Archives: Year B-S22 - Year A-S21 - Year C-S20 - Year B-S19 -Year A-S18 - Year C-S17 - Year B-S16 - Year A-S15 - Year C-S14 - Year B-S13 - Year A-S12 - Year C-S11 - Year B-S10 - Year A-S9 - Year C-S8

Year B-S7 - Year A-S6  - Year C-S5 - Year B-S4 - Year A-S3  - Year C-S2 - Year B

 

A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

*****************

 

N.B. The Lectio Divina for the Fourth Week of Lent, is ready. You can access it by going to ARCHIVES "Year B - Series 22" (cf. above).

 

Please go to our website www.pddm.us and click on "PDDM Internet Library". It contains the Lectio Divina of all the readings for the Sunday Cycle (A, B & C) and the Weekday Cycle (I & II). The fruit of 12 years apostolic work, this pastoral tool is most useful for liturgy and homiletic

preparation.

 

 

*****************

 

 

 

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 22, n.14)

Lent Week 3: March 3-9, 2024

 

 

(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: February 25 – March 2, 2024 please go to ARCHIVES Series 21 and click on “Lent Week 2”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: March 3-9, 2024.)

 

 

*** *** ***

 

March 3, 2024: THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT, YEAR B

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the True Temple”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Ex 20:1-17 // 1 Cor 1:22-25 // Jn 2:13-25

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 2:13-25): “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”

          

St. Mary’s Catholic Parish in Fresno gathered for a retreat on March 7-8, 2003. The parishioners capped their second day of retreat with a visit to the site where the future church edifice would be built. As they stood at the edge of a vast field surrounded by neatly tended vineyards, their pastor, Msgr. Patrick McCormick, prayed that the effort of St. Mary’s Parish “to unite all with Christ and the community” may be blessed. They invoked God to make of them a holy people, “a temple of God built of living stones, where the Father is worshipped in spirit and truth”. They prayed, moreover, that the church building of St. Mary’s Parish that would rise on that site might truly be an expression of their love as a community built on Christ, the cornerstone. Indeed, the concern of St. Mary’s Catholic Parish to strengthen the community’s sense of Church before embarking on the construction of the church edifice is founded on the principle that Christ is the true temple of God. 

          

The basic principle concerning the true notion of a “temple” is strongly enunciated in the Gospel of John. In today’s Gospel reading about the cleansing of the Jerusalem temple by Jesus (Jn 2:13-25), the evangelist John presents “the temple of Christ’s body” as the true temple. The episode of the purification of the temple of Jerusalem probably occurred toward the end of Jesus’ life, as the synoptic writers Matthew, Mark and Luke have indicated, serving as a final straw leading to his condemnation.

 

The cleansing of the temple is a prophetic action that serves as a sign of the coming of the messianic times. In the Bible, the temple is a sign of God’s saving presence among his people. Therefore, when the evangelist John depicts Jesus as vigorously driving out the merchants from the temple area, spilling the coins of the money changers and overturning their tables, and denouncing the dove vendors for making his Father’s house a marketplace, he is communicating the reality that the era of the “new temple” has come. The leaders of the Jerusalem temple, however, miss the symbolic value of Jesus’ action-sign. The disciples of Jesus, after Jesus is raised from the dead, would understand the cleansing of the temple in the light of Psalm 69:10: “Zeal for your house consumes me” and Zech 14:21: “On that day there shall no longer be any merchant in the house of the Lord of hosts.” 

 

In response to the defiant remark of the Jewish authorities, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus made a startling statement: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jewish leaders, who misunderstood the enigmatic revelation of Jesus’ statement, presume that he is uttering a violent threat against the magnificent Jerusalem temple that Herod had begun in ca. 20 B.C and is in construction for forty-six years. Taken literally, Jesus’ saying is absurd. But the evangelist John clarifies: the new temple is Christ’s resurrected body. Jesus speaks about “the temple of his body,” and when he is raised from the dead, his disciples would remember that he said this. They would believe the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken. Indeed, the major “sign” that justifies Jesus’ actions and gives him authority is his resurrection. It is the ultimate sign that reveals he is truly the Son of God.

 

The sign of Christ-temple demands an unmitigated response of trust, faith, and commitment from every Christian who is a part of the Church-temple. In this Lenten season, let us appreciate more deeply that we are “living stones”. Let us allow the grace of God to incorporate us more intimately into Christ and the Church-temple.

 

St. Augustine declares: “Real belief in Christ means love of Christ … All who believe in this way are like the living stones which go to build God’s temple, and like the rot-free timber used in the framework of the ark which the flood waters could not submerge. It is in this temple, that is, in ourselves, that prayer is addressed to God and heard by him … The temple of God, this body of Christ, this assembly of believers, has but one voice, and sings the psalms as though it were but one person. If we wish, it is our voice; if we wish, we may listen to the singer with our ears and ourselves sing in our hearts. But if we choose not to do so it will mean that we are like the buyers and sellers, preoccupied with our own interests.” 

 

 

B. First Reading (Ex 20:1-17): “The law was given through Moses.”

 

Maryknoll magazine, published by Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, never fails to inspire me. In its March 2006 issue, Sean Sprague presents the laudable work of Christine Bodewes, a Maryknoll lay missioner in Kenya (cf. “Sowing Seeds in the Slums”, p. 32-34). Eight years ago, Christine left her Chicago law firm and went to the Kenyan capital of Nairobi to run a legal aid clinic. Many of her cases involved defending the slum dwellers’ right to their land. Four years later, she responded to an invitation from the Mexican Guadalupe Fathers to set up a human rights office in Christ the King parish, in the heart of Kibera, the largest slum in Nairobi. Christine narrated, “I spent a year trying to understand the complex ethnic, political, social and economic issues of Kibera. I didn’t have a strategy, but I spent a lot of time listening to people. I saw that human rights education was the key to the ministry.”

 

She therefore networked and pulled together a part-time team of volunteering professional Kenyan lawyers, who created a curriculum to teach civic education to people who were ignorant of their rights. Later she was able to hire four full-time, paid employees, all Kibera residents and they broadened their civic education curriculum to include the teachings of the Church. The recent addition to the team is a full-time Kenyan lawyer, Dorothy Ombajo. Christine remarks: “Christ the King office of human rights is one of the best human rights groups in Kenya. The people feel blessed having a lawyer who understands their problems. There has been a huge increase in people coming to the office, especially children, about rape, sodomy and being thrown out of school … I also feel great pride in our human rights team. My goal has been to plant the seeds. These people can change the world.” Christine Bodewes is aglow with joy because, through her ministry as a lawyer, she was able to harness the spirit of the civil law to promote human rights and serve the good of people, especially the poor.

 

Today’s First Reading (Ex 20:1-17) is also about the law – the divine law given through Moses. It is about the Decalogue – also called the Ten Commandments - the fundamental law that regulates the moral life of the people of Israel. This rule of life, an expression of Yahweh’s passionate love for his chosen people, is meant to deepen his covenant relationship with them and protect their identity as a people consecrated to him alone. The purpose of the Ten Commandments is to establish a righteous relationship between God and his people, and between the various members of his people. The God who has delivered his people from oppressive slavery in Egypt gives them this moral code as an opportunity to love him and their neighbors, not just in words, but above all, in deeds.

   

 

C. Second Reading (1 Cor 1:22-25): “We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling bock to many, but to those who are called, the wisdom of God.”

 

Today’s Second Reading (1 Cor 1:22-25) is one of the most beautiful and enigmatic passages in the Sacred Scriptures. The great apostle Paul experiences the living Christ and proclaims him as the crucified Messiah, glorified by God in the Spirit. The paschal event of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection brings to completion the ineffable saving plan of our loving God. The beloved Servant-Son of God assumes our brokenness and sufferings. He identifies himself completely with human weakness so that our own sacrifices may be transformed into saving grace and our sufferings may lead to endless glory. Saint Paul, fully immersed into Christ’s paschal destiny of death and rising, transcends what human reason reveals. He therefore proclaims the weakness of Christ on the cross as the ultimate power of love. Indeed, the almighty and all knowing God has no need for the false security of human strength and the empty trappings of human wisdom. From his personal experience of the saving event centered on Christ, the apostle to the Gentiles could thus declare: “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength” (I Cor 1:25).

 

The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 2, comment: “All through sacred history, God shows himself to be disconcerting in his initiatives, as well as in his choice of bringing about his plans. His way of acting is so contrary to human wisdom and calculation that the temptation not to follow him on this path is sometimes great … Today still – and it will probably always be the case – it remains very difficult to believe in the strength of weakness, in the wisdom that looks folly. Only love allows us to understand in a small way God’s conduct … Love is weakness and folly because it does not seek to impose any dominion and because it gratuitously offers itself. But it is an unalterable force because it can resist anything; and it is supreme wisdom because it alone understands everything … Such is the love of God, who risked his Son for the salvation of the world. We proclaim Christ crucified, Paul says simply.”

 

In the early 1900’s, the Russian Far East boasted a thriving Roman Catholic population, but after the revolution of 1917, Siberia became a showplace of the new Communist era, a land without churches and without God. Under Stalin, all Catholic churches were confiscated and many were turned into most degrading use. Thousands of Catholics were murdered and their bodies dumped into mass graves. When Russia finally opened its door to missionaries, two American priests from Modesto, California – Fr. Myron Effing and Fr. Daniel Maurer – went to Vladivostok in 1992 to help re-establish the Church in that region. At their arrival, there were only 6 Catholics. Now there are about 600 parishioners. Moreover, in the 16-year history of the re-establishment of the parish, 10 parishioners have entered the religious life and pronounced the evangelical vows. The kind volunteers from Modesto shared with me the inspiring newsletter, Vladivostok Sunrise, edited by Fr. Myron.

 

The following article on an elderly Vladivostok parishioner, Emilia Dyachkova by Tatyana Shaposhnikova (cf. January 1, 2009 issue, p. 1-2) illustrates how the Gospel of the crucified Christ continues to work in the suffering members of the Church.

 

“My whole life I’ve been on the move!” says Emilia as she begins to tell her life story. “I don’t remember my mother – she died when I was three – and they shot my dad in 1935. He was Polish and Catholic, so he was branded ‘an enemy of the people’. My two nieces and I were raised by my aunt whose husband also served time. ‘They’ took everything from us, our property, our faith in God, and accused us of spying. There was hunger, and none of us, adults or children, could find work. People were against us, as we were a family of ‘enemies of Soviet power’, but we still had to live with them.” And tears appear in Emilia’s eyes.

 

“When I was 16 they gave me work in the coal mine in Donbasse. Together with the adults I did all my work. Within a month war began, so they closed the mine. Without money and without help it took me several months to walk back to Verbka, the little village where my aunt lived. I walked home already by December, and in May they moved us all to Germany. For three years I worked for a German farmer doing all the dirty work on the farm. The boss treated us well and fed us, and on Sundays we prayed.”

 

“We were freed by American soldiers on the 9th of May of 1945, and already on May 10th they sent us to the transfer point and took us back to Russia. We got back to our village. The house was in ruins, and some of the villagers had been killed and some had died of hunger. We scraped together boards and whatever we could find to make a hut to live in, and we had to work sometimes twelve hours straight on the collective farm without rest” – it was sad for Emilia to remember. “I didn’t have a childhood, and my youth was spent in a different country.”

 

“I got married, but I didn’t live with my husband very long when they took him and shot him because he lived for several years as a prisoner in Germany. And again there was hunger and heavy work on the collective farm. People always looked at us with suspicion – my father was shot; my husband was shot – but in what way were we ‘enemies of the people’?” she asks herself. “We worked honestly, went to church, prayed about love and happiness. It was a difficult time for us, but God helped us. Sometimes there wasn’t enough energy or time for prayer, but we never went to bed without praying.”

 

“When my son finished school, he couldn’t go for higher education because my father and my grandfather were ‘enemies’. My son was very anxious to study further, so he had to travel far away where they wouldn’t know him. He came to the Russian Far East, and enrolled in the University of Vladivostok and graduated, so I came to live with him.” (She doesn’t mention that her son was beaten and brutally murdered by a band of thugs several years ago – perhaps it is too painful to remember.)

 

“Would I have been able to endure everything and still have love for people without God’s help?” she asks. Emilia comes to every Sunday Mass. You can read wisdom, love, and endless hope in her eyes in God’s mercy to herself and her neighbor. And how many such grandmothers there are! They all have wounds from what they have experienced in life, so that any jogging of their memories brings out the hurt and tears. We have something to learn from them – their patience, their resolve, their love of God and neighbor.

 

 

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

 

Are we receptive to the “signs” that Jesus continually works for God’s temple, the Church? Do we believe that Christ abides with us and continues to live on in the Church? How do we show respect and reverence to the “living stones” that comprise the new temple of God?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you are the true temple.

We are living stones

and by your power, we are built upon you, the cornerstone.

You abide with us and we dwell in you.

Give us the grace to reverence all the “living stones”

that comprise the new temple of God.

Help us to care especially for the fragile and vulnerable.

Let true worship be offered you by the Church-people of God.

We love and serve 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.

 

“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” (Jn 2:19)

 

 

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

 

Thank the Lord for the living Church, the community of believers and see the importance of the church building in relation to the living Church. Contribute some of your time and resources for the upkeep of your parish church.

 

 

  

*** %%% *** %%% *** %%% ***

 

 

March 4, 2024: MONDAY – LENTEN WEEKDAY (3); SAINT CASIMIR

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us Patience in Rejection and Affliction”

 

BIBLE READINGS

2 Kgs 5:1-15b // Lk 4:24-30

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 4:24-30): “Like Elijah and Elisha, Jesus was sent not only to the Jews.”

 

In today’s Gospel (Lk 4:24-30), Jesus returns to an uncertain welcome in his hometown of Nazareth. At the worship service in the synagogue, he has initially impressed them by his preaching. But eventually a negative thought surfaces: How could he be the Messiah? Isn’t he the son of Joseph? Jesus then compares himself to Elijah who assisted a widow in Zarephath during a drought and to Elisha who healed the Syrian leper, Naaman. The two great prophets of ancient Israel served non-Israelites because their own people were not open to their ministries. Jesus implies that he is also a prophet rejected by his own people. He would take his message to outsiders. This prospect enrages his country folks. They want to throw him off the cliff and kill him. But Jesus walks off unscathed. The hostility of the people in Nazareth does not succeed in killing him. But it is a foretaste of the decisive rejection that would lead to his death on the cross.

                                                                             

Lent is a time to contemplate what Jesus experienced in doing his messianic works. United with him, we too experience the world’s rejection. But strengthened by him, we learn to be patient in suffering and look forward to our glorious destiny. The following story is quaint, but a powerful reminder of the condemnation Jesus suffered for loving us so much (cf. Anthony De Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations: New York: Image Books, New York, 1988, p. 126-127).

 

“Prisoner at the bar”, said the Grand Inquisitor, “you are charged with encouraging people to break the laws, traditions, and customs of our holy religion. How do you plead?”

 

“Guilty, Your Honor.”

 

“And with frequenting the company of heretics, prostitutes, public sinners, the extortionist tax-collectors, the colonial conquerors of our nation – in short, the excommunicated. How do you plead?”

 

“Guilty, Your Honor.”

 

“Also with publicly criticizing and denouncing those who have been placed in authority within the Church of God. How do you plead?”

 

“Guilty, Your Honor.”

 

“Finally, you are charged with revising, correcting, calling into question the sacred tenets of our faith. How do you plead?”

 

“Guilty, Your Honor.”

 

“What is your name, prisoner?”

 

“Jesus Christ, Your Honor.”

   

 

B. First Reading (2 Kgs 5:1-15ab): “There were many people with leprosy in Israel, but none were made clean except Naaman the Syrian.”

 

Dr. Beth Baxter’s article, “Journey from a Dark Place” (cf. Guideposts: Large Print Edition, October 1999, p. 28-42) tells of the anguish of her mental illness and her journey to healing and redemption. She studied medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical School and was accepted for residency in psychiatry at the University of Rochester in New York. Toward the end of her residency she was hospitalized twice for psychotic breaks and was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. One winter evening in 1994 she decided to put an end to her failures, agony and despair. She tried to commit suicide by cutting her throat, but on account of some last minute intervention, she survived. Dr. Beth Baxter narrates her journey to healing.

 

My parents, grandparents, my whole extended family pooled their resources so I could be treated at a renowned mental hospital in Massachusetts. One morning I wandered into the greenhouse there. A power failure had caused a freeze, and most of the plants lay withered, un-revivable. Aimlessly, I was plucking away the brown leaves on a dead fern when at its base I spotted a tiny shoot of green. “There is life here after all,” I marveled, surprised at my own insight. It had been years since I felt the merest glimmer of hope. But I made little progress.

 

One afternoon, curled up in a chair in my room, I felt that old despair settle over me like a cold winter fog. I still hadn’t found a way to make sense of my illness, of the wreck that remained of my life. What was the use? The doctors were wasting their time. My family and friends were wasting their prayers. To me God seemed on the other side of an unbreachable gulf of darkness. “God, if you’re out there”, I pleaded, “give me a reason to live.” A short time later my mother called. I blurted out what was on my mind: “Mom, I just can’t find a reason not to end it all.” There was a long pause. Then my mom said softly, “Beth, I love you. Can’t you make that one reason?” “I’ll try, Mom,” I whispered. “For you, I’ll try.” Later that week Jeff and his wife Nikki called. “We miss you, Beth,” they said. “Everyone at our church is praying that you’ll come home soon. We love you.”

 

Love. Did I even know what it meant anymore? Was that, ultimately, the cruelest toll my disease had taken? Tearing me from the redemptive healing power of love. Blocking me from feeling my friend’s love, my family’s. God’s love … Love. Wasn’t that, ultimately, what God was giving me? Mental illness was a part of me, but so was the inner strength that had gotten me through medical school and residency despite it. So were the doctoring skills I’d learned, the understanding I’d developed of people’s suffering, the devotion of my friends, the support and prayers of my family. Above all, it was love that held the pieces together, through which God bridged the gulf of darkness with hope.

 

That was a beginning. Eventually, after continuing my treatment at two other hospitals, I went home to Nashville. I found a doctor who put me on a new medication that controlled my symptoms. I began going with Jeff and Nikki to their church. It became mine as well. I felt comfortable there because the people had been praying for me. Opening up about my illness and recovery, I grew closer to my friends and my family than ever before. I worked as a mental-health advocate for several years before I came to my current job as a psychiatrist at Nashville’s Mental Health Cooperative, a clinic for people with severe mental illnesses. Schizoaffective disorder, it turned out, started me on a journey, leading me to a place where I can achieve my goal of making people’s lives better, where I can do good, helping others see that they too can overcome the pain of mental illness and fulfill their true promise. That is the most powerful of all medicines – hope.

 

Like the story of Dr. Beth Baxter, today’s Old Testament reading (II Kgs 5:1-15ab) presents a magnificent case of healing. Naaman experiences the healing power of God. The “leprous” Syrian general has embarked on a journey of healing that leads him to embrace the love of God. It is a miraculous moment that fills him with hope, faith, and thanksgiving. The gift of healing involves returning to the living God and acknowledging the divine benevolent action in his life. Indeed, he has been “touched” by grace. The figure of Naaman reminds us to trust God who can heal all our infirmities. Jesus Christ is the incarnation of the divine healing power. In the Son of God, we are summoned to journey towards healing and the wholeness of our person – a mysterious movement that leads into the bosom of God and his gift of eternal life.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we experience rejection? Do we try to unite this difficult experience with that of Jesus? Do we allow the grace of God to transform our pain into possibility?

 

2. What are the afflictions and maladies that affect us? Do we turn to Jesus for healing? Do we acknowledge him as the channel of God’s mercy and healing?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you experienced rejection and opposition.

You are no stranger to human affliction.

Give us the grace to be united with you.

Transform our tragedy into triumph,

our pain into possibility,

and our hurt into healing.

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.

 

“They drove him out of the town.” (Lk 4:29) // “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel.” (2 Kgs 5:15b)

 

 

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

 

When you experience rejection, unite this experience with Jesus. Offer a comforting word and a caring hand to the sick and/or to someone who feels rejected.

 

 

*** %%% *** %%% *** %%% ***

 

 

March 5, 2024: TUESDAY – LENTEN WEEKDAY (3)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Incarnates God’s Forgiving Love”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Dn 3:25, 34-43 // Mt 18:21-35

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 18:21-35): “Unless each of you forgives your brother and sister, the Father will not forgive you.”

 

In the Gospel reading (Mt 18:21-35), the parable of the unforgiving servant underlines the Christian duty of forgiveness. Our belonging to the kingdom requires unlimited forgiveness, which is to take the place of retaliation. We have experienced the immeasurable forgiveness of God. As a result, we must reflect his forgiving love to others. All of us are indebted to the merciful God. To refuse to forgive puts us outside his kingdom and, consequently, outside the realm of his forgiving love. A merciless stance makes us impermeable to the dew of God’s healing love. Personal resentment is self-destructive. Keeping a grudge alive saps our strength. But responding to Jesus’ call for merciful forgiveness is healing and liberating. Lent is the season to address our deep need for forgiveness. It is a privileged time to experience the miracle of brokenness being transformed to wholeness.

 

The following story illustrates the tragedy of refusing to forgive (cf. Anthony De Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations: New York: Image Books, New York, 1988, p. 119-120).

 

Laila and Rama were lovers, but too poor to get married as yet. They lived in different places separated by a broad river that was infested with crocodiles.

 

One day Laila heard that her Rama was dangerously ill with no one to nurse him. She rushed to the river bank and pleaded with the boatman to take her across, even though she did not have the money to pay him.

 

But the wicked boatman refused unless she agreed to sleep with him that night. The poor woman begged and pleaded with him to no avail, so in sheer desperation, she consented to the boatman’s terms.

 

When she finally got to Rama, she found him near to death. But she stayed with him for a month and nursed him back to health. One day Rama asked how she had managed to cross the river. Being incapable of lying to her beloved, she told him the truth.

 

When Rama heard her tale, he fell into rage, for he valued virtue more than life itself. He drove her out of the house and refused to look at her again.

  

 

B. First Reading (Dn 3:25, 34-43): “We ask you to receive us with humble and contrite hearts.”

 

The Old Testament reading (Dn 3:25, 34-43) contains the prayer of Azariah from the flaming furnace. Azariah, Hananiah and Mishael are three young provincial administrators of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar who have defied the royal order to worship the king’s statue. They are willing to suffer death rather that worship a god other than the God of Israel. They are thrown into a fiery furnace, but God lets them experience deliverance within the furnace. Accompanied by an angel of salvation, the three young men start walking around in the flames, singing hymns to God and praising him as Lord.

 

In the midst of this saving event, Azariah then offers a beautiful prayer of deliverance for God’s covenant people, which includes a confession of the nation’s guilt. He avows that God is always just and true and that the Jewish people are guilty of every sin. Their disobedience has resulted in their being handed over to lawless, hateful, and defiant enemies. He pleads to God not to break his covenant and not to withhold his mercy from his people. With repentant hearts and humble spirits, the three young men implore God to miraculously rescue them and thus bring glory to his name. After surviving the ordeal of the blazing furnace, Azariah, Hananiah and Mishael are promoted by King Nebuchadnezzar to higher positions in the province of Babylon.

 

Jesus Christ incarnates God’s forgiving love. In light of this love, we are able to see the areas in our personal life and in the society that need to be redressed and healed. The following is an example of a sinful situation in today’s society that needs healing (cf. Alive!, February 2013, p. 5). Like Azariah, we need to present it to God with humble and contrite hearts.

 

Canada’s official statistics has disclosed that an average of one baby per week survives an abortion attempt in the country, but is left uncared for until it dies. According to figures for the period 2000 to 2009 some 491 babies were born alive in abortions and left to die.

 

Lawyer Andre Schutten has pointed out that Canada recognizes the baby as a human being as soon as it emerges alive from its mother, and questioned why there have been no homicide investigations into the live births. “Why have there been no criminal prosecutions? Why no outcry? And why are the provinces funding this explicitly criminal activity?” he asked.

 

A profile blogger wrote: “It’s bad enough that the babies are being killed in the womb, but now we learn that even those protected under Canadian law are apparently being left to die.

 

Jill Stanek, a former nurse in Chicago turned pro-life activist, has described witnessing babies being born alive after failed abortions, then being brought to a “soiled utility room” and left to die.

 

 

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

 

1. Have we experienced the tremendous forgiving love of God? Are we able to share his forgiving love with those who have “wronged” us?

 

2. Are we willing to suffer the trial of the “blazing furnace” as part of our promise to follow God unreservedly? Are we willing to recognize, confess, and rectify the sins of modern society and our national guilt?

 

 

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

 

Jesus, our saving Lord,

you have shown us the true meaning of forgiving love,

especially upon the cross.

Open our hearts to the flood of God’s forgiving love.

Teach us to forgive “seventy times seven”.

Grant us a merciful heart.

Unite us all in the kingdom of God

and let us experience the joy of eternal life.

We thank you, dear Jesus, for your sacrificial death

and the grace of salvation.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

***

Loving Father,

we have sinned as a nation and as a people.

We have turned away from you

and rejected the gift of life.

We are guilty of every sin.

But we come to you

with repentant hearts and humble spirits.

Accept our repentance

as our sacrifice to you today.

Lead us on the narrow path

that leads to eternal life.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.  

 

 

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

 

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

 

“Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him.” (Mt 18:27) // “But with contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received.” (Dn 3:37)

 

 

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

 

Forgive from the heart the one who offended or “wronged” you. // By prayer and penance and by active participation in pro-life activities, protect the life of the unborn and the babies that are born.

 

 

 

*** %%% *** %%% *** %%% ***

 

March 6, 2024: WEDNESDAY – LENTEN WEEKDAY (3)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us the Meaning of the Law”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Dt 4:1, 5-9 // Mt 5:17-19

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 5:17-19): Whoever keeps and teaches the law will be called great.”

 

The Gospel (Mt 5:17-19) tells us that Jesus did not come to do away with the Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets, but to make their meaning come true.  The emendations he made were meant to bring to maturity the principles and practices of the Mosaic covenant and to make them more faithful to its basic intent, which is love. Jesus’ approach to the Law is very healthy and refreshing. His emphasis is on mercy, all-inclusive love and personal commitment and not on legalistic minutiae, petty details and external prohibitions. He wants to reap the richness and fruitfulness resulting from true obedience to the covenant. Jesus did this by his life-giving sacrifice on the cross.

 

Lent is a time of spiritual insight. The Lenten season is a privileged moment to delve into the Christian understanding of the Law, which is essentially a commandment of love. The Gospel command of love transcends mere legal observance. It demands true sacrifice and is exercised in the freedom and wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

 

The following story is a caricature of a perverse law observance and a powerful example of how one can follow the letter of the law while disregarding its meaning and intent (cf. Anthony De Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations: New York: Image Books, New York, 1988, p. 89-90).

 

Mullah Nasruddin found a diamond by the roadside but according to the Law, finders became keepers only if they first announced their find in the center of the marketplace on three separate occasions.

 

Now Nasruddin was too religious-minded to disregard the Law and too greedy to run the risk of parting with his find. So on three consecutive nights when he was sure that everyone was fast asleep he went to the center of the marketplace and there announced in a soft voice, “I have found a diamond on the road that leads to the town. Anyone knowing who the owner is should contact me at once.”

 

No one was the wiser for the Mullah’s words, of course, except for one man who happened to be standing at his window on the third night and heard the Mullah mumble something. When he attempted to find out what it was, Nasruddin replied, “I am in no way obliged to tell you. But this much I shall say: Being a religious man, I went out there at night to pronounce certain words in fulfillment of the Law.”

 

To be properly wicked, you do not have to break the Law. Just observe it to the letter.

          

 

B. First Reading (Dt 4:1, 5-9): “Keep the commandments and your work will be complete.”

 

In today’s Old Testament reading (Dt 4:1, 5-9), Moses exhorts the covenant people to keep the Lord’s commands that they may live and take possession of the land God is giving them. Moses underlines the fundamental loyalty that is essential to Israel’s unique relationship with God. Loyalty to God entails faithful observance of the life-giving laws that originate from him. No other nation has a god so near as the God of Israel. Moreover, no other nation has laws so just as those life-giving laws that God has stipulated for his people. The Lord God answers them whenever they call for help and blesses them for their obedience to his gracious will. To be faithful to God’s word entails ordering one’s life according to the commandments and transmitting these to the next generation.

 

Jesus did not come to do away with the Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets, but to make their meaning come true. Lent is a time of spiritual insight. The Lenten season is a privileged moment to delve into the Christian understanding of the Law, which is essentially a commandment of love and is life-giving.

 

The importance of the law for the life of God’s people makes us lament today’s tragedy of the perversion and rejection of the divine law. The following case is an example (cf. Mary Ann Gogniat Eidemiller, “Four Decades after Roe, the Fight for Life Continues” in Our Sunday Visitor, January 20, 2013, p. 10).

 

By her own later admission, Norma Leah McCorvey lied about getting raped as a ruse to comply with the Texas law permitting abortion in instances of rape. But she had no proof that her pregnancy had resulted from a crime, so she was unable to terminate her third child.

 

The year was 1969, and two Dallas attorneys took up her case to challenge the pro-life laws in Texas. The case ended up in U.S. Supreme Court with McCorvey as plaintiff, given the anonymous name of Jane Roe, with the defendant in the suit being District Attorney Henry Wade of Dallas County.

 

McCorvey gave birth to the baby in the meantime, so for her, the ensuing legal battle was no longer moot. But on January 22, 1973, Roe v. Wade became the landmark decision that gave women the constitutional right to abortion, based on an implied right to privacy in the Ninth and 14th Amendments.

 

Among other points, the court said that the fetus was a “potential life” but not a person, and, therefore, had no rights of its own.

 

The decision also defined the conditions permitting or prohibiting abortion during pregnancy. The woman’s right to privacy in the first trimester was so strong that it was unregulated, thereby establishing abortion on demand. In the second trimester, states could regulate abortion only to protect the loosely-defined health of the mother. In the third trimester, a state could regulate abortion to promote the interest of the viable or potentially viable fetus.

 

At the same time that Roe v. Wade was passed, the Doe v. Bolton decision defined maternal health (a cause for abortion) as “all factors – physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age – relevant to the well-being of the patient”. In other words, the right to abortion beyond the first trimester was expanded to include any vague definition of “maternal health”. (…)

 

As for McCorvey, she later claimed that two ambitious lawyers had used her as “a pawn” in Roe v. Wade. She changed her mind about abortion, was baptized a Christian in 1995 and in 1998 was received into the Catholic Church. She remains active in the pro-life movement.

 

 

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

 

1. Do I make an effort to understand the true meaning and purpose of the law?

 

2. What is my response to God’s commands? How do I put the Christian command of love into practice?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you are the Divine Master.

You taught us the true meaning of the law

and fulfilled it through your sacrifice on the cross.

Give us the freedom of the Spirit.

Help us fulfill the Gospel love command in our daily life.

We praise and love you, Law-giver and Law-fulfiller.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” (Mt 5:17b) // “Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees which I am teaching you to observe.” (Dt 4:1)

 

 

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

 

Today reflect on the role of laws in society and in the Church. Let this realization impinge positively on your daily life.

 

 

 

*** %%% *** %%% *** %%% ***

 

March 7, 2024: THURSDAY – LENTEN WEEKDAY (3); SAINTS PERPETUA AND FELICITY

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Invites Us to Gather with Him”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Jer 7:23-28 // Lk 11:14-23

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 11:14-23): “Whoever is not with me is against me.”

 

In the Gospel (Lk 11:14-23), we hear that as Jesus journeys to the cross, the opposition intensifies. A crowd has just witnessed the exorcism of a demon. Some of them attribute his power to Beelzebul, the prince of demons. Others demand further signs. Jesus retorts to the skeptical crowd that Satan is not so foolish as to allow infighting. A divided force shatters. But Jesus is stronger than Satan and his army. He drives away demons by the “finger of God”. Jesus conquers evil and heals our afflictions through the power of God. He therefore challenges the crowd to gather with him.

 

With regards to the ongoing cosmic conflict between good and evil, we need to fight for the sake of good with Jesus and by the “finger of God”. And with regards to the kingdom value that Jesus brings, we cannot evade decisions. We cannot remain uncommitted. We cannot refuse to make sacrifices or take risks.  To refuse to gather with Jesus is to side with Satan. Indeed, a non-committal stance is self-destructive. Lent is a time to gather with Jesus and renew our fundamental commitment for him. But our core decision for Christ necessitates self-renunciation.

 

The following story is fascinating. It gives insight into the sacrificial aspect of loving and opting for Jesus Christ (cf. “The Slave Girl” in Anthony de Mello, The Song of the Bird, New York: Image Books, 1984, p. 158).

 

A Moslem king fell passionately in love with a slave girl and had her transferred from the slave quarters to the palace. He planned to marry her and make her his favorite wife, but, mysteriously, the girl fell seriously ill on the very day she entered the palace. She grew steadily worse. Every known remedy was given to her, but to no avail. The poor girl now hovered between life and death.

 

In despair the king made an offer of half of his kingdom to anyone who would cure her. But who would attempt to cure an illness that had baffled the best physicians of the realm? Finally a hakim appeared who asked to be allowed to see the girl alone. After he had spoken with her for an hour he appeared before the throne of the king who anxiously awaited his verdict.

 

“Your majesty”, said the hakim. “I do indeed have an infallible cure for the girl. And so sure I am of its effectiveness that, were it not to succeed, I should willingly offer myself to be beheaded. The medicine I propose, however, will prove to be an extremely painful one – not for the girl, but for Your Majesty.” “Mention the medicine”, shouted the king, “and it shall be given her, no matter the cost.”

 

The hakim looked at the king with compassionate eye and said, “The girl is in love with one of your servants. Give her permission to marry him and she will be instantly cured.”

 

Poor king! He wanted the girl too much to let her go. He loved her too much to let her die.

 

    

B. First Reading (Jer 7:23-28): “This is the nation that will not listen to the voice of the Lord God.”

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Jer 7:23-28) exposes the people’s disobedience and the absurdity of their false worship. Judah’s false worship is two-sided: the worship of false gods and the meaningless worship of the one true God, with its misplaced emphasis on external cultic activity. God is not interested in their burnt offerings and animal sacrifices unless they live a life of justice as a covenant people. He does not command those false rituals. But he did command them, when he brought them out of Egypt, to obey him so that he would be their God and they would be his people. They were stubborn and refused to listen to God and the prophets sent to them. God now commands Jeremiah to speak words of warning and threats of punishment to his people. They will most likely refuse to listen. Faithfulness has died and is no longer talked about.

 

Likewise in his ministry, Jesus encounters people with hardened hearts. The sad reality of sinful disobedience continues with full force even now (cf. Russel Shaw, “Disturbing Demographic Trends Finally Get Widespread Notice” in Our Sunday Visitor, January 27, 2013, p. 6).

 

The disruptive results for individuals and society spawned by the revolution in attitudes and behavior regarding sex, marriage, family and childbearing that erupted a half-century ago have become too obvious to ignore. These things were predictable – in fact, some people actually predicted them from the start – but by now their impact has grown so painfully apparent that even secular voices are being raised in alarm.

 

The problems are increasingly visible in the United States. They include an aging population with fewer young workers to support the elderly, along with a disturbingly high incidence of disabilities among children born to parents who put off having them until their 30s and 40s and then, in many instances, resorted to drugs or reproductive technologies to achieve pregnancy. (…)

 

Religious sources, some of them anyway, began warning about such things a long time ago. In his 1968 encyclical condemning contraception, Humanae Vitae (“Of Human Life”), Pope Paul VI spoke of “insurmountable limits” to what people can rightly do to, and with their bodies, and of the personal and social imperatives requiring that those limits not be ignored. The pope was ignored when he wasn’t laughed at. But he was right. (…)

 

Jonathan Last sees two large explanations for what has happened in recent decades: “the waning of religion in American life” and the shattering of the “iron triangle” that previously linked sex, marriage and child-bearing.

 

No doubt that is so. As Pope Paul VI said back in 1968, “The innocent practice of regulation of birth demands that husband and wife acquire and possess solid convictions concerning the true values of life and of the family.” That was necessary then, and it’s just as necessary today.

 

 

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

 

1. What is our response to Christ’s challenge: “Whoever is not with me is against me and whoever does not gather with me scatters”?

 

2. Do I listen to the voice of the Lord and walk in his ways? What is the root cause of my disobedience and its consequence?

 

 

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

 

Loving Jesus,

our strength to fight evil is from you.

If we do not gather with you,

we are doomed.

If we choose not to commit ourselves to you

and evade making a fundamental option for you,

we turn against you.

Let us align ourselves with you that we may live.

You cast out evil by the “finger of God”.

United with you, we are victorious.

For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours,

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.

 

“Whoever is not with me is against me and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” (Lk 11:23) // “Walk in all the ways that I command you, so that you may prosper.” (Jer 7:23b)

 

 

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

  

Make an effort to overcome self-destructive tendencies and addictions. Continue to fight against structuralized evil in the modern society.  

 

*** *** ***

 

March 8, 2024: FRIDAY – LENTEN WEEKDAY (3); SAINT JOHN OF GOD, Religious

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Us to Love God and Neighbor”      

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Hos 14:2-10 // Mt 12:28-34

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 12:28-34): “The Lord our God is one Lord and you shall love the Lord your God.”

 

The newspaper report about the alleged dumping of five discharged hospital patients in Los Angeles’ Skid Row saddened me. The dumping of the homeless patients is a symptom of a fragmented society that has failed in its task of loving and caring for one another. Today’s situation of social ills that need healing should be confronted by the message we hear in today’s Gospel (Mk 12:28-34): “Love the Lord your God with all your heart … Love your neighbor as yourself.”

 

The true meaning of love of God and neighbor has been crystallized in the very life and person of Jesus, especially in his self-gift and sacrificial love on the cross. Because God, in his Son Jesus has loved us so much, we too are enabled to love. The commandments to love God and neighbor originate from the energizing, empowering love that the Lord has for us. In accepting God’s love for us, our commitment to love God and neighbor is made possible in a wholehearted way.

 

Lent is a grace-filled season for loving and serving God and neighbor. We must not be sparing in loving and serving God and neighbor, but must give all, otherwise we will be shortchanged. Rabindranath Tagore, the great Bengali poet, in his Gitanjali tells the story of a beggar going from door to door asking for alms. He suddenly sees his celestial king approaching in a chariot, and he dreams of the king showering upon him bountiful gifts. But to his surprise, the king asks him what he has to give. After staring, confused and undecided, he finally peers into his sack of meager possessions, takes out a tiny grain of corn, and gives it to the king. Later he says, “But how great my surprise when at the day’s end I emptied my bag on the floor to find a little grain of gold among the poor heap! I bitterly wept and wished that I had had the heart to give my all.

 

 

B. First Reading (Hos 4:2-10): “We will not say to the works of our hands: our god.”

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Hos 14:2-10) is a very beautiful passage composed of two parts: the plea to Israel to return to the Lord and God’s promise of new life for Israel. In the first part, the prophet Hosea exhorts the people to be converted and suggests a prayer of repentance to be presented to the Lord: “Forgive all our sins and accept our prayer, and we will praise you as we have promised.” The people resolve to reject idols and no longer to put confidence in political maneuvers and military alliances. In turn God declares his compassionate mercy for the repentant people. He will heal their infidelity and will let Israel flourish in beauty and plenty. He will bring his people back to him and love them with all his heart. He will answer their prayers and take care of them. Like an evergreen tree, God will shelter them and make them fruitful. Those who follow the divine ways will live, but the sinners will stumble and fall.

 

Like Hosea, and even more than him, Jesus Christ calls people to conversion and to experience the wonderful effect of divine forgiveness and grace. The conversion of the Italian actress Claudia Koll gives an insight into this (cf. ALIVE! February 2012, p. 16).

 

CLAUDIA KOLL: Born in Rome in May 1965, Koll was brought up a Catholic, but when she left home to become an actress she also left the Church, she said, doing as she pleased, in a spirit of rebellion. Her lifestyle and career in the movies, including a number of porn roles, left her psychologically vulnerable.

 

Then, one day in 2000, during a session of vaguely Buddhist meditation, she suddenly found herself overcome by a terrifying sense of being in the presence of evil. She began to recite the Our Father and felt the threat recede. It was the beginning of her conversion.

 

Having returned to faith, she went on to found an association, “The Works of the Father”, that is dedicated to missionary and caring work in Africa. She also heads the Academy of Arts that was founded on the principles set out in John Paul II’s Letter to Artists. Her aim here is to help young people live in the world of fame and glamour in a healthy Christian way. Since her conversion she has traveled all over Italy giving her testimony and inviting young people to return to prayer and to faith in God.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we love God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind? How do we carry out the fraternal and social aspect of the divine command to love? Do we love our neighbor as ourselves?

 

2. How do we respond to God’s call to conversion offered to us in Jesus Christ?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus you said:

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart

 with all your soul,

and with all your mind …

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

 

“This is my prayer to thee, my Lord

– strike, strike at the penury in my heart.

Give me strength never to disown the poor

or bend my knees before insolent might,

and give me the strength to surrender my strength

to thy will with love.” (Rabindranath Tagore)

 

Lord Jesus you said:

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart

 with all your soul,

and with all your mind …

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

 

“Grant me to recognize in other men, Lord God,

the radiance of your face.” (Teilhard de Chardin)

 

Lord Jesus you said:

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart

 with all your soul,

and with all your mind …

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

 

“Give us patience and fortitude to put self aside for you

in the most unlikely people:

to know that every man’s and any man’s suffering

is our own first business,

for which we must be willing to go out of our way

and to leave our own interests.” (Caryll Houselander)

 

 

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

 

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

 

 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart … You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mk 12:30-31) // “Straight are the paths of the Lord, in them the just walk.” (Hos 14:10)

 

 

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

 

Pray for the grace of perfect love for our neighbor. Offer a concrete act of charity on behalf of the poor, the marginalized and the lonely, and the victims of man-made and natural calamities.

 

 

 

*** *** ***

 

 

March 9, 2024: SATURDAY – LENTEN WEEKDAY (3); SAINT FRANCES OF ROME, Religious

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Be Humble”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Hos 6:1-6 // Lk 18:9-14

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 18:9-14): “The tax collector went home justified, not the Pharisee.”

 

The story entitled “The Brown Vest” in Guideposts (January 2004, cf. p. 70-73) presents a contrast of two characters: the retired engineer, John, who sat on the board of elders and the humble Harvey who served as pastor of the congregation. John worked hard. He served on committees. He gave generously, but he never let slip an opportunity to tell Pastor Harvey what he was doing wrong. “Your sermons aren’t spiritual enough”, was one recurring grievance against Pastor Harvey. Then there was the ever-touchy subject of church finances. John told Pastor Harvey at the board meeting: “We squander too much of our resources helping people who are better off learning to help themselves. We need to work more at spreading the gospel.” Pastor Harvey answered gently: “Of course, John. But I think we must also share with those who are less fortunate.” There was no doubt that the elder John was open and straight. One day the self-righteous John was diagnosed with cancer. Pastor Harvey visited him often in the hospital and at home where he returned for hospice care. One Friday afternoon before John was about to die, he motioned Pastor Harvey closer. He said, “You know, Pastor, for a guy who does so much wrong, you really aren’t a bad sort.”

 

Today’s Gospel parable (Lk 18:9-14) also presents a contrast of two characters: the self-righteous Pharisee and the repentant tax collector. The prayer of the Pharisee is directed to God but is self-centered. He thanks God that he is not like the tax collector, whom he regards as a sinner. The tax collector, by contrast, prostrates himself before God. He humbly prays: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” The tax collector clings to no merit of his own, but simply begs God for mercy. The tax collector, and not the Pharisee, is in the right with God when he goes home. He receives God’s favor because in his humility he believes that God can be merciful to him and forgive him his sins. No human deeds could merit God’s merciful forgiveness. Only the sacrifice of the incarnate Son has that power. Because of Christ’s life-giving sacrifice, the Spirit bestows forgiveness on the humble. Lent invites us to take a humble stance before God because he humbles the proud and exalts the lowly.

 

 

B. First Reading (Hos 6:1-6): “What I want is love, not sacrifice.”

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Hos 6:1-6) contains some of the most evocative words of conversion in the Bible. Israel’s words, however, are false and deceptive. The beauty of their expression cannot save their ugly and insincere heart. The people makes a discourse about returning to the Lord, trusting in his healing hand, trying to know his ways, and looking forward to the Lord who will surely come like the dawning day and the spring rain falling upon the earth. But the Lord is not impressed with their words. He sees through their hypocrisy and their failure to know him as a loving God. He chides them for their pretended conversion. Their love for God is as transitory as the morning mist that quickly disappears. The fidelity of Israel is as tenuous as the dew that disappears before the morning sun. Their purported conversion and their pious practices are therefore meaningless. The Lord God therefore tells them what he wants from them plainly and clearly: “I want your constant love, not your animal sacrifices. I would rather have my people know me than have them burn offerings for me.” Indeed, words and rituals have meaning and value only when they manifest the interior spirit of obedience and adoration before God.

 

In Jesus Savior is true conversion. His disciples are channels of conversion. On February 22, 2013, God gave me an opportunity to meet in person “Papa Mike” (Mike McGarvin), the founder of the Poverello House in Fresno. Sr. Francis Christine of the Holy Cross Center for Women in Fresno introduced me and my friends (Pat, Cecilia and Melissa) to this modern day “icon” of conversion. Listening to “Papa Mike” as he narrated his conversion was sheer grace. The following is his written account (cf. Mike McGarvin, Papa Mike, Fresno: Poverello House, 2003, p. 119-120).

 

On June 8, 1994, my heart grieved while the angels sang anthems of praise. On that day, quietly, in the serene obscurity of a Franciscan hospice, Father Simon Scanlon departed from the fragile confinement of his earthly body and arrived in a better place. May he rest in peace.

 

Were it not for Father Simon, there would have been no Poverello House in Fresno, and I doubt that I would still be numbered among the living. Father Simon directed the Poverello in San Francisco’s Tenderloin. It was into his little storefront coffee house that I stumbled back in the late 1960s. I was a mess, to put it mildly. I was a raging, drug-abusing hippy who was full of hatred, especially toward myself.

 

For many years, I had been pursued by the Hound of Heaven, and He used a humble, loving Franciscan priest to finally free me. If there’s one word that best describes Father Simon, it is love: unconditional, unrelenting, penetrating. When I looked in a mirror back then, I saw a despicable failure. When Father Simon looked at me, he saw a child of God, hurt and confused by life’s turbulence. It was his acceptance, his warmth, and his glowing spirit that subtly began to turn me around. (…)

 

After spending so much time with Father Simon at the San Francisco Pov, it was second nature to give as he had given me. That’s how the Poverello House started in Fresno. In gratitude to Father Simon, I began, as best as I could, to imitate his actions, which were merely an outgrowth of his love-filled soul.

 

 

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

 

1. In our relationship with God, what role do we usually play: the self-righteous Pharisee who enumerates his virtues and despises the sinner, or the repentant tax collector who beats his breast, praying: “O God, be merciful to me a sinner” (Lk 18:13)?

 

2. What are my experiences of conversion? Have I been guilty of insincere or feigned conversion and of practicing empty rituals?

 

 

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

 

O loving Jesus, meek and humble,

in you is God’s forgiveness and true conversion.

Teach us constant love and faithfulness.

Grant us a listening heart and an obedient spirit

that we may experience you

as the rising dawn and the dew from heaven.

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.

 

“For it is love that I desire, not sacrifice.” (Hos 6:6) // “The one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Lk 18:14) 

 

 

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

 

In a spirit of repentance, pray slowly and meaningfully three times the ancient Jesus-prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Pray for a person whom we have held in contempt. Be thankful for the grace of conversion. By your life-witnessing and concern for others, allow yourself to become God’s instrument of conversion for others. 

 

 

 

*** *** ***

 

 

Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang PDDM

 

 

PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI

SISTER DISCIPLES OF THE DIVINE MASTER

3700 North Cornelia Avenue, Fresno, CA 93722 (USA)

Tel. (559) 275-1656

Website: WWW.PDDM.US

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

*** *** *** 

 

Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang PDDM

 

 

PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI

SISTER DISCIPLES OF THE DIVINE MASTER

3700 North Cornelia Avenue, Fresno, CA 93722 (USA)

Tel. (559) 275-1656

Website: WWW.PDDM.US

 


PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI

SISTER DISCIPLES OF THE DIVINE MASTER
3700 North Cornelia Avenue, Fresno, CA 93722 (USA)
Tel. (559) 275-1656
Website: 
WWW.PDDM.US


Mother House - Home - About Us  - Liturgical Center - Pauline Family - New Logo -

Young Vocations - Nicaragua & Costa Rica - Lectio Divina - Eucharistic Adoration - Updated Events -

LA Convent Blessing - LA Project - Study Links