Sunday Readings Reflections

SR-2017-04-02

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
For the 5th Sunday Of Lent (Cycle A) – April 2, 2017


LENT:
Liturgical Color – Violet or purple is used as a sign of penance, sacrifice and preparation. 
Purpose –
Lent is the forty day period before Easter, excluding Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday (the day before Easter Sunday). It includes the Sacred Triduum – Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper with foot washing, Good Friday, and Easter Vigil. The forty days represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan, and preparing to begin His ministry. Lent is a special time of prayer, penance, sacrifice and good works in preparation of the celebration of Easter.

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


WHY BIBLE STUDY?
The desired end result of true study of the Bible is to hear God’s voice. That is, to find Him in His word and understand His word so that it may generate in us both gratitude and obedience. Add to this that the Christian faith is not something to be enjoyed alone, but to be shared.

Strength and courage are tied to concentrating on God’s Word. For this reason, a personal time of  meditation with God should be a priority in our life.”   (Charles Stanley)


4th Sunday Of Lent Theme: Newness of Life.

All the readings speak of the victory over sin and death that we experience from living our lives in union with Christ who gives us Newness of Life.


  • Reading 1 – Ezekiel 37:12-14      God will open the graves and restore the people of Israel.
  • Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 130:1-8      With the Lord is forgiveness and mercy.
  • Reading 2 – Romans 8:8-11      The Spirit of God dwells in you.
  • Gospel – John 11:1-45     Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.

 (This Bible Study’s primary references used are from St Joseph Sunday Missal (Themes), Loyola Press, CatholicCulture.org,  Ascension Catholic Church Sunday Reflections, 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, and Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary.)



Reading 1     Ezekiel 37:12-14                       (The Lord’s Promise)

Context – Ezekiel was a Hebrew priest and prophet, whose ministry to his fellow exiles in Babylon extended from 593 to 563 BC. He was a contemporary of Jeremiah. As a prophet to exiles, he assured his hearers of the abiding presence of God among them. He constantly emphasized the Lord’s role in the events of the day. He underscored the integrity of the individual  and his personal responsibility to God. To a helpless and hopeless people, he brought hope of restoration to homeland and temple by their just and holy God. Ezekiel is referenced more in the Book of Revelation than in any other New Testament writing.

Today’s Reading –  This reading is intended to be a prophetic word of hope for the Israelites living in physical exile from their homeland and in spiritual exile from God. They feel God has abandoned them.


Thus says the Lord GOD: O My people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel (Israel has been totally destroyed by an attacking army, but it will be restored. This does not deal with the doctrine of the personal bodily resurrection but with national resurrection.). Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O My people! I will put My spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land; thus you shall know that I am the LORD. I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD. (The aim of the prophecy is to give the captives new spirit to rise from their captivity. God promised both a spiritual and a physical restoration of the Israelites.)


  PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you (lectio divina).          “put My spirit in you” The Hebrew word for spirit is ruah. God’s breath.   Genesis 2:7 – “then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”   Job 32:8 – “But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand.”   John 20:22 – Jesus imparts new life to His disciples – “And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit””.   So, what is the breath of God? It is the life and power of God, given to us to   restore / revitalize / invigorate  us – giving us Newness of Life.



Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 130:1-8                     (Mercy and Redemption)

Today’s Psalm –  The psalmist utters a cry for God to show mercy to His people and encourages his fellow Israelites to wait for the Lord to deliver them to Newness of Life.


R. – With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.
Out of the depths
(life-threatening danger) I cry to You, O LORD; LORD, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive to my voice in supplication.
R. – With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.
If You, O LORD, mark iniquities, LORD, who can stand?
(We all are in need of mercy, as none can stand before the rigors of divine justice.) But with You is forgiveness, that You may be revered.
R. – With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.
I trust in the LORD; my soul trusts in His word. More than sentinels wait for the dawn
(At dawn they are “relieved” from their work, from the “darkness” of the evening shift.), let Israel wait for the LORD.
R. – With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.
For with the LORD is kindness and with Him is plenteous redemption; And He will redeem
(liberate and convert) Israel from all their iniquities.
R. – With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you (lectio divina).          For us, this Psalm guides us to hope in the Lord as a watchman waiting for the dawning of our new day, namely, our redemption – Newness of Life.



Reading 2     Romans 8:8-11                           (Indwelling of Christ’s Spirit)       

Context – Paul’s Letter to the Romans is the most influential of all his Epistles, and the only writing of Paul’s which is addressed to a church (congregation) which he did not establish. He addresses the grounds we have for hope in Christ. Sin and death came by Adam: grace and life by Christ. The saving work of Jesus is a major theme of Paul’s letter to the Romans – salvation is offered through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Today’s Reading – Paul contrasts “life in the spirit” with “life in the flesh.” When Paul uses the word “flesh,” he is referring to that part of us that is not yet surrendered to God and transformed by grace, that part of us that continues to be self-centered and rebellious against God and His ways.  When Paul uses the term “spirit,” he is referring to that part of us that seeks to follow God and His ways over our sinful cravings. But we can only make such good choices because our spirit has been infused with the Holy Spirit at Baptism. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit within us ensures us of the opportunity for Newness of Life.


Brothers and sisters: Those who are in the flesh (dominated by a self-pleasing, only, focus) cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit (dominated by a Holy Spirit focus, i.e. asking & listening for direction from the  Holy Spirit), if only the Spirit of God dwells in you (The Holy Spirit dwells in the baptized Christian.). Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is alive because of righteousness. If the Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the One who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through His Spirit dwelling in you.


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you (lectio divina).



Gospel     John 11:1-45                       (Lazarus)

Context – John’s Gospel was written around 90 AD. His Gospel has an evangelistic purpose – preaching about Christ for conversion to Him.  John explains the mystery of the person of Jesus – His eternal origin, divine and human nature. He is eternally present with God. So much of this Gospel is devoted to the heavenly identity and mission of Jesus that John was known as the “spiritual” Gospel in the ancient Church. The “divine family” of God revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the towering mystery of the Fourth Gospel.

Today’s Reading – In this reading, Jesus declares Himself to be the “Resurrection and the Life” (Newness of Life) and proves it by raising a dead man from the sleep of death.


Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil and dried His feet with her hair; it was her brother Lazarus who was ill. So the sisters sent word to Him saying, “Master, the one You love is ill.” When Jesus heard this He said, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that he was ill, He remained for two days in the place where He was (The passing of these two days resulted in Lazarus dying which Jesus knew would happen. Then Jesus’ raising of Lazarus to new life will have more effect upon His disciples and their belief in Him than just His healing Lazarus from sickness). Then after this He said to His disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone You, and You want to go back there?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in a day? (The Hebrews then divided the daytime into twelve parts of equal duration, from the rising to the setting sun. And same for the 12 hours of nighttime.)  If one walks during the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if one walks at night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” He said this, and then told them, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.” So the disciples said to Him, “Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.” But Jesus was talking about his death, while they thought that He meant ordinary sleep. So then Jesus said to them clearly, “Lazarus has died. And I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe. Let us go to him.” So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go to die with Him.”

 

When Jesus arrived, He found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away. And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet Him; but Mary sat at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died (These words show that the faith of the two sisters was but weak; as if the Son of God was not everywhere: or as if He could not restore him to life when dead and buried.). But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.” Martha said to Him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus told her, “I am the Resurrection and the Life; whoever believes in Me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, the One who is coming into the world.”

 

When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, “The Teacher is here and is asking for you.” As soon as she heard this, she rose quickly and went to Him. For Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still where Martha had met Him. So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her saw Mary get up quickly and go out, they followed her, presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell at His feet and said to Him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, He became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” (He asks what he knows, says St. Augustine, to raise their attention, their faith, and hope.) They said to Him, “Sir, come and see.” And Jesus wept (A mark of His human nature and then when He raises Lazarus it is a mark of His divine nature.). So the Jews said, “See how He loved him.” But some of them said, “Could not the One who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?”


So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to Him, “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised His eyes and said, “Father, I thank you for hearing Me. I know that You always hear Me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” And when He had said this, He cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”
(He calls upon the dead man, says St. Chrysostom, as if he had been living; and it is no sooner said than done.) The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”

 

Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what He had done began to believe in Him.


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you (lectio divina).          “Take away the stone.”  –   Why did Jesus ask that someone remove the stone? He could have done this just by His word and command; or He could have made Lazarus come out without taking off the stone.

One view has it that to “take away the stone”, is to remove from those present at the tomb their unbelief, misunderstandings, and their false persuasions which blind them from the eternal truth; thus they are to remove all vain thoughts, all foolish imaginations, all perverse judgment, which prevent the voice of the divine wisdom from being heard, and its salutary saving effects from being experienced. “Take away the stone”, is therefore a primary law and condition of our reformation, regeneration, and salvation, since until this is effected, the omnipotent voice of the divine mercy and truth cannot be heard, and the terrible consequence must be that we will remain forever dead and buried in the grave of impure and defiled affections and appetites. (From biblemeanings.info)



Catechism 2604 – The prayer, before the raising of Lazarus, is recorded by St. John. Thanksgiving precedes the event: “Father, I thank you for having heard Me,” which implies that the Father always hears His petitions. Jesus immediately adds: “I know that You always hear Me,” which implies that Jesus, on His part, constantly made such petitions. Jesus’ prayer, characterized by thanksgiving, reveals to us how to ask: before the gift is given, Jesus commits Himself to the One who in giving gives Himself. The Giver is more precious than the gift; He is the “treasure”; in Him abides His Son’s heart; the gift is given “as well.”

St. Thomas Aquinas – “By giving thanks at the beginning of His prayer, Christ gives us the example that when we pray, we should thank God for the benefits we have already received before asking for new ones.”



SR-2017-03-26

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
    For the 4th Sunday Of Lent (Cycle A) – March 26, 2017


            “The Bible is not given to increase our knowledge.  The Bible is given to change our lives.”               (D. L. Moody)


4th Sunday Of Lent Theme: Enlightenment.

Light has been used as a metaphor for belief in God from gospel times.  In Reading 1, David is brought into the light of God’s call for his life. Paul speaks in Reading 2 about living in the light. In the Gospel, we witness a movement from the darkness of unbelief into the light of faith. Coming into the light is an image of conversion.


  • Reading 1 1 Samuel 16:1b,6-7,10-13a Samuel is sent to anoint David as king.
  • Responsorial Psalm Psalm 23:1-6 The Lord is our Shepherd.
  • Reading 2 Ephesians 5:8-14 The Ephesians are told to live as children of light.
  • Gospel John 9:1-41     Jesus heals the man born blind and reveals Himself to him as the Son of Man.

 (This Bible Study’s primary references used are from St Joseph Sunday Missal (Themes), Loyola Press, CatholicCulture.org,  Ascension Catholic Church Sunday Reflections, 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, and Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary.)



Reading 1     1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a               (The Lord’s Anointed)

Context 1 & 2 Samuel God writes lessons for us not only in words but also by events. Among these events, one of the most prominent is the dependence of a nation’s happiness on its leaders’ personal holiness. First and Second Samuel contrasts the personalities and events in the lives of the early Israeli leaders – Eli, Samuel, Saul, and David.

1 Samuel 1 Samuel begins by telling how the prophet Samuel is chosen by Yahweh, the god of the Israelites, at his birth. The story of the Ark of the Covenant which follows tells of Israel’s oppression by the Philistines, which brings about Samuel’s anointing of Saul as Israel’s first king. But Saul proves unworthy and God then has Samuel choose David instead, who defeats Israel’s enemies and brings the Ark to Jerusalem. God then promises David and his successors an eternal dynasty.

Today’s Reading –  Samuel is seeking to anoint a successor for king Saul. Who but God would choose the young and inexperienced David to be the symbol of God’s power and strength?  This is a concrete example of how God’s choices are not like ours.  God sees in people what we fail to see. David may have been young and inexperienced, but he has the inner disposition that God is looking for, namely, love of and loyalty to God. This anointing is a solemn ritual act sealing God’s selection of David.


The LORD said to Samuel: “Fill your horn with oil, and be on your way. I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, for I have chosen My king from among his sons.”

As Jesse and his sons came to the sacrifice, Samuel looked at Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed is here before Him.” But the LORD said to Samuel: “Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart.” In the same way Jesse presented seven sons before Samuel, but Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen any one of these.” Then Samuel asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” Jesse replied, “There is still the youngest, who is tending the sheep.” Samuel said to Jesse, “Send for him; we will not begin the sacrificial banquet until he arrives here.” Jesse sent and had the young man brought to them. He was ruddy, a youth handsome to behold and making a splendid appearance. The LORD said, “There—anoint him, for this is the one!” Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand, anointed David in the presence of his brothers; and from that day on, the spirit of the LORD rushed upon David. 


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          “the LORD looks into the heart” Proverbs 21:2 – “the Lord weights the heart”; 4:23 – “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”.



Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 23:1-6                       (The Lord’s Protection)

Today’s Psalm –  The sentiments in this, the most loved of the psalms, describes the consolation (comfort and support) which we find in God’s protection. St Augustine explains it mystically of Jesus Christ, the Shepherd of our souls.


R – The Lord is my Shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want. In verdant
(abundant/lush) pastures He gives me repose (rest); beside restful waters He leads me; He refreshes my soul.
R. – The Lord is my Shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
He guides me in right paths for His name’s sake. Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for You are at my side With Your rod
(protects) and Your staff (guides) that give me courage.
R. – The Lord is my Shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
R. – The Lord is my Shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for years to come
(as long as I live).
R. – The Lord is my Shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.



Reading 2     Ephesians 5:8-14                       (Children of Light) 

Context – Written while Paul was a prisoner, the leading thought of this letter is: “The church of Jesus Christ, in which Jew and Gentile are made one, is a creation of the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit, decreed from eternity and destined for eternity.”

Today’s Reading – This reading comes from the section of the epistle which gives exhortations to worthy conduct.


Brothers and sisters: You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord (The contrast of darkness and light is the contrast of opposition to God or unknowing of God  versus  membership in the Christian community.). Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says: “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead (a call to break away from the sinful world and live as children of light), and Christ will give you light.” 


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.



Gospel     John 9:1-41                         (Cure of Blind Man)

Context – John’s Gospel was written around 90 AD. His Gospel has an evangelistic purpose – preaching about Christ for conversion to Him.  John explains the mystery of the person of Jesus – His eternal origin, divine and human nature. He is eternally present with God. So much of this Gospel is devoted to the heavenly identity and mission of Jesus that John was known as the “spiritual” Gospel in the ancient Church. The “divine family” of God revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the towering mystery of the Fourth Gospel.

Today’s Reading – The story operates on different levels.  On one level, we notice a man receiving physical sight. On another level, we see the same man receiving spiritual sight. On a third level, there is a contrast between the openness of the blind man to Jesus and the closed-mindedness of the Pharisees to Him.

As a result of ritual washing, the man is healed of his blindness, symbolizing the enlightenment we receive in the sacramental waters of Baptism and the healing we receive in the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. As we gladly watch the blind man move into the “light of faith,” we sadly notice the Pharisees move into the “darkness of unbelief,” This reading contrasts Jesus (the light of the world) with the Pharisees (blindness).


As Jesus passed by He saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him (Jesus giving sight to the blind is a sign of His giving to us spiritual (virtuous) sight.). We have to do the works of the One who sent Me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the Light of the World (Jesus is the source of all truth, faith and life.).” When He had said this, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva (Saliva was considered to have medicinal value.), and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” —which means Sent(This suggests that the pool is a symbol of Jesus who was sent by God as a source of living water which the Holy Spirit uses for Baptism and anointing of the sick). So he went and washed, and came back able to see.

His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is, ” but others said, “No, he just looks like him.” He said, “I am.” So they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?” He replied, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went there and washed and was able to see.” And they said to him, “Where is He?” He said, “I don’t know.” They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees. Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a Sabbath. So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.” So some of the Pharisees said, “This Man is not from God, because he does not keep the Sabbath. (The Pharisees considered making clay as work and thus they felt Jesus breached the law that no work is to be done on the Sabbath.) But others said, “How can a sinful man do such signs?” And there was a division among them. So they said to the blind man again, “What do you have to say about Him, since He opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a Prophet.”

Now the Jews did not believe that he had been blind and gained his sight until they summoned the parents of the one who had gained his sight. They asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How does he now see?” His parents answered and said, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. We do not know how he sees now, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him, he is of age; he can speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone acknowledged Him as the Christ, he would be expelled (excommunicated) from the synagogue. For this reason his parents said, “He is of age; question him.”

So a second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give God the praise! We know that this man is a sinner.” He replied, “If He is a sinner, I do not know. One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.” So they said to him, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” He answered them, “I told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become His disciples, too?” They ridiculed him and said, “You are that Man’s disciple; we are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but we do not know where this One is from.” The man answered and said to them, “This is what is so amazing, that you do not know where He is from, yet He opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if one is devout and does His will, He listens to him. It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this Man were not from God, He would not be able to do anything.” They answered and said to him, “You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?” Then they threw him out.

When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, He found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered and said, “Who is He, sir, that I may believe in Him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen Him, the one speaking with you is He.” He said, “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped Him. Then Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see (Jesus reveals the Father and His will to the humble and child-like.), and those who do see might become blind (To the “wise” unbelievers, Jesus withholds the light necessary to see the truth until they convert themselves. What makes their case hopeless is their smug complacency.).”

Some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard this and said to Him, “Surely we are not also blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          Jesus instructed the blind man to go to the pool of Siloam and wash the mud off his eyes. He obeyed Jesus, received his sight, and departed from the pool seeing. His obedience evidenced faith and that something good will come by obeying Jesus.



Catechism 1504 – Often Jesus asks the sick to believe. He makes use of signs to heal: spittle and the laying on of hands, mud and washing. The sick try to touch Him, “for power came forth from Him and healed them all.” And so in the sacraments Christ continues to “touch” us in order to heal us.

Catechism 2173 – The Gospel reports many incidents when Jesus was accused of violating the Sabbath law. But Jesus never fails to respect the holiness of this day. He gives this law its authentic and authoritative interpretation: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” With compassion, Christ declares the Sabbath for doing good rather than harm, for saving life rather than killing. The Sabbath is the day of the Lord of mercies and a day to honor God. “The Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”



 

SR-2017-03-19

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
For the 3rd Sunday Of Lent (Cycle A) – March 19, 2017
BIBLE STUDY?


           “Reading the Bible without meditating on it is like trying to eat without swallowing.” (Anonymous)                     



3rd Sunday Of Lent Theme: The Waters of Life Saving Grace.

In Reading 1, God used a rock to produce a spring of life saving water, as a symbol of Jesus (the rock)  producing “life” saving grace. And the Responsorial Psalm focuses upon this “Rock of our salvation”. Similarly, in the Gospel, Jesus uses water from a well as a symbol of His (the well) producing “life” saving grace. Reading 2 reminds us that Jesus’ sacrifice plus our continued faith in Him,  that was originally poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit with the waters of our Baptism,  gives us “life” saving grace. God gives us spiritual water to quench our spiritual thirst.

  • Reading 1 Exodus 17:3-7 God tells Moses to bring forth water from the rock.
  • Responsorial Psalm Psalm 95:1-2,6-9 Sing joyfully in the presence of the Lord.
  • Reading 2 Romans 5:1-2,5-8 Christ died for us while we were still sinners.
  • Gospel John 4:5-42     Jesus reveals Himself to the Samaritan woman at the well.

 (This Bible Study’s primary references used are from St Joseph Sunday Missal (Themes), Loyola Press, CatholicCulture.org,  Ascension Catholic Church Sunday Reflections, 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, and Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary.)



Reading 1     Exodus 17:3-7              (Water from Rock)
Context – The Book of Exodus (the word “exodus” means “departure”) bears witness to God’s actions (about 1350-1200 BC) to deliver a people from bondage and to bind them to Himself in covenant. At the center of all this stood Moses who was called by God to be the agent in delivering Israel from slavery, to be the interpreter of God’s redemptive work, and to be the mediator of the covenant.

Today’s Reading – Today’s reading describes events that took place just before the Israelites arrived at Mount Sinai. This is the second time the people complained about the water and they wanted an immediate resolution. Neither time did they ask the Lord for help nor did they remember the recent past when the Lord saved them (parted the Red Sea, destroyed their Egyptian pursuers, led them daily through the desert, and gave them daily manna and quail from Heaven to eat plus dew (frost) on the manna for liquid). What did they do – they showed faithlessness, they complained to Moses, belittled the Lord, and wanted to go back to Egypt even though their lives would be in much more peril there because Pharaoh wanted to eliminate the Jews. What did God do – He instructed Moses to use his staff to strike a rock (symbol of Jesus as a source of “life”) which produced a flow of water from it for them to drink. Also, God decided that the Jews would remain another 40 years in the desert until all the old stiff necked non-believers died off.  This reading is a good example, other than Moses’ example, of how not to ask for God’s intervention.


In those days, in their thirst for water, the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt? Was it just to have us die here of thirst with our children and our livestock?” So Moses cried out to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? a little more and they will stone me!” The LORD answered Moses, “Go over there in front of the people, along with some of the elders of Israel, holding in your hand, as you go, the staff with which you struck the river. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock in Horeb. Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it for the people to drink.” This Moses did, in the presence of the elders of Israel. The place was called Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled there and tested the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD in our midst or not?” (This showed Israel’s faithlessness.)


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.



Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9                (The Lord Our Rock)

Today’s Psalm –  This psalm invites us to open our hearts to the Lord and to sing joyfully to Him – as we all do at the Procession of every Mass.


R. – If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD; let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation
(This combines the ideas of security and deliverance. God is the One who gives security by providing deliverance from danger.). Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving; let us joyfully sing psalms to Him.
R. – If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the LORD who made us
(Maker in a double sense. He (God) created us and He (Jesus) redeemed us.). For He is our God, and we are the people He shepherds, the flock He guides.
R. – If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.
Oh, that today you would hear His voice: “Harden not your hearts as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the desert, Where your fathers tempted Me; they tested Me though they had seen My works.”
R. – If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          Israel had been a wayward flock in the past. This led the writer of this Psalm to warn the people to avoid the sins that had resulted in the wilderness wanderings, “the world’s longest funeral march.” at Meribah/ Massah. There Israel tested God by demanding that He provide for them on their terms. They should have simply continued to trust and obey God.  Their actions revealed the fact that they had not learned God’s ways, specifically, that He would do what was best for them in His own time and way.



Reading 2     Romans 5:1-2, 5-8                     (God’s Love for Us)           

Context – Paul’s Letter to the Romans is the most influential of all his Epistles, and the only writing of Paul’s which is addressed to a church (congregation) which he did not establish. He addresses the grounds we have for hope in Christ. Sin and death came by Adam: grace and life by Christ. The saving work of Jesus is a major theme of Paul’s letter to the Romans.

Today’s Reading – Paul speaks of the “faith that justifies,” the faith that makes us acceptable to God. He also reminds us that through the Holy Spirit, “the love of God has been poured into our hearts.”  with the waters of life saving grace of our Baptism.


Brothers and sisters: Since we have been justified by faith (i.e. obedient faith) we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (We have this peace because of Jesus’ all-perfect sacrifice and our continued obedient faith.), through whom we have gained access by faith to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God.

And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (The Holy Spirit resides in our soul.). For Christ, while we were still helpless, died at the appointed time for the ungodly. Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. But God proves His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.



Gospel     John 4:5-42                         (Samaritan Woman)

Context – John’s Gospel was written around 90 AD. His Gospel has an evangelistic purpose – preaching about Christ for conversion to Him.  John explains the mystery of the person of Jesus – His eternal origin, divine and human nature. He is eternally present with God. So much of this Gospel is devoted to the heavenly identity and mission of Jesus that John was known as the “spiritual” Gospel in the ancient Church. The “divine family” of God revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the towering mystery of the Fourth Gospel.

Today’s Reading – This is a story of a woman coming to faith in Jesus, the Living Water of Life Saving Grace, and leading others to place their trust in Him.

The significance of the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman has many levels. The first is personal: The woman is herself converted to believe in Jesus as Messiah because He knows her sin but speaks with her just the same. The second is social: Having come to know Jesus as the Messiah, the Samaritan woman becomes an evangelist to her own people.

The third level of the story is educational: Jesus uses His encounter with the Samaritan woman to teach His disciples that God’s mercy is without limit. The disciples become quite confused to find Jesus talking with a Samaritan, and a woman at that! Jesus, by transcending gender and national lines in dealing with the Samaritans, has laid a basis for a universal affirmation of God’s salvation.


Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there. Jesus, tired from His journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to Him, “How can You, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” —For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.— Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and Who is saying to you, ‘Give Me a drink, ‘ you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water (baptismal water which leads us to “eternal life”).” The woman said to Him, “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can You get this living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?” Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Jesus said to her, “Go call your husband and come back.” The woman answered and said to Him, “I do not have a husband.” Jesus answered her, “You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’ For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, I can see that you are a Prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain; but You people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You people worship what you do not understand; We worship what We understand, because salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and truth.” The woman said to Him, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the One called the Christ; when He comes, He will tell us everything.” Jesus said to her, “I am He, the One speaking with you.”

At that moment His disciples returned, and were amazed that He was talking with a woman, but still no one said, “What are You looking for?” or “Why are You talking with her?” The woman left her water jar (the woman now becomes both a believer and missionary)   and went into the town and said to the people, “Come see a Man who told me everything I have done. Could He possibly be the Christ?” They went out of the town and came to Him. Meanwhile, the disciples urged Him, “Rabbi, eat.” But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” So the disciples said to one another, “Could someone have brought Him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of the One who sent Me and to finish His work. Do you not say, ‘In four months the harvest will be here’? I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest. The reaper is already receiving payment and gathering crops for eternal life, so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together. For here the saying is verified that ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap what you have not worked for; others have done the work, and you are sharing the fruits of their work.” Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me everything I have done.” When the Samaritans came to Him, they invited Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. Many more began to believe in Him because of His word, and they said to the woman, “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          This Samaritan woman, who apparently had no credibility with anyone, simply told people, with joy, confidence, and conviction, what Jesus had done for her. And she invited people to come and experience Him for themselves. One of our more meaningful Lenten resolutions this year ought to be to get over our fear of sharing the good news, to be aware of the spiritual needs of those around us, share His love, and invite them to Church. More people are searching than you think. (From Crossroadsinitiative.com)



Catechism 2652 – The Holy Spirit is the living water “welling up to eternal life” in the heart that prays. It is He who teaches us to accept it at its source: Christ. Indeed in the Christian life there are several wellsprings where Christ awaits us to enable us to drink of the Holy Spirit.



 

SR-2017-03-12

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
    For the 2nd Sunday Of Lent (Cycle A) – March 12, 2017


“We need to study the Scriptures. A structured, ongoing examination of them will cause our faith to grow and provide
what we need for life and godliness.”
(Charles Stanley)


2nd Sunday Of Lent Theme: God’s Call and Our Response.

God’s Call and Our Response:
1. – In the Gospel, Peter, James and John have a “heavenly experience” in which a voice tells them to listen to Jesus.
2. – In Reading 1, we have Abraham listening to and obeying a heavenly voice.
3. – In Reading 2, Paul reminds Timothy of the holy life to which he has been called.


  • Reading 1 Genesis 12:1-4a God promises Abram a great blessing.
  • Responsorial Psalm Psalm 33:4-5,18-20,22 God’s mercy is upon those who trust in God.
  • Reading 2 2 Timothy 1:8b-10 Through God’s grace we are called to holiness.
  • Gospel Matthew 17:1-9     Jesus is transfigured on the mountain in the presence of Peter, James, and John.

 (This Bible Study’s primary references used are from St Joseph Sunday Missal (Themes), Loyola Press, CatholicCulture.org,  Ascension Catholic Church Sunday Reflections, 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, and Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary.)



Reading 1     Genesis 12:1-4a                       (Mission of Abraham)

Context – The Book of Genesis (Greek for “origin/beginning”) 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, and the division of the human race. 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 –  Chapters 1-11 of Genesis generally portray man’s rebellion, chapters 12 – 50 (which includes today’s reading) detail God’s bringing man into a place of blessing. Today, we read about  the call and response of Abram (75 years old and childless).


The LORD said to Abram: “Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you (A journey from the city of Ur in Mesopotamia (South East Iraq), north through Syria then south west to Canaan (Israel and Egypt)).

“I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you.” (He was truly blessed, in knowing how to live poor in spirit (humble/meek), even amid riches and honors; faithful in all tribulations and trials; following God in all things.)

Abram went as the LORD directed him.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.              “Abram” – God chose Abraham as the representative for the people of Israel. “Blessed be My people Egypt, and the work of My hands Assyria (Iraq and SE Turkey), and My heritage (birthright), Israel.” – Isaiah 19:25



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

Today’s Psalm – This psalm emphasizes that God’s Word is trustworthy and that God protects us in our time of need. This is at the heart of what Abraham and every believer discover about God when we “place our trust in him.” Thus when God calls us, our response can be to follow Him because we trust Him.


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 always fulfils His promises, and His laws are just.). 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.



Reading 2     2 Timothy 1:8b-10                     (Design of God)      

Context – Timothy was the pastor of the Church of Ephesus. The two letters to Timothy and the one to Titus are commonly called the Pastorals. 1 Timothy’s purpose is to provide guidance in the problems of church administration, and to oppose false speculative teaching. 1 Timothy was written in the mid 60s AD. 2 Timothy urges endurance as the main quality of a preacher of the Gospel. Paul was in prison when he wrote 2 Timothy, around the year 66-67 AD. This letter is his last, as he was martyred in 67 AD and thus this letter can be regarded as his spiritual testimony.

Today’s Reading – After exhorting Timothy to be willing to suffer for the Gospel (response to God’s call), Paul reminds him of the holiness of life he has been called to (God’s call) and how Christ grants us the grace to live a holy life. We are able to live in holiness because of the “grace bestowed on us,” not because of “our works.”


Beloved: Bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.

He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to His own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began, but now made manifest through the appearance (incarnation) of our Savior Christ Jesus, Who destroyed death (destroyed spiritual death from Original Sin) and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          “He saved us and called us to a holy life” This reading identifies what’s called the Economy of Salvation, also called the Divine Economy. This economy is defined as follows:

  • First, God gives the means of salvation through Jesus’ sacrifice. (God does what only He can do, i.e. what we are unable to do for ourselves.)
  • Then, human beings accept these means through faith and allegiance to Him. (We must then do what we can do for ourselves.)

For instance, according to this belief system, God saved Noah by commanding that Noah build the Ark for Noah’s salvation. Certainly God could have spoken the Ark into existence more easily than commanding Noah to complete the task. Thus an illustration of God’s Economy in Salvation. He does not do for man that which man himself can accomplish. Noah could not have foreseen the need for an ark, known the dimensions required of such a vessel, or the appropriate materials; thus God provided those. However, Noah could provide the labor and was required to do so. In our case, only Jesus, through His death and resurrection, could provide the means/possibility for our salvation.  We, then, through our faith and fear of the Lord, acquire this salvation. (Fear of the Lord = Love Him, Learn about Him, Worship Him. Trust Him, Be obedient to Him, Tell others about Him.)



Gospel     Matthew 17:1-9                   (Jesus Transfigured)

Context – Matthew’s Gospel, written prior to 70 AD, is the first book of the New Testament, not because it was written first – some of Paul’s epistles take that honor – but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. His purpose was to  prove to his fellow Jews that Jesus is the One to whom all the Jewish prophets point: the Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews. To accomplish his mission He uses more Old Testament quotations and references than any other Gospel.

Today’s Reading – The background for the second Sunday of Lent follows the events of: Jesus’ temptation by the devil in the desert (after His baptism), then the feeding of the 5,000 and the 4,000, then comes His Transfiguration. Jesus’ Transfiguration is a promise of Jesus’ glory – His Resurrection. On a mountain, i.e. some think it to be Mt. Tabor, in today’s reading, a voice from God affirms that Jesus is God’s Son in God’s own words that were identical to His voice at Jesus’ baptism. But this time God concludes His statement by adding the words “listen to Him”. In addition, the appearance of Moses and Elijah on the mountain connects this story with God’s relationship to the people of Israel. Moses and Elijah represent the Law and the Prophets, respectively. Together with Jesus, they represent God’s complete Word.

The Transfiguration occurs in the presence of just three of Jesus’ disciples: Peter, James, and John. In Matthew’s Gospel, those disciples are among the first whom Jesus calls. The three men are identified as an “inner circle” among Jesus’ disciples when Jesus asks them to accompany him to the Garden of Gethsemane just before His arrest. The Transfiguration marks the beginning of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem for His passion.


Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; His face shone like the sun and His clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with Him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. (Peter desires to prolong this heavenly experience.) While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud (The presence of the bright cloud should have reminded Peter et al, of the closeness of God’s presence and linked Jesus with God in their thinking.) came a voice that said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him (God’s statement here is similar to what  Moses prophesized in  Deuteronomy 18:15- “A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you from among your own kindred; that is the One to whom you shall listen.”).” When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.

As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” (The signal proof of Jesus’ Messiahship would be His resurrection.)


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          “Moses and Elijah appeared to them” –  The Jews had accused Christ of blasphemy, and of breaking the Sabbath; the presence of Moses and Elijah at the Transfiguration refuted those lies; for the founder of the Jewish laws would never have sanctioned Him who was a transgressor of those laws; and Elijah, so full of zeal for the glory of God, would never have paid homage to One who made Himself equal to God, had He not really been the Son of the Most High. – St. Chrysostom



Catechism 555 – For a moment Jesus discloses His divine glory, confirming Peter’s confession. He also reveals that He will have to go by the way of the cross at Jerusalem in order to “enter into His glory”. Moses and Elijah had seen God’s glory on the Mountain; the Law and the Prophets had announced the Messiah’s sufferings. Christ’s Passion is the will of the Father: the Son acts as God’s servant; the cloud indicates the presence of the Holy Spirit. “The whole Trinity appeared: the Father in the voice; the Son in the man; the Spirit in the shining cloud.”

You were transfigured on the mountain, and your disciples, as much as they were capable of it, beheld your glory, O Christ our God, so that when they should see you crucified they would understand that your Passion was voluntary, and proclaim to the world that you truly are the splendor of the Father.



 

SR-2017-03-05

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
    For the 1st Sunday Of Lent (Cycle A) – March 5, 2017


            “Take care of your body as if you were going to live forever; and take care of your soul as if you were  going to die tomorrow.” (St. Augustine)


1st Sunday Of Lent Theme: Temptation and Sin.

We can look at this Sunday’s readings in the context of good and bad choices, or of “testing/temptation” as their common theme, especially in Reading 1 and the Gospel reading.  In Reading 2, Paul reminds us that what Adam “undid,” Christ has “redone” – and more. Sin always leads to dis-ease within one’s self!!


  • Reading 1 Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7 Adam and Eve eat from the tree that was forbidden to them by God.
  • Responsorial Psalm Psalm 51:3-6,12-13,17 A prayer for mercy.
  • Reading 2 Romans 5:12-19 Through the obedience of Jesus, many will be made righteous.
  • Gospel Matthew 4:1-11     Jesus fasts for 40 days in the desert and is tempted by the devil.

 (This Bible Study’s primary references used are from St Joseph Sunday Missal (Themes), Loyola Press, CatholicCulture.org,  Ascension Catholic Church Sunday Reflections, 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, and Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary.)


Reading 1     Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7                 (Sin of Our First Parents)
Context – The Book of Genesis (Greek for “origin/beginning”) 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, and the division of the human race. 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 –  In our reading today, the essential goodness of creation stands in stark contrast to human disobedience. With the exception of the fact of Creation, we have here the record of the most important and far-reaching event in the world’s history – the entrance of temptation and sin . This is the story of Adam and Eve’s fall from grace, the loss of an intimate relationship with their Creator.


The LORD God formed man (The Hebrew word for “man” is “Adam”.) out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being. (God’s breath gave Adam life, spiritual understanding, and a functioning conscience.) Then the LORD God planted a garden in Eden (meaning “delight/pleasure”, Eden is a “garden of God” or “divine park”), in the east, and placed there the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the LORD God made various trees grow that were delightful to look at and good for food, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals that the LORD God had made. The serpent asked the woman, “Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?” The woman answered the serpent: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.'” But the serpent said to the woman: “You certainly will not die! (Satan refers to a physical death rather than a spiritual death.) No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is evil.” The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves (to hide their differences from each other).


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          The Tree of Life – So called, because it had that quality, that by eating of the fruit of it, humans would have been preserved in a constant state of health, vigor, and strength, and would not have died at all. The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil To which the deceitful serpent falsely attributed the power of imparting a superior kind of knowledge beyond that which God was pleased to give. The knowledge of good and evil probably refers to human’s ability to decide for themselves what is best for them and what is not.

Humans were created with “free will” – the ability to obey or disobey God. God wanted a relationship between Himself and humans. Humans were not created as robots – to only be able to do what God wanted. That’s not a “relationship”. God wants humans to come to Him because they want to, not because they are programmed to. The purpose of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil provided a way for God to test/measure the relationship. That is, give humans the opportunity to show God their proper use of their free will (i.e. not to eat of  that particular Tree) so He could judge the relationship. Well …


Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 51:3-6, 12-13, 17                  (Repentance)

Today’s Psalm – David recites this, his prayer of contrition, after God opens his eyes to the poor choices he has made in being tempted and then committing adultery and then planning a murder to cover up his sin of infidelity. This Psalm gives us a model of confession. In it David does not utter one word of excuse for the sins he had committed nor did he seek to tone down the gravity of his offenses or blame others for what he had done.


R –  Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense. Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me.
R –  Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
For I acknowledge my offense, and my sin is before me always: “Against you only have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight.”
R –  Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned. A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me. Cast me not out from your presence, and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
R –  Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned. Give me back the joy of your salvation, and a willing spirit sustain in me. O Lord,    open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
R –  Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.



Reading 2     Romans 5:12-19                        (Saved Through Christ)    

Context – Paul’s Letter to the Romans is the most influential of all his Epistles, and the only writing of Paul’s which is addressed to a church (congregation) which he did not establish. He addresses the grounds we have for hope in Christ. Sin and death came by Adam: grace and life by Christ. The saving work of Jesus is a major theme of Paul’s letter to the Romans.

Today’s Reading – Paul draws our attention to the universal consequences of the temptation and sin of our first parents. Then Paul goes on to contrast the sin of Adam to the infinitely greater gift offered to us when Christ entered the world. If there is a “sin force” operating in the world and in us, there is an even greater “grace force” at work everywhere and in each one of us.


Brothers and sisters: Through one man sin entered the world (This is the dogma of Original Sin – i.e. hereditary sin that is propagated to all of us by our genealogy link to Adam. However, Trinitarian Baptism gives us the opportunity to break this sin link.) ,and through [this Original] sin, death (physical death, plus spiritual death – i.e. separation from God) , and thus death came to all men, inasmuch as all sinned [because of their hereditary link to Adam]for up to the time of the law (Mosaic Law – 1st 5 Books of the Bible),  sin (Original Sin plus humankind’s own sin) was in the world, though [humankind’s] sin is not accounted when there is no law. But death [because of Original Sin] reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam, who is the type of the One who was to come. But the gift (Jesus’ mercy and His sacrifice) is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one, the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the One man Jesus Christ overflow for the many (all humankind).  And this gift is not like the result of the one who sinned. For after one sin (the Original Sin) there was the judgment that brought condemnation; but this gift, after many transgressions (through humankind’s own sins), brought acquittal. For if, by the transgression of the one (Adam), death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the One Jesus Christ. In conclusion, just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so, through one righteous act, acquittal and life came to all. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so, through the obedience of the One, the many will be made righteous (Jesus’ sacrifice, mercy, and our belief in Him plus our following His prescription for how we are to live our lives, makes us righteous – in right standing with God.).


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          Genesis 2:15 tells us that God commanded Adam to “till and keep” the Garden. The Hebrew word shammar translated as “keep” can also be translated as “guard” (keep safe). If the Adam is to guard, there must be something to guard against. Adam is standing alongside Eve and fails to keep her safe. It was not Eve who committed the first sin, but Adam who failed in his duty to guard her (His disobedience to God’s command to “till and keep” the Garden). What should Adam have done? He should have taken the serpent to task, done battle with it to defend Eve; a battle which may well have cost Adam his physical life. How do we know this? Because this is exactly what Jesus, the second Adam, did. “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13. (From St. Charles Borromeo Bible Studies)

The power of Christ’s act of obedience to overcome Adam’s act of disobedience is the great theme of this Gospel reading. Christ’s act of obedience ensures eternal life for all those who are “in Christ”.



Gospel     Matthew 4:1-11                   (Temptation)

Context – Matthew’s Gospel, written prior to 70 AD, is the first book of the New Testament, not because it was written first – some of Paul’s epistles take that honor – but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. His purpose was to  prove to his fellow Jews that Jesus is the One to whom all the Jewish prophets point: the Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews. To accomplish his mission He uses more Old Testament quotations and references than any other Gospel.

Today’s Reading – In this Gospel story, Jesus resists every temptation to use His authority in any sinful nor self-serving way.  In each temptation, Satan seeks to coax Jesus into abusing His power to prove that He is the Son of God. At the beginning of our Lenten journey, our Church places before us stories of temptation and testing― temptations which Adam and Eve gave into and temptations which Jesus resisted. Jesus’ temptations are all based on temptations to which the Israelites had succumbed during their forty years in the desert. In each case, Jesus goes to the section of Deuteronomy where Moses recounts these temptations and the correct response.


At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights (The number 40 in Hebrew numerology indicates a time of transition or change.), and afterwards He was hungry. The tempter approached and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” He said in reply, “It is written: One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” (Deuteronomy 8:3) Then the devil took Him to the holy city (Jerusalem), and made Him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: (WOW, Satan is going to quote Scripture! However, he’s going to violate the meaning though. This Psalm encourages trust and faith in God’s protection; it does not advocate testing God.)  He will command His angels concerning You and with their hands they will support You, lest You dash Your foot against a stone.” (Psalm 91:11-12)  Jesus answered him, “Again it is written, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” (Deuteronomy 6:16.) 

Then the devil took Him up to a very high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to Him, “All these I shall give to You, if You will prostrate Yourself and worship me.”  At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan! It is written: The Lord, your God, shall you worship and Him alone shall you serve.” (Deuteronomy 6:13) Then the devil left Him and, behold, angels came and ministered to Him. (An Angel also came to minister to Jesus after His time in the Garden of Gethsemane, the beginning of His Passion. It’s thought that the last temptation of Jesus by the devil took place at that time.)


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.



Catechism 540 – Jesus’ temptation reveals the way in which the Son of God is Messiah, contrary to the way Satan proposes to Him and the way men wish to attribute to Him. This is why Christ vanquished the Tempter for us: “For we have not a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sinning.” By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.



 

 

 

 

SR-2017-02-26

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
    For the 8th Sunday In Ordinary Time (Cycle A) – February 26, 2017


ORDINARY TIME:
Liturgical Color – Green (Growth, hope, and life).
Purpose – To recall the life of Jesus. Be Reminded that God is always there to help us live as Christians.
(Cycle A) – Matthew’s Gospel is used primarily during the Sunday Mass, Liturgy of the Word’s Gospel Reading.


            “The more we read and study the Bible, the better we understand God’s many attributes and assurances.”
     (Charles Stanley)


8th Sunday In Ordinary Time Theme: God’s Providence.

God’s Providence is His divine care, love, and guidance for us.


  • Reading 1 Isaiah 49:14–15      Can a mother forget her infant? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.
  • Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 62:2–3,6–9      Only in God be at rest, my soul.
  • Reading 2 – 1 Corinthians 4:1–5      The Lord will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and manifest the intentions of the heart.
  • Gospel Matthew 6:24–34     Enough, then, of worrying about tomorrow. Let tomorrow take care of itself.

 (This Bible Study’s primary references used are from St Joseph Sunday Missal (Themes), Loyola Press, CatholicCulture.org,  Ascension Catholic Church Sunday Reflections, 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, and Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary.)



Reading 1     Isaiah 49:14-15                         (God’s Faithfulness)

Context – The keynote of the Book of Isaiah is salvation (Isaiah’s name means “Jehovah saves”). He was the prophet of the southern kingdom, Judah, and lived at the time (i.e. 742 – 687 BC) when the northern kingdom, Israel, whose capital was Jerusalem, was destroyed. At this time all that was left of the old kingdom of David was Judah, which included the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and the Levites. He prophesized for 64 years. The Book is divided into 66 chapters. It prophesies doom  for a sinful Judah and Israel and for all the nations of the world that oppose God. Then, it prophesies God’s restoration of the nation of Israel, including Judah, and is interpreted by Christians as prefiguring the coming of Christ.

Today’s Reading – These beautiful words from Isaiah are spoken by the prophet to the Israelite exiles in Babylon who are devastated because they have lost their land, their king, and their temple. As a result, they feel abandoned by God. God’s love is compared to a mother’s love. We have here one of the few feminine images of God in the Bible.  God is neither male nor female.  God is pure spirit.  Using human imagery, we can say that God is both father and mother to us, but his divine love is way beyond a fatherly and motherly love.


Zion (the Jews) said, “The LORD has forsaken me; my LORD has forgotten me.” Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you. (In other words, the Lord’s attachment to Zion is like a mother’s attachment to her infant child, but even stronger.)


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           It is stated that this is one of the strongest, if not the strongest expression of God’s love (God’s Providence) in the Old Testament. (see Theme)



Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 62:2-3, 6-9                (Trust in God)

Today’s Psalm – This beautiful Psalm of trust in God is a fitting response to the divine promise found in our first reading.


R. Rest in God alone, my soul.
Only in God is my soul at rest; from Him comes my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not
be disturbed at all.

R. Rest in God alone, my soul.
Only in God be at rest, my soul, for from Him comes my hope. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall
not
be disturbed.
R. Rest in God alone, my soul.
With God is my safety and my glory, He is the rock of my strength; my refuge is in God. Trust in Him at all times, O my people!
Pour out your hearts before Him.

R. Rest in God alone, my soul.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.



Reading 2     1 Corinthians 4:1-5                               (God Our Judge)    

Context – Corinth was the meeting point of many nationalities because the main current of the trade between Asia and western Europe passed through its harbors. Paul started the Church at Corinth in 51 AD and stayed there only briefly to get things started. Five years after he left, he composed and sent this Letter to Corinth just prior to his second arrival there. Over those five years trouble arose in the Church including: internal divisions, immorality, denials of the Resurrection, and liturgical carelessness. His pastoral guidance aimed to restore peace and unity by fortifying their commitment to Jesus Christ. Paul takes aim throughout this Letter at two  vices that underlie the Corinthians’ struggles: pride and selfishness.

Today’s Reading – Paul realizes that one day, he will have to render an account for his stewardship.  He is not worried at all about the judgment of people.  For him, all judgment is with the Lord. (As Christian stewards, we receive God’s gifts gratefully, cultivate them responsibly, share them lovingly in justice with others, and return them with increase to the Lord.)


Brothers and sisters: Thus should one regard us: as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Now it is of course required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. It does not concern me in the least that I be judged by you or any human tribunal; I do not even pass judgment on myself; I am not conscious of anything against me, but I do not thereby stand acquitted; the one who judges me is the Lord. Therefore do not make any judgment before the appointed time, until the Lord comes, for He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness (We must make judgments from time to time, but we should always do so with the knowledge that our understanding is imperfect.) and will manifest (reveal, make known, unveil) the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God.


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.     “manifest the motives of our hearts”   “but the Lord  weights (examines/judges) the heart (thoughts/motives)” – Proverbs 21:2; “man looks on the outward appearances, but the Lord looks on the heart”, – 1 Samuel 21:7.



Gospel     Matthew 6:24-34                 (Trust in God)

Context – Matthew’s Gospel, written prior to 70 AD, is the first book of the New Testament, not because it was written first – some of Paul’s epistles take that honor – but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. His purpose was to  prove to his fellow Jews that Jesus is the One to whom all the Jewish prophets point: the Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews. To accomplish his mission He uses more Old Testament quotations and references than any other Gospel.

Today’s Reading – The point of this teaching is confidence in God. People prone to anxiety need to be reminded that they are precious in God’s eyes and they must learn to trust in God’s providence. (see Theme)”. Keep in mind that in this reading, Jesus is talking to His Apostles who are at a state in life where they already have for themselves all their basic needs of existence – food, clothing, shelter, and security. Therefore, Jesus can have them focus upon their spiritual needs.


Jesus said to His disciples: “No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (wealth, money, or material possessions). “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will He not much more provide for you, O you of little faith (Of little confidence in God and His providencesee Theme)? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans (unbelievers) seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.



Catechism 2547 –  The Lord grieves over the rich, because they find their consolation in the abundance of goods. “Let the proud seek and love earthly kingdoms, but blessed are the poor in spirit (humble, those who realize that their good deeds are actually accomplished by the Lord working through them) for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” Abandonment to the providence of the Father in heaven frees us from anxiety about tomorrow. Trust in God is a preparation for the blessedness of the poor [in spirit]. They shall see God.



 

 

SR-2017-02-19

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
    For the 7th Sunday In Ordinary Time (Cycle A) – February 19, 2017


       “Those that aim at holiness constantly look into sacred writings to examine their lives, to scrutinize their deeds. In
addition, if they find anything reprehensible, inordinate, or out of keeping with their  state, they at once use every effort
to amend and set it right, according to the light they have received.” 
     (St. Augustine)


7th Sunday In Ordinary Time Theme: Holiness.

Try the sunny smile of true love, the kindly word of Christian encouragement, the helping hand of true charity, and not only will you brighten the darkness and lighten the load of your brothers and sisters but you will be imitating in your own small way the holiness of the Father of love who is in heaven. (From Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan, O.F.M. catholicculture.org)


  • Reading 1 Leviticus 19:1–2, 17–18 Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.
  • Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 103: 1–4,8,10, 12–13 Merciful and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger    and abounding in kindness.
  • Reading 2 – 1 Corinthians 3:16–23 Are you not aware that you are the holy temple of God, and that   the Spirit of God dwells in you?
  • Gospel Matthew 5:38–48     My command to you is: love your enemies, pray for your persecutors.

 (This Bible Study’s primary references used are from St Joseph Sunday Missal (Themes), Loyola Press, CatholicCulture.org,  Ascension Catholic Church Sunday Reflections, 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, and Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary.)



Reading 1     Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18                         (Holiness – Love of Neighbor)

Context – The Levitical priesthood begins with the second year of the exodus, when the Hebrews are already in the middle of the wilderness. It came about as a result of the sin of the golden calf and from then on, the priests were only drawn from the tribe of Levi. Prior to this, they were drawn from the elder sons of all the families of  all the tribes. Leviticus, called “Law of the Priests” or “Law of the Sacrifices”, contains a collection of laws concerning the Levitical ministry. The Book of Exodus shows what God had done and was doing for His people; the Book of Leviticus prescribes what the people must do for God, and how they must render themselves worthy of His constant presence. Leviticus is both a manual for Old Testament priests and also concerns itself with the role and duties of the laity. Worship and holiness of life are the two main concerns of Leviticus.

Today’s Reading – This passage reminds the Israelites of their call to live a holy life (see Theme).  A life of holiness is manifested through acts of love, mercy and kindness, particularly towards those who have hurt us.


The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them: Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy. “You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart. Though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen, do not incur sin because of him. Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people. (Love should regulate our complaints. We must love the offender, but detest the offence.- St Augustine)  You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  In the New Testament this verse is quoted more often than any other verse in the Old Testament. In Mark 12:31, Jesus calls this the “second commandment” next to “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”. We are called to be people who see those who are suffering as their neighbors, and have the courage to cross the street to help them.



Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 103:1-4, 8, 10, 12-13                        (Bless the Lord for His Holiness)

Today’s Psalm – This psalm of individual thanksgiving reviews God’s mercies and expresses confident hope in His covenant promises.


R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all my being, bless His holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
He pardons all your iniquities, heals all your ills. He redeems your life from destruction, crowns you with kindness and compassion.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
Merciful and gracious is the LORD, slow to anger and abounding in kindness.
(This verse quotes Exodus 34:6. It restates four great characteristics about God.) Not according to our sins does he deal with us, nor does He requite us according to our crimes.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
As far as the east
(sunrise) is from the west (sunset), so far has He put our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.

R. The Lord is kind and merciful.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.                “As far as the east is from the west”   If someone travels north or south they finally arrive at a pole from which they can proceed no farther north or south. However if someone travels east or west, they never reach such a point. God did not say He forgives our sins as far as the North is from the South but as far as the East is from the West, namely, infinitely.



Reading 2     1 Corinthians 3:16-23                           (Holy Temple of God)        

Context – Corinth was the meeting point of many nationalities because the main current of the trade between Asia and western Europe passed through its harbors. Paul started the Church at Corinth in 51 AD and stayed there only briefly to get things started. Five years after he left, he composed and sent this Letter to Corinth just prior to his second arrival there. Over those five years trouble arose in the Church including: internal divisions, immorality, denials of the Resurrection, and liturgical carelessness. His pastoral guidance aimed to restore peace and unity by fortifying their commitment to Jesus Christ. Paul takes aim throughout this Letter at two  vices that underlie the Corinthians’ struggles: pride and selfishness.

Today’s Reading – St. Paul addresses the divisions in the people of God, in the Church of Corinth, and reminds these Corinthians (and us) to whom we really belong.


Brothers and sisters: Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy (see Theme). Let no one deceive himself. If any one among you considers himself wise in this age (self-centered) let him become a fool (become aware that he was mislead), so as to become wise (God-centered). For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God, for it is written: God catches the wise in their own ruses (Job 5:13), and again: The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain (Psalm 94:11). So let no one boast about human beings, for everything belongs to you, Paul or Apollos (a Christian leader who ministered in Corinth after Paul’s initial visit there) or Cephas (Aramaic name of Peter), or the world or life or death, or the present or the future: all belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God.


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.



Gospel     Matthew 5:38-48                 (Retaliation and Love of Enemies)

Context – Matthew’s Gospel, written prior to 70 AD, is the first book of the New Testament, not because it was written first – some of Paul’s epistles take that honor – but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. His purpose was to  prove to his fellow Jews that Jesus is the One to whom all the Jewish prophets point: the Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews. To accomplish his mission He uses more Old Testament quotations and references than any other Gospel.

Today’s Reading – Jesus changes the way the Jews should live the Torah (the Law given to Moses on Mount Sinai). Two issues are addressed: retaliation and attitude toward enemies.



Jesus said to His disciples: “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth (see PAUSE, below). But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand over your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow. “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for He makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (aka holy, see Theme. This final verse is taken from Leviticus 19:2 where the word “holy” is used. See above at Reading 1.)


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”   The law of revenge. This means (as defined at Leviticus 24:20 and Deuteronomy 19:21) that the punishment for a crime had to fit, but not exceed, the crime. It was meant to limit retribution. Jesus changes this policy. He stressed meeting hatred with positive love rather than hatred. However the spirit of the law, which Jesus clarified, did not advocate turning oneself into a doormat. Jesus wants us to be meek. That is strong as iron yet gentile as a feather. Jesus describes meekness as being “wise as a serpents and gentile as doves” – Matthew 10:16.



Catechism 2013 – “All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity.” All are called to holiness: “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

In order to reach this perfection the faithful should use the strength, dealt out to them by Christ’s gift, so that . . . doing the will of the Father in everything, they may wholeheartedly devote themselves to the glory of God and to the service of their neighbor. Thus the holiness of the People of God will grow in fruitful abundance, as is clearly shown in the history of the Church through the lives of so many saints.