SR-2017-11-26

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
The Solemnity of Christ the King in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) –
November 26, 2017


ORDINARY TIME:
Liturgical Color – Green (Stands for Growth, hope, life.)
Purpose –
To recall the life of Christ, reminded that God is always there to help us live as Christians.

(Cycle A) – Matthew’s Gospel is used primarily during the Sunday Mass, Liturgy of the Word’s Gospel Reading.


WHY BIBLE STUDY?
The desired end result of true study of the Bible is to hear God’s voice. That is, to find Him in His word and understand His word so that it may generate in us both gratitude and obedience. Add to this that the Christian faith is not something to be enjoyed alone, but to be shared.

St. Thomas said: “Jesus is my Lord (King, Leader, Ruler, Judge)
and my God (Creator, Supreme being, Source of all moral authority)”.
(John 20:28)


This Sunday’s Theme: The Leadership of Our Lord.

On this last Sunday of the Liturgical Year, the Church celebrates the Kingship of Christ. This year (Cycle A), Christ is presented as a King unlike any other. In Reading 1, God is the Shepherd and Provider of His people. In the Gospel, Christ is presented as the Judge who will evaluate all human conduct in the context of compassion for others. In Reading 2, Paul states that one day all things will be brought to completion in Christ. At the end of time, Christ will triumph over all evil, the last evil being death itself.
This feast celebrates Christ’s Kingship in an altogether non-worldly way. Jesus was anointed by the Father with the oil of gladness as the Eternal Priest and Universal King. As Priest He offered His life on the altar of the Cross and redeemed the human race by this one perfect sacrifice of peace. As King He claims dominion over all creation that He may present to the almighty Father a Kingdom of truth and life, a Kingdom of holiness and grace, a Kingdom of justice, love, and peace.

Reading 1 – Ezekiel 34:11-12,15-17     God Himself will shepherd the people of Israel.
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 23:1-3,5-6     The Lord is our Shepherd.
Reading 2 1 Corinthians 15:20-26,28     Because Christ has been raised from the dead, all those who have died will also be raised.
Gospel –  Matthew 25:31-46     Jesus teaches that when the Son of Man comes in glory, He will judge the nations, separating the sheep from the goats.

(This Bible Study’s primary references used are from St Joseph Sunday Missal (Themes), Loyola Press, CatholicCulture.org,  Ascension Catholic Church Sunday Reflections, USCCB, Understanding the Scriptures by Scott Hahn,  St Thomas Aquinas’ Works, RSV Oxford Annotated Bible, Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, St Charles Borromeo Bible Studies, LUMINA Bible Study, The Franciscans St. Anthony’s Guild, and Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary.)


NOTE: To gain clarity of understanding in all of the following scriptural passages that have many inline footnotes, first read only the purple colored scriptural words in the passage. Then re-read the passage along with the green colored inline footnotes.


Reading 1     Ezekiel 34:11-12,15-17                        (The Lord’s Care)

Context – Ezekiel was a Hebrew priest and prophet, whose ministry to his fellow exiles in Babylon extended from 593 to 563 BC. He was a contemporary of Jeremiah. As a prophet to exiles, he assured his hearers of the abiding presence of God among them. He constantly emphasized the Lord’s role in the events of the day. He underscored the integrity of the individual  and his personal responsibility to God. To a helpless and hopeless people, he brought hope of restoration to homeland and temple by their just and holy God. Ezekiel is referenced more in the Book of Revelation than in any other New Testament writing.
Today’s Reading – The leaders of Israel are reproached for living off the “sheep” (the people) without responding to their needs. They provide no care for those who remain close, and leave those who stray to their own resources. With their people in great danger, the religious leaders provide for themselves even when many people are lost. So God Himself, intervenes, and assumes the role of Shepherd. He will bring back the exiled and go after the lost, the wounded, and the sick.

Thus says the Lord GOD: I Myself will look after and tend My sheep. (Since the current and previous kings, priests, and prophets have been ineffective, there will now be a return to only God being in control. Biblical tradition sees God as Israel’s Shepherd.) As a shepherd tends his flock when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so will I tend My sheep. I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark. I myself will pasture My sheep; I myself will give them rest, says the Lord GOD. The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal (God will reverse the evil done by their previously bad human leaders.), but the sleek and the strong (Those who would lead the others astray by setting bad example or rebellion) I will destroy, shepherding them rightly.

As for you, My sheep, says the Lord GOD, I will judge between one sheep and another,
between rams and goats. (This is an application of the principle of everyone’s individual responsibility for their own decisions and actions, i.e. use of their own free will.)


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.  


Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 23:1-3,5-6                 (The Good Shepherd)

Today’s Psalm – This psalm uses the imagery of the Good Shepherd to describe God’s care for His people.

R. – The Lord is my Shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want. In verdant
(green, abundant and grassy) pastures He gives me repose.
R. – The Lord is my Shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Beside restful waters He leads me
(Pastures and restful waters are God’s gifts to us.); He refreshes my soul. He guides me in right paths for His name’s sake.
R. – The Lord is my Shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes
(God provides for us in a world beset with distractions, evil, and tragedy); you anoint my head with oil (The shepherd applies oil to the head of the sheep to repel flies, insects, and snakes. – God protects us.); my cup overflows (An overflowing cup is a sign to a visitor that his hosts wants him to stay as opposed to no refill which signifies – time to go!! – God wants us to stay with Him forever.).
R. – The Lord is my Shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for years to come
(Trust in the Lord, His way will get you to Heaven and the trials of the trip will be lost in the joys at His Banquet – the Kingdom of Heaven.).
R. – The Lord is my Shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Reading 2.     1 Corinthians 15:20-26,28                    (Christ the Firstfruits)       

Context – Corinth was the meeting point of many nationalities because the main current of the trade between Asia and western Europe passed through its harbors. Paul started the Church at Corinth in 51 AD and stayed there only briefly to get things started. Five years after he left, he composed and sent this Letter to Corinth just prior to his second arrival there. Over those five years trouble arose in the Church including: internal divisions, immorality, denials of the Resurrection, and liturgical carelessness. His pastoral guidance aimed to restore peace and unity by fortifying their commitment to Jesus Christ. Paul’s first Letter to the Corinthians takes aim throughout at two  vices that underlie the Corinthians’ struggles: pride and selfishness. His second letter to the Corinthians was written to prevent them from following prey to false prophets.

Today’s Reading – Paul says that when the carpet is rolled up on time itself, this is how it is going to go. First, the faithful—dead and living—will be lifted up.  Then, every power on earth will be smashed to bits, and all will be subdued under Christ, including death. Finally, Christ will surrender to God, and God is all in all.


Brothers and sisters: Christ has been raised from the dead, the Firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (Firstfruits is more than first in time. It is a Jewish cultic term. The offering of the first fruits was the symbol of the dedication of the entire harvest to God. The resurrection of all who are in Him.) For since death came through man (sins of Adam and Eve), the resurrection of the dead came also through Man (Jesus in His human nature). For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order: Christ the Firstfruits; then, at His coming, those who belong to Christ; then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to His God and Father, when He has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power. (The consummation of time when Christ, having completed His redemptive mission and brought all the elect to the glory of His resurrection, manifests His total victory over the evil spirits. Then, having completed His work, He hands over to His Father the royal authority that was conferred on Him as Savior of the world and Head of the Church.)  For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. When everything is subjected to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subjected to the One who subjected everything to Him, so that God may be all in all.


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Gospel     Matthew 25:31-46                          (The Last Judgment)

Context – Matthew’s Gospel, written prior to 70 AD, is the first book of the New Testament, not because it was written first – some of Paul’s epistles take that honor – but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. His purpose was to  prove to his fellow Jews that Jesus is the One to whom all the Jewish prophets point: the Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews. To accomplish his mission He uses more Old Testament quotations and references than any other Gospel.
Today’s Reading –  So many of the important themes of Matthew’s Gospel come to a climactic crescendo in this eschatological (end times) scene. Up to this point, readers of Matthew have been told that wheat and weeds will grow together until harvest, that all species of fish will be hauled together in one net, that good and bad will grow together until the final separation. Believers have also been instructed, through many parables, with lessons of watchfulness and waiting. With this passage, it becomes evident that the time of growing together and waiting has passed, yielding to the moment of separation and judgment. In this Gospel, Jesus is revealed as the King who will judge us on the criteria of compassion for the least of our brothers and sisters. The blessed are those who have ministered to the needs of the poor. In doing so, they have ministered to Christ Himself.
This Parable of the Sheep and Goats has no parallel in the other Gospels, it is unique to Matthew.

Jesus said to His disciples: “When the Son of Man (Jesus) comes in His glory (majesty,  grandeur), and all the angels with Him, He will sit upon His glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before Him. And He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on His right and the goats on His left. (The right often signified the place of favor, and the left the place of comparative disfavor in biblical and Jewish literature.)  Then the king (Jesus) will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed (divinely favored) by My Father. Inherit the kingdom (Heaven) prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, a stranger and you welcomed Me, naked and you clothed Me, ill and you cared for Me, in prison and you visited Me.’ (This lists six of the seven corporal works of mercy: gave me food, gave me drink, clothed me, welcomed me, comforted me, visited me. The missing virtue is to bury the dead. These works of mercy, says St. Augustine, prevail towards life everlasting, and to the blotting out of former sins.) Then the righteous will answer Him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and welcome You, or naked and clothe You? When did we see You ill or in prison, and visit You?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’ (Service of the needy is identified with the love of Christ. A “least brother” is not necessarily a member of the Christian community, but any human being.) Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you accursed (condemned, convicted, doomed), into the eternal fire (hell) prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave Me no food, I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink, a stranger and you gave Me no welcome,
naked and you gave Me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for Me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to Your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for Me.’
(These have failed to observe God’s family covenant. They have failed to care for their brothers and sisters.) And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           I heard Father Dominic Rossi say, when asked why he started The Bethesda Project (homeless shelters), that “he finds Jesus in the poor.” (Father Dominic is a member of the Daylesford Abbey, Paoli, PA. and Pastor of St. Gabriel’s Parish in Philadelphia, PA.)

Catechism 2443 – God blesses those who come to the aid of the poor and rebukes those who turn away from them: “Give to him who begs from you, do not refuse him who would borrow from you”; “you received without pay, give without pay.” It is by what they have done for the poor that Jesus Christ will recognize His chosen ones. When “the poor have the good news preached to them,” it is the sign of Christ’s presence.


 

SR-2017-11-19

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
For the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) – November 19, 2017


“By our attitudes, actions, and words, we have the privilege of revealing our loving Father
to a world that desperately needs Him.” (Charles Stanley)


This Sunday’s Theme: Fidelity (loyal, faithful, reliable, merciful, trustworthy).

Two interesting but contrasting figures appear in this Sunday’s Reading 1 and Gospel readings.  In Proverbs (Reading 1), the wife and mother, with all her domestic duties, finds time to develop skills and to dedicate herself to the needs of others.  In Matthew’s Parable of the Talents (Gospel), the unproductive servant is totally devoid of an enterprising spirit. In the Gospel, harmful fear of the master of the house paralyzes this servant. In Reading 1, the reverential and worshipful fear of the Lord is what motivates this woman. We are told in these readings that the fruitful use of God’s gifts enter into the final assessment of our lives.  In Reading 2, Paul urges vigilance in the light of the uncertainty of the time of the Second Coming of Jesus.

What we do in life and how we do it, must be done with the fidelity of our relationship to God, to each other, to our Church fellowship, and to the neighborhood and world in which we live and work.


Reading 1 – Proverbs 31:10-13,19-20,30-31     The virtues of a good wife are extolled.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 128:1-5     Blessed are those who walk in God’s ways.

Reading 2 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6     Paul warns the Thessalonians to stay alert because the day of the       Lord cannot be predicted.

Gospel –  Matthew 25:14-30     Jesus tells the parable of the talents, in which He teaches about the importance of using the gifts that God has given to us in service to the Kingdom of Heaven.


Reading 1     Proverbs 31:10-13,19-20,30-31                       (A Worthy Wife)

Context – The Book of Proverbs is a compendium of moral and religious instruction as given to Jewish youth by professional sages in the post-exile period. Proverbs is the most typical example of a “wisdom” book in the Old Testament with its emphasis on: moral high probity (adherence to the highest principles and ideals) based on religion, its teaching that reward and punishment follow in this life, its appeal to the lessons of experience rather than to revelation, and its exploration of the nature of wisdom and of wisdom’s relation to God. (“Wisdom” here means not merely the practical ability to succeed well in life, or even the art of behaving ethically, but spiritual vision, understanding of God and His activity in our lives and history.)
Today’s Reading – Our first reading today praises the virtues of a good wife, painting a picture of the ideal woman who, in fidelity to God, is lacking nothing in terms of perfection and integrity. With the qualities described and God’s grace she can face the future with optimism, knowing that God will watch over her and hers because she is so good.
This idea of a perfect woman is best demonstrated in the Catholic Church, through the Holy Blessed Mother Mary. (From St. Augustine)

When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls. Her husband, entrusting his heart to her, has an unfailing prize. She brings him good, and not evil, all the days of her life. She obtains wool and flax and works with loving hands. She puts her hands to the distaff (a tool used in spinning (i.e. twisting fibers together) and is designed to hold the unspun fibers, keeping them untangled and thus easing the spinning process.), and her fingers ply the spindle. (All this said, means she is industrious.)  She reaches out her hands to the poor, and extends her arms to the needy. Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting; the woman who fears the LORD (full of love, awe, respect, trust, faith, and obedience towards God) is to be praised. Give her a reward for her labors, and let her works praise her at the city gates.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


 Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 128:1-5                     (Fear of the Lord)

Today’s Psalm – This wisdom psalm refers to the blessing of a worthy wife extolling the virtues of family life in general.

R. – Blessed are those who fear the Lord (See Pause, below.).
Blessed are you who fear the LORD, who walk in His ways! For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork; blessed shall you be, and favored.
R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord.
Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the recesses of your home; Your children like olive plants around your table.
R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord. Behold, thus is the man blessed who fears the LORD. The LORD bless you from Zion: may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.
R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           “fear the Lord” – Psalm 34 states, to fear the Lord – “keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit , depart from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it”. Also: – Discover Him, Learn about Him, Worship Him (devotion).  – Seek His will in all matters and act upon it (service).  – Be obedient to Him in both good and bad times.  – Love Him and give Him thanks.  – Do justly, love kindness, be merciful, humble yourself, and walk humbly with your God.  – Tell others about Him.  – Hate evil.
The “fear of the Lord” is one of the seven gifts from the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 11:2). But, like all gifts, we must open it up and use it properly.


Reading 2.     1 Thessalonians 5:1-6               (The Day of the Lord)       

Context – The church at Thessalonica was a very young church. Paul’s two letters focus upon confirming young converts in the elementary truth of the gospel, conditioning them to go on unto holy living, and comforting them regarding the return of Christ.
Today’s Reading – These verses speak to the question: When will the Second Coming occur? Paul responds: “Who knows? It will come like a thief in the night. But, if we live in the light of Christ, we will have nothing to fear. Because the Lord could return when we least expect it, we should put aside all deeds of darkness.”

Concerning times and seasons, brothers and sisters, you have no need for anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief at night. When people are saying, “Peace and security, ” then sudden disaster (eternal separation from God) comes upon them, (The great threat to vigilance is our complacency and our  listening to false prophets of continued prosperity.) like labor pains upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. (In contrast to the complacency just described, the inevitability of the event is compared to the onset of labor for a pregnant woman – we know it is coming, but not when labor will start.) But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness, for that day to overtake you like a thief. For all of you are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober.


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.  


Gospel     Matthew 25:14-30                          (The Faithful Servant)

Context – Matthew’s Gospel, written prior to 70 AD, is the first book of the New Testament, not because it was written first – some of Paul’s epistles take that honor – but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. His purpose was to  prove to his fellow Jews that Jesus is the One to whom all the Jewish prophets point: the Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews. To accomplish his mission He uses more Old Testament quotations and references than any other Gospel.
Today’s Reading –  This week’s Gospel speaks of how Jesus’ disciples (and us) are to conduct themselves as Christian disciples as they await the Kingdom of Heaven. This Parable of the Talents teaches that God’s judgment will be based on the service we render to God and to one another in accordance with the gifts that God has given to us. Our gifts, or talents, are given to us for the service of ourselves and others. If we fail to use these gifts, God’s judgment on us will be severe. On the other hand, if we make use of these gifts in service to the Kingdom of Heaven (i.e. God’s will), we will be rewarded and entrusted with even more responsibilities. This Gospel reminds us that Christian spirituality is not passive or inactive. Our life of prayer helps us to discern the gifts that have been given to us by God. This prayer and discernment ought to lead us to use our gifts in the service of God and our neighbor. God’s grace allows us to share in the work of serving the Kingdom of Heaven (God is the Lord of the good worker and the Lord of the resulting good works. He works through us, when we cooperate with Him, to accomplish His will.).

Jesus told His disciples this parable: “A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one– to each according to his ability. Then he went away. (The word play is evident here as the monetary term “talents” contrasts with the man’s abilities: his talents – his gifts, aptitudes, flairs. Although each has different talents, each man is given a portion to care for. This can be seen as God’s grace – everyone has a different size cup, but all are filled.) Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five. Likewise, the one who received two made another two. But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money (He guarded his gift but did not use it. It’s great to receive gifts but if we don’t open them and properly utilize them, then they are virtually ineffective.).

After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them (The time between leaving on the journey and returning, relates to the time between Jesus’ Ascension and His Second  Coming to settle the accounts at the last judgment. At the personal level, it represents one’s lifetime, during which God expects His gifts to us to be cultivated.). The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five. He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant (He engaged in trustworthy risk-taking. He maintained his faith and understanding through whatever trials he had encountered.). Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities (The reward of fidelity is a commission of even greater responsibility.). Come, share your master’s joy (Enter the kingdom of God).’ Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. See, I have made two more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy (Notice that even though the initial charge was less (two vs. five) the reward is the same.).’ Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.’ His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter? Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten. For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away (The powers conferred on Christians grow with use but wither with disuse.). And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.'”


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           We are all responsible for the accounting of how we cultivated God’s gifts that He gave to us. “We who have received something more than others in this world may be judged more severely by the world’s Creator. When His gifts increase the responsibility of accounting for them also grows greater.” (From St. Gregory)
Also, the blind and other handicapped also do “works” as per John Milton’s (blind poet) sonnet entitled “When I consider how light is spent” which ends in “they also serve who only stand and wait”. That is, their good works include preparing themselves to be ready for others to help them to do good works. (From John Milton)  “By the hands of the poor we can store up riches in eternity” (St. Barlaam)


Catechism 1936 – On coming into the world, we are not equipped with everything we need for developing our bodily and spiritual life. We need others. Differences appear tied to age, physical abilities, intellectual or moral aptitudes, the benefits derived from social commerce, and the distribution of wealth. The “talents” are not distributed equally.
Catechism 1041 – The message of the Last Judgment calls us to conversion while God is still giving us “the acceptable time, . . . the day of salvation.” It inspires a holy fear of God and commits us to the justice of the Kingdom of God. It proclaims the “blessed hope” of the Lord’s return, when he will come “to be glorified in His saints, and to be marveled at in all who have believed.”


 

SR-2017-11-12

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
For the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) – November 12, 2017


“Take care of your body as if you were going to live forever;
and take care of your soul as if you were going to die tomorrow.”  (St. Augustine)


This Sunday’s Theme: Wisdom and Death.

These final three Sundays left in Ordinary Time – Cycle A, focus our spiritual attention on the End Times (theologically known as the Parousia), or in practical terms, on our own mortality and judgment by God.
Wise people make God the center of their lives and are prepared for God’s unexpected coming. In Reading 1 personified Wisdom comes to those who are morally attuned and prepared to receive her. The Gospel speaks about the importance of readiness for God’s visitation. In Reading 2, Paul speaks about the fate of those who die before the Lord’s return.

Reading 1 – Wisdom 6:12-16     Wisdom will come to those who seek it.
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 63:2-8     Our souls are thirsting for God.
Reading 2 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18     God will raise all those who have died.
Gospel –  Matthew 25:1-13     Jesus tells the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, teaching His disciples     the importance of being prepared to receive the Kingdom of Heaven.


Reading 1     Wisdom 6:12-16                       (Love of Wisdom)

Context – The Wisdom of Solomon (aka. Wisdom) is one of seven Wisdom Books of the Bible (including: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Songs (Song of Solomon), Ecclesiastes, and Sirach).  It was written a century or two before Christ. It’s main lesson is God rewarding those who are faithful to His law. “Wisdom” here means not merely the practical ability to succeed well in life, or even the art of behaving ethically, but spiritual vision, understanding of God and His activity in our lives and history. To strengthen the faith of his co-religionists, to console them in their afflictions, to raise their hearts above the sordidness and immorality by which they were surrounded – this was the main purpose of the writer of the Book of Wisdom. But he also had another purpose in view. Many Jews, anxious to gain the good will of the Egyptians, had faltered in their allegiance to Yahweh and gone over to the camp of the enemy. To these unfortunates the sacred writer addresses himself time and again, warning them of the impending judgment of God and conjuring them to return to the path of true Wisdom which alone leads to perfect happiness. The Christian finds in it the highest religious and moral lessons – lessons which are of paramount importance today, just as they were over two thousand years ago.
Today’s Reading – “Wisdom” here means not merely the practical ability to succeed well in life, or even the art of behaving ethically, but spiritual vision, understanding of God and His activity in our lives and history. In this reading, Wisdom is personified as a woman who is ready to help all who seek her. Wisdom is to be obtained by prayer, and by leading a good life.

Resplendent (magnificent/outstanding) and unfading is wisdom, and she is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her. She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire; Whoever watches for her at dawn (Refers to the manna in the morning that God gave to the Jews in the desert for their sustenance.) shall not be disappointed, for he shall find her sitting by his gate. For taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence (good sense/forethought), and whoever for her sake keeps vigil shall quickly be free from care; because she makes her own rounds, seeking those worthy of her, and graciously appears to them in the ways, and meets them with all solicitude (attentiveness/concern).


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 63:2-8                       (Seeking the Lord)

Today’s Psalm – This psalm is a beautiful song of one seeking a relationship with Divine Wisdom. Having this relationship is “greater than life” which reminds us that life without God and His love is no life at all.

R. – My soul is thirsting for You, O Lord my God.
O God, You are my God whom I seek; for You my flesh pines
(have a desire for something or someone who is not present) and my soul thirsts like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.
R. – My soul is thirsting for You, O Lord my God.
Thus have I gazed toward You in the sanctuary to see Your power and Your glory, For Your kindness is a greater good than life; my lips shall glorify You.
R. – My soul is thirsting for You, O Lord my God.
Thus will I bless
(worship/praise/honor/reverence) You while I live; lifting up my hands, I will call upon Your name. As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied, and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise You.
R. – My soul is thirsting for You, O Lord my God.
I will remember You upon my couch, and through the night-watches I will meditate on You: You are my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I shout for joy.
R. – My soul is thirsting for You, O Lord my God.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you. 


Reading 2.     1 Thessalonians 4:13-18                       (Rising from the Dead)      

Context – The church at Thessalonica was a very young church. Paul’s two letters focus upon confirming young converts in the elementary truth of the gospel, conditioning them to go on unto holy living, and comforting them regarding the return of Christ.
Today’s Reading – Expectations of the return of Christ, His Second Coming, are ripe in this Christian community.  Many believe that Jesus will return in their lifetime. Disappointment sets in when it does not happen. Anxiety sets in when loved ones start to die. What will become of them?  Paul seeks to address these concerns in these verses. As Catholics, we would say that we do not know the when, how or where of Christ’s Second Coming. We just believe that Christ will return and all the faithful who have ever lived and believed will enjoy His presence for all eternity.

We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, about those who have fallen asleep (those who have died), so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe (The certitude of faith is in the resurrection and a life of glory with Christ.) that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with Him those who have fallen asleep. Indeed, we tell you this, on the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an Archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. (Their soul will reenter their now glorified body.)  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up (The Latin for “caught up” is rapturo from which the term “Rapture” comes.) together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. (Those who lived until this event will also have a glorified body.)  Thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore, console one another with these words.


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          Catechism 366 – The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God – it is not “produced” by the parents – and also that it is immortal: it does not perish when it separates from the body at death, and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection. So at the moment of death, the soul separates from the body, is judged immediately, and enters either heaven (immediately or through purgatory) or hell. Catechism 1022 – Each person receives their eternal retribution in their immortal soul at the very moment of their death, in a particular judgment that refers their life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven-through a purification or immediately, — or immediate and everlasting damnation. – At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love.
Difference between our earthly body and our after-life body:  
1. The Lord Jesus Christ…will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body. (Philippians 3:20–21 – “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly body to conform with His glorified body by the power that enables Him also to bring all things into subjection to Himself.”). We believe that Christ’s resurrected body, before His ascension, was quite normal in appearance. But what is Christ’s “glorious body” like? We are given a picture on the Mount of Transfiguration: (Matthew 17:2 – “And He was transfigured before them; His face shone like the sun and His clothes became white as light.”). The Transfiguration appears to have given us a preview of Christ’s glorified body.
2. If our soul is judged for eternal life, we can assume then, that our earthly body will be transfigured like Jesus’ body was. Will a baby that died on earth be a baby in heaven? Will an elderly person be elderly in heaven? Will … ? Answer – What we shall be has not yet been revealed. – 1 John 3:2 – “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
3. If our soul is judged for everlasting damnation, what will our earthly body be transformed to in hell?


 

Gospel     Matthew 25:1-13                            (The Need for Watchfulness)

Context – Matthew’s Gospel, written prior to 70 AD, is the first book of the New Testament, not because it was written first – some of Paul’s epistles take that honor – but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. His purpose was to  prove to his fellow Jews that Jesus is the One to whom all the Jewish prophets point: the Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews. To accomplish his mission He uses more Old Testament quotations and references than any other Gospel.
Today’s Reading – Since no one knows the day or hour of Jesus’ return, all would be wise to sustain an attitude of continuous preparedness by daily hearing and keeping of His Word.

Jesus told His disciples this parable: “The Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. (Since it is not known when the parousia (End Times) will happen, one must always be ready to go and meet the Lord.)  Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. ( Absolute vigilance is not so much the point as readiness.) At midnight, there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ (The oil represents the good works of living out the gospel; the foolish virgins have just been coasting along.) But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’ (Refusal by the wise doesn’t constitute a lack of charity or helpfulness – good works are not completely transferrable. Others can help, but readiness to accept salvation is, ultimately, a matter of personal responsibility.) While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. (Those who are prepared to accept salvation are admitted to the wedding feast of the Lamb – the heavenly banquet.) Then the door was locked. Afterwards the other virgins came and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’ (Those who are not prepared cannot expect to be admitted.) But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Catechism 672 – Before His Ascension, Christ affirmed that the hour had not yet come for the glorious establishment of the messianic kingdom awaited by Israel which, according to the prophets, was to bring all persons the definitive order of justice, love and peace. According to the Lord, the present time is the time of the Spirit and of witness, but also a time still marked by “distress” and the trial of evil which does not spare the Church and ushers in the struggles of the last days. It is a time of waiting and watching.


 

SR-2017-11-5

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
For the 31th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) – November 5, 2017


“Let it be understood that those who are not found living as He taught are not Christian – even though they profess with their lips the teaching of Christ.”  (St. Justin)


This Sunday’s Theme: Conduct for Priests and Followers.

Reading 1 and the Gospel reading have some tough words for the religious leaders who lived in the time of Malachi and Jesus, respectively. In Reading 2, Paul shows himself to be a good and effective leader by serving with love those to whom he was sent to preach the Word.
Our divine Lord warned His disciples, and through them all of us, to avoid that pernicious vice of pride. It should not be hard for any true Christian to avoid this vice. We know that every material and spiritual talent we have has been given us by God, so we must give glory to God for any gifts we possess and not to ourselves. St. Paul reminds us of this fact when he asks us: “What have you that you have not received, and if you have received it why glory in it as if it were your own?” We owe everything we have to God and we should use all the gifts He has given us for His honor and glory, and for that purpose alone.

Reading 1 – Malachi 1:14b—2:2b,8-10     God judges the priests of Israel and calls them to be more faithful to the Covenant.
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 131:1-3     Act of humble submission to God’s will and guidance.
Reading 2 1 Thessalonians 2:7b-9,13     Paul gives thanks to God for the way in which the Thessalonians  received the word of God.
Gospel –  Matthew 23:1-12     Jesus warns against following the example of the scribes and the Pharisees and teaches that those who would be great must be   servants.

Reading 1     Malachi 1:14b—2:2b,8-10                   (Violating the Covenant)

Context – The book of Malachi gets its name not from the author, who is unknown, but from the opening words of the book “An oracle. The word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi.” Malachi is a Hebrew word meaning “my messenger.” This is the last Book of the Old Testament, written in the period 500 – 450 BC. Emphasis is upon sin, judgment, and repentance plus upon the advent of the day of the Lord. The central theme is fidelity to the Lord’s Covenant and its teachings. Along with its mention of the worship of God by the Gentiles with its mention of the advent of the Lord’s coming – new Covenant, it is fitting that this Book of the Bible concludes the Books of the prophets and precedes to the New Testament.
Today’s Reading – This passage addresses the restoration community of Israelites that had returned to the land from Babylonian captivity. Its purpose is to confront them with their sins and to encourage them to pursue holiness. Malachi uses the Mosaic Covenant as the standard by which he measured Israel’s conduct. He points out instances of covenant unfaithfulness and urged return to the covenant. For example, He addresses the priests who have defiled God’s altar by offering blind, diseased and crippled animals instead of the unblemished as required. He also blames the lay people who brought them in the first place.
Malachi 2:7 – “For a priest’s lips preserve knowledge, and instruction is to be sought from his mouth, because he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.”

A great King am I, says the LORD of hosts, and My name will be feared among the nations. And now, O priests, this commandment is for you: If you do not listen, if you do not lay it to heart, to give glory to My name, says the LORD of hosts, I will send a curse upon you and of your blessing I will make a curse. You have turned aside from the way, and have caused many to falter by your instruction; you have made void the covenant of Levi, says the LORD of hosts. (The priests of Malachi’s day had deviated from the straight path of truth and had caused many people who followed them to stumble through their instruction.) I, therefore, have made you contemptible and base before all the people, since you do not keep My ways, but show partiality in your decisions. Have we not all the one Father? Has not the one God created us? Why then do we break faith with one another, violating the covenant of our fathers?


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           Malachi saw this watering-down of the sacrifice as a significant diminishment of Jewish religious gratitude. And, such cheating was abhorrent to him. Today, perhaps a fair comparison in Catholic pious Tradition might be when we substitute religious devotions in lieu of committed, active, conscientious, and significant generosity of time, talent, and treasure in our Church communities. (From The Franciscans St. Anthony’s Guild)
The Lord does not want worship without obedience. It is displeasing to the Lord and is a cardinal principle of the Old Testament religion. Do not let yourself be turned away from belief and obedience. – See: Psalm 51:15-17, 95:7-11, Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, and Matthew 5:3.


Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 131:1-3                     (Act of humble submission to God’s will and guidance)

Today’s Psalm – This psalm calls for our conduct of trust and confidence in God and for a spirit of humility.

R. – In you, Lord, I have found my peace.
O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor are my eyes haughty; I busy not myself with great things, nor with things too sublime for me.
(Pride, in this sense, is essentially a belief that one does not need God but is self-sufficient. Haughty or lofty looks with the eyes betray a proud attitude because they look down on other people with a feeling of superiority. Pride also manifests itself in taking on projects for which one is not capable and thinking that one can handle them. The proud person overestimates his own abilities as well as his own importance. The humble person, however, has a realistic understanding of his or her capabilities and limitations.)
R. – In you, Lord, I have found my peace.
Nay rather, I have stilled and quieted my soul like a weaned child. Like a weaned child on its mother’s lap, so is my soul within me.
R. – In you, Lord, I have found my peace.
O Israel, hope in the LORD, both now and forever.
R. – In you, Lord, I have found my peace.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Reading 2.     1 Thessalonians 2:7b-9,13                    (God’s Good Tidings)        

Context – The church at Thessalonica was a very young church. Paul’s two letters focus upon confirming young converts in the elementary truth of the gospel, conditioning them to go on unto holy living, and comforting them regarding the return of Christ.
Today’s Reading – In contrast to the priests in Malachi’s time and the Scribes and Pharisees in Jesus’ time, Paul proves himself to be an authentic teacher and leader who nurses his flock into God’s ways. While Paul is with the Thessalonians, he is like a “nursing mother.” Not only does he preach and teach, but he shares with them his very self. Finally, Paul reminds us that the Gospel he preaches is no mere human work but the power of God in our midst guiding our ways via the Holy Spirit. Our humbleness allows God to use us to do His will through us.

Brothers and sisters: We (Paul, Sylvanus, and Timothy) were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children. With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us. You recall, brothers and sisters, our toil and drudgery. Working night and day in order not to burden any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. And for this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly, that, in receiving the word of God from hearing us, you received not a human word but, as it truly is, the Word of God, which is now at work in you who believe.


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          Paul’s life and theological preaching is an example of how the Church ought to be in each and every age and place. “Come, Holy Spirit! Fill the hearts of your faithful! Enkindle in us the fire of your Divine Love! By your Grace, build us into a holy people who live in the Spirit’s strength, love, and self-discipline!” (From The Franciscans St. Anthony’s Guild)


Gospel     Matthew 23:1-12                            (The Virtue of Humility)

Context – Matthew’s Gospel, written prior to 70 AD, is the first book of the New Testament, not because it was written first – some of Paul’s epistles take that honor – but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. His purpose was to  prove to his fellow Jews that Jesus is the One to whom all the Jewish prophets point: the Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews. To accomplish his mission He uses more Old Testament quotations and references than any other Gospel.
Today’s Reading – In this passage, Jesus specifically levels three criticisms at the Scribes and Pharisees. They do not practice what they preach. They are too legalistic in their interpretation of the Scriptures. They are full of their own self-importance, seeking the front seats and titles. This Gospel challenges today’s shepherds and all disciples to look into their own hearts and see to what extent the spirit of the Pharisee lies within.

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. (That is, the interpretation of the Law was carried on through an unbroken chain of scribes all the way back to Moses.) Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. (What is criticized here is not the teaching of the scribes and Pharisees, but their practice; it doesn’t match their teaching. “Do as they say, not as they do.” ) They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries (They are small boxes which contain Scripture verses that are placed on the left forearm and forehead.) and lengthen their tassels (They refer to the fringes worn on the corners of a person’s garments; the tassels help to remind those who wear them to keep the commandments.). They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’ As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one Teacher, and you are all brothers. Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. (The Church has always seen this as the prohibition of seeking fame and notoriety rather than a lesson in linguistics. The practice of calling priests “father” can be traced back to the monastic movement when the term served as a method of addressing a spiritual director.) Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one Master, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. (Humility and service to God is what is important. Leadership positions should never be a goal in and of themselves, but should always be viewed as opportunities to serve others. One of the Pope’s titles is “Servant of the servants of God’) Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          Religious leaders today – as well as every Church member at all levels – must hear Jesus’ criticism in this passage very personally. It takes great humility to hear criticism. Failure to hear effectively very often reveals a great lack of humility. Humility for Gospel believers helps us live lives of prudent competence, and compassionate fellowship.
The Gospel of Jesus is literally supposed to be “good news.” That is, it is supposed to help people carry their “burdens” in life in ways that are life-giving and liberating, not needlessly burdensome, oppressive, and superstitious. Honors and titles, while, affirming and encouraging, are without substance if not matched with competent, effective, compassionate, wise, and responsible lives.


Catechism 768 – So that she [the Church – i.e. all of us] can fulfill her mission, the Holy Spirit “bestows upon [the Church] varied hierarchic and charismatic gifts, and in this way directs her.” “Henceforward the Church, endowed with the gifts of her Founder and faithfully observing His precepts of charity, humility and self-denial, receives the mission of proclaiming and establishing among all peoples the Kingdom of Christ and of God, and she is on earth the seed and the beginning of that kingdom.”


 

SR-2017-10-29

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
For the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) – October 29, 2017


We are born to love, we live to love, and we will die to love still more.”
(St. Joseph Cafasso)


This Sunday’s Theme: Love of God and Neighbor. 

Reading 1 and the Gospel reading speak about love of God and love of neighbor.  In Reading 2, Paul offers words of praise to his converts in Thessalonica since people everywhere can see by their lifestyle how they love Jesus and have embraced His teachings.


  • Reading 1 – Exodus 22:20-26      The Lord teaches that compassion ought to be shown to the alien and to the poor.

  • Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 18:2-4,47,51      Loving God for He is our strength.

  • Reading 2 1 Thessalonians 1:5c-10      Paul tells the Thessalonians that their conversion to the Lord has been an example to all believers.

  • Gospel Matthew 22:34-40     The Pharisees continue to test Jesus with a question about the greatest commandment.



Reading 1     Exodus 22:20-266                     (Kindness to Others)

Context –  The Book of Exodus (the word “exodus” means “departure”) bears witness to God’s actions (about 1350-1200 BC) to deliver a people from bondage and to bind them to Himself in covenant. The Book of Exodus is a continuation of the story of Genesis. The fact that it takes its name from the Israelites’ going out of Egypt shows the importance of this episode in the life of Israel. At the center of all this stood Moses who was called by God to be the agent in delivering Israel from slavery, to be the interpreter of God’s redemptive work, and to be the mediator of the covenant. This book tells of the oppression of the Israelites in Egypt, the birth and education of Moses and his flight into the land of Midian, his encounter with God on Mount Sinai (Horeb) (the burning bush), Moses’ return to Egypt and pleadings with Pharaoh, the plagues of Egypt, the institution of the Passover, the passing through the Red Sea, the giving of the ten commandments at Mt. Sinai, the golden calf, and the 40 years of wandering in the desert.
Today’s Reading – After Moses received the Ten Commandments from God on Mt. Sinai, he ascended the mountain again and God gave him other laws: the treatment of Hebrew slaves, rules of conduct for personal injuries, the rules and penalties for the protection of property, laws of justice and mercy, and laws of social responsibility – it is from these social responsibility laws that our reading for today is taken.

Thus says the LORD: “You shall not molest or oppress an alien (a person belonging to another country or government), for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt. You shall not wrong any widow or orphan. If ever you wrong them and they cry out to Me, I will surely hear their cry. My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword; then your own wives will be widows, and your children orphans. “If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors among My people, you shall not act like an extortioner toward him by demanding interest from him (See Pause, below). If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you shall return it to him before sunset; for this cloak of his is the only covering he has for his body. What else has he to sleep in? If he cries out to Me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate.” (This passage states that Israel’s God was also the protector of the legally defenseless at that time: the alien, orphan, widow, and poor – they basically had no rights under the Jewish laws.)


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          “No interest loans” –  The above prohibition against interest has reference to charitable loans made for the relief of distress rather than to the purely business type of loan. Originally the Jews were an agrarian/nomadic society but they later moved to a commercial society where interest was allowed for commercial loans.
See also, Exodus 22:24 – “If you lend money to My people, the poor among you, you must not be like a money lender; you must not demand interest from them.”  


 Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 18:2-4,47,51             (God Our Rock)

Today’s Psalm – David wrote this psalm after he had subdued his political enemies and had established the kingdom of Israel firmly under his control. David expresses his delight in the Lord and thanked Him for giving him the victories he enjoyed. The multiplicity of titles David gives to the Lord in this psalm shows the gratitude and affection which David felt – David loved God.

R. – I love You, Lord, my Strength.
I love You, O LORD
(See Pause, below), my Strength, O LORD, my Rock, my Fortress, my Deliverer.
R. – I love You, Lord, my Strength.
My God, my Rock of Refuge, my Shield, the Horn of my Salvation, my Stronghold! Praised be the LORD, I exclaim, and I am safe from my enemies.
(All the above is a confession of faith in believing God’s readiness to help us.)
R. – I love You, Lord, my Strength.
The LORD lives and blessed be my Rock! Extolled be God my Savior
(For us, this is a reference to Jesus.). You who gave great victories to Your king and showed kindness to Your anointed.
R. – I love You, Lord, my Strength.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          “I love You, O LORD” – “A person who loves has fulfilled the law.” (From Dom Augustin Calmet – an 18th century French Benedictine monk, philosopher, theologian, and Abbot.) 


Reading 2.     1 Thessalonians 1:5c-10                       (Imitating Christ)   

Context – The church at Thessalonica was a very young church. Paul’s two letters focus upon confirming young converts in the elementary truth of the gospel, conditioning them to go on unto holy living, and comforting them regarding the return of Christ.
Today’s Reading – Thessalonica is a thriving crossroad city in the Roman Empire. As a result of Paul’s anointed preaching, a dynamic Christian community is established and nurtured. In fact, this small Christian community becomes a wonderful example for many others, a model for all believers in Macedonia and Achaia. Their “lived faith” sounds forth to all around them.  People everywhere can see by their lifestyle how they love Jesus and have embraced His teachings.

Brothers and sisters: You know what sort of people we were among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord (Christianity is an imitation of God after the manner revealed by Jesus. The apostles imitate Jesus and their converts imitate them.), receiving the word in great affliction (hardship), with joy from the Holy Spirit (Joy in the faith in spite of persecution is the work of the Holy Spirit within us and the imitation of Christ.), so that you became a model for all the believers in Macedonia of and in Achaia. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth not only in Macedonia and in Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. For they themselves openly declare about us what sort of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols (In the Bible, idols are synonymous with false gods.) to serve the living and true God and to await His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, Jesus, who delivers us from the coming wrath (delivers us from the justice of the punishment for the unrepentant sinner.).


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           Note – Thessalonica is the capital city of Macedonia which is located in the region of Achaia. And Achaia is located in south western Greece.


Gospel     Matthew 22:34-40                          (The Greatest Commandments)

Context – Matthew’s Gospel, written prior to 70 AD, is the first book of the New Testament, not because it was written first – some of Paul’s epistles take that honor – but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. His purpose was to  prove to his fellow Jews that Jesus is the One to whom all the Jewish prophets point: the Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews. To accomplish his mission He uses more Old Testament quotations and references than any other Gospel.
Today’s Reading – A Pharisee asks Jesus: “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus’ answer combines two quotations from Deuteronomy and Leviticus. From Deuteronomy 6:5, Jesus takes these following words: “You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength.” From Leviticus 19:18, Jesus quotes: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus and the Pharisee do not dispute the importance of the law. Their disagreement has to do with emphasis. The Pharisees, who tend to be legalistic, underscore compliance to the law.  In contrast, Jesus places emphasis on love. For Jesus, love of God and people are most important as the starting point from which obedience to the law will follow. Also, the Great Commandment joins together love of God and neighbor.

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees (They learned that the Sadducees would no longer oppose Jesus publicly. So now they went on the attack.), they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law tested Him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” (The rabbis documented 613 commandments (including the Ten Commandments) in the Mosaic Law, 248 positive and 365 negative. Since no one could possibly keep them all, they divided them into “heavy” (more important) and “light” (less important). The Pharisees taught that the Jews needed to give attention to all the laws but particularly the “heavy” ones. This Pharisee was asking which of the “heavy” ones Jesus considered the “heaviest.”)  He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Whereby it is evident that all depend not upon faith only, though faith be the first, but much more upon charity, which is the love of God and of our neighbor, and which is the sum of all the law and the prophets; because he that hath this double charity, expressed here by these two principal commandments, fulfill all that is commanded in the law and the prophets. From Richard Bristow a 16th century English Catholic Biblical scholar.)


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           Jesus, once again, bases His responses and reactions to life’s situations, upon sound scriptural teachings. Here He quotes from Deuteronomy and Leviticus. When tempted by the devil in the desert, He quotes from Deuteronomy. In all, it is listed that Jesus quoted from 49 different versus in the Bible. We have a much larger scriptural base to draw upon that Jesus did, to guide and direct our lifestyle. In addition to the Old Testament, we have the New Testament, the Catholic traditions starting from the apostles, and the Magisterium. “Thank you Jesus for living Your life in a manner that all of humankind can model their lives after Yours, by asking “What would Jesus do?” , and therefore become Christlike.”


Catechism 2055 – When someone asks Him, “Which commandment in the Law is the greatest?” Jesus replies: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the prophets.” The Decalogue (Ten Commandments) must be interpreted in light of this twofold yet single commandment of love, the fullness of the Law: The commandments: “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.


 

SR-2017-10-22

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
For the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) – October 22, 2017


“The kingdom of God (i.e. the sphere over which God rules and in which all believers live and operate) … includes … justice, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17)


This Sunday’s Theme: God is In Charge.

Reading 1 and the Gospel reading tell us that God is the King of the universe and that our first allegiance belongs to Him. In Reading 2, Paul sees the Holy Spirit is active and in charge within the community as a result of his preaching and their acceptance of The Word of God.


  • Reading 1 – Isaiah 45:1,4-6      The Lord chooses Cyrus to subdue the nations for the sake of Israel.

  • Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 96:1,3-10      Sing praise to the Lord.

  • Reading 2 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5b      Paul greets the Thessalonians, recalling the Gospel they received.

  • Gospel Matthew 22:15-21     The Pharisees send their disciples to test Jesus with a question about taxes.



Reading 1     Isaiah 45:1,4-6                          (One God)

Context –  The keynote of the Book of Isaiah is salvation (Isaiah’s name means “Jehovah saves”). He was the prophet of the southern kingdom, Judah, and lived at the time (ie. 742 – 687 BC) when the northern kingdom, Israel, whose capital was Jerusalem, was destroyed. At this time all that was left of the old kingdom of David was Judah, which included the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and the Levites. He prophesized for 64 years. He prophesized doom  for a sinful Judah and Israel and for all the nations of the world that oppose God. Then, he prophesized God’s restoration of the nation of Israel, including Judah, and this is interpreted by Christians as prefiguring the coming of Christ. After the Psalms, Isaiah is the Old Testament book most quoted in the New Testament.
Today’s Reading – Cyrus was the pagan king of Persia who led the overthrow of the occupation by the Babylonians of Syria and Palestine (which includes Israel and Judah) in 539 B.C. Isaiah prophesied this overthrow 162 years earlier, in today’s reading, that Cyrus would be used (anointed) by God to deliver the Israelites from their captivity by Babylon at the end of the Exile. It is said that Cyrus was so impressed at seeing this prophesy of his name in the Jewish Holy Scriptures that he released the people in 538 B.C. to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple.

Thus says the LORD to His anointed (dedicated to the service of God; often implies one chosen for some great work), Cyrus (Cyrus is the only Old Testament non-Israelite to be anointed.), whose right hand I grasp, subduing nations before him, and making kings run in his service, opening doors before him and leaving the gates unbarred: For the sake of Jacob, My servant, of Israel, My chosen one, I have called you by your name, giving you a title, though you knew Me not. I am the LORD and there is no other, there is no God besides Me. It is I who arm you, though you know Me not, so that toward the rising and the setting of the sun people may know that there is none besides Me. I am the LORD, there is no other.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          God is directing Cyrus’ steps. He is making sure that the world history converges on His designs for a tiny captured group of people, Israel – See THEME. He hasn’t violated Cyrus’ free will, but He has guided Cyrus’ actions. 



Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 96:1,3-5, 7-10                       (The Lord is King)

Today’s Psalm – This psalm celebrates God as the King of Israel. As stated above in Reading 1, “I am the LORD, there is no other”.

R. – Give the Lord glory and honor.
Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all you lands. Tell His glory among the nations; among all peoples, His wondrous deeds.
R. – Give the Lord glory and honor. For great is the LORD and highly to be praised; awesome is He, beyond all gods. For all the gods of the nations are things of naught, but the LORD made the heavens.
R. – Give the Lord glory and honor. Give to the LORD, you families of nations, give to the LORD glory and praise; give to the LORD the glory due His name! Bring gifts, and enter His courts.
R. – Give the Lord glory and honor. Worship the LORD, in holy attire; tremble before Him, all the earth; say among the nations: The LORD is King, He governs the peoples with equity.
R. – Give the Lord glory and honor.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


 Reading 2.     1 Thessalonians 1:1-5b                         (Preaching the Gospel)      

Context – The church at Thessalonica was a very young church. Paul’s two letters focus upon confirming young converts in the elementary truth of the gospel, conditioning them to go on unto holy living, and comforting them regarding the return of Christ.
Today’s Reading – The tone of this reading is warm, tender and positive.  Paul obviously has great affection for this particular Christian community.

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: grace to you and peace. We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers, unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ (This is the earliest mention in Christian writing of the three theological virtues – faith, hope, and charity (love).), before our God and Father, knowing, brothers and sisters loved by God, how you were chosen. For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction. (St. Paul emphasizes that the power of the gospel lies not in the force of his own rhetoric but in the power of the Holy Spirit of God.)


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Gospel     Matthew 22:15-21                          (Lawful Taxes)

Context – Matthew’s Gospel, written prior to 70 AD, is the first book of the New Testament, not because it was written first – some of Paul’s epistles take that honor – but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. His purpose was to  prove to his fellow Jews that Jesus is the One to whom all the Jewish prophets point: the Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews. To accomplish his mission He uses more Old Testament quotations and references than any other Gospel.
Today’s Reading – This reading takes place when Jesus is in Jerusalem for His passion, death, and resurrection. “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God,” suggests that one can indeed be loyal both to a religious tradition and to a good secular power (the USA for example – based upon Judeo Christian principles and precepts). It may be difficult at times, especially when their claims conflict, but it is possible.
Patricia Sanchez (theologian and writer for National Catholic Reporter) writes: “Everywhere we go we belong to God for we bear His imprint. We belong to God, not just in church but in our homes, our work places and in the voting booth and we must bring God’s values to all of these places.”

The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech. They sent their disciples to Him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a Truthful Man and that You teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And You are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for You do not regard a person’s status. Tell us, then, what is Your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” (Jesus recognizes that both groups are trying to get Him to endorse a position which will offend one of them. The Pharisees hated the Roman taxes but the Herodians supported the Roman rule.)  Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed Him the Roman coin. He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” At that He said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Catechism 2242 – The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the Gospel. Refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between serving God and serving the political community. “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  “We must obey God rather than men”:   When citizens are under the oppression of a public authority which oversteps its competence, they should still not refuse to give or to do what is objectively demanded of them by the common good; but it is legitimate for them to defend their own rights and those of their fellow citizens against the abuse of this authority within the limits of the natural law and the Law of the Gospel.


 

SR-2017-10-15

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
For the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) – October 15, 2017


“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life;” (John 5:24)


This Sunday’s Theme: The Banquet Is Ready.

When we read about God providing us with Banquets and Gifts, we should know that we are not only to be thankful, grateful, and happy to receive them but God wants us to partake of them, enjoy them, open them up, and share them with others so that His glory is known, shown, acclaimed and celebrated. We won’t draw many people to God by just proclaiming His laws and judgment, we must show how He has provided us with His wonderful banquets and gifts and how they have benefited us. His best Banquet is the Kingdom of Heaven where He provides His best Gift of “eternal life”.

In Reading 1 and the Gospel reading, Isaiah and Jesus use the image of a sumptuous banquet to describe the fullness of life that God offers us and the abundant mercy that God wishes to offer not only to Israel but to all people.  In Reading 2, Paul shares how he has come, through grace, to depend on God in good times and in bad.


  • Reading 1 – Isaiah 25:6-10a      The Lord will provide richly for His people.

  • Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 23:1-6      The Lord is our Shepherd.

  • Reading 2 Philippians 4:12-14,19-20      Paul tells the Philippians that God provides whatever he

  • Gospel Matthew 22:1-14     Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a wedding feast.



Reading 1     Isaiah 25:6-10a                        (God as Savior)

Context –  The keynote of the Book of Isaiah is salvation (Isaiah’s name means “Jehovah saves”). He was the prophet of the southern kingdom, Judah, and lived at the time (ie. 742 – 687 BC) when the northern kingdom, Israel, whose capital was Jerusalem, was destroyed. At this time all that was left of the old kingdom of David was Judah, which included the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and the Levites. He prophesized for 64 years. He prophesized doom  for a sinful Judah and Israel and for all the nations of the world that oppose God. Then, he prophesized God’s restoration of the nation of Israel, including Judah, and this is interpreted by Christians as prefiguring the coming of Christ. After the Psalms, Isaiah is the Old Testament book most quoted in the New Testament.
Today’s Reading – Images of a banquet are used to sum up the blessings that God’s people will experience on the last day. Notice that this heavenly banquet is prepared not only for the people of Israel, but for all people who hear and answer God’s call. At this feast, the “veil” or all that separates us from God will be lifted and the spider’s “web” that imprisons us in ignorance and isolation will be brushed aside. Tears, guilt and shame will be replaced with joy.
The reading is intended to give hope to a people who may have felt abandoned by God because of some bad things that have recently happened to them. Isaiah also speaks of a time of restoration in these verses. The day will come when God will return and renew the broken covenant. This will take place symbolically on a mountain just as the original covenant was made with Moses on a mountain.

On this mountain (a figure of the Church, and of Heaven) the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast (banquet – see Theme) of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines (The banquet signifies the spiritual blessings that God brings to humankind through His kingdom.). On this mountain He will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations; He will destroy death forever (A promise of everlasting life in Heaven.). The Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from every face; the reproach of His people He will remove from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken. On that day it will be said: “Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us! This is the LORD for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that He has saved us!” For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you. 


Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 23:1-6                       (Dwelling with the Lord)

Today’s Psalm –  God’s shepherding care for His people is celebrated in both pastoral and banquet imagery by this 23rd Psalm. It is a Psalm that expresses confidence in God’s protection. You spread the table before me” as is mentioned below, is in line with the Theme of God’s Banquet.

R. – I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want. In verdant
(green, abundant and grassy) pastures He gives me repose; beside restful waters He leads me (Pastures and restful waters are God’s gifts to us.); He refreshes my soul.
R. – I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
He guides me in right paths for His name’s sake. Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for You are at my side with Your rod
(for protection) and Your staff (for guiding – Abbot Richard Antonucci’s Staff is a symbol of leading his faithful flock along the path of salvation, disciplining and protecting them as needed.) that give me courage.
R. – I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes
(God provides for us in a world beset with distractions, evil, and tragedy); You anoint my head with oil (The shepherd applies oil to the head of the sheep to repel flies, insects, and snakes. – God protects us.); my cup overflows (An overflowing cup is a sign to a visitor that his hosts wants him to stay as opposed to no refill which signifies – time to go!! –  God wants us to stay with Him forever.).
R. – I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for years to come
(Trust in the Lord, His way will get you to Heaven and the trials of the trip will be lost in the joys at His Banquet – the Kingdom of Heaven.)
R. – I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          The commentary, in part in the above, was taken from the book entitled “Safe in the Shepherd’s Arms” by Max Lucado.


Reading 2.     Philippians 4:12-14,19-20                     (Sharing the Hardships)    

Context – St. Paul founded the church in Philippi (in northern Greece) in 50 AD and this letter was written about ten years later. Philippians is a letter of thanks and encouragement to a congregation of dear friends of Paul. They supported the imprisoned apostle with their prayers and financial assistance. Much of this letter challenges the Philippians to grow in spiritual maturity and imitating both their Savior and their founding apostle. He holds up Jesus Christ as the model of humility and selfless love  and himself as a model of patient endurance.
Today’s Reading – While in prison, some of the Philippians send Paul gifts to help him endure the hardships of prison life. While grateful for the gifts, Paul shares that through his missionary journeys he has learned to be content with both famine and feast. Eating well or going hungry cannot compare with the strength Paul experiences in surrendering his life to Christ. He learns what Mary, the sister of Martha, had also come to know: “that only one thing is necessary,” namely, belonging to and being possessed by Christ. With Christ, Paul can say: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me” . Paul concludes by exhorting his readers to place their trust in the “magnificent riches of God.”

Brothers and sisters: I know how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. I can do all things in Him who strengthens me (Christ gives to His apostle the power to endure all things for the sake of the spread of the gospel.). Still, it was kind of you to share in my distress. My God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (St. Paul does not ask God to make them rich or affluent. He asks only that God may ‘supply their every need’ – so they will not be in want but will have what they need.” – Saint John Chrysostom) To our God and Father, glory forever and ever. Amen.


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           God is the provider of His people’s needs. May we ever be mindful of this truth and be grateful to Him! – The Lord is my Shepherd! 


Gospel     Matthew 22:1-14                            (The Wedding Banquet)

Context – Matthew’s Gospel, written prior to 70 AD, is the first book of the New Testament, not because it was written first – some of Paul’s epistles take that honor – but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. His purpose was to  prove to his fellow Jews that Jesus is the One to whom all the Jewish prophets point: the Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews. To accomplish his mission He uses more Old Testament quotations and references than any other Gospel.
Today’s Reading – Jesus is in Jerusalem for His passion. He has made His triumphal entry and has upset the religious leaders. He is speaking to them in parables about His mission and by whose authority He has been able to do what He has done and is to do. The parable we hear today summarizes the long history of God’s dealings with humankind – a series of invitations to a life guided by the Holy Spirit and portrays humankind’s  negative response to these invitations to share in the messianic blessings.
Like Reading 1, above, the Kingdom of God is imaged as a banquet to which all are invited to attend. The main focus of the parable is the response or lack of response of the invited guests. In this parable, Jesus continues to call the Pharisees and the religious leaders to conversion. Two invitations have been extended but the invitees refuse to come. Some even abuse and kill the servants delivering the invitations (a reference to the fate of some of the Old Testament prophets and the early Christian missionaries).
By the time Matthew writes his Gospel (85AD), Jesus has died, Jerusalem has been sacked and burned by the Romans (70AD), and the Gentiles have been invited into the Kingdom. It would be wrong to assume that the King in the story stands for a God—which would leave us with a pretty nasty image of a punishing God, rather than of a God who saves. As stated above, the main point of the parable is not about what God is like, but about the negative response of the religious leaders and all invited to Jesus’ call to enter the Kingdom that He is inaugurating.

Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people in parables, saying, “The Kingdom of Heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. (The messianic kingdom (Kingdom of Heaven) was referred to in the Old Testament in terms of a wedding feast (a Banquet) to which the Chosen People were invited (recall Reading 1 for today). The wedding feast was the high point of the wedding festivities and to be invited to it was a distinct honor. Failure to accept the invitation constituted a grave breach of courtesy – to the point it could even be considered a hostile act.)  He dispatched his servants (the prophets) to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come. A second time he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast.”‘ Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. (In effect, they denied the urgency, they become careless with the things of God. They are preoccupied with material things. Sound familiar?)  The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. (This can only be seen as a prophecy of the destruction to come to Jerusalem in A.D. 70.) Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready, but those who were invited (the Jews) were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find (the Gentiles).’ The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests, he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. (A clean white garment (washed in the blood of the lamb) was the proper attire, this man has not repented. His white baptismal garment is dirty. Even though he may belong to the Church, if he doesn’t repent and have the proper dispositions, he will be condemned on the day when God judges all humankind. He may have made the altar call and “accepted Jesus as his Lord and savior,” but he has failed to live out that call. This is an example which shows that “once saved, always saved” doesn’t work.) The king said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ Many are invited, but few are chosen.” (These words don’t conflict with God’s desire that all should be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). In His love for humankind, Christ patiently searches even the byroads seeking the conversion of every single soul, going so far as to die on the cross so that the entrance to the Heavenly Banquet is opened. However, God in His infinite wisdom and love respects humankind’s freedom: humankind is free (our Free Will) to reject God’s grace.)


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Catechism 546 – Jesus’ invitation to enter His kingdom comes in the form of parables, a characteristic feature of His teaching. Through His parables He invites people to the feast of the Kingdom, but He also asks for a radical choice: to gain the Kingdom, one must give everything. Words are not enough, deeds are required. The parables are like mirrors for humankind: will we be hard soil or good earth for the word? What use have we made of the talents we has received? Jesus and the presence of the Kingdom in this world are secretly at the heart of the parables. One must enter the Kingdom, that is, become a disciple of Christ, in order to “know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven”. For those who stay “outside”, everything remains enigmatic (i.e. being beyond one’s powers to know, understand, or explain). 


 

SR-2017-10-8

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
For the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) – October 8, 2017


“For I am not ashamed of the gospel. It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: …. For in it is revealed the righteousness of God from faith to faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous by faith will live.” (Romans 1:16-17)


This Sunday’s Theme: Righteousness.

Righteousness is defined as the living, dynamic relationship between us and God wherein we are spiritually and morally acceptable to God. It is conformity to God’s will in word, thought, and action; living a consistently conscientious (ethical, honest, honorable, just, moral, principled, scrupulous) life. It’s” using our Free Will to do what we ought rather than always what we want” (St. Pope John Paul II).

Reading 1 and the Gospel reading present an image of Israel as a vineyard where God the Divine Planter and Cultivator has sown His seed. But Israel has failed miserably to produce a good harvest. In Reading 2, Paul exhorts the Philippians to avoid anxiety, to be prayerful, and to constantly seek to do what is honorable, good, and true.


  • Reading 1 – Isaiah 5:1-7      The Lord compares the house of Israel to a vineyard.

  • Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 80:9,12-16,19-20      The Lord protects His vineyard, the house of Israel.

  • Reading 2 Philippians 4:6-9      Paul encourages the Philippians to stay faithful to the teaching they received from him.

  • Gospel Matthew 21:33-43     Jesus tells the parable about the wicked tenants.

 


NOTE: To gain clarity of understanding in all of the following scriptural passages that have many inline footnotes, first read only the purple colored scriptural words in the passage. Then re-read the passage along with the green colored inline footnotes.



Reading 1     Isaiah 5:1-7                  (The Lord’s Vineyard)

Context –  The keynote of the Book of Isaiah is salvation (Isaiah’s name means “Jehovah saves”). He was the prophet of the southern kingdom, Judah, and lived at the time (ie. 742 – 687 BC) when the northern kingdom, Israel, whose capital was Jerusalem, was destroyed. At this time all that was left of the old kingdom of David was Judah, which included the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and the Levites. He prophesized for 64 years. He prophesized doom  for a sinful Judah and Israel and for all the nations of the world that oppose God. Then, he prophesized God’s restoration of the nation of Israel, including Judah, and this is interpreted by Christians as prefiguring the coming of Christ. After the Psalms, Isaiah is the Old Testament book most quoted in the New Testament.
Today’s Reading – Isaiah is prophesying in Jerusalem prior to the destruction of the northern kingdom, Israel.  Israel is God’s vineyard which He transplanted from Egypt into the land of Canaan and carefully cared for and cultivated it. There is nothing that He did not do for His vineyard. Isaiah’s listeners are compelled to admit that absolutely nothing has been wanting in God’s dealings with them. The Planter and Cultivator of the vineyard naturally expects the vineyard to produce good fruit. But all it yields is “sour grapes”—bloodshed, oppression and infidelity. God sowed peace, but got violence from His people. God looked for true worship and got idolatry. God sowed seeds of justice, but injustice grew up. The message is clear. God has given all; Israel has yielded nothing. As a result, the Owner is going to withdraw His protecting hand and Israel will be transplanted into exile, subjected to a drought, and given the opportunity to repent and make a new choice for God.

Let me now sing of my Friend (God), my Friend’s song concerning His vineyard (the people of Israel). My Friend had a vineyard on a fertile hillside; He spaded it, cleared it of stones, and planted the choicest vines; within it He built a watchtower, and hewed out a wine press. Then He looked for the crop of grapes, but what it yielded was wild grapes. (All of this describes God’s careful preparation of the  Israelis to bring forth spiritual fruit. Yet all His work was for naught; His finest vines (the people) disappointed Him.)

Now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between Me and My vineyard: What more was there to do for My vineyard that I had not done? Why, when I looked for the crop of grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes? (All of this describes how then Isaiah confronted his audience, the people of Israel, by asking them – What more could God have done to insure a righteous relationship (a good crop) rather than incurring their sinfulness (a bad crop) ? The answer is that God did all that was necessary, but the people did not do their part.) Now, I will let you know what I mean to do with my vineyard: take away its hedge, give it to grazing, break through its wall, let it be trampled! Yes, I will make it a ruin: it shall not be pruned or hoed, but overgrown with thorns and briers; I will command the clouds not to send rain upon it. (All of this prophesies that God will put the Israelis in exile.) The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his cherished plant; he looked for judgment, but see, bloodshed! for justice, but hark, the outcry! (God requires righteousness from His people, but if we use our Free Will to produce the contrary, then we shall experience the consequences of our sins.)


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          Other symbolisms of Israel being a vineyard – Hosea 10:1-2 “Israel is a luxuriant vine whose fruit matches its growth. The more abundant His fruit, the more altars He built; The more productive His land, the more sacred pillars He set up. Their heart is false! Now they will pay for their guilt: God will break down their altars and destroy their sacred pillars.”.  Jeremiah 2:21 – “But I had planted you as a choice vine, all pedigreed stock; How could you turn out so obnoxious to Me, a spurious vine?”.  Ezekiel 19:10-14 – ” Your mother was like a leafy vine planted by water, Fruitful and full of branches because of abundant water. One strong branch grew into a royal scepter. So tall it towered among the clouds, conspicuous in height, with dense foliage. But she was torn out in fury and flung to the ground; The east wind  withered her up, her fruit was plucked away; Her strongest branch dried up, fire devoured it. Now she is planted in a wilderness, in a dry, parched land. Fire flashed from her branch, and devoured her shoots; Now she does not have a strong branch, a royal scepter!”.


Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 80:9,12-16,19-20                  (Safety in the Lord)

Today’s Psalm –  The theme of the vineyard is continued in this psalm. The psalmist petitions God to watch His vineyard.
God’s people are similar to a grape vine in that God has called us to be a blessing to others. However if we do not walk in trust and obedience, God may prune us back and limit our fruitfulness, with a view to increasing our ultimate productivity. The vine experiences blessing itself as it becomes a blessing to others. If we depart from God we need to call on Him to restore our fruitfulness and commit ourselves to Him again. (From Thomas Constable)

R. – The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.
A vine from Egypt You transplanted; You drove away the nations and planted it. It put forth its foliage to the Sea, its shoots as far as the River.
R. – The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel. Why have You broken down its walls, so that every passer-by plucks its fruit
(The Lord has withdrawn His protection for Israel because the vineyard has not rendered good fruit – that is the people of Israel have abandon their God.), The boar from the forest (the devil) lays it waste, and the beasts of the field feed upon it?
R. The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel. Once again, O LORD of hosts, look down from heaven, and see; take care of this vine, and protect what Your right hand has planted the son of man whom You Yourself made strong.
R. The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel. Then we will no more withdraw from You; give us new life, and we will call upon Your name. O LORD, God of hosts, restore us; if Your face shine upon us, then we shall be saved.
R. The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Reading 2.     Philippians 4:6-9                       (Wholesome Thoughts)      

Context – St. Paul founded the church in Philippi (in northern Greece) in 50 AD and this letter was written about ten years later. Philippians is a letter of thanks and encouragement to a congregation of dear friends of Paul. They supported the imprisoned apostle with their prayers and financial assistance. Much of this letter challenges the Philippians to grow in spiritual maturity and imitating both their Savior and their founding apostle. He holds up Jesus Christ as the model of humility and selfless love  and himself as a model of patient endurance.
Today’s Reading – Paul addresses the “worry warts” in the Philippian community.  In times of worry and anxiety, they are exhorted to turn to God in prayer and place their trust in Him. In doing so, they will come to know the “peace that surpasses all understanding.” Then Paul exhorts his readers to live lives patterned after Christ – live righteously. Christian thinking and behavior will open them to the kind of peace that only God can give.

Brothers and sisters: Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true (valid, honest, and reliable), whatever is honorable (worthy of respect), whatever is just (upright), whatever is pure (moral purity), whatever is lovely (amiable, agreeable, or pleasing), whatever is gracious (kind and merciful), if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (This wholesome thinking should encourage and assist us with wholesome conduct, which will lead us to righteousness in the eyes of God.) Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. (We are all called to imitate the saints in what we do and say.) Then the God of Peace will be with you.


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Gospel     Matthew 21:33-43                          (The Tenant Farmers)

Context – Matthew’s Gospel, written prior to 70 AD, is the first book of the New Testament, not because it was written first – some of Paul’s epistles take that honor – but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. His purpose was to  prove to his fellow Jews that Jesus is the One to whom all the Jewish prophets point: the Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews. To accomplish his mission He uses more Old Testament quotations and references than any other Gospel.
Today’s Reading – By this parable, our Savior teaches the Jews that the providence of God had wonderfully watched over them from the beginning, that nothing had been omitted to promote their salvation, and that notwithstanding His prophets had been put to most cruel deaths, still the Almighty was not turned away from them, but had at length sent down His only Son, who should suffer at their hands the inexpressible ignominies and tortures of His cross and passion. (From St. Chrysostom)

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: “Hear another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard (Again, the vineyard is representative of God’s chosen people.), put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey. (This first part of the parable  reflects our Reading 1.) When vintage time drew near (Time for the harvest, time to rally the faithful.), he sent his servants (the prophets) to the tenants to obtain his produce. But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned. Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way. Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son (Jesus).’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’ They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him (Jesus was crucified outside the walls of the city.). What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?” They answered him, “He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.(It is ironic that the chief priests, who are incriminated by the story, give the harsh answer.) Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes? (Psalm 118:22-23) Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.” (This Kingdom is the Church founded on Peter by Jesus. Peter and the apostles are the foundation, Jesus is the cornerstone which keeps the structure from collapsing. Due to the Jews rejection (their unrighteousness), this Church will now be taken to the Gentiles – taken from the unbelieving and given to the faithful.)


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          St. Augustine remarks, that this parable was addressed not only to the opponents of Christ’s authority, but likewise to the regular Jewish people.


Catechism 755 – The Church is a cultivated field, the tillage of God. On that land the ancient olive tree grows whose holy roots were the prophets and in which the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles has been brought about and will be brought about again. That land, like a choice vineyard, has been planted by the heavenly cultivator. Yet the true vine is Christ who gives life and fruitfulness to the branches, that is, to us, who through the Church remain in Christ, without whom we can do nothing.  


 

Corpus Christi: a Norbertine feast

Today we enter into the month of June: the month of the Holy Eucharist. The medieval Church might not have gotten everything right, but one thing they excelled at beyond all human measure was devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. To read any secular historian’s account of how the feast of Corpus Christi came into existence, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was all centered around a quaint belief system not seen for hundreds of years. And yet, despite the passage of time, nothing has changed. The Catholic Church, whether in the 13th or the 21st century, has consistently taught that, at the words of a validly ordained priest, mere bread and wine are transformed into the incarnate God: Jesus, not symbolically, but truly present in our midst to be worshiped and consumed.

At the height of the Middle Ages in the west, adoration of the Eucharistic Lord–not the reception of Communion–was the climax of the liturgy for the average layperson. The faithful, called to attention by the ringing of the Sanctus bells, would jostle each other for a glimpse of the Host raised up by the priest over his head at the elevations. As told by Eamon Duffy in The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400-1580, zealous parishioners might not leave until they had satisfactorily gazed upon the Lord, shouting across the nave, “raise it higher, sir priest! Raise it higher!”

No one did more to foster a devotion to Christ’s real presence in these crucial centuries than Saint Norbert of Xanten: founder of the Praemonstratensian Order. Four hundred years before the Protestant Reformation, a wandering preacher known as Tanchelm had caused many people in the city of Antwerp to deny the saving power of the Eucharist and the authority of the bishop. St Norbert was invited by Bishop Burchard of Cambrai to take a few trusted disciples with him into the city and bring it back to the orthodox faith: a feat he accomplished with both gentleness of heart and zeal in preaching. He said to the people,

“Brothers, do not be surprised and do not be afraid. Unwittingly you have pursued falsehood thinking it to be the truth. If you had been taught the truth first you would have been found effortlessly tending toward salvation, just as you now effortlessly lean toward perdition.”

Focusing on Christ’s discourse on the “bread of life” in John 6, Norbert reconciled the city to the Church and was thereafter known as the Apostle of Antwerp. For teaching clergy and laity alike to reverently care for the altar cloths and handling of the Sacred Species wherever he went, even bringing the Blessed Sacrament away from the church to the battlefield, making Christ the instrument of peace between warring clans, Norbert became known as the Apostle of the Eucharist.

A young woman soon picked up where Norbert left off to take the medieval Church’s Eucharistic devotion to its apex. Saint Juliana of Liège, a Norbertine canoness, reported having a vision of a full moon, shining brightly but marred by a dark line across its surface. She understood the moon to represent the Church on earth, reflecting the light of Christ’s glory. The dark line was a void in the Church’s myriad cycle of celebrations: a lack of a day dedicated to the Lord’s real presence in the Eucharist. Until then, Maundy Thursday was the only day to commemorate the institution of the Eucharist (at the Last Supper), but it was inevitably shadowed by the gloom of Good Friday. St Juliana petitioned her bishop to declare a feast for the Body and Blood of Christ within the diocese–which he did, though he died before he could act on it.

St Juliana died in 1258, before the feast of Corpus Christi could take root outside her city. Shortly thereafter, though, the former archdeacon of Liège was elected Pope Urban IV. Juliana’s surviving friend petitioned the Pope to institute a feast according to Juliana’s plan. This he did, well beyond what St Juliana could have ever dreamed: on the 11th of August, 1264, Urban IV issued the bull Transiturus, proclaiming a feast in honor of the Body and Blood of Christ throughout the entire Latin Church, which we now call Corpus Christi:

“although this memorial Sacrament is frequented in the daily solemnities of the Mass, we nevertheless think suitable and worthy that, at least once a year – especially to confound the lack of faith and the infamy of heretics – a more solemn and honourable memory of this Sacrament be held. This is so because on Holy Thursday, the day on which the Lord himself instituted this Sacrament, the universal Church, occupied with the reconciliation of penitents, blessing the chrism, fulfilling the Commandments about the washing of the feet and many other such things, is not sufficiently free to celebrate so great a Sacrament.”

The feast would be marked with Eucharistic processions (still novel at that time) through every city in Christendom on the Thursday after Trinity: Thursday to link the celebration with the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. The Angelic Doctor himself, Saint Thomas Aquinas, was commissioned to write an office and several now-famous hymns for the feast. The sight of the Lord enthroned in a monstrance, paraded through the central square with all the magistrates of the city in attendance, naturally captivated the medieval imagination with a fervor we may never see again, giving birth to thousands of local traditions and guilds.

The Protestant Reformation challenged belief in the Real Presence (Luther once preached of Corpus Christi, “at no festival are God and his Christ more blasphemed“), yet for many Catholics in Europe, the sight of Jesus in the Eucharist, borne in procession through the city, was enough to bolster their faith against every threat of war or schism in those turbulent times. At last, in 1582, centuries after his death, Norbert of Xanten was canonized a saint–thanks, I’m sure, in no small part to his defense of the Eucharist.

Today we stand at another fork in the road: will the Church, after losing her prominent place in civic life, retreat behind closed doors to celebrate the sacraments away from unbelieving eyes? Or will she dare to take to the streets once again, holding the Lord for all to adore, even at the risk of jeers, blaring horns, or the eyerolls of apathy?

Wherever you may find yourself this feast of Corpus Christi, dear reader, may we find the same fervor of the Body and Blood of Christ that moved simple peasants to fall to their knees in the mud when the Blessed Sacrament passed them by. May we find the true meaning of the words of Aquinas’ hymn, Pange lingua gloriosi, when we sing:

“Sing, my tongue, the Saviour’s glory,
Of His Flesh, the mystery sing;
Of the Blood, all price exceeding,
Shed by our Immortal King,
Destined, for the world’s redemption,
From a noble Womb to spring.”

The source and summit of our Christian life

Last Saturday, I was the concelebrant for my godson’s Mass where he received his “First Holy Communion”.  The church was filled to capacity and I was passing through the front door, the usher smiled to me and said, “Father, if only the Church could be filled like this every Sunday, it would be great”.  This statement by the usher to me sat with me all day and I began to reflect on how Vatican II has called the celebration of the Eucharist as the “source and summit of our Christian life”.

For the families and the new “communicants” gathered to celebrate and receive the Eucharist that day, I am sure the Eucharist was, at that moment, the source and summit of their life, but I began to wish for them that the Eucharist would continue to be the source and summit of the daily lives.

Of course, the children were all “cleaned and washed up” for their big day, but my hope and my prayer for them would that they might come to see that every time they celebrate the Eucharist, it is their BIG day.  Sure, there are different degrees of importance in our lives’ events, but my prayer was and continues to be for my godson and his classmates that they continue to see their intimate connection with Christ in the Eucharist as always a very special moment in their lives.

I surely came to a greater love and appreciation for the Eucharist in my life by participating in the First Communion Liturgy for these young Christians.  It gave me a great sense of gratitude for the gift of my priesthood and the priesthood of all Christians who participate in the breaking and the sharing of the Body and Blood of Christ at this, the “most precious sacrament of the altar”……..Come let us receive what we are and become what we receive: the Body of Christ.

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