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A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

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N.B, Please let us continue to pray for deliverance.

 

ORATIO IMPETRATA

TO SUBDUE THE CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC

  

Loving God,

you are the author of Life

and the Lord of creation.

We thank you for the wonders of our being

and the marvels of creation.

We trust in you

for your faithfulness

is our buckler and our shield.

With you the terror of the night

does not overwhelm us

nor the plague that prowls in the darkness.

We now turn to you

as the pandemic of the Corona Virus

casts it shadows of death upon us.

Deliver us from this calamity

and free us from this pestilence.

Spare us from the scourge of this disease.

Heal those who are afflicted.

Help us to work together in a concerted effort

to fight this torment.

Be near to us

and let the Spirit of life

breathe its healing comfort upon us.

Restored in your grace,

may we give you thanks and praise

in the assembly of the redeemed,

now and forever.

Amen.

 

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

Lent Week 5: March 29 – April 4, 2020

 

 

(The pastoral tool BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD: A LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY & WEEKDAY LITURGY includes a prayerful study of the Sunday liturgy from various perspectives. For the Lectio Divina on the liturgy of the past week: March 22-25, 2020 please go to ARCHIVES Series 18 and click on “Lent Week 4”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: March 29 – April 4, 2020.)

 

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March 29, 2020: FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Resurrection and the Life”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Ez 37:12-14 // Rom 8:8-11 // Jn 11:1-45

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 11:1-45): “I am the resurrection and the life.”

          

The missionary tale in MARYKNOLL magazine (December 2004, p. 5) narrated by Joseph G. Healey, M.M. is about a little girl who escaped the clutches of death and lived. This interesting story of a Tanzanian girl’s rescue gives us a glimpse of the marvelous work of Jesus in saving his beloved friend, Lazarus, from death and bringing him back to life. 

 

One morning when Father Joseph Brannigan went to say Mass at a mission chapel in Shinyanga, Tanzania, he discovered an inert baby lying in front of the altar. The mother, explaining that the little girl was dead, asked if the priest could say Mass for her. Just then, the bundle moved. “She’s still alive,” Brannigan declared. “But she’s sick and I have no money for medicine. She’ll be dead soon anyway,” the mother replied. Giving the mother 10 shillings, the missionary sent her to the hospital with the baby. Seven years later a woman stopped Brannigan on the road. Breathlessly she explained, “My little girl lived. Here’s your 10 shillings. I’ve spent a long time looking for you.”

 

On this fifth Sunday of Lent when the Church celebrates the third scrutiny of the “elect” catechumens, the powerful and intense account of the raising of Lazarus to life (Jn 11:1-45) is proclaimed in the liturgical assembly that is journeying towards the Easter Triduum. In the context of the evangelist John’s effort to present a series of miraculous acts of Jesus as “signs” of his forthcoming paschal glory, the “seventh sign” of the raising of Lazarus to life – the last in the series – is the greatest. It demonstrates that the Father has given power over life and death to his Son Jesus.

 

The power manifested by Jesus at the wedding of Cana, where he changed water into wine (the “first sign”: Jn 2:1-11); the cure of the nobleman’s son, who was ill at Capernaum (the “second sign”: Jn 4:43-54); the healing of the paralytic at the pool of Bethsaida (the “third sign”: Jn 5:1-15); the multiplication of the loaves at the shore of the lake of Galilee (the “fourth sign”: Jn 6:1-15); his prowess as he walked on the waters and pacified the raging waves of an evening storm at the lake of Galilee (the “fifth sign”: Jn 6:16-21); the cure of the man born blind at the pool of Siloam (the “sixth sign”: Jn 9:1-34); and above all, the resurrection of the dead man, Lazarus, who was decaying in a tomb in Bethany (Jn 11:1-45) are geared towards the ultimate and radical “paschal sign” of Christ’s victory over death-dealing situations through the saving event of his passion, death and resurrection.

 

The raising of Lazarus to life not only prefigures Christ’s death and glorious resurrection, but also points to the Christian disciple’s paschal resurrection. This dynamic grace-filled process of moving towards the fullness of life is given powerful impetus at baptism, in which the believer dies to sin and rises to new life in Christ. Through the sacrament of baptism, the baptized is given the power to live a life of grace and to act under the promptings of the Holy Spirit in order to carry out the divine saving will. Having been reborn into a new life and as a new creature, the baptized person belongs no longer to himself, but to Jesus Christ who died and rose for all. Indeed, through a paschal transformation and in living out a holy life in the Spirit, the Christians in today’s world become a powerful “sign” concerning the truth of Christ’s affirmation: “I am the resurrection and the life … everyone who lives and believes in me will never die…” (Jn 11:25-26a).

 

 

B. First Reading (Ez 37:12-14): “I will put my spirit in you that you may live.”

 

 The prophet Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones and the promise of the restoration of the people of Israel (Ez 37:1-14) is one of the most fascinating passages in the Bible. This passage summarizes his mission to the Jewish exiles in Babylon to renew and give life. His task is to prophesy and preach the word of God to a deeply humiliated people who have experienced defeat and the anguish of death. The chosen people are like lifeless “dry bones” scattered in the sere landscape of a lost battlefield. In their dismal situation as exiles from 597 to 538 B.C., the people of Israel are buried in “graves” of desolation and hopelessness. By proclaiming to them the Word of God, the prophet Ezekiel is to give the Babylonian deportees a new spirit to enable them to rise from misery and captivity.

  

The loving care of God for his people Israel in raising them from the “graves” of Babylon is fully revealed in the life-giving action of Jesus, the Son of God and Savior of all peoples. By his passion and death on the cross, Jesus becomes the Lord of life who wields absolute and radical power over sin and death. The raising of Lazarus from the tomb of death and putrefaction is a “sign” not only of mastery over death given by the Father to Jesus, but also of the glory of his resurrection on Easter. Immersed into the paschal destiny of Jesus Christ, the baptized believers become witnesses and instruments of “life” in death-dealing situations of today’s world. By virtue of the life-giving Spirit received at baptism, we share in Christ’s resurrection.

 

Beautiful examples of the power of life over death abound. My personal experience of it, which I report below, is sheer “grace”.

 

I was deeply privileged to meet a twenty-year old young man named Brendan. I met him on February 21, 2008, in the Emergency Room of the Good Samaritan Hospital in downtown Los Angeles where we brought a sick friend for admission. At the age of sixteen, Brendan had an accident that left him quadriplegic. While doing a trampoline exercise, the 6’4” handsome athlete fell and broke his neck.

 

 It was a “death” experience for Brendan, but he was able to rise up from the grave of depression and misery. Brilliant and gifted, he won a scholarship at U.C.L.A. where he was taking pre-law. He even hoped to travel to New Zealand. He wanted to graduate and to serve in an athletic rehabilitation program that would help disabled athletes. His Aunt Jennifer, a professional nurse-lawyer and lovely as a model, committed herself to take care of Brendan.

 

There were many patients in the Emergency Room that afternoon and Brendan had to wait for hours. But he was serene and patient, peacefully wheeling around in his high-tech wheelchair. I thanked Brendan for the life-giving witness he had given me.

 

 

C. Second Reading (Rom 8:8-11): “The Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you.”

 

It seemed like just a simple science project for the first graders in a Canadian parochial school, but it was more than that. The teacher was preparing my six-year old niece for the imminent death of her dad Gisbert, my younger brother. Little Nicole planted some seeds in a plastic cup filled with soil. She brought the sprouting plant to her dad who was confined in the Palliative Care section of Brampton Hospital in Toronto. She placed it on the window sill for him to look at. Her dad passed away two days later. Nicole’s sprouting plant was suggestive of new life and the resurrection of the body. The seeds that died were “seeds of life”.

  

The “seeds of life” are “seeds of the Spirit”. To accept the Spirit of Christ is to receive “new life”. We still live in the “flesh” with its tendency to sin, even after we have received the Spirit, but the indwelling Spirit vivifies the mortal flesh so that it becomes an instrument of grace and not an impediment. Moreover, through the gift of the Spirit, we receive a pledge of eternal life. Indeed, he who raised Jesus from the dead will also restore our mortal bodies by the power of his Spirit who dwells in us (cf. Rom 8:11).

 

The liturgical scholar Adrian Nocent comments on today’s Second Reading (Rom 8:8-11): “The passage from Romans provides the clearest and most complete commentary on the entire liturgy of the fifth Sunday. Once we are baptized, the Spirit of Jesus dwells in us and we have the pledge of resurrection and life … The Christian does not look upon death as other men do; for him, death means the beginning of a new life or, more accurately, the further unfolding of a life that is already his, once he has been justified by baptism and has Christ living in him.”

 

The good news of “life in the Spirit” … of the power of love and life … of the miracle of the “seeds of life” … of the marvelous energy of the “seeds of the Spirit” continues to envelop us and needs to be diffused. The following story circulated through the Internet gives an insight into the “Lazarus experience” … into the amazing power of love and life.

 

Like any good mother, when Karen found out that another baby was on the way, she did what she could to help her 3-year-old son, Michael, prepare for a new sibling. They found out that the new baby was going to be a girl, and day after day, night after night, Michael sang to his sister in Mommy’s tummy. He was building a bond of love with his little sister before he even met her.

 

The pregnancy progressed normally for Karen. In time, the labor pains came. Soon it was every five minutes, every three … every minute. But serious complications arose during delivery and Karen found herself in hours of labor. Would a C-section be required? Finally, after a long struggle, Michael’s little sister was born. But she was in very serious condition. With a siren howling in the night, the ambulance rushed the infant to the neonatal care unit at St. Mary’s Hospital, Knoxville, Tennessee.

 

The days inched by. The little girl got worse. The pediatrician had to tell the parents, “There is very little hope. Be prepared for the worst.” Karen and her husband contacted a local cemetery about a burial plot. They had fixed up a special room in their house for their new baby but now they found themselves having to plan for a funeral.

 

Michael, however, kept begging his parents to let him see his sister. “I want to sing to her”, he kept saying. Week two in intensive care looked as if a funeral would come before the week was over. Michael kept nagging about singing to his sister, but kids are never allowed in Intensive Care. Karen made up her mind, though. She would take Michael whether they liked it or not! If he didn’t see his sister right then, he may never see her alive. She dressed him in an oversized scrub suit and marched him into ICU. He looked like a walking laundry basket.

 

But the head nurse recognized him as a child and bellowed, “Get that kid out of here now! No children are allowed.” The mother instinct rose up strong in Karen, and the usually mild-mannered lady glared steel-eyed right into the head nurse’s face, her lips a firm line. “He is not leaving until he sings to his sister!” Karen towed Michael to his sister’s bedside.

 

Michael gazed at the tiny infant losing the battle to live. After a moment, he began to sing. In the pure-hearted voice of a 3-year-old, he sang: “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine; you make me happy when skies are gray …” Instantly the baby girl seemed to respond. The pulse rate began to calm down and become steady. “Keep on singing, Michael”, encouraged Karen with tears in her eyes. "You never know, dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away.” As Michael sang to his sister, the baby’s ragged, strained breathing became as smooth as a kitten’s purr. “Keep on singing, sweetheart!!!” “The other night, dear, as I lay sleeping, I dreamed I held you in my arms.”

 

Michael’s little sister began to relax as rest, healing rest, seemed to sweep over her. “Keep on singing, Michael.” Tears had now conquered the face of the bossy head nurse. Karen glowed. “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. Please don’t take my sunshine away.”

 

The next day … the very next day … the little girl was well enough to go home! Woman’s Day Magazine called it “The Miracle of a Brother’s Song”. The medical staff just called it a miracle. Karen called it a miracle of God’s love.

 

 

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

 

1. What is our response to Christ’s faith assurance: “I am the resurrection and the life” (Jn 11:25)? Do we believe that in Christ we will see the paschal triumph of life and the glory of God?

 

2. What were the death-dealing experiences of the chosen people Israel that made them feel they were “dry bones” and that they were dead and buried in the “graves”?  How does God’s promise to his chosen people impact you personally: “I will put my spirit in you that you may live”?

 

3. Do we nurture the “seeds of the Spirit” as “seeds of life”? Do we respond to the indwelling Spirit who enables us to live the life of Christ in the “here and now” and will raise our mortal bodies to eternal life?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you raised Lazarus from death

as a sign that you had come to give us life to the full.

Rescue from death all who seek life from you

and free us from evil and sin.

By your Holy Spirit fill us with life;

give us faith, hope and love that we may live with you always

and come to share the glory of your resurrection,

for you are Lord 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.

 

“I am the resurrection and the life.” (Jn 11:25)

 

 

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

 

By your courageous witnessing and acts of charity, endeavor to promote the life and power of Christ where there is misery and sadness, violence and hatred, sin and death.

 

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March 30, 2020: MONDAY – LENTEN WEEKDAY (5)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Ultimately Accused and the Rescuer of the Accused”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Dn 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62 // Jn 8:1-11

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 8:1-11): “Let the person without sin be the first to throw a stone.”

 

The movie, “The Accused”, for which Jodie Foster won an Academy Award for her performance as Sarah Tobias, a rape victim, is based on actual events that took place in Massachusetts, U.S.A. Sarah Tobias, a working-class waitress who lived with a man outside of marriage, sought to unwind in a bar after a fight with him. Three young men raped her while the patrons of the bar looked on and did nothing to help her.  Kathryn Murphy, the assistant district attorney appointed to prosecute the case against the men, seemed at first committed to winning the case against them. But, when faced with the fact that Sarah would not make a sympathetic case because of her behavior the night of the assault when she drank, smoked pot, and dressed and acted provocatively, Kathryn let the rapists plea to a lesser charge. Sarah felt betrayed because she was not given a chance to tell her story in court. She was deeply pained and humiliated. Though not impeccable in her behavior, she was truly a victim of sexual violence. She practically became “the accused”. Sarah Tobias is like the woman presented in today’s Gospel reading, a woman in need of justice and mercy, a woman in need of redemption.

 

            The Gospel reading (Jn 8:1-11) continues to underline the radical nature of God’s compassion and forgiving love. The scribes and Pharisees bring a woman to Jesus. The scribes and Pharisees are pointing their fingers at the adulterous woman as “the accused”, but their real intent is to build a case against Jesus, the one they truly wish to accuse. The sinful woman is being used as the main element in their ploy to trap Jesus in a very difficult case, in which any solution he would give will work to his disadvantage. Indeed, a decision to stone her will be an indictment against Jesus’ stance of mercy and compassion; a resolution to release her will convict him of a lack of justice and righteousness. The malice of the scribes and Pharisees is viciously directed, not at the adulterous woman, but at the greater “accused”, Jesus Christ. From the perspective of salvation history, the one ultimately “accused” and condemned is Jesus, in whom the mercy and justice of God have met. Falsely accused and punished for carrying humanity’s sins, he dies for us on the cross, becoming the font of justice, mercy, and healing for all.

 

 

B. First Reading (Dn 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62): “Here I am about to die though I have done none of the things charged against me.”

 

The Old Testament reading (Dn 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62) presents the gripping story of the chaste Susanna, a very beautiful and God-fearing Jewish woman residing in Babylon, falsely accused of adultery. Two very wicked old judges try to blackmail Susanna (her Hebrew name means “lily”, symbol of purity) to give in to their passion. She resists, preferring to be condemned to death rather than to sin before the Lord. She entrusts her fate to God and her prayer is heard. God stirs up the holy spirit of a young boy named Daniel who confounds the false accusers with his wisdom. The two lecherous elders are punished with the fate they meant for their innocent victim. Susanna’s moral integrity makes her a sterling example of a heroic love for God and complete trust in him. Susanna’s youthful savior, Daniel, is a powerful figure of Jesus Savior, the Son of God.

 

The saving intervention of Daniel on behalf of the innocent Susanna and the liberation that Jesus has wrought on behalf of a culpable adulterous woman continue to be replicated in today’s world. The following testimony tells about a woman’s “spiritual rescue” (cf. Maryanne Gogniat Eidemiller, Our Sunday Visitor, January 13, 2012, p. 12).

 

Tammy Pagels was 17 when she became pregnant from a rape and her mother forced her to have an abortion. (…) She told her future husband Darrell about it early in their dating, and he supported her journey of healing. “He is the one who taught me that God is the one who will be there for you”, she said. “Everything is possible as long as God is the center of your life.” The couple has now six children, seven months to 13, and Darrell, 40, was ordained a deacon four years ago. They are both coordinators of the Culture of Life in the Diocese of Pueblo, Colo., and are promoting the abortion healing ministry of Project Rachel. (…) Pagels came to a “different place” in her life through confession and Eucharistic adoration, and was able to forgive the man who raped her, her mother, and herself.

 

 

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

 

1. Did we ever falsely condemn anyone and “cast the first stone”? How can we make amends? Do we acknowledge our own personal participation in the condemnation and punishment of the ultimately “accused”, Jesus Christ, our redeemer? In what way are we like the adulterous woman, the object of Christ’s forgiving and redeeming love and set on the road of renewal and restoration? 

 

2. Like the Old Testament heroine Susanna, are we willing to suffer adversity and a cruel fate rather than sin against the Lord and disobey him?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

your beloved Son Jesus, our redeeming Lord,

was falsely accused.

He suffered the pain of injustice on the Cross.

Forgive us for, like the adulterous woman,

we have turned away from your love.

We were unfaithful to the quiet callings of your Spirit.

Forgive us for our hypocrisies.

We have ignored the afflictions

of those yearning for your redeeming love.

Forgive us for crucifying Jesus on the Cross by our cruelties.

We have failed to love the wounded of this world.

Forgive us for our indifference.

We have not protected the “Susanna” of today’s society.

Forgive us for not showing Christ’s mercy to the condemned.

May we allow ourselves to be renewed

and restored by the healing power

of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross.

May we imitate his life-giving ministry

to the poor, the outcast, and the accused.

We thank you and bless you, gracious God,

for giving us Jesus Christ, our font of love and justice,

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.

 

“Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.” (Jn 8:11) // “Thus was innocent blood spared that day.” (Dn 13:62)

  

 

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

 

In your daily life, try to resist coercive forces and evil influences, especially through the misuse of the mass media, and imitate Susanna’s moral integrity and her complete surrender to God. In any way you can, participate in the Christian task of liberating the victims of false accusations and injustice.    

 

 

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March 31, 2020: TUESDAY – LENTEN WEEKDAY (5)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Saves Us by Being Lifted Up

on the Cross”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Nm 21:4-9 // Jn 8:21-30

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 8:21-30): “When you have lifted up the Son of Man then you will know that I am he.”

(Gospel Reflection by Sr. Mary Martha Bruan, PDDM)

  

In the Gospel (Jn 8:21-30), Jesus refers to Himself as “I AM,” an expression that late Jewish tradition understood as Yahweh’s own self-designation (Is. 43:10).  He draws a contrast:  His enemies belong to the earth, He is from heaven.  They are of the world; He is not of the world.  Jesus came from heaven into the world.  He was sent by the Father into the world, “Kosmos,” the object of God’s love.  When the hour comes He has to depart from this world.  The death of Jesus is destined by God.  It is when Christ is lifted up on the cross that we really see “who” and “what” He is.  It is there we see Jesus’ self-oblation done for His great love for humankind.  There on the cross we see the extent of His obedience to the will of the Father, “I always do what is pleasing to Him” (Jn 8:29).

 

God was always gracious and forgiving to the Israelites who journeyed in the desert for forty years.  During the Lenten Season we journey for forty days towards Easter.  Lent is indeed the favorable time for us to fix our gaze, not on the bronze serpent but, on Jesus on the cross in order not to be distracted by the allurements of modern technology and the strong upsurge of materialism as we go on journeying hand in hand with Him and each other.  This is the opportune time for us to reciprocate God’s immense goodness in love and do solely whatever is in accordance to His will, but how?

 

We have to discipline ourselves, intensify our prayers, fast and cease to do whatever pleases our appetite, our eyes, all our senses and break through our human shelter so as to reach out to our needy brothers and sisters with relentless care.  More importantly we are to believe and participate in the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus to be with Him in the place where He is going.

    

 

B. First Reading (Nm 21:4-9): “Whoever looks at the bronze serpent shall live.”

 

The lifting up of the bronze serpent that we hear in today’s Old Testament reading (Nm 21:4b-9) is fascinating and illumines the mystery of the cross that we venerate as Christians. The bronze serpent on the pole that brings healing to those bitten by venomous seraph snakes is a symbol of God’s benevolent saving will. Jesus, like the serpent, is lifted up on the pole of the cross, and whoever looks to him in faith will be saved. This is the triumph of the cross. Indeed, in the light of the joyful Easter event of Christ’s resurrection, the cross becomes a throne of glory.

  

The following story illustrates the participation of Christian disciples in the mystery and triumph of the cross (cf. Full Sail with the Wind of Grace: Peter Kibe and 187 Martyrs, written and edited by “Martyres” Editorial Committee, Tokyo: Don Bosco Sha, 2008, p. 44-46).

 

Genka’s daughter Maria was married to the son of Kondo Kisan, the commissioner of Tachiura (Hirado City, Nagasaki Prefecture). Kondo was a devout Buddhist. He tried to convert his daughter-in-law and make her give up her faith. Maria always responded with the same words: “I was baptized by my father and have always walked the way of God that was taught to me. I cannot give up my faith.” “If you do not renounce your faith, we cannot keep you in our household. Think well and choose either my son or your faith.” Kondo oppressed Maria with these harsh words. After two years of struggling with the situation, Maria told her husband of her decision, and returned to her father Genka.

 

“It must be Genka who encouraged her to leave. He must pay for this!” Kondo discussed the matter with his friend, a Buddhist monk in Hirado, and appealed to Shigenobu to punish Genka. Shigenobu was furious with Genka who not only disobeyed his orders and continued to practice his faith, but also worked as a Christian leader. Shigenobu ordered the execution of Genka together with his wife Ursula and their eldest son John Mataichi.

 

Genka was handed over to the commissioner of Yamada (Hirado City, Nagasaki Prefecture), Inoue Umanojo to be executed on 14 of November 1609. To Umanojo, Genka was a friend for whom he had a great respect. Genka told him of his only wish. “Lord Inoue, could you do me a favor and perform my execution at the Kurusu (cruz = cross) Trail? “Why the Kurusu Trail?” “Once a cross stood there, and my parents and friends are buried there, too.”

 

Umanojo nodded and they started to walk toward the Kurusu Trail. When they arrived at the spot, Genka said to Umanojo, “Lord Inoue, it was my heart’s desire to offer my life here. None of this is your fault. Please be at peace.” Genka knelt down, raised his tied hands toward heaven and silently bowed his head. Umanojo, choking down his tears, performed the execution with one stroke of his sword so that Genka would not suffer too much.

 

Genka’s wife Ursula and their son John Mataichi were also beheaded about the same time at a place nearby. Gaspar Nishi Genka and his wife Ursula were both 54 years old. Their oldest son John Mataichi was 24 years old. Their remains were buried at the Kurusu Trail. The Christians secretly planted a pine tree on the spot.

 

In 1992, the Christians of Ikitsuki built a large cross on the Kurusu Trail. It is to remind them of the importance of faith strengthened in the family, a precious heritage of Gaspar Nishi Genka.

    

 

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

 

1. In this Lenten journey, do we fix our gaze on Jesus to really see “who” and “what” he is? How does his self-oblation on the cross affect us personally?

 

2. Are we eager to fix our gaze on Jesus Christ crucified and seek healing from him?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

the mounted bronze serpent

that saved the ancient Israelites from sure death

prefigures your crucifixion and redeeming death at Mount Calvary.

Thank you for your obedient sacrifice.

Above all, we render praise and thanksgiving to God the Father

who loved us so much that he sent you, his Servant-Son,

to be lifted up on the cross.

Now in faith we look upon the cross of your sacrifice

and see in it the source of healing and the font of eternal life.

Through your cross, O loving Jesus,

our hope is strengthened

that we will not die from the snares of sin, but live.

We adore you.

We worship you, Lord.

We venerate your cross.

Through your cross you brought joy to the world

and for this, we revere 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.

 

“Anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at the bronze serpent and he lived.” (Nm 21:9) // “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM.” (Jn 8:27)

 

 

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

 

By your compassion and charity, allow them to experience the healing and saving love of Christ on the cross.

 

*** *** ***

April 1, 2020: WEDNESDAY – LENTEN WEEKDAY (5)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Truth that Sets Us Free”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Dn 3:14-20, 91-92, 95 // Jn 8:31-42

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 8:31-42): If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”

(Gospel reflection by Sr. Mary Martha Bruan, PDDM)

  

Faith and freedom are vital in embracing the life of discipleship.  In The Gospel (Jn 8:31-42), Jesus encouraged the Jews who believed in Him to remain in his word if they want to become truly his disciples. In doing so they will know the truth and the truth will make them free.  Discipleship begins with faith which entails constant listening to the word of Jesus and learning from him.  Entering into a Master-disciple relationship involves letting the truth of the word of Jesus penetrate our being and translate itself into action.  To learn from Jesus is to learn the truth for He himself is the Truth who breaks the shackles of lies and falsehood.  In the light of Jesus’ word we see what is trivial and essential thus compels us to uphold the Gospel values of detachment and freedom. Anybody who lives in vice and sin is not free. In detaching ourselves from the slavery of pleasure, lies, deceit, selfishness and sin we go through the experience of inner freedom.  We are freed from ourselves, anxieties and fears and are now freed for God and others.

 

We follow Jesus in freedom and he walks with us.  With the presence of Christ in our lives we are totally free from fear and cease to be afraid of evil.  Freedom is the consequence of discipleship.  In freedom we continue to live and bear witness to the Gospel truth until we become the persons God wants us to be.

       

This is the freedom Jesus wants the Jews to realize.  The Jews were irritated when Jesus spoke about freedom. They claimed they have never been slaves to anyone.  They pride themselves in their belief that they are the descendants of Abraham and God’s chosen people, a way of saying that they are special.  They cling to their misplaced sense of worth and dignity and lived in falsehood.  They are enslaved by this false belief so they are not free.  Jesus our Lord and Master is reminding the Jews and all of us that we are all equal before God for we are all His children.  We are to keep his word and live according to our dignity as Christ’s disciples in today’s world, a place of blessings and challenges. We are to bear witness to the truth and love Jesus brings to us as the beloved Son of God            

 

 

B. First Reading (Dn 3:14-20, 91-92.95): “The Lord has sent his angel to deliver his servants.”

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Dn 3:14-20, 91-92, 95) is about the rescue of the Jewish young men named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the fiery furnace. They willed to suffer martyrdom rather than give in to idolatry. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had a gold statute made, ninety feet high and nine feet wide, and issued an order that as soon as the music starts, everyone is to bow down and worship the gold statue. Some Babylonians took this opportunity to denounce the Jews. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who were the King’s officials in the province of Babylon, were confronted. The Jewish young men did not try to defend themselves. They trusted in the God of Israel whom they serve and who could rescue them from the blazing furnace if he wills it. Even if he doesn’t, they will not worship nor bow down to the gold statue that the king has set up. Thrown into the fiery furnace, the three faithful ones were rescued by the angel of salvation sent by God. The fourth man in the blazing fire who looks like “a son of God” prefigures Jesus Christ, our deliverer.

 

The fidelity of the Jewish young men to God, and their refusal to bow to an idol, had a great impact on a nurse in an American hospital who accidentally killed her patient, terminally ill with cancer. During a night shift, instead of sodium chloride solution she injected potassium chloride solution which was fatal for the patient. Following the normal procedure, she had administered the solution that was prepared on the table, which was the wrong solution. That potassium chloride solution was not meant to be there in the first place. She wanted to hide the truth for fear of losing her job. She tried to rationalize that the cancer patient was terminally ill and was just waiting to die. But in her meditation on today’s Old Testament reading, she was struck by the courage and fidelity to God of the three young men who would not bow to false idols. She turned herself in and was suspended right there and then by the supervisor. As a single parent, she and her daughter had to survive on peanut butter sandwiches. They were also forced to use hand soap to shampoo their hair. Her case was investigated. She was reinstated in her job eight month later. Her story was published. She was awed by the outpouring of letters from doctors and nurses who have accidentally killed their patients, but did not dare reveal the truth. One medical doctor commended her: “The truth has set you free.”

 

 

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

 

1. Do we believe that Christ’s truth will set us free? Are we willing to sacrifice ourselves for his life-giving truth?

 

2. Are there instances in your life when you dared to be faithful to God, and the truth about God, and suffered the consequences for it? Are there instances in your life when you were not faithful to the truth?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you are the Truth that sets us free.

Free us from the bondage of sin

and the darkness of falsehood.

Teach us to walk in true freedom.

Give us the strength to embrace suffering and death

for the sake of your truth.

Let us abide in you and be your faithful disciples.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“The truth will set you free.” (cf. Jn 8:31)

 

 

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

 

Correct yourself as soon as you discover that you are not telling the truth or that you are falsifying the truth.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

April 2, 2020: THURSDAY – LENTEN WEEKDAY (5); SAINT FRANCIS OF PAOLA, Hermit

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Ratifies the New Covenant

by His Blood”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Gn 17:3-9 // Jn 8:51-59

 

 

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

 

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 8:51-59): “Your father Abraham rejoiced because he saw my day.”

(Gospel Reflection by Sr. Mary Martha Bruan, PDDM)

 

In the Gospel (Jn 8:51-59), the Jews are taken a back and incredulous when Jesus tells them that “if anyone keeps his words, he will never see death.”  As usual the Jews take Jesus’ words literally and think He is merely talking about physical life and death.  This obstructs them from seeing that Jesus is leading them to understand that whoever accepts Him enters into a relationship with Him and goes, not from life to death, but from life to life.  These unbelieving Jews see Jesus as someone who is possessed and claims to be greater than Abraham.

 

The incredulity and literal-mindedness of the Jews does not prevent Jesus from making a further statement, “all true honor comes from God.”   Only eternity can reveal this true honor.  In our time we find it easy to honor oneself and dwell on the satisfaction of exposing oneself to the warmth of self-conceit.  The Jews certainly do not know God as Jesus knows Him, for the latter has the unique knowledge of God.  He knows God and is faithful in keeping His word.   The only way to know God totally is through Jesus - the fullness of truth.  In Jesus alone, the obedient and beloved Son, we see the perfect image of God. 

 

Jesus is bent on helping the Jews open their minds and hearts to Him, so He goes on saying, “Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.”  Abraham, ever faithful to God, enters into a covenantal relationship with Him and He makes him the “father of a host of nations.”  Here Jesus claims deliberately who He really is, the Messiah.  He is the Messiah Abraham saw in his vision.  The Jews, even if they know that Abraham had a vision of the coming of the Messiah, remain obstinate and persist in their unbelief.  It is impossible for Jesus to have seen Abraham for He is still young.  To their incredulity Jesus’ response is a self-revelation, “Before Abraham came to be, I AM.”  This calls to mind the time when Moses asks Yahweh for His name.  Yahweh makes a clarion declaration, “I am who am” (Ex. 3:14). 

 

          Jesus is at the beginning with God. He is timeless and exists even before Abraham came into being.  He is equal with God and therefore, above Abraham.  This is too much for the Jews and they can no longer take this blasphemy.  They were very angry with Jesus, even to the extent of throwing stones at Him. Fully aware that it is not yet His time, Jesus inevitably hides and silently leaves the temple area.  The “hour” has not yet come for Jesus’ passion, death and glorious resurrection.

            

             In the midst of varied noises, distractions and the humdrum of daily life Jesus, the timeless God who always is, invites us to make the most of this Lenten Season and go deeper into our contemplation of His paschal mystery. In contemplating Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection we need to be in silence, have time for our being, listen to and keep His words alive in our hearts today and continue to cling tenaciously to our Lord and Master who is the same yesterday, today and forever.

   

    

B. First Reading (Gn 17:3-9): “You will be the father of a multitude of nations.”

 

In today’s Old Testament reading (Gn 17:3-9), God makes an everlasting covenant with Abraham, who is ninety-nine years old. The patriarch “Abram”, called by God from the land of Ur when he was seventy-five, receives the new name “Abraham” to indicate that he would be the ancestor of many nations. The change in the patriarch’s name signifies his new relationship with God and the new life granted by the covenant. The Lord God says to him: “I will be your God and the God of your descendants.” The covenant treaty that God initiates with him includes the promise of the land of Canaan for Abraham’s descendants. On the part of Abraham, he and his future descendants must agree to keep the covenant throughout the ages. Circumcision of Abraham and his male descendants represents a sign of commitment to the covenant. Jesus Christ is the most illustrious descendant of Abraham’s covenant relationship with God. In Christ Jesus, the new Covenant in the Spirit is sealed.

 

The concept of a covenant treaty continues to be experienced in the here and now - particularly in the life of the Pauline Family, founded by Blessed James Alberione. The meaning of his “pact with the Lord” can be gleaned from the following words written on January 7, 1919, by Blessed Timothy Giaccardo, the first priest in the Pauline Family (cf. Luigi Rolfo, James Alberione: Apostle for Our Times, trans. Salvatore Paglieri, New York: Alba House, 1987, p. 121).

 

Last night our dear father invited all of us to make a pact with the Lord, the pact that he himself had made: to study for one and learn for four. This morning in the meditation he repeated to us the importance, the basis, the condition and the invitation. His words were full of fire, full of conviction and very persuasive. The basis is: faith in God who has promised to grant wisdom to those who ask Him for it … The pleasure of God that we confide in Him. The will of God that this House exist and that it prosper: and the impossibility we find ourselves in to study as much as would ordinarily be necessary in order to learn … Faith is the first means for learning: with it we, who study only one-fourth of the time, can even challenge all the other students and seminarians.

 

The importance of the pact: it has to be done seriously, otherwise it loses its value, like using gold to make nails to mend one’s shoes. It will give our studies a lift which has now fallen so low; with it progress will be made and miracles performed. It’s true: God does not disappoint. It’s true: practice proves it. We believe that it is so.

 

The conditions: (1) Faith in God and good use of time. He who has enough faith to believe that he will do four with one should make the pact. If not, he should not make it. But then neither should he study in the House. (2) Make good use of the time set aside for study. Promise this and do it, otherwise the pact is null and void. (3) Promise to make use of whatever is learned solely for the Good Press and the glory of God. This promise is a serious one to be kept even at the cost of sacrifice and little gain. Without these conditions being taken seriously, the pact would be worthless and should not be made.

 

He invited everyone to enter into this pact which he himself had made with God, but he left us absolutely free. God would be faithful. On our part, we must not fail, no matter what.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we make a serious effort to delve into the Christ mystery and his profound self-revelation?

 

2. Do we take our baptismal covenant with the Lord God seriously? How does the covenant relationship between God and Abraham, our father in faith, inspire you?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you are holy and immortal.

You are true God and dwell in the bosom of the Most Holy Trinity.

Abraham rejoiced at your coming.

Grant that your profound revelation as one being with God

may touch us to the core.

You are the true Master of our life.

You are the Lord of history and creation.

May we love 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 day. Please memorize it.

 

“Abraham rejoiced to see my day.” (Jn 8:56) //“You must keep my covenant throughout the ages.” (Gn 17:9)  

  

 

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

  

By your daily choices show to the world that Jesus is the Divine Master and the omnipotent Lord of history and creation.

 

*** *** ***

 

April 3, 2020: FRIDAY – LENTEN WEEKDAY (5)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Takes Refuge in the Lord

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jer 20:10-13 // Jn 10:31-42

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 10:31-42): “They wanted to arrest Jesus, but he eluded him.”

(Gospel Reflection by Sr. Mary Martha Bruan, PDDM)

  

The moment the Jews hear Jesus telling them that He and the Father are one, they become all the more hostile.  The Jews immediately draw a rash conclusion that Jesus commits blasphemy by claiming He is the Son of God.  The penalty stipulated in Jewish law for blasphemy is none other than stoning.  They are ready to stone Jesus with rocks. Jesus meets their hostility calmly and reminds them about the good works he has done for them.  He is going around preaching, feeding the hungry, comforting the desperate and sorrowing, curing the sick, casting out demons and performing other signs and wonders very revealing of God’s power.  The works that Jesus does out of His great love for humankind are indeed so noble and beautiful that they can only come from God. He is consecrated by God for a mission.  God consecrates Jesus, makes Him holy and sets Him apart from the rest of the people for a special mission.  He is sent by God into the world. He came to put into realization the mission God entrusts to his care.

 

Seeing that the Jews are not open to believe His words, Jesus appeals to them to accept His deeds. As the One sent by God, he does not base His claims on what He says, but on what He is and does.  The Jews have to judge Him according to His works and not according to what He says, for what He is doing are the works of the Father.  Whatever Jesus does reveals that He and the Father are one.  Faced with the growing hostility of the Jews who tried to arrest Him, Jesus deemed it necessary to flee. Before the human eye, fleeing is a cowardly act but, what Jesus did is not cowardice. He is not afraid of the Jews, but He knows that His “hour” has not yet come. He wants to be in silence and solitude with God when it finally comes.  He is preparing himself for the full realization of His mission to the point of expending His life for all. He wants to be in communion with the Father.  This is the reason why he decided to go to the other side of the Jordan, a very significant place for Jesus. This is where He was baptized by John the Baptist and His identity and mission as the Beloved Son of the Father was confirmed.  There, on the distant side of the Jordan, the Jews followed Jesus and remembered John the Baptist.  John spoke to them as a prophet but did not perform signs and wonders like Jesus. They regarded John as a prophet, and with their own eyes saw that everything He said about Jesus was true.

 

To believe in God is not mere lip service.  Whatever we say has to be accompanied with good deeds.  Our words should be in consonance with the works we do if we want to be credible in following Jesus and in communicating Him to contemporary men and women. Let us hold on to the sublime reality that our Lord and Master is with us. His obedience to the Father’s plan culminated in His death on the cross. Jesus’ death on the cross is the supreme proclamation and greatest act of His love for humanity that is acceptable to the Father.

 

 

B. First Reading (Jer 20:10-13): “The Lord God is with me, a mighty hero.”

 

Suffering seems to be an integral element of a God-given mission. Some suffering is inevitable for those called by God for a special ministry. The pathos and intense pain of the prophet Jeremiah illustrate this reality. Today’s Old Testament reading (Jer 20:10-13) depicts the drama of a persecuted prophet and illustrates the triumph of faith in the divine presence and intervention. Jeremiah lamented to God that his enemies were closing in on him, for he had obeyed God’s promptings and had prophesied that Judah, on account of its infidelity and social injustice, would be destroyed and its people led away in captivity.

 

The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 4, comment: “But after this profoundly human cry of distress, faith prevails, stronger and more tenacious than the fear that would submerge the prophet: But the Lord is with me: like a mighty champion; my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph … Thanks to this surge of trust, Jeremiah foresees that he will conquer overwhelmingly … It is to God that Jeremiah entrusts his cause, and it is upon him that he places the too heavy burden which overwhelms him. This cry toward God is prolonged by a thanksgiving in which we all are invited to share, each of us, personally and as a church. Jeremiah is really the father of this spiritual posterity of the poor, those dependents of God who in their material and spiritual distress place their cause in God’s hands.”

  

The Kingdom message that we – Christian disciples – are called to proclaim is “good news”, but at the same time confrontational and explosive, for it impeaches a world based on false values. Conflicts are thus unavoidable. Indeed, a Gospel proclamation that is innocuous - bothers no one - and questions nothing is no longer a Gospel. The Church is experiencing intense trial as it fights social injustice and testifies to the Gospel values.

 

The passion of Christ continues to be the passion of the Church and of every Christian disciple. The martyrdom of Fr. Thomas Pandippall, a Carmelite of Mary Immaculate priest from India, is an example. He was brutally murdered on August 16, 2008, on his way from a mission in Burgida, Andhra Pradish, by a group of Hindu extremists who broke his hands and legs, tore out his eyes, beat him with sticks and stabbed him repeatedly (cf. “Catholic Martyrs a Daily Reality” in L’Osservatore Romano, September 3, 2008, p. 5-6). Archbishop Joji Marampudi, Secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Andhra Pradesh, gave the following statements in an interview granted to L’Osservatore Romano journalist, Roberto Sgaramella:

 

They killed Fr. Thomas for three reasons: because he was a religious, because he was a Christian and because he was charitable to the poor. His attackers were waiting for him on his way home from one of our missions in Burgida. He was probably waylaid at about 10:00 o’clock in the evening, not far from the village of Bellampally, an area unfortunately known for acts of violence perpetrated there by groups of Hindu fanatics. They stopped him while he was returning on his motorcycle and clubbed him with sticks. They then ferociously slashed his body with knives. I myself went there the following morning and saw his blood mingled with the dust. I saw the mess they had made of his body.

 

He was killed because Catholic missionaries take the side of the poor in this region where, in fact, a rigid form of slavery still exists, linked to farming the land. The landowners do not recognize that the peasants have any rights and use bands of Hindu fanatics to thwart anyone who attempts to improve the standard of living of the rural population. (…)

 

To be a Christian and, in particular, a Catholic, is a very courageous choice, but a choice that puts one’s own life and that of one’s relatives at risk … I would like to call the authorities’ attention to our men and women missionaries. Various groups of Sisters work constantly for the needy in relatively isolated localities where there are absolutely no policemen. They work at a serious risk to themselves. They work for children and the elderly. They help mothers and the sick. They organize classes for illiterate youth. They work trusting in God’s protection alone. They do their utmost to help their neighbor and thereby bear witness to the Gospel. I am thinking of these absolutely heroic missionary Sisters. I am thinking of the missionary priests who never fail to go to the help of the lowly as, precisely Fr. Thomas.  I am thinking of our little Church of Hyderabad. It is a small Church because of the number of the faithful but certainly large from the point of view of their heroism – heroism because of their constant witness to faith in God and in the Gospel. 

 

 

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

 

1. Do we believe in Jesus’ works and do we acknowledge that his compassionate acts of love and mercy testify that he is the Son of God?

 

2. What were the conflicts and sufferings that the prophet Jeremiah was experiencing? How did the reality of the Lord’s protective presence strengthen him in moments of distress and trials? Do we experience in our own life the convergence of mission and suffering? 

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

we thank you for Jeremiah,

your faithful persecuted prophet.

You are his “mighty champion” and protector.

In his painful experience as prophet of truth,

Jeremiah had recourse to you.

Most of all, dear Father,

we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ,

the ultimate suffering prophet and the incarnate word of truth.

Jesus taught us to trust in you.

In our mission of proclaiming the Kingdom value

in today’s society,

help us not to be overcome by fear.

Let your beloved Son-Servant

give us the courage to speak your prophetic word

and to confront social injustice

by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We give you glory and praise, now and forever.

Amen.  

 

 

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

 

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

 

“He escaped from their power.” (Jn 10:39) // “But the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion” (Jer 20:11a).

 

 

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

 

In any way you can, support the missionary endeavors of the Church, especially where there is violent conflict and persecution.  

 

 

*** *** ***

 

April 4, 2020: SATURDAY – LENTEN WEEKDAY (5); SAINT ISIDORE, Bishop, Doctor of the Church

N.B. Today is the birthday of Blessed James Alberione, Founder of the Pauline Family.

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Will Gather the Scattered Children

of God”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Ez 37:21-28 // Jn 11:45-56

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 11:45-56): “To gather together in unity the scattered children of God.”

(Gospel Reflection by Sr. Mary Martha Bruan, PDDM)

 

The gathering together into one of the dispersed children of God in today’s Gospel (Jn 11:45-56) is prophesied by Caiaphas, the High Priest, during the meeting of the chief priests and the Pharisees in the Sanhedrin. Many of those who witness Jesus raising Lazarus to life believe in him. When the news of this sign and wonder that Jesus performs reaches the Pharisees it disturbs them.  Feeling threatened by the growing popularity of Jesus, because of his preaching and the miracles he continues to perform, they are compelled to convene the Sanhedrin.  The chief priests and the Pharisees, anxious that Jesus might have a large number of followers strong enough to cause chaos and social unrest, ask the question, “What are we going to do?”  It appears that this question concerns the common good, but underneath is their intention to protect their own interests.  The chief priests and Pharisees are obsessed with preserving their social status, political power and prestige at the expense of another person - Jesus.

 

Caiaphas, the High Priest, proposes without any qualms “that one man should die instead of the people so that the whole nation may not perish.”  For Caiaphas, the death of Jesus will bring no trouble from the Romans.  The death of Jesus is the only answer to their present dilemma.  Jesus is going to die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God.  The Jews believe that God speaks through the High Priest and so those in the Sanhedrin take the words of Caiaphas as prophetic. From that day onwards they conspired to kill Jesus who, for them, is becoming more and more dangerous. 

 

From the very beginning Jesus knows very well that it is His mission to lay down His life for the salvation of all peoples.  The culminating point of the obedience of Jesus to the will of the Father is His death on the cross.   This He has to do according to God’s plan when His “hour” comes.  Faced with the danger of the conspiracy of the chief priests and Pharisees to eliminate Jesus, He retires to Ephraim, a town near Bethel in the northern part of Jerusalem and stays there with His disciples. In silence Jesus waits for the “hour” to come when He has to die and unite all nations into one people of God.  With His death Jesus restores our dignity as God’s children. 

 

Journeying together for forty days during this grace-filled Lenten season, let us keep gazing upon Jesus. Let us allow ourselves to be grasped by Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Let us live in solidarity with one another even if this means going against the current of division and fragmentation, caused by the culture of materialism, secularism and consumerism.

  

 

B. First Reading (Ez 37:21-28): “I will make them into one nation.”

 

The Old Testament reading (Ez 37:21-28) presents Ezekiel’s prophecy about when God will bring the scattered tribes of Israel from foreign lands and make them “one nation upon the land”. Ezekiel hopes not only for the restoration of the Judean exiles in Babylon, but also for the reassembly of the exiles of Israel who were deported by the Assyrian invasion in 721 B.C. The restored people will be cared for: “there shall be one shepherd for them all”. God promises to dwell among his people and he will make an everlasting “covenant of peace” with them. The Lord God will be their God and they shall be his people.

 

In the morning of March 13, 2013, our community in Fresno was summoned to go to the television with the big news that “We have a Pope!” We saw the impressive image of thousands and thousands of people converging into Saint Peter’s Square. People from all nations … from all races and cultures … full of energy and excitedly rejoicing! It was a young and energetic crowd rejoicing for the gift of the Pope-Shepherd in the person of Pope Francis. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, continues his pastoral ministry in the person of the newly elected Pope Francis. The Ezekiel prophecy becomes a reality once again.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we commit acts of injustice because we rationalize that it is better for one man to die rather than allow a bigger group to perish?

 

2. How does the Ezekiel prophecy “There shall be one shepherd for them all” affect you? What is your response to God’s gift in the person of Pope Francis?

 

 

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

(From the Masses and Prayers for Various Needs and Occasions: For the Pope)

 

God our Father, shepherd and guide,

look with love on Pope Francis, your servant,

the pastor of your Church.

May his word and example inspire and guide the Church,

and may he, and all those entrusted to his care,

come to the joy of everlasting life.

Grant 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 week. Please memorize it.

 

“And there shall be one shepherd for them all.” (Ex 37:24) // “He prophesied that Jesus was going to gather into one the dispersed children of God.” (Jn 11:52) 

 

 

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

 

Offer special prayers and sacrifices for Pope Francis and continue Christ’s pastoral mission by extending the Good Shepherd’s peace and compassion to the people around you.  

 

*** *** *** 

 

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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