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A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 15, n. 48)

Week 29 in Ordinary Time: October 22-28, 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: October 15-21, 2017, please go to ARCHIVES Series 15 and click on “Week 28”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: October 22-28, 2017.)

 

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 October 22, 2017: TWENTY-NINTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

WORLD MISSION SUNDAY

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Repay to God

What Belongs to God”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 45:1, 4-6 // I Thes 1:1-5b // Mt 22:15-21

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 22:15-21): “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

          

After hearing in these past three Sundays the Parable of the Two Sons, the Parable of the Tenants and the Parable of the Marriage Feast, all of which were directed at Jesus’ opponents, the Sunday assembly now hears the second controversy story (Mt 22:15-21). In this episode concerning paying taxes to the emperor, the evangelist Matthew deals with an insidious trap brought to naught by Jesus.

 

The American scholar, Harold Buetow, introduces the Gospel story: “When the Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech (v. 15), the issue they decided to use was taxes. The Herodians whom the Pharisees enlisted were the party of the dynasty of Herod the Great, who was king by leave of the Romans, and so they were the toadies of the Romans. The Pharisees didn’t have much in common with the Herodians. But they often joined forces to gang up against Jesus. In order to make their plot less obvious, they sent their disciples (v. 16). These piously posed as men resolved only to follow their conscience. After beginning with unctuously flattering words, they proceeded to their loaded question: Is it morally acceptable to pay the census tax to the emperor or not? (v. 17). Now, the Christian Scriptures generally see Rome as a positive influence. Rome provided order and stability, and was, in the early days, the protector of the Church against Jewish zealots … But should a person pay taxes to an empire which worships pagan gods? to an emperor who considered himself a god? In the highly-charged atmosphere of oppression, Roman taxation posed a cruel dilemma to God-fearing Jews … If Jesus said the tax should not be paid, he would be open to a report of sedition by the Herodians to Rome and arrested for it. But to say the tax should be paid would be false to Israel’s most cherished hopes, would lose even good-willed Pharisees, and would constitute a public renunciation of his messianic character which so excited the enthusiasm of the people. What the Herodians and Pharisees wanted was some rash statement, either in favor of Roman rule or in total rejection of it.”

 

Recognizing their hypocrisy and evil intent, Jesus eluded the trap by asking them to show him a coin that pays the census tax. When they handed him the Roman coin, he asked them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” They replied “Caesar’s”. Jesus then confounded them with a masterly retort: “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God”.

 

The great preacher, Fulton Sheen, comments: “Our Lord took no sides, because the basic question was not God or Caesar, but God and Caesar. That coin used in their daily marketing showed they were no longer independent from a political point of view. In that lower sphere of life, the debt to the government should be discharged … Once again he was saying that his kingdom was not of this world; that submission to him is not inconsistent with submission to secular powers; that political freedom is not the only freedom. To the Pharisees who hated Caesar came the command: Give unto Caesar; to the Herodians who had forgotten God in their love of Caesar came the basic principle: Give unto God. Had the people rendered to God his due, they would not now be in their present state of having to render too much to Caesar. He had come primarily to restore the rights of God. As he told them before, if they sought first the kingdom of God and his justice, all these things such as political freedom would be added unto them.”

 

This Sunday’s Gospel reading underlines our primary duty to render to God his rights. Jesus challenges his opponents to be as observant in paying their debts to God as they are in paying their debts to the emperor. Celia Sirois remarks: “If the image of Caesar stamped on a coin means that the coin belongs to Caesar, then the image of God stamped on each and every human being means that each and every one belongs to God.”

 

Jesus Christ, the icon of God, is the model of what it means to manifest the divine image and of the righteous way of rendering to God what is due to him. Lawrence of Brindisi (1559-1619) asserts: “Christ undoubtedly gave Caesar what was Caesar’s and God what was God’s … Those therefore who resemble Christ in their lives, conduct, and practice of virtues, they are the ones who truly manifest the divine image; for the way to recover this image is by being absolutely just. Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s; that is, give each what belongs to him.”

 

The following story circulated on the Internet gives insight into what restoring the rights of God entails,

 

The Rosary Saves Brazil from Communism, 1962-1964: The world was in a state of fear and confusion. Russia was trying to make headway in converting as many countries as possible to Communism under their rule.  Impoverished nations with corrupt governments in turmoil were easy targets. Cuba had just fallen to the Soviets in 1960, and Brazil was another planned conquest. The president of Brazil, Joao Goulart, was pushing for a Communist form of government. He began to install known Communists into high governmental positions while at the same time dispatching representatives to convince the citizens that Communism was good for the country.

 

With Catholicism still strong in the country, Cardinal de Barros Camara told people through a weekly radio address that by following the directives of Our Lady of Fatima regarding prayer and penance, Brazil could overthrow the Communist threat.  In a speech, President Goulart mocked the rosary, saying that governmental control, not reciting the prayers of the rosary, would save the economy from collapse. During this time, he was lining his pockets with dollars given to Brazil in foreign aid from the U.S. and other countries.

 

A Brazilian woman named Dona Amelia Bastos was very concerned about this imminent danger. Her husband belonged to a group of men called the Anti-Reds who were opposed to Communism in Brazil. One night Dona Amelia listened as the Anti-Reds discussed the threat facing their beloved country.  She decided that she too could do something about it. Of her decision, she said, "I suddenly decided that politics had become too important to be left entirely to the men. Moreover, who has more at stake in what's happening to our country than we women?" 

 

She immediately formed a group called Campaign of Women for Democracy (CAMDE) and started to recruit as many people as possible to pray the rosary in large groups to thwart the plan for Communist takeover.  In a town called Belo Horizonte a group of 20,000 women reciting the rosary aloud broke up a pro-Communist rally. The success of this peaceful protest fed the impetus for the Catholic women to do more.

 

With the help of heaven and the strong influence of Archbishop Cardinal de Barros Camara, Dona Amelia recruited an amazing 600,000 women who marched in Sao Paulo to pray the rosary for peace. They called their protest, "March of the Family with God Toward Freedom." under the declaration,  "Mother of God, preserve us from the fate and suffering of the martyred women of Cuba, Poland, Hungary, and other enslaved nations."  Leone Brizola, a Communist high government official, left in a rage when his planned speech  was thwarted by the rattling of 3000 rosaries and the murmuring of the prayers in the assembly hall. Not one life was lost in this most amazing peaceful anti-Communist protest, which is described by many witnesses as, "One of the most moving demonstrations in Brazilian History."  Many more rosary rallies were held in major cities in spite of threats of military action against the crusading women.

 

Under this mounting pressure, on April 1, 1964 President Goulart fled the country along with many members of the government. 

 

Pray the rosary to protect our country from falling to corruption!

 

 

B. First Reading (Is 45:1, 4-6): “I have grasped the right hand of Cyrus to subdue the nations before him.”

 

The Old Testament reading (Is 45:1, 4-6) introduces us to one of the most fascinating figures in ancient history – Cyrus the Great, the “enlightened” king and general from Persia, whose benevolence made him an unwitting instrument of God’s plan of salvation. The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 4, explain: “Cyrus, king of Persia from 550 to 530 B.C., left the memory of a deliverer in the minds of the peoples of the Near East. In the empire formed by his conquests, he practiced a conciliatory policy aimed at winning the conquered peoples by its tolerance, by the lessening of the burdens laid on them, by economic programs. Israel did not forget that Cyrus quickly brought to an end, as soon as 538, the deportation to Babylon. He gave back the utensils of gold and silver taken from the Temple by Nebuchadnezzar and, above all, he published an edict authorizing the rebuilding of the Temple. Truly, Cyrus was, for Israel, a providential king; every reader of Sacred Scripture must concede it. This oracle from the Book of Isaiah says the same thing in its own way. It sees history as directed by God, its master, for the benefit of his people. (…) We must thank him for remembering his people.”

 

Cyrus, the benevolent Persian king, was destined and assisted by the Lord, to promote the divine loving plan to liberate the Jewish people from their exile in Babylon. Though a pagan who worshiped the god Marduk, Cyrus was empowered by God to be the instrument of liberation for the Jews, his chosen people. Indeed, God often works through people who may not even recognize his name. King Cyrus was an example of a political ruler who responded to the inner call and followed the promptings of his conscience. The divinely “anointed” Cyrus was truly a model of what it means to practice acts of justice and peace. Without knowing the Lord God explicitly, the remarkable King Cyrus “gave unto God” his due.

 

The following article, being circulated through the Internet, gives us an idea how a Christian in today’s world can render to God the homage of truth.

 

When Minister Joe Wright was asked to open the new session of the Kansas Senate, everyone was expecting the usual generalities, but this is what they heard:

 

“Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance. We know your Word says, “Woe to those who call evil good”, but that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values. We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. We have killed our unborn and called it choice. We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable. We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem. We have abused power and called it politics. We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition. We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression. We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment. Search us, O God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Amen!”

 

The response was immediate. A number of legislators walked out during the prayer in protest. In six short weeks, Central Christian Church, where Rev. Wright is pastor, logged more than 5,000 phone calls with only 47 of those calls responding negatively. The church is now receiving international requests for copies of this prayer from India, Africa and Korea. Commentator Paul Harvey aired this prayer on his radio program, “The Rest of the Story” and received a larger response to this program than any other he has aired.

 

With the Lord’s help, may this prayer sweep over our nation and wholeheartedly become our desire so that we again can be called “one nation under God”.

 

 

C. Second Reading (I Thes 1:1-5b): “Calling to mind faith, love and hope.”

 

In the Second Reading (I Thes 1:1-5b) we could feel the holy pride of Saint Paul bubbling with gratitude for the wonderful response of the Thessalonians to the Gospel. The community of believers in Thessalonica was marked by the work of faith, labor of love and firm hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. Their commitment, concern and constancy moved Saint Paul to thanksgiving and declare that God loves them and he has chosen them to be his own. The exemplary response of the Thessalonians was made possible by divine initiative. The Jesuit biblical scholar George Soares-Prabhu remarks: “Both the way in which the gospel was proclaimed by Paul (with intense conviction and a power to transform others) and the way it was received by the Thessalonians (with joy in spite of persecution) witnesses to the working of the Spirit.”

 

The following story circulated through the Internet is beautiful and awesome. It gives us an insight into the spiritual vitality of a community that is marked by active faith, caring love and enduring hope. It also illustrates how beautiful it is to be chosen and loved by God.

 

In Phoenix, Arizona, a 26-year-old mother stared down at the 6-year-old son who was dying of terminal leukemia. Although her heart was filled with sadness, she also had a strong feeling of determination. Like any parent, she wanted her son to grow up and fulfill all his dreams. Now that was no longer possible! The leukemia would see to that. But she still wanted her son’s dream to come true.

 

She took her son’s hand and asked, “Billy, did you ever think about what you wanted to be once you grow up? Did you ever dream and wish what would you do with your life?”

 

“Mommy, I always wanted to be a fireman when I grow up.”

 

Mom smiled back and said, “Let’s see if we can make your wish come true.”

 

Later that day she went to her local Fire Department in Phoenix, Arizona, where she met Fireman Bob, who had a heart as big as Phoenix. She explained her son’s final wish and asked if it might be possible to give her 6-year-old son a ride around the block on a fire engine. Fireman Bob said, “Look, we can do better than that. If you have your son ready at seven o’clock Wednesday morning, we’ll make him an honorary Fireman for the whole day. He can come down to the fire station, eat with us, go out on all the fire calls, the whole nine yards! And if  you give us his sizes, we can get a real fire uniform for him, with a real fire hat – not a toy – one with the emblem of the Phoenix Fire Department on it, a yellow slicker like we wear and rubber boots. They’re all manufactured right here in Phoenix, so we can get them fast.”

 

Three days later Fireman Bob picked up Billy, dressed him in his uniform and escorted him from his hospital bed to the waiting hook and ladder truck. Billy got to sit on the back of the truck and help steer it back to the fire station. He was in heaven. There were three fire calls in Phoenix that day and Billy got to go out on all three calls. He rode in the different fire engines, the Paramedic’s van and even the fire chief’s car. He was also videotaped for the local news program.

 

Having his dream come true, with all the love and attention that was lavished upon him, so deeply touched Billy, that he lived three months longer than any doctor thought possible. One night all of his vital signs began to drop dramatically and the head nurse, who believed in the hospice concept that no one should die alone, began to call the family members to the hospital. Then she remembered the day Billy had spent as a Fireman, so she called the Fire Chief and asked if it would be possible to send a fireman in uniform to the hospital to be with Billy as he made his transition.

 

The chief replied, “We can do better than that. We’ll be there in five minutes. Will you please do me a favor? When you hear the sirens screaming and see the lights flashing, will you announce over the PA system that there is not a fire? It’s the department coming to see one of its finest members one more time. And will you open the window to his room?”

 

About five minutes later a hook and ladder truck arrived at the hospital and extended its ladder up to Billy’s third floor open window --- 16 fire-fighters climbed up the ladder into Billy’s room! With his mother’s permission they hugged him and held him and told him how much they LOVED him.

 

With his dying breath, Billy looked up at the fire chief and said, “Chief, am I really a fireman now?”

 

“Billy, you are, and the Head Chief, Jesus, is holding your hand”, the chief said.

 

With those words, Billy smiled and said, “I know. He’s been holding my hand all day, and the angels have been singing.” He closed his eyes one last time.

 

 

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

 

1. Like Cyrus the Great, are we willing to be docile instruments of God’s saving plan?

 

2. Are we willing to repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God?

 

3. Is our Christian life marked with the work of faith, labor of love and enduring hope in our Lord Jesus Christ? Do we realize how deeply God loves us, and that we are chosen by him?

 

 

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

 

O loving God,

you have called us by name and we belong to you.

We desire to respond fully to your compassionate love.

You have chosen us for an awesome purpose.

Help us to spread the Gospel

through our witness of faith, labor of love and enduring hope

in our Lord Jesus Christ.

We praise and bless 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 week. Please memorize it.

 

“Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” (Mt 22:21)

 

 

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

 

Endeavor to build a more harmonious and just society by rendering your just contribution to the needs of the poor and the marginalized. That we may rightly render to God his due, make an effort to spend some quiet moments in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.   

 

 

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October 23, 2017: MONDAY – WEEKDAY (29); SAINT JOHN OF CAPISTRANO, Priest

   “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Essential One … He Was Raised for Our Justification”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Rom 4:20-25 // Lk 12:13-21

  

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 12:13-21): “And the things you have prepared to whom will they belong?”

 

Disputes regarding family inheritance can be very bitter and destructive. A priest narrated to our Sisters an incident that he witnessed personally. He was called to assist a dying rich man. While he was praying over him and administering the last rites, the children were quarrelling in the kitchen over the inheritance. The priest was disappointed and frustrated.

 

We see in today’s Gospel (Lk 12:13-21) that this is probably the same feeling that Jesus has when someone in the crowd asks him: “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me”. Jesus’ response to the request shows that he is a wise Teacher. Refusing to be dragged into the litigation, he denies any jurisdiction over the dividing of inheritances: “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?” Then he turns to the crowd, warning them about the trap of earthly possessions: “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions”. As the Divine Master, he wants to show his disciples and would-be followers the true and efficacious way of dealing with earthly possessions. Jesus does this by narrating a parable about the hoarding Rich Fool. The latter is eagerly looking forward to a life of abundance and leisure, unaware that he is to die that very night.

           

            The final words of Jesus in the parable of the Rich Fool wield a cutting edge and a tone of judgment: “Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God” (Lk 12:21). The indictment against those who are obsessed with material possessions should make us focus on what is essential. Romano Guardini asserts: “Here is the sharp division between the essential and the non-essential … Eternal possessions or temporal possessions – which are essential? Naturally, the eternal ones, for the others fade away … The more deeply people realize that Christ is the essential, the less concerned they will be about everything else.”

 

 

B. First Reading (Rom 4:20-25): “It was written for us when it says that our faith in God will be counted.”

 

In today’s First Reading (Rom 4:20-25), Saint Paul asserts that Abraham’s faith is the pattern of our Christian faith. Abraham did not doubt God’s promise, and his faith filled him with power to glorify God. Abraham showed an unwavering trust in God’s benevolent promise.  His faith made him righteous in the sight of God and put him in intimate relationship with God. That Abraham was put right with God is also true for us. We too are justified by faith. Our sins have caused us to experience “death”. But God raised Jesus from the dead for our salvation. By the paschal mystery of Christ’s death and rising, God offered us the gift of healing and the forgiveness of sins.

 

The following story illustrates that Jesus Christ, who is the cause of our salvation, is ready to comfort us and strengthen our “imperfect” faith in him (cf. Jeanne McClure, “Heaven Is Warm” in 101 Inspiration Stories of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Sister Patricia Proctor, Spokane: Franciscan Monastery of Saint Clare, 2006, p. 93-94).

 

I am an alcoholic, and the day I finally turned it over to God, I immediately went to confession for the first time in years. It was at a church I hadn’t been attending, with a priest I didn’t know.

 

At that time of my life I was working, going to school, and raising two young children on my own. I wondered what on earth I could tell the priest that would be just a small amount of information, but enough that he would quickly give me an absolution and let me leave.

 

When I got into the confessional, I forgot the words to the act of contrition and had to be coached through it. I also had my two small children crammed into the booth with me, asking questions as I tried to give as brief but as honest a confession as I could.

 

As I left the church with my absolution clutched figuratively in my hand, I felt only halfway forgiven. It had nothing to do with the priest. I felt I had made a hasty, halfway confession and was terrified that God wasn’t going to accept it. I took my children home to our cold apartment and bundled them into bed, my infant son in his playpen and my toddler daughter with me on a mattress that was on the floor. I covered us with every blanket we had in an attempt to get warm enough to sleep.

 

I was worried that God wasn’t going to accept or forgive me because I’d been way too imperfect, so I lay there in the cold and cried. Moments later, I was above the mattress and seated almost sprawled at the feet of Jesus. I rested my head on His knee and felt the soft billowing of His white robe. I never looked up; I never felt the need to. I knew who He was. And I was warm, so very warm. No one said anything and I never moved, nor did He.

 

Eventually I returned to my bed. He was gone and I was once again shivering beneath the blankets. I wrapped my arms around my little girl and pulled her close to me, my heart swollen and aching with the agony of ecstasy. I now know for certain – Heaven is warm, and the Son accepts our most inept confessions if they come from our hearts.

 

    

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

 

1. How do I deal with material goods and temporal possessions? Is it obsessively, or with true freedom and wisdom? How do I respond to Christ’s indictment: “Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God”? Do I deeply realize that Christ is the essential? How does this realization affect my daily choices and actions? 

 

2. Is our faith as steadfast and empowering as that of patriarch Abraham? Do we trust in the goodness of God who raised his Son Jesus from the dead for our salvation?

 

 

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

 

Loving Father, source of all good and rich in mercy,

you give to us the greatest gift - your Son Jesus,

the essential one and the ultimate good.

He is the Divine Master

who invites us to trust in your providence

and deal wisely with earthly possessions.

Fill us with concern for the poor, hungry and needy

so that we may share with them your blessings.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.  

 

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O loving God,

how marvelous is the faith of Abraham!

He fully trusted in your benevolent promise.

Let us be “justified” by our steadfast faith in you,

who raised your Son Jesus from the dead for our salvation.

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.

 

“One’s life does not consist of possessions.” (Lk 12:15) //“Abraham was fully convinced that what God had promised he was able to do.” (Rom 4:21)

 

 

 

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

 

Thank the Lord for the blessings you have received from him. Then ask him to inspire you how to share the goods you have received from God with others. // When the daily vicissitude challenges you, ask the good Lord to strengthen you and to grant you a faith as steadfast as that of Abraham.

 

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October 24, 2017: TUESDAY – WEEKDAY (29); SAINT ANTHONY MARY CLARET, Bishop

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Teaches Us to Be Ready … His Gift

of Grace Overflows”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Rom 5:12, 15b, 17-19, 20b-21 // Lk 12:35-38

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 12:35-38): “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.”

 

Christian faith entails readiness and expectation of eternal glory. In the Gospel (Lk 12:35-38), Jesus, the faith-filled person par excellence, invites us to deepen our faith and calls us anew to vigilant faith. The liturgical scholar Adrian Nocent remarks: “Each is called, during the night of faith, to stand ready for the final encounter unto which God calls. This invitation is most important. Everything else must take second place when it comes to having one’s lamp lit and trimmed, to being a faithful steward, to being always alert and watchful by the light of faith. That is the lesson of today’s celebration. The whole existence of the Church is a long, seemingly endless watch in which, century after century, she awaits her encounter with the Lord. She is ever alert and ready, confident as she is of the glory in store for her. Christ has promised that glory; more than that, he enables his Church to perceive the sign of it in the Eucharistic sacrifice.”

 

When my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer, I witnessed how he prepared for his final encounter with the Lord. Daily Communion and prayers were an important part of his preparation. A naturally compassionate man, he started to give his meager possessions as inheritance. I received a Hawaiian shirt, one hundred dollars in cash and two very small plastic statues of Santo Niño and Saint Joseph, which I greatly treasure. Above all, I witnessed how he was able to let go of a grudge that lurked in his heart. He requested us to wear white at his funeral. The day before the Lord took him, he was crying: “Lord, please come and take me with you!” When the final hour came, he was ready to go with the Lord.

 

 

B. First Reading (Rome 5:12, 15b, 17-19, 2b-21): “If by the transgressions of one person death came to reign, how much more will those who receive grace come to reign in life.”

 

Today’s First Reading (Rom 5:12, 15b, 17-19) helps us delve into the wonderful consequence of Christ’s fidelity. His unmitigated trust in the word of God overcame the effects of sin and death wrought by the first Adam. Christ’s faithfulness to God enabled him to offer alienated humanity the gift of reconciliation and reap the precious fruits of “grace abounding”. Indeed, Christ’s beneficence overturned the destruction caused by Adam’ disobedience and negation of God’s love.

 

The biblical scholar John Pilch comments: “Paul’s main interest is not to talk about sin or death, but rather to draw a contrasting picture of Adam and Christ, prominent figures of the beginning and the end time respectively. Adam is a type or prototype of the person to come, namely, Jesus, who would far surpass what Adam did. The world was changed by both of these individuals. Adam unleashed an active hostile force into the world (sin), which has the power to cause definitive alienation (death) from God, the source of all life … In contrast, Christ’s effect is starkly different. Through the gracious gift, namely, the redemptive death of Jesus Christ, uprightness and life super-abound for all individuals who accept him.”

 

The following story illustrates beautifully today’s message that God’s grace is greater than the power of evil or the effects of sin (cf. Facing the Enemy” by Laura Hillenbrand in Guideposts, January 2011, p. 52-57). Temptations to hate and despair can be overcome by letting the “seeds of faith” grow and by surrendering to the mighty love of God.

 

As a boy in California in the 1920s and early 1930s, Louie Zamperini was an incorrigible delinquent. Then he discovered that he had an extraordinary talent for running. He became a world-famous track phenomenon, competing in the 1936 Berlin Olympics when he was still a teenager.

 

World War II began, and Louie set aside athletics and joined the Army Air Corps. He was stationed in Hawaii as a bombardier, fighting harrowing air battles against the Japanese. On May 27, 1943, Louie and his crew took off to search for a missing bomber. Far out over the Pacific, engine failure sent their plane plunging into the ocean. Trapped by wires in the wreckage, Louie passed out. When he came to, the wires were gone. He swam to the surface and climbed onto a raft, joining two other survivors. They’d sent no distress call, and no one knew where they were. For weeks the men floated, followed by sharks, surviving on rainwater and the few fish and birds they could catch. On the twenty-seventh day, a plane appeared. Louie fired flares, and the plane turned toward them. But it turned out to be Japanese bomber, and its crewmen fired machine guns at the castaways. Louie leaped overboard. He had to kick and punch the circling sharks to keep them away until the firing stopped and he could climb back up onto the raft. Over and over the bomber returned to strafe the men, sending Louie back into the shark-infested water. By the time the bomber flew off the raft was riddled with bullet holes and was starting to sink. Amazingly, none of the men had been hit, but the sharks tried to drag them away. Beating them off with oars, the men frantically patched the raft and pumped air into it. Finally the sharks left.

 

On they drifted, starving. One man died; Louie and the other crewman hung on. On the forty-sixth day, they saw a distant island. They rowed toward it. When they were only yards from shore, a Japanese boat intercepted them. For the next two and a quarter years, Louie was a captive of the Japanese military. First he was held in a filthy cell, subjected to medical experiments, starved, beaten and interrogated. Then he was shipped to a prison camp in Japan, where he was forced to race against Japanese runners, winning even though he knew he’d be clubbed as punishment. He joined a daring POW underground, stealing food and circulating information to other captives.

 

It was in the prison camp that Louie encountered a monstrous guard known as the Bird. Fixated on breaking the famous Olympian, the Bird beat Louie relentlessly and forced him to do slave labor. Louie reached the end of his endurance. With his dignity destroyed and his will fading, he prayed for rescue. When the atomic bombs ended the war, the Bird fled to escape war-crimes trials, and Louie was saved from almost certain death.

 

He went home a deeply haunted man. He had nightmares of being bludgeoned by the Bird. Trying to rebuild his life, he married a beautiful debutante named Cynthia, but even her love couldn’t blot the Bird from his mind. He sought solace in running, but an ankle injury, incurred in POW camp and exacerbated by the Bird’s beatings, hampered him. Just as he was reaching Olympic form again, his ankle failed. His athletic career was finished.

 

Devastated, he started drinking. He had flashbacks: The raft of the prison camp would appear around him, and he’d relive terrifying memories. He simmered with rage, provoking fistfights with strangers and confrontations with Cynthia. He couldn’t shake the sense of shame that had been beaten into him by the Bird. Louie thought that God was toying with him. When he heard preachers on the radio, he turned it off. He forbade Cynthia to go to church. He drank more and more heavily. In time, Louie’s rage hardened into a twisted ambition: He would return to Japan, hunt down the Bird and strangle him. It was the only way he could restore his dignity. He became obsessed, trying to raise the money for the trip, but his financial ventures kept failing.

 

One night in 1948, Louie dreamed he was locked in a death battle with the Bird. A scream startled him awake. He was straddling his pregnant wife, hands clenched around her neck. His daughter was born a few months later. One day, Cynthia found him shaking the baby, trying to stop her from crying. She snatched the baby away, then packed her bags and walked out.

 

In the fall of 1949, Cynthia made a last effort to save her husband. She asked Louie to come to a tent meeting in Los Angeles, where a young minister named Billy Graham was preaching. For two nights, Louie sat in that tent, feeling guilty and angry as Graham spoke of sin and its consequences, and God bringing miracles to the stricken. On the second night, Graham asked people to step forward to declare their faith. Louie stood up and stormed toward the exit. But at the aisle, he stopped short. Suddenly he was in a flashback, adrift on the raft. It hadn’t rained in days, and he was dying of thirst. In anguish, he whispered a prayer: If you will save me, I will serve you forever. Over the raft, rain began falling. Standing in Graham’s tent, lost in the flashback, Louie felt the rain on his face. At that moment Louie began to see his whole ordeal differently. When he’d been trapped in the wreckage of his plane, somehow he’d been freed. When the Japanese bomber had shot the raft full of holes, somehow none of the men had been hit. When the Bird had driven him to the breaking point, and he’d prayed for help, somehow he’d found the strength to keep breathing. And that day on the raft, he had prayed for rain, and rain had come. Louie’s conviction that he was forsaken was gone, replaced by a belief that divine love had been all around him, even at his darkest moments. That night in Graham’s tent, the bitterness and pain that had haunted him vanished.

 

A year later, Louie went to Japan. He was a joyful man, his marriage restored, his nightmares and flashbacks gone, his alcoholism overcome. He went to a Tokyo prison where war criminals were serving their sentences. He hoped to find the Bird, to know for sure if the peace he’d found was resilient. But the Bird wasn’t there. Louie was told that the guard had killed himself. Louie was struck with emotion. He was surprised by what he felt. It was not hatred. Not relief. It was compassion. Louie had found forgiveness. Louie’s Zamperini’s life is a journey of outrageous fortune, ferocious will and astonishing redemption.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we respond fully to Jesus’ call to vigilant faith? How do we prepare for the triumphant return of the Son of Man who comes unexpectedly?

 

2. Do you believe that the grace won for us by Christ, by his obedience to the Father’s word, is superabundant and greater than the effects of sin? 

 

 

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

 

Loving Father,

your Son Jesus Christ is our Savior.

Help us to be vigilant and ready for our final encounter with Jesus.

Make us his faithful servants in this time of waiting.

We give you glory and praise, now and forever.

Amen.

 

***

Loving God,

we thank you for your Son Jesus.

He was faithful and obedient to your word.

When tempted to despair,

fill us with hope and strengthen us with your love.

Incline our hearts to your voice.

Fill us with healing love

and delight us with grace abounding,

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.

 

“Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.” (Lk 12:37) //“How much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many.” (Rom 5:15b)

 

 

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

 

Pray that Christian disciples may learn to live in vigilant faith for the Lord’s coming. By our commitment to pursue justice, seek peace, protect human rights and give preferential concern to the poor and needy, let us allow our vigilant faith to make an impact on today’s fragmented society and prepare them for the definitive coming of the Lord’s kingdom at the end time. // By your acts of charity, justice and peace, let the saving grace of God be sown more efficaciously, especially in those with broken and despairing hearts.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

October 25, 2017: WEDNESDAY – WEEKDAY (29)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Wants Us to Be Faithful Servants … He Freed Us from Sin”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Rom 6:12-18 // Lk 12:39-48

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 12:39-48): “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much.”

 

In today’s Gospel (Lk 12:39-48), Jesus exhorts us to be ever ready because his coming is as uncertain as the coming of a thief. Peter asks a question which Jesus ignores because it is impertinent. The lesson of Jesus’ parable is meant for all disciples, but especially for Church leaders who are called to greater accountability. They are to be punished in proportion to their irresponsibility. The leaders of the faith community are called to greater fidelity in fulfilling the mission Jesus entrusted to them. Jesus warns them: “Much will be required of a person entrusted with much … and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

 

            My mother mirrors for me the quality of faithful vigilance. She was an elementary school teacher for 38 years. No matter how tired or stressed she was, she would prepare the following day’s lesson plan. School supervisors would come unannounced to check. She would rather be absent than go to school without a lesson plan. She did not want them to find her unprepared for that would be a big blot on her integrity as a teacher. But I suppose, even if there were no school supervisors, she would continue her good work just the same because of her loyalty to God and her sense of responsibility for the children entrusted to her care.

 

 

B. First Reading (Rom 6:12-18): “Present yourselves to God as raised from the dead to life.”

 

In today’s First Reading (Rom 6:12-18), Saint Paul speaks of our liberation from sin. We are dead to sin but alive in union with Christ Jesus. Hence, we must not let the alienating force of sin govern our living. We must give ourselves to God who, in Jesus Savior, has brought us from death to life. We must surrender our whole being to him to be used for his purpose. Although as Christians we have already been baptized and freed from sin, we can still succumb to sin’s seduction. Hence, we must not be complacent. Humbly relying on divine grace, we need to manifest our union with Christ and his definitive victory over sin by the way we live. Saint Paul reminds us that we are set free from sin in order to be slaves of righteousness.

 

The following story illustrates what it means to be freed from the slavery to sin and to choose to be a slave of righteousness (cf. “Torn Between Good and Evil” by an anonymous writer in 101 Inspiration Stories of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Sister Patricia Proctor, Spokane: Franciscan Monastery of Saint Clare, 2006, p. 98-99).

 

When I was a young girl, I was a very devout Catholic. I spent every morning before school at church and after school I would return alone to pray. When I became a teenager, I gradually started moving away from the Church. Like most girls, I started spending more time with boys than with God.

 

Later I married and after ten years and two children, I began to find my heart yearning to go back to my Catholic faith. My children were attending Catholic school, and my oldest son was in the process of making his first reconciliation when I felt my heart being pulled by Jesus.

 

My marriage was a wreck. I was working full time and spending many hours away from home. I began to fall into a bad lifestyle, but at the same time, I felt God tugging at my heart. I was extremely torn between good and evil.

 

One night I fell into a deep sleep, and in my sleep the devil came to me. The appearance of the devil was so grotesque that I cannot put it into words. He fought me. I was engaged in a complete physical altercation with Satan. I looked up for a moment and saw my two guardian angels, looking down on me with such sorrow in their faces that I knew this was it. I had to make a decision. Do I go with Satan and continue to live in sin, or do I turn my life over to Jesus?

 

At that moment I screamed out, “Leave me alone, Satan! I am a child of God!” As I said these words, he slithered away. When I awoke, I was soaking wet from head to foot, and I was shaking. I was so frightened that I had to leave all the lights on in my room.

 

I now knew the choice I had to make. I knew I could no longer live in perpetual sin. That’s when I called my local parish. After being away from the confessional for more than ten years, I wanted to start my life anew.

 

It was about six o’clock in the evening when I called the church to find out what time confessions were heard. The parish priest answered the phone. I explained that I wanted to know the confession schedule. He told me what it was and then said, “Or upon request”. He invited me to drop everything and meet him at the church. He would go over and open the church so I could make my confession immediately.

 

At seven o’clock that night I entered the confessional for the first time in many years. After examining my conscience, I made a very heartfelt confession. I actually felt the Holy Spirit lift my burdens and I knew when I walked out of that confessional that my life was going to be changed forever. It was.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we heed Jesus’ exhortation to be vigilant and faithful? How?

 

2. Are we ready to renounce being slaves to sin and, embracing the grace of God, to be slaves of righteousness?

 

 

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

 

Lord Jesus,

you teach us to be ever ready for your second coming.

You warn us that from those who have received much,

much more will be demanded.

Teach us to prepare for your coming

by our faithful service and personal dedication.

Help us to be persevering and responsible servants

until you come again.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen. 

 

***

Heavenly Father,

through the sorrowful passion of your beloved Son Jesus Christ,

we are no longer slaves to sin,

but rather, slaves of righteousness.

We have been brought from death to life.

We surrender our whole being

- our mind, heart and will – to you.

We give you thanks and praise for great is your love

and you are very merciful.

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.

 

            “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much.” (Lk 12:48)  //“Present yourselves to God as raised from the dead to life.” (Rom 6:13

 

 

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

 

When you are tempted to be lax in the responsibilities entrusted to you, remember the words of Jesus about faithful vigilance. Find in them inspiration for renewed commitment. // Be cognizant of the healing and transforming power of the sacrament of reconciliation. Avail yourself of this grace especially when your personal relationship with God has been ruptured by sinful actions.

 


*** *** ***

 

October 26, 2017: THURSDAY – WEEKDAY (29)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is a Prophet of Contradiction … In Him We Become Slaves of Righteousness”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Rom 6:19-23 // Lk 12:49-53

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 12:49-53): “I have not come to establish peace but division.”

 

I was in my third year of high school when I came across Leo Tolstoy’s novel, “War and Peace”. It was irresistible. I did not go to school for three days to read it from cover to cover. I am fascinated by the Russian “prophet” Tolstoy. I appreciate his commitment to Christ’s teaching on love, compassion and non-violence. Conscience-stricken and upset by the plight of the poor, Count Tolstoy opted for a simplified life and dedicated more greatly his literary pursuits to socio-religious themes. His wife Sonya did not share his zeal for reform and for his new lifestyle that was simple and austere – for example, making himself a brew of barley and acorns because coffee was a luxury! She was chagrined that he chose to work on pugnacious tracts that put people off, when he could be producing wonderful novels that would bring in lots of money. Tolstoy did not care about money, but she had to, otherwise what would become of their children? Unable to bear any longer the divisive and oppressive situation at home and detesting the luxury found in his estate, Yasnaya Polyana, the 82-year old Tolstoy left home on November 10, 1910, accompanied only by his doctor. He fell ill on a southbound train and died at a stationmaster’s house on November 20, 1910. Leo Tolstoy is a fascinating figure – a modern day example of a prophet of contradiction.

 

Today’s Gospel (Lk 12:49-53) presents the divisions that Jesus’ mission creates even in families. The way of Jesus catalyzes separations and provokes conflicts among those who had made a radical choice for him and those who had not. Aelred Rosser remarks: “The division Jesus speaks of with such force (listing several familial relationships for emphasis) is an inevitable consequence of well-lived faith. Into every life there comes a time when the choice to be truly Christian comes into conflict with another choice – perhaps a good choice. When that moment comes, we recognize the division Jesus brought into the world. The peace that comes from making the right choice is also something Jesus brought, but it is his peace, not the kind of peace the world gives.”

 

 

B. First Reading (Rom 6:19-23): “Now you have been freed from sin and have become slaves of God.”

 

In today’s First Reading (Rom 6:19-23), Saint Paul underlines that freedom from sin is freedom to serve God. The liberation from the oppression of sin wrought by Christ’s death and rising does not mean total and complete independence, but rather acceptance of God as master. To become slaves of God means “sanctification”, that is, a total dedication that demands a withdrawal from sin. The wages of sin is death, but the result of sanctification is eternal life. Indeed, God’s free gift is eternal life in union with Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

The transforming and life-giving effect of one’s radical decision for Christ can be gleaned from the following story (cf. Oscar Wilde, “The Selfish Giant” in A Holiday Treasury, ed. Diana Wenk, New York: Nelson Doubleday, Inc., 1983, p. 97-102)

 

(…) The autumn gave golden fruit to every garden, but to the Giant’s garden she gave none. “He is too selfish”, she said. So it was always winter there, and the North Wind, and the Hail, and the Frost, and the Snow danced about through the trees.

 

One morning the Giant was lying awake in bed when he heard some lovely music. It sounded so sweet to his ears that he thought it must be the King’s musicians passing by. It was really only a little linnet singing outside his window, but it was so long since he had heard a bird sing in his garden that it seemed to him the most beautiful music in the world. Then the Hail stopped dancing over his head, and the North Wind ceased roaring, and a delicious perfume came to him through the open casement. “I believe the spring has come at last”, said the Giant, and he jumped out of bed and looked out.

 

What did he see? He saw a most wonderful sight. Through a little hole in the wall the children had crept in, and they were sitting in the branches of the tree. In every tree that he could see there was a little child. And the trees were so glad to have the children back again that they had covered themselves with blossoms, and were waving their arms gently above the children’s heads. The birds were flying about and twittering with delight, and the flowers were looking up through the green grass and laughing. It was a lovely scene, only in one corner it was still winter. It was the farthest corner of the garden, and in it was standing a little boy. He was so small that he could not reach up to the branches of the tree, and he was wandering all around it, crying bitterly. The poor tree was still quite covered with frost and snow, and the North Wind was blowing and roaring above it. “Climb up! Little boy”, said the Tree, and it bent its branches down as low as it could; but the boy was so tiny.

 

And the Giant’s heart melted as he looked out. “How selfish I have been! he said; “now I know why the spring would not enter here. I will put that poor little boy on the top of the tree, and then I will knock down the wall, and my garden shall be the children’s playground forever and ever.” He was really sorry for what he had done.

 

So he crept downstairs and opened the front door quite softly, and went out into the garden. But when the children saw him they were so frightened that they all ran away and the garden became winter again. Only the little boy did not run, for his eyes were so full of tears that he did not see the Giant coming. And the Giant strode up behind him and took him gently in his hand, and put him up into the tree. And the tree broke at once into blossom, and the birds came and sang on it, and the little boy stretched out his two arms and flung them around the giant’s neck, and kissed him. And the other children when they saw that the Giant was not wicked any longer, came running back, and with them came the spring. “It is your garden now, little children”, said the Giant, and he took a great axe and knocked down the wall. And when the people were going to market at twelve o’clock they found the Giant playing with the children in the most beautiful garden they had ever seen.

 

All day long they played, and in the evening they came to the Giant to bid him good-bye. “But where is your little companion?” he said, “the boy I put into the tree.” The Giant loved him the best because he kissed him. “We don’t know”, answered the children; “he has gone away.”

 

“You must tell him to be sure and come here tomorrow”, said the Giant. But the children said they did not know where he lived, and had never seen him before; and the Giant felt very sad.

 

Every afternoon, when the school was over, the children came and played with the Giant. But the little boy whom the Giant loved was never seen again. The Giant was very kind to all the children, yet he longed for his little friend, and often spoke of him. “How I would like to see him!” he used to say.

 

Years went by, and the Giant grew very old and feeble. He could not play about any more, so he sat in a huge armchair, and watched the children at their games, and admired his garden. “I have many beautiful flowers”, he said; “but the children are the most beautiful flowers of all.”

 

One winter he looked out of his window as he was dressing. He did not hate the winter now, for he knew that it was merely spring asleep, and that the flowers were resting.

 

Suddenly he rubbed his eyes in wonder, and looked and looked. It certainly was a marvelous sight. In the farthest corner of the garden was a tree quite covered with lovely white blossoms. Its branches were all golden, and silver fruit hung down from them, and underneath it stood the little boy he loved.

 

Downstairs ran the Giant in great joy, and out into the garden. He hastened across, and came near to the child. And when he came quite close his face grew red with anger, and said, “Who hath dared to wound thee?” For on the palms of the child’s hands were the prints of two nails, and the prints of two nails were on the little feet. “Who hath dared to wound thee?” cried the Giant; “tell me, that I may take my big sword and slay him.” “Nay!” answered the child; “but these are wounds of Love.”

 

“Who art thou?” said the Giant, and a strange awe fell on him, and he knelt before the little child. And the child smiled on the Giant, and he said to him, “You let me play once in your garden; today you shall come with me to my garden, which is Paradise.”

 

And when the children ran in that afternoon, they found the Giant lying dead under the tree, all covered with white blossoms.

 

 

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

 

1. Are we willing to embrace the detachment, renunciation and opposition that the peace of Christ may entail? Are we willing to be fully united with Christ and become, in him, a “sign of contradiction” in today’s world? 

 

2. What does it mean for us to be liberated from sin and become slaves of righteousness? Are we ready to welcome God’s free gift of eternal life in union with Jesus?

 

 

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

 

You are the prophet of contradiction.

Grant us the grace to be faithful

when our radical choice for you creates division.

Help us to embrace the detachment and opposition

that our Christian commitment entails.

Let us experience the peace that you bring and

not the deceptive peace that the world offers.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.  

 

***

Loving God,

through the passion and death of your Son Jesus,

you liberated us from the power of sin

and we rise to new life in him

who is our Lord and Savior.

Let us be slaves of righteousness

and let us rejoice in your gift of eternal life

in union with Christ Jesus.

We praise and glorify 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.

 

“Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” (Lk 12:51) //“The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23)

 

 

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

 

While avoiding facile compromises and easy tradeoffs, endeavor to bring the peace of Christ to a distressing situation that needs healing and reconciliation. Have the courage to be a “sign of contradiction” when the situation calls for it. // Begin your day by making an act of consecration to Jesus and resolve that everything you do will be for the greater glory of God.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

October 27, 2017: FRIDAY – WEEKDAY (29)

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Exhorts Us to Read the Signs of the Times … He Is Our Deliverer”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Rom 7:18-25a // Lk 12:54-59

 

 

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

 

A. Gospel Reading (Lk 12:54-59): “You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and sky; why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”

 

In today’s Gospel episode (Lk 12:54-59) we see Jesus talking to a crowd. He is disappointed that they are able to read correctly the signs of the weather, but not the signs of God’s kingdom on earth in the person of Jesus. He exhorts the people to interpret correctly the “present time”, that is, the meaning of his mission. If only they were receptive, they should be able to perceive in the ministry of Jesus – in his words and deeds – that the kingdom of God has come. They should therefore respond to his call to conversion. The certainty of divine judgment should lead people to seek full reconciliation with God. Jesus warns them not to delay decision making for the kingdom. When God’s righteous judgment comes, they will wish that they had settled the issue before – just as a losing plaintiff wisely settles a legal case with a powerful opponent on the way to the magistrate and thus escapes punishment.

 

            As Christians in the modern world, we too are called to scrutinize the “signs of the times”. We are called to recognize and understand the distinctive characteristics, expectations, longings and needs of the people of today. We are called to be receptive to the signs of the kingdom value and the tasks it entails. The following story illustrates the receptive stance of a Christian disciple to the demands of the kingdom values (cf. Sarah Ball, “Stay-at-Home Help” in Guideposts, October 2012, p. 19)

 

Earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes. They all played out before me on the evening news. I clicked off the TV. Every scene of people in need made me want to rush out to do something. But rushing out to do anything was impossible for me right now. I was recovering from surgery for breast cancer. With drainage tubes in my side, expanders in my chest, not to mention all the medications I took for the pain, I could barely move. What help could I be to people in trouble?

 

I can pray for them, I thought. And pray I did. I prayed for God to comfort those who were grieving, to heal the injured, to speed recovery. But I still felt helpless. “Please, Lord, isn’t there anything I can do myself?” I can’t even lift a gallon of milk these days, I thought. How can I help anyone? I couldn’t go anywhere. And although I’ve fostered animals in the past, even taking care of one displaced pet seemed beyond me.

 

The next day I got word of another disaster looming – the one close to my home in Iowa. Weathermen were predicting massive flooding in my area. There was a call out for volunteers. Workers were frantically piling sandbags against buildings and strengthening the levees. And here I was, stuck at home – not in danger, but still on the couch. The only way I could help would be if the Lord dropped something in my lap.

 

During a call to a friend I told her about my frustrations. “My friend Francis is really in a bind”, she said. “She lives on the flood plain and has decided to evacuate her mobile home, but she can’t afford a storage facility for her things. She’s scared she’ll come home and find all of her furniture destroyed. I can’t take any of it because my place is too small.”

 

“She can store it here!” I said. “Our basement is nearly empty; there’s plenty of room. It’s perfect!” Friends moved Francis’ furniture into my house the next day. It was the answer to her prayers – and mine.

 

 

B. First Reading (Rom 7:18-25a): “Who will deliver me from this mortal body?”

 

In today’s First Reading (Rom 7:18-25a), Saint Paul tells us that each person has an internal part which desires what God desires. He exclaims: “My inner being delights in the law of God.” But there is also a negative force that pulls away from the law of God, making impossible a decision to re-center one’s whole life on Christ. The internal struggle that takes place between the law of God and the law of Sin is frustrating and weakening. That is why Saint Paul cries out in agony and longs for relief: “Miserable man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body that is taking me to death?” In anticipation of deliverance, the apostle sings a brief statement of praise: “Thanks be to God who does this through our Lord Jesus Christ!”

 

The inner conflict within us and the benevolent saving action of Christ in our life can be gleaned from the following story (cf. “My Decision” by an anonymous writer in 101 Inspiration Stories of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Sister Patricia Proctor, Spokane: Franciscan Monastery of Saint Clare, 2006, p. 70).

 

The children, the house, the finances, health and the relatives – it was just all getting to me. Some of it was caused by me and some by others, but it was all getting me down. And I mean down.

 

Since I suffer from depression and anxiety, feeling down is more serious for me than for many others who are feeling blue. I began to think that the only way for me to solve my problems was to remove myself from them. For me, that meant suicide. I thought about it and decided Wednesday would be the best day to do it. This would be after the family retreat we had planned, and the girls would have completed the jobs they were doing to raise money for a trip.

 

At the family retreat, several priests were available for reconciliation. I took advantage of this, telling my husband that I really needed to go to confession, and asked him to take care of the children for me. Then I stood in a long line with many elderly people, young people, toddlers, and babies. Finally, it was my turn.

 

I began my confession, telling the priest about my confusion and decision to commit suicide, and as we spoke, I could feel Jesus healing me through this priest. I felt much better when we were finished talking. The priest and I spoke many more times during the rest of the retreat, and he continued to counsel and help me. Although I am not completely healed, I am feeling significantly better. If it had not been for reconciliation, I would not be here and my children would be without a mother. That Wednesday has come and gone, and I thank God that I am still here.

 

 

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

 

1. Do we make an effort to read the “signs of the times” and ask the Lord for the grace not just to perceive them, but to be able to respond to them? 

 

2. What do we do when we feel the raging spiritual conflict within us? Do we have recourse to Jesus for liberation?

 

 

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

 

Loving Jesus,

you exhort us to read the signs of your kingdom.

Give us the grace to be receptive to the “signs of the times”

and help us to carry out our duties

on behalf of the kingdom value.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

            Amen.

 

            ***

Loving God,

you are very merciful and compassionate.

When the raging forces of sin seek to destroy us,

rescue us from their clutches

through the death and resurrection

of your Son Jesus.

Our inner being delights in your Law, O Lord!

Grant us the grace to live with 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 week. Please memorize it.

 

“Why do you not know how to interpret the present time?” (Lk 12:56) //“Who will deliver me from this mortal body?” (II Rom 7:24)

 

 

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

 

Pray for the grace to scrutinize the “signs of the times”. In your own little way, respond positively to the demands they entail. // When assailed with inner conflict, turn to God in prayer and if possible, seek help from a Church minister. In any way you can, help the people you know who are experiencing moral-spiritual turmoil.

      

 

*** *** ***

 

October 28, 2017: SATURDAY – SAINTS SIMON AND JUDE, APOSTLES

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Chooses the Apostles … He Builds the Church upon the Apostolic Witnessing”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Eph 2:19-22 // Lk 6:12-16

 

 

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

 

In today’s Gospel (Lk 6:12-16), we hear that Jesus goes up to the mountain to pray and he spends the night in prayer to God. The night is fascinating. It can be a moment of deep commune with God and a time of profound prayer. Once again, before making a decisive decision crucial to his messianic mission, Jesus prays. When the day comes, he calls his disciples to himself and chooses the twelve apostles, who represent the “twelve” tribes of the New Israel, the Church. Among the “Twelve” are Simon called the “Zealot” and Jude Thaddeus. Prayer is likewise an important element in the life of the apostles. By the help of prayer, they are able to learn the wisdom of the cross and to fully embrace Christ’s paschal mystery.

 

As we celebrate the feast of Saints Simon and Jude, apostles, today’s First Reading (Eph 2:19-22) underlines that we are built upon the foundation laid down by the apostles and the prophets whose saving message is centered on the Christ-event. Through the power of Christ, we grow into a spiritual temple sacred in the Lord. We are no longer strangers or sojourners. Because of the reconciling activity of Jesus Christ, we have become fellow citizens with God’s people and his family members. The Gospel proclamation and apostolic witnessing are very important for the growth of the Church, whose glorious capstone and binding force is Jesus Christ himself.

 

The apostolic message goes out through all the earth. Saints Simon and Jude have carried the “light of faith” to the ends of the world, as the following biographical sketches show (cf. Wikipedia in the Internet).

 

Simon the Zealot is one of the most obscure among the apostles of Jesus. Little is recorded of him aside from his name. The name of Simon occurs in all of the synoptic gospels and Acts that give a list of apostles. He is called “zealot” because, in seeing the miracle at Cana, Simon left his home, parents and his bride and followed Christ. It is also said that after Pentecost, his mission was in a place called Mauretania in Africa.

 

In later tradition, Simon is often associated with St. Jude, as an evangelizing team. They share their feast day on 28 October. The most widespread tradition is that after evangelizing in Egypt, Simon joined Jude in Persia and Armenia or Beirut, Lebanon, where both were martyred in 65 A.D. This version is found in the Golden Legend.

 

He is buried in the same tomb as St. Jude Thaddeus, in the left transept of the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, under the altar of St. Joseph. In art, Simon has the identifying attribute of a saw because according to legend, he was put to death by a saw.

 

***

 

Jude was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus. He is generally identified with Thaddeus. The Armenian Catholic Church honors Thaddeus along with Saint Bartholomew as its patron saints. In the Roman Catholic Church he is the patron saint of desperate cases or lost causes.

 

Saint Jude’s attribute is a club. He is also often shown in icons with a flame around his head. This represents his presence at Pentecost, when he received the Holy Spirit with the other apostles. Another common attribute is Jude holding an image of Jesus Christ. In some instances he may be shown with a scroll or a book or holding a carpenter’s rule.

 

The legend reports that Saint Jude was born into a Jewish family in Panea, a town in Galilee later rebuilt by the Romans and renamed Caesarea Philippi. In all probability he spoke both Greek and Aramaic, like most of his contemporaries in that area, and was a farmer by trade. According to the legend, Saint Jude was a son of Clopas and his wife Mary, a cousin of the Virgin Mary. Tradition has it that Jude’s father, Clopas, was martyred because of his forthright and outspoken devotion to the Risen Christ.

 

Tradition holds that Saint Jude preached the Gospel in Judea, Samaria, Idumaea, Syria, Mesopotamia and Libya. He is also to have visited Beirut and Edessa. The apostles Jude and Bartholomew are traditionally believed to have been the first to bring Christianity to Armenia, and are therefore venerated as the patron saints of the Armenian Catholic Church. In his History Ecclesiastica, Eusebius relates that King Abgar of Edessa (now Sanhurfa in Turkey) sent a letter to Jesus seeking a cure for an illness afflicting him. With the letter he sent his envoy Hannan, the keeper of the archives, offering his own home city to Jesus as a safe dwelling place. The envoy painted a likeness of Jesus with choice paints (or alternatively, impressed with Abgar’s faith, Jesus pressed his face into a cloth and gave it to Hannan) to take to Abgar with his answer. Upon seeing Jesus’ image, the king placed it with great honor in one of his palatial houses. After Christ’s execution, Thomas the Apostle sent Jude to King Abgar and the king was cured. Astonished, he converted to Christianity, along with many people under his rule.

 

According to tradition, after his martyrdom, pilgrims came to his grave to pray and many of them experienced the powerful intercession of Saint Jude and thus the title, “The Saint for the Hopeless and the Desperate”. Saint Bridget of Sweden and Saint Bernard had visions from God asking each to accept Saint Jude as “The Patron Saint of the Impossible”.

 

Here is a novena to Saint Jude: “O Holy Saint Jude! Apostle and Martyr, great in virtue and rich in miracles, near kinsman of Jesus Christ, faithful intercessor for all who invoke you, special patron in time of need; to you I have recourse from the depth of my heart, and humbly beg you, to whom God has given such great power, to come to my assistance; help me now in my urgent need and grant my earnest petition. I will never forget thy graces and favors you obtain for me and I will do my utmost to spread devotion to you. Amen.”

 

 

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

 

What does it mean personally to be a community of faith based on “the foundation of the Apostles and the prophets?

 

 

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

(cf. Opening Prayer of the Mass – feast of Sts. Simon and Jude)

 

Father,

you revealed yourself to us

through the preaching of your apostles Simon and Jude.

By their prayers,

give your Church continued growth

and increase the number of those who believe in you.

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 day. Please memorize it.

 

“You are built upon the foundation of the Apostles and the prophets.” (Eph 2:20)

 

 

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

 

Continue the apostolic witnessing and the Gospel proclamation in today’s world by living a life of Christian charity that is manifested in compassion and care for the poor and vulnerable.

 

 *** 

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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