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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

and welcome into your bosom the victims deceased.

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

as we proclaim the healing power of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ,

now and forever. Amen.

 

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BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 19, n. 1)

Advent Week 1: November 29 – December 5, 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: November 22-28, 2020 please go to ARCHIVES Series 18 and click on “Ordinary Week 34”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: November 29 – December 5, 2020.)

 

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November 29, 2020: FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT

“JESUS SAVIOR: We Long for His Advent”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 63:16-17,19; 64:2-7 // I Cor 1:3-9 // Mk 13:33-37

  

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 13:33-37): “Be watchful! You do not know when the lord of the house is coming.”

 

My 82-year-old dad, who immigrated to the States, was diagnosed with liver cancer in July 1997.  It was his wish to die in his native Philippines.  We brought him from California to the island of Cebu, hoping that the sea breeze and the loving presence of family and friends would make things easier for him. But cancer caused a lot of agony and pain.  As we tenderly hovered over him, he prayed with tears in his eyes:  "Dear, Lord!  Please come and take me with you."  Shortly after his Advent invocation, the Lord came to end his suffering.  The moment my dad breathed his last, we lit a candle at his bedside and commended his soul to God.  The Lord's coming was, for my dad, an experience of liberation and salvation.  My dad’s own paschal mystery was complete!

 

Like a dying person waiting for the Lord's definitive coming, Christians are called to be in a state of vigil.  Our life is a long Advent expectation as we wait for the Lord to be revealed in all his glory.  In the Gospel reading of today's liturgy (Mk 13:33-37), the Lord Jesus exhorts his disciples:  "Be watchful!  Be alert!  You do not know when the time will come." The authors of the Days of the Lord comment: "Keeping watch is one of the most important activities of the human heart, a focusing of energy that endeavors to rid the night of the evil spirits that hold back the dawn in the world.  Watching in prayer gives our full attention to God and to others...   The great vigil of Advent prefigures the vigil of Easter, and the splendid dawn of the new time."

 

The liturgy of the Advent season, which begins the liturgical year, is replete with Christian hope and laden with grace. This Church season is essentially to keep hope in the future definitive coming of the saving God. The hope that the season of Advent generates entails, however, accountability for the present moment. Every moment has an eternal significance and we are therefore held accountable for it. Christians live in the time between the now of Jesus’ victory over sin and death and the not-yet of his return in glory. The challenge of the Advent season is to see how we live creatively and dutifully as God’s children in this in-between time.

 

The following prayer reflections illustrate the positive stance of the people of hope, who make the best of “this very day” (cf. Phyllis McKinley, “This Very Day” in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings, ed. Jack Canfield, et. al., Cos Cob: CSS Publishing, 2009, p. 350-351).

 

It would take many pages to explain the challenges my husband and I have faced. I have kept a journal for thirty years to help me keep my perspective. Recently I wrote this:

 

Lord, this very day I awoke, alive, here, now – this day. This day I will treat my body with respect. Nourish it well, clean it, protect it. A warm shower, a healthy meal, fastening my seat belt, wearing comfortable shoes … these will be my little acts of respect for this body You gave me – this body You breathed life into at birth and each day including this very day.

 

This very day I awoke, not alone, but unique as I am, a part of all mankind, each single person is also unique. Let me respect the body of humanity and treat each single member as well as I treat my hands, my face, my feet. As I nourish my body let me nourish also the greater body. As I pour milk on my breakfast cereal, let me remember also to pour the milk of kindness on my family, my neighbors and colleagues, the stranger in traffic and souls in distant lands with prayers of compassion and thoughts of understanding.

 

This very day Lord, I will no doubt feel grains of irritation. Let me, with my degrees, my skills, my “knowledge of life”, not overlook the simple wisdom of the oyster. Let me turn those parasites that would invade my attitude with bitterness or despair into pearls to shimmer in my world, gems to offer others proof that life and hope can conquer depression and fear.

 

This very day Lord, let me remember to smile, to laugh, to sing, to dance, even if my knees hurt. Let me remember to watch the doves winging past my window, to see the coppery glint of sun on a squirrel’s tail, to listen to the puppy lapping water from his dish. Let me notice the bright vermillion blossom in the ditch even if it is just a “weed”. Let me be amused by bumper stickers on trucks decked in shiny chrome and fat backpacks on skinny teens. Let me, as I walk to the post office, be delighted by babies cooing in strollers and fussing matrons in flowered frocks and the aroma of hot cinnamon buns from the local bakery.

 

Since I am alive this very day, let me love it!

 

 

B. First Reading (Is 63:16-17, 19: 64:2-7): “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down.”

 

Against the backdrop of the Old Testament reading (Is 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7), the Advent expectation of the Church is enriched by past experiences of mercy and redemption. The Lord’s coming is redemptive for those who trust in him. For the people of hope, the Advent invocation that comes forth from their lips is “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down!” Today’s passage from the prophet Isaiah contains the thoughts that he gave to his dispirited people around the end of their exile in Babylon and echoes the need for a Redeemer on account of the human race’s sinfulness.

 

The people who have been chastised and purified by God in the crucible of the Exile-experience, notwithstanding their pain and suffering, were able to hold on to their hope. The biblical scholar, Eugene Maly reflects: “What is the source of this hope? How, in the face of crises, frustrations, and disappointments can it have such power? The reason is an equally strong faith in the past, a belief in what God has already done to prove his love. The reasoning is that, if he has done so much already, how much more must he have in store for us! Thus, in Advent hope and faith are expressed equally; we can hope because we believe.”

 

Here is another example of how the people of hope can cope with life’s vicissitudes (cf. Sharon Foster in Daily Guideposts 2014, p. 310).

 

I watch my son rushing to check his luggage. Chase will soon board a plane for Oman after singing at a prayer breakfast at the United Nations and performing in Cooperstone, New York.

 

It is exciting and a joy to watch and listen to him, but it was not always so. Once upon a time, he was unhappy, his grades were slipping, he didn’t want to talk. We had survived the death of his father in a motorcycle accident when Chase was five, but I suspected the loss was now haunting him. “I don’t know how to help him become a man, God. Please help us.”

 

The most unlikely idea came to me: Share the story of King David. So we sat next to each other on the sofa, evening after evening, sharing the story of David’s life – from lonely shepherd boy to warrior to singer, poet, dancer, husband, father, and king. We talked about manhood and God.

 

Though Chase still had some challenges, he seemed to relax, into becoming. Now, he spreads encouragement to others, flying all over the world to sing for God.

 

 

C. Second Reading (I Cor 1:3-9): “We wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

The Advent expectation of the Church for the definitive revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ in the end time (eschaton) is filled with grace.  According to St. Paul in the Second Reading (I Cor1:3-9), we are not lacking in any spiritual gift for we have been enriched in every way.  He will keep us firm to the end and irreproachable on the great day of the Lord.  In our loving vigil for the final advent of the Lord, we are encouraged to trust in God who is faithful.  Today’s Advent message is very encouraging and optimistic. The apostle Paul reminds us of the wondrous grace God has bestowed upon us in Christ Jesus. In union with Christ, we have become enriched and endowed with every blessing.

 

The following shared personal experience illustrates that in this “ad interim” time, each one has received a gift from God (cf. Marion Bond West in Daily Guideposts 2010, p. 296).

 

When I was in high school, I longed to be a majorette like my friends. But the rules stipulated that majorettes must play a band instrument. The long-suffering band director finally suggested, “Try the triangle, Marion. Anyone can play it.” Not me.

 

So I went out for basketball. Of the thirty who wanted to play, only two of us didn’t make it.

 

I tried cheerleading next – until I discovered I couldn’t smile and cheer at the same time.

 

An observant English teacher asked, “What’s wrong, Marion?” “I can’t be a majorette, a basketball player or a cheerleader. I’m a … nothing.” He sat down in the empty seat in front of me. “You’ve gotten A’s on all your essays, despite your spelling. Maybe your gift is simply different. What do you really enjoy?”

 

I was always delighted when he assigned an essay, beamed when everybody else moaned. I’d waited on the cold granite steps for the library to open each summer morning. Books had become the brothers and sister I didn’t have, keeping me company while my mother worked. Sometimes I would lie in bed, thinking about words I enjoyed, like tapestry, September, pristine and pensive, and authors I adored: Pearl S Buck, W. Somerset Maugham, Edgar Allan Poe, Sinclair Lewis, Emily Dickenson. Tiny Tim, Heidi, Nancy Drew, Tom Sawyer and Lassie were cherished friends.

 

The batons, musical instruments, basketballs and pom-poms are long gone. My own gift from God remains alive.

 

Oh, Father, here’s a long, overdue, deep-down thank You for knowing, even way back then, the gift for me!

 

 

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

 

1. When feeling wretched and distressed, do we turn to our loving God and utter the Advent cry: “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down”?

 

2. How do we respond to Jesus’ Advent exhortation: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come”?

 

3. Do we eagerly await the definitive revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ? Do we respond to the saving initiative of our ever-faithful God who will keep us firm to the end and blameless on the day of the Lord?

 

  

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

 

Loving Father,

we thank you for the beauty and rhythm of the changing seasons.

With the Advent season,

we celebrate the manifold “coming” of your Son Jesus Christ.

In him you bestow upon us grace and peace.

Through him you fill us with every spiritual gift

that is beyond our imagining.

You are ever faithful and infinitely good.

Make us ready and blameless

for the glorious coming of our Lord Jesus Christ

at the end time.

As a people of Advent expectation,

help us to work tirelessly to bring hope.

Adveniat regnum tuum! Thy kingdom come!

Great is your love and we glorify you,

now and forever.

            Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

"Jesus said to his disciples:  Be watchful!  Be alert!  You do not know when the time will come." (Mk 13:33)

  

 

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

 

Pray for a salutary and meaningful celebration of the Advent season. Be deeply aware of the gifts received from God and endeavor to use them on behalf of the poor and the needy, and thus promote the coming of the heavenly kingdom. In view of making the Advent cry, “Adveniat regnum tuum” a reality, make an effort to spend some quiet time in Eucharistic Adoration.

 

 

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November 30, 2020: MONDAY – SAINT ANDREW, APOSTLE

“JESUS SAVIOR: Andrew Is His First-Called … His Apostle Andrew Proclaimed His Saving Word”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Rom 10:9-18 // Mt 4:18-22

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 4:18-22): “Immediately they left their nets and followed him.”

 

The call of the first disciples (Peter and Andrew, James and John) is part of the prophetic fulfillment of the “great light” dispelling the gloom of darkness. Jesus, the “great light”, offers the gift of ministry to the fishermen by the lake: “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men”. In effect, he invites them to share in his mission of radiating the life-giving light of God. He summons them to follow him who is the light of life and to abide by his light. He calls them to share intimately in his life and messianic mission of being light to the nations. The response of the fishermen is immediate and decisive. They left their nets, boats, and relations to follow Christ. Through the grace of vocation, these disciples are rendered capable of being fishers of men and of spreading the light of Christ to the world.

 

We too are called to be fishers of men and to spread the light of the Gospel. The apostle Andrew, honored in the Eastern Church with the title “Protoclete” or “First-Called”, is a model of total response to this call. Saint Andrew, the apostle, shows to us what it entails to proclaim the Gospel and to enable people of all nations to hear and respond to the word of faith. Here is his biographical profile taken from the Internet’s Wikipedia.

 

The New Testament states that Andrew was the brother of Simon Peter, by which it is inferred that he was likewise a son of John or Jonah. He was born in the village of Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee. Both he and his brother Peter were fishermen by trade, hence the tradition that Jesus called them to be his disciples by saying that he will make them “fishers of men”. At the beginning of Jesus’ public life, they were said to have occupied the same house at Capernaum.

 

The Gospel of John states that Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist, whose testimony first led him and another unnamed disciple of John the Baptist to follow Jesus. Andrew at once recognized Jesus as the Messiah, and hastened to introduce him to his brother. Thenceforth, the two brothers were disciples of Christ. On a subsequent occasion, prior to the final call to the apostolate, they were called to a closer companionship, and then they left all things to follow Jesus.

 

In the gospels, Andrew is referred to as being present on some important occasions as one of the disciples more closely attached to Jesus. Andrew told Jesus about the boy with the loaves and fishes (John 6:8), with Philip told Jesus about the Greeks seeking him, and was present at the Last Supper.

 

Eusebius in his Church History 3,1 quotes Origen as saying Andrew preached in Scythia. The Chronicle of Nestor adds that the preached along the Black Sea and the Dnieper River as far as Kiev, and from there he traveled to Novgorod. Hence, he became a patron saint of Ukraine, Romania and Russia. According to tradition, he founded the See of Byzantium (Constantinople) in 38 A.D., installing Stachys as bishop. According to Hippolytus of Rome, he preached in Thrace, and his presence in Byzantium is also mentioned in the apocryphal “Acts of Andrew”, written in 2nd century. Basil of Seleucia also knew of Apostle Andrew’s mission in Thrace, as well as Scythia and Achaia. This diocese would later develop into the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Andrew is recognized as its patron saint.

 

Andrew is said to have been martyred by crucifixion at the city of Patras in Achaea, on the northern coast of the Peloponnese. Early texts, such as “Acts of Andrew” known to Gregory of Tours, describe Andrew as bound, not nailed, to a Latin cross of the kind on which Jesus is said to have been crucified; yet a tradition developed that Andrew has been crucified on a cross of the form Crux decussata (X-shaped cross or “saltire”), now commonly known as a “Saint Andrew’s Cross” – supposedly at his own request, as he deemed himself unworthy to be crucified on the same type of cross as Jesus had been.

 

Cypriot tradition holds that a ship which was transporting Saint Andrew went off course and ran aground. Upon coming ashore, Andrew struck the rocks with his staff at which point a spring of healing waters gushed forth. Using it, the sight of the ship’s captain, who had been blind in one eye, was restored. Thereafter, the site became a place of pilgrimage … Other pilgrimages are more recent. The story is told that in 1895, the son of a Maria Greogiou was kidnapped. Seventeen years later, Saint Andrew appeared to her in a dream, telling her to pray for her son’s return at the monastery. Living in Anatolia, she embarked on the crossing to Cyprus on a very crowded boat. Telling her story during the journey, one of the passengers, a young Dervish priest became more and more interested. Asking if her son had any distinguishing marks, he stripped off his clothes to reveal the same marks and mother and son were thus reunited.

 

 

B. First Reading (Rom 10:9-18): “Faith comes from what is heard and what is heard comes from the preaching of Christ.”

 

Today’s First Reading deals with the confession of faith of Christian believers. Our faith in Jesus Christ must be expressed fully in our words and actions, indeed, by our very lives. Our inner conviction must be confessed and our faith in the Risen Lord must be witnessed to all. The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 2, explain: “Paul is speaking of the word of faith, the object of apostolic preaching that announces Jesus dead and risen. To profess on the lips and from the heart that God has raised Jesus from the dead brings righteousness and gives access to salvation: none of those who have this faith will regret it at a time of judgment … To call on the name of Jesus is, therefore, a total act of faith in the Risen Lord who saves. It is an unconditional welcome to his power of resurrection, his strength for salvation … Such a path to salvation is open to all.”

 

The following testimony of a young lady physician gives insight into the meaning and challenges of making a confession of faith in today’s world – a faith confession already made by Saint Andrew in his life of ministry and martyrdom (cf. Cailin O’Reilly, “What God Means to Me” in Alive! September 2015, p. 10).

 

When I was younger I felt embarrassed about displaying my faith. One memory I still laugh at is the first day I moved into my halls in the University. I was so frightened about leaving home for the first time, and I decided to bring along my picture of the Sacred Heart. It was too big to fit into my luggage so I had to carry it into halls. Every person I met along the way stared at me as if I had three heads. I felt so mortified at the time as I thought everyone would make fun of me. They didn’t, thank God.

 

My picture of the Sacred Heart reminded me of the presence of God I my heart, and this is what gave me the inner strength to work for my dream of becoming a doctor. I have four brothers, one of them my twin, and I grew up in Armagh City. We are a very close family. I did my medical degree in University College Dublin, graduating in June 2014.

 

Mother Teresa once said: “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.” These words epitomize what God means to me – he is love. He is reflected in how we choose to treat others and how we choose our lives. God has always been there to guidew me in very choice I make. (…)

 

In Today’s society it is hard to keep God where he should be, t the very heart of our lives. It is so worth it if we try. He will help us through life which, as we all know, can be a struggle at times. When I struggle or stress, with every tear I say a prayer to God, Our Lady, my guardian angel. They carry me over every obstacle I hit.

 

It was caring for my beloved Nanny Mullen after her diagnosis with a brain tumor that inspired me to follow my vocation to care for the sick. Working alongside the hardworking nurses and dedicated members of the medical team, I am so blessed to be able to help the lives of those struggling with illnesses.

 

 

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

 

1. Like Saint Andrew, do you respond positively to the call of Christ to participate in his saving mission as the light of the world? What do you do to spread the Gospel and facilitate the people’s response to Christ, “the light to the nations”?

 

2. Do we imitate Saint Andrew in his zeal to proclaim the Gospel and in his sacrifice for the Gospel? Are we awed by the many people he touched by proclaiming the saving Word?

 

  

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

 

Loving Father,

we thank you for the miracle of vocation

and the grace of faithful response to that call.

We thank you for the prompt and radical response

of Peter and Andrew, James and John

to the call addressed to them by Jesus:

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

Their intimate participation in the saving love of Jesus

transformed them into bearers of light and torchbearers of faith.

O dear Father! Let the light of Christ shine upon us.

Fill us with the warmth of his compassion

and the flame of his apostolic zeal.

Let us replicate in today’s troubled world

the saving event that happened in the Galilee of the Gentiles,

when the people of gloom had seen a great light.

Help us to imitate Saint Andrew, the “First-Called”,

in radiating the light of the Gospel to the nations on earth.

You live and reign, now and forever.

            Amen.  

 

            *** 

Lord,

in your kindness hear our petitions.

You called Andrew the apostle

to preach the gospel and guide your Church in faith.

May he always be our friend in your presence

to help us with his prayers.

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

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“At once they left their nets and followed him.” (Mt 4:20) //“Faith comes from what is heard and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.” (Rom 10:17)

 

  

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

 

By your words and example, and by material and spiritual means, promote priestly and religious vocations in the Church. Imitate Saint Andrew in his zeal to spread the Gospel. // Today resolve to share a kindly word with those around you and, in any way you can, let them hear the word of faith proclaimed with passion and devotion.

 

 

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December 1, 2020: TUESDAY – ADVENT WEKKDAY (1)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Be Childlike and He Is Filled with the Spirit”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 11:1-10 // Lk 10:21-24

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 10:21-24): “Jesus rejoices in the Holy Spirit.”

(Gospel Reflection by Bishop Joseph Mukala, India)

 

We have, on many occasions, extolled the attitude of children, praising them for their innocence, dependence, simplicity and joy. Everyone has a word or a touch for a child. We see God in a child being carried by a mother or walking along with the father.

 

We want to know more about God, but we know that the knowledge of God does not come from reading big books or attending lectures by scholars, but rather on one’s knees in prayer. The Holy Spirit inspires the simple to know God and come closer to him, in humility and openness to surrender to him. The prophets of old and great men of the history of Israel longed for the day when they would see and experience the messianic times. But that grace was not given to them, though in their own way they were happy and they fulfilled the mission entrusted to them by God. They found happiness and joy in being men of God, speaking His words and carrying out His plans. Yes, they were like children in the hands of God ready to accept whatever was demanded of them. 

 

Simplicity and humility are key words when it comes to being chosen by God for his mission. Every Christian has a mission to fulfill for we are all missionaries. A simple old lady from a village in a far flung area fulfills a mission. Her childlike simplicity and humility are qualities that make her a member of the Body of Christ. She is there to build up the Body of Christ through her joy and happiness. It is not always the learned and the wise that really bring joy and happiness to the body of Christ, but also the simple and ordinary people. Let us be simple and humble to receive the child Jesus into our lives.

 

 

B. First Reading (Is 11:1-10): “The Spirit of the Lord God shall rest upon him.”

  

Today’s Old Testament reading (Is 11:1-10) is from the prophet Isaiah who lived in Jerusalem in the latter part of the 8th century B.C., when there was terrible socio-political turmoil caused by the Assyrian Empire’s threat and invasion. Many kingdoms were crushed. Judah’s kinsmen in the northern Kingdom of Israel were routed by the Assyrians and sent into exile in 722 B.C. Despite the disaster experienced by the northern Kingdom, the prophet Isaiah predicted that the Kingdom of Judah would be spared. Isaiah envisioned a future when Judah and Israel, kingdoms of the North and South, would be reunited. The enemy siblings, Judah and Israel, would finally be reconciled through the saving work of a Spirit-filled messianic king, a shoot sprouting from the “stump of Jesse”. This future Davidic king would reign with a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord. He would judge the poor with justice and defend the rights of the helpless. The ideal King would be after God’s own heart. His Kingdom would be a reign of harmony, peace and reconciliation – reconciliation among the members of God’s creation and creation’s reconciliation with its Creator. The prophet Isaiah’s idyll of animal enemies living together serenely and harmoniously is a beautiful portrait of God’s benevolent plan and the glorious destiny he meant for his people and the entire creation.

 

However, the prophecy of the ideal Davidic King announced by Isaiah would not be fulfilled in his lifetime. That prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the “anointed one” and consecrated by the Spirit of Yahweh for the mission of universal salvation. In the fullness of time would be the advent of the Messiah and the definitive realization of the divine redemptive plan through the paschal sacrifice of that messianic King.

 

Finally, today’s Advent liturgy invites us to consider the shadows and pain in today’s world that do not correspond to the messianic idyll of peace and harmony announced by the prophet Isaiah. The Benedictine liturgical scholar, Adrian Nocent remarks: “How can we see the golden age in a world that is adrift, a world in which virtue and vice are so mingled? We can only respond by pointing to the fact that the Good News is being preached to the poor, the blind see, and the dead rise – since the Church accomplishes all these miracles in the spiritual order. The outlook of faith and a hope grounded in faith – these alone can enable us to see the presence of the golden age in its beginnings. Advent is the season of Christian optimism.”

 

The following article, “There’s No Place Like Home” about a hapless victim (cf. Poverello News, September 2007 issue) illustrates how some people of goodwill endeavor to hasten in today’s wounded world the advent of God’s kingdom. By their works of justice for the poor and needy, Papa Mike and the staff of the Poverello House remind us that the promotion of the messianic idyll is our task and challenge.

 

Like millions before him, he saw California as the Promised Land, a place abounding in hope and prosperity. For some reason, Little Rock, Arkansas had become a dead end. Maybe he had his own problems that made it hard for him to make it in his hometown, or maybe home had grown too small for him. Whatever the reason, he wanted to get away from failure or pain, so he looked westward with longing and naïve dreams of success. He was going to hook up with some distant relatives when he got to Fresno, live with them temporarily, and find a job. Not the most practical plan, but one that is all too familiar to us at Poverello House. Arriving at the bus station, he set out to get the lay of the land, and almost immediately, was mugged and robbed. Everything, including the names and phone numbers of relatives he’d never met, was stolen. He was savagely beaten, and ended up in the hospital with a broken wrist and cracked ribs. He was released, hurting, penniless, and depressed, and somehow made his way to Poverello House. Word on the street was that he could find help there.

 

At lunchtime, homeless people pointed out Mike McGarvin to him. He approached and asked Mike for help. What did he want? Just to go back home, where he knew people, where he wouldn’t be assaulted and robbed within ten minutes of arriving. Mike doesn’t do much “Greyhound therapy” anymore; more often than not, people are stuck in town because they’ve blown their money on drugs. However, something about this sad man in his late twenties appealed to Mike. As he does with anybody asking for a bus ticket, Mike told the man he could be on his way home if he passed a drug test. The test came out clean, so Mike bought him a ticket, loaded him with enough food for the trip, and put him on the bus for home.

 

Unlike so many who have been able to find a new life in the Golden State, this man instead discovered how mean the streets of California can be. As with so many others we assist, we will never know if our efforts to help this man will enable him to find his way in the world. However, Mike sent him off with a silent prayer for his safety. He left with the assurance that on the hardscrabble streets of Fresno, there is a place of refuge called Poverello House, and a big man with an equally big heart, known on those streets as Papa Mike.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we act as Spirit-filled people of God? Are we like children in the hands of God? Are we able to trust God and rely on him with childlike simplicity?

 

2. How does the messianic vision of peace and harmony impact you? How do you resolve to make the vision of messianic peace and harmony a lived possibility and reality?

  

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

the Spirit of the Lord is upon you.

Together with you, we rejoice in the Spirit.

We love God the Father with childlike trust.

With your grace, help us to surrender to his saving will.

Maranatha! Come, O Christ the Lord!

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.

 

“Jesus rejoices in the Holy Spirit.” (Lk 10:21) //“The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him.” (Is 11:2)

 

 

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

 

Pray for a more childlike trust as God’s presence mysteriously unfolds in our life. Do something kind and comforting for a needy “little one” in your midst. To be more open to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, spend some quiet moments in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.  

 

 

*** *** ***

December 2, 2020: WEDNESDAY – ADVENT WEEKDAY (1)

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Healing and Feeding Good Shepherd”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 25:6-10a // Mt 15:29-37

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 15:29-37): “Jesus heals many and multiplies the bread.”

(Gospel Reflection by Bishop Joseph Mukala, India)

 

Jesus ushers in God’s kingdom in our hearts and in our lives. There is a sense of joy and feasting here. Returning to the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus goes up the mountain and sits down. Prophetic tradition speaks of the gathering, not only of the scattered people of Israel, but of all peoples on the holy mountain (cf. Is 25:6) and of God coming for them and feeding them there. Ezekiel prophesies (cf. Ezek 34:13-16) that God himself would shepherd his people and feed the sheep in pleasant pastures. Moreover, he would bandage those that are hurt and heal those who are sick. The advent of Jesus fulfills the divine promise of a healing and nourishing Shepherd. Jesus heals the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many other sick people placed at his feet. Jesus feels sorry for the hungry crowd and feeds them by multiplying the loaves of bread and fish. Witnessing the healing, the people give praise to God. Nourished by the loaves and fish, they feel satisfied. The celebration of the kingdom has begun and at the center of it all is Jesus Christ.

 

Saint Francis Xavier, known as the “Apostle of the Indies” and the “Apostle to the Far East”, incarnates the love of the healing and feeding Good Shepherd. The following notes about him, circulated on the Internet, are interesting.

 

Francis Xavier, born Francisco de Jasso y Azpilicueta (7 April 1506 – 3 December 1552) was a pioneering Roman Catholic missionary born in the Kingdom of Navarre (now part of Spain) and co-founder of the Society of Jesus. He was a student of Ignatius of Loyola and one of the first seven Jesuits, dedicated at Montnartre in 1534. He led an extensive mission into Asia, mainly in the Portuguese Empire of the time. He was influential in the spreading and upkeep of Catholicism most notably in India, but also ventured into Japan, Borneo, the Moluccas, and into other areas which had thus far not been visited by Christian missionaries. In these areas, being a pioneer and struggling to learn the local languages in the face of opposition, he had less success than he had enjoyed in India. It was a goal of Xavier to one day reach China.

 

St. Francis Xavier is noteworthy for his missionary work, both as organizer and as pioneer. He is said to have converted more people than anyone else has done since Saint Paul. By his compromises in India with the Christians of St. Thomas, he developed the Jesuit missionary methods along lines that subsequently became a successful blueprint for his order to follow. His efforts left a significant impression upon the missionary history of India and, as one of the first Jesuit missionaries to the East Indies, his work is of fundamental significance to Christians in the propagation of Christianity in China and Japan, India (…)

 

Pope Benedict said of both Ignatius of Loyola and Francis Xavier: "Not only their history which was interwoven for many years from Paris and Rome, but a unique desire — a unique passion, it could be said — moved and sustained them through different human events: the passion to give to God-Trinity a glory always greater and to work for the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ to the peoples who had been ignored.” As the foremost saint from Navarre and one of the main Jesuit saints, he is much venerated in Spain and the Hispanic countries where Francisco Javier or Javier are common male given names. The alternative spelling Xavier is also popular in Portugal.

 

 

B. First Reading (Is 25:6-10a): “The Lord invites us to his feast and will wipe away the tears from all faces.”

   

Today’s Old Testament reading (Is 25:6-10a) depicts the definitive triumph of God’s kingdom at the end time. The fulfillment of God’s saving plan is imaged as a “feast of rich food and choice wines”. On that day of great feasting, the people redeemed would exclaim: “Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us! This is the Lord for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us” (Is 55:9). This bountiful banquet on the mountain of God is a symbol of eternal salvation, companionship and joy – of the delightful sharing in the riches of God and intimate communion in his delectable life.

 

The biblical scholar Eugene Maly comments: “One of the most pleasant of human activities is the family or community meal. In its ideal form, it is a time when those who love one another not only share the food they eat, but also share with one another their hopes and fears, their experiences and future plans. The love that already binds them is made stronger. The Scripture attests to the fact that a meal is expressive of a wide range of human attitudes and emotions … All mankind seems to be aware of the fact that a shared meal creates or strengthens a community of life among the participants. That is why this most human of activities would also be used to symbolize a community of life between human and divine participants … The Isaiah reading describes in rich imagery what is commonly referred to as the eschatological or end-time meal. In his description of this meal, the author is trying to bring home to the people the exquisite joy of that final day when they would be united with the Lord forever. A common life and common love are symbolized.”

 

Moreover, all peoples are invited to this grandiose banquet. The end-time feast is for all peoples, with God himself as the gracious host. He is the Lord of the banquet who satisfies our deepest longings. In Jesus Christ is the advent of the messianic banquet. In Jesus, God not only feeds the hungry but he also acts to make the lame walk, open the eyes of the blind, heal the sick. In him is total nourishment and healing.

 

As children of God and as disciples of Jesus, we are called to be instruments to respond to the needs of the world’s poor. The following story illustrates how God uses us to feed the hungry (cf. Carol Ermo, “Mysterious Ways” in Guideposts, September 2013, p. 39).

 

Brr. I hugged the warm Crockpot I was carrying as I walked to the building site. We’re hardy folks here in Wisconsin, but that fall day was beyond brisk. The women in my church group were bringing lunch to some Habitat for Humanity volunteers building a house in a working-class neighborhood. We’d made brownies, sandwiches and, most important, a huge batch of chili. Nearing the site, I wondered if chili would be enough to warm the bellies of the hungry crew.

 

Except there was no activity. No hammering. No saw buzzing. No drills whirring. No one working inside or out. Only one car was parked on the street. A man climbed out, pulling his jacket tight. “Didn’t anyone tell you ladies?” he said. “There’s no build today.” “No build? Why” I asked. “Windows didn’t come in”, the man explained. There’s not much to do without them. It’s so cold, we figured we’d hold off until they’re delivered.”

 

The pot of chili felt heavy. All that work we’d put in, chopping onions, browning the beef, mixing in the spices and waiting for it to cook. Now we had this enormous batch and no one to eat it. Maybe we’d split it up. My family would have supper for weeks. Then a thought popped into my head that didn’t seem to come from me. Take it to the homeless shelter.

 

The shelter? They planned way ahead and I was sure they already had a meal for the day. Then again, they could freeze the chili and serve it some other time. The women and I piled back into the car and drove to the shelter. A crowd of people huddled outside the cafeteria doors. “What’s going on?” I asked the shelter coordinator. “The group that was supposed to fix the meal today didn’t come in”, she said. “We’ve got all these people and nothing to feed them.” “You have something now”, I said.

 

There was enough chili for everyone … even for two stragglers who arrived after I thought the pot was empty. I shouldn’t have been surprised. This crew wasn’t the one we’d been planning to serve, but the Master Builder had a greater plan.

 

 

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

 

What is your response to the divine offer of total participation at the “banquet of salvation”? How do you prepare yourself for the heavenly feast? How do you image the compassionate Jesus who heals the sick and feeds the hungry?

 

 

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

 

O loving God,

you are the Lord of the banquet.

We thank you

for the “feast of rich food and choice wines”

you have prepared for us on your holy mountain.

The “banquet of salvation” at the end time

celebrates the definitive triumph of your kingdom

and the glory of your Paschal Lamb.

In our daily celebration of the Eucharist,

the supper of the Lamb,

we have a foretaste of the eternal joy

and the bounty of that heavenly feast.

Help us to imitate the compassionate Jesus,

who heals the sick and feeds the hungry.

Grant us the grace to live in charity and integrity

that we may participate fully and joyfully

in the eternal “banquet of salvation”.

You live and reign, 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.

 

“On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all people.” (Is 25:6) // They all ate and were satisfied.” (Mt 15:37)

 

 

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

 

Pray that the Christian disciples may be heartened by the “banquet of salvation” prepared for us by the Lord at the end time and prefigured in the Eucharist. By your small acts of charity and good deeds, prepare to participate fully at the heavenly feasting. Endeavor to alleviate the hunger of the world’s poor and to satisfy their need for a nourishing and bountiful meal. Show your compassionate care to the sick.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

December 3, 2020: THURSDAY – SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER, Priest

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is Our Rock and Foundation”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 26:1-6 // Mt 7:21, 24-27

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 7:21, 24-27): “Whoever does the will of my Father will enter the Kingdom of heaven.”

(Gospel Reflection by Bishop Joseph Mukala, India)

 

The Lord announced that the Kingdom of God is at hand (cf. Lk 17:21, Mk 1:15). Everyone is urgently searching for an entry into this kingdom where the Lord promises righteousness, peace and prosperity. The conditions that the Lord puts forward are not difficult for one who is seriously seeking the kingdom. That person is ready to dig deep and lay a firm foundation on Christ-rock so that it could stand even in difficult and trying times. While this digging is going on, we need to root out all that is not compatible with the kingdom so that the foundation may be strong. Then it could take in the shocks and violence, persecutions and rebuff, ridicule and scorn of an unbelieving world. The Church is attacked on every front. We are considered old-fashioned when we do not conform ourselves with the world on issues of life, death penalty, values, health care, etc.

 

Advent is a time to search the innermost recesses of our lives and to build a strong foundation. With a firmly grounded Christian life, nothing can detract us in our discipleship. St. Paul asserts that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, (cf. Rom 8:35). Who are the mother, brothers and sisters of Jesus? They are those who hear the word and put it into practice. Those who are transformed by it can be sure that no persecutions or attacks could overcome them.

 

 

B. First Reading (Is 26:1-6): “Let in a nation that is just, one that keeps faith.”

  

Advent is a propitious time to build our lives on Christ, our Rock Foundation. That we may be solidly founded on Christ, “he who comes in the name of the Lord”, we need to live by his words and follow his heavenly Father’s will. Our lives must correspond to the truth of faith that we profess. Today’s Old Testament reading (Is 26:1-6) undergirds the Christian call for integrity in our faith. The prophet Isaiah speaks of God’s promise of a “fortified city”, built in response to the hope of the “poor”. The gates of his “strong city” are open to the just and those who keep faith in him, but not to the proud and the tyrants. Isaiah refers to the Lord as an eternal “Rock”, which is a metaphor for total dependability. Indeed, the Lord God will always protect the humble and those who trust in his saving word.

           

The following account illustrates how a sterling modern woman built a house, put her trust in God, built her family life on the Rock Foundation and drew strength from the word of God (cf. Elizabeth Sherill, “The Glory of Ruth” in Guideposts, October 2007, p. 101-104).

 

It was on a radio newscast on June 15, 2007, that I heard about the death of my friend Ruth: “Mrs. Billy Graham, wife of the well-known evangelist, died yesterday at eighty-seven.” Ruth had been ill for a long time, her face in their Christmas card photo a little thinner each year, until all I recognized were those lively and compassionate eyes. In my desk I found the file of our correspondence. Here were dozens of letters in Ruth’s bold, energetic handwriting, the words slanting backward till they almost lay on their sides. Embossed above them on each sheet was Little Piney Cove, North Carolina.

 

I saw myself driving for the first time up that steep mountain road to a rustic cabin nestled in the shelter of a cliff, seemingly the home of long-ago pioneers. Hand-hewn chestnut beams, rough plastering, an immense fireplace. In fact, on that first visit in the 1950s, the house was brand-new, designed cellar to roof by Ruth herself. Over the years the house came, for me, to stand for the woman herself: a woman for whom imagination often took the place of money. Because Bill took only a modest salary, a tight budget for the new house was her first challenge. “I wanted it to look”, she told me, “as though it had stood here forever.” But where would she find massive chestnut timbers like the pioneers used? From old abandoned cabins she tracked down in the hills and hollows. (…)

Imagination, love, humor – all were present in that house on the mountain.

 

But the chief thing the house reflected was a woman’s hourly, moment-by-moment reliance on God. In large German script on the broad wooden mantel above the fireplace six words were incised in gold: Eine Feste Burg Ist Unser Gott. These opening words of Martin Luther’s great hymn, “A mighty fortress is our God”, explained the confidence with which Ruth met the never-ending challenge of being a wife and a mother. God was the secure place from where she was able to fight all of the daily battles with dishes and disruptions and the differing needs of husband and children.

 

I don’t think Ruth’s Bible ever saw a shelf. It was open constantly, whatever room she was in, not just as an aid to prayer, but as a practical guide to every problem the day presented. Worship and daily living were, for Ruth, not separate things. Chores, games, school work, nature, study – she wove all of it into the fabric of faith.

 

 

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

 

Do we seek protection in the fortified “city of God” and strength from the Lord, the “eternal Rock”? Do we truly seek the will of the Father and his kingdom by building our life upon Christ, the foundation Rock? 

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

You are the rock-foundation of our life.

Instill our day-to-day options with your wisdom.

Make us firm in our choices for you.

Help us as we work for the advent of your kingdom.

Maranatha! Come, O Christ the Lord!

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 Lord is an eternal Rock.” (Is 26:4)  

 

 

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

 

When buffeted with challenges and difficulties in life, seek the protection of God and draw strength from his life-giving word. Share the inner strength of God with the people around you whose faith seems to be weak.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

December 4, 2020: FRIDAY – ADVENT WEEKDAY (1); SAINT JOHN DAMASCENE, Priest, Doctor of the Church

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Joy-Giving Light”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 29:17-24 // Mt 9:27-31

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 9:27-31): “Believing in Jesus, two who were blind were cured.”

(Gospel Reflection by Bishop Joseph Mukala, India)

 

All those who sought Jesus for a cure or miracle needed to have faith in him and his power to heal. When that was not evident, he evoked that faith from them. In today’s Gospel passage, he asked whether they believed that he could do what they were imploring from him. They humbly answered “yes”. The two intercessors did not complain to Jesus that they were blind nor did they lament their situation. No! Rather, they just accepted in all humility their limitations and expressed their faith in Jesus who could cure and make them whole. Without trust and confidence in him, nothing much could be done for them. With their faith-filled “Yes”, Jesus granted them their request. The two blind men knew what the Messiah would do in his time. So they called upon him using the messianic title, “Son of David” that he might bring sight to their blindness. They were right in calling Jesus “Son of David”. Their simple faith and humility were eventually rewarded.

 

It is strange that Jesus asked them not to share the news with others. Is this possible? Jesus is not interested in being a sensation; he does not want people to have the wrong idea about his mission. But the healed blind men ignored his appeal and went about telling everyone what happened. They had regained not only physical sight, but also “in-sight”. Finally they could see who Jesus really is - the word of God and healer. They could not keep it for themselves. Indeed, the “good” news had to be shared.

 

B. First Reading (Is 29:17-24): “On that day, the eyes of the blind shall see.”

   

Blindness is often a metaphor for lack of knowledge and for obduracy of heart. The two blind men in today’s Gospel who followed Jesus, crying out, “Son of David, have pity on us!” already “know” Jesus and trust in him. Spiritually they are not blind. The miracle that restores their physical sight is a confirmation of the light of faith that enlightens their soul and enables them to perceive Jesus as the Messiah.

 

In the Old Testament reading (Is 29:17-24) there is the metaphor of blindness and deafness to indicate the mendacious state of the people in Judah. They have no “knowledge” of the ways of God and refuse to listen to his life-giving word. As a consequence of their “hardness”, tyrants oppress them and cause misery and affliction. The Lord God, however, promises redemption and transformation. The removal of ruthless tyrants is a messianic sign, as well as the return of the “knowledge of God” upon the land. The image of the deaf able to hear and the blind able to see, and the image of the Lebanon trees being transformed into an orchard and finally into a forest indicate a great reversal. God, in his marvelous goodness, is able to lead the people “out of gloom and darkness” into the light of the knowledge of God. The prophet Isaiah completes his messianic vision with the following words: “Those who err in spirit shall acquire understanding, and those who find fault shall receive instruction.”

 

The following is an example of a physically blind person who has learned to “really see” and to bask in the joy-giving “light” of God (cf. Karen Valentin in Daily Guideposts 2014, p. 383).

 

Janet Eckles, a fellow Latina and author, invited my family and me to her home. I’d been looking forward to meeting her after hearing about her book Simply Salsa. After losing her sight, struggling in her marriage, and grieving the murder of her teenage son, she began to encourage others in their own struggles.

 

She was every bit the radiant and energetic spirit I imagined. Meeting her was inspiring and exciting, but I was mortified when my father spoke about his fear of going blind. He’d had an optical stroke that blinded his left eye and later had cataracts removed in his right one. “I don’t know what I’d do if I ever went completely blind”, he said. “I don’t think I could handle that!”

 

Janet grabbed his hand and said with a laugh, “Are you kidding me? Going blind is the best thing that ever happened to me! I learned to appreciate things I had taken for granted before. It led me to new and exciting career, and I discovered things I could do in spite of my blindness and found adventure in that.”

 

Father wasn’t trying to offend, and Janet wasn’t at all insulted. Instead, she assured my father and reminded all of us that we can find joy and purpose in whatever circumstances come our way.

 

 

 

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

 

Do we welcome the “advent” of Christ into our life to bring about our rebirth “out of gloom and darkness” into the light of the knowledge of God?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you are our light and salvation.

Heal the blindness of our heart.

In your light we see light.

Help us to work for the advent of your joy-giving light to others

that they too may have a seeing heart.

Maranatha! Come, O Christ the Lord!

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“And out of gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see.” (Is 29:18) 

 

 

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

 

Pray for those who are blinded in heart that they may see light. Gently introduce someone to the radiant light of Christ in the Word and the Eucharist.

 

 

*** *** ***

December 28, 2020: SATURDAY – ADVENT WEEKDAY (1)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Merciful One”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 30:19-21, 23-26 // Mt 9:35-10:1, 5a, 6-8

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 9:35-10:1, 5a, 6-8): “At the sight of the crowds, Jesus’ heart was moved with pity for them.”

(Gospel Reflection by Bishop Joseph Mukala, India)

  

The Gospel reading (Mt 9:35-10:1, 5a, 6-8) underlines that Jesus Christ, the Master and the Healer, the Shepherd and the Guide, is “the Merciful One”. He visits God’s people, teaches in the synagogue and preaches the Good News of the Kingdom. He sees the crowd and is moved with pity for them because they are troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. His compassionate heart motivates him to dispatch his disciples on an “Advent mission”, that is, to proclaim the Gospel of salvation, a gift gratuitously received and that is to be gratuitously shared.

 

Pope Francis illustrates how to carry out the “Advent mission” entrusted to us by “the Merciful One” (cf. Nicole Winfield, “Pope Bolsters Charity Office to Be Near Needy” in Fresno Bee, November 29, 2013, p. A20).

 

When he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis was known to sneak out at night and break bread with the homeless, sit with them literally on the street and eat with them, as part of his aim to share the plight of the poor and let them know someone cared.

 

That’s not easy to do now that he’s a pope. But Francis is still providing one-on-one doses of emergency assistance to the poor, sick and aged through a trusted archbishop. Konrad Krajewski is the Vatican Almoner, a centuries-old job of handling out alms – and Francis has ramped up the job to make it an extension of his own personal charity.

 

As Americans gathered for Thanksgiving on Thursday, Krajewski described how Francis has redefined the little known office of papal almoner and explained the true meaning of giving during a chat with journalists over coffee and pastries a few steps from the Vatican gates. “The Holy Father told me at the beginning: ‘You can sell your desk. You don’t need it. You need to get out of the Vatican. Don’t wait for people to come ringing. You need to go out and look for the poor’,” Krajewski said.

 

He gets his marching orders each morning: a Vatican gendarme goes from the hotel where Francis lives to Krajewski’s office across the Vatican gardens, bringing a bundle of letters the pope has received from the faithful asking for help. On top of each letter, Francis might write “You know what to do” or “Go find them”.

 

And so Don Corrado, as he likes to be called, hits the streets of Rome and beyond. He visits homes for the elderly in the name of the pope, writes checks to the needy in the name of the pope – even traveled to the island of Lampedusa in the name of the pope after a migrant boat capsized, killing more than 350 people.

 

Over four days on Lampedusa, Krajweski brought 1,600 phone cards so the survivors could call loved ones back home in Eritrea to let them know they had made it. He also prayed with police divers as they worked to raise the dead from the sea floor. “This is the concept: Be with people and share their lives, even for 15, 30 minutes, an hour”, he said.

 

The existence of the Vatican Almoner dates back centuries: It is mentioned in a papal bull from the 13th-century. Pope Innocent III, and Pope Gregory X, who ruled from 1271-1276, organized it into an official Holy See office for papal charity. Until Krajewski came along, the almoner was typically an aging Vatican diplomat who was serving his final years before being allowed to retire at age 75.

 

 

B. First Reading (Is 30:19-21, 23-26): “The Merciful One will show you mercy when you cry out.”

 

Today’s First Reading (Is 30:19-21, 23-26) is one of the most comforting texts in the Sacred Scriptures. It assures us that the Merciful One will show mercy when we cry out to him. He will be gracious to those who trust in him. He will guide and show us the way and will be the Teacher to counsel us. He will give us the bread we need and the water we thirst for. Nature will produce abundantly and there will be prosperity. Above all, on the day of great distress and judgment, God will be a healer for those who have recourse to him. He will bind up the wounds of his people and heal the bruises brought about by his just punishment. The Advent figure of “the Merciful One” is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

   

On December 6 we celebrate the optional memorial of a 4th century saint, Saint Nicholas, bishop of Myra in Asia Minor, a model pastor noted for charity. Like Jesus, he is also a “merciful one”. He is popularized as Santa Claus, patron of children. He is also patron of bankers, pawnbrokers, sailors, perfumers, brides, unmarried women, travelers, fishermen, dock workers, brewers, poets, and prisoners, as well as of Russia, Greece, Sicily, Lorraine and Apulia in Italy, where his relics are enshrined in Bari. The life of charitable Saint Nicholas is filled with the “joy-giving light” of Christ. In celebrating Saint Nick we too share in that joy. The following personal account is heartwarming (cf. Nadine N. Doughty, “Season Started with St. Nick” in Country, December/January 2009, p. 61).

 

I wasn’t quite asleep, after all. A tiny sound of crackling cellophane roused me, and I opened my eyes. There, in the living room, I saw a plump figure – doing what, exactly? I shut my eyes quickly. It was St. Nicholas at work, and if he saw me awake, he might vanish!

 

No, it wasn’t Christmas Eve. In our family, we observed St. Nicholas’ Day weeks earlier. Every December 6, the generous saint of giving would celebrate his feast day by filling children’s stockings with goodies. My parents, who had German and Austrian roots, referred to the day as Nicolo, and every year they had my three brothers, my sister and me hang stockings on the old fieldstone fireplace. They’d even driven special nails into the mortar between the stones, just for that purpose.

 

Ready and Waiting: My red knee sock, my sister’s green one and my brothers’ white crew socks all made for a cheerful display. But it was nothing to the sight we knew would greet us the next morning! During the night, our parents said, good St. Nick would come to fill those stockings with delightful small surprises, and we’d see them as soon as we woke up. It made it almost impossible for us to fall asleep that night.

 

Sure enough, the next morning, the sight of those bulging stockings had us so excited that we usually didn’t wait until our parents were awake to raid them! What caused us such excitement? Living during the Great Depression was enough to make us see just about anything he’d leave as a genuine treat. So we’d exclaim over such riches as a pocket comb, or the notebooks we each got, every one with a cover in a different color. The older kids might get a penknife. I still recall fondly the colored pencils I got, and a blue velvet hair ribbon that I kept for years.

 

Sweet Treats: We’d all be thrilled to find apple and banana-shaped marzipan, a delectable almond-and-sugar candy that was a rare treat for us. And at the very bottom of each stocking were tucked a traditional orange and some nuts we could crack and crunch. We didn’t usually eat those oranges right away, but kept them so we could savor the anticipation of the rare and delicious flavor! After we showed everyone our treasures, the Christmas season was officially on. There’d be projects to sew, carve, draw or paint as gifts for every family member. Some had already been started, but now we knew we had to hurry to finish them in time for Christmas.

 

As we grew older, we’d start to give more elaborate Christmas gifts, often ones that required special shopping trips. Nicolo, though, remained our family’s simple, fun and special way to begin the Christmas season.

 

 

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

 

Are our hearts like that of Jesus, filled with compassion for others? What do we do to live fully our “Advent mission” as instruments of “the Merciful One”?

 

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

in you is the advent of “the Merciful One”.

You bind our wounds

and heal the bruises caused by our sinful offenses.

You nourish us with the food of eternal life

and make us drink at the font of salvation.

You have lightened our hearts with the Gospel you preach.

Now you dispatch us on an “Advent mission” to the nations.

Be with us and help us mirror to them your divine mercy.

Maranatha! Come, O Christ the Lord!

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

  

“He was moved with pity for them.” (Mt 9:36)

 

 

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

 

Pray for all missionaries in the world. By your kind words and charitable deeds to the people around you, especially the poor, the sick and the needy, let them experience the saving power of the Gospel and the compassionate heart of “the Merciful One”.

 

*** *** *** 

 

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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