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A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 17, n. 29)

Trinity Sunday and Week 11 in Ordinary Time: June 16-22, 2019

 

 

(The pastoral tool BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD: A LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY & WEEKDAY LITURGY includes a prayerful study of the Sunday liturgy from various perspectives. For the Lectio Divina on the liturgy of the past week: June 9-15, 2019 please go to ARCHIVES Series 17 and click on “Pentecost & Week 10 Ordinary Time”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: June 16-22, 2019.)

 

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June 16, 2019: THE MOST HOLY TRINITY

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is God the Son”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Prv 8:22-31 // Rom 5:1-5 // Jn 16:12-15

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 16:12-15): “Everything that the Father has is mine; the Spirit will take from what is mine and declare it to you.”

 

            In Bangalore, India, we visited a Benedictine monastery that was famous not only for its dairy farm, but also for its hospitality. After spending some moments of prayer in the chapel, we were led by the Guest Master to the refectory to have some bread and milk curds. I was fascinated by what I saw on the wall: a gigantic reproduction of Andrea Rublev’s Icon of the Trinity depicting the visit of the Three Angels by the oak of Mamre (cf. Gen 18:1-15). Seated at a table, patriarch Abraham’s three Divine Guests are a reminder of the blessings that the sterling virtue and value of hospitality brings. As I gazed at the icon, I was drawn into a deep communion with the Blessed Trinity. Through the kindness of the welcoming monastic community, I also experienced the hospitality of the triune God.

 

            On this solemnity of the Most Blessed Trinity, let us contemplate the icon of the Trinity, which is the icon of hospitality. The following prayer of St. Catherine of Siena says it all: “By this light I shall come to know that you, eternal Trinity, are Table and Food and Waiter for us. You, eternal Father, are the Table that offers us food, the Lamb, your only-begotten Son. He is the most exquisite Food for us, both in his teaching, which nourishes us in your will, and in the sacraments that we receive in Holy Communion, which feeds and strengthens us while we are pilgrim travelers in this life. And the Holy Spirit is a Waiter for us, for he serves us this teaching by enlightening our mind’s eye with it and inspiring us to follow it.” 

 

The mystery of the Trinity is enchanting, inviting, and deeply hospitable. We are led into it by the Wisdom of God (cf. Prov 8:22-32) and the Spirit of Truth (cf. Jn 16:12-15). Our experience of the triune God is true and palpable. The community of faith’s most intimate contact with the triune God is through Christ’s Paschal Mystery: “Through Christ we have gained access by faith to the grace in which we now stand” (Rom 5:2).

 

The Paschal Mystery is the basis of Trinitarian revelation. The early Christian community has come to experience the Trinitarian character of God through the astounding paschal sacrifice and glorification accomplished by Christ. The saving events surrounding Jesus of Nazareth are the basis of the Church’s belief and confession that he is the Son of God. The members of the faith community have grasped not only Jesus Christ’s incomparable, singular rapport with God, but also his astounding relationship with the Spirit. The community of believers has perceived the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of the Father and the Son - as the one who makes Christ’s saving event present in the “here and now”. From the experience of the Paschal Mystery, the Church is led by the Spirit of Truth to a profound understanding that God, in his most intimate nature, is Trinitarian: as the loving Father, the source of our redemption; as the obedient Son who accomplished the Father’s saving plan by his death on the cross; and as the Spirit of love, poured into our hearts, who enables us to experience more deeply the unmitigated love of the Father and the Son.

 

            In Christ’s Paschal Mystery, the Trinitarian revelation is complete. But our human perception is inadequate and our response to that revelation is incomplete. It is the Spirit of the Father and the Son – the Spirit of Truth – who enables us to be receptive to the mystery of the Trinitarian love. The Spirit makes the revelation meaningful to succeeding Christian generations and updates understanding of the once-and-for-all revelation of God in the Christ event. As the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit will speak what he hears from the only begotten Son of God, the ultimate and supreme Word of love of our Father in heaven.

 

 

B. First Reading (Prv 8:22-31): “Before the earth was made, Wisdom was conceived.”

 

The following story entitled “Half Truths” is humorous, but it can give us an idea of the importance of Jesus’ promise to his disciples concerning the Spirit of truth who would guide us to the fullness of truth.

 

The first mate had somehow gotten drunk, so that night the captain wrote into the record for the day, “Mate drunk today.” The mate begged the captain to take it out of the record, for it might cost him his job with the ship owners. It was also his first offense. But the captain refused saying, “It’s a fact and into the log it goes.” Some days later the mate was on the bridge and it was his turn to keep the log. He duly recorded the location, speed, and distance covered that day. Then he added, “The Captain, sober today.” The captain protested that this would leave an altogether false impression – that it was an unusual thing for him to be sober. But the mate answered in the very words of the captain, “It’s a fact and so into the log it goes.”

 

 

A thing may be true, but the time and manner of telling and the circumstances may give an entirely false impression of another’s action or character. Many of us are languishing in situations of incomplete truth or are suffering the painful consequences of half-truths. Indeed, many lack complete understanding. Our contact with Jesus Truth-Way-Life, the glorified Lord and Redeemer, inspires us to seek the fullness of truth and nurtures in us a faith seeking understanding.

  

The Old Testament reading of this Sunday’s liturgy (Prv 8:22-31) presents the Spirit of truth as infinitely creative and intimately united with the creative act of God: “When the Lord established the heavens I was there, when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep. When he made firm the skies above, when he fixed fast the foundation of the earth, when he set for the sea its limit, so that the waters should not transgress his command; then I was beside him as his craftsman” (verses 27-30). St. Irenaeus of Lyons identified “the wisdom of God”, who acted as his craftsman on the day of creation, as the Holy Spirit. All three members of the Most Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thus worked together to fashion the cosmos.

 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church reinforces the truth that creation is the work of the Most Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In article n. 292, it asserts: “The Old Testament suggests and the New Covenant reveals the creative action of the Son and the Spirit, inseparably one with that of the Father. This creative cooperation is clearly affirmed in the Church’s rule of faith: There exists but one God … he is the Father God, the Creator, the author, the giver of order. He made all things by himself, that is, by his Word and by his Wisdom, by the Son and the Spirit who, so to speak are his hands. Creation is the common work of the Holy Trinity.”

 

The feast of the Most Holy Trinity that we celebrate today gives us an opportunity to stand back and contemplate the one loving and saving God, manifesting himself in salvation history as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In a context of prayer, it gives us a glimpse into the actual life of love at the heart of the Trinity. It also provides us some of the fuller context of God being three Persons in one nature. This wonderful feast, furthermore, also invites us to celebrate our intimate participation in the life of the Blessed Trinity.

 

 

C. Second Reading (Rom 5:1-5): “To God, through Christ, in love poured out through the Holy Spirit.”    

 

The Trinitarian activity on our behalf can likewise be gleaned in the Second Reading (Rom 5:1-5). The great mystic-apostle Paul declares that we have access to the grace of God through his Son Jesus Christ and the outpouring of the Spirit of love upon us. Our intimate relationship with the one and triune God deeply impacts our life.

 

The liturgical scholar Adrian Nocent remarks: “We already live with the Trinity  in the love that has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. We are already justified by faith and have obtained access to the grace in which we stand. In other words, we are experiencing God’s love for us. This does not mean that all problems are solved; no, we are still in the stage of struggle and testing. But because we have faith and the assurance that we are united to the triune God, the trials and struggles take on a meaning they can have only for some who has received the Spirit … Life in the Spirit thus brings us peace with God through Christ in the Spirit, who pours out the love of God in our hearts.”

 

On this Trinity Sunday we celebrate not only the marvelous actions of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit on our behalf, but our consecration and intimate union with the one and triune God. Immersed into the life of the Blessed Trinity, we delight in the solidarity of faith, the fervor of Christian love and the bright outlook of hope. For we know that we are the children of God the Father, the brothers and sisters of his beloved Son Jesus Christ, and the temples of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

 

The following story illustrates the laudable efforts of a missionary to bring the marvelous love of God to the poor and needy (cf. Patrick Atkinson, “Francisco the Shoeless” in Amazing Grace for the Catholic Heart, ed. Jeff Cavins, et. al. West Chester: The Ascension Press, 2004, p. 191-193). Animated by the spirit of love and through his Christian charitable work for God’s children, Patrick Atkinson becomes a powerful witness that the one and triune God is for us … and is on our side.

 

I stopped and watched a familiar Guatemalan beggar boy as he carefully searched through the garbage-filled gutter that ran along the outside of my home. I knew he had to be scrounging for food so I called out to get his attention. For a second I thought he might have glanced up at me, but then I realized I just happened to be standing where he looked. I felt the same disappointment I had felt with him many times before. Even though he was filthy, shoeless, dressed in rags, and obviously hungry, my shouted offers of help were repeatedly ignored.

 

“Why”, I wondered, “doesn’t he want my help?” As the founder and director of The God’s Child Project, it is my job to feed, clothe, and educate the poorest of the poor. During my twenty-plus years as a Catholic missionary, I have seen hundreds of thousands of poor children and homeless families. But this particular boy puzzled me. It was obvious he needed help, yet he seemingly would have none of it.

 

Leaving him alone, I walked back to the orphanage and began to pore over the financial books. Frustrated at the realization that we were going to end the fiscal year two thousand dollars in debt, I had to make a difficult decision. “We will not accept any more children into the program this year”, I told our staff and volunteers in a strong, clear voice. “We simply can’t do it. How can we take in any more children when we can’t even feed those we already have?” Even though I hated the thought of turning needy children away, this time I was determined to stick to my decision.

 

Two days later, a surprise visitor knocked at my door. It was my shoeless friend! Covered with lice and foul smelling, he held up his hand and made a strange guttural sound from his throat. At first I was confused, but then it hit me that he was deaf and could not speak. The poor child had ignored me all the time because he had never heard me call him.

 

My confused smile broke into a very loud laughter. God had sent me the one boy in all of Guatemala who could get me to break my commitment not to accept another child. God was letting me know it was He and not I who was ultimately in charge of such things.

 

Francisco joined our mission that very same day. Abandoned by his father at birth, he was raised in the streets by an indifferent, alcoholic mother. When he was six-months old, a severe illness robbed him of his hearing. He had been begging on the streets for food since the age of four. The streets became his home. His bed was wherever he lay down to sleep at night.

 

Francisco came into our very large family that day bringing with him bad habits, lice, fleas and rotted teeth. He also came with a very sharp mind, survival instincts, and keen emotions. Violence on TV could bring forth an anguished cry just as quickly as watching a mother kiss her son good night would bring tears to his eyes. I can only guess at the nightmares that often disrupted his sleep.

 

Over the years, Francisco was taught to communicate and he was able to receive an education. When his grade-school education came to an end at the mainstream public school, the teachers pooled their examinations scores to determine the valedictorian. On the day of grade school graduation, it was Francisco who was asked to come up and receive the honor – much to his surprise, but not to that of his wildly cheering classmates.

 

In times of desperation and when the hard work seems too much, I am sometimes tempted to give up. It is at those times, however, that I think of Francisco. He is on his own now, working full-time and still studying on weekends. Because of his physical limitations, his salary is low. Still, he smiles a lot and works hard. He visits his mother who abandoned him to the streets so many years ago, and he goes to Mass often. I regularly ask our Blessed Mother to watch over this special child of God. I believe that she already has.

 

 

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

 

Do we allow ourselves to be led into the beautiful and deeply hospitable mystery of the one God, who revealed himself in salvation history as the loving Creator Father, as the saving Son Jesus Christ who died for us on the cross, and as the Spirit of love outpoured into our hearts? Do we thank the one and triune God for enfolding us with the life of love of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? 

 

 

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

 

            O Divine Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

we adore you and thank you;

we love you and serve you.

Your plans for us are kind and gracious.

We have access to your saving grace, O Father,

through your Son’s paschal sacrifice.

Your love has been poured into our hearts

through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

You are present in our life and in salvation history

as the one and triune God.

Help us to be icons

of your creative grandeur, sacrificial love, and radiant glory.

We worship you, O loving Father,

through your Son,

in the love of the Holy Spirit,

in unity with the Church and the entire creation,

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.

 

“The Spirit of truth will guide you to all the truth … Everything that the Father has is mine.” (Jn 16:13, 15) 

 

 

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

 

Spend some time before Andre Rublev’s Icon of the Trinity, or any other icon depicting the Most Holy Trinity, and make a personal prayer of thanksgiving to the one and triune God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Today practice an act of hospitality for a person in most need of welcome and care. Consciously offer this charitable act in honor of the Most Holy Trinity.  

    

 

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June 17, 2019: MONDAY – WEEKDAY (11) IN ORDINARY TIME

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Counters Evil with Good … His Apostle Paul Is a True Minister of God”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

2 Cor 6:1-10 // Mt 5:38-42

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 5:38-42): “But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.”

 

The law of retaliation contained in the Old Testament (that is, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”) is meant to moderate vengeance and to keep violence within limits. It restricts the punishment inflicted by the avenger to injury proportionate to the damage done by the aggressor. In today’s Gospel reading (Mt 5:38-42), we hear Jesus’ radical teaching on non-retaliation, which seeks to break the cycle of revenge. The righteous man is called not just to respond with proportionate vengeance to an injury inflicted by an aggressor, but to take no vengeance at all. Jesus teaches us “to offer no resistance to one who is evil”. The Divine Master’s teaching of non-resistance to an evildoer is not an invitation to suicide, or to let true justice be trampled upon, but a call to counter evil with good, hatred with love, vengeance with forgiveness. Love, though vulnerable and paradoxical, is the only force capable of overcoming evil. By his passion and death on the cross, Jesus showed how forgiving love can overcome the ugly forces of evil and sin that lead to violence. With his life of non-retaliation and reconciliation, a new world order has begun.

 

The following story gives us insight into the ways of the non-vengeful who seek to overcome evil with good (cf. Anthony de Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations, New York: Image Books, 1988, p. 65).

 

A traveler was walking along the road one day when a man on horseback rushed by. There was an evil look in his eyes and blood on his hands. Minutes later a crowd of riders drew up and wanted to know if the traveler had seen someone with blood on his hands go by. They were in hot pursuit of him. “Who is he?” the traveler asked. “An evil-doer”, said the leader of the crowd. “And you pursue him in order to bring him to justice?” “No”, said the leader, “we pursue him in order to show him the way.”

 

Reconciliation alone will save the world, not justice, which is generally another word for revenge.

 

 

B. First Reading (2 Cor 6:1-10): “In everything we commend ourselves as ministers of God.”

 

Today’s First Reading gives us a beautiful insight into Saint Paul’s experience as an apostle. He recognizes that the Corinthians and he are working together with God in fulfilling the saving plan. He also exhorts them not to receive the grace of God in vain, but instead to claim the “now” as a moment of salvation. Paul’s primary work is to spread the saving Gospel and he absolutely avoids anything that will jeopardize his ministry. Indeed, Paul proves himself a minister of God by his way of life. In his Gospel ministry, he shows patient endurance through every kind of trial. He manifests himself as God’s true servant through a life of purity, knowledge, patience and kindness - in the love of the Spirit and by the power of God. Indeed, God equips him with “weapons of righteousness” which he uses in all circumstances - through glory and dishonor, insult and praise. His life as an apostle is challenging and fascinating, mysterious and paradoxical: treated as a liar though he speaks the truth, unrecognized but acknowledged, given up for dead but he lives on, punished but not killed, saddened but always rejoicing, poor but enriching many, having nothing but possessing all things.

 

Like Saint Paul, we need to conduct ourselves as servants of the Gospel. The following story, entitled “A Quarter for Jesus” and circulated on the Internet, gives us an idea of what it means to be a true “minister of God” today.

 

Several years ago, a preacher from out-of-state accepted a call to a church in Houston, Texas. Some weeks after he arrived, he had an occasion to ride the bus from his home to the downtown area. When he sat down, he discovered that the driver had accidentally given him a quarter too much change. As he considered what to do, he thought to himself, “You’d better give the quarter back. It would be wrong to keep it.” Then he thought, “Oh, forget it. It’s only a quarter. Who would worry about this little amount? Anyway, the bus company gets too much fare. They will never miss it. Accept is as a gift from God and keep quiet.”

 

When his stop came, he paused momentarily at the door, and then he handed the quarter to the driver and said, “Here, you gave me too much change.” The driver, with a smile, replied, “Aren’t you the new preacher in town?”
Yes”, he replied. “Well, I have been thinking a lot lately about going somewhere to worship. I just wanted to see what you would do if I gave you too much change. I’ll see you at church on Sunday.”

 

When the preacher stepped off the bus, he literally grabbed the nearest light pole, held on, and said, “Oh, God, I almost sold your Son for a quarter.”

 

 

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

 

1. Do I strive to conquer vengeful instincts and to overcome evil with good? Do I practice the ethic of non-violence and the Christian way of forgiving love?

 

2. Like Saint Paul the Apostle, can we present ourselves to the people of today as true “ministers of God”?

 

 

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

 

Jesus, meek and humble of heart,

your example transcends the ugly ways of the violent.

By your life of forgiving love and reconciliation,

you show us how to break the cycle of vengeance in this world.

Give us the grace to be peaceful.

Let your love be upon us

that we may respond to evil with good,

to hatred with love.

Lead us on the path of true justice and peace.

We give you glory and praise, now and forever.

Amen.

 

***

Almighty God,

help us to live the Gospel to the full

and become your true servants

through trials and adversities.

Let us proclaim the Gospel of Christ

in the love of the Holy Spirit.

Sustain us by your power.

We believe that our poverty is our wealth

for we know that even though we seem to have nothing,

yet in Jesus we possess all things.

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.

 

“Offer no resistance to one who is evil.” (Mt 5:39) //“In everything we commend ourselves as ministers of God.” (II Cor 6:4)

 

 

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

 

If someone offends you, put into practice the teaching of Jesus of non-retaliation and reconciliation through the power of good. // Today make a special effort to conduct yourself with kindness, patience and unfeigned love toward the people around you and thus help them recognize you as a “minister of God”.

 

 

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June 17, 2019: TUESDAY – WEEKDAY (11)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Love Our Enemies … He Became Poor for Our Sake”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

2 Cor 8:1-9 // Mt 5:43-48

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 5:43-48): “Love your enemies.”

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Mt 5:43-48) contains the Divine Master’s radical teaching on magnanimous love even of enemies. Harold Buetow comments: “Jesus teaches largeness of heart and mind … Our love for our enemies – those we do not like or who do not like us – is not of the heart but of the will. Therefore, to love them need not be an emotional experience, but must be a decision to commit ourselves to serve the best interests of all other people … We see that the apex of God’s kind of perfection is compassion, a willingness to suffer for others. Those who love in such an unconditional and non-selective way are true children of the God of limitless love … In our dealings with other people, both friends and enemies, we are to be magnanimous: large-minded, wide open, generous – and holy.”

 

The Amish community’s compassionate act to reach out to the family of Charles Roberts, the suicide-attacker of 10 Amish girls, illustrates the grandiose love that forgives and embraces all (cf. Internet article of Daniel Burke, Religion News Service).

 

It was October 2, 2006, and Charles Carl Roberts IV had just shot 10 Amish schoolgirls before turning the gun on himself. Five girls died. Five others were seriously wounded. The shooting shocked this quiet, rural county and horrified countless outsiders glued to the nonstop media coverage. “Not only was my son not alive, he was the perpetrator of the worst crime anyone could ever imagine”, Terri Roberts said. After the shooting, the world was riveted by the remarkable display of compassion shown by the Amish, as the quiet Christian sect embraced the Roberts family and strove to forgive the troubled sinner. (…)

 

On the day of the shooting, Terri crawled into a fetal position, feeling as if her insides were ripped apart. Her husband Chuck, a retired policeman, cried into a tea towel, unable to lift his head. He wore skin off his face wiping away his tears. Family and friends poured into the Roberts’ home in Strasburg, Philadelphia, a small town about six miles from Nickel Mines, where the shooting occurred.  No one knew what to say. “What do you say, ‘At least it’s not as bad as so-and-so’? There was nothing that anyone could imagine that would have been worse than that day”, she said.

 

Later that evening, an Amish neighbor named Henry, whom Terri calls her “angel in black” arrived at their house. Chuck had begun a second career as an “Amish taxi”, driving families to destinations farther away than horses and buggies could carry them. After the shooting, Chuck feared he could never face the Amish again. “Roberts, we love you”, Henry insisted and continued to comfort Chuck for nearly an hour. Finally, Chuck looked up. “Thank you, Henry”, he said. “I just looked at that and said, ‘Oh Lord, my husband will heal through this.’ I was just so thankful for Henry that day”, Terri said.

   

 

B. First Reading (2 Cor 8:1-9): “Christ became poor for your sake.”

 

In today’s First Reading (2 Cor 8:1-9), Paul proposes to the Corinthians a collection to alleviate the suffering of the poor of the Mother Church in Jerusalem. The apostle feels obliged to instruct the skittish Corinthians on this delicate but important issue. The collection for the poor is, for Paul, of special importance for it signifies acceptance of the Gospel and of self-donation to God. The apostle therefore urges them to emulate what God’s grace has accomplished in the churches in Macedonia, that is, in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Beroea. Though living in poverty and undergoing severe trials, they abound in joy, simplicity and generosity. The Christians in Macedonia give as much as they can and even more than they can. For them it is a privilege to take part in helping God’s people. Acknowledging the spiritual riches of the Corinthians, Paul exhorts them to be likewise generous in this service of love for the Jerusalem faith community. The apostle then provides a spiritual foundation for his mission appeal: Christ’s kenosis. Rich as he is, the Lord Jesus makes himself poor for our sake in order to make us rich by his poverty.

 

The model of Christian giving that Saint Paul underlines in his second letter to the Corinthians is an inspiration for all. The following story illustrates that the spirit of self-giving lives on in the here and now (cf. Marion Smith, “Drawn to the Warmth” in Chicken Soup for the Soul, ed. Jack Canfield, et. al. Cos Cob: CSS, 2008, p. 226-227).

 

Factoring in the wind chill, I knew the temperature was below zero. The bitter cold cut through my Californian sensibilities, as well as my enthusiasm as a tourist, so I ducked through the nearest door for warmth … and found myself in Washington, D.C.’s Union Station. I settled onto one of the public benches with a steaming cup of coffee – waiting for feeling to return to my fingers and toes – and relaxed to engage in some serious people-watching.

 

Several tables of diners spilled out into the great hall from the upscale American Restaurant, and heavenly aromas tempted me to consider an early dinner. I observed a man seated nearby and, from the longing in his eyes, realized that he, too, noticed the tantalizing food. His gaunt body, wind-chapped hands and tattered clothes nearly shouted, “Homeless, homeless!” I wondered how long it had been since he had eaten. Half expecting him to approach me for a handout, I almost welcomed such a plea. He never did. The longer I took in the scene, the crueler his plight seemed to be. My head and heart waged a silent war, the one telling me to mind my own business, the other urging a trip to the food court on his behalf.

 

While my internal debate raged one, a well-dressed young couple approached him. “Excuse me, sir”, the husband began. “My wife and I just finished eating, and our appetites weren’t as big as we thought. We hate to waste good food. Can you help us out and put this to use?” He extended a large Styrofoam container. “God bless you both. Merry Christmas”, came the grateful reply.

 

Pleased, yet dismayed by my own lack of action, I continued to watch. The man scrutinized his newfound bounty, rearranged the soup crackers, inspected the club sandwich and stirred the salad dressing – obviously prolonging this miracle meal. Then, with a slow deliberateness, he lifted the soup lid and, cupping his hands around the steaming warm bowl, inhaled. At last he unwrapped the plastic spoon, filled it to overflowing, lifted it toward his mouth and – with a suddenness that stunned me – stopped short.

 

I turned my head to follow his gaze. Entering the hall and shuffling in our direction was a new arrival. Hatless and gloveless, the elderly man was clad in lightweight pants, a threadbare jacket and open shoes. His hands were raw, and his face had a bluish tint. I wasn’t alone in gasping aloud at this sad sight, but my needy neighbor was the only one doing anything about it. Setting aside his meal, he leaped up and guided the elderly man to an adjacent seat. He took his icy hands and rubbed them briskly in his own. With a final tenderness, he draped his worn jacket over the older man’s shoulders. “Pop, my name’s Jack”, he said, “and one of God’s angels brought me this meal. I just finished eating and hate to waste good food. Can you help me out?” He placed the still-warm bowl of soup in the stranger’s hands without waiting for an answer. But he got one. “Sure, son, but only if you go halfway with me on that sandwich. It’s too much for a man my age.”

 

It wasn’t easy making my way to the food court with tears blurring my vision, but I soon returned with large containers of coffee and a big assortment of pastries. “Excuse me, gentlemen, but …” I left Union Station that day feeling warmer than I had ever thought possible.

 

 

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

 

1. Do I strive to conquer the vengeful instincts and to overcome evil with good? Do I practice the ethic of non-violence and the Christian way of forgiving love?

 

2. In our self-donation and care for the poor, do we imitate Jesus Christ, who became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty we might become rich? Do we thank God for the many generous souls who follow the spirit of Christian giving and allow ourselves to be inspired by them?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

in you mercy and justice have embraced.

thank you for the gift of your Son Jesus Christ.

Through his self-giving,

we realize that Christian holiness demands compassion.

It challenges us to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Give us the strength to love unconditionally

and to learn the ways of justice and peace

Let us draw courage from the truth that we belong to Christ

and that he leads us on the right path.

You live and reign, now and forever.

Amen.

 

***

God our Father,

we thank you for the spirit of self-giving

that Jesus Christ has shown in his kenosis:

he became poor for our sake.

Help us to imitate his total self-donation.

Let our poverty overflow in a wealth of generosity.

Make us generous in caring for the needs of the poor.

You are a loving and provident God.

We love and praise you, now and forever.

Amen.   

 

 

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

 

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

 

“Love your enemies.”  (Mt 5:44) // “He became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” (II Cor 8:9)

 

 

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

 

By an act of kindness and compassion to a needy person or an offensive person, or by a forgiving stance to an injury suffered personally, enable the Gospel of saving love to spread.  // In a spirit of self-giving and in imitation of the generous Macedonians, make an effort to alleviate the suffering of today’s poor.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

June 19, 2019: WEDNESDAY – WEEKDAY (11); SAINT ROMUALD, Abbot

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Do Good Deeds … He Is a Cheerful Giver and Jubilant in Serving”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

2 Cor 9:6-11 // Mt 6:1-6, 16-18

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 6:1-6, 16-18): “And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”

 

From today’s Gospel reading (Mt 6:1-6, 16-18), we realize that doing the right deed for selfish reasons is “phony” and not commendable. Jesus takes up three traditional Jewish good deeds: almsgiving, prayer and fasting. While encouraging his disciples to practice them, he warns about the manner of practicing them. These traditional acts of righteousness are meaningless when done hypocritically and in view of self-seeking. Jesus criticizes pious self-display and not the pious actions themselves. Almsgiving, prayer and fasting are meaningful only when they are motivated by a sincere and faithful relationship with God and one’s fellow human beings. The Father of Jesus – our own Father too – who sees acts hidden from human sight will surely reward good deeds done for the glory of God and the good of others. God the Father rewards good deeds, both those done in secret and those carried out in public witnessing, as long as they are properly motivated, i.e. to secure God’s glory and to promote the well-being of our brothers and sisters. While teaching his disciples not to be hypocrites and self-seeking, Jesus Christ also encourages them to let their light shine before others so that those who see their good deeds may glorify the heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:16).

 

After the 8:00 A.M. Easter Sunday Mass at our parish of St. Christopher in San Jose (CA-USA), our community of three, plus a friend, went for breakfast at a nearby restaurant in our Willow Glen neighborhood. We enjoyed freshly brewed coffee and placed our order. Mine was a bowl of fresh fruit and Eggs Benedict. Easter joy was in the air as we shared the meal. When we asked for the bill, the waiter told us that an “Easter bunny” took care of it. We greatly appreciated the kindness of our secret benefactor. We prayed that God the Father, who sees good deeds done in secret, may reward and fill him with Easter blessings.

      

 

B. First Reading (II Cor 9:6-11): “God loves a cheerful giver.”

 

In today’s First Reading (II Cor 9:6-11), Saint Paul underlines the blessings of generosity using the image of a sower. The one who sows many seeds will have a large crop. God, who supplies seed for the sower and bread to eat, will also supply all the seed we need and help produce a rich harvest. Indeed, God will bring forth a bounty from our generous and kind hearts. He will always make us rich enough to be generous at all times. Therefore, we should not fear that generosity will impoverish us. God is infinite in his gifts. There is no need to covet or hoard. Our role as Christian disciples is to reflect the richness of God and his concern for the poor. We must have unlimited trust in divine providence. Our sharing must be motivated by a desire to proclaim God’s name. Our generous giving must inspire people to thank God for the many gifts he showers upon us.

 

The apostle Paul likewise asserts that God loves a cheerful giver. Like Jesus Savior, we too must be cheerful givers and jubilant in serving. The following story gives a glimpse into this (cf. Carol Knapp in Daily Guideposts 2010, p. 281).

 

I received a surprising faith boost through my job selling baked goods at the farmers’ market. I had a tent and tables to set up, heavy racks of bread to load and unload, long hours standing in the weather-of-the-day and waves of people eager to hear me explain my wares.

 

Mothers came with children to buy their favorite cookies. Men stopped by on their lunch breaks to pick up pepperoni rolls. Summer customers wanted sweet breads for the cabin or buns for the outdoor grill. Autumn shoppers purchased scones to go with morning coffee and savory loaves to have with the soup. One woman preparing a Greek dinner for friends bought the spinach feta; a man on a bicycle liked his granola with raisins; a curmudgeonly man counted on his sourdough.

 

Somewhere in the middle of my job, the joy hit me; the unexpected joy of serving people, matching the right breads to their needs and watching them walk away satisfied.

 

I formed a new picture of the Son of Man, exuberant in sharing God’s message, excited to serve others: Jesus providing wine for the wedding guests in Cana, touching the hand of Peter’s mother-in-law so that the fever left her, giving sight to a man born blind, restoring life to a twelve-year-old, welcoming children into his arms.

 

How Jesus must have celebrated with the recipients of these wonderful works! What joy he must have felt every morning, anticipating the great things he would do, the words of life he must teach!

 

 

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

 

1. Do we do our “good deeds” with proper motivation, or do we carry them out as an occasion for self-seeking? Do we believe that God the Father who sees in secret will reward us for all good deeds done for his glory and the salvation of his people?

 

2. Are we generous in self-giving? Are we cheerful givers?

 

 

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

 

Heavenly Father,

we praise and thank you

for you see all our humble efforts to love and serve you.

You search the secrets of our heart

and all our actions are known to you.

Teach us always to work with supernatural intentions.

Deliver us from self-seeking and hypocrisy.

May our prayer, fasting and almsgiving

be done always for your greater glory

and the good of souls.

Grant us the prophetic power of Elijah and Elisha.

You live and reign,

forever and ever.

Amen.

 

***

God of love,

help us to be generous sowers and bountiful reapers.

Please give us the grace we need

to be of service to your kingdom.

Let your provident hand

make a bounty of our generosity.

Help us to imitate Jesus

who is cheerful in giving and jubilant in serving.

Let our good works 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.

 

“Your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” (Mt 6:4) // “God loves a cheerful giver.” (II Cor 9:7)

 

 

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

 

In every good you do and in your pain and suffering, give glory and praise to God and seek the salvation of souls. // In accomplishing your daily tasks and ministry, do it with a joyful heart and in a spirit of self-giving.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

June 20, 2019: THURSDAY – WEEKDAY (11)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Pray … His Apostle Paul Preaches the Gospel without Charge”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

2 Cor 11:1-11 // Mt 6:7-15

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 6:7-15): “This is how you are to pray.”

 

When I was a postulant, we had a retreat with an Irish Carmelite priest. To help us understand better the meaning of prayer, he narrated a story about two hermits. Each one planted a papaya and took care that it should grow well and be fruitful. They even prayed for the papaya. One hermit tried to make God understand what needs to be done for the papaya: “Lord, please send some rain today for the papaya”; “The sun is too hot; please send some cool breeze for the papaya;” etc. But his papaya was unhealthy and scrawny. When he visited his friend, he noticed that the papaya he planted was sturdy and extremely fruitful. “What is your secret?” he asked. The other hermit responded, “I prayed and asked God, Please take care of the papaya!”

 

In today’s Gospel (Mt 6:7-15), Jesus teaches us the true meaning of prayer and how to pray. God our Father knows our needs even before we make our request. But he wants us to ask in confidence and trust. In prayer we do not so much inform God of some situation or micromanage him, as express our dependence and faith in him. The “Lord’s Prayer” that Jesus teaches us is a model of total surrender to God: “Your will be done …” Mother Teresa of Calcutta remarks: “Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at his disposition, and listening to his voice in the depths of our hearts.”

 

 

B. First Reading (II Cor 11:1-11): “I preached the Gospel of God to you without charge.”

 

In today’s First Reading (II Cor 11:1-11), we see the apostle Paul constrained to do some boasting. His detractors think he is not on par with the “super apostles”. He contends that he may not have the rhetorical skills that their so-called “apostles” have, but certainly he is not lacking in knowledge. Saint Paul is absolutely not inferior to anyone in the knowledge of the true Gospel. Moreover, he has used every means at his command to preach Jesus and his Gospel to the Corinthians. Indeed, he has done more than the other “apostles” to further the work of Christ. Another foolish accusation hurled at the apostle Paul is that he does not seek recompense for his preaching simply because he is too insignificant to merit any payment. Paul refutes them by asserting that other churches do esteem him and support him in his apostolic ministry. With condescension, he uses his critics’ own foolish expression and says that he is “paid by other churches”. The Christian believers in Macedonia, in fact, have brought Paul everything he needs, while he proclaims the Gospel in Corinth without charge. He resolves to continue to be financially independent and to proclaim the Gospel gratuitously so as not to burden the Corinthians. This is to prevent his critics from maligning his ministry and to avoid being accused of preaching the Gospel for money. At the end, the ever-conciliatory Paul reaffirms his love for the people he is trying to evangelize: “God knows I love you!”

 

The following charming story, entitled “How Much Is a Miracle?” and circulated on the Internet, gives a glimpse into what it means “to preach the Gospel without charge”.

 

Tess was a precocious eight-year-old when she heard her mom and dad talking about her little brother Andrew. All she knew was that he was very sick and they were completely out of money. They were moving into an apartment complex next month because Daddy didn’t have the money for the doctor bills and their house. Only a very costly surgery could save Andrew now and it was looking like there was no one to loan them the money. She heard Daddy say to her tearful Mother with whispered desperation, “Only a miracle can save him now.”

 

Tess went to her bedroom and pulled a glass jelly jar from its hiding place in the closet. She poured all of the change out on the floor and counted it carefully. Three times, even. The total had to be exactly perfect. No chance here for mistakes. Carefully placing the coins back in the jar and twisting on the cap, she slipped out the back door and made her way 6 blocks to Rexall’s Drug Store with the biggest red Indian Chief sign above the door.

 

She waited patiently for the pharmacist to give her some attention but he was too busy at the moment. Tess twisted her feet to make a scuffing noise. Nothing. She cleared her throat with the most disgusting sound she could muster. No good. Finally she took a quarter from her jar and banged it on the glass counter. That did it!

 

“And what do you want?” the pharmacist asked in an annoyed tone of voice. “I’m talking to my brother from Chicago whom I haven’t seen in ages”, he said without waiting for a reply to his question. “Well, I want to talk to you about my brother”, Tess answered back in the same annoyed tone. “He’s really, really sick … and I want to buy a miracle.” “I beg your pardon”, asked the pharmacist. “His name is Andrew, and he has something bad growing inside his head, and my Daddy says only a miracle can save him now. So how much does a miracle cost?” We don’t sell miracles here, little girl. I’m sorry but I can’t help you”, the pharmacist said, softening a little. “Listen, I have the money to pay for it. If it isn’t enough, I will get the rest. Just tell me how much it costs.”

 

The pharmacist’s brother was a well dressed man. He stooped down and asked the little girl, “What kind of miracle does your brother need?”
I don’t know”, Tess replied with eyes welling up. “I just know he’s really sick and Mommy says he needs an operation. But, my Daddy can’t pay for it, so I want to use my money.” “How much do you have?” asked the man from Chicago. “One dollar and eleven cents”, Tess answered barely audibly. “And it’s all the money I have, but I can get some more if I need to.

 

“Well, what a coincidence”, smiled the man. “A dollar and eleven cents – the exact price of a miracle for little brothers.” He took her money in one hand and with the other hand he grasped her mitten and said, “Take me to where you live. I want to see your brother and meet your parents. Let’s see if I have the kind of miracle you need.”

 

The well dressed man was Dr. Carlton Armstrong, a surgeon specializing in neuro-surgery. The operation was completed without charge. And it wasn’t long until Andrew was home again and doing well. Mom and Dad were happily talking about the chain of events that had led them to this place.

 

“That surgery”, her mother whispered, “was a real miracle. I wonder how much it would have cost?” Tess smiled. She knew exactly how much a miracle cost … one dollar and eleven cents … plus the faith of a little child.

 

 

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

 

1. What is the significance of prayer for me personally?  What are my experiences of prayer?  Do I try to glean the true meaning of the “Lord’s Prayer”?

 

2. How do we respond to the criticisms and trials we encounter in our apostolic ministry? Do we proclaim the Gospel gratuitously or do we allow money, or the lack of it, to inhibit the work of evangelization?

 

 

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

 

Our Father, who art in heaven,

hallowed be thy name;

thy kingdom come;

thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread;

and forgive us our trespasses

as we forgive those who trespass against us;

and lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

Amen.

 

***

God our Father,

we trust in your protection and providence.

Defend us from our adversaries.

Help us to proclaim the Gospel without charge

for you have given us gratuitously the gift of salvation

that your Son won for us at the price of his blood.

We love and glorify you, now and forever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

  

“This is how you are to pray.” (Mt 6:9) //“I preached the Gospel of God to you without charge.” (II Cor 11:7)

 

 

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

 

When you pray the Lord’s Prayer, mean what you say. // When you do something nice and beautiful for someone, let that person feel that it is done freely, gratuitously and joyfully on his/her behalf.     

 

 

*** *** ***

 

June 21, 2019: FRIDAY – SAINT ALOYSIUS GONZAGA, Religious

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Seek True Treasures … His Apostle Paul Boasts of His Weakness”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

2 Cor 11:18, 21-30 // Mt 6:19-23

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 6:19-23): “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”

 

In today’s Gospel (Mt 6:19-23), Jesus gives instructions on choosing between God and earthly treasures. Jesus Master counsels us not to store up treasures on earth because “earthly treasures” are fragile, alienable and perishable. There is nothing on earth that is worth putting our heart into in an absolute way. Only the Lord God is the eternal and absolute treasure. Our heart should be placed in him. He should be the object of our love, self-surrender and sacrifice. In view of this fundamental option, our principal concerns and interests are to store up treasures in heaven. Jesus also talks about the “eye” as the “lamp of the body”. In the ancient world the term “eye” is understood as expressing a person’s attitude. To say that “the eye is the lamp of the body” means that one’s attitude controls what one does or says. A healthy “eye” means that one’s personal attitude is sincere and open to God’s guidance. Hence, to make wise choices for the heavenly treasures would require a healthy “eye”, that is, a personal attitude that is enlightened by the wisdom of God. Storing up treasures in heaven needs true insight and perspective that is enlightened by the Spirit of God.

 

            The following story, “The Seven Jars of Gold” illustrates the tragedy and misery of hoarding false treasures as well as the possibility of being “enlightened” and of rectifying our dismal acts and unfortunate choices (cf. Anthony De Mello, The Song of the Bird, New York: Image Books, 1984, p. 134-135).

 

A barber was passing under a haunted tree when he heard a voice say, “Would you like to have the seven jars of gold?” He looked around and saw no one. But his greed was aroused, so he shouted eagerly, “Yes, I certainly would.” “Then go home at once”, said the voice. “You will find them there.”

 

The barber ran all the way home. Sure enough, there were the seven jars – all full of gold, except for one that was only half full. Now the barber could not bear the thought of having a half-filled jar. He felt a violent urge to fill it or he simply would not be happy.

 

So he had all the jewelry of his family melted into coins and poured them into half-filled jar. But the jar remained as half-filled as before. This was exasperating! He saved and skimped and starved himself and his family. To no avail. No matter how much gold he put into the jar it remained half-filled.

 

So one day he begged the king to increase his salary. His salary was doubled. Again the fight to fill the jar was on. He even took to begging. The jar devoured every gold coin thrown into it but remained stubbornly half-filled.

 

The king now noticed how starved the barber looked. “What is wrong with you?” he asked. “You were so happy and contented when your salary was smaller. Now it has been doubled and you are so worn out and dejected. Can it be that you have the seven jars of gold with you?”

 

The barber was astonished. “Who told you this, Your Majesty?” he asked.

 

The king laughed. “But these are obviously the symptoms of person to whom the ghost has given the seven jars. He once offered them to me. When I asked if this money could be spent or merely hoarded, he vanished without a word. That money cannot be spent. It only brings with it the compulsion to hoard. Go and give it back to the ghost this minute and you will be happy again.”

       

 

B. First Reading (II Cor 11:18, 21-30): “Apart from these things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches.”

 

In today’s First Reading (II Cor 11:18, 21-30), Saint Paul continues “to boast” in the Lord. Challenged by his detractors, he is impelled to respond to them in their own terms. He exposes to them his ethical and religious credentials: “Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So I am …” The most substantial part of his “boasting”, however, is based on his profound understanding of himself as a “minister of Christ”. He is a minister of Christ even more than the others, for he has done more in the service of the Gospel. If others gain recognition on account of their sufferings for the Gospel, their trials would seem insignificant in comparison to Paul’s. The apostle then enumerates the adversities he suffered: imprisonments, floggings, shipwrecks, attacks from fellow Jews and from Gentiles, dangers in the wilderness, dangers from false friends, etc. Above all, he cannot refrain from adding his anxiety over the churches he founded. The daily trials of caring for the churches are without end and the conscientious Paul cannot find rest from these. He suffers intensely when others sin and the problems of everyone deeply concern him. Indeed, the great “boast” of Saint Paul is his own “weakness” which manifests the power of God at work in him. The great apostle does not exalt his own work in any way, but in God’s protection.

 

In a way, Paul’s apostolic sufferings for the sake of the Gospel are replicated in the life of Pope Pius XII. The following excerpt gives insight into this (cf. Alive! May 2012, p. 13).

 

New York Jew Gary Krupp grew up hating Pius XII for what he was told was the Pope’s anti-Semitism and unwillingness to help Jews during the Holocaust. Then he discovered that the indoctrination which he, like many of his generation, had received was a lie. Krupp became a passionate defender of Pius, determined to dig up all the information that would show the true greatness of the war time Pope.

 

In six years of research Krupp and his “Pave the Way Foundation” have uncovered over 76,000 pages of original material, plus eyewitness accounts and testimonies from various international scholars. His research has forced Yad Vashem museum in Jerusalem to significantly modify its section on Pius. Krupp believes that as the evidence emerges, the bid to blacken Pius’ name and destroy his reputation is coming to an end. “We’re definitely winning, absolutely no question”, he said. “Every time we do more research, we find a diamond. It’s incredible, but there’s nothing on the other side because there’s no documented foundation for any of their accusations.”

 

Some of the documents brought to light by “Pave the Way” show that more than 20 years before he became a Pope, Pius favored the creation of a Jewish state. Krupp also unearthed a letter written by the then Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli shortly before he was elected Pope on 2nd March 1939. The letter was an attempt to obtain visas to Brazil for 200,000 Jews still in Germany after Kristalnacht. “He wasn’t able to obtain the visas, but he tried”, said Krupp. “The point is, he didn’t do it from the safety of Washington DC or London. He did it while surrounded by hostile forces and infiltrated by spies. And yet he still managed to save more Jews than all the other world leaders combined.”

 

Through his nephew, Carlo Pacelli, Pius helped prevent the arrest of Roman Jews in 1943. Some 12,000 found refuge in convents, monasteries, and Catholic homes.

 

 

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

 

1. Do I truly seek to store up treasure in heaven? What are my priorities, interests and choices? Do I strive to keep the “eye” – the “lamp of my body” healthy? Do I cultivate true insight and a supernatural perspective in life?

 

2. What sufferings do we experience, or are we willing to undergo, for the sake of the Gospel and for the faith community?

 

 

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

 

O Jesus Divine Master,

we thank you for teaching us where to put our hearts

and where to store up treasure.

Help us to seek God as the only and absolute good.

Let us not be tantalized

by the false treasures of this earth.

Give light to the “eye” of our soul.

Grant us true insight

that we may seek the eternal treasure in heaven

with love, devotion and sacrifice.

Give us the wisdom, grace and strength

to fight evil and to do good.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

***

(From the prayer “To Obtain Patience” by Blessed James Alberione)

 

Glorious Saint Paul,

from a persecutor of Christianity,

you became a very ardent and zealous apostle,

and suffered imprisonment, scourging, stoning, shipwreck

and endured persecutions of every kind,

in order to make the Savior Jesus Christ known

to the farthest bounds of the world.

In the end you shed your blood to the last drop.

Obtain for us the grace to accept

the infirmities, afflictions and misfortunes of the present life

as favors of divine mercy,

so that the vicissitudes of this our exile

may not make us grow cold in the service of God,

but may make us ever more faithful and more fervent.

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.

 

“For where your treasure is, there also your heart will be.” (Mt 6:21) // “I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”  (II Cor 11:40)

 

 

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

 

Get rid of superfluous goods and strive to share more fully your earthly and supernatural goods with the needy. // When sufferings and trials come your way as you carry out your task as “servant of the Gospel”, think of Saint Paul and the sufferings he endured.

    

 

*** *** ***

June 22, 2019: SATURDAY – WEEKDAY (11); SAINT PAULINOS OF NOLA, Bishop; SAINTS JOHN FISHER AND THOMAS MORE, Martyrs; BVM ON SATURDAY

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Delivers Us from Anxiety … He Is Our Strength in Weakness”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

2 Cor 12:1-10 // Mt 6:23-34

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 6:24-34): “Do not worry about tomorrow.”

 

In today’s Gospel (Mt 6:24-34), Jesus continues to shape us into disciples whose priorities are straight and who totally depend on God. He wants us to serve God and not mammon. Our possessions have a way of possessing us, but that cannot happen if we make a core decision for God. Our fundamental option for Christ and our radical choice for the kingdom values eliminate useless anxieties. Indeed, Jesus wants us to be free from excessive concern about food and clothing.  What are they in comparison to the infinite value of the kingdom of God and his righteousness?  He invites us to reflect on God’s care as shown in nature. The birds in the sky neither sow nor reap nor gather food into barns yet the heavenly Father feeds them. He gives color and beauty to wild flowers and clothes them with a splendor that surpasses Solomon’s regal attire. If that is how God cares for the birds and wild flowers, how much more would he care for us – more important in his sight. Jesus urges us not to worry, for worrying is unproductive and counterproductive, a vicious killer of joy in our life. If we put our heart in God and seek his kingdom and his righteousness, all other matters will be in place and our needs taken care of.

 

The following story gives insight into the meaning of Jesus’ exhortation not to worry about tomorrow for there is no need to add to the troubles each day brings (cf. Anthony De Mello, The Song of the Bird, New York: Image Books, 1984, p. 21).

 

The Japanese warrior was captured by his enemies and thrown into prison. At night he could not sleep for he was convinced that he would be tortured the next morning.

 

Then the words of his master came to his mind. “Tomorrow is not real. The only reality is now.”

 

So he came to the present – and fell asleep.

 

The person over whom the future has lost its grip. How like the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. No anxieties for tomorrow. Total presence in the now. Holiness!

  

 

B. First Reading (II Cor12:1-10): “I will rather boast most gladly of my weakness.”

 

Today’s First Reading (II Cor 12:1-10) tells us that the New Testament prophet Paul is afflicted with a “thorn in the flesh”. Like his beloved Lord Jesus Christ, the great apostle Paul has been rejected, challenged, contested and criticized by the people he is meant to serve. Some vicious critics in the Corinthian community doubt his credentials and rate him as not being on par with the “super apostles” who have received visions and revelations. Compelled to deal with his critics on their own terms, the indignant Paul confesses that he too is a recipient of a special vision. This unique “revelation” has transported him to paradise. His ecstatic, mystical experience definitely surpasses those of the so-called “super apostles”. Paul speaks of this “revelation” in the third person to emphasize that it is an undeserved gift received from God. Indeed, until driven to this extreme by his Corinthian critics who looked down upon him, he has refrained from speaking about this and kept it a secret. However, in order that he may not become conceited on account of this extraordinary revelation, the mystic Saint Paul has been gifted with a “thorn in the flesh”, most likely, an embarrassing, chronic physical malady. The purpose of this affliction is clearly to help Paul assume a humble stance and allow the grace of God to work more freely and efficaciously in him.

 

The experience of Saint Paul testifies to the presence of divine grace in all our afflictions. Though his “thorn in the flesh” continues to afflict him, the certainty of God’s favor and assistance is enough for Paul. The Christians of today are called to the same trust, surrender and faith that in weakness, there is strength, if only we are united with Christ. The following story of the cancer victim, Kevin Barry, a former chief of legislation for the U.S. Coast Guard and a director of the National Institute of Military Justice, is a modern day testimony of how a physical affliction – a “thorn in the flesh” can be a “gift” to manifest the love and power of God (cf. “Pain and the Power of Prayer” in Saint Anthony Messenger, February 2009, p. 35-37).

 

It is said that cancer changes everything. That goes also for prayer. I was diagnosed with colon cancer on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15, 1997. When the diagnosis first came in, prayer suddenly took on a much more prominent role in my wife’s life, as well as my own. Each time the cancer returned, and with each new crisis, prayer again rose up to be a more constant companion. But it is not just the proximity or amount of time we came to spend in prayer. What is more important is that, since cancer, our prayer habits have changed. Our prayers have become more present, more intense, more frequent, more together. (…)

 

My cancer has also resulted, at various times in the past years, in me experiencing pain. At such times I tend to pray with more intensity than is my norm when I am not in any pain and life is proceeding smoothly. That intensity can vary from a little more prayer than normal to an almost constant plea for strength to endure when the pain is particularly severe … Obviously, the pain is part of the whole deal. It is a result of cancer. Thus, it has to be part of what Roslyn and I have come to accept as “the gift of cancer”. (…)

 

To a certain degree, my experience of pain changed in 2007, after I had to stop chemotherapy in February because it wasn’t working well – its toxicity became too great. My white blood cell and platelet counts were being suppressed and were taking longer and longer to bounce back. Soon thereafter, I began to experience cancer pain that was chronic and quite severe, and I learned just how much a part of my life pain and pain medications could become. I spent more time praying, not just for the grace to endure the pain, but especially for the grace to accept better both my cancer and its pain as part of the gift (some would call it a cross), which was fashioned just for me by my loving God. I was extraordinarily blessed when the next round of chemotherapy miraculously terminated the pain just two days after the first treatment. I believe this sudden relief from all pain was a reminder of God’s mercy. (…)

 

The serious pain I have experienced has led me to consider pain and suffering on another level. Paul the Apostle has two extraordinary sentences in his letters. One is: I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me (Gal 2:20). The other is: Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ (Colossians 1:24). What could possibly be lacking in the sufferings of Christ? His passion and death were part of his perfect sacrifice. The only thing I know that is lacking is for his suffering to be made present today – in this place and in this time. But if Christ lives in me, then my suffering becomes Christ’s suffering. Suddenly, it is much easier to endure pain knowing that, by doing so with the right intention; I bring the mystery of Christ’s own suffering into my life, for my benefit and for the benefit of all who are “one with me” in my struggle. It is like a variation on the Mass, through which Christ’s sacrifice is made present today in our world. In my suffering here and now, if I can truly live Paul’s words, Christ lives and suffers in me. And I live and suffer in him. What an awesome mystery. What a profound faith to share.

 

 

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

 

1. Do I put my total trust in God, not worrying about tomorrow and not giving in to useless anxieties?

 

2. What are your own experiences of grace? Can you truly avow that there is “strength in weakness”?

 

 

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

 

Jesus Master,

we trust in divine providence.

We look at the birds of the sky

and the immense field of wildflowers,

radiant with color and beauty.

You care for them.

How much more will you care for us!

Deliver us from useless anxieties.

Give us the grace to seek you

and the kingdom of God and his righteousness.

Help us to persevere in overcoming evil with good.

Let us live day by day in your grace.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

***

Loving Father,

be present to us in our afflictions

through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

and the power of the Holy Spirit.

We trust in your saving help

and we allow ourselves to be grasped by your guiding hand.

Gracious God,

in our human weakness and brokenness,

allow us to believe that there is “strength in weakness”.

You are our provident Father,

and together with your beloved Son Jesus Christ our Savior

and the Holy Spirit, the breath of life and love,

we give you 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.

 

“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” (Mt 6:33) //“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” (II Cor 12:9)

 

  

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

 

When the present socio-economic situation threatens you with fear and anxieties, turn to God and assert more strongly your fundamental option for him as the one and absolute good. // Pray for the weakest and most vulnerable members of the society and, by your works of charity on their behalf, allow them to experience that there is “strength in weakness”.  

A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 17, n. 29)

Trinity Sunday and Week 11 in Ordinary Time: June 16-22, 2019

 

 

(The pastoral tool BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD: A LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY & WEEKDAY LITURGY includes a prayerful study of the Sunday liturgy from various perspectives. For the Lectio Divina on the liturgy of the past week: June 9-15, 2019 please go to ARCHIVES Series 17 and click on “Pentecost & Week 10 Ordinary Time”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: June 16-22, 2019.)

 

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June 16, 2019: THE MOST HOLY TRINITY

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is God the Son”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Prv 8:22-31 // Rom 5:1-5 // Jn 16:12-15

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 16:12-15): “Everything that the Father has is mine; the Spirit will take from what is mine and declare it to you.”

 

            In Bangalore, India, we visited a Benedictine monastery that was famous not only for its dairy farm, but also for its hospitality. After spending some moments of prayer in the chapel, we were led by the Guest Master to the refectory to have some bread and milk curds. I was fascinated by what I saw on the wall: a gigantic reproduction of Andrea Rublev’s Icon of the Trinity depicting the visit of the Three Angels by the oak of Mamre (cf. Gen 18:1-15). Seated at a table, patriarch Abraham’s three Divine Guests are a reminder of the blessings that the sterling virtue and value of hospitality brings. As I gazed at the icon, I was drawn into a deep communion with the Blessed Trinity. Through the kindness of the welcoming monastic community, I also experienced the hospitality of the triune God.

 

            On this solemnity of the Most Blessed Trinity, let us contemplate the icon of the Trinity, which is the icon of hospitality. The following prayer of St. Catherine of Siena says it all: “By this light I shall come to know that you, eternal Trinity, are Table and Food and Waiter for us. You, eternal Father, are the Table that offers us food, the Lamb, your only-begotten Son. He is the most exquisite Food for us, both in his teaching, which nourishes us in your will, and in the sacraments that we receive in Holy Communion, which feeds and strengthens us while we are pilgrim travelers in this life. And the Holy Spirit is a Waiter for us, for he serves us this teaching by enlightening our mind’s eye with it and inspiring us to follow it.” 

 

The mystery of the Trinity is enchanting, inviting, and deeply hospitable. We are led into it by the Wisdom of God (cf. Prov 8:22-32) and the Spirit of Truth (cf. Jn 16:12-15). Our experience of the triune God is true and palpable. The community of faith’s most intimate contact with the triune God is through Christ’s Paschal Mystery: “Through Christ we have gained access by faith to the grace in which we now stand” (Rom 5:2).

 

The Paschal Mystery is the basis of Trinitarian revelation. The early Christian community has come to experience the Trinitarian character of God through the astounding paschal sacrifice and glorification accomplished by Christ. The saving events surrounding Jesus of Nazareth are the basis of the Church’s belief and confession that he is the Son of God. The members of the faith community have grasped not only Jesus Christ’s incomparable, singular rapport with God, but also his astounding relationship with the Spirit. The community of believers has perceived the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of the Father and the Son - as the one who makes Christ’s saving event present in the “here and now”. From the experience of the Paschal Mystery, the Church is led by the Spirit of Truth to a profound understanding that God, in his most intimate nature, is Trinitarian: as the loving Father, the source of our redemption; as the obedient Son who accomplished the Father’s saving plan by his death on the cross; and as the Spirit of love, poured into our hearts, who enables us to experience more deeply the unmitigated love of the Father and the Son.

 

            In Christ’s Paschal Mystery, the Trinitarian revelation is complete. But our human perception is inadequate and our response to that revelation is incomplete. It is the Spirit of the Father and the Son – the Spirit of Truth – who enables us to be receptive to the mystery of the Trinitarian love. The Spirit makes the revelation meaningful to succeeding Christian generations and updates understanding of the once-and-for-all revelation of God in the Christ event. As the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit will speak what he hears from the only begotten Son of God, the ultimate and supreme Word of love of our Father in heaven.

 

 

B. First Reading (Prv 8:22-31): “Before the earth was made, Wisdom was conceived.”

 

The following story entitled “Half Truths” is humorous, but it can give us an idea of the importance of Jesus’ promise to his disciples concerning the Spirit of truth who would guide us to the fullness of truth.

 

The first mate had somehow gotten drunk, so that night the captain wrote into the record for the day, “Mate drunk today.” The mate begged the captain to take it out of the record, for it might cost him his job with the ship owners. It was also his first offense. But the captain refused saying, “It’s a fact and into the log it goes.” Some days later the mate was on the bridge and it was his turn to keep the log. He duly recorded the location, speed, and distance covered that day. Then he added, “The Captain, sober today.” The captain protested that this would leave an altogether false impression – that it was an unusual thing for him to be sober. But the mate answered in the very words of the captain, “It’s a fact and so into the log it goes.”

 

 

A thing may be true, but the time and manner of telling and the circumstances may give an entirely false impression of another’s action or character. Many of us are languishing in situations of incomplete truth or are suffering the painful consequences of half-truths. Indeed, many lack complete understanding. Our contact with Jesus Truth-Way-Life, the glorified Lord and Redeemer, inspires us to seek the fullness of truth and nurtures in us a faith seeking understanding.

  

The Old Testament reading of this Sunday’s liturgy (Prv 8:22-31) presents the Spirit of truth as infinitely creative and intimately united with the creative act of God: “When the Lord established the heavens I was there, when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep. When he made firm the skies above, when he fixed fast the foundation of the earth, when he set for the sea its limit, so that the waters should not transgress his command; then I was beside him as his craftsman” (verses 27-30). St. Irenaeus of Lyons identified “the wisdom of God”, who acted as his craftsman on the day of creation, as the Holy Spirit. All three members of the Most Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thus worked together to fashion the cosmos.

 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church reinforces the truth that creation is the work of the Most Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In article n. 292, it asserts: “The Old Testament suggests and the New Covenant reveals the creative action of the Son and the Spirit, inseparably one with that of the Father. This creative cooperation is clearly affirmed in the Church’s rule of faith: There exists but one God … he is the Father God, the Creator, the author, the giver of order. He made all things by himself, that is, by his Word and by his Wisdom, by the Son and the Spirit who, so to speak are his hands. Creation is the common work of the Holy Trinity.”

 

The feast of the Most Holy Trinity that we celebrate today gives us an opportunity to stand back and contemplate the one loving and saving God, manifesting himself in salvation history as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In a context of prayer, it gives us a glimpse into the actual life of love at the heart of the Trinity. It also provides us some of the fuller context of God being three Persons in one nature. This wonderful feast, furthermore, also invites us to celebrate our intimate participation in the life of the Blessed Trinity.

 

 

C. Second Reading (Rom 5:1-5): “To God, through Christ, in love poured out through the Holy Spirit.”    

 

The Trinitarian activity on our behalf can likewise be gleaned in the Second Reading (Rom 5:1-5). The great mystic-apostle Paul declares that we have access to the grace of God through his Son Jesus Christ and the outpouring of the Spirit of love upon us. Our intimate relationship with the one and triune God deeply impacts our life.

 

The liturgical scholar Adrian Nocent remarks: “We already live with the Trinity  in the love that has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. We are already justified by faith and have obtained access to the grace in which we stand. In other words, we are experiencing God’s love for us. This does not mean that all problems are solved; no, we are still in the stage of struggle and testing. But because we have faith and the assurance that we are united to the triune God, the trials and struggles take on a meaning they can have only for some who has received the Spirit … Life in the Spirit thus brings us peace with God through Christ in the Spirit, who pours out the love of God in our hearts.”

 

On this Trinity Sunday we celebrate not only the marvelous actions of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit on our behalf, but our consecration and intimate union with the one and triune God. Immersed into the life of the Blessed Trinity, we delight in the solidarity of faith, the fervor of Christian love and the bright outlook of hope. For we know that we are the children of God the Father, the brothers and sisters of his beloved Son Jesus Christ, and the temples of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

 

The following story illustrates the laudable efforts of a missionary to bring the marvelous love of God to the poor and needy (cf. Patrick Atkinson, “Francisco the Shoeless” in Amazing Grace for the Catholic Heart, ed. Jeff Cavins, et. al. West Chester: The Ascension Press, 2004, p. 191-193). Animated by the spirit of love and through his Christian charitable work for God’s children, Patrick Atkinson becomes a powerful witness that the one and triune God is for us … and is on our side.

 

I stopped and watched a familiar Guatemalan beggar boy as he carefully searched through the garbage-filled gutter that ran along the outside of my home. I knew he had to be scrounging for food so I called out to get his attention. For a second I thought he might have glanced up at me, but then I realized I just happened to be standing where he looked. I felt the same disappointment I had felt with him many times before. Even though he was filthy, shoeless, dressed in rags, and obviously hungry, my shouted offers of help were repeatedly ignored.

 

“Why”, I wondered, “doesn’t he want my help?” As the founder and director of The God’s Child Project, it is my job to feed, clothe, and educate the poorest of the poor. During my twenty-plus years as a Catholic missionary, I have seen hundreds of thousands of poor children and homeless families. But this particular boy puzzled me. It was obvious he needed help, yet he seemingly would have none of it.

 

Leaving him alone, I walked back to the orphanage and began to pore over the financial books. Frustrated at the realization that we were going to end the fiscal year two thousand dollars in debt, I had to make a difficult decision. “We will not accept any more children into the program this year”, I told our staff and volunteers in a strong, clear voice. “We simply can’t do it. How can we take in any more children when we can’t even feed those we already have?” Even though I hated the thought of turning needy children away, this time I was determined to stick to my decision.

 

Two days later, a surprise visitor knocked at my door. It was my shoeless friend! Covered with lice and foul smelling, he held up his hand and made a strange guttural sound from his throat. At first I was confused, but then it hit me that he was deaf and could not speak. The poor child had ignored me all the time because he had never heard me call him.

 

My confused smile broke into a very loud laughter. God had sent me the one boy in all of Guatemala who could get me to break my commitment not to accept another child. God was letting me know it was He and not I who was ultimately in charge of such things.

 

Francisco joined our mission that very same day. Abandoned by his father at birth, he was raised in the streets by an indifferent, alcoholic mother. When he was six-months old, a severe illness robbed him of his hearing. He had been begging on the streets for food since the age of four. The streets became his home. His bed was wherever he lay down to sleep at night.

 

Francisco came into our very large family that day bringing with him bad habits, lice, fleas and rotted teeth. He also came with a very sharp mind, survival instincts, and keen emotions. Violence on TV could bring forth an anguished cry just as quickly as watching a mother kiss her son good night would bring tears to his eyes. I can only guess at the nightmares that often disrupted his sleep.

 

Over the years, Francisco was taught to communicate and he was able to receive an education. When his grade-school education came to an end at the mainstream public school, the teachers pooled their examinations scores to determine the valedictorian. On the day of grade school graduation, it was Francisco who was asked to come up and receive the honor – much to his surprise, but not to that of his wildly cheering classmates.

 

In times of desperation and when the hard work seems too much, I am sometimes tempted to give up. It is at those times, however, that I think of Francisco. He is on his own now, working full-time and still studying on weekends. Because of his physical limitations, his salary is low. Still, he smiles a lot and works hard. He visits his mother who abandoned him to the streets so many years ago, and he goes to Mass often. I regularly ask our Blessed Mother to watch over this special child of God. I believe that she already has.

 

 

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

 

Do we allow ourselves to be led into the beautiful and deeply hospitable mystery of the one God, who revealed himself in salvation history as the loving Creator Father, as the saving Son Jesus Christ who died for us on the cross, and as the Spirit of love outpoured into our hearts? Do we thank the one and triune God for enfolding us with the life of love of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? 

 

 

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

 

            O Divine Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

we adore you and thank you;

we love you and serve you.

Your plans for us are kind and gracious.

We have access to your saving grace, O Father,

through your Son’s paschal sacrifice.

Your love has been poured into our hearts

through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

You are present in our life and in salvation history

as the one and triune God.

Help us to be icons

of your creative grandeur, sacrificial love, and radiant glory.

We worship you, O loving Father,

through your Son,

in the love of the Holy Spirit,

in unity with the Church and the entire creation,

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.

 

“The Spirit of truth will guide you to all the truth … Everything that the Father has is mine.” (Jn 16:13, 15) 

 

 

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

 

Spend some time before Andre Rublev’s Icon of the Trinity, or any other icon depicting the Most Holy Trinity, and make a personal prayer of thanksgiving to the one and triune God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Today practice an act of hospitality for a person in most need of welcome and care. Consciously offer this charitable act in honor of the Most Holy Trinity.  

    

 

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June 17, 2019: MONDAY – WEEKDAY (11) IN ORDINARY TIME

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Counters Evil with Good … His Apostle Paul Is a True Minister of God”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

2 Cor 6:1-10 // Mt 5:38-42

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 5:38-42): “But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.”

 

The law of retaliation contained in the Old Testament (that is, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”) is meant to moderate vengeance and to keep violence within limits. It restricts the punishment inflicted by the avenger to injury proportionate to the damage done by the aggressor. In today’s Gospel reading (Mt 5:38-42), we hear Jesus’ radical teaching on non-retaliation, which seeks to break the cycle of revenge. The righteous man is called not just to respond with proportionate vengeance to an injury inflicted by an aggressor, but to take no vengeance at all. Jesus teaches us “to offer no resistance to one who is evil”. The Divine Master’s teaching of non-resistance to an evildoer is not an invitation to suicide, or to let true justice be trampled upon, but a call to counter evil with good, hatred with love, vengeance with forgiveness. Love, though vulnerable and paradoxical, is the only force capable of overcoming evil. By his passion and death on the cross, Jesus showed how forgiving love can overcome the ugly forces of evil and sin that lead to violence. With his life of non-retaliation and reconciliation, a new world order has begun.

 

The following story gives us insight into the ways of the non-vengeful who seek to overcome evil with good (cf. Anthony de Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations, New York: Image Books, 1988, p. 65).

 

A traveler was walking along the road one day when a man on horseback rushed by. There was an evil look in his eyes and blood on his hands. Minutes later a crowd of riders drew up and wanted to know if the traveler had seen someone with blood on his hands go by. They were in hot pursuit of him. “Who is he?” the traveler asked. “An evil-doer”, said the leader of the crowd. “And you pursue him in order to bring him to justice?” “No”, said the leader, “we pursue him in order to show him the way.”

 

Reconciliation alone will save the world, not justice, which is generally another word for revenge.

 

 

B. First Reading (2 Cor 6:1-10): “In everything we commend ourselves as ministers of God.”

 

Today’s First Reading gives us a beautiful insight into Saint Paul’s experience as an apostle. He recognizes that the Corinthians and he are working together with God in fulfilling the saving plan. He also exhorts them not to receive the grace of God in vain, but instead to claim the “now” as a moment of salvation. Paul’s primary work is to spread the saving Gospel and he absolutely avoids anything that will jeopardize his ministry. Indeed, Paul proves himself a minister of God by his way of life. In his Gospel ministry, he shows patient endurance through every kind of trial. He manifests himself as God’s true servant through a life of purity, knowledge, patience and kindness - in the love of the Spirit and by the power of God. Indeed, God equips him with “weapons of righteousness” which he uses in all circumstances - through glory and dishonor, insult and praise. His life as an apostle is challenging and fascinating, mysterious and paradoxical: treated as a liar though he speaks the truth, unrecognized but acknowledged, given up for dead but he lives on, punished but not killed, saddened but always rejoicing, poor but enriching many, having nothing but possessing all things.

 

Like Saint Paul, we need to conduct ourselves as servants of the Gospel. The following story, entitled “A Quarter for Jesus” and circulated on the Internet, gives us an idea of what it means to be a true “minister of God” today.

 

Several years ago, a preacher from out-of-state accepted a call to a church in Houston, Texas. Some weeks after he arrived, he had an occasion to ride the bus from his home to the downtown area. When he sat down, he discovered that the driver had accidentally given him a quarter too much change. As he considered what to do, he thought to himself, “You’d better give the quarter back. It would be wrong to keep it.” Then he thought, “Oh, forget it. It’s only a quarter. Who would worry about this little amount? Anyway, the bus company gets too much fare. They will never miss it. Accept is as a gift from God and keep quiet.”

 

When his stop came, he paused momentarily at the door, and then he handed the quarter to the driver and said, “Here, you gave me too much change.” The driver, with a smile, replied, “Aren’t you the new preacher in town?”
Yes”, he replied. “Well, I have been thinking a lot lately about going somewhere to worship. I just wanted to see what you would do if I gave you too much change. I’ll see you at church on Sunday.”

 

When the preacher stepped off the bus, he literally grabbed the nearest light pole, held on, and said, “Oh, God, I almost sold your Son for a quarter.”

 

 

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

 

1. Do I strive to conquer vengeful instincts and to overcome evil with good? Do I practice the ethic of non-violence and the Christian way of forgiving love?

 

2. Like Saint Paul the Apostle, can we present ourselves to the people of today as true “ministers of God”?

 

 

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

 

Jesus, meek and humble of heart,

your example transcends the ugly ways of the violent.

By your life of forgiving love and reconciliation,

you show us how to break the cycle of vengeance in this world.

Give us the grace to be peaceful.

Let your love be upon us

that we may respond to evil with good,

to hatred with love.

Lead us on the path of true justice and peace.

We give you glory and praise, now and forever.

Amen.

 

***

Almighty God,

help us to live the Gospel to the full

and become your true servants

through trials and adversities.

Let us proclaim the Gospel of Christ

in the love of the Holy Spirit.

Sustain us by your power.

We believe that our poverty is our wealth

for we know that even though we seem to have nothing,

yet in Jesus we possess all things.

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.

 

“Offer no resistance to one who is evil.” (Mt 5:39) //“In everything we commend ourselves as ministers of God.” (II Cor 6:4)

 

 

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

 

If someone offends you, put into practice the teaching of Jesus of non-retaliation and reconciliation through the power of good. // Today make a special effort to conduct yourself with kindness, patience and unfeigned love toward the people around you and thus help them recognize you as a “minister of God”.

 

 

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June 17, 2019: TUESDAY – WEEKDAY (11)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Love Our Enemies … He Became Poor for Our Sake”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

2 Cor 8:1-9 // Mt 5:43-48

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 5:43-48): “Love your enemies.”

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Mt 5:43-48) contains the Divine Master’s radical teaching on magnanimous love even of enemies. Harold Buetow comments: “Jesus teaches largeness of heart and mind … Our love for our enemies – those we do not like or who do not like us – is not of the heart but of the will. Therefore, to love them need not be an emotional experience, but must be a decision to commit ourselves to serve the best interests of all other people … We see that the apex of God’s kind of perfection is compassion, a willingness to suffer for others. Those who love in such an unconditional and non-selective way are true children of the God of limitless love … In our dealings with other people, both friends and enemies, we are to be magnanimous: large-minded, wide open, generous – and holy.”

 

The Amish community’s compassionate act to reach out to the family of Charles Roberts, the suicide-attacker of 10 Amish girls, illustrates the grandiose love that forgives and embraces all (cf. Internet article of Daniel Burke, Religion News Service).

 

It was October 2, 2006, and Charles Carl Roberts IV had just shot 10 Amish schoolgirls before turning the gun on himself. Five girls died. Five others were seriously wounded. The shooting shocked this quiet, rural county and horrified countless outsiders glued to the nonstop media coverage. “Not only was my son not alive, he was the perpetrator of the worst crime anyone could ever imagine”, Terri Roberts said. After the shooting, the world was riveted by the remarkable display of compassion shown by the Amish, as the quiet Christian sect embraced the Roberts family and strove to forgive the troubled sinner. (…)

 

On the day of the shooting, Terri crawled into a fetal position, feeling as if her insides were ripped apart. Her husband Chuck, a retired policeman, cried into a tea towel, unable to lift his head. He wore skin off his face wiping away his tears. Family and friends poured into the Roberts’ home in Strasburg, Philadelphia, a small town about six miles from Nickel Mines, where the shooting occurred.  No one knew what to say. “What do you say, ‘At least it’s not as bad as so-and-so’? There was nothing that anyone could imagine that would have been worse than that day”, she said.

 

Later that evening, an Amish neighbor named Henry, whom Terri calls her “angel in black” arrived at their house. Chuck had begun a second career as an “Amish taxi”, driving families to destinations farther away than horses and buggies could carry them. After the shooting, Chuck feared he could never face the Amish again. “Roberts, we love you”, Henry insisted and continued to comfort Chuck for nearly an hour. Finally, Chuck looked up. “Thank you, Henry”, he said. “I just looked at that and said, ‘Oh Lord, my husband will heal through this.’ I was just so thankful for Henry that day”, Terri said.

   

 

B. First Reading (2 Cor 8:1-9): “Christ became poor for your sake.”

 

In today’s First Reading (2 Cor 8:1-9), Paul proposes to the Corinthians a collection to alleviate the suffering of the poor of the Mother Church in Jerusalem. The apostle feels obliged to instruct the skittish Corinthians on this delicate but important issue. The collection for the poor is, for Paul, of special importance for it signifies acceptance of the Gospel and of self-donation to God. The apostle therefore urges them to emulate what God’s grace has accomplished in the churches in Macedonia, that is, in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Beroea. Though living in poverty and undergoing severe trials, they abound in joy, simplicity and generosity. The Christians in Macedonia give as much as they can and even more than they can. For them it is a privilege to take part in helping God’s people. Acknowledging the spiritual riches of the Corinthians, Paul exhorts them to be likewise generous in this service of love for the Jerusalem faith community. The apostle then provides a spiritual foundation for his mission appeal: Christ’s kenosis. Rich as he is, the Lord Jesus makes himself poor for our sake in order to make us rich by his poverty.

 

The model of Christian giving that Saint Paul underlines in his second letter to the Corinthians is an inspiration for all. The following story illustrates that the spirit of self-giving lives on in the here and now (cf. Marion Smith, “Drawn to the Warmth” in Chicken Soup for the Soul, ed. Jack Canfield, et. al. Cos Cob: CSS, 2008, p. 226-227).

 

Factoring in the wind chill, I knew the temperature was below zero. The bitter cold cut through my Californian sensibilities, as well as my enthusiasm as a tourist, so I ducked through the nearest door for warmth … and found myself in Washington, D.C.’s Union Station. I settled onto one of the public benches with a steaming cup of coffee – waiting for feeling to return to my fingers and toes – and relaxed to engage in some serious people-watching.

 

Several tables of diners spilled out into the great hall from the upscale American Restaurant, and heavenly aromas tempted me to consider an early dinner. I observed a man seated nearby and, from the longing in his eyes, realized that he, too, noticed the tantalizing food. His gaunt body, wind-chapped hands and tattered clothes nearly shouted, “Homeless, homeless!” I wondered how long it had been since he had eaten. Half expecting him to approach me for a handout, I almost welcomed such a plea. He never did. The longer I took in the scene, the crueler his plight seemed to be. My head and heart waged a silent war, the one telling me to mind my own business, the other urging a trip to the food court on his behalf.

 

While my internal debate raged one, a well-dressed young couple approached him. “Excuse me, sir”, the husband began. “My wife and I just finished eating, and our appetites weren’t as big as we thought. We hate to waste good food. Can you help us out and put this to use?” He extended a large Styrofoam container. “God bless you both. Merry Christmas”, came the grateful reply.

 

Pleased, yet dismayed by my own lack of action, I continued to watch. The man scrutinized his newfound bounty, rearranged the soup crackers, inspected the club sandwich and stirred the salad dressing – obviously prolonging this miracle meal. Then, with a slow deliberateness, he lifted the soup lid and, cupping his hands around the steaming warm bowl, inhaled. At last he unwrapped the plastic spoon, filled it to overflowing, lifted it toward his mouth and – with a suddenness that stunned me – stopped short.

 

I turned my head to follow his gaze. Entering the hall and shuffling in our direction was a new arrival. Hatless and gloveless, the elderly man was clad in lightweight pants, a threadbare jacket and open shoes. His hands were raw, and his face had a bluish tint. I wasn’t alone in gasping aloud at this sad sight, but my needy neighbor was the only one doing anything about it. Setting aside his meal, he leaped up and guided the elderly man to an adjacent seat. He took his icy hands and rubbed them briskly in his own. With a final tenderness, he draped his worn jacket over the older man’s shoulders. “Pop, my name’s Jack”, he said, “and one of God’s angels brought me this meal. I just finished eating and hate to waste good food. Can you help me out?” He placed the still-warm bowl of soup in the stranger’s hands without waiting for an answer. But he got one. “Sure, son, but only if you go halfway with me on that sandwich. It’s too much for a man my age.”

 

It wasn’t easy making my way to the food court with tears blurring my vision, but I soon returned with large containers of coffee and a big assortment of pastries. “Excuse me, gentlemen, but …” I left Union Station that day feeling warmer than I had ever thought possible.

 

 

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

 

1. Do I strive to conquer the vengeful instincts and to overcome evil with good? Do I practice the ethic of non-violence and the Christian way of forgiving love?

 

2. In our self-donation and care for the poor, do we imitate Jesus Christ, who became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty we might become rich? Do we thank God for the many generous souls who follow the spirit of Christian giving and allow ourselves to be inspired by them?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

in you mercy and justice have embraced.

thank you for the gift of your Son Jesus Christ.

Through his self-giving,

we realize that Christian holiness demands compassion.

It challenges us to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Give us the strength to love unconditionally

and to learn the ways of justice and peace

Let us draw courage from the truth that we belong to Christ

and that he leads us on the right path.

You live and reign, now and forever.

Amen.

 

***

God our Father,

we thank you for the spirit of self-giving

that Jesus Christ has shown in his kenosis:

he became poor for our sake.

Help us to imitate his total self-donation.

Let our poverty overflow in a wealth of generosity.

Make us generous in caring for the needs of the poor.

You are a loving and provident God.

We love and praise you, now and forever.

Amen.   

 

 

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

 

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

 

“Love your enemies.”  (Mt 5:44) // “He became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” (II Cor 8:9)

 

 

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

 

By an act of kindness and compassion to a needy person or an offensive person, or by a forgiving stance to an injury suffered personally, enable the Gospel of saving love to spread.  // In a spirit of self-giving and in imitation of the generous Macedonians, make an effort to alleviate the suffering of today’s poor.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

June 19, 2019: WEDNESDAY – WEEKDAY (11); SAINT ROMUALD, Abbot

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Do Good Deeds … He Is a Cheerful Giver and Jubilant in Serving”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

2 Cor 9:6-11 // Mt 6:1-6, 16-18

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 6:1-6, 16-18): “And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”

 

From today’s Gospel reading (Mt 6:1-6, 16-18), we realize that doing the right deed for selfish reasons is “phony” and not commendable. Jesus takes up three traditional Jewish good deeds: almsgiving, prayer and fasting. While encouraging his disciples to practice them, he warns about the manner of practicing them. These traditional acts of righteousness are meaningless when done hypocritically and in view of self-seeking. Jesus criticizes pious self-display and not the pious actions themselves. Almsgiving, prayer and fasting are meaningful only when they are motivated by a sincere and faithful relationship with God and one’s fellow human beings. The Father of Jesus – our own Father too – who sees acts hidden from human sight will surely reward good deeds done for the glory of God and the good of others. God the Father rewards good deeds, both those done in secret and those carried out in public witnessing, as long as they are properly motivated, i.e. to secure God’s glory and to promote the well-being of our brothers and sisters. While teaching his disciples not to be hypocrites and self-seeking, Jesus Christ also encourages them to let their light shine before others so that those who see their good deeds may glorify the heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:16).

 

After the 8:00 A.M. Easter Sunday Mass at our parish of St. Christopher in San Jose (CA-USA), our community of three, plus a friend, went for breakfast at a nearby restaurant in our Willow Glen neighborhood. We enjoyed freshly brewed coffee and placed our order. Mine was a bowl of fresh fruit and Eggs Benedict. Easter joy was in the air as we shared the meal. When we asked for the bill, the waiter told us that an “Easter bunny” took care of it. We greatly appreciated the kindness of our secret benefactor. We prayed that God the Father, who sees good deeds done in secret, may reward and fill him with Easter blessings.

      

 

B. First Reading (II Cor 9:6-11): “God loves a cheerful giver.”

 

In today’s First Reading (II Cor 9:6-11), Saint Paul underlines the blessings of generosity using the image of a sower. The one who sows many seeds will have a large crop. God, who supplies seed for the sower and bread to eat, will also supply all the seed we need and help produce a rich harvest. Indeed, God will bring forth a bounty from our generous and kind hearts. He will always make us rich enough to be generous at all times. Therefore, we should not fear that generosity will impoverish us. God is infinite in his gifts. There is no need to covet or hoard. Our role as Christian disciples is to reflect the richness of God and his concern for the poor. We must have unlimited trust in divine providence. Our sharing must be motivated by a desire to proclaim God’s name. Our generous giving must inspire people to thank God for the many gifts he showers upon us.

 

The apostle Paul likewise asserts that God loves a cheerful giver. Like Jesus Savior, we too must be cheerful givers and jubilant in serving. The following story gives a glimpse into this (cf. Carol Knapp in Daily Guideposts 2010, p. 281).

 

I received a surprising faith boost through my job selling baked goods at the farmers’ market. I had a tent and tables to set up, heavy racks of bread to load and unload, long hours standing in the weather-of-the-day and waves of people eager to hear me explain my wares.

 

Mothers came with children to buy their favorite cookies. Men stopped by on their lunch breaks to pick up pepperoni rolls. Summer customers wanted sweet breads for the cabin or buns for the outdoor grill. Autumn shoppers purchased scones to go with morning coffee and savory loaves to have with the soup. One woman preparing a Greek dinner for friends bought the spinach feta; a man on a bicycle liked his granola with raisins; a curmudgeonly man counted on his sourdough.

 

Somewhere in the middle of my job, the joy hit me; the unexpected joy of serving people, matching the right breads to their needs and watching them walk away satisfied.

 

I formed a new picture of the Son of Man, exuberant in sharing God’s message, excited to serve others: Jesus providing wine for the wedding guests in Cana, touching the hand of Peter’s mother-in-law so that the fever left her, giving sight to a man born blind, restoring life to a twelve-year-old, welcoming children into his arms.

 

How Jesus must have celebrated with the recipients of these wonderful works! What joy he must have felt every morning, anticipating the great things he would do, the words of life he must teach!

 

 

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

 

1. Do we do our “good deeds” with proper motivation, or do we carry them out as an occasion for self-seeking? Do we believe that God the Father who sees in secret will reward us for all good deeds done for his glory and the salvation of his people?

 

2. Are we generous in self-giving? Are we cheerful givers?

 

 

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

 

Heavenly Father,

we praise and thank you

for you see all our humble efforts to love and serve you.

You search the secrets of our heart

and all our actions are known to you.

Teach us always to work with supernatural intentions.

Deliver us from self-seeking and hypocrisy.

May our prayer, fasting and almsgiving

be done always for your greater glory

and the good of souls.

Grant us the prophetic power of Elijah and Elisha.

You live and reign,

forever and ever.

Amen.

 

***

God of love,

help us to be generous sowers and bountiful reapers.

Please give us the grace we need

to be of service to your kingdom.

Let your provident hand

make a bounty of our generosity.

Help us to imitate Jesus

who is cheerful in giving and jubilant in serving.

Let our good works 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.

 

“Your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” (Mt 6:4) // “God loves a cheerful giver.” (II Cor 9:7)

 

 

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

 

In every good you do and in your pain and suffering, give glory and praise to God and seek the salvation of souls. // In accomplishing your daily tasks and ministry, do it with a joyful heart and in a spirit of self-giving.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

June 20, 2019: THURSDAY – WEEKDAY (11)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Pray … His Apostle Paul Preaches the Gospel without Charge”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

2 Cor 11:1-11 // Mt 6:7-15

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 6:7-15): “This is how you are to pray.”

 

When I was a postulant, we had a retreat with an Irish Carmelite priest. To help us understand better the meaning of prayer, he narrated a story about two hermits. Each one planted a papaya and took care that it should grow well and be fruitful. They even prayed for the papaya. One hermit tried to make God understand what needs to be done for the papaya: “Lord, please send some rain today for the papaya”; “The sun is too hot; please send some cool breeze for the papaya;” etc. But his papaya was unhealthy and scrawny. When he visited his friend, he noticed that the papaya he planted was sturdy and extremely fruitful. “What is your secret?” he asked. The other hermit responded, “I prayed and asked God, Please take care of the papaya!”

 

In today’s Gospel (Mt 6:7-15), Jesus teaches us the true meaning of prayer and how to pray. God our Father knows our needs even before we make our request. But he wants us to ask in confidence and trust. In prayer we do not so much inform God of some situation or micromanage him, as express our dependence and faith in him. The “Lord’s Prayer” that Jesus teaches us is a model of total surrender to God: “Your will be done …” Mother Teresa of Calcutta remarks: “Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at his disposition, and listening to his voice in the depths of our hearts.”

 

 

B. First Reading (II Cor 11:1-11): “I preached the Gospel of God to you without charge.”

 

In today’s First Reading (II Cor 11:1-11), we see the apostle Paul constrained to do some boasting. His detractors think he is not on par with the “super apostles”. He contends that he may not have the rhetorical skills that their so-called “apostles” have, but certainly he is not lacking in knowledge. Saint Paul is absolutely not inferior to anyone in the knowledge of the true Gospel. Moreover, he has used every means at his command to preach Jesus and his Gospel to the Corinthians. Indeed, he has done more than the other “apostles” to further the work of Christ. Another foolish accusation hurled at the apostle Paul is that he does not seek recompense for his preaching simply because he is too insignificant to merit any payment. Paul refutes them by asserting that other churches do esteem him and support him in his apostolic ministry. With condescension, he uses his critics’ own foolish expression and says that he is “paid by other churches”. The Christian believers in Macedonia, in fact, have brought Paul everything he needs, while he proclaims the Gospel in Corinth without charge. He resolves to continue to be financially independent and to proclaim the Gospel gratuitously so as not to burden the Corinthians. This is to prevent his critics from maligning his ministry and to avoid being accused of preaching the Gospel for money. At the end, the ever-conciliatory Paul reaffirms his love for the people he is trying to evangelize: “God knows I love you!”

 

The following charming story, entitled “How Much Is a Miracle?” and circulated on the Internet, gives a glimpse into what it means “to preach the Gospel without charge”.

 

Tess was a precocious eight-year-old when she heard her mom and dad talking about her little brother Andrew. All she knew was that he was very sick and they were completely out of money. They were moving into an apartment complex next month because Daddy didn’t have the money for the doctor bills and their house. Only a very costly surgery could save Andrew now and it was looking like there was no one to loan them the money. She heard Daddy say to her tearful Mother with whispered desperation, “Only a miracle can save him now.”

 

Tess went to her bedroom and pulled a glass jelly jar from its hiding place in the closet. She poured all of the change out on the floor and counted it carefully. Three times, even. The total had to be exactly perfect. No chance here for mistakes. Carefully placing the coins back in the jar and twisting on the cap, she slipped out the back door and made her way 6 blocks to Rexall’s Drug Store with the biggest red Indian Chief sign above the door.

 

She waited patiently for the pharmacist to give her some attention but he was too busy at the moment. Tess twisted her feet to make a scuffing noise. Nothing. She cleared her throat with the most disgusting sound she could muster. No good. Finally she took a quarter from her jar and banged it on the glass counter. That did it!

 

“And what do you want?” the pharmacist asked in an annoyed tone of voice. “I’m talking to my brother from Chicago whom I haven’t seen in ages”, he said without waiting for a reply to his question. “Well, I want to talk to you about my brother”, Tess answered back in the same annoyed tone. “He’s really, really sick … and I want to buy a miracle.” “I beg your pardon”, asked the pharmacist. “His name is Andrew, and he has something bad growing inside his head, and my Daddy says only a miracle can save him now. So how much does a miracle cost?” We don’t sell miracles here, little girl. I’m sorry but I can’t help you”, the pharmacist said, softening a little. “Listen, I have the money to pay for it. If it isn’t enough, I will get the rest. Just tell me how much it costs.”

 

The pharmacist’s brother was a well dressed man. He stooped down and asked the little girl, “What kind of miracle does your brother need?”
I don’t know”, Tess replied with eyes welling up. “I just know he’s really sick and Mommy says he needs an operation. But, my Daddy can’t pay for it, so I want to use my money.” “How much do you have?” asked the man from Chicago. “One dollar and eleven cents”, Tess answered barely audibly. “And it’s all the money I have, but I can get some more if I need to.

 

“Well, what a coincidence”, smiled the man. “A dollar and eleven cents – the exact price of a miracle for little brothers.” He took her money in one hand and with the other hand he grasped her mitten and said, “Take me to where you live. I want to see your brother and meet your parents. Let’s see if I have the kind of miracle you need.”

 

The well dressed man was Dr. Carlton Armstrong, a surgeon specializing in neuro-surgery. The operation was completed without charge. And it wasn’t long until Andrew was home again and doing well. Mom and Dad were happily talking about the chain of events that had led them to this place.

 

“That surgery”, her mother whispered, “was a real miracle. I wonder how much it would have cost?” Tess smiled. She knew exactly how much a miracle cost … one dollar and eleven cents … plus the faith of a little child.

 

 

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

 

1. What is the significance of prayer for me personally?  What are my experiences of prayer?  Do I try to glean the true meaning of the “Lord’s Prayer”?

 

2. How do we respond to the criticisms and trials we encounter in our apostolic ministry? Do we proclaim the Gospel gratuitously or do we allow money, or the lack of it, to inhibit the work of evangelization?

 

 

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

 

Our Father, who art in heaven,

hallowed be thy name;

thy kingdom come;

thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread;

and forgive us our trespasses

as we forgive those who trespass against us;

and lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

Amen.

 

***

God our Father,

we trust in your protection and providence.

Defend us from our adversaries.

Help us to proclaim the Gospel without charge

for you have given us gratuitously the gift of salvation

that your Son won for us at the price of his blood.

We love and glorify you, now and forever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

  

“This is how you are to pray.” (Mt 6:9) //“I preached the Gospel of God to you without charge.” (II Cor 11:7)

 

 

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

 

When you pray the Lord’s Prayer, mean what you say. // When you do something nice and beautiful for someone, let that person feel that it is done freely, gratuitously and joyfully on his/her behalf.     

 

 

*** *** ***

 

June 21, 2019: FRIDAY – SAINT ALOYSIUS GONZAGA, Religious

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Seek True Treasures … His Apostle Paul Boasts of His Weakness”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

2 Cor 11:18, 21-30 // Mt 6:19-23

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 6:19-23): “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”

 

In today’s Gospel (Mt 6:19-23), Jesus gives instructions on choosing between God and earthly treasures. Jesus Master counsels us not to store up treasures on earth because “earthly treasures” are fragile, alienable and perishable. There is nothing on earth that is worth putting our heart into in an absolute way. Only the Lord God is the eternal and absolute treasure. Our heart should be placed in him. He should be the object of our love, self-surrender and sacrifice. In view of this fundamental option, our principal concerns and interests are to store up treasures in heaven. Jesus also talks about the “eye” as the “lamp of the body”. In the ancient world the term “eye” is understood as expressing a person’s attitude. To say that “the eye is the lamp of the body” means that one’s attitude controls what one does or says. A healthy “eye” means that one’s personal attitude is sincere and open to God’s guidance. Hence, to make wise choices for the heavenly treasures would require a healthy “eye”, that is, a personal attitude that is enlightened by the wisdom of God. Storing up treasures in heaven needs true insight and perspective that is enlightened by the Spirit of God.

 

            The following story, “The Seven Jars of Gold” illustrates the tragedy and misery of hoarding false treasures as well as the possibility of being “enlightened” and of rectifying our dismal acts and unfortunate choices (cf. Anthony De Mello, The Song of the Bird, New York: Image Books, 1984, p. 134-135).

 

A barber was passing under a haunted tree when he heard a voice say, “Would you like to have the seven jars of gold?” He looked around and saw no one. But his greed was aroused, so he shouted eagerly, “Yes, I certainly would.” “Then go home at once”, said the voice. “You will find them there.”

 

The barber ran all the way home. Sure enough, there were the seven jars – all full of gold, except for one that was only half full. Now the barber could not bear the thought of having a half-filled jar. He felt a violent urge to fill it or he simply would not be happy.

 

So he had all the jewelry of his family melted into coins and poured them into half-filled jar. But the jar remained as half-filled as before. This was exasperating! He saved and skimped and starved himself and his family. To no avail. No matter how much gold he put into the jar it remained half-filled.

 

So one day he begged the king to increase his salary. His salary was doubled. Again the fight to fill the jar was on. He even took to begging. The jar devoured every gold coin thrown into it but remained stubbornly half-filled.

 

The king now noticed how starved the barber looked. “What is wrong with you?” he asked. “You were so happy and contented when your salary was smaller. Now it has been doubled and you are so worn out and dejected. Can it be that you have the seven jars of gold with you?”

 

The barber was astonished. “Who told you this, Your Majesty?” he asked.

 

The king laughed. “But these are obviously the symptoms of person to whom the ghost has given the seven jars. He once offered them to me. When I asked if this money could be spent or merely hoarded, he vanished without a word. That money cannot be spent. It only brings with it the compulsion to hoard. Go and give it back to the ghost this minute and you will be happy again.”

       

 

B. First Reading (II Cor 11:18, 21-30): “Apart from these things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches.”

 

In today’s First Reading (II Cor 11:18, 21-30), Saint Paul continues “to boast” in the Lord. Challenged by his detractors, he is impelled to respond to them in their own terms. He exposes to them his ethical and religious credentials: “Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So I am …” The most substantial part of his “boasting”, however, is based on his profound understanding of himself as a “minister of Christ”. He is a minister of Christ even more than the others, for he has done more in the service of the Gospel. If others gain recognition on account of their sufferings for the Gospel, their trials would seem insignificant in comparison to Paul’s. The apostle then enumerates the adversities he suffered: imprisonments, floggings, shipwrecks, attacks from fellow Jews and from Gentiles, dangers in the wilderness, dangers from false friends, etc. Above all, he cannot refrain from adding his anxiety over the churches he founded. The daily trials of caring for the churches are without end and the conscientious Paul cannot find rest from these. He suffers intensely when others sin and the problems of everyone deeply concern him. Indeed, the great “boast” of Saint Paul is his own “weakness” which manifests the power of God at work in him. The great apostle does not exalt his own work in any way, but in God’s protection.

 

In a way, Paul’s apostolic sufferings for the sake of the Gospel are replicated in the life of Pope Pius XII. The following excerpt gives insight into this (cf. Alive! May 2012, p. 13).

 

New York Jew Gary Krupp grew up hating Pius XII for what he was told was the Pope’s anti-Semitism and unwillingness to help Jews during the Holocaust. Then he discovered that the indoctrination which he, like many of his generation, had received was a lie. Krupp became a passionate defender of Pius, determined to dig up all the information that would show the true greatness of the war time Pope.

 

In six years of research Krupp and his “Pave the Way Foundation” have uncovered over 76,000 pages of original material, plus eyewitness accounts and testimonies from various international scholars. His research has forced Yad Vashem museum in Jerusalem to significantly modify its section on Pius. Krupp believes that as the evidence emerges, the bid to blacken Pius’ name and destroy his reputation is coming to an end. “We’re definitely winning, absolutely no question”, he said. “Every time we do more research, we find a diamond. It’s incredible, but there’s nothing on the other side because there’s no documented foundation for any of their accusations.”

 

Some of the documents brought to light by “Pave the Way” show that more than 20 years before he became a Pope, Pius favored the creation of a Jewish state. Krupp also unearthed a letter written by the then Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli shortly before he was elected Pope on 2nd March 1939. The letter was an attempt to obtain visas to Brazil for 200,000 Jews still in Germany after Kristalnacht. “He wasn’t able to obtain the visas, but he tried”, said Krupp. “The point is, he didn’t do it from the safety of Washington DC or London. He did it while surrounded by hostile forces and infiltrated by spies. And yet he still managed to save more Jews than all the other world leaders combined.”

 

Through his nephew, Carlo Pacelli, Pius helped prevent the arrest of Roman Jews in 1943. Some 12,000 found refuge in convents, monasteries, and Catholic homes.

 

 

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

 

1. Do I truly seek to store up treasure in heaven? What are my priorities, interests and choices? Do I strive to keep the “eye” – the “lamp of my body” healthy? Do I cultivate true insight and a supernatural perspective in life?

 

2. What sufferings do we experience, or are we willing to undergo, for the sake of the Gospel and for the faith community?

 

 

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

 

O Jesus Divine Master,

we thank you for teaching us where to put our hearts

and where to store up treasure.

Help us to seek God as the only and absolute good.

Let us not be tantalized

by the false treasures of this earth.

Give light to the “eye” of our soul.

Grant us true insight

that we may seek the eternal treasure in heaven

with love, devotion and sacrifice.

Give us the wisdom, grace and strength

to fight evil and to do good.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

***

(From the prayer “To Obtain Patience” by Blessed James Alberione)

 

Glorious Saint Paul,

from a persecutor of Christianity,

you became a very ardent and zealous apostle,

and suffered imprisonment, scourging, stoning, shipwreck

and endured persecutions of every kind,

in order to make the Savior Jesus Christ known

to the farthest bounds of the world.

In the end you shed your blood to the last drop.

Obtain for us the grace to accept

the infirmities, afflictions and misfortunes of the present life

as favors of divine mercy,

so that the vicissitudes of this our exile

may not make us grow cold in the service of God,

but may make us ever more faithful and more fervent.

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.

 

“For where your treasure is, there also your heart will be.” (Mt 6:21) // “I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”  (II Cor 11:40)

 

 

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

 

Get rid of superfluous goods and strive to share more fully your earthly and supernatural goods with the needy. // When sufferings and trials come your way as you carry out your task as “servant of the Gospel”, think of Saint Paul and the sufferings he endured.

    

 

*** *** ***

June 22, 2019: SATURDAY – WEEKDAY (11); SAINT PAULINOS OF NOLA, Bishop; SAINTS JOHN FISHER AND THOMAS MORE, Martyrs; BVM ON SATURDAY

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Delivers Us from Anxiety … He Is Our Strength in Weakness”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

2 Cor 12:1-10 // Mt 6:23-34

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 6:24-34): “Do not worry about tomorrow.”

 

In today’s Gospel (Mt 6:24-34), Jesus continues to shape us into disciples whose priorities are straight and who totally depend on God. He wants us to serve God and not mammon. Our possessions have a way of possessing us, but that cannot happen if we make a core decision for God. Our fundamental option for Christ and our radical choice for the kingdom values eliminate useless anxieties. Indeed, Jesus wants us to be free from excessive concern about food and clothing.  What are they in comparison to the infinite value of the kingdom of God and his righteousness?  He invites us to reflect on God’s care as shown in nature. The birds in the sky neither sow nor reap nor gather food into barns yet the heavenly Father feeds them. He gives color and beauty to wild flowers and clothes them with a splendor that surpasses Solomon’s regal attire. If that is how God cares for the birds and wild flowers, how much more would he care for us – more important in his sight. Jesus urges us not to worry, for worrying is unproductive and counterproductive, a vicious killer of joy in our life. If we put our heart in God and seek his kingdom and his righteousness, all other matters will be in place and our needs taken care of.

 

The following story gives insight into the meaning of Jesus’ exhortation not to worry about tomorrow for there is no need to add to the troubles each day brings (cf. Anthony De Mello, The Song of the Bird, New York: Image Books, 1984, p. 21).

 

The Japanese warrior was captured by his enemies and thrown into prison. At night he could not sleep for he was convinced that he would be tortured the next morning.

 

Then the words of his master came to his mind. “Tomorrow is not real. The only reality is now.”

 

So he came to the present – and fell asleep.

 

The person over whom the future has lost its grip. How like the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. No anxieties for tomorrow. Total presence in the now. Holiness!

  

 

B. First Reading (II Cor12:1-10): “I will rather boast most gladly of my weakness.”

 

Today’s First Reading (II Cor 12:1-10) tells us that the New Testament prophet Paul is afflicted with a “thorn in the flesh”. Like his beloved Lord Jesus Christ, the great apostle Paul has been rejected, challenged, contested and criticized by the people he is meant to serve. Some vicious critics in the Corinthian community doubt his credentials and rate him as not being on par with the “super apostles” who have received visions and revelations. Compelled to deal with his critics on their own terms, the indignant Paul confesses that he too is a recipient of a special vision. This unique “revelation” has transported him to paradise. His ecstatic, mystical experience definitely surpasses those of the so-called “super apostles”. Paul speaks of this “revelation” in the third person to emphasize that it is an undeserved gift received from God. Indeed, until driven to this extreme by his Corinthian critics who looked down upon him, he has refrained from speaking about this and kept it a secret. However, in order that he may not become conceited on account of this extraordinary revelation, the mystic Saint Paul has been gifted with a “thorn in the flesh”, most likely, an embarrassing, chronic physical malady. The purpose of this affliction is clearly to help Paul assume a humble stance and allow the grace of God to work more freely and efficaciously in him.

 

The experience of Saint Paul testifies to the presence of divine grace in all our afflictions. Though his “thorn in the flesh” continues to afflict him, the certainty of God’s favor and assistance is enough for Paul. The Christians of today are called to the same trust, surrender and faith that in weakness, there is strength, if only we are united with Christ. The following story of the cancer victim, Kevin Barry, a former chief of legislation for the U.S. Coast Guard and a director of the National Institute of Military Justice, is a modern day testimony of how a physical affliction – a “thorn in the flesh” can be a “gift” to manifest the love and power of God (cf. “Pain and the Power of Prayer” in Saint Anthony Messenger, February 2009, p. 35-37).

 

It is said that cancer changes everything. That goes also for prayer. I was diagnosed with colon cancer on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15, 1997. When the diagnosis first came in, prayer suddenly took on a much more prominent role in my wife’s life, as well as my own. Each time the cancer returned, and with each new crisis, prayer again rose up to be a more constant companion. But it is not just the proximity or amount of time we came to spend in prayer. What is more important is that, since cancer, our prayer habits have changed. Our prayers have become more present, more intense, more frequent, more together. (…)

 

My cancer has also resulted, at various times in the past years, in me experiencing pain. At such times I tend to pray with more intensity than is my norm when I am not in any pain and life is proceeding smoothly. That intensity can vary from a little more prayer than normal to an almost constant plea for strength to endure when the pain is particularly severe … Obviously, the pain is part of the whole deal. It is a result of cancer. Thus, it has to be part of what Roslyn and I have come to accept as “the gift of cancer”. (…)

 

To a certain degree, my experience of pain changed in 2007, after I had to stop chemotherapy in February because it wasn’t working well – its toxicity became too great. My white blood cell and platelet counts were being suppressed and were taking longer and longer to bounce back. Soon thereafter, I began to experience cancer pain that was chronic and quite severe, and I learned just how much a part of my life pain and pain medications could become. I spent more time praying, not just for the grace to endure the pain, but especially for the grace to accept better both my cancer and its pain as part of the gift (some would call it a cross), which was fashioned just for me by my loving God. I was extraordinarily blessed when the next round of chemotherapy miraculously terminated the pain just two days after the first treatment. I believe this sudden relief from all pain was a reminder of God’s mercy. (…)

 

The serious pain I have experienced has led me to consider pain and suffering on another level. Paul the Apostle has two extraordinary sentences in his letters. One is: I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me (Gal 2:20). The other is: Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ (Colossians 1:24). What could possibly be lacking in the sufferings of Christ? His passion and death were part of his perfect sacrifice. The only thing I know that is lacking is for his suffering to be made present today – in this place and in this time. But if Christ lives in me, then my suffering becomes Christ’s suffering. Suddenly, it is much easier to endure pain knowing that, by doing so with the right intention; I bring the mystery of Christ’s own suffering into my life, for my benefit and for the benefit of all who are “one with me” in my struggle. It is like a variation on the Mass, through which Christ’s sacrifice is made present today in our world. In my suffering here and now, if I can truly live Paul’s words, Christ lives and suffers in me. And I live and suffer in him. What an awesome mystery. What a profound faith to share.

 

 

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

 

1. Do I put my total trust in God, not worrying about tomorrow and not giving in to useless anxieties?

 

2. What are your own experiences of grace? Can you truly avow that there is “strength in weakness”?

 

 

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

 

Jesus Master,

we trust in divine providence.

We look at the birds of the sky

and the immense field of wildflowers,

radiant with color and beauty.

You care for them.

How much more will you care for us!

Deliver us from useless anxieties.

Give us the grace to seek you

and the kingdom of God and his righteousness.

Help us to persevere in overcoming evil with good.

Let us live day by day in your grace.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

***

Loving Father,

be present to us in our afflictions

through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

and the power of the Holy Spirit.

We trust in your saving help

and we allow ourselves to be grasped by your guiding hand.

Gracious God,

in our human weakness and brokenness,

allow us to believe that there is “strength in weakness”.

You are our provident Father,

and together with your beloved Son Jesus Christ our Savior

and the Holy Spirit, the breath of life and love,

we give you 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.

 

“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” (Mt 6:33) //“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” (II Cor 12:9)

 

  

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

 

When the present socio-economic situation threatens you with fear and anxieties, turn to God and assert more strongly your fundamental option for him as the one and absolute good. // Pray for the weakest and most vulnerable members of the society and, by your works of charity on their behalf, allow them to experience that there is “strength in weakness”.  

 

*** 

 

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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