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A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 17, n. 21)

Easter Octave: April 21-17, 2019

 

 

(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: April 14-20, 2019 please go to ARCHIVES Series 17 and click on “Holy Week”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: April 21-27, 2019.)

 

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April 21, 2019: EASTER SUNDAY OF THE RESURRECTION OF THE LORD

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is Our Risen Lord”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 10:34a, 37-43 // Col 3:1-4 or Cor 5:6b-8 // Jn 20:1-9 or Lk 24:1-12

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 20:1-9): “He had to rise from the dead.”

 

Today – the Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection - is the solemnity of solemnities and the greatest feast in the liturgical year. In this fifty-day season of delectable newness and renewal, the joyful “Alleluias” of God’s redeemed people ring out more brightly and ecstatically. Easter culminates in the celebration of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, when the Risen Lord’s gift of salvation makes its full impact on peoples of the earth.

 

The Gospel reading (Jn 20:1-9) speaks of the disciples’ experience of the empty tomb on the day of Christ’s resurrection. The discovery of the empty tomb on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, evokes the first day of the week of creation when there was “darkness over the deep” (Gen 1:1), just before God uttered his powerful word, “Let there be light!” (Gen 1:1), thus dispelling the primeval darkness. Indeed, the “first day of the week”, when Christ broke forth from the tomb, is the feast of new creation. It is the glorious triumph of Light over the abysmal darkness of sin and death.

 

 The empty tomb, which Mary Magdalene saw after the stone had been rolled away, was a sign that something stupendous had happened. Peter and John went inside the tomb and saw the linen cloths that were used to wrap the dead body of Jesus crucified. On Easter morn, the “other disciple whom Jesus loved” - “the one who arrived at the tomb first” - perceived the empty tomb littered with the burial cloths of Jesus as a sign indicating the Lord’s resurrection. Hence, on “the first day of the week”, John, “the beloved disciple of Jesus”, understood the empty tomb as a paschal sign and believed. Indeed, from the empty tomb new life sprang forth!

 

The Easter event of the Lord’s resurrection flows out from his passion and death on the Cross. As an Easter people we share in the rising of the one who prodigiously laid down his life for the sheep. The following personal testimony is inspiring (cf. Marion Bond West in Daily Guideposts 2014, p. 110).

 

Just before Easter, I made special efforts setting the dining room table. I’d purchased a pastel tablecloth with cute rabbits and decorated eggs on it. My ancient, flowered dishes, which had been my mother’s, blended in perfectly. For a centerpiece, I decided on a lavender, velveteen rabbit and purple irises from our yard.

 

Still, I wasn’t quite satisfied with my handiwork. Something seemed to be missing. The back door opened and I heard, “Mom”. My son Jeremy had stopped by after getting off from work. We sat down in the living room.

 

“Anything happen at the restaurant today?” “Yeah, it did. Today I served a fellow. We made small talk. He was alone. When I went off to clear his table, he handed me a bill. I almost just stuck it in my pocket. I don’t usually look at tips. But I did this time.” “And?” “A twenty!” “Wow.”

 

“I ran after him, almost to his car. ‘Sir, you gave me a twenty by mistake.’ He turned to me, smiled, and said, ‘No mistake. I wanted you to have it.’ ‘But it’s way too much. You don’t have to do this.’ Looking right into my eyes, he said, “Jesus didn’t have to go to the Cross either.’”

 

After my son left, I found a small wooden cross and stood it by the purple irises on the dining room table.

 

 

B. First Reading (Acts 10:34a, 37-43): “We ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.”

 

Luke’s Acts of the Apostles is used as the First Reading in the Easter season and replaces temporarily the normative Old Testament reading of the Sunday liturgy. In today’s First Reading (Acts 10:34a, 37-43), the liturgical assembly hears a part of Peter’s Easter proclamation in Caesarea to the Roman centurion Cornelius and his household. While at prayer, the God fearing Cornelius sees an angel who comes in and commands him to send for a certain man named Simon Peter at Joppa. Likewise, Peter, when he goes to the rooftop to pray, has a vision of a large sheet, filled with all kinds of animals, reptiles and wild birds, being lowered by its four corners from heaven. This vision of the clean and unclean animals that Peter is commanded to eat by the voice from heaven and the revelatory word: “What God has made clean, you have no right to call profane” (Acts 10:15) convince Peter that Gentiles are no longer to be considered impure.

  

Indeed, Peter’s address to Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:34-43) is a personal testimony of his intimate experience with Jesus, the Servant-Son of Yahweh and the glorious Risen Lord. Chosen beforehand by God, the apostle Peter is one of the privileged witnesses of the Easter mystery of the Christ who rose from the dead. He proudly declares that he was one of those who ate and drank with Jesus after he rose from the dead. The Easter experience is a stupendous and transforming event that has changed a vacillating and parochial minded Peter into a great apostle and missionary of the Risen Lord. Indeed, the Easter event is an experience of the power of God and the fulfillment of the promise of new life in Jesus Christ.

 

Guy Keeler’s article in the newspaper FRESNO BEE (March 27, 2007, p. E1 & E4) entitled “The Help Guy” is about Dale Brannan, a Christian believer blessed by God with a passion for helping others. Brannan publishes and distributes NEEDHELP NOW, a tabloid-size 12-page brochure listing agencies in the Fresno area providing help for people in crisis. This publication, which is distributed for free, has a two-fold purpose: to guide the hurting to places where they can find help and to show the healthy where they can volunteer to serve the hurting. The faith story of this determined “Help Guy” has an Easter flavor and a missionary tone. Dale Brannan, 64-years old, avows that his desire to help others grew out of personal pain. He lost three children in accidents and a fourth was lost in a miscarriage. Brannan went through periods of despair and bitterness after their deaths and in rage he called God every name in the book. According to the FRESNO BEE reporter:

 

Brannan eventually came to terms with his grief when he realized he had not been abandoned by God. He says a simple sentence from II Corinthians 1:3-4 taught him there can be a purpose in suffering. He uses these words from The Message translation of the Bible to remind him to keep his eyes on others, not on himself: “He (God) comes alongside us when we go through hard times and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.” As he thought about the anguish he endured while grieving the loss of his children, Brannan recognized there could be others who might not know where to turn during times of crises. So he put up a 4-by-8 foot sign in his front yard in 1985 that proclaimed: “THIS HOUSE BELIEVES THAT JESUS IS GOD’S SON AND THAT GOD RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD. OUR DOOR IS OPEN TO YOU.”

 

The goal in putting up the sign was to encourage passers-by to stop for help. As people knocked on his door, however, Brannan soon realized many had needs he could not meet – and he didn’t know where to send them to get assistance. Brannan brought his desire to help others with him when he moved to Fresno in 1989. He volunteered at the Fresno Rescue Mission and, a few years later, came across a pamphlet, published by the First Presbyterian Church in downtown Fresno, which listed all the nonprofit agencies within a one-mile radius. Suddenly, a light went on in his brain. He could bring hurting people together with helpers by compiling a comprehensive directory of not-for-profit agencies and blanketing Fresno County with the information … Brannan would like to see versions of NEEDHELP NOW published in every community, and he hopes to spread the idea throughout the central San Joaquin Valley and see others ultimately take it throughout the world.

 

The “Help Guy” Dale Brannan is a modern day example of an Easter witness and a firm believer in Jesus Christ, raised from the dead by God the Father. Having participated intimately in the paschal mystery of the Risen Lord, Brannan’s personal pain and resurrection made him a staunch Easter witness and bearer of God’s saving love and help to those in need. He is part of the long continuing tradition of Christian witnesses in salvation history, which springs forth from the Easter mystery and is founded in the witnessing of Peter and the apostolic community.

 

 

C. Second Reading (Col 3:1-4): “Seek what is above, where Christ is.” or (I Cor 5:6b-8): “Clear out the old yeast, so that you may become a fresh batch of dough.”

             

In this Sunday’s Second Reading (Col 3:1-4 or I Cor 5:6b-8), Saint Paul enjoins us to take advantage of the grace of Christ’s death and resurrection and to respond fully to it. He admonishes us to get rid of the old yeast of malice and wickedness and celebrate the feast of the victorious Paschal Lamb with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Moreover, he exhorts us that since we have been raised with Christ, we must seek what is above, uniting ourselves with him until the full revelation of his glory on the last day. Immersed into the death and rising of Christ through baptism and participating intensely in his victorious paschal sacrifice made present in the Eucharist, the Christian believers must live up to the beauty and dignity of their calling. The Christian disciples must be fully committed to a life totally renewed by the Easter victory. Raised with Christ, we must be limpid signs of the “new creation” resulting from the miracle of the paschal sacrifice.

  

The following gives insight into the meaning of “paschal” renewal and “Easter” grace (cf. Carol Kuykendall in Daily Guideposts 2015, p. 112).

 

I sat in church on Easter, observing people greeting one another, the beauty of the lilies, and the sound of the trumpets beginning the first hymn. But something was holding me back from totally entering into joy. I knew the reason: I didn’t do Lent very well.

 

This year, I wanted to be more in-the-moment responsive to Jesus and obedient to his nudges to do or not do at least one different thing each day. Like not voicing that negative thought. Or giving more grace to that annoying person. Or reading instead of watching that mind-numbing TV program. But some days I made that negative comment anyway, or lacked the grace I meant to extend, or just plain forgot about Lent. So I entered church on Easter, feeling guilty about my inconsistent responses.

 

As the service progresses – through the words of the songs, confessions, prayers, and sermon – I began to experience a humbling awareness that I’d come to Easter exactly the way I should come, with a fresh understanding of how I could so easily mess up. And I was freshly thankful that the truth of the Easter message is not about anything I do or earn, but about the powerful promise of forgiveness and hope and eternal life.

 

 

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

 

What is the significance of the Easter event of Christ’s resurrection in my life? Like the apostle Peter, how does our personal experience of the Risen Lord make us bearers of the Easter faith and joy? Touched by the Easter experience, do we endeavor to get rid of the yeast of malice and wickedness and celebrate this saving event with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth? Knowing that we have died and been raised with Christ, do we seek what is above, not of what is on earth?

 

 

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

 

Almighty and merciful God,

our hearts sing the joyful “Alleluias”

that burst forth from the Easter event of Christ’s resurrection.

Please help us to clear out from our hearts

the old yeast of malice and wickedness.

We have been raised with Christ

and our life is hidden with him,

basking in Easter glory.

Strengthen us with the Holy Spirit, the Easter gift,

so that we may always seek what is above -

what is good, perfect and pleasing to you.

We thank you for transforming us into an Easter people.

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 saw and believed.” (Jn 20:1-8).

 

 

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

 

Pray that the good news of Easter, centered on Jesus Christ who rose from the dead, may truly and personally be experienced as a transforming event by all. Endeavor to render a concrete service to a hurting person and/or community that long for the Easter joy.

 

 

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April 22, 2019: MONDAY WITHIN THE OCTAVE OF EASTER

“JESUS SAVIOR: We Are His Witnesses”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 2:14, 22-33 // Mt 28:8-15

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 28:8-15): “Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee and there they will see me.”

 

Today’s Gospel (Mt 28:8-15) presents contrasting images: the faithful women as messengers of the Good News of the Lord’s Resurrection and the chief priests together with conniving soldiers as propagators of counterfeit news that Jesus’ dead body was stolen by his disciples. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, having received the Good News from an angel, hurriedly leave the tomb to tell the disciples. The Risen Lord meets them on their way. He instructs the trembling but joyful women to tell his brothers to leave Jerusalem, the place where Jesus was rejected, and to go to Galilee, the place of revelation. There they will see him.

 

As we bask in the joy and glory of the saving event of Jesus Christ rising from the dead, we feel our vocation to be Easter witnesses. Just like Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, the “apostle to the apostles”, we too must be messengers of life and hope. We must not be propagators of death and deceit as the chief priests and soldiers were. But rather, we must be “apostles of resurrection” and not negate the Easter miracle of life’s triumph over death.

 

The challenge of Christian discipleship is to allow the power of Easter to shine in us. The paschal mystery of Jesus Christ is complete, but our paschal experience of death and rising is progressive and ongoing. What gives us strength to embrace and proclaim the power of Easter is the Spirit of the Risen Lord who anoints us for the victorious struggle against hopelessness and despair. The following testimony about her “paschal experience” was presented by Rose Cerbo in April 2003 at a Fresno retreat. It gives insight into what it means to be an Easter witness and a Gospel messenger today.

 

When I was diagnosed with lung cancer, we had no medical insurance. Three years before, we had lost our restaurant, our shopping center and our savings to a con-artist; over three million dollars, gone! In trying to save the restaurant we borrowed over a hundred thousand dollars against our home. So there we were, all we had left was our mortgaged home and a small take-out restaurant in Pinedale.

 

Just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse … they did … much worse. The things we had lost were just that: things. This was my life … cancer! We prayed, we prayed for strength, for guidance and for help.

 

We found a doctor who would do my surgery and a hospital that would accept payments, and I had my surgery. Afterwards, there wasn’t money for chemo or radiation, and the doctor said that it would be alright to take a chance without it. It was in God’s hands.

 

Meanwhile the I.R.S. decided that we owed them one hundred thousand dollars. We were able to produce proof of what we had lost, so they reduced it to twenty-five thousand dollars: still more than we could ever afford unless we sold our home. But they had a lien on our home so we couldn’t sell it. Again we prayed for guidance, and again our prayers were answered. Friends and family came forward to lend us the money to pay the I.R.S. with only our word to pay them back when we sold our house.

 

We paid the I.R.S. the money owed them and they removed the lien on the house. We did what we could to make the house more attractive, and put it up for sale. We conducted an open house and received three bids. We accepted one of them. After three months it was done; the house was sold, the bank was paid what we owed them. All the people who had helped us were paid back in full … we were out of debt.

 

We were able to put a down payment on a small house. We had a chance for a new start. But this time things were going to be different.

 

I’ve been cancer free for eleven years. We both have jobs and have a good life. We’ve learned that each day is a gift … to enjoy all the gifts God has given us – the birds, the flowers and the trees, the sunsets, the star-lit nights, and the sparkle of morning dew on the flowers. There is so much beauty in the world. We finally learned to enjoy and appreciate all He has given us.

 

 

B. First Reading (Acts 2:14, 22-33): “God raised this Jesus: of this we are all witnesses.”

 

The first readings of the Sunday and weekday liturgy during the Easter season are all taken from the Acts of the Apostles to underline the missionary expansion of the Church that is born from the Easter event of the Lord’s resurrection. Today’s First Reading (Acts 2:14, 22-33) contains Peter’s first sermon, which was given on Pentecost. A masterpiece of Easter witnessing, this inaugural sermon presents in a nutshell the faith of the Church and proclaims boldly the reality of God’s action in raising Jesus. The apostle Peter and the “Eleven” are privileged recipients of the Easter experience. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, outpoured upon them as a gift by the Risen Lord, they became resolute witnesses of the Risen Lord.

 

The authors of the Days of the Lord: The Liturgical Year, vol. 3, remark: “Peter’s proclamation is very solemn: he stands up with the Eleven who are gathered around him … But what Peter proclaims this day, in this city, to a specific audience, is a message and a testimony that is valuable for all, especially for us today. We are gathered to listen faithfully to the apostles’ teaching, on which our faith is based … Faithful to the apostles’ teaching, Christians continue in the Church and under the guidance of the Spirit to study the Old and New Testaments, which tell us over and over things that we will never fully comprehend … One remembers God’s intervention on behalf of those he loved, whom he did not abandon, even when everything seemed lost.”

 

As a Church built upon faith in the Risen Lord, we are Easter witnesses to the power of life over death, of good over evil, of hope over despair, of love over hatred, and of healing over brokenness. In the anguished and terrifying situations of modern society, we proclaim that grace prevails over wickedness through the victory of Jesus Christ, raised from the dead and assumed into glory in heaven by the faithful God. As Easter people, we are witnesses that Jesus of Nazareth has been confirmed as the Lord and Messiah by undergoing obediently his paschal destiny of passion, death and resurrection. Indeed, by our life of holiness and prayer, of charity and service, we invite people to submit to the saving hand of God, who brings life from death and transforms our brokenness and sadness into beauty, healing, and grace.

 

In the following article by David Crary, “Faith Behind Bars” published in Fresno Bee (October 15, 2007, p. A1, A7), we can glean how the healing and renewing power of Easter is at work in the faith-based prison programs sponsored by Christian volunteers.

 

Killer-turned artist Manny Hernandez in the prison where he is finishing an eight-year term remarks: “It’s a blessing to be here.” Fellow murderer and inmate Raymond Hall likens it to heaven. “I love this place,” says their warden, Cynthia Tilley. “It’s so calm.” They’re praising the Carol Vance Unit, founded in 1997 in the outskirts of Houston. It’s the oldest of a rapidly growing number of faith-based prison facilities across the nation. (…)

 

Evidence is strong that violence and trouble-making drops sharply in these programs, and they often are the only vibrant rehabilitation option at a time when taxpayer-funded alternatives have been cut back. Inmates at Vance offer another compelling argument. Unlike many of America’s 2 million prisoners, they feel they are treated with respect. They have hope. “A bunch of cats in prison, they never had anyone show them love – even their father and mother,” said Anzetta Smith, who served 18 years for attempted murder before graduating from Vance this year. “You get in the program and everybody shows you love.” (…)

 

The Inner Charge program at Vance is open, on a voluntary basis, to men with fewer than two years left on their sentences. Sex offenders and inmates with bad disciplinary records are excluded. The days are filled with spiritual and academic classes, community meetings and work duties. Bibles are a common sight on the bedside tables in the inmates’ cubicles. Religious paintings, including eye-catching works by self-taught Manny Hernandez, decorate the walls. Tilley, the warden, said the security staff is asked to treat the criminals politely. The atmosphere can be a pleasant shock to men arriving from tougher prisons. “In my other prison, on a daily basis there was rape, drugs,” said Raymond Hall, who was convicted at 16 of murder and hopes to complete his 15-year sentence in early 2009. “When you come to Carol Vance, it’s like a load is lifted. It’s like heaven.” (…)

 

Some skeptics say the programs “cherry-pick” motivated inmates who would be less likely to re-offend under any circumstances … “It’s not that these programs are a bad idea,” said Dan Mears, a Florida State University criminologist. “But there’s no good evidence that they work.” To some graduates, like Anzetta Smith, their own positive experience is evidence enough.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we believe that by the paschal event of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection, we die to sin and rise to new life with him and in him? Do we embrace fully our grace and responsibility as Easter witnesses?

 

2. In his Pentecost sermon, what is Peter’s testimony concerning Jesus of Nazareth? As Christian disciples today, do we give faithful witness to the God who brings life from death and who raised his Son Jesus from the dead?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

we thank you for the great Eastertide.

May we truly die to sin and live by his grace.

Like the “women of the resurrection”,

may we become limpid signs of the glory of Easter,

especially for the people of today

who yearn for life and beauty,

for grace and healing,

for peace and joy.

We adore you and love you, now and forever.

Amen. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

     

 

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.

 

“They ran to announce the good news to Jesus’ disciples.” (Mt 28:8) // “God raised this Jesus; of this we are witnesses.” (Acts 2:32)

  

 

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

 

By your acts of charity and service, proclaim the Good News of the Risen Lord to the many distressed people of today who long for the warmth of Easter.

    

 

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April 23, 2019: TUESDAY WITHIN THE OCTAVE OF EASTER

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is Our Lord and Messiah”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 2:36-41 // Jn 20:11-18

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 20:11-18): “I have seen the Lord and he said these things to me.”

On March 6, 2012, I was passing through downtown San Jose on my way to the Diocesan Chancery Office. It was a windy afternoon and I was holding onto my veil lest I become a “flying nun”. A young woman wearing a hooded jacket yelled at me, “To what church do you belong?” I turned to her and answered, “I belong to the Catholic Church.” She came up to me and removed her hood. Rings pierced her ears, nose and lips. She remarked, “I used to go to Five Wounds Church and Saint Elizabeth Church. I wanted to be a nun but it did not come true.” We carried on a light, friendly conversation. Then her mood changed. She became pensive. “I am Magdalene!” she confessed. I retorted factually, “The Risen Lord appeared to Magdalene.” She looked puzzled. Then she asked, “Is that in the Bible?” I reiterated with joy, “Jesus Christ, on the day of his resurrection, appeared to Mary Magdalene and made her an apostle.” She became silent. Then she said with awe, “You are very nice; you are very nice; you are very nice!” I introduced myself, “My name is Sr. Mary Margaret. What is your name?” She gave me her name. Shortly after, I bid her goodbye. As I continued my long hike up North First Street, it dawned upon me that I had just shared the Easter event with a prostitute.

 

Today’s Gospel (Jn 20:11-18) presents the Easter apparition of Jesus to Mary Magdalene, the “apostle of the apostles”. She is the first to see the Risen Christ and the first to tell the apostles about the Lord’s resurrection. She was present at the foot of the cross as she is present now at the tomb. She looks for a dead body, but a living Christ appears to her at the dawn of a new day. She recognizes Jesus by his voice just as sheep recognize the voice of their shepherd. The Risen Lord entrusts her with the task of announcing his central Easter message: that from now on he and his disciples belong inseparably as members of the one family of God. Jesus commands her to tell them, “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Released from a dubious past, Mary Magdalene becomes a messenger of the Easter message … of God’s new creation … of the newly created mystical body of the Risen Christ, of which she is an important part.

  I

 

B. First Reading (Acts 2:36-41): “Repent and be baptized, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ.”

 

In today’s First Reading (Acts 2:36-41) we continue to listen to the growth and expansion of the early Church. At the conclusion of Peter’s message to the Jewish worshippers on the day of Pentecost, he declares that Jesus, whom they crucified, God has made “Lord and Messiah”. This declaration pricks the conscience of the people and they ask Peter and the other apostles what they need to do. They realize that the world has entered a new age now that Jesus has been constituted the Lord and the Messiah. They can no longer live and behave as a wicked generation. Peter exhorts them to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. In that way their sins will be forgiven and they will receive the Holy Spirit, God’s Easter gift. Peter’s hearers welcome his message and are baptized. About three thousand people are added that day to the community of faith. The Easter message is likewise to be proclaimed to all who are far away – all whom the Lord God calls to himself. The harvest has begun. A rich crop of would-be disciples are waiting to be harvested.

 

As we hear the good news of the response and baptism of the three thousand to the Easter kerygma or proclamation, we rejoice in the conversion of people through the ages. The conversion of Saint Augustine illustrates the power of the Easter mystery (cf. Giovanni Falbo, St. Monica: The Power of a Mother’s Love, Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2007, p. 74-77, 99-100).

 

Augustine was fighting a difficult battle; on the one hand, he was attracted to the truth of Christ and the beauty of the Christian ideal, but on the other hand he saw himself defiled by the filth of his passions, a slave to pride, ambition, and especially lust. (…) It upset Augustine that he could not find the strength to act decisively, always putting off his resolution until the next day.

 

While he was caught up in the grip of this terrible interior struggle, he heard a sound coming through the window of a house near the garden where he was. It was the voice of a child, saying, “Take and read, take and read!” These words could not have been spoken by accident. Augustine realized God was speaking to him. He ran to the table, where he had left the Letters of St. Paul, and opened a page at random. His eyes fell upon the following words: “… not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom 13:13-14).

 

It was a direct answer from the Lord to his anguished questions … The grace of God had finally triumphed. Augustine was a new man … This was the culminating moment of Monica’s life. She had lived for the sole purpose of seeing her son convert and become a disciple of the Lord … She witnessed the fulfillment of the prophetic words the bishop of Madaura had pronounced: “It is not possible that the son of these tears should perish.” She tasted the goodness of the Lord, and her heart swelled with gratitude. Now she desired nothing else than to see the day of her son’s baptism. (…)

 

Her exaltation reached its peak on the night of Holy Saturday … Finally the great moment came for Augustine to descend into the regenerating waters and emerge as a new creature in the profession of the true faith he once opposed. Now he was preparing to glorify and defend the faith with the depths of his mind and the holiness of his life. (…) This holy night – the night between April 24 and 25 of 387 – was Monica’s triumph.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we imitate Mary Magdalene’s devout and wholehearted love for Jesus? Are we like her in her receptivity to the Easter apparition and as a zealous Easter witness?

 

2. How does the positive response of the Jews to the Easter proclamation of Peter and the apostles inspire you? Are you resolved to follow through on the challenges of your baptismal consecration?

 

 

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

(Cf. Opening Prayer, Mass of Easter Tuesday)

 

Father,

by this Easter mystery you touch our lives

with the healing power of your love.

You have given us the freedom of the sons of God.

May we who now celebrate your gift

find joy in it forever in heaven.

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 day. Please memorize it.

 

“Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’ and what he told her.” (Jn 20:18) // “Repent and be baptized.” (Acts 2:38)

 

 

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

 

Pray in a special way for abused, disadvantaged and exploited women in today’s society and endeavor to help them in their need.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

April 24, 2019: WEDNESDAY WITHIN THE OCTAVE OF EASTER

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Risen Lord Revealed at the Breaking of the Bread

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 3:1-10 // Lk 24:13-35

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 24:13-35): “They recognized Jesus in the breaking of bread.”

 

Linda Unger’s inspiring article, “Mission Family on the Move” is about the leap of faith made by a young married couple, Doug and Lisa Jo Looney, who hail from the western New York town of Allegany (cf. Maryknoll magazine, March 2005, p. 36-38). The desire to serve the poor brought the couple together. Doug and Lisa met while working in a homeless shelter in Boston with the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry. In 1995-1999, they served as Maryknoll lay missioners in Mwanza, Tanzania. Then they returned to New York and started a family. They have three children: a son Aidan, who is 5, and daughters Nora and Maeve, who are 3 and 18 months, respectively. With the birth of each child, Lisa Jo and Doug reaffirmed their desire to return to mission abroad. One evening, as they sat chatting and looking out the window of their Allegany home, they realized the moment had come. Doug called the Maryknoll Lay Missioners. He felt that the application process was like a homecoming. He remarked, “We wanted the children to be out of diapers when we went back overseas, but didn’t wait long enough for Maeve. She’s a very easygoing child, and that expedited our decision.” They chose Bolivia. According to Doug, “The presence of so many mission families in Bolivia was a strong draw. We feel privileged that our children will know other missioner children.”

 

Doug and Lisa Jo have now transferred their family of five from upstate New York to the sprawling Bolivian city of Cochabamba. They are helping the little ones adjust to unfamiliar surroundings. Lisa Jo confided, “For the first two weeks all I’ve been doing is holding back tears. In a way, they’re joyful tears: well, here we are, after all these years! But also, they’re tears because we know it’s the first time our children are experiencing this kind of poverty in the world. What are they thinking? What are they feeling?” Indeed, for Lisa Jo and Doug, the decision to return to mission with their children was a leap of faith. Before the Looneys left Allegany, their parish celebrated their missionary calling and presented them with a chalice to take to Bolivia. Lisa Jo mused, “I was thinking of our experience in Africa, how we broke bread and shared the cup and the broken body of Christ. How could we not share that with our children? The God we met in Tanzania is the God we want our children to experience in the people of Bolivia.”

 

Indeed, in opening their hearts compassionately to the poor and the needy, the Looneys have recognized more intensely the presence of Christ in the Eucharistic sacrament of the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup. Moreover, their participation in the Eucharistic banquet has deepened their recognition of the presence of Christ in the poor and committed them more strongly to the service of the least brethren. As Christian disciples, the Looneys have been impacted by the meaning of the “breaking of the bread” and challenged by the impelling needs of “the broken body of Christ”. Like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus that we hear in today’s Gospel (Lk 24:13-35), Lisa Jo and Doug have recognized Christ in the “breaking of the bread” and responded in faith to “the broken body of Christ”, concretized in the lives of today’s poor and needy.

 

 

B. First Reading (Acts 3:1-10): “What I do have I give you: in the name of the Lord Jesus, rise and walk.”

 

Today’s account from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 3:1-10) underlines that the saving power of Jesus continues to be available to those in need. His ministry of salvation lives on through deeds done in his name by Christian disciples. Peter and John go up for the afternoon celebration of prayer and sacrifice. At the “Beautiful Gate” of the temple they see a crippled man asking for alms. The apostles do not have silver or gold to give, but they have an even greater gift. Looking intently into the eyes of the crippled beggar, Peter says: “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.” There is power in the name of Jesus, who is the source of salvation. The cure of the lame man is a sign that the new age has begun in which God saves through the Risen Lord Jesus. The prophet Isaiah’s image of the lame leaping like a deer at the messianic time comes to us as the cured man leaps up, walks into the temple jumping and praising God. The healing power of Jesus’ name enables the beggar to have access to the temple and worship God.

 

In the name of Jesus, we heal and share. The faith of the apostles Peter and John in the Risen Lord and their generous stance to share the Easter saving gift to those in need are replicated in the life of today’s disciples. The following story circulated through the Internet illustrates this.

 

The Rich Family in Our Church, by Eddie Ogan

  

I'll never forget Easter 1946. I was 14, my little sister Ocy, 12, and my older sister Darlene, 16. We lived at home with our mother, and the four of us knew what it was to do without many things. My dad had died 5 years before, leaving Mom with seven school kids to raise and no money. By 1946 my older sisters were married and my brothers had left home.

 

A month before Easter, the pastor of our church announced that a special Easter offering would be taken to help a poor family. He asked everyone to save and give sacrificially. When we got home, we talked about what we could do. We decided to buy 50 pounds of potatoes and live on them for a month. This would allow us to save $20 of our grocery money for the offering. Then we thought that if we kept our electric lights turned out as much as possible and didn't listen to the radio, we'd save money on that month's electric bill. Darlene got as many house and yard cleaning jobs as possible, and both of us baby sat for everyone we could. For 15 cents, we could buy enough cotton loops to make three pot holders to sell for $1. We made $20 on pot holders.

 

That month was one of the best of our lives. Every day we counted the money to see how much we had saved. At night we'd sit in the dark and talk about how the poor family was going to enjoy having the money the church would give them. We had about 80 people in church, so we figured that whatever amount of money we had to give, the offering would surely be 20 times that much. After all, every Sunday the Pastor had reminded everyone to save for the sacrificial offering.

The day before Easter, Ocy and I walked to the grocery store and got the manager to give us three crisp $20 bills and one $10 bill for all our change. We ran all the way home to show Mom and Darlene. We had never had so much money before. That night we were so excited we could hardly sleep. We didn't care that we wouldn't have new clothes for Easter; we had $70 for the sacrificial offering. We could hardly wait to get to church!

 

On Sunday morning, rain was pouring. We didn't own an umbrella, and the church was over a mile from our home, but it didn't seem to matter how wet we got. Darlene had cardboard in her shoes to fill the holes. The cardboard came apart, and her feet got wet. But we sat in church proudly. I heard some teenagers talking about the Smith girls having on their old dresses. I looked at them in their new clothes, and I felt so rich.

 

When the sacrificial offering was taken, we were sitting on the second row from the front. Mom put in the $10 bill, and each of us girls put in a $20. As we walked home after church, we sang all the way. At lunch Mom had a surprise for us. She had bought a dozen eggs, and we had boiled Easter eggs with our fried potatoes! Late that afternoon the minister drove up in his car. Mom went to the door, talked with him for a moment, and then came back with an envelope in her hand. We asked what it was, but she didn't say a word. She opened the envelope and out fell a bunch of money. There were three crisp $20 bills, one $10 and seventeen $1 bills. Mom put the money back in the envelope. We didn't talk, just sat and stared at the floor. We had gone from feeling like millionaires to feeling like poor white trash. We kids had had such a happy life that we felt sorry for anyone who didn't have our mom and dad for parents and a house full of brothers and sisters and other kids visiting constantly. We thought it was fun to share silverware and see whether we got the fork or the spoon that night. We had two knives which we passed around to whoever needed them. I knew we didn't have a lot of things that other people had, but I'd never thought we were poor. That Easter Day we found out we were.

 

The minister had brought us the money for the poor family, so we must be poor. I didn't like being poor. I looked at my dress and worn-out shoes and felt so ashamed that I didn't want to go back to church. Everyone there probably already knew we were poor! I thought about school. I was in the ninth grade and at the top of my class of over 100 students. I wondered if the kids at school knew we were poor. I decided I could quit school since I had finished the eighth grade. That was all the law required at that time.

 

We sat in silence for a long time. Then it got dark, and we went to bed. All that week, we girls went to school and came home, and no one talked much. Finally on Saturday, Mom asked us what we wanted to do with the money. What did poor people do with money? We didn't know. We'd never known we were poor. We didn't want to go to church on Sunday, but Mom said we had to. Although it was a sunny day, we didn’t talk on the way.

 

Mom started to sing, but no one joined in and she only sang one verse. At church we had a missionary speaker. He talked about how churches in Africa made buildings out of sun-dried bricks, but they need money to buy roofs. He said $100 would put a roof on a church. The minister said, “Can’t we all sacrifice to help these poor people?”

 

We looked at each other and smiled for the first time in a week. Mom reached into her purse and pulled out the envelope. She passed it to Darlene. Darlene gave it to me, and I handed it to Ocy. Ocy put it in the offering. When the offering was counted, the minister announced that it was a little over $100. The missionary was excited. He hadn't expected such a large offering from our small church. He said, "You must have some rich people in this church." Suddenly it struck us! We had given $87 of that "little over $100." We were the rich family in the church! Hadn't the missionary said so? From that day on I've never been poor again. I've always remembered how rich I am because I have Jesus.   

 

 

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

 

1. Are we ready to welcome Jesus as our life-giving companion on our journey to faith? Are we ready to welcome him in the “breaking of the bread of the word” and in the “breaking of the Eucharistic bread”? How do we serve the Risen Lord present in the poor and needy – the “broken body of Christ”?

 

2. Are we willing to trust and call upon the name of the Risen Lord Jesus to bring us salvation? Are we willing to share his saving power and riches to the needy of today’s world?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you journeyed with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.

Their hearts burned with love

as you shared with them the paschal meaning of the Scriptures.

The disciples recognized you at the breaking of the bread.

Now we are gathered at your Easter feast

and joyfully partake of the bread of your word

and the Eucharistic bread.

Nourished by you,

help us to recognize your “broken body”

in the poor and the hungry,

in the desolate and the needy,

in the weak and vulnerable of today’s society.

You are our Risen Lord whom we love

and proclaim to the nations.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

 

 

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 two recounted how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.” (Lk 24:35) // “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you …” (Acts 3:6) 

 

 

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

 

In this Easter season resolve to share with the people around you and with the poor and needy the spiritual riches as well as the material blessings you have received.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

April 25, 2019: THURSDAY WITHIN THE OCTAVE OF EASTER

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Easter Miracle”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 3:11-26 // Lk 24:35-48

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 24:35-48): “Thus it was written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day.”

 

The great promoter of positive thinking, Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, believes that one of the most wonderful principles known to man is called the “miracle principle”. Six words describe the principle: Expect a miracle – make miracles happen. According to him, if you keep your eyes open expectantly every day for great and wonderful things to happen, it is astonishing what great and wonderful things will tend to happen to you. Expect great things from God and you will receive great things from God. How then, can one go about expecting miracles and causing miracles to happen? According to Rev. Peale, the number one thing is to have tremendous faith, a deep faith - a faith that is so positively strong that it rises above doubt. He asserts that if we train ourselves to have faith in depth, it will release an astonishing power in our life to produce miracles. 

 

            Indeed, there are some people who are figuratively swimming in a sea of troubles. They are so discouraged and dismayed by so many things that it is impossible for them to believe that a life-giving miracle could ever happen in their lives. The disciples of Jesus who were devastated by the event of his passion and death were similarly troubled with doubts, fears and despair. An Easter apparition was necessary to assure them of the reality of a stupendous miracle: the Lord’s resurrection. To the frightened and troubled disciples who were incredulous to the beautiful reality of the “miracle”, the Risen Christ revealed himself anew, opening their minds and hearts, instructing them about the paschal event of his death and resurrection, and its implications in their life as Easter witnesses

 

In today’s marvelous account of the Easter apparition (Lk 24:35-48), we hear that the Risen Master was guiding his disciples to understand fully the meaning of the greatest miracle of all: his resurrection from the dead and his glorification. He was leading them on a spiritual journey from disbelief to belief, from doubt to worship, from despair to joy, from timidity to courage, from witnesses of the resurrection to powerful messengers of the good news of salvation. Indeed, in the miracle of Easter, the faith of the disciples was made complete. In opening themselves up to the Easter event, they would make miracles of new life and sunlit beauty happen in time and space. 

 

 

B. First Reading (Acts 3:11-26): “The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead.”

 

The Acts 3:11-26 reading tells us that after the healing of the crippled beggar at the Temple’s “Beautiful Gate”, not surprisingly, a crowd gathers. Peter takes the opportunity to speak to the people and to assert that it is not by their own power or holiness that the crippled man is able to walk, but in virtue of the name of Jesus. It is faith in Jesus that has healed the beggar. Jesus is the author of life that was put to death by the Jewish leaders. But God, who has chosen Jesus to deliver all human beings from the powers of hell, raised him to life.  The disciples of Jesus are witnesses of the Lord’s resurrection. They also appeal to the people to repent and turn to God so that their sins may be forgiven.

 

The presence and activity of the Risen Lord in our midst necessitate a response of penance and conversion:  a turning away from the evil course and a turning toward God in a new way of life. This Easter message can be verified in the life of Blessed James Alberione, the Founder of the Pauline Family. He often strove to live as one raised by Christ, but there was an incident in his young life when he needed conversion and “redemption”. On April 7, 1900, he was dismissed from the seminary of Bra. The fermenting yeast of “bad companions” and “bad press” – he confided that he had read two books in two months – had negative effects on his behavior and the seminary staff judged him as not having a vocation to the priesthood. The following is an account of young Alberione’s unique “paschal experience” of renewal - of starting over again - of compassion and “Easter” grace (cf. Luigi Rolfo, JAMES ALBERIONE: Apostle for our Times, trans. Bro. Salvatore Paglieri, New York: Alba House, 1987, p. 25-27).

 

Thus James suddenly found himself having to re-examine from the beginning his plans regarding the future. And a decision in his concrete situation was not easy! Working on the land with his brothers was an unthinkable alternative. He did not have the physical strength for it, and he also lacked the ability to adjust to the restricted horizons of the average Piedmontese farmer. He felt like an exile in that closed and monotonous environment – like Napoleon on the shores of St. Helena. Besides, how long could he stay in that house bearing within himself the humiliation of his failure, having to put up with those glances and grins which he easily interpreted as saying, “You couldn’t make it to the priesthood”?

 

It would have been useless to request entry into another seminary of the archdiocese of Turin. The reception of a young man dismissed from another seminary of the same archdiocese for disciplinary reasons would be an exception that could in no way be counted on. Nor could the Alberiones afford to send him to one of the few colleges that at that time accommodated students who were going on for higher studies. James, in fact, had not given up and did not intend to give up his resolve to become a priest. Thus, to enter a secular college was foreign to his plans. For all of these reasons, the six months that he spent with his family must have filled him with melancholy.

 

In this uncertain period of waiting, an episode must be mentioned that James’ brother, John Ludovico, loved to tell his sons. One day James remained seated for a long time on the doorstep of the house, sad and pensive like one who is eager to take a walk but cannot seem to decide which way to go. Teresa, attributing his attitude to listlessness, approached him impatiently. In a voice shrill with vexation, she ordered him either to go to work in the fields with the others or to apply himself seriously to his studies – threatening to use her broom if her words were not enough to make him move. John Ludovico saw this, and decided to intervene, with that magnanimity which rough and tumble farm boys always seem to manage in such difficult moments. He took James to one side and had a heart-to-heart talk with him. “Listen to me, boy. If you think you really have the gifts to study and to succeed, go and study and don’t give a thought about the land. I’ll work harder to make up for your absence”.

 

In the bitterness of the moment, John’s generous attitude must have been a source of great comfort for James. But the decisive help (in the summer of 1900) came once more from his pastor, Father Montersino. Decades later, James recalled that this priest had “always helped him and kept in contact with him until his ordination”. Father Montersino had followed James’ progress since the first grade and had come to consider him one of his best parishioners. He noted that during the summer vacation James went faithfully to daily Mass and Communion, remaining in church to pray at length, that he spoke eagerly of the missions, of the general problems of the Church, of pastoral life and of the formation of the young. Similarly, his lack of interest in the games and amusements so dear to most young men of his age revealed in him an uncommon maturity.

 

Father Montersino had not come across another young man whom he considered as well disposed as James to aspire legitimately to the priesthood. Could that combination of good gifts be wiped out by a single period of frivolity due more to artlessness and inexperience than to a disposition of the soul? Impossible! If the door to the seminary of Turin was closed, that of the seminary of Alba could be opened. It was certainly in no way inferior and indeed had an even greater right to receive young men from Cherasco. The rector, Canon Victor Danusso, was a great ascetic, but also a well-rounded man. It was at least worthwhile to try to get him to accept this young man who had been rejected by his colleague at Bra.

 

Now it happened that Father Montersino was a native of Alba by birth. A visit to his parents in Alba would give him an opportunity to stop off at the seminary to meet with the rector and talk with him about his young parishioner (naturally after having received the consent of James’ mother and father). We don’t know the date of the meeting between Father Montersino and the rector – although we can say that it must have been lengthy and frank, as discussions are between persons who intend to collaborate for the good without desiring in any way to mislead each other.

 

At the end of their encounter, Canon Danusso admitted James to the seminary at Alba on two conditions. He had to take an entrance exam which would determine whether he would join the young men of the fifth year of junior high school (9th grade), or those of the first of high school (10th). In the latter case, however, he would not immediately receive the clerical habit along with his companions. This would be given to him at a later date to be decided on after he had given sufficient proof of his good will.

 

Everything turned out for the best, so that at the fixed date Michael Alberione and one of his sons (probably John) accompanied James to Alba along with his personal belongings and some food that would keep well. After a three hour trip on a cart drawn by a cow, they arrived at the seminary door, where they were approached and escorted by a small group of clerics.

 

These were the more punctual members of their class who were playing and talking loudly. One of them glanced at the newly arrived trio and, turning to his companions, burst into laughter: “Would you get a load of that! This one’s come to study with a cow!” To which James was quick to respond: “Provided that the cow doesn’t eat my books!” In Piedmont they used to say of anyone who remained illiterate or semi-illiterate that, “When he was young, the cow ate his books.” 

 

 

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

 

1. Do we expect an Easter miracle every day of our life? What do we do to make the miracle of Easter happen in our life and in the life of others?

 

2. What is our response to the marvels that the Risen Lord has worked in our lives? Do we regret the many times when we had negated his loving presence and saving initiatives in our lives?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

we thank you for the miracle of Easter.

We trust in you

and humbly expect Easter miracles to fill our life.

Gracious God,

we firmly believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ

as we believe in the resurrection of the body.

Every day we want to arise to a new life

that we may merit to arise in the glory of the last day.

We honor and praise you.

You live and reign,

forever and ever.

Amen. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! 

 

 

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.

 

“It is I myself. Touch me and see.” (Lk 24:39) // “God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.” (Acts 3:15)

 

 

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

 

Today, expect a “miracle” to happen in your life and thank the Lord for it. Today, make a small “miracle” happen in the life of others.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

April 26, 2019: FRIDAY WITHIN THE OCTAVE OF EASTER

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Prepares the Easter Meal”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 4:1-12 // Jn 21:1-14

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 21:1-14): “Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them, and in like manner the fish.”

 

It was Friday of Easter week. After the Mass in our chapel, our community at the General House in Rome went to the refectory for breakfast. That morning there very few of us at table – only about seven. The sister in charge of the kitchen served special bread from Genoa – flat bread as big as a plate, steaming hot right from the oven. Together with the bread, she served sardines soaked in thick olive oil and spicy chili. Munching on the delectable fare, I exclaimed with awe, “Oh my! This is like the breakfast that Jesus served his disciples at Lake Tiberias.”

 

In today’s Gospel (Jn 21:1-14), Jesus invites his toil-weary disciples: “Come, have breakfast!” The Risen Lord thoughtfully prepares a meal for them beside the seashore. Now that his paschal suffering is complete, his followers no longer have “to fast” from his presence. Jesus Christ will always be there for us in the Eucharistic meal – to nourish and care for his own. The “good food” at the beach symbolizes the kindness and care of a “good God” who offered his body and blood in sacrifice that he may give us eternal life. Jesus, the Son-Servant of God, continues his Easter service as “chef” – as the one who prepares the Eucharistic banquet. As his disciples, we too are called to bring some “fish” to the Easter meal by participating in the Church’s mission of bringing souls to the Eucharist. As a community of faith gathered by the Risen Lord, he calls us today from Lenten fast to Easter breakfast!

 

 

B. First Reading (Acts 4:1-12): “There is no salvation through anyone else.”

 

In the reading the Acts 4:1-12 reading, Peter and John are still speaking to the people when the Jewish religious authorities come to arrest them. The religious authorities responsible for the Temple do not want them to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus, which is God’s negative judgment on them. The Sadducees are opposed to the resurrection of the dead. Like their Master Jesus, the apostles are made to appear before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Supreme Court and ruling body. The leaders challenge the Christian disciples by what power and in whose name they have acted. Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, asserts that the cripple has been healed through the power of the name of Jesus Christ, who has been crucified and raised by God from the dead. Peter makes a very powerful faith statement: Salvation is to be found through him alone; there is no one else whom God has given who can save us.

 

The following story about a Japanese priest’s witness of faith replicates the power of the Easter witnessing of Peter and John before the Sanhedrin and their total surrender to the person of Jesus (cf. Full Sail with the Wind of Grace, ed. “Martyrs” Editorial Committee, Tokyo: Don Bosco Sha, 2008, p. 141-142).

 

On the 1st of November 1636, a storm which started during the night continued to rage and the waves breaking on the rocks reached the cove in the Owl Valley. Fr. Jihyoe crawled out of his hideout, and with hurried steps started out against the strong wind, heading for the town of Nagasaki. When he reached Katabuchi (Nagasaki City), the officers who had been lying in wait came jumping out  and took hold of him. “You, Kirishitan! Out with your name!” they demanded. “I am Fr. Jihyoe of the Augustinians”, he replied.

 

The officers let out an astonished roar. They had at last captured the man on the nationwide wanted list. The hatred of the officers for Fr. Jihyoe burst out in prolonged cruel torture. But Fr. Jihyoe did not waver, no matter what torment they inflicted on him. (…)

 

Jihyoe had been in prison for a year enduring the torture inflicted on him every day. He felt that the Christ of the Passion was close beside him. His only consolation was that he was being transformed into the likeness of Christ. It filled him with joy … On 6 November 1637, his tormentors hung Fr. Jihyoe for the second time over the pit on Nishizaka overlooking the bay of Nagasaki. There, the Lord transformed him into the likeness of his own glorious body, by raising him to eternal life in Heaven.

 

 

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

 

1. After a weary life struggle, do we turn to the Risen Lord who invites us to delight in his consoling presence and have “Easter breakfast” with him at the Eucharistic table?

 

2. Do we believe that there is no salvation through anyone else but Christ? Are we willing to profess our faith in Jesus Savior at the cost of sacrifice? Do we have the courage to be an Easter witness?

 

 

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

 

            Loving Jesus,

how good you are!

As the Risen Lord,

you continue to give us life

by inviting us to the feast of your Eucharistic sacrifice.

How gracious you are!

How heartwarming and nourishing

the Easter breakfast you have prepared by Lake Tiberias!

How kind you are in calling us from “Lenten fast”

to partake in the “Easter feast” at the table of the Eucharist!

Help us to bring our own “contribution”

to the heavenly feast.

By partaking in the apostolic mission of the Church,

may we invite and lead the peoples of the earth

 to share in the eternal Easter feast in heaven.

Glory to you, Jesus!

You are the Risen Christ, the Lord of the banquet,

now and forever.

Amen. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

 

 

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 said to them, ‘Come, have breakfast’.” (Jn 21:1-14) // “There is no salvation through anyone else.”  (Acts 4:12) 

 

 

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

 

Make use of every opportunity, even the most difficult and trying ones, to proclaim your Easter faith in the saving Christ.

 

 

*** *** ***

March 27, 2019: SATURDAY WITHIN THE OCTAVE OF EASTER

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Tells Us to Go and Proclaim the Gospel 

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 4:1-12 // Mk 16:9-15

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 16:9-15): “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Mk 6:9-15) that concludes the Easter week is very appropriate. It gives us the Risen Lord’s missionary mandate: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” The Easter apparitions of Jesus to Mary Magdalene and the other disciples are meant to evoke their faith and make them heralds of the resurrection. There will be initial reactions of unbelief, but the joy-giving reality of the Easter event will finally prevail. The Church’s missionaries have nothing to fear because the Risen Lord will be with them in their Gospel preaching and confirm their Easter witnessing with special signs of his presence and power.

 

I was traveling by Amtrak to Fresno on March 25, 2012 to help prepare the funeral of our beloved deceased Sr. Mary Leonia. The train was fully booked. I was one of the four passengers in a two-by-two seat compartment. The tall young man seated beside me engaged us in a friendly conversation which deepened into a beautiful faith sharing. He was an atheist two years ago, but then he received the gift of faith and conversion. He was traveling to Lake Isabela to meet his grandparents, and from there they will proceed to Los Angeles to take the flight for Honduras. They will join a group of Seventh Day Adventist missionaries who will minister to the people of Honduras. What was awesome was how he could gently inspire us to share our faith without being invasive.

 

The young missionary politely asked me, “What do you – Catholics – believe in?” I initially gave a general answer, almost evasive. But then, I realized that I could do something better. So prompted by the Holy Spirit, I told him that our faith as Catholics is synthesized in the Nicene Creed and in the Apostles’ Creed. So I recited the Apostles’ Creed very slowly and with conviction. He listened with full attention. When I proclaimed the concluding part of the creed, “I believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting”, the lady sitting in front of me affirmed, “Amen!” Then she started to cry. She used to be a Catholic, but she had become Episcopalian. The young missionary was also able to coax the stolid Hispanic boy seated in front of him to speak. What the boy shared was amazing. A month ago he was mauled by a horse in a ranch where he was employed. He miraculously survived. The boy repeatedly said, “I thank God every day for saving my life!” That Amtrak experience made me realize that the Easter faith is alive. We need to set it aflame by courageously evangelizing – just as that young Seventh Day Adventist missionary has done.

 

 

B. First Reading (Acts 4:13-21): “It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.”

 

In the First Reading (Acts 4:13-21) we hear of the bold Easter witnessing of the apostles. Their boldness is to be attributed to the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit with whom the Christian disciples were anointed. Peter and John face the opposition and resistance of the Jewish authorities with undaunted courage and unyielding resolve to be faithful to Jesus of Nazareth, in whose name the crippled beggar has been healed. The Jewish leaders warn the apostles not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. Peter and John, however, cannot heed their warning: “It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.” The inability of the Sanhedrin to stop the apostolic preaching implies their loss to the apostles of religious leadership over the people.

 

The phenomenon of Easter witnessing continues in today’s world. The following story is an example (cf. Eric Fellman in Daily Guideposts 2010, New York: Guideposts, 2010, p. 108).

 

A high official in the Indian Bureau of Investigation came to talk to me about helping to make the Scriptures available in a region of India where Bibles are often burned. When I asked him why he had come, he handed me a DVD and motioned for me to play it on my computer.

 

The images were shocking: mobs of angry people beating others and burning Bibles in the street and even in some nearby houses. Pointing to one badly bleeding man on the screen, my guest said, “Later that day he died, not cursing, but praying for the forgiveness of his tormentors. If that is what the Bible teaches, we need it.”

 

 

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

 

1. Are we willing to heed the Risen Lord’s missionary mandate: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature”?

 

2. Are we ready to follow the bold stance of the apostles Peter and John in their Easter witnessing?

 

 

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

 

Jesus, our Risen Lord,

you give us the faith that we need to share.

Help us to trust

that the Easter faith is stronger

than the world’s unbelief.

Strengthen us in our Easter witnessing.

Give us the grace we need

to follow your missionary mandate:

“Go into the whole world

and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”

We continue to celebrate joyfully the Easter event

in the vast green field of human history.

We love and adore you,

now and forever.

Amen. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

 

 

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.

 

            “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.” (Mk 16:15)  // “It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20) 

 

 

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

 

By your words and actions share the Good News of Christ rising from the dead, especially to people who are in desperate situations. Pray for those who commit criminal acts out of despair and for the victims.

A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 17, n. 21)

Easter Octave: April 21-17, 2019

 

 

(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: April 14-20, 2019 please go to ARCHIVES Series 17 and click on “Holy Week”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: April 21-27, 2019.)

 

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April 21, 2019: EASTER SUNDAY OF THE RESURRECTION OF THE LORD

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is Our Risen Lord”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 10:34a, 37-43 // Col 3:1-4 or Cor 5:6b-8 // Jn 20:1-9 or Lk 24:1-12

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 20:1-9): “He had to rise from the dead.”

 

Today – the Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection - is the solemnity of solemnities and the greatest feast in the liturgical year. In this fifty-day season of delectable newness and renewal, the joyful “Alleluias” of God’s redeemed people ring out more brightly and ecstatically. Easter culminates in the celebration of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, when the Risen Lord’s gift of salvation makes its full impact on peoples of the earth.

 

The Gospel reading (Jn 20:1-9) speaks of the disciples’ experience of the empty tomb on the day of Christ’s resurrection. The discovery of the empty tomb on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, evokes the first day of the week of creation when there was “darkness over the deep” (Gen 1:1), just before God uttered his powerful word, “Let there be light!” (Gen 1:1), thus dispelling the primeval darkness. Indeed, the “first day of the week”, when Christ broke forth from the tomb, is the feast of new creation. It is the glorious triumph of Light over the abysmal darkness of sin and death.

 

 The empty tomb, which Mary Magdalene saw after the stone had been rolled away, was a sign that something stupendous had happened. Peter and John went inside the tomb and saw the linen cloths that were used to wrap the dead body of Jesus crucified. On Easter morn, the “other disciple whom Jesus loved” - “the one who arrived at the tomb first” - perceived the empty tomb littered with the burial cloths of Jesus as a sign indicating the Lord’s resurrection. Hence, on “the first day of the week”, John, “the beloved disciple of Jesus”, understood the empty tomb as a paschal sign and believed. Indeed, from the empty tomb new life sprang forth!

 

The Easter event of the Lord’s resurrection flows out from his passion and death on the Cross. As an Easter people we share in the rising of the one who prodigiously laid down his life for the sheep. The following personal testimony is inspiring (cf. Marion Bond West in Daily Guideposts 2014, p. 110).

 

Just before Easter, I made special efforts setting the dining room table. I’d purchased a pastel tablecloth with cute rabbits and decorated eggs on it. My ancient, flowered dishes, which had been my mother’s, blended in perfectly. For a centerpiece, I decided on a lavender, velveteen rabbit and purple irises from our yard.

 

Still, I wasn’t quite satisfied with my handiwork. Something seemed to be missing. The back door opened and I heard, “Mom”. My son Jeremy had stopped by after getting off from work. We sat down in the living room.

 

“Anything happen at the restaurant today?” “Yeah, it did. Today I served a fellow. We made small talk. He was alone. When I went off to clear his table, he handed me a bill. I almost just stuck it in my pocket. I don’t usually look at tips. But I did this time.” “And?” “A twenty!” “Wow.”

 

“I ran after him, almost to his car. ‘Sir, you gave me a twenty by mistake.’ He turned to me, smiled, and said, ‘No mistake. I wanted you to have it.’ ‘But it’s way too much. You don’t have to do this.’ Looking right into my eyes, he said, “Jesus didn’t have to go to the Cross either.’”

 

After my son left, I found a small wooden cross and stood it by the purple irises on the dining room table.

 

 

B. First Reading (Acts 10:34a, 37-43): “We ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.”

 

Luke’s Acts of the Apostles is used as the First Reading in the Easter season and replaces temporarily the normative Old Testament reading of the Sunday liturgy. In today’s First Reading (Acts 10:34a, 37-43), the liturgical assembly hears a part of Peter’s Easter proclamation in Caesarea to the Roman centurion Cornelius and his household. While at prayer, the God fearing Cornelius sees an angel who comes in and commands him to send for a certain man named Simon Peter at Joppa. Likewise, Peter, when he goes to the rooftop to pray, has a vision of a large sheet, filled with all kinds of animals, reptiles and wild birds, being lowered by its four corners from heaven. This vision of the clean and unclean animals that Peter is commanded to eat by the voice from heaven and the revelatory word: “What God has made clean, you have no right to call profane” (Acts 10:15) convince Peter that Gentiles are no longer to be considered impure.

  

Indeed, Peter’s address to Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:34-43) is a personal testimony of his intimate experience with Jesus, the Servant-Son of Yahweh and the glorious Risen Lord. Chosen beforehand by God, the apostle Peter is one of the privileged witnesses of the Easter mystery of the Christ who rose from the dead. He proudly declares that he was one of those who ate and drank with Jesus after he rose from the dead. The Easter experience is a stupendous and transforming event that has changed a vacillating and parochial minded Peter into a great apostle and missionary of the Risen Lord. Indeed, the Easter event is an experience of the power of God and the fulfillment of the promise of new life in Jesus Christ.

 

Guy Keeler’s article in the newspaper FRESNO BEE (March 27, 2007, p. E1 & E4) entitled “The Help Guy” is about Dale Brannan, a Christian believer blessed by God with a passion for helping others. Brannan publishes and distributes NEEDHELP NOW, a tabloid-size 12-page brochure listing agencies in the Fresno area providing help for people in crisis. This publication, which is distributed for free, has a two-fold purpose: to guide the hurting to places where they can find help and to show the healthy where they can volunteer to serve the hurting. The faith story of this determined “Help Guy” has an Easter flavor and a missionary tone. Dale Brannan, 64-years old, avows that his desire to help others grew out of personal pain. He lost three children in accidents and a fourth was lost in a miscarriage. Brannan went through periods of despair and bitterness after their deaths and in rage he called God every name in the book. According to the FRESNO BEE reporter:

 

Brannan eventually came to terms with his grief when he realized he had not been abandoned by God. He says a simple sentence from II Corinthians 1:3-4 taught him there can be a purpose in suffering. He uses these words from The Message translation of the Bible to remind him to keep his eyes on others, not on himself: “He (God) comes alongside us when we go through hard times and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.” As he thought about the anguish he endured while grieving the loss of his children, Brannan recognized there could be others who might not know where to turn during times of crises. So he put up a 4-by-8 foot sign in his front yard in 1985 that proclaimed: “THIS HOUSE BELIEVES THAT JESUS IS GOD’S SON AND THAT GOD RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD. OUR DOOR IS OPEN TO YOU.”

 

The goal in putting up the sign was to encourage passers-by to stop for help. As people knocked on his door, however, Brannan soon realized many had needs he could not meet – and he didn’t know where to send them to get assistance. Brannan brought his desire to help others with him when he moved to Fresno in 1989. He volunteered at the Fresno Rescue Mission and, a few years later, came across a pamphlet, published by the First Presbyterian Church in downtown Fresno, which listed all the nonprofit agencies within a one-mile radius. Suddenly, a light went on in his brain. He could bring hurting people together with helpers by compiling a comprehensive directory of not-for-profit agencies and blanketing Fresno County with the information … Brannan would like to see versions of NEEDHELP NOW published in every community, and he hopes to spread the idea throughout the central San Joaquin Valley and see others ultimately take it throughout the world.

 

The “Help Guy” Dale Brannan is a modern day example of an Easter witness and a firm believer in Jesus Christ, raised from the dead by God the Father. Having participated intimately in the paschal mystery of the Risen Lord, Brannan’s personal pain and resurrection made him a staunch Easter witness and bearer of God’s saving love and help to those in need. He is part of the long continuing tradition of Christian witnesses in salvation history, which springs forth from the Easter mystery and is founded in the witnessing of Peter and the apostolic community.

 

 

C. Second Reading (Col 3:1-4): “Seek what is above, where Christ is.” or (I Cor 5:6b-8): “Clear out the old yeast, so that you may become a fresh batch of dough.”

             

In this Sunday’s Second Reading (Col 3:1-4 or I Cor 5:6b-8), Saint Paul enjoins us to take advantage of the grace of Christ’s death and resurrection and to respond fully to it. He admonishes us to get rid of the old yeast of malice and wickedness and celebrate the feast of the victorious Paschal Lamb with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Moreover, he exhorts us that since we have been raised with Christ, we must seek what is above, uniting ourselves with him until the full revelation of his glory on the last day. Immersed into the death and rising of Christ through baptism and participating intensely in his victorious paschal sacrifice made present in the Eucharist, the Christian believers must live up to the beauty and dignity of their calling. The Christian disciples must be fully committed to a life totally renewed by the Easter victory. Raised with Christ, we must be limpid signs of the “new creation” resulting from the miracle of the paschal sacrifice.

  

The following gives insight into the meaning of “paschal” renewal and “Easter” grace (cf. Carol Kuykendall in Daily Guideposts 2015, p. 112).

 

I sat in church on Easter, observing people greeting one another, the beauty of the lilies, and the sound of the trumpets beginning the first hymn. But something was holding me back from totally entering into joy. I knew the reason: I didn’t do Lent very well.

 

This year, I wanted to be more in-the-moment responsive to Jesus and obedient to his nudges to do or not do at least one different thing each day. Like not voicing that negative thought. Or giving more grace to that annoying person. Or reading instead of watching that mind-numbing TV program. But some days I made that negative comment anyway, or lacked the grace I meant to extend, or just plain forgot about Lent. So I entered church on Easter, feeling guilty about my inconsistent responses.

 

As the service progresses – through the words of the songs, confessions, prayers, and sermon – I began to experience a humbling awareness that I’d come to Easter exactly the way I should come, with a fresh understanding of how I could so easily mess up. And I was freshly thankful that the truth of the Easter message is not about anything I do or earn, but about the powerful promise of forgiveness and hope and eternal life.

 

 

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

 

What is the significance of the Easter event of Christ’s resurrection in my life? Like the apostle Peter, how does our personal experience of the Risen Lord make us bearers of the Easter faith and joy? Touched by the Easter experience, do we endeavor to get rid of the yeast of malice and wickedness and celebrate this saving event with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth? Knowing that we have died and been raised with Christ, do we seek what is above, not of what is on earth?

 

 

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

 

Almighty and merciful God,

our hearts sing the joyful “Alleluias”

that burst forth from the Easter event of Christ’s resurrection.

Please help us to clear out from our hearts

the old yeast of malice and wickedness.

We have been raised with Christ

and our life is hidden with him,

basking in Easter glory.

Strengthen us with the Holy Spirit, the Easter gift,

so that we may always seek what is above -

what is good, perfect and pleasing to you.

We thank you for transforming us into an Easter people.

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 saw and believed.” (Jn 20:1-8).

 

 

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

 

Pray that the good news of Easter, centered on Jesus Christ who rose from the dead, may truly and personally be experienced as a transforming event by all. Endeavor to render a concrete service to a hurting person and/or community that long for the Easter joy.

 

 

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April 22, 2019: MONDAY WITHIN THE OCTAVE OF EASTER

“JESUS SAVIOR: We Are His Witnesses”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 2:14, 22-33 // Mt 28:8-15

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 28:8-15): “Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee and there they will see me.”

 

Today’s Gospel (Mt 28:8-15) presents contrasting images: the faithful women as messengers of the Good News of the Lord’s Resurrection and the chief priests together with conniving soldiers as propagators of counterfeit news that Jesus’ dead body was stolen by his disciples. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, having received the Good News from an angel, hurriedly leave the tomb to tell the disciples. The Risen Lord meets them on their way. He instructs the trembling but joyful women to tell his brothers to leave Jerusalem, the place where Jesus was rejected, and to go to Galilee, the place of revelation. There they will see him.

 

As we bask in the joy and glory of the saving event of Jesus Christ rising from the dead, we feel our vocation to be Easter witnesses. Just like Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, the “apostle to the apostles”, we too must be messengers of life and hope. We must not be propagators of death and deceit as the chief priests and soldiers were. But rather, we must be “apostles of resurrection” and not negate the Easter miracle of life’s triumph over death.

 

The challenge of Christian discipleship is to allow the power of Easter to shine in us. The paschal mystery of Jesus Christ is complete, but our paschal experience of death and rising is progressive and ongoing. What gives us strength to embrace and proclaim the power of Easter is the Spirit of the Risen Lord who anoints us for the victorious struggle against hopelessness and despair. The following testimony about her “paschal experience” was presented by Rose Cerbo in April 2003 at a Fresno retreat. It gives insight into what it means to be an Easter witness and a Gospel messenger today.

 

When I was diagnosed with lung cancer, we had no medical insurance. Three years before, we had lost our restaurant, our shopping center and our savings to a con-artist; over three million dollars, gone! In trying to save the restaurant we borrowed over a hundred thousand dollars against our home. So there we were, all we had left was our mortgaged home and a small take-out restaurant in Pinedale.

 

Just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse … they did … much worse. The things we had lost were just that: things. This was my life … cancer! We prayed, we prayed for strength, for guidance and for help.

 

We found a doctor who would do my surgery and a hospital that would accept payments, and I had my surgery. Afterwards, there wasn’t money for chemo or radiation, and the doctor said that it would be alright to take a chance without it. It was in God’s hands.

 

Meanwhile the I.R.S. decided that we owed them one hundred thousand dollars. We were able to produce proof of what we had lost, so they reduced it to twenty-five thousand dollars: still more than we could ever afford unless we sold our home. But they had a lien on our home so we couldn’t sell it. Again we prayed for guidance, and again our prayers were answered. Friends and family came forward to lend us the money to pay the I.R.S. with only our word to pay them back when we sold our house.

 

We paid the I.R.S. the money owed them and they removed the lien on the house. We did what we could to make the house more attractive, and put it up for sale. We conducted an open house and received three bids. We accepted one of them. After three months it was done; the house was sold, the bank was paid what we owed them. All the people who had helped us were paid back in full … we were out of debt.

 

We were able to put a down payment on a small house. We had a chance for a new start. But this time things were going to be different.

 

I’ve been cancer free for eleven years. We both have jobs and have a good life. We’ve learned that each day is a gift … to enjoy all the gifts God has given us – the birds, the flowers and the trees, the sunsets, the star-lit nights, and the sparkle of morning dew on the flowers. There is so much beauty in the world. We finally learned to enjoy and appreciate all He has given us.

 

 

B. First Reading (Acts 2:14, 22-33): “God raised this Jesus: of this we are all witnesses.”

 

The first readings of the Sunday and weekday liturgy during the Easter season are all taken from the Acts of the Apostles to underline the missionary expansion of the Church that is born from the Easter event of the Lord’s resurrection. Today’s First Reading (Acts 2:14, 22-33) contains Peter’s first sermon, which was given on Pentecost. A masterpiece of Easter witnessing, this inaugural sermon presents in a nutshell the faith of the Church and proclaims boldly the reality of God’s action in raising Jesus. The apostle Peter and the “Eleven” are privileged recipients of the Easter experience. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, outpoured upon them as a gift by the Risen Lord, they became resolute witnesses of the Risen Lord.

 

The authors of the Days of the Lord: The Liturgical Year, vol. 3, remark: “Peter’s proclamation is very solemn: he stands up with the Eleven who are gathered around him … But what Peter proclaims this day, in this city, to a specific audience, is a message and a testimony that is valuable for all, especially for us today. We are gathered to listen faithfully to the apostles’ teaching, on which our faith is based … Faithful to the apostles’ teaching, Christians continue in the Church and under the guidance of the Spirit to study the Old and New Testaments, which tell us over and over things that we will never fully comprehend … One remembers God’s intervention on behalf of those he loved, whom he did not abandon, even when everything seemed lost.”

 

As a Church built upon faith in the Risen Lord, we are Easter witnesses to the power of life over death, of good over evil, of hope over despair, of love over hatred, and of healing over brokenness. In the anguished and terrifying situations of modern society, we proclaim that grace prevails over wickedness through the victory of Jesus Christ, raised from the dead and assumed into glory in heaven by the faithful God. As Easter people, we are witnesses that Jesus of Nazareth has been confirmed as the Lord and Messiah by undergoing obediently his paschal destiny of passion, death and resurrection. Indeed, by our life of holiness and prayer, of charity and service, we invite people to submit to the saving hand of God, who brings life from death and transforms our brokenness and sadness into beauty, healing, and grace.

 

In the following article by David Crary, “Faith Behind Bars” published in Fresno Bee (October 15, 2007, p. A1, A7), we can glean how the healing and renewing power of Easter is at work in the faith-based prison programs sponsored by Christian volunteers.

 

Killer-turned artist Manny Hernandez in the prison where he is finishing an eight-year term remarks: “It’s a blessing to be here.” Fellow murderer and inmate Raymond Hall likens it to heaven. “I love this place,” says their warden, Cynthia Tilley. “It’s so calm.” They’re praising the Carol Vance Unit, founded in 1997 in the outskirts of Houston. It’s the oldest of a rapidly growing number of faith-based prison facilities across the nation. (…)

 

Evidence is strong that violence and trouble-making drops sharply in these programs, and they often are the only vibrant rehabilitation option at a time when taxpayer-funded alternatives have been cut back. Inmates at Vance offer another compelling argument. Unlike many of America’s 2 million prisoners, they feel they are treated with respect. They have hope. “A bunch of cats in prison, they never had anyone show them love – even their father and mother,” said Anzetta Smith, who served 18 years for attempted murder before graduating from Vance this year. “You get in the program and everybody shows you love.” (…)

 

The Inner Charge program at Vance is open, on a voluntary basis, to men with fewer than two years left on their sentences. Sex offenders and inmates with bad disciplinary records are excluded. The days are filled with spiritual and academic classes, community meetings and work duties. Bibles are a common sight on the bedside tables in the inmates’ cubicles. Religious paintings, including eye-catching works by self-taught Manny Hernandez, decorate the walls. Tilley, the warden, said the security staff is asked to treat the criminals politely. The atmosphere can be a pleasant shock to men arriving from tougher prisons. “In my other prison, on a daily basis there was rape, drugs,” said Raymond Hall, who was convicted at 16 of murder and hopes to complete his 15-year sentence in early 2009. “When you come to Carol Vance, it’s like a load is lifted. It’s like heaven.” (…)

 

Some skeptics say the programs “cherry-pick” motivated inmates who would be less likely to re-offend under any circumstances … “It’s not that these programs are a bad idea,” said Dan Mears, a Florida State University criminologist. “But there’s no good evidence that they work.” To some graduates, like Anzetta Smith, their own positive experience is evidence enough.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we believe that by the paschal event of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection, we die to sin and rise to new life with him and in him? Do we embrace fully our grace and responsibility as Easter witnesses?

 

2. In his Pentecost sermon, what is Peter’s testimony concerning Jesus of Nazareth? As Christian disciples today, do we give faithful witness to the God who brings life from death and who raised his Son Jesus from the dead?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

we thank you for the great Eastertide.

May we truly die to sin and live by his grace.

Like the “women of the resurrection”,

may we become limpid signs of the glory of Easter,

especially for the people of today

who yearn for life and beauty,

for grace and healing,

for peace and joy.

We adore you and love you, now and forever.

Amen. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

     

 

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.

 

“They ran to announce the good news to Jesus’ disciples.” (Mt 28:8) // “God raised this Jesus; of this we are witnesses.” (Acts 2:32)

  

 

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

 

By your acts of charity and service, proclaim the Good News of the Risen Lord to the many distressed people of today who long for the warmth of Easter.

    

 

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April 23, 2019: TUESDAY WITHIN THE OCTAVE OF EASTER

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is Our Lord and Messiah”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 2:36-41 // Jn 20:11-18

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 20:11-18): “I have seen the Lord and he said these things to me.”

On March 6, 2012, I was passing through downtown San Jose on my way to the Diocesan Chancery Office. It was a windy afternoon and I was holding onto my veil lest I become a “flying nun”. A young woman wearing a hooded jacket yelled at me, “To what church do you belong?” I turned to her and answered, “I belong to the Catholic Church.” She came up to me and removed her hood. Rings pierced her ears, nose and lips. She remarked, “I used to go to Five Wounds Church and Saint Elizabeth Church. I wanted to be a nun but it did not come true.” We carried on a light, friendly conversation. Then her mood changed. She became pensive. “I am Magdalene!” she confessed. I retorted factually, “The Risen Lord appeared to Magdalene.” She looked puzzled. Then she asked, “Is that in the Bible?” I reiterated with joy, “Jesus Christ, on the day of his resurrection, appeared to Mary Magdalene and made her an apostle.” She became silent. Then she said with awe, “You are very nice; you are very nice; you are very nice!” I introduced myself, “My name is Sr. Mary Margaret. What is your name?” She gave me her name. Shortly after, I bid her goodbye. As I continued my long hike up North First Street, it dawned upon me that I had just shared the Easter event with a prostitute.

 

Today’s Gospel (Jn 20:11-18) presents the Easter apparition of Jesus to Mary Magdalene, the “apostle of the apostles”. She is the first to see the Risen Christ and the first to tell the apostles about the Lord’s resurrection. She was present at the foot of the cross as she is present now at the tomb. She looks for a dead body, but a living Christ appears to her at the dawn of a new day. She recognizes Jesus by his voice just as sheep recognize the voice of their shepherd. The Risen Lord entrusts her with the task of announcing his central Easter message: that from now on he and his disciples belong inseparably as members of the one family of God. Jesus commands her to tell them, “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Released from a dubious past, Mary Magdalene becomes a messenger of the Easter message … of God’s new creation … of the newly created mystical body of the Risen Christ, of which she is an important part.

  I

 

B. First Reading (Acts 2:36-41): “Repent and be baptized, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ.”

 

In today’s First Reading (Acts 2:36-41) we continue to listen to the growth and expansion of the early Church. At the conclusion of Peter’s message to the Jewish worshippers on the day of Pentecost, he declares that Jesus, whom they crucified, God has made “Lord and Messiah”. This declaration pricks the conscience of the people and they ask Peter and the other apostles what they need to do. They realize that the world has entered a new age now that Jesus has been constituted the Lord and the Messiah. They can no longer live and behave as a wicked generation. Peter exhorts them to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. In that way their sins will be forgiven and they will receive the Holy Spirit, God’s Easter gift. Peter’s hearers welcome his message and are baptized. About three thousand people are added that day to the community of faith. The Easter message is likewise to be proclaimed to all who are far away – all whom the Lord God calls to himself. The harvest has begun. A rich crop of would-be disciples are waiting to be harvested.

 

As we hear the good news of the response and baptism of the three thousand to the Easter kerygma or proclamation, we rejoice in the conversion of people through the ages. The conversion of Saint Augustine illustrates the power of the Easter mystery (cf. Giovanni Falbo, St. Monica: The Power of a Mother’s Love, Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2007, p. 74-77, 99-100).

 

Augustine was fighting a difficult battle; on the one hand, he was attracted to the truth of Christ and the beauty of the Christian ideal, but on the other hand he saw himself defiled by the filth of his passions, a slave to pride, ambition, and especially lust. (…) It upset Augustine that he could not find the strength to act decisively, always putting off his resolution until the next day.

 

While he was caught up in the grip of this terrible interior struggle, he heard a sound coming through the window of a house near the garden where he was. It was the voice of a child, saying, “Take and read, take and read!” These words could not have been spoken by accident. Augustine realized God was speaking to him. He ran to the table, where he had left the Letters of St. Paul, and opened a page at random. His eyes fell upon the following words: “… not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom 13:13-14).

 

It was a direct answer from the Lord to his anguished questions … The grace of God had finally triumphed. Augustine was a new man … This was the culminating moment of Monica’s life. She had lived for the sole purpose of seeing her son convert and become a disciple of the Lord … She witnessed the fulfillment of the prophetic words the bishop of Madaura had pronounced: “It is not possible that the son of these tears should perish.” She tasted the goodness of the Lord, and her heart swelled with gratitude. Now she desired nothing else than to see the day of her son’s baptism. (…)

 

Her exaltation reached its peak on the night of Holy Saturday … Finally the great moment came for Augustine to descend into the regenerating waters and emerge as a new creature in the profession of the true faith he once opposed. Now he was preparing to glorify and defend the faith with the depths of his mind and the holiness of his life. (…) This holy night – the night between April 24 and 25 of 387 – was Monica’s triumph.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we imitate Mary Magdalene’s devout and wholehearted love for Jesus? Are we like her in her receptivity to the Easter apparition and as a zealous Easter witness?

 

2. How does the positive response of the Jews to the Easter proclamation of Peter and the apostles inspire you? Are you resolved to follow through on the challenges of your baptismal consecration?

 

 

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

(Cf. Opening Prayer, Mass of Easter Tuesday)

 

Father,

by this Easter mystery you touch our lives

with the healing power of your love.

You have given us the freedom of the sons of God.

May we who now celebrate your gift

find joy in it forever in heaven.

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 day. Please memorize it.

 

“Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’ and what he told her.” (Jn 20:18) // “Repent and be baptized.” (Acts 2:38)

 

 

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

 

Pray in a special way for abused, disadvantaged and exploited women in today’s society and endeavor to help them in their need.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

April 24, 2019: WEDNESDAY WITHIN THE OCTAVE OF EASTER

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Risen Lord Revealed at the Breaking of the Bread

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 3:1-10 // Lk 24:13-35

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 24:13-35): “They recognized Jesus in the breaking of bread.”

 

Linda Unger’s inspiring article, “Mission Family on the Move” is about the leap of faith made by a young married couple, Doug and Lisa Jo Looney, who hail from the western New York town of Allegany (cf. Maryknoll magazine, March 2005, p. 36-38). The desire to serve the poor brought the couple together. Doug and Lisa met while working in a homeless shelter in Boston with the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry. In 1995-1999, they served as Maryknoll lay missioners in Mwanza, Tanzania. Then they returned to New York and started a family. They have three children: a son Aidan, who is 5, and daughters Nora and Maeve, who are 3 and 18 months, respectively. With the birth of each child, Lisa Jo and Doug reaffirmed their desire to return to mission abroad. One evening, as they sat chatting and looking out the window of their Allegany home, they realized the moment had come. Doug called the Maryknoll Lay Missioners. He felt that the application process was like a homecoming. He remarked, “We wanted the children to be out of diapers when we went back overseas, but didn’t wait long enough for Maeve. She’s a very easygoing child, and that expedited our decision.” They chose Bolivia. According to Doug, “The presence of so many mission families in Bolivia was a strong draw. We feel privileged that our children will know other missioner children.”

 

Doug and Lisa Jo have now transferred their family of five from upstate New York to the sprawling Bolivian city of Cochabamba. They are helping the little ones adjust to unfamiliar surroundings. Lisa Jo confided, “For the first two weeks all I’ve been doing is holding back tears. In a way, they’re joyful tears: well, here we are, after all these years! But also, they’re tears because we know it’s the first time our children are experiencing this kind of poverty in the world. What are they thinking? What are they feeling?” Indeed, for Lisa Jo and Doug, the decision to return to mission with their children was a leap of faith. Before the Looneys left Allegany, their parish celebrated their missionary calling and presented them with a chalice to take to Bolivia. Lisa Jo mused, “I was thinking of our experience in Africa, how we broke bread and shared the cup and the broken body of Christ. How could we not share that with our children? The God we met in Tanzania is the God we want our children to experience in the people of Bolivia.”

 

Indeed, in opening their hearts compassionately to the poor and the needy, the Looneys have recognized more intensely the presence of Christ in the Eucharistic sacrament of the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup. Moreover, their participation in the Eucharistic banquet has deepened their recognition of the presence of Christ in the poor and committed them more strongly to the service of the least brethren. As Christian disciples, the Looneys have been impacted by the meaning of the “breaking of the bread” and challenged by the impelling needs of “the broken body of Christ”. Like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus that we hear in today’s Gospel (Lk 24:13-35), Lisa Jo and Doug have recognized Christ in the “breaking of the bread” and responded in faith to “the broken body of Christ”, concretized in the lives of today’s poor and needy.

 

 

B. First Reading (Acts 3:1-10): “What I do have I give you: in the name of the Lord Jesus, rise and walk.”

 

Today’s account from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 3:1-10) underlines that the saving power of Jesus continues to be available to those in need. His ministry of salvation lives on through deeds done in his name by Christian disciples. Peter and John go up for the afternoon celebration of prayer and sacrifice. At the “Beautiful Gate” of the temple they see a crippled man asking for alms. The apostles do not have silver or gold to give, but they have an even greater gift. Looking intently into the eyes of the crippled beggar, Peter says: “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.” There is power in the name of Jesus, who is the source of salvation. The cure of the lame man is a sign that the new age has begun in which God saves through the Risen Lord Jesus. The prophet Isaiah’s image of the lame leaping like a deer at the messianic time comes to us as the cured man leaps up, walks into the temple jumping and praising God. The healing power of Jesus’ name enables the beggar to have access to the temple and worship God.

 

In the name of Jesus, we heal and share. The faith of the apostles Peter and John in the Risen Lord and their generous stance to share the Easter saving gift to those in need are replicated in the life of today’s disciples. The following story circulated through the Internet illustrates this.

 

The Rich Family in Our Church, by Eddie Ogan

  

I'll never forget Easter 1946. I was 14, my little sister Ocy, 12, and my older sister Darlene, 16. We lived at home with our mother, and the four of us knew what it was to do without many things. My dad had died 5 years before, leaving Mom with seven school kids to raise and no money. By 1946 my older sisters were married and my brothers had left home.

 

A month before Easter, the pastor of our church announced that a special Easter offering would be taken to help a poor family. He asked everyone to save and give sacrificially. When we got home, we talked about what we could do. We decided to buy 50 pounds of potatoes and live on them for a month. This would allow us to save $20 of our grocery money for the offering. Then we thought that if we kept our electric lights turned out as much as possible and didn't listen to the radio, we'd save money on that month's electric bill. Darlene got as many house and yard cleaning jobs as possible, and both of us baby sat for everyone we could. For 15 cents, we could buy enough cotton loops to make three pot holders to sell for $1. We made $20 on pot holders.

 

That month was one of the best of our lives. Every day we counted the money to see how much we had saved. At night we'd sit in the dark and talk about how the poor family was going to enjoy having the money the church would give them. We had about 80 people in church, so we figured that whatever amount of money we had to give, the offering would surely be 20 times that much. After all, every Sunday the Pastor had reminded everyone to save for the sacrificial offering.

The day before Easter, Ocy and I walked to the grocery store and got the manager to give us three crisp $20 bills and one $10 bill for all our change. We ran all the way home to show Mom and Darlene. We had never had so much money before. That night we were so excited we could hardly sleep. We didn't care that we wouldn't have new clothes for Easter; we had $70 for the sacrificial offering. We could hardly wait to get to church!

 

On Sunday morning, rain was pouring. We didn't own an umbrella, and the church was over a mile from our home, but it didn't seem to matter how wet we got. Darlene had cardboard in her shoes to fill the holes. The cardboard came apart, and her feet got wet. But we sat in church proudly. I heard some teenagers talking about the Smith girls having on their old dresses. I looked at them in their new clothes, and I felt so rich.

 

When the sacrificial offering was taken, we were sitting on the second row from the front. Mom put in the $10 bill, and each of us girls put in a $20. As we walked home after church, we sang all the way. At lunch Mom had a surprise for us. She had bought a dozen eggs, and we had boiled Easter eggs with our fried potatoes! Late that afternoon the minister drove up in his car. Mom went to the door, talked with him for a moment, and then came back with an envelope in her hand. We asked what it was, but she didn't say a word. She opened the envelope and out fell a bunch of money. There were three crisp $20 bills, one $10 and seventeen $1 bills. Mom put the money back in the envelope. We didn't talk, just sat and stared at the floor. We had gone from feeling like millionaires to feeling like poor white trash. We kids had had such a happy life that we felt sorry for anyone who didn't have our mom and dad for parents and a house full of brothers and sisters and other kids visiting constantly. We thought it was fun to share silverware and see whether we got the fork or the spoon that night. We had two knives which we passed around to whoever needed them. I knew we didn't have a lot of things that other people had, but I'd never thought we were poor. That Easter Day we found out we were.

 

The minister had brought us the money for the poor family, so we must be poor. I didn't like being poor. I looked at my dress and worn-out shoes and felt so ashamed that I didn't want to go back to church. Everyone there probably already knew we were poor! I thought about school. I was in the ninth grade and at the top of my class of over 100 students. I wondered if the kids at school knew we were poor. I decided I could quit school since I had finished the eighth grade. That was all the law required at that time.

 

We sat in silence for a long time. Then it got dark, and we went to bed. All that week, we girls went to school and came home, and no one talked much. Finally on Saturday, Mom asked us what we wanted to do with the money. What did poor people do with money? We didn't know. We'd never known we were poor. We didn't want to go to church on Sunday, but Mom said we had to. Although it was a sunny day, we didn’t talk on the way.

 

Mom started to sing, but no one joined in and she only sang one verse. At church we had a missionary speaker. He talked about how churches in Africa made buildings out of sun-dried bricks, but they need money to buy roofs. He said $100 would put a roof on a church. The minister said, “Can’t we all sacrifice to help these poor people?”

 

We looked at each other and smiled for the first time in a week. Mom reached into her purse and pulled out the envelope. She passed it to Darlene. Darlene gave it to me, and I handed it to Ocy. Ocy put it in the offering. When the offering was counted, the minister announced that it was a little over $100. The missionary was excited. He hadn't expected such a large offering from our small church. He said, "You must have some rich people in this church." Suddenly it struck us! We had given $87 of that "little over $100." We were the rich family in the church! Hadn't the missionary said so? From that day on I've never been poor again. I've always remembered how rich I am because I have Jesus.   

 

 

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

 

1. Are we ready to welcome Jesus as our life-giving companion on our journey to faith? Are we ready to welcome him in the “breaking of the bread of the word” and in the “breaking of the Eucharistic bread”? How do we serve the Risen Lord present in the poor and needy – the “broken body of Christ”?

 

2. Are we willing to trust and call upon the name of the Risen Lord Jesus to bring us salvation? Are we willing to share his saving power and riches to the needy of today’s world?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you journeyed with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.

Their hearts burned with love

as you shared with them the paschal meaning of the Scriptures.

The disciples recognized you at the breaking of the bread.

Now we are gathered at your Easter feast

and joyfully partake of the bread of your word

and the Eucharistic bread.

Nourished by you,

help us to recognize your “broken body”

in the poor and the hungry,

in the desolate and the needy,

in the weak and vulnerable of today’s society.

You are our Risen Lord whom we love

and proclaim to the nations.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

 

 

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 two recounted how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.” (Lk 24:35) // “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you …” (Acts 3:6) 

 

 

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

 

In this Easter season resolve to share with the people around you and with the poor and needy the spiritual riches as well as the material blessings you have received.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

April 25, 2019: THURSDAY WITHIN THE OCTAVE OF EASTER

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Easter Miracle”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 3:11-26 // Lk 24:35-48

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 24:35-48): “Thus it was written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day.”

 

The great promoter of positive thinking, Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, believes that one of the most wonderful principles known to man is called the “miracle principle”. Six words describe the principle: Expect a miracle – make miracles happen. According to him, if you keep your eyes open expectantly every day for great and wonderful things to happen, it is astonishing what great and wonderful things will tend to happen to you. Expect great things from God and you will receive great things from God. How then, can one go about expecting miracles and causing miracles to happen? According to Rev. Peale, the number one thing is to have tremendous faith, a deep faith - a faith that is so positively strong that it rises above doubt. He asserts that if we train ourselves to have faith in depth, it will release an astonishing power in our life to produce miracles. 

 

            Indeed, there are some people who are figuratively swimming in a sea of troubles. They are so discouraged and dismayed by so many things that it is impossible for them to believe that a life-giving miracle could ever happen in their lives. The disciples of Jesus who were devastated by the event of his passion and death were similarly troubled with doubts, fears and despair. An Easter apparition was necessary to assure them of the reality of a stupendous miracle: the Lord’s resurrection. To the frightened and troubled disciples who were incredulous to the beautiful reality of the “miracle”, the Risen Christ revealed himself anew, opening their minds and hearts, instructing them about the paschal event of his death and resurrection, and its implications in their life as Easter witnesses

 

In today’s marvelous account of the Easter apparition (Lk 24:35-48), we hear that the Risen Master was guiding his disciples to understand fully the meaning of the greatest miracle of all: his resurrection from the dead and his glorification. He was leading them on a spiritual journey from disbelief to belief, from doubt to worship, from despair to joy, from timidity to courage, from witnesses of the resurrection to powerful messengers of the good news of salvation. Indeed, in the miracle of Easter, the faith of the disciples was made complete. In opening themselves up to the Easter event, they would make miracles of new life and sunlit beauty happen in time and space. 

 

 

B. First Reading (Acts 3:11-26): “The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead.”

 

The Acts 3:11-26 reading tells us that after the healing of the crippled beggar at the Temple’s “Beautiful Gate”, not surprisingly, a crowd gathers. Peter takes the opportunity to speak to the people and to assert that it is not by their own power or holiness that the crippled man is able to walk, but in virtue of the name of Jesus. It is faith in Jesus that has healed the beggar. Jesus is the author of life that was put to death by the Jewish leaders. But God, who has chosen Jesus to deliver all human beings from the powers of hell, raised him to life.  The disciples of Jesus are witnesses of the Lord’s resurrection. They also appeal to the people to repent and turn to God so that their sins may be forgiven.

 

The presence and activity of the Risen Lord in our midst necessitate a response of penance and conversion:  a turning away from the evil course and a turning toward God in a new way of life. This Easter message can be verified in the life of Blessed James Alberione, the Founder of the Pauline Family. He often strove to live as one raised by Christ, but there was an incident in his young life when he needed conversion and “redemption”. On April 7, 1900, he was dismissed from the seminary of Bra. The fermenting yeast of “bad companions” and “bad press” – he confided that he had read two books in two months – had negative effects on his behavior and the seminary staff judged him as not having a vocation to the priesthood. The following is an account of young Alberione’s unique “paschal experience” of renewal - of starting over again - of compassion and “Easter” grace (cf. Luigi Rolfo, JAMES ALBERIONE: Apostle for our Times, trans. Bro. Salvatore Paglieri, New York: Alba House, 1987, p. 25-27).

 

Thus James suddenly found himself having to re-examine from the beginning his plans regarding the future. And a decision in his concrete situation was not easy! Working on the land with his brothers was an unthinkable alternative. He did not have the physical strength for it, and he also lacked the ability to adjust to the restricted horizons of the average Piedmontese farmer. He felt like an exile in that closed and monotonous environment – like Napoleon on the shores of St. Helena. Besides, how long could he stay in that house bearing within himself the humiliation of his failure, having to put up with those glances and grins which he easily interpreted as saying, “You couldn’t make it to the priesthood”?

 

It would have been useless to request entry into another seminary of the archdiocese of Turin. The reception of a young man dismissed from another seminary of the same archdiocese for disciplinary reasons would be an exception that could in no way be counted on. Nor could the Alberiones afford to send him to one of the few colleges that at that time accommodated students who were going on for higher studies. James, in fact, had not given up and did not intend to give up his resolve to become a priest. Thus, to enter a secular college was foreign to his plans. For all of these reasons, the six months that he spent with his family must have filled him with melancholy.

 

In this uncertain period of waiting, an episode must be mentioned that James’ brother, John Ludovico, loved to tell his sons. One day James remained seated for a long time on the doorstep of the house, sad and pensive like one who is eager to take a walk but cannot seem to decide which way to go. Teresa, attributing his attitude to listlessness, approached him impatiently. In a voice shrill with vexation, she ordered him either to go to work in the fields with the others or to apply himself seriously to his studies – threatening to use her broom if her words were not enough to make him move. John Ludovico saw this, and decided to intervene, with that magnanimity which rough and tumble farm boys always seem to manage in such difficult moments. He took James to one side and had a heart-to-heart talk with him. “Listen to me, boy. If you think you really have the gifts to study and to succeed, go and study and don’t give a thought about the land. I’ll work harder to make up for your absence”.

 

In the bitterness of the moment, John’s generous attitude must have been a source of great comfort for James. But the decisive help (in the summer of 1900) came once more from his pastor, Father Montersino. Decades later, James recalled that this priest had “always helped him and kept in contact with him until his ordination”. Father Montersino had followed James’ progress since the first grade and had come to consider him one of his best parishioners. He noted that during the summer vacation James went faithfully to daily Mass and Communion, remaining in church to pray at length, that he spoke eagerly of the missions, of the general problems of the Church, of pastoral life and of the formation of the young. Similarly, his lack of interest in the games and amusements so dear to most young men of his age revealed in him an uncommon maturity.

 

Father Montersino had not come across another young man whom he considered as well disposed as James to aspire legitimately to the priesthood. Could that combination of good gifts be wiped out by a single period of frivolity due more to artlessness and inexperience than to a disposition of the soul? Impossible! If the door to the seminary of Turin was closed, that of the seminary of Alba could be opened. It was certainly in no way inferior and indeed had an even greater right to receive young men from Cherasco. The rector, Canon Victor Danusso, was a great ascetic, but also a well-rounded man. It was at least worthwhile to try to get him to accept this young man who had been rejected by his colleague at Bra.

 

Now it happened that Father Montersino was a native of Alba by birth. A visit to his parents in Alba would give him an opportunity to stop off at the seminary to meet with the rector and talk with him about his young parishioner (naturally after having received the consent of James’ mother and father). We don’t know the date of the meeting between Father Montersino and the rector – although we can say that it must have been lengthy and frank, as discussions are between persons who intend to collaborate for the good without desiring in any way to mislead each other.

 

At the end of their encounter, Canon Danusso admitted James to the seminary at Alba on two conditions. He had to take an entrance exam which would determine whether he would join the young men of the fifth year of junior high school (9th grade), or those of the first of high school (10th). In the latter case, however, he would not immediately receive the clerical habit along with his companions. This would be given to him at a later date to be decided on after he had given sufficient proof of his good will.

 

Everything turned out for the best, so that at the fixed date Michael Alberione and one of his sons (probably John) accompanied James to Alba along with his personal belongings and some food that would keep well. After a three hour trip on a cart drawn by a cow, they arrived at the seminary door, where they were approached and escorted by a small group of clerics.

 

These were the more punctual members of their class who were playing and talking loudly. One of them glanced at the newly arrived trio and, turning to his companions, burst into laughter: “Would you get a load of that! This one’s come to study with a cow!” To which James was quick to respond: “Provided that the cow doesn’t eat my books!” In Piedmont they used to say of anyone who remained illiterate or semi-illiterate that, “When he was young, the cow ate his books.” 

 

 

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

 

1. Do we expect an Easter miracle every day of our life? What do we do to make the miracle of Easter happen in our life and in the life of others?

 

2. What is our response to the marvels that the Risen Lord has worked in our lives? Do we regret the many times when we had negated his loving presence and saving initiatives in our lives?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

we thank you for the miracle of Easter.

We trust in you

and humbly expect Easter miracles to fill our life.

Gracious God,

we firmly believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ

as we believe in the resurrection of the body.

Every day we want to arise to a new life

that we may merit to arise in the glory of the last day.

We honor and praise you.

You live and reign,

forever and ever.

Amen. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! 

 

 

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.

 

“It is I myself. Touch me and see.” (Lk 24:39) // “God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.” (Acts 3:15)

 

 

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

 

Today, expect a “miracle” to happen in your life and thank the Lord for it. Today, make a small “miracle” happen in the life of others.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

April 26, 2019: FRIDAY WITHIN THE OCTAVE OF EASTER

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Prepares the Easter Meal”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 4:1-12 // Jn 21:1-14

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 21:1-14): “Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them, and in like manner the fish.”

 

It was Friday of Easter week. After the Mass in our chapel, our community at the General House in Rome went to the refectory for breakfast. That morning there very few of us at table – only about seven. The sister in charge of the kitchen served special bread from Genoa – flat bread as big as a plate, steaming hot right from the oven. Together with the bread, she served sardines soaked in thick olive oil and spicy chili. Munching on the delectable fare, I exclaimed with awe, “Oh my! This is like the breakfast that Jesus served his disciples at Lake Tiberias.”

 

In today’s Gospel (Jn 21:1-14), Jesus invites his toil-weary disciples: “Come, have breakfast!” The Risen Lord thoughtfully prepares a meal for them beside the seashore. Now that his paschal suffering is complete, his followers no longer have “to fast” from his presence. Jesus Christ will always be there for us in the Eucharistic meal – to nourish and care for his own. The “good food” at the beach symbolizes the kindness and care of a “good God” who offered his body and blood in sacrifice that he may give us eternal life. Jesus, the Son-Servant of God, continues his Easter service as “chef” – as the one who prepares the Eucharistic banquet. As his disciples, we too are called to bring some “fish” to the Easter meal by participating in the Church’s mission of bringing souls to the Eucharist. As a community of faith gathered by the Risen Lord, he calls us today from Lenten fast to Easter breakfast!

 

 

B. First Reading (Acts 4:1-12): “There is no salvation through anyone else.”

 

In the reading the Acts 4:1-12 reading, Peter and John are still speaking to the people when the Jewish religious authorities come to arrest them. The religious authorities responsible for the Temple do not want them to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus, which is God’s negative judgment on them. The Sadducees are opposed to the resurrection of the dead. Like their Master Jesus, the apostles are made to appear before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Supreme Court and ruling body. The leaders challenge the Christian disciples by what power and in whose name they have acted. Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, asserts that the cripple has been healed through the power of the name of Jesus Christ, who has been crucified and raised by God from the dead. Peter makes a very powerful faith statement: Salvation is to be found through him alone; there is no one else whom God has given who can save us.

 

The following story about a Japanese priest’s witness of faith replicates the power of the Easter witnessing of Peter and John before the Sanhedrin and their total surrender to the person of Jesus (cf. Full Sail with the Wind of Grace, ed. “Martyrs” Editorial Committee, Tokyo: Don Bosco Sha, 2008, p. 141-142).

 

On the 1st of November 1636, a storm which started during the night continued to rage and the waves breaking on the rocks reached the cove in the Owl Valley. Fr. Jihyoe crawled out of his hideout, and with hurried steps started out against the strong wind, heading for the town of Nagasaki. When he reached Katabuchi (Nagasaki City), the officers who had been lying in wait came jumping out  and took hold of him. “You, Kirishitan! Out with your name!” they demanded. “I am Fr. Jihyoe of the Augustinians”, he replied.

 

The officers let out an astonished roar. They had at last captured the man on the nationwide wanted list. The hatred of the officers for Fr. Jihyoe burst out in prolonged cruel torture. But Fr. Jihyoe did not waver, no matter what torment they inflicted on him. (…)

 

Jihyoe had been in prison for a year enduring the torture inflicted on him every day. He felt that the Christ of the Passion was close beside him. His only consolation was that he was being transformed into the likeness of Christ. It filled him with joy … On 6 November 1637, his tormentors hung Fr. Jihyoe for the second time over the pit on Nishizaka overlooking the bay of Nagasaki. There, the Lord transformed him into the likeness of his own glorious body, by raising him to eternal life in Heaven.

 

 

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

 

1. After a weary life struggle, do we turn to the Risen Lord who invites us to delight in his consoling presence and have “Easter breakfast” with him at the Eucharistic table?

 

2. Do we believe that there is no salvation through anyone else but Christ? Are we willing to profess our faith in Jesus Savior at the cost of sacrifice? Do we have the courage to be an Easter witness?

 

 

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

 

            Loving Jesus,

how good you are!

As the Risen Lord,

you continue to give us life

by inviting us to the feast of your Eucharistic sacrifice.

How gracious you are!

How heartwarming and nourishing

the Easter breakfast you have prepared by Lake Tiberias!

How kind you are in calling us from “Lenten fast”

to partake in the “Easter feast” at the table of the Eucharist!

Help us to bring our own “contribution”

to the heavenly feast.

By partaking in the apostolic mission of the Church,

may we invite and lead the peoples of the earth

 to share in the eternal Easter feast in heaven.

Glory to you, Jesus!

You are the Risen Christ, the Lord of the banquet,

now and forever.

Amen. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

 

 

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 said to them, ‘Come, have breakfast’.” (Jn 21:1-14) // “There is no salvation through anyone else.”  (Acts 4:12) 

 

 

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

 

Make use of every opportunity, even the most difficult and trying ones, to proclaim your Easter faith in the saving Christ.

 

 

*** *** ***

March 27, 2019: SATURDAY WITHIN THE OCTAVE OF EASTER

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Tells Us to Go and Proclaim the Gospel 

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 4:1-12 // Mk 16:9-15

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 16:9-15): “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Mk 6:9-15) that concludes the Easter week is very appropriate. It gives us the Risen Lord’s missionary mandate: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” The Easter apparitions of Jesus to Mary Magdalene and the other disciples are meant to evoke their faith and make them heralds of the resurrection. There will be initial reactions of unbelief, but the joy-giving reality of the Easter event will finally prevail. The Church’s missionaries have nothing to fear because the Risen Lord will be with them in their Gospel preaching and confirm their Easter witnessing with special signs of his presence and power.

 

I was traveling by Amtrak to Fresno on March 25, 2012 to help prepare the funeral of our beloved deceased Sr. Mary Leonia. The train was fully booked. I was one of the four passengers in a two-by-two seat compartment. The tall young man seated beside me engaged us in a friendly conversation which deepened into a beautiful faith sharing. He was an atheist two years ago, but then he received the gift of faith and conversion. He was traveling to Lake Isabela to meet his grandparents, and from there they will proceed to Los Angeles to take the flight for Honduras. They will join a group of Seventh Day Adventist missionaries who will minister to the people of Honduras. What was awesome was how he could gently inspire us to share our faith without being invasive.

 

The young missionary politely asked me, “What do you – Catholics – believe in?” I initially gave a general answer, almost evasive. But then, I realized that I could do something better. So prompted by the Holy Spirit, I told him that our faith as Catholics is synthesized in the Nicene Creed and in the Apostles’ Creed. So I recited the Apostles’ Creed very slowly and with conviction. He listened with full attention. When I proclaimed the concluding part of the creed, “I believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting”, the lady sitting in front of me affirmed, “Amen!” Then she started to cry. She used to be a Catholic, but she had become Episcopalian. The young missionary was also able to coax the stolid Hispanic boy seated in front of him to speak. What the boy shared was amazing. A month ago he was mauled by a horse in a ranch where he was employed. He miraculously survived. The boy repeatedly said, “I thank God every day for saving my life!” That Amtrak experience made me realize that the Easter faith is alive. We need to set it aflame by courageously evangelizing – just as that young Seventh Day Adventist missionary has done.

 

 

B. First Reading (Acts 4:13-21): “It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.”

 

In the First Reading (Acts 4:13-21) we hear of the bold Easter witnessing of the apostles. Their boldness is to be attributed to the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit with whom the Christian disciples were anointed. Peter and John face the opposition and resistance of the Jewish authorities with undaunted courage and unyielding resolve to be faithful to Jesus of Nazareth, in whose name the crippled beggar has been healed. The Jewish leaders warn the apostles not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. Peter and John, however, cannot heed their warning: “It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.” The inability of the Sanhedrin to stop the apostolic preaching implies their loss to the apostles of religious leadership over the people.

 

The phenomenon of Easter witnessing continues in today’s world. The following story is an example (cf. Eric Fellman in Daily Guideposts 2010, New York: Guideposts, 2010, p. 108).

 

A high official in the Indian Bureau of Investigation came to talk to me about helping to make the Scriptures available in a region of India where Bibles are often burned. When I asked him why he had come, he handed me a DVD and motioned for me to play it on my computer.

 

The images were shocking: mobs of angry people beating others and burning Bibles in the street and even in some nearby houses. Pointing to one badly bleeding man on the screen, my guest said, “Later that day he died, not cursing, but praying for the forgiveness of his tormentors. If that is what the Bible teaches, we need it.”

 

 

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

 

1. Are we willing to heed the Risen Lord’s missionary mandate: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature”?

 

2. Are we ready to follow the bold stance of the apostles Peter and John in their Easter witnessing?

 

 

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

 

Jesus, our Risen Lord,

you give us the faith that we need to share.

Help us to trust

that the Easter faith is stronger

than the world’s unbelief.

Strengthen us in our Easter witnessing.

Give us the grace we need

to follow your missionary mandate:

“Go into the whole world

and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”

We continue to celebrate joyfully the Easter event

in the vast green field of human history.

We love and adore you,

now and forever.

Amen. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

 

 

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.

 

            “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.” (Mk 16:15)  // “It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20) 

 

 

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

 

By your words and actions share the Good News of Christ rising from the dead, especially to people who are in desperate situations. Pray for those who commit criminal acts out of despair and for the victims.

 

 

*** 

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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