SR-2019-03-24

SUNDAY MASS READINGS’ REFLECTIONS
3rd Sunday of Lent (Cycle C) – March 24, 2019


Lent is the forty-day period before Easter (Christ spent 40 days in the desert after His baptism where He fasted and was tempted by Satan). These 40 days, excluding Sundays, begin on Ash Wednesday and end on Holy Saturday (the day before Easter Sunday). Holy Week, the week before Easter, starting on Palm Sunday, includes the Sacred Triduum: the Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper with foot washing, Good Friday, plus the Easter Vigil on Saturday evening. Sundays are excluded from Lent because each and every Sunday represents its own “mini-Easter”, a celebration of Jesus’ victory over sin and death and His resurrection on the first day of the week.

Lent is a special time of prayer, examine, penance, sacrifice and performing good works in preparation of the celebration of Easter. Performing good works include: attending the Stations of the Cross, attending Mass, making a weekly holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament, taking time for personal prayer and spiritual reading, making a good confession, fasting from certain foods and other activities; plus, the giving of alms not only through the distribution of money, but through the sharing of our time and talents. Lent is a season of reflection and mourning and because of this soberness of Lent, Alleluia is not said in prayer, nor sung in the liturgy, nor is clapping done at the end of the Mass during this season. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of fasting (reduction of one’s intake of food) and abstinence (refraining from meat). Meat is defined here as “flesh-meat”: flesh that comes from animals that live on land, or birds. Christians fast from flesh-meat in order to overcome the passions of the flesh. Catholics believe that flesh-meat causes an increase in temptations to lust and anger, and this is why we abstain from flesh-meat. In addition, Fridays during Lent are obligatory days of abstinence.

Vestments – Violet or purple is used during Lent as a sign of penance, sacrifice and preparation. At the midpoint of Lent, Laetare Sunday (the fourth Sunday of Lent), rose vestments are traditionally worn as a sign of joy. We rejoice at the midpoint because we are half-way through our preparation and anticipate the coming joy of Easter.


3rd Sunday of Lent Theme: Suffering and Repentance.

Suffering – Adam and Eve “had it all”, “life was good” and they “did it their way” and then lost everything. In Reading 1, God informs Moses that He has been well aware of the Hebrew people’s suffering, desolation, and cries for relief and that now He intends to deliver them from their Egyptian slavery. God’s plan for us is to learn, grow, and mature spiritually in good times and in times of suffering. It’s in times of suffering when we realize we can only survive by having faith (obedient belief), hope, and trust in the Lord because we, on our own, cannot relieve our sorry state of our affairs.

Causes of Suffering – Paul, in Reading 2, states that the Hebrews themselves, caused some of their own trials and sufferings – 40 days in the desert, the Exile, because of their disobedience. Jesus, in the Gospel reading, uses the example of the falling of the Tower at Siloam to state that some trials and suffering occur without any linkage to our proper nor improper actions and behaviors (i.e. accidents).

Repent – Jesus further states that we must always repent of any sinful behaviors that we commit whether we are in trials of our own making, in trials not of our own making, and/or especially in “the good times”.

“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.” (Martin Luther King Jr.)

“Be ashamed when you sin, not when you repent.” (Saint John Chrysostom)


Reading 1 Exodus 3:1-8a,13-15     God speaks to Moses from the burning bush and sends him to the Israelites.

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 103:1-4,6-8,11     A prayer in praise of God’s mercy.

Reading 2 – 1 Corinthians 10:1-6,10-12     Paul teaches that the Scriptures were written to set an example for us.

Gospel – Luke 13:1-9     Jesus preaches a lesson on repentance.


This Bible Study’s primary references used are from St Joseph Sunday Missal, LoyolaPress.com, 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: The Lectionary Bible Readings for this Sunday – Readings 1 & 2, Responsorial Psalm, and the Gospel, all appear in purple in the following. Footnotes are included in these passages and the contents of all the footnotes appear at the end of this document. 


Reading 1     Exodus 3:1-8a,13-15                          (The Name of God)

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 God appears to Moses in the burning bush. At this time, Moses is now married and is a shepherd of his father-in-law’s flock. God identifies Himself as the God of Moses’ ancestors: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God also tells Moses that he has heard the cry of His suffering people in Egypt and that He now intends to free them.


Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian. Leading the flock across the desert, he came to Horeb (Mount Sinai), the mountain of God. There an angel of the LORD appeared to Moses in fire flaming out of a bush. As he looked on, he was surprised to see that the bush, though on fire, was not consumed. So Moses decided, “I must go over to look at this remarkable sight, and see why the bush is not burned.”

When the LORD saw him coming over to look at it more closely, God called out to him from the bush, “Moses! Moses!” He answered, “Here I am.” God said, “Come no nearer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. [i] I am the God of your fathers, “ He continued, “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.” Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. But the LORD said, “I have witnessed the affliction of My people in Egypt and have heard their cry of complaint against their slave drivers, so I know well what they are suffering. Therefore I have come down to rescue them from the hands of the Egyptians and lead them out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”

Moses said to God, “But when I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ if they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ what am I to tell them?” [ii] God replied, “I Am who Am.” Then He added, “This is what you shall tell the Israelites:
I AM sent me to you.”

God spoke further to Moses, “Thus shall you say to the Israelites: The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. “This is My Name forever; thus am I to be remembered through all generations.”


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.         ”The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.” – Generally speaking, the terms Hebrews, Jews, and Israelites all refer to the same people- the nation which sprang from Abraham through Isaac through Jacob (who had 12 sons – their names became the names of the 12 tribes of Israel), a nation promised and chosen by God in the Old Testament. We say “Abraham through Isaac” and “Isaac through Jacob” because both Abraham and Isaac had multiple sons. This gives the exact lineage of the people of God – the Israelites.


Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 103:1-4,6-8,11                     (The Lord’s Kindness)

This psalm of thanksgiving recounts God’s goodness to Moses and the Israelites, and God’s desire to deliver the oppressed.


R. – The Lord is kind and merciful.
Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all my being, bless His holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.
R. – The Lord is kind and merciful.
He pardons all your iniquities, heals all your ills, He redeems your life from destruction,
crowns you with kindness and compassion.
R. – The Lord is kind and merciful.
The LORD secures justice and the rights of all the oppressed. He has made known His ways to Moses, and His deeds to the children of Israel.
R. – The Lord is kind and merciful.
Merciful and gracious is the LORD, slow to anger and abounding in kindness.
[iii] For as the heavens are high above the earth, so surpassing is His kindness toward those who fear Him.
R. – The Lord is kind and merciful.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.         This Psalm 103 was the inspiration for the following hymn:
Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven.
  1. Praise, my soul, the King of heaven; to His feet your tribute bring. Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven, evermore His praises sing. Alleluia, alleluia! Praise the everlasting King!
  2. Praise Him for His grace and favor to His people in distress. Praise Him, still the same as ever, slow to chide, and swift to bless. Alleluia, alleluia! Glorious in His faithfulness!
  3. Fatherlike He tends and spares us; well our feeble frame He knows. In His hand He gently bears us, rescues us from all our foes. Alleluia, alleluia! Widely yet His mercy flows!
  4. Angels, help us to adore Him; you behold Him face to face. Sun and moon, bow down before Him, dwellers all in time and space. Alleluia, alleluia! Praise with us the God of Grace!     (Henry Francis Lyte – 1834)
So, why don’t we sing this hymn during Lent? Look up top and it says – We Catholics don’t say “alleluia” in Lent. 


Reading 2     1 Corinthians 10:1-6,10-12                 (Learn from the Free Will Mistakes of the Past)  

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 the establishment of this Church, trouble arose including: internal divisions, immorality, denials of the Resurrection, and liturgical carelessness. Paul’s pastoral guidance was needed 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 falling prey to false prophets.

Today’s Reading – Paul warns the Corinthians (and us) not to equate election (being chosen) with salvation. Their ancestors received many blessings from God, yet most did not follow His ways. While traveling through the desert, the Israelites received many spiritual blessings (sacraments in a way) and yet they fell away from God. Paul reminds the Corinthians that despite the opportunity for salvation they have received through the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist, they must work at continuous conversion lest they perish like their ancestors. Failure to heed God’s call to ongoing repentance will bring dire consequences.


I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea, and all of them were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. [iv] All ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank from a spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was the Christ. Yet God was not pleased with most of them, for they were struck down in the desert.

These things happened as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil things, as they did. Do not grumble as some of them did, and suffered death by the destroyer. [v] These things happened to them as an example, and they have been written down as a warning to us, upon whom the End of the Ages [vi] has come. Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Gospel     Luke 13:1-9                       (Time to Repent)

Context – Luke was a physician and a follower of Paul. His Gospel was written in 59-61 AD and he also wrote the Book of Acts. Luke’s gospel includes Jesus words and works in Galilee, His journey to Jerusalem, and His last week in Jerusalem. For later chapters of Luke: Jesus is now in Jerusalem for His passion; He has made His triumphal entry which we celebrate on Passion (Palm) Sunday; He has upset the establishment by cleansing the temple. The Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees are all now interested in getting rid of Him. He identifies three epochs of salvation history: the time before Christ, the time of Christ, and the time of the Church and the Holy Spirit. And the two primary themes of his Gospel are: the Christian faith is expressed in one’s actions, and the call to salvation is extended to everyone, Jews and Gentiles. The emblem for St. Luke was given the symbol of an ox (a sacrificial animal) because he speaks of Christ most of all as the Great High Priest who brought Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world (“the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”). St. Luke died a martyr’s death in Achaia (Greece).

Today’s Reading – Today’s Gospel makes reference to two disasters which the people ask Jesus to comment on. They seem to believe that bad things have befallen the victims because they are sinners. And that the absence of bad things in the questioners’ lives implies that they are righteous and not in need of repentance. Jesus quickly sets His questioners straight on this issue: “Bad things didn’t happen to the victims in either incident because they were unrighteous or bad people. And the absence of bad things in your lives does not mean that you are not in need of repentance. Indeed you are.” Jesus admonishes them: “You are all in need of repentance and if you do not repent, you will perish.” The unrepentant will suffer a fate worse than the victims of the disaster. Jesus uses the two terrible events as a metaphor for the catastrophic ending that awaits those who refuse to repent. Jesus is saying that the big tragedy in life is not being abused or killed accidentally. Rather, true tragedy rests in the hearts of each of us and our choice (Free Will) to reject God’s call to repentance and change of heart.


Some people told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. [vii] Jesus said to them in reply, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them [viii] — do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”

And He told them this parable: “There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none, he said to the gardener, ‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. So cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?’ He said to him in reply,
‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it;
it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.'”


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.         Interpretations of The Parable of The Fig Tree (a.k.a. The Parable of the Second Chance): 1. The fig tree represents Israel; the Vinedresser represents God. Just as the gardener is patient with the fig tree, so is God patient with sinners (God is long suffering with us, giving us time to repent. Sirach 51:30 – “Do your work before the appointed time (before your death), and in God’s time He will give you your reward (either here on earth or in heaven).”). 2. Pope St. Gregory the Great – “By the dresser of the vineyard is represented the order of Bishops, who, by ruling over the Church, take care of our Lord’s vineyard. But the one who will not by correction grow rich to fruitfulness, falls to that place (heaven) from whence that one is no more able to rise again by repentance.” 3. St. Theophylact – “The master of the household is God the Father, the dresser is Christ, who will not have the fig tree cut down as barren, as if saying to the Father: Although through the Law (Ten Commandments) and the Prophets they gave no fruit of repentance, I will water them with My sufferings and teaching, and perhaps they will yield us fruits of obedience.”

Catechism 1037 – God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want “any to perish, but all to come to repentance”.


Archbishop Charles Chaput has stated the following in his prior six Lenten Homilies:

  1. Lent is a time for us to start all over again to make things new by examining our hearts (not our minds) for the teachings of Christ.

  2. Lent is a training camp for us (just like the beginning of baseball season) where the basic rules of the “game” are the “10 Words of God” (ie. the Ten Commandments).

  3. Abraham is our Father in Faith. He trusted God and we are to do the same in order to be all that God calls us to be. Trust God and follow Him where ever He leads us. And we will have everlasting life.

  4. Lent is about covenants (promises) – God’s promise to us and our promises to God. God always keeps His promises. We don’t and when we break our covenants, God gives us a chance to begin again – ie. LENT!

  5. To the Jews the heart was interpreted as the place within them where decisions were made, a place of intelligence. Therefore, that’s what God used in referring to the new covenant that He would “write it on their hearts” as opposed to the old covenant that was written on stone tablets. Thus the “heart” of Christianity is to be obedient to God our Father through His Son Jesus.

  6. To the Greeks, the term “seeking” means “to learn about”. Therefore the Gospel reading identifying that there were “Greeks seeking Jesus” meant that they wanted to learn about Jesus. The Gospel also mentions that Jesus said we need to “die” (ie. “give up what it is”) to ourselves in order to amount to something worthwhile. The foundation of Christian morality (ie. what are we to do) is to die to ourselves and live for God and others by imitating the life style of Jesus.

  7. The Palm Sunday (Passion Sunday) message is that we should joyfully become the persona (character and personality) of Jesus.

  8. The Lenten messages for the first three Sundays of Lent are related to us (our personal conversion) the last three are related to Jesus (the One to whom we are to be converted).

In summary:
a. Remember our Baptism. Remember our cleansing from Original Sin and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In baptism, Christians clothed themselves in Christ. Paul now urges his readers to clothe themselves with the virtues that befit a follower of Christ: forgiveness, kindness, patience, love, etc.

b. “Listen to Him”. Follow God’s pronouncement, immediately stated after Jesus’ Transfiguration, that we are to listen to Jesus.
c. Worship the right God. Remember the first Commandment and don’t let worldly endeavors become more important than God in our lives.
d. Practice self-discipline. Avoid putting ourselves in the near occasion of sin – ie. avoid temptation, depart from evil.
e. Salvation through Jesus Christ. Sin cannot overcome the power of our belief in the saving grace of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
f. God established Jesus as His New Covenant with humanity. God’s new law is now “written on the flesh” rather than stone tablets.
g. Renew our “hearts”, imitate Jesus and “die” to ourselves. Follow the Ten Commandments per Jesus’ real life example (by His thoughts, words, and deeds) and perform proper stewardship of our time, talents, and treasure in support of God and others.
h. Have the attitude of Jesus. Emptying oneself for the love of the Father by service to Him, leading to glory and resurrection.


[i] Reading 1 Footnotes:
“Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” = The removal of sandals before entering a holy place was an ancient custom.
[ii] “if they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ what am I to tell them?” = God had not revealed Himself to His people for over 400 years. When Moses asked how he should answer the Israelites’ question, “What is His name?” he was asking how he could demonstrate to them that their God had sent him.
[iii] Responsorial Psalm Footnote:
“Merciful and gracious is the LORD, slow to anger and abounding in kindness.” = This verse states the four great characteristics about God from Exodus 34:6 – “So the LORD passed before him and proclaimed: The LORD, the LORD, a God gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love and fidelity.”
[iv] Reading 2 Footnotes:
Moses was sent by God to deliver these Corinthian ancestors from the slavery of Egypt, similar to Christ, who came to deliver humankind from the slavery of sin.
[v] “suffered death by the destroyer” = God made them wander in the desert for 40 years until the disobedient “stiff necked” generation died out. So, the “destroyer” was, in effect, themselves because of their own actions – their own misuse of their Free Will. This should serve as a warning to us.
[vi] “the End of the Ages” = This is a reference to Jesus who brings an end to the Messianic Age.
[vii] Gospel Footnotes:
the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices.” = These particular Galileans were a sect of people who believed that God’s people were not required to pay taxes; and it is thought that some of them, while coming to offer up sacrifices in the temple, Pilate caused them to be slain at that very time, so that their blood was mixed with the sacrifices.
[viii]the tower at Siloam fell on them” = The Tower of Siloam was a structure which fell upon 18 people, killing them. Siloam is a neighborhood south of Jerusalem.


SR-2019-03-17

SUNDAY MASS READINGS’ REFLECTIONS
2nd Sunday of Lent (Cycle C) – March 17, 2019



2nd Sunday of Lent Theme: God Chooses the Faithful to be Deliverers.

When God chose people for whatever the reason, they usually initially responded with: their questions for more clarification, their resistance because of their humility/lack of confidence or worthiness/fear, their reluctant for a while, … . (People like: the Holy Blessed Mother Mary, Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Gideon, Jonah, David, Zachariah, Peter, and Paul.) But their response was not due to their not having any faith. Faith is a gift as a result of being made in the image of God. And, we can mature this gift via our belief and trust in God and our obedience to Him, and especially by what we hear others say about Him. God “knows the heart”, and that’s where our faith resides, so he chooses those who have matured their faith. After finally responding to the “call”, the faithful determine what it is that God wants done and then they deliver it. Sometimes there are covenants made by God to govern the process.

In Reading 1, God chose Abraham (Abram) to lead the “Chosen People” to a new land, because “Abram put his faith in the LORD”. In Reading 2, Paul, a chosen and faithful one of God, delivers a sermon to the people of Corinth to become faithful to God otherwise their end will be “destruction”. In the Gospel, God uses the Transfiguration of Jesus to show His chosen disciples who Jesus is and God, Himself, tells them to “listen to Jesus”, so that they will be able to deliver Christianity to the Jews and Gentiles. The Responsorial Psalm inspires us to have courage to “wait upon the Lord” – to trust Him when He calls.

Lent is a time to focus on our salvation and eliminating our slavery to sin and death. Our past is gone, our future is uncertain, so we only have for certain our “todays” to deliver what God is calling us to do.

“Let us continue to live for His glory, imitating His examples and acting according to His wishes. Otherwise our faith will be of no use if our works do not correspond to our belief” (St. Padre Pio)


Reading 1 – Genesis 15:5-12,17-18     God makes a covenant with Abram, promising him many descendants.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 27:1,7-9,13-14     Wait for the Lord with courage.

Reading 2 – Philippians 3:17-4:1    Paul encourages the Philippians to remain firm in their faith and imitate him who is dedicated to following the true teaching of Christ.

Gospel – Luke 9:28b-36     Jesus is transfigured in the presence of Peter, John, and James.


This Bible Study’s primary references used are from St Joseph Sunday Missal, LoyolaPress.com, 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: The Lectionary Bible Readings for this Sunday – Readings 1 & 2, Responsorial Psalm, and the Gospel, all appear in purple in the following. Footnotes are included in these passages and the contents of all the footnotes appear at the end of this document

Reading 1     Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18                      (Covenant with Abram)

Context – The Book of Genesis (Greek for “origin”) records the creation of the world and our first parents, and the origin of sin; the history of mankind from the time of Noah; the Flood; the tower of Babel; the confusion of languages. The author then turns to the descendants of Shem, the eldest (firstborn) son of Noah, and deals with the greatest of these descendants, Abraham, the father of the chosen people. Then follows the history of Abraham’s son Isaac, of Esau’s forfeiture of his birthright blessing, and the succession of Jacob. Jacob’s fortunes are next related in detail. Lastly, the personal history of Joseph is told, and the migration of his father Jacob (Israel) and his brethren into the land of Egypt.

Today’s Reading – This covenant-making reading opens with God promising Abram land and descendants. Considering that both Abram and Sara were nomads (owned no land) and beyond childbearing years (had no descendants), God’s promise seemed entirely impossible to fulfill. Nevertheless, Abram placed his trust and faith in God’s ability to fulfill His promises.


The Lord God took Abram outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so,” He added, “shall your descendants be.” Abram put his faith [i] in the LORD, who credited it to him as an act of righteousness [ii].

He then said to him, “I am the LORD who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land as a possession.” “O Lord GOD,” he asked, “how am I to know that I shall possess it?” [iii] He answered him, “Bring me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old she-goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” Abram brought Him all these, split them in two, and placed each half opposite the other; but the birds he did not cut up. Birds of prey swooped down on the carcasses, but Abram stayed with them. As the sun was about to set, a trance fell upon Abram, and a deep, terrifying darkness enveloped him. [iv]


When the sun had set and it was dark, there appeared a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch, which passed between those pieces.
[v] It was on that occasion that the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the Great River, the Euphrates.” [vi]


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          A covenant is an agreement between two parties and identifies the responsibilities for which each party is accountable plus consequences are defined in the event of incompliances. Further, a covenant may be described as “a legal way to make someone part of your family.” (Like a marriage covenant – i.e. vows.) It can be said that the Bible is essentially the story of God trying to establish an extended family for Himself by reaching out to humanity time and again via covenants. There were covenants with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus (the New Covenant – i.e. now), and then, in the fullness of time (Jesus’ Second Coming), will be the fulfillment of the New Covenant.


Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 27:1, 7-9, 13-14                   (Wait for the Lord with Courage)

This psalm speaks of trust in God. Abram, against all odds, placed his trust in God.


R. – The Lord is my light and my salvation.
The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? The LORD is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid?
R. – The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Hear, O LORD, the sound of my call; have pity on me, and answer me. Of You my heart speaks; You my glance seeks.
R. – The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Your presence, O LORD, I seek. Hide not Your face from me; do not in anger repel your servant. You are my helper: cast me not off.
R. – The Lord is my light and my salvation.
I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD in the land of the living
[vii]. Wait for the LORD with courage; be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.
R. – The Lord is my light and my salvation.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you. 


Reading 2     Philippians 3:17 — 4:1             (Citizenship in Heaven)    

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 – In these verses, Paul is expressing concern that his beloved Philippians will be mis-lead by the bad example of some people in their midst who are “enemies of the Christ”. Paul tells his readers not to imitate such people. Rather, they should imitate him who is dedicated to following the true teaching of Christ. Paul reminds the Philippians that here on earth they are pilgrims. Their true home is in heaven. Their involvement in the world must be tempered by the realization that everything here on earth is of a temporary nature.


Join with others in being imitators of me, brothers and sisters, and observe those who thus conduct themselves according to the model you have in us. For many, as I have often told you and now tell you even in tears, conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their “shame.” Their minds are occupied with earthly things. 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. [viii]

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Gospel     Luke 9:28b-36                  (Listen to Jesus)

Context – Luke was a physician and a follower of Paul. His Gospel was written in 59-61 AD and he also wrote the Book of Acts. Luke’s gospel includes Jesus words and works in Galilee, His journey to Jerusalem, and His last week in Jerusalem. For later chapters of Luke: Jesus is now in Jerusalem for His passion; He has made His triumphal entry which we celebrate on Passion (Palm) Sunday; He has upset the establishment by cleansing the temple. The Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees are all now interested in getting rid of Him. He identifies three epochs of salvation history: the time before Christ, the time of Christ, and the time of the Church and the Holy Spirit. And the two primary themes of his Gospel are: the Christian faith is expressed in one’s actions, and the call to salvation is extended to everyone, Jews and Gentiles. The emblem for St. Luke was given the symbol of an ox (a sacrificial animal) because he speaks of Christ most of all as the Great High Priest who brought Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world (“the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”). St. Luke died a martyr’s death in Achaia (Greece).

Today’s Reading – The story we hear today, about one year prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection, is about the Transfiguration of Jesus – an epiphany story. In epiphany stories, the veil, which separates the invisible world from the visible, and the future from the present, is removed temporarily and the divine is revealed. In today’s Gospel, Jesus goes with His inner circle to pray. During His prayer on the mountain, Jesus has a mystical experience. God’s presence is revealed to Him in a very powerful way. “While He was praying, His face changed in appearance.” And the two giants of Israel’s religion appear, Moses (symbolizing the Law) and Elijah (symbolizing the Prophets).

Then a heavenly voice speaks: “This is My chosen Son; listen to Him.” These words were a wonderful act of affirmation for Jesus by His Father. For the Apostles, it was a moment of great revelation. The One in their midst was truly God’s Chosen One! They must listen to Him and follow Him.

Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray. While He was praying His face changed in appearance and His clothing became dazzling white. [ix] And behold, two men were conversing with Him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His exodus [x] that He was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him. [xi] As they were about to part from Him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But he did not know what he was saying. While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud. Then from the Cloud came a voice [xii] that said, “This is My chosen (beloved) Son; listen to Him.” After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Catechism 568 – Christ’s Transfiguration aims at strengthening the apostles’ faith in anticipation of His Passion (Suffering): the ascent on to the “high mountain” prepares for the ascent to Calvary. Christ, Head of the Church, manifests what His Body contains and radiates in the sacraments: “the hope of glory”.



[i] Reading 1 Footnotes:
Faith” = “May your faith be joyful, because it is based on awareness of possessing a divine gift (St. John Paul II). “As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your soul” (1 Peter 1:9)
[ii] “righteousness” = Righteousness means being in a right relationship to God. The living, dynamic relationship between us and God wherein we are spiritually and morally acceptable to God.
[iii] “how am I to know that I shall possess it?” = The Blessed Mother Mary’s response at the Annunciation was only a process question – “… how shall this be done?” – without the slightest degree of unbelief. Compare this to Abram’s (and Zachariah’s) responses that were validation questions – they wanted to see “signs” before they would believe!
[iv] “terrifying darkness enveloped him.” = Theologians conjecture that God revealed to Abram in this deep sleep, the future oppression of his descendants in Egypt, which filled him with such horror.
[v] “a flaming torch, which passed between those pieces.” = The presence of God is symbolized by fire, passing between the divided beasts, to ratify the covenant. Recall that God appeared to Moses as a flame at the burning bush; to the Jews during the exodus as a pillar of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night.
[vi] “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the Great River, the Euphrates.” = Perhaps Solomon’s empire would have extended so far. At least, the early Jews would have enjoyed these territories, if they had been faithful and not have had to experience their Exile.
[vii] Responsorial Psalm Footnote:
“I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD in the land of the living” = We shall see this bounty during our lifetime.
[viii] Reading 2 Footnote:
“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.” = The following Gospel reading also tells us about Jesus’ glorified body at His Transfiguration.
[ix] Gospel Footnotes:
“While He was praying His face changed in appearance and His clothing became dazzling white.” = The aura of unnatural brilliance is associated with mystical experiences – e.g. Moses’ face after receiving the Ten Commandments and Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus.
[x] Moses, Elijah and Jesus “spoke of His exodus” = Saint Luke is the only one of the Gospel writers to tell us what Jesus, Moses and Elijah were discussing – Jesus’ mission to go to Jerusalem and be crucified, then spend 40 days on earth before ascending.
[xi] “Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him.” = Apparently this Transfiguration experience took place at night.
[xii] “Then from the Cloud came a Voice” = The Father’s voice, the chosen Son, and the Cloud of the Holy Spirit manifest the presence of the Blessed Trinity.


 

SR-2019-03-10

SUNDAY MASS READINGS’ REFLECTIONS
1st Sunday of Lent (Cycle C) – March 10, 2019



1st Sunday of Lent Theme: Recalling and Responding.

Lent presents us with opportunities to reflect (recall) and then to change/grow (respond). Gratitude and prudence (ability to make right judgments) are two profound motivations for us to live as Christians. Reflecting upon our profession of faith (i.e. the Apostles Creed, what we are taught and believe) with both our intellect and loving heart, is how we enkindle our gratitude and mature in our prudence.

Reflection on God’s good acts and His righteous character gives us faith, hope, and trust as we face life. In Reading 1, Moses reminds Israel of God’s faithfulness to them and their call to be faithful to Him. In the Gospel, Jesus shows fidelity to God by saying “no” to Satan’s temptations and is a guide for us to respond similarly. In Reading 2, Paul challenges his readers to show faithfulness to God by living what they profess with their lips.

“Respond with integrity to every challenge and thereby prove yourself worthy of the One you follow, the One in whose own ministry you are involved, and whose final approval is the only reward worth seeking.” (Sr. Sandra Schneiders, I.H.M.)


Reading 1 – Deuteronomy 26:4-10     Moses describes the offering of praise for God’s deliverance of Israel.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 91:1-2,10-15     A prayer for God’s protection.

Reading 2 – Romans 10:8-13    Paul teaches that we are saved by faith.

Gospel – Luke 4:1-13     In the desert, Jesus is tempted by the devil.


This Bible Study’s primary references used are from St Joseph Sunday Missal, LoyolaPress.com, 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: The Lectionary Bible Readings for this Sunday – Readings 1 & 2, Responsorial Psalm, and the Gospel, all appear in purple in the following. Footnotes are included in these passages and the contents of all the footnotes appear at the end of this document. 

Reading 1     Deuteronomy 26:4-10                     (Confession of Faith)                       

Context – The book of Deuteronomy (means second law, ie. the second giving of the Law) consists of three sermons or speeches delivered by Moses (when he was 120 years old), just prior to his death, to a new generation of Israelites shortly before they entered the Promised Land. God kept the old generation in the desert for 40 years until they died out due to their refusal to follow His way as their God. Therefore, this new generation had not experienced the miracle at the Red Sea nor heard the law (Ten Commandments) given at Sinai, and they were about to enter a new land with many dangers and temptations. The book of Deuteronomy was given to remind them of God’s law and God’s power – it is a book of remembrance. Jesus quoted from this Book the most.

Today’s Reading – Moses tells the people that at the beginning of every harvest, they are to take the first fruits of the various products of the soil, put them in a basket and offer them to God at the altar as an act of thanksgiving. Then during this Harvest Festival, they are to recall and tell the story of God’s saving presence in their lives and in the lives of their ancestors. First, there is a reference to a “wandering Armenian” who ended up in Egypt. This is probably a reference to Jacob and his sons who went down to Egypt while Joseph was chancellor in Pharaoh’s court. Second, the Exodus is remembered as God hearing the cry of an enslaved people. Third, the giving of the land “flowing with milk and honey” is remembered. Finally, Moses tells them to respond in thankfulness to the Lord for all that He has done for them and their ancestors.


Moses spoke to the people, saying: “The priest shall receive the basket from you and shall set it in front of the altar of the LORD, your God. Then you shall declare before the Lord, your God, ‘My father was a wandering Aramean who went down to Egypt with a small household and lived there as an alien. [i] But there he became a nation great, strong, and numerous. When the Egyptians maltreated and oppressed us, imposing hard labor upon us, we cried to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and He heard our cry and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. He brought us out of Egypt with His strong hand and outstretched arm, with terrifying power, with signs and wonders; and bringing us into this country, He gave us this land flowing with milk and honey. Therefore, I have now brought you the first fruits of the products of the soil which You, O LORD, have given me.’ And having set them before the Lord, your God, you shall bow down in His presence.”


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          This reading’s reference to the first fruits in the basket presented at the altar, reminds us of the presentation of the gifts during Mass. At the presentation of the gifts, the faithful present the gifts of bread and wine to the priest. This symbolizes an offering of creation and of ourselves back to the Father. If you want to learn to take proper part in the Holy Mass, it is important that you learn to offer yourself and to offer all that is yours, your strengths and weaknesses, in this moment of the Mass. (Catholic Education Resource Center)


Responsorial Psalm –     Psalm 91:1-2,10-15                      (Call for God’s Help)

This psalm affirms the Israeli nation’s reliance on God who delivered them out of slavery. He came to them in time of trouble.


R. – Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble.
You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, say to the LORD, “My Refuge and Fortress, my God in whom I trust.”
R. – Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble.
No evil shall befall you, nor shall affliction come near your tent, For to His angels He has given command about you, that they guard you in all your ways.
[ii]
R. – Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble.
Upon their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone. You shall tread upon the asp and the viper; you shall trample down the lion and the dragon.
R. – Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble.
Because he clings to Me, I will deliver him; I will set him on high because he acknowledges My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in distress; I will deliver him and glorify him.
[iii]
R. Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you. 


Reading 2     Romans 10:8-13                       (Creed of Christians)                       

Context – Paul’s Letter to the Romans is the most influential of all his Epistles, and the only writing of Paul’s which is addressed to a church (congregation) which he did not establish. He addresses the grounds we have for hope in Christ. Sin and death came by Adam: grace and life by Christ. The saving work of Jesus is a major theme of Paul’s letter to the Romans – salvation is offered through the gospel of Jesus Christ.  

Today’s Reading – Jesus is Lord; He died for our sins and was raised up for our justification. This faith statement involves “confession on the lips” and “belief in one’s heart”, two aspects of the same act of faith. It is the equivalent to saying that faith has to be a “lived reality” in which the words we profess are backed up by the witness of one’s life (our testimony). A faith confessed (recalled) and lived (responded to) enables one to secure for oneself the gift of salvation offered by Jesus. Our task is to graciously receive God’s gift (recall His mercy) and then to act (respond) like saved people.


Brothers and sisters: What does Scripture say? The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart (Deuteronomy 30:14) that is, the word of faith that we preach, for, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. [iv] For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. For the Scripture says, No one who believes in Him will be put to shame. (Psalm 25:3) For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, enriching all who call upon Him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Joel 2:32) [v]


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Gospel     Luke 4:1-13                       (Practicing Our Creed)

Context – Luke was a physician and a follower of Paul. His Gospel was written in 59-61 AD and he also wrote the Book of Acts. Luke’s gospel includes Jesus words and works in Galilee, His journey to Jerusalem, and His last week in Jerusalem. For later chapters of Luke: Jesus is now in Jerusalem for His passion; He has made His triumphal entry which we celebrate on Passion (Palm) Sunday; He has upset the establishment by cleansing the temple. The Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees are all now interested in getting rid of Him. He identifies three epochs of salvation history: the time before Christ, the time of Christ, and the time of the Church and the Holy Spirit. And the two primary themes of his Gospel are: the Christian faith is expressed in one’s actions, and the call to salvation is extended to everyone, Jews and Gentiles. The emblem for St. Luke was given the symbol of an ox (a sacrificial animal) because he speaks of Christ most of all as the Great High Priest who brought Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world (“the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”). St. Luke died a martyr’s death in Achaia (Greece).

Today’s Reading – The temptations Luke describes would have recalled to his Gentile audience three great temptations: love of pleasure, love of riches, and love of power. More fundamental to the story, however, is its Jewish background, which is found in the Israelite experience of wandering forty years in the desert after the deliverance from Egypt. There they were tested by physical hunger, the lure of idolatry, and the temptation to test God. Led into the desert by the Spirit for forty days, Jesus experiences the very same temptations but responds to each of them out of His deep fidelity to God. He answers the devil’s proposals with the words of Deuteronomy, that passionate work revealing the heart of the Mosaic covenant. He chooses to rely on God’s word, to worship God alone, and to trust God humbly. By responding in this fashion, Jesus reverses the human unfaithfulness that has ever been part of the story of God’s dealing with those whom He chooses, and Jesus becomes the exemplar of the right response to God’s election.


Filled with the Holy Spirit (after His baptism), Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over, He was hungry. The devil said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, One does not live on bread alone.” (Deuteronomy 8:3) Then he took Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant. The devil said to Him, “I shall give to you all this power and glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish. All this will be Yours, if you worship me.” Jesus said to him in reply, “It is written: You shall worship the Lord, your God, and Him alone shall you serve.” (Deuteronomy 6:13) Then he led Him to Jerusalem, made Him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here, for it is written: He will command His angels concerning You, to guard You, and: With their hands they will support You, lest You dash Your foot against a stone.” Jesus said to him in reply, “It also says, you shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” (Deuteronomy 6:16) When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from Him for a time. [vi]


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          Many reasons may be assigned why Christ permitted Himself to be tempted. 1. To merit for us the grace of overcoming temptations. 2. To encourage us under temptations. 3. To teach us not to be cast down with temptations, however grievous they may be, since even Jesus Christ had to deal with them. 4. To point out to us the manner in which we ought to behave in time of spiritual discernment (determine whether it is guidance from the Holy Spirit (scriptural based) or temptation from the devil (non-scriptural)). Also, the temptation of Jesus came after the 40 days, when He was tired, hungry, and lonely, – Charles Stanley (famous Baptist Minister) says: ” HALT – Never let yourself get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, nor Tired for then the devil will find you at your weakness!
The devil says to Jesus – “If you are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here, for it is written: He will command His angels concerning You, to guard You, and: With their hands they will support You, lest You dash Your foot against a stone.” (Psalm 91:11-12) = WOW, the devil is quoting Scripture! This goes to show that anyone can quote Scripture, take it out of context, and use it for their own interpretation and purpose. However, the Catholic faith has as its bases of belief and understanding – called its “Deposit of Faith”, its “Fullness of Truth”, based upon: the Scriptures, the Magisterium, and the Tradition. From all of this comes the interpretation of Scriptures as well as Creeds, Profession of Faith, … So, a non-Catholic may say: “I believe a particular Scriptural passage means …”, whereas a Catholic can say: “We (ourselves and our Catholic Tradition) believe it means …”. In this case our Tradition refers to Catholic theologians’ time-tested interpretations not just our own thoughts.

Catechism 538 – The Gospels speak of a time of solitude for Jesus in the desert immediately after His baptism by John. Driven by the Holy Spirit into the desert, Jesus remains there for forty days without eating; He lives among wild beasts, and angels minister to Him. At the end of this time Satan tempts Him three times, seeking to compromise His filial (sonship) attitude toward God. Jesus rebuffs these attacks, which recapitulate the temptations of Adam in Paradise and of Israel in the desert, and the devil leaves Him “until an opportune time”.

Catechism 539 – The evangelists indicate the Salvific (salvation) meaning of this mysterious event: Jesus is the new Adam who remained faithful just where the first Adam had given in to temptation. Jesus fulfils Israel’s vocation perfectly: in contrast to those who had once provoked God during forty years in the desert, Christ reveals Himself as God’s Servant, totally obedient to the divine will. In this, Jesus is the devil’s conqueror: He “binds the strong man” to take back his plunder. Jesus’ victory over the tempter in the desert anticipates victory at the Passion, the supreme act of obedience of His filial love for the Father.



[i] Reading 1 Footnote:
My father was a wandering Aramean who went down to Egypt with a small household and lived there as an alien. = This is a reference to Jacob’s semi-nomadic life. Jacobs’ descendants could be called Arameans because his wives (Leah and Rachael) were Arameans.
[ii] Responsorial Psalm Footnotes:
For to His angels He has given command about you, that they guard you in all your ways.” = This is one of the passages in Scripture that reveals the existence and activity of our “guardian angels”
[iii]I will deliver him and glorify him.” = God’s promises of rescue and honor normally find fulfillment in our lifetime, but they always do for us on the other side of the grave.
[iv] Reading 2 Footnotes:
“if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” = To confess the Lord Jesus, and to call upon the Name of the Lord, is not just the professing of a belief in the person of Christ, but moreover implies a belief of His whole doctrine, and an obedience to His law; without which the calling of Him Lord will save no one (faith = obedient belief).
[v]everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” = We Christians apply to Jesus this Old Testament reference to “Lord “, which in its original context refers to God.
[vi] Gospel Footnote:
When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from Him for a time.” = Jesus was tempted again during His passion (suffering) in the Garden (The Agony in the Garden) of Gethsemani, prior to His arrest, where He overcame the temptation of not having to “drink this cup”.


SR-2019-03-03

SUNDAY MASS READINGS’ REFLECTIONS
8th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle C) – March 3, 2019



8th Sunday in Ordinary Time Theme: Our Testimony.

Testimony is defined as the evidence or proof provided by the existence or appearance of something. A Christian testimony should not just include our conversion experience, but should also include the ways in which the Lord is working in our lives to sanctify us for His service.

Our testimony consists of three parts: character, conduct, and conversation. As Christians, we rightly place great emphasis on crafting a solid personal account of the Lord’s work in our life. We also talk about the ways that we can show Jesus Christ to our friends, family, and coworkers through our actions. But character is the part of every believer’s testimony that underlies both Christlike behavior and an honest life story. In general, what we do and say represents the kind of person we are on the inside. You cannot trick God into thinking your character is righteous if it isn’t. Nor can you fake moral conduct or conversation with people for very long. Sooner or later, a proud, bitter, or unkind spirit yields behavior and speech contrary to the Christian message. But godly character produces real spiritual fruit.

“For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience.” (2 Corinthians 1:12)


Reading 1 – Sirach 27:4-7     In our conversation is the test of the person.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 92:2-3, 13-16     Thanksgiving to God.

Reading 2 – 1 Corinthians 15:54-58     Thanks be to God who has given us the victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Gospel – Luke 6:39-45     Each tree is known by its yield.


This Bible Study’s primary references used are from St Joseph Sunday Missal, LoyolaPress.com, 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: The Lectionary Bible Readings for this Sunday – Readings 1 & 2, Responsorial Psalm, and the Gospel, all appear in purple in the following. Footnotes are included in these passages and the contents of all the footnotes appear at the end of this document. 

Reading 1     Sirach 27:4-7                        (Revealing Speech)              

Context – Sirach is one of seven Wisdom Books of the Bible (including: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Songs (aka. Song of Solomon), Ecclesiastes, and Wisdom of Solomon (aka. Wisdom)). It’s one of the Books of the Apocrypha, and was written in 180 BC by a teacher of Old Testament law. It is a work of ethical teachings from approximately 200 to 180 BC. The teachings are applicable to all conditions of life: to parents and children, to husbands and wives, to the young, to friends, to the rich, and to the poor. Many of them are rules of courtesy and politeness; and a still greater number contain advice and instruction as to our duties toward ourselves and others, especially the poor, as well as toward society and the state, and most of all toward God.

Today’s Reading – This reading has four proverbs (a short wise saying that expresses a general truth for practical, godly living). In different ways, each of the proverbs states that our speech is a sure key for others to evaluate our character. Words a person speaks help the listener to sift through the chaff of outward appearances and first impressions and to arrive at the speaker’s true self. A person’s words are a testimony showing us what kind of person he or she is.


When a sieve is shaken, the husks appear; so do one’s faults when one speaks. [i]
As the test of what the potter molds is in the furnace, so in tribulation is the test of the just.
[ii]
The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had; so too does one’s speech disclose the bent of one’s mind.
[iii]
Praise no one before he speaks, for it is then that people are tested.
[iv]


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Responsorial Psalm –     Psalm 92:2-3, 13-15                               (Thanksgiving to God)

This psalm encourages us to give praise and thanksgiving to God.


R. – Lord, it is good to give thanks to You.
It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praise to Your name, Most High, To proclaim Your kindness at dawn and Your faithfulness throughout the night.
[v]
R. – Lord, it is good to give thanks to You.
The just one shall flourish like the palm tree, like a cedar of Lebanon shall he grow. They that are planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God.
R. – Lord, it is good to give thanks to You.
They shall bear fruit even in old age; vigorous and sturdy shall they be, Declaring how just is the LORD, my Rock, in whom there is no wrong.
R. – Lord, it is good to give thanks to You.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Reading 2     1 Corinthians 15:54-58                       (Victory through Christ)                 

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 the establishment of this Church, trouble arose including: internal divisions, immorality, denials of the Resurrection, and liturgical carelessness. Paul’s pastoral guidance was needed 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 falling prey to false prophets.    

Today’s Reading – In and through Jesus’ Resurrection, sin and death have been overcome. Christ has defeated the power of sin and so has taken the sting out of death. This should spur us on to persevere in doing the Lord’s work. Our testament shows just how well we are doing the Lord’s work.


Brothers and sisters: When this which is corruptible clothes itself with incorruptibility and this which is mortal clothes itself with immortality, then the word that is written shall come about: [vi] “Death is swallowed up in victory”. (Isaiah 25:8). “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (Hosea 13:14) The sting of death is sin [vii], and the power of sin is the law. [viii] But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. [ix]

Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. [x]


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Gospel     Luke 6:39-45                     (The Heart Speaks)

Context – Luke was a physician and a follower of Paul. His Gospel was written in 59-61 AD and he also wrote the Book of Acts. Luke’s gospel includes Jesus words and works in Galilee, His journey to Jerusalem, and His last week in Jerusalem. For later chapters of Luke: Jesus is now in Jerusalem for His passion; He has made His triumphal entry which we celebrate on Passion (Palm) Sunday; He has upset the establishment by cleansing the temple. The Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees are all now interested in getting rid of Him. He identifies three epochs of salvation history: the time before Christ, the time of Christ, and the time of the Church and the Holy Spirit. And the two primary themes of his Gospel are: the Christian faith is expressed in one’s actions, and the call to salvation is extended to everyone, Jews and Gentiles. The emblem for St. Luke was given the symbol of an ox (a sacrificial animal) because he speaks of Christ most of all as the Great High Priest who brought Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world (“the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”). St. Luke died a martyr’s death in Achaia (Greece).

Today’s Reading – The passage has four short parables. As with Reading 1, we are called to examine our speech and deeds (i.e. our testimony) for they usually reflect what is in our heart.


Jesus told His disciples a parable, “Can a blind person guide a blind person? [xi] Will not both fall into a pit? No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’ when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye? You hypocrite!  Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye.

“A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For people do not pick figs from thorn bushes, nor do they gather grapes from brambles. A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.” (i.e. our testimony)


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          ”Jesus told His disciples a parable” – Parables are usually short fictitious stories that illustrate a moral attitude or a religious principle. Parable comes from a Greek word meaning “beside” and “to throw”. A parable, then, is a teaching in which one thing is thrown beside another, a comparison. The purpose of the parable is to bring the listener to concede a point which they do not perceive as applicable to themselves. In addition, the parable whets the curiosity and attracts attention; the listener is trapped because of their desire to hear how the story comes out. The prophets and Jesus taught the crowds mostly by means of parables. Parables were and still are profound tools when teaching and learning about the mysterious. The meanings of parables are not self-evident. The hearer must engage in some degree of reflection in order to comprehend the message of a parable. Parables are the theological yeast for intelligent religious reflection. Some familiar parables are: the Sower, the Shepherd, the Bridegroom, the Weeds Among the Wheat, the Prodigal Son, the Ten Talents, the Unforgiving Servant, the Speck and the Log, the Rich Fool, the Persistent Widow, and the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.

Catechism 2472 – The duty of Christians to take part in the life of the Church impels them to act as witnesses of the Gospel and of the obligations that flow from it. This witness is a transmission of the faith in words and deeds. Witness is an act of justice that establishes the truth or makes it known.

All Christians by the example of their lives and the witness of their word, wherever they live, have an obligation to manifest the new person which they have put on in Baptism and to reveal the power of the Holy Spirit by whom they were strengthened at Confirmation.


[i] Reading 1 Footnotes:
“When a sieve is shaken, the husks appear; so do one’s faults when one speaks.” = When grain is harvested, the plantings are cut from the field and then put into a sieve which is then shaken. This process extracts the grain (the good stuff) from the rest of its stock, i.e. the refuse – leaves, stems, and husks (the bad stuff). When one looks at a person their thoughts cannot always be determined. But when one’s mouth (read “sieve”) is opened by one’s mind and heart (read “shaken”), sometimes bad words /thoughts (read “husks”) are spoken.
[ii] “As the test of what the potter molds is in the furnace, so in tribulation is the test of the just.” = If the molded clay isn’t completely dry and without air pockets, the piece explodes in the kiln (furnace). The “potter” is us, the “mold” is a reflection of who we have become in life by our thoughts, words, and deeds. When we experience tribulations, our reactions show whether we (the “mold”) are either just or flawed (have “air pockets that blow up”).
[iii]The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had;” = As an example, sycamore fruit has to be punctured to grow fat and juicy; this is the job of the “dresser of sycamores.” So the quality of the sycamore fruit is a reflection upon the quality of work (read “care”) of the “dresser of sycamores” (of course nature – rain, temperature, and soil are also factors). Another example, our children (read “our fruit”) are a reflection upon the quality of our parenting (read “our care”) (of course culture is also a factor).
[iv] “Praise no one before he speaks, for it is then that people are tested.” = Speech is the principal criterion for evaluating a person, just as long as we temper it with possible extenuating circumstances and civility. Otherwise, speech can lead to polarization.
[v] Responsorial Psalm Footnote:
Lord, it is good to give thanks to You.” = It is appropriate to thank and praise God because of the good things He has done for His people. He is faithful to His word and lovingly loyal to His people.
[vi] Reading 2 Footnotes:
“When this which is corruptible clothes itself with incorruptibility and this which is mortal clothes itself with immortality, then the word that is written shall come about:” = When the bodies of the elect, by resurrection or change, become incorruptible or immortal, the last enemy, death, will have been vanquished.
[vii] ‘The sting of death is sin.” = Death entered the world (i.e. death was caused by) through sin (Romans 5:12).
[viii]the power of sin is the law” = The “power of sin” is relative/synonymous to the “consequences of sin”. Saint Paul suggests that the law gave sin its power by giving a knowledge of God’s commandments and threatening death to a sinner.
[ix] “But thanks be to God who gives us the victory (over sin) through our Lord Jesus Christ.” = The new covenant replaces the old. Sin can now be forgiven and forgotten.
[x] “Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” = The hard work of the Christian life is not in vain, because the Christian is “in the Lord” who has already won the victory over sin and death.
[xi] Gospel Footnote:
“Can a blind person guide a blind person?” = This relates to the disciples who are “blind” until they have their eyes opened by Jesus’ teaching. Once they have learned to apply the teaching, they will be able to teach others.


SR-2019-02-24

SUNDAY MASS READINGS’ REFLECTIONS
7th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle C) – February 24, 2019



7th Sunday in Ordinary Time Theme: How God Wants Us to Live as His Disciple.

The background to Reading 1 is that God commanded the prophet Samuel to anoint Saul as the King of Israel. Saul then proceeded to break God’s covenant in the way in which he carried out his kingship and he also decided to kill David as he saw him as a competitor. Today’s reading then tells us that David had the opportunity to defend himself by killing Saul but instead he respected the fact that it was God’s command that Saul be anointed king and he would not violate this commandment. A prominent theme in this reading is David’s learning to trust God to repay his enemies rather than taking vengeance himself.

The Gospel reading basically restates Reading 1 by putting us in the role of David and our neighbors in the role of Saul.

Reading 2 helps us carry out David’s role by comparing our humanly earthly and spiritual aspects. David turned from retaliation (an earthly aspect) to obedience to God (a spiritual aspect). This is an example of how we are to live our lives as disciples of God.

“His voice leads us not into timid discipleship but into bold witness.” (Charles Stanley)


Reading 1 – 1 Samuel 26:2,7-9, 12-13, 22-23     David does not kill Saul.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 103:1-4, 8, 10, 12-13    A song in praise of God’s mercy.

Reading 2 – 1 Corinthians 15:45-49     As we bear the image of Adam, so we will bear the image of the One from heaven.

Gospel – Luke 6:27-38     Jesus teaches His disciples to be merciful as God is merciful.


This Bible Study’s primary references used are from St Joseph Sunday Missal, LoyolaPress.com, 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: The Lectionary Bible Readings for this Sunday – Readings 1 & 2, Responsorial Psalm, and the Gospel, all appear in purple in the following. Footnotes are included in these passages and the contents of all the footnotes appear at the end of this document. 

Reading 1     1 Samuel 26:2,7-9, 12-13, 22-23                              (David Spares Saul)            

Context – God writes lessons for us not only in words but also by events. Among these events, one of the most prominent is the dependence of a nation’s happiness on its leaders’ personal holiness. First and Second Samuel contrasts the personalities and events in the lives of the early Israeli leaders – Eli, Samuel, Saul, and David.

Today’s Reading – This story is filled with human intrigue and divine mystery. It contrasts the respect David had for God’s anointed with the murderous intent of Saul. Although David was the one being hunted, Saul was the one caught.


In those days, Saul went down to the desert of Ziph [i] with three thousand picked men of Israel, to search for David in the desert of Ziph. So David and Abishai [ii] went among Saul’s soldiers by night and found Saul lying asleep within the barricade, with his spear thrust into the ground at his head and Abner [iii] and his men sleeping around him.

Abishai whispered to David: “God has delivered your enemy into your grasp this day. Let me nail him to the ground with one thrust of the spear; I will not need a second thrust!”
But David said to Abishai, “Do not harm him, for who can lay hands on the LORD’s anointed [iv] and remain unpunished?” [v] So David took the spear and the water jug from their place at Saul’s head, and they got away without anyone’s seeing or knowing or awakening. All remained asleep, because the LORD had put them into a deep slumber.

Going across to an opposite slope [vi], David stood on a remote hilltop at a great distance from Abner, son of Ner [vii], and the troops. He said: “Here is the king’s spear. Let an attendant come over to get it. The LORD will reward each man for his justice and faithfulness. Today, though the LORD delivered you into my grasp, I would not harm the LORD’s anointed.”


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.         The book of 1 Samuel is a combination of two versions called the Early Source and the Late Source (2 Samuel was written from the Early Source). Our reading today is from the Late Source. And a second version of the same story as today’s reading, occurs at 1 Samuel 23:14 – 24:22 from the Early Source. Both versions have the same message for us even though they have different details. It all goes back to the saying “Everything in the Bible is true and some of it actually happened as described.” (Marcus Borg – Anglican Theologian).


Responsorial Psalm –     Psalm 103:1-4, 8, 10, 12-13                   (The Lord’s Mercy)

This psalm reminds us that it is the Lord’s prior forgiveness toward us that is the origin of our own capacity to forgive others.


R. – The Lord is kind and merciful.
Bless
[viii] the LORD, O my soul; and all my being, bless His holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.
R. – The Lord is kind and merciful.
He pardons all your iniquities, heals all your ills. He redeems your life from destruction,
crowns you with kindness and compassion.
R. – The Lord is kind and merciful.
Merciful and gracious is the LORD, slow to anger
[ix] and abounding in kindness. Not according to our sins does He deal with us, nor does He requite us according to our crimes.
R. – The Lord is kind and merciful.
As far as the east is from the west, so far has He put our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on His children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.
[x]
R. – The Lord is kind and merciful.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.  


Reading 2     1 Corinthians 15:45-49                       (Grace Builds on Nature)                

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 the establishment of this Church, trouble arose including: internal divisions, immorality, denials of the Resurrection, and liturgical carelessness. Paul’s pastoral guidance was needed 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 falling prey to false prophets.    

Today’s Reading – In these verses Paul contrasts the ordinary human body with the resurrected body that believers will receive. He begins by making a clear distinction between the first man, Adam and the last Adam, Christ. Adam’s body was made from the earth; Christ’s body was created in heaven. Then Paul says that just as humankind shares in the limitations of the first Adam, limitations that eventually lead to death, believers in Christ will share in Christ’s victory over death, a victory that includes the promise of the resurrected life of the “spiritual body”. Key words here are – “believers in Christ” – will receive the resurrection.


Brothers and sisters: It is written, The first man, Adam, became a living being [xi], the last Adam a life-giving spirit [xii]. But the spiritual was not first; rather the natural and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, earthly; the Second Man, from heaven. As was the earthly one, so also are the earthly, and as is the Heavenly One, so also are the heavenly. Just as we have borne the image of the earthly one, we shall also bear the image of the Heavenly One.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Gospel     Luke 6:27-38                     (Love for Enemies)

Context – Luke was a physician and a follower of Paul. His Gospel was written in 59-61 AD and he also wrote the Book of Acts. Luke’s gospel includes Jesus words and works in Galilee, His journey to Jerusalem, and His last week in Jerusalem. For later chapters of Luke: Jesus is now in Jerusalem for His passion; He has made His triumphal entry which we celebrate on Passion (Palm) Sunday; He has upset the establishment by cleansing the temple. The Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees are all now interested in getting rid of Him. He identifies three epochs of salvation history: the time before Christ, the time of Christ, and the time of the Church and the Holy Spirit. And the two primary themes of his Gospel are: the Christian faith is expressed in one’s actions, and the call to salvation is extended to everyone, Jews and Gentiles. The emblem for St. Luke was given the symbol of an ox (a sacrificial animal) because he speaks of Christ most of all as the Great High Priest who brought Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world (“the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”). St. Luke died a martyr’s death in Achaia (Greece).

Today’s Reading – These words from Jesus’ teaching are familiar to us. They constitute the crux and the challenge of what it means to be a disciple: Love your enemies, turn the other cheek, give to those who ask, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, lend without expecting repayment, judge not lest you be judged.


Jesus said to His disciples: “To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. [xiii] For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount. But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for He Himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful [xiv], just as your Father is merciful.

“Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give, and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.  


Catechism 2842 – This “as” is not unique in Jesus’ teaching: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”; “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful”; “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” It is impossible to keep the Lord’s commandment by imitating the divine model from outside; there has to be a vital participation, coming from the depths of the heart, in the holiness and the mercy and the love of our God. Only the Spirit by whom we live can make “ours” the same mind that was in Christ Jesus.  Then the unity of forgiveness becomes possible and we find ourselves “forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave” us.


[i]  Reading 1 Footnotes:
“Ziph” = Ziph was a city in the Judean Mountains south-east of Hebron (19 miles south of Jerusalem). Here David hid himself from Saul.
[ii] “Abishai” = David’s nephew.
[iii] “Abner” = Commander of Saul’s army.
[iv]  “the Lord’s anointed” = Samuel the Prophet was told by God to anoint Saul as the King of Israel. Saul was then referred to as “the Lord’s anointed” or simply the “anointed one”.
[v] “remain unpunished” = Even though Saul is trying to kill him, David reveres the “Lord’s anointed” and his position as king.
[vi] “Going across to an opposite slope” and calling out to Abner = Even today, the Arabs in the wilder parts of the country shout across great distances in this same manner, as David did.
[vii] “Ner” = Saul’s uncle.
[viii] Responsorial Psalm Footnotes:
“Bless” = Praise, glorify.
[ix] “slow to anger” = God is patient with us. God’s anger prolongs itself, allowing for people to repent before punishment is inflicted.
[x]   “those who fear Him” = How to 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: 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, trust Him, and give Him thanks; Tell others about Him; Hate evil.
[xi] Reading 2 Footnotes:
“It is written, The first man, Adam, became a living being.“ = This is a reference to Genesis 2:7 where God formed Adam from the earth and breathed life into him. He became the physical (earthly) body which we all resemble today.
[xii] “the last Adam, a life-giving spirit” = This is Jesus Christ who has a living spirit, a life-giving spirit which raises up those who desire to live.
[xiii] Gospel Footnotes:
“Do to others as you would have then do to you.” = The “Golden Rule” is a sure test to distinguish virtue from vice. Jesus provides the supreme example of living this out and expects the same from His disciples.
[xiv] “Be merciful.” = Mercy is the towering rule of Christ’s Kingdom.


SR-2019-02-10

SUNDAY MASS READINGS’ REFLECTIONS
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle C) – February 17, 2019



6th Sunday in Ordinary Time Theme: God’s Covenants with His Flock.

A covenant is an agreement between two parties (in our case between God and His followers – us) and it identifies the promises that each party agrees to (in our case God provides His love, caring, protection, provisioning, guidance, and eternal salivation and we are to provide for our loving worship, loyalty, trust, hope, and obedience to Him). A covenant includes the identification of consequences in the event of incompliances. In our case: curses and loss of fellowship with God if we do not comply. We know the history of curses – death (Original Sin), a flood, 40 years in the desert, and an exile. God wants us to trust in His love and caring for us and uses covenants to define what He requires of us in order to safeguard our correct relationship with Him. He does this so that we will hopefully, use our Free Will appropriately.

Reading 1 contrasts the faithless people, who place their trust solely in people, versus the righteous people, who place their ultimate trust in God – the Old Covenant with God. Reading 2 emphasizes the preeminence of the resurrection in the Christian life – the New Covenant (Jesus Christ) with God. The Gospel is Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain” which also speaks about the New Covenant with its blessings and curses.

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)


Reading 1 – Jeremiah 17:5-8     Trust in the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 1:1-4, 6     Blessed are those who hope in Lord.

Reading 2 – 1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-20     Our hope for resurrection is sure because Christ has been raised from the dead.

Gospel Luke 6:17, 20-26     Jesus teaches the crowd the way to happiness – The Beatitudes.


This Bible Study’s primary references used are from St Joseph Sunday Missal, LoyolaPress.com, 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: The Lectionary Bible Readings for this Sunday – Readings 1 & 2, Responsorial Psalm, and the Gospel, all appear in purple in the following. Footnotes are included in these passages and the contents of all the footnotes appear at the end of this document. 

Reading 1     Jeremiah 17:5-8                    (Trust in the Lord)              

Context – The Lord called Jeremiah to prophetic ministry in about 626 BC, just before and during the exile, and ended sometime after 580 BC in Egypt. He resided in the Southern Kingdom, ie. Judah. He was appointed to reveal the sins of the people, the coming consequences (ie. exile), and hope for the future (ie. bring his people to a state of perseverance for a better life after the exile). Jeremiah weeps for sinful Judah and is called “the crying prophet”. Jeremiah was viewed as a traitor and persecuted more intensely than any other Hebrew prophet ever had been.

Today’s Reading – The Israelites are about to be overcome by their pagan neighbors, but the people try to make concessions with them (trust in them) rather than trusting in their covenant with God for their deliverance. We know the end of this story – victory for the pagans and exile for Israel with a broken covenant with God.


Thus says the LORD: Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the LORD. [i] He is like a barren bush in the desert that enjoys no change of season, but stands in a lava waste, a salt and empty earth. Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, [ii] whose hope [iii] is the LORD. He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: it fears not the heat when it comes; its leaves stay green; in the year of drought it shows no distress,
but still bears fruit.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Responsorial Psalm –     Psalm 1:1-4, 6                (Blessed Are Those Who Hope in the Lord)

This psalm is a clear echo of Reading 1. There is a contrast between the good and wicked, between human and divine counsel. What matters, most of all, is a God-centered life which ultimately will not disappoint.


R. – Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
Blessed
[iv] the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked, nor walks in the way of sinners, nor sits in the company of the insolent, but delights in the law of the LORD and meditates on His law day and night.
R. – Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
He is like a tree planted near running water, that yields its fruit in due season, and whose leaves never fade. Whatever he does, prospers.
R. – Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
Not so the wicked
[v], not so; they are like chaff which the wind drives away. For the LORD watches over the way of the just, but the way of the wicked vanishes.
R. – Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.         Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.” (Proverbs 3:5-7) 


Reading 2     1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-20                 (Hope for Eternity)              

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 the establishment of this Church, trouble arose including: internal divisions, immorality, denials of the Resurrection, and liturgical carelessness. Paul’s pastoral guidance was needed 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 falling prey to false prophets.    

Today’s Reading – It seems that some of the Christians in Corinth raise some questions about and belief in the resurrection. In response, Paul reasserts the central importance of the resurrection to the Christian life. Without it, all else crumbles. If there is no resurrection, there is no victory over sin and death, and our faith is in vain. This passage identifies what the New Covenant, i.e. Jesus Christ, has to offer us as Reading 1 identifies what the Old Covenant had to offer the Hebrew people prior to Jesus’ birth.


Brothers and sisters: If Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead? [vi] If the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. [vii] If for this life only, we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all. [viii]

But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the Firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. [ix]


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Gospel     Luke 6:17, 20-26                           (The Beatitudes)

Context – Luke was a physician and a follower of Paul. His Gospel was written in 59-61 AD and he also wrote the Book of Acts. Luke’s gospel includes Jesus words and works in Galilee, His journey to Jerusalem, and His last week in Jerusalem. For later chapters of Luke: Jesus is now in Jerusalem for His passion; He has made His triumphal entry which we celebrate on Passion (Palm) Sunday; He has upset the establishment by cleansing the temple. The Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees are all now interested in getting rid of Him. He identifies three epochs of salvation history: the time before Christ, the time of Christ, and the time of the Church and the Holy Spirit. And the two primary themes of his Gospel are: the Christian faith is expressed in one’s actions, and the call to salvation is extended to everyone, Jews and Gentiles. The emblem for St. Luke was given the symbol of an ox (a sacrificial animal) because he speaks of Christ most of all as the Great High Priest who brought Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world (“the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”). St. Luke died a martyr’s death in Achaia (Greece).

Today’s Reading – Today’s gospel reading is the beginning of what is often called the “Sermon on the Plain”. We find a parallel to this passage in Matthew that is often called the “Sermon on the Mount”. As these titles suggest, there are differences and similarities between these gospel readings. Both readings focus upon the Beatitudes. They are described as a framework (covenant) for Christian living.


Jesus came down with the twelve and stood on a stretch of level ground with a great crowd of His disciples and a large number of the people from all Judea and Jerusalem
and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon
[x]. And raising His eyes toward His disciples He said: “Blessed are you who are poor [xi], for the kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are now hungry [xii], for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who are now weeping [xiii],
for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man
[xiv]. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.”


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          The eight beatitudes which Saint Matthew gives in the “Sermon the Mount” (Matthew 5:3-12) are summed up in four by Saint Luke in the “Sermon in the Plain”. They both identify the basic rules of Christian behavior. Saint Luke also gives us four opposite woes (curses), to go with the beatitudes (blessings). These blessings and woes cast Jesus as a prophet because the prophet’s job was to pronounce the blessings and curses as He reminded the people of God’s covenant with them and the obligations involved in keeping it.  

Catechism 1721 – God put us in the world to know, to love, and to serve Him, and so to come to paradise. Beatitudes make us “partakers of the divine nature” and of eternal life. With beatitudes, we enter into the glory of Christ and into the joy of the Trinitarian life. [Beatitudes are defined as the promises of happiness made by Christ to those who faithfully accept His teaching and follow His divine example.]


[i] Reading 1 Footnotes:
“Cursed is the one … whose heart turns away from the Lord” = We must always be mindful that there are blessings associated with fidelity to our covenant relationship with God, and curses associated with infidelity to our covenant.
[ii]  “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord” = All who acknowledge Him as their Lord and surrender to Him with their love and obedience.
[iii]  “hope” = Hope is one of the theological virtues. being a combination of the desire for something and an expectation of receiving it. We desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.
[iv] Responsorial Psalm Footnotes:
“Blessed” = Divinely favored, fortunate. One who hears the word of the Lord and keeps it. Literally – “Oh how happy”
[v] “wicked people” = The term “wicked” used here usually describes people who do not have a covenant relationship with God. They have little regard for God but live to satisfy their passions. They are not necessarily as evil as they could be, but they have no regard for the spiritual dimension of life.
[vi] Reading 2 Footnotes:
“resurrection of the dead” = Christ’s resurrection is the crowning event of salvation history and humankind’s victory over sin, Satan, and death. As Adam brought death, Christ brings resurrection from the dead.
[vii] “Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” = If there is no resurrection, then death is final. This is what the Jewish Sadducees and Greeks believed and they were influences upon the religious beliefs of the other residents of Corinth.
[viii] “If for this life only, we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.” = We hope in Christ not just “for this life only” but also “for the eternal life to come in heaven”. Christ’s death and resurrection opened the gates of heaven for all the faithful “for eternal life” to be a possibility for us.
[ix]Christ has been raised from the dead, the Firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” = What was done for Christ can be done for others and God’s goodness indicates that it will (it states “first fruit” not “only fruit”). By Christ being the “first-fruits”, it must be supposed that others also will rise after Him. “First fruits” is an agriculture term for the initial produce reaped at the beginning of the harvest season. The Old Testament offering of the first fruits to God was meant to thank the Lord for His gifts and to seek blessing for an abundant harvest. In the New Testament, Christ is not only the First to be raised in glory, but His resurrected humanity is an offering that ensures an entire harvest of believers will be raised as He was.
[x] Gospel Footnotes:
people from “Tyre and Sidon” = Costal cites north of Palestine whose inhabitants were predominately Gentiles. This shows Jesus growing popularity beyond just Israel.
[xi]blessed are you who are poor” = The poor here are those who are the lowly ones; those who depend desperately upon God for help; and those who are humble. The poor are not blest because they are materially destitute; rather, they are blest because they are able to place their trust in God in the midst of poverty. The rich are not cursed simply because they are materially well off, but because of their failure to come to the rescue of the poor by generously sharing their blessings with them. They are having their reward now but they will lose out big time in the reign of God.
[xii] “blessed are you who are hungry” = Famished for the word of God. Jesus is not saying it’s a blessing to be starving and a curse to have a good meal. He is saying we are blessed if we can keep trusting in God in empty/hungry times. It is also a blessing if we are hungry for God. It is a curse if our “plenty” times lead us to ignore God. It is a curse to be spiritually self-satisfied.
[xiii] “blessed are you who are now weeping” = People who are concerned for their salvation in light of their sins. It is a blessing if we mourn for our sins and for the injustices in our world and for the losses we experience in life. It is not a curse to be happy, but it is a curse if our laughter is a cover-up for our sadness or if it is at the expense of others. Some become rich at the expense of others.
[xiv] “Son of Man” = Son of Man is a title which only Jesus applies to Himself.


SR-2019-02-10

SUNDAY MASS READINGS’ REFLECTIONS
5th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle C) – February 10, 2019



5th Sunday in Ordinary Time Theme: Acceptance of God’s Calling.

There is a clear theme of vocation in all three of today’s readings. Notice how Isaiah, Paul and Peter all feel unworthy to be chosen by God to be His agents in the world. (“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof. But only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” Matthew 8:8)

“lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Holy Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-2)

Many people are anxious to discover their calling from God, but when “calling” is used in the New Testament, it almost always refers to our calling as believers not our calling to a specific ministry. Ultimately, our “calling” is to love God, love others, obey God, and take care of others. If we concentrate on fulfilling these responsibilities He’s given us now, God will take care of helping us make our unique impact on the world. (gotquestions.org)

St. Ignatius of Loyola – Discerning whether our “calling” is from the good spirit (the influence of God, the Church, one’s soul) or the bad spirit (the influence of Satan, the world, the flesh) requires calm, rational reflection. The good spirit brings us to peaceful, joyful decisions. The bad spirit often brings us to make quick, emotional, conflicted decisions. A spiritual director can assist us by personal experience, listening with care, and giving an objective analysis.


Reading 1 – Isaiah 6:1-2a,3-8     God’s call of Isaiah.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 138:1-5,7-8    A song of thanks to God who saves us.

Reading 2 – 1 Corinthians 15:1-11     God’s call of Paul.

Gospel Luke 5:1-11    God’s call of Peter.


This Bible Study’s primary references used are from St Joseph Sunday Missal, LoyolaPress.com, 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: The Lectionary Bible Readings for this Sunday – Readings 1 & 2, Responsorial Psalm, and the Gospel, all appear in purple in the following. Footnotes are included in these passages and the contents of all the footnotes appear at the end of this document. 

Reading 1     Isaiah 6:1-2a,3-8                    (God’s Call of Isaiah)                      

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 shares with us how God calls him, in a vision, to the prophetic ministry while he was worshiping in a liturgical celebration in the Temple. We notice three movements: 1) the theophany (God’s appearance to Isaiah); 2) Isaiah’s purification; and 3) his ‘Yes’ to God’s call.


In the year King Uzziah died, [i] I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of His garment filling the temple [ii]. Seraphim [iii] were stationed above.

They cried one to the other, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts! All the earth is filled with His glory!” At the sound of that cry, the frame of the door shook and the house was filled with smoke [iv].

Then I said, “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” [v] Then one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember that he had taken with tongs from the altar [vi].

He touched my mouth with it, and said, “See, now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send?  Who will go for Us? [vii]
“Here I am,” I said; “send me!”


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Responsorial Psalm –     Psalm 138:1-5,7-8                        (Gratitude to God)

David thanked the Lord for His loyal love and faithfulness in answering his prayers. He hoped that everyone would acknowledge God’s goodness and experience His deliverance. This psalm is a very appropriate response for us every time we have experienced the awesome graces from God.


R. – In the sight of the angels I will sing Your praises, Lord.
I will give thanks to You, O LORD, with all my heart, for You have heard the words of my mouth; in the presence of the angels
[viii] I will sing Your praise; I will worship at Your holy temple [ix] and give thanks to Your name.
R. – In the sight of the angels I will sing Your praises, Lord.
Because of Your kindness and Your truth; for You have made great above all things Your name and Your promise. When I called, You answered me; You built up strength within me.
R. – In the sight of the angels I will sing Your praises, Lord.
All the kings of the earth shall give thanks to You, O LORD, when they hear the words of Your mouth; and they shall sing of the ways of the LORD: “Great is the glory of the LORD.”
R. – In the sight of the angels I will sing Your praises, Lord.
Your right hand saves me. The LORD will complete what He has done for me; Your kindness, O LORD, endures forever;
[x] forsake not the work of Your hands [xi].
R. – In the sight of the angels I will sing Your praises, Lord.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you. 


Reading 2     1 Corinthians 15:1-11              (God’s Call of Paul)             

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 the establishment of this Church, trouble arose including: internal divisions, immorality, denials of the Resurrection, and liturgical carelessness. Paul’s pastoral guidance was needed 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 falling prey to false prophets.    

Today’s Reading – Paul reassures his readers that the Good News he shares with them is not his own creation but rather a message received from Christ Himself who died and has risen. His Resurrection was testified by many. Just like Isaiah in the Reading 1 and Peter in the Gospel, Paul testifies to his own unworthiness to preach the Gospel. Yet, unworthy though he is, God calls him. Paul especially challenges the Corinthians (many of whom at this time denied the resurrection) to accept Jesus’ Resurrection, not as someone’s nice idea, but as a verifiable historical fact.


I am reminding you, brothers and sisters, of the gospel I preached to you, which you indeed received and in which you also stand. Through it you are also being saved, if you hold fast to the Word I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins [xii] in accordance with the Scriptures (Isaiah 53: 5-12); that He was buried; that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (Exodus 10: 21-23 and the story of Jonah); that He appeared to Cephas (Peter), then to the Twelve. After that, Christ appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. After that He appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one born abnormally [xiii], He appeared to me [xiv]. For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle,
because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me has not been ineffective. Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God that is with me. Therefore, whether it be I or they, so we preach and so you believed.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.  


Gospel     Luke 5:1-11                       (God’s Call of Peter)

Context – Luke was a physician and a follower of Paul. His Gospel was written in 59-61 AD and he also wrote the Book of Acts. Luke’s gospel includes Jesus words and works in Galilee, His journey to Jerusalem, and His last week in Jerusalem. For later chapters of Luke: Jesus is now in Jerusalem for His passion; He has made His triumphal entry which we celebrate on Passion (Palm) Sunday; He has upset the establishment by cleansing the temple. The Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees are all now interested in getting rid of Him. He identifies three epochs of salvation history: the time before Christ, the time of Christ, and the time of the Church and the Holy Spirit. And the two primary themes of his Gospel are: the Christian faith is expressed in one’s actions, and the call to salvation is extended to everyone, Jews and Gentiles. The emblem for St. Luke was given the symbol of an ox (a sacrificial animal) because he speaks of Christ most of all as the Great High Priest who brought Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world (“the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”). St. Luke died a martyr’s death in Achaia (Greece).

Today’s Reading – Isaiah experiences God in the Temple; Paul meets Jesus on the road to Damascus; and Peter (plus Andrew, James and John) encounters Jesus at his place of work. Prior to the event described in this reading, Jesus went to Simon’s house and healed his mother-in-law, healed many others, and cast out demons for some.
In today’s reading, Jesus’ presence in Peter’s boat symbolizes His presence in and with the Church. Peter’s lack of success at catching fish symbolizes the “futileness” of pastoral ministry without the presence and power of God. Discouragement is part and parcel of life, but we must not let it get us down. We must keep “throwing out the net.” In this Gospel, Jesus is calling to Himself disciples (our Priests) who will in turn “catch” others (us) for Christ by the “bait” of God’s Word – His “calling”.


While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret (Sea of Galilee). He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, [xv] He asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then He sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. After He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” [xvi] Simon said in reply, “Master (Rabbi), we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that the boats were in danger of sinking. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord [xvii], for I am a sinful man.” For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed Him. [xviii]


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.         When called by God, Isaiah said “I am a man of unclean lips.” And Peter said “I am a sinful man”. So, both of them knew right from wrong and both of them knew that their life style “missed the mark”. Does this help verify that God gives us a basic conscience at birth?
Monsignor Charles Pope (NCR journalist) writes – “I think that our fundamental conscience, a sense of basic right and wrong, is innate. That is to say, it is something with which we come equipped, rather than something we learn from social convention. As a believer, I would argue that this basic moral sense, our conscience, is explained by the fact that God has written his law upon our hearts.”

Catechism 208 – Faced with God’s fascinating and mysterious presence, we discover our own insignificance. Before the burning bush, Moses takes off his sandals and veils his face in the presence of God’s holiness. Before the glory of the thrice-holy God, Isaiah cries out: “Woe is me! I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips.” Before the divine signs wrought by Jesus, Peter exclaims: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” But because God is holy, He can forgive the person who realizes that they are a sinner before Him: “I will not execute My fierce anger. . . for I am God and not human, the Holy One in your midst.” The apostle John says likewise: “We shall. . . reassure our hearts before Him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything.”


[i] Reading 1 Footnotes:
In the year King Uzziah died” = King Uzziah died in 742 B.C. after a reign of over 40 years. His death brought to an end a period of great prosperity and security.
[ii] “the temple” = This Temple is in Jerusalem, built by Solomon 200 years earlier and destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 B.C.; 155 years after this vision of Isaiah.
[iii]  “Seraphim” = The hierarchy of angels are defined as follows: At the top are Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones, associated with the specific functions of love, knowledge, and power. In the middle are Dominations, Virtues, and Powers, associated with the universal governance of creation. And the lower hierarchy consists of Principalities, Archangels, and Angels, concerned with the direct administration of creatures in the world (CCC 328). Plus, each of us are assigned a Guardian Angel at our birth (CCC336). Every day we should pray The Guardian Angel Prayer: “Angel of God, my Guardian dear, to Whom God’s love commits me here, ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.”
[iv]   “smoke” = A sign of divine presence, the smoke is the same “glory cloud” which filled the tabernacle during the wandering in the desert, at Mt Sinai at the giving of the Ten Commandments, at the baptism of Jesus, and at Jesus’ Transfiguration.
[v]  “Lord of hosts” = A common Old Testament name for God. It also means Lord of armies or God of battles – referring to God’s leadership of His people in war (1 Sam 1:3).
[vi]  “an ember that he had taken with tongs from the altar” = St. Basil calls this “amber” the “Word of God”.
[vii] God says: “Who will go for Us?” = Hence arises a proof of the plurality of persons in heaven, i.e. the members of Trinity, and/or the angels.
[viii] Responsorial Psalm Footnotes:
“pray “in the presence of the angels” = Making our petitions to God in the presence of the angels helps us with being confident that God will hear our prayers since the angels will be advocates for us with God. In Reading 1, the angels (a Seraphm) ministered unto Isaiah.
[ix]   “I shall worship at your holy Temple” = Other translations state: “I bow down toward Your holy Temple” = The Jews worshiped this way when they were at a distance from the temple in Jerusalem; as with the Muslims who bow toward Mecca when worshiping.”
[x]  “Your right hand saves me. The LORD will complete what He has done for me; Your kindness, O LORD, endures forever;” = An expression of faith.
[xi]   “the work of Your hands” = The work of God’s hands includes rescuing us from the oppression of our temporal (human) and spiritual (demonic) enemies.
[xii]   Reading 2 Footnotes:
“Christ died for our sins”
= His death was the sin offering (a sacrifice by His passion (suffering) made in atonement to God for all of our sins) which opened heaven and set forth the process for our sins to be forgiven and forgotten. From the time of the golden calf until the crucifixion of Jesus, offerings were made repeatedly but sins were not forgotten. The offerings were ineffectual because the sin of the golden calf had not been forgotten. Jesus’ sacrifice rectified this. Atonement is the forgiving or pardoning of sin in general and original sin in particular through the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, enabling the reconciliation between God and His creation.
[xiii]   “the one born abnormally” = Some assume that Paul is referring here to the separation in time between the original 12 Apostles’ introduction to Jesus versus his introduction to Him at a later time. Others assume that Paul means by this that he acted as “an object of horror and disgust” (an abnormal person) because of his past persecution of the Church, calling himself “the monster of the apostolic family.”
[xiv]  “He appeared to me” = This is a reference to Paul’s “apostolic calling” by God, a “come to Jesus moment”. Paul received the facts about Christianity from the Apostles and others but the import of the facts was made known to him by Christ when He “called” him to his vocation while Paul was on the road to Damascus.
[xv] Gospel Footnotes:
“Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon” = Why is it mentioned that there were two ships; that one of them was Simon Peter’s, that Christ went into that one, and sat down in it, and sitting He taught out of that ship? No doubt, answer many of the ancient commentators, to show that the Church was figured by the bark/barque/barc (i.e. ship) of Peter, and that in it is the chair of Christ, a permanent authority, prefigured by Christ’s sitting down, and the true word of God.
[xvi]   Jesus asks Peter to go back out to sea to fish even though Peter had just completed his fishing routine (but he was unsuccessful in catching anything) for the day. – “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” = The message is: Where you failed without Christ (Peter’s first time out), with Christ (second time out) you will prove successful. Now is the proper time, when you act in My presence, and according to My orders; before it was not, when you followed your own, and not My will. We all must remain with Christ and live according to His will for us. Peter was very successful in catching much fish this second time out – this event proved that the obedience (faith is obedient belief) and confidence (trust and hope) of Peter were not in vain. Nor will it be in vain for us if we follow Jesus.
[xvii]  Peter says – “Depart from me Lord” = The change from Peter calling Jesus “Master/Rabbi” to calling Him “Lord” reflects Peter’s recognition of Jesus human and divine natures. Likewise, previous to this, when Peter followed Jesus’ direction to go back out and fish again – “but at Your command I will lower the nets” = Why would Peter, a master fisherman, follow the advice of Jesus, not known for His fishing prowess? Well, as mentioned in the introduction to this Gospel reading, prior to this event, Peter watched as Jesus healed his mother-in-law. So, Peter knew first-hand that Jesus was not just a mere mortal and he knew it would be well worth his advantage to “listen to Him”. Sound familiar? God said this to those who later experienced Jesus’ transfiguration – “Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is My chosen Son; listen to Him.” (Luke 9:35) – so should we!  
[xviii]  “they left everything and followed Him” = Followers of Jesus are not members of the crowd but walk in His footsteps. They live the life which Jesus sets as the example.


 

SR-2019-02-03

SUNDAY MASS READINGS’ REFLECTIONS
4th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle C) – February 3, 2019



4th Sunday in Ordinary Time Theme: The Prophetic Message.

A prophecy is a message that is claimed by a prophet to have been communicated to them from God. Such messages typically involve inspiration, interpretation, or revelation of divine will concerning the prophet’s social world and events to come.

The scripture readings for today are prophetic message that we are to act upon for our salvation.  Both Jeremiah (Reading 1) and Jesus (Gospel) are sent by God to be God’s spokesman to the nations telling them that they need salvation because of their sins. Both experience strong resistance from the people. The proper response by the people to these salvation messages, that Jeremiah and Jesus preach, is summed up by the Responsorial Psalm – “I will sing of Your salvation for me.” Reading 2 is further salvation direction for the people as it identifies the nature of true love and how the people are to carry it out among themselves in order for them to be acceptable by God.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them.” (Matthew 7:15) They deceptively misrepresent divine revelation. This covers a wide spectrum of false teachers. Satan’s mission is to ruin humankind through seduction, temptation to sin, and to distance us from full participation in a Godly life with fellowship with one another.


Reading 1 – Jeremiah 1:4-5,17-19     The Lord assures Jeremiah that He will deliver him from all who fight against him.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 71:1-6,15,17     A song in praise of God’s salvation.

Reading 2 – 1 Corinthians 12:31—13:13     Paul describes love as the greatest of virtues.

Gospel Luke 4:21-30     Jesus is rejected in His hometown of Nazareth.


This Bible Study’s primary references used are from St Joseph Sunday Missal, LoyolaPress.com, 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: The Lectionary Bible Readings for this Sunday – Readings 1 & 2, Responsorial Psalm, and the Gospel, all appear in purple in the following. Footnotes are included in these passages and the contents of all the footnotes appear at the end of this document. 


Reading 1     Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19                       (Call of Jeremiah)               

Context – The Lord called Jeremiah to prophetic ministry in about 626 BC, just before and during the exile, and ended sometime after 580 BC in Egypt. He resided in the Southern Kingdom, ie. Judah. He was appointed to reveal the sins of the people, the coming consequences (ie. exile), and hope for the future (ie. bring his people to a state of perseverance for a better life after the exile). Jeremiah weeps for sinful Judah and is called “the crying prophet”. Jeremiah was viewed as a traitor and persecuted more intensely than any other Hebrew prophet ever had been.

Today’s Reading – This reading is about the call of Jeremiah to be God’s prophet (spokesperson) to foretell of the upcoming wars against Judah because of their sins which caused the violation of the Covenant. Then God prepares Jeremiah for the resistance he will receive from his own people who will become upset with these prophecies. This is very much like today’s Gospel reading where God prepares his Son, Jesus, to preach about the need for salvation because of the peoples’ sins and how they will react to Him.


The word of the LORD [i] came to me, saying: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you [ii], a prophet to the nations I appointed you.

But you, gird your loins [iii]; stand up and tell them all that I command you. Be not crushed on their account, as though I would leave you crushed before them; for it is I this day who have made you a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of brass, against the whole land: against Judah’s kings and princes, against its priests and people. They will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.         “They will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.” God does not promise Jeremiah peace, but He does promise him victory. Meaning, there may be recurring battles to be had but Jeremiah will prevail. This Old Testament reading correlates to Jesus telling us “I am with you always” in Matthew 28:20. 


Responsorial Psalm –     Psalm 71:1-6, 15,17                      (Proclaim the Lord’s Salvation)

This psalm expresses the feelings of one who encounters opposition but trusts deeply in God’s protection. We can envision both Jeremiah (Reading 1) and Jesus (Gospel) praying this psalm and so should we pray it.


R. – I will sing of Your salvation.
In you, O LORD, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame. In Your justice rescue me, and deliver me; incline Your ear to me, and save me.
R. – I will sing of Your salvation.
Be my rock of refuge, a stronghold to give me safety, for You are my rock and my fortress.
O my God, rescue me from the hand of the wicked.
R. – I will sing of Your salvation.
For You are my hope, O Lord; my trust, O God, from my youth. On You I depend from birth; from my mother’s womb You are my strength
[iv].
R. I will sing of Your salvation.
My mouth shall declare Your justice, day by day Your salvation. O God, You have taught me from my youth, and till the present I proclaim Your wondrous deeds.
[v]
R. – I will sing of Your salvation.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.  


Reading 2     1 Corinthians 12:12-31—13:13                       (The Power of Love)            

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 the establishment of this Church, trouble arose including: internal divisions, immorality, denials of the Resurrection, and liturgical carelessness. Paul’s pastoral guidance was needed 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 falling prey to false prophets.    

Today’s Reading – Perhaps Paul’s intent is best summed up in his own words: “Your every act should be done with love”. Having established love as an ethical principle and as a way of life, without which the manifestation (demonstration) of spiritual gifts has no meaning or value, Paul then proceeds to describe what love does and does not do.


Brothers and sisters: Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts. But I shall show you a still more excellent way.

If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have love [vi], I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.

And if I have the gift of prophecy, and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, It is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.         ”So, faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” – Of these three theological virtues, love (charity) is the most important. Love is greatest because it is God’s love poured into our hearts; faith and hope are our response to what God has first done. It is by love that we approach near to God, that we become His true image. “We love because He first loved us” 1 John 4:19.


Gospel     Luke 4:21-30                     (Preaching Salvation)

Context – Luke was a physician and a follower of Paul. His Gospel was written in 59-61 AD and he also wrote the Book of Acts. Luke’s gospel includes Jesus words and works in Galilee, His journey to Jerusalem, and His last week in Jerusalem. For later chapters of Luke: Jesus is now in Jerusalem for His passion; He has made His triumphal entry which we celebrate on Passion (Palm) Sunday; He has upset the establishment by cleansing the temple. The Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees are all now interested in getting rid of Him. He identifies three epochs of salvation history: the time before Christ, the time of Christ, and the time of the Church and the Holy Spirit. And the two primary themes of his Gospel are: the Christian faith is expressed in one’s actions, and the call to salvation is extended to everyone, Jews and Gentiles. The emblem for St. Luke was given the symbol of an ox (a sacrificial animal) because he speaks of Christ most of all as the Great High Priest who brought Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world (“the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”). St. Luke died a martyr’s death in Achaia (Greece).

Today’s Reading – This gospel passage is a continuation of last Sunday’s gospel passage where Jesus read from the Scroll about Isaiah prophecy for the coming of a Messiah, and then Jesus stated that He was, in fact, this prophesized Messiah! Continuing from this, today’s reading shows the people’s initial positive reaction to Jesus. But, as He continued to preach, things suddenly go sour when Jesus reminds them of their sinful ways. They reject His authority to teach them. Especially when He tells them that God’s plan is to include the salvation of both Jews and Gentiles. 


Jesus began speaking in the synagogue, saying: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke highly of Him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from His mouth. They also asked, “Isn’t this the Son of Joseph?” [vii] He said to them, “Surely you will quote Me this proverb, ‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say, ‘Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.’” And He said, “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place. Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove Him out of the town, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl Him down headlong. But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.         “Jesus passed through the midst of them” – Perhaps Jesus did this by making Himself all of a sudden invisible, or by striking them with blindness, or by changing their minds, and hearts, as He pleased. Theologians observe on these words, that Luke wished to show that Christ worked a miracle on this occasion, and by it proved His divinity to these Nazarenes who were with Him in the Synagogue. Prior to this, they thought He only had a human nature, son of Joseph (see Footnote #7).

Catechism 151 – For a Christian, believing in God cannot be separated from believing in the One He sent, His “beloved Son”, in whom the Father is “well pleased”; God tells us to listen to Him. The Lord Himself said to His disciples: “Believe in God, believe also in Me.” We can believe in Jesus Christ because He is Himself God, the Word made flesh: “No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known.” Because He “has seen the Father”, Jesus Christ is the only One who knows Him and can reveal Him.



[i] Reading 1 Footnotes:
“word of the Lord” = Jeremiah uses this phrase to emphasize that his message is truly God’s word.
[ii]Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born, I dedicated you” = This depicts God as a potter molding His clay, i.e. creating us in the womb of our mother. God Himself forms the child in its mother’s womb; the significance is that God knows us and He is our unique master from the very first moment of our existence (Psalm 139:13 – “For You formed my innermost parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb.”).
[iii]  “gird your loins” = Literally it means – tighten your pants. But figuratively it means – make haste and take courage, prepare for immediate action.
[iv] Responsorial Psalm Footnotes:
“On You I depend from birth; from my mother’s womb You are my strength.” = This is the same message as Reading 1 at Footnote #2, above.
[v] “My mouth shall declare Your justice, day by day Your salvation. O God, You have taught me from my youth, and till the present I proclaim Your wondrous deeds.” = This corresponds to both Jeremiah (Reading 1) and Jesus (Gospel).
[vi]  Reading 2 Footnote:
“If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have love” = That is, supernatural love – what theologians term the virtue of charity. It is agape love (selfless, sacrificial, unconditional) as opposed to philia love (brotherly love/friendship) or eros (sexual passion).
[vii] Gospel Footnote:
“Isn’t this the Son of Joseph?” = The people in the synagogue that heard Jesus speak, only seem to know Jesus as the son of Joseph and watched Him grow up and think of Him only as human. They do not seem to have any knowledge of: His divinity; nor the holiness of His Blessed Mother Mary; nor the event of the Annunciation; nor the Nativity. I wonder why? Could it be that, as the Gospel states – “Mary kept all these things in Her heart” plus “an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in Her is from the Holy Spirit.” – so he kept it secret. Plus, all the events of the Nativity occurred about 80 miles south of Nazareth in Bethlehem. When the Holy Family finally returned to Nazareth from their sanctuary in Egypt after the Nativity, some two plus years had gone by and the towns people probably lost track of them during that period.