Tag Archives: Ordinary Time

Year A – Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – January 19, 2014 – Gospel Reflection

Isaiah 49:3, 5-6; Psalm 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10; 1 Corinthians 1:1-3; John 1:14a, 12a; John 1:29-34

ImageGod’s word invites us to know Jesus in three ways:  first, as the servant the prophet Isaiah describes; second, as the Lamb of God, as
John the Baptist calls him, who takes away the sins of the world; and finally and most importantly, as the Son of God.  Isaiah’s servant has been formed from the womb not only to bring God’s people back to God, but also to be a light to the nations.  Jesus fulfills this prophecy by his suffering and dying for us and for all peoples.  He is truly the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and restores us to God as beloved sons and daughters.  A disciple of Jesus is one who learns from Jesus by being with Jesus.  In learning who Jesus is, we learn who we are called to be.

Like John the Baptist in today’s Gospel, we are to bring others to the Lord by how we live our lives and by a willingness to speak about our faith in him and the difference he has made in our lives.  Do you see yourself as a true disciple of Jesus?  How do you spend time with him?

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Year A – Feast of the Baptism of the Lord – January 12, 2014 – Gospel Reflection

Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7; Psalm 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10 (R/. 11b); Acts 10:34-38; cf Mark 9:7; Matthew 3:13-17

ImageToday, the Christmas season comes to a close with another epiphany of Jesus as God’s beloved Son.  The importance of Jesus’ baptism is underlined in that the first three Gospels directly describe it, and John’s Gospel mentions it as having already happened.  Why did Jesus need to be baptized?  John the Baptist asks this himself in Matthew’s account.  Jesus responds by saying, “To fulfill all righteousness.”  Scholars interpret this remark as showing Jesus’ solidarity with sinners, those for whom he had been sent, even though he himself did not sin.

The central moment occurs when Jesus is coming out of the water.  The Holy Spirit descends upon him, and, in Matthew only, the Father announces, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”  More than a public service announcement for those present then, it proclaims to us now, Jesus is the Son of the Father.

He will go from this event to be tempted in the desert, and then into his ministry of preaching, teaching, healing, and casting our demons.  As we return to Ordinary Time, consider what tasks God has given to us.

Do you see your Baptism as rooting you in a life of service?

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Year C – Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe – Thirty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – November 24, 2013 – Gospel Reflection

2 Samuel 5:1-3; Psalm 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5 (R/. cf. 1); Colossians 1:12-20; Mark 11:19, 10; Luke 23:35-43

The image of a shepherd became linked to the role of the king in the Old Testament.  David, the youngest son of Jesse, who tended sheep, exalted the Lord through his harp music, and slew Goliath, was destined to become king of Israel.  The leaders of Israel came to David and asked him to shepherd them as king, fulfilling what the Lord had said to David, “You shall shepherd my people Israel and be commander of Israel.”

The life of David foreshadowed the life of Christ:  Bethlehem is the birthplace of both; the shepherd life of David prefigures Christ, the Good Shepherd; the five stones chosen to slay Goliath are typical of the five wounds of Christ; the betrayal by his trusted counselor, Achitophel, and the passage over the Cedron remind us of Christ’s Sacred Passion; finally, many of the Davidic Psalms, as we learn from the New Testament, are clearly typical of the Messiah.  Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe is not an earthly king though.  His crown is a crown of thorns, his royal purple robes are draped over his beaten body in mockery, his throne is a cross, and the only jewels he has are the nails that pierce his hands and feet.  They hang a sign on the cross above his head that says, “Iēsus Nazarēnus, Rēx Iūdaeōrum,” (“Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”)  It is through this unearthly image of a king that he shepherds human souls into his kingdom.

Jesus picked up the image of the Good Shepherd in his preaching to human souls and carried it out in his actions as he sought to shepherd his flock into the kingdom, searching out the blind and the deaf, the lame and the sick, the possessed and the grief-stricken.  He became the king of the poor, the weak, and the suffering.  He is our king.  He is not just the king of a nation, or even of the world; he is king of the entire universe.  He is a king so powerful and feared that Herod tried to kill him as a defenseless newborn baby.  He is so powerful that he may shepherd those most astray back to the flock, no matter how far they have gone or how long they have been away.  He gives hope to those most in need and ushers them into his everlasting kingdom.  A kingdom, as he told Pilate, which is not of this world.  He ushers all in like sheep with wool, white and pure.

Even from the cross, Jesus seeks and saves the lost.  Over the heckling of the crowd and the verbal abuse of one of his crucified companions, Jesus responds to the faith of the nameless thief on his other side.  (Tradition calls him Dismas.)  Through his confession, repentance, and spiritual act of mercy by admonishing the sinner, Jesus absolves the criminal, promising him Paradise that day.  Dismas secures his salvation, becoming the first saint of the Church, through his longing for the kingdom and exaltation of Christ as God and King of the Universe.  Even as Jesus is laying down his life for his sheep, he is also carrying one on his shoulders into the kingdom.

How does it help you to see Christ the king as Jesus the shepherd, leading us to green pastures where he feeds us, gives us rest, and finally leads us through the dark valley of death into the kingdom of light and life?

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Year C – Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – November 17, 2013 – Gospel Reflection

Malachi 3:19-20a; Psalm 98:5-6, 7-8, 9 (R/. cf. 9); 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12; Luke 21:28; Luke 21:5-19

As the end of the liturgical year approaches, the readings call our attention to the “end time,” that “Day of the Lord,” referred to by both Old Testament prophets and most New Testament writings.  Throughout history, groups have predicted the end time was right around the corner.  In our own day, such dates have come and gone.  And we are still here!  Most recently, we all survived the supposed Mayan Apocalypse of December 21, 2012.

It may be more helpful to live aware that, while we do not know when the end of the world will come, we do know that one day we will face our own end, dying to this life as we know it.  We can take comfort in Jesus’ final words today, “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”  For, if we persevere in faith, hope, and love, and if we strive to bring justice, mercy, forgiveness, and peace into our world, whenever the Day of the Lord comes, we will be counted among the just and experience it as the arrival of “the sun of justice with its healing rays.”  In the meantime, as Paul advises, go about your lives, working quietly to bring about the kingdom of God even now.

How does life’s eventual end influence your days?

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Year C – Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – November 10, 2013 – Gospel Reflection

2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14; Psalm 17:1, 5-6, 8, 15; 2 Thessalonians 2:16 – 3:5; Revelation 1:5a, 6b; Luke 20:27-38 or 20:27, 34-38

Belief in the resurrection of the body comes late in the Old Testament.  This was an issue that was widely debated in Jesus’ time.  The Sadducees, a group of Jewish fundamentalists, did not accept the scriptural books of Maccabees, Tobit, or Wisdom, all of which address the resurrection of the body and life after death, concepts in which the Sadducees also did not accept as they were not mentioned explicitly in the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, what we call the Pentateuch.  We hear of the resurrection of the body in today’s first reading.

Jesus himself is tested by the Sadducees because the resurrection of the body was not explicitly mentioned in the Torah.  Their improbably story intends to show the incompatibility of bodily resurrection with the Torah.  To whom would a seven-times-married woman be married at the resurrection?  Anyone present at this encounter or hearing this story at the time would have understood the sarcasm of this question.  The question of a seven-times-married woman clearly alluded to the scriptural passage of Tobit 3:8, in which a woman had been married seven times, but a demon killed each of her husbands.  The Sadducees meant to not only trap Jesus in a hypothetical challenge; they also wanted to poke fun at Jesus’ and his followers’ profession of this book.  This should sound familiar, as some Christians also do not accept this book today.  Jesus and his followers, however, clearly did.  There are other instances in the Gospels in which belief in the resurrection of the body and an afterlife are evident, i.e. Mark 9:2-8, John 11:24.  In addition, Acts 23:8 clearly shows the faulty lack of belief from the Sadducees.

Jesus says two things in response to the Sadducees’ indignant challenge.  First, what happens in the next life is going to be different.  In the life to come, we will be transformed like the Risen Christ.  Looking forward to this eternal life in heaven fills us with the joyful trust and hope in life with Christ.  Second, Jesus turns to the Torah itself, noting how Moses speaks there of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as God of the living, not of the dead (Exodus 3:6, 15, 16).  In God all are alive.  With the resurrection, we have hope we will live on through eternity.  If we are living as Christ calls us to live, we need not fear death, for we will live on through Christ.

The Church carries on with this teaching in her Sacraments; all of the Church’s Sacraments are for the living.  Anointing of the Sick prepares the dying for a good death so that they may reconcile with God and live eternally.  Anointing is a sacrament for the living, not the dead; what the Church has for the dead is the “Christian Funeral Rite.”

Life after death awaits those who find delight in keeping the commandments of God like the seven brothers in the first reading.  They made the statement, “We are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our ancestors.”  We too hope in the resurrection to help us reject sin, knowing that without fidelity no one shall enjoy the life after death with God in heaven (Revelation 21:27).

Do you live in fear of death like the Sadducees and others today?  Or do you live according to the teachings of Christ, the Sacraments, and the resurrection of the body?  What do we need to change?  What can we do better?

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Year C – Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time – November 3, 2013 – Gospel Reflection

Wisdom 11:22 – 12:2; Psalm 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13, 14 (R/. cf. 1); 2 Thessalonians 1:11 – 2:2; John 3:16; Luke 19:1-10

One may say Zacchaeus was ripe for the picking because that is what Jesus did.  The man was up a tree and was plucked like a ripe apple to satisfy God’s hunger for lost souls.  As the head tax collector hence a collaborator with Rome, Zacchaeus would have been hated by most people.  Any crowd would have been a dangerous place, so being short was not the only reason he climbed a sycamore tree.  But the one who went up came down a different person.

Notice that Jesus asked nothing of Zacchaeus, other than inviting himself to his house, but the little man grew that day.  Was it the way Jesus greeted him so urgently saying, “Come down quickly for today I must stay at your house?”  Or did the grumbling reaction of the crowd influence him?  In any case, Zacchaeus was quickly transformed into a generous and repentant man.  Salvation did indeed come to his house in the person of Jesus.  New life flowed into and out of his heart.  In Jesus, who came to seek and save, Zacchaeus knew God as the “Lord and lover of souls” (Wisdom 11:26).

How have you accepted Jesus’ request to come to your home?

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Year C – Solemnity of All Saints – November 1, 2013 – Gospel Reflection

Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14; Psalm 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6 (R/. cf. 6); 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 11:28; Matthew 5:1-12a

In a healthy parish, individuals work together as one community for the good of all.  This power is rooted in the love God poured into our hearts to pour out into the world.  All Saints Day celebrates this power that entered into the world through the dying and rising of Christ, a power manifested especially in those drawn into the one body of Christ through baptism.  More broadly, this power enters the world whenever men and women are poor in spirit, mourn the world’s sorrows, are meek, hunger and thirst for righteousness, show mercy, are pure of heart, peacemakers, and withstand persecution for the sake of living in right relationship with God, others, and the world.  They not only will enter heaven; they bring it into the world now.  These are the saints.

Who are the saints who have touched your life?

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Year C – Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – October 27, 2013 – Gospel Reflection

Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18; Psalm 34:2-3, 17-18, 19, 23, (R/. 7a); 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Luke 18:9-14

“The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds,” Sirach teaches.  Indeed, it touches God’s heart. The prayer of the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable certainly does not fall into this category.  It is not necessarily a bad prayer, as the Pharisee stands before God, expressing gratitude for God’s many blessings.  But notice the frequency of “I… I… I… I,” in contrast to the simple prayer of the tax collector, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”  Jesus concludes by saying, “The latter went home justified.”  To be justified is to be in right relationship with God.  Recognizing our need for God’s mercy and asking for it puts us in right relationship with God.

Luke offers many prayers in his Gospel:  the Canticle of Mary (the Magnificat), “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord…”  (1:46-55); the Canticle of Zechariah at the birth of John the Baptist (the Benedictus), “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel…” (1:68-79); the Canticle of Simeon in the Temple when he takes in his arms the Christ Child (the Nunc dimittis), “Lord, now you let your servant go in peace…” (2:29-32), and the Our Father.  Each recognizes God’s mercy, God’s loving-kindness.  Each calls us to bow our heads humbly before God.

How have you known God’s loving-kindness this week?

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Year C – Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time – October 20, 2013 – Gospel Reflection

Exodus 17:8-13; Psalm 121:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8 (R/. cf. 2); 2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:2; Hebrews 4:12; Luke 18:1-8

“Persistence pays off,” proclaims today’s parable, one Jesus tells with some humor.  Even though widows were among the most powerless people in the ancient world, here we have a widow who makes a judge cower, a judge described as having no fear of God or anyone else.  The judge himself says that the only reason he finally decides in the widow’s favor is that he fears she might come and haul off and strike him.  The story would have gotten a laugh in Luke’s community, not only for its incongruity, but possibly because some of his listeners would be able to think of someone in their own family like this widow.  Maybe you can as well?

Jesus encourages us to be like this widow and persevere in our prayer, not to give up calling on God.  We can help one another here, just as Aaron and Hur helped Moses to keep praying by holding up his arms.  When we come to mass, we help one another to persist in prayer by praying together in word and song.  By our very presence we “hold up the arms” of others, as they do for us.

Who in your life needs your support to keep praying?

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Year C – Twenty-Eight Sunday in Ordinary Time – October 13, 2013 – Gospel Reflection

2 Kings 5:14-17; Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4 (R/. cf. 2b); 2 Timothy 2:8-13; 1 Thessolonians5:18; Luke 17:11-19

It is a shame we only hear the ending of the story about Naaman, the foreign general with leprosy whom Elisha the prophet heals.  When the prophet sends word to jump in the river seven times, Naaman is incensed.  “The Jordan!  The Jordan?” he mutters.  But, after some prodding, Naaman trusts in the prophet’s words as God’s word.  Result:  skin like a baby’s!  Believing that a God could only work on his own turf, Naaman asks for two mule-loads of earth so he may worship Israel’s God after returning home.

Trusting in the word of Jesus brings about the cure of ten lepers.  Only the Samaritan returns to day thank you.  Notice that he begins by falling on his knees before Jesus, signaling that he recognizes God at work in Jesus.

In both of these readings, faith reveals itself as trust and obedience to God’s word.  Paul reminds us that this word cannot be chained, held down to any one place or time, but it will work its way in the world and in the lives of those who listen for it, and then respond wholeheartedly.

How has God’s word brought healing in your life?

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