SR-2018-07-22

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
16th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle B) – July 22, 2018


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

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

This Sunday’s Theme: How a Shepherd Should Tend His Flock.

“Shepherd” was a common figure for king in the ancient Near East and in the Old Testament. The figure of God’s people being the “sheep of His pasture” is also common in the Old Testament. In Reading 1, Jeremiah, as directed by the Holy Spirit, admonishes the bad shepherds and prophesizes about the coming of good shepherds that will replace the current ones. In Reading 2, by Jesus’ sacrifice of His body and blood, He shepherds both Jew and Gentile into one New Covenant, the Church. In the Gospel, Jesus shepherds the shepherds (apostles) who shepherd the flock (us).


Reading 1 – Jeremiah 23:1-6     The Lord promises to shepherd His people Israel.

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

Reading 2 – Ephesians 2:13-18     Christ has reconciled us with God and united us in peace.

Gospel – Mark 6:30-34     Jesus invites His disciples to rest after their ministry, and Jesus is moved with pity for the crowds who pursue them.


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

 NOTE: 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. However, move the cursor over the Footnote Number in the passage and then the contents for this Footnote appears directly in a separate panel.


Reading 1     Jeremiah 23:1-6                       (A True Shepherd)

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 begins with a strong condemnation of the shepherds (i.e. Kings) who have not properly cared for God’s people. Not only have they not cared, they have also led them astray. The strong word of condemnation is followed by a promise of a new Shepherd who will show true concern for the people.


Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of My pasture[i], says the LORD.
Therefore
[ii], thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, against the shepherds who shepherd My people: You have scattered My sheep and driven them away. You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds. I myself will gather the remnant of My flock from all the lands to which I have driven them and bring them back to their meadow; there they shall increase and multiply. I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble; and none shall be missing, says the LORD.

Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up a Righteous Shoot to David; as King He shall reign and govern wisely, He shall do what is just and right in the land. In His days Judah shall be saved, Israel shall dwell in security[iii]. This is the name they give Him: “The LORD Our Justice.”[iv]


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           This Jeremiah text is a stark and strong critique of the shepherds, i.e., the leaders of the Kingdom of Judah, meaning the king, royal princes, and temple priests of the late 7th and early 6th Centuries BC. The various leaders of Judah and Israel had fallen scandalously short in Jeremiah’s thoughtful opinion. He had become a prophetic challenge to them so much so that some of them actually tried to kill him. Jeremiah also sounded a message of great hope when he anticipated a future in which there would arise a Good Shepherd to restore the combined kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Notice that the hallmarks of this future restoration were to be security and justice, not merely wealth and freedom. Fear and trembling would have no place in that future culture and reality. Such is what good leadership is about: security and justice. This lesson is for us and for our leaders in the 21st Christian Century, too. The metaphorical shepherd implies not so much a power situation as much as one of leadership by wisdom and compassion, truth and justice. Power is easy to understand and very, very easy to misuse or abuse. But, wisdom and compassion come from genuine experiences of thoughtful consideration and reflection. Poor leaders do not improve; they must be removed. Wise and compassionate leaders must be chosen by and supported by the community. (The Franciscans St. Anthony’s Guild) The following Responsorial Psalm shows what good leadership is all about. 


 Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 23:1-6                       (The Lord as Shepherd)

Today’s Psalm – This well-loved psalm speaks of the author’s absolute trust in God to care for him. My Shepherd feeds, guides, protects, comforts, and governs me.


R. – The Lord is my Shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want. In verdant pastures He gives me repose; beside restful waters He leads me
[v]; He refreshes my soul[vi].
R. – The Lord is my Shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
He guides me in right paths for His Name’s sake. Even though I walk in the dark valley
[vii] I fear no evil; for You are at my side with Your rod and Your staff[viii] that give me courage.
R. – The Lord is my Shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes
[ix]; You anoint my head with oil[x];
my cup overflows
[xi].
R. – The Lord is my Shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life
[xii]; and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for years to come.
R. – The Lord is my Shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Reading 2     Ephesians 2:13-18                        (Reconciliation to the Father)

Context – Ephesians sets before us a vision of Christ reigning in Heaven next to the Father and renewing the earth through His Church. It shows God’s saving work through Jesus. The Church is nothing less than God’s new creation in Christ.

Today’s Reading –   This describes the union of Jew and Gentile via the body and blood of Christ – the New Covenant – the Church. The Gentiles “who once were far off have become near”. Not being part of the Old Covenant and therefore access to salvation, the Gentiles were without hope prior to Christ’s sacrifice.  But through the blood of Christ, both Jew and Gentile are made one. The walls that had separated them— the Mosaic Law and its legal claims—are abolished, so that now both have access to God via the New Covenant.


Brothers and sisters: In Christ Jesus you (Gentiles) who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ.

For He is our peace[xiii], He who made both (Jews and Gentiles) one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through His flesh, abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims, that He might create in Himself one new person in place of the two[xiv], thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God, in one body, through the cross,
putting that enmity to death by it. He came and preached peace to you who were far off
and peace to those who were near, for through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father
[xv].


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Gospel     Mark 6:30-34                                 (Jesus the Shepherd)

Context – St. Mark’s Gospel was the first written of the Gospels contained in the New Testament. The date of writing was prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. St. Peter was Mark’s primary source of information about the life of Jesus. Mark is primarily known by his Roman name “Mark” but is sometimes called by his Jewish name “John” in other New Testament Writings. He was a cousin to Barnabas and an associate of St. Paul. Recognizing Jesus as the divine Son of God is the goal of this gospel. And it was written to encourage Christians who were suffering persecution for their faith. It begins with the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist.

Today’s Reading – This Gospel is one of contrast to Reading 1. Here we are given the image of a Shepherd who truly cares for His people. First, He shows concern for His first-time missionaries (the apostles) who return exhausted.  He tries to bring them away to a restful place where they can be renewed in spirit (a sabbatical). Secondly, Jesus shows Himself to be the Good Shepherd to the crowds by feeding them with His Word.


The apostles[xvi] gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”[xvii] People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place. People saw them leaving and many came to know about it. They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them.[xviii]

When He disembarked and saw the vast crowd, His heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.[xix]


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          We who are Jesus’ disciples today have also been sent to share the Gospel with others. Perhaps our commitment to following Jesus as His disciple leaves us feeling tired and overwhelmed. In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus affirm the importance of times of rest and renewal. Jesus wanted His disciples to come away and spend time alone with Him. Here Jesus affirmed the ancient Jewish practice of rest and reflection as a necessary component of discipleship. This is what we seek and find in our life of prayer and in our celebration of the Eucharist.

Catechism 425 – The transmission of the Christian faith consists primarily in proclaiming Jesus Christ in order to lead others to faith in Him. From the beginning, the first disciples burned with the desire to proclaim Christ: “We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” And they invite people of every era to enter into the joy of their communion with Christ.


The King of Love My Shepherd Is

1. The King of Love my Shepherd is, Whose goodness faileth never; I nothing lack if I am His and He is mine forever.

2. Where streams of living water flow My ransomed soul He leadeth, And, where the verdant pastures grow,
With food celestial feedeth.

3. Perverse and foolish, oft I strayed, But yet in love He sought me; And on His shoulder gently laid, And home, rejoicing brought me.

4. In death’s dark vale, I fear no ill With Thee, dear Lord, beside me; Thy rod and staff my comfort still, Thy cross before to guide me.

5. Thou spread’st a table in my sight; Thine unction grace bestoweth; And O what transport of delight From Thy pure chalice floweth.

6. And so through all the length of days, Thy goodness faileth never; Good Shepherd, may I sing Thy praise
Within Thy house forever.
(Henry Baker)


[i] Reading 1 Footnotes:
“shepherds who scatter the flock” = The reference here is to bad shepherds, i.e. the irresponsible kings. The reference here could also be for today’s very troublesome religious and troublesome elected & appointed officials.
[ii] “Therefore” = Whenever this word appears, look to see what it is “there” for. It draws a conclusion or summarizes a teaching just made.
[iii] “Judah shall be saved and Israel shall dwell in security” = Both Judah (the Kingdom of the South) and Israel (The Kingdom of the North) will share in the salvation of the Messiah. Aside – After David’s death there was tribal and political unrest resulting in the division of the Kingdom between North (Israel with 10 tribes) and South (Judah with 2 tribes).
[iv] “the Lord is our Justice” = This title is in reference to the title that Isaiah had already given to this future King (i.e. Jesus) “Emmanuel” meaning God is with us. (Isaiah 7:14). Other versions of the Bible express this title as: “The Lord is our Righteous”, “The Lord our Righteous Savior”, “The Lord Justice”, “Lord Justify Us”, and “The Lord has provided us with Justice”.
[v] Responsorial Psalm:
“besides restful waters He leads me” = The Church Fathers understand this to mean our baptism. (St. Chrysostom)
[vi] “refreshes my soul” = God begins to carry on the work of our conversion, by His grace; with which we must co-operate.
[vii] “walk in the dark valley” = In the greatest temptations, we who are righteous, are able to resist by God’s grace.
[viii] God’s rod and staff = God’s rod protects and disciplines us. God’s staff directs and guides us.
[ix] “You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes” = This is the altar of Jesus. The devil strives to make
us keep at a distance from it.
[x] “anoint my head with oil” = It is believed that this refers to the blessed sacraments. Also, it was customary to anoint the head of guests with perfumes, both among the Jews and Gentiles.
[xi] “my cup overflows” = The overflowing cup was a powerful symbol in the days of David. Hosts in the ancient East used it to send a message to a guest. As long as the cup was kept full, the guest knew he was welcome. But when the cup set empty, the host was hinting that the hour was late. On those occasions, however, when the host really enjoyed the person, he filled the cup to overflowing. (Rick Warren)
[xii] “goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life” = The effect of worthy participation at God’s table, leads us to a happy eternity.
[xiii] Reading 2 Footnotes:
“for He is our peace” = Through His death on the cross, Christ has abolished the division between Jews and Gentiles. The Gentiles, who had been excluded from the Old Covenant, and its accompanying blessings, are now included in the New Covenant on an equal basis with the Jews. This New Covenant was ritually accomplished with the blood of Christ. Jesus’ obedience to God’s wishes, to the point of a sacrificial death, has atoned for the disobedience of Adam, and also for the sin of the golden calf. That is, Christ destroyed the enmity which, like a wall of separation, stood between Jew and Gentile, and united them into one people. He did this in His flesh, by his own blood – the sacrifice He made of His flesh on the cross. Jesus is the “Prince of Peace”.
[xiv]  “one person in place of the two” = Jesus is this new person because He is the new Adam – the one who stands for both Jew and Gentile.
[xv] “in one Spirit to the Father” = The unity of Christians, in one body, i.e. the church, is based on their participation in one Holy Spirit.
[xvi] Gospel Footnotes:
“apostles” = This is the only place in the Gospel of Mark where the twelve are called “apostles” – one who is sent. They are usually called disciples – “students”. In the verse immediately preceding our reading today, St. Mark refers to John the Baptist’s disciples and thus must refer to the twelve as apostles for reasons of clarity.
[xvii] “go to a deserted place and rest a while” A Christian must be ready to sacrifice their time and their rest in service of the Gospel. This attitude should lead us to change our plans when the good of souls is at stake. But Jesus also teaches here to have the common sense not to go to extremes with which we cannot physically cope. St. Bede The Venerable, in commenting on this passage, said “The Lord makes His disciples rest, to show those in charge that people who work or preach cannot do so without breaks.”
[xviii] “the crowd arrived before them” = Because this crowd traveled without food, this sets the stage for the multiplication of the loaves and fishes – feeding of the 5000, which we will hear in next week’s Gospel.
[xix] “they were like sheep without a shepherd” = This depicts Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Jesus takes care of the people.


 

SR-2018-07-15

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
15th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle B) – July 15, 2018


This Sunday’s Theme: Evangelizing.

Today readings have Amos, St, Paul and Jesus’ Apostles all trying to evangelize their communities – through prophesizing, preaching, redeeming, converting, and exorcising.

PRAYER FOR EVANGELIZATION

God of truth, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, hear our prayer for those who do not know you so that Your name maybe praised among all peoples of the world. Sustain and inspire Your servants who bring them the Gospel. Bring fresh vigor to wavering faith; sustain our faith when it is still fragile. Renew our missionary zeal. Make us witnesses to your goodness, full of love, of strength, and of faith, for your glory and for the salvation of the world. Amen. (Pope Paul IV)


Reading 1 – Amos 7:12-15     The prophet Amos is sent from Bethel.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 85:9-14     A prayer for the Lord’s salvation for us.

Reading 2 – Ephesians 1:3-14      Paul teaches that we were chosen for Christ before the creation of the world.

Gospel – Mark 6:7-13     Jesus instructs His disciples and sends them to preach repentance.


Reading 1     Amos 7:12-15               (God Makes a Prophet)

Context – Amos, a shepherd, was called by God (760 – 750 BC) to the difficult mission of preaching harsh words during what was Israel’s height of territorial expansion and national prosperity, never again achieved. He spoke against Israel’s reliance upon military might, grave injustice in social dealings, abhorrent immorality, and shallow meaningless piety. There were sharp contrasts between rich and poor and many instances of inequality and injustice: the spirit of true religion was difficult to find.
Today’s Reading – Amos condemns the injustices and religious hypocrisy that are very prevalent in and around Bethel at this time (Bethel is about 14 miles north of Jerusalem).
While born in the southern Kingdom of Judah, Amos began his ministry in the northern Kingdom of Israel, which is where today’s first reading is set. He is considered a foreigner by the local priest who scolds him for prophesying against the corruption which was rather rampant in the northern kingdom at the time. In the verses immediately preceding today’s reading, Amos has said “(The Israeli king) Jeroboam II will die by the sword, and Israel will surely go into exile, away from their native land.” Indeed, within a few decades, in 722 BC, the Kingdom of Israel would fall to the Assyrian Empire. In any event, Amos would not abandon his calling by God and continued his prophetic work. He was faithful to God’s word rather than to the common public opinion.

Amaziah, priest of Bethel, said to Amos, “Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah! There earn your bread by prophesying, but never again prophesy in Bethel; for it is the king’s sanctuary and a royal temple.” Amos answered Amaziah, “I was no prophet[i], nor have I belonged to a company of prophets; I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores[ii]. The LORD took me from following the flock, and said to me, Go, prophesy to My people Israel.”


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           On the one hand, a prophet’s presence in a community was a sign that God was interested in that community, and that God’s power was at work among the people. On the other hand, having a prophet close by often contrasted with what passed for the ordinary and culturally acceptable. Sometimes the ordinary culture was the target of the prophet’s critique.  With this in mind See the above Context information for Reading 1 – it states: He (Amos) spoke against Israel’s reliance upon military might, grave injustice in social dealings, abhorrent immorality, and shallow meaningless piety. There were sharp contrasts between rich and poor and many instances of inequality and injustice: the spirit of true religion was difficult to find.”. Given today’s almost exact intolerable situations, we should pay close attention to the Book of Amos. His predictions of doom come true and his predictions of restoration also come true. The key for today’s society is to change for the good, now, so doom is not necessary for our restoration.


Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 85:9-14                     (The Lord’s Salvation)

Today’s Psalm – This psalm is a proclamation of the coming of peace to those that maintain the reverential and worshipful Fear of the Lord.  It describes what will happen when the people repent and turn back to God.

R. – Lord, let us see Your kindness, and grant us Your salvation.
I will hear what God proclaims; the LORD —for He proclaims peace. Near indeed is His salvation to those who fear Him, glory dwelling in our land.
R. – Lord, let us see Your kindness, and grant us Your salvation.
Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven.
R. – Lord, let us see Your kindness, and grant us Your salvation.
The LORD Himself will give His benefits; our land shall yield its increase. Justice shall walk before Him, and prepare the way of His steps.
R. – Lord, let us see Your kindness, and grant us Your salvation.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           How does one – “maintain the reverential and worshipful Fear of 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”. In summary:  – Discover Him, Learn about Him, Worship Him (devotion).   – Seek His will in all matters and act upon it (service).    – Be obedient to Him in both good and bad times.   – Love Him and give Him thanks.   – Reflect Jesus in our thoughts, words, and deeds.   – Do justly, love kindness, be merciful, humble yourself, and walk humbly with your God.   – Tell others about Him.   – Hate evil.   The “fear of the Lord” is one of the seven gifts from the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 11:2) but we must open up this gift (i.e. this ability) and use it as shown in all the above ways.


Reading 2     Ephesians 1:3-14                      (Christ’s Headship)

Context – Ephesians sets before us a vision of Christ reigning in Heaven next to the Father and renewing the earth through His Church. It shows God’s saving work through Jesus. The Church is nothing less than God’s new creation in Christ.
Today’s Reading – Today’s reading is an acclaim of praise to God for the plan of salvation which He has devised and brought to fulfillment for the benefit of humankind and all creation. This week’s word is aimed directly at normal Christians (us) who are busy with life and all that goes with it. The only real antidote to being too busy is to make time and take time to be reflective, to see, and to appreciate those blessings to which this reading from Ephesians refers. Full, conscious, and active participation is the tone and attitude which each and all disciples should implement, preserve, and conserve in each and every aspect of Church life. (The Franciscans St. Anthony’s Guild)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens[iii], as He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before Him. In love He destined us[iv] for adoption to Himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of His will, for the praise of the glory of His grace that He granted us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption by His blood[v], the forgiveness of transgressions, in accord with the riches of His grace that He lavished upon us. In all wisdom and insight, He has made known to us the mystery of His will[vi] in accord with His favor that He set forth in Him as a plan for the fullness of times, to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth.

In Him we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of His will, so that we might exist for the praise of His glory, we who first hoped in Christ. In Him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit[vii], which is the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s possession, to the praise of His glory.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           so that we might exist for the praise of His glory To exist for the praise of His glory is thus to affirm one’s “chosenness” by us choosing others as we have been chosen, drawing them into the love that chose us. To see the outcast, the loner, the oppressed, and somehow to embrace them for who they are, not because that’s what our “religion” prescribes but because that’s what we actually see and want to do: that is to exist for the praise of His glory. (Catholic Moral Theology)
We are called and privileged to glorify God, not just in singing and praying, not just in doing things we identify as “spiritual,” but also in every part of life, in every action, every thought, every feeling. Just think of how different your life might be if you began to think of glorifying God as the core purpose of everything. (Theology of Work Project)


Gospel     Mark 6:7-13                                   (Spreading the Gospel)

Context – St. Mark’s Gospel was the first written of the Gospels contained in the New Testament. The date of writing was prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. St. Peter was Mark’s primary source of information about the life of Jesus. Mark is primarily known by his Roman name “Mark” but is sometimes called by his Jewish name “John” in other New Testament Writings. He was a cousin to Barnabas and  an associate of St. Paul. Recognizing Jesus as the divine Son of God is the goal of this gospel. And it was written to encourage Christians who were suffering persecution for their faith. It begins with the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist.
Today’s Reading – Just as Amos was sent to the people of northern Israel, “the Twelve” (representing the New Israel) are sent out two by two to replicate the work of Jesus, namely, to glorify God, to heal, teach and cast out demons. They are to travel light and believe that God will act through them, and they are to depend on the hospitality of others for food and lodging. If rejected they are to “shake the dust off their feet”—a symbolic gesture which would have let the people know they themselves were rejecting God’s Word. If welcomed, they should preach repentance. The passage ends on a joyful note:  evil is conquered and the sick anointed and healed.

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two[viii] and gave them authority over unclean spirits[ix]. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick— no food, no sack, no money in their belts[x]. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave. Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.” So they went off and preached repentance. The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          The Twelve drove out many demons” – According to Catholic theology we are hunted by the devil and his minions but also protected by hosts of angels, including angels specifically assigned to the protection of each one of us. But we have to invoke this protection as with any other prayer of petition.  The Gospel reading has Jesus’ Apostles, in biblical times, healing people of their demons. We also need this same protection in our lives today!! Personal demons prevent us from being the best person we can be. We need to carry out spiritual warfare to rid demons from ourselves and from our loved ones. In 1994 Saint Pope John Paul II requested the faithful to take up the praying of the Prayer to St. Michael in the battle of our times “against the forces of darkness and against the spirit of this world.”  Initially, Pope Leo XIII introduced this special prayer to St Michael throughout the Church. “St. Michael the archangel defend us in battle Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray, and do though o prince of the heavenly host By the power of God cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.”   John Paul II continues – “Although today this prayer is no longer recited at the end of Mass, I ask everyone not to forget it, and to recite it to obtain help in the battle against the forces of darkness and against the spirit of this world.”  I believe It would be good to pray this prayer every day for ourselves and loved ones. Here is a web site for more information and support with this: www.foundationforpriests.org, move the cursor over the burgundy banner to “Learn More”, this will produce a list of choices, and then click on down to “Spiritual Warfare” (third from the bottom of the list).
Take an active inspection of your thoughts, actions and interactions. Open your hearts to God’s truth through daily prayer (e.g. daily Examine Prayer), reading God’s Word, and quiet reflection. His Spirit will show you what you need to know to guard your hearts and those you love. “Put on the whole armor of God.” Spiritual warfare is very real and present today, as it has been since the beginning of time. You don’t hear of it in the daily news report or community gossip. But it is fought daily, and souls are won or lost every day.  It is unrelenting, and so must be our counter-response. Fortunately, we have all the battle resources needed. We have God’s Word, His Spirit, and our gifts. We are reinforced by the company of fellow Christians and an army of Angels. And, finally, we have the ultimate battle resource – God’s love and supreme power. It’s incredible, but some people become participants, either knowingly or unknowingly, in promoting evil works against others. Kathleen Beckman, L.H.S., is the Co-founder and President of the Foundation of Prayer for Priests and provided this reference.

Catechism 1673 – When the Church asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of Jesus Christ that a person or object be protected against the power of the Evil One and withdrawn from his dominion, it is called exorcism. Jesus performed exorcisms and from Him the Church has received the power and office of exorcizing. In a simple form, exorcism is performed at the celebration of Baptism. The solemn exorcism, called “a major exorcism,” can be performed only by a priest and with the permission of the bishop. The priest must proceed with prudence, strictly observing the rules established by the Church. Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to His Church. Illness, especially psychological illness, is a very different matter; treating this is the concern of medical science. Therefore, before an exorcism is performed, it is important to ascertain that one is dealing with the presence of the Evil One, and not an illness.



Reading 1 Footnotes:
[i] “I am not a prophet” = That is, I am not a prophet by education: nor is prophesying my calling or profession: but I am a herdsman, whom God was pleased to send hither to prophesy to Israel.
[ii] “dresser of sycamore trees” = One who pierced sycamore figs so they would ripen and be edible. Maybe the Lord thought if Amos can open the figs to provide good sustenance, he might be able to open the minds of the polarized people to make them good disciples of the Word of God.

Reading 2 Footnotes:
[iii] References to God the Father, Jesus the Christ, and spiritual blessings is a reference to the Holy Trinity (it is the Holy Spirit who distributes these spiritual blessings of God).
[iv] “He destined us” = Not individual predestination, but God’s choice for all humankind to share in His covenant life (Romans 8:15).
[v] “redemption by Jesus’ blood” = Redemption implies setting free. Because of Original Sin causing, among other evils, the golden calf incident, humankind was not free, could not approach God directly, could not approach without a sacrificial animal. Jesus’ death on the cross provided the once for all sacrifice which consecrated the altar and all humankind (Galatians 4:5).
[vi] “the mystery of His will” = The call to Gentiles as well as Jews to share in Christ’s redemptive work here on this earth.

 

“fullness of time” = “The fullness of time was the Son’s appearing. … The fullness of time is that divine wisdom, at the moment when all were most likely to perish, they were saved.” (St. John Chrysostom)
[vii] “were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” = Refers to the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. In the old covenant, the male child was sealed to God through circumcision. In the new covenant we are all sealed through baptism (Colossians 2:11-12). In the ancient world, seals were marks of ownership and protection. We believers are divinely sealed by the Holy Spirit at Baptism and Confirmation. Baptism does to the soul what circumcision did to the body: it marks it with a sign and seal of the covenant.

Gospel Footnotes:
[viii] “Jesus sent them out two by two” = This isn’t just safety in numbers, two witnesses are required in any life and death situation (Deuteronomy 19:15). Preaching the gospel of Jesus the Christ is preaching about spiritual life and death.
[ix] “Jesus gave them authority over unclean spirits” = The sending out of the Apostles is an extension of Jesus’ ministry of teaching, healing, and exorcizing.
[x] “take only bare essentials” = Jesus requires them to be free of any form of attachment if they are to preach the Gospel. A disciple, who has the mission of bringing the Kingdom of God to souls through preaching, should not rely on human resources but on God’s providence. This is their vow of poverty.


 

SR-2018-07-08

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
14th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle B) – July 8, 2018


This Sunday’s Theme: Preaching the Word of God.

Reading 1 and the Gospel are about the unfortunate consequences to the people by their lack of acceptance to the preachings of the Word of God by their prophet and Priest (Ezekiel and Jesus, respectively). Reading 2 is about the consequences incurred by the preacher (Paul) in preaching the Word of God.

Truth can be very painful and is sometimes a most difficult message to preach as well as to hear and accept. The purpose of the prophet and priest is fundamentally to help the community and individuals to engage the truth. What a happy day it is when the truth is consoling or edifying to us. But, how challenging and burdensome can be the truth when it requires us to change, to repent, to accept reality which is other than what we had expected or desired. (The Franciscans St. Anthony’s Guild)


Reading 1 – Ezekiel 2:2-5     The Lord sends the prophet Ezekiel to the Israelites.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 123:1-4     A prayer to God for mercy.

Reading 2 – 2 Corinthians 12:7-10     Paul bears insults and weakness for the sake of Christ.

Gospel – Mark 6:1-6     Jesus is rejected in His hometown.


Reading 1     Ezekiel 2:2-5                             (God’s Prophet)

Context – Ezekiel was a Hebrew priest and prophet, whose ministry to his fellow exiles in Babylon extended from 593 to 563 BC. He was a contemporary of Jeremiah. As a prophet to exiles, he assured his hearers of the abiding presence of God among them. The Book of Ezekiel is one of four books of the major prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel); the three greatest being Isaiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. These three are now placed in chronological order in our Bibles, but an earlier order existed in which Jeremiah was first and Isaiah was last: “Jeremiah is all doom; Ezekiel begins with doom but ends with consolation; while Isaiah is all consolation.” This early arrangement was built on moving from doom to hope with Ezekiel in the middle as the hinge (or dividing line) between the two. The book of Ezekiel itself divides into two equal parts: Chapters 1 through 24 are oracles of judgment against Israel; and chapters 25 through 28 propose a variety of words of support and hope. Ezekiel is referenced more in the Book of Revelation than in any other New Testament writing.
Today’s Reading – The call and commission of Ezekiel are recounted in this brief reading. “The Holy Spirit entered me and set me on my feet.” The Holy Spirit of God enables the prophet to stand tall. The Holy Spirit will energize and empower Ezekiel to speak the word that God places in his heart. The prophet is told that the Israelites, to whom he is being sent, are a rebellious people, hard to face, and obstinate of heart. Thus Ezekiel is being prepared for the resistance he will face when he delivers God’s message. Even though the people will reject God’s Word, they will know that a prophet has been in their midst. The presence of God’s prophet amongst the suffering people was a sign that God’s power was still in their midst, even though they had shown themselves less than worthy of it. Ezekiel’s role, as is every other Prophet role, is to announce God’s message.

As the LORD spoke to me, the [Holy] Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard the One who was speaking say to me: Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, rebels who have rebelled against Me; they and their ancestors have revolted against Me to this very day. Hard of face and obstinate of heart are they to whom I am sending you. But you shall say to them: Thus says the LORD GOD! And whether they heed or resist[i] —for they are a rebellious house[ii]— they shall know that a prophet has been among them.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 123:1-4                     (Our Eyes are on God)

Today’s Psalm – This psalm opens with a statement of trust in God. The last stanza expresses the sentiments of one under a lot of stress: Israel in exile or Ezekiel’s feelings when his message is rejected (Reading 1).

R. – Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for His mercy.
To You I lift up my eyes Who are enthroned in heaven — As the eyes of servants are on the hands of their masters.
R. – Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for His mercy.
As the eyes of a maid are on the hands of her mistress, So are our eyes on the LORD, our God, till He have pity on us.
[iii]
R. – Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for His mercy.
Have pity on us, O LORD, have pity on us, for we are more than sated with contempt; our souls are more than sated with the mockery of the arrogant, with the contempt of the proud.
[iv]
R. – Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for His mercy.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Reading 2     2 Corinthians 12:7-10              (Suffering for 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 – So many of the people we regard as great have had tremendous obstacles to overcome along their respective paths to greatness. Paul speaks about his struggles. We cannot know for sure what he means by the phrases “thorn in the flesh” and “an angel of Satan to beat me.” While Paul could have had some inner psychological weakness or physical problem, scholars tend to believe that “thorn in the flesh” is some outer problem he encountered in his opponents and critics. We can presume Paul was reluctant to accept his “thorn in the flesh” not because he did not want to suffer, but because he saw it as an impediment to his ministry. God’s response to Paul is: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” God wants to use Paul’s crisis to keep him humble and dependent on God. This experience leads Paul to boast or rejoice in his weakness or in the insults and hardships of his ministry because it is in those moments that he most of all experiences God’s power, divine touch and sufficient grace.

Brothers and sisters: That I, Paul, might not become too elated, because of the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh[v] was given to me, an angel of Satan,
to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness
[vi].” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.[vii]


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Gospel     Mark 6:1-6                                     (Spreading the Good News)

Context – St. Mark’s Gospel was the first written of the Gospels contained in the New Testament. The date of writing was prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. St. Peter was Mark’s primary source of information about the life of Jesus. Mark is primarily known by his Roman name “Mark” but is sometimes called by his Jewish name “John” in other New Testament Writings. He was a cousin to Barnabas and  an associate of St. Paul. Recognizing Jesus as the divine Son of God is the goal of this gospel. And it was written to encourage Christians who were suffering persecution for their faith. It begins with the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist.
Today’s Reading – Just as Ezekiel and Paul experience opposition and rejection in their ministry, so does Jesus. This Gospel passage tells us that it is the “hometown people” who reject Him. This is a story of those who knew Jesus the most but understood Him the least. They “wrote Him off.” The hometown crowd could not believe that Someone just like them could be the Messiah. Their small mindedness, lack of openness, lack of faith, and their preconceived beliefs, are all an obstacle to Jesus working miracles in their midst. As with Ezekiel and Paul, Jesus continues to faithfully proclaim God’s Word regardless of His rejection by the people.  (The mention of Jesus’ siblings is in reference to His cousins. The Blessed Mother Mary was forever virgin.)

Jesus departed from there and came to His native place, accompanied by His disciples. When the Sabbath came He began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard Him were astonished. They said, “Where did this Man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given Him? What mighty deeds are wrought by His hands! Is He not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and the brother[viii] of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not His sisters[ix] here with us?” And they took offense at Him. Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.”[x] So He was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying His hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.

Catechism 2610 – Just as Jesus prays to the Father and gives thanks before receiving His gifts, so He teaches us filial boldness: “Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will.” Such is the power of prayer and of faith that does not doubt: “all things are possible to him who believes.” Jesus is as saddened by the “lack of faith” of His own neighbors and the “little faith” of His own disciples as He is struck with admiration at the great faith of the Roman centurion and the Canaanite woman.



[i] Reading 1 Footnotes:
“whether they heed or resist” = Means weather they use their Free Will to obey God or to disobey God. The people may ignore the prophet’s words even though they originate from God, but Ezekiel’s presence speaks harsh realities that cannot be ignored.
[ii] “For they are a rebellious house” = A reference to the kingdom of Judah whose apostasy (i.e. the abandonment or renunciation of a religious or political belief.) was the cause of their exile.
[iii] Responsorial Psalm Footnotes:
“Our eyes are fixed on the Lord” = The writer looked up to the Sovereign of the universe and prayed for Him to send deliverance from His heavenly throne. He took a humble posture in making his request, comparing himself to a servant who can only wait for his master to act. By “watching the master’s hands” could mean looking for sustenance or for freedom. That is, looking to obtain God’s blessings in terms of sustenance and/or freedom from burdens.
[iv] “Have pity on us” = It is appropriate to request additional divine enablement to bear the criticism and mocking of unbelievers who ridicule our faith in God. We should maintain an attitude of faith, hope, and trust in God as we petition Him and wait for Him to grant our request.
[v] Reading 2 Footnotes:
“a thorn in the flesh” = Some understand this thorn to be a violent headache or pain, or distemper in the body. Some think it was the opposition which S. Paul met with from his enemies, and those of the gospel. Others understand it to be troublesome temptations of the flesh, immodest thoughts, and representations, suggested by the devil, and permitted by Almighty God for His greater good. If there were any danger of pride from his preaching, the base and filthy suggestions of the enemy of souls must have caused him humiliations and made him blush. But all these are to be borne with submission to the will of God, for His power is more evident in supporting humankind under the greatest trials, than in freeing us from the attacks.
[vi] “power is made perfect in weakness” = The strength and power of God more perfectly shines forth in our weakness and infirmity; as the more weak we are of ourselves, the more illustrious is His grace in supporting us, and giving us the victory under all trials and conflicts. “Calamity is the soil in which virtue usually grows to perfection.”
[vii] “for when I am weak, I am strong” = He has accepted weakness as a means of gaining grace.
[viii] Gospel Footnotes:
“brother” = Hebrew and Aramaic have no word for cousin or nephew, or other close male relative, other than “brother”. When Jesus was dying on the altar of the cross, Jesus entrusted His mother, Mary, to Saint John. If Mary had had other children, Hebrew tradition would have demanded that she be placed under their care.
[ix] “sisters” = The word “sisters” is used for all female close relatives in Hebrew and Aramaic.
[x] “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place” = Jesus quoted or invented a proverb to reply to their rejection. It expressed a principle, namely, “familiarity breeds contempt”. Jesus implied that He was a prophet, which He was. The people of Nazareth could not even appreciate this aspect of Jesus’ character because they identified Him as someone just like themselves.


SR-2018-07-01

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
13th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle B) – July 1, 2018


This Sunday’s Theme: That We may Have Life.

Reading 1 states that God gave us life as righteous individuals but that our misuse of our Free Will brings us spiritual death. Reading 2 shows how we should live as righteous people. The Gospel identifies two individuals, who by their faith and actions, receive new life.

“The word of God is the source of life and spirituality of the family.”
(Synod on the Family)


Reading 1 – Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24     Death entered the world through the work of the devil.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 30:2, 4 – 6, 11- 13     A prayer of thanksgiving to God for having rescued us.

Reading 2 – 2 Corinthians 8:7,9,13-15     As Christ became poor for our sake, so must we share with those in need from our abundance.

Gospel –  Mark 5:21-43      Jesus heals a woman afflicted with a hemorrhage and raises Jairus’s daughter from death.


Reading 1     Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24                    (Eternal Life)

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

God did not make death[i], nor does He rejoice in the destruction of the living. For He fashioned all things that they might have being; and the creatures of the world are wholesome, and there is not a destructive drug (poison) among them nor any domain of the netherworld on earth, for justice (righteousness, morality) is undying (immortal, everlasting). For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of His own nature He made him. But by the envy of the devil[ii], death entered the world, and they who belong to his company[iii] experience it.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 30:2, 4 – 6, 11- 13               (Eternal Gratitude)

Today’s Psalm – The reference to God saving the afflicted from going down into the pit connects this psalm with our Reading 1 and Gospel readings.

R. – I will praise You, Lord, for You have rescued me.
I will extol You, O LORD, for You drew me clear and did not let my enemies rejoice over me. O LORD, You brought me up from the netherworld; You preserved me from among those going down into the pit.
R. – I will praise You, Lord, for You have rescued me.
Sing praise to the LORD, you His faithful ones, and give thanks to His holy name. For His anger lasts but a moment; a lifetime, His good will. At nightfall, weeping enters in, but with the dawn, rejoicing.
R. – I will praise You, Lord, for You have rescued me.
Hear, O LORD, and have pity on me; O LORD, be my helper. You changed my mourning into dancing; O LORD, my God, forever will I give You thanks.
R. I will praise You, Lord, for You have rescued me.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Reading 2     2 Corinthians 8:7,9,13-15                    (The Need for Charity)

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 carries out the task of taking up a collection to help the poor of Jerusalem. He puts forth three reasons why the Corinthians should participate in the collection: They are abundantly blessed; Jesus has given them an excellent model of generosity (though rich, He became poor for our sake); and Their sharing will bring about an equitable distribution of material goods among the Christian communities (“Their abundance may be for your need”).

Brothers and sisters: As you excel in every respect[iv], in faith, discourse, knowledge, all earnestness, and in the love we have for you, may you excel in this gracious act also.

For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich[v], for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich. Not that others should have relief while you are burdened, but that as a matter of equality your abundance at the present time should supply their needs, so that their abundance may also supply your needs, that there may be equality. As it is written: Whoever had much did not have more, and whoever had little did not have less. (Exodus 16:18 – “Each gathered (i.e. manna) according to what they needed.”)


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Gospel     Mark 5:21-43                                 (New Life in Christ)

Context –  St. Mark’s Gospel was the first written of the Gospels contained in the New Testament. The date of writing was prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. St. Peter was Mark’s primary source of information about the life of Jesus. Mark is primarily known by his Roman name “Mark” but is sometimes called by his Jewish name “John” in other New Testament Writings. He was a cousin to Barnabas and  an associate of St. Paul. Recognizing Jesus as the divine Son of God is the goal of this gospel. And it was written to encourage Christians who were suffering persecution for their faith. It begins with the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist.
Today’s Reading –  In today’s Gospel, Mark dovetails two stories that emphasizes Jesus’ power to overcome sickness and death, plus stresses the vital role of faith and action for all seeking redemption. The hemorrhaging woman is deemed ritually unclean because of her condition. She cannot touch anyone inside or outside her home. She lives a very isolated life and is regarded an outcast. But upon hearing that the Healer is coming to town, she takes a huge risk and goes to meet Him (probably with a covered face in case she is discovered). The woman expresses tremendous faith when she says: “If only, I can touch the hem of His garment, I will be cured.”  She does and is miraculously healed. When Jesus asks: “Who touched Me?” the woman becomes terrified that she will be punished for breaking the law that prohibits the ritually unclean from touching another. But she still finds the strength to come forward and confess all to Jesus. Rather than condemning her, Jesus publicly praises her for her faith: “Daughter, your faith has saved you.”  In the second miracle story, Jesus shows His power over death. Notice how Jesus once again works this miracle in response to the powerful faith of the girl’s father, Jairus. It is mentioned that Jairus was a synagogue official. Well, we know that the synagogue officials thought very poorly of Jesus and were jealous of His power and popularity with the people. So just like the hemorrhaging woman who was already an outcast, Jairus takes the risk of becoming an outcast by associating and bonding with Jesus.

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around Him, and He stayed close to the sea. One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward. Seeing Him he fell at His feet and pleaded earnestly with Him, saying, “My daughter is at the point of death. Please, come lay Your hands on her that she may get well and live.” He went off with him, and a large crowd followed Him and pressed upon Him.

There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse. She had heard about Jesus and came up behind Him in the crowd and touched His cloak. She said, “If I but touch His clothes, I shall be cured.”[vi]
Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from Him, turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched My clothes?” But His disciples said to Jesus, “You see how the crowd is pressing upon You, and yet You ask, ‘Who touched Me?
[vii]‘” And He looked around to see who had done it. The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told Him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter[viii], your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”

While He was still speaking, people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said,
“Your daughter has died; why trouble the Teacher any longer?” Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.”[ix] He did not allow anyone to accompany Him inside except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.[x] When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, He caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. So He went in and said to them, “Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” And they ridiculed Him. Then He put them all out. He took along the child’s father and mother
and those who were with Him and entered the room where the child was. He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around. At that they were utterly astounded. He gave strict orders that no one should know this and said that she should be given something to eat.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           Faith and action. The two go hand in hand. A traditional saying sometimes attributed to Saint Augustine is that Christians should pray as though everything depends on God and then work (act) as though everything depends upon you.
This is demonstrated in this Gospel passage. The faith of Jairus and of the unnamed woman is revealed in their actions. The synagogue official finds Jesus and asks Him to pray for his dying daughter. The woman reaches out in the faith that Jesus is the Messiah of Israel who can heal her if she could only grab hold of one of the tassels of His prayer shawl. Both are rewarded for their actions. Both reach out to Jesus and both find healing.
Where is the lesson for us? Our life of faith needs to be in concert with our actions. Sometimes we need to reach out and ask for help or healing. (American Bible Society) 

Catechism 2616 – Prayer to Jesus is answered by Him already during His ministry, through signs that anticipate the power of His death and Resurrection: Jesus hears the prayer of faith, expressed in words (the leper, Jairus, the Canaanite woman, the good thief) or in silence (the bearers of the paralytic, the woman with a hemorrhage who touches His clothes, the tears and ointment of the sinful woman). The urgent request of the blind men, “Have mercy on us, Son of David” or “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” has-been renewed in the traditional prayer to Jesus known as the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!”  Healing infirmities or forgiving sins, Jesus always responds to a prayer offered in faith: “Your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

St. Augustine wonderfully summarizes the three dimensions of Jesus’ prayer: “He prays for us as our priest, prays in us as our Head, and is prayed to by us as our God. Therefore let us acknowledge our voice in Him and His in us.”



NEW LIFE IN CHRIST

Gone is the guilt of my sin, Peace is now reigning within; Since I believed, pardon received, Happy, so happy I’ve been!

Chorus:
New Life in Christ! Abundant and free! What glories shine, what joys are mine, What wondrous blessings I see!
My past with its sin, The searching and strife, Forever gone, there’s a bright new dawn! For in Christ I have found New Life!

Brighter the journey each day, Tho there is much to dismay; Heaven awaits – Bright pearly gates, There at the end of the way.

Come with your sin-burdened heart, Christ will his cleansing impart; He will forgive – in him you’ll live, O how the joy bells will start. 
(John W. Peterson)



  [i] Reading 1 Footnotes:
“God did not make death.” = The author is not speaking of physical death but of spiritual death, the eternal separation from God. Adam and Eve brought spiritual death into the world by their misuse of their Free Will. However, Jesus’ sacrificial death rectified things for us by giving us the opportunity to attain eternal life in heaven.
[ii] “envy of the devil” = The devil’s envy was caused, perhaps, because Adam was in the image of God or because Adam had control over all creation.
[iii] “they who belong to the devil’s company” = Those who misuse their Free Will.
[iv] Reading 2 Footnotes:
“you excel in every respect” = The Corinthians were blessed in many ways, both spiritually and economically.
[v] “though He was rich” = A reference to Jesus before he “emptied” Himself and became man in the form of a servant. He completely and freely, lowered Himself to our level, concealing His divine nature under the veil of human flesh. He was subject to being tempted just as we are, yet without ever sinning!
[vi] Gospel Footnotes:
“She said, but if I touch His clothes …” = Mark 6:56 states “Whatever villages or towns or countryside Jesus entered, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged Him that they might touch only the tassel on His cloak; and as many as touched it were healed.” So it was well known that Jesus had miraculous powers. Therefore, she believed Jesus to be the Messiah and acted boldly on that belief by touching His garment, when the opportunity presented itself. She had been figuratively “dead”—untouchable in her community, but now she has been called back to normal life. Her faith saved her. Today, we also believe that the relics of Saints have miraculous powers.
[vii] “Jesus asked “Who touched Me?” = The almighty Jesus certainly know who had touched Him. He just wanted the woman to confess herself to Him. Just like He knows our sins but wants us to confess them to Him in order for us to show proper repentance and then be forgiven.
[viii] “Jesus called her “daughter”” = This is the only time in Mark’s Gospel that Jesus called someone “daughter”. This could be interpreted that by Jesus calling her “daughter” He is teaching us that by her faith and action (i.e. obedient belief), she has become part of the “family” of God where there is healing for and acceptance.
[ix] “Do not be afraid, only have faith” = Dissenters grossly abuse this and other similar texts of Scripture, to prove that faith alone will suffice for justification. The issue here is the definition of “faith”. We believe that “faith” requires obedient belief not just belief. Obedient belief involves obedience to God’s divine law.
[x] Peter, James and John = Jesus’ closest disciples who were present with Him at the Transfiguration and the Garden of Gethsemane. They are the only apostles Jesus renamed: Simon became “Peter”, and James and John were called “sons of thunder”. I wonder why just these three?


 

SR-2018-06-24

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
Nativity of St. John The Baptist (Cycle B) – June 24, 2018


This Sunday’s Theme: Real Greatness of Saint John The Baptist.

The Jewish historian Josephus, giving testimony of John the Baptist’s holiness, writes: “He was indeed a man endued with all virtue, who exhorted the Jews to the practice of justice towards all people and piety towards God; and also to baptism, preaching that they would become acceptable to God if they renounced their sins, and to the cleanness of their bodies added purity of soul.” Thus, Jews and Christians unite in reverence and love for this prophet-saint whose life is an incomparable example of both humility and courage.


Reading 1 – Isaiah 49:1-6     You are My servant, through whom I show My glory.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 139:1-3,13-15     I praise You for I am wonderfully made.

Reading 2 – Acts 13:22-26     John the Baptist announced the coming of Jesus.

Gospel –  Luke 1:57-66,80     John the Baptist is born and all wonder what the child will be.


Reading 1     Isaiah 49:1-6                (A Light to the Nations)

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 (i.e. 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 –  In the book of Isaiah, there are four “Suffering Servant Song”, passages that refer to a mysterious person. In the early Church, the servant was often identified with Jesus. For today’s feast, we can identify this servant person with John the Baptist who is also a very special servant of God.
Like John the Baptist, this servant was called from the moment of his conception. The servant is set aside to carry out a special mission. He is endowed with an eloquence as piercing as a sharp-edged sword or a polished arrow. His being “concealed in the shadow of God’s arm” may indicate divine protection.
The servant bears his soul with us when he says that he believes he has “toiled in vain”. But God reassures him that his “reward or recompense is with God.” With a deep sense that God is his strength, the servant believes that he will be used to restore Israel and bring light to the nations.

Hear me, O coastlands, listen, O distant peoples. The LORD called me[i] from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name[ii]. He made of me a sharp-edged sword[iii] and concealed me in the shadow of His arm. He made me a polished arrow, in His quiver (a container for holding arrows) He hid me. You are My servant, He said to me, Israel, through whom I show My glory.[iv]

Though I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, yet my reward is with the LORD, my recompense is with my God. For now the LORD has spoken Who formed me as His servant from the womb, that Jacob (nation of Israel) may be brought back to Him and Israel gathered to Him; and I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD, and my God is now my strength! It is too little, He says, for you to be My servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.  


Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 139:1-3,13-15                      (The Lord Our Maker)

Today’s Psalm – These verses are a beautiful reflection on God as always being with us even from the moment He knits us together in our mother’s womb (i.e. from conception). 1. He named both Jesus and John the Baptist when they were still in their mothers’ wombs. 2. Consider that John-the-Baptist while in his mother Elizabeth’s womb, was able to discern being in the presence of Jesus who was in the womb of the Blessed Mary, and he jumped for joy.

R. – I praise You, for I am wonderfully made.
O LORD, You have probed me, You know me: You know when I sit and when I stand; You understand my thoughts from afar. My journeys and my rest You scrutinize, with all my ways You are familiar.
R. I praise You for I am wonderfully made.
Truly You have formed my inmost being; You knit me in my mother’s womb. I give You thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works.
R. I praise You, for I am wonderfully made.
My soul also You knew full well; nor was my frame unknown to You When I was made in secret, when I was fashioned in the depths of the earth
(the mothers’ womb).
R. I praise You, for I am wonderfully made.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           Before his death, Rabbi Zusya said, “When I get to the heavenly court, God will not ask me, ‘Why weren’t you Moses?’ Rather He will ask me, ‘Why were you not Zusya?” (Meaning – Before we are born, God has made a unique will for each and every one of us – Psalm 139:13. We need to find it, follow it, and share it.)
The entirety of Psalm 139 was Mother Angelica’s favorite psalm. It is used as part of Praying the Daily Examen of St. Ignatius of Loyola.


Reading 2     Acts 13:22-26                            (John The Baptist, Herald of Jesus)

Context – The history of the early Church is represented in the New Testament by the Book of Acts. Luke, a physician and thought to be a companion of Paul, first wrote the “Gospel According to Luke” and then wrote the “Acts of the Apostles”, sometimes called the “Gospel of the Holy Spirit” or the first History of the Church, and we learn how the early Christian Church conducted itself. It is the only New Testament document devoted exclusively to the story of the early Church. The Catholic Church uses this book at Mass almost exclusively through the Easter season, from Easter Sunday to Pentecost. According to Acts, the Church is a community entrusted with a mission to carry the “good news” of Jesus Christ forth to the whole world.
Today’s Reading –  This reading is a part of a larger speech in which Paul emphasizes all the interventions God undertook for Israel. The actions of Jesus are, of course, central to God’s entire saving plan. In these verses, Paul indicates how special David was to God. Jesus, a descendent of David, is heralded by John the Baptist who preaches a “baptism of repentance,” Paul concludes by saying that his message of salvation is meant for us all.
In looking at the historical perspective, there are three distinct periods which can be described in the history of the world: (1) the period of Israel, which extends from creation to Saint John the Baptist; (2) the period of Jesus, which encompasses the three years of His public ministry (from John the Baptist to the Ascension); and (3) the period of the Church, from the Ascension until the end of time.

In those days, Paul said: “God raised up David as king; of him God testified, I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after My own heart; he will carry out My every wish (Psalm 89:20, 1 Samuel 13:14). From this man’s descendants God, according to His promise, has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus[v]. John heralded His coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel[vi]; and as John was completing his course, he would say, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not He. Behold, One is coming after me;
I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of His feet.’

“My brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those others among you who are God-fearing, to us this word of salvation has been sent.”


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Gospel     Luke 1:57-66,80                                        (Birth of John the Baptist)

Context –  Luke was a physician and a follower of Paul. His Gospel was written in 59-61 AD. He was probably the only Gentile writer in the Bible. Luke’s gospel includes Jesus words and works in Galilee, His journey to Jerusalem (which includes more episodes of Jesus’ life than do the other Evangelists), 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.
Today’s Reading –  In the verses before those read today, the birth of John the Baptist has been announced by the angel Gabriel to Zechariah, who was performing his duties as a High Priest in the Jerusalem Temple. (Gabriel also announced the birth of Jesus to Mary in her home in Nazareth.) Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, are an old couple who have never had children.
We read today that Elizabeth’s neighbors and relatives rejoice with her because God has shown her mercy in the birth of a son. But they are confused when she tells them that his name is to be John, which means “God has been gracious.” They are confused because the children were normally given family member names. Zechariah has been unable to speak since Gabriel appeared, because, unlike Mary, he doubted the angel’s word. But when he writes on a tablet “John is his name” all are amazed, and a great fear comes upon everyone. Fear, along with joy and praise, is for Luke the appropriate response to God’s mercy. People ask, “What, then, will this child be?” But this question has already been answered by the angel. “He will be great in the sight of the Lord. He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.”
Zechariah responds with praise in his famous canticle, the Benedictus (See below for its entirety). John will become strong in spirit living in the desert until it is time to show himself to the people of Israel. When John appears again at the beginning of Chapter 3, after the stories of the birth and childhood of Jesus, he will prepare those people for the ministry of Jesus by preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

 When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown His great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her. When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child[vii], they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John[viii].” But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.” So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him. The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           St. John The Baptist remained in the desert till the 30th year of his age. The reason why he concealed himself for so long was because he feared the cruelty of Herod; for, though he was not under his jurisdiction, not being on the confines of Bethlehem, yet on account of the remarkable events that took place at his birth, by which he was declared the precursor of the Messiah, he had reason to dread the cruelty of the jealous and suspicious Herod. It is believed that when he was yet in his mother’s arms, he was conveyed into the desert, and there concealed in the caves and fissures of the rocks, where people concealed themselves on the approach of their enemies. Forty days after their flight, the mother of St. John The Baptist died; after which, an angel is said to have undertaken the care of him; but most probably this office was performed by some attendant on S. Elizabeth. St. John The Baptist remained in the desert till he began his public ministry, which by a law of the Jews could not be much before he had attained his 30th years. He is styled by antiquity the first hermit. (St. Jerome) 


Catechism 719 –  John the Baptist is “more than a prophet.” In him, the Holy Spirit concludes His speaking through the prophets. John completes the cycle of prophets begun by Elijah. He proclaims the imminence of the consolation of Israel; he is the “voice” of the Consoler who is coming. As the Holy Spirit of truth will also do, John “came to bear witness to the light.” In John’s sight, the Holy Spirit thus brings to completion the careful search of the prophets and fulfills the longing of the angels. “He on whom you see the Holy Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God. . . . Behold, the Lamb of God.”


Benedictus (Song of Zechariah)

The Benedictus was the song of thanksgiving uttered by Zechariah on the occasion of the circumcision of his son, John the Baptist. The canticle received its name from its first words in Latin (Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel”). Aside – The title of Papal Encyclicals are also usually taken from its first few words (its incipit – meaning “it begins”).

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; He has come to His people and set them free. He has raised up for us a mighty savior, born of the house of His servant David. Through His holy prophets He promised of old that He would save us from our enemies, from the hands of all who hate us. He promised to show mercy to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant. This was the oath He swore to our father Abraham: to set us free from the hands of our enemies, free to worship Him without fear, holy and righteous in His sight all the days of our life. You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare His way, to give His people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins. In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”


[i] Reading 1 Footnotes:
“The Lord called me from birth” = It is not known exactly who is being referred to here, some think Jesus, or the nation of Israel, or King Cyrus (he released the Jews from their Babylonian captivity and allowed them to return to Israel from their exile), or Isaiah, and some think John the Baptist. Regardless of whom it is, God sets His chosen ones on the way of their vocation even before their birth.
[ii] “He gave me my name” = This was true for John the Baptist (Luke 1:13 – where an angel told Zechariah to call his son, John) and for Jesus (Luke 1:31 – the Annunciation, where angel Gabriel told Mary to call her Son, Jesus. ASIDE: In Matthew 1:21 – an angel appeared in a dream telling Joseph to call his Son, Jesus. Why the difference? There is nothing strange in this being to Joseph the first knowledge of the Name, which St. Luke tells us had been previously been imparted to Mary. The customs of the Jews were against any communications between the bride and bridegroom during the period of betrothal. Therefore, the Lord communicated the Name to both Mary and to Joseph, separately.
[iii] “He made of me a sharp-edged sword” = He is given the gifts of a prophet, the ability to proclaim the word of God.
[iv] “… my servant, … Israel” = This particular verse appears to be addressed not to an individual, but to the nation of Israel; the nation which became God’s servant, rather than His child, because of the sin of the golden calf. Prior to the golden calf, God had declared that “Israel is my first-born son” (Exodus 4:22) and as the first-born, Israel had the responsibility to give the proper example to all the other nations. Like the prodigal son, there is always hope that Israel will repent, return and be restored to the family.
[v] Reading 2 Footnotes:
“brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus” = This is the main proclamation to the Jews by St. Paul, A Jew himself, to whom God spoke directly during his conversion. But, they have as yet to believe and accept Jesus.
[vi] “a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel” = This indicates the end of the period of Israel and the beginning of the period of Jesus – the New Covenant.
[vii] Gospel Footnotes:
“circumcise the child” = Leviticus 12:3 requires circumcision on the eighth day. By being circumcised, the child bears the mark which indicates that they are part of the covenant people of God. The ceremony of circumcision was a climactic moment when God and His people are covenanted in the perfect fulfillment of the promises on God’s part and the perfect observance of the Law on Israel’s part.
[viii] Naming a child at birth versus at circumcision = The Jews usually named their children at birth, but the Hellenists did so a few days later. Perhaps this custom influenced Zechariah and Elizabeth to name John at his circumcision.


SR-2018-06-17

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
11th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle B) – June 17, 2018


This Sunday’s Theme: Faith, Hope, and Trust.

The Scripture readings foretell that having faith, hope, and trust in the Lord will help us to successfully navigate through plus help progress His Kingdom on Earth on our way to His Kingdom in Heaven. Parables are used to explain how His Kingdom on Earth began and how it is evolving.

Faith (i.e. obedient belief) is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen.
(Hebrews 11:1)
Oh blood and water that gushed forth from the heart of Jesus as a fount of mercy for us. I
trust in You.
(St. Faustina)


Reading 1 – Ezekiel 17:22–24     A prophecy of faith, hope, and trust that the Lord will restore Israel after the exile.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 92:2–3,13–16     Lord, it is good to give thanks to You.

Reading 2 – 2 Corinthians 5:6–10     Believing that “we walk by faith and not by sight” is a profession of faith, hope, and trust in God’s providence

Gospel –  Mark 4:26–34     The evolution of the Kingdom of God is portrayed by the parables of the growing seed and the mustard seed.


Reading 1     Ezekiel 17:22–24                      (The Lord’s Shoot)

Context – Ezekiel was a Hebrew priest and prophet, whose ministry to his fellow exiles in Babylon extended from 593 to 563 BC. He was a contemporary of Jeremiah. As a prophet to exiles, he assured his hearers of the abiding presence of God among them. He constantly emphasized the Lord’s role in the events of the day. He underscored the integrity of the individual and his personal responsibility to God. To a helpless and hopeless people, he brought hope of restoration to homeland and temple by their just and holy God. Ezekiel is referenced more in the Book of Revelation than in any other New Testament writing.
Today’s Reading –  The Jews are in exile and Ezekiel prophecies that God promises to bring a new king from the house of David back into power and restore their homeland. In today’s reading, the tender tree branch cut by God and transplanted by God onto a high mountain is a parable for faith, hope, and trust that God would someday re-establish the Chosen People who were then in process of being deprived of both their freedom and homeland while in exile due to their sins. While this image of “tender shoot” from a Cedar tree might have been under-appreciated in Ezekiel’s day, it clearly came to have inspired importance to later Jews (i.e. a new Davidic King, and a new Jerusalem and Temple would be re-established) and Christians (i.e. Christ our Messiah would be incarnated).

Thus says the Lord GOD: I, too, will take from the crest of the cedar[i], from its topmost branches tear off a tender shoot[ii], and plant it on a high and lofty mountain[iii]; on the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it. It shall put forth branches and bear fruit and become a majestic cedar. Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it, every winged thing in the shade of its boughs. And all the trees of the field shall know that I, the LORD, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree, and make the withered tree bloom.[iv] As I, the LORD, have spoken, so will I do.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          Parables are the substance of today’s scripture texts. 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 kingdom of God is mysterious, as is God. Parables are comparisons which always fall short but which successfully convey the mysterious and the profound. They are usually short fictitious stories that illustrate a moral attitude or a religious principle.
Jesus seems to suggest that He uses parables to teach because 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. Those who are willing to engage themselves in the effort to understand will be rewarded by the discovery of the message. Parables are the theological yeast for intelligent religious reflection.


Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 92:2–3,13–16                       (Rewards of the Just)

Today’s Psalm – The parable of the tree firmly planted and flourishing connects this Psalm to Reading 1 and the Gospel. Reflection on God’s good acts and His righteous character gives His people (i.e. those who are virtuous – firmly planted and flourishing) faith, hope, and trust as we face life.

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.
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     2 Corinthians 5:6–10                            (Trust in the Lord)

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 –  Saint Paul points us to our future heavenly dwelling which is our ultimate destination and how we are to work to achieve it.
Paul’s confident assurance that “we walk by faith and not by sight” is one of numerous professions of faith, hope, and trust in God’s providence. We do this by embracing the Gospel message and membership in the Gospel fellowship of the Church. Because we walk by faith we must therefore freely choose to do and be good in every way presented to us. We should choose to be truthful, loving, generous, just, and gracious.

Brothers and sisters: We are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith[v], not by sight. Yet we are courageous, and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.[vi] Therefore, we aspire to please Him, whether we are at home or away. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense (reward), according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.[vii]


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Gospel     Mark 4:26–34                                (The Kingdom of God)

Context –  St. Mark’s Gospel was the first written of the Gospels contained in the New Testament. The date of writing was prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. St. Peter was Mark’s primary source of information about the life of Jesus. Mark is primarily known by his Roman name “Mark” but is sometimes called by his Jewish name “John” in other New Testament Writings. He was a cousin to Barnabas and  an associate of St. Paul. Recognizing Jesus as the divine Son of God is the goal of this gospel. And it was written to encourage Christians who were suffering persecution for their faith. It begins with the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist.
Today’s Reading –  Today’s Gospel Reading consists of two parables about seeds, they are the growing seeds and the mustard seed, both used to describe how it is with the evolution of the Kingdom of God here on earth.
In the first, Jesus tells those gathered that a man scatters seed which over time sprouts and develops. Then when the grain is ripe, the man harvests his crop. The emphasis in the parable is on the seed, which seemingly has the power to grow on its own. In this it is like the Kingdom of God. While on earth, Jesus planted the seeds of the kingdom by His life, miracles, teaching, and suffering. However, the Kingdom is not yet fully established. Although already present in Jesus and His group of twelve, it has yet to come to fruition; just as the seed in the parable needs time to grow, so does God’s Kingdom. And our job is to help carry on where the disciples left off.
The second parable focuses on the tiny mustard seed. Though not the smallest of all seeds, it is most likely the smallest that a first-century farmer in Jesus’ part of the world would have sown. Small as the mustard seed is, it develops into a tree. Though the mustard tree generally averages only nine to twelve feet in height, it has a wide expanse and provides a nesting place for birds. Just as the tree welcomes the birds, so is God’s Kingdom welcoming and open to many.
Today, the Kingdom of God is present in the Church. The mission of proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom given to the Apostles is now given to us. But just as seeds need time to come to fruition, so does the Kingdom of God. That is why in the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, “thy Kingdom come.” By our faith, hope, and trust we know that it will come in its fullness at the end of time.

 Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man (Jesus and His disciples) were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how (God makes “it grow”). Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he (The same divine person who sows also reaps.) wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”[viii]

He said, “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed (Jesus’ teachings) that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown (Jesus’ teachings first given to His disciples and from them, to the whole world.), it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
[ix]
With many such parables He spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.
Without parables He did not speak to them, but to His own disciples He explained everything in private.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.

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




[i] Reading 1 Footnotes:
Cedar Trees = represent the Davidic line of Israeli kings.
[ii] “tear off a Tender shoot from the top of the tree” = The tender shoot represents a future king from the house of David.
[iii] “lofty mountain” = Mount Zion, Israel.
[iv] “make the withered tree bloom” = God brings up a new king of the Jews to rescue them from the lowly state of punishment in exile to which Judah has fallen. For us Christians, this is a prophecy of hope, a prophecy of the coming of Christ the Messiah reigning on the earth in righteousness.
[v] Reading 2 Footnotes:
“walk by faith” = CCC 164 & 165 – Now, however, “we walk by faith, not by sight”; we perceive God as “in a mirror, dimly” and only “in part”. Even though enlightened by Him in whom our faith believes, faith is often lived in darkness and can be put to the test. The world we live in often seems very far from the one promised us by faith. Our experiences of evil and suffering, injustice and death, seem to contradict the Good News; they can shake our faith and become a temptation against it.  It is then we must turn to the witnesses of faith: to Abraham, who “in hope. . . believed against hope”; to the Virgin Mary, who, in “her pilgrimage of faith”, walked into the “night of faith” in sharing the darkness of her Son’s suffering and death; and to so many others: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”
[vi] “home with the Lord” = When we reach our home in heaven, we will no longer need the light of faith, because God Himself and Jesus the Christ will be our light (Revelation 21:23).
[vii] “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” = CCC 682 – When Jesus comes at the end of time to judge the living and the dead, the glorious Christ will reveal the secret disposition of hearts and will render to each person according to their works, and according to their acceptance or refusal of grace.
[viii] Gospel Footnotes:
The parable of the growing seed = Jesus is telling His disciples about His Church: The preaching of His gospel (the generously scattered seed) will unfailingly yield its fruit, independent of who sows or reaps – it is God who gives the growth. This also refers to the action of grace in each soul: God silently works a transformation in each one of us causing us to make resolutions which shape our soul. We resolve to be faithful, surrender ourselves, respond to grace. Our callings and responses may be different as we are individuals. Even though we must make the decision to become a follower of Christ, it is the Holy Spirit who, working within us, gives a supernatural tone to our thoughts, desires and actions.
[ix] The parable of the mustard seed = The main meaning of this parable has to do with the contrast between the great and the small. The seed of the Kingdom of God on earth is something very tiny to begin with; but it will grow to be a big tree. The seed is planted in Peter and the apostles, has set its roots in Rome, and has grown to be a big tree; one which encompasses the whole world. This growth also occurs in each soul. As predicted in today’s Responsorial Psalm – “The righteous grow like a cedar in Lebanon.” To allow the mercy of God to exalt us, to make us grow, we must make ourselves small, humble. The example of the mustard seed should prevent us from judging the significance of results by the size of the beginnings.


 

SR-2018-06-10

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
10th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle B) – June 10, 2018


This Sunday’s Theme: Evil to be Conquered.

In Reading 1, and the Responsorial Psalm we hear about God’s rescue of us from our sinfulness. In Reading 2 we hear about God’s rescue of us from our physical maladies. The Gospel identifies Original Sin and the unpardonable sin.


Reading 1 – Genesis 3:9 – 15     Adam and Eve eat the fruit of the forbidden tree.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 130:1 – 8     The Lord’s Kindness.

Reading 2 – 2 Corinthians 4:13 – 5:1      We believe and so we speak.

Gospel –  Mark 3:20–35     Victory in Christ.


Reading 1     Genesis 3:9–15             (The Garden of Eden)

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 –  The early chapters of the Book of Genesis have much to teach us about why things are as they are today from the effects of Original Sin. Today’s first reading tells us of the goings on immediately after Eve, and then Adam, ate the fruit of the forbidden tree (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil). Adam and Eve’s sin of disobedience has resulted in the following consequences:
1. Rift in their relationship with God. When God comes looking for Adam and Eve, they hide. In their sinful state they become afraid of God.
2. Rift in their relationship between each other. When questioned by God about their sin, Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the serpent. Rather than taking responsibility for their sin, they blame someone else. This is the first story of the ‘blame-game’ so familiar in our society.

After the man, Adam, had eaten of the tree, the LORD God called to the man and asked him, “Where are you?”[i] He answered, “I heard You in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself.”[ii] Then He asked, “Who told you that you were naked?[iii] You have eaten, then, from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat!” The man replied, “The woman whom You put here with me— she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it.”[iv] The LORD God then asked the woman, “Why did you do such a thing?” The woman answered, “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.”[v]

Then the LORD God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, you shall be banned from all the animals and from all the wild creatures; on your belly shall you crawl, and dirt shall you eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.”


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          Catechism 411 – The Christian tradition sees in this passage an announcement of the “New Adam” who, because He “became obedient unto death, even death on a cross”, makes amends superabundantly for the disobedience, of Adam. Furthermore, many Fathers and Doctors of the Church have seen the woman announced in the Protoevangelium (see NOTE, below) as Mary, the mother of Christ, the “new Eve”. Mary benefited first of all and uniquely from Christ’s victory over sin: she was preserved from all stain of original sin and by a special grace of God committed no sin of any kind during her whole earthly life.  (Aside – In the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mary has her foot on the head of Satan.)
Note – Protoevangelium is defined as God’s statement to the serpent in the Garden of Eden about how the seed (i.e. Jesus) of the woman (i.e. Mary) would crush the serpent’s head. This predicts the defeat of evil by the victory of Jesus Christ and is the first promise or ‘gospel’ of the coming Redeemer. This is referred to as the first messianic prophecy in the Old Testament (Protoevangelium – The word “proto” means first and “evangelium” means the evangelistic message of salvation.).


Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 130:1–8                                (The Lord’s Kindness)

Today’s Psalm – The responsive verse of this psalm is “With the Lord, there is mercy and fullness of redemption,” which echoes God’s saving grace for Adam and Eve and their descendants (i.e. us). This is one of the Seven Penitential Psalms (6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143).
During times when we wish to express repentance and especially during Lent, it is customary to pray the seven penitential psalms. Prayerfully reciting these psalms will help us to recognize our sinfulness, express our sorrow, and ask for God’s forgiveness.

R. – With the Lord there is mercy, and fullness of redemption.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD; LORD, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive to my voice in supplication.
R. – With the Lord there is mercy, and fullness of redemption.
If You, O LORD, mark iniquities, LORD, who can stand? But with You is forgiveness, that You may be revered.
R. – With the Lord there is mercy, and fullness of redemption.
I trust in the LORD; my soul trusts in His word. More than sentinels wait for the dawn, let Israel wait for the LORD.
R. – With the Lord there is mercy, and fullness of redemption.
For with the LORD is kindness and with Him is plenteous redemption and He will redeem Israel from all their iniquities.
R. – With the Lord there is mercy, and fullness of redemption.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you. 


Reading 2     2 Corinthians 4:13 – 5:1                      (Eternal Glory)

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’s words should encourage all of us who are experiencing some decay in our body. The strength of Paul’s faith, especially in the Resurrection, prevents him from being discouraged by his weakening body. “A life full of crosses, labors, persecutions, injuries, etc., Paul calls momentary and light, if compared with the eternal, immense, and incomprehensible glory prepared for us.” (St. Augustine)

Brothers and sisters: Since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, I believed, therefore I spoke (Psalm 116:10), we too believe and therefore we speak[vi], knowing that the One who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and place us with You in His presence. Everything indeed is for You, so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God. Therefore, we are not discouraged; rather, although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this momentary light affliction
is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal. For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven.[vii]


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you. 


 Gospel     Mark 3:20–35                                            (Victory in Christ)

Context –  St. Mark’s Gospel was the first written of the Gospels contained in the New Testament. The date of writing was prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. St. Peter was Mark’s primary source of information about the life of Jesus. Mark is primarily known by his Roman name “Mark” but is sometimes called by his Jewish name “John” in other New Testament Writings. He was a cousin to Barnabas and  an associate of St. Paul. Recognizing Jesus as the divine Son of God is the goal of this gospel. And it was written to encourage Christians who were suffering persecution for their faith. It begins with the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist.
Today’s Reading –  This gospel is an example of the literary technique used by Mark known as the “Marcan sandwich.” He begins a story, then interrupts the storyline with another story and thereafter returns to the original story.
Jesus’ family believes that He is “out of His mind”. They are upset with Him. His unpopularity with the religious leaders of the day is causing problems for them. Hence, they come to take Him home and get Him out of the public scene. Sandwiched between this opening and the final scenes, which also has to do with His family (where Jesus talks about “who are My Mother, brothers and sisters”.), there is a confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees. They claim that His miraculous powers come from Satan. Jesus responds with two parables. First, He asks them to ponder how a house divided against itself could possibly stand. The second parable is about a strong man being tied up and his house plundered.

Jesus came home with His disciples. Again the crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. When His relatives heard of this they set out to seize Him, for they said, “He is out of His mind.” The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul (a pagan god identified with Satan),” and “By the prince of demons He drives out demons.”

Summoning them, He began to speak to them in parables, “How can Satan drive out Satan?
If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand; that is the end of him.[viii] But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder the house. Amen, I say to you[ix], all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.”[x] For they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

His mother and His brothers arrived. Standing outside they sent word to Him and called Him. A crowd seated around Him told Him, “Your mother and Your brothers and Your sisters[xi] are outside asking for You.” But He said to them in reply, “Who are My mother and My brothers?”[xii] And looking around at those seated in the circle He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers. For whoever does the will of God is My brother and sister and mother.”


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          RE. – In explaining the reference to Jesus’ driving out Beelzebul, the prince of demons, their “strong man” –  Wasn’t David’s defeat of the entire Philistines due to his first defeating their strong man, Goliath?

Catechism 1864 – “Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven humankind, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.” There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept His mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of their sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit. Such hardness of heart can lead to final impenitence and eternal loss.


 With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.

From out of the depths, I cry unto you, Lord, hear my voice, come hear my prayer;
O let your ear be open to my pleading.
If you, O Lord, should mark our guilt, then who could stand within your sight?
But in you is found forgiveness for our failings.
Just as those who wait for the morning light, even more I long for the Lord, my God,
whose word to me shall ever be my comfort.


ADDENDUM – Original Sin

Catechism 404 –  How did the sin of Adam become the sin of all his descendants? The whole human race is in Adam “as one body of one man”. By this “unity of the human race” all humankind are implicated in Adam’s sin, as all are implicated in Christ’s justice. Still, the transmission of original sin is a mystery that we cannot fully understand. But we do know by Revelation that Adam had received original holiness and justice not for himself alone, but for all human nature. By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state. It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all humankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice. And that is why original sin is called “sin” only in an analogical sense: it is a sin “contracted” and not “committed” – a state and not an act.


[i] Reading 1 Footnotes:
“Where are you?” = Isn’t God omnipotent? Doesn’t He know everything? Yes, He is, and yes, He does – what He is doing is telling Adam that He knows something is wrong and He is inviting Adam to tell Him about it. The question really is “Where are you, Adam, in your relationship to Me?” It is always God who issues the invitation to confess our sins to Him – He does it with a little nudge of the conscience. God knows all our sins, but He wants us to verbalize them so that we are sure that we know what they are.
[ii] “I was afraid because I was naked” = Adam recognized that he was lacking something – it’s not clothing he is lacking, it’s God’s grace that he knew he was lacking since he had sinned, and he was afraid. Exactly what we should feel when we sin.
[iii] “Who told you that you were naked?” = Since they are the only two humans in all of creation at this time there was no one else to tell them that they were naked, God is pointing out that it is Adam’s conscience which has pointed out his sin. This tells us that we are all born with a basic conscience. CCC 1776 – “Deep within our conscience we discover a law which we have not laid upon our self but which we must obey. Its voice, ever calling us to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in our heart at the right moment. . . . For we have in our heart a law inscribed by God. . . . Our conscience is our most secret core and our sanctuary. There we are alone with God whose voice echoes in our depths.” “We are naturally moral beings, but our environments can enhance—or, sadly, degrade—this innate moral sense.” (Msgr. Charles Pope – Community In Mission)
[iv] Adam blames Eve for his sin after God questioned him. = Why does God approach the man first? After all, the woman was the first to eat (Genesis 3:6). Before God made the woman, He had put the man in the garden to work it and to keep it (Genesis 2:15). The Hebrew word (shammar) translated as “keep” can also be translated as “guard” (keep safe). After this commission to “keep” the Garden of Eden, then God commands the man not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If he was to guard the garden, he must guard everything and everyone in it, including his companion; and there must be something to guard against. The man failed to keep the serpent from invading the Garden and influencing his wife and himself.
[v] Eve says to God – “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.” = The command not to eat had been given to the man before the woman was created. The man had instructed the woman, but she did not heed his direction but chose instead to listen to the serpent. She had chosen the serpent over her husband – a form of adultery. Remember that the Bible is all about covenant – family. She ate with the serpent rather than with her husband.
[vi] Reading 2 Footnotes:
“we believe and therefore we speak” = Our inner conviction about the truth must result in our outward confession of that truth.
[vii] “our earthly dwelling, a tent” = As a tentmaker, Paul compared the human body to a tent. Jesus referred to His body as a temple, and He predicted that God would raise it up. Since God had raised up Jesus’ “temple,” Paul believed that He would also raise our “tents.” In ancient times a tent was a familiar symbol of what was transitory. Our physical bodies are only temporary structures, but God is preparing new bodies for us that are superior to anything that human hands can produce and maintain.
[viii] Gospel Footnotes:
“a house divided cannot stand” = Jesus pointed out that it was illogical for Him to cast out Satan’s agents if He was one of Satan’s agents, as the scribes claimed Him to be (i.e. being possessed by Beelzebul). Satan would then be working against himself. Our current polarization is another example of a “house divided” – polarization within our country, our Church, our neighborhood, and on critical issues such as immigration, refugees, health care, gun control, and civility. And as Jesus said, “this type of house cannot stand”. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that” (Martin Luther King)
[ix] “Amen, I say to you” = Jesus’ use of ‘Amen’ to introduce and endorse His own words is without analogy in the whole of Jewish literature and in the remainder of the NT. ‘Amen’ denotes that His words are reliable and true because He is totally committed to do and speak the will of God. As such, the Amen-formulation is not only a highly significant characteristic of Jesus’ speech, but a Christological affirmation: Jesus is the true witness of God.”
[x] “guilty of an everlasting sin” = Jesus is referring here to the Scribes and Pharisees who could not be forgiven while they refused, through their pride, to ask for forgiveness of their sins and thus acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God and their Savior. They attributed the power of Jesus’ exorcisms to Satan rather than to the Holy Spirit. They blasphemed the Holy Spirit. Blasphemy is a type of sin, namely, speech that is hostile, malicious, injurious, and derogatory of God, Jesus and/or the Holy Spirit. This was the type of sin the scribes were committing.
[xi] “Jesus’ brothers and sisters” = We understand these to be the relatives of Mary and Joseph. (St. Bede)
[xii] “Jesus’ Mother and relatives are outside asking for Him” = Our Lord does not refuse to go outside to them through any form of inattention, especially to His Mother. He wishes hereby, to teach us the preference we should give to the business of our heavenly Father, before that of our earthly parents. Neither does He consider His brethren as beneath His attention but prefers spiritual before temporal duties. And He shows us, that a religious union of hearts and feelings is far more lasting, and better rooted than any other ties of affinity or friendship whatsoever. (St. Bede)


 

 

 

 

 

SR-2018-06-03

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
Corpus Christi Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle B) – June 3, 2018


This Sunday’s Theme: The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.

Today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, originally called Corpus Christi. The purpose of this feast is to instruct the people in the history, mystery, faith, and devotion surrounding the Eucharist. The Mass for this feast was edited or composed by St. Thomas Aquinas upon the request of Pope Urban IV in the year 1264.

“For our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us celebrate the feast!” (1 Cor. 5:7-8)


Reading 1 – Exodus 24:3-8     The covenant is established between God and the people.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 116:12-13,15-18     God brings salvation.

Reading 2 – Hebrews 9:11-15     Christ is the mediator of the new covenant.

Gospel –  Mark 14:12-16,22-26     Jesus shares His Last Supper with His disciples.


Reading 1     Exodus 24:3-8              (Blood of the Covenant)

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 –  Today’s first reading takes place at the foot of Mount Sinai. Moses has gone up on the mountain and received from God verbally the Ten Commandments as well as the rules concerning Hebrew social responsibility, justice and mercy, personal injuries, protection of property, etc. as found in Exodus 20 through 23. Moses recounts this to the Israelites – “all the words and ordinances of the Lord.” And the people with one voice respond, “We will do everything that the Lord has told us.” Then Moses writes down the words he has just spoken to the people and repeats them aloud. Once again the people say – “All that the Lord has said we will heed and do.” The writing down and repeated reading of the agreement emphasize the seriousness of the covenant that the people are entering into with God. With the terms having been clearly stated and accepted, the covenant is formally sealed with a blood ritual. Half of the sacrificed animals’ blood is poured upon the altar, which symbolizes God, and half is sprinkled on the people. God and people become “blood relatives.” They share life and pledge fidelity to each other. Using blood in the sealing of the covenant is an affirmation of the people’s acceptance to “take my life if I break this covenant.” It is after this reading that Moses ascends the mountain to receive the first set of stone tablets.

When Moses came to the people and related all the words (i.e. the Decalogue – Ten Commandments) and ordinances (i.e. the rules of the Covenant Code plus all other regulations that God gave to Moses) of the LORD, they all answered with one voice, “We will do everything that the LORD has told us.” Moses then wrote down all the words of the LORD and, rising early the next day, he erected at the foot of the mountain an altar[i] and twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel[ii]. Then, having sent certain young men of the Israelites to offer holocausts and sacrifice young bulls[iii] as peace offerings to the LORD, Moses took half of the blood and put it in large bowls; the other half he splashed on the altar. Taking the book of the covenant, he read it aloud to the people, who answered, “All that the LORD has said, we will heed and do.”[iv] Then he took the blood and sprinkled it on the people[v], saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words of His.”


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.        “the blood of the covenant” – Christ, at the Last Supper, confirmed the New Covenant, by the outpouring of His blood just like the outpouring of blood at the Mosaic Covenant. And this is daily renewed upon our altars forever at every Mass’ Eucharist.  Our Savior alludes to this Old Testament transaction in the consecration of the chalice at the Last Supper. “The Old Testament is in the New Testament revealed, the New is in the Old concealed.” – St. Augustine   


 Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 116:12-13,15-18                              (The Cup of Salvation)

Today’s Psalm – This psalm is chosen for its Eucharistic overtones of thanksgiving and its image of taking up a cup. “Cup” is often used by the Hebrews to denote plenty or abundance. So, “the cup of salvation,” could represent an abundance of happiness.

R. – I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the Name of the Lord.
How shall I make a return to the LORD for all the good He has done for me? The cup of salvation I will take up, and I will call upon the name of the LORD.[vi]
R. – I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the Name of the Lord.
Precious in the eyes of the LORD is the death of His faithful ones. I am Your servant, the son of Your handmaid; You have loosed my bonds.
R. – I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the Name of the Lord.
To You will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving, and I will call upon the Name of the LORD. My vows to the LORD I will pay in the presence of all His people.
R. – I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the Name of the Lord.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          The Jews traditionally sang Psalm 116 after the annual Passover Feast’s meal. It is probable that, when Jesus sang these verses at the Passover Meal (Last Supper) just prior to His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, He raised the third of four cups of wine the Jews drank at that meal. They called the third cup “the cup of salvation.” He knew that cup would only become a true cup of salvation if He paid His vows to the LORD and proceeded to the cross. He then drank the fourth cup on the cross (“I thirst”) and then stated “It is finished”.


Reading 2     Hebrews 9:11-15                      (Jesus the High Priest)

Context – Hebrews was addressed to Jewish Christians who were undergoing persecution for their new beliefs. The overall theme is the all-sufficient greatness of Christ. Of all the NT Writings, none reflects more deeply on the Priesthood of Jesus Christ – the high priest of Heaven, and none gives more attention or puts more emphasis on covenant theology – the superior excellence of the New Covenant – the saving mission of Jesus Christ, over the Old Covenant – the Ten Commandments.
Today’s Reading –  Like the High Priest on the annual Day of Atonement (i.e. Yom Kippur where the High Priest offers an animal blood sacrifice for the atonement of sins for all the people, including himself), Jesus, now our great High Priest, entered not an earthly sanctuary but a heavenly sanctuary after performing the atonement for our sins by offering, once and for all, His own blood on the cross. This earthly priest must enter the sanctuary every year to make repeated atonements.

Brothers and sisters: When Christ came as High Priest of the good things that have come to be, passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation, He entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with His own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.[vii] For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, how much more will the blood of Christ,
who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.[viii]

For this reason He is Mediator of a new covenant: since a death (i.e. Jesus’ crucifixion) has taken place for deliverance from transgressions under the first covenant, those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance (i.e. eternal life in God’s presence).


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.  


Gospel     Mark 14:12-16,22-26                                (The First Eucharist)

Context –  St. Mark’s Gospel was the first written of the Gospels contained in the New Testament. The date of writing was prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. St. Peter was Mark’s primary source of information about the life of Jesus. Mark is primarily known by his Roman name “Mark” but is sometimes called by his Jewish name “John” in other New Testament Writings. He was a cousin to Barnabas and  an associate of St. Paul. Recognizing Jesus as the divine Son of God is the goal of this gospel. And it was written to encourage Christians who were suffering persecution for their faith. It begins with the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist.
Today’s Reading –  In our reading for today, we read the account of the Last Supper. It begins with the instructions that Jesus gave to two of His disciples to prepare their Passover celebration (similar to Moses in Reading 1, sending “certain young men” to prepare the Covenant celebration). It then goes on to give an account of the Last Supper.
Jesus’ Last Supper with His disciples occurred on the Jewish feast of Passover. The Jewish celebration of Passover, which occurs on the first day of the seven day Feast of Unleavened Bread, celebrates God’s deliverance of His people from slavery in Egypt. It is a central obligation of the Jewish faith tradition to annually celebrate this meal and to give thanks to God for His deliverance and protection.
Jesus took bread, blessed the bread, broke the bread, and shared it with His disciples. Similar words and actions follow as Jesus shares the chalice with His disciples. This bread now shared is Jesus’ own body. Those who drink from the chalice are invited to share in a new covenant which will be sealed by Jesus’ own blood.
The Gospel for today reminds us that the Eucharist is a memorial of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. We believe that Jesus is truly present to us in the elements of bread and wine. Each time we celebrate this sacrament, we prepare for the Kingdom of God. This celebration, as the Second Vatican Council taught us, is the source and summit of the Christian life.

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples said to Him, “Where do You want us to go and prepare for You to eat the Passover?” He sent two of His disciples and said to them, “Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water. Follow him.[ix] Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is My guest room where I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”‘ Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready. Make the preparations for us there.” The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover.[x] While they were eating, He took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is My Body.” Then He took a cup[xi], gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is My Blood of the covenant[xii], which will be shed for many. Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the Kingdom of God.” Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.

Catechism 1334 – In the Old Covenant bread and wine were offered in sacrifice among the first fruits of the earth as a sign of grateful acknowledgment to the Creator. But they also received a new significance in the context of the Exodus: the unleavened bread that Israel eats every year at Passover commemorates the haste of the departure that liberated them from Egypt; the remembrance of the manna in the desert will always recall to Israel that it lives by the bread of the Word of God; their daily bread is the fruit of the promised land, the pledge of God’s faithfulness to his promises. The “cup of blessing” at the end of the Jewish Passover meal adds to the festive joy of wine an eschatological dimension: the messianic expectation of the rebuilding of Jerusalem. When Jesus instituted the Eucharist, he gave a new and definitive meaning to the blessing of the bread and the cup.


There Is a Foundation Filled with Blood

There is a foundation filled with blood, Drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood, Lose all their guilty stains. (William Cowper)



[i] Reading 1 Footnotes:
“altar” = The Lord’s presence is represented by the altar. This altar memorializes the place where God revealed Himself to His people.
[ii] “twelve pillars” = The participation of all the people is symbolized by twelve pillars – one for each of the twelve tribes.
[iii] “holocausts” = Whole burnt-offerings: in which the whole sacrifice (i.e. young bulls as peace offerings to God) was consumed with fire (i.e. holocausts), upon the altar. Moses and the people ate the burnt-offerings signifying that they were at peace with God.
[iv] “All that the LORD has said, we will heed and do.” = This oath of obedience implied the participants’ willingness to suffer the fate of the sacrificed animals if the covenant stipulations were violated by those who took the oath.
[v] sprinkled blood upon the people = Part of the blood from the sacrificed bulls was poured upon the altar, and the rest upon the Hebrews, to remind them, that if they proved rebellious, their blood should be spilt. This first version of the covenant ceremony stresses the people’s participation. A covenant ritual includes a sacrifice and a covenant community sharing of the sacrifice.
[vi] Responsorial Psalm Footnotes:
“How shall I make a return to the LORD for all the good He has done for me? The cup of salvation I will take up, and I will call upon the name of the LORD.” = The Psalmist has understood the multitude of gifts he has received from God: from non-existence he has been led into being, he has been formed from the earth and given the ability to reason… he then perceived the economy of salvation to be to the benefit of the human race, acknowledging that the Lord gave Himself up to redeem all of us; and he hesitates, searching among all of the goods that belong to him for a gift that might be worthy of the Lord. “How then, shall I make a return to the Lord’? Not sacrifices nor holocausts… but my entire life itself. For this he says: “I will lift up the cup of salvation‘, giving the name “cup’ to the suffering of spiritual combat, of resisting sin to the point of death. – St. Basil the Great
[vii] Reading 2 Footnotes:
“not with the blood of goats and calves but with His own blood” = This wording is to convince the Jews of the inefficacy of the Old Testament animal sacrifices, and of the virtue of the Christian sacrifice. The sacrifice of Christ has made our consciences interiorly clean and sanctified them even in the sight of God.
[viii] “the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.” = The Holy Spirit acted in a special way in assisting the fully human Jesus to make His perfect self-giving sacrifice which transformed His suffering into redemptive love. Christ’s sacrifice purifies us completely, thereby rendering us fit to worship the living God. It is through sharing in Jesus’ sacrificial worship that we have access to God. The lives of innocent animal substitutes were sufficient only to atone for sin temporarily. However, the life of Jesus Christ, because He was a perfect human substitute, adequately paid for the redemption of all people forever. Having died “once for all” He was able to enter God’s presence “once for all.”
[ix] Gospel Footnotes:
“Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water. Follow him.” = What makes this unique? Men didn’t carry water in jars – that was woman’s work – men carried it in skins. This man would have stood out in a city crowded with pilgrims.
[x] “The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover” = The fact that no amazement is expressed by the disciples causes some commentators to believe that everything had been prearranged. It is more likely that divine intervention is involved.
[xi] “Then He took a cup” = This would be the 3rd of 4 cups of the Passover liturgy, the cup of blessing.
[xii] “This is My Blood of the covenant” = The only time that Jesus speaks of “covenant” is at the Last Supper. A covenant is a family bond which is sealed in blood and the sharing of a communal meal – as defined in Reading 1.