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A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 14, n. 27)

Corpus Christi and Week 9 in Ordinary Time: May 29 – June 4, 2016

 

 

(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: May 22-28, 2016, please go to ARCHIVES Series 14 and click on “Trinity & Week 8 in Ordinary Time”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: May 29 – June 4, 2016.)

 

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May 29, 2016: SUNDAY – THE MOST HOLY BODY AND BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Satisfies Their Hunger”

 

 

BIBLICAL READINGS

Gn 14:23-26 // I Cor 11:23-26 // Lk 9:11b-17

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 9:11b-17): “They all ate and were satisfied.”

 

        Our religious community in Antipolo, in the Philippines, wanted to make the celebration of Corpus Christi during the Great Jubilee 2000 more meaningful. We invited our neighbors to join us for the Eucharistic adoration and procession in the afternoon of Corpus Christi. Many children from our low-income neighborhood attended the ceremony. Unfortunately, it rained and we were forced to improvise a short route for the Eucharistic procession within the convent. We served a simple but nourishing meal after the prayer service. The rain did not dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd as they partook of the abundant servings of “pancit”, a tasty noodle dish garnished with chicken and stir-fry vegetables. We also prepared delicious rice cakes and flavorful fruit juice for them. There was great delight etched on their faces as they shared our meal. A scriptural quotation from today’s Gospel reading may be used to describe aptly that heart-warming scene: “They all ate and were satisfied” (Lk 9:17a).

 

            The Gospel proclamation of the Corpus Christi celebration (Lk 9:11b-17) presents Jesus as the gracious host of a miraculous, bountiful meal. Today’s beautiful story of the multiplication of the loaves and the feeding of the multitude is preceded by Luke’s description of the return of the apostles who give Jesus an account of all they have done. According to the evangelist’s account, Jesus then takes the apostles with him and withdraws to a town called Bethsaida where they could be by themselves. But the crowd gets to know about his plan and pursues him. Instead of resenting the infringement on his privacy and the obstruction of his plan to give a well-deserved rest to his apostles, Jesus warmly welcomes the crowd and preaches to them about the kingdom of God. He also cures those in need of healing.

 

At the end of the day, the Twelve approach Jesus and request him to dismiss the crowd so that the latter could go to surrounding villages and farms to find lodging and provisions. Jesus does not accede to his apostles’ legitimate suggestion, but rather, challenges them to do something for the hungry and needy throng. He says to them, “Give them some food yourselves” (Lk 9:13) for they have a vital role in relieving the needs of his most welcomed guests. The disciples acknowledge that they have some food: five loaves of bread and two fish, but they are absolutely inadequate to feed the massive crowd. Jesus orders the disciples to have the crowd seated for the outdoor banquet in groups of about fifty. What followed in Luke’s narration is the miraculous act of Jesus, the gracious Lord of the banquet: “Then taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, Jesus said the blessing over them, broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. They all ate and were satisfied. And when the leftover fragments were picked up, they filled twelve wicker baskets” (Lk 9:16-17).

 

The multiplication of the loaves and the feeding of the crowd with abundant food indicate that the messianic times have come. This miraculous event wrought by the messianic Jesus in the green meadows for the hungry crowd that flocks to his care introduces us to the mystery of the Eucharist, which fulfills our spiritual hungers abundantly. Indeed, the outdoor feast that Jesus serves with the help of his disciples prefigures the abundant nourishment that the community of believers would receive from the Eucharist. The Christian believers are nourished by the bread of the Word and by the Eucharistic bread of Christ’s body, broken for the salvation of the world, and the Eucharistic wine of his sacred blood, poured out to seal our covenant relationship with God as his own people. The Lord of the banquet, Jesus Christ, nourishes us with the bread of the living Word and with his own body and blood through the Eucharistic bread and wine.

 

 

B. First Reading (Gn 14:18-20): “Melchizedek brought out bread and wine.”

 

In 1984, after my studies at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute at St. Anselm University in Rome, I volunteered to serve in Africa. But our Mother General sent me to India. During the time I was in Bangalore, Sr. Mary Juliana, the Regional Superior in India, accompanied me to visit Fr. Luke Chengalikavil, a professor at St. Anselm. We boarded a bus and then walked through a scenic rural landscape before reaching the “ashram”. Fr. Luke opened the door and graciously led us to the chapel. He invited Sr. Juliana and me to gather around the ambo where an imposing Bible was enthroned. Fr. Luke explained that in the Benedictine Rule the virtue of hospitality requires them first to share the “bread of the Word” before nourishing the guests with material food. Fr. Luke thus read a passage from the Bible and nourished us spiritually by helping us reflect on the Word and pray over it. The sharing of the “food of truth” around that table of the Word was very touching. Fr. Luke then led us to the refectory where he served us bread pudding and hot tea with milk. Our shared meal at that Benedictine “ashram” in Bangalore, India is worth reminiscing. I had experienced the goodness of Jesus, the Lord of the Eucharistic banquet, through Fr. Luke’s hospitality.

 

The Risen Jesus Christ - the Lord of the banquet – provides the grace and opportunity for bonding, intimacy and communion in the sacred meal “here and now”. We are united not only with God, but with one another. In the celebration of the Eucharist, which makes present the paschal event of Christ’s passion, death, resurrection, one is drawn into the open arms of the glorified Savior and Redeemer and inserted into his “one and undivided Body” – the Church. The Holy Eucharist is thus truly a sacrament of love and communion. Pope Benedict XVI in his Apostolic Exhortation, Sacramentum Caritatis (February 22, 2007) asserts: “The sacrament of charity, the Holy Eucharist is the gift that Jesus Christ makes of Himself, thus revealing to us God’s infinite love for every man and woman. This wondrous sacrament makes manifest that greater love which led Him to lay down his life for his friends. Jesus did indeed love them to the end … In the same way, Jesus continues, in the Sacrament of the Eucharist to love us to the end, even to the offering us His body and His blood” (art. n. 1).

 

The “offering of the body and blood of Christ” in his paschal sacrifice on the cross, a saving event made present anew in the celebration of the Eucharist, has a biblical antecedent. Melchizedek, the king of Salem and priest of the Most High God (cf. Gen 14:18-20) blessed Abram, victorious in battle over the four kings who captured Lot, Abram’s nephew who was living in Sodom. The just king, Melchizedek, who brought forth a gift of bread and wine, offered a prayer of blessing and Eucharistic praise: “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, the creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your foes into your hand.” The Church regards Melchizedek as a figure of Christ, the eternal High Priest and the “bread and wine” that he brought forth as “a prefiguring of her own offering” in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass. Like Melchizedek, we use bread and wine and like him, we bless the God of Abraham in every Eucharist.

 

 

C. Second Reading (I Cor 11:23-26): “For as often as you eat and drink, you proclaim the death of the Lord.”     

 

Today’s Second Reading (I Cor 11:23-26) contains the oldest written account of the institution of the Eucharist. Saint Paul was dealing with an unfortunate situation of disunity and selfish behavior within the Corinthian community and was presenting the idea of self-sacrifice as a corrective. Christ’s redeeming sacrifice, which the Eucharist actualizes and makes present, is all-inclusive and meant for all – including the poor and the marginalized.

 

Graziano and Nancy Marcheschi explain: “Saint Paul writes to the Corinthians to correct certain abuses that had crept into their celebration of the Eucharistic meal. To impress upon them the sacredness of what they were doing each time they gathered to bless the bread and wine, he repeats Jesus’ words that so clearly express the sacrificial nature of Eucharist. Paul begins by naming the night of the Last Supper as the night Jesus was handed over. Immediately the shadow of the cross looms over the Eucharistic meal. Then, to ensure his readers have not misread the past, Paul drives it home saying that every time they eat and drink the meal they proclaim the death of the Lord. As we celebrate today’s solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, Paul’s words help us understand the ongoing significance of the Eucharist in the life of the Church. What we commemorate is a supreme act of self-giving.”

 

Whenever we celebrate the Eucharist and communicate with his body and blood through the sacramental species of bread and wine, we experience the “real presence” of our Lord Jesus. Under the signs of bread and wine, the Eucharist is truly and really the body of Christ broken for our salvation and the sacred blood outpoured to seal the New Covenant by which we become God’s holy people.

 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1374-1375, asserts: “In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really and substantially contained. This presence is called real – by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be real too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present. It is by the conversion of the bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood that Christ becomes present in this sacrament. The Church Fathers strongly affirmed the faith of the Church in the efficacy of the Word of Christ and of the action of the Holy Spirit to bring about this conversion.”

 

The following story illustrates a “conversion” experience of a lady who returned to her Catholic roots through the transforming power and influence of the Eucharist (cf. Christine Trollinger, “One Last Mass” in Amazing Grace for the Catholic Heart, ed. Jeff Cavins, et. al. West Chester: Ascension Press, 2004, p. 247-249). It is a beautiful story to inspire us today – the feast of Corpus Christi.

 

On my journey back to God and religion, I attended a candle lighting service with my husband, Gene, at his Baptist church a few days before Christmas. It seemed right to stick together in this journey, to find a common ground in one denomination. And I knew, with his strong Baptist upbringing, that Gene was not about to become Catholic.

 

That night in the Baptist church just happened to be one of the rare occasions where they celebrated what they term “The Lord’s Supper”. My husband reminded me that the Eucharist was just a symbol and that I could not partake until I became a Baptist. That was fine with me, of course, because I had long forgotten anyone mentioning the Church’s belief in Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist. An usher began passing the plate of little symbolic bread across from the left … the side I was one. As the man at my side prepared to hand it off to me, the plate literally flew out of my hands, into the air. Gene scrambled to catch it. Just as he caught the plate, the little cubes of bread fell back onto it. Needless to say, I was so embarrassed I wanted to crawl under the pew. It disquieted me so much that I could not shake the feeling that just maybe I should attend one last nostalgic midnight Mass just to be certain I should become a Baptist.

 

The following Saturday was Christmas Eve. From childhood memories I knew there was always confession on Saturday afternoon. I decided I should go to confession as I had been taught to do growing up. I wanted to properly prepare for this “last Mass”. As I entered the church, there was no one around but a workman putting up decorations. I could not figure out where the confessional was and he evidently saw my confusion. When he asked if I needed help, I explained I was there for confession. Giving me a strange look he replied: “Confessions have already finished today. We are getting ready for midnight Mass.”

 

My face flushed with embarrassment. “Sorry”, I said. “I’ll just be going. Thanks so much for your help!” I was pretty sure the man must have pegged me correctly as what my father called “A Christmas Cactus and an Easter Lily”. I turned to leave as fast as I could, deciding to forget the whole thing and just get on with becoming a Baptist. As I rushed toward the side door, I ran smack into what I assumed another workman. He grabbed my arm to keep me from falling and asked, “Can I help you?” “Oh! No, I was leaving”, I stammered. “I thought there were confessions at 4 p.m. I’ll just be on my way.” Then, out of his back pocket came a Roman collar. “Come on”, he said directing me to confessional. “I’m Father Mike.” I was too dumbfounded to do anything other than follow through with my original plan.

 

That night at the Mass, I was filled with such peace. As I joined the communion line, I truly felt God was blessing my sincere seeking His will. All the way toward the front of the church, I concentrated on how to receive the Eucharist. Things had changed a lot over the past twenty years. I was a bit nervous about the fact there was no longer an altar rail. I was very busy trying to listen and learn the seemingly new rubrics from those ahead of me in line. I did not want to be embarrassed again. I thought: “That looks easy … place one hand on the other … say ‘Amen!’ to whatever the priest is saying to you … take the host, eat and off I go … No problem!”

 

As I placed my cupped hands to receive the host, I had the overwhelming feeling that this little host was not just a bread cube. It felt extremely heavy in my hand. I stumbled and hit the floor on my knees. I was once again so embarrassed and confused I wanted to disappear. Until, that is, I heard a still, small Voice say to me, “It is I, your Jesus. I was not in 'The Lord’s Supper'. I am here. Welcome home!”

 

I returned to my seat very spiritually shaken. The rest of Mass was a blur to say the least! I felt very confused, blessed and very unworthy. And my journey home began. God writes straight on crooked lines and in the following days, weeks and years I would learn just how faithful and loving He is. I now knew without any doubt, that as unworthy as I might be, I was called home to my Catholic roots.

  

 

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

 

Are we ready to incarnate in our lives the compassionate and generous spirit of Jesus who welcomed the crowd who sought him and hosted a messianic banquet for them? In our apostolic ministry, are we ready to offer our “five loaves and two fish”, that is, all that we have, for our pastoral ministry with Jesus? Does the enormity of the world’s hungers daunt us; if so, do we turn to Jesus that he may miraculously multiply the little that we have? Are we thankful to God that he nourishes us at the table of the bread of the Word and at the altar table of his Eucharistic sacrifice? 

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus, Lord of the banquet,

we come into your presence today

with our deepest hungers for things beyond food:

for forgiveness, reconciliation, and kindness,

for restoration in relationships,

for justice and freedom,

for joy in place of bitterness and cynicism,

for peace and unity,

for spiritual and physical healing.

Help us to eat at your table and be satisfied.

As we partake at your Eucharistic banquet,

let us be transformed into your own presence,

as bread broken for the life of the world.

Nourished at the table of your living Word

and the altar table of your Eucharistic sacrifice,

grant us the grace to be personally involved

in alleviating the hunger pangs of the people of the world.

We love you and serve you,

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 all ate and were satisfied.” (Lk 9:17a)

 

 

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

 

As a special homage to the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharistic Mystery, spend some quiet time of prayer and meditation before the Blessed Sacrament. If the opportunity occurs, join a Eucharistic procession as a public manifestation of your faith in Jesus, present in the most holy Eucharist. Feed the hungry and share your resources with the needy.

      

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May 30, 2016: MONDAY – WEEKDAY 9 IN ORDINARY TIME

MEMORIAL DAY (USA)

    “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Beloved Son Finally Sent … In Him Is True Knowledge of God”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

II Pt 1:2-7 // Mk 12:1-12

  

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 12:1-12): “They seized the beloved son, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.”

 

Today’s Gospel (Mk 12:1-12) presents the drama of man’s wickedness and God’s faithful and patient love. A “parable of contention”, it is directed against the smugness, vanity and self-seeking of the religious leaders of Israel. They have failed in their mission as stewards. They have persecuted and even killed those whom the Lord sent them. As a last resort, God sent not only his servants the prophets, but his own Son. But the wicked tenants seized his “beloved son” and put him to death, throwing his body “out of the vineyard”. The “beloved son” finally sent is Jesus, put to death outside the walls of Jerusalem. Cardinal Jean Danielou remarks: “God’s patience has been strained to its farthest limit in this tragedy of Christ, the Lord of the vineyard’s son, rejected by the tenants, crucified, treated by his own people as a stranger and an outcast. But from the lowest depths arises a sudden hope. He will let out the vineyard to other vinedressers, who will pay him his due when the season comes.” In this parable of the wicked tenants, we see God’s first covenant with his Chosen People Israel being transferred to all peoples of faith. As a result of the sacrificial death of the Son, peoples of all nations become tenants-producers in God’s vineyard.

 

We are called to be a productive part of the Lord’s vineyard. As workers in his harvest, we need to be responsible, dutiful and faithful. We need to overcome human tendencies to mediocrity, indifference and sloth in our service of God’s kingdom. The following story by Papa Mike McGarvin (cf. Poverello News, November 2011, p. 1-2) gives insight into some of the foibles and counterproductive attitudes that we need to overcome in our daily life.

 

Several years ago, just before Thanksgiving, someone donated a turkey to us that was over fifty pounds. It was an absolute monster, the biggest gobbler I’d ever seen. I figured that meat from that bird would take care of several families on Thanksgiving Day. We made a big deal about it; we thanked the donor, of course, but we also mentioned the turkey to some of the news outlets that make their way down here on the holidays, and at least one station took some footage and showed the prize turkey on the air.

 

We were curious to discover just how much meat this big boy would provide, so it was with great anticipation that it was prepared and placed in the oven. Later that day, I went to our chef to ask how it came out. He looked at me and sighed. “Well … the boys burned it.” “Whaddaya mean they burned it?” I asked stunned in disbelief. “They just … burned it up. Nothing salvageable. I guess they weren’t paying attention.”

 

This wasn’t the first time that our drug program cooks had done something like this. I remember one time when lettuce prices were sky-high, and we received several crates of lettuce as a donation. I was elated, because it meant plenty for salads and hamburger trimmings at a time we couldn’t afford to buy this produce item. Our program cook at the time was a man who claimed to be a professional chef. I walked through the kitchen, and saw him happily washing the lettuce – in scalding water. By the time I caught him, he had washed over three-quarters of the supply, rendering it wilted and useless. 

 

 

B. First Reading (II Pt 1:2-7): “God has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature.”

 

The Second Letter of Peter is addressed to a wide circle of early Christians. Its main concern is to combat the work of false teachers and the immorality which results from their false teaching. The answer to these problems is to hold on to the true knowledge of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ. The reading (II Pt 1:2-7) underlines the need to correctly acknowledge God who calls us to share in his glory and greatness. God’s call is made known to us by revelation and to respond to his call is to know God. Moreover, God gives us everything we need to respond to this call. His power brings about “precious and very great promises” resulting in all spiritual gifts. Through God’s promises and gifts, the believer is able to escape the corruption of this world and to share in the divine life. The Christian thus enters into a dynamic of “divinization”. He embarks on a path of ascent: from the acceptance of faith to brotherly love (agape) through disciplined behavior and virtues that are fruits of the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Indeed, the Christian call “to share in the divine nature” needs to be authenticated and proven in daily life.

 

The following article on Pier Giorgio Frassati (1901-1925) gives insight into how to embark on a path of “divinization” (cf. Bert Ghezzi, “Meet Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati” in Our Sunday Visitor, June 14, 2-15, p. 12).

 

Pier Giorgio holds first place for me because he was normal. Like you and me, he was an ordinary human being. Pier Giorgio was outgoing, the heart of his circle of friends. They depended on him for encouragement, fun and support in Christian living. He was athlete who exulted in climbing the Alps near Turin. He smoked a pipe, he said because his mother smoked cigars when she carried him in the womb. Pier Giorgio was the life of every party. And he was a practical joker who once put a baby donkey in a friend’s bed because he was being a jackass by not studying.

 

But Pier Giorgio also exemplified the normal Catholic life because of his life-long devotion to Jesus and Mary. From his youth, he worshiped at daily Mass, rejoicing in the privilege of meeting the Lord in the Eucharist. He always had a rosary at hand and prayed it several times a day, often with his friends. And Pier Giorgio spent hours in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. A friend once reported seeing him give a little wave to the tabernacle as he left the church, a sign of his intimate relationship with Jesus.

 

Pier Giorgio’s family was wealthy, but he used all of his resources to serve the poor. At 17, he began to visit families in the back streets of Turin. Daily, he took them food, clothing, shoes, medicine and money. And he always made friends of those he served by spending personal time with them.

 

I especially admire Pier Giorgio because he faced difficult, painful circumstances with joy – the deterioration of this parents’ marriage, his dad’s frustration with his career plan to serve the poor as a mining engineer, and his inability to marry the woman he loved because of his parent’s resistance.

 

“Each day”, he said, “I understand a little bit better the incomparable grace of being a Catholic. Down, then, with all melancholy! … I am joyful. Sorrow is not gloom. Gloom should be banished from the Christian soul.” (…)

 

Pier Giorgio died suddenly of a virulent form of polio in July 1925.

 

 

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

 

1. How do we carry out our task as “tenant farmers” in God’s vineyard? Do we try to overcome counterproductive tendencies and attitudes such as irresponsibility, indifference, incompetence, sloth, etc.?

 

2. How do we respond to God’s precious spiritual gifts so that we may be able to share in his divine nature? Do we endeavor to attain true knowledge of God and do we try to authenticate our faith by the way we live?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you call us to be the new “tenant farmers”

in the Lord’s vineyard.

Give us the grace

to work with personal dedication and loving responsibility

so as to produce a rich spiritual harvest.

Bless all our toils and labors

for the coming of God’s kingdom.

We love and serve you, now and forever.

Amen.

 

***

Loving Father,

we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ

who revealed through knowledge of you.

Help us to tread on the path of holiness

and let us prove our faith by the way we live.

Give us a share in your divine life.

May your grace and peace abound in us.

We give you glory and praise, now and forever.

Amen.

 

 

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

 

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

 

“He had one other to send, a beloved son.” (Mk 12:6) // “He has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature.” (II Pt 1:4)

 

  

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

 

Today carry out your daily tasks with a greater spirit of love and personal dedication and with deeper awareness that we are called to be fruitful “tenant farmers” in the Lord’s vineyard. // Make every effort to substantiate your faith through the daily exercise of Christian virtues, e.g. self-control, devotion, fraternal love, etc.

 

 

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May 31, 2016: TUESDAY – THE VISITATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Fruit of Mary’s Womb and Is Present in Her Visitation”

   

 

BIBLE READINGS

Zep 3:14-18a or Rom 12:9-16 // Lk 1:39-56

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 1:39-56): “And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

 

Today we celebrate the feast of the visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Christ-bearer, into the home of Elizabeth (cf. Lk 1:39-56). It is a profound meeting between two wonderful women, each carrying a very special baby with a vital role in salvation history. Mary’ son, Jesus, is the Messiah, while Elizabeth’s son, John, is the Messiah’s precursor. Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit at Mary’s greeting and the child in her womb leaps for joy at the coming of Jesus, the fruit of Mary’s womb. This grace-filled event foreshadows the joyful outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Jesus Christ’s glorification.

 

Mary’s visit to assist Elizabeth exemplifies the spirit of service that marks Christian discipleship. But more remarkable than her assistance to a needy pregnant cousin, Mary’s incomparable service and ministry in salvation history is her divine motherhood. Her “FIAT” to the saving plan made possible the incarnation of the Son of God. Saint Bede the Venerable remarks: “Above all other servants, she alone can truly rejoice in Jesus, the Savior, for she knew that he who was the source of eternal salvation would be born in time in her body, in one person both her own son and her Lord.” United with the saving mission of her Son and Lord Jesus, Mary of Nazareth is truly the servant of God – the handmaid of the Lord.

 

Today’s feast also invites us to be truly concerned with a social issue that militates against the service of life that the Mother of God exemplifies. Abortion is a negation of a person’s right to life … a direct attack against an innocent human being, who is a gift of God. The following words of Mother Teresa of Calcutta are insightful (cf. Amazing Grace for the Catholic Heart, ed. Jeff Cavins, et. al., West Chester: Ascension Press, 2004, p. 228-231).

 

And God loved the world so much that he gave his son. God gave his son to the Virgin Mary, and what did she do with him? As soon as Jesus came into Mary’s life, immediately she went in haste to give that good news. And as she came into the house of her cousin, Elizabeth, Scripture tells us that the unborn child – the child in the womb of Elizabeth – leapt with joy. While still in the womb of Mary, Jesus brought peace to John the Baptist, who leaps for joy in the womb of Elizabeth. (…)

 

But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child – a direct killing of the innocent child – murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love. The father of that child, whoever he is, must also give until it hurts. By abortion, the mother does not learn to love but kills even her own child to solve her problems. And by abortion, the father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world. Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching the people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. That is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.

 

 

B. First Reading (Zep 3:14-18a): “The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst.”

 

On this feast of the visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the First Reading is from the book of the prophet Zephaniah (3:14-18a). He, who prophesied under King Josiah of Judah, is both the prophet of the “day of wrath” and the harbinger of the promise of salvation. His foreboding of doom merely underlines the consoling message that God is in our midst – to bring salvation out of a painful situation. The enigmatic prophet Zephaniah makes an ardent appeal to trust in the mighty Lord who is “in our midst”. The prophet’s words underline the transforming effect and the joy that the presence of the Lord brings. This passage adds special meaning to the feast of the visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the “Christ-bearer”. In a deeper sense, Mary’s visitation is actually the Lord Jesus’ visitation. In Mary’s visitation to her cousin Elizabeth, she makes possible for the Savior to be “in our midst”. The Son that Mary carries in the womb is the one who will rejoice over us and renew us in his love.

 

Our joy as a faith community is based on the Lord’s presence. Hence, even in trials and distress, it is possible to rejoice because our life is secure in the hands of God. There is joy in sufferings as long as we open ourselves to the mystery of the Lord’s visitation and the love of Mary, the Mother of our Savior. The following story, circulated on the Internet, gives insight into the mystery of the Lord’s visitation and the triumph of love over affliction.

 

My Italian Grandmother was a wonderful woman. "Nanny" had a loving, vibrant soul that she carried around in a short, heavyset body. She had a passion for life that expressed itself in so many ways. It was in the hugs she gave, the meals she cooked, and the flowers she grew. It was even in the temper she lost from time to time. I think one of the reasons I was never taught Italian by my Dad was he was afraid I might learn the meaning of some of those words Nanny said when she was upset.

 

Nanny raised four sons and then helped my Mom and Dad raise me and my two brothers as well. I always felt blessed growing up in her home as a boy. She worked hard, laughed loud, and was never afraid of what life threw at her. Life wasn't that easy on her either. She suffered from health problems all her life and even survived an operation for a brain tumor. When she fell and broke her hip in her eighties, my Dad was forced to admit that he could no longer take care of her at home.

 

It was with a heavy heart that Dad moved Nanny into a nursing home. She lost weight and was confined to a wheelchair. Yet, even as her body shrunk and withered, her spirit stayed strong. The nurses there loved her and her zest for life. Even her Italian temper brought smiles to them as they learned a few "choice" words of Italian from her as well. Our whole family gathered together for her 90th birthday in the nursing home dining room. It was a wonderful celebration of her life and the love we all had for her.

 

Shortly after that birthday, however, life gave her the toughest challenge of all as age and illness started to take her mind from her too. The dementia grew worse and worse over the last few years of her life. At times when I visited her she didn't know who I was. It was heartbreaking to see her this way. She spoke less and less and stayed in her bed more and more. Sometimes all I could do was just sit by her bed and hold her hand.

During one of these visits I was holding her hand while she slept and remembering the person she used to be. My soul was in mourning that life could take everything from her like this. At that moment she awoke. Her eyes gazed up at me and I could tell she didn't recognize me. She looked down at my hand holding hers and instead of pulling hers away, she smiled at me. Then she closed her eyes and went peacefully back to sleep. I could see then that even though her mind didn’t remember me, her spirit still remembered love and that was enough.

 

 

C. Alternative First Reading (Rom 12:9-16): “Contribute to the needs of the holy ones; exercise hospitality.”

 

The alternative reading (Rom 12:9-16) consists of a series of instructions or maxims about charitable acts. To serve the Lord is what motivates Christian conduct and the desire to meet the needs of believers. The charitable works of the faith community is founded on the love of Christ experienced to the utmost extent. Like Mary who visited Elizabeth to assist her in her need, the Christian disciples are called to respond to the needs of others.

 

The following story illustrates the fulfillment of Paul’s maxim: “Contribute to the needs of the holy ones; exercise hospitality” (cf. Gilbert Roller, “More Than Coincidence” in GUIDEPOSTS, February 2014, p. 31).

 

My mother wasn’t impulsive, especially regarding her finances. That’s why I was shocked when she said she’d donated most of her life savings to two missionaries who had knocked at her door in Texas. “You did what?!” I sputtered. “When?” “A few months back”, she said. “These nice young people needed money to build a chapel in Mexico.” No, they hadn’t given her any documentation. No, she hadn’t heard from them since. I didn’t want to upset her, but I had to tell her that I thought she’d fallen for a scam. “I don’t think the Lord would have moved me to help if it wasn’t for real”, she said.

 

At the time, I was a young professor at Asbury University in Kentucky, teaching music theory, and my wife and I weren’t on the best financial footing. We could have used that money. For years – even after I got my tenure and we raised three sons – I imagined finding the drifters who had swindled Mom, though I wasn’t sure what I’d do if I did. Only when Mom died and my sons became missionaries – real ones – did I let the matter go.

 

I retired in 1993. My wife and I took a cross-country trip to California, staying at campgrounds along the way. One evening, somewhere in Missouri, I’d just set up our tent when a man wandered over from his RV. “I see by your license plate you’re from Kentucky”, he said. “What do you do?” “Retired now”, I said. “But I used to teach music theory.” “Music”, the man said. “Hmm. You know anyone by the name of Roller?” How’d he know that? “Yes, actually, my name is Roller”, I said.

 

The man smiled. “Many years ago, my wife and I met a woman in Texas named Roller. She had a son in Kentucky who taught music. She gave us quite a lot of money. Viola Roller.”

 

My mom. My blood ran cold. Here I was, finally face-to-face with one of so-called missionaries!

 

“Hang on”, the man said, ducking into his RV before I could react. He came out and handed me a photo. A simple adobe building with a cross on the roof, and a sign in front: Roller Capilla. “Roller Chapel”, the man said. “Named for the woman who made it possible.”

 

 

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

 

1. Do we imitate Mary’s neighborly concern for her cousin Elizabeth as well as her maternal devotion and apostolic zeal as Christ-bearer?

 

2. Are we grateful for the many occasions of the Lord’s visitation in our life?

 

 

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

 

Jesus Lord,

we thank you for sharing with us

the ineffable goodness of Mary, your blessed Mother.

Help us to imitate Mary

in her maternal devotion, faithful discipleship and apostolic zeal.

Grant that in the spirit of Mary,

the handmaid of the Lord,

we may be instruments of your grace-filled “visitation”

to the poor and the needy,

the weak and the marginalized,

the “anawim” and the chosen people of God.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen. Alleluia.

 

 

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.

 

“And how does this happen to me that the mother of the Lord should come to me?” (Lk 1:43) // “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty Savior.”  (Zep 3:17) // “Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality.” (Rom 12:13)

 

 

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

 

Be an instrument of the Lord’s visitation. Like Mary, the “Christ-bearer”, bring the Lord’s healing love to a person who needs his saving presence, e.g. the sick, the homebound, the lonely, the grieving, etc. 

  

 

*** *** ***

 

June 1, 2016: WEDNESDAY – SAINT JUSTIN, Martyr

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Us to Faith in the Living God … With Him We Suffer for the Gospel”

  

 

BIBLE READINGS

II Tm 1:1-3, 6-12 // Mk 12:18-27

  

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 12:18-27): He is not God of the dead but of the living.”

 

This story is told by one of our Italian Sisters. Her father died of a massive stroke. Her mom was crying heartily at the funeral. She tried to console her with the thought of the final reunion in heaven. Her mom wailed: “But Jesus said in the Gospel that in the next life we will be like angels … no more matrimony. In heaven, I will no longer be your dad’s wife!” Of course, the widow’s fear of losing her husband in heaven is unfounded. True love never ends and nuptial love is perfected in heaven.

 

Today’s Gospel passage (Mk 12:18-27) introduces us to the Sadducees, a group of religious leaders who deny the existence of resurrected life. They are bent on engaging Jesus in a reduced-to-absurdity argument against bodily resurrection. The Divine Master’s first rebuttal to the scheming Sadducees also uses a reduced-to-absurdity tactic. He argues that in the next existence, which has no place for death, the issue of marriage is irrelevant. Jesus refutes the basic premise of the Sadducees that the life of the age to come is a continuation of this life and therefore needs human propagation lest it die out. The second rebuttal of Jesus is derived from the Torah. Since the Sadducees hold only to the Law of Moses, Jesus utilizes it to bolster his argument about the resurrection. The opponents of the resurrection have quoted the Torah to justify their case, but Jesus also quotes the Torah (Ex 3:6) to prove that death does not end human existence. When God says: “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” this implies that the patriarchs are living.

 

The main object of human existence is to live for God and God’s glory. It is through the resurrection of the Son of God that we are brought to true and eternal life. Our belief in our resurrection is based on our faith in the resurrected Christ. Harold Buetow remarks: “Christian belief in immortality is unique and special. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Good News of fullness of life in this age, and of the resurrection in the age to come … Someone has compared death to standing on the seashore. A ship spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the open sea. She fades on the horizon, and someone says, ‘She’s gone.’ Just at the moment when someone says, ‘She’s gone’, other voices who are watching her coming on another shore happily shout, ‘Here she comes’. Or to use another metaphor, what the caterpillar calls ‘the end’, the butterfly calls the ‘beginning’.”

       

 

B. First Reading (II Tm:1-3, 6-12): “Stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the laying on of hands.”

 

Saint Paul was martyred at Rome in the year 67. His second letter to Timothy represents his last will and testament. Paul exhorts the young pastor Timothy “to stir into flame” the gift of God that has been given to him through the “imposition of hands”. The “gift of God” that Timothy received at ordination implies dutiful service to the faith community. The gift received needs to be continually exercised and rekindled for the common good. Timothy is likewise called to an enduring faith. Timothy needs to give witness to our Lord. He must endure sufferings for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God. Saint Paul himself, appointed by God as apostle and teacher, suffers for the sake of the Gospel. But Paul is full of confidence because God is “trustworthy” and is able “to guard what has been entrusted to him until that day”. By the grace of God, the entire content of the Gospel that has been entrusted to the apostolic Church will be preserved until the day of the Lord’s final coming at the end time. Indeed, faith, the greatest force in the world, is the richest deposit possible and the most sacred of trusts. 

 

The following inspiring article illustrates what it means “to stir into flame” the divine gift received through ordination and gives insight into a faithful Gospel witnessing (cf. David Aquije, “The Bicycle Disciple” in Maryknoll, April 2010, p. 24-31). Fr. McCahill manifests his faith and shares this wonderful gift as he serves the sick poor in Bangladesh.

 

The day Maryknoll Father Robert McCahill arrived in Narail it was raining. The thin, 72-year old priest was physically exhausted and tired of looking for the place where he could begin a new phase of mission. Narail “was kind of miserable”, says the missioner who for more than 35 years has been living in different villages of Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world, with a population of 150 million in a land the size of Iowa. Narail, a small, underdeveloped village without infrastructure in the southeast of the country, seemed to the missioner like “a good place to make a mark of Christianity, not for the purpose of conversion but simply for the idea of showing what a Christian is and does.”

 

McCahill was one of five Maryknoll priests who arrived in Bangladesh in 1975 to begin a ministry of Christian witness. For eight years, the missioners lived together, forming a Christian fraternity in Tangail, near Dhaka, the capital. Afterward, McCahill focused his mission on traveling to the interior of the country to help people, particularly children, who were in urgent need of medical assistance. Finding a place to begin his next stay can take McCahill months of research. He has his own criteria: the place should be poor, have no other foreigners or Christians and some of the people must be willing to allow him free use of a small piece of land where he can build his own shack.

 

A disciple of our times, McCahill arrives alone – with only a bag with a change of clothing and the essential elements to celebrate his own Mass – in any community where he might live for the next three years. There he sits in any tea shop – “tea stalls” he calls them – where men generally congregate to drink cha, sweet tea with milk that is the national drink, the way coffee is in the United States. Noting the presence of a foreigner, the rustic shop quickly fills up with people and McCahill responds honestly to all their questions. “I am Brother Bob, a Christian missionary”, the priest from Goshen, Indiana, tells them. “I am here to serve seriously sick people who are poor.” In the predominantly Muslim nation with a large Hindu minority, the questions that McCahill receives are many: has he come to convert, how does he finance the help he offers and why had he no family? He responds that the medical help he offers depends completely on the financial donations of his extended family and not on an organization; that his purpose is to live among people who are not Christian and treat them with love, respect and brotherhood; and that his family is all of humanity. McCahill describes the three years that he lives in each town this way: “The first year many are suspicious of me. The second year trust begins to build. The third year people’s affection is felt. They say, ‘He said he only came to do good and that is what he does’.”

 

In Narail, a short while before finishing his three years, McCahill continues getting up very early in the morning to dedicate time for prayer and meditation before beginning his mission work. This morning in October, he leaves his shack of jute-stick walls, a dirt floor and a corrugated roof and mounts his bicycle that will carry him over windy dirt roads through the beautiful countryside of Bangladesh’s fertile farmland, where ironically millions of people live in extreme poverty. The missioner pedals some miles to the next village of Bolorampur, where he visits Mehenaz, a 3-year-old girl who suffers from cerebral palsy as a result of a poorly handled delivery by a midwife in the village. Mehenaz’ grandmother brings the girl out of her hut and puts a mat on the ground. The missioner squats down in the style of the Bangladeshis and observes and assists the grandmother with the recommended physical therapy for the child. The girl’s mother isn’t there and McCahill is happy that someone else in the family has learned the exercises.

 

Afterward, amid the songs of wild birds and the smell of burning firewood, McCahill again mounts his bicycle and pedals several more miles to the village of Buramara. In Buramara, McCahill visits Liza, a 2-year-old who suffered serious burns on her left arm before her first birthday. The burns were so grave that her entire hand was fused to her forearm. McCahill was able to take the girl to a hospital in Dhaka where surgeons separated her hand from the forearm. Liza wears a brace so that the hand stays straight. The missioner explains that the child needs another surgery to straighten out two fingers that are bent. Liza cries easily and McCahill thinks it is because she is still in pain, but he tries to console her and make her laugh.

 

That is McCahill’s ministry. He mounts his bicycle and rides miles to his destination. It doesn’t matter if the roads are full of mud during the monsoon season in this tropical Asian land, east of India, on the Bay of Bengal. He arrives in a village and looks to help people who would otherwise be disabled and burdened for a lifetime by their physical conditions. With a small camera he takes photos of their conditions: cerebral palsy, burns, muscular dystrophy, cleft lips, hernias, tumors and broken bones caused by accidents. Every week he goes to Dhaka, traveling the same as the poor, in the old buses that are part of the complicated and dangerous Bengali transportation system. At a hospital in the capital, McCahill shows the photos to doctors who make their provisional diagnosis. With this information the missioner arranges for free treatment at one of the government hospitals in the city and eventually makes the eight- or nine-hour trip again with the children and their parents. “Not a great expense”, McCahill says. “I afford them their tickets. I usually provide the medicine. It’s not a matter of money; it’s a matter of love, the heart.”

 

Because he lives in a poor and predominantly Muslim country, McCahill relies on only a modest budget that comes from donations by his extended family for his ministry. “If I had lots of funds at hand to use, and lived apart (in a parish), people’s attitude to me would differ”, he says, adding the people would be tempted to wheedle money out of him. “People here understand I’m using more money for their needs than I use for my own needs.  No one can look at my life of service and say ‘he can only do that because he’s a rich American’.” For that reason McCahill shares the donations he receives through Maryknoll with other Christian communities that serve the poor in Bangladesh, especially communities of apostolic Sisters.

 

His is a life of service that he says began on Oct. 31, 1956. He was 19 years old and was interested in a career in political science. But that day as he was returning home from Seattle University, where he was studying, “I received – I can’t even describe it – an attraction to God like I had never felt before nor have needed since. The motivation I received in that moment was sufficient to keep me for life, as long as I continue to remember it.”

 

For years, McCahill has described his mission in a journal that he types every month on an antique Olivetti typewriter and shares with friends and family. “My mission”, he says, “is to show the love of Christ, the love of God for all people of all faiths; to be with them as a brother, to establish brotherhood by being a brother to them.”

                 

   

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

 

1. What is our concept of death and dying? Is this concept illumined by faith in the living God, in whom all are alive?

 

2. Do we keep in mind our ordained ministers and pray for them that the divine gift they have received through the “imposition of hands” may be stirred into flame and keep alive for the good of the Church? Do we put our faith in God and believe that he will be able to guard the faith that he has entrusted to the apostolic Church?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

you are the God of the living, not of the dead.

In Jesus, your Son and our Savior,

we live and move.

We love you and your only begotten Son

for he is the way to eternal life.

We believe that death

is a door to infinite beauty and wondrous glory.

We proclaim in the great assembly

and in our life of service to the poor and needy

that you are indeed the font of life.

May the Risen Christ whom we celebrate in every Eucharist

bring about more and more

our daily resurrection and transformation.

In our work for justice and truth in today’s wounded world,

may we always give glory and praise to the triumph of life.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

***

Lord Jesus,

we trust in you.

We pray for the ordained ministers

that they may keep alive the grace they have received

for the good of the Church.

Help us to be faithful to the Gospel.

Let the faith you have entrusted us

be kept alive until the day of your coming.

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.

 

“He is not God of the dead but of the living.” (Mk 12:27) // “Stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.” (II Tm 1:6)

 

 

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

 

Pray for widows/widowers who have lost their partners and are grieving for them. Pray for the grace of a happy death and a deeper experience of trust in Jesus’ almighty Father, the God of the living. Unite the struggles and challenges of your daily life into the great Christian paschal mystery of dying that leads to eternal life. // See in what way you can help the ordained ministers proclaim the Gospel and serve the Christian community faithfully.

             

             

*** *** ***

 

June 2, 2016: THURSDAY – WEEKDAY (9); SAINTS MARCELLINUS AND PETER, Martyrs

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Us to Love God and Neighbor … If We Have Died with Him, We Shall Also Live with Him” 

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

II Tm 2:8-15 // Mk 12:28-34

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 12:28-34): “There is no commandment greater than these.”

 

The social ills of our time that cry out for healing challenge us to incarnate the love command presented in today’s Gospel reading: (Mk 12:28-34): “Love the Lord your God with all your heart … Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus Christ’s assertion of the primordial importance of the twofold love-command can be understood in the light of the Old Testament reading (Dt 6:2-6), which underlines the obligation of the people of Israel to love God wholeheartedly. But Jesus imbues the “love of God” command with a new meaning by adding “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”, from the Book of Leviticus (19:8).

 

Harold Buetow explains: “What is new is that Jesus went further: For him there’s an extremely intimate bond between love of neighbor and love of God. In Christian charity, people and God are not merely side by side; they are inseparably one. That idea was new. Another facet of newness was that Jesus gave a completely new interpretation of neighbor. In the time of Leviticus it meant Hebrews only. By the time of Jesus, it included resident aliens as well. For Jesus, the word has the widest meaning possible: It includes every member of the human race: He died for all of us. This was a much greater depth and breadth than ever before imagined.”

 

The true meaning of love of God and neighbor is crystallized in the very life and person of Jesus, especially in his self-gift and sacrificial love on the cross. Because God, in his Son Jesus has loved us so much, we too are empowered to love. The commandment to love God and neighbor flows from the love that the Lord has for us. In accepting God’s love, it is possible to love God and neighbor in a wholehearted way.

 

The life of Mother Teresa of Calcutta exemplifies what love of God and neighbor means in our world today (cf. Mother Teresa: Her Essential Wisdom, New York: Barnes and Noble, 2006, p. 20-23). The following thoughts from her are very insightful.

 

Sometime back, a high government official said, “You are doing social work and we also are doing the same. But we are doing it for something and you are doing it for somebody.” To do our work, we have to be in love with God.

 

***

Charity begins today. Today somebody is suffering; today somebody is in the street; today somebody is hungry. Our work is for today; yesterday has gone; tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today to make Jesus known, loved, served, fed, clothed, sheltered. Do not wait for tomorrow. Tomorrow we will not have them if we do not feed them today.

 

***

I ask you one thing: do not tire of giving, but do not give your leftovers. Give until it hurts, until you feel the pain.

 

***

The sisters care for forty-nine thousand lepers. They are among the most unwanted, unloved, and neglected people. The other day one of our sisters was washing a leper covered with sores. A Muslim holy man was present, standing close to her. He said, “All these years I have believed that Jesus Christ is a prophet. Today I believe that Jesus Christ is God since he has been able to give such joy to this sister, so that she can do her work with so much love.

 

    

B. First Reading (II Tm 2:8-15): “The word of God is not chained. If we have died with Christ, we shall also live with him.”

 

The reading (II Tm 2:8-15) is marked with tenderness and pathos. The passage highlights the intense suffering of Paul for the sake of the Gospel. Because he preaches the Gospel, he is “chained” like a criminal. But he is willing to endure the trial of his imprisonment and all sufferings because he is impelled to proclaim the Gospel. Indeed, though the apostle Paul is “chained”, the word of God is not “chained” and cannot be “chained”. Saint Paul likewise exhorts Timothy to be conformed to Christ’s paschal mystery so as to share his victory. Citing a baptismal hymn, Saint Paul declares: “If we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we persevere we shall also reign with him.” Reinforcing the meaning of these statements with his life witness, Paul - the great apostle to the Gentiles - suffers for others: that they may obtaain salvation in Christ Jesus and share his eternal glory. In his spirituality and mission, Saint Paul thus crystallizes the truth that participation in the paschal suffering is redemptive. As a great spiritual mentor to Timothy, he advises the young pastor to correctly teach the message of God’s truth, the saving truth that is centered on Christ’s paschal mystery.

 

The life of Saint Philip Neri gives insight into what it means to share in Christ’s life and to be a true pastor-teacher (cf. Barry Hudock, “500 Years Later, Philip Neri Still a Witness of Joy” in Our Sunday Visitor, July 12, 2015, p. 14-15).

 

Philip Neri was born on July 22, 1515, in a working class region near Florence, Italy. He grew up there with his father and stepmother (his mother had died when he was very young). At age 18, he moved to the small town of San Germano, where he got to know the Benedictine monks at the nearby Monte Cassino abbey. From them, he developed a profound love of the liturgy, the Bible and the ancient Church Fathers.

 

By the time Philip moved to Rome a year or so later, he was burning with a desire to introduce others to God and the Scriptures. And Rome needed him. Vices and temptations of all kinds fought for the attention of citizens and visitors alike. Even many of the clergy there were more interested in luxury and worldly concerns than in prayer or pastoral work.

 

From the start, young Philip led an effective ministry of drawing people to Christ by the power of his own vibrant witness. At the heart of this witness was joy … But Philip’s gregarious demeanor was fueled by a profound spirituality. He lived a life of intense communion with God through prayer. He spent long hours of silent prayer in churches, in the Roman catacombs and in his tiny apartment. “This astonishingly human saint”, the great theologian Louis Bouyer once wrote, “was saturated with the supernatural.” (…)

 

In 1948, Philip helped found a group of laymen dedicated to serving pilgrims to Rome, and by the Holy Year of 1550, when huge crowds of pilgrims streamed through the city, they were running a hostel serving about 500 people a day. Following the advice of his spiritual director, Philip was ordained a priest in 1551. He began to spend long mornings in church to hear confessions, a practice he continued for decades. In the afternoons, he continued to host meetings of laypeople who gathered to talk, pray and sing together. (…)

 

By the time he had reached his 70s, still meeting regularly with lay Christians and hearing confessions for long hours, Philip was renowned for his holiness and wisdom. In his final years, laypeople, priests and cardinals came from all over Europe to visit him and seek his guidance. Father Philip died in Rome on May 25, 1595, the feast of Corpus Christi, just before his 80th birthday. He was canonized in 1622.

 

 

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

 

1. What is our response to Jesus’ great command: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart … You shall love your neighbor as yourself”? How do we try to put this twofold command into practice? Are we capable of wholehearted love and service? If not, what do we do to improve our capacity for loving and giving?

 

2. What do we do to proclaim the saving word of God, knowing that it is not “chained” and that it cannot be “chained”? How do we participate in Christ’s redemptive suffering? Are we deeply imbued with pastoral care for God’s “sheep”?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you loved the Lord your God with all your heart

and loved your neighbor as yourself.

In the Eucharist you are present to us

as the One who loved his own “to the end”.

O Divine Eucharist,

flame of Christ’s love that burns on the altar of the world,

make the Church comforted by you,

even more caring in wiping away the tears of suffering

and in sustaining the efforts of all who yearn for justice and peace.

Let your love triumph,

now and forever.

Amen.

 

***

Lord Jesus,

we believe that if we have died with you,

we shall also live with you.

You are faithful and true.

Give us the grace to proclaim to your saving Gospel truthfully,

knowing that your Word cannot be “chained”.

Grant us a pastoral heart

to serve your people

and nourish them with the bread of the Word,

the message of truth.

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.

 

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart … You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mk 12:30-31) // “If we have died with Christ, we shall also live with him.” (II Tm 2:11)

 

 

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

 

Pray that Jesus’ twofold love-command may truly impact and shape our daily lives. Let the words of Jesus and his Eucharistic sacrifice challenge you to love and embrace the poor and vulnerable in today’s fragmented and wounded world. // Consider giving your family members or friends the gift of a personal Bible.-

   

 

*** *** ***

 

June 3, 2016: FRIDAY – THE MOST SACRED HEART OF JESUS

WORLD DAY OF PRAYER FOR THE SANCTIFICATION OF PRIESTS

“JESUS SAVIOR: With Tender Heart, He Tends the Sheep”

    

 

BIBLE READINGS

Ez 34:11-16 // Rom 5:5b-11 // Lk 15:3-7

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 15:3-7): “Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.”

 

This story took place when I was a teenager.  My father, who was seriously ill, emotionally vulnerable and exceedingly sensitive, had an argument with my brother who was going through the pains of a teenage crisis. I do not remember what the conflict was about, but the mutual hurt it generated is forever etched in my memory. My weeping brother packed up his clothes and, before running away from home, advised me to take care of our beloved father and mother. A sense of sadness pervaded each family member. In the afternoon, my mother went to look for my brother. After many moments of anxious searching, my mother finally found him. She pleaded and prevailed upon him to come home. My father was very relieved to see him again safe and sound. My brother was equally happy to be home. It was a moment of joy for all. Indeed, the grace of reconciliation is a cause for rejoicing.

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Lk 15:3-7) highlights the joy of finding the lost one and assures us that God is eager to find, to forgive and to save. Indeed, these parables of mercy reveal that God’s love is wider and deeper than anyone could ever imagine. Jesus, with his most compassionate Sacred Heart, challenges us to share in the task of finding the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost children. As his beloved disciples, it is our pastoral ministry to make sure that no sheep in Christ’s sheepfold be lost. In case a precious brother or sister is lost, we must diligently seek and find him/her, and thus celebrate as Church the joy of salvation.

 

 

B. First Reading (Ez 34:11-16): “As a shepherd tends his flock, so will I tend my sheep.”

 

The prophet-priest Ezekiel lives in Babylon during the period before and after the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. His message is addressed both to his disheartened co-exiles in Babylon and to the distraught people left in Jerusalem. Ezekiel emphasizes the need for inner renewal of the heart and spirit, and the responsibility of each individual for his own sins. Moreover, he also proclaims hope for the renewal of the life of the nation. God himself would shepherd Israel and heal the wounds and misery inflicted on his people by bad rulers and foreign invaders. Under the staff of God, the benevolent Shepherd, a happy future is possible for the distressed and grieving people! Ezekiel’s prophecy of God himself tending his sheep is radically fulfilled in Jesus Christ. With tender heart, the Son of God seeks out the lost, brings back the stray, binds up the injured and heals the sick.

 

The pastoral ministry of Christ and his compassionate “sacred heart” are exemplified today by Pope Francis (cf. “LA Prisoners Write to the Pope” in ALIVE! May 2013, p. 6).

 

In washing the feet of young prisoners on Holy Thursday Pope Francis showed his love for young people. In a tiny chapel in the detention center in Rome, Francis celebrated the Mass with 40 young offenders. Among those whose feet he washed were two young women, one a Catholic, the other a Serbian Muslim. He wants to reach out with love to everybody.

 

In a simple homily the Pope asked the young people to help each other. “This is what Jesus teaches us”, he said. “This is what I do. And I do it with my heart. I do this with my heart because it is my duty. As a priest and bishop I must be at your service.” But he added, “it is a duty that comes from my heart and a duty I love. I love doing it because this is what the Lord has taught me. But you too must help us and help each other always.”

 

When the young men in a detention facility in Los Angeles heard what the Pope was doing, many of them expressed a desire to share in it from afar. Some of these youth will spend the rest of their lives in prison. Others, after release, will be back there in a short time. But they have been touched by the Pope’s love. And have written to him to say so, to assure him of their prayers and to ask that he pray for them.

 

A number of these prayers were read out at the Holy Thursday Mass in the LA juvenile prison. Here are some passages from them.

 

·       Dear Pope Francis, thank you for washing the feet of youth like us in Italy. We also are young and make mistakes. Society has given up on us; thank you that you have not given up on us. (…)

 

·       Dear Pope Francis, I have grown up in a jungle of gangs and drugs and violence. I have seen people killed. I have been hurt. It is hard to be young and surrounded by darkness. Pray for me that one day I will be free and be able to help other youth like you do.

 

·       Dear Pope Francis, I do not know if Rome is near Los Angeles because all my youth I have only known my neighborhood. I hope one day I will be given a second chance and receive a blessing from you and maybe even have my feet washed on Holy Thursday.

 

·       Dear Pope Francis, drugs have been part of my life for so long. We all struggle to be sober. But you inspire me and I promise to be sober and help others with the cruel addiction of crystal meth.

 

 

C. Second Reading (Rom 5:5b-11): “God proves his love for us.”

 

The Second Reading (Rom 5:5-11) is a meditation on God’s gratuitous and ineffable love for us. God has shown how much he loves us by the death and rising of his Son Jesus Christ. It is God’s love that is poured out “through the Spirit” and is now radically revealed in the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross. The death of Jesus brings about reconciliation, which is the restoration of estranged and sinful man to union and companionship with God. We were God’s enemies, but God has made us his friends through the death of his Son. The Heart of Jesus is the font of reconciliation. The love of God, moreover, enables us to share in the risen life of Christ and to experience the gift of salvation. Reconciled and redeemed through the death and rising of Jesus Christ, we can rejoice at the very thought of God – for all what he has done for us!

 

The martyrdom of persecuted Christians is not a tragedy. The modern day Christian martyrs continue to manifest that the blood of Christ brings about reconciliation and salvation. The following article is insightful (cf. Manuel Nin, “An Ecumenism of Blood: The Power of the Name” in L’Osservatore Romano, February 27, 2015, p. 1).

 

One afternoon, strolling through Rome, I was searching for a flower vender. I have always loved the cactus, that lovely sober plant; adapted to an ascetic life on the desert. This plant is austere even in its flowering, which is few and far between but whose flowers are uniquely beautiful. The search led me to a florist from the Middle East. A tattoo on the back of his hand caught my attention. It was a small cross. So I asked him if he was a Christian. He told me he was an Orthodox Copt and his name was Shenute.

 

After the martyrdom of the 21 Copts in Libya, the Pope has once again raised his voice to proclaim, almost as it were a profession of faith, the ecumenism of blood: “They said only: ‘Jesus help me’. They were assassinated for the sole fact of being Christian.” In this way Francis has again set forth the path of Christians of different confessions, not centered around one bread and one chalice but on the blood poured out for Christ,  in order to bear witness to the one Lord.

 

The Pope recalled that the only words on the martyrs’ lips, at the moment of their witness, were “Jesus, help me”. These words echo the prayer that stands at the heart of many traditions, a prayer that has been repeated ceaselessly through the centuries and is continued by Christian men and women, nuns and monks, pilgrims and martyrs: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner”. (…)

 

And new martyrs like these, from Iraq and from Syria, from Asia to Africa, write their names with blood in the Synaxarium and martyrology of all who invoke the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the life and salvation of martyrs.

 

A few days after the attack in Libya, having finished Lenten Matins at the Greek College, I went to find that florist Shenute to tell him that I was close to him in spirit. Sharing with him the ecumenism of blood, I gave him the words of Pope Francis: “blood is one” and “it bears witness to Christ”.

 

 

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

 

Do we open ourselves to the saving love of the Good Shepherd and allow ourselves to find home in the most sacred heart of Jesus?

 

 

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

(Cf. Opening Prayer, Mass of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus)

 

Father,

we have wounded the heart of Jesus your Son,

but he brings us forgiveness and grace.

Help us to prove our grateful love

and make amends for our sins.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, forever and ever.

Amen.   

 

 

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

 

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

 

“I myself will look after and tend my sheep.”  (Ez 34:11)

 

 

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

 

With material, moral and spiritual help and with the compassionate Sacred Heart of Jesus the Good Shepherd, assist the poor, the marginalized and the victims of today’s economic depression.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

June 4, 2016: SATURDAY – THE IMMACULATE HEART OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

“JESUS SAVIOR: A Sword Pierced His Mother’s Heart… He Awards the Crown of Righteousness”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

II Tm 4:1-8 // Lk 2:41-51

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 2:41-51): “Your father and I have been looking for you.”

 

When I was in India, I gained an insight into the “sword” that pierced Mary’s heart as indicated in the reading (Lk 2:41-51). I came into contact with the pain and anxiety of a parent who lost a child. The Italian lady, Sarah, and her adopted girl, Saraji, the six-year old daughter of a leper couple, were guests at our convent in Bangalore, India. One afternoon, they went downtown to shop. An hour later a very distraught Sarah came back. Saraji had wandered away and was lost. We prayed in earnest for her return. The deeply anxious Sarah, accompanied by some Sisters, searched for her. They found Saraji at the police station calmly eating an ice cream cone. Sarah was overjoyed to find her again.

 

            The first words of Jesus ever recorded in Luke’s Gospel are full of meaning. To his mother Mary’s legitimate reproach: “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety?” the boy Jesus responds: “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” With these astonishing words Jesus makes a pronouncement about the meaning of his life and mission. He declares that the heavenly Father’s will is his priority. His life and mission transcend the relationship of his human family. This episode confirms Simeon’s prophecy of a sword piercing Mary’s heart. The bible scholar Carrol Stuhlmueller reflects on this Gospel episode: “Mary finds Jesus at his work; he is not simply her son, but the heavenly Father’s Son, sent on a mission in which she finds him totally involved; at this she sorrows for it means separation.”

 

 

B. First Reading (II Tm 4:1-8): “I am already being poured out and the crown of righteousness awaits me which the Lord will award to me.”

 

In the reading (II Tm 4:1-8), Saint Paul confirms Timothy’s task as pastor of the Church entrusted to his care. Invoking the witness of God and of Jesus, the Judge of the living and the dead, the great apostle Paul exhorts Timothy to endure suffering, to do the work of a preacher of the Good News, and to perform his whole duty as a servant od God. Saint Paul then confesses that he has opened himself completely to the grace of God. He has trusted fully in the Lord who stood by him and gave him strength so that the Gospel may be proclaimed to the nations. Indeed, Saint Paul has competed well, has finished the race and has kept the faith. Humbly and trustingly, he awaits the crown of righteousness that the faithful Lord keeps for him. The biblical scholar, Enrique Nardoni remakrs: “The Apostle sees his death as a sacrificial libation of his blood, a departure for the final harbor. He feels the satisfaction of an accomplished mission and an unwavering loyalty to Christ. Therefore he is fully sure of his glorious reward.”

 

On October 17, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI canonized Blessed Andre Bessette, known as the “Miracle Man of Montreal”. Like Saint Paul, Brother Andre exemplifies how “to compete well … to finish the race”. His pastoral life merits “the crown of righteousness” that the Lord, the just judge, awards to those who have kept the faith. The following homily was delivered by Pope John Paul II at the beatification of Brother Andre (cf. A.A.S. 74, 825 f., May 23, 1982).

 

We venerate in Blessed Brother Andre Bessette a man of prayer and a friend of the poor, a truly astonishing man.

 

The work of his whole life – his long life of 91 years – was that of “a poor and humble   servant”: Pauper, servus humilis, as is written on his tomb. A manual laborer until the age of twenty-five years on the farm, in workshops and factories, he then entered the Brothers of the Holy Cross, who entrusted to him for almost forty years the task of porter in their school in Montreal; and finally for almost thirty years more he was custodian of Saint Joseph’s Oratory near the school.

 

Where then does his extraordinary influence, his renown among millions of people, come from? A daily crowd of the sick, the afflicted, the poor of all kinds – those who were handicapped or wounded by life – came to him. They found in his presence in the school parlor or at the Oratory a welcome ear, comfort, faith in God, confidence in the intercession of Saint Joseph. In short, they found the way of prayer and the sacraments and, with that, hope and, very often, manifest relief of body and soul. Do not the poor of today have as much need of such love, of such hope, of such education in prayer?

 

But what was it that gave Brother Andre this ability? It was God who was pleased to give such an ability to attract, such a marvelous power to this simple man who had himself known the misery of being an orphan among twelve brothers and sisters, of being without riches and education, of having poor health, in short, of being deprived of everything except a great confidence in God. It is not surprising that Brother Andre felt himself close to the life of Saint Joseph, that poor and exiled worker who himself was so close to the Savior and whom Canada and especially the Congregation of the Holy Cross have always greatly honored.

 

Brother Andre had to put up with misunderstanding and mockery because of the success of his apostolate. Yet he remained simple and joyful. Turning to Saint Joseph or in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, he himself prayed long and earnestly, in the name of the sick, doing as he had taught them to do. Is not his faith in the power of prayer one of the most precious signs for the men and women of our time, who are tempted to resolve their problems without recourse to God?

 

  

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

 

Do we truly appreciate the vital role of Mary in salvation history? Do we treasure her immense love for Jesus and for us? Do we have devotion for the Immaculate Heart of Mary and imitate her loving compassion?

 

 

 

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

 

A Prayer to the Blessed Mother (by Mother Teresa of Calcutta)

Mary, mother of Jesus, be a mother to each of us,

that we, like you, may be pure in heart,

that we, like you, love Jesus;

that we, like you, serve the poorest

for we are all poor.

First let us love our neighbors

and so fulfill God’s desire

that we become carriers of his love and compassion.

Amen.

 

***

Loving Jesus,

you will judge the living and the dead.

Help us to faithfully proclaim your saving word,

whether convenient or inconvenient.

Give us the grace to keep our faith,

to compete well and to finish the race

so as to merit the crown of righteousness

that you award on that day to your faithful ones.

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.

 

“His mother kept all these things in her heart.” (Lk 2:51) //“I have kept the faith.” (II Tm 4:7)

 

 

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

 

When you experience some trials and difficulties, present them to Mary and unite them with her most Immaculate Heart for the salvation of souls. // Give moral, spiritual and material support to the ordained ministers in your parish/community.

  

 

 *** 

Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang PDDM

 

 

PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI

SISTER DISCIPLES OF THE DIVINE MASTER

60 Sunset Ave., Staten Island, NY 10314

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

Website: WWW.PDDM.US

 


PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI

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


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