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A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 15, n. 13)

Week 7 in Ordinary Time: February 19-25, 2017

 

 

(The pastoral tool BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD: A LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY & WEEKDAY LITURGY includes a prayerful study of the Sunday liturgy of Year C from various perspectives. For the Lectio Divina on the liturgy of the past week: February 12-18, 2017, please go to ARCHIVES Series 15 and click on “Week 6”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: February 19-25, 2017.)

 

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 February 19, 2017: SUNDAY – SEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Us to Holiness Expressed in Love of Neighbor”

 

 

BIBLICAL READINGS

Lv 19:1-2, 17-18 // I Cor 3:16-23 // Mt 5:38-48

 

 

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

 

The living Word proclaimed in today’s liturgy continues to challenge the faith community about the demands of Christian discipleship. The message of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount echoes with greater intensity and transforming power. Today’s Gospel reading (Mt 5:38-48) contains the Divine Master’s radical teaching on holiness, expressed in non-resistance to injury and magnanimous love even of enemies.

 

Harold Buetow comments: “Jesus teaches largeness of heart and mind: holiness … Jesus’ law is that for such-and-such injury, we are to return such-and-such blessing … With it a new world has begun … Our love for our enemies – those we do not like or who do not like us – is not of the heart but of the will. Therefore to love them need not be an emotional experience, but must be a decision to commit ourselves to serve the best interests of all other people … We see that the apex of God’s kind of perfection is compassion, a willingness to suffer for others. Those who love in such an unconditional and non-selective way are true children of the God of limitless love … In our dealings with other people, both friends and enemies, we are to be magnanimous: large-minded, wide open, generous – and holy.”

 

The Old Testament reading (Lv 19:1-2, 17-18) reinforces Jesus’ call to holiness that is linked to love of neighbor. True holiness demands that we be holy as God is holy by loving our neighbor in his “magnanimous” way. Listening to the voice of the Lord, we thus realize what holiness entails: overcoming hatred, wholesome fraternal correction, taking no revenge, and loving our neighbor as ourselves. Indeed, the merciful God gently guides his chosen people on the path of holiness.

 

In today’s Second Reading (I Cor 3:16-23), Saint Paul motivates the faltering Corinthian community to follow their Christian call to holiness: “For the temple of God, which you are, is holy … You belong to Christ, and Christ to God.” We are “holy” because we belong to Christ, and through him, to God. Our vocation to holiness moves us to overcome trials, divisions and difficulties within the community. Holiness integrates the life of believers by focusing it on Jesus Christ and enabling it to rise above the vanity and wisdom of today’s world.

  

The following story gives insight into the present-day challenges and demands of Christian holiness (cf. Carolyn Thompson, “Bullying Victim Is Still Teaching Kindness” in Fresno Bee, June 30, 2013, p. E1-E2).

 

After being gifted a life-changing sum following a school bus bullying episode seen around the world a year ago, former bus monitor Karen Klein says she really hasn’t changed much. Sure, the “Today” show mug she drinks coffee from reminds her of the widespread media attention her story brought, and the occasional stranger wants to snap her picture. She’s also retired - something the 69-year-old widow couldn’t afford before.

 

But Klein, who drove a school bus for 20 years before spending three years as a monitor, remains as unassuming as she was before learning firsthand how the kindness of strangers can trump the cruelty of four adolescent boys.

 

“It’s really amazing”, Klein said at her suburban Rochester home, still perplexed at the outpouring unleashed by a 10-minute cell phone video of her being ridiculed, sworn at and threatened by a group of seventh-graders last June. They poke at her hearing aid and call her names as she tries to ignore them. “Unless you have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all”, Klein says calmly a few minutes in. One boy taunts, “You don’t have a family because they all killed themselves because they don’t want to be near you.” Klein’s oldest son committed suicide more than a decade ago.

 

The video, recorded by a fellow student, was posted online and viewed more than 1.4 million times on YouTube. When 25-year old Canadian Max Sidorov was moved to take up an online collection to send her on vacation, more than 32,000 people from 84 countries responded pledging $703,873 in donations. “It’s just the way it hits them, I guess. I don’t know. I don’t know”, Klein said, still unsure of why it all happened. Sidorov called it “ridiculously more than I expected.”

 

Klein used $100,000 as seed money for the Karen Klein Anti-Bullying Foundation, which has promoted its message of kindness at concerts and through books. Most recently, the foundation partnered with the Moscow Ballet to raise awareness of cyber-bullying as the dance company tours the United States and Canada … Klein has been to Boston, Toronto and other cities to promote her foundation. She participated in a WNBA anti-bullying event with the New York Liberty in Newark, New Jersey … “There’s a lot of nice people out there; I have learned that”, Klein said, and to ignore the negative people. (…)

 

Klein has met with one of the boys who bullied her. He and his parents came to her home to apologize. The other three sent typed apologies, which she said struck her as less sincere. “I hope they learned a lesson. They probably didn’t,” Klein says, shrugging. “It might have been a big joke to them.”

 

 

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

 

Do I endeavor to be holy as God is holy? Do I strive to love my neighbor as myself? Do I renounce personal revenge? In place of vengeance, do I “choose” to love my enemies? Do I respond fully to the Christian call to holiness? Do I promote the holiness of the community of faith?

 

 

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

 

Loving God,

you are exceedingly holy.

Thank you for the gift of your Son Jesus Christ.

He showed us the way of holiness

by his passion and death on the cross.

He teaches us to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Help us not to inflict injury for injury,

but rather to respond to injury

with forgiveness and magnanimity.

Give us the strength to love unconditionally

and to embrace with welcoming arms even our enemies.

Open our eyes to the demands of discipleship

and to recognize the holiness of the body of Christ.

In our work for the heavenly kingdom,

let us draw courage from the truth

that we belong to Christ

and that Christ belongs to you, now and forever.

Amen.   

 

 

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

 

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

 

“So, be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:48)

 

 

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

 

            Pray that the Christian call to holiness may be fully expressed in the service of love to our neighbor. By an act of kindness and compassion to a needy person or a lonely stranger, or by a forgiving stance to an injury suffered personally, enable the Gospel of saving love to spread.

 

 

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February 20, 2017: MONDAY – WEEKDAY (7)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Us to Faith … He Is Wisdom Incarnate”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Sir 1:1-10 // Mk 9:14-29

  

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 9:14-29): “I do believe; help my unbelief.”

 

The transfiguration story, which precedes today’s Gospel episode (Mk 9:14-29), is a figure of the future risen glory of Jesus. In the same way, the story of the disciples trying to heal an epileptic boy and dealing with argumentative scribes is a figure of the challenges the future Church would experience in attempting to do his works. The effort of the disciples to drive out the evil spirit from the boy is futile. The scribes must have outclassed them in discussion as well. The disciples feel powerless. But the Divine Master shows them what it means to keep faith: “Everything is possible to one who has faith.” The boy’s father, stirred by an inchoative faith, declares: “I do believe; help my unbelief.” Jesus thus exorcises the evil spirit and the boy is healed. The miracle healing of the boy underlines Jesus’ messianic power. It is also a powerful lesson and an urgent invitation to his disciples to trust in him. Prayer is a sign of faith. By faith the disciples are empowered to carry out Christ’s saving work, through time and space.

 

The following story gives insight into the faith of a holy man and the marvels that God accomplishes through him (cf. Anthony De Mello, Taking Flight: A Book of Story Meditations, New York: Image Books/Doubleday, 1990, p. 110-111).

 

There once lived a man so godly that even the angels rejoiced at the sight of him. But, in spite of his great holiness, he had no notion that he was holy. He just went about his humble tasks, diffusing goodness the way flowers unselfconsciously diffuse their fragrance and streetlights their glow. His holiness lay in this – that he forgot each person’s past and looked at them as they were now, and he looked beyond each person’s appearance to the very center of their being, where they were innocent and blameless and too ignorant to know what they were doing. Thus he loved and forgave everyone he met – and he saw nothing extraordinary in this, for it was the result of his way at looking at people.

 

One day an angel said to him, “I have been sent to you by God. Ask for anything you wish and it will be given to you. Would you wish to have the gift of healing?” “No”, said the man. “I’d rather God did the healing himself.” “Would you want to bring sinners back to the path of righteousness?” “No”, he said, “it is not for me to touch human hearts. That is the work of angels.” “Would you like to be such a model of virtue that people will be drawn to imitate you?” “No”, said the saint, “for that would make me the center of attention.” “What then do you wish for?” asked the angel. “The grace of God”, was the man’s reply. “Having that, I have all I desire.”

 

“No, you must ask for some miracle”, said the angel, “or one will be forced on you.” “Well, then I shall ask for this: let good be done through me without my being aware of it.”

 

So it was decreed that the holy man’s shadow would be endowed with healing properties whenever it fell behind him. So everywhere his shadow fell – provided he had his back to it – the sick were healed, the land became fertile, fountains sprang to life, and the color returned to the faces of those who were weighed down by life’s sorrow.

 

But the saint knew nothing of this because the attention of people was so centered on the shadow that they forgot about the man. And so his wish that good be done through him and that he be forgotten was abundantly filled.

 

 

B. First Reading (Sir 1:1-10): “Before all things else wisdom was created.”

 

In the next two weeks, the first reading of the weekday liturgy is taken from the Book of Sirach (“The Wisdom of Jesus, Son of Sirach”). Known also as Ecclesiasticus, it was written in Hebrew by “Jesus, son of Eleazar, son of Sirach” (shortened to Ben Sira) and translated into Greek by his grandson. Ben Sira presents an abundant vision of divine action in the world and perceives within the natural world an almost endless array of God’s revelations. Ben Sira sees both Sacred Scripture and the natural world as sources of God’s revelation.

 

Today’s reading (Sir 1:1-10) invites us to contemplate God as the source of wisdom. All wisdom comes from the Lord and she is with him forever. The Lord God has filled creation with wisdom and she can thus be perceived in the universe. God gives some measure of wisdom to everyone, but she is poured out on those who love him. The author, Ben Sira, is ecstatic as he ponders the ineffable qualities of wisdom: “Who can count raindrops or the sand along the shore? Who can count the days of eternity? How high is the sky? How wide is the earth? How deep is the ocean? How profound is wisdom?” Since wisdom is from God and brought forth through the Holy Spirit, she is infinitely valuable and profound. The hymn to divine wisdom in the Book of Sirach is a good background for a deeper understanding of Jesus Christ, the Word incarnate and the wisdom of God.

 

The beautiful reflection of Ben Sira invites us to have a contemplative regard for creation and to perceive in nature the wisdom of God’s plan. The following story gives an insight into this (cf. J.T. Garrett, “Good Medicine” in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stories of Faith, ed. Jack Canfield, et. al., Cos Cob: CSS, 2008, p. 349-351).

 

As a young boy, I fondly remember my grandfather. He was tall in physical size, but he was also larger than life itself, in my eyes. As a Cherokee Indian, he loved to tell the old stories that had been passed down from generation to generation in the tribe, located in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. His zest for life and his love of nature was passed on to me through the experience there in the mountains of western North Carolina.

 

On a warm spring day when I was a young boy, my grandfather and I were sitting on a large rock on the edge of the Oconaluftee River in Cherokee. I was looking into a small puddle of water that was caught in an etched indentation of a rock. The large rocks were worn away by water action, and we would sometimes fish on the rocks and watch the fish travel downstream between the rocks. This particular day, I was more interested in the small minnows moving around in the puddle of water that seemed to be caught in the rocks. I must have stared endlessly at the minnows wondering how they would get back to the larger body of water and their parents for safety. After all, I had my grandfather to protect me. Who would protect them from the warm sun and from being eaten by animals, or other fish? Wow, I thought, I was glad I was not fish.

 

My grandfather would glance around every few minutes to see what I was doing. He saw me looking at the small fish and asked, “What do you see when you look into the water?” Always wanting to please my grandfather to show him how smart I really was, I looked quickly downstream and said, “I see the little fish swimming around, but they have no place to go.”

 

“Are you afraid for them, or yourself?” My grandfather would often ask two questions at once. “The sun is hot, and I am afraid they will get too hot in the shallow water. Besides, what if they don’t get back to their parents in the river?” He softly spoke, “Well, maybe they are all right in this special pool of water. They might get out into the large river and a larger fish might come by and eat them for dinner.”

 

“Grandfather, what will they eat to stay alive? What if they stay there and grow too big for a little pool of water?” I guess I must have learned to ask two questions, as well, from my grandfather. “Grandson”, he said, “you do not worry because Nature will take care of them. Whatever happens is all part of a greater plan of life. It is the Great One’s plan.”

 

I am sure I must have looked perplexed by this statement, but I didn’t really know what to ask. Even at that young age, I knew he would be quiet to allow me to respond, then he would share more with me.

 

“What do you see when you look into the water?” asked my grandfather. I would look closely to see the water rushing quickly downstream. My eyes would catch a glimpse of the fish, flies touching the water, the water beetles moving quickly down the river, a piece of wood floating with the movement of the water, and the beautiful green plants. I must have explained all these things to him. There was a long pause. Then he said, “What else do you see? Look deeply into the water.”

 

I looked as hard as I could, then he said, “What else do you see? Look deeply into the water.” I looked as hard as I could, then he said, “Now look at the surface of the water.” My eyes began to water as I stared, wanting my grandfather to be proud of my ability to see everything he saw. “Ah, I see my reflection”, I proudly responded. He quietly said, “That’s good.” A smile came across my face.

 

“What you see is your whole life ahead of you. Know that the Great One has a plan for you, as well as the little fish in the puddle of water. Sometimes we don’t understand why things happen the way they do, but there is a plan.”

 

 

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

  

1. Do I trust God and put faith in him that he will give me strength to do his saving work?

 

2. What is our response to the divine wisdom revealed and at work in the universe? Are we grateful for the beauty and wisdom that enfold us day by day? Do we open our hearts to the gift of wisdom that comes from God through the Holy Spirit?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

the epileptic boy’s father confessed his faith

and begged you to increase his little faith.

You healed the boy in response to his prayer of faith.

We, your disciples,

are called to bring your healing power to a wounded world.

Strengthen our feeble faith

and enlighten us with true wisdom.

You are our saving Lord, now and forever.

Amen.

 

***

(Cf. Alternative Opening Prayer of Monday Mass, 7th Week in Ordinary Time)

Almighty God,

Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

faith in your word is the way to wisdom,

and to ponder your divine plan is to grow in the truth.

Open our eyes to your deeds,

our ears to the sound of your call,

so that our every act may increase our sharing

in the life you have offered us.

Grant this through Christ our Lord.

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 do believe; help my unbelief.” (Mk 9:24) //“All wisdom comes from the Lord.” (Sir 1:1)

 

 

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

 

Offer a simple prayer of faith in Jesus. Accompany your daily prayer of faith with an act of mercy and good deeds. // Today be particularly attentive to the beauty and wisdom that surround us every day. Be thankful to God for his gift of wisdom and let this guide us in our choices in life.

 

 

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February 21, 2017: TUESDAY – WEEKDAY (7); SAINT PETER DAMIAN, Bishop, Doctor of the Church

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Us to a Humble Service … He Teaches Us the Wisdom of Suffering”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Sir 2:1-11 // Mk 9:30-37

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 9:30-37): “The Son of Man is to be handed over. Whoever wishes to be first shall be last of all.”

 

We hear in the Gospel (Mk 9:30-37) that after healing the epileptic boy, Jesus with his disciples leaves the place and goes on through Galilee. He speaks again about his passion, death and resurrection, but his disciples do not understand. Though afraid to ask what he means, they do not have any qualms about arguing who among them is the greatest. At a house in Capernaum, Jesus tries to enlighten their hearts. To help them overcome their wicked ambition, Jesus puts in their midst a child, symbol of poverty and powerlessness. Jesus teaches his disciples that greatness consists in service and in caring for the weak and vulnerable. To be first is to serve. Jesus is the ultimate servant. By his passion and death on the cross, he offers himself totally at the service of the Father’s saving will. By his life-giving sacrifice, the Servant Messiah embraces infinitely all the “children of God”, especially the poor and vulnerable. A moral test of a society is how we treat the weakest among us. In our preferential option for the poor and in our care for the weak, we truly embrace God’s children. Like Jesus Christ, we become the “servant of all”.

 

The following story, circulated through the Internet, is very touching. It illustrates a compassionate stance on behalf of the needy.

 

I was walking in a Walmart store, when I saw a cashier hand this little boy some money back. The boy couldn’t have been more than 5 or 6 years old. The cashier said, “I’m sorry, but you don’t have enough money for this doll.” Then the little boy turned to the old woman next to him, “Granny, are you sure I don’t have enough money to buy this doll?” “No, my dear.” Then she asked him to stay there for just five minutes while she went to look around. She left quickly. The little boy was still holding the doll in his hand.

 

Finally, I walked toward him and asked him who he wished to give his doll to. “It’s the doll that my sister loved most and wanted so much for Christmas. She was sure that Santa Claus would bring it to her.” I replied to him that maybe Santa Claus would bring it to her after all, and not to worry. But he replied to me sadly, “No, Santa Claus can’t bring it to her where she is now. I have to give the doll to my Mommy so that she can give it to my sister when she goes there.” His eyes were so sad while saying this, “My sister has gone to be with God. Daddy says that Mommy is going to see God very soon too, so I thought that she could take the doll with her to give it to my sister.”

 

My heart nearly stopped. The little boy looked up at me and said, “I told Daddy to tell Mommy not to go yet. I need her to wait until I come back from the mall.” Then he showed me a very nice photo of himself. He was laughing. He then told me, “I want Mommy to take my picture with her so she won’t forget me. I love my Mommy and I wish she didn’t have to leave me, but Daddy says that she has to go to be with my little sister.”

 

Then he looked again at the doll with sad eyes, very quietly. I quickly reached for my wallet and said to the boy, “Suppose we check again, just in case you do have enough money for the doll!” “OK” he said, “I hope I do have enough.” I added some of my money without him seeing and we started to count it. There was enough for the doll and even some spare money. The little boy said, “Thank you God for giving me enough money!” Then he looked at me and said, “I asked last night before I went to sleep for God to make sure I had enough money to buy this doll, so that Mommy could give it to my sister. He heard me! I also wanted to have enough money to buy a white rose for my Mommy, but I didn’t dare to ask God for too much. But he gave me enough to buy the doll and a white rose. My Mommy loves white roses.”

 

A few minutes later, the old lady returned and I left with my basket. I finished my shopping in a totally different state of mind from when I started. I couldn’t get the little boy out of my mind. Then I remembered a local newspaper article two days ago, which mentioned a drunk man in a truck, who hit a car occupied by a young woman and a little girl. The little girl died right away, and the mother was left in a critical state. The family had to decide whether to pull the plug on the life-sustaining machine, because the young woman would not be able to recover from the coma. Was this the family of the little boy?

 

Two days after this encounter with the little boy, I read in the newspaper that the young woman had passed away. I couldn’t stop myself as I bought a bunch of white roses and I went to the funeral home where the body of the young woman was for people to see and make last wishes before her burial. She was there, in her coffin, holding a beautiful white rose in her hand with the photo of the little boy and the doll placed over her chest. I left the place, teary-eyed, feeling that my life had been changed forever. The love that the little boy had for his mother and his sister is still to this day, hard to imagine, and in a fraction of a second, a drunk driver had taken all this away from him.

  

 

B. First Reading (Sir 2:1-11): “Prepare yourself for trials.”

 

The reading (Sir 2:1-11) challenges the servant of the Lord to be prepared for trials. It underlines that all affliction is under the Lord’s control and directed by his providence. The suffering of the just is not a punishment, but a discipline to strengthen one’s faith. Just as impurities can be removed even from gold, so the just one can be purified and one’s true value is thereby seen. As a result of Ben Sera’s reflection and study of the “generations long past”, he concludes that the basis of our hope and faithfulness is God’s mercy and compassion. Many years after Ben Sira, Jesus of Nazareth shows what it means to be schooled in the wisdom of God. In his passion and death, Jesus is imbued with wisdom as he fulfills his mission as the Suffering Servant of Yahweh. Jesus is deeply aware that God’s servants, though tried by adversity and crushed by misfortunes, triumph in the end.

 

Here is a modern example of God’s faithful one who persevered to the end (cf. Lives of Saints – The Irish Martyrs: Blessed Dermot O’Hurley in Alive!, April 2013, p.15).

 

Dermot O’Hurley realized that if he did not give himself up his former host, Thomas Fleming of Slane Castle, would lose his lands and possibly his life. The Archbishop surrendered to Queen Elizabeth’s agents and was taken to Dublin. Once interrogation began it became clear he would be shown little mercy. Yet he had nothing to confess: he was simply a bishop who came to attend to the spiritual needs of his flock. But he was seen as an agent of the Pope who had come to Ireland to join forces with the rebel Earl of Desmond. If he would not tell them the truth they would torture him until he did.

 

And torture him they did. But he could not tell them what they wanted to hear. Eventually, and in desperation, they wrote to the master interrogator in London. Dublin Castle asked that Hurley be taken to London where he could be tried without the danger of provoking outrage and rebellion by the local population. Sir Thomas Walshingham, however, was at that time busily plotting the ensnarement which would lead eventually to the judicial murder of Mary Queen of Scots. He had enough on his hands and insisted that the interrogation continue in Dublin. It did.

 

This time the torturers resorted to the excruciating measure of soaking O’Hurley’s boots in oil and salt and roasting his feet in fire. The Archbishop still protested his innocence, crying out repeatedly, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” Eventually it was decided that he would be tried secretly under martial law, sentenced to death, and secretly executed.

 

On 19 June, 1584, the order was signed for his execution. Early next morning he was brought outside Dublin city walls to a place near what is now St. Stephen’s Green. But the execution was not as secret as the persecutors had hoped. A group of merchants leaving the city came by the spot where the execution was being prepared. They had no idea who the victim was at first but he was able to speak to them.

 

“Be it known to you, good Christians”, he said, “that I am a priest anointed and also a bishop, although unworthy of such sacred dignities. No cause could they find against me that might in the least degree deserve the pains of death, but merely for my function of priesthood, wherein they proceeded against me in all points cruelly contrary to their own laws. I ask you, dear Christian brethren, to manifest that to the world and also to bear witness at the day of judgment of my innocent death, which I endure for my function and profession of the holy Catholic faith.”

 

A short time later he died a martyr’s death by hanging. Word of the execution spread but there was no rioting. His remains were taken down by Catholics and buried in the grounds of the nearby St. Kevin’s Church in Camden Row. His grave remained a place of pilgrimage for many years.

  

 

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

 

1. Are our hearts blinded with ambition and are we unable to be the “servant of all”? Do we endeavor to welcome the needy and vulnerable “children of God” in our midst?

 

2. In times of trial and adversity do we put our trust in the merciful and compassionate God who is our saving help? 

 

 

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

 

O Jesus,

you are the ultimate servant and the “servant of all”

by your life-giving sacrifice on the cross.

Help us to be “first” by our serving love.

Give us the grace to welcome the poor, the needy, the vulnerable …

all the children of God.

Teach us to overcome the demands of evil passions.

Draw us close to our loving God,

who lives and reigns, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

***

(Cf. Blessed James Alberione’s “Act of Surrender to the Will of God”)

My God,

I do not know what will happen to me today.

I only know that nothing will happen to me

that was not foreseen by you

and directed to my greater good from all eternity.

This is enough for me.

I adore your eternal and unfathomable designs.

I submit to them with all my heart for love of you.

I offer the sacrifice of my whole being to you

and join my sacrifice to that of Jesus,

my divine Savior.

In his name and by his infinite merits,

I ask you for patience in my sufferings and perfect submission,

so that everything you want or permit to happen

will result in your greater glory and my sanctification.

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.

 

            “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” (Mk 9:35) //“My son, when you come to serve the Lord … prepare yourself for trials.” (Sir 2:1)

 

  

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

 

In your acts of charity, enable the people around you to feel the love of Christ, the “servant of all”. // In a secularized society whose values are increasingly hostile to the divine will, let the trials and “persecutions” you will experience be fully united with the redemptive sufferings of Christ.

      

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February 22, 2017: WEDNESDAY – THE CHAIR OF SAINT PETER THE APOSTLE

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Cares for God’s Flock”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

1 Pt 5:1-4 // Mt 16:13-19

  

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 16:13-19): “You are Peter, and to you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” 

          

The Gospel episode (Mt 16:13-20) is situated in cosmopolitan Caesarea Philippi, a city built by Philip the Tetrarch. A dialogue between Jesus and his disciples ensues. Jesus does not ask for popular speculation, but the disciples’ own assessment of him. Peter, assuming the role of spokesman for the group, declares: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. Simon Peter’s confession of faith is remarkable. He declares not only that Jesus is the “Messiah”, that is, the long-awaited Son of David who ushers in the reign of God. Above all, he avows that Jesus is the “Son of the living God”, that is, the unique representative of God to all people, possessing God’s Spirit and enjoying an exclusive union with the Father. In today’s terms, Jesus as the “Son of the living God” means that he is divine.

 

Indeed, Simon Peter’s confession of faith evokes Jesus’ admiration and blessing. There is an investiture and a “nomination”. Jesus calls Simon and surnames him Peter. Simon is designated as the rock upon which Jesus builds his Church. The stone is Jesus himself, the sole foundation. But Simon is, by the solemn designation of the Lord, the stone solidly set upon the unique foundation. He is the visible “rock” joined to it by the mortar of faith that the Father has given Peter.

   

The following account on the Internet concerning the recently canonized pope John XXIII gives insight into how Jesus continues to guide and build his Church through divinely instituted pastors (cf. Loyola Press Internet Service, James Martin, “My Life with the Saints”).

 

One night [during retreat], around ten ‘clock, I was exploring the house library, a small, wood-paneled room with the typically motley jumble of old, used, worn and downright ugly furniture that characterizes “Jesuit style”. (In fairness, the little library at Eastern Point has since been spruced up.) Poking through the selves, I came upon a book called Wit and Wisdom of Good Pope John.

 

Published in 1964, not long after the pope’s death, the book had torn and yellowed pages. Despite [the assistant novice director’s] warning not to lose myself in books, the temptation to peek inside was irresistible. After a few pages I was hooked: who knew John XXIII was so funny? Of course, not all the stories were laugh-out-loud funny. And I had already heard his famous answer to the journalist who asked innocently, “How many people work in the Vatican?” “About half of them,” said His Holiness.

 

But the passage that made me laugh in the retreat house (and drew pointed glances from more silent retreatants) was one that placed the pope in a Roman hospital called the Hospital of the Holy Spirit. Shortly after entering the building, he was introduced to the sister who ran the hospital. “Holy Father,” she said, “I am the superior of the Holy Spirit.” “You’re very lucky,” said the pope, delighted. “I’m only the Vicar of Christ!”

 

It was that somewhat frivolous story that drew me to John XXIII. How wonderful to keep his sense of humor, even while holding a position of such authority, when he could easily have become cold or authoritarian. How wonderful to have a sense of humor at all! A requirement of the Christian life, I think.

 

It reminded me of a story I had heard from a friend about Fr. Pedro Arrupe, the former superior general of the Jesuits, often called “Father General,” or, more simply, “the General.” Once, Father General was visiting Xavier High School in New York City, which has, since its founding, sponsored a military cadet corps for its boys, a sort of junior ROTC. For his visit, the school’s cadets, in full uniform, lined both sides of the street. When Father General emerged from his car, the phalanx of cadets snapped to attention and saluted crisply. He turned to my friend. “Now,” he said, “I feel like a real general!”

 

Pope John XXIII had a similarly wry sense of humor, and who couldn’t love a pope who had a sense of humor? Who couldn’t feel affection for a man who was so comfortable with himself that he constantly made jokes about his height (which was short), his ears (which were big), and his weight (which was considerable). When he once met a little boy named Angelo, he exclaimed, “That was my name, too!” And then, conspiratorially, “But then they made me change it!”

 

For his humor, his openness, his generosity, and his warmth, many people loved him: Good Pope John. But to see John XXIII as a sort of papal Santa Claus is to only partly understand him. An experienced diplomat, a veteran of ecumenical dialogue, and a gifted pastor and bishop, he brought a wealth of experience to the office of pope.…

 

Soon after finishing the long retreat, I decided that I wanted to know more about Angelo Roncalli than just the few funny stories I had read in the retreat house library. So I slowly made my way through Journal of a Soul and Peter Hebblethwaite’s biography John XXIII: Pope of the Century as a way of getting to know him better. In time, I realized that I was drawn to John XXIII not as much for his wit, or his writings, or his love of the church, or even his accomplishments as for something more basic: his love for God and for other people. The gentle old man seemed to be one of the most loving of all the saints: always a loving son, a loving brother, a loving priest, a loving bishop, and a loving pope. John radiated Christian love. Was it any wonder that so many people were drawn to him?

 

 

B. First Reading (I Pt 5:1-4): “I myself am one of your leaders and a witness to the sufferings of Christ.”

 

The feast of the Chair of Peter, apostle, underlines Peter’s special role among the apostles and in the first generation Church, as well as the pastoral role of his successor, the Pope – the Bishop of Rome. In today’s first reading (I Pt 5:1-4), Saint Peter presents himself as a fellow elder and as a witness of Christ’s sufferings and sharer in the glory to be revealed. He exhorts his fellow elders to be true shepherds of God’s flock in their midst. Their mission is to give it a shepherd’s care. Their ministry is to be carried out with eager service, with noble and never selfish, mercenary motives. In their exercise of leadership, they should be supportive and not authoritarian. They should be models of devotion, service and generosity so that when the chief Shepherd comes they will share in his eternal glory.

 

The following article gives us insight into the pastoral ministry of our Holy Father Pope Francis and of the entire Church (cf. “Francis Begins a Revolution” in ALIVE!, December 2013, p. 7).

 

Pope Francis may yet bring about a far bigger revolution in the Church than any of us even suspect. Until now the media have focused on the pope’s surprising gestures, like his choice of name, his arrival in Lampedusa, his letter to an Italian newspaper. Then there is the watching to see how he may reform Vatican bureaucracy and the silly hope that he may turn out to be, in fact, a Protestant.

 

But from his first homily as pope, in the Sistine Chapel, he signaled where the real revolution will come. There he raised the question of what the Church and all her institutions are for. And he wants all those institutions, Vatican offices, diplomatic service, relief agencies, Catholic schools, local youth groups, media, hospitals, etc., asking the same question: what are we here for?

 

And Francis is in no doubt about the answer. “The Church is not a shop, she is not a humanitarian agency, she is not an NGP”, he said repeatedly. Rather, she exists to announce Christ, to proclaim the joy of salvation.

 

That has to be the primary aim of every Catholic group, be it family, a St. Vincent de Paul society, the Knights of Columbus, a parish bereavement service or a teacher-training college. Mary is the model for each individual and group. When visiting Elizabeth, “she brought not only material help but also Jesus, who was already alive in her womb. Bringing Jesus into the house meant bringing joy, the fullness of joy.”

 

Were the Church to fail in this regard, “were she not to bring Jesus, she would be a dead Church”. Francis could hardly make the point more bluntly. As groups open up to the Pope’s call and honestly question how they are fulfilling this mission and begin to measure everything in terms of evangelization, then we can expect a true revolution in the Church. Exciting times ahead.

 

 

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

 

How do I express my love and respect for the Pope and the other pastors of the Church? Do I pray for them and collaborate with them in caring for God’s flock?

 

 

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

(Cf. Roman Missal, Opening Prayer of the Mass: Chair of Peter)

 

All-powerful Father,

you have built your Church

on the rock of St. Peter’s confession of faith.

May nothing divide or weaken

our unity in faith and love.

Grant 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.

 

“God’s flock is in your midst; give it a shepherd’s care.” (I Pt 5:2)

 

 

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

 

Let your pains, trials and sacrifices of these days be offered for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the pastoral Church as it embarks on the task of a renewed evangelization.

         

*** *** ***

 

February 23, 2017: THURSDAY – SAINT POLYCARP, Bishop, Martyr

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Calls Us to a Radical Discipleship … He Counsels Against Presumption”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Sir 5:1-8 // Mk 9:41-50

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 9:41-50): “It is better for you to enter into life with one hand, than with two hands to go into Gehenna.”

 

Today’s Gospel (Mk 9:41-50)  continues to underline the challenges of Christian discipleship. Jesus warns against the evil of causing scandal to others by using the harsh imagery of the unquenchable fires of Gehenna. Harold Buetow remarks: “The figure of Gehenna is a symbol of hell derived from the garbage dump in the dried-up Valley of the Hinnon River below the southwest wall of the city. It had an evil history. Once the site of child-sacrifices to the god Moloch, in the time of Jesus it was the city dump, and its smoldering fires and billowing acrid smoke consuming the smelly garbage were a symbol of the punishment of the damned.” 

 

To avoid the hell of Gehenna, the disciples must take care not to give bad example to anyone. Jesus asserts: “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire”. Jesus’ remarkable saying is not meant to be taken literally. Physical mutilation does not always work against temptation. What Jesus underlines is the absolute importance of entering the kingdom of God and the exigent demand is entails. Anything that jeopardizes participation in the heavenly kingdom must be expunged from our lives.

 

Indeed, the Christian disciples need to be purified in their innermost motives. They need to be “salted with fire” and experience the purifying fire of trials by which the faithful become pleasing sacrifices to God and at peace with one another. They need to expunge the evils of ambition, intolerance and scandal from their midst. In place of these, they have to make a tough choice for primacy in service, for tolerance and openness to others of good will, and for integrity in their dealing with God’s “little ones”. Those who respond to the radical demands of Christian discipleship with zest and gusto become the salt of the earth. As the good salt of the earth, they continue to inspire people with the liveliness of the Gospel spirit and lead them to yearn for God’s kingdom. 

 

The following testimony is an example of today’s laudable efforts to help the “little ones” experience the blessings of God’s kingdom and to overcome the obstacles in their lives (cf. Sister Mary Rose McGeady, Sometimes God has a Kid’s Face, Covenant House USA, 2010, p. 82-84).

 

Freddy had been born seventeen years ago in one of those small old mill towns in the Northeast, the kind of town where industry and hope left town and never looked back at what was left behind. Unable to find work, unable to cope, his parents both took to drinking as a way to escape their sorrow. Sometimes when the drink wasn’t enough to ease their pain, they took their frustrations out on Freddy. Many nights, Freddy found himself hiding in his house, in closets and under beds, trying to escape a beating that had, by that point, become an almost weekly ritual.

 

Afraid and desperate to please his parents, Freddy began drinking with them, in order to show he was on their side. Soon, well before he had become a teenager, he found himself hooked on alcohol, unable to pry himself loose from the grip it had on him.

 

“It’s in my blood, Sister”, he said to us that first day. “I was born an addict … there’s nothing you can do to help me.”

 

One day, when the beatings got to be too much, he fled to the streets to find a peace he had never known. Instead, he found what all kids find – the aloneness, hunger, fatigue and darkness of an unforgiving world on the street. He was sixteen years old. For one full year, Freddy struggled to find some kind of existence on the streets. He slept in alleys, and ate out of garbage cans. He drank to forget how scared and alone he was – and he began experimenting with drugs, hoping they would somehow help him escape his pain. He died a little, day by day.

 

Then he found Covenant House. I’m not sure exactly how it’s going to turn out for him. I’m hoping – I guess some would say against hope – that it’s not too late for him to believe, that it’s not too late for him to finally overcome an addiction that has an ironclad grip on every ounce of his body. I do know that as long as he is alive, I have hope that we can turn his life around … “I want you to know something, Freddy”, I said. “I still think you are going to make it”, I said. “Just give us a chance”, I said. I could tell by the look of his eyes that he hoped I was right. “I’d like to try”, he said. I reached out and hugged him. “Thank you. God”, I whispered to myself.

    

 

B. First Reading (Sir 5:1-8): “Delay not your conversion to the Lord.”

 

The reading (Sir 5:1-8) inveighs against false security and presumption. Ben Sira does not condemn riches as such, but points out the inherent danger of self-reliance and false security, which indicate a lack of wisdom. He warns against the pride and the sense of power earthly wealth begets. Wealth has no real power and significance in the ultimate issues of life. Indeed, presumptuous attitudes toward God must be avoided. These include denying God’s power over oneself, presuming God’s forbearance and mercy, and putting off repentance. Ben Sira asserts: “Don’t think that you can sin and get away with it … Don’t be so certain of the Lord’s forgiveness that you go on committing one sin after another.” He also urges: “Come back to the Lord quickly. Don’t think you can keep putting it off.” For one who refuses the grace of conversion, there is no escape from the “day of wrath”, which is the day of encounter with the Lord’s justice.

 

The following story depicts the beautiful ministry of Fr. Thomas Byles as an instrument of conversion for the doomed in the sinking Titanic (cf. “He Refused a Lifeboat” in Alive! April 2013, p. 3).

 

On 14 April 1912, at 11:40 pm, the Titanic struck an iceberg and a few hours later it sank, with the loss of 1,502 lives. Among those on board was Thomas Byles, a priest from England. Though almost forgotten now, Fr. Byles was well-remembered by some of the survivors of the tragedy.

 

Born in Leeds in 1870, the son of a Congregationalist minister, he studied theology in Oxford University, intending to become an Anglican vicar. In 1892, however, his younger brother William became a Catholic. Deeply affected by this, he followed him into the Church on the feast of Corpus Christi two years later. He took his examinations in theology as a Catholic – probably the first student to do so at Oxford since the Reformation.

 

Having acted as tutor to a German prince, he returned to Yorkshire in 1895 and began to study for the priesthood. But his health failed and he had to leave. Three years later, in 1899, he entered the Beda College in Rome and was ordained a priest in 1902. He served in several parishes until appointed to St. Helen’s, a small rural parish in Ongar, Essex. From there the priest, aged 42, left to board the Titanic at Southampton, a 2nd-class passenger to New York. He was going to officiate at his brother William’s wedding in Brooklyn. His ticket cost 13 pounds.

 

On 14 April, the Sunday after Easter, Fr. Byles celebrated Mass for the 2nd and 3rd class passengers, most of them Irish emigrants. He was on deck, praying the Divine Office, when the boat hit the iceberg, but thought, like most of the passengers, that there was no danger. When the scale of the tragedy became evident he went to help the poorest passengers from steerage onto the boat deck. He also assisted women and children into the lifeboats.

 

His brother William, shortly after meeting some of the survivors, wrote that Fr. Thomas had “moved about among the crowd from group to group giving absolution (without confessions) and starting all the Catholics on the rosary. “One girl said the sailors wanted to put him into the lifeboat, but he refused, and went on with his work.”

 

The New York Evening World reported how survivors told that the priest had been foremost in “keeping the religious aspect of the terrible occasion to the fore”, by leading the recitation of the rosary as he guided passengers to the lifeboats. The journalist, having described how some of the first-class passengers played cards, continued: “The poor Irish boys and girls from the steerage were more profitably occupied. They were down on their knees and praying.”

 

A German priest was with him. According to the report, Fr. Byles urged people to prepare to meet God and about 100 people of all religions knelt round him on the boat deck praying the rosary. As the last lifeboat left from the sinking ship, those on board could hear Fr. Byles’ voice, together with the responses of those kneeling around him.

 

William Byles and his bride, Katherine Russell, celebrated a quiet wedding, changing into mourning clothes afterwards

 

 

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

 

1. Do we make a fundamental choice for the Kingdom of God, and are we ready to renounce all that impedes from total participation in it? Do we endeavor to help the “little ones” to experience the blessings of the heavenly Kingdom?

 

2. Do we rely on false security, and are we guilty of presumption? Do we think that we can sin and get away with it? Do we turn to God and avail ourselves of the grace of conversion?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

help us to heed your warning

not to cause the “little ones” to sin,

but rather to promote their dignity and integrity.

Teach us to respond to the cry of the poor

and aid them in their needs.

Let us respond to the call of radical discipleship.

We love you and we trust in you, O Divine Master,

for in drawing us close to you

we are purified and “salted with fire”

and become the good “salt of the earth”.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

***

Loving Father and compassionate God,

forgive us for relying on false security

and for our presumptuous attitudes

that goad us to sin again and again.

Give us light and show us the way.

Let the radiance of your wisdom

reveal our folly and the danger of impenitent death.

Let us no longer delay our conversion.

Deliver us from all evil.

Grant us the mercy of your forgiveness

for we now turn to you with humble and contrite hearts.

You are truly a loving and forgiving God.

We give you honor, 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.

 

“It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire.” (Mk 9:47) // “Delay not your conversion to the Lord.” (Sir 5:7) 

 

  

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

 

Make a personal inventory and see what things/resources/assets you can renounce/share with the “little ones” and the needy poor. // Make a sincere examination of the heart and see what areas in your life need to be brought to God for healing and forgiveness.

       

 

*** *** ***

 

February 24, 2017: FRIDAY – WEEKDAY (7)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us the Sanctity of Marriage … He Is Our True Friend”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Gn 11:1-9 // Mk 10:1-12

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 10:1-12): “What God has joined together, no human being must separate.”

 

This true story of enduring love happened some years ago in the Philippines. The parents of our friend, Fr. Allan Lastimosa, went to visit him at his parish in Metro Manila. They had a beautiful time together, especially when they celebrated his mom’s birthday. Soon it was time for his parents to sail for their Cebu island hometown. Fr. Allan brought his parents and a nephew to the pier in Manila and sent them off. As they were about to sail, his dad commented, “The weather doesn’t look good!” But there seemed to be no cause for alarm. And so the ship set off for a day’s journey to Cebu. That was the last time Fr. Allan would see his mom and dad. They were among the fatalities when the boat was caught offshore by a typhoon and capsized. The nephew survived to tell a beautiful story of sacrificial love and nuptial fidelity. Fr. Allan’s dad, who was physically able and could have saved himself, refused to leave his sickly and fragile wife behind. Death perfected their marriage covenant. Indeed, their love for each other is a paradigm of the irrevocable unity of “what God has joined together”.

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Mk 10:1-12) continues to delineate the radical demands of Christian discipleship. Jesus’ teaching on marriage is a further challenge to those who wish to follow him. At the core of his message is the challenge to spouses to live in faithful union until death. In the divine plan, the married couple constitutes “one flesh” and their covenantal relationship is enduring. He asserts radically that what God has joined together, no human being must separate. Jesus thus enunciates the ideal of indissoluble marriage in the context of the divine plan and the Reign of God that he has come to establish. Though cognizant of the painful issue of marital failure and divorce, the Church continues, then and now, to uphold the lofty ideal of the sacredness of the marriage covenant. In a world where marriage is a convenience, Christian couples are called to witness to the sacred character of the bond of matrimony. God proposes this ideal of marriage to weak human beings, but he places his trust in men and women created in his image and strengthened by his grace.

   

 

B. First Reading (Sir 6:5-17): “Faithful friends are beyond price.”

 

The reading (Sir 6:5-17) is one of the loveliest and the most extensive treatment of friendship in the Bible. The author Ben Sira gives practical advice about making friends and warns against “fair-weather” friends. His precious insights are a result of wisdom’s inspiration and many years of personal experience. One way of gaining friends is through polite and kind speech. But they need to be treated with caution, for false friends betray and quickly fall away in times of trouble, distress and misfortune. True friends are selfless and constant. They have something in common – they are God-fearers. They are present particularly in times of need. Even though they may not be able to provide words or solutions to the problems, they are there to stand by you. Indeed, true friends make us secure and they are life-giving. Indeed, faithful friends are beyond price. The ideal of true friendship is fully embodied in Jesus Christ, the one who laid down his life for his friends.

 

The following story gives us insight into what true friendship means (cf. Bryan Aubrey, “We Are All Jews Now” in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stories of Faith, ed. Jack Canfield, et. al., Cos Cob: CSS, 2008, p. 145-146).

 

Viewed from high on the Rimrock cliffs that run along the northern edge of Billings, Montana, the city presents an attractive sight, a thriving metropolis nestling within the great open spaces of the American West. Citizens of Billings say it’s a good, civilized place to live. They pride themselves on the quality of their schools and their strong family values.

 

So it came as a shock to many, when in November 1995, a series of hate crimes took place against minority groups in the city. Whoever was responsible for these acts must have thought that their victims would be easy targets. Billings is predominantly white. Native Americans, African Americans and Jews make up only a small percentage of the population. But there are just enough of them to frighten or to harass – or so the haters must have thought.

 

They mounted a series of nasty attacks. Graves were overturned in a Jewish cemetery. Offensive words and swastikas were scrawled on the house of a Native American woman. People worshipping at a black church were intimidated. A brick was heaved through the window of a Jewish child who displayed a menorah there.

 

But the white supremacists, or whoever they were, had reckoned without the citizens of Billings, who had an answer for them – and it wasn’t what the hate-mongers were expecting. An alliance quickly emerged, spearheaded by churches, labor unions, the media, and hundreds of local citizens.

 

The results were dramatic. Attendance at the black church rose steadily. People of many different ethnic backgrounds and faiths began to attend services there. Their message was clear: “We may be all different, but we are one also. Threaten any of us and you threaten us all.”

 

A similar spirit propelled volunteers to come together and repaint the house of Dawn Fast Horse, the Native American woman. This happened at amazing speed. Dawn had awoken one morning to see that her house had been defaced. By the evening, after two hundred people showed up to help, the house had been repainted.

 

When it came to the incident of the brick being thrown through the window of the Jewish child, an interfaith group quickly had a creative idea. They recalled the example of the Danes during World War II. When the Nazis tried to round up Danish Jews into concentration camps for subsequent extermination, the Danish people worked quickly, within a two-week period, to transport almost every Danish Jew to safety in Sweden until the end of the war.

 

So the people in Billings organized, and a campaign began. Everyone pitched in, including the local newspaper, which printed a Hanukkah page, including a full-color representation of a menorah. Thousands of Billings residents cut the paper menorah out and displayed it in their windows. By late December, driving around Billings was a remarkable experience. Nearly ten thousand people were displaying those paper menorahs in their windows, and the menorahs remained in place throughout the eight days of Hanukkah. It was a brilliant answer to the hate-mongers. A town that had a few Jews was saying with one collective voice, “We are all Jews now.”

 

The story of what happened in Billings quickly spread, inspiring a national movement called “Not in Our Town”. That Jewish child who had so innocently displayed her menorah in the window helped set in motion a chain of events that affirmed all over America the liberating principle of unity in diversity.

 

Not for nothing does a menorah have many candles flickering on a single stand.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we believe in Jesus’ radical affirmation: “What God has joined together, no human being must separate”? How do we promote the sanctity and integrity of family and married life?

 

2. In our relationships with “friends”, do we allow the spirit of wisdom to guide us and to help us discern whether it is true and uplifting? Do we value the gift of true friendship and do we cultivate it and invest ourselves in it?

 

 

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

 

Almighty and eternal God,

you have made the unbreakable bond of marriage

a sign of your Son’s union with the Church as his spouse.

Look with favor on all married couples

whom you have united.

Let them grow in love for each other

and may they resolve to be

of one heart, one mind, one soul.

In their needs, be near to them

and in their struggles, assist them with your saving power.

Loving Father,

we pray for the Church, the Bride of Christ,

that she may trust in your mercy and compassion

and work for the coming of your kingdom in “patient endurance”.

We give you glory and praise,

now and forever.

Amen.

 

***

Father,

we thank you for Jesus, our true friend.

He laid down his life for us

to show the depth of his love for us.

Our friend Jesus loved us to the end.

Help us to be faithful friends

and to be always there

for those in need and in distress.

You are merciful and compassionate.

We adore and praise you, now and forever.

Amen.   

 

 

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

 

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

 

“What God has joined together, no human being must separate.” (Mk 10:9) //“A faithful friend is beyond price.”  (Sir 6:15)

 

 

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

 

Pray for all married couples, offering special petitions for those who are having marital problems. // Manifest your gratitude and esteem for a “true friend” and manifest your love and concern for a friend who is in need.

      

 

*** *** ***

 

February 25, 2017: SATURDAY – WEEKDAY (7); BVM ON SATURDAY

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Welcomes the Children We Are in His Image” 

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Sir 17:1-15 // Mk 10:13-16

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mk 10:13-16): “Whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.”

 

Today’s Gospel episode of Jesus blessing the children (Mk 10:13-16) follows Jesus’ teaching about the sacredness of marriage. This is significant in that to accept the Lord’s teaching on marriage requires the openness of children and a sense of dependence on God’s strength matching the child’s sense of dependence on the parents. Only a childlike trust will enable the Christian disciples to live up to the demands of the day-to-day relationships they have in the family and elsewhere. Jesus shows compassion and concern for the children who are being prevented from coming to him. Reacting with righteous indignation, he orders them to let the children come to him and holds the little ones as models for those who receive the kingdom of God. It is only to those who are receptive as children that the kingdom of God belongs. Those who are childlike have a central place in the community of faith.

 

The following story illustrates the sensitivity and receptivity of a “child” to the works of God’s kingdom (cf. Taste of Home, February-March 2009, p. 67). A 12-year-old’s fundraising effort to help poor African children gives us a glimpse of what Christians can do in today’s world to be pleasing to God.

 

A video shown at church inspired Miranda Walters to make a difference. She saw the faces of children dying from malaria thousands of miles from her Cedar Falls, Iowa home and knew she couldn’t ignore them. A $10 mosquito net dramatically reduces the risk African children face of contracting malaria, an often-fatal infectious disease transmitted through mosquito bites. So Miranda, 12, gave herself a goal: raise $100, enough to buy 10 nets for the nonprofit organization Nothing But Nets. “After seeing the video, I told my grandma I wanted to do something to help them”, Miranda says. “She suggested a bake sale. So we talked to people at church, made posters and baked some things.”

 

She and her grandmother, Jill Rechkemmer, also of Cedar Falls, made Caramel-Pecan Cheesecake Pie and Caramel-Pecan Apple Pie, both from Taste of Home. They also invited others from the congregation to help with the baking. “At first I worried we wouldn’t get enough baked goods”, says Grandma Jill. “But there were so many!” The bake sale raised $640, enough to buy 64 nets.

 

Miranda encourages other kids to think about raising money for a cause. “It’s possible no matter how busy you are”, she says. “It feels good to do something to make a difference.” 

 

B. First Reading (Sir 17:1-15): “In His own image the Lord made them.”

 

In the reading (Sir 17:1-15), we contemplate God’s wisdom in creation and his concern for human beings who are made in the divine likeness.  Human beings have dominion over the earth, and are gifted with the power of the senses. God fills them with knowledge and understanding. He shows them the difference between good and evil. He gives them insight to let them see the marvels of his creation and they have the ability to respond in praise of the Creator. He also chooses Israel as his covenant people and entrusts them with the Law as a source of life. He warns against unrighteousness and teaches each person how to treat others. He is all-knowing. God forbids us to do evil against him and toward fellow creatures.

 

The following article is an example of people who opt to respect the right to life of human beings made in the image and likeness of God (cf. “To That Baby You Are Still a Whole Person” in Alive! April 2013, p. 9).

 

Which of these two human beings was conceived in rape?

 

The ultrasound images of two babies look routine, but it is the caption which catches people’s attention. In the first week after the picture appeared on Facebook it was shared 4,774 times and received 4,344 likes and 526 comments. Among the comments were a number from women who became pregnant who had been raped, or had been conceived through rape.

 

Yas wrote: “To be honest my daughter is the result of rape, but to me I look at her as a gift from God.”

 

Anna, 31, told how she was raped when she was 13. “The beautiful baby girl that God gave me from that has helped me to heal more than anything else on this planet could have”, she wrote. “To that baby you are still a whole person. You are not broken or damaged. You are still everything! My baby girl is 17 now, and she is absolutely amazing! I cannot imagine life without her.”

 

Nora reported that her best friend was the “child of rape” and she is the “neatest person I know, very caring and funny.”

 

Brittany told how her friend who was raped decided to keep the child, and now has a “beautiful 16-year-old daughter named Hope.”

 

Yoana’s friend was raped at the age of 14. “She was heartbroken, scared and pregnant”, wrote Yoana. “She never thought about abortion. She said, ‘a baby had the right to live’. Even though it was hard, she had family and friends to support her. She took therapy classes. She became herself again after the child was born. Now her baby is 10 years of age. She has no hard feelings, nor does she wish that she had never had her daughter. She loves her.”

 

A woman named Nicole was glad that someone convinced her mother to think of her as a gift, not merely as a product of the ordeal. “I want to just take a minute and tell you my story”, she wrote. “I was the result of a rape, and because someone talked my biological mom into not aborting, I am alive and I now have a little bundle of joy of my own. And just so you know, if my daughter ever got raped, I would tell her that that baby is a miracle …”

 

Julie Makimaa, who was conceived in rape and now works to defend the right to life of unborn children, commented: “It doesn’t matter how I began. What matters is who I will become.”

 

 

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

 

1. Do we have a childlike dependence in our relationship with God and are we animated by a sense of trust in our pursuit of the kingdom of God?

 

2. Do we perceive that we are truly a marvel of creation and a miracle of God’s love? Do we thank God for the gift of life and of our being?

 

 

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

 

Dear Jesus,

you wanted the children to come to you.

We come to you with childlike dependence

and total trust in you.

Let us enter the heavenly kingdom

and give us the grace to share in the healing ministry

and the prayer of faith of the Church.

We love and serve you, now and forever.

Amen.

 

***

Almighty Father,

we thank you for creating us.

We are truly marvelous

for we are made in your own image.

We are lovable and sacred.

We praise you for the wonders of creation

and your compassionate care for us.

Above all, teach us to avoid evil

and to make a fundamental option for you,

our absolute good.

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.

 

“Let the children come to me … the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Mk 10:14) //“God from the earth created man, and in his own image he made him.” (Sir 17:1)

 

 

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

 

With childlike dependence, ask God for the grace you need to serve him in the sick and suffering and in caring for the “little ones”. // Do what you can to promote the right to life and the dignity of the human person.

  

 *** 

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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