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Lectio Divina

Lectio Divina (465)

"Lectio divina is an authentic source of Christian spirituality recommended by our Rule. We therefore practice it every day, so that we may develop a deep and genuine love for it, and so that we may grow in the surpassing knowledge of Christ. In this way we shall put into practice the Apostle Paul’s commandment, which is mentioned in our Rule: “Let the sword of the spirit, the Word of God, live abundantly in your mouth and in your hearts; and whatever you must do, do it in the name of the Lord.”

 Carmelite Constitutions (No. 82)

Monday, 16 May 2011 09:13

Lectio Divina: 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Written by

Fraternal correction in the community

Care of those who leave the community

Matthew 18:15-20



1. Opening prayer



Lord Jesus, send your Spirit to help us to read the Scriptures with the same mind that you read them to the disciples on the way to Emmaus. In the light of the Word, written in the Bible, you helped them to discover the presence of God in the disturbing events of your sentence and death. Thus, the cross that seemed to be the end of all hope became for them the source of life and of resurrection.



Create in us silence so that we may listen to your voice in Creation and in the Scriptures, in events and in people, above all in the poor and suffering. May your word guide us so that we too, like the two disciples from Emmaus, may experience the force of your resurrection and witness to others that you are alive in our midst as source of fraternity, justice and peace. We ask this of you, Jesus, son of Mary, who revealed to us the Father and sent us your Spirit. Amen.



2. Reading



a) A division of the text to help with the reading:



Matthew 18:15-16: Correcting the brother or sister and re-establishing unity

Matthew 18:17: Those who do not listen to the community cut themselves off

Matthew 18:18: Decisions made on earth are accepted in heaven

Matthew 18:19: Prayer in common for those who leave the community

Matthew 18:20: Jesus’ presence within the community



b) A key to the reading



- Matthew’s Gospel organises the words of Jesus into five great Sermons or Discourses. This shows that at the end of the first century, the time of the final edition of Matthew’s Gospel, the Christian communities had already taken on concrete forms of catechesis. The five Discourses were five great markers showing the way on the journey. They offered concrete criteria to teach people and help them solve problems. The Sermon on the Community (Mt 18:1-35), for instance, gives instructions as to how the members of the community should live together so that the community may be a revelation of the Kingdom of God.

- On this 23rd Sunday of ordinary time we shall read and meditate on the second part of the Sermon on the Community and we shall see closely two aspects: fraternal correction, that is how to proceed in case of conflict among the members of the community (18:15-18), and prayer in common: how to take care of those who have left the community (18:19-20).



Matthew 18:15-20



c) The text:



15 'If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone, between your two selves. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. 16 If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you: whatever the misdemeanour, the evidence of two or three witnesses is required to sustain the charge. 17 But if he refuses to listen to these, report it to the community; and if he refuses to listen to the community, treat him like a gentile or a tax collector. 18 'In truth I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 'In truth I tell you once again, if two of you on earth agree to ask anything at all, it will be granted to you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three meet in my name, I am there among them.'



3. A moment of prayerful silence



so that the Word of God may penetrate and enlighten our life.



4. Some questions



to help us in our personal reflection.



a) Which part of the text struck you most? Why?

b) What advice does Jesus give us to help people solve the problems of the community and reconcile the members among themselves?

c) What is the basic requirement that comes out of Jesus’ advice?

d) In Mt 16:19, the power to forgive is given to Peter; in Jn 20:23, this same power is given to the apostles. Here, the power to forgive is given to the community. How does our community use this power to forgive given to us by Jesus?

e) Jesus said: "Where two or three meet in my name, I am there among them". What does this mean for us today?



5. For those who wish to go deeper into the text



a) The context of our text in Matthew’s Gospel:



In organising the words of Jesus into five great sermons or discourses, Matthew’s Gospel imitates the five books of the Pentateuch and presents the Good News of the Kingdom as a New Law. This Sunday’s liturgy challenges us with the New Law that teaches fraternal correction within the community and our attitude towards those who exclude themselves from the community.



b) A commentary on the text:



Matthew 18:15-16: Correcting the brother and sister and rebuilding unity.

Jesus gives simple and concrete norms to tell us how to proceed in case of conflict in the community. If a brother or sister sins, that is, behaves contrary to the life of the community, you must not denounce him/her publicly before the community. First you must speak to him/her alone. Try to find out why he/she acted in that way. If you get no result, then call two or three members of the community to see whether you can get some result.

Matthew writes his Gospel in around the 80’s or 90’s, almost at the end of the first century, for the community of converted Jews coming from Galilee and Syria. If he recalls so insistently these words of Jesus, it is because, in fact, in those communities there were great divisions concerning the acceptance of Jesus Messiah. Many families were divided and persecuted by their own parents who did not accept Jesus as Messiah (Mt 10:21.35-36).



Matthew 18:17: Anyone who does not listen to the community cuts him/herself off

In extreme cases and after trying everything possible, the reticent brother or sister has to be brought before the community. And if that person will not listen to the advice of the community, then he or she has to be considered “as a publican or pagan”, that is as a person not belonging to the community and who much less wishes to be part of the community. Thus you are not excluding anyone, but the person him/herself is excluding him/herself from the common life of the community.



Matthew 18:18: Decisions made on earth are accepted in heaven

In Mt 16:19, the power to forgive is given to Peter, in Jn 20:23, this same power is given to the apostles. Now, in this text, the power to forgive is given to the community: “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven”. Here we see the importance of reconciliation and the enormous responsibility of the community in dealing with its members. The community does not excommunicate the person, but simply ratifies the exclusion that the person had already assumed publicly by leaving the community.



Matthew 18:19: Prayer in common for the brother or sister who has left the community

This exclusion does not mean that the person is abandoned to his or her fate. Rather, he or she may be separated from the community, but will not be separated from God. Thus, if talking to the community has not borne results and if the person no longer wishes to be part of the life of the community, we still have the obligation to pray together to the Father to achieve reconciliation. And Jesus guarantees that the Father will listen.



Matthew 18:20: Jesus’ presence within the community

The reason for the certainty of being heard is Jesus’ promise: “Where two or three meet in my name, I am there among them!” Jesus says that he is the centre, the axle of the community and, as such, prays to the Father together with the community that he may grant the gift of the return of the brother or sister who has left.



c) A deepening:



- The community as alternative space of solidarity and fraternity:



Today’s neo-liberal society, marked by consumerism, is hard and heartless. It does not welcome the poor, the little ones, strangers and refugees. Money has no place for mercy. The society of the Roman Empire also was hard and heartless, with no room for the little ones. They sought a refuge for their hearts but found none. The synagogues too were demanding and did not offer them a place of rest. In the Christian communities, there were those who wished to introduce the rigour of the Pharisees in the observance of the Law. They brought into the fraternity the same unjust criteria of society and the synagogue. Thus within the communities there arose the same divisions as those in society and the synagogue between Jew and non Jew, rich and poor, rulers and ruled, word and silence, man and woman, race and religion. And instead of making the community a place of welcome, it became a place of judgement. Recalling the words of Jesus in the Discourse on the Community, Matthew wants to shed light on the journey of the Christian so that the community may be an alternative space of solidarity and fraternity. It must be Good News for the poor.



- Excommunication and exclusion from fraternal life:



Jesus does not wish to add to the exclusion. Rather, he wishes to promote inclusion. He did this all his life: He welcomed and reintegrated people who, in the name of a false idea of God, were excluded from the community. But he could not prevent that a person who disagreed with the Good News of the Kingdom would refuse to belong to the community and exclude him/herself from the community. This is what some Pharisees and doctors of the law did. Even then, the community must behave like the Father in the parable of the Prodigal Son. It must hold the brother or sister in its heart and pray for him/her so that he/she may change his/her mind and come back to the community.



6. Prayer: Psalm 32



Free admission of sin



How blessed are those whose offence is forgiven,

whose sin blotted out.

How blessed are those to whom Yahweh imputes no guilt,

whose spirit harbours no deceit.



I said not a word, but my bones wasted away

from groaning all the day;

day and night your hand lay heavy upon me;

my heart grew parched as stubble in summer drought.



I made my sin known to you,

did not conceal my guilt.

I said, 'I shall confess my offence to Yahweh.'

And you, for your part, took away my guilt,

forgave my sin.



That is why each of your faithful ones

prays to you in time of distress.

Even if great floods overflow,

they will never reach your faithful.

You are a refuge for me,

you guard me in trouble,

with songs of deliverance you surround me.



I shall instruct you and teach you the way to go;

I shall not take my eyes off you.

Be not like a horse or a mule;

that does not understand bridle or bit;

if you advance to master them,

there is no means of bringing them near.



Countless troubles are in store for the wicked,

but one who trusts in Yahweh is enfolded in his faithful love.

Rejoice in Yahweh, exult all you upright,

shout for joy, you honest of heart.



7. Final Prayer



Lord Jesus, we thank for the word that has enabled us to understand better the will of the Father. May your Spirit enlighten our actions and grant us the strength to practice that which your Word has revealed to us. May we, like Mary, your mother, not only listen to but also practise the Word. You who live and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.


Lectio Divina:
2020-09-06
Monday, 16 May 2011 09:10

Lectio Divina: 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Written by

First prophecy of the passion

The scandal of the cross

Matthew 16:21-27



1. Opening prayer



Spirit of truth, sent by Jesus to guide us to the whole truth, enlighten our minds so that we may understand the Scriptures. You, who overshadowed Mary and made her fruitful ground where the Word of God could germinate, purify our hearts from all obstacles to the Word. Help us to learn like her to listen with good and pure hearts to the Word that God speaks to us in life and in Scripture, so that we may observe the Word and produce good fruit through our perseverance.



2. Reading



a) The context:



Mt 16:21-27 is after Peter’s profession of faith (16:13-20) and before the Transfiguration (17:1-8) and is strongly connected with these two events. Jesus asks the twelve to tell Him who people say He is and then wants to know who the twelve say He is. Peter replies, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (16:16). Jesus not only accepts this profession of faith, but also explicitly says that it is God who has revealed His true identity to Peter. Yet He insists that the disciples must not tell anyone that He is the messiah. Jesus knows well that this title can be misunderstood and He does not want to run the risk. "From that time" (16:21) He gradually begins to explain to the twelve what it means to be the messiah. He is the suffering messiah who will enter into His glory through the cross.

The text we are considering is divided into to parts. In the first part (vv. 21-23), Jesus foretells His death and resurrection and shows that He is completely determined to follow God’s plan for Him in spite of Peter’s protestations. In the second part (vv. 24-27), Jesus shows the consequences of recognizing Him as the suffering messiah for His disciples. No one can be His disciple unless he/she walks the same road.

But Jesus knows well that it is difficult for the twelve to accept His and their cross, and, to reassure them, He gives them a foretaste of His resurrection in His transfiguration (17:1-8).



b) The text:



21-23: From then onwards Jesus began to make it clear to His disciples that He was destined to go to Jerusalem and suffer grievously at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death and to be raised up on the third day. Then, taking Him aside, Peter started to rebuke Him. 'Heaven preserve You, Lord,' he said, 'this must not happen to You.' But He turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind Me, Satan! You are an obstacle in My path, because you are thinking not as God thinks but as human beings do.'



Matthew 16: 21-27



24-27: Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone wants to be a follower of Mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow Me. Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for My sake will find it. What, then, will anyone gain by winning the whole world and forfeiting his life? Or what can anyone offer in exchange for his life? 'For the Son of man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each one according to his behavior.



3. A moment of prayerful silence



so that the Word of God may enter into us and enlighten our life.



4. Some questions



to help us in our personal reflection.



a) Why does Peter try to deter Jesus from facing the Passion?

b) Why does Jesus call Peter Satan?

c) How do you confront life, with the logic of God and of Jesus or with human logic and that of Peter?

d) In your concrete everyday life, what does it mean to lose one’ls life for the sake of Jesus?

e) What are your crosses and who are your Peters?



5. A key to the reading



for those who wish to go deeper into the text.



"Destined to go to Jerusalem…"

The four verbs "go", "suffer", "be put to death" and "be raised" (v. 21) are governed by the word "destined" or "had to". This is a verb which, in the New Testament, has a precise theological meaning. It denotes that it is the will of God that something happens because it is part of God’s plan of salvation.

The death of Jesus may be seen as the consequence of the "logic" of the attitude He took towards the institutions of His people. Like every uncomfortable prophet He was removed. But the New Testament insists that His death (and resurrection) are part of God’s plan, which Jesus accepted freely.



"You are an obstacle in my path"

Obstacle means hold-up or trap. To be an obstacle means to confront someone with impediments that would divert that person from the way to follow. Peter is an obstacle for Jesus because he tries to swerve Him from the way of obedience to the will of the Father in order to go an easier way. That is why Jesus compares him to Satan, who at the beginning of His ministry had sought to divert Jesus from the path of His mission, proposing an easy messianic mission (see Mt 4:1-11).



"Anyone who loses his life… will find it"

Anyone who understands well the mystery of Jesus and the nature of His mission also understands what it means to be His disciple. The two things are intimately linked.

Jesus Himself lays down three conditions for those who wish to be His disciples: renunciation of self, the taking up of one’s cross and following Him (v.24). To renounce oneself means not to focus one’s life on one’s self but on God and on the plan of His Reign. This implies an acceptance of adversity and putting up with difficulties. Jesus Himself left us His example of how to deal with such circumstances. It suffices to imitate Him. He does not compromise His fidelity to the Father and to His Reign, and He remains faithful even to the point of giving His life. It was precisely thus that He came to the fullness of life in the resurrection.



6. Psalm 40



The invocation for help of one who has remained faithful to God



I waited patiently for the Lord;

He inclined to me and heard my cry.

He drew me up from the desolate pit,

out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock,

making my steps secure.

He put a new song in my mouth,

a song of praise to our God.



Many will see and fear,

and put their trust in the Lord.

Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust,

who does not turn to the proud,

to those who go astray after false gods!

Thou hast multiplied, O Lord my God,

Thy wondrous deeds and Thy thoughts toward us;

none can compare with Thee!

Were I to proclaim and tell of them,

they would be more than can be numbered.



Sacrifice and offering Thou dost not desire;

but Thou hast given me an open ear.

Burnt offering and sin offering Thou hast not required.

Then I said, "Lo, I come;

in the roll of the book it is written of me;

I delight to do Thy will,

O my God; Thy law is within my heart."



I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation;

lo, I have not restrained my lips,

as Thou knowest, O Lord.

I have not hid Thy saving help within my heart,

I have spoken of Thy faithfulness and Thy salvation;

I have not concealed Thy steadfast love

and Thy faithfulness from the great congregation.



Do not Thou, O Lord,

withhold Thy mercy from me;

let Thy steadfast love

and Thy faithfulness ever preserve me!

For evils have encompassed me without number;

my iniquities have overtaken me,

till I cannot see;

they are more than the hairs of my head;

my heart fails me.



Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me!

O Lord, make haste to help me!

Let them be put to shame and confusion altogether

who seek to snatch away my life;

let them be turned back and brought to dishonor

who desire my hurt!

Let them be appalled because of their shame

who say to me, "Aha, Aha!"



But may all who seek Thee rejoice and be glad in Thee;

may those who love Thy salvation say continually,

"Great is the Lord!"

As for me, I am poor and needy;

but the Lord takes thought for me.

Thou art my help and my deliverer;

do not tarry, O my God!



7. Closing prayer



O God, your ways are not our ways and your thoughts are not our thoughts. In your plan of salvation there is also room for the cross. Your Son, Jesus, did not retreat before the cross, but "endured the cross and disregarded the shamefulness of it" (Heb 12:2). The hostility of His enemies could not distract Him from His firm intent to fulfill Your will and proclaim the Reign, cost what it may.

Strengthen us, Father, with the gift of Your Spirit. May the Spirit enable us to follow Jesus resolutely and faithfully. May He make us His imitators in deed and make Your Reign the center of our lives. May He give us strength to bear adversity and difficulties so that true life may blossom in us and in all humankind.

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Lectio Divina:
2020-08-30
Monday, 16 May 2011 09:08

Lectio Divina: 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Written by

Peter, you are the rock!

Rock of support, Rock of obstacle

Matthew 16:13-20



1. Opening prayer



Lord Jesus, send Your Spirit to help us read the Scriptures with the same mind that You read them to the disciples on the way to Emmaus. In the light of the Word, written in the Bible, You helped them to discover the presence of God in the disturbing events of Your sentence and death. Thus, the cross that seemed to be the end of all hope became for them the source of life and of resurrection.



Create silence in us so that we may listen to Your voice in Creation and in the Scriptures, in events and in people, above all in the poor and suffering. May Your word guide us so that we too, like the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, may experience the force of Your resurrection and witness to others that You are alive in our midst as source of fraternity, justice and peace. We ask this of You, Jesus, son of Mary, who revealed the Father to us and sent us Your Spirit. Amen.



2. Reading



a) A division of the text to help in the reading:



Matthew 16:13-14: Jesus wants to know the opinion of the people

Matthew 16:15-16: Jesus challenges the disciples, and Peter responds in the name of all

Matthew16:17-20: Solemn response of Jesus to Peter



Matthew 16, 13-20b) Key for the reading:



In the Gospel of this Sunday, Jesus questions concerning who people think He is: “Who do people say that I am?” After learning the opinion of the people, He wants to know the opinion of His disciples. Peter, in the name of all, makes his profession of faith. Jesus confirms Peter’s faith. In the course of the reading, let us pay attention to what follows: “Which type of confirmation does Jesus confer on Peter?”



c) The Text:



13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi He put this question to His disciples, 'Who do people say the Son of man is?' 14 And they said, 'Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.' 15 'But you,' He said, 'who do you say I am?' 16 Then Simon Peter spoke up and said, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' 17 Jesus replied, 'Simon son of Jonah, you are a blessed man! It was no human agency that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. 18 So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my community. And the gates of the underworld can never overpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven: whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.' 20 Then He gave the disciples strict orders not to tell anyone that He was the Christ.



3. A moment of prayerful silence



so that the Word of God may penetrate and enlighten our life.



4. Some questions



to help us in our personal reflection.



a) Which is the point which struck you the most? Why?

b) What are the opinions of people concerning Jesus? What is the opinion of the disciples and of Peter concerning Jesus?

c) What is my opinion concerning Jesus? Who am I for Jesus?

d) Peter is rock in two ways. Which? (Mt 16:21-23)

e) What type of rock am I for others? What type of rock is our community?

f) In the text there are many opinions concerning Jesus and several ways of expressing faith. Today, also there are many diverse opinions concerning Jesus. Which are the opinions of our community concerning Jesus? What mission results for us from this?



5. For those who wish to deepen more into the theme



a) Context in which our text appears in the Gospel of Matthew:



* The conversation between Jesus and Peter receives diverse interpretations and even opposite ones in the several Christian Churches. In the Catholic Church, this is the foundation for the primacy of Peter. This is why, without, in fact, diminishing the significance of the text, it is convenient to place it in the context of the Gospel of Matthew, in which, in other texts, the same qualities conferred on Peter are almost all, attributed to other persons. They do not belong exclusively to Peter.



* It is always well to keep in mind that the Gospel of Matthew was written at the end of the first century for the community of the converted Jews who lived in the region of Galilee and Syria. They were communities which suffered and were victims of many doubts concerning their faith in Jesus. The Gospel of Matthew tries to help them to overcome the crisis and to confirm them in faith in Jesus, the Messiah, who came to fulfill the promises of the Old Testament.



b) Commentary on the text:



Matthew 15:13-16: The opinions of the people and of the disciples concerning Jesus.

Jesus asks the opinion of the people and of His disciples concerning Himself. The answers are quite varied: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the Prophets. When Jesus questions about the opinion of His own disciples, Peter becomes the spokesman and says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” Peter’s answer signifies that he recognizes in Jesus the fulfillment of the prophecy of the Old Testament and that in Jesus we have the definitive revelation of the Father for us. This confession of Peter is not new. First, after having walked on the water, the other disciples had already made the same profession of faith: “Truly You are the Son of God!” (Mt 14:33). In the Gospel of John, Martha makes this same profession of Peter: “You are the Christ, the Son of God who has come into the world” (Jn 11:27).



Matthew 16: 17: Jesus’ reply to Peter: “Blessed are you, Peter!”

Jesus proclaims Peter as “Blessed!” because he has received a revelation from the Father. In this case also, Jesus’ response is not new. First Jesus had made an identical proclamation of joy to the disciples for having seen and heard things which before nobody knew (Mt 13:16), and had praised the Father for having revealed the Son to little ones and not to the wise (Mt 11:25). Peter is one of these little ones to whom the Father reveals Himself. The perception of the presence of God in Jesus does not come “from the flesh nor from the blood”, that is, it is not the fruit of the merit of a human effort, but rather it is a gift which God grants to whom He wants.



Matthew 16:18-20: the attributions of Peter

Peter receives three attributions from Jesus: (i) To be a rock of support, (ii) to receive the keys of the Kingdom, and (iii) to be foundation of the Church.



i) To be Rock: Simon, the son of Jonah, receives from Jesus a new name which is Cephas, and that means Rock. This is why he is called Peter. Peter has to be Rock, that is, he has to be a sure foundation for the Church so that the gates of the underworld can never overpower it. With these words from Jesus to Peter, Matthew encourages the communities of Syria and Palestine, which are suffering and are the victims of persecutions, to see in Peter a leader on whom to find support, to base themselves concerning their origin. In spite of being weak and persecuted communities, they had a secure basis, guaranteed by the word of Jesus. At that time, the communities had very strong affective bonds with the persons who had begun, who were at the origin of the community. Thus, the community of Syria and Palestine fostered their bond of union with the person of Peter, the community of Greece with the person of Paul, some communities of Asia with the person of the Beloved disciple and others with the person of John of the Apocalypse. Identifying themselves with these leaders of their origin helped the communities to foster their identity and spirituality better. But this could also be a cause of dispute, as in the case of the community of Corinth (1 Cor 1:11-12).

To be rock as the basis of faith evokes the Word of God to the people who are in exile in Babylonia: “Listen to Me you who pursue saying injustice, you who seek Yahweh. Consider the rock from which you were hewn, the quarry from which you were dug. Consider Abraham your father, and Sarah who gave you birth; when I called him, he was the only one, but I blessed him and made him numerous” (Isa 51:1-2). Applied to Peter, this quality of peter-foundation indicates a new beginning of the people of God.



ii) The keys of the Kingdom: Peter receives the keys of the Kingdom to bind and to loosen, that is, to reconcile the persons among themselves and with God. Behold, that here again the same power to bind and to loosen, is given not only to Peter, but also to the other disciples (Jn 20:23) and to their own communities (Mt 18:18). One of the points on which the Gospel of Matthew insists more is reconciliation and forgiveness (Mt 5:7, 23-24, 38, 42-48; 6:14-15:35). In the years 80’s and 90’s, in Syria, because of faith in Jesus, there were many tensions in the communities and there were divisions in the families. Some accepted Him as Messiah and others did not, and this was the cause for many tensions and conflicts. Matthew insists on reconciliation. Reconciliation was and continues to be one of the most important tasks of the coordinators of the communities at present. Imitating Peter, they have to bind and loosen, that is, do everything possible so that there be reconciliation, mutual acceptance, building up of the true fraternity “Seventy times seven!” (Mt 18:22).



iii) The Church: The word Church, in Greek eklésia, appears 105 times in the New Testament, almost exclusively in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Letters, only three times in the Gospels, and once only in the Gospel of Matthew. The word literally means “convoked” or “chosen”. It indicates the people who get together convoked by the Word of God, and who seek to live the message of the Kingdom which Jesus came to bring to us. The Church or the community is not the Kingdom, but an instrument or an indication of the Kingdom. The Kingdom is much greater. In the Church, in the community, what happens when a human group allows God to reign and allows God to be ‘Lord’ in one’s life, should be rendered present to the eyes of all.



c) Deepening:



i) A picture of Saint Peter:



Peter, who was a fisherman of fish, became fisherman of men (Mk 1:17). He was married (Mk 1:30). He was a good man, very human. He was a natural leader among the twelve first disciples of Jesus. Jesus respects this leadership and makes Peter the animator of His first community (Jn 21:17). Before entering into the community of Jesus, Peter was called Simäo Bar Jona (Mt 16:17), that is, Simon, son of Jonah. Jesus calls him Cefas or Rock (Jn 1:42), who later becomes Peter (Lk 6:14).



By his nature and character, Peter could be everything, except pietra – rock. He was courageous in speaking, but in the moment of danger he allows himself to be dominated by fear and flees. For example, the time in which Jesus walked on the sea, Peter asks, “Jesus, allow me also to walk on the sea”. Jesus says: “You may come, Peter!” Peter got off from the boat and walked on the sea. But as soon as he saw a high wave, he was taken with panic, lost trust, and began to sink and cry out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus assured him and saved him (Mt 14: 28-31).



In the Last Supper, Peter tells Jesus, “I will never deny You, Lord!” (Mk 14:31), but a few hours later, in the Palace of the High Priest, in front of a servant , when Jesus had already been arrested, Peter denied, swearing that he had nothing to do with Jesus (Mk 14:66-72).



When Jesus is in the Garden of Olives, Peter takes out the sword (Jn 18:10), but ends fleeing, leaving Jesus alone. (Mk 14:50). By nature, Peter was not rock!



But this Peter, so weak and human, so similar to us, becomes rock, because Jesus prays for him and says, “Peter, I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail, and once you have recovered, you in your turn must strengthen your brothers!” (Lk 22: 31-32). This is why Jesus could say, “You are Peter and on this rock I will build My Church” (Mt 16:18). Jesus helps him to be rock. After the Resurrection, in Galilee, Jesus appears to Peter and asks him two times, “Peter, do you love Me?” And Peter responds twice, “Lord, you know that I love you!” (Jn 21:15, 16). When Jesus repeats the same question a third time, Peter becomes sad. Perhaps he remembered that he had denied Jesus three times. To this third question he answers: “Lord, you know all things! You know that I love You very much!” And it is then that Jesus entrusted to him the care of His sheep, saying, “Peter, feed My lambs!” (Jn 21:17). With the help of Jesus, the firmness of the rock grows in Peter and is revealed on the day of Pentecost.



On the day of Pentecost, after the descent of the Holy Spirit, Peter opens the door of the room where all were meeting together, locked with a key because of fear of the Jews (Jn 20:19), he takes courage and begins to announce to the people the Good News of Jesus (Acts 2:14-40). And he did not stop doing it! Thanks to this courageous announcement of the Resurrection, he was imprisoned (Acts 4:3). During the trial, he was forbidden to announce the Good News (Acts 4:18), but Peter does not obey this prohibition. He says, “We know that we have to obey God more than men!” (Acts 4: 19; 5:29). He was arrested again (Acts 5:18-26). He was tortured (Acts 5:40). But he says, “Thank you. But we shall continue!” (cf. Acts 5:42).



Tradition says that, towards the end of his life, in Rome, Peter was arrested and condemned to death, and death on the cross. He asked to be crucified with his head down. He believed he was not worthy to die like Jesus. Peter was faithful to himself up to the end!



ii) Completing the context: Matthew 16:21-23



Peter had confessed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” He had imagined a glorious Messiah, and Jesus corrects him: “It is necessary for the Messiah to suffer and to die in Jerusalem”. By saying that “it is necessary”, He indicates that suffering has already been foreseen in the prophecies (Isa 53:2-8). If Peter accepts Jesus as Messiah and Son of God, he has to accept Him also as the servant Messiah who will be put to death: not only the triumph of the glory, but also the journey to the cross! But Peter does not accept the correction and seeks to dissuade Him.



Jesus’ response is surprising: “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path because you are thinking not as God thinks but as human beings do”. Satan is the one who separates us from the path which God has traced for us. Literally, Jesus says, “Get behind Me” (Get away!). Peter wanted to place himself in front and indicate the direction. Jesus says, “Get behind Me!” He who indicates the course and direction is not Peter, but Jesus. The disciple has to follow the Master. He has to live in continuous conversion.



The Word of Jesus is also a reminder for all those who guide or direct a community. They have “to follow” Jesus and not place themselves in front of Him as Peter wanted to do. No, only they can indicate the direction or the route. Otherwise, like Peter, they are not rock of support, but they become a rock of obstacle. Thus were some of the leaders of the communities at the time of Matthew, full of ambiguity. Thus, it also happens among us even today!



6. Psalm 121



The Lord is my support



I lift up my eyes to the mountains;

where is my help to come from?

My help comes from Yahweh

who made heaven and earth.



May He save your foot from stumbling;

may He, your guardian, not fall asleep!

You see -- He neither sleeps nor slumbers,

the guardian of Israel.



Yahweh is your guardian, your shade,

Yahweh, at your right hand.

By day the sun will not strike you,

nor the moon by night.

Yahweh guards you from all harm.

Yahweh guards your life.

Yahweh guards your comings and goings,

henceforth and for ever.



7. Final Prayer



Lord Jesus, we thank You for the word that has enabled us to understand better the will of the Father. May your Spirit enlighten our actions and grant us the strength to practice what Your Word has revealed to us. May we, like Mary, Your mother, not only listen to but also practice the Word, You who live and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.


Lectio Divina:
2020-08-23
Monday, 16 May 2011 09:05

Lectio Divina: 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Written by

Welcoming the excluded

The Canaanite woman helps Jesus

discover the will of the Father

Matthew 15:21-28



1. Opening prayer



Lord Jesus, send Your Spirit to help us to read the Scriptures with the same mind that You read them to the disciples on the way to Emmaus. In the light of the Word, written in the Bible, You helped them to discover the presence of God in the disturbing events of Your sentence and death. Thus, the cross that seemed to be the end of all hope became for them the source of life and of resurrection.



Create silence in us so that we may listen to Your voice in Creation and in the Scriptures, in events and in people, above all in the poor and suffering. May Your word guide us so that we too, like the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, may experience the force of Your resurrection and witness to others that You are alive in our midst as source of fraternity, justice and peace. We ask this of You, Jesus, son of Mary, who revealed the Father to us and sent us Your Spirit. Amen.



2. Reading



a) A key to guide the reading:



In today’s text, Jesus meets a foreign woman, something forbidden by the religion of that time. At first Jesus would not pay attention to her, but the woman insisted and got what she wanted. This text helps us to understand how Jesus went about knowing and putting into practice the will of God.



b) A division of the text to help with the reading:



Matthew 15: 21-28Mt 15: 21-22: The pained cry of the woman

Mt 15: 23-24: The strange silence of Jesus and the reaction of the disciples

Mt 15: 25-26: The repeated request of the woman and Jesus’ renewed refusal

Mt 15: 27-28: The third try of the woman who obtains the healing of her daughter.



c) The text:



21-22: Jesus left that place and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And suddenly out came a Canaanite woman from that district and started shouting, 'Lord, Son of David, take pity on me. My daughter is tormented by a devil.'

23-24: But He said not a word in answer to her. And His disciples went and pleaded with Him, saying, 'Give her what she wants, because she keeps shouting after us.' He said in reply, 'I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.'

25-26: But the woman had come up and was bowing low before Him. 'Lord,' she said, 'help me.' He replied, 'It is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to little dogs.'

27-28: She retorted, 'Ah yes, Lord; but even little dogs eat the scraps that fall from their masters' table.' Then Jesus answered her, 'Woman, you have great faith. Let your desire be granted.' And from that moment her daughter was well again.



3. A moment of prayerful silence



so that the Word of God may enter into us and enlighten our life.



4. Some questions



to help us in our personal reflection.



a) What caught my attention most and what did I like most in this episode?

b) Four characters appear in the text: the woman, the daughter, the disciples and Jesus. What does the text say about each one’s attitude? With which of the four do you identify yourself most? Why?

c) Jesus says that His mission does not permit Him to listen to the woman’s request. However, soon after, He grants her request. How do you explain this sudden change in Jesus’ attitude?

d) How did the woman’s reply concerning the dogs and the scraps influence Jesus?

e) Why do those words reveal the woman’s great faith?

f) How can Jesus’ words help our community to grow in faith?



5. A key to the reading



for those who wish to go deeper into the text.



a) The context within which Matthew preserves the words of Jesus:



* Matthew’s Gospel, written about 85 AD, is addressed to a community of pious and observant Jews, converted to faith in Jesus. After Jesus’ example, they continued to live according to the traditions of the Jewish people, observing the Law of Moses in its fullness. But now in the 80s they find themselves in an ambivalent situation. After the destruction of Jerusalem (70 AD), the Pharisees, their racial brothers, had started to reorganize Judaism, and, in the name of fidelity to that same Law of Moses, sought to block the ever increasing spread of Christianity. They came to the point of expelling them from the synagogues. This unforeseen hostility brought the community of Christian Jews into deep crisis. Both the Pharisees and the Christians claimed to be faithful to the law of God. Who was right? On whose side was God? To whom did the inheritance of the Jewish people belong, to the synagogue or to the ecclesia?



* It is precisely to encourage and support this group of Jewish-Christians that Matthew writes his Gospel. He writes to confirm them in the faith by showing that Jesus is indeed the Messiah, the culmination of the whole history of the Old Testament. He writes to strengthen them in the midst of hostility, helping them to overcome the trauma of the break with the brothers. He writes to call them to a new practice of life, showing them the way to a new form of justice, better than that of the Pharisees.



* In this context, the episode of the Canaanite woman served to show the community how this same Jesus took concrete steps to go beyond the limitations of a religion turned in on itself and how He went about discerning the will of God beyond the traditional scheme.



b) A commentary on the words of Jesus as preserved in Matthew:



Matthew 15: 21: Jesus moves away from the Jewish territory.

In the discussion concerning what is pure and what is not, Jesus had taught that which was contrary to the tradition of the ancients, declaring all foods to be clean, and helped the people and the disciples free themselves of the chains of the laws on purity (Mt 15:1-20). Now, in this episode of the Canaanite woman, He moves away from Galilee, goes beyond the frontiers of the national territory and welcomes a foreign woman who did not belong to the people and with whom it was forbidden to talk. The Gospel of Mark informs us that Jesus did not want to be known. He wanted to remain anonymous. But it is evident that His fame had already preceded Him (Mk 7:24). The people knew Him and a woman begins to present Him with a request.



Matthew 15:22: The anguished cry of the woman.

The woman was from another race and religion. She begins to beg for the healing of her daughter who was possessed by an unclean spirit. The pagans had no problem having recourse to Jesus. The Jews, however, had problems co-existing with the pagans! The Law forbade them to make contact with a person of another religion or race.



Matthew 15:23-24: The strange silence of Jesus and the reaction of the disciples.

The woman shouts, but Jesus does not respond. A strange attitude! Because, if there is one sure thing throughout the Bible, from beginning to end, it is that God always listens to the cry of the oppressed. But here Jesus does not listen. He does not want to listen. Why? Even the disciples are surprised by Jesus’ attitude and ask Him to say something to the woman. They want to get rid of that shouting: "Give her what she wants, they said, because she is shouting after us". Jesus explains His silence, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel". His silence is connected to an awareness of His mission and His fidelity to the law of God. The passive form shows that the subject of the verb’s action is the Father. It is as though He had said, "The Father does not want Me to listen to this woman, because He has sent Me only to the lost sheep of Israel!" For the same reason, at the time of Matthew’s writing of the Gospel, the Pharisees were saying, "We cannot have contact with pagans!"



Matthew 15:25-26: The woman repeats her request and Jesus again refuses her.

The woman is not worried by Jesus’ refusal. The love of a mother for her sick daughter does not take notice of religious rules or other people’s reactions, but seeks healing wherever her intuition leads her to a solution, namely, in Jesus! She draws closer. She throws herself at Jesus’ feet and goes on begging, "Lord, help me". Faithful to the rules of His religion, Jesus answers with a parable and says that it is not right to take the bread of one’s children and give it to dogs. The parallel is taken from everyday life. Even today, we find many children and dogs in the houses of the poor. Jesus says that no mother will take bread from the mouths of her children and give it to dogs. Concretely, the children are the Jewish people and the dogs are the pagans. End of story! Obedient to the Father and faithful to His mission, Jesus goes on His way and takes no notice of the woman’s pleading!



Matthew 15:27-28: At the third attempt, the woman obtains the healing of her daughter.

The woman will not yield. She agrees with Jesus, but she amplifies the parallel and applies it to her case, "Ah, yes, sir; but even house-dogs can eat the scraps that fall from their master’s table". She simply draws the conclusion from that image, showing that in the houses of the poor (and so also in the house of Jesus) the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of the children. Most probably, Jesus Himself as a young boy would have given bits of bread to dogs that roamed under the table where He ate with His parents. And in "Jesus’ house", that is, in the Christian community of Matthew’s time, at the end of the first century, there were "twelve baskets full" left over (Mt 14:20) for the "dogs", that is, for the pagans!

Jesus’ reaction is immediate, "Woman, you have great faith!" The woman got what she asked for. From that moment her daughter was healed. The reason Jesus responded was that He understood that the Father wanted Him to grant the woman’s request. The meeting with the Canaanite woman freed Him from the racial prison and opened Him to the whole of humanity. This means that Jesus discovered the will of the Father by listening to the reactions of people. This pagan woman’s attitude opened new horizons for Jesus and helped Him take an important step in the fulfillment of the Father’s plan. The gift of life and salvation is for all who seek life and who try to free themselves from the chains that bind vital energy. This episode helps us to perceive a little of the mystery that surrounded the person of Jesus, the manner in which He was in communion with the Father and how He discovered the will of the Father in the events of life.



6. Psalm 6



Let us unite ourselves to the shouts of all mothers

for their sons and daughters



O Lord, rebuke me not in Thy anger,

nor chasten me in Thy wrath.

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing;

O Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled.

My soul also is sorely troubled.

But Thou, O Lord, how long?

Turn, O Lord, save my life;

deliver me for the sake of Thy steadfast love.

For in death there is no remembrance of Thee;

in Sheol who can give Thee praise?

I am weary with my moaning;

every night I flood my bed with tears;

I drench my couch with my weeping.

My eye wastes away because of grief,

it grows weak because of all my foes,

from me, all you workers of evil;

for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.

The Lord has heard my supplication;

the Lord accepts my prayer.

All my enemies shall be ashamed and sorely troubled;

they shall turn back, and be put to shame in a moment.



7. Final Prayer



Lord Jesus, we thank You for the word that has enabled us to understand better the will of the Father. May Your Spirit enlighten our actions and grant us the strength to practice what Your Word has revealed to us. May we, like Mary, Your mother, not only listen to but also practice the Word, You who live and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.


Lectio Divina:
2020-08-16
Monday, 16 May 2011 09:03

Lectio Divina: 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Written by

Jesus walks on the sea

Matthew 14:22-33



1. Opening prayer



Come Holy Spirit, my life is going through a storm, the egoistic winds impel me where I do not wish to go. I cannot resist their force. I am weak and deprived of strength. You are the energy which gives life. You are my comfort, my force and my cry of prayer. Come, Holy Spirit, reveal to me the meaning of the Scriptures, give me peace anew, serenity and the joy of living.



2. Lectio



a) Key to the reading:



Jesus and His Disciples are on the shore of the lake, at nightfall, after the multiplication of the loaves. Part of the passage is also found in Mark (6:45-52) and in John (6:16-21). The episode of Peter (vv. 28-32) is found only in Matthew. Some commentators hold that it is a question of an appearance of Jesus after the Resurrection (Lk 24:37). The difficulties of the Church and the need for a greater faith in the Risen Jesus are thus foreshadowed.



b) A possible division of the Text:



Matthew 14:22-23: related to the multiplication of the loaves

Matthew 14:24-27: Jesus walks on the sea

Matthew 14:28-32: the episode of Peter

Matthew 14:33: the profession of faith.



Matthew 14, 22-33c) Text:



22 And at once he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he sent the crowds away. 23 After sending the crowds away he went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 while the boat, by now some furlongs from land, was hard pressed by rough waves, for there was a head-wind. 25 In the fourth watch of the night he came towards them, walking on the sea, 26 and when the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. 'It is a ghost,' they said, and cried out in fear. 27 But at once Jesus called out to them, saying, 'Courage! It's me! Don't be afraid.' 28 It was Peter who answered. 'Lord,' he said, 'if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water.' 29 Jesus said, 'Come.' Then Peter got out of the boat and started walking towards Jesus across the water, 30 but then noticing the wind, he took fright and began to sink. 'Lord,' he cried, 'save me!' 31 Jesus put out his hand at once and held him. 'You have so little faith,' he said, 'why did you doubt?' 32 And as they got into the boat the wind dropped. 33 The men in the boat bowed down before him and said, 'Truly, you are the Son of God.'



3. A Moment of prayerful silence



A desire to keep silence and to listen to God’s voice



Some questions:



In moments of darkness and interior storms, how do I react? How are the presence and absence of the Lord integrated in me? What place does personal prayer and dialogue with God have in me?

What do we ask the Lord in a dark night? A miracle, that He free us from this? A greater faith? In which attitudes am I similar to Peter?



4. Meditatio



Brief commentary



22. And at once He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead to the other side while He sent the crowds away.

The multiplication of the loaves (14:13-21) could have generated in the disciples triumphant expectations concerning the Kingdom of God. Therefore, Jesus orders them at once to get away. He ‘obliged’, usually a verb of strong significance. The people acclaim Jesus as a Prophet (Jn 6:14-15) and wish to make Him a political ruler. The disciples are easily drawn by this (Mk 6:52; Mt 16:5-12), there is the risk of allowing themselves to be drawn by the enthusiasm of the people. The disciples have to abandon this situation.



23. After sending the crowds away He went up into the hills by Himself to pray. When evening came He was there alone.

Jesus finds Himself facing a situation in which the Galilean crowd becomes enthusiastic because of the miracle and runs the risk of not understanding His mission. In this very important moment, Jesus withdraws alone in prayer, as in Gethsemane (Mt 26:36-46).



24. While the boat, by now some furlongs from land, was hard pressed by rough waves, for there was a head-wind.

This verse where the boat is noticed, without Jesus, in danger, can be close to verse 32 where the danger ceases when Jesus and Peter get into the boat.



25. In the fourth watch of the night He came towards them, walking on the sea.

Jesus appears to His disciples in an extraordinary way. He transcends the human limitations, He has authority over creation. He acts as God alone can (Job 9:8; 38:16).



26. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea they were terrified. ‘It is a ghost’, they said, and cried out in fear.

The disciples were struggling with the contrary wind, they had spent a very stressful day and now a sleepless night. At night (between three and six), in the middle of the sea, they were really terrified in seeing one coming towards them. They did not think of the possibility that it could be Jesus. Their vision is too human, and they believe in ghosts (Lk 24:37). The Risen Lord though, has overcome the force of chaos represented by the waves of the sea.



27. But at once Jesus called out to them, saying. ‘Courage! It is Me! Do not be afraid!’

The presence of Jesus drives away all fear (9:2, 22). In saying “It is Me” He evokes His identity (Ex 3:14) and manifests the power of God (Mk 14:62; Lk 24:39; Jn 8:58; 18:5-6). Fear is overcome by faith.



28. It was Peter who answered: ‘Lord, he said, ‘If it is You, tell me to come to You across the water’.

Peter seems to want still another confirmation of the presence of Jesus. He asks for a sign.



29. Jesus said, ‘Come’. Then Peter got out of the boat and started walking towards Jesus across the water.

Nevertheless, Peter is ready to run the risk, getting out of the boat and trying to walk on the agitated waves, in the midst of a strong wind (v. 24). He faces the risk of believing in the Word: ‘Come’.



30. But then noticing the wind, he took fright and began to sink: ‘Lord’, he cried, ‘save me!’

Perseverance is also necessary in the choice of faith. The contrary forces (the wind) are so many, that there is the risk of sinking. The prayer of petition saves him..



31. Jesus put out His hand at once and held him. ‘You have so little faith, He said, ‘why did you doubt?’

Peter is not left alone in his weakness. In the storms of Christian life we are not alone. God does not abandon us even if He apparently is absent and does nothing.



32. And as they got into the boat the wind dropped.

As soon as Jesus got in the boat the forces of evil cease. The force of hell shall not prevail over it.



33. The men in the boat bowed down before Him and said: ‘Truly, You are the Son of God.

Now comes that profession of faith which had been prepared in the preceding episode of the multiplication of the loaves, purified by the experience of getting away from the Bread of eternal life (Jn 6:1-14). Now Peter can also confirm his brothers in faith, after the trial.



5. For those who wish to go deeper into the text



Jesus, man of prayer



Jesus prays in solitude and at night (Mt 14:23; Mk 1:35; Lk 5:16), during the time of meals (Mt 14:19; 15:36; 26:26-27). On the occasion of important events: for Baptism (Lk 3:21), before choosing the twelve (Lk 6:12), before teaching how to pray (Lk 11: 1; Mt 6:5); before the confession at Caesarea (Lk 9:18); in the Transfiguration (Lk 9: 28-29), in Gethsemane (Mt 26:36-44); on the Cross (Mt 27:46; Lk 23:46). He prays for His executioners (Lk 23:34); for Peter (Lk 22:32), for His disciples and for those who will follow Him (Jn 17:9-24). He also prays for Himself (Mt 26:39; Jn 17:1-5; Heb 5:7). He teaches to pray (Mt 6:5), He manifests a permanent relationship with the Father (Mt 11:25-27), sure that He never leaves Him alone (Jn 8:29), and always hears Him (Jn 11:22, 42; Mt 26:53). He has promised (Jn 14:16) to continue to intercede in heaven (Rom 8: 34; Heb 7:25; I Jn 2:1).



6. Oratio: Psalm 33



I will praise Yahweh from my heart;

let the humble hear and rejoice.



Proclaim with me the greatness of Yahweh,

let us acclaim His name together.



I seek Yahweh and He answers me,

frees me from all my fears.



Fix your gaze on Yahweh and your face will grow bright,

you will never hang your head in shame.



A pauper calls out and Yahweh hears,

saves him from all his troubles.



The angel of Yahweh encamps around those who fear Him,

and rescues them.



Taste and see that Yahweh is good.

How blessed are those who take refuge in Him.



Fear Yahweh, you His holy ones;

those who fear Him lack for nothing.



7. Contemplatio



Lord Jesus, sometimes we are full of enthusiasm and forget that You are the source of our joy. In the moments of sadness we do not seek You or we want Your miraculous intervention. Now we know that You never abandon us, that we should not fear. Prayer is also our force. Increase our faith. We are ready to risk our life for Your Kingdom.


Lectio Divina:
2020-08-09
Saturday, 14 May 2011 22:23

Lectio Divina: Saint Barnabas, Apostle Mt 10: 7-13

Written by

1) Opening prayer



Lord our God,

prompted by the Holy Spirit,

the church of Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas

on their missionary mission among pagans.



Let your Church everywhere send

good, zealous men and women as missionaries.

Fill them with the Holy Spirit and with faith,

that they may touch the hearts of people

and win them as disciples and friends

of Jesus Christ our Lord.



2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 10:7-13



Jesus said to his Apostles: “As you go, make this proclamation: 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give. Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick. The laborer deserves his keep. Whatever town or village you enter, look for a worthy person in it, and stay there until you leave. As you enter a house, wish it peace. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; if not, let your peace return to you."



3) Reflection



• Today is the feast of Saint Barnabas. The Gospel speaks about the teachings of Jesus to the disciples on how to announce the Good News of the Kingdom to “the lost sheep of Israel” (Mt 10:6). They have to a) cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out devils (v. 8); b) announce what they have received gratuitously (v. 8); c) provide themselves with no gold or silver, no sandals, or staff, no sack, or a second tunic (v. 9), d) seek a house where they can be received until the end of the mission (v. 11); e) be bearers of peace (v. 13).



• At the time of Jesus there were various movements which, like Him, were seeking a new way of living and of living together with others. For example, John the Baptist, the Pharisees, the Essenes and others. Many of them formed communities of disciples (Jn 1:35; Lk 11:1; Acts 19:3) and had their missionaries (Mt 23:15). But there was a great difference! The Pharisees, for example, when they went on mission, provided for their needs. They thought that they could not trust the food that people would offer them because it was not always “ritually pure.” Because of this they always carried a sack and money so as to be able to take care of what they would eat. In this way, the observance of the law of purity, instead of helping to overcome divisions, weakened the living of community values even more. The proposal of Jesus is different. His method was seen in the counsels which He gives to the apostles when He sends them on mission. Through this instruction, He tries to renew and reorganize the communities of Galilee in a way that they would once again be the expression of the covenant, an example of the Kingdom of God.



• Matthew 10:7: The announcement that the kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Jesus invites the disciples to announce the Good News. They should say, “The kingdom of Heaven is close at hand!” What does it mean that the Kingdom is close at hand? It does not mean the closeness of time, in the sense that it is only a short time and then the Kingdom will come. “The Kingdom is close at hand” means that it is already within reach of the people, it is already “in your midst” (Lk 17:21). It is good to take a new look to be able to see its presence or proximity. The coming of the Kingdom is not the fruit of our observance, as the Pharisees wanted, but it becomes present in the actions which Jesus recommends to the Apostles: to cure the sick, to raise the dead, to cleanse the lepers, to drive out demons.



• Matthew 10:8: To cure, to raise, to purify, to drive out. The sick, the dead, the lepers, the possessed, were all excluded from living together with others and they were excluded in the name of God. They could not participate in the life of the community. Jesus orders the disciples to accept these people, to include them. The kingdom of God becomes present in these gestures of acceptance and inclusion.  In these gestures of human gratuity is shown God’s love, which reconstructs  communal  living and mends interpersonal relationships.



• Matthew 10:9-10: Do not take anything. Unlike other missionaries, the Apostles can take nothing: “Provide yourselves with no gold or silver, not even with copper for your belts, with no sack for the journey or a spare tunic or footwear or a staff, for the laborer deserves his keep.” The only thing which you can and should take is peace (Mt 10:13). This means that they have to trust in the hospitality and  sharing of the people,  because the disciple who does not take anything with him and takes peace indicates that he trusts people. He believes that he will be received, and the people will feel appreciated, valued, and confirmed. The laborer has the right to his nourishment. In doing this, the disciple criticizes the laws of exclusion and recovers the ancient values of sharing and of community living.



• Matthew 10:11-13: To live together and to integrate oneself in the community. Arriving at a place, the disciples have to choose a house of peace and they should remain there until the end. They should not go from one house to the next, but rather live in a stable way. They should become members of the community and work for peace, that is, to reconstruct the human relationships which will favor peace. By means of this practice, they recover an ancient tradition of the people, they criticize the culture of accumulation, typical of the politics of the Roman Empire and they announce a new model of living together.



• Summary: The actions recommended by Jesus to announce the Kingdom are the following: accept the excluded, trust hospitality, encourage sharing, and live stably and in a peaceful way. If this happens, then we can and should cry out openly to the four corners of the world, “The Kingdom is among us!”  To proclaim the Kingdom does not consist, in the first place, of teaching truth and doctrine, catechism and Canon Law, but to lead persons to a new way of living and of living together with others, to a new way of thinking and acting,  starting with the Good News, brought by Jesus: God is Father and Mother, and therefore, we are all brothers and sisters.



4) Personal questions



•Why are all these attitudes recommended by Jesus signs of the Kingdom of God in our midst?

• How would you announce the Kingdom among us today? To whom would you need or want to announce it?

• In making this announcement, by being an example of the Kingdom in action, to go on this mission, it is an invitation to the hearer to come closer to Christ and the Church. Action goes hand-in-hand with knowledge and an understanding of what the community is about. What would be your next steps in bringing someone closer to the community, Jesus, and His Church?

• Do these instructions help us to discern true disciples of Jesus from those who use His name to distort the truth and build a big bank account for themselves?



For further knowledge



Many religious orders other than the Order of Carmelites, as communities, build on these missionary instructions of Jesus as well. The Benedictines take a vow of stability, to not move from place to place. Others, of the mendicant movement such as Franciscans and Dominicans, rely on the material support of others. Take some time today to look into and read about the various Orders and the ways they have chosen to announce the Kingdom of God in the world.



5) Concluding Prayer



Sing a new song to Yahweh,

for He has performed wonders,

His saving power is in His right hand and His holy arm. (Ps 98:1)


Lectio Divina:
2020-06-11
Friday, 01 April 2011 20:21

Lectio Divina: Matthew 10:7-15

Written by

Ordinary Time 



1) Opening prayer



Father,

through the obedience of Jesus,

Your servant and Your Son,

You raised a fallen world.

Free us from sin

and bring us the joy that lasts for ever.

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

who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever. Amen.



2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 10:7-15



Jesus said to his Apostles: “As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give. Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick. The laborer deserves his keep. Whatever town or village you enter, look for a worthy person in it, and stay there until you leave. As you enter a house, wish it peace. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; if not, let your peace return to you. Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words, go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet. Amen, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.”



3) Reflection



• The Gospel today presents the second part of the sending out of the disciples.  Yesterday we saw that Jesus insists on directing them first toward the lost sheep of Israel.  Today, we see concrete instructions to carry out the mission. 



• Matthew 10:7: The objective of the mission: to reveal the presence of the Kingdom. “Go and announce the Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand.”  The principal objective is that of announcing that the Kingdom is close at hand.  This is the novelty which Christ brings to us.  For the other Jews there was still a long time before the coming of the Kingdom. It would have come only after they had done their own part.  The coming of the Kingdom depended, according to them, on their effort. For the Pharisees, for example, the Kingdom would be attained only after the perfect observance of the Law.  For the Essenes, when the country would have purified itself. But Jesus thinks in a different way. He has a different way of reading the facts of life. He says that the hour has already arrived (Mk 1:15). When He says that the Kingdom is close at hand or that the Kingdom is already among us, in our midst, He does not mean to say that the Kingdom is just arriving at that moment, but that it is already there, independently of the effort made by the people. What they all expected was already present among the people, gratuitously, but the people did not know it, nor perceive it (cf. Lk 17:21). Jesus is aware of this, because He sees reality with different eyes. He reveals and announces to the poor of His land this hidden presence of the Kingdom in our midst (Lk 4:18). It is the mustard seed which will receive the rain of His word and the warmth of His love.  



• Matthew 10:8: The signs of the presence of the Kingdom: accept the excluded. How should the presence of the Kingdom be announced? Only through words and discourses? No! The signs of the presence of the Kingdom are above all concrete gestures or acts, done gratuitously: “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out the devils. You received without charge; give without charge.”  This means that the disciples should accept within the community those who have been excluded. This practice of solidarity both criticizes religion and society which exclude and proposes concrete solutions.  



• Matthew 10:9-10: Do not take anything for the journey. Unlike other missionaries, the disciples of Jesus should not take anything: “Provide yourselves with no gold or silver, not even with coppers for your purses, with no haversack for the journey or a spare tunic or footwear or a staff, for the laborer deserves his keep.” This means that they have to trust in the hospitality of the people.  The disciples who go without anything, taking only peace (Mk 10:13), show that they trust the people.  It shows a trust in grace from God to act in people and to provide for them. It is certain that they will be welcomed, that they will be able to participate in the life and the work of the people of the place and that they will be able to survive with what they will receive in exchange, because the laborer deserves his keep.  This means that the disciples should trust in sharing. It is also another way of respecting the poor, by not taking from them, and of contrasting the Good News with the laws of the time that demanded payment and tax for so many things. The social structure of the day was built on taking. Jesus builds a structure and community built on giving freely. By means of this practice they criticize the laws of exclusion and recover the ancient values of community life.



• Matthew 10:11-13: To share peace in the community. The disciples should not go from house to house, but should seek people of peace and remain in that house. That is, they should practice stability.  Thus, through that new practice, they criticize the culture of accumulation which characterized the politics of the Roman Empire, and they announced a new model of living together. Once all these requirements were respected, the disciples could cry out: The Kingdom of God has arrived! To announce the Kingdom does not mean, in the first place, to teach truths and doctrine, but lead toward a new fraternal manner of living and of sharing starting from the Good News which Jesus has brought to us: God and Father and Mother of all men and women.



• Matthew 10:14-15: The severity of the menace.  How is such a severe menace to be understood? Jesus has brought us something completely new. He has come to rescue the community values of the past: hospitality, sharing, communion around the table, acceptance of the excluded.  That explains the severity toward those who reject the message, because they do not reject something new, but their own past, their own culture and wisdom! The objective of the pedagogy of Jesus is to dig out from the memory, to recover the wisdom of the people, to reconstruct the community, to renew the Covenant, to rebuild life.



4) Personal questions



• Today, how can we put into practice the recommendation not to take anything for the journey when going to a mission?

• Jesus orders His disciples to look for people of peace, so as to be able to remain in their house. Today, who would be a person of peace to whom to address oneself in the announcement of the Good News?

• Why would stability, as in not going from house to house while staying in a town, be  important?



For further study



Most, if not all, monastic traditions include a vow of stability – to stay in one place. Take some time to read the ancient rules which guide our various communities, such as the Rule of St Benedict, St Albert, St Bruno, and so on.  The authors of these rules often explain why a particular rule is made, and from where in the Gospel it is inspired. This can give insight into these instructions of Jesus and a historical perspective on the development of Christianity through the Middle Ages.



5) Concluding Prayer



God Sabaoth, come back, we pray,

look down from heaven and see,

visit this vine;

protect what Your own hand has planted. (Ps 80:14-15)


Lectio Divina:
2020-07-09
Friday, 01 April 2011 20:11

Lectio Divina: 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Written by

The multiplication of the loaves

Matthew 14:13-21



1. LECTIO



a) Opening prayer:



Come Holy Spirit

Come Fire of love

Come Father of the poor

Come Unction of my soul. 





b)Reading:Matthew 14:13-21



13 When Jesus received this news He withdrew by boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. But the crowds heard of this and, leaving the towns, went after Him on foot. 14 So as He stepped ashore He saw a large crowd; and He took pity on them and healed their sick. 15 When evening came, the disciples went to Him and said, 'This is a lonely place, and time has slipped by; so send the people away, and they can go to the villages to buy themselves some food.' 16 Jesus replied, 'There is no need for them to go: give them something to eat yourselves.' 17 But they answered, 'All we have with us is five loaves and two fish.' 18 So He said, 'Bring them here to me.' 19 He gave orders that the people were to sit down on the grass; then He took the five loaves and the two fish, raised His eyes to heaven and said the blessing. And breaking the loaves He handed them to His disciples, who gave them to the crowds. 20 They all ate as much as they wanted, and they collected the scraps left over, twelve baskets full. 21 Now about five thousand men had eaten, to say nothing of women and children.



c) A moment of silence:



so that the Word of God may enter into our hearts and enlighten our lives.



2. MEDITATIO



a) A key to the reading:



All the Evangelists tell the story of the multiplication of the loaves. While Luke and John only tell us of one multiplication of loaves (Lk 9:10-17; Jn 6:1-13), Mark and Matthew refer to two occasions of multiplication (Mk 6:30-44; 8:1-10; Mt 14:13-21; 15:32-39). It seems that both stories in Matthew and Mark came from the one source when loaves were multiplied, but which was passed on in two versions according to different traditions. Besides, the story in Mt 14:13-21 and Mk 6:30-44 seem to be the older versions. Here we focus on the subject of our lectio divina, that is, the text of Mt 14:13-21.



This text presents Jesus at the time when He received the news of the Baptist’s beheading by Herod (Mt 14:12). He goes apart «in a lonely place» (Mt 14:13). The Gospels often show us Jesus as someone who goes apart. Generally, but not always, this going apart presents a Jesus who is immersed in prayer. Here are some examples: «After sending the people away, He went up a hill by Himself to pray. When evening came, Jesus was there alone» (Mt 14:23); «Very early in the morning, long before daylight, Jesus got up and left the house. He went out of town to a lonely place, where He prays” (Mk 1:35); «He would go away to lonely places, where He prayed» (Lk 5: 16); «led by the Spirit» after His baptism, Jesus goes away into the desert to be tempted by the devil and He overcomes the devil’s seductions by the power of the Word of God (Mt 4:1-11; Mk 1:12-13; Lk 4:1-13). At other times, Jesus calls His disciples to Him: «Let us go off by ourselves to someplace where we will be alone and you can rest a while» (Mk 6:30-44). In our passage, Jesus prays before multiplying the loaves. The Gospels show that Jesus liked to pray before important events throughout His ministry such at His baptism, His transfiguration and His passion.



This time the crowd follows Him into the desert (Mt 14:13) and Jesus feels compassion for them and cures their sick (Mt 14:14). We often see compassion in Jesus towards those who follow Him (Mt 15:32). The master is moved because they «were like sheep without a shepherd» (Mk 6:34). Indeed, Jesus is the good shepherd who nourishes His people like the prophet Elisha (2 Kings 4:1-7, 42-44) and like Moses in the desert (Ex 16; Nm 11). In John’s Gospel, Jesus, in His discourse on the bread of life (Jn 6), explains the meaning of the sign of the multiplication of the loaves. This miracle is a preparation for the bread that will be given in the Eucharist. In all the Gospels, Jesus’ actions before He multiplies the loaves, recall the rite of breaking the bread, the Eucharist. The actions are: a) taking the bread, b) lifting «His eyes up to heaven», c) pronouncing “the blessing», d) breaking the bread, e) giving it to the disciples (Mt 14:19). These actions are found in the stories of the multiplication of the loaves and, word for word, in the story of the last supper (Mt 26:26).



All eat of the bread and are satisfied. Twelve baskets full of leftovers are taken up. Jesus is the one who satisfies the chosen people of God: Israel, made up of twelve tribes. But He also satisfies the pagans in the second multiplication (Mt 15:32-39), symbolized now by seven baskets, the number of the nations of Canaan (Acts 13:19) and also the number of the Hellenist deacons (Acts 6:5; 21:8) who were given the task of providing for the daily distribution at table. The community gathered around Jesus, a foretaste of the Kingdom of God, welcomed Jews and Gentiles, all called to accept the invitation to share at the table of the Lord. Jesus shows this also by His action of sitting at table with publicans and sinners and, through His teachings in the parables of the banquet where «many will come from the east and the west and sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of heaven» ( Mt 8: 11; see also Mt 22:34; Lk 14:16-24).



b) Some questions to guide our meditation and practice:



- What touched you most in this passage?

- Which of Jesus’ attitudes touched you most in this text?

- Have you ever thought of Jesus’ emotions? This text focuses on compassion. Can you find other emotions in the Gospels?

- What do you think God wishes to tell you through this story of the multiplication of the loaves?

- Jesus provides food in abundance. Do you trust in the providence of the Lord? What does it mean for you to trust in providence?

- Have you ever thought of the Eucharist as sitting down at table with Jesus? Who are those invited to this table?



3. ORATIO



a) Psalm 78:24-25:



He rained down manna to feed them,

He gave them the wheat of heaven;

mere mortals ate the bread of the Mighty,

He sent them as much food as they could want.



b) Closing prayer:



O God, who in the compassion of Your Son towards us, show us Your fatherly goodness, grant that the bread multiplied by Your providence may be broken in love, and the communion in the bread come down from heaven open us to dialogue with and service of our brothers and sisters. Through Christ our Lord.



4. CONTEMPLATIO



There is one other point which I would like to emphasize, since it significantly affects the authenticity of our communal sharing in the Eucharist. It is the impulse which the Eucharist gives to the community for a practical commitment to building a more just and fraternal society. In the Eucharist our God has shown love in the extreme, overturning all those criteria of power which too often govern human relations and radically affirming the criterion of service: “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mk 9:35). [...] Can we not make this Year of the Eucharist an occasion for diocesan and parish communities to commit themselves in a particular way to responding with fraternal solicitude to one of the many forms of poverty present in our world? I think for example of the tragedy of hunger which plagues hundreds of millions of human beings, the diseases which afflict developing countries, the loneliness of the elderly, the hardships faced by the unemployed, the struggles of immigrants. These are evils which are present - albeit to a different degree - even in areas of immense wealth. We cannot delude ourselves: by our mutual love and, in particular, by our concern for those in need we will be recognized as true followers of Christ (cf. Jn 13:35; Mt 25:31-46). This will be the criterion by which the authenticity of our Eucharistic celebrations is judged.



John Paul II, Mane Nobiscum Domine, 28.


Lectio Divina:
2020-08-02
Friday, 01 April 2011 20:07

Lectio Divina: 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Written by

Three parables of the Kingdom of God

Discovering the signs of God in daily life

Matthew 13:44-52



1. Opening prayer



Lord Jesus, send Your Spirit to help us read the Scriptures with the same mind that You read them to the disciples on the way to Emmaus. In the light of the Word, written in the Bible, You helped them to discover the presence of God in the disturbing events of Your sentence and death. Thus, the cross that seemed to be the end of all hope became for them the source of life and of resurrection.



Create silence in us so that we may listen to Your voice in Creation and in the Scriptures, in events and in people, above all in the poor and suffering. May Your word guide us so that we too, like the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, may experience the force of Your resurrection and witness to others that You are alive in our midst as source of fraternity, justice and peace. We ask this of You, Jesus, Son of Mary, who revealed the Father to us and sent us Your Spirit. Amen.



2. Reading



a) A division of the text as an aid to the reading:



Matthew 13:44: The parable of the hidden treasure

Matthew 13:45-46: The parable of the merchant looking for precious pearls

Matthew 13:47-50: The parable of the dragnet cast into the sea

Matthew 13:51-52: A parable to conclude the discourse of the parables



b) A key to the reading:



On this 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time we meditate on the three parables that make up the final section of the Discourse of the Parables: the hidden treasure, the merchant of precious pearls and the dragnet cast into the sea. Jesus’ parables help us adjust our sight to better see the presence of the Kingdom of God in the most ordinary things of life. As we read, it would be good to keep in mind the following: “What is for me a hidden treasure, a merchant of precious pearls or a dragnet cast into the sea? How does my experience help me understand the parables of the treasure, of the pearl and of the dragnet?”



c) The Text:



44 'The kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which someone has found; he hides it again, goes off in his joy, sells everything he owns and buys the field. 45 'Again, the kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls; 46 when he finds one of great value he goes and sells everything he owns and buys it. Matthew 13:44-52 47 'Again, the kingdom of Heaven is like a dragnet that is cast in the sea and brings in a haul of all kinds of fish. 48 When it is full, the fishermen bring it ashore; then, sitting down, they collect the good ones in baskets and throw away those that are of no use. 49 This is how it will be at the end of time: the angels will appear and separate the wicked from the upright, 50 to throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.

51 'Have you understood all these?' They said, 'Yes.' 52 And He said to them, 'Well then, every scribe who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of Heaven is like a householder who brings out from his storeroom new things as well as old.'



 



3. A moment of prayerful silence



so that the Word of God may penetrate and enlighten our life.



4. Some questions



to help us in our personal reflection.



a) What part of the text struck me most? Why?

b) In my experience of life, what do I understand by a hidden treasure, a merchant of precious pearls, or a dragnet cast into the sea?

c) How does this experience of mine help me understand the parables of the treasure, the pearl and the dragnet?

d) What difference is there between the parable of the treasure and that of the pearl?

e) What does the text say about the mission to be carried out as disciples of Christ?



5. For those who wish to go deeper into the theme



a) The context of the parables told by Jesus:



The Gospels contain many parables of Jesus. Matthew even says, “All these things Jesus said to the crowd in parables and did not speak to them unless in parables” (Mt 13:34). This was a common method of teaching used in those days. It was in this way that Jesus made Himself understood by the people. In the parables, He starts from very ordinary things of life and uses them as terms of comparison to help people better understand the less known things of the Kingdom of God. In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus starts with three well-known things in the lives of people: the treasure hidden in the field, the merchant who seeks pearls, and the dragnet that fishermen cast into the sea.



b) A commentary on the text:



Matthew 13:44: The parable of the hidden treasure

Here the term of comparison used to shed light on the things of the Kingdom of God is the treasure hidden in the field. No one knows that there is a treasure in that field. By chance, a man finds it. He did not know he was going to find it. He finds it and rejoices and gratefully welcomes the unexpected. The discovered treasure does not belong to him yet, it will be his if he succeeds in buying the field. Such were the laws in those days. So he goes, sells all he owns and buys that field. By buying the field he also acquires the treasure.

Jesus does not explain the parable. The same applies here as was said on previous occasions: “He who has ears to hear let him hear” (Mt 13:9, 43). Or: “The Kingdom of God is this. You have heard. Now try to understand!” If Jesus does not explain the parable, nor will I. This is the task for each one of us. But I would like to offer a suggestion beginning from what I have understood. The field is our life. In our lives there is no hidden treasure, no precious treasure, more precious than all else. Will anyone who comes across such a treasure give away everything that he or she owns in order to buy this treasure? Have you found it?



Matthew 13:45-46: The parable of the merchant of precious pearls

In the first parable, the term of comparison is “the treasure hidden in the field”. In this parable, the accent is different. The term of comparison is not the precious pearl, but the activity, the effort of the merchant who seeks precious pearls. We all know that such pearls exist. What is important is not to know that they exist, but to seek them ceaselessly until we come across them.

Both parables have some common and some different elements. In both cases, it is about something precious: a treasure and a pearl. In both cases there is a finding of the object desired, and in both cases the person goes and sells all he owns so as to be able to buy the precious thing found. In the first parable, the finding is by chance. In the second, the finding is the result of the effort of seeking. Here we see two basic aspects of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom exists, it is hidden in life, waiting for those who will find it. The Kingdom is the result of a seeking (obtaining). These are the two basic dimensions of human life: gratitude of love that welcomes us and comes to meet us, and the faithful observance that brings us to meet the Other.



Matthew 13:47-50: The parable of the dragnet cast into the sea

Here the Kingdom is likened to a dragnet, not any kind of net, but a net cast into the sea and gathers fish of all kinds. It is something typical of the life of those who were listening, most of whom were fishermen who lived by fishing. This is an experience they are familiar with, the casting of the net that gathers all, some good and some less good. The fisherman cannot prevent the less good fish from entering the net, because he cannot control what happens in the deep waters of the sea where he drags his net. He will only know when he pulls up the net and sits with his mates to sort the fish out. Then they will separate what is worthwhile from what is worthless. Again, Jesus does not explain the parable. He just gives a hint: “This is how it will be at the end of time”. Then the good will be separated from the evil.



Matthew 13:51-52: Conclusion of the discourse of parables

In Matthew’s Gospel, the discourse of parables ends with a brief dialogue between Jesus and His listeners and that acts as a key to the reading of all the parables. Jesus asks, “Have you understood all these?” The people reply, “Yes!” Then Jesus concludes with these very beautiful words, “Well then, every scribe who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of Heaven is like a householder who brings out from his storeroom new things as well as old”. These closing words are another parable. “The things new as well as old that the householder brings out from his storeroom” are the things of the life that Jesus has just suggested in the parables: seeds cast in the field (Mt 13:4-8), the mustard seed (Mt 13:31-32), the leaven (Mt 13:33), the treasure hidden in the field (Mt 13:44), the merchant of precious pearls (Mt 13: 45-46), the dragnet cast into the sea (Mt 13:47-48). Each person’s experience of these things is his or her treasure. It is in such experiences that each person finds the term of comparison that will permit him or her to understand the things of the Kingdom of God! Sometimes when the parables do not mean much to us and do not yield their message, the cause may not be a lack of study, but a lack of experience in life or a lack of depth in one’s life. Those who live superficially without any depth of the experience of life, have no storeroom from which to bring out things new as well as old.



c) A deepening: The teaching of the parables



The parables of Jesus are a pedagogical device that uses daily life to show us how the things of daily life speak to us of God. The parables make reality transparent and reveal the presence and action of God. They transform one’s sight into a contemplative gaze. A parable is about the things of life and thus is an open teaching that involves us. We all have experience of the things of life. The teaching in parables begins with a person’s experience of common things so as to be able to understand the Kingdom: seed, salt, light, sheep, flowers, woman, children, father, net, fish, treasure, pearl, etc.

Jesus did not usually explain His parables. Generally He ended with this exhortation: “He who has ears to hear let him hear!” (Mt 11:15; 13:9, 43), or, "That’s it. You’ve heard! Now try to understand!” Jesus left His parables open ended;He did not finish them. This is a sign that Jesus believed in the ability of people to discover the meaning of the parable starting from their own experience of life. Occasionally, at the request of His disciples, He would explain the meaning. (Mt 13:10, 36). For instance, verses 36-43 explain the parable of the wheat and the weeds. It is also possible that these explanations are the reflection of the catechesis given to the communities of first Christians. The communities met and discussed the parables of Jesus, seeking to understand what Jesus meant to say. Thus, gradually, the teaching of Jesus started to be assimilated into the catechesis of the community and this then becomes an explanation of the parable.



6. Palm 19:7-14



The Law of Yahweh is perfect



The Law of Yahweh is perfect,

refreshment to the soul;

the decree of Yahweh is trustworthy,

wisdom for the simple.

The precepts of Yahweh are honest,

joy for the heart;

the commandment of Yahweh is pure,

light for the eyes.

The fear of Yahweh is pure, lasting forever;

the judgements of Yahweh are true,

upright, every one,

more desirable than gold,

even than the finest gold;

His words are sweeter than honey,

that drips from the comb.



Thus Your servant is formed by them;

observing them brings great reward.

But who can detect his own failings?

Wash away my hidden faults.

And from pride preserve Your servant,

never let it be my master.

So shall I be above reproach,

free from grave sin.



May the words of my mouth always find favor,

and the whispering of my heart,

in Your presence, Yahweh,

my rock, my redeemer.



7. Final Prayer



Lord Jesus, we thank You for the word that has enabled us to understand better the will of the Father. May your Spirit enlighten our actions and grant us the strength to practice what Your Word has revealed to us. May we, like Mary, Your mother, not only listen to but also practice the Word. You who live and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.


Lectio Divina:
2020-07-26
Friday, 01 April 2011 20:05

Lectio Divina: 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Written by

The mysterious growth of the Reign

God’s patience

Matthew 13: 24-43



1. Opening prayer



Spirit of Truth, sent by Jesus to guide us to the whole truth, enlighten our minds so that we may understand the Scriptures. You who overshadowed Mary and made her fruitful ground where the Word of God could germinate, purify our hearts from all obstacles to the Word. Help us to learn like her to listen with good and pure hearts to the Word that God speaks to us in life and in Scripture, so that we may observe the Word and produce good fruit through our perseverance.



2. Reading



a) Division of the text:



The text is made up of three parables, a break, and the explanation of the first parable. The three parables of the darnel and the wheat (13: 24-30), the mustard seed (13: 31-32) and the leaven (13:33), have the same purpose. They wish to correct the expectations of Jesus’ contemporaries who thought that the Reign of God would come with vehemence and immediately eliminate whatever was contrary to it. Through these parables, Jesus wishes to explain to His listeners that He did not come to restore the Reign by force, but to inaugurate a new era gradually, in the day-to-day history, in a way often unobserved. And yet His work has an inherent strength, dynamism and a transforming power that gradually changes history from inside according to God’s plan…if one has eyes to see!



In 13:10-17, between the parable of the sower and its explanation, the evangelist inserts a dialogue between Jesus and His disciples where the Master explains to them why it is that He speaks to the crowds only in parables. Here too, between the parables and the explanation, the evangelist inserts a brief comment on the reason why Jesus speaks in parables (13: 34-35).



Then follows the explanation of the parable of the darnel and the wheat (13: 36-43). What is striking in this explanation is that, while many of the details of the parable are interpreted, not a single reference is made to the core of the parable, that is, the dialogue between the owner and his servants concerning the darnel that grew together with the wheat. Many scholars deduce that the explanation of the parable is not from Jesus, but from the evangelist who changes the original sense of the parable. While Jesus meant to correct the messianic impatience of his contemporaries, Matthew addresses lukewarm Christians and exhorts them, almost threatens them, with God’s judgement. However, the parable and the explanation are part of the canonical text and, therefore, both should be considered because both contain the Word of God addressed to us today.



b) The text:



Matthew 13: 24-43



24-30: He put another parable before them, 'The kingdom of Heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everybody was asleep his enemy came, sowed darnel all among the wheat, and made off. When the new wheat sprouted and ripened, then the darnel appeared as well. The owner's laborers went to him and said, "Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? If so, where does the darnel come from?" He said to them, "Some enemy has done this." And the laborers said, "Do you want us to go and weed it out?" But he said, "No, because when you weed out the darnel you might pull up the wheat with it. Let them both grow till the harvest; and at harvest time I shall say to the reapers: First collect the darnel and tie it in bundles to be burnt, then gather the wheat into my barn." '

31-32: He put another parable before them, 'The kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the biggest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air can come and shelter in its branches.'

33: He told them another parable, 'The kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour till it was leavened all through.'

34-35: In all this Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables; indeed, He would never speak to them except in parables. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet: I will speak to you in parables, unfold what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.

36-43: Then, leaving the crowds, He went to the house; and His disciples came to Him and said, 'Explain to us the parable about the darnel in the field.' He said in reply, 'The sower of the good seed is the Son of man. The field is the world; the good seed is the subjects of the kingdom; the darnel, the subjects of the Evil One; the enemy who sowed it, the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; the reapers are the angels. Well then, just as the darnel is gathered up and burnt in the fire, so it will be at the end of time. The Son of man will send his angels and they will gather out of His kingdom all causes of falling and all who do evil, and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth. Then the upright will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Anyone who has ears should listen!



3. A moment of prayerful silence



so that the Word of God may enter into us and enlighten our life.



4. Some questions



to help us in our personal reflection.



a) What is your reaction towards the evil that you see in the world and in yourself? Is it the reaction of the servants or that of the owner?

b) What are the signs of the presence of the Reign that you can see in the world and in your life?

c) What image of God appears from these three parables? Is this your image of God?



5. A key to the reading



for those who wish to go deeper into the text.



a) The Reign of God:



In the two compendia that Matthew offers us on the ministry of Jesus, he presents Him preaching the Gospel or the good news of the Reign and healing (4:23; 9:35). The expression "Reign of Heaven" appears 32 times in Matthew. It is the same as the "Reign of God", found only once in Matthew, whereas it is the more usual expression found in the rest of the New Testament. As a matter of respect, the Jews avoid not only the use of the Name of God as revealed to Moses (see Ex 3:13-15), but also the word "God" which is substituted by various expressions such as "Heaven" or "The heavens". Matthew, the most Jewish of the Gospels, conforms to this practice.

The expression is not found in the Old Testament, where, however, we often find the idea of the royalty of God over Israel and over the universe and the verbal equivalent of the New Testament’s "God reigns". In fact, the Reign of God, as presented also in the New Testament, is above all the action of God who rules and the new situation as a consequence of His ruling. God has always been ruler, but because of sin, Israel and the whole of humanity avoid His royalty and create a situation opposed to His original plan. The Reign of God will be established when everything will be once more subjected to His dominion, that is, when humanity will accept His sovereignty and thus realize His plan.

Jesus proclaimed the coming of this new era (see for example Mt 3: 2). Somehow the reality of God’s Reign is made present and anticipated in Him and in the community He founded. But the Church is not yet the Reign. The Reign grows mysteriously and gradually until it reaches its fulfillment at the end of time.



b) God’s logic:



The reality of the Reign and its growth, as described by Jesus, place us before the mystery of God whose thoughts are not our thoughts. We confuse royalty and force, and impositions, and triumphalism. We like things done on a grand scale. We see success as an undertaking praised and involving many people. However, these are temptations which seduce even the community, and instead of serving the Reign, the community finds itself opposing it. God, on His part, prefers to advance His plan through small, poor and insignificant things and while we are always in a hurry to complete our plans, God waits with great patience and forbearance.



6. Psalm 145



Hymn to the Lord Ruler



I will extol Thee, my God and King,

and bless Thy name for ever and ever.

Every day I will bless Thee,

and praise Thy name for ever and ever.



Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,

and His greatness is unsearchable.

One generation shall laud Thy works to another,

and shall declare Thy mighty acts.

On the glorious splendor of Thy majesty,

and on Thy wondrous works, I will meditate.

Men shall proclaim the might of Thy terrible acts,

and I will declare Thy greatness.

They shall pour forth the fame of Thy abundant goodness,

and shall sing aloud of Thy righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and merciful,

slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

The Lord is good to all,

and His compassion is over all that He has made.



All Thy works shall give thanks to Thee,

O Lord, and all Thy saints shall bless Thee!

They shall speak of the glory of Thy kingdom,

and tell of Thy power,

to make known to the sons of men Thy mighty deeds,

and the glorious splendor of Thy kingdom.

Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,

and Thy dominion endures throughout all generations.



The Lord is faithful in all His words, and gracious in all His deeds.

The Lord upholds all who are falling,

and raises up all who are bowed down.

The eyes of all look to Thee,

and Thou givest them their food in due season.

Thou openest Thy hand,

Thou satisfiest the desire of every living thing.



The Lord is just in all His ways,

and kind in all His doings.

The Lord is near to all who call upon Him,

to all who call upon Him in truth.

He fulfills the desire of all who fear Him,

He also hears their cry, and saves them.

The Lord preserves all who love Him;

but all the wicked He will destroy.



My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,

and let all flesh bless His holy name for ever and ever.



7. Closing prayer



For Thou lovest all things that exist,

and hast loathing for none of the things which Thou hast made,

for Thou wouldst not have made anything if Thou hadst hated it.

How would anything have endured if Thou hadst not willed it?

Or how would anything not called forth by Thee have been preserved?

Thou sparest all things, for they are Thine,

O Lord who lovest the living.

Therefore Thou dost correct little by little those who trespass,

and dost remind and warn them of the things wherein they sin,

that they may be freed from wickedness

and put their trust in Thee, O Lord.



Thou art righteous and rulest all things righteously,

deeming it alien to Thy power to condemn him

who does not deserve to be punished.

For Thy strength is the source of righteousness,

and Thy sovereignty over all causes Thee to spare all.

For Thou dost show Thy strength

when men doubt the completeness of Thy power,

and dost rebuke any insolence among those who know it.

Thou who art sovereign in strength dost judge with mildness,

and with great forbearance Thou dost govern us;

for Thou hast power to act whenever Thou dost choose.



Wisdom 11: 24-12: 2,  15-18


Lectio Divina:
2020-07-19
Page 9 of 34

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