Sunday Readings Reflections

SR-2018-11-18-18

SUNDAY MASS READINGS REFLECTIONS
33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle B) – November 18, 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.

WHY BIBLE STUDY? – “I very much desire to know God more deeply and to love Him more ardently (enthusiastically and passionately), for I have understood that the greater knowledge of Him, the stronger the love of Him.” (St. Faustina’s Diary #974)


This Sunday’s Theme: Hope for Our Eternal Salvation.

This Sunday is the second to last Sunday of our Liturgical Year for Cycle B (i.e. Mark’s readings). The focus of today’s readings is the end of the world—an event which is intended to raise terror in the hearts of the unjust and the unfaithful, but hope filled joy and consolation in the hearts of the faithful.   God in His mercy is calling on each one of us to be ready when our call comes. We can do nothing about the when or the where of that call, but we can do much about the state of our relationship with God when death comes; in fact, aided by God’s grace we can ensure that all will be well with us. We cannot avoid a sudden death, but we can avoid an unprepared death by striving always to live in peace with God. This does not mean that we must be always on our knees praying to God and that we must take no interest in the things and the joys of this world. Far from it. God wants us to use the things of this world, but to use them so that they will not hinder us on our journey. (CatholicCulture.org)

“God makes a promise, faith believes it, hope joyfully anticipates it, patience quietly awaits it.” (Anonymous)

“Hope is like a bit of leaven that enlarges your soul. With hope you go forward and keep your eyes on what awaits us.” (Pope Francis)


Reading 1 – Daniel 12:1-3     Daniel prophesies about the judgment that will occur during the last days.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 16:5,8-11     God protects us and shows us the path to life.

Reading 2 – Hebrews 10:11-14,18     Jesus’ offering for sin has made all of us to be consecrated perfect forever.

Gospel – Mark 13:24-32     Jesus teaches about the signs of the coming of the Son of Man.


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     Daniel 12:1-3                            (The Last Judgment)

Context – Daniel has been called the prophet of dreams. God revealed to him His secrets. The Book of Daniel (~606 BC) is quoted most in the Book of Revelation. One cannot understand the great signs of Revelation without looking at their meaning in Daniel. Daniel and his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were among the young Jewish nobility carried off during the exile to Babylon. Daniel interpreted dreams and visions of kings and he had visions of his own that have been interpreted as the “Four Empires”. Some of the most famous accounts of Daniel are Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah surviving a consuming fire, “The Writing on the Wall”, and Daniel surviving the lion’s den. Basically, the tribulations and sorrows of Daniel’s current time are due to the Jews’ unfaithfulness but the future is projected to have triumph and peace. The aim of the book is to show that the God of Israel, the one true God, is greater than the pagan gods. 

Today’s Reading – Daniel is writing to a people who have undergone terrible persecution by pagan rulers. His message to them is one of hope and consolation and a firm assurance that, in the end, God will triumph over all evil, and God’s faithful will ultimately experience deliverance. Michael (Saint Michael the Archangel), whose name means “one who is like God,” is presented as the champion and guardian of Israel. On the Day of Judgment, both the just and the wicked will reap the consequences of his/her time here on earth. The wicked will experience “everlasting horror and disgrace” while the faithful will be “like the stars forever.”  This is one of the earliest references to belief in life after death in Old Testament literature.


In those days, I Daniel, heard this Word of the Lord [1]: “At that time there shall arise
Michael, the great prince, guardian of your people
[2]; it shall be a time unsurpassed in distress since nations began until that time. At that time your people shall escape, everyone who is found written in the Book [3].

“Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth [4] shall awake; some shall live forever [5], others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.

“But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.” [6]


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          Pope Francis, to help us in recovering from the Church crisis, has petitioned all the faithful to pray the Saint Michael the Archangel Prayer plus several bishops (including Archbishop Chaput) have asked for the reintroduction of this prayer at the end of each Mass: Saint 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 thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, cast (thrust) into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen
In Catholic writings and traditions, Saint Michael the Archangel acts as the defender of the Church, chief opponent of Satan, and assists souls at the hour of their death. In 1884, Pope Leo XIII received a shocking vision regarding the Devil ravaging against the Church. Shortly after this experience, he composed this short prayer to St. Michael and had it included in the prayers at the end of Mass. In 1964, in the first wave of post-Vatican II changes, this prayer was removed from the Mass. In 1994 Pope Saint John Paul II requested that the faithful again 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”. However, he did not formally reinstate the prayer as part of the Mass. Too bad for us now, that this prayer was suspended from the Mass in 1964! The good news is that it is back!


Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 16:5,8-11                    (God Our Hope)

Today’s Psalm – This is a beautiful prayer of trust and confidence in God in a time of distress. It is a prayer for the deliverance from trouble.


R. – You are my inheritance, O Lord!
O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup, you it is who hold fast my lot. I set the LORD ever before me; with Him at my right hand
[7] I shall not be disturbed.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord!
Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices, my body, too, abides in confidence; because You will not abandon my soul to the netherworld, nor will You suffer Your faithful one to undergo corruption.
[8]
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord!
You will show me the path to life, fullness of joys in Your presence, the delights at Your right hand forever.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord!


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Reading 2     Hebrews 10:11-14,18                (Jesus’ High Priesthood)

Context – Hebrews was addressed to Jewish Christians who were undergoing persecution for their new beliefs. The overall theme is the all-sufficient greatness of Christ. Of all the NT Writings, none reflects more deeply on the Priesthood of Jesus Christ – the high priest of Heaven, and none gives more attention or puts more emphasis on covenant theology – the superior excellence of the New Covenant – the saving mission of Jesus Christ, over the Old Covenant – the Ten Commandments.

Today’s Reading This reading concludes the readings for the past four Sundays about the high priestly ministry of Jesus in comparison to that of the Jewish priests. The writer shows that Jesus is a superior Priest compared with the Levitical priests, and that His Priesthood supersedes the Levitical priesthood. He also points out that Jesus serves under the New Covenant that is superior to the Old Covenant. Furthermore, His sacrifice is superior to the animal sacrifices of the Old Covenant. Finally, Jesus’ priesthood brings the believer into full acceptance with God, something the former priesthood could not do.


Brothers and sisters: Every priest stands daily at his ministry, offering frequently those same sacrifices that can never take away sins. But this One (Jesus) offered one sacrifice for sins, and took His seat forever at the right hand 7 of God; [9] now He waits until His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has made perfect forever [10] those who are being consecrated. [11]

Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer offering for sin. [12]


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you. 



Gospel     Mark 13:24-32                   (The Last Judgment)

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 – The timing of this reading is just before Holy Thursday and the Last Supper. Jesus teaches His disciples the signs to look for that will indicate when the Second Coming of the Son of Man (the Parousia) is near. His words and images draw upon Old Testament imagery, especially images found in the Book of Daniel (Reading 1). Next, Jesus offers the lesson of the fig tree, a parable that teaches that if one knows how to read the signs, one can be prepared for the end times. Jesus also teaches, however, that no one knows when the end time will come. Jesus’ words are not spoken to frighten His disciples, nor should they frighten us. Our consolation and hope are found in the lasting nature of Jesus’ words and God’s never-ending love for us – our salvation.


R. – Alleluia, alleluia.
Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to stand before the Son of Man.
R. – Alleluia, alleluia.

Jesus said to His disciples: “In those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
[13]

“And then they will see ‘the Son of Man [14] coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory, and then He will send out the angels and gather His elect from the four winds,
from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.

“Learn a lesson from the fig tree [15]. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves,
you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening,
know that He is near, at the gates. Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away
until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.

“But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” [16]


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Catechism 675 – Before Christ’s Second Coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the “mystery of iniquity” in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy (abandonment) from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh (i.e. clericalism).


[1]  Reading 1 Footnotes:
“ heard this Word of the Lord” = Daniel heard a “message” inspired by God.
[2]  “Michael, the great prince, guardian of your people” = Saint Michael the Archangel is invoked for the protection of the Jews, especially from lethal enemies.
[3]  “everyone who is found written in the Book” = “The Book of Life” (see Exodus 32:32-33; Revelation 20:15). The names of the people contained in this Book will be saved. While this sounds to be an End-of-the-World scenario, it is first and foremost a profession of hope, trust and confidence in God’s power to save. It is not meant to frighten believing hearers, but to console and encourage them.
[4]  “sleep in the dust of the earth” = Synonym for died and was buried.
[5]  “some shall live forever” = This is the earliest enunciation of the belief in the resurrection of the dead and the first occurrence of the term “live forever”, meaning “life everlasting” in the Bible.
[6]  “the wise shall shine brightly … and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.”   = Wisdom and justice are the principal ways of imagining the God of Israel and the saved are those who are disciples of these two traits.
[7] Responsorial Psalm Footnotes:
“right hand” = The right hand is symbolic of ruler-ship, authority, sovereignty, blessing, and strength and is significant in Scripture. David described giving God first place in his life as having placed God at his right hand, the place of greatest honor and authority in the ancient East.
[8]  “You will not abandon my soul to the netherworld, nor will You suffer Your faithful one to undergo corruption.”  = The Apostle Paul referred to this verse as a messianic prophecy of Jesus Christ’s resurrection. This is another one of the few clear references to resurrection in the Old Testament (see again Footnote 5, above).
[9]   Reading 2 Footnotes:
The priests stand but Jesus sits. = This is a saying that differentiates the Levitical priests, who never sat down because they never finished their work (continued to offer daily sacrifices), versus Jesus, who sat down beside His Father because He finished His work by one holy, full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice.
[10]  “He has made perfect forever” = The ritual observances of the Old Covenant (Ten Commandments) cannot penetrate beyond the body to perfect the soul, i.e. cannot make the believer perfect forever. But Jesus who perfected by His Passion did what the Old Covenant could not do – the inward transformation of His disciples by cleansing their conscious from guilt and engraving His Law on their heart “with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.” – 2 Cor 3:3.
[11]  “For by one offering He has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated.”  = Jesus has given His followers access to His Father – they share in His priestly consecration.
[12]  “Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer offering for sin.”  = God no longer remembers the golden calf sins, because the people have been forgiven (and thus have had the sins forgotten). The fulfillment of this has come about through Jesus’ sacrifice which institutes the New Covenant.
[13]  Gospel Footnotes:
“In those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.”  = This list of portents (signs) is a way of saying that all creation will signal His coming.
[14]  “Son of Man” = This is taken from Daniel 7:13. This Son of Man is clearly Jesus.
[15]  “fig tree” = This is not the fig tree that Jesus cursed (Mark 11:21), but a simple lesson in horticulture. The fig tree’s natural process of growth from spring to summer is compared with the sequence of events leading up to the coming of the Son of Man.
[16]  “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”  = Whenever a Member of the Trinity is either quoted or implied, in the Scriptures, that “He does not know something”, it means that it is not yet the proper time for that Person of the Trinity to reveal this information. Therefore, it is a figurative (non-literal) expression. (Saint Hilary of Poitiers in “The Trinity”). The Trinity = God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. They are all one God in three consubstantial persons. This one God is omniscient meaning that He is all knowing, He has perfect knowledge, perfect understanding, and perfect wisdom as to how to apply the knowledge. All members of the Trinity are omniscient.


SR-2018-11-11-18

SUNDAY MASS READINGS REFLECTIONS
32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle B) – November 11, 2018


This Sunday’s Theme: Our Trust in God Results in His Blessings.

In Reading 1 and in the Gospel, it states that the true disciple is one who places their complete trust in God to provide for their needs. Reading 2 speaks of Jesus’ one-time sacrifice of His own blood for our justification as compared to the Jewish high priest’s annual sacrifice of the blood of animals for remediation of sins.

“Storms come in our lives and we must be prepared for them when they come.  What these storms do to us depend a great deal on what kind of state they find us in at that time. Therefore, what we need to do is to always be living our life in a state of faith and trust.” (Faithlife)


Reading 1 – 1 Kings 17:10-16     Through Elijah, a widow and her son receive God’s blessings.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 146:7-10     A prayer of praise to God who raises up the lowly.

Reading 2 – Hebrews 9:24-28     Christ died once to take away sin; He will return again to bring salvation.

Gospel – Mark 12:38-44      Jesus notices a poor widow’s offering and commends her great sacrifice.


 


Reading 1     1 Kings 17:10-16                       (Food from God)

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 – i.e. 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 – This reading is about the power of God at work in the word of His prophet, Elijah. The pagan widow of Zarephath is doubly disadvantaged. When her husband dies, her rights die with him. And now there is a famine brought on by a severe drought.  Despite the difficulty of her situation, she offers hospitality to God’s prophet even if her giving means that she and her son will go without – i.e. sacrificial giving. The prophet then invites the widow to place her trust in God’s providential care. When she gives from the little she has, God rewards her. The prophet’s word proves to be very effective.


In those days, Elijah the prophet went to Zarephath [i]. As he arrived at the entrance of the city, a widow was gathering sticks there; he called out to her, “Please bring me a small cupful of water to drink.” [ii] She left to get it, and he called out after her, “Please bring along a bit of bread.” She answered, “As the LORD, your God, lives, I have nothing baked; there is only a handful of flour in my jar and a little oil in my jug. Just now I was collecting a couple of sticks, to go in and prepare something for myself and my son; when we have eaten it, we shall die.” Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid [iii]. Go and do as you propose. But first [iv] make me a little cake and bring it to me. Then you can prepare something for yourself and your son. For the LORD, the God of Israel, says, ‘The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the day when the LORD sends rain upon the earth.'” She left and did as Elijah had said. She was able to eat for a year, and he and her son as well; the jar of flour did not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry [v], as the LORD had foretold through Elijah.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          Elijah was the great ninth-century B.C. prophet who resided in northern Israel and whose story is found in the Old Testament books of I and II Kings. Elijah proclaimed that Yahweh was the one true God, and he called the people to repent of their worship of false gods, of their abandonment of the covenant, and of their sinning against the commandments. Presumably he went to heaven without dying (on a fiery horse-drawn chariot), and the Jews, then and now, believe that one day he will reappear on earth to restore Israel’s glory (i.e. their Messiah). Many people, in fact, mistook Jesus for Elijah. Some believe that John the Baptist fulfilled the role of Elijah’s return. At the Transfiguration it was Moses and Elijah who appeared with Christ. Currently, when Jews celebrate the Passover a door is left opened in anticipation of Elijah’s return and a cup of wine is poured out for him. On Christmas Day, some Christians have a birthday cake with Happy Birthday Jesus on it and a piece of it is cut for Him in anticipation of His Second Coming!


Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 146:7-10                     (The Lord Cares for the Needy)

Today’s Psalm – Praise dominates this psalm which was often sung during morning prayers in the synagogue. The very God who made the heavens and the earth also cares enough to give a supporting and healing touch to the hungry, the blind, the widowed and the oppressed (as mentioned in Reading 1).


R. –  Praise the Lord, my soul!
The LORD keeps faith forever, secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets captives free.
R. – Praise the Lord, my soul!
The LORD gives sight to the blind. The LORD raises up those who were bowed down; the LORD loves the just. The LORD protects strangers.
R. – Praise the Lord, my soul!
The fatherless and the widow He sustains, but the way of the wicked He thwarts. The LORD shall reign forever; your God, O Zion, through all generations. Alleluia.
R. – Praise the Lord, my soul!


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           When Origen, the great third-century writer, reaches verse 7 – the first verse of this Psalm which says: “[the Lord] gives food to the hungry, the Lord sets the captives free”, he finds in it an implicit reference to the Eucharist: “We hunger for Christ and He Himself will give us the bread of heaven.” and “Give us this day our daily bread.” Those who say these words are “hungry”; those who feel the need for bread are hungry. And this “hunger” is fully satisfied by the Sacrament of the Eucharist, in which humankind is nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ.


Reading 2     Hebrews 9:24-28                       (Christ’s Sacrifice for Sin)

Context – Hebrews was addressed to Jewish Christians who were undergoing persecution for their new beliefs. The overall theme is the all-sufficient greatness of Christ. Of all the NT Writings, none reflects more deeply on the Priesthood of Jesus Christ – the high priest of Heaven, and none gives more attention or puts more emphasis on covenant theology – the superior excellence of the New Covenant – the saving mission of Jesus Christ, over the Old Covenant – the Ten Commandments.

Today’s Reading – The author of Hebrews contrasts the Priesthood of Christ with the Levitical priesthood. On the Jewish Festival of The Day of Atonement, the high priest of the tribe of Levi enters a sanctuary made by human hands to offer the blood sacrifice of animals for the sins of the people and for his sins. He performs this ritual act each year. In contrast to the high priest, Jesus enters a sanctuary not made by human hands; rather, He enters ‘Heaven itself.’ Moreover, it is not the blood of animals that Jesus offers, but His own blood. Finally, there is no need for Jesus to repeat His sacrifice for He was “offered once to take away the sins of many.”


Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself, that He might now appear before God on our behalf. Not that He might offer Himself repeatedly, as the High Priest [vi] enters each year into the sanctuary with blood that is not his own; if that were so, he would have had to suffer repeatedly from the foundation of the world. But now once for all He has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sin by His sacrifice. Just as it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgment, so also Christ, offered once to take away the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await Him.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          What happens to our body and soul at our death and then what happens to us at Jesus’ Second Coming? Catechism 997 -… In death, the separation of the soul from the body, the human body decays and the soul goes to meet God, while awaiting its reunion with its glorified body. God, in his almighty power, will definitively grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls, through the power of Jesus’ Resurrection. Catechism 998 – Who will rise? All the dead will rise, “those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.” Catechism 1005 – To rise with Christ, we must die with Christ: we must “be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” In that “departure” which is death the soul is separated from the body. It will be reunited with the body on the day of resurrection of the dead. Catechism 1016 By death the soul is separated from the body, but in the Resurrection, God will give incorruptible life to our body, transformed by reunion with our soul. Just as Christ is risen and lives forever, so all of us will rise at the last day.
What will our glorified body be like? Catechism 999 – … Christ “will change our lowly body to be like His glorious body,” into a “spiritual body” (Aside – possibly like Christ appeared at His Transfiguration.)


Gospel     Mark 12:38-44                   (Almsgiving)

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 – Jesus differentiates the false religious spirit with the true one.  He does not condemn scribes who are the religious professionals, but He roundly denounces the ones who misuse their authority. He rebukes them for (1) their hunger for prominence, (2) their desire for deference, and (3) their propensity to use their position for self-gain and self-advancement – i.e. Clericalism.

In stark difference to these false disciples, there is the poor widow who seeks no attention and is a wonderful example of sacrificial giving.  Mark tells us that Jesus wants to make sure that His disciples notice the generosity of the poor widow: Jesus is not telling us to bankrupt ourselves and put all our money in the next collection. But He is holding up the poor widow as a symbol of faithful discipleship, an example of one who has radical trust in God to care for all her needs. The sacrificial giving spirit of the poor widow also symbolizes Jesus who sacrificed all for us. Jesus also tells us that true disciples never seek to draw attention to themselves.  Rather, they are humble and known for their spirit of sacrificial giving to God and others.


In the course of His teaching Jesus said to the crowds, “Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces [vii], seats of honor in synagogues [viii], and places of honor at banquets. They devour the houses of widows [ix] and, as a pretext recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.” [x]

He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling His disciples to Himself, He said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          The poor widow contributed from her poverty = The widow made a real sacrifice while the rest just gave some of their excess. “Do not despair. One cannot buy heavenly things with money. … If money could purchase such things, then the woman who deposited the two small copper coins would have received nothing very large. But since it was not money but rather her intention that prevailed, that woman received everything because she demonstrated firm conviction” (Saint John Chrysostom) We know what is expected of us – give of the “first fruits” and tithe, plus do all this with a spirit of gratefulness and generous spirit – remember – “God knows the heart” (Proverbs 21:2). 

Catechism 2563 – The heart is the dwelling-place where I am, where I live; according to the Semitic or Biblical expression, the heart is the place “to which I withdraw.” The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully. The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives. It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death. It is the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relation: it is the place of covenant. 



[i]  Reading 1 Footnotes:
“Zarephath” = About 3,200 miles (by flight) north west of Jerusalem on the Mediterranean coast in the Sidon area.
[ii]   Elijah says to the widow woman: “Please bring me a small cupful of water to drink.”  = This reminds us of Jesus asking the Samaritan woman to “give Me a drink”. It could be thought that both Jesus and Elijah were thinking of the water as a symbol to wash away the sins and give newness of life to these women. For Jesus, this represents our baptism.
[iii]  Elijah said to her “do not be afraid” = There are over 365 phrases in the Bible relative to “be not afraid”, “fear not”, etc. – Thank God for this, because we need to be reminded to “Fear Not” and trust God every day of the year.
[iv]   “But first” = Elijah puts the faith of the widow to a test by asking her to feed him before she and her son were nourished (i.e. she knew he was a prophet and he was testing her spiritual priorities). She responded properly to his “test” and later her guest (Elijah) drew down blessings from God for her, that is, God honored her faith – her obedient belief.
[v]   Flour and oil = Flour and oil signify life; they are the two common staples in any Near Eastern household.
[vi]  Reading 2 Footnotes:
“The High Priest” = The Priesthood of the Jews was established by Moses and assigned to the tribe of Levites (the Levitical Order), as a result of the golden calf incident. Later, Jesus was ordained by God as a Priest in the Melchizedek Order, as a Priest forever. Today, Jewish Priests perform mostly ceremonial functions. The Rabbis do the primary teachings and lead the congregations. Jesus continues, to this day, to carry out the duties of High Priest for all Christians and intervenes with God on our behalf.
[vii]  Gospel Footnotes:
 “Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces” = The scribes were the interpreters of the Law, sort of like lawyers today. The robes were not necessarily prayer shawls but it is clear that these scribes (not necessarily all scribes) were putting themselves on public display with garments designed to enhance their prestige and honor. Sorry to say, but this gives an image of the vestments worn by our current Bishops and Cardinals. They are called sacramentals BUT might they also lead to personal feelings of prestige and honor which is a cause of today’s clericalism??
[viii]  “seats of honor in synagogues” = Seats facing the people in front of the Ark of the Covenant containing the biblical scrolls.
[ix] “They devour the houses of widows” = They could serve as trustees of a widow’s estate. A common way of receiving their fee was to get a share of the estate.
[x]   “They will receive a very severe condemnation.”  = Because of their greed and hypocrisy, they will receive a stiff condemnation at the last judgment; just as it is said today that priests (Galatians 1:9) and teachers (James 3:1) will receive closer scrutiny when they appear before the Lord.


SR-2018-11-4

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
31th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle B) – November 4, 2018


This Sunday’s Theme: The Commandment of Love.

The Great Commandment of love is the focus of Reading 1 and the Gospel.  Jesus tells us that the true disciple is one who lives the Great Commandment of love.  Reading 2 speaks of the new covenant sacrifice and its single Priesthood (i.e. Jesus).

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that” (Martin Luther King Jr.)

“The confession of love must precede the bestowing of authority; authority without love is tyranny.” (Venerable Fulton J. Sheen)


Reading 1 – Deuteronomy 6:2-6     Moses teaches the people to love and worship God alone.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 18:2-4,47,51     A prayer of praise to God our strength.

Reading 2 – Hebrews 7:23-28     Jesus intercedes for us as our eternal High Priest.

Gospel – Mark 12:28b-34     Jesus is questioned by a scribe about the greatest commandment.


 


Reading 1     Deuteronomy 6:2-6                               (Keeping the Commandments)

Context – The book of Deuteronomy (means second law, ie. the second giving of the Law) consists of three sermons or speeches delivered by Moses (when he was 120 years old), just prior to his death, to a new generation of Israelites shortly before they entered the Promised Land.  God kept the old generation in the desert for 40 years until they died out due to their refusal to follow His way as their God. Therefore, this new generation had not experienced the miracle at the Red Sea nor heard the law (Ten Commandments) given at Sinai, and they were about to enter a new land with many dangers and temptations. The book of Deuteronomy was given to remind them of God’s law and God’s power – it is a book of remembrance. Jesus quoted from this Book the most.
Today’s Reading – This first reading is to the faithful Jew, what the Creed is to Catholics.  It is a summary statement of Israel’s beliefs called the “Shema Israel” (“Hear, O Israel”). “Hear, O Israel, that the Lord your God is One.” There is only one God. The Shema also proclaims Israel’s call to love God with all her heart, soul and mind— with her whole being. This is in response to a God who loves Israel unconditionally and who is present and active in her history and life. If the people are faithful to God, they will experience a long and good life.

Moses spoke to the people, saying: “Fear the LORD, your God, and keep, throughout the days of your lives, all His statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you, and thus have long life. Hear then, Israel, and be careful to observe them, that you may grow and prosper the more, in keeping with the promise of the LORD, the God of your fathers, to give you a land flowing with milk and honey. [I]

“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone! Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. [ii]
Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today.”


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 18:2-4,47,51               (God Our Helper)

Today’s Psalm – David wrote this psalm after he had subdued the Moabites. This is a royal psalm of thanksgiving, a suitable response to a God who loves us totally.

R. – I love You, Lord, my Strength.
I love You, O LORD, my Strength, O LORD, my Rock, my Fortress, my Deliverer.
R. – I love You, Lord, my Strength.
My God, my Rock of Refuge, my Shield, the Horn of my Salvation
[iii], my Stronghold! Praised be the LORD, I exclaim, and I am safe from my enemies.
R. – I love You, Lord, my Strength.
The LORD lives! And blessed be my Rock!
[iv] Extolled be God my Savior. You who gave great victories to Your king and showed kindness to your anointed.
R. – I love you, Lord, my Strength.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Reading 2     Hebrews 7:23-28                      (Jesus the High Priest)

Context – Hebrews was addressed to Jewish Christians who were undergoing persecution for their new beliefs. The overall theme is the all-sufficient greatness of Christ. Of all the NT Writings, none reflects more deeply on the Priesthood of Jesus Christ – the high priest of Heaven, and none gives more attention or puts more emphasis on covenant theology – the superior excellence of the New Covenant – the saving mission of Jesus Christ, over the Old Covenant – the Ten Commandments.
Today’s Reading – This reading highlights the singular character of the priesthood of Jesus and the sacrifice He offered. The author compares Jesus’ Priesthood to the Levitical priesthood of the Old Covenant. The author insists that Jesus’ Priesthood is superior in every way. For example, Jesus’ Priesthood is eternal, whereas the Levitical priesthood is temporal. The latter had to offer sacrifice for their own sins, whereas Jesus’ priesthood is sinless and undefiled.

Brothers and sisters: The Levitical priests were many because they were prevented by death from remaining in office, but Jesus, because He remains forever, has a priesthood that does not pass away. Therefore, He is always able to save those who approach God through Him, since He lives forever to make intercession for them. [v]

It was fitting (i.e. Jesus fulfills all our needs) that we should have such a High Priest: holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, higher than the heavens. He has no need, as did the high priests, to offer sacrifice day after day, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; He did that once for all when He offered Himself. For the law appoints men subject to weakness to be high priests, but the word of the oath, which was taken after the law, appoints a Son, who has been made perfect forever.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Gospel     Mark 12:28b-34                             (Love for God and Neighbor)

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 – The question posed in today’s Gospel requires Jesus to interpret the Law of Moses. The Mosaic Law consists of the Ten Commandments and many additional commandments – 603! For a devout Jew, adherence to the entire Mosaic Law is an expression of faithfulness to God’s covenant with Israel. The ranking of these commandments was regularly debated among the teachers (scribes) of the Law. Jesus connects two commandments to this list – love of God and love of neighbor.

One of the scribes [vi] came to Jesus and asked Him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” [vii] Jesus replied, “The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! [viii] You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. [ix] The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. [x] There is no other commandment greater than these.” The scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You are right in saying, ‘He is One and there is no other than He.’ And ‘to love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And no one dared to ask Him any more questions.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.

Catechism 2196 – In response to the question about the first of the commandments, Jesus says: “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” The apostle St. Paul reminds us of this: “He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.”



[i]   Reading 1 Footnotes:
Fear the Lord and keep His commandments. = Reverent obedience to the Lord will result in divine blessings of long life, fruitfulness, and welfare. The giving of the law is also intimately connected with the promise of the land; the land being one of the “blessings” for keeping the covenant. Israel’s continued enjoyment of a habitation in God’s land (the Promised Land), like Adam’s continued enjoyment of the original paradise (the Garden of Eden), depended on continued fidelity to the Lord. Unfortunately, Adam and Eve’s sin resulted in their expulsion from the Garden and Israel’s infidelity resulted in their exile.
[ii]   “you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength” = “The measure of loving God, is to love without measure.” (St. Bernard)
[iii]  Responsorial Psalm Footnotes:
“the Horn of my salvation” = Horn – This title is given to Jesus Christ, see Luke 1:69.  It is an allusion to beasts which attack their opponents with their horns being an emblem of strength and glory.
[iv]   “Rock” = A title frequently applied to God, in acknowledgment of His stability and protection.
[v]  Reading 2 Footnotes:
  “Jesus lives forever to make intercession for them.” = The fact that Christ will not die like a human priest and need replacement by another priest means that He can see His work of delivering His people through to the end. He can deliver completely in the sense of seeing us through to the realization of our full salvation, our rest in God’s presence.
[vi]  Gospel Footnotes:
“scribes” = The scribes were the scholars and intellectuals of Judaism. They received the title “rabbi.” His scholarship was the knowledge of the Law, which he regarded as the sum of wisdom and the only true learning. His position in the Jewish community was a respected position of leadership. Most scribes were Pharisees, adhering to a strict interpretation of the Law. Jesus was a threat to their influence which is why most New Testament references show them hostile to Him. This story is unique in that it portrays a friendly, rather than a controversial, discussion between Jesus and a scribe.
[vii]  “Which is the first of all the Commandments.” = Teachers of the Torah (scribes/rabbis) argued about the relative importance of the many commandments in the Old Testament. They wanted to find the “parent commandment” from which all others could be deduced. They had totaled 613 commandments (including the original Ten Commandments), but had no agreement as to which was the parent.
[viii]  “Jesus replied, “The first commandment is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!” = Jesus cites Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (our first reading) as the first commandment.  This, however, was not among the 613 commandments they had totaled.
[ix]  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”  = When we make the sign of the cross, we touch our head (soul), heart, and shoulders (strength) and pledge them to God’s service.
[x]  “The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” = Here Jesus quotes Leviticus 19:18, which was also not among the 613 commandments. Although He had only been asked for one commandment, He has provided two. The two commandments have a common theme – LOVE – the force which binds a family together.


SR-2018-10-28

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
30th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle B) – October 28, 2018


This Sunday’s Theme: The Lord Delivers Our Needs to Us.

“The Lord has done great things for us” (Responsorial Psalm) sums up the sentiments of Reading 1 (exiles joyfully returning home) and the Gospel (blind man receives sight). Jesus tells us that the true disciple is one who sees who Jesus is, and follows Him.  Reading 2 points to the superiority of Jesus’ priesthood.

The rediscovery of the value of one’s baptism is the basis of the missionary commitment of every Christian, because we see in the Scriptures that they who let themselves be fascinated by God and Jesus and grateful to Them for supplying their needs, cannot do without witnessing the joy of following in Jesus footsteps.


Reading 1 – Jeremiah 31:7-9     God delivers the faithful survivors of the exile.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 126:1-6     A song of praise to God who does great things.

Reading 2 – Hebrews 5:1-6     Christ was made High Priest by God.

Gospel – Mark 10:46-52     Jesus restores sight to the blind man, Bartimaeus.



Reading 1     Jeremiah 31:7-9                        (God delivers the faithful survivors of the exile.)

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 – There is great joy in the Jewish community on returning to their homeland after a long period of exile. The “remnant” is the name given to the small number of people who remain faithful to God during their time of exile. The joy of the exiles, and the blind being cared for, connect this reading to the Gospel where we meet a man full of joy after Jesus heals him of blindness.

Thus says the LORD [i]: Shout with joy for Jacob, exult at the head of the nations; proclaim your praise and say: The LORD has delivered His people, the remnant of Israel. Behold, I will bring them back from the land of the north; I will gather them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst, the mothers and those with child; they shall return as an immense throng. They departed in tears, but I will console them and guide them; I will lead them to brooks of water, on a level road, so that none shall stumble. For I am a Father to Israel,
Ephraim is My first-born.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 126:1-6                       (God’s Mighty Works)

Today’s Psalm – This Psalm is a joyful prayer of thanksgiving to God for His fidelity to His promises in bringing about Israel’s return from the Babylonian Exile – same theme as Reading 1. A similar spirit of joy and thanksgiving should mark our own prayer as we recall the care which God has shown to us in the events of our lives. The Psalmist implores God to continue to grant Israel His saving help. As we pray this Psalm, may we echo the song of the Virgin Mary by us rejoicing, as she did, in the great things which the Almighty has done for us (cf. Lk 1:49 – “for He who is mighty has done great things for me” ), and then by us awaiting in hope for the fulfilment of God’s promises. (Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI)

R. – The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
When the LORD brought back the captives of Zion, we were like men dreaming. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with rejoicing.
R. – The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
Then they said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad indeed.
R. – The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like the torrents in the southern desert. Those that sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.
R. – The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
Although they go forth weeping, carrying the seed to be sown, They shall come back rejoicing, carrying their sheaves
(stalks of harvested grain).
R. – The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.         BRINGING IN THE SHEAVES
Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness, Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve;
Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping, We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.
Sowing in the sunshine, sowing in the shadows, Fearing neither clouds nor winter’s chilling breeze;
By and by the harvest, and the labor ended, We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.
Going forth with weeping, sowing for the Master, Though the loss sustained our spirit often grieves;
When our weeping’s over, He will bid us welcome, We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves, We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves,
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves, We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

(David Rose)


Reading 2     Hebrews 5:1-6                            (Christ Our High Priest)

Context – Hebrews was addressed to Jewish Christians who were undergoing persecution for their new beliefs. The overall theme is the all-sufficient greatness of Christ. Of all the NT Writings, none reflects more deeply on the Priesthood of Jesus Christ – the high priest of Heaven, and none gives more attention or puts more emphasis on covenant theology – the superior excellence of the New Covenant – the saving mission of Jesus Christ, over the Old Covenant – the Ten Commandments.
Today’s Reading – One must possess two essential qualities to assume the responsibilities of the office of high priest.  He must be (1) called by God, and (2) able to empathize with the fragility of those he serves. Jesus, of course, was called and anointed by God.  Because He was both fully human as well as divine, He was able to empathize with humanity’s weaknesses and sufferings.

Brothers and sisters: Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins [ii]. He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness and so, for this reason, must make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people. No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God, just as Aaron was. In the same way,
it was not Christ who glorified Himself in becoming High Priest, but rather the One who said to Him: You are My Son: this day I have begotten You; just as He says in another place: You are a Priest forever according to the Order of Melchizedek
[iii].


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          The high priest “must deal patiently with the ignorant and erroring” = The “ignorant and erring” is a metaphor for the neediness of humanity, regardless of one’s resources and abilities or lack thereof. This requirement of an effective high priest might be a good measure as how all Church religious from the greatest to the least ought to critique themselves. This description seems to discourage all harshness, arrogance, crassness, self-centeredness, pomp and status, and abusiveness or reckless abuse of power, position, and prestige. The religious themselves must be for others rather than for themselves or for the institution or organization. Also, this same description is a good measure for us to use as a basis for our own personal Examine Prayer. (Paraphrased from The Franciscans St. Anthony’s Guild) 


Gospel     Mark 10:46-52                                (Healing of a Blind Man)

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 – For several weeks, Jesus has been on a journey to Jerusalem. As He travels, He acts as Teacher, offering several lessons on the nature of true discipleship, and He speaks about His own identity and mission.  For the most part, His disciples and would-be disciples are blind and uncomprehending. They simply “do not see.”  But, finally, we encounter one who does see, namely, Bartimaeus. First, he shows that he recognizes the true nature of Jesus by calling Him “Son of David,” a title reserved for the Messiah. After he receives his physical sight, he becomes a follower of Jesus: “He started to follow Jesus up the road.” In contrast, the disciples do not know who Jesus really is; they have not yet become true disciples. No doubt, it is Jesus’ hope that the presence of Bartimaeus (a new CONVERT) in the midst of the disciples would help them to see who Jesus really is and also help them to become true disciples of Jesus, surrendering everything to follow Him.

As Jesus was leaving Jericho [iv] with His disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging [v]. On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”  And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. [vi] But he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me.” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.” He threw aside his cloak [vii], sprang up, and came to Jesus. Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want Me to do for you?” The blind man replied to Him, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you  [viii].” Immediately he received his sight and followed Him on the Way [ix].


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” = How fortunate that Bartimaeus was “at the right place and at the right time” to meet Jesus. He showed that he had knowledge of the Scriptures since he knew that Jesus was prophesized to be “the son of David” – i.e. His earthly parents would be from the lineage of David and that He would be the Messiah, God would be His Father. Plus, Bartimaeus must have heard about the teachings and healings of Jesus. So, putting all of this together, when Bartimaeus heard that Jesus was approaching, no wonder he yelled for Jesus to help him! So, regardless of our current situation (e.g. physically or mentally impaired and/or economically impaired or over abundant wealthy) have we situated ourselves properly (like in Church) and realize (know the Scriptures) that we can call upon Jesus for help (the Holy Spirit will give us the words to say, e.g. “have pity on me”). Saint Bede – “Bartimaeus signifies the Gentile nations saved by Christ. Jesus bids them to rise up from their spiritual blindness, throw aside the cloak of their sinful habits, and follow Him down the road to glory.”

Catechism 2616 – Prayer to Jesus is answered by Him 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.”



[i]   Reading 1 Footnotes:
“Thus says the Lord” = The prophet wants everyone to know whose message he is delivering. Jeremiah uses this phrase 150 times in the Revised Standard Version of the Bible.
[ii]   Reading 2 Footnotes:
“ every high priest offers sacrifices for sins” = This is the duty of the high priest. Jesus, as High Priest, makes these offerings in heaven on our behalf.
[iii]   “Melchizedek” = Jewish tradition identifies Melchizedek as Noah’s firstborn son, Shem. Melchizedek is his throne name (just as John Paul II is the throne name of Karol Wojtyla). “When Abraham returned from the war, Shem, or, as he is sometimes called, Melchizedek, the king of righteousness, priest of God Most High, and king of Jerusalem, came forth to meet him with bread and wine” [see Genesis 14:17-18].
[iv]   Gospel Footnotes:
“Jericho” = Jericho is 15 miles northeast of Jerusalem. Jesus is now getting close to Jerusalem and His Passion.
[v]   “Bartimaeus” = He was living in a remarkable wretchedness, because, in addition to being blind, he had also to sit begging. Thus, it appears that he had no social support nor love from anyone.
[vi]  The crowd told Bartimaeus to be silent – “stop calling out to Jesus”. = The crowd must have known that Jesus was a special Person – “Teacher”/ “Rabbi”/ “Healer”/ … and deserved respect.
[vii]   “threw aside his cloak” = This is probably his garment protecting him from the elements. Also, he is showing his faith, hope and trust in Jesus’ ability and desire to help him. He certainly needed his cloak and he would never have been able to find it again if he had come back still blind after meeting with Jesus.
[viii]   “your faith has saved you” = Faith (i.e. obedient belief) is the necessary prerequisite for a miracle.
[ix]   “follow Him on the Way” = “So let us follow Him as our pattern (as the Way to live our life): offering Him for our ransom (as our redeemer), receiving Him as our Eucharistic food, and waiting for Him as our endless and exceeding great reward (His grace and mercy).” (Saint Augustine of Hippo)


SR-2018-10-21

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
29th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle B) – October 21, 2018


This Sunday’s Theme: Jesus Our Servant.

Reading 1 speaks of Isaiah’s prophecy of Jesus becoming the Suffering Servant making atonement to God for our sins. Reading 2 speaks of Jesus sitting at the Throne of God on our behalf as our High Priest granting us mercy and grace. In the Gospel, Jesus teaches the Apostles and us to be servants by the humility and service He has modeled in His ministry.


Reading 1 – Isaiah 53:10-11     Through His suffering, the Servant of Yahweh will justify many.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 33:4,5,18-20,22     A prayer of praise for God’s mercy.

Reading 2 – Hebrews 4:14-16     Jesus is the High Priest who sympathizes with our weakness.

Gospel – Mark 10:35-45      Jesus teaches that those who wish to be great must be the servant of all.



Reading 1     Isaiah 53:10-11                                     (The Suffering Servant of Yahweh)

Context – The keynote of the Book of Isaiah is salvation (Isaiah’s name means “Jehovah saves”). He was the prophet of the southern kingdom, Judah, and lived at the time (ie. 742 – 687 BC) when the northern kingdom, Israel, whose capital was Jerusalem, was destroyed. At this time all that was left of the old kingdom of David was Judah, which included the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and the Levites. He prophesized for 64 years. He prophesized doom for a sinful Judah and Israel and for all the nations of the world that oppose God. Then, he prophesized God’s restoration of the nation of Israel, including Judah, and this is interpreted by Christians as prefiguring the coming of Christ. After the Psalms, Isaiah is the Old Testament book most quoted in the New Testament.
Today’s Reading – The opening words: “The Lord was pleased to crush Him in infirmity” could leave us with a pretty cruel and nasty image of God. We need to remember that what pleased God was not the suffering of the servant but rather the servant’s willingness to carry out God’s mission for Him – even if it meant suffering and pain. God was pleased to use the Servant’s suffering and sacrifice to bring good to many people, just as God used the suffering and death of people like the Saints and Martin Luther King Jr.to bring justice and liberation to many people. Just as God used the sacrifices of Saint Mother Teresa to bring dignity to many who had lost their dignity. It was by meditating on passages like this that the early Christians came to understand why Jesus had to suffer in order to save us.

The LORD was pleased to crush Him in infirmity [i].

If He gives His life (Jesus gives up His human life) as an offering for sin, He shall see His descendants in a long life (humankind shall attain eternal salvation), and the will of the LORD (atonement for sin) shall be accomplished through Him.

Because of His affliction (Jesus’ crucifixion) He shall see the light in fullness of days (Jesus’ resurrection after three days); through His suffering, My Servant shall justify many, and their guilt He shall bear. [ii]


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          Catechism 601 – The Scriptures had foretold this divine plan of salvation through the putting to death of “the Righteous One, My Servant” as a mystery of universal redemption, that is, as the ransom that would free humankind from the slavery of sin. Citing a confession of faith that he himself had “received”, St. Paul professes that “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.” In particular Jesus’ redemptive death fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy of the Suffering Servant. Indeed, Jesus Himself explained the meaning of His life and death in the light of God’s Suffering Servant. After His Resurrection He gave this interpretation of the Scriptures to the disciples at Emmaus, and then to the apostles.


Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 33:4,5,18-20,22                                 (Trust in God)

Today’s Psalm – This psalm might well have been on the lips of the Suffering Servant (Jesus Himself) during His passion.  It is a prayer of trust from One who has pondered deeply God’s love and the promise to save God’s faithful ones. The assertion that the Lord will “deliver their soul from death” takes on new meaning in the context of these readings, which speak so graphically of the paschal mystery through which God offers deliverance. 

R. – Lord, let Your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in You.
Upright is the word of the LORD, and all His works are trustworthy. He loves justice and right; of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
R. – Lord, let Your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in You.
See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear Him, upon those who hope for His kindness, To deliver them from death and preserve them in spite of famine.
R. – Lord, let Your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in You.
Our soul waits for the LORD, Who is our help and our shield. May Your kindness, O LORD, be upon us who have put our hope in You.
R. Lord, let Your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in You.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.             “Our soul waits for the LORD” 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. Reflection on God’s good acts and His righteous character gives His people faith, hope, and trust as we face life.  

Reading 2     Hebrews 4:14-16                        (Jesus Our High Priest)

Context – Hebrews was addressed to Jewish Christians who were undergoing persecution for their new beliefs. The overall theme is the all-sufficient greatness of Christ. Of all the NT Writings, none reflects more deeply on the Priesthood of Jesus Christ – the high priest of Heaven, and none gives more attention or puts more emphasis on covenant theology – the superior excellence of the New Covenant – the saving mission of Jesus Christ, over the Old Covenant – the Ten Commandments.
Today’s Reading – This reading contains a double exhortation to hold fast to faith and to approach the throne of grace with confidence. Jesus’ exalted state has not distanced Him from us. On the contrary, He knows our limitations. As a man, He shared them with us. As an authentic human being, He carries with Him all of the members of the human race and their needs to the heavenly throne of God. The second exhortation pertains to our relationship with Jesus and how that should give us great confidence to approach God’s throne boldly.

Brothers and sisters: Since we have a great High Priest [iii] who has passed through the heavens [iv], Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession [v]. For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin [vi]. So let us confidently approach the Throne of Grace [vii] to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.  


Gospel     Mark 10:35-45                                            (Greatness in Serving)

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 – James and John seek places of prominence in Jesus’ Kingdom. They represent that part of us that desires to wield power and authority over others. Jesus offers a reversal of the common perception of power and authority: “Any one among you who aspires to greatness must serve the rest.”  The Gospel shows how little the Apostles have come in their understanding of the nature of true discipleship.  In the Kingdom that Jesus is inaugurating, true greatness will involve a willingness to be humble servants of others.
Conscious of the temptation to abuse spiritual power (like James and John tried to do), Pope St Gregory adopted a special title which has since been applied to all Popes, Peter’s successors, a healthy and necessary reminder of Jesus’ teaching. The title is: “SERVANT OF THE SERVANTS OF GOD.” 

 James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to Him, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.” [viii] He replied, “What do you wish Me to do for you?” They answered Him, “Grant that in Your glory we may sit one at Your right and the other at Your left.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink [ix] or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” They said to Him, “We can.” Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at My right or at My left is not Mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared.” When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John. Jesus summoned them and said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.” [x]


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.

Catechism 608 – After agreeing to baptize Him along with the sinners, John the Baptist looked at Jesus and pointed Him out as the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”. By doing so, he reveals that Jesus is at the same time the Suffering Servant who silently allows Himself to be led to the slaughter and who bears the sin of the multitudes, and also the Paschal Lamb, the symbol of Israel’s redemption at the first Passover. Christ’s whole life expresses His mission: “to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”


[i]   Reading 1 Footnotes:
“The Lord was pleased to crush Him In His infirmity”
= Isaiah is prophesying that the Lord will be pleased that Jesus will accomplish His humanitarian mission of becoming a perfect sacrifice that will be an acceptable atonement for all of humankind’s sins.
[ii]   “through His suffering, My Servant shall justify (i.e. to excuse or to judge as righteous and worthy of salvation) many, and their guilt He shall bear” = The one Righteous Servant (Jesus) will make many people righteous (i.e. spiritually and morally acceptable to God) by bearing their iniquities – none of His own for He had none. As King Cyrus was God’s anointed servant to restore the Israelites from their exile back to their homeland, so the Servant would be God’s anointed Servant to restore humanity back to Himself. He would accomplish what the Old Covenant sacrificial system prefigured (i.e. giving up something of value – Jesus’ human life, for the sake of something/someone else of more value – humankind’s eternal salvation).
[iii]  Reading 2 Footnotes:
“we have a great High Priest” = This is the only place in the Letter to the Hebrews where Jesus is designated a “great” High Priest. Usually, the author refers to Him as “High Priest” or simply “Priest”. Here the designation indicates His superiority over the Jewish high priest, with whom the sacred writer constantly compares Him.
[iv]   “who passed through the heavens” = Jesus came down from heaven via His incarnation. Why the plural form for heavens? = Jewish tradition has it that the Lord stacked the “heavens” three levels high: (1) the first heaven is the atmosphere of birds and clouds; (2) above that stands the realm of the sun and stars; (3) and beyond that lies the dwelling of God.
[v]   “hold fast to our confession” = This confession is “Jesus is Lord” (Romans 10:9, 1 Corinthians 12:3). Jesus is mediator of the New Covenant just as Moses was of the old.
[vi]    “without sin” = Jesus was sinless. Having triumphed over temptation as a man, He understands our struggles and is able to help us through them.
[vii]   “The Throne of Grace” = The heavenly throne of the Father in whose presence Christ intercedes for us as High Priest.  In ancient Israel, the Lord sat enthroned on the wings of the cherubim over the Arc of the Covenant. Given the tabernacle imagery that permeates the theology of Hebrews, this throne of the Father is probably envisioned as the Arc of the heavenly sanctuary. It is here that God gives us mercy after we sin and grace to keep us from sin.
[viii]   Gospel Footnotes:
“James and John ask Jesus – do for us whatever we ask of You” = Along with Peter, James and John were the inner circle among the disciples. These three were the only ones present at the transfiguration, at the raising of Jairus’ daughter, and in the garden of Gethsemane. They should have known better than make the request. In a parallel Gospel (Matthew 20:20), their mother is the one who makes this request.
[ix]   “Jesus asks – Can you drink the cup that I drink?” = The image of the cup is suffering and death (see Isaiah 51:17-22; Jeremiah 25:15). In Jesus’ case this is the third cup of the Passover meal, the cup of blessing, which started His passion – and the 4th cup, the cup of completion, which was drunk on the cross (the sour wine) which ended His passion (see Mark 14:36).
[x]   “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.”  = (See Isaiah 53:11-12) Since the golden calf, the Israelites have been the slaves of God. They have been unable to approach God without an animal sacrifice. Now, through Jesus’ sacrifice, we are no longer slaves but sons of God (Romans 8:15-17).


SR-2018-10-17

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
28th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle B) – October 14, 2018


This Sunday’s Theme: Heart Felt Wisdom and Duty.

Both Reading 1 and the Gospel contrast heavenly versus earthly riches and wisdom. Reading 2 speaks of how God’s Word pierces our hearts, enabling us to distinguish truth from falsehood.

“Do people weigh you down? Don’t carry them on your shoulders. Take them into your heart.” (Archbishop Dom Helder Camara)


Reading 1 – Wisdom 7:7-11     Wisdom is preferred above gold and silver.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 90:12-17     The Lord fills us with love and joy.

Reading 2 – Hebrews 4:12-13     The Word of God exposes the heart.

Gospel – Mark 10:17-30     All that we have belongs to God, we are just its stewards.


 


Reading 1     Wisdom 7:7-11                                      (The Preference of Wisdom)

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 two thousand years ago.
Today’s Reading – The author, assumed to be Solomon, is depicted as a king who prays for wisdom. Presumably, it is the kind of wisdom that will enable him to be a fair and wise ruler. He proclaims that he prefers Wisdom to all material riches, to health, to beauty, to everything that women and men normally cherish. In comparison to Wisdom, all other riches are of little value.  By making Wisdom his first aim, all other earthly riches are also given to him.

I prayed, and prudence was given me [i]; I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.
I preferred her to scepter and throne, and deemed riches nothing in comparison with her, nor did I liken any priceless gem to her; because all gold, in view of her, is a little sand, and before her, silver is to be accounted mire. Beyond health and comeliness I loved her, and I chose to have her rather than the light, because the splendor of her never yields to sleep. Yet all good things together came to me in her company, and countless riches at her hands.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           Anyone who would assert that being rich and famous would provide genuine happiness, possesses not Wisdom but rather a morally defective attitude. Such an individual must not be trusted with anything of importance. Those, however, who find peace and contentment in the gifts provided by Wisdom, are the virtuous ones by whom we all profit by association. Wisdom brings peace; wealth tends to bring strife. Wisdom’s contentment fosters life and love, justice and dignity; wealth’s responsibilities easily overwhelm those with too little talent, and easily produce the idolatry of greed and power, too often raising blandness and mediocrity to illusory heights of respect. (The Franciscans St. Anthony’s Guild)

 


Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 90:12-17                                 (Filled with God’s Love)

Today’s Psalm – This Psalm is a collection of petitions from a community in great distress. The phrase “that we may gain wisdom of heart” connects this Psalm to this week’s readings.

R. – Fill us with Your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!
Teach us to number our days aright
[ii], that we may gain wisdom of heart. Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on Your servants!
R. – Fill us with Your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!
Fill us at daybreak with Your kindness, that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days. Make us glad, for the days when You afflicted us, for the years when we saw evil.
R. – Fill us with Your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!
Let Your work be seen by Your servants and Your glory by their children; and may the gracious care of the LORD our God be ours; prosper the work of our hands for us! Prosper the work of our hands!
R. – Fill us with Your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          Some biblical scholars speculate this psalm was written shortly after the Babylonian exile. This psalm states that life was a burden caused by God’s anger. This condemnation was the result of the people’s deliberate sin and transgressions (Just like today’s polarization and scandal – in our Church and Government.) However, hope overtook despair in the end. With faithfulness and prayer, God could change His mind; better days were ahead. The author implored the Lord to teach the faithful about the nature of human life so they could gain wisdom. He begged the Lord to relent so that the experience of a limited life could be joy-filled and productive; this experience could balance times of trouble. Most important, the psalmist asked God to be active in the life of the community, to show His mighty deeds to the present and future generations just as He had in the past. This would give life purpose again, for His favor would be on the people and their activity. (word-sunday.com)


Reading 2     Hebrews 4:12-13                      (God’s Living Word)

Context – Hebrews was addressed to Jewish Christians who were undergoing persecution for their new beliefs. The overall theme is the all-sufficient greatness of Christ. Of all the NT Writings, none reflects more deeply on the Priesthood of Jesus Christ – the high priest of Heaven, and none gives more attention or puts more emphasis on covenant theology – the superior excellence of the New Covenant – the saving mission of Jesus Christ, over the Old Covenant – the Ten Commandments.
Today’s Reading – God’s Word (i.e. Jesus) is likened to a “sharp, two-edged sword” that can reach into the most secret recesses of our heart, unmasking what is there. This two-edged sword encounters us (reveals our true beliefs and motivations) and comforts us (rewards our righteousness).

Brothers and sisters: Indeed the word of God (i.e. Jesus) is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword [iii], penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. No creature is concealed from Him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must render an account.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          “reflections and thoughts of the heart” The Bible has 13 passages where the message is that the Lord either searches or already knows our true beliefs, desires and/or feelings in our “heart”. To the Jews the heart was interpreted as the place within them where decisions were made, a place of intelligence. Therefore, that’s what God used in referring to the New Covenant that He would “write it on their hearts” as opposed to the old covenant that was written on stone tablets. Thus the “heart” of Christianity is to be obedient to God our Father through His Son Jesus.


Gospel     Mark 10:17-30                               (All We Have Belongs to God)

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

Today’s Reading – A rich young man is asking Jesus: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” His concern raises an important theological question: Can one gain eternal life on his/her own, or is it a gift from God? It seems the young man thinks he can gain eternal life by performing good actions in addition to keeping the commandments. The fact that the young man is a keeper of the commandments shows that he is indeed a good man. But then Jesus pulls out His “two-edged sword” and penetrates into the heart of the man. Jesus invites him to let go of passing wealth so that he can acquire everlasting wealth. His attachment to his material wealth has become an obstacle to a deeper relationship with God.  His riches are his real god and security.

The verses which begin with “how hard it is for a rich man” would have blown Jesus’ audience away, given that the contemporary belief is that wealth is a sign of God’s favor. Here Jesus is taking the traditional teaching about wealth and standing it on its head. The reference to “a camel passing through the eye of a needle” is a hyperbole stressing the great danger of riches and how attachment to them can be a great threat to our salvation. Material wealth is not an obstacle to salvation if one knows that he/she cannot buy his/her way to heaven and if one generously shares his/her material riches with the poor. With God, all things are possible.  It is even possible, if not likely, that one can look upon wealth as always inferior to his/her relationship with God, and use wealth to bless others.


As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before Him [iv], and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.” [v] He replied and said to Him,
“Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him
[vi] and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow Me.” At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” [vii] The disciples were amazed at His words. [viii] So Jesus again said to them in reply, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible [ix], but not for God. All things are possible for God.” Peter began to say to Him, “We have given up everything and followed You.” Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for My sake and for the sake of the Gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.”


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          That the rich man “went away sad” is not the end of the story for him, only for the written text. We, however, are allowed to wonder and imagine how the Grace of his encounter with Jesus might have had a long-range effect upon him. His question was the question of a thoughtful believer. We can imagine that he continued in his ordinary thoughtfulness and might well eventually have appreciated the insight provided by Jesus. Indeed, he received precisely that for which he had asked: Wisdom. Perhaps the seed of Wisdom which Jesus planted sprouted and bore fruit later in the man’s life. (The Franciscans St. Anthony’s Guild)

Catechism 2052 – “Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?” To the young man who asked this question, Jesus answers first by invoking the necessity to recognize God as the “One there is who is good,” as the supreme Good and the source of all good. Then Jesus tells him: “If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” And he cites for his questioner the precepts that concern love of neighbor: “You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.” Finally, Jesus sums up these commandments positively: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”



[i]   Reading 1 Footnotes:
I prayed, and prudence was given me.”  = Prudence (i.e. wisdom) is understanding. Solomon preferred wisdom over power, riches, health, charm, and agility. Solomon prayed for wisdom and it came to him along with all these good things.
[ii]   Responsorial Psalm Footnotes:
Teach us to number our days aright” = Help us to always be aware that our time here on earth is limited and we must always do the best we can with the time we have left – use our time wisely.
[iii]   Reading 2 Footnotes:
two-edged sword” = A two-edged sword cuts no matter which way you swing it. Here we are talking about its power in respect to judgment, and the fact that you can’t escape it.
[iv]   Gospel Footnotes:
“knelt down before Him” = This gesture is an acknowledgement that the man knew Jesus was a Teacher of the spiritual life. How he knew this we do not know.
[v]   Jesus questions the rich man if he were keeping the Commandments = Because the happiness of a future life was promised if the Ten Commandments were kept, hence the reason our Lord inquired, whether he had kept the commandments.
[vi]   ‘Jesus loved him” = Christ loved him for his past behavior which includes his strict observance of the old law. (St. Chrysostom)
[vii]   “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God” = In themselves material things are good; they are resources God has made available to people for their development for society’s needs. But, excessive attachment to things is what makes them an occasion to sin. The sin lies in “trusting” in them, as if they will solve all life’s problems, and turning one’s back on God. St. Paul calls covetousness, idolatry (Colossians 3:5). Christ excludes from the kingdom of heaven anyone who becomes so attached to riches that his life is geared around them. Or, more accurately, that person excludes himself from heaven.
[viii]   “The disciples were amazed at His words” = They are astonished. From childhood they have been taught that riches are a reward and Jesus has just told them that they can become an impediment.
[ix]   “For human beings it is impossible” = We are incapable of achieving salvation on our own. Because of Original Sin, we suffer from a wounded nature and require the grace of God’s salvation for us to achieve righteousness and acceptance into heaven.


SR-2018-10-7

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
27th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle B) – October 7, 2018


This Sunday’s Theme: Fidelity to Our Marriage and Our Children.

Reading 1 speaks of God’s original plan for marriage. The Gospel touches on “hardness of heart” which can lead to the break-up of a marriage.  Jesus also speaks about the dignity of children in God’s kingdom. Reading 2 speaks about Jesus’ solidarity with the human race and how His saving death made us children of God.  For individuals who have gone through a divorce and/or remarriage, today’s Gospel may be a painful one in which to listen.  (It must also have been painful at the time for some of the Jews who were practicing polygamy.)  Hence, all of us are always in need of God’s mercy for the failures in our lives.


Reading 1 – Genesis 2:18-24     God creates human companionship.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 128:1-6     A prayer for God’s blessings.

Reading 2 – Hebrews 2:9-11     Christ our Brother.

Gospel – Mark 10:2-16     Jesus teaches against divorce and welcomes the children.



Reading 1     Genesis 2:18-24                                    (Man and Woman Companionship)

Context – The Book of Genesis (Greek for “origin”) records the creation of the world and our first parents, and the origin of sin; the history of mankind from the time of Noah; the Flood; the tower of Babel; the confusion of languages. The author then turns to the descendants of Shem, the eldest (firstborn) son of Noah, and deals with the greatest of these descendants, Abraham, the father of the chosen people. Then follows the history of Abraham’s son Isaac, of Esau’s forfeiture of his birthright blessing, and the succession of Jacob. Jacob’s fortunes are next related in detail. Lastly, the personal history of Joseph is told, and the migration of his father Jacob (Israel) and his brethren into the land of Egypt.
Today’s Reading – The reading begins by stating the need we have for human companionship: “It is not good for man to be alone.” None of the lovely animals are found to be suitable partners for the man whom God made in His image and likeness.  So God casts the man into a deep sleep, takes a rib from his side and creates a woman— one who is both like and different from the man.  Even though the woman was created from a part of man, he had no part in her creation nor did he even witness it.  Like the man, she is brought forth by a deliberate and unique act of God. Both are equal in the eyes of God and given to each to be companions and partners in life’s journey. “Bone of my bone” and “flesh of my flesh” is a poetic way of expressing the male and female’s physical and psychological attraction to each other.  The final verse of the reading is a reference to the divine institution of marriage, a union characterized by permanency and exclusivity.

The LORD God said: “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him [i].” So the LORD God formed out of the ground various wild animals and various birds of the air, and He brought them to the man to see what he would call them; whatever the man called each of them would be its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, all the birds of the air, and all wild animals; but none proved to be the suitable partner for the man.

So the LORD God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, He took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. The LORD God then built up into a woman the rib that He had taken from the man. [ii] When He brought her to the man, the man said: “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; [iii] this one shall be called ‘woman, ‘for out of ‘her man’ this one has been taken.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh. [iv]


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.  


Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 128:1-6                                   (God’s Blessings)

Today’s Psalm – This Psalm highlights the notion of blessings that find their origin in God. It speaks about the blessing of labor, family life and, finally, God’s blessing on Zion (Jerusalem), which will be a peaceful land where one can see “your children’s children.” Against the background of the Genesis story of creation, the Responsorial Psalm focuses on divine blessings and reminds us that marriage and family life rank high among the many gifts that come to us from the hand of the Creator.

R. – May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives.
Blessed
(Divinely favored, fortunate.) are you who fear the LORD (Learn about Him, Love Him in good times and in bad, be obedient to Him, trust Him, tell others about Him, hate evil.), who walk in His ways! For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork; blessed shall you be, and favored.
R. – May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives.
Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the recesses of your home; your children like olive plants
[v] around your table.
R. – May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives.
Behold, thus is the man blessed who fears the LORD. The LORD bless you from Zion
[vi]: may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.
R. – May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives.
May you see your children’s children. Peace be upon Israel!
R. – May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          “Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the recesses of your home;” – This ties this Responsorial Psalm to Reading 1.


Reading 2     Hebrews 2:9-11                         (Christ Our Brother)

Context – Hebrews was addressed to Jewish Christians who were undergoing persecution for their new beliefs. The overall theme is the all-sufficient greatness of Christ. Of all the NT Writings, none reflects more deeply on the Priesthood of Jesus Christ – the high priest of Heaven, and none gives more attention or puts more emphasis on covenant theology – the superior excellence of the New Covenant – the saving mission of Jesus Christ, over the Old Covenant – the Ten Commandments.
Today’s Reading – This reading underlines the solidarity that exists between Jesus and His followers. By virtue of His Incarnation, Jesus so unites Himself to the human condition that He becomes one with all who suffer. Jesus suffers for the sake of all and even experiences the ultimate human crisis—death.  For “a little while,” the Eternal Son becomes part of earthly time and space to bring about the redemption of all peoples. By so doing, all the redeemed are free to enter by faith into solidarity with Jesus as brothers and sisters of the one Father.

Brothers and sisters: He “for a little while” was made “lower than the angels,” [vii] that by the grace of God he might taste death [viii] for everyone.

For it was fitting that He, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the Leader to their salvation perfect through suffering [ix]. He who consecrates [x] and those who are being consecrated all have one Origin [xi]. Therefore, He is not ashamed to call them “Brothers.” [xii]


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Gospel     Mark 10:2-16                               (Unity of Marriage)

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, Jesus returns to Judea, Jewish territory, and resumes His public ministry. The Pharisees are asking Jesus a question on whether it is permissible for a man to divorce his wife. They want to see if Jesus will contradict Moses’ “pastoral solution.” That is, his concession to human weakness and sin (another word for “hardness of heart”), Moses permitted the Israelites to divorce (Deut. 24:1-4). But then Jesus points the Pharisees back to God’s original intention for marriage, namely, that two people shall remain married until death do them part: “What God has joined together, no human being must separate.” In the Kingdom that Jesus is inaugurating, men, as well as women, are to be treated as equal and they are to treat each other as partners. In verses 13-16, Jesus also seeks to raise the status of children in a society in which they too have no legal rights. Jesus tells His listeners that children, like women, must be treated with dignity and respect, and that their religious training is to be taken seriously. Secondly, children’s attitude of openness and receptivity to Jesus is held up as something to be emulated by adults.

The Pharisees [xiii] approached Jesus and asked, “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” They were testing Him. [xiv] He said to them in reply, “What did Moses command you?” They replied, “Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her.” But Jesus told them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts [xv] he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” In the house [xvi] the disciples again questioned Jesus about this. He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

And people were bringing children to Him that He might touch them [xvii], but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this He became indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to Me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” [xviii] Then He embraced them and blessed them, placing His hands on them.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you. 

Catechism 1615 – This unequivocal insistence on the indissolubility of the marriage bond may have left some perplexed and could seem to be a demand impossible to realize. However, Jesus has not placed on spouses a burden impossible to bear, or too heavy – heavier than the Law of Moses. By coming to restore the original order of creation disturbed by sin, He Himself gives the strength and grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the Reign of God. It is by following Christ, renouncing themselves, and taking up their crosses that spouses will be able to “receive” the original meaning of marriage and live it with the help of Christ. This grace of Christian marriage is a fruit of Christ’s cross, the source of all Christian life.



[i]   Reading 1 Footnotes:
“I will make a suitable partner for him” = Woman compliments man, but is not a mere service appendage; they both have a social being by nature. They were created partners, helpers for one another.
[ii]  “The LORD God then built up into a woman the rib that He had taken from the man.”   = This is similar how the Church would be taken from the side of Christ, expiring on the cross.
[iii]   “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh;” = Someone of the same nature.
[iv]   “and the two become one flesh.” = Being of the same nature, they are one. The unity of marriage and its monogamous nature is God-willed.
[v]  Responsorial Psalm Footnotes:
“your children like olive plants” = The oil of the Holy Spirit is beginning to flow through them, and they are not cut off from God nor from His blessings.  It means that children are part of and connected to the larger Family of God even in their youth.
[vi]  “the Lord bless you from Zion” = Zion refers to God’s spiritual kingdom on earth. In the Old Testament it was often used as a synonym for Jerusalem as well as for the biblical Land of Israel as a whole.
[vii]   Reading 2 Footnotes:
“lower than the angels” = This sets up the hierarchy of God-angels-human. Jesus, who is God, freely humbled Himself and lowered Himself to suffer punishment and death; sufferings to which angels, as purely spiritual beings, are not subject.
[viii]   “taste death” = By “tasting” it shows that Jesus accepted death voluntarily. His death become the sin sacrifice (atonement to God the Father for our sins) which purified the altar forever (no more Old Testament animal sacrifices whose blood was used to purify the altar) and also became the sacrificial meal (i.e. Eucharist) which must be eaten to seal the family covenant (as Jesus directed at the Last Supper). This was done out of Jesus’ love for us and was the greatest human (i.e. Jesus’ humanity) achievement possible. Jesus had to make Himself in every way like His ‘brethren’ (i.e. us) in order to help them.
[ix]   “suffering” = Suffering perfects us – it glorifies (elevates, praises, commends, perfects) humanity.
[x]   “consecrate” = Consecration refers to declaring or making something holy by a solemn ceremony.
[xi]   “One Origin” = Jesus, the angels, and all humans have but one Origin and that is God the Father.
[xii]   “Brothers” = We all belong to the family of God through our covenant relationship with Jesus, “Jesus is not ashamed to be called our brother”, He is not some distant deity.
[xiii]   Gospel Footnotes:
“Pharisees”
= The Pharisees were a religious party whose membership was largely lay, as opposed to the Sadducees, whose membership was mostly clerical. Unlike the Sadducees, who regarded only the Torah as binding, the Pharisees acknowledged the oral traditions of the elders as having binding power. They believed, as the Sadducees did not, in angels, spirits, and the resurrection of the dead.
[xiv]   “They were testing Him” about divorce. = This question about divorce may have been designed to draw Jesus into conflict with Herod. John the Baptist had been baptizing in the Jordan River in Galilee when he was arrested and later beheaded by Herod because of his condemnation of Herod’s improper marriage. Mark 10:1 tells us that Jesus is now in this same region and His answer to this question will certainly make its way to Herod.
[xv]   “because of the hardness of your hearts” = Because of the hardness of their hearts, and to prevent the excesses they would otherwise have committed with regard to their wives.
[xvi]   “In the house” = This exact house is unknown.
[xvii]   “And people were bringing children to Him that He might touch them” = The people were seeking a blessing through the imposition of Jesus’ hands upon their children.
[xviii]   “whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.”  = God seeks a childlike submissiveness and meekness, a gleeful childlike heart, and a childlike faith. No child is born a rebel nor comes into the world hostel or angry. The chief characteristic of children is receptivity. The Kingdom of God must be looked upon as a gift, and children love gifts and open them and engage them and are thankful for them. In Luke 10:21 – Jesus is responding to God about the 72 disciples who helped spread the gospel message –  “At that very moment He rejoiced [in] the Holy Spirit and said, “I give You praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although You have hidden these things from the wise and the learned You have revealed them to the childlike.” Also, the fact that Jesus welcomed children into the Kingdom of God, lays the foundation for the Church’s practice of infant Baptism.


 

SR-2018-09-30

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
26th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle B) – September 30, 2018


This Sunday’s Theme: Discipleship.

In this lesson on the characteristics of true discipleship, we are told that faithful discipleship involves: openness to and acceptance of the undertakings of the Holy Spirit in our life as well as in other peoples’ lives, being in support and unity with the poor, plus trying to avoid occasions of sin and not causing others to sin.


Reading 1 – Numbers 11:25-29     The Lord bestows His Holy Spirit on the seventy elders.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 19:8,10,12-14     The Law of the Lord brings joy.

Reading 2 – James 5:1-6     James chastens the rich.

Gospel – Mark 9:38-43,45,47-48     Jesus teaches that whoever is not against Him is for Him.



Reading 1     Numbers 11:25-29                                (Prophets Chosen by God)

Context – The book of Numbers is a narrative account running from the 2nd year after the Israelites left Egypt up to almost the end of Moses’ life: a total of about 39 years’ wandering in the wilderness. The title “Numbers” is really less than satisfactory, because the counting of the people doesn’t take up much of the book. The book is really a history of the main events of the wanderings in the desert. Numbers begins with Moses at Mount Sinai, where the Israelites have received their laws and covenant from God and God has taken up residence among them in the sanctuary. The task before them is to take possession of the Promised Land. The people are numbered and preparations are made for resuming their march. This includes God’s establishment of the tribe of Levites as “His own” – ie. as the new priests instead of the first-born male of every family (Note, both Moses and Aaron came from the tribe of Levi.). The book ends with the new generation of Israelites in the plain of Moab ready for Joshua (Moses had died) to lead them in the crossing of the Jordan River.
Today’s Reading – In the verses leading up to this reading, Moses pleads to the Lord for help, in that he is unable to carry alone the burden of ministering to all the people. In response, God orders Moses to choose 70 elders to whom God will grant a share of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling which He previously also gave to Moses. Moses gathers these elders who are then anointed. But two elders were unable to attend the formal ordination but they also received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This occurrence ties this reading into the Gospel reading, where in, those although not formally ceremonially anointed, still may also have the Holy Spirit working within them.

The LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to Moses. Taking some of the [Holy] Spirit that was on Moses, the LORD bestowed it on the seventy elders; and as the [Holy] Spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied.[i]

Now two men, one named Eldad and the other Medad, were not in the gathering but had been left in the camp. They too had been on the list, but had not gone out to the tent; yet the [Holy] Spirit came to rest on them also, and they prophesied in the camp. So, when a young man quickly told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp, “
Joshua, son of Nun, who from his youth had been Moses’ aide, said, “Moses, my lord, stop them.” [ii] But Moses answered him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets! Would that the LORD might bestow His [Holy] Spirit on them all!”


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 19:8,10,12-14                                 (God’s Law)

Today’s Psalm – This Psalm seeks to inspire us to respect and follow the Law. It also mentions – “Cleanse me from my unknown faults”That is, as mentioned in Reading 1 and the Gospel, instead of worrying about who is a real Christian and who is not, we should make sure that we ourselves are leading lives worthy of our calling as disciples.

R. – The precepts (principles, guidelines) of the Lord give joy to the heart.
The law
(commandments) of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul; the decree (rulings) of the LORD is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple.
R. – The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.
The fear of the LORD
(love God, learn about Him, be obedient to Him, promote Him, and hate evil) is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances (regulations) of the LORD are true, all of them just.
R. – The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.
Though your servant is careful of them, very diligent in keeping them, yet who can detect failings? Cleanse me from my unknown faults!
R. – The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.
From wanton sin especially, restrain your servant; let it not rule over me. Then shall I be blameless and innocent of serious sin.
R. – The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           A reflection on Psalm 19:
1. Happy those with blameless hearts, following the Way of God;
Happy those who do His Will, and with whole hearts seek Him still;
Blest are also those whose ways, are God-fearing nights and days.
God established His commands to be kept with diligence.
2. Help me Lord that I may keep Your commands; make my ways straight.
I shall not be shamed at all, with my eyes fixed in Your law.
With glad heart I give you thanks, that You teach Your ordinance.
I shall follow in Your way, worship You, profess, and pray.
(Herbert Howells)


Reading 2     James 5:1-6                                (Injustice of the Rich)

Context – The Letter of James is a sermon on how Christians ought to live. The main purpose is the teaching of morality and self-discipline. It is a pure specimen on the ethical teaching found in the Sermon On The Mount. St. James is called “the younger” or “the less” to distinguish him from James the brother of John. On account of his close kinship with Jesus he is known as the “brother of the Lord.” St. James tells the people that “faith without works is dead” but St. Paul says “salvation by faith alone”. Why the difference? It’s the different in their definitions of “faith”. James believes that “faith” is a noun = only knowledge of God’s Law, awareness of sound theology. Paul believes that “faith” is a verb = obedient belief (includes doing God’s work which includes knowledge of God). So, “faith” from John equates to “belief” from Paul and “works” from James equates to “obedience” from Paul. Thus, these ties bring the two Saints together in agreement on salvation.
Today’s Reading – In today’s reading the author criticizes the sins of the affluent if they are prideful and greedy; warning them that the judgment of God is near at hand. People, when possible, should use their resources in the service of others. In this connection, the Church teaches that “… The right to private property is inconceivable without responsibilities to the common good. …” [Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (22 March 1986), Libertatis conscientia, 87].

Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries. Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten, your gold and silver have corroded, and that corrosion will be a testimony against you; it will devour your flesh like a fire. You have stored up treasure for the last days. Behold, the wages you withheld[iii] from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts[iv]. You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure;
you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter
[v]. You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous one[vi]; he offers you no resistance.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.  


Gospel     Mark 9:38-43,45,47-48                            (Everyone Can Proclaim 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 – Jesus says today, instead of worrying about who is a real Christian and who is not, we should make sure that we ourselves are leading lives worthy of our calling as disciples. Does the advice we give, or the example of our actions, give scandal—causing others to doubt or lose faith? Do we do what we do with mixed motives instead of seeking only the Father’s will? Later in this Gospel, Jesus teaches us not to create obstacles for those who are just beginning to have faith but to encourage even the smallest signs of faith. The Greek word used here for sin also connotes “stumbling” or “causing scandal.” In vivid terms Jesus teaches His disciples the consequences to those who would put obstacles before people who are on the road to faith.

 At that time, John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in Your Name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us[vii].” Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in My Name who can at the same time speak ill of Me. For whoever is not against Us is for Us. Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.[viii]

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna[ix], into the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut if off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna[x], where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.'” PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.      Catechism 1034 – Jesus often speaks of “Gehenna” of “the unquenchable fire” reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost. Jesus solemnly proclaims that He “will send His angels, and they will gather … all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire,” and that He will pronounce the condemnation: “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!”


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.

Catechism 1034 – Jesus often speaks of “Gehenna” of “the unquenchable fire” reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost. Jesus solemnly proclaims that He “will send His angels, and they will gather … all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire,” and that He will pronounce the condemnation: “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!”



[i]  Reading 1 Footnotes:
In order to assist Moses in ministering to all the people, “the LORD bestowed the Holy Spirit on the seventy elders; and … they prophesied.“ = Note the parallel with Luke 10:1ff where seventy are commissioned to act as an advance party for Jesus’ arrival as He traveled. This also speaks of Pentecost where the apostles and disciples received the Holy Spirit after Jesus’ ascension.
[ii]  “Joshua … said, Moses, my lord, stop them. But Moses answered him, Are you jealous for my sake?“ = This verse ties into today’s Gospel reading where St. John says to Jesus – “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in Your Name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.” Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him.” In both the Old and New Testaments, only the “chosen” think that they should be allowed to preach. Moses realized, just as Jesus tells St. John, that prophetic charism (Holy Spirit inspiration), also comes to those who are not formally “chosen”. God’s generosity with the Divine Holy Spirit is intended to give healthy believers the ability to work “mighty deeds” which demonstrate God’s goodness indiscriminately.
[iii]  Reading 2 Footnotes:
  “wages you withheld” = A warning that economic injustice (e.g. Ignoring the gap between rich and poor; Little, if any, Corporal Works of Mercy) does not go unnoticed by the Lord. (Lev. 19:13)
[iv]   “Lord of Hosts” = A common Old Testament name for God.
[v]   “day of slaughter” = This comes from Jer. 12:3, where the prophet prayed that the corrupt of Israel would no longer prosper and be strong but would meet their end times that they justly deserved.
[vi]   “You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous one” = Graphic but figurative language for the oppression of the poor and defenseless. For a similar list of evils done to oppress righteous and, helpless people, see Wisdom 2:10-20.
[vii]   Gospel Footnotes:
we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us” = Note the parallel with Eldad and Medad in Reading     1. See Footnote #2, above. Our Lord warns the apostles, and through them, all Christians, against exclusivism: that is, the notion that “good is not good unless I am the one who does it”.
[viii]   “Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.“ = Here we may find that no one, however poor, can be excused from good works; since there is no one who is not able to give at least a cup of cold water; and we are assured that they will not lose their reward.
[ix] “Gehenna” = Gehenna is a small valley in Jerusalem. In the Hebrew Bible, Gehenna was initially where some of the kings of Judah sacrificed children by fire. Thereafter, it was deemed to be cursed. In Rabbinic literature and in Christian and Islamic scripture, Gehenna is a destination of the wicked. This is different from the more neutral Sheol/Hades, the adobe of the dead, although the King James Version of the Bible usually translates all of this with the Anglo-Saxon word Hell.
[x]  The cause of sin. = Sin is a decision made by us to prefer our own will against God’s will for us.  These passages about the hand/foot/eye being the cause of our sin are only figurative sayings. Because mortal sins offend God and merit hell (Gehenna), avoiding them requires us to take action so severe that it can be compared figuratively to bodily dismemberment to prevent the sin.