Sunday Readings Reflections

SR-2018-08-19

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
20th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle B) – August 19, 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: The Eucharistic Celebration.

Reading 1 speaks about the wisdom of God in creating our Church and the Eucharist. The Gospel focuses upon Jesus giving bread (His Flesh and Blood) “for the life of the world” that we receive in the Eucharist. In Reading 2, Paul directs us to conduct our lives by way of God’s will for each of us.


Reading 1 – Proverbs 9:1-6     Wisdom has set a feast before us.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 34:2-7     A prayer of praise to God for His goodness.

Reading 2 – Ephesians 5:15-20     Filled with the Holy Spirit, Christians strive to follow the will of the Lord.

Gospel – John 6:51-58     Jesus teaches that whoever eats His flesh and drinks His blood will live forever.


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

NOTE:The Lectionary Bible Readings for this Sunday – Readings 1 & 2, Responsorial Psalm, and the Gospel, all appear in purple in the following. Footnotes are included in these passages and the contents of all the footnotes appear at the end of this document. However, move the cursor over the Footnote Number in the passage and then the contents for this Footnote appears directly in a separate panel.

Reading 1     Proverbs 9:1-6              (Divine Food and Drink)

Context – The Book of Proverbs is a compendium of moral and religious instruction as given to Jewish youth by professional sages in the post-exile period. Proverbs is the most typical example of a “wisdom” book in the Old Testament with its emphasis on: moral high probity (adherence to the highest principles and ideals) based on religion, its teaching that reward and punishment follow in this life, its appeal to the lessons of experience rather than to revelation, and its exploration of the nature of wisdom and of wisdom’s relation to God. (“Wisdom” here means not merely the practical ability to succeed well in life, or even the art of behaving ethically, but spiritual vision, understanding of God and His activity in our lives and history.) A follow-up to Proverbs is the Book of Sirach in the Apocrypha.
Today’s Reading – We are introduced to the personified wisdom of God, sometimes called Lady Wisdom. She has built herself a perfect house (church) with seven columns, seven being the biblical symbol for perfection. In her home, she prepares a lavish banquet of great foods and wines (the altar with the Eucharist), and invites (via the priests) all to come and partake.  All who come are guaranteed to “advance in the way of understanding.”

Wisdom (God) has built her house[i], she has set up her seven columns[ii]; she has dressed her meat, mixed her wine, yes, she has spread her table (The Eucharist on the Altar). She has sent out her maidens[iii]; she calls from the heights out over the city: “Let whoever is simple (humble) turn in here; To the one who lacks understanding (one searching for the truth and acceptance), she says, Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed! Forsake foolishness (pride) that you may live (enjoy life and serve the Lord with gladness); advance in the way of understanding (follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit).”[iv]


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


 Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 34:2-7                        (Taste the Lord’s Goodness)

Today’s Psalm – The response “Taste and see” exhorts us to feast (trust, participate, involve yourself in) on the Lord and to advance in our understanding of His presence in our midst.

R. – Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
I will bless the LORD
[v] at all times; His praise shall be ever in my mouth. Let my soul glory in the LORD; the lowly (humble) will hear me and be glad.[vi]
R. – Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
Glorify the LORD
[vii] with me, let us together extol (promote) His name. I sought the LORD, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears[viii].
R. – Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
Look to Him
[ix] that you may be radiant with joy, and your faces may not blush with shame. When the poor one (humble) called out, the LORD heard, and from all his distress He saved him.[x]
R. – Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you. 


Reading 2     Ephesians 5:15-20               (Discern God’s Will)

Context – Ephesians sets before us a vision of Christ reigning in Heaven next to the Father and renewing the earth through His Church. It shows God’s saving work through Jesus. The Church is nothing less than God’s new creation in Christ.
Today’s Reading – This reading harmonizes well with the wisdom theme found in Reading 1. Paul is strongly encouraging his readers to reject the way of foolishness and to embrace the path of wisdom which seeks to discover God’s will and sing His praises.

Brothers and sisters: Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise[xi], making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil[xii]. Therefore, do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord[xiii]. And do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery, but be filled with the Holy Spirit[xiv], addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks always and for everything[xv] in the Name of[xvi] our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.

Gospel     John 6:51-58                                 (Need for Communion)

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 – In summary: Jesus Himself is the bread sent by God; Jesus’ flesh is the bread that is given for the life of the world.
Among the stumbling blocks for those who heard but did not understand Jesus, is the teaching that the bread that Jesus will give is His own flesh. In response to the people who quarreled over His words, Jesus teaches with even greater emphasis that salvation comes to those who eat His Body and Blood. To many ears, Jesus’ words are jarring and difficult to hear. Many who heard Jesus could not accept what He said. Many today continue to struggle to accept these words. But they are important words because they reveal our intimate connection with Jesus.
This is the mystery that is at the heart of our eucharistic theology. In the elements of bread and wine, Jesus’ Body and Blood are made truly present. When we share in the Body and Blood of Christ, Jesus Himself comes to dwell within us. This communion with the Lord makes us one body, brings us eternal life, and sends us forth to be Christ’s body for the life of the world.

Jesus said to the crowds: “I am the Living Bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this Bread will live forever; and the Bread that I will give is My flesh for the life of the world.”

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent Me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on Me will have life because of Me. This is the Bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate [the manna from heaven] and still died, whoever eats this Bread will live forever.”[xvii]


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          Both the bread and wine of communion are referred to as “species”. It is valid to receive communion via the bread species only (referred to as “one kind”), or by both the bread and wine species (referred to as “both kinds”). 
Catechism 1390 – Since Christ is sacramentally present under each of the species, communion under the species of bread alone makes it possible to receive all the fruit of Eucharistic grace. For pastoral reasons this manner of receiving communion has been legitimately established as the most common form in the Latin rite. But “the sign of communion is more complete when given under both kinds, since in that form the sign of the Eucharistic meal appears more clearly.” This is the usual form of receiving communion in the Eastern rites.


Catechism 1373 – “Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us,” is present in many ways to His Church: in His word, in His Church’s prayer, “where two or three are gathered in My name,” in the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned, in the sacraments of which He is the Author, in the sacrifice of the Mass, and in the Person of the Minister. But “He is present … most especially in the Eucharistic species.”

Catechism 1376 – The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: “Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly His body that He was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of His blood. This change the Holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.” 

Catechism 1384 – The Lord addresses an invitation to us, urging us to receive Him in the sacrament of the Eucharist: “Truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.”



[i]  Reading 1 Footnotes:
“Wisdom has built her house” = “House” is the Church. Here we may receive all Godly instruction, the seven sacraments, and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (Fear of the Lord, wisdom, knowledge, understanding, piety, counsel, and courage.)
[ii]  “seven columns” = “Seven” to the Jews indicated perfection.
[iii]  “sent out her maidens” = The “maidens” are the pastors of the church, inviting all of us to piety.
[iv]  “advance in the way of understanding” = The parallel between wisdom and walking in God’s ways (Godliness) is clear in this passage. Jesus is “the Way”.
[v]  Responsorial Psalm Footnotes:
“I will bless the Lord” = I will thank the Lord and honor His name by an exclamation of gratitude and admiration to Him, from the depths of my soul, for His works and His blessings that show His love for us.
[vi] “the lowly (humble) will hear me and be glad” = We will learn the Godly truth and be able to live it.
[vii]  “Glorify the Lord” = This happens when we show our faith (obedient belief), hope and trust in Him by our character, conduct, and conversation.
[viii]  “delivered me from all my fears” = He helps me to stay in my walk with Him by His guidance, patience, and forgiveness when I stumble.
[ix] “Look to Him” = Look to Him by faith and good works.”
[x] “When the poor one (humble) called out … He saved him.” = What then should hinder us from addressing our prayers to God and trusting in His response to them?
[xi]  Reading 2 Footnotes:
“a wise person” = The wise person is one who views and sees things the way God does.
[xii] “the days are evil” = This refers to what has occurred in the day. Some of the things that occur in it are good, as they are enabled by God. Some are bad, because they are brought about by evil desires and deeds on the part of we humans.
[xiii]  “the will of the Lord” = The first meaning of the will of the Lord is: It is God’s sovereign control of all things – His “sovereign will” or His “will of decree.” It cannot be broken. It always comes to pass. The other meaning of “the will of the Lord” is His “will of command.” It is what He commands us to do but by our own Free Will (or by our ignorance of His will), we either obey or disobey God. This passage of Reading 2, is in reference to the second definition of “the will of the Lord” – that is, God’s will of command. Through wisdom we learn and understand “the will of the Lord” and by our obedience to Him, we carry out “His commands”.
[xiv]  “be filled with the Holy Spirit” = “One drunk with wine sways and stumbles. But one who is filled with the Holy Spirit has solid footing in Christ. This is a fine drunkenness, which produces even greater sobriety of mind”. (Saint Ambrose)
[xv]  “always giving thanks” = It is possible to be thankful in all things when we recognize that God is at work in our lives for His glory and our good. When God controls us, we are thankful. This is certainly difficult to do in hard times.
[xvi]  “in the Name of” = This means: By the authority of; As the representative of; Supported by.
[xvii]  Gospel Footnotes:
“whoever eats this Bread will live forever” = There is similarity here between the “Tree of Life” in the Garden of Eden, which bore the fruit of immortality, and “Jesus, the Bread of Life” which Catholic Tradition calls the “medicine of immortality”.


SR-2018-08-12

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
19th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle B) – August 12, 2018


This Sunday’s Theme: Our Obedient Belief in Jesus Equips Us for Heaven.

We believe in a loving God, and in His divine Son, Jesus Christ, who came on earth to bring us to heaven, and in the Holy Spirit who helps us complete the work of sanctification in us. Our faith is a gift from God and the Holy Spirit helps us develop our faith into obedient belief which makes it possible to know and properly follow Jesus. The knowledge that our Christian faith gives us concerns both our eternity and our journey toward it.

In Reading 1, Elijah receives and accepts the sustenance, from an angel of the Lord, that is necessary for his journey to heaven. Reading 2 identifies those acceptable behaviors on our journey to heaven that will make us acceptable to God when we arrive there. In the Gospel, Jesus tells us about His role in sustaining us and enabling us, if we cooperate with Him, to live the proper life for a successful journey to heaven.


Reading 1 – 1 Kings 19:4-8     The Lord feeds Elijah, strengthening him for his journey to Horeb.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 34:2-9     A prayer of praise to God for His goodness.

Reading 2 – Ephesians 4:30—5:2     The Ephesians are encouraged to be imitators of Christ.

Gospel – John 6:41-51     Jesus responds to the murmurs of the crowd, who wonders what He means when He says that He came down from heaven.


Reading 1     1 Kings 19:4-8              (Supernatural Food)

Context – Kings 1 & 2, records the events of the reign of Solomon (970 – 930 BC) and then the succeeding kings of Judah and Israel (930 – 588 BC). (When Solomon died, the 12 Jewish tribes – ie. the 12 sons of Jacob, split into two separate Kingdoms – Judah, the southern Kingdom – made up of two tribes, and Israel, the northern Kingdom – made up of ten tribes.) After King Solomon, God no longer used the kingship to be the medium through which He governed His people but instead chose to use prophets for this function. Elijah was one of the most outstanding prophets and was from the northern Kingdom.
Today’s Reading – King Ahab and his Queen Jezebel have banished Elijah from his homeland because he was trying to convert the people from worshiping the god Baal. To escape their wrath, Elijah journeys out into the desert, not to pray for strength to continue his journey but to pray for death. “This is enough, O Lord! Take my life.”  Then an angel of the Lord visits the discouraged prophet— not once but twice. Strengthened by “food from heaven,” Elijah gets up and walks forty days and forty nights to the mountain of Horeb (another name for Sinai) where Moses encountered God. There he will be blessed with another intimate experience of God and recommissioned as a prophet to his people.

Elijah went a day’s journey into the desert, until he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it. He prayed for death saying: “This is enough, O LORD! Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” He lay down and fell asleep under the broom tree, but then an angel touched him and ordered him to get up and eat. Elijah looked and there at his head was a hearth cake and a jug of water. After he ate and drank, he lay down again,
but the angel of the LORD came back a second time, touched him, and ordered, “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!”  He got up, ate, and drank; then strengthened by that food
[i], he walked forty days[ii] and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb[iii].


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.         How many times have we said “enough is enough”? We get overwhelmed by the apparent overload of our “crosses” to bear and for some, suicide is contemplated. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the USA. Even the great prophet Elijah contemplated death as the answer to his problems. Apparently, he thought he should have been totally successful in eliminating the worship of the pagan god Baal by converting all the people to worship the God of Abraham. His efforts failed and he was in flight for his life from queen Jezebel because of these failed conversion efforts. Thankfully he quieted himself and opened his mind to the guidance of the Lord, which came to him through an angel, and he was able to continue to go forward as the great prophet he was. The Lord speaks to us either directly and/or through those around us. We just need to put ourselves in His presence and then watch what happens. Trust in your prayers.  


Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 34:2-9                       (Refuge in God)

Today’s Psalm – This is a Psalm of praise and thanksgiving. The invitation to “Taste and see that the Lord is good” is a perfect tie-in with Reading 1 and the Gospel.

R. – Taste (try, test, sample, experience, witness, receive) and see the goodness of the Lord.
I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall be ever in my mouth. Let my soul glory in the LORD; the lowly
(humble) will hear me and be glad.
R. – Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
Glorify the LORD with me, Let us together extol His name. I sought the LORD, and He answered me And delivered me from all my fears.
R. – Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
Look to Him that you may be radiant with joy. And your faces may not blush with shame. When the afflicted man called out, the LORD heard, And from all his distress He saved him.
R. – Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him
[iv] and delivers them. Taste and see how good the LORD is; blessed the man who takes refuge in Him.[v]
R. – Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.    


Reading 2     Ephesians 4:30—5:2                              (Imitating God’s Goodness)

Context – Ephesians sets before us a vision of Christ reigning in Heaven next to the Father and renewing the earth through His Church. It shows God’s saving work through Jesus. The Church is nothing less than God’s new creation in Christ.
Today’s Reading – Paul continues to speak to the Ephesians about living their new life in Christ.  He exhorts them to “not grieve the Holy Spirit” by not engaging in “bitterness, fury, anger, shouting and reviling, or any kind of malice.” Then Paul points out attitudes and behaviors that will gladden the Holy Spirit, namely, compassion, forgiveness, and following the way of love!

Brothers and sisters: Do not grieve (sadden, offend, disobey, sin against) the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption[vi]. All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.

So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed Himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma[vii].


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Gospel     John 6:41-51                                 (Jesus, The Living Bread)

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 talks about His unity with the Father. He is the one who has seen the Father and, therefore, knows the Father. Those who listen to God will recognize that Jesus is the one sent from God. Those who believe will have eternal life. Jesus concludes with the central element of our eucharistic theology: He promises that the bread of life will bring eternal life to those who partake of it, and He tells us that the bread of life will be His own flesh, given for the life of the world.

The Jews murmured about Jesus because He said, “I am the Bread that came down from heaven,” and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the Son of Joseph? Do we not know His father and mother? Then how can He say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”[viii] Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draw him[ix], and I will raise him on the last day[x]. It is written in the prophets: They shall all be taught by God. Everyone who listens to My Father and learns from Him comes to Me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father[xi]. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the Bread of Life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; This is the Bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the Living Bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this Bread will live forever; and the Bread that I will give is My flesh for the life of the world.”


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.

Catechism 1355 – In the communion, preceded by the Lord’s prayer and the breaking of the bread, the faithful receive “the Bread of Heaven” and “the Cup of Salvation,” the body and blood of Christ who offered Himself “for the life of the world”:
Because this bread and wine have been made Eucharist (“eucharisted,” according to an ancient expression), “we call this food Eucharist, and no one may take part in it unless they believe that what we teach is true, has received baptism for the forgiveness of sins and new birth, and lives in keeping with what Christ taught.”


Taste and See

 

Refrain: Taste and see, taste and see the goodness of the Lord. O taste and see, taste and see the goodness of the Lord, of the Lord.

 1. I will bless the Lord at all times. Praise shall always be on my lips; my soul shall glory in the Lord
for God has been so good to me. 

2. Glorify the Lord with me. Together let us all praise God’s name. I called the Lord who answered me;
from all my troubles I was set free. 

3. Worship the Lord, all you people. You’ll want for nothing if you ask. Taste and see that the Lord is good; in God we need put all our trust. (James E. Moore)


[i] Reading 1 Footnotes:
“strengthened by that food” = This bread with which Elijah was fed in the wilderness, was a figure of the Bread of Life (Jesus), which we receive at Mass in the Blessed Sacrament: by the strength of which we are to be supported in our journey through the wilderness of this world, till we come to the true mountain of God, in a happy eternity.
[ii]  “forty days” = Forty, in Hebrew numerology, is the number associated with a “period of”, for example: trial (40 days in Lent), testing (after Jesus was baptized, He fasted 40 days in the desert and was tested by the devil), a time of change (rained for 40 days), a generation (40 years in the desert before going to the Promised Land).
[iii]  “Horeb” = Horeb is also called Sinai, the place where God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses. It’s also the place of the incidences of “the burning bush” and “the worship of the golden calf”.
[iv]  Responsorial Psalm Footnotes:
“fear the Lord” = Love Him in good times and in bad, be obedient to Him, learn about Him, trust Him, tell others about Him, hate evil.
[v]  “take refuge in the Lord” = David called on the people to experience the Lord’s goodness personally by their obedient belief and by relying on Him in their times of distress.
[vi]  Reading 2 Footnotes:
“sealed by the Holy Spirit” = Our behavior is “sealed” by God’s Holy Spirit and so we are expected to be extraordinarily humane and gracious.                     
[vii]  “fragrant aroma” = Jesus’ self-sacrifice was pleasing and acceptable to God, as a sweet aroma.
[viii]  Gospel Footnotes:
Jesus said He came down from heaven = His claim to have come down from heaven seemed to the people of His home town to contradict what they knew about His human origins. They were thinking only in physical terms. The Incarnation of the Son of God in Jesus was and remains the great stumbling block in Christianity for the Jews.
[ix] “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draw him.” = God draws us to Himself by revealing Himself through Jesus. That enlightenment comes primarily through the Scriptures, God’s principle tool. God teaches people about Himself through Jesus. Listening to Jesus then becomes essential for learning from God. The result is eternal or everlasting life that the believer begins to enjoy the moment he or she believes in Jesus. All of this is part of what Jesus meant when He claimed to be the Bread of Life.
[x]  “I will raise them on the last day” = This is salvation for us and it results not only from belief, but believing so deeply that you act on that belief and “Do whatever He tells you”
[xi]  “He has seen the Father” = Jesus has seen the Father; He has come down from heaven. We can know God the Father only through the Son because He has seen Him and has come to reveal Him to us.


SR-2018-08-05

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
18th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle B) – August 5, 2018


This Sunday’s Theme: Remembering Past Blessings Gives Us Faith for the Future.

Reading 1 and the Gospel focus upon God the Father as the One who provides us with the “food” we need for our spiritual and physical life. But like pagans, we live with empty minds and are so taken up with filling our stomachs and the needs of this life that we fail to grasp the real meaning of His gifts or the incomparable worth of the Bread of Life who is Jesus Himself. Receiving these gifts, we become a new creation, with a fresh, spiritual way of thinking as shown in Reading 2. (CatholicCulture.org)


Reading 1 – Exodus 16:2–4, 12–15     The Lord feeds the Israelites with manna.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 78:3–4, 23–25, 54      A song of praise to God for His Bread from Heaven.

Reading 2 – Ephesians 4:17, 20–24     Christians become a new creation in Christ.

Gospel – John 6:24–35     Jesus teaches the crowds that He is the “bread of life.”


Reading 1     Exodus 16:2–4, 12–15             (Manna from Heaven)

Context – The Book of Exodus (the word “exodus” means “departure”) bears witness to God’s actions (about 1350-1200 BC) to deliver a people from bondage and to bind them to Himself in covenant. The Book of Exodus is a continuation of the story of Genesis. The fact that it takes its name from the Israelites’ going out of Egypt shows the importance of this episode in the life of Israel. At the center of all this stood Moses who was called by God to be the agent in delivering Israel from slavery, to be the interpreter of God’s redemptive work, and to be the mediator of the covenant. This book tells of the oppression of the Israelites in Egypt, the birth and education of Moses and his flight into the land of Midian, his encounter with God on Mount Sinai (Horeb) (the burning bush), Moses’ return to Egypt and pleadings with Pharaoh, the plagues of Egypt, the institution of the Passover, the passing through the Red Sea, the giving of the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai, the golden calf, and the 40 years of wandering in the desert.
Today’s Reading – After the Passover and escape through the Red Sea into the desert, the whole Israelite community did not at first have sufficient food resources and they grumbled against Moses and Aaron, saying that they were better off in Egypt than they are now, starving in the desert; that at least in Egypt they had something to eat. Their grumbling shows their lack of faith in God and remembrance of His past miracles (Pentecost and parting of the Red Sea) to provide for them. What’s really sad is not their clamoring for food, which is understandable, but their preference for their former life of oppression in Egypt. Their complaint is a slap in the face of the God who just liberated them.  But despite their lack of faith in God and their desire for their old way of life, God comes to their rescue and gives them lots of bread. The people are only to gather enough food for each day so that they will learn to trust in the God who gives us “this day our Daily Bread.” God also provided quail (meat) for their evening meal. All of this is intended to show the people God’s care for them. The reading ends with a reminder that the blessings of bread and meat are from heaven as is the source of all of our blessings.

The whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “Would that we had died at the LORD’s hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots[i] and ate our fill of bread! But you had to lead us into this desert to make the whole community die of famine!”

Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will now rain down bread from heaven for you. Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion; thus will I test them, to see whether they follow My instructions or not[ii].

“I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them: In the evening twilight you shall eat flesh, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread, so that you may know that I, the LORD, am your God.”

In the evening quail came up and covered the camp. In the morning a dew lay all about the camp, and when the dew evaporated, there on the surface of the desert were fine flakes like hoarfrost on the ground. On seeing it, the Israelites asked one another, “What is this?”[iii] for they did not know what it was. But Moses told them, “This is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.”


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.              God tested His people (i.e. made them hungry) and they responded by not asking Him for sustenance, but instead complained and desired to be in their previous situation in life (i.e. in cruel captivity but with lots of food). Their grumbling shows their lack of faith in God and remembrance of His past miracles (Pentecost and parting of the Red Sea) to provide for them. The only correct response to God’s test was for the people to ask Him for help and trust that He would deliver. God loved them too much to grant their wish to them “for the good ole days” but instead gave them the sustenance that He knew was best for them.
Lesson – 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 enables us to embrace the future. Let God do God’s work without trying to figure it out. (Fr. James Martin SJ). “I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all Your works and consider what Your hands have done.” (Ps 143:5)


Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 78:3–4, 23–25, 54                (Heavenly Bread)

Today’s Psalm – This Psalm sings of God’s greatness in providing food from heaven for His pilgrim[iv] people.

R. – The Lord gave them bread from heaven.
What we have heard and know, and what our fathers have declared to us, We will declare to the generation to come the glorious deeds of the LORD and His strength and the wonders that He wrought.
R. – The Lord gave them bread from heaven.
He commanded the skies above and opened the doors of heaven; He rained manna upon them for food and gave them heavenly bread.
R. – The Lord gave them bread from heaven.
Man ate the bread of angels
(manna), food He sent them in abundance. And He brought them to His holy land (the Promised Land), to the mountains His right hand had won.
R. – The Lord gave them bread from heaven.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          This Psalm’s purpose was to teach the young Jews about the past wonderous blessings from the Lord and that therefore they can trust in Him for blessings in the future if they obey His Word. This would enable them to avoid the mistakes of their ancestors who were stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful to Yahweh. Parents then and today, need to communicate God’s truth down through the generations.


Reading 2     Ephesians 4:17, 20–24                           (A New Self)

Context – Ephesians sets before us a vision of Christ reigning in Heaven next to the Father and renewing the earth through His Church. It shows God’s saving work through Jesus. The Church is nothing less than God’s new creation in Christ.
Today’s Reading –   In the ritual of baptism, those adults to be baptized put aside their old clothes, symbolizing their decision to put behind them their old sinful way of life. After they come forth from the waters of baptism, they clothe themselves with a new white garment symbolizing their decision to put on Christ and His values as their new way of life. It seems Paul is using this baptismal ritual to exhort his readers to put aside the way of sin and darkness and to put on the new life of Christ.  The pre-baptismal way of living is futile. The postbaptismal way leads to life and truth. As a small aside: notice that this reading is one sentence.

Brothers and sisters: I declare and testify in the Lord that you must no longer live as the Gentiles[v] do, in the futility of their minds[vi]; that is not how you learned Christ, assuming that you have heard of Him and were taught in Him, as truth is in Jesus, that you should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires[vii], and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self[viii], created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           Catechism 1473 – The forgiveness of sin and restoration of communion with God entail the remission of the eternal punishment of sin, but temporal punishment of sin remains. While patiently bearing sufferings and trials of all kinds and, when the day comes, serenely facing death, the Christian must strive to accept this temporal punishment of sin as a grace. They should strive by works of mercy and charity, as well as by prayer and the various practices of penance, to put off completely the “old self” and to put on the “new self.”  



Gospel     John 6:24–35                                 (Christ, True Bread from Heaven)

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 scene in today’s Gospel follows immediately after the multiplication of the loaves (last Sunday’s Gospel). Jesus had withdrawn to a quiet place with His disciples because the people wanted to make Him king. But the crowd went after Him. Jesus tells them that they are following Him because He filled their bellies with perishable food. He then tells them to seek after food that “endures for eternal life”, a reference to the Eucharist.
When the crowd asks: “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus tells them that they must believe in Him. Then the people ask Jesus for a sign which shows how slow they are to believe because they had just witnessed Jesus heal the sick and feed thousands with a few loaves.
Then the crowds refer back to the manna which Moses gave their ancestors, Jesus says that it was not Moses who gave the bread, but Jesus’ Father. Then Jesus says that He is Bread from Heaven. John wants his contemporaries to see Jesus as heavenly food that feeds their deepest spiritual needs.

When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor His disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum[ix] looking for Jesus. And when they found Him across the sea they said to Him, “Rabbi[x], when did You get here?” Jesus answered them and said,
“Amen, amen, I say to you
[xi], you are looking for Me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life[xii], which the Son of Man will give you. For on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” So they said to Him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one He sent.”[xiii] So they said to him, “What sign can You do, that we may see and believe in You? What can You do?[xiv] Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”
So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the Bread from heaven; my Father gives you the True Bread from heaven.
[xv] For the Bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

So they said to Him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the Bread of life; whoever comes to Me will never hunger, and whoever believes in Me will never thirst.”[xvi]


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.

Catechism – see Pause at Reading 2, above.


[i]  Reading 1 Footnotes:
the fleshpots of Egypt = They refer to the many seasoned and delicious foods that the Israelis ate while in captivity in Egypt.
[ii]  Test them to see if they will follow God’s instructions.” = God is testing their faith by providing only a portion of manna that is sufficient for one day’s sustenance.
[iii]  “What is it?” = This is the literal translation for “manna”, which means “the Bread which the Lord has given”. Today we Christians know this Bread as Jesus – “the Bread of Life”.
[iv]  Responsorial Psalm Footnotes:
“pilgrim” = A pilgrim is a traveler (literally one who has come from afar) who is on a journey to a holy place. Typically, this is a physical journey (often on foot) to some place of special significance to the adherent of a particular religious belief system. In the spiritual literature, the concept of pilgrim and pilgrimage may refer to the experience of life in the world (considered as a period of exile) or to the inner path of the spiritual aspirant from a state of wretchedness to a state of beatitude.
[v] Reading 2 Footnotes:
“Gentiles” = Sometimes, the word “Gentiles” in the Pauline letters refers to people who practiced pagan religious faith, as distinct from Jews and Jewish-Christians.
[vi]  “futility of mind” = “This occurs when someone has a mind but does not use it for contemplation, instead surrendering it to captivity under Satan.” (Origin)
[vii]  “deceitful desires” = An umbrella term for all that works contrary to the broad and deep Gospel way of life.
[viii]  “put away the old self” and “put on the new self.”  = These words belong to an old adult baptismal liturgy. The candidate removed his old clothes, went into the baptismal water, then put on new white clothing upon emerging; outward signs of an inner change: He had put aside his former life, washed away his sin, and put on Christ, beginning a new manner of life. A “new self” is the life lived by the Christian disciple who embraces the Gospel and who sets out to live that Gospel message faithfully and thoughtfully.
[ix]  Gospel Footnotes:
Capernaum = Capernaum is a city on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, twenty miles north of Nazareth. Jesus began His public ministry there by teaching in the synagogue.
[x]  “Rabbi” = The use of this address to Jesus is significant because, even though they don’t know precisely who He is, or what His mission is, they do recognize Him as a religious leader.
[xi]  “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 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.”
[xii]  “food that endures for eternal life” = Material food keeps us alive in this world, spiritual food sustains and develops supernatural life which will last forever. This spiritual food, only God can give us. Through God’s infinite love we are given, in the Blessed Eucharist, Jesus Himself as nourishment for our souls.
[xiii]  “What can we do to accomplish the works of God? … Believe in the One He sent.” = Their task is to believe in Jesus, and be in obedience to what He says, in faith (i.e. not just because of the miracles He does but also because of Who sent Him). He who comes from God speaks the words of God.
[xiv] “What can You do?” = Here we go again, Reading 1 showed that the people had short memory of past miracle blessings and had no trust in future blessings. In this Gospel reading, the people’s enthusiasm over the previous miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fishes is already beginning to wane. They are questioning rather than trusting future blessings.
[xv]  “Moses gave …My Father gives” = Note the transition from past tense to present tense “Moses gave – my Father gives”.
[xvi] “I am the Bread of life; whoever comes to Me will never hunger, and whoever believes in Me will never thirst.”   = Here Jesus equates coming to Him to mean believing in Him. It is through faith that we approach our Lord. Jesus also uses the analogy of food and drink to show that He is the one who really meets all of our aspirations and meets all of our needs.


SR-2018-07-29

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
17th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle B) – July 29, 2018


This Sunday’s Theme: God’s Blessings Exceed What We Do for Him.

Reading 1 and the Gospel focus upon God’s blessings that are greatly multiplied relative to what we do for Him. This is shown by the analogy of the multiplication of the small amount of loaves and fishes given to Him by “us” and how He embellishes them for us, resulting in the nourishment (blessings) for all the people plus with some left over for future needs. Reading 2 guides us on how we are to “do for Him” – how we should live our lives in obedience and gratefulness to God for His blessings.
“The Lord will provide.”  is a phrase that comes to mind from the story of the multiplication of loaves and fishes, in both Reading 1 and the Gospel.  This phrase comes from Gen 22:13-15 where the Lord provides a ram as a sacrifice in place of Isaac – “And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place The Lord will provide; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” It could be said that the story about the “multiplication of loaves and fishes” is similar to the story about “God will provide”. The similarity is that they are both examples of God’s lifesaving blessings.

Reading 1 – 2 Kings 4:42-44     Elisha the prophet feeds 100 people with 20 barley loaves.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 145:10-11,15-18     The Lord feeds His people and answers their needs.

Reading 2 – Ephesians 4:1-6     The Ephesians are encouraged to live the unity of their Baptism.

Gospel – John 6:1-15     Jesus feeds the crowd of more than five thousand people with five barley loaves and two fish.


Reading 1     2 Kings 4:42-44                        (Miracle of the Loaves)

Context – Kings 1 & 2, records the events of the reign of Solomon (970 – 930 BC) and then the succeeding kings of Judah and Israel (930 – 588 BC). (When Solomon died, the 12 Jewish tribes – ie. the 12 sons of Jacob, split into two separate Kingdoms – Judah, the southern Kingdom – made up of two tribes, and Israel, the northern Kingdom – made up of ten tribes.) After King Solomon, God no longer used the kingship to be the medium through which He governed His people but instead chose to use prophets for this function. Elijah was one of the most outstanding prophets and was from the northern Kingdom.
Today’s Reading – Today’s reading is one of the miracles of Elisha, the multiplication of loaves.
An unnamed man brings to Elisha, twenty barley loaves, representing the first fruits of the harvest. Normally, the first fruits would be offered to God in thanksgiving for the harvest. But in this case, the prophet Elisha orders that the bread be given to the one hundred starving people. The donor objects, thinking that twenty will not be nearly enough to feed a hundred people. The prophet Elisha insists that the bread will be enough saying that is what God wants: see “For thus says the Lord …”  in the following passage.   Not only will there be enough bread but also leftovers, to stress the generosity of God. The key point in this story is – God’s blessing is much greater than what people dedicate to Him.

A man came from Baal-shalishah bringing to Elisha, the man of God, twenty barley loaves made from the firstfruits[i], and fresh grain in the ear. Elisha said, “Give it to the people to eat.” But his servant objected, “How can I set this before a hundred people?” Elisha insisted, “Give it to the people to eat.” “For thus says the LORD, ‘They shall eat and there shall be some left over.'” And when they had eaten, there was some left over, as the LORD had said.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 145:10-11,15-18                   (The Bounty of the Lord)

Today’s Psalm – This psalm is a celebration of the goodness of God who feeds us with good things.

R. – The hand of the Lord feeds us; He answers all our needs.
Let all your works give You thanks, O LORD, and let Your faithful ones bless You. Let them discourse of the glory of Your Kingdom and speak of Your might.
R. – The hand of the Lord feeds us; He answers all our needs.
The eyes of all look hopefully to You, and You give them their food in due season; You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.
R. – The hand of the Lord feeds us; He answers all our needs.
The LORD is just in all His ways and holy in all His works. The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth
[ii].
R. – The hand of the Lord feeds us; He answers all our needs.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Reading 2     Ephesians 4:1-6                          (Unity in the Spirit)

Context – Ephesians sets before us a vision of Christ reigning in Heaven next to the Father and renewing the earth through His Church. It shows God’s saving work through Jesus. The Church is nothing less than God’s new creation in Christ.
Today’s Reading –   The unity within the Church is the central theme of this reading.  This unity is grounded in our belonging to one Body of Christ and to one faith and one baptism. Paul names some relational virtues that would foster community harmony. Humility and gentleness would help keep a strong ego in check. Patience (which literally means long-tempered as opposed to short-tempered) and forbearance are two aspects of the same attitude or fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Brothers and sisters: I, a prisoner for the Lord[iii], urge you to live in a manner worthy of the [divine] call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body[iv] and one Holy Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.     This passage identifies the great commonalities all Catholics have therefore we should think about this when our perceived differences cloud our relationships and drive harmful polarization. We all are part of one body the Church, of which Christ is the head. We are all animated by the same Holy Spirit, who is given to us all, and we all live in the same hope of eternal happiness. We are all the servants of the same God, believe the same mysteries, and receive the same sacraments. The peace which unites all Christians is the peace which Christ brings through the Holy Spirit.


Gospel     John 6:1-15                                   (Multiplication of Loaves and Fish)

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 – The miracle of the loaves and fishes (the only miracle that appears in all four Gospels) reveals to us One who feeds not only our belly hunger, but also our soul hunger. Jesus presents Himself as the One who feeds our deepest needs. The miracle has strong Eucharistic overtones, reminiscent of the Last Supper when Jesus takes bread, blesses it, and distributes it. The Gospel ends with the crowds misunderstanding the miracle or sign that Jesus has just worked. When the people see what a wonderful Wonder Worker Jesus is, they want to make Him King who will drive out the Romans and take care of their material needs.  Jesus wants them to see Him as One who will nourish their souls’ deepest needs along with their other physical needs.

Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee. A large crowd followed Him, because they saw the signs He was performing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat down with His disciples. The Jewish feast of Passover was near.[v] When Jesus raised His eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to Him, He said to Philip, “Where can We buy enough food for them to eat?” He said this to test him, because He Himself knew what He was going to do. Philip answered Him, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.” One of His disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to Him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people recline.” Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number[vi]. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining[vii], and also as much of the fish as they wanted. When they had had their fill, He said to His disciples, “Gather the fragments left over[viii], so that nothing will be wasted.” So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat. When the people saw the sign He had done, they said, “This is truly the Prophet, the One who is to come into the world.” Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry Him off to make Him king, He withdrew again to the mountain alone.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Catechism 547 – Jesus accompanies His words with many “mighty works and wonders and signs”, which manifest that the Kingdom is present in Him and attest that He was the promised Messiah.


Break Thou the Bread of Life

Break Thou the Bread of Life, Dear Lord, to me, As Thou didst break the loaves, Beside the sea;
Beyond the sacred page I seek Thee, Lord; My spirit pants for Thee, O Living Word.

Bless Thou the truth, dear Lord, To me, to me, As Thou didst bless the bread, By Galilee;
Then shall all bondage cease, All fetters fall, And I shall find my peace, My All in all.
(Mary Lathbury)


[i] Reading 1 Footnotes:
“the firstfruits” = This gift of firstfruits to Elisha indicates the esteem in which he was held as the firstfruits were sacred to Yahweh. Firstfruits is an agriculture term for the initial produce reaped at the beginning of the harvest season. The Old Testament offering of the firstfruits to God was meant to thank the Lord for His gifts and to seek blessing for an abundant harvest. In the New Testament, Christ is not only the First to be raised in glory, but His resurrected humanity is an offering that ensures an entire harvest of believers will be raised as He was.
[ii] Responsorial Psalm Footnotes:
“all who call upon Him in truth” = All who call upon Him who are observing His commandments.
[iii] Reading 2 Footnotes:
“I, a prisoner for the Lord” = This was written while St. Paul was held prisoner in Rome. It is one of his “captivity epistles.”
[iv] “one body” = The Church. “What is this one body? They are the faithful throughout the world – in the present, in the past and in the future. … It is a common human metaphor to say of things that are united and have coherence that they are one body. So we too take the term ‘body’ as an expression of unity.” (Saint John Chrysostom).
[v] Gospel Footnotes:
“The Jewish feast of Passover was near” = We are now over halfway through Jesus’ public ministry and one year from His passion, death and resurrection. There are 3 Passovers (Passover is celebrated annually in Jerusalem in remembrance of the Jews deliverance from Egyptian slavery) mentioned in Holy Scripture, all appear in John’s gospel: 1) John 2:13-23 – The cleansing of the temple immediately after the marriage feast of Cana. 2) John 6:4 – The multiplication of the loaves (today’s reading). 3) John 11:55 – Jesus’ passion. The Passover is important to John in the development of the background and meaning of the Eucharist which we will hear unfold over the next four weeks.
[vi] “about 5,000 in number” = The same text in S. Matthew adds: without counting the women and the children, who might possibly amount to an equal number. So the total is 10,000+. It seems more suitable and inclusive of us all to refer to this as the “multiplication of the loaves and fishes” than to refer to it only as the “feeding of the 5,000”.
[vii] “Jesus gave thanks and distributed the bread” = The Eucharist! These are almost the same words used in the Synoptics to describe the institution of the Eucharist. The Greek word eucharisteo, translated here as “gave thanks” denotes a 2-way action: God-ward in praising God (giving thanks) and an earth-ward in receiving God’s blessing. The scene also recalls Moses feeding the Israelites in the wilderness with bread (manna) from heaven.  And, it is similar to Elisha, in Reading 1, feeding the people from the firstfruits.
[viii] “fragments left over” = To make the miracle still more conspicuous to the multitude, Jesus Christ shewed, that not only their present wants were supplied, but that there remained more, for their future needs. That is, God’s blessings are unbounded.


SR-2018-07-22

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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


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


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


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

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

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


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

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


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


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

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

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


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

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


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

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


The King of Love My Shepherd Is

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


 

SR-2018-07-15

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


This Sunday’s Theme: Evangelizing.

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

PRAYER FOR EVANGELIZATION

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           How does one – “maintain the reverential and worshipful Fear of the Lord”? Psalm 34 states, to fear the Lord – “keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit, depart from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it”. In summary:  – Discover Him, Learn about Him, Worship Him (devotion).   – Seek His will in all matters and act upon it (service).    – Be obedient to Him in both good and bad times.   – Love Him and give Him thanks.   – Reflect Jesus in our thoughts, words, and deeds.   – Do justly, love kindness, be merciful, humble yourself, and walk humbly with your God.   – Tell others about Him.   – Hate evil.   The “fear of the Lord” is one of the seven gifts from the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 11:2) but we must open up this gift (i.e. this ability) and use it as shown in all the above ways.


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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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



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

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

 

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

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


 

SR-2018-07-08

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


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

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

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


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Reading 2     2 Corinthians 12:7-10              (Suffering for Christ)

Context – Corinth was the meeting point of many nationalities because the main current of the trade between Asia and western Europe passed through its harbors. Paul started the Church at Corinth in 51 AD and stayed there only briefly to get things started. Five years after the establishment of this Church, trouble arose including: internal divisions, immorality, denials of the Resurrection, and liturgical carelessness. Paul’s pastoral guidance was needed to restore peace and unity by fortifying their commitment to Jesus Christ. Paul’s first Letter to the Corinthians takes aim throughout at two vices that underlie the Corinthians’ struggles: pride and selfishness. His second letter to the Corinthians was written to prevent them from falling prey to false prophets.
Today’s Reading – So many of the people we regard as great have had tremendous obstacles to overcome along their respective paths to greatness. Paul speaks about his struggles. We cannot know for sure what he means by the phrases “thorn in the flesh” and “an angel of Satan to beat me.” While Paul could have had some inner psychological weakness or physical problem, scholars tend to believe that “thorn in the flesh” is some outer problem he encountered in his opponents and critics. We can presume Paul was reluctant to accept his “thorn in the flesh” not because he did not want to suffer, but because he saw it as an impediment to his ministry. God’s response to Paul is: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” God wants to use Paul’s crisis to keep him humble and dependent on God. This experience leads Paul to boast or rejoice in his weakness or in the insults and hardships of his ministry because it is in those moments that he most of all experiences God’s power, divine touch and sufficient grace.

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


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


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

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

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


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.

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



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


SR-2018-07-01

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


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

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

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


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


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

Context – Corinth was the meeting point of many nationalities because the main current of the trade between Asia and western Europe passed through its harbors. Paul started the Church at Corinth in 51 AD and stayed there only briefly to get things started. Five years after the establishment of this Church, trouble arose including: internal divisions, immorality, denials of the Resurrection, and liturgical carelessness. Paul’s pastoral guidance was needed to restore peace and unity by fortifying their commitment to Jesus Christ. Paul’s first Letter to the Corinthians takes aim throughout at two vices that underlie the Corinthians’ struggles: pride and selfishness. His second letter to the Corinthians was written to prevent them from falling prey to false prophets.
Today’s Reading –  Paul carries out the task of taking up a collection to help the poor of Jerusalem. He puts forth three reasons why the Corinthians should participate in the collection: They are abundantly blessed; Jesus has given them an excellent model of generosity (though rich, He became poor for our sake); and Their sharing will bring about an equitable distribution of material goods among the Christian communities (“Their abundance may be for your need”).

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

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


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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



NEW LIFE IN CHRIST

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

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

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

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



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