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A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 17, n. 2)

Advent Week 2: December 9-15, 2018

 

 

(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: December 2-8, 2018, please go to ARCHIVES Series 17 and click on “Advent Week 1”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: December 2-8, 2018.)

 

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 December 9, 2018: SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT

 “JESUS SAVIOR: Through Him All Flesh Shall See the Salvation of God”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Bar 5:1-9  // Phil 1:4-6, 8-11 // Lk 3:1-6

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 3:1-6): “All flesh shall see the salvation of God”

 

        It was past midnight. Everything was peaceful and quiet in the departure area of Mumbai airport. After praying the rosary, I whiled the time away by observing the people around me. The Swissair flight crew that had just arrived caught my attention. I was fascinated by the limpid quality of a flight attendant who looked Japanese. After I boarded the plane bound for Manila, that flight attendant came and greeted me in Japanese. She thought I was Japanese. I told her that I am not. She laughed and shifted to English. She shared that she had just been baptized a Christian. There was joy etched in her face as she avowed her Christian faith. I rejoiced with her and thanked the Lord for the gradual realization of the Advent promise: “All flesh shall see the salvation of God”.

            The Gospel reading of this Sunday (Lk 3:1-6) resounds with God’s promise of salvation transmitted to us by the prophet Isaiah when he wrote the Book of Consolation of Israel (cf. Is 40:3-5). The evangelist Luke, in narrating the inaugural ministry of John the Baptist, cited the Isaiah text more amply than Mark and Matthew. The final words of today’s Gospel passage: “All flesh shall see the salvation of God” are not cited by Mark and Matthew in the parallel accounts of John the Baptist’s ministry. Luke’s editing strategy is meant to highlight the promise of universal salvation that is so important to him and his Gentile readers. Indeed, the entire world is included in God’s saving plan.

            The celebration of Advent entails the missionary task and commitment for the coming of God’s kingdom. The liturgical season of Advent, while it reveals the true, profound and mysterious dimension of the Lord’s coming, delineates likewise the missionary commitment of the Church and of every Christian to work for the advent or coming of God’s kingdom. “ADVENIAT REGNUM TUUM” (“Thy kingdom come!”) should be the missionary mantra of every Christian in this Advent season. The Advent celebration is meant to enkindle our apostolic obligation to bring the Good News to those already baptized but had developed a culture that is not compatible with the Gospel, as well as, to those who have not known Christ explicitly.

In the Church’s Advent mission to bring about the coming of God’s kingdom so that “all flesh shall see the salvation of God”, we have an important paradigm or model: John the Baptist. Indeed, together with the Advent figure, John the Baptist, whose ministry is described by Luke as “the voice crying out in the desert: Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight his paths …” (Lk 3:5), let us welcome the Word of God that comes to us like a refreshing dew from above. We must allow the Word of God to convert us, mold us and strengthen us; and then, let us dedicate ourselves to the task of missionary witnessing.  

 

B. Old Testament Reading (Bar 5:1-9): “Jerusalem, God will show your splendor.”

 

The priest who helped me discern my religious vocation is Fr. Alexis, a Franciscan Capuchin missionary from Goa, India. He was assigned in the Sacred Heart Parish in Sta. Mesa, Manila where I grew up. Fr. Alexis wrote the letter of recommendation when I made my application to enter the convent in 1970. Fifteen years later I was sent by Mother General to India where my spiritual director has been reassigned. Fr. Alexis invited me to visit Goa, famed for its beautiful beaches and lush vegetation. From Mumbai, I joined some of his family members on a night-long bus trip. When we entered Goa, the oversea workers traveling with us – many of them returning from the Gulf countries – clapped their hands and broke into a song of joy. After difficult years of life abroad, they were grateful and enthusiastic to be home.

 

The song of the homecoming workers that I heard in Goa helps me appreciate the jubilant poetry in today’s First Reading (Bar 5:1-9). The prophet Baruch consoles God’s chosen people – subjugated by the Babylonians and humiliated in their land of exile - with images of victory, e.g. robes of splendor, miter of glory, royal throne, etc. He likewise comforts them with images of peace, e.g. level paths, fragrant shade trees, divine light, etc. The prophet encourages the feeble hearted and the suffering with visions of glory when Israel is restored to the Promised Land. Baruch thus makes a decisive and radical statement about the glorious destiny of the people of God. He depicts a very optimistic picture of the Advent of God’s chosen people to their ancestral home. Indeed, the oracle of hope and song of salvation in the Book of Baruch evoke the coming of God in the fullness of time in his Son Jesus Christ.

 

 

C. Second Reading (Phil 1:4-6, 8-11): “Show yourselves pure and blameless for the day of Christ.”

 

In the Second Reading (Phil 1:4-6, 8-11), Paul acknowledges with a spirit of thanksgiving and joy the signs of hope that fill the early Christian community in Philippi. He likewise prays that they may have greater love, understanding and insight so that they may be pure and blameless for the Lord’s definitive Advent at the end time. It is absolutely necessary that Christian disciples advance upright and without stumbling toward the “day of Christ” – his final coming.

 

The life of Saint Maximilian Kolbe shows what it means “to be pure and blameless for the day of Christ”. Ted Wojtkowsi, as a young man, was privileged to witness one of the greatest acts of saintly heroism of the twentieth century. His encounter with Father Maximilian Kolbe changed his life and enabled him to be a man of hope (cf. Jay Copp, “Inspired by a Martyr” in Amazing Grace for the Catholic Heart, ed. Jeff Cavins, et. al., West Chester: Ascension Press, 2004, p. 26-29).

 

The year was 1939. In September, German tanks rumbled into Poland. The first village attacked by the Nazis was the home of Wojtkoswki, then a 20-year-old student. A patriot, Wojtkowski went underground. He and his buddies manned a shortwave radio to gather war news from London and then secretly printed leaflets to let villagers know what was occurring. Before long, Wojtkowski hopped on his father’s bicycle and headed toward Hungary. His destination was France, where he hoped to join the Polish army. The Nazis caught him at the border, jailed him, and sent him to Auschwitz on May 1, 1949.

 

Auschwitz was not a killing ground for Jews yet; the Nazis were using it for criminals and for foes of their regime, including priests and activists. Wojtkowski, living with eight-hundred men in a two-story barracks, was put to work building more barracks. The Nazis treated the prisoners brutally. Priests were especially singled-out for punishment – guards kicked them in the face and stomach and clubbed them over the head. When a prisoner escaped, all the others were ordered to stand in the sun for days, hands on their heads. After a second escape, ten prisoners were machine-gunned. The third escape occurred on or about July 28, 1941. One hundred members of Wojtkowski’s barracks were forced to stand in rows of ten. Ten of them would die. Wojtkowski stood in the eighth row. The camp commander ordered each row, one after the other, to step forward. He began a random selection. One, two, three were pulled from a group. Wojtkowski hoped that ten would be singled out before his row was reached.

 

A fourth, fifth, and sixth were picked. The sixth broke down. “My wife, my children …” he sobbed. “Who will take care of them?” A prisoner from the sixth row turned to the commander, “I will take the place of this man with the wife and children”, he said. Most remarkable of all was the volunteer’s demeanor. “His expression was so serene, so peaceful, not a shadow of fear”, Wojtkowski recalls. The commander, however, was not impressed. “You must be some kind of (expletive) priest”, he snarled. But he accepted him as one of the ten. The volunteer and nine others were locked in a bunker. The Nazis would not waste bullets on them. They would be starved to death. The man was indeed a priest, but not just any priest. He was Franciscan Father Maximilian Kolbe. Poles considered Kolbe a saint. His personal assistant Jerome Wierziba, once said of him: “He had something good in his face that emanated God. Just looking at him gave you peace of mind.”

 

Kolbe published religious magazines and newspapers read by more than one million Poles. He was widely admired, running the largest Catholic religious house in the world. Intensely devoted to the Blessed Mother, Kolbe supervised six-hundred-fifty friars at his City of the Immaculata, an evangelization center near Warsaw. The Nazis naturally regarded Kolbe with suspicion after they invaded Poland. When he resisted pressure to apply for German citizenship for which he was eligible, he was arrested on February 17, 1941.

 

When the guards were out of earshot, the prisoners shared information with one another about the fate of the ten in the bunker. Kolbe was leading the doomed in prayers and hymns, and a piece of bread had been smuggled in to be used in a Mass. After three weeks, Kolbe was the last to die. The Nazis, impatient to use the bunker to punish others, had a doctor inject poison into Kolbe to finish him off.

 

The more Wojtkowski thought about Kolbe’s self-sacrifice, the more astounded he was. Francis Gajowniczek, whom Kolbe had saved, was a peasant farmer. Kolbe, forty-seven, was one of the most accomplished men in Poland, a priest with many plans. Already he had begun a missionary center in Japan and was determined to open an evangelization center in each continent. And Kolbe, who possessed great drive and ambition, had given up all his dreams in a moment. He truly was a man of God, Wojtkowski realized. Kolbe saved not only Gajowniczek, but also Wojtkowski. Years of deprivation awaited Wojtkowski. There would be backbreaking labor and physical abuse. But Wojtkowski never lost his will to survive. “Father Kolbe inspired me”, he says. “After his sacrifice, I never thought I would die at Auschwitz. Someday I would be liberated and tell what happened.”

 

 

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

 

In our Advent preparation, do we heed the call of the voice of one crying in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight his paths”? Do we remove what impedes grace? Do we prepare the way of grace? Are we a Church “in mission”? Are we a “voice that cries out” so as to proclaim Christ to the world? How do we contribute to the realization of the Advent invocation: “ADVENIAT REGNUM TUUM”? Do we yearn for the fulfillment of the prophetic vision: “All flesh shall see the salvation of God”? In this Advent season, do we strive to imitate John the Baptist as a model of messianic expectation and of a person in mission? 

 

 

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

           

Father,
we give you thanks through Christ our Lord.
His future coming was proclaimed by all the prophets.
The virgin mother bore him in her womb
with love beyond all telling.
John the Baptist was his herald
and made him known when at last he came.
Christ has filled us with joy
as we prepare to celebrate his birth.
When he comes may he find us watching in prayer,
our hearts filled with wonder and praise.
Heavenly Father,
assist us as we promote the advent of your kingdom
and grant that with your grace at work in us,
we may attain to that prophetic vision:
“All flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
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.

 

“All flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (Lk 3:6)   

 

 

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

 

Close your eyes and slowly enumerate the five continents of the earth: Asia, Africa, America, Europe and Oceania. As you mention each continent, picture in your mind the peoples of that continent and pray: “ADVENIAT REGNUM TUUM” … “Thy kingdom come!” By sharing your spiritual and material resources, promote the mission of the Church “ad intra” and “ad extra”.

 

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December 10, 2018: MONDAY – ADVENT WEEKDAY (2)

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Does Incredible Things”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 35:1-10 // Lk 5:17-26

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 5:17-26): “We have seen incredible things today.”

 

The Gospel reading (Lk 5:17-26) presents Jesus as healer of soul and body. The Lord’s advent brings something beautiful and yearned for: complete healing. Today’s episode depicts a packed house, with all kinds of people eager to hear what Jesus will say. An extremely enterprising group of friends bring in through the roof of the house a paralytic on a stretcher. Their faith in the healing Lord and their compassionate concern for their friend evoke Jesus’ statement of forgiveness. Instead of carrying out physical healing, Jesus forgives the sins of the paralyzed man. The scribes and Pharisees are stunned and remark with indignation: “Who is this who speak blasphemies? Who but alone God alone can forgive sins?” Jesus uses the occasion to prove that he – the Son of Man – has divine authority to forgive sins by effecting physical healing. Indeed, the power of the Lord is with him for healing. Jesus awes the people with “incredible things”: forgiveness of sins and physical healing. The healed and forgiven paralytic goes home liberated from both spiritual and physical maladies, glorifying God. The people who have witnessed the “incredible things” likewise give glory to God. Indeed, in Jesus we experience the advent of a healing that is total and integral, not partial and superficial.

 

The following story about a top-rate ER nurse whose son was killed in an accident gives insight into what true healing entails (cf. Robert Leslie, MD, “Miracles in the ER” in Guideposts, May 2015, p. 54-55). The seventeen-year-old drunk driver named Bobby Green provoked the senseless accident.

 

Charlotte was devastated. For the next year she couldn’t seem to recover from her anger at the young drunk driver. We had to assign her to the minor trauma department, treating patients with sprained ankles, small cuts, respiratory infections and the like. It saddened me to see her struggling, unable to do the work that was her true calling. I was a doctor, but I had no idea how to help her heal.

 

One day I was in minor trauma, stitching the finger of a teenage boy, making small talk as the final suture was being knotted. He had been sharpening a lawnmower and the blade had slipped.

 

“So what are your plans after you graduate?” I asked. But he didn’t respond. He was staring at someone behind me. I turned to see Charlotte. My eyes went to the chart beside the patient. Bobby Green. How had I not remembered that name? I kept tying knots in that last suture, desperately trying to think of what to do, what to say.

 

“Mrs. Turner …” Bobby’s voice broke. “I want you to know that …” Charlotte stepped around me. She looked Bobby in the eye, They stayed like that for a long moment, motionless, until finally she reached out and put a hand on his shoulder. “It’s okay”, she said softly. “It’s okay, Bobby.”

 

He put his hand on hers. His body shook with sobs. It was done. With those few, simple words she had forgiven him, released him. And she had released herself. A most incredible healing.

 

 

B. First Reading (Is 35:1-10): “God himself will come and save you.”

 

I was assigned at our convent in San Jose (CA-USA) from 2009-2012. One beautiful memory that I cherish is the volunteer work at the San Jose Rose Garden, judged in 2010 as the “Nation’s Best”. My friends, Sou and Nancy, and I would go there on Thursdays to deadhead the roses and pull out the weeds. Every time I enter the 5.5 acre garden, ablaze with color and beauty from 4000 roses, I feel an incredible sense of peace and well-being. The words of prophet Isaiah come into my mind: “They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song.” The rescue of the once disheveled garden by the Friends of San Jose Rose Garden, co-founded in 2007 by Terry Reilly, and its transformation into the “Nation’s Best Rose Garden”, are a modern day feat that gives us a glimpse into God’s marvelous works in the messianic age. Moreover, with the rose considered as the most “perfect” of all flowers, we are able to behold “the glory of the Lord” and contemplate more deeply Jesus as the “Rose of Sharon” and the “Rose of Judah”.

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Is 35:1-10) is one of the most consoling passages in the Scriptures. Its message of hope and liberation is achieved by the evocative images of blooming flowers, water springing forth in the desert, the healing of the blind, the deaf, the mute and the lame, etc. God will bring about a new “exodus” in favor of his enslaved people. The divine saving intervention will cause the barren desert to bloom and broken people to exult for joy. Moreover, God will open a “holy way” in which the redeemed and ransomed will walk.

 

The “glory of the Lord” and the “splendor of our God” depicted in Isaiah’s prophecy underline the “incredible things” that the power of God effects through Jesus: healing the disabled, forgiveness of sins and fullness of life. The advent of the Messiah and the total liberation he brings call for rejoicing. The marvelous works of Jesus Christ invite us to journey in the “holy way” of the ransomed and the redeemed. Indeed, for the Church, the new people of God, Advent is a season of hope and rejoicing.

 

 

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

 

How do the Advent images of abundant flowers, water gushing in the desert, healing of the infirm, etc. move us? How do the “incredible things” that Jesus accomplishes affect us?

 

 

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

 

God our Father,

we thank you for the water gushing in the desert,

for the abundant flowers and their beauty,

for the healing of the blind, the deaf, the mute and the lame

and for your wonderful works in Jesus Savior.

Let your divine visitation transform us

and help us to journey on the “holy way”

of the ransomed and the redeemed.

We give you glory and praise

for your marvelous deeds,

now and forever.

Amen.   

 

 

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

 

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

 

“We have seen incredible things today.” (Lk 5:26) // “They will bloom with abundant flowers and rejoice with joyful song.” (Is 35:1)

 

 

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

 

By your compassionate acts for the poor, the hungry, the enslaved, etc., let them experience the message of comfort and hope that the prophet Isaiah and Jesus Christ bring to a broken world.

 

 

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December 11, 2018: TUESDAY – ADVENT WEEKDAY (2); SAINT DAMASUS I, Pope

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Way”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 40:1-11 // Mt 18:12-14

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 18:12-14): “God does not will that the little ones be lost.”

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Mt 18:12-14) underlines God’s compassionate stance to the “little ones” who go astray and “lose the way”. Through his Son Jesus Christ, the loving God is totally committed to the rescue of his people. Like a shepherd who searches out those sheep that stray, God wants that none of the “little ones” would be eternally damned or perennially perish. Today the responsibility of seeking the lost devolves on Christian disciples, the followers of “the Way”.

 

The following inspiring story narrated by Donald Driver, fourteen NFL seasons and a winner of “Dancing with the Stars”, illustrates the concern of one who cares for the “lost sheep” (cf. “Meeting Miss Johnson” in Guideposts, November 2013, p. 52-55).

 

It was a shiny little Cadillac with leather seats. The kind the guys at the chop shop paid 500 bucks for. The streets of Houston’s Fifth Ward were empty. I wrapped my fist in a T-shirt and punched through the back window. In a flash I was in. I pulled out my screwdriver, jimmied the steering wheel and popped the ignition, just like my older brother had taught me. The engine roared to life. Then I heard sirens. I pushed the pedal to the floor. Red and blue lights flashed in my rear-view mirror. I’ve got to get off this road, I thought, or I’m going to juvie for sure. I was 12 years old. (…)

 

Trouble really started when we moved to a man named J.R. Mom trusted him to watch us while she was at work, and he did. What Mom didn’t know was that J.R. and his buddies were dealing drugs. My older brother Moses and I served as look-outs. We knew it was wrong, but the money was too good - $100 a night. We broke it into smaller bills, and regularly slipped some into Mom’s purse. “Shoot, well, I guess I do have money for the light bill”, Mom would say, finding an extra twenty in her wallet. The way I saw it, we were helping the family.

 

Then Moses discovered he could bring in even more cash by stealing cars. I was just tall enough to reach the pedals. Before long, I got good at playing two different characters. Quickie the son who went to school and get good grades, and then Quickie the kid who dealt drugs and stole cars. I practiced giving the same smile, hug and kiss for my mom when I came home, no matter what I’d done on the streets. She never suspected a thing.

 

Now, though, I was about to get caught. The sirens got closer. I turned into a back alley, my best chance to lose the cops. I was almost free. Suddenly, up ahead, a car backed out of a driveway. I slammed on the brakes. Too late. The Caddy T-boned the other car. Through the shattered windshield, I saw a little old lady sitting stunned in the driver’s seat. I jumped out. Thoughts flashed through my brain. Gotta get away! I had a head start on the cops, but … What if she’s hurt? You can’t just run away. I stopped. I turned back to see if the old lady was okay. I hadn’t forgotten everything I learned in Sunday school.

 

The woman looked angry, but unhurt. “Go sit on my porch right now”, she said. It was the tone of voice no kid could disobey. I walked over to her ranch-style house and sat in her porch swing. The cops arrived and began to question the old woman. She’s going to turn me in! I thought. “The man who did this ran that way”, she said, pointing down the alley. “Who is that on your swing?” one of the officers asked. “Oh, that’s my grandson”, she said. The cops gave me a wary look, but got back to their patrol car and drove off. The woman marched toward me, “You!” she shouted. “Come inside!”

 

She led me into the kitchen. “Sit”, she said. I sat, dazed. Why hadn’t she turned me in? She pushed some cookies in front of me. I took a bite but my stomach was doing flip-flops. She sat down and looked me square in the eye. “Why did you do this, young man?” she finally asked. “You could be doing so much more with your life. This is not the way God wants you to be living.” “This is how we survive in this neighborhood”, I said.

 

“It’s not how you get out of it”, she said, and pushed the cookies closer. “My name’s Evelyn Johnson.” She lived alone, she told me. She’d never married, never had kids. But she gave me the talking of my life, like I was her own kin. I didn’t listen to her every word – I kept eyeing that door, wanting to run. But I stayed. She could always call the cops, after all. “You’ve been given an opportunity”, she said. “Don’t waste it. There aren’t any second chances in this neighborhood and don’t kid yourself.”

 

I went back to Miss Johnson’s a few days later, trying to make amends for damaging her car. I picked up groceries, helped around the house. I went again the next week, and I kept going back. “How are your grades?” she’d ask. “Did you win the game?” Why does she want to know? I wondered. But I liked that she cared. Sure, my mom cared, a lot, but she worked so much. Miss Johnson always had the time.

 

At 14, I went to live with my grandparents. I spent more time studying. Miss Johnson had told me good grades were the key to a better life. Football, basketball, baseball and track kept me busy too. I want to change, I prayed. I want to make Miss Johnson and my family proud. One night, I said to Moses, “I’m going to go to college, like Grandpa always tells us. I’m going to make something of myself.” (…)

 

I’m convinced God put Miss Johnson in my path for a reason. I turned down the alley to evade responsibility. Little did I know I’d find a way to a better life than I could ever have imagined.

 

 

B. First Reading (Is 40:1-11): “God consoles his people.”

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Is 40:1-11) is a beautiful prophetic message of hope and consolation. It is taken from a section of the book of Isaiah (chapters 40-55), called the Second Isaiah or Deutero-Isaiah. Also known as the Book of Consolation, it was written by an unknown author approximately 150 years after the first 39 chapters, which carry the message of the historical prophet Isaiah himself. The Book of Consolation was composed when the Exile in Babylon was about to end and the people of Israel would be allowed, by King Darius of Persia, to return to their beloved Jerusalem. To capture the joy and excitement of the moment, the Second Isaiah writer tried to rekindle the vision and to relive the ecstatic experience of the first Exodus.

 

The author of the Book of Consolation has introduced us to one of the richest expressions of the Bible: “the way of the Lord” (Is 40:3). The “way” is a manner of life for the people of Israel. The prophetic ministry of John the Baptist is to announce “the way of the Lord”. Jesus declares himself to be “the Way”, and Christian disciples are therefore those who follow “the Way”. “To prepare the way of the Lord” entails total conversion and utmost receptivity to the redeeming presence of the compassionate God. It involves an intimate and loving relationship with him that would lead us to act with justice, goodness and love. Indeed, anyone who is willing to respond totally and devotedly to the prophetic cry, “Prepare the way of the Lord”, will experience a display of divine glory and feel the advent of the consoling God, who is both a powerful ruler and a gentle shepherd, gathering the lambs and holding them closely to himself.

 

The following article, “Five Important Lessons in Life”, circulated through the Internet, gives an idea on how to follow “the way of the Lord” and promote the advent of the kingdom of God.

 

First Important Lesson: “Cleaning Lady”

During my second month of college, our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions until I read the last one: "What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?" Surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark-haired and in her 50's, but how would I know her name? I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade. "Absolutely", said the professor. "In your careers, you will meet many people.  All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say "hello." I've never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.

Second Important Lesson: “Pickup in the Rain”

One night, at 11:30 p.m., an older African-American woman was standing on the side of an Alabama highway trying to endure a lashing rainstorm. Her car had broken down and she desperately needed a ride. Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car. A young white man stopped to help her, generally unheard of in those conflict-filled 1960's. The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance and put her into a taxicab. She seemed to be in a big hurry, but wrote down his address and thanked him. Seven days went by and a knock came on the man's door. To his surprise, a giant console color TV was delivered to his home. A special note was attached. It read: "Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night. The rain drenched not only my clothes, but also my spirits.  Then you came along. Because of you, I was able to make it to my dying husband's' bedside just before he passed away... God bless you for helping me and unselfishly serving others.

Sincerely,

Mrs. Nat King Cole

 

Third Important Lesson: “Always Remember Those Who Serve”

In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10-year-old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him. "How much is an ice cream sundae?" he asked. "Fifty cents," replied the waitress. The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied the coins in it. "Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?" he inquired. By now more people were waiting for a table and the waitress was growing impatient. "Thirty-five cents," she brusquely replied. The little boy again counted his coins. "I'll have the plain ice cream," he said. The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table and walked away. The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and left. When the waitress came back, she began to cry as she wiped down the table. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish were two nickels and five pennies. You see, he couldn't have the sundae, because he had to have enough left to leave her a tip.

 

Fourth Important Lesson: “The Obstacle in Our Path”

In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock.  Some of the King's wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way. Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road.  After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the King indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many of us never understand! Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.

 

Fifth Important Lesson: “Giving When It Counts”

Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at a hospital, I got to know a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare & serious disease.  Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness.  The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, "Yes I'll do it if it will save her."  As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheek. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, "Will I start to die right away".  Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood to save her. 

  

 

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

 

How does the prophecy of Isaiah impact us? How do we respond to words of hope spoken on our behalf? Do we allow Jesus, the Good Shepherd, to lead us on the way that leads to life? 

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

may nothing hinder us from receiving Christ with joy

for he is our true and living Way.

Open our hearts

that we may prepare a welcoming path for him.

May we allow ourselves to be led by him

in the ways of eternal life

for he is the Good Shepherd who feeds his flock

and tenderly gathers the lambs and carries them in his bosom.

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.

 

“It is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.” (Mt 18:14) //“He leads them with care.” (Is 40:11)

 

 

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

 

Pray that in this Advent season we may truly open ourselves to the compassionate Good Shepherd who comes to save us. Endeavor to prepare “the way of the Lord” by carrying out concrete works of charity for the needy in your community. Fasting in this season of Advent in view of helping the poor is highly recommended.  

 

 

*** *** ***

 

December 12, 2018: WEDNESDAY – OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE (USA)

 “JESUS SAVIOR: The Woman Clothed with the Sun Foretells His Final Advent”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Zec 2:14-17 or Rv 11:19a; 12:1-61, 10ab // Lk 1:26-38 or Lk 1:39-47

 

 

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

 

Today’s First Reading from the Book of Revelation (11:19a; 12:1-61, 10ab) depicts a “great sign in the sky” – a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth. The image of a woman in childbirth is used to describe creative acts that involve time and sacrifice in order to be brought to full maturity. The heavenly vision of the woman in labor in the Book of Revelation evokes the painful and challenging process of the birth of Christ in the hearts of the faithful, as well as Mary’s vital role in the birthing of the Church. Moreover, the vision of “the woman clothed with the sun” foretells the final and victorious conflict and the glorious Advent of Jesus Savior at the end time.

 

The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 7, remark: “Because of her role in relationship to her Son, the faithful, and the community, Mary is the image of the Church that is still giving faithful birth to believers, and which is already in glory in heaven with God … The joy of the Virgin of Bethlehem is inseparable from the pain of the mother who watched her Son die on the cross at Calvary. She followed a path that led to the paschal climax quite similar to that of her Son.”

 

Today in the countries of the Americas, we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe which recalls the apparitions of Mary at the hill of Tepeyac from December 9-12, 1531, to Juan Diego, a native convert. The image of an expectant mother, “clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” was miraculously impressed in the cloak of Juan Diego. The following account is from a report by Don Antonio Valeriano, a Native American author of the 16th Century.

 

At daybreak one Saturday morning in 1531, on the very first days of the month of December, an Indian named Juan Diego was going from the village where he lived to Tlatelolco in order to take part in divine worship and listen to God’s commandments. When he came near the hill Tepeyac, dawn had already come, and Juan Diego heard someone calling him from the very top of the hill: “Juanito, Juan Dieguito”.

 

He went up the hill and caught sight of a lady of unearthly grandeur whose clothing was as radiant as the sun. She said to him in words both gentle and courteous: “Juanito, the humblest of my children, know and understand that I am the ever virgin Mary, Mother of the true God through whom all things live. It is my ardent desire that a church be erected here so that in it I can show and bestow my love, compassion, help, and protection to all who inhabit this land and to those others who love me, that they might call upon and confide in me. Go to the Bishop of Mexico to make known to him what I greatly desire. Go and put all your efforts into this.”

 

When Juan Diego arrived in the presence of the Bishop Fray Juan de Zumarraga, a Franciscan, the latter did not seem to believe Juan Diego and answered: “Come another time, and I will listen at leisure.”

 

Juan Diego returned to the hilltop where the Heavenly Lady was waiting and he said to her: “My Lady, my maiden, I presented your message to the Bishop, but it seemed that he did not think it was true. For this reason I beg you to entrust your message to someone more illustrious who might convey it in order that they might believe it, for I am only an insignificant man.”

 

She answered: “Humblest of my sons, I ask that tomorrow you again go to see the Bishop and tell him that I, the ever virgin holy Mary, Mother of God, am the one who personally sent you.”

 

But on the following day, Sunday, the Bishop again did not believe Juan Diego and told him that some sign was necessary so that he could believe that it was the Heavenly Lady herself who sent him. And then he dismissed Juan Diego.

 

On Monday Juan Diego did not return. His uncle, Juan Bernardino, became very ill, and at night asked Juan to go to Tlatelolco at daybreak to call a priest to hear his confession.

 

Juan Diego set out on Tuesday, but he went around the hill and passed on the other side, toward the east, so as to arrive quickly in Mexico City to avoid being detained by the Heavenly Lady. But she came out to meet him on that side of the hill and said to him: “Listen and understand, my humblest son. There is nothing to frighten and distress you. Do not let your heart be troubled, and let nothing upset you. Is it not I, your Mother, who is here? Are you not under my protection? Are you not, fortunately, in my care? Do not let you uncle’s illness distress you. It is certain that he has already been cured. Go up to the hilltop, my son, where you will find flowers of various kinds. Cut them, and bring them into my presence.”

 

When Juan Diego reached the peak, he was astonished that so many Castilian roses had burst forth at a time when the frost was severe. He carried the roses in the folds of his tilma (mantle) to the Heavenly Lady. She said to him: “My son, this is the proof and the sign which you will bring to the Bishop so that he will see my will in it. You are my ambassador, very worthy of trust.”

 

Juan Diego set out on his way, now content and sure of succeeding. On arriving in the Bishop’s presence, he told him: “My lord, I did what you asked. The Heavenly Lady complied with your request and fulfilled it. She sent me to the hilltop to cut some Castilian roses and told me to bring them to you in person. And this I am doing, so that you can see in them the sign you seek in order to carry out her will. Here they are; receive them.”

 

He immediately opened up his white mantle, and as all the different Castilian roses scattered to the ground, there was drawn on the cloak and suddenly appeared the precious image of the ever Virgin Mary, Mother of God, in the same manner as it is today and is kept in her shrine of Tepeyac.

 

The whole city was stirred and came to see and admire her venerable image and to offer prayers to her; and following the command which the same Heavenly Lady gave to Juan Bernardino when she restored him to health, they called her by the name she herself had used: “the ever virgin holy Mary of Guadalupe”.

 

 

 

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

 

How does the sign of “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet and wearing a crown of twelve stars” affect you?  What message can you glean from the image of a woman in labor to give birth to a child? What Marian image do you find most significant? 

 

 

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

(Pope John Paul II’s Prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe)

 

O Immaculate Virgin, Mother of the true God and Mother of the Church!

You, who from this place revealed your clemency and your pity

to all those who ask for your protection:

hear the prayer that we address to you with filial trust,

and present it to your Son Jesus, our sole Redeemer.

Mother of Mercy, Teacher of hidden and silent sacrifice,

to you, who come to meet us sinners,

we dedicate on this day, all our being and all our love.

We also dedicate to you

our life, our work, our joys, our infirmities, and our sorrows.

Grant peace, justice and prosperity to our peoples;

for we entrust to your care all that we have and all that we are,

our Lady and Mother.

We wish to be entirely yours

and to walk with you along the way

of complete faithfulness to Jesus Christ in His Church:

hold us always with your loving hand.

Virgin of Guadalupe, Mother of the Americas,

we pray to you for all the bishops,

that they may lead the faithful

along paths of intense Christian life,

of love and humble service of God and souls.

Contemplate this immense harvest,

and intercede with the Lord

that He may instill a hunger for holiness in the whole People of God,

and grant abundant vocations of priests and religious,

strong in faith and zealous dispensers of God’s mysteries.

Grant to our homes

the grace of loving and respecting life in its beginnings,

with the same love with which you conceived in your womb

the life of the Son of God.

Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Fair Love,

protect our families, so that they may always be united,

and bless the upbringing of our children.

Our hope, look upon us with compassion,

teach us to go continually to Jesus

and, if we fall, help us to rise again, to return to Him,

by means of the confession of our faults and sins

in the Sacrament of Penance, which gives peace to the soul.

We beg you to grant us a great love for all the holy Sacraments,

which are, as it were, the signs that your Son left on earth.

Thus, Most Holy Mother,

with the peace of God in our conscience,

with our hearts free from evil and hatred,

we will be able to bring to all true joy and true peace,

which comes to us from your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,

who with God the Father and the Holy Spirit,

lives and reigns 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.

 

 

“A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” (Rv 12:1)

 

 

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

 

By our acts of charity and sacrifice for the poor and vulnerable, let us participate with Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, in the ongoing mystery of the “birthing of the Church”.  

 

 

*** *** ***

 

December 13, 2018: THURSDAY – SAINT LUCY, Virgin, Martyr

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is Our Redeemer”

 

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 41:13-20 // Mt 11:11-15

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 11:11-15): “None greater than John the Baptist has been born.”

 

In the reading (Mt 11:11-15) Jesus describes the identity of John the Baptist and his place in salvation history. John the Baptist is the fulfillment of the Malachi 4:5 prophecy that God would send Elijah from heaven before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. Indeed, John the Baptist is “the one who is to come”. He is the returning Elijah who prepares the way of the Lord – the way into the promised kingdom. John is the last and the greatest of the prophets – “among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist”. But for all his greatness, his prophetic ministry is merely a preparatory phase for the messianic work of Jesus Christ who inaugurates in a radically new era of salvation history. John the Baptist has lived fully his mission as the Messiah’s precursor as to suffer violence and martyrdom for the messianic kingdom. The same violence suffered by John for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven now builds up against Jesus himself. Only those who have “the ears of faith” understand the words of Jesus about John the Baptist and the messianic kingdom.

 

The prophetic mission of John the Baptist lives on in the heart of the Church. The Christian disciples of today are called to bring about the advent of God’s kingdom. The following gives insight into how  to prepare the way of the Lord (cf. Katherine Scott, “The Value of a Smile” in Shalom Tidings, August/September 2014, p. 35).

 

Now that I have been back in Canada for a while, I have had some time to reflect on my time in India. I have one lesson I learned that I want to share with you – it is the value of a smile.

 

I arrived in Kolkota and quickly felt inadequate in being able to communicate with people since I knew no Hindi or Bengali and many of the Indian people did not speak English. I was overwhelmed with the challenge of trying to love the people I was serving without using my usual way of portraying love with words. So I smiled, laughed, and did small actions such as trimming and painting nails, massaging and feeding meals. (…)

 

I began to get to know the women at Prem Dan better as time went on and learned more individual ways of showing them love – knowing who liked to be tickled, have a ride on the merry-go-round, or have her hair braided of who liked to have a certain spoon for eating or who liked bouncier songs. I loved being able to discover these little ways of bringing joy to the women’s lives. Ultimately, seeing them joyful ended up bringing me more joy to my days. (…)

 

Through this experience God taught me my smile is a gift that opens the gateway from which greater love will pour. Smiling intentionally with love at another can change a life in an instant and let him or her know he or she is loved. The language of love conquers all verbal language barriers and is the greatest language of all.

 

 

B. First Reading (Is 41:13-20): “I am your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.”

 

Today’s Isaiah text (41:13-20) presents the Lord God as grasping his people Israel with his “right hand”. Israel is the Lord God’s chosen Servant no matter how despised the people were. In their Exile in Babylon, they were considered as despicable as a worm or maggot, but the Lord God assures them: “Fear not, I will help you.” The Lord God is their Redeemer who binds himself to them with a bond of tenderness and obligation. The Lord God’s plan of salvation for the afflicted and the needy is expressed in images of exquisite beauty: the barren desert gushing with water, the growth of cedar, acacia, olive, and pine trees in the wasteland. God’s intervention on behalf of the exiles is a “new creation” that all may see and know … that all may observe and understand. Against this backdrop, we see the figure of John the Baptist as an instrument of salvation, and Jesus Christ as the personification of God’s redeeming hand for us all.

 

The following story, “Daddy’s Hand”, circulated on the Internet, gives insight into the saving character of “the hand of the Lord”.

 

When I was six years old we lived in Oklahoma City in a neighborhood where we always kept the doors locked and bolted at night. To get out the backdoor, Daddy had a special key that opened the dead bolt from the inside.

 

One night I was awakened suddenly by the sound of thunder, lightning and a torrential downpour. I rushed down the hall toward my parents’ room, but was stopped by billowing smoke and flames coming from the living room. Our house had been struck by lightning. I had to get out, but how? I couldn’t reach the front door because of the flames, and the backdoor was locked.

 

On the verge of panic, I was relieved when in the darkness I felt Daddy’s warm hand leading me down the hall and out of the backdoor to our backyard. As I stood in the pouring rain, his hand let me go of mine and he was gone. Frightened, I turned back to the house. There was Mom calling my name, “Macy! Macy!” “Out here”, I said. She ran out to me, and together we went around to the front, where we found Daddy with Kent, the baby, and my three-year-old sister, Amy.

 

“You’re safe, Macy”, he said, sighing with relief. Daddy told me that he had tried to get to me, but couldn’t cross the flames. He had not guided me down the hall. He had not unlocked the dead bolt on the backdoor.

 

That was twelve years ago, and all these years I’ve never forgotten the warmth of the Hand that led me then, and leads me now, through the dark.

 

 

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

 

Do we give witness to truth and prepare the way of the Lord in imitation of the precursor John the Baptist? Do I trust in the help of our redeeming God and welcome his exhortation: “Fear not, I will help you”? Do I allow myself to be led by “the hand of the Lord”?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

you bind us with a bond of tenderness.

You assure us: “Fear not, I will help you.”

We entrust ourselves to you.

Lead us and guide us.

Let your saving hand bring forth

the miracle of a barren desert gushing with water

and filled with flourishing trees.

We thank and praise you for Jesus,

the personification of your redeeming hand.

We thank you for John the Baptist,

the precursor of the Messiah.

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.

 

John the Baptist is Elijah, the one who is to come.” (Mt 11:14) // “I am the Lord, your God, who grasp your right hand.” (Is 41:13) 

 

 

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

 

By your word and deed, prepare the way of the Lord in imitation of John the Baptist. // Study the Catechism of the Catholic Church and enable the people around you to appreciate the meaning of our Catholic faith. Be instruments of “the hand of the Lord” in leading people to the light of truth.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

December 14, 2018: FRIDAY – SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS, Priest, Doctor of the Church

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us the Way to Go”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 48:17-19 // Mt 11:16-19

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 11:16-19): “They listened to neither John nor the Son of Man.”

Jesus Master exhorts the people to listen to his words and follow his commands that they may have life and prosperity. However, they disappointingly refuse to listen to him and the Good News of God’s kingdom. They are indecisive and reluctant to receive the message of neither Jesus nor John the Baptist. Like capricious children in the market place who call for dances to their flute playing and weeping to their funeral songs, the Jews demand that Jesus and John the Baptist square up to their standard. They demand conformity to their false stereotypes. John the Baptist suffers death because his message is piercing and unsettling. The advent of Jesus as the suffering Servant-Messiah is rejected because his means of salvation is through the way of the cross.

 

Like the contemporaries of the prophet Isaiah and of Jesus and John the Baptist, we too are called to listen to the life-giving word of God and follow the path that leads to life. We should not vacillate. And especially this Advent season, we should allow the word of God to invigorate us. Indeed, the advent of our Lord Jesus Christ invites us to make a radical choice for him

 

The conversion of Megan Hodder is an example of a modern day response to Jesus Christ who invites us to make a core decision for him (cf. “Walking on Water ‘an Entirely Sensible Thing to Do’” in Alive! November 2013, p. 5).

 

Megan Hodder was brought up as atheist, but earlier this year was baptized into the Catholic Church. Megan is one of a growing band of educated young adults who are questioning the whole reason for their existence and finding answers in the Church. As a teenager she avidly read Dawkins & Co, and found their ideas close to her own. Besides, what reasonable alternative was there for atheism?

 

Then she decided she need to be better informed, to research “the ideas of the most egregious enemies of reason, such as Catholics, to properly defend my world view.” She first read Pope Benedict’s Regensburg address, expecting it to be illogical and bigoted attempt to reconcile faith and reason. This led her to Benedict’s short book On Conscience. “It was a far more subtle, humane and credible perception of faith than I had expected”, said 29-year-old Megan.

 

“It didn’t lead to any dramatic, spiritual epiphany, but it did spur me to look further into Catholicism, and to re-examine some of the problems I had with atheism with a more critical eye.”  She began with morality. Secularist attempts to defend morality, she soon realized, just did not add up. (…) She was infuriated to discover how coherent Catholic teaching was: “once you accept the basic conceptual structure, things fall into place with terrifying speed.” This was true even in matters of sexuality, once a person grasped the “beauty and authenticity” of Catholic doctrine. Seen in context, sexual ethics were not just a series of prohibitions, but “essential components in the intricate body of the Church’s teaching.” (…)

 

One problem remained for Megan, she was not familiar with Catholicism as a lived faith, and reluctant to step into this wholly alien experience. At this point a passage from George Weigel’s Letters to a Young Catholic struck her forcibly. “In the Catholic view of things, walking on water is an entirely sensible thing to do. It’s staying in the boat, hanging on tightly to our own sad little securities, that’s rather mad”, wrote Weigel. This and friendships with practicing Catholics finally convinced her to take a decisive step, to leave the boat and walk towards Christ.

   

 

B. First Reading (Is 48:17-19): “If only you would hearken to my commandments.”

 

In the reading (Is 48:17-19), the prophet Isaiah depicts the Lord God as Israel’s teacher who teaches what is good for them and leads them on the way they should go. He promises that blessings would flow upon them unceasingly, that victory would come upon them like waves that roll on the shore, that their descendants would be numerous as grains of sand and that they would be safely secure in the Lord forever. But all this is conditional: if they would hearken to the Lord’s commands and follow his ways.

 

The following testimony is very touching and inspiring (cf. Jake Stanwood [pseudonym] in Shalom Tidings, August/September 2014, p. 15).

 

“We love you no matter what sexual orientation you choose to live out.” These are the words of a father to me, his fifteen-year-old son, ten years ago. Umm … awkward? Until that point my dad never talked to me about sex and the topic was never again mentioned. I remember every little detail about the conversation: the sweaty palms, cold freezing office space, and the awkwardness created by the long wooden desk separating us from talking like normal people. How did I respond? I said nothing. Absolutely nothing. I stared at him with a blank face and ran back into my room crying and thinking about how I ever got into this mess.

 

“Great, even my parents think I’m gay.” “That person at school thinks I’m gay too, maybe it’s because of the way I talk.” “Wait, maybe I should change the way I talk? That will make me look manlier.” “Crap, that person is totally staring me and thinks I’m gay.” These are just a few of the crazy thoughts that constantly ruminated in my head. Talk about feeing paranoid. It always felt as if I was split in between two worlds. One side was telling me, “Just come out of the closet, hook up with someone, embrace the fact that you’re gay!” The other (far less appealing) side said, “If anyone ever finds out, you’re dead! Don’t ever talk about this to anyone.”

 

Praise God, He created a Church that has given me a third option, one that does not seem like it is going to drown me in lust or turn me into a stoic who is being internally destroyed by his desires. I have chosen chastity – the path toward authentic love and sexual self-control.

 

Is this easy? NO. (…)

 

I have chosen to never engage in a sexual relationship with another guy and remain celibate, despite the fact that there are times I feel the ache of this desire. This may seem like a total fail in the eyes of the world, but am I really missing out on much? Chastity gives me so much more. It gives me the ability to live out healthy and loving relationships with both men and women. It is giving me the opportunity to bring healing to areas of my masculinity that have been gravely wounded. It respects me for who I am, allows me to appreciate beauty and recognize the dignity in every person. This has involved a lot of wrestling with God. Many people think wrestling with God is a bad thing. FALSE. You can only wrestle with someone who is close to you, so in a way wrestling with these attractions has drawn me closer to God. It is a cross, but with every cross the Lord is always right beside us.

 

Yes, I realize that I will not always get what I want. I cannot tell you about the hundreds of days I felt I just wanted someone to hold me and be intimate with. Sometimes I look at happy couples and wonder if I am missing out. But, I understand that fulfillment goes much deeper than wanting someone around. I find fulfillment by being in relationship with God who created me to be fulfilled by Him and in community. (…)

 

I am incredibly fortunate! I have many friends in the Church who know about my struggle and are there to support and encourage me along the way. I have a choir of saints and angels who are constantly interceding for me, a mother in heaven that deeply loves me and a God who bears His very self in the Eucharist each and every day. If you ask me … I have hit the jackpot.

 

 

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

 

In this Advent season, do I make an effort to listen and put into practice the commands of the Lord and walk in his way? Do I fully respond with radical commitment to the Advent of Jesus in our life?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

many times we are feckless and full of caprices.

We fail to focus on you

and commit ourselves to you.

Give us a new perspective in life

and the eagerness to work for the advent of your kingdom.

Maranatha! Come, O Christ the Lord!

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“He is a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” (Mt 11:19) // “I, the Lord, your God, teach you what is for your good.” (Is 48:17)

 

 

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

 

Pray for a grace-filled vision of life. Today, consider the people and events around you. Be thankful for the “gifts” you have received through them. In moments of difficulties, renew your fundamental option for Jesus Christ.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

December 15, 2018: SATURDAY – ADVENT WEEKDAY (2)

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Advent Is Prepared by John the Baptist”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Sir 48:1-4, 9-11 // Mt 17:9a, 10-13

 

 

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

 

 In the Gospel (Mt 17:9a, 10-13-), Jesus identifies John the Baptist as the “Elijah” who must come first before the advent of the Messiah. Today’s Old Testament reading from the Book of Sirach (48:1-4, 9-11) helps us understand and appreciate better the figure of John the Baptist as the “Elijah” who prepares the way of the Lord. Elijah was an Old Testament fiery prophet, whose words blazed like a torch, calling abusive authorities in Israel to accountability. He spoke in the name of the Lord and manifested its power by keeping the rain from coming and bringing forth famine in the land. At the end of his ministry, Elijah was taken up to heaven in a fiery whirlwind, a chariot drawn by fiery horses. But at the designated time, he is destined to return to carry out a mission of conversion and reconciliation. To his disciples who posed the question, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” Jesus affirms that Elijah has come indeed in the person of John the Baptist.

 

The prophetic witnessing of Elijah and John the Baptist continues to live on in our world today as the following account shows (cf. Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, Testimony of Hope, Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2000, p. 114-115).

 

“I saw my father go up to Heaven.” A small book by this title won the UNESCO prize. In it the author, a Russian who lives in Paris, describes the life of his father with moving words. His father was an Orthodox priest, a pious and passionate pastor who made countless sacrifices in the midst of persecution. One day during the war he was arrested because he was wearing a pair of shoes that one of his sons, a soldier, had given him. He was condemned to death because the law forbade civilians to wear military shoes. This was of course merely a pretext to conceal the real motive for his condemnation: his religious activity.

 

The whole village was convened around the pastor in an open field. The captain declared the sentence, and the priest’s response was to kneel down and pray. All the people knelt with him and prayed aloud. “Fire”, commanded the captain. But the soldiers stood motionless. “Fire”, he cried again. No one fired. Finally, defeated, the captain could do nothing other than to allow the priest to return on horseback to his home with his people.

 

Some months later, while on a pastoral journey, this Orthodox priest “vanished”. No one ever heard any more about him, but everyone understood his fate. His people said that he had gone to heaven on his horse.

 

 

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

 

Do we imitate the spirit of Elijah and John the Baptist in being totally at the service of God’s prophetic word and in preparing the people for the day of the Lord? Do we ask the Lord for the grace of prophetic witnessing?

 

 

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

 

Father,

we thank you for the fiery zeal of Elijah and John the Baptist

in calling forth people to conversion.

Help us to imitate their courage in speaking your word.

Make us respond fully to our prophetic vocation

and be blessed with the Elijah experience

of being brought to heaven in a “chariot of fire”.

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.

 

“Like a fire there appeared the prophet Elijah whose words were as a flaming furnace.” (Sir 48:1)

 

 

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

 

By your words and actions, endeavor to make a courageous prophetic witnessing in today’s increasingly hostile and secularized world in the spirit of Elijah and John the Baptist.  

 

 

 *** 

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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