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A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 14, n. 40)

Week 22 in Ordinary Time: August 28 – September 3, 2016

 

 

(The pastoral tool BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD: A LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY & WEEKDAY LITURGY includes a prayerful study of the Sunday liturgy of Year C from various perspectives. For the Lectio Divina on the liturgy of the past week: August 21-27, 2016, please go to ARCHIVES Series 14 and click on “Week 21 in Ordinary Time”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: August 28 – September 3, 2016.)

 

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August 28, 2016: SUNDAY – TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY

IN ORDINARY TIME

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Exalts the Humble”

 

 

BIBLICAL READINGS

Sir3:17-18, 20, 28-29 // Heb 12:18-19, 22-24a // Lk 14:1, 7-14

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 14:1, 7-14): “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled; everyone who humbles himself will be exalted.”

 

Mike McGarvin, the founder of Poverello House in Fresno, was an alcoholic, a drug addict and a substance abuser. Mike was converted in his early twenties when he met the tenderhearted and welcoming Franciscan priest, Fr. Simon Scanlon, in the Tenderloin district of urban San Francisco. The Tenderloin district was notorious for its poverty, prostitution, and violence. Fr. Simon, the pastor of St. Boniface Church, responded to the hapless situation by gathering some volunteers and opening the Poverello Coffeehouse, a safe haven and place of refuge where people on the streets could find acceptance, hot coffee, and a warm welcome. Fr. Simon asked Mike to volunteer at Poverello. The burly ex-football player said “yes” and, in accepting to serve the poor and the homeless, was set on the road to recovery. In 2003 he wrote a very interesting book, “Papa Mike”, about his conversion and his service to the poor, the marginalized and the homeless. After reading the book, I concluded that Mike McGarvin is a living example of one who had humbly recognized his human frailty and weakness and turned to God for salvation. He is a realization of the words of Jesus: “The one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk 14:11b).

 

The following anecdote that Mike wrote in his book made me chuckle for it fittingly illustrates the other aspect of Jesus’ lesson on humility: “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled” (Lk 12:14a).

 

At St. Boniface and Poverello, I got a real slice of life. The Tenderloin was the bottom of the social barrel, and all sorts of desperate cases drifted in and out …There was a regular at Poverello who was exceptional. He looked like a typical street person: dirty, a ratty beard, deteriorating, mismatching clothes. One day someone told me that he had once been a chess champion, ranked eighth in the United States. He had been involved with a love relationship that didn’t work out, and it had taken him over the edge. He started drinking too much, and eventually landed on the streets in San Francisco.

 

One evening, a volunteer, who was a lawyer, looked out over the coffeehouse and said, “I’ll bet these people aren’t smart enough to play chess.” I was offended by his remark, but immediately thought of a way to cool this guy’s arrogance. I pointed to the chess champion, and said, “I’ve seen that guy play a little chess; why don’t you try him out?” The lawyer played three games with him, and the old wino beat him resoundingly every time. The attorney fancied himself an excellent chess player, so he was devastated. He came back up to the counter, and kept saying over and over, “I can’t believe that old drunk beat me three times.”

 

 

This Sunday’s Gospel reading (Lk 14: 1, 7-14) tells us that on a Sabbath day Jesus went for a meal to the house of a leading Pharisee. Jesus noticed how the guests were choosing the places of honor at table. In this meal setting populated with “social climbers”, the Divine Master narrated to the guests a parable that ends with a powerful dictum: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk 14:11). The biblical scholar, Eugene Maly, explains the faith context of this parable: “Jesus is not concerned with ordinary social etiquette. He has more in mind than that … This is a Kingdom talk. This is the way it is in the Kingdom of God. A presupposition of the saying is that God issues the invitation to the Kingdom banquet. And he issues it to the lowly, the humble, those who recognize their total dependence on God’s salvation. These are the ones who will be exalted. But those who say, ‘Look at me, Lord! See my strength, my wealth, my influence’, are the ones who will be humbled. This humility, this total openness to the strength of God leads to greatness.”

 

The Christian stance of humility springs forth from the disciples’ union with Jesus in his self-emptying or kenosis. Jesus Lord, who incarnated the spirit of humility by his total submission to the Father’s saving will, calls his disciples in every time and age to live out this principle of total dependence on God. The humble way as a path of life is best exemplified in Mary, the first Christian disciple, who sang in the “Magnificat”: “He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly” (Lk 1:52).

  

True humility leads to a loving service of the poor of Yahweh. Our total dependence on God expresses itself in humility before our neighbors, in openness to others who are all welcomed by God to the table of his feasting. Indeed, the spirit of humility makes us realize that the saving banquet is for all. As Christian disciples, we have a vital role in making God’s gracious, inclusive invitation to the feast of his kingdom known. We are humble servants of God’ saving plan to bring everyone into the joyful banquet of his kingdom. The greatest service we can render to the “anawim”, or the poor of Yahweh, is to lead them to the love of God and the bounteous feasting of his eternal kingdom.

     

 

B. First Reading (Sir 3:17-18, 20, 28-29): “Humble yourself and you will find favor with God.”

 

In the world of martial arts, humility is an exigency and expediency to avoid serious injury. During a judo tournament, “Papa Mike” (i.e. Mike McGarvin, the founder of the Fresno based Poverello House, which ministers to the needs of the poor, homeless and the outcasts) learned it the hard way. In his inspiring and beautifully descriptive autobiography, PAPA MIKE, p. 64 & 66, he narrates:

 

God was transforming my life through the Poverello. Joining the Catholic Church gave me a new outlook, and my life had meaning now. Despite the glow of my conversion, though, I was still restless and edgy. Kicking drugs was no picnic. I had come to depend on them physically, but they were also my emotional crutch. When I was alone, the old emptiness and depression would return. I needed something to constructively fill the time when I was by myself, because the temptation to go back to the drugs was ever-present. It was about this time that I discovered martial arts. Not long after I began volunteering at Pov, I also started taking judo at the YMCA. It was kind of a diversion at first, just something to do. However, the longer I stayed with it, the more I liked it. It channeled my energy, and because I progressed rapidly, it probably helped my battered self-image. I also had the good fortune to fall with an instructor and a group of students who were excellent martial artists. My instructor, Fred Lee, was an eighth-degree black belt. He was not only a consummate judo expert, but he also tried to practice a philosophy of peace. It came from a deep sense of security that he had, the knowledge that he was capable of physically defending himself against almost anyone. Knowing that, he had nothing to prove, and he tried to bring calm and goodwill to potentially violent situations … I eventually earned a first-degree black belt in judo. I was hoping to go on, so I kept participating in matches. In our system, you advanced by winning ten matches in one year. At the black belt level, we were allowed to break bones and wrench joints. The idea was that this was the big league, and it was your responsibility to “tap out” (indicate you surrender by tapping the mat) before someone hurt you. It had to be a quick decision, because it could be a fraction of a second between your decision to tap out and a serious injury. In one bout, I was pretty evenly matched. However, my opponent managed to get my leg in a good hold. I thought I could wiggle out of it, even though it hurt, so I didn’t tap. He then twisted just a little bit more, and something popped. My knee was dislocated, and, boy, did it hurt. There was a doctor at the match. In fact, he had a black belt himself. He broke a guy’s arm in a match one time, then set it at his office for free. Anyway, he told me to bite down on my belt, which I did, and he put my knee back in the right place. I was lucky I didn’t swallow my belt; the pain was excruciating. I had to have a cast, and it took several months to heal. After that, I was quicker to say “Uncle” when I was playing with the big guys.

 

This Sunday’s Old Testament reading (Sir 3:17-18, 10, 28-29) is from the Book of Sirach, which contains words of wisdom of a famous Jewish teacher, named “Joshua, son of Sirach”. The early Christian community (ECC) received moral training from his writings. Composed circa 180 B.C. in Jerusalem, the Book of Sirach later became known as “the Book of the Church” or Ecclesiasticus, from ecclesia, the Latin word for “Church”. In today’s passage, Ben Sirach or “the son of Sirach” issues several teachings on humility: “My child, conduct your affairs with humility and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts. Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God. What is too sublime for you, seek not, into things beyond your strength search not” (v. 17-18, 20).

 

Humility is truth, that is, the ability to recognize our limitations as well as our real worth especially before God. Since it gives us an honest estimate of ourself, this virtue shapes and builds true strength of character and deeper rapport with God. Derived from the word humus, which means “earth”, humility enables the people of Israel to take an honest stance concerning their earthen vessel fragility and to relate to the Lord Yahweh in filial trust and full surrender. Indeed, humility is one of the fundamental attitudes of wisdom, a sure foundation of life.

 

The spirit of humility extolled by Ben Sirach takes on a deeper meaning in this Sunday’s Gospel reading (Lk 14:1, 7-14). On a sabbath day, Jesus Master goes to dine at the home of a leading Pharisee. He tells a parable to those invited, noticing how they are choosing the places of honor at table. In the parable of the wedding banquet addressed to the Pharisees, Jesus underlines the importance of humility, not as a social virtue or etiquette, but as a Kingdom value.  Lawrence Mick remarks: “The wedding banquet is a symbol of the kingdom. Those who are invited to the banquet must abandon any pride or claim of merit. None of us deserves to be saved; none of us can earn salvation. The host, God, will decide each person’s place in the kingdom.”

 

 

C. Second Reading (Heb 12:18-19, 22-24a): “You have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God.”

 

In the Second Reading (Heb 12:18-19, 22-24a) we glean that the marvelous things the Lord God has done for the humble – destined to share God’s saving love with other anawim - is made possible through the “sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ, the mediator of the new covenant”. The assembly of the redeemed “humble poor” is able to approach “Mount Zion, the city of the living God” through the life-giving sacrifice and total self-emptying of Jesus, the “Humble One” par excellence.

  

The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 6, conclude: “Jesus took the last place … Because of this, he was exalted to the right hand of the Father in the inaccessible glory that belongs to him as his Son. And yet, he allows us to share in it by traveling, with him a similar paschal road. Baptized into his death and resurrection, we have drawn near to God and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, who is open to the poor, the lame, the blind, and those sick with every illness that requires a doctor. We have no right to raise or thrust ourselves into the places of honor. But God’s strength is great, and it is on his grace that we rely. He exalts the humble; he sets them at his table and, showing them the example, he, the Master, goes among them as a servant.”

 

True humility leads to service. The following excerpt from a lovely story about an actress who ministers to the poor is an inspiration for us (cf. Emily Procter, “What Inspires Me” in Guideposts, August 2010, p. 40-43).

 

I’ve lived in Los Angeles for 18 years, and for the past eight, I’ve been blessed with what actresses dream of – a starring role on a hit television show, playing Detective Calleigh Duquesne on CSI:Miami. I’m comfortable here now, content with bring my down-to-earth southern self in a tough and glitzy business. But I wasn’t always. (…)

 

In the fall of 1996 it hit me that except for taking care of my cat Kevin, my days were all about me. Was I thin enough? Did my hair look right? Did I prepare enough for my next audition? Where was my career going? I really need to take the focus off myself and do something for someone else, I thought. I could almost hear my mom saying, “Go for it!” My parents were big on helping others – my dad was a doctor, my mom volunteered at a home for people with AIDS, and we were always signing up for service projects at church. When I heard about the soup kitchen at All Saints Episcopal a few blocks from my apartment, I decided to volunteer.

 

Monday lunch was my shift. Every Monday I’d put on my green corduroy overalls – for some reason that became my serving-line outfit – and walk up Bedford Drive, cross Wilshire Boulevard, then turn right onto Santa Monica Boulevard to get to the soup kitchen. I kept noticing the same guy at the corner of Wilshire. A homeless man in a wheelchair. He was in his fifties and sat quietly in his shorts and red windbreaker, reading. He didn’t hassle people, just said thanks when someone dropped money into his cup. I’d say hello, but that was it. He seemed reserved, and I wanted to respect his privacy.

 

But one Monday in December something made me stop and say, “I work at All Saints soup kitchen. Want to go with me and get lunch?” He looked up at me with these bright blue eyes and said, “Yeah!” “I’m Emily.” “Jim.” I grabbed his wheelchair and started pushing, but I couldn’t maneuver it in my clunky clogs. “I’m sorry, Jim. I’m not going to be able to get you there today … not in these shoes.” He didn’t say anything. “I’m going home for Christmas, but I’ll be back. We’ll go the first Monday after New Year’s”, I promised. “Okay”, he said, but it seemed like he didn’t believe me.

 

That Monday after New Year’s I put on tennis shoes and ran to Jim’s corner. There he was in his red windbreaker and wheelchair. His eyes got really twinkly when he saw me. “All right!” he exclaimed, “Let’s go.” I wheeled him to the soup kitchen, got him settled with some food, then took my place in the serving line. After lunch we went back to his corner. “I’ll meet you here next week”, I said. That became our little ritual every Monday. I’d pick him up at the corner and we’d head to the soup kitchen. We talked a bit, but mostly we just enjoyed each other’s company. It was a relief not to get into the typical Hollywood conversations – What do you do? Who’s your agent? What roles are you up for?

 

One day about three months after we met, Jim seemed more serious than usual. He took my hand and pressed some money into it. Forty dollars. What’s this for? “I want to tell you something”, he said. “I think you’re very pretty, but you need to buy a new outfit. I saved up this money.” I realized every time he saw me I was wearing my green overalls! “Jim, I didn’t get around to telling you, but I’m an actress. I have other clothes.” We had a good laugh.

 

Our friendship grew from there. When I didn’t have an acting job or auditions, we’d have breakfast at a place across the street from his corner. We’d sit and talk about our childhoods, our families, our experiences. Well, Jim shared his life wisdom with me because it wasn’t like I’d acquired much yet.

 

Once I asked Jim, “Were you in Vietnam? I’d assumed he was a veteran, so I was surprised when he said no. “Then how did you end up in a wheelchair?” “Emily, ending up in this chair saved my life. So I don’t want you to feel bad about what I’m going to tell you.” He went on. “I was a terrible alcoholic.” During a binge, he got into a fight and was beaten into a coma. When he came to, he realized, “God stood by me even when I wasn’t standing by me.” He wanted to make the most of the second chance he’d been given. He quit drinking. He read every book he could get his hands on. He couldn’t afford regular therapy appointments, but there was a nighttime radio show where the host was a therapist. Jim called in every night for two years and worked through his issues.

 

The closer we’ve gotten – and we’ve been good friends for almost 15 years now – the more I see that Jim really lives by the advice he once gave me: “If you don’t like the way your life looks, change the way you look at it.” He’s more content and at peace with himself and with the world than anyone I know … He savors every moment, even the struggles, because they often turn out to be blessings.

 

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August 29, 2016: MONDAY – THE PASSION OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Death Is Prefigured in the Passion of John the Baptist … The Apostles Proclaim His as Christ Crucified”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

I Cor 2:1-5 // Mk 6:17-29

  

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 6:17-29): “I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist.”

 

Today we recall the martyrdom of John the Baptist – his beheading by King Herod, who was tricked into it by his sister-in-law and wife, Herodias. It was made possible by her daughter Salome’s delightful dance that elicited a grandiose oath from the king, “I will grant you whatever you ask of me, even to half of my kingdom.”  Through the Gospel account (Mk 6:17-29), we realize how evil gains increasing momentum in Herod’s soul, inciting him from sensuousness to murder.

 

John the Baptist is the precursor of Christ in birth and death. Saint Bede the Venerable comments: “There is no doubt that blessed John suffered imprisonment and chains as a witness to our Redeemer, whose forerunner he was, and gave his life for him. His persecutor had demanded not that he should deny Christ, but only that he should keep silent about the truth. Nevertheless he died for Christ. Does Christ not say: I am the truth? Therefore, because John shed his blood for the truth, he surely died for Christ. Through his birth, preaching and baptizing, he bore witness to the coming birth, preaching and baptism of Christ, and by his own suffering he showed that Christ also would suffer.”

 

The persecution of Christians in today’s world results in the blood bath and the sacrificial passion of modern martyrs (cf. “Mob Murders Christian Couple” in Alive! December 2014, p. 3).

                                            

A Christian couple had been burnt alive by a mob in Pakistan after a Muslim mullah claimed they had desecrated the Koran. The married couple, in their twenties, had three children.

 

The owner of the brick factory where they worked is said to have locked them in an office so that they could not escape. Loudspeaker announcements from mosques in nearby villages branded them as “blasphemous”, saying they had burnt verses from the Koran and should be killed. A senior police officer said that at least 1,200 people gathered, broke their legs to prevent them from running away, then threw them into the factory furnace.

 

The killings have left Pakistan’s tiny Christian minority in fear and demanding the repeal of the “blasphemy laws”.

 

 

B. First Reading (I Cor 2:1-5): “I came to you proclaiming Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

 

In today’s First Reading (I Cor 2:1-5) Saint Paul personally exemplifies his assertion: “What seems to be God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and what seems to be God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.” From the perspective of human standards, Paul’s mission to the Corinthians should be a failure: he is plagued with illness, his appearance is not impressive and his personal delivery is weak. But the very existence of the faith community in Corinth is a powerful testimony of the presence of the Spirit and of the power of God at work. The very human limitation of Paul, that is, his lack of convincing rhetoric, manifests more clearly that faith does not rest on human wisdom but on God’s power. Saint Paul does not tantalize the Corinthians with human wisdom and eloquence, but simply proclaims the saving message centered on Jesus Christ and his death on the cross.

 

The following is a modern day example of Paul’s “God-dependent way” of delivering the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. “Generations Unite” in Marian Helper, Fall 2007, p. 29-31).

 

In the opening minutes of the new DVD, Generations Unite in Prayer: The Divine Mercy in Song, you see the prayerful faces of children and hear their eager voices singing the words given by our Lord to St. Faustina: “For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and the whole world.”

 

The children are not actors. Rather, they are an answer to the prayers of Trish Short. Two years ago, Trish prayed for the people and the resources needed to create a DVD that responds to Christ’s call to St. Faustina. “Encourage souls to say the Chaplet which I have given you”, He says. “Whoever will recite it will receive great mercy at the hour of death” (Diary of St. Faustina, 1541, 687). (…)

 

With Generations – the winner of a prestigious Telly Award for excellence in cinematography – Trish hopes to convince souls to approach Jesus with trust and to see Him for what He is: the love of our lives. She, for one, can attest to the power of the Chaplet.

 

One evening in the early 1990s, still suffering from the shame and guilt of having had two abortions, Trish took the advice of a friend. She knelt down by her bed and prayed the Chaplet for the first time. Suddenly, as never before, she felt Christ’s love and mercy break through her hardened heart. She made a good confession and knew she was forgiven. She also knew she had to tell others about the unfathomable mercy. “I once felt that the sins I’ve committed are unforgivable”, says Trish. “But, through the Chaplet, I learned that God’s mercy is a free gift that covers all sin. This is something that really can bring hope to a broken world.”

 

In particular, Trish’s focus in the DVD is on strengthening families. “I know what families are going through”, she says. “I come from a broken home. When we began this project, I knew the Lord wanted a strong witness of families – especially because fathers are leaving homes in droves, and there are so many problems with teens and drugs and sexual promiscuity.” (…)

 

Among those featured was Dr. Albert Kraft, a terminally ill Divine Mercy devotee, who sought to do one more thing for Jesus before he died. He was filmed in his bed surrounded by family members singing the Chaplet. He died shortly after the filming. His daughter Susan says his prayers were answered. He wanted to make it to the Divine Mercy Sunday to pray to Jesus and thank Him because he knew “this film would bring souls to Christ – the lost, the sinners, they would come back to Christ.”

 

 

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

 

1. Are we willing to give witness to Christ even to the point of sacrifice? How does the courageous witnessing of John the Baptist impact our own witnessing in today’s world?

 

2. Like Paul do we experience our human poverty and limitations and do we make it an occasion to let the power of God’s Spirit reveal itself?

 

 

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

 

God our Father,

you called John the Baptist

to be the herald of your Son’s birth and death.

As he gave his life in witness to truth and justice,

so may we strive to profess our faith in your Gospel.

Help us to show to the world

that your “foolishness” is wiser than human wisdom

and that your “weakness” is stronger than human strength.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

***

Loving Father,

you sent prophets

to speak your word of mercy to your erring people.

In their ministry of salvation,

they experienced the agony and the ecstasy

that their proclamation entails.

As Christian disciples,

we, too, are called to proclaim your word today

and thus experience the agony and ecstasy of prophecy.

Give us the grace to be faithful to our vocation.

And let our poverty manifest more fully

the power of the Spirit at work in us.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

            Amen.

     

 

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

           

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

 

“Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man.” (Mk 6:20) // “May your faith rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.” (I Cor2:5)

 

 

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

 

Inspired by John the Baptist’s life witnessing, endeavor to live fully the Christian virtues in today’s world. Pray that the Christians in the modern world may have the wisdom, courage and strength to proclaim Christ crucified. In any way you can, assist the persecuted Christians in today’s world.

 

 

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August 30, 2016: TUESDAY – WEEKDAY (22)

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Word Is Confirmed by His Deed … We Are Taught by His Spirit”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

I Cor 2:10b-16 // Lk 4:31-37

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 4:31-37): “I know who you are – the Holy One of God!”

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Lk 4:31-37) depicts the early phase of our Lord’s public ministry. Jesus is in the synagogue at Capernaum on a Sabbath, speaking the saving word of God and teaching with authority. The evangelist Luke describes the impact of his ministry on the worshipping assembly: “They were astonished at his teaching because he spoke with authority.” Jesus then manifests the power of God’s saving word by performing a healing sign. He cures a man possessed by an unclean spirit. His word is confirmed by his deed. Both word and action manifest that he is truly the Messiah sent from God.

 

Cardinal John Henry Newman remarks: “Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. In him God is fully and truly seen, so that he is absolutely the way, and the truth and the life. All our duties are summed up for us in the message he brings … Christ has brought from his Father for all of us the full and perfect way of life. Thus he brings grace as well as truth, a most surprising miracle of mercy.”

 

A contemporary Church mission that is dear to me is the Vladivostok Mission: Reviving the Catholic Church in Eastern Russia. A way of collaborating is to send Mass stipends. I sent $20.00 requesting that a Mass be offered for two special intentions. Fr. Myron Effing’s letter of acknowledgment, dated July 31, 2012, contains an update of their mission and shows that their Gospel proclamation follows the way of Jesus, that is, by word and deed.

 

More good news, Sister Mary Margaret! You remember that our Lesozavodsk parishioner Vladimir needed to fly to Korea for a cancer operation – he came through the operation just fine, but now the extra good news. The two tumors were not cancerous! The doctor said that it was extremely dangerous anyway, and could be fatal if it had burst accidentally. He has returned home. And he says that for the first time in 57 years he feels normal! Most of his life he has lived with fever and a high white cell blood count. He wants to write a personal letter to all those who helped him with the operation. The donations for him from America came to just over $5000. Donations from the Russian side came to $3500. Most of this came from the active work of the parishioners of Visitation Parish in Lesozavodsk. Congratulations to everybody! Thanks be to God!

 

 

B. First Reading (I Cor 1:10b-16): “Natural persons do not accept what pertains to the Spirit of God: spiritual persons, however, can judge everything.”

 

Today’s first Reading (I Cor 2:10b-16) gives insight into the meaning of God’s wisdom and its implication for us. Paul does not deny that the Gospel is wisdom, but it is a different kind of wisdom, which the world cannot understand. Just as no one knows the secrets of a man except himself, so only the Spirit of God can discern the mysteries of God. Only God’s Spirit knows all about God. Whoever possesses the Spirit of the Lord thinks as Christ does and judges all things rightly from a supernatural point of view. The truly spiritual person can receive the revelation of God – a revelation summed up in the wisdom of the cross. Whoever does not have the Spirit regards the Christian mystery as sheer nonsense. Paul asserts: “We have the mind of Christ”. This stupendous grace enables the apostles and Christian disciples to respond to the truths taught by the Spirit.

 

The following modern day anecdote of a missionary gives an idea how human wisdom works (cf. John Geitner, M.M. in “Missioner Tales” in Maryknoll, May/June 2014, p. 8).

 

Ten months after arriving in Hong Kong and completing some beginner’s lessons in the Cantonese language, I was assigned to teach English and religion at the Maryknoll Fathers’ School in Kowloon Tsai. In its primary and secondary sections there were 1,500 pupils. Most of them were non-Catholic children from the refugee squatter huts in the neighborhood. I lived at St. Peter in Chains Church just across the way. Outside of the church, there was an open veranda where local youngsters liked to play. After classes, I would meet them to practice my faltering Cantonese.

 

One day, a girl who appeared to be about 12 years old asked me, “Where are your parents?” I told them that they were in the States. She then asked me, “Where are your wife and children?” I replied that as a Catholic priest I was not married and did not have any children. She looked at me quizzically and then asked, “Well, when you die, who will bury you?”

 

 

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

 

1. How do we share in Christ’s prophetic ministry? How do we make the voice of truth resound in the world today? In imitation of Christ, are we ready to support our prophetic proclamation with prophetic action?

 

2. Are we receptive to the Spirit of Christ who enables us to put on the mind of Christ?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you are the true prophet.

The words you speak are confirmed

by marvelous signs and healing actions.

We thank you for revealing to us, by word and deed,

the mercy of God.

In you, we have received the vocation to proclaim the Gospel.

Give us the wisdom of the Holy Spirit

that we may fully discern and carry out the divine saving will.

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.

 

 “What is there about his word?” (Lk 4:36) // “But we have the mind of Christ.” (I Cor 2:16)

 

 

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

 

Endeavor to bring the word of God and his healing love to a painful predicament and/or an unjust social situation. Resolve to make meditation an important part of your daily life.

        

*** *** ***

 

August 31, 2016: WEDNESDAY – WEEKDAY (22)

JESUS SAVIOR: He Heals, Prays and Proclaims the Gospel … We Are His Co-Workers”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

I Cor 3:1-9 // Lk 4:38-44

  

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 4:38-44): “To the other towns also I must proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God because for this purpose I have been sent.”

 

Today’s Gospel (Lk 4:38-44) depicts our Lord Jesus as in full swing in his public ministry. The paschal victory of Jesus is prefigured in the healing he carries out on behalf of Simon’s mother-in-law afflicted with a severe fever, the many others suffering with various diseases and those possessed by demons. The healing ministry of Jesus is a sign that the kingdom of wholeness has come. By his mission of healing, he asserts that sickness, suffering, and death do not have the ultimate word.

 

At daybreak, Jesus left and went to a deserted place. The “dawn” of Jesus is poised in earnest towards greater intimacy with the loving Father and the proclamation of the Gospel. The saving ministry of the healing Lord is sustained by his life of prayer and personal dialogue with the Father. Hence, the restoring touch of Jesus reaches out more extensively and the Good News is carried even farther, propelled by a life of recollection and prayer. Indeed, the ability to make core decisions for God’s kingdom is made possible by his profound communion with the Father in a relationship of prayer. Jesus’ tryst at the dawn of day and his deeds of healing invite us to sustain our own healing ministry by a life of prayer.

 

The following story of a consecrated religious, Sister Blandina Segale (cf. Margaret and Matthew Bunson, “Woman of the Wild, Wild West” in Our Sunday Visitor, March 25, 2007, p. 12) made me smile. I find her life of total dedication to the service of God’s people very inspiring and interesting. United with the Lord, she heals, prays and proclaims the Gospel.

 

One of the most intriguing Catholic women serving the people of the United States was Sister Blandina Segale, a Sister of Charity who cared for those who journeyed along the dangerous Santa Fe Trail. In 1872, Sister Blandina was sent alone to Trinidad, Colorado, a Wild West haven for outlaws and renegades. She was 22 at that time. Because she was a Catholic nun bent on aiding the local Native Americans and the poor, Sister Blandina was not welcomed to Trinidad with overwhelming enthusiasm. The residents of Trinidad faced hard lives and did not fancy the sort of concerns that a nun might have. They were not cruel or insulting toward her, but they obviously had little interest in her labors. That changed rather abruptly, however, when her “patron” announced one day that he expected one and all to treat her with respect and courtesy. If any of the good people of Trinidad caused Sister Blandina any problems, he would deal with them personally. Actually, he promised to shoot them down like dogs.

 

The townspeople knew the “patron” well, and some recalled that he had shot a man for snoring too loudly at a campsite, so he was a man to take seriously when he made a threat. The “patron” of Sister Blandina was William Bonney, known in history as Billy the Kid. She had given nursing care to one of Billy’s companions when he was shot and left for dead in an abandoned hut, and the famous outlaw was repaying her for her merciful care of his friend. He also appreciated her efforts for others. The first time they met, actually, Billy the Kid had come to town to scalp the four doctors who had refused aid to his wounded companion. Sister Blandina talked him out of it.

 

She had also saved the life of another man soon after arriving in Trinidad. Caught after fatally wounding a companion in a gun battle, the man was about to be dragged from the jail by an angry mob. Sister Blandina hurried to the bedside of the dying victim and talked him into forgiving his attacker. She and the sheriff then walked the murderer through the streets to the victim, who did forgive his assailant and then died. When Sister Blandina announced the deathbed scene to the angry men standing outside in the street, the mob thought it was all a bit peculiar, but they lost their enthusiasm for a hanging and let justice prevail in a courtroom. (…)

 

Sister Blandina was transferred to Santa Fe in time, where she continued establishing charitable institutions and programs. She labored for 21 years in the American West, becoming famous and respected … In time, Sister Blandina was assigned to Cincinnati, where she continued her labors with her sister, who was also a nun. She died in Cincinnati on February 23, 1941.

 

 

B. First Reading (I Cor 3:1-9): “We are God’s co-workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.”

 

Today’s First Reading (I Cor 3:1-9) gives us a glimpse into the fledging Christian community in Corinth and presents Saint Paul’s insight regarding “servants of God”. Paul contends that the jealousy, quarrels and divisions in the Corinthian community are proof of their spiritual immaturity. In light of God’s wisdom, factions, based on the alleged superiority of one minister over another or of one group over another, are absurd. Their false assessment of the apostles needs to be rectified. When one pits Paul against Apollos, this is acting like worldly people. In fact, both Paul and Apollos are simply God’s servants, fulfilling the roles assigned to them for the growth of the community. Each one does the work which the Lord gives him to do: Paul plants the seed; Apollos waters the plant, but it is God who makes the plant grow. With these beautiful farming images, Paul underlines the unity and cooperation that characterize the task of God’s ministers and emphasize the common goals that animate them.

 

The following modern day account gives insight into Paul’s climactic assertion: “We are God’s co-workers” (cf. Mike McGarvin in Poverello News, January 2014, p. 1-2).

 

Twenty-three years is a long time to work with someone, and can be viewed as quite an accomplishment. When two stubborn Irishmen work together for twenty-three years without beating each other to a pulp, it’s more like a miracle.

 

Jim Connell became Poverello’s Executive Director in 1990. Back then, I was still young enough to be a bit of a rebel and a hothead, someone who didn’t particularly like taking directions (my adolescence lasted longer than most).

 

Anyway, Jim was hired and he brought with him some very outlandish ideas, such as sticking to something called a “budget”. I’d heard this phrase before, but I thought it was a dirty word. So right away, we started clashing: Jim the businessman, me the freewheeling ex-hippie. There was bound to be a collision.

 

The reason the collision wasn’t fatal was that in spite of Jim’s strong personality, he was smart enough and knew the benefits of compromise. At some point he realized that when it came to me and money, he was dealing with someone who didn’t understand the constraints of limited funds. He started making deals with me.

 

I was willing to come to the table, because I figured that if he was offering a deal, then that meant I was victorious. Little did I know that his long-term strategy was to lure me into being more responsible. He basically told me that he was giving me a monthly homeless fund, and I could spend it however I saw fit. If I put up someone in a hotel, or brought some kid a new bicycle, he wouldn’t question it; but each month, when my “allowance” was spent, that was it until the next month. I readily agreed to this plan.

 

Crafty Jim had succeeded in doing something no other Director had been able to do: he forced me to think through how I spent money and use it more wisely; and he did it without fighting me tooth and nail. In fact, I went along with the plan, thinking I had “won”.

 

On the other hand, Jim was open to learning, and coming from a business background, he had much to absorb about the realities of homelessness. However, learn he did, and after a couple of years of wrangling, he saw more of where I was coming from, and I actually began to see that budgets weren’t necessarily bad things, although I bought a coffee cup that had printed on the side, “Budgets are for wimps.” My intention was to annoy Jim with the cup, but my heart wasn’t in the fight anymore. Jim had used tactical thinking and Irish charm to outflank me and get me surrender. (…)

 

Jim brought great insights and positive changes to our Resident Program, the efficiency of our food service, the expansion of other services and our financial accounting system. His contributions here have been enormous, and have made things run so much smoother than in the “good old days”.

 

 

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

 

1. Do I witness to the healing power of the Good News? Do I incarnate the healing compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ today? Do I derive strength and meaning for my healing ministry from deep communion with God in prayer?

 

2. Do we realize that as Christian disciples we are God’s servants for the nurturing of the Church? Do we relate to each other as God’s co-workers?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus, our healing Lord,

people are hurting more than before.

Hold the sick in your arms.

Comfort them.

Fill their lives with meaning.

Touch their sufferings with your gentle healing hand.

And though we pray for health and healing,

let us find you in the mystery of suffering

and continue to work as God’s co-workers.

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 laid his hands in each of them and cured them.” (Lk 4:40) // “We are God’s co-workers.” (I Cor 3:9)

 

 

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

 

Anointing of the sick is understood incompletely by many as “extreme unction” to be administered to a dying person, with the result that the person no longer has control of his/her faculties and so is incapable of receiving it with complete awareness, faith and devotion. As part of your healing ministry as a Christian, encourage a seriously ill person to receive the Anointing at the proper time. Thank the Lord for the gift of God’s co-workers and endeavor to be a true partner in God’s saving work.

   

 

*** *** ***

 

September 1, 2016: THURSDAY – WEEKDAY (22)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Us to Put Out into the Depths … He Teaches Us that We Belong to Him and to God”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

I Cor 3:18-23 // Lk 5:1-11

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 5:1-11): “They left everything and followed Jesus.”

 

Some years ago our class at Maryhill School of Theology celebrated the “Misa ng Bayang Pilipino”, the Filipino inculturated form of the Roman Mass, with the barrio inhabitants of Talim Island, located in the middle of Laguna de Bay, a beautiful lake in the Philippines. We lodged there overnight, hosted by several families. The following sunrise, we went to celebrate the Morning Prayer beside the lake. As we sat on the sand, we heard the waves gently touching the shore. We gazed upon small boats, called “bancas”, lying upturned on the sand and fishing nets hanging on bamboo poles and fences to dry. Indeed, the “bancas” and the nets are the life-blood of fishermen. In light of this experience, I can vividly imagine the episode described by the evangelist Luke at the Lake of Gennesaret.  It is easy for me to glean the significance of Simon Peter and the other fishermen renouncing their boats and nets and leaving everything behind to follow Jesus.

 

            The mission of Jesus is to bring salvation to all, in accordance with the Father’s saving plan. Today’s Gospel (Lk 5:1-11) describes him preaching beside the lake. In order to minister more effectively to the great crowd pressing on him, Jesus gets into Simon’s boat and asks him to put out a short distance from the shore. Jesus then sits down and teaches the crowd from the boat. Seated on that improvised pulpit, his voice as true Teacher resounds as the people listen attentively to his saving word.

 

            The next scene portrays the power of the word of God. After proclaiming to the crowd on the shore, Jesus commands the boat owner, who has worked all night without a catch: “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”  If the night fishing has been unprofitable, the daytime fishing would be even more so. Hence, it seems preposterous for a village carpenter-turned-prophet to command that to a professional fisherman.  Simon, however, acts upon the Master’s word. As a result, they catch such a great number of fish that the nets begin to tear. They signal to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. All are “awed” by the catch. Simon falls at the knees of Jesus saying, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Jesus assures Simon and gives him a mission: “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”

     

            The reading concludes with an image of a dynamic response: “When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.” The Lord who proclaimed the saving word of God to the eager crowd at Lake Gennesaret and challenged Simon and his companions to put out into the depths is the same Lord who calls us today to discipleship. The response of Peter and his companions inspires us to make a total commitment to Jesus and follow him into the depths of his paschal destiny. Like them, we too must be willing to launch into the deep waters and thus share in the bounty of salvation.  

 

 

B. First Reading (I Cor 3:18-23): “All belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God.”

 

In today’s first Reading (I Cor 3:18-23) Saint Paul continues to exhort the Corinthians to stop being “wise” in the world but “fools” by Christ’s standard. The apostle cites Job 5:12-13 (“God traps the wise in their cleverness”) and Psalm 94:11 (“The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise; they are vain”) to substantiate his plea. In their prejudicial appraisal of the ministers of the Gospel, the Corinthians prove themselves to be “fools”, judging by the vanity of this world. They should not boast about human beings such as the leaders of the factitious groups to which they belong. Paul contends that they do not belong to such “leaders” but that all things belong to Christians. The leaders belong to the Christian community as “servants” for the good of all. The apostle Paul climactically asserts: “You belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.”

 

The following modern day account gives insight into her “belonging to God” (cf. “Nun’s Win Is Global News, Almost!” in Alive! July/August 2014, p. 8).

 

A young nun from Sicily made news all over the world by her landslide win in the final of the Italian State TV talent show, The Voice of Italy. During the course of the competition she sang a duet with Kylie Minogue; and Whoopie Goldberg star of the movie, Sister Act, tweeted a link to one of her appearances, saying: “For when you want a taste of sister act!”

 

Gossip magazines have splashed her on their covers in her religious garb, and featured her in articles. BBC News, reporting her win, said that “Sister Cristina Scuccia, wearing her nun’s habit and with a crucifix around her neck, became an internet sensation” when she first appeared on the show. The New York Times told how she won 62% of the votes cast in the final, the Italian media complaining “she may have had a little help from above”. It added that “the show’s host noted her very original way of accepting”, leading the audience in the Our Father while some of the show’s judges were unsure how to respond.

 

Even the leftwing UK Guardian devoted almost a page to the story, with a large picture of the 25-year-old Ursuline nun holding up her crucifix in one hand and the winner’s award in the other. It quoted her: “The last word of thanks, the most important goes of course to him in heaven. And my dream is to recite a Padre Nostro together … I want Jesus to enter into this.” (…)

 

Sr. Cristina’s win, however, was ignored by the Irish media. But thanks to the internet this kind of news blackout no longer works. (…)

 

The nun was invited to take part in the competition by the show’s producers and did so influenced by the call of Pope Francis to all Catholics to “get out” to others with the Good News. (…)

 

As a teenager Sr. Cristina had stopped going to Mass. Aged 20 and studying for a degree in accounting, she was engaged to be married. Then she played the lead role in a musical organized by the Ursuline Sisters to celebrate the centenary of their order’s beginnings. Thanks to the experience, the young woman began to reflect more deeply on her life and her faith and began to consider that she might have a religious vocation. She spent two years in Brazil with the sisters, working with poor children, before making her decision. She discovered, she says, that “to answer the call of Jesus is liberating: it does not disappoint.”

 

 

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

 

1. What is our personal response to the Master’s command: “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch”? Do we ever allow our human unworthiness and insufficiency to daunt us? Do we imitate the faith-response of Peter and his companions: “When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him”?

 

2. Do we act as “wise” fellows of this world or as “fools” for Christ? How does Paul’s affirmation that all belong to Christ and that Christ belongs to God impact you?

 

 

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

 

Lord and Master,

you challenged Peter to put out into the deep.

May we imitate Simon Peter’s faith response

and experience the bountiful catch.

May poverty and insufficiency never daunt us.

May we trust in your words: “Do not be afraid!”

Let us be heartened by the reality

that we belong to you and through you, we belong to 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.

 

            “Put out into deep water.” (Lk 5:4) // “All belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God.” (I Cor 3:23)

 

 

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

 

Pray for all Christians that we may realize the greatness of our vocation as “fishers of men”. Offer special prayers and acts of charity for the increase and perseverance of priestly and religious vocations. In your words and actions show to the world that you belong to Christ and, through Christ, you belong to God.

        

*** *** ***

 

September 2, 2016: FRIDAY – WEEKDAY (22)

  “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Bridegroom-Messiah … He Manifests the Motives of Our Hearts”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

I Cor 4:1-5 // Lk 5:33-39

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 5:33-39): “When the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast.”

 

Today’s Gospel (Lk 5:33-39) depicts Jesus as the Bridegroom-Messiah. He invites us to a new relationship that transcends mere legal observance and superficial piety. A loving relationship with the Bridegroom entails a radical transformation and infuses new meaning into such religious practices as fasting, an issue raised by some people when they observed that John’s disciples and the Pharisees fast, while Jesus’ disciples did not. Jesus answers them, “Can you make the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, they will fast in those days.” The reference to the Bridegroom being taken away is an allusion to the death of Jesus that led to his saving glory.

 

Indeed, in the new dispensation that resulted from the paschal event of the death and resurrection of Jesus, his disciples would fast, but not in the meaning given to this religious practice by the disciples of John and the Pharisees. Following a new lifestyle based on the radical salvation won for us by Christ’s saving death on the cross, the Christian disciples would also fast, but for the right reason. An erroneous notion of fasting has no place in the messianic kingdom ushered in by Christ. Indeed, the followers of Jesus would exercise various forms of salutary asceticism, in a spirit of receptivity to the coming of the Kingdom. They would carry these out in anticipation of the full joy that is prepared for them by the victorious Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, in the nuptial banquet in heaven. 

 

The radical newness of our relationship with Christ can be compared to a piece of new cloth which should not be sewn into an old cloak, for it will make the tear even greater. It can also be compared to new wine which should not be poured into an old wineskin for it will cause the skin to break and spill the wine. Indeed, the love-relationship with Christ, the Bridegroom, demands an exhilaratingly new vision and life-style, symbolically portrayed by Luke as “new wine” poured into fresh wineskins.

 

The Redemptorist John P. Fahey Guerra gives insight into Christian fasting as an opportunity to gauge our cooperation with God’s plan (cf. Ligourian, A Redemptorist Pastoral Publication, February 2012, p. 11).

 

We have formed attitudes, feelings, and beliefs about the poor and about poverty in our lives that are simply not in accord with our faith in the God of Jesus Christ. Many of these attitudes have become so habitual that they appear “natural” to us, and, as a consequence, we don’t see the need to reflect on them.

 

Fasting is a spiritual exercise that seeks to break the power these habits of mind and heart have over us. It is not deprivation for deprivation’s sake, but rather a distancing of ourselves from our present worldview so that our faith in God’s view of the world might take hold of us.

 

Our encounter with the poor family in Mexico was disconcerting to us; it broke the pattern of our comfortable view of the world. It questioned our way of living. It showed us that we were far from where we were called to be. Fasting is a way for us to intentionally bring into question our present way of living.

 

 

B. First Reading (I Cor 4:1-5): “The Lord will manifest the motives of our hearts.”

 

In today’s First Reading (I Cor 4:1-15) Saint Paul responds to the judgmental attitude of the Corinthians. The apostles are “servants of Christ” and “stewards of the mysteries of God”, charged with preaching divine revelation and not their own doctrines. What is required of them is trustworthiness, a conscientious devotion to the Master’s interests. The Corinthians have no right to pass judgment on them. Only the Lord, not even Paul himself, can judge the faithfulness of one’s service. Final judgment must wait until the Lord comes. He will expose what is hidden and manifest the intentions of our hearts. And then everyone will receive from God the praise he deserves. Hence, Paul and his companions should not be judged by human standards and certainly, not prematurely. Their “trustworthiness” as apostles is assessed by the Lord and will be brought to light at the Lord’s coming.

 

The following charming account illustrates how the Lord manifests the hidden thoughts of the heart (cf. Euphrasia Nyaki in “Missioner Tales” in Maryknoll, May/June 2014, p. 8-9).

 

One day while walking down the street in Joao Pessoa, a northeastern coastal city of Brazil, I saw a man sitting on the sidewalk, who appeared to be homeless and living on the streets. I had a pretty good hunch that he was going to ask me for a handout and knowing that I had nothing to give him that day, I tried to look in the other direction as I approached. When I got near to where he was sitting, I was surprised to hear him call to me.

 

“Hey, woman! Look at me!” he called out to me, “I’m not going to ask you for anything. I just want to see your beautiful face.”

 

As I turned to look at him, his face broke out into such a beautiful smile that I could not help but think of Jesus.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we respond to God’s eternal and faithful love incarnated in Christ, the messianic Bridegroom? Do we cherish the radical newness that God’s forgiving and renewing love brings to us through his Son Jesus Christ? Are we ready to share the tenderness of God’s love with the forlorn and abandoned of today’s world?

 

2. Do we trust in God who manifests the motives of our hearts?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you are the Bridegroom of the Church,

Renew us in your love

and pour “new wine” to our feasting.

Let us be faithful servants and trustworthy stewards.

Purify the motives of our hearts

that we may render God fitting praise,

now and forever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“When the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.” (Lk 5:35) // The Lord will manifest the motives of our hearts.” (I Cor 4:5)

 

 

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

 

Pray for those whose marriage bond has been adulterated and shattered. Offer your contribution to promote the healing of nuptial relationships and the integrity of the sacrament of matrimony. By regular examination of the heart, be attentive as the Lord manifests to you your inner motivations.

 

     

*** *** ***

 

September 3, 2016: SATURDAY – SAINT GREGORY THE GREAT, Pope, Doctor of the Church

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Lord of the Sabbath … His Apostles Experienced the Cost of Discipleship”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

I Cor 4:6b-15 // Lk 6:1-5

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 6:1-5): “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

 

The Pharisees, the religious experts, become more and more critical of everything Jesus does. In today’s Gospel account, the Pharisees accuse Jesus’ disciples of profaning the Sabbath, the seventh day. According to Jewish tradition, the Sabbath is to be kept holy and as a day of rest since God rested on the seventh day. The biblical scholar Samuel Oyin Abogunrin comments: “In order to make sure no one did any work during the day of rest (Friday evening until Saturday evening), the rabbis later added numerous additional regulations so that scrupulous people could be sure they obeyed the Torah rule properly. In the process they focused on doing the right thing and making sure others did the right thing; as often happens in such cases, some people lost sight of the true meaning of the Sabbath.”

 

In today’s Gospel reading (Lk 6:1-5), the Pharisees confront the disciples of Jesus for doing what is unlawful on a Sabbath. Eating the grain out of someone’s field in not unlawful, but plucking the grain and rubbing the kernels to remove the husks is tantamount to “plucking” and “winnowing”, farm tasks that break the Sabbath law. Jesus defends his disciples by appealing to sacred scriptures. He asks the Pharisees if what his disciples have done is wrong, what about David: he and his hungry men went into the house of God, took the bread and ate the bread which can be “lawfully” eaten only by priests. In this incident (cf. I Samuel 21:2-7) the disciplinary restriction of the law gives way before human need. Jesus then makes a climactic assertion: “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” Jesus is the “Son of Man” who ushers in the dawn of salvation even on a Sabbath.

 

The following story gives a glimpse into the perversion of the Law/religion as well as its true interpretation/meaning (cf. Anthony De Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations, New York: Image Books, 1988, p. 90-92).

 

Among the Jews, the observance of the Sabbath, the day of the Lord, was originally a thing of joy. But too many Rabbis kept issuing one injunction after another on how exactly it was to be observed, what sort of activity was allowed, until some people felt they could hardly move during the Sabbath for fear that some regulation or other might be transgressed.

 

The Baal Shem, son of Eliezer, gave much thought to this matter. One night he had a dream. An angel took him up to heaven and showed him two thrones placed above all others. “For whom they are reserved?” he asked. “For you” – was the answer – “if you make use of your intelligence, and for a man whose name and address is now being written down and given to you.”

 

He was then taken down to the deepest spot in hell and shown two vacant seats. “For whom are these prepared?” he asked. “For you” – the answer came – “if you do not make use of your intelligence and for the man whose name and address are being written down for you.”

 

In his dream Baal Shem visited the man who was to be his companion in paradise. He found him living among Gentiles, quite ignorant of Jewish customs, and, on the Sabbath, he would give a banquet at which there was a lot of merrymaking, and to which all his Gentile neighbors were invited. When Baal Shem asked him why he held this banquet, the man replied, “I recall that in my childhood my parents taught me that the Sabbath was a day of rest and for rejoicing; so on Saturdays my mother made the most succulent meals at which we sang and danced and made merry. I do the same today.”

 

Baal Shem attempted to instruct the man in the ways of his religion, for he had been born a Jew but was evidently quite ignorant of all the rabbinical prescriptions. But Baal Shem was struck dumb when he realized that the man’s joy in the Sabbath would be marred if he was made aware of his shortcomings.

 

Baal Shem, still in his dream, then went to the home of his companion in hell. He found the man to be a strict observer of the Law, always apprehensive lest his conduct should not be correct. The poor man spent each Sabbath day in a scrupulous tension as if he were sitting on hot coals. When Baal Shem attempted to upbraid him for his slavery to the Law, the power of speech was taken from him as he realized that the man would never understand that he could do wrong by fulfilling religious injunctions.

 

Thanks to this revelation given to him in a form of a dream, the Baal Shem Tov evolved a new system of observance whereby God is worshiped in joy that comes from the heart.

 

When people are joyful they are always good; whereas when they are good they are seldom joyful.

  

 

B. First Reading (I Cor 4:6b-15): “We go hungry and thirsty and we are poorly clad.”

 

In today’s reading (I Cor 4:6b-15) we continue to get insight into the Christian community in Corinth and the role of the apostles. Paul uses his experience and that of Apollos in the discussion of apostolic ministry. With this he hopes to convey his thoughts to the Corinthians more efficaciously. He contrasts the life of the apostles with the Corinthian community. Paul describes at what cost and under what conditions he and his fellow apostles labor for the sake of the Good News:  they go hungry and thirsty, clothed in rags, beaten and cursed, worn out with hard work, wandering from place to place, insulted and persecuted. The apostle cries out: “We are no more than this world’s garbage; we are the scum of the earth to this very moment.” This is antithetical to the smugness of the Corinthians, who in forming factions make pretence of spiritual superiority over their fellow Christians. This attitude perplexes Paul who questions them: “Well, then, how can you boast, as if what you have were not a gift?” Paul’s tirade is not meant to make the Corinthians feel ashamed, but to instruct them as his dear children. Indeed, the apostle Paul is their “father” in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.

 

The following article gives us an idea of what Saint Paul went through in preaching the Gospel to the nations (cf. “The Great Apostle: Introduction” in Concord, ed. Fr. Tom Fogarty, SSP, September 2014, p. 5-6).

 

Too many, if they know anything about him at all, see St. Paul as an early Christian writer, doubtless of importance to the early Christians but with little to link him to our times. Such a view could not be more wrong, not only because his profound teaching will be relevant in every age until the end of time but because he conveyed that teaching in such a passionate, exuberant and dramatic way in his immortal Letters. Little did he think, as he agonized over those relatively few converts he made personally, that all this heart-breaking work would eventually disappear – with the exception of the Church in Malta. Little did he think he was writing for the Christian ages to come and not just for those few unreliable Christians he made and often wept over.

 

And what a price he paid! True, conditions two thousand years ago were more difficult for everyone, not just for him. And perhaps most of all travel facilities – or the lack of them. But, let’s take a look.

 

On his third Missionary Journey, for example, he left Antioch walking north with the temperature in the nineties or higher and made, perhaps, twenty miles daily – not always because the road went uphill. It would thus have taken him ten days of constant walking to reach the gateway to Cilicia, a narrow pass into the Taurus Mountains. That pass, we are told, is 3,500 feet and the peaks of the mountains go as high as ten thousand feet. From that point Paul had still more than 1,000 miles

to go before reaching Troas where for the first time he could find a ship and get a little rest.

 

How he survived in the meantime is hard to say: perhaps some wild fruit during the day and at night some cheese from a friendly shepherd who might also give him shelter. Tourist he was not, rather a poor pilgrim … but also one on fire with the love of Jesus which in his thirty-plus years of mission never left him.

 

 

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

 

1. What does it mean for us personally that Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath? How do we keep the Lord’s Day holy?

 

2. Are we grateful for what the apostle Paul and the other apostles have done for the community of faith?

 

 

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

 

O Jesus Lord,

you are the Lord of the Sabbath.

Teach us the meaning of compassion

and help us discern the true demands of God’s commands.

We give you praise

for the apostolic work of Saint Paul and his fellow workers.

Help us to toil with them

for the spread of the Gospel.

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 week. Please memorize it.

 

            “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.“ (Lk 6:5) // “I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.” (I Cor 4:15)

                                                                                                                                               

  

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

 

Make an effort to learn more about Saint Paul and his apostolic travails. Learn to celebrate Sunday as truly the Lord’s Day.

  

 *** 

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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