26th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Sept. 26, 2021

26B21.     Numbers 11:25-29.    The Lord gave “some of the spirit that was on Moses” to seventy elders with the result that they began to prophesy, which does not mean to make predictions but to speak out in enraptured enthusiasm or continued outburst of holy joy.  When word spread that others who were not of the seventy elders also prophesied, Joshua, Moses’ aide objected.  Moses answered, “Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets!”  Moses wishes that God give his gifts to everyone and not just to a select group.  What is important is not what group we belong to but rather that we belong to God.

Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48.   “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.’ Jesus replied, ‘Do not prevent him.’  ‘For whoever is not against us is for us.’”  Jesus did not require that anyone belong to a special group but, rather that they belong to Christ himself.  The people who were performing miracles or ‘mighty deeds,’ but were not a part of the immediate followers of Jesus, obviously had put their faith in Jesus. Continuing on, Jesus makes it clear that anyone who belongs to sin and not to God would end up in hell, i.e., Gehenna.  What we belong to is the source of the life we live.  Let us grow daily in living our lives more and more in Jesus.

James 5:1-6.  The rich all too often draw their life from their wealth and not from the Lord.  When we have the Lord as our most precious possession, we have what lasts forever.  When our material possessions are what is most precious to us and the center of our attention, we have something that lasts to the grave and no further.

 

 

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 2018

26B18.   Numbers 11:25-29.  “Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses, the Lord bestowed it on the seventy elders; and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied,” i.e., speaking in enraptured enthusiasm, but not foretelling the future.  When others who had not gone out to the special gathering were given the gift of prophesy, Joshua objected.  Moses responded, “Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets!  Would that the Lord might bestow his spirit on them all!”  Moses rejoices in the generosity of the Lord.

Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48.  That same generosity is given to someone who drives out demons in Jesus’ name but is not in the group that follows Jesus.  Jesus does not want anyone to prevent him, responding, “For whoever is not against us is for us.”  Jesus feels that anyone who does good in his name and out of belief in him will be rewarded as will any of his followers.  Then Jesus goes on to say that if anything precious to you or a part of you, such as a hand, foot or eye, causes you to sin, i.e. causes you to do evil, cut it out of your life because it will lead to your eternal destruction. As human beings we receive the capacity to do many things with the free will in how to use those God-given abilities. Choose to do all in Jesus as the root of all we do.  That will always lead us to do what is truly good.

James 5:1-6.  James makes it clear that it is worthless to treasure earthly things that will rot and corrode as will our very flesh someday but fail to do good for the needy that the Lord will remember forever.  Choose to value what will serve us eternally.

Psalm 19:8, 10, 12-13, 14.  The last verses say, “Cleanse me from my unknown faults!  From wanton sin especially, restrain your servant: let it not rule over me.  Then shall I be blameless and innocent of serious sin.”  As humans being it is easy for us to deceive ourselves, to not see ourselves as we truly are in the eyes of God.  True humility requires that we leave lots of room in our lives for God to lead us.  The childlike attitude of last Sunday’s Gospel demands that we always have an attitude that is willing to learn.

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Sept. 19, 2021

25B21.     Wisdom 2:12, 17-20.    “The wicked say: Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us.”  “With revilement and torture let us put the just one to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness.”  The wicked pose a challenge to see whose wisdom will win out: the wisdom of the worldly wise vs the wisdom of those who put their faith in God.

Mark 9:30-37.  Jesus began a journey through Galilee for the purpose of spending some private time instructing his disciples.  Jesus tells them that he is to be a Messiah who is executed on the cross to free us from our sins.  Lost in the ways of this world, his disciples not only cannot internalize his message but instead concern themselves over who will have the highest position in the politics of the government that they imagine that Jesus is to establish.  Jesus rejects their worldly way of thinking by telling them: “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”  Then he points out to them that those who honor and value the least ones in this world, such as a child, would be doing the same as honoring and valuing Jesus himself and likewise God the Father.  As people saturated in the ways of this world, it is a lifelong task to die to ways this world thinks and feels so to be remade and reborn into the image and likeness of Christ.

James 3:16-4:3.  Which wisdom or way of thinking should we follow: the thinking of this world that is “jealousy and selfish ambition” or “the wisdom from above” that is “peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good works?”  To grow to be a person who thinks as God thinks while we still live in a world that thinks as the world thinks is to be in an endless struggle, but always strengthened by the Holy Spirit who lives within us.  However, Jesus reassures us and encourages us to be at peace when he says in John 16:33b, “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.”

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 2018

25B18.   Wisdom 2:12, 17-20.  “With revilement and torture let us put the just one to the test.”  “Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.”  This was written a hundred years before Christ by a Jew who remained loyal to Judaism in spite of being persecuted by Jews who were won over by the Hellenistic (Greek) pagan ways of those who ruled at that time.  His circumstances prepare us for the situation that Jesus was to find himself in much later.

Mark 9:30-37.  Once again Jesus asserts that he will be killed and three days after he will rise.  “But the disciples did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him.”  In last Sunday’s Gospel Jesus had said, “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”  Emotionally and intellectually they were locked into the human way of thinking.  From what I can see, it was only by the grace of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that they were enabled to break free from their humanness and pass over to comprehend things as God does.  Jesus could not but notice that, on the way to Capernaum, they had been arguing among themselves.  After Jesus questioned them as what they were arguing about, interestingly enough the Gospel says that “they remained silent,” but does not say that anyone told Jesus that they had been discussing “who was the greatest.”  Once again Jesus recognizes that they were thinking as human beings do and not as God does.  So “he said to them, ‘If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.’”  Human thinking is to take advantage of any situation for one’s own personal gain.  God’s thinking is to bring everyone to love as God loves; not to take from everyone so that you yourself have more but to work to the advantage of everyone to have the most for eternity.  Placing a child in their midst with his arms around it, Jesus says, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.”  We are to love everyone, no matter that they have little importance in the eyes of this world but simply to love them as God loves them.

James 3:16-4:3.  “Beloved: Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice.”  When we hand ourselves over to what is not of God, we are on the road to the destruction of ourselves and perhaps of some others around us.  What is of God is good through and through; what is not of God will eventually rear its evil head.  God is love that gives life; all else leads to annihilation. In John 6:53, “Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.”  Then in John 6:57, Jesus said, “Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.”  Only the God who first created life can continue to be the source of life for us because life can only come from love, i. e., from God, the only source of true love.  Everything that is not from Jesus is a source of death and destruction. Those are our passions.  They are not true love.  In 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, Paul writes: “Love is patient, love is kind.  It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it does not seek its own interest, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Sept. 12, 2021

24B21.       Isaiah 50:4c-9a.      The Servant of the Lord speaks proclaiming hopefulness in the Lord in opposition to the feeling of the Jews in the Babylonian captivity that the Lord had abandoned them.  They revile and attack the Servant of the Lord.  However, the Servant does not respond violently but with a willingness to stand firm and strong in the Lord who allows him to suffer without faltering or running away.  He has been made to be like a rock at the edge of the ocean that suffers the pounding of the waves but stands firm in spite of all.

Mark 8:27-35.   Peter calls Jesus the Messiah or Christ but thinks that meant that Jesus would be a royal military leader who wound rescue Israel from Roman military domination.  When Jesus “began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and rise after three days,” Peter rebuked Jesus for thinking in a way that was so different from what he, as an ordinary Jew of the times, had in mind for the Messiah or Christ.  Jesus responds to Peter saying, “Get behind me, Satan.  You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”  Jesus calls upon his followers to “take up his cross and follow me.”  What Jesus wanted of Peter and wants of us is to die to thinking as ordinary people of this world but to think and act as God wishes us to.  To have God as the God of our lives means that we no longer belong to ourselves and this world but to him and to his loving will and way.  This is a manner of death in which our lives are no longer ours but a totally new way of living in Christ as the life-giving force or grace in us.  In Galatians 2:19c-20, St. Paul wrote: “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.”

James 3:16-4:3.  My understanding is that faith is living daily dependent on God to lead us and guide us and to enable us to do his will and die to our own will and way.  Jesus himself lived his life faithful to his Father‘s will for him.  Jesus’ life was one good miraculous work after another, culminating in the greatest of all works, his offering himself up for us on the cross, his work of redemption.  Jesus calls us to do the same work he did by loving one another as he loved and still now loves us.  (John 15:12)

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 2018

24B18.   Isaiah 35:4-7a.  “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.” This is one of the Servant Songs or Servant-of-the-Lord oracles where the prophet proclaims to the sinful people what the Lord wants them to hear no  matter how shamefully he, the prophet, is treated, trusting that the Lord will save him by proving him right.  As the New Testament people we see these verses as written also to refer to Jesus when he came 500 years after they were written.

Mark 8:27-35.   Jesus “asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’” Continuing, “He asked them, ‘but who do you say that I am?’ Peter said to him in reply, ‘You are the Christ,’” which means the Messiah or Savior.  He told them he would be rejected by the Jewish religious establishment, be killed but rise after three days.  Peter, having in mind the publicly accepted notion that the Messiah would be a victorious king who would drive the Romans out, rebuked Jesus for thinking that those kinds of things would happen to him.  Jesus, turning the tables, rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind, Satan.  You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”  God’s plan was not to get things done through muscle and sword but with love and sacrifice. God’s ways are not our ways.  Following Jesus example, God’s way is accepting the cross that God gives us.  “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”   It is quite natural to try to live our lives independently.  To try to save our life on our own without the Savior will always be disastrous because only God has the resources to gain salvation.  Giving our lives over to God, always living dependent on Jesus and obedient to his will, will give us the salvation we can never get on our own.

James 2:14-18.  In many places in Paul’s epistles, he says it is not by works that we are saved but by faith.  Paul tried to convert the Jews in the diaspora in the Greek speaking world but found them quite resistant to his efforts.  In effect they were saying to him that the Hebrew Torah or Law found in the Pentateuch or first five books of the Old Testament was their Messiah, not Jesus.  Paul retorted that, not by fulfilling the works required by the Law, but by putting our faith in Jesus, our Messiah and Savior, could we gain salvation because only God can give salvation, not our works without God.  Apparently James was writing against a misinterpretation of Paul that all one had to do was to believe in Jesus and then do nothing.  Paul himself never failed by the works of his ministry to bring the faith to others.  Also in 1 Corinthians 16:1 -4, Paul calls upon the faithful to contribute to the needy in Jerusalem.  Genuine faith produces loving actions for the benefit of others.  “So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.  Remember from Matthew 25:42-46 when Jesus in his parable said: “For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’  Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’  He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’  And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”  Out of his great love for us, Jesus put his love for us into action.  He offered himself for us on the cross.  There is no real faith where there is no life of loving.  In 1 Corinthians 13:13, Paul wrote: “So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Sept. 5, 2021

23B21.    Isaiah 35:4-7a.   Jerusalem seemed to be in a hopeless situation when confronted by the armed forces of Assyria.  Through Isaiah, the prophet or spokesperson of the Lord, God reassures the frightened Hebrews that he will save them.  What seems to be so hopeless, will by the power of God be remade into what only their hope in their caring God can restore and make whole.  God draws straight with crooked lines and makes it all work to the best in the end.

Mark 7:31-37.   Jesus cured a man who had a speech impediment because he could not hear well.  Learning of what Jesus had done, the people “were exceedingly astonished and they said, ‘He has done all things well.  He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.’”  Everything Jesus does is done well.  We need to give him a chance to make our lives a work done well.

James 2:1-5.    James calls upon us to “show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.”  As the flesh calls upon us to obey the callings of our flesh, so too does our material nature call upon us to be subservient to the riches of this world and ignore the eternal riches of the invisible, spiritual world.  “Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him?”  This world challenges us to love it and not God.   God helps us to love him who is eternal and to allow all things of this world to be secondary.  Our bodies and this world daily try to entice us to love the ‘now’ and ignore the ‘forever’.  The Holy Spirit enables us to put  the spiritual and divine above the demands and enticements of this world and our flesh.

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – 2018

23B18.   Isaiah 35:4-7a.  A foreign army had come to conquer Jerusalem, but God stands with his people to give them courage and strength.  “Here is your God.”  “He comes to save you.”  The saving action of God that is in the Gospel reading is predicted when Isaiah writes, “The ears of the deaf (will) be cleared:” “then the tongue of the mute will sing.”

Mark 7:31-37.  The people see the power of God made manifest when Jesus cures the deaf man and enables him to speak clearly.  The People proclaim the magnificence of the work of Jesus, saying, “He has done all things well.  He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”  Jesus, though he appears to be only human, through his miracles manifests his divinity.  The God, who in the Old Testament was present at a distance, in the New Testament times, is walking among his people showing his care for them by his powerful works.

James 2:1-5.  People are more naturally attracted to the haves’ rather than to the have nots’.  I guess because we would rather be one those who have nice things than to be one of those who do not have nice things. In Mark 10:23b, Jesus said, “How hard it is those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” In the mentality of this world we can easily think that once we have nice earthly things we have all we need.  The nice things of this world are worthless when we die.  James rhetorically states, “Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him?”  Sometimes the poor, who are not so disturbed by their relative lack of the nice things of this world, can put their trust more in the things that that only God can offer.  They are not so preoccupied by the wealth they already have so that they trust in the God who in Himself is the treasure this world can never offer.

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Aug. 29, 2021

22B21.    Deuteronomy 4:1-2; 6-8.    To live as the people of God the Israelites had to be obedient to God’s Will, which meant exact observance of the statues and decrees of the whole of God’s law.  From that observance would flow their life as a great nation crafted by God.  God would take away the possession of a land that was possessed by others and give that land to the Israelites.  “For what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the Lord, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him?” In John 14:23bc, Jesus said, “Whoever loves me will keep my word (which is to do whatever Jesus tells us to do), and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”  So close to us is our God that, when we obey his will, we live with him now and later forever in the spiritual land of the heaven that he gives us.

Mark 7:1-8; 14-15; 21-23.   The people of the Middle East did not have any knowledge of germs and resultant hygiene but did recognize that things could become dirty or soiled.  It was customary to wash and especially sprinkle people and various objects as an act that was to be a ritual cleansing, so that they were acceptable culturally and religiously.   Jesus quotes Isaiah to make the point that the leaders of the Jewish religion were not leading the people to become devoted to God by becoming holy as God is holy.  Instead they were intent on making Judaism a religion of performing external rituals rather than growing in love of the Lord.  In John 7:19 Jesus said: “Did not Moses give you the law?  Yet none of you keeps the law?”  My understanding of what Jesus was saying is that God’s purpose in creating the Judaic law for his people was to have them draw close to the God who was close to them.  Please read over Matthew’s chapter 5 that makes clear how different Christianity was and is from the standard religious practices of Jesus’ times in Judea.

James 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27.    “Dearest brothers and sisters: All good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.”  All true goodness originates in God and God only.  Through his goodness to us, we have been living in the presence of God through the teaching of the gospel and the Church, “the word of truth.”  We must be people who live what the Lord wants of us and not just “hearers only.”  Because we belong to the Lord, we belong to what is above and not to what is below. (John 3:31 & 8:23)

 

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – 2018

22B18.   Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8. Knowing that he will die before God’s People enter the Promised Land, Moses gives them the Lord’s Law that will enable them to be a people who will always benefit by being loyal and obedient to the God who is so generous to His People.

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23.  Jesus’ followers often were common ordinary folks who did not follow some of the traditions of the Jewish leaders, such as washing their hands before meals.  The Pharisees criticized them.  Jesus’ response, in turn, was to criticize the Pharisees for making so much of what was human tradition yet not observe God’s Law itself, such as the requirement to honor one’s parents (Mark 7:10-13).  While the Law did not speak of washing one’s hand, it did declare some foods to be unclean.  Jesus, using his divine authority, did declare that there is no food that makes one unclean but rather that the evil within a person that is an expression of one’s inner self that makes him unclean.  The commentary written in the text of Mark 7:19c declares: “Thus he declared all foods clean.” What defiles a person is not the product of which food one eats but rather of the evil one has given himself over to. Jesus is accusing the Pharisees of making much of appearances and little or nothing of what is in one’s heart.

James 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27.  All goodness that is true goodness has at its roots in God as the giver.  Jesus said in Matthew 9:17: “There is only One who is good.” God is good down to his very essence and nothing can cause him to be anything but good. Often God makes us agents of goodness so that we can pass on his goodness to others.  “He willed to give us birth by the word of truth that we may be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”  God gave us birth into the new life of Christianity “by the word of truth” i.e. the gospel message of his salvation for us.  “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.” James is calling upon us who are being loved by Jesus to bring that love to others through our attitude and actions.  John says in 1 John 3:18, “Children, let us love not in word or in speech but in deed and truth.”  James writes in James 2:17: “So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

James wrote in James 1:27c: “Keep oneself unstained by the world.”  Remember in the Gospel that Jesus said, “The things that come out from within are what defile.” The evil ways of this world enter our hearts ungoverned by the God who is goodness.  The actions that come from a heart that belongs to God are only goodness.  Let us always remember that God is the only true source of genuine goodness.