2LA20. Genesis 12:1-4a. To Abram God says, “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you.” In last week’s reading Adam and Eve had the potential of being the parents of a paradise world but they sinned and brought the great struggle against sin to all of us to be able to regain the paradise of heaven. From Abram God promised a great nation who will be enabled to lead the world out of sin. And in later times all peoples would find a great blessing in the Hebrew peoples that God established through Abram.
Matthew 17:1-9. On top of the high mountain close to God, Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James, and John. Moses representing the Law and Elijah, the prophets, were there conversing with Jesus. Peter wished to give high honors to them. Then God the Father spoke from a bright cloud, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” The word ‘listen’ here means, ‘Hear what he has to say, then go and do it.’ The authority of God himself spoke through the cloud. God was to form a new people from Jesus who is still leading his followers, called Christians, though this world to heaven. The great power of this mighty event left the apostles prostrate and fearful. Jesus, who is the essence of peace, said, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” This vision was probably given to these three apostles to prepare them for the resurrection to come.
Romans 5:1-2, 5-8. “God 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.” We have been given salvation which we struggle to hold on to every day in Christ because the forces of this world seek to tear it out of our hands. Jesus calls us to a life that is not of this world. A life that is without death, eternally filled with the brilliance that is his presence.
2A17 Is. 49:3, 5-6. Israel was first chosen to be God’s people and they alone, as the text says, “You are my servant, Israel, through whom I show my glory.” However, through Isaiah, God later expands the call to other peoples, telling Isaiah, “I will make you a light to the nations that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth” and not just to the tribes of Jacob.
John 1:29-34. John presents Jesus as the sacrificial offering who will redeem us from our sins, when he says, “Behold, the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” John gives testimony that Jesus is the Son of God. Also he contrasts his baptism as being merely of water but Jesus’ baptism as being infinitely superior because he baptizes with the Holy Spirit.
1 Cor. 1:1-3. Paul addresses “the church of God that is in Corinth, to you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy, with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.” This is Paul’s way of saying that not just Jews but all people, who recognize Jesus as their Lord, are God’s people. We who belong to Jesus are made holy in him. The blessing at the end says that we as God’s people can bring God’s blessing to one another.
1LA20. Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7. In Genesis One, the first story of creation says: “Then God said: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Genesis 1:27b & c says: In the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.” The second story of creation says in Genesis 2:7: “The Lord formed man out of the clay of the earth and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.” After man’s creation, Genesis 2:22 says: “The Lord God then built up into a woman the rib that he had taken from the man.” Genesis 1 & 2 relates that what God had made was good. If everything was good, where did evil come from? Genesis 3 relates that evil came from the first human beings that God had created, our first parents. While they were still yet innocent and had not yet disobeyed God, Genesis 2:25 goes on to say: “The man and his wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame.” After they ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and bad, they lost their innocence and “they realized that they were naked.” While they were innocent, they had no knowledge of evil. Evil was not available for them to choose. Genesis 3:22 relates: “Then the Lord God said: ‘See! The man has become like one of us, knowing what is good and what is bad’”. Our innocence was lost. Now we must struggle to choose between what is truly good and the evil that the devil makes seem more desirable than what is truly good.
Matthew 4:1-11. Adam was conquered by temptation but Jesus was victorious over temptation. “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” Jesus was both God and man. As a man he was vulnerable to temptation but in his humanity he had built up such a powerful relationship and union with God the Father through prayer, he became indestructible. As with any human being, in his humanity he not only grew physically, yet even more importantly, spiritually. As such Jesus in his humanity is the ideal, perfect model for what our spiritual growth should be. Jesus taught us to pray: “Lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.” He wants us to be fearful of the power of the devil and so live every moment under the protection of our loving Father God. If encountered with a spiritual desire to advance in holiness, temptations force us more and more to live our lives growing every day in God’s grace.
Jesus had just gone through a terrible trial under the strain of forty days in the desert and the temptations. God the Father recognized that Jesus needed to recover from all that he gone through. So he sent the angels to minister to him.
Romans 5:12-19. “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.” “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.” Let us all claim our sinfulness so that we may claim Jesus Christ as the one who saves us from our sinfulness.
7A20. Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18. The Lord commands Moses to tell the whole Israelite community: “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.” Clearly God is telling his people to be as he is, holy and pure; not living as just another animal of this world but as a people close and dear to God, as his own. In Genesis 1:26, “Then God said: “Let us make man in our image, after our own likeness. Let them have dominion over” all the animals of this earth. We are to live in his image and not in the image of the other creatures of this earth. God in his holiness bears no hatred, grudge, nor revenge. We must do as God does, because we have been made in his image and likeness.
Matthew 5:38-48. God never says, “Do evil to those who do you evil.” God never does anything evil; we do it to one another or the devil does it. In Genesis in its narrative of the creation, after God has done his work of creation we read: “God saw how good it was.” In chapter 3 & 4 of Genesis we read that evil came into this world by what was done by Adam & Eve and then by Cain.
Jesus said, “Offer no resistance to one who is evil.” However, Jesus clearly resisted the temptations of the devil in the desert. At Nazareth when the people became infuriated with him and brought him “to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him headlong, he passed through the midst of them and went away.” (Mark 4:29b-30) Again Jesus resisted their evil intent. My understanding of what Jesus meant by “offer no resistance” is that there are occasions when things work out better when one offers no resistance and so we do not offer resistance. The best example of that is when Jesus did not resist his arrest by the band of soldiers and guards that Judas brought into the garden of Gethsemane because he (Jesus) had been brought into this world to offer himself up as a sacrifice for the redemption of our sins. Jesus said, “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” God is infinitely perfect. In our humanness we have a limited capacity to accomplish what is good. If we are called to our judgment when we are on the life’s road doing our best in God’s eyes, all will go well. The measure of the goodness to which we are called is God and God alone. God’s love embraces us to be holy as he is holy.
1 Corinthians 3:16-23. “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.” By our baptism the Holy Spirit dwells in us and works with us to create that truly holy person that is to be a child of God made in his image and likeness. The Holy Spirit enables us to share in God’s holiness. Remember that only saints are permitted in heaven. It is our life’s work and goal to become saints by achieving holiness through uniting our life to the work of the Holy Spirit in us.
7A Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18. “Be holy, for I, Lord your God, am holy.” What does that mean for us? Later God says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Who is it that commands this of us? “I am the Lord,” your God who is master over you. What does it mean to love. “You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart.” “Take no revenge and cherish no grudge.”
Matthew 5:38-48. No longer “an eye for eye and a tooth for a tooth,” “offer no resistance to one who is evil.” Not only that but indulge and cooperate with the one strikes you, or wants your tunic or your service or to borrow from you. Should we understand all this in strict sense? In the Gospel for Monday of the Sixth Week of Ordinary Time (Mark 8:11-13), the Pharisees demand a sign (miracle) from heaven from Jesus. He responds, “No sign will be given to this generation.” The next day’s Book of Genesis reading (6:5-8, 7:1-5, 10) says, “When the Lord saw how great was man’s wickedness on earth,” God sends the flood to destroy those evil people, except for Noah who is not evil. Obviously, Jesus’ words should not be taken literally but as examples of how far God’s love is willing to go, given the proper and appropriate situation and circumstance. This gospel ends with, “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” This means that God is perfect according to his capacity to be perfect which is infinite and we are to perfect according to our capacity to be perfect which is, in contrast, finite. As God is, so should we be. His is our Father; we are his children, maturing more and more each day to grow in his image and likeness as we were first made to be (Genesis 1:26-27).
1 Corinthians 3:16-23. Paul writes, “Brothers and Sisters (in Christ): Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells within you?” We are no longer simply human but God lives in us and raises us above what is merely human by his power. Do not think you are wise, if you belong to what is of this world. “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God.” Everything that is good and wise belongs to God and to those who belong to God. “All belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God.” In the Parable of the Lost or Prodigal Son, the father says to the elder (older) son, “Everything I have is yours.” (Luke 15:31b) This is what Our Father says to us. Since we have it all because we are temples of God, it makes no sense to seek anything from a world that has nothing.
6A20. Sirach 15:15-20. Life is at once a spectacular gift and a threatening challenge. Choose well and live an unimaginably wonderful eternal life; choose poorly and experience a hell beyond any words or nightmares. “Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him.” God “is mighty in power, and all-seeing.” “He understands man’s every deed.” God is love. If we reject God, we reject love and shall live forever an existence that is utterly loveless.
Matthew 5:17-37. Matthew’s chapter 5 is written to contrast the Mosaic law-filled covenant of the Old Testament with the Christ-filled covenant of the New Testament. What the Torah or Law commanded is surpassed and fulfilled by the requirements of a life in the Holy Spirit. Matthew’s chapter 5 finishes with the new command that summarizes the whole chapter: “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” In Matthew 5:17b-18, Jesus says, “I have not come to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.” Through his crucifixion, resurrection and kingship in heaven, all things have taken place and the purpose of the former law to make us holy has been fulfilled. We read in Hebrews 5:7a, 8-9, “In the days when he was in the flesh, Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” The law of the Old Testament is rendered useless because now all salvation comes through Jesus and no longer through the law. Jesus said in Matthew 28:18b, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “So whoever is in Christ is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.”
1 Corinthians 2:6-10. The all-knowing God has a wisdom that is beyond anything that this world can fathom. God uses his wisdom to work together with his love for us so that we will one day be brought to share in his divine glory. From Isaiah 64:3 Paul takes: “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him,” that what “this God has revealed to us through the Spirit.” So great is God’s love that he wished to share it with those who would freely choose to love him more than anything else and despite the fact that we had other seductive choices. To love God and his will with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and all our strength (Mark 12:30) is to embrace God’s eternal love for us.
5A20. Isaiah 58:7-10. Love is not only feeling affection for others but also doing good for them. Love must be both heart and hands. This is not only common sense but also what God demands. How can we ask God to help us, if we ourselves will not help one another? God is often made visible and real through those who deliver help through their human hands and genuine concern. One way God responds to pleas for help that come to him is through people who live on this earth. Angels are God’s messengers from heaven to earth. We too are God’s messengers bringing his love and concern to others. Often God helps us so that we can help one another. God relates to us not only individually but also as a community of believers; as a single person but also as a church.
Matthew 5:13-16. Without salt many foods are tasteless and without light we cannot see. Salt and light are essentials. God, who is invisible and not physically present, makes his presence felt through us. If we do not have God vibrant, alive and thriving within us we are salt that is lifeless and a lamp without light, deserving “to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” One very important way God is present to this world is through his faith-filled followers. By his lively presence within us, Jesus’ loving deeds and life-giving words are seen and heard In this way we give glory to our glorious God.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5. In the Acts of the Apostles 17:16-34 we read that Paul did go to Athens where the great philosophers had lived and taught. There Paul did go “with sublimity of words or of wisdom.” That effort was a failure and he was rejected. Now in Corinth he comes only with “Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we can come to have full faith in Jesus Christ. Otherwise we will be like the seed (Matthew 13:18-23) that fell on the path or on rocky ground or among thorns that bore no fruit, good for nothing “but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”
5A : Isaiah 58:7-10. This reading has something of the corporal works of mercy in Matthew 25: 31-46. The reward here is not as in the Last Judgment but that the Lord will treat one generously in this life. It will be as if one’s light will always shine and the darkness or gloom will never envelope you because God blesses your righteousness.
Matthew 5:13-16. These verses follow the beatitudes in Matthew’s Chapter 5. It is as if when you practice the beatitudes, then you are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. In their goodness the works of the followers of the Christ never leave the world in the darkness or fed with the insipid or the decayed and rancid. We are Christ’s beacon of light to all the world; we are the Holy Spirit’s bright light shining in the household of Jesus’ followers, reinforcing their faith. The good deeds of Christians give glory to our heavenly Father by showing that we are fruitful through the grace of the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5. Paul proclaims the mystery of God not out of his own “sublimity of words” or of his wisdom. He writes, “I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling” because he realized that on his own he could not bring people to faith. It was only through the power of God that the Corinthians could come to faith. In other words, Paul was learning to become fully dependent on God and not on himself. Not I, Lord, but it’s always you that makes it (the good) happen!
PresA20. Malachi 3:1-4. The Lord God himself speaks that he is to send a messenger ahead of him who will burn away all impurity, “like the refiner’s fire, or like the fuller’s lye.” “But who will endure the day of his coming?” Purification for the Hebrews was an essential custom among the people. God is the One and only Almighty One and everyone who belongs to him and stands before him must be ritually pure in Judaism.
Luke 2: 22-40. “When the days were completed for their purification according to the Law of Moses, Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord.” What the law or Torah required was that, since the first born male belonged to the Lord, he had to be redeemed or bought back from God so to live as a member of his birth parents by an offering of five shekels. Secondly any discharge of blood during the woman’s delivery required an offering of a lamb or, if the family were poor, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons” to render her pure “in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.” There were two special holy people of the temple, one man Simeon, one woman, Anna who were witnesses with the greatest of credentials that this is the child for whom “all who were awaiting the redemption of Israel.” “Simeon blessed them (Jesus parents) and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel (and everywhere else), and to be sign that will be contradicted – and you yourself a sword will pierce—so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” In our own lives do we from the very depths of our being show that Jesus is our Messiah and Savior? Do we accept Jesus as the life giving force of our life that shares/inserts some of his divinity or grace into our lives or do we choose to be just another earthly animal devoid of the spiritual? Jesus said in John 6:54-6, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” He gives us something of his very self so that we have him as our spiritual life. Without Jesus we are just the dirt of this earth. It is our choice to fall into hell or to rise into heaven with the acceptance or rejection of God’s help, his life or grace within us.
Hebrews 2:14-18. “Since the children share in blood and flesh, Jesus likewise shared in them” by sacrificing his own blood and flesh so that he might redeem us from our sinfulness. Our sinfulness rejects, while living on this this earth, the heavenly life, and in the end be buried in this world’s sinfulness, its dirt. “Therefore, he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every way, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people” by offering himself up on the cross. He was subjected to “the refiner’s fire,” “the fuller’s lye” to make us acceptable to his and our Father.
3A20. Isaiah 8:23-9:3. “First the Lord degraded the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali.” Long ago the Assyrians had conquered the tribes of that region and carried them off as slaves. God in turn conquered the darkness of their subjection with a great light. “The yoke that burdened them,” “you have smashed.” “You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing.” This is a prophesy that was also fulfilled at a much later time in Jesus. Our psalm 27 says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation.”
Matthew 4:12-23. Jesus spent much time preaching and working miracles in Capernaum which is close to Zebulun and Naphtali. Now that John’s ministry had ended because had been arrested, Jesus began his ministry announcing that for those who repent the gates of heaven are about to be opened. The Israel of the Old Covenant is to be dispensed with and the new Israel with its New Covenant is to be established in the twelve Apostles who are to replace the old Israel of the twelve sons of Jacob. Jesus went “proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.” Though Jesus begins his ministry among the Chosen People, his new kingdom is meant for all peoples. He is the light that takes away the darkness.
1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17. “It has been reported to me” “that there are rivalries among you.” “I urge you” “that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.” Christ sent Paul “to preach the gospel, and not with the wisdom of human eloquence, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.” Paul is saying that in suffering and dying with Christ there is salvation that requires of us to surrender our own will and preferences for the common good of the Church.