission in Bolivia, I was unable to attend the funeral of my grandmother, but now I was able to attend Sister Marilyn’s funeral as a “grandson” in our Maryknoll family. It was an experience that revealed what we only strive to describe with words. The Maryknoll family of missioners, thrown together by chance but held together by love for one another, is a lived example of Jesus’ message – we are all family. Sister Marilyn’s family in Bolivia wasn’t just limited to Maryknollers. The church was filled with Bolivians who had become her family because of her love for them. Being a model of God’s family, bound together by our love for one another, may just be the most important thing any of us will accomplish in mission or in life.

 

 

B. First Reading (Heb 10:1-10): “Behold, I come to do your will, O God.”

 

Today’s First Reading (Heb 10:1-10) gives us a profound insight into the “why” of the Lord’s incarnation. The Son of God became man so that through his “body” he could offer a sacrifice of perfect obedience to the Father’s saving will. The effect of Christ’s perfect sacrifice is our salvation and redemption. Through the offering of the body of Christ for all, we have been sanctified and consecrated to the loving, merciful God the Father. Through Christ, with Christ and in Christ, we are able to offer a sacrifice that is pleasing to God.

 

The following article in the Irish newspaper, Alive! (July/August 2009 issue, p. 6) extols the decision of a young Catholic couple to trust in God and accept the divine will. The moral commitment of Austin and Nuala Conway gives us an insight into Christ’s irrevocable resolve to follow the divine saving will.

 

The parents of Ireland’s first ever set of sextuplets decided to put their trust in God rather than follow the doctors’ immoral advice during their pregnancy. “These babies are a wonderful gift from God. Whatever God laid out for our lives we were taking it”, said 26-year-old Nuala Conway of Dunamore Co Tyrone. Doctors warned the married couple about the risks of a multiple pregnancy, and “more or less” advised them to have several of their unborn babies aborted. But the young Catholic couple rejected such a heartless solution and opted to trust in God and accept his will. “Doctors gave us a couple of days to think about it, but we knew without discussion what we both wanted”, said Nuala. “Whatever God laid out for our lives, we were taking it.”

 

The four girls and two boys, weighing between 1 lb 7 oz and 2 lb 7 oz, were delivered by Caesarian section 14 weeks early at Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital, with the aid of 30 medical staff. In an interview with the Sunday Express, Mrs. Conway said, “I prayed as much as I could for a child. I would have been happy with one, but God blessed us with six, which is amazing.” It wasn’t until just three months before the birth that a scan showed she was carrying six babies. “I’m in love with every single one of them. I fell in love when they were in the womb. When one moved they would all move and I could definitely feel 24 limbs kicking”, she said.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we strive to belong truly to the family of God by our life of obedient faith and serving love?

 

2. Do you imitate Christ in his total submission to the Father’s saving will? Do you declare “through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ” with receptive heart: Behold, I come to do your will, O God

 

 

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

 

O Jesus, you are our brother.

You revealed to us the criterion for belonging to the family of God:

by doing the Father’s saving will.

We thank you for Mother Mary.

She exemplifies in her life the obedient faith

that makes us belong to God’s family.

Teach us to be faithful children of God our Father.

You live and reign, and forever.

Amen.

 

***

 Loving Father,

we thank you for Christ the Lord.

At his incarnation, your divine Son avowed,

Behold, I come to do your will, O God.

For this wondrous mystery of love,

we praise you, God our Father.

Grant us the grace to follow our vocation to holiness

and to live out our calling to perfect charity.

We adore you and praise you, now and forever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mk 3:35) // “Behold, I come to do your will, O God!” (Heb 10:7)

 

 

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

 

By your acts of charity and compassion to the poor and vulnerable, prove to the world that you belong to the family of God and inspire people to be submissive to the divine saving will.

      

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January 25, 2017: WEDNESDAY – THE CONVERSION OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Transforms His Persecutor Saul into an Apostle”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 22:3-16 or Acts 9:1-22 // Mk 16:15-18

  

 

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

 

The feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul provides wonderful insights into his spiritual journey, which can be summed up as “MISTICA” (spiritual experience), “METANOIA” (conversion-transformation) and “MISSIO” (mission of evangelization). Paul’s spiritual journey was a spiritual experience that produced a transformation and impelled him to assume a mission of evangelization. The converted Paul thus became an apostle of Christ to the nations.

 

Mistica: On the road to Damascus, Saul of Tarsus had a profound, dynamic spiritual experience. It was God’s initiative, grace and compassion that brought about Paul’s encounter with the Risen Lord. It was an experience of light – of revelation – of who Christ really is for Paul. Christ revealed himself not as an enemy, but as a personal Savior. Moreover, on the road to Damascus, it was revealed that Jesus of Nazareth lives on in his Body, the Church – the suffering Church. It was a knocked-down experience that left Paul vulnerable, defenseless and open to grace. He could not help but welcome the loving initiative of God. Saint Paul is a model for us of total receptivity and openness to grace.

 

Metanoia: Paul confessed: “I was once a blasphemer, a persecutor, a man filled with arrogance, but I have been mercifully treated … I thank Christ Jesus our Lord. He has strengthened me … made me his servant” (cf. I Tim 1:12-13). He experienced a change of heart, reorientation of goals, renewed vision and life transformation. From a bold persecutor of Christ-Church, he became a vessel of grace and the great apostle to the nations. As we look to Saint Paul as a model of true conversion, let us turn away from thoughts, words and actions that negate the love of Christ … from inconsiderate actions and words that wound the Church … from irresponsible deeds that do not promote the dignity and personal worth of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Above all, Saint Paul is our model of “christification”. Blessed James Alberione, the founder of the Pauline Family, exhorts us: “So then reach the point of Vivit in me Christus … when our thoughts and desires exist no more, but we live in Christ … It is not I anymore, but Christ in me. Transformation, transformation! In that way we have not only a body and soul, but another natural life – that is, the life itself of Christ.”

 

Mission-Evangelization: Paul’s mystic experience and conversion led to a special task or mandate: the mission of salvation … the call to evangelization. The Risen Lord who appeared to Paul made him a servant and witness to the nations. He mandated Paul to preach the Gospel that he may turn their darkness to light … that they may be brought back to God … that they may obtain forgiveness of sins and become part of God’s covenant people.

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Mk 16:15-18) about the missionary mandate to go out to the whole world and tell the Good News and about the signs of protection and power that will accompany the believers is fully exemplified in the life and person of Saint Paul. He went to the Gentile world to preach the Gospel of salvation. He was baptized by Ananias in Damascus. Totally obedient to Christ in faith, he became God’s vessel of salvation to the nations. He made the crippled man in Lystra walk. Through the apostle, God performed unusual miracles in Ephesus. Even handkerchiefs and aprons Paul had used were taken to the sick, and their diseases were driven away, and the evil spirits would go out of them. At Troas Paul resuscitated Eutychus, who fell from the third story to the ground during an evening fellowship meal while sitting drowsily by the window. When they picked him up, Eutychus was dead but Paul gave him back to them alive. After a shipwreck in Malta, Paul was bitten by a snake but was unharmed. Also in Malta, he healed the father of Publius, the chief of the island, and many others. Wherever he went, Paul was speaking a totally “new language” – the good news about Jesus as the Son of God – a marvelously “new language” of love and salvation.

 

The mystical and transforming experience of Saint Paul is replicated in the lives of many people through time and space. Here is a modern-day example (cf. Nathaniel Hurd, “Former Atheist Recounts His Journey to the Catholic Church” in Our Sunday Visitor, December 1, 2013, p. 22).

 

“These crazy Catholics are going to trample me to get to their bread”, I thought as the crowds pressed forward. It was Easter Sunday Mass 1998, outdoors in St. Peter’s Square. I was traveling with my friend Chris. He was a Catholic and a pilgrim. I was an unbaptized atheist and a tourist. Chris saw priests in cassocks and surplices, distributing the Body and Blood of Christ. I saw men in dresses, carrying bread. Fourteen years later, on October 11, 2012, I stood in that same square as a Catholic. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was the celebrant for the Mass starting the Year of Faith. I was preparing to receive Holy Communion, because seven years earlier, I had finally, fully accepted the gift of faith.

 

In my years as an atheist, agnostic and Episcopalian, I surprisingly remembered almost everything from that earlier Easter: Walking into St. Peter’s Square, thinking it was like two hands cupped together, waiting for people to fill it. Standing ahead of hundreds of thousands of people. Seeing flags from so many countries. Kenyans dancing when Pope John Paul II said “Happy Easter” in Swahili.

 

There is only one other sacred experience from my atheist years that I remembered so completely. My parents and I visited a cloistered convent when I was a teenager and heard the nuns sing evening prayer behind a screen. The prayer ended, and I sat transfixed. I thought it was only the beauty that moved me.

 

How did this atheist come to see the supernatural behind and beyond the beauty? First, Catholic friends modeled and shared the Faith. They answered my questions with respect and reason, not simplistic brush-offs. They stressed that they were sharing the teachings that Christ entrusted to his Church, not personal opinion. These friendships moved me to finally open the door to the divine.

 

God also provided moments of Grace. The first was during a run on Dec. 23, 2001. My thoughts were on the snow that covered the cornstalks, the river to my left and road under my feet. Although I had been thinking about faith over the past few years, I had not focused on Christianity. That moment I recognized the reality of one God in three Persons – Father, Holy Spirit and the Son who lived, died and rose for my sins. It was the start of seeing.

 

Easter 2002, I was baptized Episcopalian. However, I was a lazy disciple who took no responsibility for responding to the Lord. I eventually began to wonder if he was calling me to more than what I was receiving from my faith community. I stopped going to church.

 

On Good Friday two years later, a Catholic friend and colleague invited me to a “Way of the Cross” walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. It was the first Good Friday that the Passion was real and painful for me. The force of Christ’s challenge – “I did this for you. What are you doing daily for me?” – of the faith of the faithful around me, of the whole experience, overwhelmed and lifted me to an Easter Vigil Mass. I sat in back but felt as if I was in front on the altar experiencing Christ’s sacrifice. The power of the liturgy moved me to return for Easter Sunday and reconsider why I had been closed to Catholicism.

 

The more I learned the “what” and “why” of the Church and its teaching, the more it was clear that my original understanding had been based on stereotypes and misinformation. Only the Catholic Church seemed to be the sure way for me to know what Christ taught, how he wanted me to live and where I should go for whatever I needed to do. Only the Church seemed to be preserving and promoting the fullness of the Bible and the teachings of the apostles since Pentecost.

 

I entered a parish Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults program … I was received into full communion with the Church and received first Holy Communion at the Easter Vigil 2005. I was struggling to understand some of the teachings of the Church, but my faith in Christ, the Holy Spirit and the Church was strong.

 

God protected me during many trials. My mother threatened to cut off any communication with me. My father objected to the Church’s teaching that there is one Church and one way. For two years, my parents forbade me from visiting during Christmas and later banned me from using their car to go to Mass when I saw them.

 

Other obstacles were internal. I delayed going to daily Mass, thinking that I wanted to avoid “too much, too soon”. When I started going, I discovered what I had missed, what no one had explained to me: it is impossible to encounter God too much and too early. My personal and professional life changed. Daily Mass led to regular confession. When I returned to Rome, I returned as a Catholic. At St. Peter’s tomb, I made sure to pray for Christian unity.

  

 

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

 

Do we see the mystical experience as an important element in the conversion of Saint Paul and in our own personal conversion?

 

 

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

 (cf. Opening Prayer, Mass of the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul)

 

God our Father,

you taught the gospel to all the world

through the preaching of Paul your apostle.

May we who celebrate his conversion to the faith

follow him in bearing witness to your truth.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

  

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

 

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

 

“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4)

 

 

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

 

As we celebrate today the feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, resolve to be more open to the grace of his presence, especially in the Letters of Saint Paul, and to find ways to make people interested in them.

 

         

*** *** ***

 

January 26, 2017: THURSDAY – SAINTS TIMOTHY AND TITUS, Bishops

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Reveals the Mystery of the Kingdom … He Is the Icon of Pastoral Ministry”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

II Tm 1:1-8 or Ti 1:1-5 // Mk 4:21-25

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 4:21-25): “A lamp is to be placed on a lamp stand. The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you .”

 

Jesus Master continues to reveal himself not only through miraculous deeds, but also by his teaching. His parables were not meant to conceal the mystery of the Kingdom but to enable his audience to take his word to heart more personally and more profoundly. A lit oil lamp is not put under the bed or covered with a bushel basket, but placed on a stand to maximize its light-giving. The parables of Jesus, when received with humble hearts, are like an oil lamp that shines brightly from a stand. They shed light on the heavenly kingdom that Jesus proclaims. They challenge the audience to conversion and, when pondered dutifully and lovingly, they evoke their faith response.

 

Today’s Gospel (Mk 4:21-25) also contains a parable-like saying of Jesus about the measure that is given is the measure that is received and that to one who has more will be given while the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is a powerful invitation to respond wisely and generously to the kingdom of God. The wise person who seeks to grow in the knowledge of God is fully rewarded. Those who foolishly refuse to listen to Jesus would end up terrible losers. Indeed, the Divine Master calls us to an attentive hearing and true understanding of his saving word. Jesus calls his disciples to a deep spirituality.

 

The following charming story gives insight into what true light means and what deep spirituality entails (cf. Anthony de Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations, New York: Image Books, 1988, p. 161).

 

A Guru asked his disciples how they could tell when the night had ended and the

day begun. One said, “When you see an animal in the distance and can tell whether it is a cow or a horse.” “No”, said the Guru. “When you look at a tree in the distance and can tell if it is a neem tree or a mango tree.” “Wrong again”, said the Guru. “Well, then, what is it?” asked his disciples. “When you look into the face of any man and recognize your brother in him; when you look into the face of any woman and recognize in her your sister. If you cannot do this, no matter what time it is by the sun it is still night.”

 

 

B. First Reading (II Tm 1:1-6): “I recall your sincere faith.”

 

In the First Reading (II Tm 1:1-8), Saint Paul underlines the obligations of Christian faith. Paul was martyred at Rome in the year 67. His second letter to Timothy represented his last will and testament. Paul exhorts the young pastor, Timothy, to exercise serving faith. The “gift of God” that Timothy received at ordination implies dutiful service to the faith community. Paul reminds Timothy that the divine gift received through “imposition of hands” needs to be continually exercised and rekindled for the common good. Timothy is likewise called to an enduring faith. Timothy needs to give witness to our Lord. He must endure sufferings for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.

  

The following inspiring article illustrates what it means to remain “in the faith and love that are ours in union with Christ Jesus” and how a Christian disciple could exercise a serving faith and an enduring faith in today’s world (cf. David Aquije, “The Bicycle Disciple” in Maryknoll, April 2010, p. 24-31). Fr. McCahill manifests his faith and shares this wonderful gift as he serves the sick poor in Bangladesh.

 

The day Maryknoll Father Robert McCahill arrived in Narail it was raining. The thin, 72-year old priest was physically exhausted and tired of looking for the place where he could begin a new phase of mission. Narail “was kind of miserable”, says the missioner, who for more than 35 years has been living in different villages of Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world, with a population of 150 million in a land the size of Iowa. Narail, a small, underdeveloped village without infrastructure in the southeast of the country, seemed to the missioner like “a good place to make a mark of Christianity, not for the purpose of conversion but simply for the idea of showing what a Christian is and does.”

 

McCahill was one of five Maryknoll priests who arrived in Bangladesh in 1975 to begin a ministry of Christian witness. For eight years, the missioners lived together, forming a Christian fraternity in Tangail, near Dhaka, the capital. Afterward, McCahill focused his mission on traveling to the interior of the country to help people, particularly children, who were in urgent need of medical assistance. Finding a place to begin his next stay can take McCahill months of research. He has his own criteria: the place should be poor, have no other foreigners or Christians and some of the people must be willing to allow him free use of a small piece of land where he can build his own shack.

 

A disciple of our times, McCahill arrives alone – with only a bag with a change of clothing and the essential elements to celebrate his own Mass – in any community where he might live for the next three years. There he sits in any tea shop – “tea stalls” he calls them – where men generally congregate to drink cha, sweet tea with milk that is the national drink, the way coffee is in the United States. Noting the presence of a foreigner, the rustic shop quickly fills up with people and McCahill responds honestly to all their questions. “I am Brother Bob, a Christian missionary”, the priest from Goshen, Indiana, tells them. “I am here to serve seriously sick people who are poor.” In the predominantly Muslim nation with a large Hindu minority, the questions that McCahill receives are many: has he come to convert, how does he finance the help he offers and why had he no family? He responds that the medical help he offers depends completely on the financial donations of his extended family and not on an organization; that his purpose is to live among people who are not Christian and treat them with love, respect and brotherhood; and that his family is all of humanity. McCahill describes the three years that he lives in each town this way: “The first year many are suspicious of me. The second year trust begins to build. The third year people’s affection is felt. They say, ‘He said he only came to do good and that is what he does’.”

 

In Narail, a short while before finishing his three years, McCahill continues getting up very early in the morning to dedicate time for prayer and meditation before beginning his mission work. This morning in October, he leaves his shack of jute-stick walls, a dirt floor and a corrugated roof and mounts his bicycle that will carry him over windy dirt roads through the beautiful countryside of Bangladesh’s fertile farmland, where ironically millions of people live in extreme poverty. The missioner pedals some miles to the next village of Bolorampur, where he visits Mehenaz, a 3-year-old girl who suffers from cerebral palsy as a result of a poorly handled delivery by a midwife in the village. Mehenaz’ grandmother brings the girl out of her hut and puts a mat on the ground. The missioner squats down in the style of the Bangladeshis and observes and assists the grandmother with the recommended physical therapy for the child. The girl’s mother isn’t there and McCahill is happy that someone else in the family has learned the exercises.

 

Afterward, amid the songs of wild birds and the smell of burning firewood, McCahill again mounts his bicycle and pedals several more miles to the village of Buramara. In Buramara, McCahill visits Liza, a 2-year-old who suffered serious burns on her left arm before her first birthday. The burns were so grave that her entire hand was fused to her forearm. McCahill was able to take the girl to a hospital in Dhaka where surgeons separated her hand from the forearm. Liza wears a brace so that the hand stays straight. The missioner explains that the child needs another surgery to straighten out two fingers that are bent. Liza cries easily and McCahill thinks it is because she is still in pain, but he tries to console her and make her laugh.

 

That is McCahill’s ministry. He mounts his bicycle and rides miles to his destination. It doesn’t matter if the roads are full of mud during the monsoon season in this tropical Asian land, east of India, on the Bay of Bengal. He arrives in a village and looks to help people who would otherwise be disabled and burdened for a lifetime by their physical conditions. With a small camera he takes photos of their conditions: cerebral palsy, burns, muscular dystrophy, cleft lips, hernias, tumors and broken bones caused by accidents. Every week he goes to Dhaka, traveling the same as the poor, in the old buses that are part of the complicated and dangerous Bengali transportation system. At a hospital in the capital, McCahill shows the photos to doctors who make their provisional diagnosis. With this information the missioner arranges for free treatment at one of the government hospitals in the city and eventually makes the eight- or nine-hour trip again with the children and their parents. “Not a great expense”, McCahill says. “I afford them their tickets. I usually provide the medicine. It’s not a matter of money; it’s a matter of love, the heart.”

 

Because he lives in a poor and predominantly Muslim country, McCahill relies on only a modest budget that comes from donations from his extended family for his ministry. “If I had lots of funds at hand to use, and lived apart (in a parish), people’s attitude to me would differ”, he says, adding the people would be tempted to wheedle money out of him. “People here understand I’m using more money for their needs than I use for my own needs.  No one can look at my life of service and say ‘he can only do that because he’s a rich American’.” For that reason McCahill shares the donations he receives through Maryknoll with other Christian communities that serve the poor in Bangladesh, especially communities of apostolic Sisters.

 

His is a life of service that he says began on Oct. 31, 1956. He was 19 years old and was interested in a career in political science. But that day as he was returning home from Seattle University, where he was studying, “I received – I can’t even describe it – an attraction to God like I had never felt before nor have needed since. The motivation I received in that moment was sufficient to keep me for life, as long as I continue to remember it.”

 

For years, McCahill has described his mission in a journal that he types every month on an antique Olivetti typewriter and shares with friends and family. “My mission”, he says, “is to show the love of Christ, the love of God for all people of all faiths; to be with them as a brother, to establish brotherhood by being a brother to them.”

 

 

C. Alternative First Reading (Ti 1:1-5): “To Titus, my beloved son in a common faith.”

 

In the alternative First Reading (Ti 1:1-5) we hear from Saint Paul’s letter to Titus, a Gentile convert to Christianity, who became a fellow worker and helper in missionary work. Titus is Paul’s young legate in the island of Crete. Paul underlines his authority as a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. Paul has been chosen by God and sent to promote the faith of the God’s chosen people. Such a task will be accomplished through the help of Titus, Paul’s “loyal child in faith” who is faithful to his teaching. Paul charges Titus with the task of organizing the church in Crete. Such pastoral action is necessitated by the disruption caused by false teachers. In view of a more efficacious pastoral ministry, Paul’s invocation of blessing upon Titus becomes meaningful. He prays: “May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior give you grace and peace.”

 

Saint Paul’s relationship with the Church leader, Titus, is inspiring. The following modern-day account gives insight into the bond of charity and unity of faith that fellow workers in the Lord share (cf. Francis, Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, Testimony of Hope, Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2000, p. 111),

 

I would like to remember for a moment the “kingdom of the wretched”, as one deportee called it, the prison camp in the Solovetsky Islands of Russia. One deported remembered an image of love in the midst of that great hell:

 

Uniting their efforts, a Catholic bishop who was still young worked together with an emaciated old man – an Orthodox bishop with a white beard, ancient in days but strong in spirit, who energetically pushed the load … Any of us who would one day have the good fortune of returning to the world, would have to testify to what we have seen here and now. What we saw was the rebirth of pure and authentic faith of the early Christians: the union of Churches in the persons of the Catholic and Orthodox bishops who participated unanimously in the duties, united in love and humility.

 

This happened in Solovetsky, “alma mater” of the Soviet prison camps.

 

  

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

 

1. Do I cherish the light of the Word of God and make it shine like a burning lamp on a stand? Do I dedicate myself to the meditation of God’s Word and the study of the parables of Jesus?

 

2. Do we endeavor to rekindle the gift of faith we have received at baptism and when ordained for a special service to the faith community? Do we endeavor to remain in the faith and love that are ours as Christians united with Christ Jesus?

 

 

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

 

Jesus Lord,

your Word is a light that brightens our path.

Help us to respond generously to your saving Word.

Let it transform us and may we continue to grow in your love.

You are our Divine Master, our way, truth and life.

We love and adore you, now and forever.

Amen.

 

***

O gracious God,

faith is your gift – your offer of eternal life.

Thank you for your goodness!

Through the intercession of Saints Timothy and Titus, bishops,

let our faith response

be marked with strength of hope

and service of love.

May our Christian discipleship

be known for its serving and enduring faith.

We adore you and give you 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.

 

“Is a lamp not to be placed on a lamp stand?” (Mk 4:21) // “Bear your share of hardship for the Gospel.” (II Tm 1:8) or “Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our savior” (I Ti 1:4)

 

 

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

 

Make an effort to study and meditate upon the Gospel parables. // Make an effort today to spread the Good News to the people around you. Pray that our Christian discipleship may be an authentic sign of an enduring and serving faith.

   

 

*** *** ***

 

January 28, 2017: FRIDAY – WEEKDAY (3); SAINT ANGELA MERICI, Virgin

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Makes the Seed Grow … He Helps Us to Endure”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Heb 10:32-39  // Mk 4:26-34

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 4:26-34): “A man scatters seed on the land and would sleep and the seed would sprout and grow; he knows not how.”

 

The farming images we have in today’s reading (Mk 4:26-34) are beautiful and powerfully symbolic. The parable of the growing seed while the farmer sleeps (verses 26-29) teaches us that the growth of the Kingdom is inevitable and that it is God’s initiative. The image of the sleeping farmer shatters the illusion of those who believe that the coming of the Kingdom is under human control. The Kingdom grows by the power of God. Like a seed that breaks forth from the ground, God’s Reign has already irrupted into the world through Jesus’ ministry.

 

The parable of the mustard seed (verses 30-34) underlines the contrast between an insignificant beginning and the full growth of God’s kingdom. The tiny seed grows into a full-blown tree. This symbolizes the organic continuity between Jesus’ ministry, so disappointing to Israel’s hopes, and the future of the Kingdom of God, that would encompass both the Israelites and the Gentiles – indeed peoples from all nations and cultures.

 

We are called to promote the growth of the Kingdom of God and the integration of creation. The following story illustrates the value of our personal contribution to bringing about the fruition of the divine saving plan (cf. Fr. Eric Haarer, “The Old Man in the Plaza” in Catholic Digest, July-August 2011, p.66-67).

 

Barcelona, Spain is an amazing city … I had been walking all day and it was hot, in the 80s. I wanted a rest away from the hustle and bustle, so I ambled down a side street and sat on a low wall in a tiny plaza near the Gothic Quarter. To my right was a small fountain, basically a pipe in the wall that spilled drinking water into a cement basin. In front of me stood a sickly looking sapling. It received little light in this narrow plaza, and its leaves were drooping and discolored from thirst and exhaust. An older, well-dressed gentleman at the fountain was filling an empty plastic soda bottle. He walked over to the tree and poured the water at its base. He returned to the fountain for more, and again watered the tree. And again. And again. I stopped counting after 12 trips and was on my way before he finished.

 

This simple act of kindness touched me deeply. It reminded me of something Mother Teresa said about her work in India: “We don’t do great things; we do small things with great love”. (…) This gentle man was tending the Earth, and in this “small thing done with great love”, he did his part to bring hope and new life into the world. Certainly he brought it to one foot-sore pilgrim.

 

 

B. First Reading (Heb 10:32-39): “Do not throw away your confidence. It will have a great reward.”

 

In today’s First Reading (Heb 10:32-39), the author of the letter to the Hebrews reminds them of their identity and dignity as baptized Christians – those “enlightened” by the light of faith. Having welcomed the light of Christ, they have endured all sorts of suffering. They have suffered for their Christian identity and share in the similar sufferings of others. They have been publicly insulted and mistreated; dispossessed and put in prison. Yet they are not defeated by the struggle. They are not disheartened by the loss of belongings because they know that they still possess something that which would last forever. Indeed, they need to endure and not lose courage. They should remember the prophet Habakkuk’s exhortation that the just one lives by faith. They have made a tremendous personal response in following Christ. It would be unfortunate if they give it up. Through the example of Christ in his passion, they will not turn back, but instead persevere in faith and be saved.

 

The following example of enduring faith in today’s society is very inspiring. Fr. Jon Sobrino, a Jesuit theologian based in El Salvador, gives us a firsthand account of an incident that illustrates Archbishop Oscar Romero’s radical faith response for Christ and his people.

 

“On May 19, 1977, the army went to Aguilares, expelled the three remaining Jesuits, desecrated the church and sacristy, and declared a state of emergency. After a month of the state of emergency, the army simply drove the people out of Aguilares. Archbishop Romero decided to go there at the first opportunity, denounce the atrocities that had been committed, and try to inspire a threatened, terrorized people with hope. ‘You are Christ today, suffering in history,’ he told them. After the Mass we held a procession of the Blessed Sacrament. We processed out into a little square in front of the church to make reparation for the soldiers’ desecration of the sacramental Body of Christ and the living Body of Christ, the murdered ‘campesinos’. Across the square, in front of the town hall, were armed troops, standing there watching us, sullen, arrogant and unfriendly. We were uneasy. In fact, we were afraid. We had no idea what might happen. And we all instinctively turned around and looked at Archbishop Romero, who was bringing up the rear, holding the monstrance. ‘Adelante! (Forward!)’, said Archbishop Romero. And we went right ahead.” 

 

On March 24, 1980, Archbishop Romero was shot to death while celebrating the Mass, the blood of his martyred body mixing with the sacramental body and blood of Christ on the altar of Eucharistic sacrifice. His death was a priestly sacrifice radically united with the sacrificial offering of Jesus, the eternal Priest-Victim upon the cross. Archbishop Romero was beatified on May 23, 2015 in the capital city of El Salvador.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we believe in small beginnings and in the power of God to make his kingdom grow and embrace all nations and creation? What do we do to promote the growth?

 

2. Are we willing to live by faith and endure the sacrifices that Christian discipleship entails? Do we trust that, united with Christ, we will not be overcome by suffering and not be defeated by the struggle?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

how marvelous is the growth of the heavenly kingdom!

It is a seed sown in human history by your messianic ministry.

Its power irrupts into our lives and we are a part of its growth.

We thank you for the power of life

and the universal expanse of the kingdom of God.

Grant that we may continue to give our very best

– no matter how humble and insignificant –

to promote the growth and fruition of God’s Reign

upon earth and in all creation.

We love you and praise you, now and forever.

Amen.

 

***

Loving Father,

we thank you for the light of faith

and for our Christian identity.

Give us the grace to endure the sufferings

that our consecration to Christ entails.

Let the passion of Christ be our strength

and help us to believe

that with faith we will have eternal life.

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.

 

“Once it is sown, it springs up.” (Mk 4:32) // “You need endurance to do the will of God and receive what he has promised.” (Heb 10:36)

 

 

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

 

Pray for social justice and the integration of creation. In view of the integration of God’s creation, practice proper waste management in your household using the ecological principles: reduce, reuse and recycle. // Be courageous to uphold the social teaching of the Church in the public square.

   

      

*** *** ***

 

January 28, 2017: SATURDAY – SAINT THOMAS AQUINAS, Priest, Doctor of the Church

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Calms the Raging Sea … He Calls Us to Faith”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Heb 11:1-2, 8-19 // Mk 4:35-41

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 4:35-41): “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”

(Gospel Reflection by Andy Ruperto, Fresno, CA – U.S.A.)

  

            Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him? Lord, who are You? Is this not the question we must constantly ponder? In today’s Gospel we again see Jesus’ disciples continuing on their journey of faith and asking, “Lord, who are You? You have power over the wind and the sea!”

 

            In this event, we must place ourselves in a boat on the Sea of Galilee. The wind and waves are beginning to violently shake the boat. The disciples are stumbling around and yelling, trying to get things under control. I do not know what it must have been like being in a potentially life-threatening storm, but I do remember being in a motorboat with family on a lake. When the front of the boat took on some water, because it was too heavy, there were screams and a bit of hysteria. How much more so if we were in a violent storm?

 

            In the meantime, our Lord is asleep in the stern. So, then the disciples ask – “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” This is a question I sometimes ask in different life situations. God, do You not know what I’m going through?” “Why is this happening to me?” Sometimes I ‘feel’ like my life is ending or that I cannot go on. There are too many storms – confusion, stress, studies, relationships, finances … So I ask, “Lord, do You not care that I am perishing?”

 

            Jesus then comes in power, and stills the storms with His word and says, “Peace! Be still.” This is the peace that comes from Jesus and it is a peace not as the world gives it. Christ is the only way to true peace. Here, our Lord Jesus shows His power over the wind and sea and amazes the disciples. Jesus is GOD. He is powerful. He is mighty. He can do anything. He can calm these modern-day storms. He is also humble and sometimes we cannot see through the veil of humanity.

 

            A friend once told me that the hard part for God is not the miracles, but changing human hearts. It seems that in this event, our Lord Jesus was using the storm to awaken the disciples’ hearts to faith. He asks them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”

 

            The “good news” of the reading today is one that was constantly repeated by our late Holy Father, John Paul II. It was the message, “Do not be afraid!” Our Lord tells us not to let our hearts be troubled. He is with us, and so what can we fear? He will take care of us. It is our faith that enables us not to fear. Let us always call on the name of Jesus in the stormy chapters of our lives. In these times let us quickly say, “Jesus, I trust in You. Jesus, I trust in You …”

 

 

B. First Reading (Heb 11:1-2, 8-19): “He was looking forward to the city whose architect and maker is God.”

 

Today’s Second Reading (Heb 11:1-2, 8-19) gives beautiful insight into the meaning of faith. According to the author of the letter to the Hebrews, faith assures us of the reality of what is hoped for and gives evidence of things not seen. God’s own assurances are behind the object of our faith. Though we may not understand the events of our lives, we trust in the benevolent God and his saving word. Abraham and other patriarchs manifested great faith in God’s oath of salvation, which was fulfilled in due time. We therefore imitate our great ancestors in faith.

   

The following story illustrates models of faith in today’s situation (cf. Patricia Normile, “Caregivers Need Care Too” in Saint Anthony Messenger (May 2010, p. 22-26). Both the caregiver and the dying person are animated with dynamic faith. In our preparation for the eternal encounter with God, we must trust in his goodness, mercy and saving promise. The faith of a Christian is rooted, informed and deepened by the word of God spoken in his Son Jesus Christ.

 

Caregivers often share with patients the wisdom of Scripture and God’s mercy. A hospice visitor, Deacon Amado Lim of Blue Ash, Ohio, knew Richard well. World War II veteran, great story teller, 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.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we believe in faith that God is in control? Do we place our trust in Jesus whom even the wind and sea obey? Do we derive strength from the fact that the Lord Jesus masters the storms and the raging seas?

 

2. Do we experience in our daily life the assertion of the author of the letter to the Hebrews: “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen”?

 

 

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

(Prayer n. 1 by Andy Ruperto, Fresno, CA-USA)

 

So, Lord, who are You?

You are my refuge, savior and teacher in the storms.

You are GOD!

I have often tried to control the storms myself.

Let me learn to go through them with You,

having recourse to You when I find myself in trouble.

Peace! Be still my soul!

Know that Jesus is GOD and that He does care

and that He loves me.

Mother Mary,

you know our Lord so intimately.

Please purify our faith in Him.

Form us into His likeness and into fearless saints.

Amen.

 

***

Loving Father,

how great was the faith of Abraham, Sarah and our ancestors

in your saving promise.

Help us to heed the call of Jesus

to live our faith in vigilance and readiness

for the advent of your kingdom of love, justice and peace.

Deepen our faith by your living Word spoken in your Son Jesus.

            We praise and glorify you, now and forever. 

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” (Mk 4:41) // “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” (Heb 11:1)

 

 

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

 

Offer comfort and assistance to those whose faith is wavering. Share with those who are overwhelmed in the sea of sorrows the comforting presence of Jesus who masters the winds and the raging seas. // To grasp more deeply the meaning of Christian faith and respond to its challenges, spend some moments of quiet prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.

  

  

 *** 

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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