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.

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time – August 22, 2021

21B21.    Joshua 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b.   “Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel.” “Joshua addressed them: ‘If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will serve.’”  Then Joshua and his household chose to serve the Lord.  The people could have chosen to serve the gods of the neighboring peoples in their midst.  However, the God of Israel had clearly shown by his deeds that he had embraced Israel as his people.  So the people of Israel responded, “We also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.”

John 6:60-69.  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.”  “As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.  Jesus then said to the Twelve, ‘Do you also want to leave?’  Simon Peter answered him, ‘Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.’” Through Peter, Jesus’ chosen twelve chose to follow Jesus as the people of Israel had chosen to follow God with Joshua.  The people who abandoned Jesus could not see beyond Jesus’ words that seemed to be a form of cannibalism because, unlike Peter, they had not come to entrust themselves to him as the only One who could bring God’s life to them.  As did some of the people before Joshua’s time, we have many enticements that can become like gods that can attract us to live our lives according to their callings rather than to live with the one, true God as our life-giving source.  To eat his flesh and drink his blood means that our daily life is the life he gives us because we have taken him to live within us.  Without Jesus as our life source, we are only another species of animal on this earth.

Ephesians 5:21-32.   In marriage the Scripture says, “The two shall become one flesh.”  While in marriage the two though physically always remain two, yet spiritually and psychologically because they are so deeply in love they ideally become one.  That mirrors the unity or oneness that Christ has with his people, the Church.  Jesus calls us to choose to be one with him as he chooses to be one with us.  Jesus said in John 14:20, “On that day you will realize that I am in the Father and you are in me and I in you.”

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time – 2018

21B18.   Joshua 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b.   “Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem, addressing them, “If it does not please you to serve the Lord decide today whom you will serve.”  “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”  Now that the Lord had delivered the Israelites from slavery and settled them down in the Promised Land, it was time for them to decide whom they would serve.  Here they clearly decide to submit themselves to the Lord as their master.

John 6:60-69.  In demanding of his followers to eat his flesh and drink his blood, without at this point telling them that this is to be done under the appearances of bread and wine, Jesus is commanding them to put their blind trust in him that all would go well.  However many refused, saying among themselves, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”  “As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.” Up to this point they had put their faith in Jesus because they saw the miracles he had performed.  Now however, he wanted them to put their faith in him without seeing outward visible signs but simply believing in him personally.  It was to be no longer the miracles that commanded their belief but the person, Jesus.  Jesus says, “It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail.  The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.”  He is saying in his own way to believe in him because he God made man in their midst.  Peter, apart from those who refuse to submit themselves to the authority of Jesus, says to Jesus, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

Ephesians 5:21-32.   Much of the Scriptures reflect the ancient hierarchical culture in which they were written.  In this Sunday’s epistle Paul, in telling wives to be subordinate to their husbands, reflects the thinking of the culture of his times.  In that same spirit of the times, Paul writes in Ephesians 6:5a, “Slaves, be obedient to your human masters with fear and trembling.”  Also Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:5, “But any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled brings shame upon her head, for it is one and the same thing as if she had had her head shaved.”  In inspiring the Scriptures, what the Holy Spirit is calling upon us to do is not to replicate the culture of those times but to follow what will lead us to the holiness that God the Father has called us to as his sons and daughters.  I believe that the Spirit is calling upon us to be subordinate to God.  In our egalitarian society we share with one another the gifts that God has endowed us with and the talents that we have been able to cultivate so to make the family, the community or the Church whole and complete to accomplish its purposes in this world.  In 1 Corinthians 12:7 Paul wrote, “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.”  What Paul wrote in regard to spiritual gifts is true on all levels of life.  We all have been given something by God to make the world he has created a better place for all and give glory to God.  In Matthew 25:40 the king, representing God sitting judgment, says, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”  In this Sunday’s epistle Paul writes, “For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.  When the body and blood of Christ nourishes us, his own body, the Church becomes holy, giving glory to our God who cherishes us his body with Christ as our head. In receiving the Eucharist, we call upon God to be the source of our daily life so that we may become the saints he has called us to be.

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – August 15, 2021

Assump21.    Revelation 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab.     This form of literature in which the book of Revelations is written is poetic and prophetic.  It was written when things were going badly for Christians to assure them that things were going to get better.  The Church put this selection from Revelations in this feast of Mary’s Assumption to reassure us that through Mary, the saints and the Church that God would bring us victory.

Luke 1:39-56.  Mary had just stated in Luke 1:38ab, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.”  Mary surrendered herself to God’s will.  Mary is certainly important because she was chosen to be the mother-of-God-made-man but far more important because she heard (Luke 11:28b) “the word of God and observed it.”  Putting Elizabeth’s need first before reveling in her choseness as the mother of the Messiah, Mary runs off to help Elizabeth in her pregnancy as an old woman.   Although not mentioned in the Scriptures, it can be assumed that the Holy Spirit informed Elizabeth that Mary was pregnant with the Messiah.  So Elizabeth cries out that Mary is blessed and that the baby John the Baptist leaps for joy in her womb.  Mary then revels in the fact that she is indeed blessed by God Almighty.  How great is the God who has made someone so lowly to bear the Son of the Almighty God into this earthly world!   God does great things for those who live dependent on God’s strength and not their own.  Mary recognizes that that blessing comes to her as a daughter of Abraham so that what God has done for her is done also for all God’s Promised People, the birth of the promised Messiah.   Blessed are those who live in the life God gives them and do not try to live in themselves as people independent of God, for only can God give true goodness.

1 Corinthians 15:20-27.   Through the sin of Adam, death came into the world that did not have death.  Instead Jesus through his sacrificial death on the cross redeemed us from sin and so gave us eternal life.  As Mary was assumed into heaven because she chose to belong to Christ and his will, Jesus also does great things for all who do the will of God.

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time – August 8, 2021

19B21.     1 Kings 19:4-8.   Exhausted by all the difficulties he had gone through in his prophetic ministry, Elijah exclaimed, “This is enough, O lord! Take my life.”    He lied down and fell asleep but an angel touched him twice, providing him with food and drink, ordered him to eat.  Then strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.”  God can test us to life’s limits but not without supplying us with what we need to go on.

John 6:41-51.  The Hebrews had murmured in the desert that they were being left without adequate nutrition.  Now “the Jews murmured about Jesus because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’”  They were being supplied with the nourishment they needed to get to heaven in the person of Jesus.  However, they did not recognize the fact that they needed that spiritual nourishment and that Jesus, who appeared to the eyes to be nothing more than an ordinary human being, was the divine nourishment the needed.  In the feeding of the five thousand Jesus gave stupendous evidence of his divinity.  With their earthly eyes all they saw was what they thought to be an earthly magician that made bread and not the God who was proclaiming that he himself was the divine bread of life that gives eternal life.  Jesus was demanding that they see beyond the earthly and ordinary framework of thinking to what was heavenly and beyond the ordinary and natural.   In claiming to be not just a natural person of this world but a divine son of God the Father, “They took offense at him.” (Matthew 13:57a)  The person of Jesus is the bread or flesh that takes away the death of this world and gives us the life of the world that never ends.  To be able to see beyond the natural to what is spiritual we need to be awakened by the movement or working of God within us.  When we lock God out, we lock ourselves in to a blindness that sees only what is physical and material.

Ephesians 4:30-5:2.  Paul writes, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption.”  Paul is telling the Ephesians to be true to the grace given them by the Spirit till the day they are called to heaven.  Then he continues, “So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love as Christ loved us” to the cross.  With the love that God pours into us, we become love ourselves as God is love, true sons and daughters in the likeness of God our Father.  When God gave us life into this world, he gave us the opportunity, the calling and the demand to grow as his children in the holiness with which he is holy.  The Holy Spirit actively enables us to mature in holiness daily.