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A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy




Advent Week 3: December 17-23, 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: December 10-16, 2017, please go to ARCHIVES Series 15 and click on “Advent Week 2”.




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 December 17, 2017: THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT

“JESUS SAVIOR: In Him We Rejoice in the Lord”




Is 61:1-2a, 10-11 // I Thes 5:16-24 // Jn 1:6-8, 19-28





A. Gospel Reading (Jn 1:6-8, 19-28): “There is one among you whom you do not recognize.”


On this Third Sunday of Advent, called “Gaudete Sunday” for it is deeply marked with a spirit of joyful expectation, we consider with great interest John the Baptist, an important Advent figure presented to us in today’s  Gospel reading (Jn 1:6-8, 19-28). He is the Lord’s precursor and his essential mission is to bear witness to the true light, Jesus Christ, and pave the way for his coming. The French scholar, Jean Danielou comments: “A witness is someone who has first been granted an inner vision; God has introduced him to the divine viewpoint so that he can pass on what he has seen to others. So it was with John the Baptist. God first admitted him to his own counsel, revealing to him the mystery of the divine plan, drawing him into the desert to share with him his own joy. Then came the essential part of his vocation: he was a witness to Christ, that is to say he was the one who pointed out Christ to the people.”


John the Baptist, in his ministry as the Messiah's precursor participates in the nuptial joy of Christ and his bride, the Church. Like John the Baptist, Mother Theresa of Calcutta was a precursor of Christ and a channel of messianic joy. She pointed out Christ to the people of the modern world.  Here is an account of how I met Mother Theresa personally.


In 1977 when I was assigned in Cebu Island in the Philippines, I read in the Readers’ Digest about a Catholic nun working among the poorest of the poorest in the slums of Calcutta.  Her name is Mother Theresa.  I was fascinated by her lifestyle.  I was awed by her unconditional love for the poor.


One day it was announced that Mother Theresa would be in Cebu to give a talk at a local orphanage.  I surely wanted to see her.  Sr. Mary Rosario, our Superior, and I went to attend her talk.  We were one of the early comers and to my surprise Mother Theresa was at the lobby greeting the guests. I mustered my courage and approached her. Mother Theresa looked kindly into my eyes as I timidly extended my hand to her for a handshake.  As I shook hands with her, I felt warmth and goodness radiating from her.  Her wrinkled face exuded inner beauty, serenity and profound joy.


Later in her talk, as she gave her personal testimony, I had a glimpse of what it means to be anointed by the Spirit of the Lord. People were moved to tears and conversion as she spoke from the heart. She is a living example of the Good News. She bore witness to her joy in the Lord and prepared our hearts to meet Christ the Lord.



B. First Reading (Is 61:1-2a, 10-11): “I rejoice heartily in the Lord.”


In the Old Testament reading (Is 61:1-2a, 10-11), the joy-giving mission of the Messiah is depicted with lyrical beauty and poetry:  "The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God".  The Christian tradition has seen in this prophetic passage the figure of the Messiah long expected, Jesus the anointed One.  The prophetic passage delineates, moreover, in terms of nuptial imagery, the salvation and joy that would result from the messianic intervention of the consecrated one:  "I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul; for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice, like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem, like a bride bedecked with her jewels".  The bride Jerusalem celebrates the fulfillment of love between herself and Yahweh, and this fruitful love is expressed poetically as the earth bringing forth its plants and a garden with its fresh growth. 


The recipients of the messianic mission are the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, the prisoners and those who mourn.  The poor or the anawim, encapsulates all the others.  The anawim are people bowed down in helplessness and dire need, acknowledging the benevolent kindness of Yahweh whose help they humbly seek and await.  God intervenes on their behalf through the spirit-filled Messiah resulting in abounding joy and exultation.


The following modern-day Christmas meditation gives insight into the divine saving plan on behalf of the “brokenhearted” (cf. Carol Kuykendall in Daily Guideposts 2015, p. 375).


I wonder if I can keep putting these broken, fragile figures out every year, I mused as I tenderly unwrapped the plaster Nativity pieces from the tissue paper; they’d survived three generations, often rescued from children’s curious hands.


First was a shepherd carrying a lamb with a part of the leg missing. It’s an appropriate reminder that sheep, especially broken ones, are totally dependent on the shepherd.


Next was an angel with a broken wing and paint-chipped knees, surely from all the kneeling and praying before going off to take messages, including one to a virgin that she would soon be with a child.


Then the wise men: there used to be three, but I’m down to two. Even wise men sometimes lose their way.


Ah, Joseph. He’s the most solidly intact, which seems appropriate because that’s the way he stood by Mary’s side.


And Mary: she’s got some obvious nicks, but she still reminds me that she said “yes” to God and allowed her life to work the Christmas miracle from the inside out.


Finally I unwrap Baby Jesus. Even He has not been spared the wear and tear. His body is broken; a hand and both feet have been carefully glued back on, which is a powerful reminder about the purpose of His life.


I gently place the figures atop the bookcase where I hope they’ll be safe for another season, because their appearance brings deeper reality to the meaning of Christmas for me.


Lord, I, too stand by the manger, chipped and broken and wondrously grateful that Baby Jesus came to heal people like me.



C. Second Reading (I Thes 5:16-24): “May you entirely, spirit, soul and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”


The Second Reading (I Thes 5:16-24) is taken from the earliest letter Saint Paul wrote and possibly, the oldest extant Christian manuscript (dated circa 50 A.D.). The first Pauline letter to the Thessalonians is important for it gives us a glimpse into the life of the early Christian community, struggling to live out its faith in a harsh atmosphere of hostility and persecution and wrestling with issues concerning the future coming of the Lord Jesus. Indeed, some Thessalonians expect the Lord’s parousia or “second coming” to occur in their lifetime and others are discouraged by the delay in the Lord’s “second coming”. In today’s passage, the great apostle Paul exhorts the early Christians to embrace a way of life oriented to God in joy, prayer and thanksgiving. The ad interim season of waiting for the Lord’s “second coming” should be lived by the Church as a time of enduring joy in openness to the workings of the Spirit, as a time of praying for the final advent of God’s reign in his Son Jesus, and as a time of gratitude and thanksgiving. Strengthened by the belief that God is faithful, the advent season of the Church is lived not in passive expectation, but in a celebration of life that is filled with joy, constant prayer and thanksgiving.


Concerning the element of joy that animates the Church, in this grace-filled season of Advent, Aelred Rossser comments: “Although our progression through Advent becomes more and more concerned with the historical birth of Jesus, we are never very far away from the thought of his second coming at the end of time. The apostle Paul presents us with something of a list of good works that will keep us ready for that second coming. The first thing we must do is rejoice always … not giddiness, not naïve optimism, not Pollyanna shallowness, and not a grin and bear it perseverance … Christian joy is profound, deep, unshakeable, permanent. And being a joyful Christian does not mean that we cannot feel sorrow, grief, or sadness. The truly joyful person feels these emotions very deeply – and expresses them without embarrassment. The realistic Christian knows full well that honest striving for holiness involves suffering. And suffering threatens to take away our happiness. Paul speaks of the kind of joy that endures (perhaps is even increased) in the face of suffering. It is the kind of joy that comes with Advent hope, the sure belief that God’s promises to us will be fulfilled.”


The death of a loved one is a special kind of “advent” of the Lord God. In this mysterious event, we feel the awesome presence of his life-giving power and eternal love. Indeed, neither illness nor death could take away the joy of knowing that both in life and death, we are the Lord’s and that he died and rose again to give us life. At the funeral Mass of my mom (whom we fondly call “Mamang”) on November 22, 2008, in Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Church in Barrio Marigondon in Cebu Island, Philippines, I spoke the following words of hope and consolation.


We have come together as a community of faith to celebrate the dies natalis or the birth to eternal life of Eulalia Abayan Tapang, my mother and the mother of Edgardo, Jose Jr., Nilo, Gisbert and Allen. Our two youngest brothers – Gisbert and Allen – who are in Canada could not be with us physically, but they are definitely united with us spiritually in this celebration of life. My brother Gisbert is terminally ill with cancer. I am sure that in heaven, Mamang continues her prayers for the healing and inner strength needed by Gisbert.


On November 14 (Friday) – last week – at about 3:00 A.M. in our convent in Los Angeles – I had a dream. I dreamt that Mamang collapsed in my arms. I woke up startled and perplexed. I wondered what that dream could mean. After the Mass when we were having breakfast, I shared with the Sisters in our community my “dream” of Mamang collapsing in my arms. I had just finished sharing this dream when the telephone rang. Sr. Mary Lucy from the PDDM convent in San Jose informed me that my brother Nilo had been frantically trying to contact me. I called up Nilo, who told me that Mamang was in serious condition and that she wanted to see me. With the blessing of my Superiors and with the help of my cousin Connie, I was able to re-schedule my November 20 trip to the Philippines and fly that very evening to Cebu.


I arrived in Mactan Island on Sunday morning (November 16) and after a quick breakfast, we proceeded to the North General Hospital in Talamban, Cebu where Mamang was confined in the ICU. My mother was comatose and in an extreme condition. I remained at her side, praying and commending her soul to the Lord. Fr. Diosdado, a young Augustinian priest, administered the last rites. I whispered in her ears: “Mamang, you are ready. You have done your part dutifully and lovingly. Thank you for what you have done as a true mother and teacher, and as a devout disciple-servant of the Lord God. You have lived fully – 90 blessed years – and you have given us courage, focus and direction in life. When Jesus, Mary and Joseph come, and when our dad “Papang” come to get you, you may go!”


At her deathbed, I was repeating the beautiful invocation: “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, assist me in my last agony. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, may I breathe forth my soul in peace with you.”


At about 7:00 P.M. I spoke to Mamang my words of farewell: “Mamang, I am going for Mass. Nilo will arrive tomorrow.” My brother Eddie, my sister-in-law Ruby and I were in the car when we received the notice from the ICU staff that Mamang passed away. We immediately returned to the ICU and prayed the ritual prayers after the death of a person. A few moments later, the PDDM Sisters from Capitol, Cebu – in full force – came. We then had a more solemn prayer service for the repose of her soul, accompanied with beautiful singing.


We grieve, yes! But at the same time we are heartened by the reality that death is not the end – but the door to eternal life!


Mamang, the Lord God has blessed you and has been gracious to you. You shall be with the Lord forever. You shall see God as he really is. You have passed from death to life. You shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Mamang, happy birthday to eternal life!


And to all of you who have shared in our grief – especially to you Fr. Boy and Fr. Bong – and to all who have participated intimately in Mamang’s paschal victory to eternal life, in the name of the Tapang Family, I thank you. May God bless you abundantly!


And now, let us unite ourselves with the PDDM Sisters in prayer as they sing the invocation for Mamang and for us all: “Dona nobis pacem … Grant us peace!”





1. What are the references and expressions of joy in this Sunday’s Advent liturgy? How do the experiences of joy of various biblical personages affect and inspire you? What are your own personal experiences of joy?


2, Why is Jesus the true font of beauty and joy? Are you willing to be “anointed” by the Spirit of Jesus and thus experience the joy of his presence and receive the challenge of being today’s witness of the Gospel joy? Are you resolved to hasten the advent of God’s reign upon earth?


3. How do you respond to Paul’s exhortation “Rejoice in the Lord always”? How do the experiences of sadness, trials, difficulties and troubles affect your spirit of joy? Why is it important to “rejoice in the Lord always”?





Loving Father,

we thank you for the gift of your Son Jesus Christ,

the font of beauty and joy.

He is your Servant-Son anointed by the Spirit

to bring glad tidings to the poor and heal the brokenhearted.

We thank you for John the Baptist,

who prepared the way of the Lord.

We thank you for the Blessed Mother Mary,

model of the Church

and a figure of the lowly “anawim”.

We thank you, almighty Father,

for the great apostle Paul

who brought the Good News of salvation to the nations.

With Mother Mary, John the Baptist and St. Paul,

help us to be ardent witnesses of Jesus.

Adveniat regnum tuum!

Thy kingdom come;

thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,

now and forever.






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


“Rejoice always.” (I Thes 5:16a)





By your commitment to be Gospel bearers and to be channels of joy, peace and justice in today’s world, enable the reign of God to come upon earth in Jesus. That we may toil fruitfully for the Lord and multiply our God-given talents, make an effort to spend some quiet moments in Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.



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December 18, 2017: MONDAY – ADVENT WEEKDAY (2)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Righteous Shoot of David”




Jer 23:5-8 // Mt 1:18-25





A. Gospel Reading (Mt 1:18-25): “Jesus was born of Mary, the betrothed of Joseph, son of David.”


Although the fullness of God’s saving justice is crystallized in Jesus, also called “Emmanuel” (“God is with us”), in today’s Gospel (Mt 1:18-25) we see that Joseph of Nazareth likewise exhibits the character of justice that befits his being a member of the chosen people. Joseph, the betrothed of Mary, is a just man who demonstrates his compassionate justice by his decision to save Mary and not to expose her to the Jewish punitive law. If Joseph were to act merely with human “righteousness”, the innocent Mary would be unjustly punished and put to death. His divinely inspired justice is revealed when he obediently follows God’s command and takes Mary into his home as his wife. Saint Joseph is therefore a model of total collaboration in the divine saving plan to offer to the world its Savior, Jesus.


The saving righteousness of Jesus, Mary and Joseph and their cooperation in God’s saving plan continue to live on in the people of today. Steven Gemmen’s story, “Where Love Grows” in Guideposts magazine (October 2004, cf. p. 44-48) is a touching account of how he welcomed into his life the child conceived by his wife, Heather, a victim of sexual assault. Steve narrates how his anger at the rapist found its outlet in the baby. In the sixth month of his wife’s rape-pregnancy, however, Steve was given the grace to understand that the little creature in his wife’s womb had nothing to do with the crime of the father, an unidentified African-American young man who broke into their home. Steve accepted the baby as his own, although there were bad times. According to Steve, “And there would be strained moments because of the baby’s appearance – starting with the delivery. How do you explain to the staff in the maternity ward that a white couple will have a biracial baby? But what a beautiful, beautiful baby! Healthy, squalling, wriggling, perfect – our long-awaited little girl … Our lives haven’t been the same since that terrible night. They never will be. I’d thought nothing could make me love this child. That’s true. Nothing can make us love anyone or anything. Love is not a choice. It is the sovereign gift of God. And it was his gift that the child who stirred within Heather would make the unbearable not just bearable, but miraculous.”   



B. First Reading (Jer 23:5-8): “I will raise up a righteous shoot to David.”


Today’s Old Testament reading (Jer 23:5-8) contains Jeremiah’s prophecy, which breathes hope into an oppressive atmosphere of despair before the fall of Judah at the hands of the Babylonians. False shepherds and corrupt rulers have been responsible for the exile of the nation. But God promises a righteous Shepherd-King who will gather the scattered people of Judah and the children of Israel from where they have been banished. The future king, a descendant of King David, will be God’s instrument to fulfill his saving plan. He shall govern wisely and do what is right and just. His name shall be “The Lord our justice” or “The Lord our salvation” because he is the embodiment of the true meaning of “justice”, which is the saving presence of God. Through “the king who is to come” shall be realized the blessings of the covenant, that is, the peace and justice that God has promised his people. Jeremiah’s prophecy of “a righteous shoot to David” is fulfilled with the coming of Jesus, whose foster father is Joseph, “son of David”.


The life of St. Leopold the Good gives insight into the “righteous shoot of David” whose compassionate character is fully crystallized in Jesus Savior and is likewise manifested by his foster father Joseph of Nazareth (cf. Saints for the Family, Special Supplement to Our Sunday Visitor, p. 42-44).


Saint Leopold the Good, A Saint for Stepparents (died 1136): Saint Leopold loved children. He married a widowed noblewoman named Agnes who brought into the palace two young children from her former husband, and Leo raised them as his own. In the years that followed, Agnes and Leopold had 18 children, 11 of whom survived to adulthood. By all accounts, Leopold was a gentle, loving father who made no distinction between his stepchildren and the children he had fathered with Agnes.


The couple ruled over Austria, a land that, in the early 12th century, was still largely wild and uninhabited. As an expression of his religious devotion, Leopold founded several important monasteries that still survive, including Klosterneuberg, on the Danube right outside Vienna, his personal favorite place where he asked to be buried, and Heilegenkreuz in Lower Austria, which possesses a relic of the true cross. There was a practical aspect to founding these monasteries, too. The sites Leopold chose were in wilderness areas, but once the monks arrived he knew they would make the land productive abd attract people to settle in the region. (…)


When Leopold died, all his children and the people of Austria mourned him as an honest and holy prince. In addition to being venerated as the patron of stepchildren, stepparents and large families, Saint Leopold the Godd is also one of the patrons of Austria.





Do we allow ourselves to be imbued with the true character of justice – the one lived out by Saint Joseph and his foster son, Jesus Christ? Do we realize that true justice is linked to the presence of God and his plan of salvation?





Loving Father,

we believe that with the advent of your Son Jesus Christ,

“the righteous shoot of David”,

justice shall flourish in our time and fullness of peace forever.

Help us to welcome Jesus in our life

so that we may rejoice in his messianic blessing.

You are truly kind and just

and you are our almighty God,

now and forever.






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


“I will raise up a righteous shoot to David.” (Jer 23:5) // “He will save his people from their sins.” (Mt 1:21)





By your prayer, words and deeds endeavor to bring justice to those who have been abused, violated and wronged. Pray in a special way for the victims of sexual violence and human trafficking. Pray for stepparents and stepchildren.



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December 19, 2017: TUESDAY – ADVENT WEEKDAY (3)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Consecrated One”




Jgs 13:2-7, 25-25a // Lk 1:5-25





A. Gospel Reading (Lk 1:5-25): “The birth of John the Baptist is announced by Gabriel.”

(By Fr. Samuel Canilang, CMF, Director: Institute for Consecrated Life in Asia)


The elderly Elizabeth became pregnant. The all-powerful and empowering God makes the barren fertile. God’s loving and liberating Son makes the blind see, the mute speak, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the captive free, the hungry satisfied, the lowly exalted…. Elizabeth’s giving birth to John is part of the story of God’s salvation that culminates in the Incarnation. In Jesus, God is in our midst, making everything new and fruitful, bringing about justice, leading us all into the fullness of life and love.


The annunciation of John’s birth points to the annunciation of Jesus’ birth. While Zechariah doubted, Mary readily believed. Today, many of us do not seem to feel really part of the salvation story: the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed, the suffering, the sick … Like Mary, let us trust and put all our hopes in the Word. Let us be truly part of God’s story in believing, hoping, loving, and serving. Christ has never left us. The Holy Spirit is always among and in us. Advent awakens us into this reality. All we need to do, to be truly part of God’s story, is live in and according to this reality, that God – who makes the barren fertile – is Emmanuel.



B. First Reading (Jgs 13:2-7, 24-25a): “The birth of Samson is announced by an angel.”


Our friends, Lynn and Restie, a young married couple residing in San Jose (CA-USA) were eagerly looking forward to raise their own family. Unfortunately, Lynn had a miscarriage. A medical problem made it difficult, or impossible, for her to have a baby. Lynn and Restie prayed to God and put their trust in him. Against all odds, Lynn conceived and gave birth to a beautiful girl. I was taking my turn for the Eucharistic Adoration when I heard some discreet footsteps. I turned around and saw Lynn and Restie, beaming joyfully and carrying their baby named Eliana. Lynn was just discharged from the maternity hospital. Before going home, the proud parents decided to pass by the Sisters’ convent and present their daughter to the Lord. Lynn and Restie put the baby, sleeping peacefully in a cradle basket, at the foot of the altar. We offered praise and thanksgiving to the Lord for the “miraculous” gift and humbly begged Jesus to bless and consecrate the child.


Today’s readings speak of the announcement of the birth of Samson and John the Baptist and their consecration to God from their mothers’ womb. Both the mother of Samson and the mother of the Baptist are barren. The birth of the child for each mother is an act of grace and presages a unique mission for each child. In the Old Testament reading (Jgs 13:2-7, 24-25a), we hear that the boy, Samson, is destined for the deliverance of Israel from the power of the Philistines. The boy, John the Baptist, will bring many people of Israel back to God and, mighty like the prophet Elijah, he will prepare the way of the Lord. In view of their special saving mission, Samson and John the Baptist must live an ascetic life – never drinking wine or strong drink. Filled with the Holy Spirit, their consecration to God points to the totally “consecrated One”, Jesus Savior, whose works and words manifest him as the “Holy One of God”.





1. Do we truly participate in salvation history, in which God the “Emmanuel” transforms, making the barren fertile and everything new and fruitful?


2. Are we receptive to the miraculous intervention of God in our daily life, and do we trust in his power to make the barren fruitful? What does being “consecrated” to God mean to us? How do we live out this “consecration”?





Lord Jesus,

you are the “Root of Jesse’s stem”,

sign of God’s love for all his people.

In you the barren becomes fertile.

Everything is made new and fruitful.

Let us work with you in the blooming of the desert.

Help us to proclaim the Good News to the poor

and hasten the advent of your kingdom.

Maranatha! Come, O Christ the Lord!



O loving God,

we thank you for your miraculous intervention

in the lives of barren women

and your awesome power to make the barren fruitful.

We thank you for consecrating Samson and John the Baptist

in their mothers’ womb

and for their special role in salvation history.

Help us to value our own consecration

and let the Holy Spirit of Jesus,

the totally “consecrated One” fill our hearts.

Make us docile instruments of your saving will.

We bless and praise you, now and forever.






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


“Elizabeth was barren … Elizabeth conceived.” (Lk 1:7, 24) //“This boy is to be consecrated to God from the womb.” (Jgs 13:5)





By your works of justice on behalf of the marginalized, be a part in the blooming of the desert and of making the barren fertile. // Make this Advent season a privileged occasion to practice mortification and sacrifices that will help you perceive the practical implications of being “consecrated” to God.




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December 20, 2017: WEDNESDAY – ADVENT WEEKDAY (3)

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Sign of Salvation




Is 7:10-14 // Lk 1:26-38





A. Gospel Reading (Lk 1:26-38): “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son.”

(By Fr. Samuel Canilang, CMF, Director: Institute for Consecrated Life in Asia)


The Spirit of God was hovering over the cosmos at the time of creation. The Spirit of God overshadowed Mary at the conception of Jesus. The Spirit of God descended upon the Apostles at the birth of the Church. The Holy Spirit is creative, the source of all life - the mother of all. The Incarnation has transformed the cosmos. It is the birth of a new heaven and a new earth. The mission of the Son is to bring fullness of life to all: to humankind, to all created beings, to mother earth, to the universe.


The human being is Adam. The human being is earth. Indeed, the human and the earth are radically bound together. We live on the fruits of the earth. In turn the earth needs us to care for it, cultivate it, and make it fruitful. The season of Advent invites us to contemplate the mystery of the Incarnation. At the same time, it invites us to assume the mission of the Incarnate Son: to bring fullness of life to all. Like Mary, let us be handmaids of the Lord; servants of the Lord; co-workers of the Lord. Today, a very urgent task of all handmaids of the Lord is the care of our mother earth.



B. First Reading (Is 7:10-14): “Behold, the virgin shall be with a child.”


It must have been some kind of midlife crisis, for I had allowed the disappointments of those moments to discourage me and even erode my self-esteem. I felt so insignificant and it seemed that I had toiled in vain. I needed some kind of affirmation to confirm that my apostolic labor had meaning and value. I prayed to God to give me a “sign”. In his goodness God gifted me with a beautiful “sign”. One day in June 2001, Bishop Protacio Gungon of the Diocese of Antipolo, in the Philippines, informed me that I was going to receive an award. The Bishop nominated me for the papal award, Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice in recognition for the service I had rendered to the Church and the Pope. On August 15, 2001, in a memorable diocesan celebration that acknowledged the contribution of a layman, a religious, and a clergyman, Mr. Guillermo Tolentino and I received the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice award while Fr. Arnel Lagarejos was elevated to the rank of “papal chaplain”, with the title of “Monsignor”. The conferral of the papal award was for me a “sign” that encourages me in difficulties as I endeavor to serve the Lord and his people through the Eucharistic-Priestly-Liturgical apostolate.


The liturgy of the Advent and Christmas seasons is marked by an exquisite “sign” of God’s love: the birth of a child, which is perhaps the most universal and enduring symbol of hope for the human race. A “sign” in the Old Testament and New Testament is usually some event assuring us of divine intervention. It is an indication of divine presence and a form of revelation. A “sign” is God’s propitious expression of benevolence and a promise of salvation for his people. It is a gift of love from our saving God to encourage us in moments of crisis. Indeed, a divine “sign” is a symbol of hope in weakness and an assurance of life and victory when assailed with threats of defeat and destruction.


The Old Testament reading (Is 7:10-14) contains a prophetic sign directed to King Ahaz, who was anxious and trembling as “the trees of the forest tremble in the wind” (Is 7:2), for the imminent siege of Jerusalem in 735 B.C. by the kings of Syria and Israel. Confronting his lack of trust in the Lord, the prophet Isaiah declared: “The Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel” (Is 7:14). With the sign of the conception and birth of a child, God wanted to manifest to King Ahaz, who was piously hiding his intent to seek security through political allies, that the Lord Yahweh was in perfect control of human history and destiny. Indeed, God is with us and intimately involved in our affairs. The “sign” announced by the prophet Isaiah was an invitation to Ahaz to trust in God alone – in the realization of the Covenant and his continual protection. The King ought not to rely on the political and military interventions of the Assyrians for salvation from his enemies. The conception and birth of a child by the young wife of King Ahaz was meant to be a powerful indication of Yahweh’s abiding presence and merciful intervention on behalf of his people. The weakling ruler, however, did not accept the birth of his son, Hezekiah, as a “sign” of salvation and of God’s solicitude for the house of David. Trusting more in political security, Ahaz sent gold and silver to the King of Assyria and became his vassal.


Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in the birth of the Virgin Mary’s child, Jesus. The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 1, comment: “The sign that God gives is the birth of a child. It is a sign, because this birth is a promise of salvation. Moreover, he will bear the significant name Emmanuel, that is, God-with-us. The salvation announced to the people goes beyond the person of Hezekiah. The child, the sign of the salvation of God, will be no ordinary person, and he will come from David’s lineage: the Messiah himself. When Jesus appeared, born of a woman – a virgin whose name was Mary – to whom the angel of God said: You shall conceive and bear a son … The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father … and his reign will be without end (Lk 1:31-33), one will easily surmise that he must be the promised Messiah. Not merely one sign among many, but THE sign of God.” 





1. Do we imitate Mary in her openness to grace and in her total availability to share in the mission of the Son to bring fullness of life to all?


2. Have we ever experienced a crisis situation that prompted us to ask God for a “sign” that he was really there for us? Did God send us a “sign” in response to our faith-filled yearning? 





Lord Jesus,

you are the “Key of David”,

opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom.

Like Mary, we say “Fiat” to the Father’s saving will.

Make us share in your mission

to free prisoners from the darkness of sin

and to bring the fullness of life to all.

Maranatha! Come, O Christ the Lord!



Loving Father,

we welcome the birth of Jesus,

from the virginal womb of Mary,

as a sign of your saving presence in our midst,

a symbol of hope and a promise of salvation.

In the fragile “sign” of the Child Jesus,

born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem,

we embrace the presence,

the power and strength of your redeeming love.

In Jesus Savior

the joy of Christmas is complete.

We thank you, loving Father,

for the “sign” of the Christ Child

and the gift of Christmas.

You live and reign, forever and ever.






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


“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38) //“The Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.” (Is 7:14) 





Meditate on the beautiful Christmas “sign” of the Christ Child, born of Mary. Let the “sign” of the Christ Child and the Christmas spirit of love, justice, peace and the presence of God be shared with the people around you, especially the poor, the sick and the suffering.



*** *** ***


December 21, 2017: THURSDAY – ADVENT WEEKDAY (3); SAINT PETER CANISIUS, Priest, Doctor of the Church

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is in Our Midst”




Sg 2:8-14 or Zep 3:14-18a // Lk 1:39-45





A. Gospel Reading (Lk 1:39-45): “And how does this happen to me that the mother of the Lord should come to me?”

(By Fr. Samuel Canilang, CMF, Director: Institute for Consecrated Life in Asia)


Mary is “the most blessed among women”. She is blessed because she “believed that the Lord’s word would come true”. These words of Elizabeth correspond to those of Jesus himself: “My mother, my brothers and my sisters are those who receive the word of God and fulfill it.” Shema Israel… Listening (= hearing and obeying) is a central theme in the whole Judaeo-Christian Tradition. Listening to the Word is intrinsically linked to blessedness or holiness. Only God is Holy – the three times holy. Being blessed is sharing in the holiness of God.


The other biblical term used to refer to the sharing in God’s holiness is consecration. All of us – members of the Church – are consecrated by virtue of our baptism. We all share in the holiness of God. We are blessed. We live our consecration according to our form of life in the Church: as lay, as religious, as ordained. To live our consecration fundamentally involves discernment, meditation and responding to the word of God which comes to us through the Scripture, the Tradition, our contemporary experiences, the signs of the times, the needs of our neighbors. Advent is a special invitation for us to live and bear witness to our consecration to God in Christ.



B. First Reading (Sg 2:8-14): “Hark!My lover comes, springing across the mountains.” // Zep 3:14-18a: “The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst.”


Song of Song 2:8-14: This Old Testament reading depicts the deep longing of a young girl for the coming (the “advent”) of her beloved, who now bounces upon the hills like a gazelle or a young stag. Confined at home behind a wall, windows and lattices, she eagerly listens to her lover’s invitation for a springtime tryst. The profusion of flowers, the cooing of turtledoves, the blossoming of fig trees and the beauty of their romance evoke the joyful meeting of Mary and Elizabeth and the two illustrious babies within their wombs. The Song of Song’s portrayal of the tender love between the young lovers likewise points to the intimate union of the Savior with humankind through the mystery of the Lord’s incarnation.




Zephaniah 3:14-18a: Zephaniah, who prophesied under King Josiah of Judah, is both the prophet of the “day of wrath” and the harbinger of the promise of salvation. His foreboding of doom (cf. Zep 1:15: “a day of wrath, that day, a day of distress and agony, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of cloud and darkness …”) merely underlines the consoling message that God is in our midst – to bring salvation out of a painful situation.  The enigmatic prophet makes an ardent appeal to trust in the mighty Lord who is “in our midst”. He courageously invites a presently distressed people to rejoice in a situation in which joy seems utterly impossible. Zephaniah’s climactic message of hope reinforces the clarion call of the Church in this Advent season to rejoice always in the Lord. The indomitable joy of a believer and the faith community is founded on the conviction that our future is secured by God and promoted by human endeavor and response. Against the backdrop of Zephaniah’s ode to joy and the exceedingly familiar situations of pain and calamity in today’s world, we perceive better our mission to be instruments of joy and hope for others.


The following excerpt from a letter written in December 2013 by our friend, Sr. Jean Marie, CSFN, an American missionary in the Philippines, invites us to cling to God whose love is made incarnate and is “in our midst”.


Yes, since October 15 this country has had two major calamities. A 7.2 earthquake struck Bohol and Cebu about 8:15 a.m. that day and over 3,000 aftershocks are still going on. Our 5 Sisters there had to hold on to iron grills on the windows; otherwise, they would have been thrown over the second floor porch, where they were able to exit.  Our school was damaged but the loss of 23 churches is even more devastating. (…)


Typhoon Yolanda, as called in the Philippines, struck a blow Nov. 8-9 leaving even more devastation. Thousands of lives were lost because of the water surge. It will take a long time plus lots of faith and courage for these families to rebuild their homes and lives.


Christmas is right around the corner. So, this newborn Baby Jesus is always a sign of and proof for hope that new life, especially our spiritual life will not die. Perhaps the Filipino people are being purified and strengthened in their faith and trust in the God who loves and cares. Lots of love is being poured out from all around the world. Businesses and institutions here are cancelling Christmas parties and donating the money. Is this not what Christmas is all about? Christmas is about love – the love of God for us and our love for one another.





1. Do we realize how greatly blessed are we by God and that he has consecrated us to his saving will? How do we witness God’s blessing and how do we live out our consecration?


2. Do we welcome with joyful expectation the advent of Jesus, the font of joy, in our personal life and in the life of the Church? Do we resolve to commit ourselves to be a people of joy and to be promoters of joy in today’s anguished and distressed world?





Lord Jesus,

you are the “Emmanuel”,

our King and giver of the Law.

In you we behold the holiness of God

and participate intimately in his life.

Help us to rejoice in the blessing you bring

and to live fully our consecration to your saving mission.

Maranatha! Come, O Christ the Lord!



(Cf. Alternative Opening Prayer of the Mass: Third Sunday of Advent)


Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

ever faithful to your promises

and ever close to your Church:

the earth rejoices in hope of the Savior’s coming

and looks forward with longing

to his return at the end of time.

Prepare our hearts and remove the sadness

that hinders us from feeling the joy and hope

which his presence will bestow.

He is Lord forever and ever.






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


“Blessed is the fruit of your womb.” (Lk 1:42b) //“The Lord, your God, is in your midst.” (Zep 3:17)





Let our blessing and consecration be made manifest in our acts of justice and charity for the people around us, especially those who have lost their jobs and/or homes and are feeling extremely vulnerable. // Offer your moral, spiritual and material help to the victims of natural and man-made calamities.



*** *** ***


December 22, 2017: FRIDAY – ADVENT WEEKDAY (3)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Cause for Thanksgiving”




I Sm 1:24-28  // Lk 1:46-56





A. Gospel Reading (Lk 1:46-56): “The Mighty One has done great things for me.”

 (Gospel Reflection by Fr. Samuel Canilang, CMF, Director: Institute for Consecrated Life in Asia)


The Magnificat reveals three significant traits of Mary: her historical memory, social consciousness, and covenantal perspective. In the depth of her heart, Mary remembers the origin and identity of her people: a people chosen, loved, formed, cared for, guided by God. Mary knows the consistent infidelity of her people vis-à-vis the uninterrupted fidelity of God. Far from being a plain housewife, indifferent to the situation outside her own household, Mary is profoundly aware of the plight, the struggles, and the dreams of her people. Now Mary understands everything from the perspective of the Covenant. Thus she bursts into song upon Gabriel’s annunciation of the birth of the Messiah. The Incarnation is the decisive and definitive fulfillment of God’s part of the Covenant: the salvation of all characterized by liberation, healing, justice, peace, and joy.


Advent is a time of repentance for our infidelity, renewal of our faith in the Covenant, renewal of our commitment to Christ and his mission of integral salvation, and thanksgiving for God’s constant fidelity.



B. First Reading (I Sm 1:24-28): “Hannah gives thanks for the birth of Samuel.”


Today’s Old Testament reading (I Sm 1:24-28) is especially meaningful for me. When my dad was sick with cancer, and was given at most three months to live, I bargained with God. I promised I would enter the convent if he healed him. My dad got well. When I was nineteen, God made me realize it was time to fulfill my vow. One night I received a telegram from my dad, who was helping his sister’s business in Mindanao, Philippines. The text was short, but it radically changed my life: “With my blessing, daughter.” Soon I was at the PDDM convent, accompanied by my mom, requesting admission. My mom said, “God gave her to us. We give her back to him.” Sr. Mary Gianfranca, an Italian sister who warmly welcomed us, told my mom: “Mrs. Tapang, she will be closer to you more than before!”


Against the backdrop of my personal experience, I find the account of Hannah’s consecration of Samuel very touching. The distraught Hannah, despised for her barrenness, bargains with God: if she is given a son, she will consecrate him to the Lord. God hears her request. She conceives and gives birth to a son, whom she names Samuel. After weaning her son, she brings him to the sanctuary in Shiloh and introduces him to the priest Eli as the divine answer to her prayer. Hannah told Eli of her resolve: the boy will belong to the Lord as long as he lives. God blesses Hannah with three more sons and two daughters to take the place of the one dedicated to him.


Hannah’s presentation of her child, Samuel, in the temple reminds us of Mary who would one day present her son, Jesus, in the temple. Moreover, Hannah’s song of praise for God’s marvels finds a counterpart in Mary’s “Magnificat”. Both canticles express joy at the birth of a special child and both praise the power and holiness of God and his saving will. The boy, Samuel, who is the cause of thanksgiving for Hannah, will grow up to be a great prophet who will speak the word of God to Israel. Hannah’s son is a figure of Jesus, the son of Mary, the cause of our salvation and thanksgiving. Surpassing Hannah’s son, Mary’s son is the word of God incarnate and the savior of all mankind.





What does the consecration of the boy Samuel to the Lord mean to us? How do the song of Hannah and the song of Mary inspire me? Do we sing Mary’s Magnificat in the daily events of our life, deeply conscious of God’s presence and activity on our behalf, the responsibilities of our covenant relationship with him, and our social duties to promote the common good?





Lord Jesus,

you are “King of all nations” and keystone of the Church.

We sing with Mary her Magnificat

and let the Spirit of God animate our daily lives.

We commit ourselves to the covenant

and the service of the most needy and vulnerable among us.

Maranatha! Come, O Christ the Lord!





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


“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” (Lk 1:46-47a) // “As long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the Lord.” (I Sm 1:28)





Pray that our Marian devotion may deepen our covenant fidelity and social responsibility. Do something for indigent children and share with them the joy of Christmas. By your spiritual, moral, and material support, promote priestly and religious vocations in the Church and in the world today.



*** *** ***

December 23, 2017: SATURDAY – ADVENT WEEKDAY (3); SAINT JOHN KANTY, Priest

“JESUS SAVIOR: John the Baptist Is His Messenger of Hope”




Mal 3:1-4, 23-24  // Lk 1:57-66





Today’s Gospel (Lk 1:57-66) depicts the birth of John the Baptist, the precursor of the Messiah. The prophecy of Malachi (3:1-4, 23-24) sheds light on the Gospel portrait of John the Baptist.  Malachi speaks of God’s promise to send his “messenger” to prepare the way before him and to send “the prophet Elijah” to bring fathers and children together again. As we contemplate God’s marvelous works, in this Advent-Christmas season, we perceive with gratitude that John the Baptist, born of Jesus’ kinsmen Elizabeth and Zechariah, is the “messenger” sent to prepare the way of the Lord. John is likewise the promised “Elijah” totally committed to God as his prophet of judgment and repentance. John the Baptist is a very powerful Advent figure. He preaches the Good News to the people and urges them to change their hearts. Through an ascetic lifestyle and fiery words of truth, he makes a critique of an evil status quo and calls people to conversion. Above all, he uplifts the hearts of the disheartened and the disappointed by proclaiming the advent of the longed for Messiah in their midst.


Like John the Baptist, we too are called to proclaim the saving advent of Jesus in our life. We too are called to be prophets of hope. In today’s fragmented world, Authors Anne Hendershott and Christopher White show how to carry this out (cf. Emily Stimpson in “Book Tells Good News Story of the Church” in Our Sunday Visitor, December 1, 2013, p. 19).


The end is near. In the wake of the clergy sex abuse scandals and Rome’s unchanging positions on the ordination of women, priestly celibacy, and traditional marriage, that was the fate many cultural commentators predicted for the Catholic Church. But in their new book, “Renewal: How a New Generation of Priests and Bishops is Revitalizing the Catholic Church” (Encounter Books, $25.99), Anne Hendershott and Christopher White unpack the sociological evidence that proves just the opposite. Recently, Our Sunday Visitor spoke about that evidence with Hendershott, professor of sociology and director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Here’s what we learned.


Our Sunday Visitor: If the only knowledge someone had of the Catholic Church was what they saw reported on the evening news, what kind of Church would they see?


Anne Hendershott: Essentially, they would see a Church in decline. If all you’re doing is reading secular newspapers or news programs, you’ll get the idea of people deserting the Church, that priests are disgruntled, graying and unhappy and we’re not attracting new Catholics. (…)


Our Sunday Visitor: How does that picture contrast with the real picture?


Hendershott: Well, when I started to write the book, the plan was to write about the Catholic culture wars. That was the original title, “Beyond the Catholic Culture Wars”. At that point, I was buying into the secular media’s idea that the Church was in decline. I didn’t know how good the news about the Church actually was. Everything changed though, when I started writing. I knew intuitively that some dioceses were doing well and producing vocations. So, I thought I’d have a chapter that focused on that good news. The plan was to put it at the end of the book and close on a positive note.


But then my research assistant who was helping with the data, Christopher White, came to me and said, “This news is so good. I don’t know if you want to end the book with this.” I was blown away by what he showed me. It wasn’t just a few dioceses that were doing well. There was more good news than I could fit into just one chapter. So, I totally redid the plan for the book and made Christopher a coauthor.


Our Sunday Visitor: What is some of the good news you found?


Hendershott: Going in, I knew there would be some dioceses that had strong ordination numbers. But there were far more dioceses than I anticipated that fit into that category. Also, the picture of priests as unhappy, depressed alcoholics is just so false. There was a study done not too long ago that tells us 95 percent of priests find a great joy in their priesthood and most wouldn’t even think of leaving.


Our Sunday Visitor: What makes for happy priests and good priestly vocation numbers?


Hendershott: What we found was that the bishops are what makes the difference. Bishops who are involved with their seminarians, encouraging vocations, and living their priesthood – that matters. So does what bishops are saying and doing on specific cultural issues. Bishops who protested Notre Dame awarding an honorary degree to President Obama, those who were high profile in talking about the problem of pro-choice politicians, and those who signed the Manhattan Declaration, which defends the definition of marriage as one man and one woman – in all those cases, what you see is more vocations. The more orthodox the bishop, the more vocations he inspires. Archbishop (Elden) Curtiss said as much in the early 1990s. He wrote an article back then that said when dioceses are unambiguous about the priesthood, and there’s a minimum of dissent about the nature of it, you have more vocations. Our research found that to be true. (…)


Our Sunday Visitor: What other signs of renewal give the lie to the secular portrayal of the Catholic Church?


Hendershott: The growing involvement of faithful laity, the increase in the number of permanent deacons, and so many wonderful new organizations focused on the New Evangelization, such as FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) and Word on Fire Ministries. Then, there are the books being written by faithful Catholics and Catholic universities who are taking their Catholic identity seriously, as well as faithful women’s religious orders that are attracting vocations while dissident orders are dying out. There is so much good news.


Our Sunday Visitor: What else can the laity do to help encourage the renewal taking place within the Church?


Hendershott: Celebrate the good news. Pray for priests and honor them. Encourage your children and grandchildren to consider priestly and religious vocations. The more people realize the priesthood and consecrated life are wonderful callings, the more they will inspire their sons and daughters to consider it.





Like John the Baptist are we ready to prepare the way of the Lord and prepare the hearts of the people of today for the advent of Jesus in their life? Are we messengers of the Lord and heralds of the Good News?





Lord Jesus,

your cousin, John, is the new Elijah sent by God

to be your precursor.

He is the messenger who prepares the way for you

and the prophet who points out your Advent in our midst..

Bless us and grant us the grace to imitate the precursor John.

Help us to bring close to you the people of Advent expectation.

You are our saving Lord, now and forever.




 Lord Jesus,

you are the “Radiant Dawn”,

splendor of eternal light,

sun of justice.

Bathed in your glorious light,

we walk in the path of life.

Guided by the “hand of the Lord”,

we spread Christmas joy to all.

Help us to prepare worthily for the celebration of your birth.

Maranatha! Come, O Christ the Lord!





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


“The hand of the Lord was with him.” (Lk 1:66) // “Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare my way before me.” (Mal 3:1)





By acts of self-giving and personal witnessing, let the people who are heart-broken and grieving experience the Advent of the saving Lord in their lives.




Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang PDDM





60 Sunset Ave., Staten Island, NY 10314

Tel. (718) 494-8597 // (718) 761-2323

Website: WWW.PDDM.US



60 Sunset Ave., Staten Island, NY 10314
Tel. (718) 494-8597 or (718) 761-2323

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