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.