Archives: Year A-S15 - Year C-S14 - Year B-S13 - Year A-S12 - Year C-S11 - Year B-S10 - Year A-S9 - Yeaar C-S8

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A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy


(N.B. I will be out of town. You will be able to get the Lectio Divina for the 1st  Week to the 4th Week of Lent by going to the Archives Year A-S 15.)




Week 8 in Ordinary Time/ Lent: February 26 – March 4, 2017



(The pastoral tool BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD: A LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY & WEEKDAY LITURGY includes a prayerful study of the Sunday liturgy of Year C from various perspectives. For the Lectio Divina on the liturgy of the past week: February 19-25, 2017, please go to ARCHIVES Series 15 and click on “Week 7”.


Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: February 26 - March 4, 2017.)


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 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is Trustworthy”




Is 49:14-15 // I Cor 4:1-5 // Mt 6:24-34





The Word of God continues to strengthen us in our Christian discipleship. To help us respond to its exigent demands, this Sunday’s liturgy of the Word focuses our attention on God’s trustworthiness. With tender and enduring love, our heavenly Father cares for us. He provides for all our needs. Indeed, God deserves to be loved. He is worthy of our faith and trust.


The Old Testament Reading (Is 49:14-15) depicts with poignant beauty God’s protestation of love to a people crying out in despair that they have been abandoned and forsaken. To his anguished people exiled in Babylon, the Lord God speaks these consoling words: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.” The love of God surpasses that of a mother for her child. God would never forsake his Chosen People though they have forsaken him. Deeply chastised and painfully humbled by the Exile experience, they would become the object of divine mercy that transcends anything we could ever imagine.


The biblical scholar Eugene Maly comments: “God has always been faithful to his people; he had never forgotten them. Our first reading presents God under the tender image of a mother, and the people of God under the image of a nursing infant. Isaiah makes it clear that God’s love is ever greater than the image presented … While the people of God were in exile in Babylon, God still loved them; their release was a sign of compassion. He had never abandoned them, and they had no reason to lament … All through their punishment, God had remembered them and had now liberated them from bondage. Isaiah’s message is that we are to trust God even when the days are darkest, for God does not abandon his people.”


The absolute trustworthiness of God’s love, which demands a personal response, is again delineated in the Gospel reading (Mt 6:24-34). Through his beautiful sermon on the mount, Jesus invites his disciples to respond with faith, which is a confident trust in a loving and provident God. We turn to God in faith because of his benevolence and unmitigated concern for us. Our daily choices as Christian disciples are animated by this spirit of trust in his provident care.


Eugene Maly remarks: “Today’s Gospel proposes the same message. Matthew shows us Jesus preaching to people who toiled under the hot Mediterranean sun day after day. Jesus reminds them and us of the necessity of trust. We must work, but we cannot rely on our own means for all of our needs; it is necessary to trust God and his Son Jesus Christ. At the same time such trust does not mean that we are to sit back and do nothing … In speaking to workers Jesus has to remind them to take one day at a time and leave the rest to God. He takes care of his own. What is demanded of workers for the Lord is that they remain steadfast in their resolve to serve him and not be governed by the things of this world.”


In the Second Reading (I Cor 4:1-5), Saint Paul describes himself and other apostles as servants and the stewards of the sacred truths revealed in Jesus Christ. The stewards of the saving Gospel need to be “trustworthy”. The apostles of the Gospel are to rely on the grace of God in all their endeavors. Moreover, in their limpid witnessing of the Gospel, they must mirror the integrity and trustworthiness of God, fully revealed in Jesus Christ, who will come again on the last day. The Lord Jesus will then expose the deep motives of our hearts and grant us the praise and reward we deserve.


The following charming story gives us an idea how Christian disciples, especially those who are “servants of Christ and the stewards of the mysteries of God”, must trust in the grace and loving providence of God (cf. Msgr. Scott Friend, “God Always Provides” in The WORD Among Us, October 2010, p. 61-63).


After my ordination, I was assigned to work with a growing number of Hispanic immigrants in my diocese. Most of them were from Mexico, but just about every Latin country was represented among them. They have taught me many lessons and have helped me to depend on God for everything. They have especially taught me to be the priest that God called me to be. Here is one of the lessons.


Fiesta Frustration: In the first part of my priestly life, I was assigned to develop a Hispanic ministry in the diocese. I would drive three thousand miles around the diocese every month, knocking on doors looking for immigrants, and I would celebrate Masses in different parishes. At this time I was still very impressed with my own abilities, so I would ask God for help if I really needed it, but mostly I ran off of my own energy.


So it is not surprising that I got discouraged after a short while. I would drive several hours for a Mass, and only ten or twenty people would show up. I was frustrated and not sure what to do. I was also very cynical about things, although I tried not to show it.


Around the end of October in my third year of the priesthood, I went to St. Luke’s Parish for the monthly Mass and a meeting that followed with the leaders of the parish. They told me, “Padre, we are making plans for the Mass for Our Lady of Guadalupe in December. We are going to have a big fiesta to feed everyone who will come. We have enough beans and rice, but we don’t have enough meat. Could you find us a deer?”


I thought to myself, “This is it! All the time I spent in school, all the training that I’ve had, and these people want me to find a deer as if they grow on trees.” So I said, “Si Dios quiere,” which means “God willing”. However, I really meant it sarcastically.


Drama of the Deer: The following Tuesday, I got a call from a man I’d never met before who wanted to talk about the Hispanic ministry. I invited him to come the next morning for Mass. After Mass, I greeted everyone, and this man stayed back until everyone had left.


I am used to the usual formalities when I meet someone for the first time, but this guy came up with trembling hands and said to me, “Father, do you have a sharp knife and some plastic bags?” Now, I have watched enough cable movies to know that you don’t give your own knife to someone, so I asked him what was going on. His answer made my hair stand on end.


“On the way this morning, I hit a deer, and it is in the back of my car! I need to drain the blood from the deer so that the meat doesn’t spoil.” I was speechless. I went into the rectory, got the knife and the bags, and went with him to his car.


Sure enough, there was a dead deer in the back of his car with its tongue sticking out. I began to question the man, because my mind did not want to believe what was happening. I asked him to tell me how this happened. He said that it was really strange. It was a beautiful morning, the sun was shining, and he was enjoying the drive. He noticed up ahead the deer eating grass on the side of the road. He said that when he got close to the deer, it lifted its head, looked him right in the eye, and just walked in front of his car and gave up its life. Those were his exact words.


While it is not unusual to hit a deer in Arkansas, it is rare when it occurs in the daytime. Another thing the man did not understand: There was no visible damage to the car, not even a scratch – only some fur on the bumper. The man said he was trembling from the experience.


I didn’t want to let on that it was my fault that all of this had happened! But I finally gave in and said to him, “I am supposed to ask you for some deer meat.” He did not say anything; he just cut off the back hindquarter and gave it to me. I carried it back to the rectory, and I said to God, “You don’t have to be so dramatic!” I could hear God rolling on the floor, dying from laughter.


Walking in Faith: The following week I went to the parish and handed the deer meat to Ana, one of the leaders, and said rather enthusiastically: “Here’s your deer meat.” She just took it like she was expecting that it was coming, so I said, “Wait a minute – this was a miracle!”


I will never forget the look on her face. She said to me, “You’re a priest, and you don’t know that God is providential?” I got the lesson.


I am indebted to all the people I have had the pleasure of serving in our diocese. They pray for us priests, and they put up with us! I am thankful that the Lord has called me to be a priest here. But I am especially grateful to the Hispanics in my diocese and those I have come to know through them in Mexico and other places in Latin America. They have helped me learn how to rely on God and ask with faith, knowing that the Lord will listen.





In moments of despondency or distress, do we ever cry out with reproach: “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me”? Do we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed with anxiety and worry unnecessarily about “tomorrow”? Have we lived our lives according to Christ, the Wisdom of God, as servants and stewards of the Gospel?  





Loving God,

you love us tenderly and constantly,

as a mother loves the child in her womb,

but with a love that surpasses all we could ever imagine.

We are your chosen people.

You will never forget nor forsake us.

We thank you for your Son Jesus Christ,

the full revelation of your saving love.

As servants of Christ and stewards of his Gospel,

may we always mirror in today’s world

your trustworthy love and benevolence.

Make us your docile instruments

to nourish the hungry with the bread of compassion,

to delight the lonely with the wine of gladness,

to clothe the naked with the robe of Christ’s glory,

and to fill the barren desert with the breath of life.

We adore you and praise you, now and forever.






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


“Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.” (Mt 6:34)





            By a life of loving service, endeavor to image the trustworthiness of God. Be attentive to the urgent needs of our unfortunate brothers and sisters. Assist them in any way you can. 



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February 27, 2017: MONDAY – WEEKDAY (8)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Us to a Radical Discipleship … He Invites Us to Turn to God”




Sir 17:20-24 // Mk 10:17-27





A. Gospel Reading (Mk 10:17-27): “Go, sell what you have, and give it to the poor.”


A wise and holy hermit finds a precious stone beside the brook. He brings it with him to his little cottage. One of his disciples sees the precious discovery and begins to covet it. The hermit notices that the young disciple is looking dismal and miserable day by day. “What is it?” he asks the young man. “It is the stone,” the disciple replies. “I want to have it. I will never have peace and happiness until it is mine.” The good master remarks serenely, “But, of course, you can have it.” The disciple takes the stone. The next morning he is back. “What is it?” the hermit asks. The disciple holds up the precious stone and says, “I want the wisdom that made you renounce this precious stone so unselfishly.”


            The disciple’s “awakening” consists in discovering the need for wisdom, which gives a perceptive insight into human life. Wisdom directs our quest toward eternal life, the only goal worth striving for. The truly wise person is able to discern the unsurpassable value of God and chooses him above all. The full meaning of wisdom can be gleaned in the light of Jesus Christ, the divine Wisdom personified. Against this backdrop, the Gospel story of the rich man in pursuit of eternal life (Mk 10:17-27) acquires a deeper perspective. The man has responded to the demands of the commandments. For one who lives under the Old Covenant, such a response would have been sufficient. And, indeed, Jesus looks at him and loves him. But Jesus, the absolute treasure and font of all good, goes further. The incarnate Wisdom offers a greater challenge and demands a fuller response.


            The challenge is Christian discipleship, which involves renunciation of false security. Jesus is the true wealth besides which everything pales in comparison. To follow Jesus is to make a radical choice for the absolute good. Jesus invites the rich man to make a fundamental choice. The enormity of the challenge is expressed in the Semitic hyperbole of a camel passing through the eye of a needle. It is a choice of a loving and discerning heart made possible by divine grace: “with God all things are possible” (Mk 10:27). This radical choice for the “treasure of all treasures” is addressed to us all.



B. First Reading (Sir 17:20-24): “Turn again to the Most High and learn the judgments of God.”


The First Reading (Sir 17:20-24) is exquisitely beautiful. It is an acknowledgement of the reality of sin and the possibility of repentance. By the grace of God, an evil person has a chance to change his self-destructive ways. The fundamental reason for repentance is the mercy of God. How great is the Lord’s merciful forgiveness to those who turn to him! It is therefore exigent to come to the Lord and leave sin behind. It is good to be alive in his grace. Those who are alive can give thanks to the Lord, but the dead have no way to give him thanks and praise. The words of Ben Sira that we hear in today’s reading are resounded in the words of Jesus who, in his public ministry, calls people to turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel of salvation.


The following story is a dramatic illustration of repentance based on God’s merciful forgiveness (cf. Bernie Siegel, “Forgiven” in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stories of Faith, Cos Cob: CSS, 2008, p. 4-5)


The real power of healing is not about curing diseases. This was revealed to me by a male nurse who spent a lot of time with a woman in a nursing home who hadn’t been able to walk for six years. Edward lifted her in and out of her chair or into the bed, depending on her schedule. She always wanted to talk about God and forgiveness. Because Edward had had a near-death experience, he felt comfortable doing this.


One night it was so late that Edward slipped out without being the one to put her to bed. He was heading for his car in the parking lot when he heard her call, “Edward!” He snuck back inside and into her room. “Are you sure God forgives us for everything?” she asked. “Yes. I’m sure, from my own experience”, he said.
You know the gospel song that tells us, ‘He knows every lie that you and I have told, and though it makes him very sad to see the way we live, he’ll always say I forgive‘.”


She sighed. “When I was a young woman, I stole my parents’ silver and gold and sold it so I would have enough to get married. I’ve never told anyone and no one found out. Will God forgive me?” “Yes”, Edward assured her. “God will forgive you. Good night.”


When Edward returned to work the next morning, he was told to see the administrator who asked what he had told the woman the night before. “As usual”, Edward explained, “we talked about God and forgiveness. Why?” “At 3:00 A.M. the woman came out of her room and, with no help, walked the entire length of the nursing home, put her Bible and teeth on the nurse’s desk and said, ‘I don’t need these anymore.’ Then she turned and walked back to her room, laid down and died.”





1. Do we yearn for the gift of wisdom? Do we beg the Lord to give us this precious gift? How do we respond to Christ’s radical challenge of discipleship? Do we trust in Christ’s exhortation: “With God all things are possible” (Mk 10:30)?


2. Do we trust that the mercy and forgiveness of the Lord is great for those who return to him?





Lord Jesus,

you are the “treasure of treasures” and the absolute good.

Fill us with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit

that we may choose your incredible beauty and value.

By the power of the same Spirit,

help us to affirm our fundamental choice for you

in every moment of life.

Teach us to live fully our discipleship.

Give us the grace to inspire the people to pursue you,

the incomparable good.

We love you and honor you, now and forever.




Almighty God,

you call us to turn away from sin,

to return to you

and experience your love.

Great is your mercy!

Your forgiveness abounds

for those who return to you.

Grant that we may be faithful to you

and grateful for your saving love.

Teach us to be instruments of your loving compassion

and channels of your mercy and grace.

You live and reign, forever and ever.






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


“Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor … then, come, follow me.” (Mk 10:21) // “How great is the mercy of the Lord, his forgiveness of those who return to him!” (Sir 17:24)





Pray for the gift of wisdom that will enable you to make a fundamental choice for Christ and follow him all the way. Take stock of your material possessions. Make a radical decision to share your material resources with the needy and to give to the poor. // Be thankful to God for his forgiving love. By your words and actions, inspire the erring to tread the path of return to the Lord.



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February 28, 2017: TUESDAY – WEEKDAY (8)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Promises Eternal Life … He Is the True Worship”




Sir 35:1-12 // Mk 10:28-31





A. Gospel Reading (Mk 10:28-31): “You will receive as much persecution in this present age and eternal life in the age to come.”


The Gospel (Mk 10:28-31) tells us that the rich man who encounters Jesus on the road of discipleship goes away sad. He is a dramatic illustration that selfish attachment makes participation in the Reign of God impossible. The rich man is not able to renounce his possessions for the sake of eternal life. To rely on false security, or one’s ability to obtain eternal life, is like a camel trying to enter the eye of a needle. It cannot happen!  But God can free us from enchantments and delusions. Through Jesus, he offers us the grace to renounce a false security or even a “relative good” so as to make a fundamental option for him, the absolute good - the source of all good, including eternal life.


Peter intuits the divine grace at work in the first disciples of Jesus. He asserts: “We have given up everything and followed you.” Jesus assures them and the Christian disciples through all times of the “hundredfold reward”. The “hundredfold reward” is already present in the present age, though its joy is overshadowed by the cross and threatened by the world’s persecution. Eventually those who leave “houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands” for the sake of Jesus will experience in the final age the full reward - eternal life in the bosom of God.


The following thoughts of Mother Teresa of Calcutta give insight into radical discipleship and the Christian disciple’s hundredfold reward (cf. Mother Teresa: Her Essential Wisdom, ed. Carol Kelly- Gangi, New York: Barnes and Noble, 2006, p. 2-7).


I knew that God wanted something for me. I was only twelve years old, living with my parents in Skopje, Yugoslavia (now Macedonia), when I first sensed the desire to be a nun. At that time there were some very good priests who helped boys and girls follow their vocation, according to God’s will. It was then I realized that my call was to the poor.



I remember when I was leaving home fifty years ago – my mother was dead set against me leaving home and becoming a sister. In the end, when she realized that this was what God wanted from her and from me, she said something very strange: “Put your hand in his hand and walk all alone with him.” This is exactly our way of life. We may be surrounded by many people, yet our vocation is really ours alone with Jesus.



I did my novitiate in Darjeeling and took the vows with the Loreto Sisters. For twenty years, I was at work in education in St. Mary’s High School, which was mostly for middle class children. I loved teaching, and in Loreto I was the happiest nun in the world.



In 1948, twenty years after I came to India, I actually decided upon this close contact with the poorest of the poor. It was for me a special vocation to give all to belong to Jesus. I felt that God wanted from me something more. He wanted me to be poor with the poor and to love him in the distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor. I had the blessing of obedience.



I was traveling by train to Darjeeling when I heard the voice of God. I was sure it was God’s voice. I was certain he was calling me. The message was clear. I must leave the convent to help the poor by living among them. Thus was a command, something to be done, something definite. The call was something between God and me. What matters is that God calls each of us in a different way. In those difficult, dramatic days I was certain that this was God’s doing and not mine and I am still certain. And it was the work of God. I knew that the world would benefit from it.



To leave Loreto was my greatest sacrifice, the most difficult thing I have ever done. It was much more difficult than to leave my family and country to enter religious life. Loreto meant everything to me. In Loreto I had received my spiritual training. I had become a religious there. I had given myself to Jesus in the Institute. I liked the work, teaching the girls.



On my first trip along the streets of Calcutta after leaving the Sisters of Loreto, a priest came up to me. He asked me to give a contribution to a collection for the Catholic press. I had left with five rupees, and I had given four of them to the poor. I hesitated, then gave the priest the one that remained. That afternoon, the same priest came to me and brought an envelope. He told me that a man had given him the envelope because he had heard about my projects and wanted to help me. There were fifty rupees in the envelope. I had the feeling, at that moment, that God had begun to bless the work and would never abandon me.



One by one, from 1949 on, my former students began to arrive. They wanted to give everything to God, right away. With what joy they put away their colorful saris in order to put on our poor cotton one. They came because they knew that it would be hard. When a young woman of high caste comes and puts herself at the service of the poor, she is the protagonist of a revolution. It is the greatest, the most difficult revolution – the revolution of love.



One of the most demanding things for me is traveling with all the publicity everywhere I go. I have said to Jesus if I don’t go to Heaven for anything else, I will be going to Heaven for all the traveling and publicity, because it has purified me and sanctified me and made me truly ready for Heaven.



B. First Reading (Sir 35:1-12): “To keep the law is a great oblation.”


The First Reading (Sir 35:1-12) underlines the meaning of worship. True worship of God is both internal and external. The author, Ben Sira, who is positively disposed towards and is ever enthusiastic for temple worship, insists that religious practices should be accompanied and animated by a concern for justice and the sacrifice of one’s being. Religious practices without internal dispositions are a mockery. Hence, keeping the Law, kind acts, care for the poor, and rejecting evil are part of true worship rendered to God. Yet good deeds and interior dispositions need to be fully expressed in external worship. One must participate in the religious festival and one must be true and generous in his “offering” at the temple. We should be cheerful with every gift we make and must be generous in paying our tithes. The Lord God can never be outdone in generosity. He always repays and will do it many times over.


The following profile of a young priest shows us that his priestly consecration is an offering that is pleasing to God (cf. Fr. Jan Kusyk, “Being a Priest Has Been a Dream Come True” in Columbia, April 2013, p. 34).


Father Jan Kusyk, Archdiocese of Kingston, Ontario: When my mother was six weeks pregnant, a doctor informed my parents that there were complications and recommended abortion. Thanks to the intercession of St. Joseph and the courage of my parents, I was born healthy. Three years later, Blessed John Paul II blessed me during one of his audiences at St. Peter’s Square.


Growing up Polish-Canadian, faith was a natural part of my family life, which included regular Sunday Mass, meals at home with parish priests, and devotion to Our Lady of Czestochowa.


My vocation to the priesthood came as an epiphany when I was 13. After secondary school, unable to shake the call, I decided to take a leap of faith and apply to seminary.


Since my ordination two years ago, I can honestly say that being a priest has been a dream come true. My greatest privilege and joy is to celebrate the sacraments, and I thank my brother Knights of Columbus for their prayers and support throughout my entire formation. Relying entirely on Our Lord Jesus Christ, I look forward to working for the salvation of souls and the glory of God.





1. Have we left everything in order to follow Jesus? Are we experiencing the hundredfold reward?


2. Do we realize what true worship of God means? Do we endeavor to offer God an integral worship that involves interior disposition and external manifestation? Do we worship God in spirit and in truth?





O loving Jesus,

you are the absolute good.

To follow you

is to be blessed with the hundredfold reward

and attain the exquisite gift of eternal life.

Give us the grace to renounce false security.

Grant us the wisdom to sacrifice a relative good

and to pursue zealously the eternal good.

Teach us to give up everything to follow you

and the divine saving will.

We adore and serve you.

You live and reign, forever and ever.




My God,

you deserve the worship

of our mind, our heart, and our will.

Let the sacrifice of our being

be a pleasing offering to you.

Teach us to worship you joyfully

through the liturgy and sacraments.

Let us be generous in the gift of ourselves

and help us to realize

that you love and reward bountifully a cheerful giver.

May we render you a fitting sacrifice

of praise and thanksgiving, now and forever.






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


“We have given up everything and followed you.” (Mk 10:28) //“To keep the law is a great oblation.” (Sir 35:1)





Humbly express your discipleship in the various renunciations and sacrifices that you carry out in daily life in union with Jesus Savior. // Let your life of daily service and personal dedication be a pleasing offering to the Lord. Be a sign of joyful giving to the Lord. Participate meaningfully, actively, conscientiously, and fruitfully in the Church’s liturgy.


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“JESUS SAVIOR: He Guides Our Lenten Journey”




Jl 2:12-18 // 2 Cor 5:20-6:2 // Mt 6:1-6, 16-18





A. Gospel Reading (Mk 6:1-6, 16-18): “Your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”


With Ash Wednesday we begin the Lenten season. Lent is a sacramental sign of our conversion and participation in the sacred mystery of Christ, who fasted, was tempted and remained victorious over temptation. Today we are signed with ashes, symbol of penance and mortality, as well as of our hope and desire for renewal in Jesus.


The sacred season of Lent is specially marked with prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Today’s Gospel reading (Mt 6:1-6, 16-18) invites us to a genuine practice of these traditional works of piety and to reject hypocritical practices.  Jesus criticizes pious self-display but not the pious actions themselves. He upholds public prayer, but not religious showiness. He does not object to fasting, for he himself fasted forty days, but its spurious practice to gain self-recognition.


The Lenten works of prayer, fasting and alms-giving enable us to participate more intimately in the life of Christ, who fasted, prayed and gave himself totally to the Father’s saving will. We exercise fasting for a new beginning and to open ourselves to God’s vision, to express our penance, invoke God’s mercy, and to obtain greater self-control. Physical fasting, though a typical expression of the Lenten practice, does not exhaust its meaning. It includes other forms of salutary abstinence in every sector, e.g. fasting from criticism, reduced use of electronic media, etc. True prayer is personal communion with God and the “full offering” of ourselves to him. Prayer attunes us to listen to God and prepares us to do his will. Real fasting and true prayer lead to charity and service … to alms-giving. Fasting and prayer inspire not only alms-giving but above all personal self-giving and community-communion.


The following account gives insight into the laudable spiritual practice of prayer, fasting and alms-giving (cf. Flavio Rocha, “Missioner Tales” in Maryknoll, April 10, 2010, p.7).


Good Friday is a day of prayer and fasting for all Catholics, but people understand this in different ways. In the town of Duas Estradas, where I grew up in northeastern Brazil, poor people go from house to house asking for their “fasting”. The food that they collect will nourish their families for a couple of weeks. A similar tradition is to exchange the “fasting” of fruits, sweets or fish with families and friends. One year my mom used this ritual of reconciliation. She and her sister-in-law hadn’t talked to each other in more than a year after a dispute. One Good Friday morning, my mother took fruit to her sister-in-law and said, “Here is your fasting.” My aunt thanked her and later that day brought my mom’s fasting and they were reunited. Fasting is more than not eating; it is the cleansing of our hearts of anger and stubbornness to embrace the promise of the Resurrection.



B. First Reading (Jl 2:12-18): “Rend your hearts, not your garments.”


Today’s celebration of Ash Wednesday fittingly begins with a clarion call to conversion (Jl 2:12-18). The prophet Joel first depicts the imminent invasion of locusts and a devastating drought in Palestine as events that point to the coming “Day of the Lord” in judgment. In the face of these catastrophes, the prophet conveys to the people God’s call to conversion. Conversion is the only possible response to a compassionate God who comes to the people offering hope and salvation. Conversion indicates a turning toward God with one’s whole being, the complete re-orientation of thoughts and decisions toward God. The outward expression of fasting, weeping and mourning are only signs of a deeper reality – returning to God with all our heart. Issuing a series of imperatives, the prophet Joel urgently convokes the people that they may offer God a prayer of lamentation. God answers the heartfelt cry of the people and blesses the land with the gift of salvation.



C. Second Reading (II Cor 5:20-6:2)): “Be reconciled to God. Behold, now is the acceptable time.”


Today’s Second Reading (II Cor 5:20-6:2) asserts that we are ambassadors for Christ. Through Jesus, we become ministers of reconciliation and agents of “new creation”. The biblical scholar Mary Ann Getty explicates: “God overcame the obstacles of our transgressions so that we are enabled to become partners in the ministry of reconciliation. And not only the apostle, but all who are in Christ, have been sent out into the world with a single message: Be reconciled! This is both imperative and empowerment. For our sakes God made the sinless one sin so that redemption could penetrate the darkest, most forbidding, isolated, and inhuman part of our human experience. This was so that God, in Christ, could bring us to holiness.”


The season of Lent is a privileged time to answer God’s call to conversion offered to us in Jesus Christ. It is also an opportune time to resound in the world the divine call to conversion. Conversion is an encounter with a gracious and compassionate God, who is slow to anger and full of love. The life of Matt Talbot illustrates that this conversion experience is at work in the here and now (cf. Bert Ghezzi article in Our Sunday Visitor, December 2, 2012, p. 22).


Venerable Matt Talbot (1856-1925): For 16 years, Venerable Matt Talbot was a daily drunk. Then one day, an unanticipated conversion transformed him and he became a model penitent.


As a child of a poor family in Dublin, Matt had to forgo school for a job. After a year of basic education, he started working for a wine seller. And Matt started drinking heavily at the early age of 12. His father beat him and made him change jobs – but nothing could stop Matt’s habit. He said that when he was intoxicated, he occasionally thought about the Blessed Mother and prayed an off-handed Hail Mary. Matt speculated later that she had something to do with his conversion.


One day in 1884 everything suddenly changed. Matt had been out of work several days and expected his buddies to take him drinking. When they snubbed him, he made a decision that transformed his life. When he arrived at home, his mother said, “You’re home early, Matt, and you’re sober!” He replied, “Yes, mother, I am and I’m going to take the pledge.” The next day he went to confession and took the sobriety pledge for three months.


But Matt extended the three months into 41 years. In 1891, Matt found community support by joining the Franciscan Third Order. He lived the rest of his life quietly, working and praying. Pope Paul VI declared him venerable in 1975.





Do we experience temptation? What do we do in moments of temptation? Do we look upon Jesus as model of faith and surrender to the divine saving word? Are we ready to fast and respond with docility to the promptings of the Holy Spirit? 





Loving Father,

we thank you for the Lenten season,

sacramental sign of our conversion.

We praise you for deliverance from enslavement

and making us your holy people.

United with Jesus Christ,

victorious over temptations,

we render you true worship

and obey your saving will.

Help us to respond generously

to the needs of the poor and the needy,

to the defenseless and the suffering in our land.

We love and serve you, now and forever.






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


            “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days to be tempted by the devil.” (Lk 4:2)





As part of your spiritual itinerary in this Lenten season to combat temptations and evil inclinations, fast from the excessive and abusive use of the mass media and dedicate yourself to daily nourishment on the bread of the Word. 


*** *** ***



“JESUS SAVIOR: He Invites Us to Take Up Our Cross … He Urges Us to Choose Life”




Dt 30:15-20 // Lk 9:22-25





A. Gospel Reading (Lk 9:22-25): “Whoever loses my life for my sake will save it.”


Lent is a favorable time to discover what Christian discipleship means. The Gospel reading (Lk 9:22-25) gives beautiful insight into it. Discipleship is to take up the cross and follow Christ through the narrow path that leads to life. Lent is a privileged time to follow Christ through the rigors of discipline, sacrifice and self-denial to the joy of Easter.


At the beginning of our Lenten journey, let us remember the words of St. Andrew of Crete: “Had there been no cross, Christ would not have been crucified. Had there been no cross, life itself would not have been nailed to the tree. And if life had not been nailed to it, there would be no streams of immortality pouring from Christ’s side, blood and water for the world’s cleansing. Therefore, the cross is something wonderfully great and honorable. The cross is called Christ’s glory; it is saluted as his triumph.”


The following charming story shows how to bear the cross of mutual charity in our daily life (cf. Fr. Rich Broderick, “Missioner Tales” in Maryknoll, May/June, 2010, p.7). With a spirit of love, fraternal service becomes a life-giving “cross” that is possible to bear and easier to carry.


As a diocesan priest in Albany, N.Y., I also serve a few months a year in Guatemala. One day, three women from the States accompanied me for Mass in an indigenous hamlet in the Guatemalan hills. Although one of the women, Arlene, used a wheelchair, I saw no problem, as the church was only a 20-minute drive away. But when we got to the church, we learned that Mass would be at a home more than a half mile away – on foot down a steep dirt and rock footpath. Clearly, Arlene’s wheelchair wasn’t going to make it.


Knowing the men of these rural communities regularly carry their sick to the road on their backs, I squatted down like a frog and Arlene climbed aboard. My knees felt as if they would buckle! Yet I was able to ease us down one step and one breath at a time. We celebrated a joyful Mass with about 75 Mayan people.


Then the dreaded return. This time a Mayan man said, “Padre, just put her on my back.” We did as instructed and up the hill he went with no stops. He didn’t even break a sweat and was waiting by the car with Arlene still on his back when we caught up!


A profusion of thanks drew only a humble “No es nada” (It’s nothing) from our Good Samaritan, while I wondered if I might find a chiropractor in one of the villages.



B. First Reading (Dt 30:15-20): “Behold, I set before you the blessing and the curse (Dt 11:26).”


Our Lenten journey is marked by the presence of Moses speaking to the people of Israel as they are about to cross the Jordan River to take possession of the Promised Land (cf. Dt 30:15-20). The “testament” of Moses is his advice to the Chosen People to heed the lessons of the past if they are to secure their future. Their journey through the desert after their departure from Egypt has made them experience, again and again, that loyalty is rewarded and infidelity is punished. God expects complete obedience from Israel. The dying Moses tries with all his might to move the people to that kind of obedience, loyalty and commitment that would secure their future in the Promised Land. The great patriarch sets before the people a dramatic choice: life and prosperity, or death and doom. It is up to Israel to make one of the two choices: life with God which brings blessings and good, or life apart from God which would be a curse of death. Israel will find its true self only in their fundamental choice to obey and to live in the Lord. Passionately concerned for Israel’s future, Moses virtually commands the people of Israel to choose life by living in total obedience to God.


Jesus Christ, the “new Moses”, sets before us this fundamental choice: life and death, the blessing and the curse. He urges us to heed the voice of God and to hold fast to him. To choose God is to choose life. Men through the ages have to make the choice. The following story shows that our core decisions vary (cf. “Two Tales of a City” in Poverello News, February 2012, p.3-5).


Last November, a tourist took a photograph in New York and posted it online, and it soon went viral. It was a picture of a New York policeman stooping down to give a homeless man a pair of socks and boots on a frigid night. Officer Lawrence DePrimo had spotted the homeless beggar, Jeffrey Hillman, who was sitting on a chilly sidewalk barefoot.


Officer DePrimo then went to a store, and with his own money, bought a pair of heavy socks and good boots that cost over $100. He presented them to Hillman and squatted down to help the homeless man put them on.


In a nation wearied by a troubled economy, a polarizing presidential election and bad news both at home and abroad, people were riveted by this simple story of compassion. It was an uplifting tale fit for the holiday season.


The second story, which also took place in New York, was in stark contrast to this one. It was a shocking tale of urban violence and apathy. Fifty-eight-year-old Ki Suk Han was pushed into the path of an oncoming subway train by an apparently mentally ill panhandler. For over one minute, Han tried desperately to scramble back to the platform, screaming for help. At least eighteen people stood by refusing to intervene, including a New York photographer, who snapped pictures of the desperate man’s last seconds. Han was hit and killed by the train. Afterwards, several bystanders took camera-phone pictures of the dead man as a doctor performed CPR on him, and the newspaper callously ran a front-page picture of his hopeless attempt to escape death.


In the same city, two completely opposite acts are separated by only a few days; one of tremendous kindness, the other of wanton cruelty and indifference to suffering. What are we to make of these incidents? (…)


Humans are capable of great compassion, but also great evil. Officer Lawrence DePrimo and the heartless subway bystanders snapping pictures all belong to the species homo sapiens, but their actions make them seem to be creatures of a different order. The world inhabited by a New York street cop is full of cruelty; police daily witness the very worst acts of humanity. Nevertheless, this officer transcended the evil he sees all around him and went out of his way to help someone who seemed utterly helpless. He made a choice to do and be good; the subway bystanders, on the other hand, made a choice to participate in an evil act by refusing to help, and then by voyeuristically photographing the resultant tragedy for some bizarrely selfish and perverse reason, known only to themselves. (…)


God sees all, the good and the bad, and no matter the end result, Officer DePrimo’s gallant gesture of kindness has been recorded for eternity. (…) Officer DePrimo offers us the important reminder that in spite of demonic wickedness, intractable poverty and baffling social problems, there exists in the soul of mankind the great potential for triumphant, noble goodness.





1. Are we willing to take up our cross and follow Jesus on the narrow road that leads to life? How do we bear the cross in our daily life?


2. What is our fundamental choice to what God sets before us: life with God with its blessings and good, or life without God, which is death and doom?





Jesus Lord,

we thank you for the sacred season of Lent.

We pray that we may follow you faithfully

and bear the life-giving cross with joyful courage.

Help us to walk in your ways

and embrace your life-giving commands.

Be with us in our fundamental choice for you

with all its challenges and blessings.

Let us never negate your goodness and love.

Grant that all may choose the fullness of life

and follow Jesus on the way of the cross that leads to life.

You live and reign, forever and ever.






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


“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Lk 9:23) // “Choose life.” (Dt 30:19) 





 Pray for those who find the cross of their daily lives overwhelming and burdensome. In your own way and doing the best you can, try to alleviate the sufferings of the people around you.  Resolve that your thoughts, words and actions be perfectly aligned with your fundamental choice for God.



*** *** ***



“JESUS SAVIOR: He Gives True Meaning to Our Fasting




Is 58:1-9a // Mt 9:14-15





A. Gospel Reading (Mt 9:14-15): “When the bridegroom is taken from them, then they will fast.”


Unlike the Pharisees and John’s disciples, the disciples of Jesus do not have the ascetic discipline of fasting. In today’s Gospel reading (Mt 9:14-15), Jesus explains to the followers of John, who raise the issue, that for the Christian disciples it is not yet opportune to fast. Guests at a wedding party do not fast, but rejoice in the presence of the bridegroom. In the same way, the sojourn of Jesus with his disciples is a time of intimate bonding and not of mourning. Hence, fasting, or other symbols of grief or mourning, is out of place. In his public ministry, Jesus uses every moment to lead his disciples to an intimate participation in his paschal destiny. When his paschal mystery is brought to completion and radical salvation achieved, then his disciples would fast. And it is for a very special reason … a Christ-centered reason. Christian disciples, through time and space, would fast that they may become more sensitive to the face of Christ present in the plight of the poor, the needy and the weak. During the Lenten season, they especially dedicate themselves to fasting that they may become more receptive to the saving will of God and efficaciously participate in the compassionate works of Christ.


The following excerpt gives suggestions on meaningful ways of doing the Lenten fast (cf. Jeanne Hunt, “Cleaning Our Spiritual Closets” in St. Anthony Messenger, February 2012, p. 36-40).



* Proclaim an electronic fast on weekends. That means no iPad, iPod, Blackberry or computer until Monday morning. Then spend the resulting free time visiting people you love and spending quality time with your spouse and children.


* Stay out of unnecessary stores during Lent. Anything beyond the grocery store, pharmacy, etc. is off-limits. Instead of adding more stuff during Lent, give away or throw away three things each day before Easter.


* Go green in a big way. Every day perform a Lenten “random act of kindness for the earth”. Keep a journal of your green project work, and after Easter do these acts regularly.


* Fast from media during Lent. Stop watching TV or Internet news or even listening to the radio. For 40 days, turn your thoughts to God. Choose to spend your time reading a book or magazine that feeds your soul.


* Walk everywhere you can. Limit gas usage to a certain amount and make it last all week. Each day, walk with God. Simply imagine that you and Jesus are running or walking side by side. Talk to him and listen to him.


These are only a few suggestions that can impact your life. We need to look at our lives objectively, honestly recognizing our weaknesses. Design a fast that responds to those weaknesses. And, most of all, don’t do something that comes easily. Your Lenten workout should hurt a little. We will know when we are changing for good when it takes effort to do the deed.



B. First Reading (Is 58:1-9a): “Is this the manner of fasting I wish?”


In today’s Old Testament reading (Is 58:1-9a), the prophet Isaiah conveys God’s long invective denouncing the hypocrisy of false fasting. To fast while neglecting and oppressing the poor is an ugly form of deceit. People thus complain of not being heard by God who detests hypocritical prayer. Worship without justice has no value. Fasting without concern for the poor is bereft of meaning. The kind of fasting that the Lord God desires is this: free the oppressed, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked, etc. In doing this, the Lord God will respond with blessing and protection and to their cry for help, he will say: “Here I am!”


In the same vein, Christian disciples must fast, but for a spiritual motive. They fast that they may be more sensitive to the presence of Christ in the plight of the hungry poor, the needy and the weak. During the Lenten season, they especially dedicate themselves to fasting that they may become more receptive to the saving will of God and efficaciously participate in the compassionate works of Christ.


The following article gives an insight into Friday abstinence, an ascetical practice related to Lenten fast, that likewise has a Christ-centered motive (cf. Greg Erlandson, “Meatless Fridays” in Our Sunday Visitor, November 25, 2012, p.22).


Once upon a time, Catholics abstained from meat on Fridays as a small act of penance. Not just Fridays during Lent, but all Fridays. Friday was the day of the Lord’s death on the cross, and throughout the year, not just on Good Friday. Catholics would commemorate that day in a special way. One still finds this practice in religious communities like monasteries, and the British bishops restored the practice last year.


In general, however, meatless Fridays disappeared after the Second Vatican Council, despite the fact that canon law (Canon 1251) still asks us to abstain from meat or other food on Fridays subject to the requirements of the local conference of bishops. The irony is that of all the many changes when the Church windows were opened to the fresh wind of aggiornamento, this one may have been more significant. It was a small act of penance that was thoroughly integrated into everyone’s lives. (…)


Yet when Friday abstinence was done away with, it had a rather oversized impact on Catholic identity. It turned out it was a significant public acknowledgment of one’s faith, like ashes on the forehead. The bishops hadn’t meant for such small acts of penance to go away. They had intended to open up other options for sacrifice. But, of course, they weren’t. (…)


However, the Church may get a chance to try again. In his speech to his fellow bishops on Nov. 13, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, suggested that it might be time to return to the practice of Friday abstinence. “The work of our Conference during this coming year”, he said, “includes reflection on re-embracing Friday as a particular day of penance, including the possible reinstitution of abstinence on all Fridays of the year, not just during Lent.”


Now to be fair, he did not specifically mention giving up meat. And, of course, one could give up television screens, or dessert, or a hundred little pleasures we all enjoy. But I hope we do go back to those meatless Fridays. There is something to be said for Catholics knowing they are all in it together. This time, maybe we will not put the focus on the threats of punishment, but use this as a teaching moment and a positive reinforcement of our Catholic identity.


My real hope is that we will also keep in mind why we are doing it. To remember Someone who gave up a lot more for us.





1. What forms of Lenten fast do I resolve to do this year? How can I derive the best fruits from my Lenten fast?


2. What is the personal meaning for us of fasting and abstinence? Does the kind of fasting and abstinence we practice correspond to the divine saving will?





O Jesus Savior,

when you sojourned on earth with your disciples,

you did not require them to fast.

But now that your paschal mystery is complete,

we need to fast so that we may have clearer vision

and be more ready to follow your call.

Help us to perceive your presence in the poor and the weak

and attend to their needs.

Grant that our discipline of fasting

may bear fruit in concrete works of charity and justice.

Let our Lenten sacrifice

hasten the coming of your kingdom.

We love you and serve you.

We bless you and glorify you, now and forever.






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


“This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless ...” (Is 58:6-7) // “They will fast.” (Mt 9:15)





Let the fruits of your Lenten fast and renunciation be destined for the victims of natural and man-made calamities and/or the needy people in your local community.



*** *** ***



 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Cares for Us … He Invites Us to Feast at His Table”





Is 58:9b-14 // Lk 5:27-32





A. Gospel Reading (Lk 5:27-32): “I have not come righteous to repentance but sinners.”


In his public ministry, Jesus does not impose fasting on his disciples though he himself has fasted for forty days in the wilderness. In today’s Gospel (Lk 5:27-32), we see Jesus feasting! He joins an awesome party celebrating Levi’s conversion and new-found calling. The feast includes a large number of tax collectors and other guests. The Pharisees and scribes complain that Jesus eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners. But Jesus defends his table fellowship with sinners and outcasts. They need him and he comes to call them to repentance and healing. The “righteous”, however, do not need a savior just as the healthy do not need a doctor. With Jesus present, the banquet hosted by Levi becomes a feast of God’s kingdom … a joyous celebration of conversion and coming home … a figure of the supper of the Lamb at the end time. The season of Lent invites us to a deeper fellowship with Jesus and with one another at the table of the Word and the Eucharist.


Like the feast-loving Jesus Savior, Mike McGarvin, the founder of Povereelo House in Fresno, knows the importance of table fellowship and meal ministry. Following the “Iron Chef” competition between the cooks in the drug rehab program and the chefs-in-training at the Institute of Technology, “Papa Mike” treated the resident cooks to a breakfast at his favorite diner, Café 309. That experience broadened the addicts’ perspectives and helped them see that there is so much to admire and enjoy in a world of sobriety. The following is an account of Doug, one of those who joined the breakfast (cf. “The Simple Joys of Food and Fellowship” in Poverello News, February 2011, p. 3-4).


The 309 Café had a home-like atmosphere that was inviting to people that liked to be regulars somewhere. The restaurant was old-looking, but very, very clean. The walls weren’t marked up and all the tables and chairs were very, very shiny … The food was hot and great-tasting and I liked that they had no problem with me ordering something odd, like rye toast.


The waitress was good and very friendly and made me feel at ease. I was impressed by her. I wasn’t surprised when she patted Papa Mike’s back, because you could tell she knew him well as a regular customer, but I was wowed when she put her hand on Anthony’s shoulder, who was a first-time customer. That type of caring is probably why they are doing well in the restaurant business.



B. First Reading (Is 58:9b-14): “If you bestow your bread on the hungry then light shall rise for you in the darkness.”


The Old Testament reading (Is 58:9b-14) underlines the blessings that God bestows on those who live with integrity and act with compassion: God will turn their darkness into light; he will water the parched land of their hearts; he will guide them always and renew their strength; he will help them rebuild their homes. Those who keep the Sabbath sacred and do not defile it with selfish pursuits will experience the joy that comes from serving the Lord God.


The Catholic Relief Services make present in today’s world the compassion of God and the saving work of Jesus (cf. “Being Catholic in the World Today” in Our Sunday Visitor, December 16, 2012, p. 15).


Before he was 10 years old, Thomas Awiapo was orphaned and left to survive and struggle on his own in Ghana. School was certainly the last thing he dreamed of. Today, he has a master’s degree from California State University – Hayward. How did Thomas get a fresh start at life?


It happened through contributions to Catholic Relief Services’ Humanitarian work in Africa. Thomas was motivated by food provided by CRS to the children in his village who went to school. He was hungry for food, not education. Eventually, though, Thomas developed a strong personal interest in school. His new life, deep abiding faith in God and spiritual determination propelled him to a renewed dignity, hope and academic achievements.


Thomas told CRS representatives in Ghana, “By offering me an education, Catholic Relief Services empowered me for life. Believe me, there are millions of people in Africa who are doing better today because of the help provided by CRS through the generosity of people in the United States.”


Since 1943, in nearly 100 countries, Catholic Relief Services has given help and hope where they are most needed, regardless of race, religion and ethnicity.





1. Do we realize the importance and beauty of Jesus’ table fellowship and meal ministry? Do we imitate his tender loving care for the needy, the sinners and the marginalized?


2. Do we endeavor to bestow bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted? Do we have compassion and care for the poor and needy? Do we uphold the sacred meaning of the Sabbath?





Lord Jesus,

you feasted with joy at the table

of a “sinner” turned disciple.

By your presence at Levi’s house,

you turned his party into a celebration of homecoming.

Help us to seek the lost

and lead them to the supper of the Lamb.

Let us bestow bread on the hungry

and minister to the afflicted.

We adore and bless you, now and forever.






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


“They were at table with Jesus.” (Lk 5:29) // “The Lord will guide you always.” (Is 58:11) 





Let the meals that you share be as pleasant and spiritually rewarding as possible and an occasion for healing and bonding. During the Lenten season, offer alms to the poor and give quality time to family meals.



Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang PDDM





60 Sunset Ave., Staten Island, NY 10314

Tel. (718) 494-8597 // (718) 761-2323

Website: WWW.PDDM.US



60 Sunset Ave., Staten Island, NY 10314
Tel. (718) 494-8597 or (718) 761-2323

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