Sunday Readings Reflections

SR-2018-06-24

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


(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.

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.


 

SR-2018-05-27

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
Trinity Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle B) – May 27, 2018


This Sunday’s Theme: The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.

This week we return to the liturgical season of Ordinary Time. This Sunday and next Sunday, however, are designated as solemnities, special days that call our attention to the central mysteries of our faith. Today, on the first Sunday after Pentecost, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity (next Sunday we celebrate the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ – Corpus Christi). Today’s feast invites us to consider what we believe about God, who has revealed Himself to us in the Trinity, one God in three Persons.


Reading 1 – Deuteronomy 4:32-34,39-40     Moses teaches the people that Yahweh is the only God.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 33:4-6, 9, 18-20, 22     Praise to God for what He is and does.

Reading 2 – Romans 8:14-17     Through the Spirit, we have been adopted as children of God.

Gospel –  Matthew 28:16-20     Jesus sends His disciples to make disciples of all nations.


Reading 1     Deuteronomy 4:32-34,39-40                (The One God)

Context – The book of Deuteronomy (means second law, ie. the second giving of the Law) consists of three sermons or speeches delivered by Moses (when he was 120 years old), just prior to his death, to a new generation of Israelites shortly before they entered the Promised Land.  God kept the old generation in the desert for 40 years until they died out due to their refusal to follow His way as their God. Therefore, this new generation had not experienced the miracle at the Red Sea nor heard the law (Ten Commandments) given at Sinai, and they were about to enter a new land with many dangers and temptations. The book of Deuteronomy was given to remind them of God’s law and God’s power – it is a book of remembrance. Jesus quoted from this Book the most.
Today’s Reading –  On the plains of Moab, God charges Moses, now close to death, once more to proclaim the Law which he received through the revelation at Mount Sinai. This reading is filled with awe for the greatness of God.  In response to God’s goodness to them, they must be diligent in following God’s ways. If they are obedient, they will prosper in the land that God is about to give them – The Promised Land.

Moses said to the people: “Ask now of the days of old, before your time, ever since God created man upon the earth; ask from one end of the sky to the other: Did anything so great ever happen before? Was it ever heard of? Did a people ever hear the voice of God speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live?[i] Or did any god venture to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, with strong hand and outstretched arm, and by great terrors, all of which the LORD, your God, did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?[ii] This is why you must now know, and fix in your heart, that the LORD is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other. You must keep His statutes and commandments that I enjoin on you today, that you and your children after you may prosper, and that you may have long life on the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you forever.”


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          The best way to motivate people to obey God is to expound upon His character and upon examples of His past loving, caring, and protective conduct, as Moses did here. Note too that Moses appealed to the self-interest of the Israelites to obey God: “that you and your children after you may prosper, and that you may have long life on the land …”
When you are getting weary waiting for God to act and wondering if He still cares, remember the following: “Memories of God’s activity in the past enable us to embrace the future. Let God do God’s work without trying to figure it out.” – From “Jesus, A Pilgrimage” by Fr. James Martin SJ. No character in a novel is ever forgotten by its author, therefore we can be confident and unafraid in this life since God is our author – ie. our Creator, our Savior, and our Comforter! 


Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 33:4-6, 9, 18-20, 22                         (God’s People Hopes in Him)

Today’s Psalm – This psalm highlights the privilege of the people who are called to respond to the goodness and justice of God – praise to God for what He is and does. The psalmist assures the readers that God will be faithful to those who trust in Him.

R. – Blessed (i.e. Divinely favored, fortunate. One who hears the word of the Lord and keeps it.) the people the Lord has chosen to be His own.
Upright is the word of the LORD, and all His works are trustworthy. He loves justice and right; of the kindness of the Lord the earth is full.
R. – Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be His own.
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made; by the breath of His mouth all their host. For He spoke, and it was made; He commanded, and it stood forth.
R. – Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be His own.
See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear Him
(i.e. love, obey, trust and promote Him), upon those who hope for His kindness, To deliver them from death and preserve them in spite of famine.
R. – Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be His own.
Our soul waits for the LORD
(i.e. to hope, to anticipate, and to trust. ), who is our help and our shield. May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us who have put our hope in You.
R. – Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be His own.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you. 


Reading 2     Romans 8:14-17                       (Children of God)

Context – Paul’s Letter to the Romans is the most influential of all his Epistles, and the only writing of Paul’s which is addressed to a church (congregation) which he did not establish. He addresses the grounds we have for hope in Christ. Sin and death came by Adam: grace and life by Christ. The saving work of Jesus is a major theme of Paul’s letter to the Romans – salvation is offered through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Today’s Reading –  Today we hear Saint Paul tell us that it is through the Holy Spirit that the Christian becomes a child of God, destined for glory. To be a child of God implies a willing-ness to be taught and led by Him.

Brothers and sisters: For those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with Him[iii] so that we may also be glorified with Him.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          “those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” = The Holy Spirit animates and activates the Christian and makes one a child of God. If you put your confidence in baptism to the point that you neglect your behavior after it, Paul says that, even if you are baptized, if you are not led by the Holy Spirit afterward you will lose the dignity bestowed on you and the honor of your adoption. This is why he does not talk about those who received the Holy Spirit in the past but rather about those who are being led by the Holy Spirit now.” – Saint John Chrysostom.

Gospel     Matthew 28:16-20                                     (Disciples of the Trinity)

Context –  Matthew’s Gospel, written prior to 70 AD, is the first book of the New Testament, not because it was written first – some of Paul’s epistles take that honor – but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. His purpose was to prove to his fellow Jews that Jesus is the One to whom all the Jewish prophets point: the Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews. To accomplish his mission, He uses more Old Testament quotations and references than any other Gospel.
Today’s Reading –  Our Gospel reading for today is from the last five verses of the Gospel of Matthew; the five verses which Protestant Bibles call “The Great Commission.” Today’s reading takes place with Jesus’ second appearance after His resurrection in Matthew’s Gospel, the first appearance having been to the women who had come to the empty tomb.
Just as Moses gave his people a farewell speech, Matthew presents us with Jesus’ farewell speech to His apostles. He commissions them to go and “make disciples of all nations baptizing them and teaching them”—not the Law of Moses but rather “all that I have commanded you.” Matthew, writing mostly for Christians who were raised as Jews, presents Jesus as the new and greater Moses who gives them a new and greater Law. The mention of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is a clear expression of the Trinity. They are distinct and equal persons in the One God. The message ends with the assurance that Jesus will be with His Church at all times.

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they all saw Him, they worshiped, but they doubted[iv]. Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of[v] the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded You. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age (i.e. The coming of the kingdom of God in its fullness).”


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          Great Commission – When God created man and woman, He gave them a cultural mandate (Gen, 1:28 – “God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earth.”) Essentially this was to rule over the earth. This involves the advancement of civilization. This is the responsibility of every human being. When Jesus arose from the dead, He gave His disciples another mandate as identified in today’s Gospel reading. Essentially this was to evangelize the world. This involves the advancement of Christianity. This is the responsibility of every Christian. We should not set back and let any other religion nor ideology supplant Christianity. America was founded upon Judeo-Christian principles and precepts and we must insure it always remains that way. Plus, we must support Christian Missionaries throughout the world. We must support Jesus’ Great Commission with our time, talent and treasury.  

Catechism 266 – “Now this is the Catholic faith: We worship one God in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity, without either confusing the Persons or dividing the substance; for the Person of the Father is one, the Son’s is another, the Holy Spirit’s another; but the Godhead of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one, Their glory equal, Their majesty coeternal (i.e. existing with something else eternally)”

Catechism 267 – Inseparable in what They are, the Divine Persons are also inseparable in what They do. But within the single divine operation Each shows forth what is proper to Him in the Trinity, especially in the divine missions of the Son’s Incarnation and the gift of the Holy Spirit.


TRINITY

Laud and honor to the Father, Laud and honor to the Son, Laud and honor to the Holy Spirit,
Ever three and ever one,
Consubstantial, coeternal, While unending ages run. (Unknown)


[I] Reading 1 Footnotes:
“the voice of God speaking from the midst of fire” = This is a reference to when the Israelites heard God’s thunder at Mount Sinai while Moses was on the mountain.
[ii] “your God, did for you in Egypt before your very eyes” = A reference to the Exodus, the ten plagues which preceded it, and the many signs performed in the desert.
[iii] Reading 2 Footnotes:
“suffer with Him” = Carry our own crosses as Jesus did His, while continuing to have faith also as Jesus did.
[iv] Gospel Footnotes:
“but they doubted” = They doubted not of the resurrection nor divinity of Christ, but whether the person that now appeared to them after the resurrection was really their Master, Jesus Christ. – Haydock Catholic Bible Commentary
[v] “in the name of” = All ambassadors, delegates, representatives speak “in the name of” the one whom they represent. In this case, Jesus tells His apostles that they are representing the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) when they are evangelizing and baptizing.


 

SR-2018-05-20

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
Pentecost Sunday of Easter (Cycle B) – May 20, 2018



CHRIST IS RISEN!

EASTER TIME:
Liturgical Color – White (Stands for light, innocence, purity, joy, triumph, and glory.)
Purpose –
The great 50 days of joyful celebration of the Lord’s resurrection from the dead and ending with His sending forth of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

This Sunday’s Theme: The Holy Spirit, Gift of the Father.

The season of Easter concludes with today’s celebration, the feast of Pentecost. On Pentecost we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles gathered in the upper room in Jerusalem; this event marks the beginning of the Christian Church. The story of Pentecost is found in the Acts of the Apostles, today’s first reading. The account in today’s Gospel, John 20:19-23, also recounts how Jesus gave the gift of the Holy Spirit to His disciples. Yet the event in John’s Gospel takes place on Easter Sunday. There is no need to try to reconcile these two accounts. It is to know that after His death, Jesus fulfilled His promise to send to His disciples a helper, an Advocate, who would enable them to be His witnesses throughout the world.

 “Come Holy Spirit, fill our hearts and enkindle in us the fire of your love.
We pray in the name of Christ Our Lord, Amen.”
(Catholic Online)

ASIDE – In Scripture, it is the theological meaning of events that always matters and not always their historical chronology. For example, in today’s Reading 1, Luke situates the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Jewish Feast of Pentecost – 50 days after Jesus’ crucifixion. But in today’s Gospel, John states that the Holy Spirit comes on Easter Sunday evening. Another example, in Genesis 10:5, 20, and 31 the different generations of Noah and his sons are identified with each having their own languages. But then following in Genesis 11:1 (story of the Tower of Babel), it states that “the whole earth had one language”. “Everything in the Bible is true and some of it actually happened as described.” (Marcus Borg – Anglican Theologian) “It may be well to explain here that the uncertainties which surround its chronology in no way detract from the trustworthiness of the Bible as an historical document, or from its authority as an inspired record.” (Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Biblical Chronology)

Reading 1 – Acts 2:1-11     The Holy Spirit descends upon the apostles gathered in Jerusalem.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 104:1, 24, 29-31, 34     God’s Spirit renews the earth.

Reading 2 – 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7,12-13     We are all one in Christ Jesus.

Gospel –  John 20:19-23     Jesus appears to His disciples and gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit.


(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.


Reading 1     Acts 2:1-11                   (Coming of the Spirit)

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 –  The setting is the annual Jewish feast of Pentecost – “Pentecost” is a Greek word, translated into English, that means fiftieth. This feast falls on the fiftieth day after the annual Passover feast. But this is a special celebration of Pentecost since Jesus was crucified during the previous feast of Passover so it is now fifty days after the first Easter, and 10 days since Christ has ascended and left the disciples with responsibility for administering His Church. Before He ascended He had told them “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift My Father promised, which you have heard Me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit”. So, after the Ascension, the disciples returned to Jerusalem and the Upper Room.

When the time for Pentecost[i] was fulfilled, they (i.e. 120 people) were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.[ii] Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit[iii] and began to speak in different tongues[iv], as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues
of the mighty acts of God.”


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          The Christian Church, i.e. the Church of Jesus Christ – our Roman Catholic Church, was born on Pentecost.  In one fell swoop, the disciples are transformed from timid persons holed up in a room to proud proclaimers of the marvels which God has accomplished. So, how old is our Church? Well, it is now 2018 AD, i.e. 2,018 years after the birth of Jesus. He was 33 years old when crucified and Pentecost occurred 50 days thereafter. (2,018 – 33) = 1,985. Our Church is 1,985 years old. 


Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 104:1, 24, 29-31, 34                         (Renewal by the Spirit)

Today’s Psalm – This is a hymn of praise to the Creator—God, the One who gives us new life in the Spirit.

R. – Lord, send out Your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
Bless
(i.e. praise, glorify) the LORD, O my soul! O LORD, my God, You are great indeed! How manifold are Your works, O LORD! the earth is full of Your creatures;
R. – Lord, send out Your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD be glad in His works! Pleasing to Him be my theme; I will be glad in the LORD.
R. – Lord, send out Your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
If You take away their breath, they perish and return to their dust. When You send forth Your Spirit, they are created, and You renew the face of the earth.
R. – Lord, send out Your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Reading 2     1 Corinthians 12:3b-7,12-13                              (Grace of the Spirit)

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 is advising the Corinthians about the gifts of the Holy Spirit and how these gifts are to be used to promote the common good.

Brothers and sisters: No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.

As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ.[v] For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Gospel     John 20:19-23                               (Christ Imparts the Spirit)

Context –  John’s Gospel was written around 90 AD. His Gospel has an evangelistic purpose – preaching about Christ for conversion to Him.  John explains the mystery of the person of Jesus – His eternal origin, divine and human nature. He is eternally present with God. So much of this Gospel is devoted to the heavenly identity and mission of Jesus that John was known as the “spiritual” Gospel in the ancient Church. The “divine family” of God revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the towering mystery of this Fourth Gospel.
Today’s Reading –  Jesus imparts three gifts upon His Disciples as He joins them following His resurrection. They are: peace, joy and the spirit. The ‘peace’ or shalom which Jesus brings replaces the feelings of guilt the disciples must have had for abandoning Jesus in His hour of greatest need. This gift restores harmony to a broken or wounded relationship. ‘Joy’ is what the disciples experience when they see Jesus. This joy at the presence of Jesus replaces the feelings of depression the disciples must have suffered during Jesus’ absence. Then Jesus imparts His ‘spirit’: “He breathed on them.” This gesture is seen as reminiscent of God breathing life into Adam (Gen 2:7). This reading is referred to as “John’s Pentecost”.

On the evening of that first day of the week (i.e. the evening of the first Easter Sunday), when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst[vi] and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side.[vii] The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, so I send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          “so I send you” = Jesus Christ here shews His commission, and so giveth power to His apostles to forgive sins, as when He gave them commission to preach and baptize throughout the world, He made mention of His own power. Hence, whosoever denies the apostles, and their successors (our Priests), the right of preaching, baptizing, and remitting sins, must consequently deny that Christ, as man, had the power to do the same. (St. Augustine)
“I don’t go to a man to confess to my sins; only God can forgive sins” says the Protestant. “Neither do I” responds the Catholic, “I go to God’s duly appointed and commissioned representative who was given the responsibility of forgiving (or binding) my sins as God works through him.”   

Catechism 737 –  The mission of Christ and the Holy Spirit is brought to completion in the Church, which is the Body of Christ and the Temple of the Holy Spirit. This joint mission henceforth brings Christ’s faithful to share in His communion with the Father in the Holy Spirit. The Spirit prepares us and goes out to us with His grace, in order to draw us to Christ. The Spirit manifests the risen Lord to us, recalls His word to us and opens our minds to the understanding of His Death and Resurrection. He makes present the mystery of Christ, supremely in the Eucharist, in order to reconcile us, to bring us into communion with God, that we may “bear much fruit.”


Breathe on Me, Breath of God

Breathe on me Breath of God, Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what thou dost love, And do what thou wouldst do.
(Edwin Hatch)

Come, Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove

Come Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove, with all thy quickening powers;
Kindle a flame of sacred love in these cold hearts of ours.
(Isaac Watts)



[i] Reading 1 Footnotes:
Pentecost = The Jews celebrated Pentecost as the anniversary of the giving of the Mosaic Law. Luke is showing that the mission of the Christian church, as was the ministry of Jesus, is dependent upon the coming of the Holy Spirit. And by his focus on Pentecost as being the day when this coming took place, he is also suggesting (1) that the Spirit’s coming is in continuity with God’s purposes in giving the law to the Jews and yet (2) that the Spirit’s coming signals the essential difference between the Jewish faith and commitment to Jesus, for whereas the former is Torah centered and Torah directed, the latter is Christ centered and Spirit directed.
[ii] “A noise like a strong driving wind” = This noise appears to have been heard over a great part of the city, and to have gathered together a great crowd, who came to learn the cause. This noise and wind were symbols of the divinity. It was thus also that formerly on Mount Sinai, thunder and lightning, the dark cloud, the smoking mountain, &c. marked the majesty of God in giving of the Ten Commandments.
[iii] “filled with the Holy Spirit” = Luke used “filling” to express the Holy Spirit’s presence and enablement. Those who are ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ are always those who are faithfully fulfilling their anointed task as proclaimers.
[iv] “Speak in different tongues” = That is, foreign languages. Reference can be made here to the story of the Tower of Babel, where the people tried to construct a tower that would touch Heaven and thereby make them independent of God and especially prevent God from dispersing them via floods. In the process of this construction, God imposed multiple languages upon the builders and made it impossible for them to converse and carry out a united effort, and thus they dispersed. Here, the effect of foreign languages is used to unite the people. The Holy Spirit uses the disciples to speak multiple languages to communicate the one gospel and thus bring unity to all people in the family of God.
[v]  Reading 2 Footnotes:
All the parts of the Church = Since the Church is the Body of Christ, it too is formed of many different members which are to work together for the benefit of the whole. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
[vi] Gospel Footnotes:
Jesus stood in their midst = Jesus’ glorified body entered the Upper Room by penetration through the closed doors, as He did at His resurrection. The same power which could bring Christ’s whole body, entire in all its dimensions, through the doors, can, without the least question, make the same body really present in the Eucharist; though both the one and the other be above our comprehension.
[vii] “His hands and His side” = The point is that Jesus is raised not simply with a body, but with the same body that was crucified and died only days earlier. He carries these marks of His earthly sacrifice with Him even when He ascends into heaven. One could guess that when we die we shall see Jesus, with His crucified markings, and His appearance like that of His transfiguration on Mt. Tabor.


SR-2018-05-13

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
7th Sunday of Easter (Cycle B) – May 13, 2018


This Sunday’s Theme: That All May Be One in God’s Love.

Some dioceses celebrate the Liturgy for the Ascension of The Lord on this Sunday. Our diocese celebrated this on Thursday, so today we will celebrate the Liturgy for the 7th Sunday of Easter. Next Sunday is Pentecost Sunday, ending the Easter Season. I love the Easter Season and especially its “sprinkling”. It reminds me to “clean up my act!”. Also, another wonderful part of the Easter Season is that the Scripture Readings are from St. John – both the Gospel of John and his letter of 1 John. As the saying goes –  “The writings of Paul are about faith, Peter about hope, and John about love.”

In Reading 1, the Apostles celebrate the selection of Matthias to replace Judas which brings the group back to its completeness in the Lord. In Reading 2, the topics of love and the Holy Spirit as its enabler, which we have been studying throughout the Easter Season, focuses upon love for one another as God has loved us. The Gospel contains Jesus’ Priestly Prayer to His Father as an intercessory prayer for the love and care of His disciples and His believers (us) after His Ascension.

“I pray that the Lord Jesus will reveal Himself to each one of you, that He will give the strength to go out and profess that you are a Christian, that He will show you that He alone can fill your hearts. Accept His freedom and embrace His truth and be messengers of the certainty that you have been liberated through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. This will be the new experience, the power experience, that will generate, through you, a more just society and a better world. God bless you and may the joy of Jesus be always with you! (Pope Saint John Paul II)


Reading 1 Acts 1:15-17, 20a, 20c-26      The disciples pick Matthias to replace Judas’ role as a member of the       Twelve Apostles.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 103:1-2, 11-12, 19-20     Praise the Lord for His Kindness.

Reading 2 1 John 4:11-16     God and His Love dwells in us.

Gospel –  John 17:11b-19     Jesus’ Prayer for Us.


Reading 1     Acts 1:15-17, 20a, 20c-26                    (Choice of Matthias)

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 finds the disciples in a congregation (the setting of the first Christian Church) which according to the text, was about 120 persons. They are set to the task of replacing Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus, and so to complete The Twelve. The ancient Jewish messianic belief held that the Twelve Tribes of Israel was a very important description of God’s Chosen People, so the company of Jesus known as The Twelve was important and so must indeed be completed; eleven would not do. The disciples, at Peter’s urging, trusted in the direct and simple power of God’s Holy Spirit to guide their choice by using lots as the tool by which to discern God’s Will.

Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers —there was a group of about one hundred and twenty persons in the one place —. He said, “My brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand through the mouth of David, concerning Judas, who was the guide for those who arrested Jesus. He was numbered among us
and was allotted a share in this ministry.

For it is written in the Book of Psalms: May another take His office.[i]

Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which He was taken up from us, become with us a witness to His resurrection.” So they proposed two, Judas called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two You have chosen to take the place in this apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away to go to his own place.” Then they gave lots to them[ii], and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the eleven apostles.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          The replacement of one Apostle with another: Catechism 860 –  In the office of the apostles there is one aspect that cannot be transmitted: to be the chosen witnesses of the Lord’s Resurrection and so the foundation stones of the Church. But their office also has a permanent aspect. Christ promised to remain with them always. The divine mission entrusted by Jesus to them “will continue to the end of time, since the Gospel they handed on is the lasting source of all life for the Church. Therefore, . . . the apostles took care to appoint successors.” 


Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 103:1-2, 11-12, 19-20                      (Praise the Lord for His Kindness)

Today’s Psalm – The psalmist, David, summons his whole being to praise God for His kindness. David ended this psalm as he began it by exhorting himself to bless (praise, glorify, worship, honor) the Lord. This great psalm glorifies God by expounding His character. It teaches us what God is like.

R. – The Lord has set His throne in heaven.
Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all my being, bless His holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.
R. – The Lord has set His throne in heaven.
For as the heavens are high above the earth, so surpassing is His kindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He put our transgressions from us.
R. – The Lord has set His throne in heaven.
The LORD has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all. Bless the LORD, all you His angels, you mighty in strength, who do His bidding.
R. – The Lord has set His throne in heaven.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          How to “fear the Lord” = Psalm 34 states, to fear the Lord – “keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit , depart from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it”. Also:   – 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.   Fear of the Lord = full of love, awe, respect, trust, faith, and obedience towards God.


Reading 2.     1 John 4:11-16                         (God and His Love Dwells in Us)

Context – 1, 2 & 3 JOHN
These letters are assumed to have been written by the same author as the Gospel according to John. Their purpose is to deepen the spiritual life of its readers and to correct popular heretical views such that God did not become man in Jesus.
Today’s Reading –  The message, that God’s love is powerful and immediate, demands that the disciples (both ancient and modern) make active and practical love become the very hallmark of our discipleship. What keeps the Christian Community together is love of God and neighbor. God abides in us by His Holy Spirit and we in God, if we abide in love.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God.[iii]
Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and His love is brought to perfection in us.

This is how we know that we remain in Him and He in us, that He has given us of His Spirit. Moreover, we have seen and testify that the Father sent His Son as savior of the world. Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him and he in God. We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.

God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           Today’s harsh and thoughtless language demonstrates the speaker’s distance and absence from God, i.e. absence of any evidence of love. Particularly important is the example that public people who claim to embrace the Gospel of Christ and His Church must use the language of love. It is easy to be disappointed today and even scandalized at the vitriol, hatred, and demonizing that comes from our political polarization. To demonize, marginalize, and be without care for all persons is a fundamental and severe renunciation of the above Scripture reading: “If God so loved us, we must love one another.”. (Excerpts from the Franciscans St. Anthony’s Guild)
What polarization requires is two people or two groups of people who disagree, each of whom believes that the other is entirely at fault and is politically, philosophically and perhaps even morally irredeemable. Pope Francis suggests that we, by realizing that we are all sinners, recognize our individual complicity in polarization and ask God for the grace to change. As long as we believe that the problem is someone else, then there is nothing we can do about it. But if we are able to acknowledge that we are a part of the problem, then we can begin to image how we might be part of the solution. Start our conversations with our neighbors by focusing upon what we have in common – a move that is itself subversive of polarization. Pope Francis, when he addressed the US Congress, said “The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization.” (Excerpts from Fr. Matt Malone’s editorial in “America Magazine”, 4/30/18)


Gospel     John 17:11b-19                            (Jesus’ Prayer for Us)

Context –  John’s Gospel was written around 90 AD. His Gospel has an evangelistic purpose – preaching about Christ for conversion to Him.  John explains the mystery of the person of Jesus – His eternal origin, divine and human nature. He is eternally present with God. So much of this Gospel is devoted to the heavenly identity and mission of Jesus that John was known as the “spiritual” Gospel in the ancient Church. The “divine family” of God revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the towering mystery of this Fourth Gospel.
Today’s Reading –  As the Last Supper draws to a close Jesus prays to God the Father for Himself and as the intercessor on behalf of His disciples. In the Old Covenant, it was the High Priest who offered the bloody sacrifice to Yahweh on His sacred altar and whose responsibility it was to serve the covenant people as God’s representative and the people’s intercessor.  Now, in the New Covenant order, it is Jesus Himself who is offering both the sacrifice of His passion and death and His intercession on behalf of His disciples to God the Father.  Therefore, this prayer (a portion of which is included in our Gospel reading) has come to be known as Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer.
In this deeply moving intercessory prayer, which is prayed aloud before the disciples at the Last Supper, we become even more aware of the loving intimacy of Jesus’ relationship with God the Father as well as His love and concern for those who have followed Him.

Lifting up His eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying: “Holy Father, keep them in Your name that You have given Me, so that they may be one just as We are one. When I was with them I protected them in Your name that You gave Me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to You. I speak this in the world so that they may share My joy completely. I gave them Your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask that You take them out of the world but that You keep them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate Myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.”


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          There is also good news for us in Jesus’ Priestly Prayer! The next verse after the Gospel reading is verse John 17:20 Neither for these (His Disciples) alone do I pray [it is not for their sake only that I make this request], but also for all those who will ever come to believe in (trust in, cling to, rely on) Me through their word and teaching (US!!!) …” AMP. This is great news for us that Jesus included us in His Priestly Prayer to His Father. Thanks be to God.verse

Catechism 2758 – The prayer of the hour of Jesus, rightly called the “priestly prayer” (cf. Jn 17), sums up the whole economy of creation and salvation. It fulfills the great petitions of the Our Father.



[i] Reading 1 Footnotes:
“May another take His office’ = The Old Testament (Psalm 109:8) meaning of this was a curse on the enemies of God and Israel. The New Testament meaning realizes that it was a prophetic prefigure of the suffering and betrayal of Jesus.
[ii] They used lots to select upon Matthias = The disciples wanted God to identify the new apostle. They cast lots probably by drawing one of two designated stones out of a container or by throwing down specially marked objects. The Lord identified Matthias as His sovereign choice to fulfill the ministry (service) and apostleship (office) of Judas. Matthias received no further mention in the New Testament. Legend has it that he died as a martyr in Ethiopia. This instance of casting lots to determine God’s will is the last one the New Testament writers recorded. This was not a vote. Casting lots to determine God’s will was necessary before the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit (at Pentecost and at our Baptism), and when He came He provided the guidance inwardly that God had formerly provided externally. Christians do not need to cast lots to determine God’s will since now the indwelling Holy Spirit provides that guidance. He does so objectively through our Scripture reading and subjectively through impressing His will on yielded believers in response to prayer.
[iii] Reading 2 Footnotes:
“No one has ever seen God” = The divine essence of God is the invisible Holy Spirit. His divine love is made visible in the humanity and mission of Jesus and in the selfness charity of His followers (us).


 

SR-2018-05-06

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
6th Sunday of Easter (Cycle B) – May 6, 2018


This Sunday’s Theme: God is Love.

Those who know Jesus well—and Jesus says that His disciples do know Him—will love one another. Knowledge leads to love, which leads to action. John reminds his community that Jesus taught that love is the sign of a true disciple and, thus, a true Christian. Even more, a true disciple shows a particular kind of love, sacrificial love. (Loyola Press)

 “May the Holy Spirit of Pentecost, help you clarify what is ambiguous,
to give warmth to what is indifferent, to enlighten what is obscure,
to be the world’s true and generous witness of Christ’s love,
for no one can live without love.”
(St. Pope John Paul II)


Reading 1 Acts 10:25-26,34-35,44-48     The gift of God’s love in the form of the Holy Spirit comes to Cornelius and his household, and they are baptized.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 98:1-4     A song of praise for God’s universal love.

Reading 2 1 John 4:7-10     God is love.

Gospel –  John 15:9-17     Jesus commands His disciples to love one another.



Reading 1     Acts 10:25-26,34-35,44-48                   (God Loves All)

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 takes place several years after Jesus’ Passion, Death and Resurrection and after Saul’s conversion (last week’s reading). The conversion of the pagan Cornelius is one of the high points of the Acts of the Apostles. Cornelius, a Gentile, was the centurion in command of the Italian army unit stationed at Caesarea. He was a proselyte (one who approaches) of the type called “those who fear God,” who accepted the Jewish Law but did not become full members of the Jewish community by circumcision.
This reading is sometimes called the “Gentile Pentecost” because in it is described a powerful act of the ‘Holy Spirit outpouring of God’s love’ on the Gentiles who previously were thought by the apostles and the Jews to have been excluded from God’s plan. When Peter sees God at work in Cornelius, he states that “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears Him and acts uprightly is acceptable to Him.” As mentioned Cornelius and his family met these conditions, and both Peter and Cornelius had separate dreams directing them to meet with one another. Our reading begins with this meeting.

When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and, falling at his feet, paid him homage. Peter, however, raised him up, saying, “Get up. I myself am also a human being.”[I]

Then Peter proceeded to speak and said, “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.
Rather, in every nation whoever fears Him and acts uprightly is acceptable to Him.”

While Peter was still speaking these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the word. The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit should have been poured out on the Gentiles also, for they could hear them speaking in tongues and glorifying God.[ii] Then Peter responded, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit even as we have?” He ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.
Catechism 761 – The gathering together of the People of God began at the moment when sin destroyed both the communion of humans with God, and that of humans among themselves. The gathering together of the Church is, as it were, God’s reaction to the chaos provoked by sin. This reunification is achieved secretly in the heart of all peoples: “In every nation anyone who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable” to God.
Catechism 781 – “At all times and in every race, anyone who fears God and does what is right has been acceptable to Him. He has, however, willed to make humans holy and save them, not as individuals without any bond or link between them, but rather to make them into a people who might acknowledge Him and serve Him in holiness. He therefore chose the Israelite race to be His own people and established a covenant with it. He gradually instructed this people. . . . All these things, however, happened as a preparation for and figure of that new and perfect covenant which was to be ratified in Christ . . . the New Covenant in His blood; He called together a race made up of Jews and Gentiles which would be one, not according to the flesh, but in the Spirit.”  


Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 98:1-4                       (God’s Universal Love)

Today’s Psalm – This psalm takes up the theme of God’s universal love that emphatically declares: “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God.” This psalm inspired Isaac Watts to write the hymn, “Joy to the World!”

R. – The Lord has revealed to the nations His saving power.
Sing to the LORD a new song, for He has done wondrous deeds; His right hand has won victory for Him, His holy arm.
R. – The Lord has revealed to the nations His saving power.
The LORD has made His salvation known: in the sight of the nations He has revealed His justice. He has remembered His kindness and His faithfulness toward the house of Israel.
R. – The Lord has revealed to the nations His saving power.
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God. Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands; break into song; sing praise.
R. – The Lord has revealed to the nations His saving power.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Reading 2.     1 John 4:7-10                           (God is Love)

Context – 1, 2 & 3 JOHN
These letters are assumed to have been written by the same author as the Gospel according to John. Their purpose is to deepen the spiritual life of its readers and to correct popular heretical views such that God did not become man in Jesus.
Today’s Reading –  This reading uses the word love nine times. When it comes to speaking about the central mystery of our faith, speaking about who God is, the most important thing we can say about God is that He is love. Then John says an amazing thing: “whoever loves is begotten of God and knows God.” This means, among other things, that the person who lives a loving life knows God. Elsewhere, John says: “where there is love, there is God”. The reverse side of the above truth is that whoever does not love, does not really know God.  This refers to believers who do not live lives of love. The last verse of the reading underlines another important truth, namely that God loved us way before we ever showed our love for God.

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent His only Son into the world so that we might have life through Him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as expiation (atonement) for our sins.[iii]


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           What is love? Genuine love is to desire the ultimate good for another person. It is like a ball in a game of catch: throw it and it will come back to you; hold onto it, and that ends the game. (Peter Kreeft)
What does love look like? True Christian love should inspire us all to do both the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Corporal Works (The kind acts by which we help others with their material and physical needs.) = feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned, bury the dead, and give alms to the poor. Spiritual Works (Acts of compassion by which we help others with their emotional and spiritual needs.) = instruct, advise/counsel, admonish sinners, bear wrongs patiently, forgive offenses willingly, comfort the afflicted, pray for the living and the dead. 
“That person who truly possesses love, loves their friend in God, but loves their enemy (adversary, rival, antagonist, nemesis, foe) for God’s sake.” (St. Pope Gregory the Great)  


Gospel     John 15:9-17                                 (Love One Another)

Context –  John’s Gospel was written around 90 AD. His Gospel has an evangelistic purpose – preaching about Christ for conversion to Him.  John explains the mystery of the person of Jesus – His eternal origin, divine and human nature. He is eternally present with God. So much of this Gospel is devoted to the heavenly identity and mission of Jesus that John was known as the “spiritual” Gospel in the ancient Church. The “divine family” of God revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the towering mystery of this Fourth Gospel.
Today’s Reading – This reading’s beautiful teaching on love took place during the Last Supper. Like Reading 2, this reading uses the word love nine times. Jesus makes an amazing statement which we might easily miss. “I love you disciples with the same intensity of love as my Father loves Me.” Pondering these words could do wonders for us as we struggle to deepen our sense of God’s love for us. Then Jesus says: Remain in My love. Even though Jesus will be physically separated from His disciples by His death, they can still experience His love by remaining in His love and by keeping His commandments. Jesus summed up all the commandments in one word, namely, love: love of God, love of family & neighbor, and love of self. The sacrificial dimension of love is also stressed here. Laying down one’s life for another is the greatest form of love. This word of Jesus has to be very consoling for all those who day after day care for loved ones, for the sick and for those who live on the margins of society. Finally, the reading underlines God’s initiative when it comes to our relationship with Him. God is always seeking a relationship with us even when we show little or no interest in Him.
Be grateful to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; love the Blessed Trinity; prove your love of your fellow persons by your character, conduct, and conversation. By doing this you are fulfilling the whole law and the prophets; and you are assuring yourself of the place in heaven which Christ has won for you.

Jesus said to His disciples: “As the Father loves Me, so I also love you. Remain in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love.[iv]

“I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and your joy might be complete. This is My commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves (servant, agent, delegate), because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from My Father. It was not you who chose Me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. This I command you: love one another.”


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          “I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from My Father.”
What A Friend We Have In Jesus
What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry, Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit, Oh, what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry, Everything to God in prayer!
Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged—Take it to the Lord in prayer. Can we find a friend so faithful, Who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness; Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Are we weak and heavy-laden, Cumbered with a load of care? Precious Savior, still our refuge—Take it to the Lord in prayer. Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer! In His arms He’ll take and shield thee, Thou wilt find a solace there.
Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised Thou wilt all our burdens bear; May we ever, Lord, be bringing, All to Thee in earnest prayer. Soon in glory bright, unclouded, There will be no need for prayer—Rapture, praise, and endless worship, Will be our sweet portion there. (Joseph M. Scriven 1855) 

Catechism 1826 – “If I . . . have not charity (love),” says the Apostle, “I am nothing.” Whatever my privilege, service, or even virtue, “if I . . . have not charity, I gain nothing.” Charity is superior to all the virtues. It is the first of the theological virtues: “So faith, hope, charity abide, these three. But the greatest of these is charity.”



[I] Reading 1 Footnotes:
Peter tells Cornelius not to bow down before him. = This shows Peter’s humility – St. Chrysostom.
[ii]The Holy Spirit fell upon all of them”, just like the Holy Spirit previously came to all in the Upper Room at Pentecost. The Christians who had come with Peter, who before had been Jews, were astonished to see that such extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit were given to uncircumcised Gentiles. Later at the Council of Jerusalem (described in Acts 15), it was formally proclaimed that converts to Christianity would not be required to be circumcised.
[iii] Reading 2 Footnotes:
The love and charity of God hath appeared by His sending His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Thus, God having first loved us, let us not be so ungrateful as not to love Him, and to love one another after His example. Love not only comes from God but it is itself the very essence of God.
[iv] Gospel Footnotes:
Keep the commandments = Love God and follow His laws and we will continue to keep ourselves worthy of the protection of Christ’s love. The love of Christ gives us the ability to do this. It’s not once saved, always saved – it’s that we must continue to live and love in Christ to be saved.