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A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 15, n. 39)

Week 20 in Ordinary Time: August 20-26, 2017

 

 

(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 13-19, 2017, please go to ARCHIVES Series 15 and click on “Week 18”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: August 20-26, 2017.)

 

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 August 20, 2017: TWENTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Mercy Is for All”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 56:1, 6-7 // Rom 11:13-15, 29-32 // Mt 15:21-28

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 15:21-28): “O woman, great is your faith.” 

          

By his words and deeds, Jesus Christ instilled in his disciples the universal character of the Father’s saving plan and radically fulfilled it by the paschal mystery of his passion, death and resurrection. The story of the Canaanite woman depicted in today’s Gospel (Mt 15:21-28), who is an object of Jesus’ favor and praise, gives us a glimpse of the ever-growing expanse of the community of faith – of those who turn to Jesus Christ with unwavering trust.  No one is excluded from the community of salvation that continually expands and enfolds all peoples, nations and cultures. The Church of Christ is universal and its liturgy is a beautiful expression of its all-embracing experience of salvation.

  

The Canaanite woman likewise epitomizes the positive attitude of the recipients of the Good News through time and space. In this remarkable Gentile mother, the evangelist Matthew portrays a laudable figure of efficacious faith. The biblical scholar, Eugene Maly remarks: “Throughout his Gospel Matthew is at pains to show what great things can be achieved through faith in Jesus Christ. He is writing for Christians who have already expressed that faith – and he is writing for us - for he knows that all Christians are in need of constant encouragement to grow in faith. Here he is telling us how effectively even this pagan woman believed. Could Jesus say to us what he said to her, You have great faith!?”

 

The following incident gives a glimpse into the Christian disciples’ effort to share “the bread of faith” - through charitable actions - with the needy people of today’s world (cf. Richard Ross, MKLM, in “Missioner Tales” in Maryknoll, May/June 2014, p. 9).

 

In the Nyashana suburb of Mwanza, Tanzania, most families live without running water and electricity. The Jesuit-founded Lubango Center, where I serve with the Maryknoll Lay Missioners, was created to address the local poverty by offering equal opportunities to women and children in the areas of life skills and education. The building complex is beautiful and the children who attend classes there are well-dressed in school uniforms. However, the stress of living in the area, where the need for food, water, shelter and sanitation are primary, makes it hard for children to learn and develop the confidence to break the cycle of poverty.

 

One day, I had some old loaves of bread that I was going to throw out but decided instead to toss to the birds on my way to Lubango Center. Some of the children come early to school and I walk with them before the 8 a.m. start of classes. When these children saw the old bread I was about to toss, their eyes lit up, and in a flash the bread was gone. They all took two pieces each. Here I was going to throw it to the birds and the children just gobbled it up. Because the children have smiles on their faces and nice uniforms, you can’t tell how poor or hungry they are.

  

 

B. First Reading (Is 56:1, 6-7): “I will bring foreigners to my holy mountain.”

 

The Old Testament reading (Is 56:1, 6-7) from the third section of the book of Isaiah (chapters 56-66) gives us an expansive and refreshing concept of salvation: the house of God is “a house of prayer for all peoples”. According to this prophetic vision, salvation depends first and foremost on the person’s loving and humble attitude toward the Lord God and not per se on membership in the Jewish people. Those who are faithful to God’s covenant and keep the Sabbath will be brought to his holy mountain and experience the joy of participating in his “house of prayer”. Probably written after the Babylonian exile, about six centuries before Christ, salvation is presented as universal and the divine benevolence extended to all peoples. Indeed, God’s acceptance of “foreigners” expands the boundaries of the worshipping community of Israel and foreshadows the future “catholic” – universal- mission of the Church.

 

I share below one of my most intense personal experiences of the “catholic” Church.

 

It was in the early 1980’s when I had a chance to attend for the first time the Easter Sunday Mass with the Pope at St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican City. I was with a visiting Italian PDDM sister who had worked in Latin America for many years. We were there with myriads of people from different nations and cultures - all patiently waiting for the Mass to begin. I was shivering from the dampness and chill of a steady spring shower, but I was awed by the reality that I was in a “house of prayer” without frontiers. I was looking at the immense sky, feeling the gentle raindrops on my face and beholding the various faces of the peoples of the earth aglow with Easter joy.

 

When Pope John Paul II greeted us and began the Mass, I forgot how cold I was and simply focused on the beauty and glory of being an Easter people – of the great privilege and dignity of worshipping in the house of God. After the Mass and with the spring sunshine finally enveloping us, the Holy Father extended his Easter greetings to the entire world in about a hundred languages. That was a “catholic” experience I would never forget!

 

 

C. Second Reading (Rom 11:13-15, 29-32): “The gifts and call of God for Israel are irrevocable.”

 

The worldwide saving mission to all peoples is exemplified by Saint Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. Having encountered intimately the Risen Lord and powered by the apostolic energy of the Holy Spirit, the Easter gift, Paul follows obediently the dynamics of the divine plan of salvation, i.e. “to the Jews first and also to all nations”. He is deeply grieved that as a people, the Israelites do not welcome the Gospel centered on Jesus Christ as the Messiah. And yet the ever-positive Paul, as we could verify in today’s Second Reading (Rom 11: 13-15, 29-32), never loses hope. Saint Paul is convinced that Israel’s fall is temporary, not definitive. His hope for the Israel’s conversion is based on the wholly-gratuitous love of God and his unfailing mercy for all.

 

The biblical scholar John Pilch comments: “Israel’s stumbling is not definitive or irremediable. Paul explains how Israel’s fall made it possible for the Gentiles to accept Jesus and thereby stir Israel to envy. If the failure of Israel brought such a blessing, imagine the result when they all accept Jesus! (…) While the Jews have ruptured the right relationship with God by rejecting the good news, they are still loved by him because the election of Israel is irrevocable. The promises or covenants with the patriarchs still stand forever. God simply doesn’t vacillate about those who he blesses and chooses. In point of fact, all groups have been disobedient to God at one time or another. This is what allows God to have mercy on all.”

  

The following article is on a positive note. It gives us a glimpse into the ecumenical direction and inter-religious dialogue that the Church is carrying out in the modern world, following the divine universal saving plan. It is also consonant with Saint Paul’s conviction concerning God’s mercy for all (cf. Marco Bellizi, “The Jews and the Frail Pope” in L’Osservatore Romano, May 18, 2011, p. 11-12).

 

Every time you met John Paul II you had the feeling that something important was happening; he had a solemnity about him that was instantly perceptible. However, the full value of the Polish Pope has not yet been recognized … These opinions were expressed by Rabbi Jack Bemporad, 78, a man who has spent his life promoting mutual understanding between religious. He was born in Italy but moved to the United States when he was six years old, after the approval of Mussolini’s racial laws. The Rabbi led Jewish communities in Texas, California and New Jersey. Since 1992 he has lived at the Center for Inter-Religious Understanding in Rome and teaches at the Pontifical University of St. Aquinas. Bemporad was and is an important spokesman for relations with the Church: he worked with Cardinal Willebrands and Cardinal Cassidy to achieve full diplomatic relations between Israel and the Holy See. He met John XXIII – the Vatican Council “was one of the crucial experiences of my life”, he says – as well as Benedict XVI. And of course, he had frequent meetings with Karol Wojtyla, of whom he spoke in this interview with L’Osservatore Romano.

 

 

Rabbi Bemporad, you met John Paul II several times, for example in Denver (1993) and in Vatican City (1994), when you discussed the views of Jews in the Catholic Catechism. You also led a large delegation of Rabbis and religious leaders to thank the Pope shortly before his death. What are your memories of these meetings?

 

Perhaps the first impression one had in meeting personally with John Paul II was his gravitas. A presence immediately made itself manifest which made you feel that something important was at stake. At the same time, his profound humanity and love shone through and you felt he was interested in you and in what you are doing and the topic at hand.

 

In Denver the meeting took place in the day, since it was scheduled after his many talks and conferences and his concern was that religions work together to offer an objective and universal ethic that could help deal with the pressing problems we face: war, poverty, inequality, and lack of education in so many parts of the world.

 

The meeting at the Vatican was much more theoretical and theological. It related to the work our Center had done in educating the inter-religious community on the new catechism and the topic was how best to conduct theological dialogue between Christian and Jews.

 

What one was left with after these and other meetings was the Pope’s complete dedication to making the world better for all human beings, his dedication to a dialogue wherein one must be true to one’s faith, without being false to the faith of others, and how serious and difficult this task was.

 

 

When John Paul II visited Jerusalem, you commented on the event in the media. Looking back, according to you, what really made that trip so memorable?

 

I think the image of the frail Pope, with no assistance from the aides, slowly walking to the wall to insert the beautiful prayer of forgiveness and reconciliation struck an unforgettable chord in the hearts of Jews, not just in Israel, but in Jews throughout the world. I also think his meeting with Polish Holocaust survivors, who recognized that this Pope as a young man was a witness to this horror, demonstrated solidarity with the suffering of the Jewish people.

 

 

In your opinion, which act of John Paul II has been most appreciated by the Jewish community?

 

I think his most important act was the visit to the Synagogue in Rome which included re-statement of the most important innovations of Nostra Aetate and subsequent documents. Pope John Paul II believed that the changes between Christians and Jews should be given significant expression. What better way to show these changes than to walk into the Rome Synagogue, embrace Rabbi Toaff before the world.

 

 

Did the personal attitude of John Paul II contribute to building Jewish opinion with regard to the Pope?

 

Yes, the Jewish people have the highest opinion and respect for John Paul II. He was the first Pope to enter a synagogue and he authorized Cardinal Cassidy to ask forgiveness for past acts of anti-Judaism, using the Hebrew word, teshuvah, which means not only the asking for forgiveness, but the resolve to start out in a new direction. In addition, he initiated and completed the establishment of full diplomatic relations between Israel and the Holy See and wherever he went throughout the world, he met with Jewish communities to reach out in friendship and understanding. No prior Pope had done so much.

 

 

We are acquainted with the story of the Jewish orphan whom the young Karol Wojtyla refused to convert, respecting the will of the child’s parents who had died in a concentration camp. If you were in similar circumstances, would you have done the same?

 

Yes, except that Judaism is not a religion that actively seeks proselytes. This act shows the Pope’s sensitivity and understanding.

  

 

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

 

1. How do the merciful presence of Jesus and the unwavering faith of the Canaanite woman in his saving power inspire you? Do you believe that the mercy of Jesus is universal and has no bounds? Do you replicate in your life the indomitable trust of the Canaanite woman in what Jesus could do on our behalf?

 

2. How does the prophetic proclamation of the Third Isaiah concerning foreigners being led to the holy mountain and joyfully worshipping in God’s house of prayer affect you? What are your insights and personal experiences about the universal character of the plan of salvation?

 

3. Do I believe that God’s merciful love is for all and that the gifts and the call of God for Israel are irrevocable? How do I act on this conviction?

 

 

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

 

Almighty God,

your merciful love is for all.

Your compassion touches peoples of all nations, cultures and colors

and your care embraces the whole creation.

Let our prayers in various tongues rise up to you

from vast continents and jewel-like islands of the earth.

Help us to welcome each other

and may our Church be a “house of prayer for all peoples”.

Do not let us exclude anyone nor marginalize anybody

through selfishness, indifference and conceit.

In the spirit of Saint Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles,

help us to trust in your universal plan of salvation

and to believe that your gifts and call for Israel are irrevocable.

Give us the zeal and wisdom

to promote inter-religious understanding among all peoples.

Grant us also the courage to deal with the pressing problems

in our society today,

drawing grace and mercy from the heart of Jesus,

whose rising to life set off the universal mission to the whole world.

O compassionate Father,

let the Spirit of the Risen Christ energize us

that we may bring efficaciously your merciful and saving love

to all creation.

May you be praised, honored and adored, 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.

 

“Great is your faith!” (Mt 15:28a)

 

  

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

 

Pray that today’s efforts toward inter-religious dialogue may be blessed by the Lord, especially between the Christians and the Jews.  By your acts of justice, service and compassion especially to the marginalized, allow the universal love of God to permeate the earth and his heavenly kingdom to come upon us all.

 

 

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August 21, 2017: MONDAY – SAINT PIUS X, Pope

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Challenges Us to Choose the Ultimate Good … They Did Not Listen to Him”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jgs 2:11-19 // Mt 19:16-22

  

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 19:16-22): “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and you will have treasure in heaven.”

 

The rich young man in today’s Gospel (Mt 19:16-22) is in pursuit of eternal life. He has kept the commandments. In the Old Covenant, such a response would have been sufficient. But Jesus goes further. He challenges him to sell what he has, give it to the poor and follow him. Christian discipleship involves renunciation. To follow Jesus is to make a radical choice for his very person - the absolute good. It entails leaving behind false security. Jesus therefore invites him to use his possessions to minister to the poor and thus find treasure in heaven. But the rich young man is excessively attached to his possessions. They preempt his priorities and value judgments. They impede him from choosing Jesus as the center of his life. Hence, this would-be disciple fails to respond to Jesus’ invitation and goes away sad. The rich young man’s possessions have actually “possessed” him.

 

Jesus invites us today to give God our possessions.  In her book God Will Provide, p. 36-37, Patricia Treece remarks: “About surrendering possessions: it isn’t what you have; it’s whether it has you. Or to put it another way, it’s what you do with it. [Saint] John XXIII is a great example of not letting what you have, have you. At a certain point in the young priest’s career, he was named to head a student hostel. Suddenly he had to furnish small personal living quarters for himself. John had an artistic bent and discovered he enjoyed ‘decorating’ with the modest financial gift his dad gave him (unlike religious order priests, diocesan clergy take no vow of poverty). But he writes in his Journal that having set up his first home ‘in a suitable manner’, God let him see more than ever the beauty of the spirit of poverty. He then prays that he will always “keep this feeling of detachment from anything that is mine.”

 

 

B. First Reading (Jgs 2:11-19): “When the Lord raised up judges, they did not listen.”

 

We start today the reading of passages from the Book of Judges, which is composed of stories from the lawless period of Israel’s history between the invasion of Canaan and the establishment of the monarchy. It depicts the exploits of national heroes (called “judges”) as well as the sinful tendency of Israel to idolatry. The great lesson of the Book of Judges is this: Israel’s survival depends on loyalty to God, who is always ready to save his people when they cry for help and turn to him again.

 

Today’s First Reading (Jgs 2:11-19) shows the tremendous apostasy within Israel after the death of Joshua. A new era has begun with a new generation of Israelites who have not experienced the Lord’s saving deeds on behalf of Israel. This post-Exodus generation tends to run after the pagan gods Baal and Astarte, the embodiment of the idolatrous cult in the land they have conquered. The gods of the native inhabitants have truly become a snare for Israel. Their sin of idolatry angers God who allows them to fall into the power of their enemies. God however is merciful. To their cry of distress God responds with compassion by sending them leaders to save them from raiders. But the Israelites do not really pay attention to their leaders. When their leaders die, they relapse and become worse than the previous generation.

 

The chronic instability and the stubbornness of heart of Israel can also be verified in the modern day situation (cf. “Public Being Seriously Misled by Politicians” in Alive! July/August 2013, p. 3). Today’s situation is similar to that of sinful Israel who quickly stray from the way of their fathers, who do not listen to their “judges” and refuse to follow  their example of obedience to God’s commands.

 

Ireland’s Catholic bishops have flatly contradicted Government claims that the Fine Gael-led drive to legalize the killing of unborn children is about saving women’s lives. “People are being misled”, said the bishops. “We challenge repeated statements that this legislation is about saving lives and involves no change to the law or practice on abortion.” They added that “legalizing the direct and intentional destruction of the life of an unborn baby can never be described as ‘life-saving’ or ‘prolife’.”

 

In a strongly worded statement, the bishops argued that every citizen, not just people of faith, should be deeply concerned by the radical anti-life campaign. “The Government is proposing abortion legislation that will fundamentally change the culture of medical practice in Ireland”, said the bishops. “For the first time legislation will be enacted permitting the deliberate and intentional killing of an unborn child.” They also pointed out that attempting to legalize the killing of innocent unborn children is a huge abuse of power that goes beyond the authority of the State. “No individual has the right to destroy life, and no State has the right to undermine the right to life”, said the statement. The arrogant refusal of the Government to engage with the argument against abortion is also deepening the belief that the present anti-life campaign has nothing to do with care for expectant mothers; that this is just a smokescreen.

 

In a letter to the media, Dr. Therese Boyle GP of the north Dublin Dochas Center asked why the Government is not listening. “The problem with the present debate is the dishonesty of its premise – that it is about ‘saving the lives of women’,” she wrote. “How can a maternal rate that approaches zero in statistical terms be improved upon?” She noted that doctors “understand fully the various issues involved in the present abortion debate and have strongly rejected the proposed legislation especially where it involves the right to a termination of pregnancy because of the risk of suicide.”

 

 

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

 

1. How do we respond to Christ’s radical challenge to make a fundamental option for his person? What do the following words of Christ mean to us personally: “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven”?

 

2. Like sinful Israel, are we guilty of straying from the ways of God and of disobeying his life-giving commands?  If so, do we seek God’s forgiveness and mercy and resolve to listen to his voice and obey his saving will?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

like the rich young man

we want to follow you and seek eternal life.

Help us to respond to the challenge of radical discipleship.

Give us the wisdom and courage to “renounce” our possessions

so that they may not control or possess us.

Help us to use all the resources you have given us

to minister to the poor

and promote your kingdom of love, justice, and peace.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

***

Loving God,

you continue to work saving marvels on our behalf.

But many times we refuse to see the goodness of your love

for the “promise” of false idols tantalizes us.

Convert us, O Lord!

Teach us to walk on the right path

and help us to listen to the modern day “judges”

that you have provided for us

in your benevolence.

We give you glory and praise,

now and forever.

Amen.

 

 

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

           

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

 

“If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mt 19:21) //“They were quick to stray from the way their fathers had taken and did not follow their example of obedience to the commandments of the Lord.” (Jgs 2:17)

 

 

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

 

Take stock of your material possessions. Resolve to share your material resources with the needy and give to the poor. // Be deeply aware of the Church’s social teachings and by your prayer, words and actions, promote the defense of life and the integrity of the human person.

 

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August 22, 2017: TUESDAY – THE QUEENSHIP OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Invites Us to Pursue the Kingdom of God … He Is Sent by God”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jgs 6:11-24a // Mt 19:23-30

 

 

I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 19:23-30): “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”

 

The kingdom of God is an incomparable treasure that surpasses all earthly goods. It makes everything else relative and secondary. Jesus Master teaches us to discern what is true, just, and good. He comes to reorient our lives toward God and empowers those with receptive hearts to choose the heavenly kingdom. Those who fail to respond to Jesus’ radical challenge to follow him feel despondent, just like the rich young man who walks away sad - impeded by his possessions from pursuing wholeheartedly the heavenly kingdom.

 

The Danish theologian, Soren Kierkegaard, underlines the meaning of Christian discipleship: “To follow Christ means denying one’s self, and hence it means walking the same way as Christ walked in the humble form of a servant – needy, forsaken, mocked, not loving worldliness and not loved by the worldly-minded … He who in self-abnegation renounces the world and all that is the world’s, forsakes every relationship which otherwise tempts and holds captive … He who, if it becomes necessary, certainly does not love his father or mother or sister or brother less than before, but loves Christ so much more that he may be said to hate those others: he walks absolutely alone, alone in the whole world … Eternity will not ask about what worldly possessions you left behind in the world. But it will ask you what treasure you have accumulated in heaven.”

 

In today’s Gospel reading (Mt 19:23-30), having seen the rich young man walk away from the offer of heavenly treasure, Jesus exclaims: “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” But he also asserts that with God all things are possible. The Drexel family illustrates what it means to pursue the heavenly kingdom in today’s world (cf. Patricia Treece, God Will Provide, Brewster: Paraclete Press, 2011, p. 38-39).

 

There are people who live in well-decorated mansions who also never let their enjoyed possessions come between them and God. Consider the parents of St. Katherine Drexel (d. 1985), the American heiress. Katherine’s father, Francis Drexel, and her mother, Emma Bouvier Drexel, were one of the richest couples in America. They used their money to do immense good as philanthropists, while they enjoyed a town mansion (with a chapel), a country estate (where their daughters ran catechism classes for the workers’ children), trips to Europe, and the best teachers for their children’s private education.

 

Reared to do good, the Drexel girls in turn lived exemplary lives, making praiseworthy use of enormous inherited incomes (to ensure that no one married any of his girls for money, Francis Drexel left all his wealth to charities, allowing his daughters to enjoy the interest on the immense sum during their lifetimes). Katherine, becoming a nun, dedicated herself and her riches to helping raise black and native Americans out of poverty through education. She became so detached from her resources – as the longest-lived she inherited from her sisters, each childless – that she never tried to break her father’s will; that upon  his last daughter’s death left the fortune to charities named almost a century earlier, some of which no longer needed help.

 

Katherine’s order founded several schools – elementary, high, vocational, and even a university – that relied heavily on this money. But if God wanted the schools to continue, she believed, God would provide for them. And he did.       

 

 

B. First Reading (Jgs 6:11-24a): “Go and save Israel. It is I who send you.”

 

Today’s First Reading (Jgs 6:11-24a) presents the call of Gideon and his mission as a savior. The idolatrous Israelites suffer the menace and oppression of the Midianites: camel-riding nomads whose novel method of swift travel and attack make them exceedingly dangerous. Even a strong man of Gideon’s valor has to beat out wheat in a concealed place to avoid Midian plunderers. The angel of the Lord appears to Gideon as he threshes out wheat in the wine press and greets him: “The Lord is with you, brave and mighty man!” Gideon challenges the angel’s greeting with a sarcastic remark claiming that rather than being with them, God has abandoned the people. The response to his sarcasm is a divine commission: “Go with the strength you have and save Israel from the power of Midian.” After protesting his lowliness and insignificance, the Lord assures him: “I shall be with you.” To his request for a “sign”, God obliges by transforming Gideon’s meal offering into a burnt offering. A fire comes up from the rock and consumes the meat and unleavened cakes that Gideon has prepared. Having received the sign of his election, he builds there an altar to the Lord and calls it “Yahweh-shalom” (“God is peace”), a reference to the divine assurance of peace. With a small army of three hundred men, Gideon is to defeat the Midianites because God is true to his promise: “I shall be with you.”

 

Today is the anniversary of the foundation of the Society of Saint Paul and of the entire Pauline Family (August 20, 1914). Our Founder, Blessed James Alberione, is a modern-day Gideon. Humble, fragile and self-effacing, he showed to the world that with God, who called him for a saving mission, nothing is impossible and that with God we can do all. Here is a biographical sketch prepared and circulated by the Pauline Family.

 

Fr. James Alberione’s story begins in San Lorenzo di Fossano (Cuneo), Italy, where he was born on 4 April 1884, the fifth of Michele and Teresa Alloco’s seven children.

 

At the age of 16, James entered the Seminary of Alba. During his Eucharistic adoration on the night of 31 December 1900, he turned his attention to what role he would play in the Church and society of the new century: “Particular enlightenment came from the Host … He felt deeply obliged to prepare himself to do something for the Lord and for the people of the new century.

 

8 September 1913 was an important date in the life of Fr. Alberione: on that day, Francesco Re, the Bishop of Alba, appointed him director of the weekly newspaper, the Gazzetta d’Alba. Fr. Alberione himself wrote in 1954: “When the time came to begin, the bishop struck the ‘hour of God’, charging him to devote himself to the diocesan press. This opened the way for the apostolate.”

 

From 1914-1960, Fr. Alberione founded a number of Institutes collectively known as the “Pauline Family”. Five are religious Congregations (Society of St. Paul, 1914; Daughters of St. Paul, 1915; Pious Disciples of the Divine Master, 1924; Sisters of Jesus Good Shepherd, 1938; Institute of Mary Queen of Apostles for Vocations, 1959); four are Secular Institutes (Jesus Priest; St. Gabriel the Archangel; Our Lady of the Annunciation; Holy Family, 1960), and one is a lay association (Pauline Cooperators, 1917).

 

In 1960, Fr. Alberione delineated the mission of the Pauline Family: “It has a single spirit, the one contained in the heart of St. Paul, ‘Cor Pauli, Cor Christi’; it has the same devotions, and its different ends converge in a common goal: to give Jesus Christ in a complete way, as he defined himself: ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life’.”

 

Filled with zeal for souls, Fr. Alberione saw the instruments of communication as the most rapid and effective way of making Jesus Christ known, of disseminating the Gospel message, and of reaching all people, especially those furthest from the Faith. Thus numerous books were printed and a variety of periodicals initiated, among these: Vita Pastorale (for parish priests, 1912); Giornalino (for children, 1924) and Famiglia Cristiana (for families, 1931). The cinema apostolate was also launched. But Fr. Alberione channeled his greatest efforts into helping people get to know the Bible and Gospel, millions of copies of which were printed and disseminated throughout the world over the years. At the same time, he sent out his sons and daughters to open new communities on every continent: from Argentina to Mexico, to the United States, to Australia; from Japan to Kenya, to India, to Canada. When Fr. Alberione died in 1971, the Pauline Family was present in more than 50 nations.

 

An hour before his death on 26 November 1971, Fr. Albeirone received a visit from Pope Paul VI. Two years earlier, the Pope had conferred on him the high honor of “Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice” and sketched out a memorable profile of him: “There he is: humble, silent, tireless, ever-vigilant, always recollected in his thoughts, which run from prayer to work; always intent on scrutinizing the ‘signs of the times’, that is, the most innovative ways of reaching souls. Our Don Alberione has given the Church new instruments with which to express herself, new means for giving vigor and breadth to her apostolate, new capacities and a new awareness of the importance and possibilities of her mission in the modern world, with modern means. Dear Don Alberione, allow the Pope to rejoice in your long, faithful and timeless work and in the fruit it has produced for the glory of God and the good of the Church.”

 

 

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

 

1. How does the Lord’s challenge to the rich young man affect me? Am I willing to renounce earth’s goods for the sake of the kingdom of God? How do I give witness to my fundamental choice for Jesus Christ? Do I believe that with God everything is possible and that with divine grace we gain eternal life?

 

2. Are we aware that as baptized Christians we have a special saving mission to carry out in today’s world and that it has its origin in God? Do we believe that with this divine mission we are accompanied by the divine assurance: “I shall be with you”?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

we thank you for the challenge of Jesus Christ,

the wisdom from on high.

Help us to respond fully to Christ’s call

to embrace radically the Kingdom value.

Be with us as we hold on to his words

that with your grace everything is possible.

Never let us trust in our merits and power.

Grant us the gift of eternal life in your kingdom

where you live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

***

O merciful and loving God,

you called Gideon to rescue Israel from the Midianites

and you assured him of your presence and assistance.

Our Christian mission is to spread the Good News of salvation

to the entire world and creation.

Let us feel your assurance: “I will be with you”.

Grant us the grace to be fully dedicated to this mission

so that all peoples and all creation

may be restored to you in your Son Jesus Christ,

through the power of the Holy Spirit.

We give you glory and praise,

now and forever.

Amen.  

 

 

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

 

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

  

“They will inherit eternal life.” (Mt 19:29) //“The Lord is with you, O champion.” (Jgs 6:12)

 

 

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

 

When you are in crisis with regards to your basic needs, affirm your trust in divine providence. Make an effort to share the gifts and resources God has given you with the poor and the needy. // Pray that, like Gideon, we may be efficacious instruments of God’s saving plan in today’s world. By your words and actions and total service to God and neighbor, participate deeply in the divine plan of salvation.

 

      

*** *** ***

 

August 23, 2017: WEDNESDAY – WEEKDAY (20); SAINT ROSE OF LIMA

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Reveals God’s Generosity … He

Is Our True Leader”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jgs 6:11-24a // Mt 20:1-16

  

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 20:1-16): “Are you envious because I am generous?”

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Mt 20:1-16) is about a landowner who went out at various hours of the day to the market place to hire laborers for his vineyard. At the end of the day all the laborers, including those who were hired at the last hour, were paid a full day’s wage. The bible scholar Eugene Maly explains: “Jesus was telling a simple agricultural story whose meaning was not in details but in the story itself. In the Father’s kingdom all are equally loved and human standards are not to be used to measure God’s generosity. God forgives and loves as the world does not know how to forgive and love. The Church must do likewise.”

 

The following modern day story by Marc Levy and published in Fresno Bee (August 17, 2008, p. A3) gives a glimpse into the immense love of God and his generous stance.

 

MARIETTA, Pa: A former tough-on-crime Pennsylvania lawmaker has adopted a new and unpopular cause, taking into his home three sex offenders who couldn’t find a place to live – a stand that has angered neighbors, drawn pickets and touched off a zoning dispute. As cities across the nation pass ever-tighter laws to keep out people convicted of sex crimes, Tom Armstrong said he is drawing on his religious belief in forgiveness and sheltering the three men until he can open a halfway house for sex offenders … Nearly 100 Pennsylvania municipalities have ordinances restricting where sex offenders may live. The ordinances generally bar them from moving in next to schools, playgrounds or other places where children might gather.

 

In early June, Armstrong quietly allowed a rapist and two other sex offenders who had served prison time to move into his 15-room century-old home 75 miles west of Philadelphia after another town blocked his plans for another halfway house … A Republican, Armstrong served 12 years in the Legislature before he was defeated in a primary in 2002. He was known for taking conservative positions on abortion, taxes and crime but also for his role in later years supporting prisoners’ rights. Over the past two decades, he also took in homeless veterans, and more recently he has been a mentor to ex-cons.

 

 

B. First Reading (Jgs 9:6-15): “It is said: The king will reign over us, when the Lord of God reigns among you (I Sm 12:12).”

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Jgs 9:6-15) presents the ambitious bid for kingship of Abimelech, a descendant of Gideon by a polygamous marriage to a servant girl from Shechem. The ruthless Abimelech becomes the king of the city-state Shechem through machination and the brutal murder of his brothers, Gideon’s seventy sons. But Jotham, Gideon’s youngest son, escapes and is not killed. He survives to address a parable of judgment against Abimelch and his Shechem conspirators. In Jotham’s fable, the only one willing to reign over the other trees is not a real tree, but a worthless and destructive thornbush. Jotham’s allegorical prophecy comes true. In crowning Abimelech through devious means and conspiracy, Abimelech and the people of Shechem incur God’s retributive judgment. Tension soon develops between Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem and a military conflict breaks out. Abimelech is victorious, but it is an empty victory. In putting down the revolt he destroys Shechem and its citizens, and in the process Abimelch suffers an ignominious death. When Abimelech comes to attack the tower in Thebez, a woman throws a millstone down on his head and fractures his skull. He orders his young assistant to draw his sword and kill him. He does not want it said that a woman killed him. The story of Abimelech tells us that anything that humans achieve without the Lord God ends in disaster. Abimelech has been great in battles and has usurped the leadership of Shechem. But for all his feats, he remains vulnerable. Because of his ruthless ambition to be king and the lack of divine commissioning, Abimelech’s death is caused by a woman, a very humiliating destiny for a strong man.

 

Pope Pius X is an example of a Church leader ordained by God and totally conformed to Jesus Christ, the true leader-shepherd of God’s flock. Here is a biographical sketch taken from the Wikipedia on the Internet.

 

Pope Pius X (2 June 1835 – 20 August 1914), born Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto, was the head of the Catholic Church from 4 August 1903 to his death in 1914. He was the first pope since Pius V (1566 to 1572) to be canonized … His most important reform was to publish the first Code of Canon Law, which collected the laws of the Church into one volume for the first time. He was a pastoral pope, encouraging personal piety and a lifestyle reflecting Christian values. He was born in the town of Riese, which would later append “Pio X” (Pius X’s name in Italian) to the town’s name.

 

Pius was particularly devoted to Mary. His encyclical Ad Diem Illum expresses his desire through Mary to renew all things in Christ, which he had defined as his motto in his first encyclical. Pius believed that there is no surer or more direct road than by the Virgin Mary to achieve this goal. Pius X was the only pope in the 20th century with extensive pastoral experience at the parish level and pastoral concerns permeated his papacy. He favored the use of the vernacular in catechesis. Frequent communion was a lasting innovation of his papacy. (…)

 

Personally, Pius combined within himself a strong sense of compassion, benevolence and poverty, but also stubbornness and a certain stiffness. He wanted to be pastoral and was the only pope in the 20th century who gave Sunday sermons every week. After the 1908 Messina earthquake he filled the Apostolic Palace with refugees, long before the Italian government acted. He rejected any kind of favors for his family. His brother remained a postal clerk; his favorite nephew stayed on as village priest, and his three sisters lived together close to poverty in Rome. He often referred to his own humble origins, taking up the causes of poor people. I was born poor, I have lived poor, and I wish to die poor. (…)

 

His simple origins became clear right after his election, when he wore a pectoral cross made of gilded metal on the day of his coronation and when his entourage was horrified, the new pope complained that he always wore it and that he had brought no other with him. He was well known for cutting down on papal ceremonies. He also abolished the custom of the pope dining alone (which has been established by Pope Urban VIII) and the pope invited his friends to eat with him. He was also on one occasion chided by Rome’s social leaders for refusing to make his peasant sisters papal countesses, to which he responded “I have made them sisters of the pope; what more can I do for them?”

 

He developed a reputation as being friendly with children. He carried candy in his pockets for the street urchins in Mantua and Venice, and taught catechism to them. During papal audiences, he would gather children around him and talk to them about things that interested them. His weekly catechism lessons in the courtyard of San Damaso in the Vatican always included a special place for children, and his decision to require the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine in every parish was partly motivated by a desire to reclaim children from religious ignorance. (…)

 

Considered a holy person by many, public veneration of Pope Pius began soon after his death.  Numerous petitions resulted in an early process of beatification.

 

 

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

 

1. Have we tried to shrink God to our size and wanted to make our thoughts his thoughts and our ways his ways? Do we avail ourselves of the compassionate love of God that transcends our painfully limited ways and thoughts? Do we ever begrudge God’s generosity? Or instead, do we rejoice with God in his infinite goodness for all his people and creation? 

 

2. Do we put our trust in God who commissions us to serve his people, or do we seek power and prestige for personal gain?

 

 

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

 

Almighty God,

you are our loving Father.

You showed justice to laborers of the first hour

and kindness to workers of the later hour.

Help us to imitate your benevolence and generosity

so that no one among us would lack the basic necessities of life.

We are laborers in your vineyard

and we need personal dedication as farmhands

in the great field of your kingdom.

In every way and in all our thoughts,

let us live by the spirit of the Gospel

and follow your heart and ways as the Good Shepherd.

We give you praise, now and forever.

Amen.

 

***

Lord God,

we put our trust in you

as the true guardian of your chosen people.

We thank you for Jesus Christ

whom you have anointed to pasture your flock

and to reign over us as the true king.

Help us to be docile followers of your Son Jesus

on the path that leads to eternal life.

Let world leaders and civil authorities

guide us in the spirit of justice and peace.

We give you glory and praise,

now and forever.

Amen.

 

 

  

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

 

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

 

“I am generous.” (Mt 20:15) // “Reign over us.” (Jgs 9:8)

 

 

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

 

By your acts of charity and solidarity with those who are experiencing the various hardships in today’s society (unemployment, poverty, insecurity, marginalization, etc.), let them experience God’s generous love. // Pray for civil authorities and world leaders that they may guide the people in the spirit of justice and peace. Be aware of social issues and be committed in helping people make the right decisions for the common good

 

*** *** ***

 

August 24, 2017: THURSDAY – SAINT BARTHOLOMEW, APOSTLE

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Promises Greater Things … His Apostle Bartholomew Is a Foundation Stone of the Church”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Rv 21:9b-14 // Jn 1:45-51

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 1:45-51): “There is a true Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”

 

Today’s Gospel (Jn 1:45-51) is a beautiful example of “vocation recruitment”. When Philip becomes convinced that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah foretold by the Law and the Prophets, he shares this discovery with his friend, Nathanael of Cana. Although Nathanael reacts rather cautiously by commenting “Can anything good from Nazareth?” he does not close himself to Philip’s “Come and see” invitation. When Jesus sees Nathanael coming toward him, he utters a statement of praise about his integrity: “Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him”. Integrity and critical open-mindedness are the remarkable attributes of Nathanael, a man in quest of truth.

 

Nathanael is overwhelmed by Jesus’ power to read hearts: “Before Philip called you I saw you under the fig tree.” Jesus knows that Nathanael has been studying the Torah under the fig tree, something that a true and perfect Israelite is expected to do. Nathanael spontaneously proclaims his faith in Jesus as the Son of God and the King of Israel. Jesus responds by promising “greater things than this” to Nathanael, who will see the vision of “angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man”. In Jesus is the embodiment of salvation. In his public ministry and in his paschal mystery of death and resurrection, the glory of God is revealed. Like the angels on Jacob’s ladder, Jesus will join to himself the “above” and the “below”, that is, the heavenly and the earthly. Nathanael, who is also known as the apostle Bartholomew, will be a witness to this.

 

 

B. First Reading (Rv 21:9b-14): “On the foundations are the names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb.”

 

The reading (Rv 21:9b-14) gives us a vision of the New Jerusalem, which represents the ultimate bliss. It also symbolizes the Church in its final and ultimate glory. Saint John’s end-time vision of the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God inspires us to strive for the fullness of light and life resulting from God’s presence. The wall of this city is built on twelve foundation stones, on which are written the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. This detail is very meaningful as we celebrate the feast of Saint Bartholomew the Apostle. It reminds us that the Church, the New City of Jerusalem, is built on the foundation of apostolic witnessing. The preaching of the apostles and prophets constitutes the Church. Saint Bartholomew is one of the twelve foundation stones of the Church. His name is inscribed in the beautiful and radiant city of the New Jerusalem. Saint Bartholomew now participates in the glory of the eternal city of light and life together with the victorious Lamb, Jesus Christ.

 

The following biographical sketch gives us an idea why Saint Bartholomew is an important foundation stone of the Church (cf. Wikipedia on the Internet).

 

Bartholomew the Apostle: He is one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus and is usually identified with Nathanael, who is mentioned in the gospel of John. “Bartholomew” comes from the Aramaic “bar Tolmay”, meaning “son of Tolmay” or “son of the furrows” (perhaps a ploughman).

 

In the gospel of John, Nathanael is introduced as a friend of Philip. He is described as initially being skeptical about the Messiah coming from Nazareth, saying: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”, but nonetheless, follows Philips’s invitation. Jesus immediately characterizes him as “Here is a man in whom there is no deception.” Some scholars hold that Jesus’ quote “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you”, is based on a Jewish figure of speech referring to studying the Torah. Nathanael recognizes Jesus as “the Son of God” and “the King of Israel”. He reappears at the end of John’s gospel as one of the disciples to whom Jesus appeared at the Sea of Galilee after the Resurrection.

 

Eusebius of Caesarea’s Ecclesiastical History states that after the Ascension, Bartholomew went on a missionary tour to India where he left behind a copy of the gospel of Matthew. (…) The studies of Fr. A.C. Perumalil SJ and Moraes hold that the Bombay region on the Konkan coast, a region which may have been known as the ancient city Kalyan, was the field of Saint Bartholomew’s missionary activities.

 

Along with his fellow apostle Jude, Bartholomew is reputed to have brought Christianity to Armenia in the first century. Thus both saints are considered the patron saints of the Armenian Apostolic Church. He is said to have been martyred in Albanopolis in Armenia. According to one account, he was beheaded, but a more popular tradition holds that he was flayed alive and crucified, head downward. He is said to have converted Polymius, the king of Armenia, to Christianity. Astyages, Polymius’ brother, consequently ordered Bartholomew’s execution (…)

 

The existence of relics at Lipari, a small island off the coast of Sicily, in the part of Italy controlled by Constantinople, was explained by Gregory of Tours by his body having miraculously washed up there … Of the many miracles performed by Bartholomew before and after his death, two very popular ones are known by the townsfolk of the small island of Lipari.

 

The people of Lipari celebrated his feast annually. The tradition of the people was to take the solid silver and gold statue from inside the Cathedral of St. Bartholomew and carry it through the town. On one occasion, when taking the statue down the hill towards the town, it suddenly got very heavy and had to be set down. When the men carrying the statue regained their strength they lifted it a second time. After a few seconds, it got even heavier. They set it down and attempted once more to pick it up. They managed to lift it but had to put it down one last time. Within seconds, a wall further downhill collapsed. If the statue had been able to be lifted, all the townspeople would have been killed.

 

During World War II, the Fascist regime looked for ways to finance their activities. The order was given to take the silver statue of St. Bartholomew and melt it down. The statue was weighed, and it was found to be only a few grams. It was returned to its place in the Cathedral of Lipari. In reality, the statue is made from many kilograms of silver and it is considered a miracle that it was not melted down. St. Bartholomew is credited with many other miracles having to do with the weight of objects.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we believe that, like Saint Bartholomew, we will see the “sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man”?

 

2. Do we value the apostolic witness and martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew? How do we imitate his commitment to Christ and his service to the Gospel?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

we thank you for the apostle Saint Bartholomew,

a man of integrity and a true seeker of truth.

He followed you in your paschal destiny

and witnessed to the nations

that you are indeed the point of encounter

between God and man.

Through his intercession,

may we have the grace to go out to the whole world

and proclaim to all peoples

that you are indeed the Son of God and the Messiah.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

***

(Cf. Opening Prayer, Mass on the Feast of St. Bartholomew the Apostle) 

Lord,

sustain within us the faith

which made St. Bartholomew ever loyal to Christ.

Let your Church be the sign of salvation

for all the nations of the world.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, forever and ever.

Amen.      

 

  

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

 

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

 

“You will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (Jn 1:51) //“The wall of the city had twelve courses of stones as its foundation, on which were inscribed the twelve names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb.” (Rv 21:14)

 

 

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

 

Pray for the Church in Armenia and India that it may be strengthened in its Christian witnessing. Imitate Saint Bartholomew in his quest for truth and in his integrity. In any way you can, continue to promote the Gospel witness of the apostles.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

August 25, 2017: FRIDAY – WEEKDAY (20); SAINT LOUIS; SAINT JOSPEH CALASANZ, Priest

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us the Meaning of Love … His Ancestress Ruth Embraced Israel’s God”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Ru 1:1, 3-6, 14b-16, 22 // Mt 22:34-40

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 22:34-40): “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself.”

(By Warren Padilla: Member: Pastoral Assistance and Community Education Mission)

 

            Can you still remember your emotions when you first fell in love? What was your reaction? Didn’t you feel so excited and high, thinking about your beloved? You spent sleepless nights dreaming of being with your sweetheart. Oh, how love can be the most exciting thing in the world! If there is anything that makes a person so excited, it is love.       

 

In like manner, there is nothing in the Christian life that is as exciting as the life of holiness. It can be said that the holiest people are the most excited people in the world. Wouldn’t you like to be excited, the way saints are? Well, be in love. If you love your fellowman the way Christ loves, you will be amazed how interesting life can be. Then the other blessings of God that you need will flow like a river into your life. That is why in today’s Gospel Jesus was asked by the Pharisees, “Teacher, which commandment of the law is the greatest?”

           

Jesus answered: “You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it; you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments the whole law is based, and the prophets as well.”

           

A Christian can be considered obedient to God only if he obeys first and foremost, the greatest commandment of God. This is the foundation of holiness, the first thing that makes him pleasing to God. On the other hand, the unwillingness of a person to live up to this great commandment equally becomes the basis for his condemnation – the greatest failure he can ever commit.

           

It is impossible for a Christian to reconcile hatred and ill-feeling with his/her love of God and neighbor. You can never be with God if you have in your heart feelings of remorse, indifference, resentment and jealousy. You can never please God while trying to avoid somebody who has caused you trouble. There is no such thing as loving the Lord, when at the same time you bear grudges towards a certain person. The happiest people in the world are those Christians who are in love with God and with their fellowmen. In other words, loving God and hating your fellowman can never go together. You have to be filled with love towards one another in order to be with God. A Christian then is a person of love. The more in love you are, the holier you become.

 

 

B. First Reading (Ru 1:1, 3-6, 14b-16, 22): “Naomi returned with the Moabite daughter-in-law, Ruth, to Bethlehem.”

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Ru 1:3-6, 14b-16, 22) presents Ruth, the Moabite ancestress of the Messiah, as devoted not only to her mother-in-law Naomi, but also as totally embracing Israel’s God. The beautiful story of Ruth is set in the violent period of the judges. While the stories of the judges show the disasters when the chosen people turns away from God, the peaceful story of Ruth depicts the outpouring of divine blessings upon a “foreigner” who has turned to Israel’s God and becomes a part of his people.

 

A famine in Bethlehem has forced Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and their two sons to live in the country of Moab. There Naomi loses her husband and ten years later her sons Mahlon and Chilion who have married Moabite women. When the famine ends in Judah, Naomi plans to return to her homeland. Deeply concerned for the well-being of her daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, she advises them to go back. Orpah, a worthy woman in her own right, follows her advice. Ruth however shows uncommon loyalty to her Israelite mother-in-law and a deep devotion to the God of Israel. She declares: “Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.” Ruth seals her declaration with a solemn oath made in the name of Israel’s God. Naomi is overwhelmed and says nothing more. When they arrive in Bethlehem, the barley harvest is just beginning. And it is in a barley field where Boaz meets Ruth, his future wife. Through this marriage, Ruth the Moabite becomes the great-grandmother of David, Israel’s greatest king.

 

The selfless and loving devotion of Ruth for her kin and for the God of Israel enables her to be an important instrument of the saving plan of God. The same sterling quality may be verified in the life of Saint Rose of Lima whose biographical sketch is reported below (cf. Wikipedia on the Internet).

 

Saint Rose was born Isabel Flores y de Oliva in the city of Lima, the Viceroyalty of Peru, then part of New Spain, on April 20, 1586. She was one of the many children of Gaspar Flores, a harquebusier in the Imperial Spanish army, born in San German on the island of San Bautista (now Puerto Rico) and his wife, Maria de Oliva, a native of Lima. Her later nickname “Rose” comes from an incident in her babyhood: a servant claimed to have seen her face transformed into a rose. In 1597 she was confirmed by the Archbishop of Lima, Turibius de Mongrovejo, who was also to be declared a saint. She formally took the name of Rose at that time.

 

As a young girl – in emulation of the noted Dominican tertiary, St. Catherine of Siena – she began to fast three times a week and performed severe penances in secret. When she was admired for her beauty, Rose cut off her hair and smeared pepper on her face, upset that suitors were beginning to take notice of her. She rejected all suitors against the objections of her friends and her family. Despite the censure of her parents, she spent many hours contemplating the Blessed Sacrament which she received daily, an extremely rare practice in that period. She was determined to take a vow of virginity, which was opposed by her parents, who wished her to marry. Finally, out of frustration, her father gave her a room to herself in the family house.

 

After daily fasting, she took to permanently abstain from eating meat. She helped the sick and hungry around her community, bringing them to her room and taking care of them. Rose sold her fine needlework and took flowers that she grew to market to help her family. She made and sold lace and embroidery to care for the poor, and she prayed and did penance in a little grotto which she had built. Otherwise, she became a recluse, leaving her room only for her visits to church.

 

She attracted the attention of the friars of the Dominican Order. She wanted to become a nun, but her father forbade it, so she instead entered the Third Order of St. Dominic while living in her parents’ home. In her twentieth year she donned the habit of a tertiary and took a vow of perpetual virginity. She donned a heavy crown made of silver, with small spikes on the inside in emulation of the Crown of Thorns worn by Christ.

 

For eleven years she lived this way, with intervals of ecstasy, and died on August 24, 1617, at the age of 31. It is said that she prophesied the date of her death. Her funeral was held in the cathedral, attended by all the public authorities of Lima, and with a eulogy by the archbishop.

 

She was the first person born in the Americas to be canonized by the Catholic Church. She is the patroness of America, indigenous people of the Americas, of gardeners, of florists, of the city of Lima, of Peru, of the New World, of India, of people misunderstood for their piety and of the resolution of family quarrels.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we love God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind? Do we love him with everything we have: a love that is whole-hearted, dynamic, and carried out with conviction, courage and commitment?

 

2. Do we show the same unconditional and loving devotion that Ruth the Moabite has shown for her kin and for the God of Israel?

 

 

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

 

Jesus said: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind …You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:37, 39).

“This is my prayer to thee, my Lord – strike, strike at the penury in my heart. Give me strength never to disown the poor or bend my knees before insolent might, and give me the strength to surrender my strength to thy will with love.” (Rabindranath Tagore)

 

Jesus said: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind …You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:37, 39).

“Grant me to recognize in other men, Lord God, the radiance of your face.” (Teilhard de Chardin)

 

Jesus said: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind …You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:37, 39).

“Give us patience and fortitude to put self aside for you in the most unlikely people: to know that every man’s and any man’s suffering is our own first business, for which we must be willing to go out of our way and to leave our own interests.” (Caryll Houselander)

 

            ***

Gracious Father,

you blessed the foreigner Ruth

and made her a part of the covenant people.

You made her an efficacious instrument of your saving plan

by letting her give birth to Obed,

King David’s ancestor.

Grant us the same devotion and loyalty

that Ruth has shown for you and her kin Naomi.

Help us to take care

of our needy relatives and family members.

We give you glory and praise, now and forever.

Amen.   

 

 

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

 

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

 

             “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind …You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt 22:37, 39) //“Your God will be my God.” (Ru 1:16)

 

 

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

 

Offer a concrete act of charity on behalf of the poor, the marginalized and the lonely, and the victims of man-made and natural calamities. // Pray that mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law may have a loving relationship similar to that of Naomi and Ruth. By your gentle words and acts of love promote peace and harmony within the family.

 

      

*** *** ***

 

August 26, 2017: SATURDAY – WEEKDAY (20); BVM ON SATURDAY

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Practice What We Preach … He Was a Descendant of Ruth”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Ru 2:1-3, 8-11; 4:13-17 // Mt 23:1-12

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 23:1-12): “They preach but do not practice.”

(By Rodelio F. Paglinawan - Member: Society of Mary Queen of Apostles)

 

            In today’s Gospel, we can learn two things that may be beneficial for our day-to-day living. These are (1) the practice of what we preach and (2) the virtue of humility. Although these two can be taken separately, they are closely intertwined in this gospel.

 

            I remember a story about a teacher who taught her pupils to keep themselves and their surroundings clean and neat at all times. She even taught them how to help clean their houses. She told them how she hated the sight of a dirty house and its filthy surroundings. Her pupils were happy about the lesson, but hated the way it was taught to them. They thought that their teacher was conceited. One day, her pupils visited her in her house. To their disgust, they saw a lot of spider webs in her house. The floors were littered with so many things and a few cats feasted at the table on the leftover food. The teacher was so embarrassed when she saw her pupils’ reaction at what they had witnessed.

 

            This story is told and retold in so many ways in our lives. We may be bragging about something that we have done and keep to ourselves the things that we failed to do. We may be bragging about a noble idea, which we cannot do ourselves. In both cases, traces of the story could be figured out. It will then be very embarrassing for us to face our own challenge and fail to meet the standard we ourselves have set. Humility is the best weapon we could have to counter this. Humility enables us to be what we should be, say only what we must say, and do only what we can, accepting our human limitations in the process. It is better to be humble than to be humiliated.

 

            Trying our best to be Christ-like every day of our lives is the goal of every Christian. Saying what we mean, and meaning what we say could help us a lot. It would be better for us to avoid saying great things, which we ourselves cannot do. Now, I remember how most of my classmates in the seminary would put it: “the more we speak the more mistakes we commit; no talk, no mistake!” I am not promoting a speechless society here though. What I would like to underline is that we should only speak of the things that could add to the glory of God and his Church. Anything that would demean anyone in our community could also hurt the One whose image and likeness resides in them. Practicing what we preach … will make us humbler. Humility makes us nearer to the Almighty.

 

 

B. First Reading (Ru 2:1-3, 8-11; 4:13-17): “The Lord has not failed to provide you today with an heir. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.”

 

All of us six siblings, except one who was delivered in a hospital in Manila, were born at home in a small rural town in the province of Albay (Philippines). An elderly and very competent midwife assisted in my mom’s delivery of the babies. The birth of a new sibling was a very joyful event! Relatives and neighbors would come to see the mother and child. We were very proud to have an additional member to the family. In addition to the gift of the new baby, we were thrilled to have special food served to my mom and to us all – “arroz caldo”, a special kind of thick rice soup with tasty chicken bits.

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Ru 2:1-3, 8-11; 4:13-17) depicts the joyful event of the birth of Obed. The neighbor women rejoice with the widow Naomi because through her faithful daughter-in-law Ruth, she receives a grandson who would assure the continuance of her family line. Boaz and Ruth, the parents of Obed, are persons of sterling quality. Filled with wisdom and spiritual strength and gifted with material affluence, Boaz is noble, generous, compassionate to the poor and foreigners and a man of integrity. Ruth, the Moabite, is selfless in her filial devotion to her mother-in-law Naomi. She has chosen to follow and dwell with Naomi in her homeland Bethlehem. She has shown great family loyalty in promoting the “immortality” of the family lineage of Naomi’s deceased husband. Above all, the foreigner Ruth has embraced the God of Israel with a faith that might very well shame the natural children of Abraham. Ruth exemplifies the blessing of a “foreigner” who turns to Israel’s God and so becomes a part of his covenant people.

 

From the nuptial union of Boaz and Ruth is the gift of the son Obed, the father of Jess, the father of David. The evangelist Matthew, in his genealogy of Jesus Christ (cf. Mt 1:1-17), specifies that the mother of Obed is Ruth. Though a foreigner, Ruth has a place in the ancestry of David, and through him, of Jesus Christ. In this awesome and fantastic lineage, we see God’s providence and sovereignty transcending barriers and prejudices as he progressively wields humanity into a single family of God.

  

 

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

 

1. Like some scribes and Pharisees rightly castigated for their vanity and hypocrisy, are we also guilty of these faults? If so, what do we do?

 

2. Do we believe that God continues to do “marvels” even in very difficult and desperate situations? Do we trust in the power of God as he progressively fulfills salvation history? Do we imitate Boaz in his compassion for the poor and widows and for migrants and the vulnerable?

 

 

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

 

O loving God,

deliver us from falsehood and deception.

Give us the grace to imitate Jesus the Divine Master.

Teach us to follow his humble ways.

May his mind enlighten us,

his will strengthen us,

and his heart enflame us.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

***

Loving God,

your wisdom and love transcend barriers.

Your love is inclusive and embraces all.

Your power is almighty and awesome.

We thank you for our “ancestors” in faith

and for giving us our Savior Jesus Christ,

son of David,

son of Jesse,

son of Obed, whose mother is Ruth the Moabite.

Give us the grace to care for the poor and the vulnerable.

We give you glory and praise, now and forever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“You have but one teacher.” (Mt 23:8) // “Obed was the father of Jesse, the father of David.” (Ru 4:17)

 

  

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

 

Pray for all teachers that they may always be limpid, credible and authentic in the way they teach. Practice daily examination of conscience to help you imitate the Divine Master in his humility and integrity and have the grace to practice what you preach. // Be deeply aware of the needs of the immigrants and refugees and see in what way you can help respond to their needs.

 

 *** 

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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