Archives: 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 - YYear 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, Please let us continue to pray for deliverance.

 

ORATIO IMPETRATA

TO SUBDUE THE CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC

  

Loving God,

you are the author of Life

and the Lord of creation.

We thank you for the wonders of our being

and the marvels of creation.

We trust in you

for your faithfulness

is our buckler and our shield.

With you the terror of the night

does not overwhelm us

nor the plague that prowls in the darkness.

We now turn to you

as the pandemic of the Corona Virus

casts it shadows of death upon us.

Deliver us from this calamity

and free us from this pestilence.

Spare us from the scourge of this disease.

Heal those who are afflicted

and welcome into your bosom the victims deceased.

Help us to work together in a concerted effort

to fight this torment.

Be near to us

and let the Spirit of life

breathe its healing comfort upon us.

Restored in your grace,

may we give you thanks and praise

in the assembly of the redeemed

as we proclaim the healing power of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ,

now and forever. Amen.

 

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

  

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 18, n. 43)

Week 25 in Ordinary Time: September 20-26, 2020

 

 

(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: September 13-19, 2020 please go to ARCHIVES Series 18 and click on “Ordinary Week 24”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: September 20-26, 2020.)

 

*** *** ***

 

September 20, 2020: TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

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

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 55:6-9 // Phil 1:20c-24, 27a // Mt 20:1-16a

 

 

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

 

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

          

The biblical scholar, Daniel Harrington entitles this Sunday’s Gospel passage “The Parable of the Good Employer” (Mt 20:1-16). He explains: “In the context of Jesus’ ministry, the parable was probably addressed to his opponents who criticized him for preaching the good news of the kingdom to tax collectors and sinners. In that setting, the parable is best entitled, The Good Employer. The employer is God revealed in Jesus as his representative. God’s own justice and generosity are used to explain why Jesus preached the kingdom to both the already pious and the lost sheep of Israel. If they accept his preaching, both groups will be granted an equal share in God’s kingdom.”

 

The figure of the Good Employer evokes the graciousness and solicitude of God who, in Jesus the Good Shepherd, seeks out the lost sheep. Indeed, God does not want that anyone be lost or without a place in his kingdom. The point of today’s parable is God’s abounding mercy. Each of us is the recipient of the kindness and generosity of God. The Parable of the Good Employer concludes with an enigmatic statement: “Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last”. This underlines Jesus’ promise that the disciples, now considered the last, will be the first in receiving the rewards of the kingdom.

 

The following account gives insight into the graciousness of God’s mercy and his forgiving love (cf. Dale Recinella, “It Is Never Too Late” in 101 Inspirational Stories of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, ed. Patricia Proctor, Spokane: Franciscan Monastery of Saint Clare, 2006, p. 187-189).

 

After many years of general prison ministry, in 1998 I was asked to begin ministry cell-to-cell on Florida’s death row and solitary confinement. Florida has the third largest death row in the U.S., with over 370 men and has over 2,000 men in long-term solitary confinement in the two prisons at which I serve as a Catholic lay chaplain. On behalf of the Catholic Church, the bishops of Florida, and under the pastoral supervision of my priest and bishop, I go cell-to-cell in ministry to the men inside.

 

Also, I serve as a spiritual advisor for executions. The family of the condemned is not allowed to be present then. My wife ministers to the families during the execution. We also make ourselves available to minister together to the families of murder victims. We do these things as volunteers on behalf of our church. We support our family and ourselves through our separate work.

 

Although I can bring Communion to the Catholics, our priests and bishop come frequently in order to offer the sacrament of confession, the anointing of the sick and, in case of executions, the last rites. For those who are only just coming into the Church, baptism and confirmation are also made available. In eight years, my wife and I have god-parented or sponsored ten death row inmates into the Church.

 

When I am on death row, there are ten steel barred doors, a quarter mile of electrified fences and razor wire, and a mountain of steel and concrete between me and the front door of the prison. The death house, which houses the execution chamber and to which a man is moved when his death warrant is signed by the governor, is at the end of the hall. His cell in the death house is less than twenty feet from the execution room.

 

One with eyes only for this world might ask: Of what use are the sacraments to a man in such a fix? And, in particular, what is the point of confession in his predicament?

 

I can testify to you that the power of the sacrament of confession and of the Holy Spirit is greater than the darkness of death now, even of the death house.

 

There was a man who desired to become a Catholic because of the influence of Pope John Paul II. After a year of preparation for entry into the Catholic Church, he was suddenly scheduled for execution. His execution date turned out to be just days after the death of John Paul II. Our Catholic governor even considered delaying the execution out of respect for the pontiff.

 

The morning before his execution, the bishop came to the death house to administer his first confession, his first Communion and his confirmation. This was done with him standing in a narrow cage called a holding cell, with shackles upon his ankles and chains on his wrists.

 

When the bishop pronounced the words of absolution and then of confirmation, his whole body jerked as though he had been jolted by electricity. He even began to fall back against the rear of the cage, in a manner called resting in the spirit. The guards who were watching were astonished. They said that for a moment he became luminous.

 

The next day, during his last hours in the death house, he told me that John Paul II had visited him during that moment and told him that Jesus would come for him at the moment of his death. Nothing anyone could say could dissuade him from this belief.

 

A few hours before the execution, the warden came down to his cell with a message from the mother of the victim of the crime. She had asked the warden to inform the condemned man that she forgave him and bore him no ill will. The reconciliation offered by the sacrament of confession had been actualized on this side of the great divide between the temporal and the eternal.

 

He died in peace, at one with God.

  

 

B. First Reading (Is 55:6-9): “My thoughts are not your thoughts.”

 

The Old Testament reading (Is 55:6-9) tells us of God’s infinite mercy and asserts his unfathomable ways that transcend human logic. Composed at the end of Judah’s exile in Babylon in the mid to late sixth century B.C., this poetic passage was addressed to the Jewish people who had returned from exile. It was an invitation for a dispirited people to seek the Lord and call upon him, as well as an exhortation to trust the ways of God, which are often mysterious and unfathomable.

 

The biblical scholar Eugene Maly comments: “The prophet invited them to return to the source of all life and strength. God has not abandoned them; they have abandoned God. They have abandoned him because they tried to cut him down to their size, but he didn’t fit. They wanted to make their thoughts his thoughts, their ways his ways. But his thoughts and his ways are as high as the heavens are above the earth. They wanted to repay their enemies for the losses inflicted on them, but the Lord was for mercy. They wanted vengeance, but the Lord is generous and forgiving. They wanted their own closet God who would take care of all their needs as they felt them, but he is Lord of heaven and earth. And yet, this Lord is near to them. Seek the Lord while he may be found. Call him while he is near. Only recognize the Lord as God, the prophet urges them, and surrender your petty ambitions and selfish desires. Then you will experience how generous this God can be.”

 

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

 

The following story by Marc Levy and published in Fresno Bee (August 17, 2008, p. A3) gives us a glimpse of how a stance of generosity and compassion could generate resistance and resentment among those who felt that such benevolence is unwarranted.

 

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

 

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

   

 

C. Second Reading (Phil 1:20c-24, 27a): “For me to live is Christ.”

 

Saint Paul the Apostle is a privileged example of the laborer of the “last hour” who benefited from the abundant riches of God’s grace. A persecutor of Christian faith, he was converted and experienced the undeserved free bounty of God. Saint Paul is a model of a true response to divine love radically revealed in Jesus Christ. In today’s Second Reading (Phil 1:20c-24, 27a), the Apostle is writing to the Philippians from a prison in Ephesus circa 56 A.D. Awaiting a possible death sentence, he reflects that for him both life and death take their meaning from Christ. Saint Paul asserts that with his whole being, he would bring honor to Christ, whether he live or die. Death for him is gain for he would relish the heavenly reward. To continue to live in this world, however, would mean a more fruitful labor for the Gospel. This would benefit more greatly the community of faith and encourage them to live a life worthy of the Gospel. Having been evangelized and brought under the power of the Gospel, they are to reflect in their life that they belong to Christ.

 

The following personal testimony of Fr. Jose Maniyangat, circulated on the Internet, powerfully illustrates the necessity of responding faithfully and obediently to our Christian vocation through life and death.

 

I was born on July 16, 1949 in Kerala, India to my parents, Joseph and Theresa Maniyangat. I am the eldest of seven children: Jose, Mary, Theresa, Lissama, Zachariah, Valsa and Tom. At the age of fourteen, I entered St. Mary’s Minor Seminary in Thirivalla to begin my studies for the priesthood. Four years later, I went to St. Joseph’s Pontifical Major Seminary in Alwaye, Kerala to continue my priestly formation. After completing the seven years of philosophy and theology, I was ordained a priest on January 1, 1975 to serve as a missionary in the Diocese of Thirivalla.

 

On Sunday April 14, 1985, the feast of Divine Mercy, I was going to celebrate Mass at a mission church in the north part of Kerala, and I had a fatal accident. I was riding a motorcycle when I was hit head-on by a jeep driven by a man who was intoxicated after a Hindu festival. I was rushed to a hospital about 35 miles away. On the way, my soul came out from my body and I experienced death. Immediately, I met my Guardian Angel. I saw my body and the people were mourning for me. At this time my angel told me: “I am going to take you to Heaven; the Lord wants to meet you.” He also said that, on the way, he wanted to show me hell and purgatory.

 

Hell: First, the angel escorted me to hell. It was an awful sight! I saw Satan and the devils, an unquenchable fire of about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, worms crawling, people screaming and fighting, others being tortured by demons. The angel told me that all these sufferings were due to un-repented mortal sins. Then, I understood that there are seven degrees of suffering or levels according to the number and kinds of mortal sins committed in their earthly lives. The souls looked very ugly, cruel and horrific. It was a fearful experience. I saw people whom I knew, but I am not allowed to reveal their identities. The sins that convicted them were mainly abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, hatefulness, un-forgiveness and sacrilege.

 

The angel told me that if they had repented, they would have avoided hell and gone instead to purgatory. I also understood that some people who repent from these sins might be purified on earth through their sufferings. This way they can avoid purgatory and go straight to heaven. I was surprised when I saw in hell even priests and Bishops, some of whom I never expected to see. Many of them were there because they had misled the people with false teaching and bad example.

 

Purgatory: After the visit to hell, my Guardian Angel escorted me to purgatory. Here too, there are seven degrees of suffering and unquenchable fire. But it is far less intense than hell and there was neither quarreling nor fighting. The main suffering of these souls is their separation from God. Some of those who are in purgatory committed numerous mortal sins, but they were reconciled with God before their death. Even though these souls were suffering, they enjoy peace and the knowledge that one day they will see God face to face.

 

I had a chance to communicate with the souls in purgatory. They asked me to pray for them and to tell the people to pray for them as well, so that they can go to heaven quickly. When we pray for these souls, we will receive their gratitude through their prayers, and once they enter heaven, their prayers become even more meritorious. It is difficult for me to describe how beautiful my Guardian Angel is. He is radiant and bright. He is my constant companion and helps me in all my ministries, especially my healing ministry. I experience his presence everywhere I go and I am grateful for his protection in my daily life.

 

Heaven: Next, my angel escorted me to heaven passing through a big dazzling white tunnel. I never experienced this much peace and joy in my life. Then immediately heaven opened up and I heard the most delightful music, which I never heard before. The angels were singing and praising God. I saw all the saints, especially the Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph, and many dedicated holy Bishops and priests who were shining like stars.

 

And when I appeared before the Lord, Jesus told me: “I want you to go back to the world. In your second life, you will be an instrument of peace and healing to my people. You will walk in a foreign land and you will speak in a foreign tongue. Everything is possible for you with my grace.” After these words, the Blessed Mother told me: “Do whatever he tells you. I will help you in your ministries.”

 

Words cannot express the beauty of heaven. There we find so much peace and happiness, which exceed a million times our imagination. Our Lord is far more beautiful than any image can convey. His face is radiant and luminous and more beautiful that a thousand rising suns. The pictures we see in the world are only a shadow of his magnificence. The Blessed Mother was next to Jesus. She was so beautiful and radiant. None of the images we see in this world can compare with her real beauty.

 

Heaven is our real home; we are all created to reach heaven and enjoy God forever.

 

 

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

 

1. What is our relationship with the Good Employer? Is it a servile relationship? If so, what can we do about it? Do we believe that in the Father’s kingdom, all are equally loved? Do we believe that God is good and generous and all his gifts are grace? Does this realization drive out the evil snare of jealousy and envy in our community?

 

2. Have we experienced that our thoughts are not God’s thoughts and that our ways are not his ways? What is our stance when our thoughts and our ways contradict those of our loving God? How do we assert our faith in this situation?

 

3. Do we give honor and glory to God in all our being, whether by life or by death?

 

 

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

 

O loving God,

we thank you that our feeble thoughts are not your thoughts

and that our wicked ways are not your ways.

O Lord, you are generous and merciful,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

You are good to all

and compassionate towards all your creatures.

May we not obstruct your kindness

and benevolent justice towards all.

Help us to be gracious to the needy

and kind to the broken-hearted

who yearn for your healing touch and renewing love.

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.

 

“Are you envious because I am generous?” (Mt 20:15)

 

 

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

 

In your dealings with the people around you, let them feel the graciousness of the Good Employer described in today’s parable. Pray for greater personal dedication of all laborers in God’s vineyard and a deeper insight into the infinite mercy of God.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

September 21, 2020: MONDAY – SAINT MATTHEW, APOSTLE AND EVANGELIST

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Matthew to Follow Him … He Is the Source of Gifts to Build Up the Church”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Eph 4:1-7, 11-13 // Mt 9:9-13

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 9:9-13): “Follow me. And standing up, he followed him.”

 

The Fresno-based Poverello House is a nonprofit, nondenominational organization whose mission is to enrich the lives and spirits of all who pass their way, to feed the hungry, offer focused rehabilitation programs, temporary shelter, medical, dental and other basic services to the poor, the homeless, the disadvantaged, without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex or disability through Providential and community support. Its founder is Mike McGarvin, a man who had experienced God’s mercy and transforming compassion through a saintly Franciscan priest, Fr. Simon Scanlon. They met at the “Poverello Coffee House” which Fr. Simon opened in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, notorious for its poverty, prostitution and violence. Mike narrates: “Gradually my life of self-indulgent destruction was being replaced by a life of service … I began seeing people through Father Simon’s eyes. He, in turn, saw people through Christ’s eyes, and he deeply believed that Jesus walked among the poor and the outcast. It was a revelation to me. The more I got to know the people who came to Poverello, the more compassion I felt for them.”

  

Today’s Gospel reading (Mt 9:9-13) is not only a concise presentation of Matthew’s vocation story, but also a powerful theology of the Christ, as full of compassion and mercy. The liturgical scholar, Adrian Nocent explains: “St. Matthew records his own calling in a simple, straightforward way … Christ chooses and calls; the person chosen and called immediately leaves everything and follows Jesus … Jesus comes to dine with Matthew and the other disciples in Matthew’s house at Capernaum; they are joined at table by many tax collectors and sinners, to whose ranks Matthew belonged until now.  It is easy to see the point Matthew wants to make, namely, that Jesus has come into the world to save not only the Jews but others as well, including sinners. When Jesus is challenged for eating with sinners, we observe that he does not justify himself but simply speaks of himself as a physician. A physician does not have to justify his presence among the sick; neither does Jesus. Matthew is thus, once again, offering us a theology of the Christ. Jesus is characterized by mercy, because his Father is mercy itself and he, Jesus, has been sent in order to communicate God’s mercy.

 

 

B. First Reading: Eph 4:1-7, 11-13: “It was his gift that some should be apostles, others evangelists.”

 

Today’s First Reading (Eph 4:1-7, 11-13) is about the unity and growth in the Body of Christ and the various gifts received from Christ for the building up of the Church. Saint Paul urges the believers to live a life worthy of their Christian calling. The Holy Spirit, the single inner source of Christian life, moves all members toward what promotes peace and harmony. Within this basic unity, there are gifts from the Risen Christ so that each member may contribute in a unique way to the growth and progress of the Church. The one who “gave gifts to mankind” has appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers. Saint Matthew is an example of those whose roles are essential to the life of the Church. The giftedness of the Church is in view of the unity in our faith and the growth in the knowledge of Christ. We endeavor to become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s stature.

 

The following profile of a parishioner shows how one’s “gifts” are used for Church ministry and the building of the Body of Christ (cf. Jessi Emmert, “Francis O’Brien: Constant Fixture at His Parish” in Our Sunday Visitor, December 30, 2012, p. 12).

 

Francis O’Brien, a retired military officer, is a vital part of St. Peter Chanel Catholic Church in Roswell, Georgia. He leads the Rosary before the 8:00 a.m. daily Mass, serves as a lector when needed and is secretary of the parish’s pro-life committee. “He’s the type of person who is quiet”, said Yakaly Fernandez, a fellow parishioner. “He will do things without anybody knowing, and that’s what I think is amazing.” O’Brien is a fixture in the parish. “He’s there every single morning”, Fernandez said.

 

O’Brien loves his parish because of its active and vibrant culture. “We have perpetual Eucharistic adoration, which is a great thing for a parish”, he said. “I take part in that.”

 

O’Brien’s wife, Judy, is also involved at St. Peter Chanel and serves on the pro-life committee with him. The parish is the closest one to the couple’s home, and they have been attending since the parish began in 1998. O’Brien described how they have seen the church grow throughout the years. “In the beginning, Mass was being held in school gymnasiums and so on, then to the temporary sanctuary, and now we’re in the permanent church”, he said.

 

O’Brien is also involved in a Catholic outreach, “The Society of St. Francis and St. Therese” that sends out postcards to the public, offering a free course in Catholicism. He has used his retirement in a beautiful way that gives back to the Church. His passion for stewardship, evangelization, service and commitment to life represent the qualities of a strong and focused parishioner.

 

O’Brien is a symbol of the countless men and women who serve in parishes around the world. While they may not have an official title in the Church, their dedication and servants’ hearts make the ministry of the Catholic Church possible. Their silent but steadfast work may often go unnoticed, but they deserve a standing ovation for their loyalty and love.

 

  

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

 

1. What is our response to Jesus’ call addressed personally to each of us, “Follow me”? Are we willing to welcome fully into our hearts Jesus and the gift of divine mercy that he brings? 

 

2. How do we promote the unity and vitality of the Church? What are the “gifts” we have received from the Risen Christ and how do we use them for the building up of the Church?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you are kind and merciful.

In calling Matthew,

and in dining with sinners and tax collectors,

you reveal that you are truly the divine physician

who comes to heal our sickness and infirmities.

Help us to cling to your words:

“I desire mercy, not sacrifice.

I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

            ***

Loving Father,

we are many parts of the one body.

We thank you for the oneness and fullness that you give us

through Christ in the Spirit.

May the “gifts” we have received

be wisely used for service

and to build up the Body of Christ.

We give you glory and praise, now and forever.

Amen.     

 

 

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

 

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

 

“Follow me.” (Mt 9:9) //“But grace was given to each of us.” (Eph 4:7) 

 

 

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

 

By your vocation, ministry and compassionate acts of mercy, resound in today’s world God’s call to Matthew and to us all: “Follow me!” // Identify your “gifts” received from the Risen Christ and, in imitation of Saint Matthew, put them to use for the building up of Christ’s Body, the Church.

 

 

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

 

September 22, 2020: TUESDAY – WEEKDAY (25)

“JESUS SAVIOR: His Family Hears and Acts on God’s Word … He is the Just One”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Prv 21:1-6, 10-13 // Lk 8:19-21

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 8:19-21): “My mother and my brother are those who hear the word of God and act upon it.”

 

Today’s Gospel (Lk 8:19-21) continues to challenge us to respond fully to the word of God. The mother of Jesus and other relatives come to see Jesus, but are prevented by the thick crowd. They stand outside and call for him. The Divine Master wisely uses the occasion of their visit to assert that the fundamental relationship to him lies not through blood ties or other earthly connections, but through hearing and acting upon the word of God. While his kin are waiting, Jesus delineates what constitutes his spiritual family – those who hear and obey the divine word are the authentic family members. In light of Mary’s response at the Lord’s annunciation, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word”, the mother of Jesus passes the criterion with flying colors. Mary is the supreme model of one who hears and acts upon the word. Mary is the exemplar of receptivity to the divine word. In her womb, the word of God becomes flesh and she brings forth the Savior of the world. Mary is truly the mother of Jesus and is thus the most privileged member of the “family of God”.

 

In a humorous vein, the following story gives insight into the meaning of “family” (cf. Davida Dalton, as told to Jo Ellen Johnson, “In His Mother’s Footsteps” in Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul, ed. Jack Canfield, et. al., Deerfield Beach: Health Communications, Inc., 1997, p. 108-109).

 

It was a busy day in our Costa Mesa, California home. But then, with 10 children and one on the way, every day was a bit hectic. On this particular day, however, I was having trouble doing even routine chores – all because of one little boy.

 

Len, who was three at the time, was on my heels no matter where I went. Whenever I stopped to do something and turned back around, I would trip over him. Several times, I patiently suggested fun activities to keep him occupied. “Wouldn’t you like to play on the swing set?” I asked again.

 

But he simply smiled an innocent smile and said, “Oh, that’s all right, Mommy, I’d rather be in here with you.” Then he continued to bounce happily along behind me.

 

After stepping on his toes for the fifth time, I began to lose my patience and insisted that he go outside and play with the other children. When I asked him why he was acting this way, he looked up at me with sweet green eyes and said, “Well, Mommy, in Primary my teacher told me to walk in Jesus’ footsteps. But I can’t see him, so I’m walking in yours.”

 

I gathered Len in my arms and held him close. Tears of love and humility spilled over from the prayer that grew in my heart – a prayer of thanks for the simple, yet beautiful perspective of a three-year-old boy.

 

 

B. First Reading (Prv 21:1-6, 10-13): “Various proverbs.”

 

The passage from the Book of Proverbs (21:1-6, 10-13) opens with three sayings about the Lord God and is followed by a body of traditional wisdom offering advice on a wide range of subjects. Today’s reading underlines that God is absolutely in control. He controls even the heart of a king as easily as he directs the flow of a running stream. Moreover, he also proves man’s heart and perceives one’s deepest motives. We may rationalize and exculpate our evil actions, but God knows and rightly judges our wicked ways. Furthermore, what pleases him are not external “sacrifices” bereft of meaning, but justice and right. The other sayings indicate that the way of the wicked is devious and that we need to walk in the way of God’s commands. We must learn to avoid evil and to listen to the cry of the poor so that when we call for help we might be heard.

 

The following modern day account helps us understand how God proves man’s heart and how he comes to the aid of those who cry out to him for help (cf. William Joseph, “The Fix” in Guideposts, September 2014, p. 48-52).

 

Near my church, I found a supermarket that sold doughnuts by the half dozen. A package of those always perked me up. Temporarily, anyway. Then I’d have to give a sermon or run a Bible study, and I’d buy another package. One was never enough. I didn’t want anyone to notice how many doughnuts I ate. It was none of their concern. I scoped out other doughnut shops in town. Before long, I knew where every Krispy Kreme and Dunkin’ Donuts was and could vary my visits. Now I needed a whole dozen to feel satisfied. I’d ditch the boxes in a garbage can on the street, not at home or at church, where someone might get suspicious. I felt ashamed, and shame made me want to eat more doughnuts. (…)

 

At least I’m not like Dad, I thought, sitting in the Krispy Kreme parking lot that morning. I glanced at the four boxes on the passenger seat. I’d done all I could to live an upstanding life. I was married, had kids, a wife I adored. I was a pastor and led a congregation. I was doing God’s work. I could always scale back on the doughnuts if I wanted to. Eat just one or two, the way I used to. But could I? (…)

 

Now, three of the boxes lay empty. I opened the fourth and crammed another doughnut into my mouth. I could hardly taste it, yet I couldn’t stop. My eyes welled with tears of shame and helplessness. I felt sick to my stomach, the way I usually felt these days. Sluggish, moody and constantly stressed. Kim worried about my lack of energy, and my doctor had warned me to watch my weight, which had ballooned from 210 to 290. Nobody knew the real reason, except me. I’d kept my doughnuts a secret from everyone. Why was I doing this to myself? I was acting just like … Dad?

 

I shook my head. It was too scary to think about. There’s a big difference between doughnuts and booze, I told myself. Deep inside a little voice whispered, Yes, but an addiction is an addiction.

 

The next morning I woke up dizzy. Aches and pains coursed through my body, like I had the flu. I stayed in bed all week and missed giving my next sermon. I’d never done that before. I missed the one after that too. Finally, Kim begged me to see my doctor. “You’ve got an infection in your blood”, he said, “from untreated diabetes.” He prescribed an antibiotic and shot me a grave look. “If you hadn’t come in for treatment today, you would have been in a very serious trouble. Maybe even life-threatening.

 

I’d heard words like that before. Your father had so much alcohol in his blood; he’s lucky to be alive, his doctor had said. Now mine said the same. I’d lost control, just as Dad had. I thought I would never understand him. Now I did. I was an addict, just like him.

 

Back home, I worked up my courage, picked up the phone, and called the only person who could help me. The only one who would understand. “Doughnuts?” Dad asked, chuckling. “Let me guess. You feel powerless. Not able to stop once you start. Going on even after you’ve lost the taste. You feel shame and remorse.” He cleared his throat. “Well, I was exactly the same way, son. Then I started going to those meetings I told you about. Sharing my story and my pain with others. I’ve been sober ever since.”

 

I swallowed hard. “How did you make the cravings go away?” “You turn it over”, he said. “You give it up to God. You pray and you fight for sobriety every day. Honesty is the key. And you know what? It gets better. In fact, it gets better. In fact, it gets great!”

 

For the first time, I understood those years Dad had spent himself drinking into a stupor, hiding from the family. Both of us had been chasing after something you can’t put in a bottle or bake into a doughnut. We were trying to fill a hole in our lives, to satisfy a spiritual longing. I’d felt helpless when it came to Dad’s alcoholism and I’d turned to my own addiction to cover up that feeling. I’d stopped trusting God. I’d put my faith in doughnuts to make me feel whole.

 

Dad had gotten better, and I could too. Prayer was the first step. I asked God for strength, not to stop eating doughnuts but to get honest about my situation. (…)

 

It wasn’t easy, but prayer and honesty, love and understanding saw me through. I haven’t touched a doughnut in over 20 years – I’ve been “clean” all that time. Dad stayed sober till the end of his life. He was my hero and inspiration. I saw how much we were alike, and that drew us closer, both to each other and to God.

 

 

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

 

1. Do I truly hear the word of God and act upon it? Do I look upon Mary as the model of hearing and acting upon his word?

 

2. Do I believe that God is in absolute control of our destiny and that he proves the depths of man’s heart? Do we turn over to God our miseries and pains, our enslavements and helplessness, our need for direction and meaning in life?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

we thank you for giving us

the true criterion of kinship with you.

Help us to look upon Mary

as the supreme model of hearing and acting upon the word

so that we may truly belong to your family.

In your name,

let us be brothers and sisters to one another.

We bless and thank you

for making us a part of the family of God.

Guide us constantly in the way of God’s commands.

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.

 

 “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.” (Lk 8:21) // “It is the Lord who proves hearts.” (Prv 21:2)

 

 

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

 

By your prayers and concrete acts of charity, be a brother or a sister to those in need. Let the good Lord prove the deepest motives in your heart and purify your thoughts, actions and intentions.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

September 23, 2020: WEDNESDAY – SAINT PIUS OF PIETRELCINA, Priest

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Sends Them to Proclaim the Gospel and to Heal … He Teaches Us that God Is Trustworthy”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Prv 30:5-9 // Lk 9:1-6

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 9;1-6): “He sent them to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.”

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Lk 9:1-6) is about the Lord who sends, and the mission of those he sends. Jesus sends them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He summons his disciples and selects the Twelve. Tutored by Jesus, and present with him as he heals many from sickness and evil, the Twelve go out into the world with tremendous power bestowed upon them. Luke narrates: “They set out and went from village to village proclaiming the good news and curing diseases everywhere.” The task of those sent by Jesus is to bring the healing balm of forgiveness to those wounded by the virulence of sin and to denounce evil wherever its presence is obvious, openly confronting it by appealing to the power of Christ. Pope Paul VI remarks: “The Church is a continuation and extension of his presence, called above all to carry on the mission of Jesus and his work of evangelization without ceasing. Never can the Christian community be shut in on itself.”

 

The following inspiring story illustrates that the apostolic spirit lives on in the world today (cf. Oliver Costantino, “Helping to Save Lives” in Maryknoll, May/June 2014, p. 35-36).

 

Ten years ago, my pediatrician, Doctor Benitez, told my family that he was going on a mission trip to Bolivia. My parents asked my brothers and me if we would like to contribute any money to his mission. We all pitched in and gave Doctor Benitez $250. When he returned from Bolivia, he told us that the money was used to pay the medical expenses for a girl from a homeless family. She was burned in a fire and left to die.

 

That was my first experience of giving. I do not remember, but my parents tell me that I was proud that the money saved a life. That experience started a longtime support of Doctor Benitez and his missions. The following year my family had a fund-raising party. We raised over $3,000 and collected over 200 pairs of shoes. The party was a huge success, and we felt happy to be helping others.

 

In 2004, Doctor Benitez decided to go to Uganda, where his friend Lawrence Mulinda was born and raised. This time we sent him with $500 and all of our used clothes and shoes. Again, the money was used to save a life. While Doctor Benitez was touring a hospital in a small village, he noticed a newborn baby who looked as if she were starving to death. When he asked about her, the doctor told him that she had a cyst under her tongue that made it impossible for her to nurse. Since that was the only way to feed a baby, she was waiting to die. Doctor Benitez asked how much money it would cost to do the simple surgery. He was told that it was very expensive because she would have to be taken to the capital and they would have to pay for transportation, the hospital bill and hotel for her mother. Doctor Benitez asked again and they finally told him $500 should take care of it. He pulled our donation out of his pocket and handed it to the nun who was the administrator of the hospital. Baby Winnie’s life was saved.

 

Throughout the years we have continued to support the mission in Uganda, financially as well as through prayer. We have watched the village of Kayenje grow with a new church, school, teacher’s home and convent. I love to think about the difference the little we do makes in a country like Uganda.

 

Last summer my mother and brother had the opportunity to go to Uganda on a mission. The entire trip was rewarding. They were able to clothe, feed and care for the children’s medical needs. My brother even held a soccer clinic and brought enough balls, cleats, shin guards and new uniforms for the two teams in the village. My mother says the greatest blessing of the trip was getting to meet Baby Winnie. She is now 9 years old, and her parents came to meet my mom and thank our family for saving her life. My mother reminded them that God saved her life, not us.

 

Our experience of giving to the poor in Uganda is definitely an act of charity, but I love that God gives me the opportunity to perform an act of charity every day, and I do it with a smile. As Pope Francis says, “We all have the duty to do good.”

 

 

B. First Reading (Prv 30:5-9): “Give me neither poverty nor riches; provide me only with the food I need.”

 

Today’s Old Testament Reading (Prv 30:5-9) carries the words of a wise man, Agur, son Jakeh. Agur asserts that God keeps every promise he makes. God is like a shield for all who seek his protection. God’s word is flawless; it should never be vitiated or manipulated. Trusting in the divine word, the obedient sage Agur makes a prayer: for truth and for the food he needs. Manifesting his vulnerability and dependence, the sage asks that God may guard him from falsehood and from extreme poverty that may tempt him to steal and thus bring disgrace to the divine name.

 

The following modern day account gives us an insight into how an “obedient sage”, assisted by divine grace, lives a peaceful life in a challenging world (cf. Laura Bradford, “Why Me?”  in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings, ed. Jack Canfield, et. al., Cos Cob: CSS, 2009, p. 212-215).

 

I sit alone in my chair … relaxed, content, and at peace. (…) As I sit, I study the faces in a smattering of pictures on my wall. Their smiles serve as visible reminders of personal victories over life’s battles.

 

One photo is of my mother when she was my age. She’s stylishly dressed in a black suit and a crisp, white blouse – attire reflecting her position as a hotel executive. But it’s her schoolgirl grin that reveals the woman inside. My mother possessed a boundless love of life. I got such a kick out of her spunk. In her day, business executives were almost exclusively male. But Mom elbowed her way to the top … because she had to. There was no one else to support the family.

 

Thirty years earlier, Dad died in a car accident. He left no savings or life insurance. At age twenty-nine, Mom faced the responsibility of providing for three children. Immediately after Dad’s death, she retreated to her bedroom for a week of weeping. But when she came out, she never looked back. Her elderly mother moved in to serve as our 24/7 baby sitter. Then Mom charged headlong into the working world.

 

She started as a banquet waitress in a luxury hotel, working long hours – even around the clock, if she could. Determined to succeed, she became the most resourceful, insightful person in her department. The rich and the famous regularly called on her to serve at their sumptuous feasts.

 

But at home, Mom cut corners wherever she could. Our clothes were secondhand, but adequate. We ate well, due to the kindness of our neighbors and friends. We learned never to turn on a lamp or an appliance unless there was no alternative. Believe it or not, Mom and Granny used to ration “luxury” items such as Kleenex.

 

Sometimes Mom struggled to pay the mortgage, but we had a roomy home, heated by a lone fireplace. Granny got up before dawn to start the fire. Then, we’d all dash out of bed to bask in its warmth.

 

Mom didn’t own a car until I was in my teens. We were told, “You have two good feet to get around.” Public transportation was available for longer trips.

 

Every summer we tended a large garden, yielding bountiful crops of vegetables and berries. What couldn’t be used fresh was canned or frozen.

 

In her “spare” time, Mom made ballet costumes and attended recitals, little league games, and parent-teacher conferences. When she should have been sleeping, she’d take us to the beach or the zoo. On rare occasions, we’d go to the theater or symphony. She did everything possible to enrich our time together.

 

Mom was a living encyclopedia on how to survive in hard times. Best of all, she came through it all victoriously – grinning from ear to ear.

 

 

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

 

1. As Christian disciples today, do we trust in the loving God who is totally involved in our lives? What is the specific apostolic mission entrusted to us by Christ today? Do we believe in the Gospel’s power against the forces of evil? 

 

2. Do we trust in God who is trustworthy and who give us the grace we need to cope with life’s challenges.?

 

 

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

 

Jesus Lord,

you summon us and entrust to us the Gospel

with its power of action against evil.

You send us to touch the wounded world

with the healing power of your love.

Grant us the grace we need

to proclaim the Good News and cure diseases.

Teach us to trust in the word of God.

He is a shield for all who seek his protection.

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.

 

“They proclaim the Good News and cure diseases everywhere.” (Lk 9:6) // “God is a shield to those who take refuge in him.” (Prv 30:5)

 

 

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

 

Pray for all missionaries that they may carry out their mandate with absolute trust in God and apostolic zeal. Be a missionary to a person close to you and in need of the healing power of the Gospel. Be an instrument of God’s providence for the destitute.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

September 24, 2020: THURSDAY – WEEKDAY (25)

“JESUS SAVIOR: Herod Wants To See Him … He is the Wisdom Incarnate

 

BIBLE READINGS

Eccl 1:2-11 // Lk 9:7-9

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 9:7-9): “John I beheaded. Who then is this about whom I hear such things?”

 

In India I was struck by a powerful image given to us by a priest in a retreat conference. A stone is submerged in the bottom of a river – for days and days, for months and months, for years and years, for ages and ages – but never soaked and drenched. It is impervious. At the core it remains dry and lifeless. The impenetrable stone surrounded by clear waters is a pathetic image of Herod Antipas who is resistant to grace. He is licentious and feckless. He lives in incestuous union with Herodias. John the Baptist censures him severely for taking his brother’s wife. Herod retaliates by having him arrested and imprisoned. On account of a senseless oath to a stepdaughter who delighted him with a sensuous dance, he has John the Baptist beheaded. Herod is also superstitious.

 

In the Gospel reading (Lk 9:7-9), the wild news about Jesus of Nazareth being John the Baptist raised from the dead baffles Herod. He keeps trying to see Jesus. But when he finally sees Jesus in a mock trial before the latter’s passion and crucifixion, he would want to see him perform some miracle and be entertained with religious prodigies. Jesus however would not respond to his frivolous questions and requests. The Son of God would remain silent. Too sated with self-centered pleasure-seeking, Herod would not able to recognize the presence of grace standing before him. Herod would not be moved to repentance conversion by the Word of God. Respecting his fundamental choice, the incarnate love would have difficulty penetrating his heart wholly taken up by frivolity and corruption.

 

The following story illustrates the tragedy of making evil choices and of being impervious to divine grace (cf. David Schantz, Daily Guideposts 2010, p. 22).

 

My minister-father was a storyteller, and the best part of Sunday was listening to his stories from the pulpit. One of my favorites was about an exceptional contractor who built beautiful homes. There was always a long waiting list of customers.

 

One day the contractor told his foreman, “I need to go East for a few months, and while I’m gone I want you to build this house for me.” He showed the foreman the plans. “I want this to be the best house you’ve ever built for me. Spare no expense. I want it done right.”

 

When his boss left, the foreman got to thinking, “This is a big project. I could make some extra money on it by substituting grade-B materials where they won’t show. I could pocket the difference.”

 

When the boss returned, he was impressed. “The house is beautiful!” He put his arm around the foreman’s shoulders. “The reason I wanted you to make this house special is that I want you to have it as an expression of my gratitude for your years of service to me.”

 

The foreman’s face fell, knowing that he had cheated only himself.

 

 

B. First Reading (Eccl 1:2-11): “Nothing is new under the sun.”

 

For the next three days we shall be hearing from the book of Ecclesiastes. The title “Ecclesiastes” given to the book is the Greek translation of the Hebrew name “Qoheleth”, which means “one who convokes the assembly”. The purported author is “Qoheleth, David’s son, king in Jerusalem”. Qoheleth is not to be identified with King Solomon. The unknown author who presents himself as “Qoheleth” uses the fiction of a wise and rich king, for wisdom is usually associated with royalty and the riches enable him to conduct his examination of life’s realities. Qoheleth lived sometime between 300 and 200 B.C. He was probably a teacher in Jerusalem and one of the more honored members of the Jerusalem academic community.

 

Today’s passage (Eccl 1:2-11) asserts that all things are vanity. The relentless monotony - in the world of toil, in the sun that rises and sets each day, in the wind that keeps on blowing in one direction and in the other, and in the rivers that keep on flowing into the sea without ever filling it – symbolizes man’s failure to accomplish anything. We keep on explaining, but we never really say anything. We keep seeing and hearing, but we never know what it is all about. We pride ourselves with new achievements, but they are not really “new”, they have simply been forgotten and are destined to be forgotten. Qoheleth’s ritornello is “vanity” (in Hebrew, hebel), something that is transient, worthless and empty.

 

The Book of Qoheleth presents a totally negative portrayal of life and an assessment that all things are vain and futile. But this is so in order to give priority to the service of God. Qoheleth’s fairly well organized series of reflections on life is a good backdrop for the radical revelation about the meaning of life that the Son of God would bring in the fullness of time.

 

The following “wisdom stories” illustrate a basic approach to life that surpasses Qoheleth’s principle “all things are vanity” (cf. Anthony De Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations, New York: Image Books, 1988, p. 32). Reality is not “vanity”. There is meaningfulness in reality to which we can respond positively and graciously.

 

A Rabbi once asked a pupil what was bothering him. “My poverty” was the reply. “So wretched is my condition that I can hardly study and pray.” “In this day and age”, said the Rabbi, “the finest prayer and the finest study lie in accepting life exactly as you find it.

 

***

On a bitterly cold day a Rabbi and his disciples were huddled around a fire. One of the disciples, echoing his master’s teaching, said, “On a freezing day like this I know exactly what to do!” “What?” asked the others. “Keep warm! And if that isn’t possible, I still know what to do.” “What?” “Freeze.”

 

***

Present Reality cannot really be rejected or accepted. To run away from it is like running away from your feet. To accept it is like kissing your lips. All you need to do is see, understand, and be at rest.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we make habitual and chronic evil choices so that we become impervious to God’s grace? Are we like Herod Antipas in our behavior and choices?

 

2. How does Qoheleth’s observation “all things are vanity” impact you?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus, the incarnate Wisdom of God,

you preach the Good News

and call people to conversion.

Please help us to listen to your voice

and make a fundamental choice for you.

Help us to avoid the tragic choices of Herod.

Do not allow us to pursue mere “vanities”.

Teach us to respond to divine grace

and let us be filled with the love and blessings of God.

You are our glorious Savior, 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.

 

            “And Herod kept trying to see him.” (Lk 9:9) // “All things are vanity!” (Eccl 1:2)

 

 

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

 

Pray that our daily choices might be responsible and in accordance to the will of God. Make an effort to enlighten the people around you in making the “right” choice for our Savior Jesus. Pray to the Holy Spirit so that you may discern what is vain and what is truly meaningful in life.

 

*** *** ***

 

September 25, 2020: FRIDAY – WEEKDAY (25)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Predicts His Passion and Glorification … He Is the Lord of Time”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Eccl 3:1-11 // Lk 9:18-22

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 9:18-22): “You are the Christ of God. The Son of Man must suffer greatly.”

 

I visited the California State Fair for the first time on August 29, 2003. I had a great time at the Fine Arts section of the Expo Center Building where I saw a painting entitled “Napping in the Garden”. The body of Christ, stretched in the form of a cross, is sleeping peacefully in a cosmic garden of incredible beauty. Jesus Christ is surrounded by ministering angels and created beings. The artist’s message for me is incisive. The one “napping in the garden” is the Servant of Yahweh, who offered his ultimate service on the cross. The “Messiah of God” is now at the center of adoration and ministry of the entire cosmos.

 Jesus, acknowledged by Peter as the “Messiah of God”, presents himself to his disciples as the Suffering Servant. In today’s Gospel (Lk 9:18-22), he predicts his passion and glorification. The Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law. He will be put to death, but three days later he will be raised to life. Although Jesus speaks of suffering and death, what triumphs ultimately is the power of life. There is redemption in his total self-giving.

 

The following story gives us a glimpse of the saving glory that comes in living out our paschal destiny (cf. Roberta Messner in Daily Guideposts 2010, p. 27).

 

For forty years I suffered with head and mouth pain from tumors caused by an incurable disorder. I lived from moment to moment and went to great lengths to get my mind off the relentless pain. Then a curious thing happened: I began to notice that whenever I turned my thoughts to others instead of dwelling on myself, I experienced an incredible sense of well-being. Whether I was planning to give, anticipating the act of giving or doing the giving myself, I could feel my entire body change.

 

One of the most difficult aspects of living with intractable pain is getting started in the morning. So before turning in each night, I placed a gift for someone at work alongside my car keys. It might be as simple as an article clipped from a magazine or coupons for laundry detergent or a tea bag in a new herbal flavor. Or it might be a pair of earrings I really wanted for myself that God nudged me to give away.

 

I mentioned my newfound approach to my physician, Dr. Brownfield. He told me that my discovery was supported by both the Bible and medical science. “Giving releases endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, Roberta. Studies have actually shown that volunteers, some of the most devoted givers of all, lead happier, healthier and longer lives.” He closed our time together that day with a prayer that God would continue to bless me with the abundant life He promises in His Word, the giving life.

 

Since that day I’ve continued to give in the ways God directs. And I hadn’t needed a single dose of breakthrough pain medicine. I’ve come to understand that giving is a God-given tool – like exercise and a balanced diet – that helps us to live the full life He has in mind for us.

 

 

B. First Reading (Eccl 3:1-11): “There is a time for everything under the heavens.”

 

Today’s Old Testament reading (Eccl 3:1-11) is a piece of poetic beauty. It depicts the vicissitudes of life, which are totally under God’s control. There is “a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot the plant …” God rules over these events and the succession of these events. He runs things off according to his own time and at the right time. Man cannot even dispose of such time as planting, much less of birth and death. Life and death lie beyond human control. Indeed, what can we get from our human toil if it is not done in accordance with God’s will … if it is not done at the “right time”? God has set the right time for everything. The Lord God has also put within us the desire for eternity (the “timeless”), but we can never fathom his absolute dominion of eternity and infinity. Qoheleth thus advises us just to do the best we can while we are still alive. In the midst of a temporal existence, he also advises us to eat and drink and enjoy what is God’s gift.

 

The following modern day account gives insight into how we can we live our life reasonably and more consonant with “God’s time” (cf. Michelle Mach, “The Lunch Hour” in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings, ed. Jack Canfield, et. al., Cos Cob: CSS, 2009, p. 309-310).

 

I clutched a yogurt in one hand as I tried to eat and catch up on customer e-mail during the noon hour. Even fifteen minutes in the employee lunchroom seemed too much of a luxury. My company, like many companies, had cut costs by mot replacing people as they left. The survivors are expected to take up the slack. For me, this meant no lunch hour, plus taking work home in the evening or on the weekend. (…)

 

I felt trapped. Then a chance conversation with a stranger’s six-year-old daughter changed my outlook. The young girl was positively bouncy, standing in line with her mom at the grocery store. “Good day at the school?” I asked. A nod. “What’s your favorite subject?” “Lunch.”

 

I smiled at the answer. I remembered when that had been my answer. At lunch, there were no adults to tell you what to do and when to do it. You could sit and talk with your friends or play an exuberant game of four-square. You could draw pictures or swing on the monkey bars. The time was yours to do whatever you wanted. Sometimes we planned our time, bringing stickers or Chinese jacks for a weeklong tournament. Sometimes we were more spontaneous, only deciding what to do while we were eating our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and slurping our little paper cartons of milk.

 

The brief encounter left me wondering: What had happened to lunch?

 

I knew that by law I was entitled to a lunch break at work. So I decided to simply start taking it. The office was located in the downtown area of a small town and I set out to explore it. A few blocks away was a local art museum with free admission. At the end of another street, I was startled to discover some horses grazing in a field. A cute gift boutique made for pleasant and sometime humorous browsing particularly looking through the leftover holiday items and laughing at the sometimes funny things, like jack-o’-lantern sunglasses and temporary Santa tattoos that no one had the foresight to buy. (…)

 

When I decided to take back my lunch hour, I braced myself for catty remarks or stares from my co-workers, but they never materialized. I watched in amazement as some of my co-workers started to drift away occasionally from their own desks during lunch. We started inviting each other out for walks during good weather and discovered that we had other topics of conversation beyond the now common complaints about work.

 

 

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

 

1. How does Jesus’ pronouncement of his passion impinge on us? Do we see the intimate connection between Jesus’ self-giving passion and his glorification?

 

2. Do we trust that in the midst of life’s continuous changes, God is in control? Do we surrender our plans and our entire selves to God who makes things work for good “in his time”?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

we thank you for your beloved Son, the Suffering Servant.

Give us the grace to be Christian disciples marked by self-giving.

Help us to trust in you, the Lord of time and history.

You are in control of the past, the present and the future.

We dwell in “your time”.

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.

 

“The Son of Man must suffer greatly … and on the third day be raised.” (Lk 9:22) // “There is an appointed time for everything.” (Eccl 3:1)

 

 

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

 

Through concrete acts of charity to those experiencing fears and difficulties, manifest your intimate participation in the paschal destiny of Jesus, our self-giving Lord and the “Messiah of God”.  Try to be more “patient” and learn to do things in “God’s time”.

 

*** *** ***

September 26, 2020: SATURDAY – WEEKDAY (25); SAINTS COSMAS AND DAMIEN, Martyrs; BVM ON SATURDAY

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches the Disciples the Meaning of His Death … He Helps Us to Face the Last Things”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Eccl 11:9-12:8 // Lk 9:43b-45

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 9:43b-45): “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men. They were afraid to ask him about this saying.”

 

In today’s Gospel reading (Lk 9:43b-45), Jesus speaks again about his death. The response of the disciples to the Divine Master’s patient effort to make them understand his messianic mission is bewilderment. They fail to grasp what Jesus means and they are afraid to question him. It is because they do not want to be confronted with the painful element of Christ’s paschal destiny. They are afraid to stare at the specter of Jesus’ impending death. In the first prediction, Jesus has underlined the harsh implications of his passion for his disciples. To be true followers of Jesus they too need to carry their cross. This is an aversive proposition for the disciples. Hence, when the Master brings out the issue again, they remain silent. They willfully choose not to understand. Bereft of the paschal vision, their personal concerns degenerate into authority issues and power struggles.

 

The following story presents in a humorous vein what it means “to refuse to understand” (cf. Anthony De Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations, New York: Image Books, 1988, p. 172).

 

A bishop had decreed that woman housekeepers for priests should be at least fifty years of age. He was startled, in the visitation of his diocese, to discover a priest who thought he was observing the law by keeping two housekeepers, each one of whom was twenty-five years of age.

    

 

B. First Reading (Eccl 11:9-12:8): “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the dust returns to the earth, and the life breath returns to God.”

 

In today’s Old Testament reading (Eccl 11:9-12:8), Qoheleth advises young people to enjoy their youth, while exhorting them to remember their Creator. Youth is fleeting and soon it will give way to the winter of life and, eventually, death. Old age is presented allegorically: the idle “grinders” are the few teeth left in the mouth of the old person; the closed “doors to the street” are the deaf ears, and the blossom of the almond is his white hair. Death is depicted in haunting images as the snapped silver cord, the broken golden bowl, the shattered pitcher, and the broken pulley. These various poetic images prepare for Qoheleth’s climactic description of death: “Our bodies will return to the dust of the earth, and the breath of life will go back to God who gave it to us.” Qoheleth concludes with his signature theme: “Vanity of vanities, all things are vanity!” Qoheleth does not see any lasting gain in human life. When everything has been said, what matters alone is to reverence God and keep his commandments. For God is going to judge everything we do, whether good or bad, even things done in secret.

 

In a humorous vein, the following story gives insight into the preparation for the “last things” (Florence Littauer, “Cramming for Final” in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stories of Faith, ed. Jack Canfield, et. al. Cos Cob: CSS, 2008, p. 274).

 

A ninety-six-year-old lady was a faithful attendant at my women’s club Bible studies. She came with her lessons prepared and knew all the answers. One day a tactless member asked her, “Why do you work so hard on these lessons when you’re so old and it doesn’t matter?” Little Bess Elkins looked up and said confidently, “I’m cramming for my finals.”

 

 

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

 

1. Are we willing to understand the meaning of the passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ and their personal implications for our life?

 

2. How do we prepare for the “last things”?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you speak to us about your passion.

Help us to listen with the heart

and understand what it means to be your disciple.

Do not let us be trapped by the vanities of today’s world.

Give us the grace to prepare for the “last things”

and for the moment when we will return to dust

and when our life-breath will return to you.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

     

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

 

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

 

“The Son of Man is to be handed over to men.” (Lk 9:44) // “The life breath returns to God who gave it.”  (Eccl 12:7)

    

 

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

 

Pray for the grace of a happy death and to learn to cherish the legitimate pleasures that God gives you daily as a gift.

 

 

*** *** *** 

 

Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang PDDM

 

 

PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI

SISTER DISCIPLES OF THE DIVINE MASTER

60 Sunset Ave., Staten Island, NY 10314

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

Website: WWW.PDDM.US

 


PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI

SISTER DISCIPLES OF THE DIVINE MASTER
60 Sunset Ave., Staten Island, NY 10314
Tel. (718) 494-8597 or (718) 761-2323
Website: 
WWW.PDDM.US


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