Monthly Archives: June 2017

25 June 2017: Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Jer 20:10-13 Ps 69:8-10, 14, 17, 33-35 Rom 5:12-15 Mt 10:26-33

Discipleship: a fearless life

Green_banner_sm During Ordinary time the Lectionary invites RCIA participants and the believing community to hear and to reflect on Jesus’ teachings from his everyday ministry. This week’s readings invite us to reflect on discipleship’s risks and rewards.

In the first reading Jeremiah laments the fate of all prophets: rejection. The Temple guard put Jeremiah in stocks to keep him from prophesying about the coming Babylonian siege. Jeremiah suffers a crisis of faith (“You seduced me, Lord…” v7) because the people reject him and his prophesy. The Lectionary editors chose this reading because it parallels Jesus’ warnings to disciples in today’s gospel.

In the second reading to the ekklesia at Rome, Paul reflects on Adam’s sin (Gn 3:1-13) in the context of the redemptive mystery of Christ. Paul compares Christ to Adam, not to explain human origins, but to introduce the mystery of human sinfulness. Paul sees sin as a power over someone. This power causes humans to revolt against God, and exalt in their own desires and interests. Sin leads to spiritual death: total aloneness and self-imposed alienation from God. God’s response to human failure is not punishment, but superabundant grace and God’s redemptive gift (Jesus). Paul contrasts Adam’s disobedience with Christ’s complete obedience; Jesus’ life of obedience to the Father, including his “obedience unto death,” is his redemptive act.

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus continues to prepare the disciples for their mission to the world. In today’s reading, Jesus gives his disciples three instructions:

  • Proclaim without fear. Disciples should not fear those who oppose them or want to dispute or to condemn Jesus’ good news. Disciples should proclaim Jesus’ message openly, in the light and from the housetops.
  • Expect rejection. Like Jesus, Jeremiah, and all the prophets, disciples should be prepared to be rejected, opposed, persecuted, and even martyred for following the gospel’s words and actions.
  • Remain faithful. Jesus assures the disciples that God knows them personally and values their works. Jesus is joined to (literally “is of one mind with”) every disciple who faithfully witnesses to his message, and Jesus acknowledges those disciples before his heavenly Father.

Jesus’ instructions are as valid to his twenty-first century disciples (us) as they were to his first-century disciples. Proclaiming God’s words and imitating Jesus’ actions will always result in rejection, opposition, and persecution by those who would rather keep their words and actions hidden and secret. However, Jesus assures his disciples that the Father cares for them, and that he himself continues to stand with them during their trials. As a result, disciples should fear no one. Today’s readings ask: Is our discipleship fearless, or have we dialed back the gospel’s words and actions to accommodate our comfortable culture? Will Jesus recognize his message reflected in what we say and do, or will he turn to the Father and shake his head?

—Terence Sherlock

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18 June 2017: Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Dt 8:2-3, 14b-16a Ps 147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20 1 Cor 10:16-17 Jn 6:51-58

Eucharist: God’s care, community meal, food of eternal life

White_gold_banner_sm On the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, the Lectionary readings invite us to think about the Eucharist, foreshadowed in the Hebrew scripture as manna and fulfilled in Christian scripture as the bread of life.

In the first reading from Deuteronomy, Moses recalls God’s great acts, especially God feeding the Israelites with manna in the wilderness. God’s gift of manna expresses God’s care for the chosen people. The gospel compares God’s gift of manna, which sustains human life, with the Father’s gift of Jesus-as-bread, who gives eternal life.

In the second reading from the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul recalls the blessing cup and broken bread as both a fellowship meal and remembrance meal. However, he emphasizes the community/communion aspect when he stresses one loaf/one body in which all participate and become one.

In John’s gospel, Jesus tells his synagogue listeners that manna saved their ancestors from starvation in the wilderness, but still the Israelites died. For those who follow Jesus, the bread-of-life that Jesus’ offers is both physical food (bread/wine) as well as spiritual food (himself/abiding).

Like the manna in the wilderness, Jesus is God’s gift that reveals God’s care for disciples. Unlike the manna, Jesus gives himself as communion–union with Jesus and the Father–so disciples will abide with the Father and Son forever. Jesus, the bread-coming-down-from-heaven, gives his disciples a share in eternal life though his living, dying, and resurrection. Although Jesus returns to the Father, Jesus continues to abide with the believing community in the Eucharistic meal. By remembering Jesus and by imitating his sacrificial love, the disciples remain-in-relationship with Jesus and the Father.

On this feast celebrating the mystery of the Body and Blood of Christ, the readings reveal the Eucharist as wilderness food, fellowship sign, and life source. In the Eucharistic mystery, we continue to see new meanings of manna, meal, and remaining-in-relationship. In the Eucharistic sacrament, we encounter God as gift, covenant meal, and life. At every Mass, Jesus shares a meal with us, made from the Father’s gifts and our work, which the Spirit returns to us as God’s own self. What is our wilderness? What is our food? What gives us life?

—Terence Sherlock

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11 June 2017: Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Ex 34:4b-6, 8-9 Dn 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56 2 Cor 13:11-13 Jn 3:16-18

The Trinity: known, knowable, unknowable

White_gold_banner_sm On the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, the Lectionary readings reveal God as known, knowable, and unknowable; or as revealed, disclosing, and mysterious. The readings express the believing community’s experience of God’s three-fold relationship with them.

In the first reading, from Exodus, God proclaims God’s own name (YHWH, translated as “the LORD”) to Moses, revealing God’s relationship with the Israelites: “merciful and gracious, slow-to-anger, overflowing in loving-kindness and faithfulness.” Christian readers of Hebrew scripture should not equate YHWH with the First Person of the Trinity (the Father), but should understand YHWH as all three Persons.

In the second reading, Paul closes his second letter to the Corinthian ekklesia with a familiar three-fold blessing. Paul’s blessing encapsulates the believing community’s experience of God’s relationship: Christ’s gift of grace, the Father’s gift of love, and the Spirit’s gift of unity or fellowship. Paul expects his letter to be read just before the community’s Eucharistic meal, which will make God’s grace, love, and unity fully present to the ekklesia.

In the gospel, John concludes Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus with a succinct summary of his gospel: the Father gave his only son so that everyone might experience eternal life. This is how the believing community experiences the Trinity’s relationship: the Father’s love sends the Son to heal/to save our broken relationships with God and each other. (We have broken these relationships through our own selfish choices, or sin.) When the Son heals these relationships, we experience God’s own life (eternal life) in the Spirit–who is the Giver of Life.

Human experiences help us to know God, and to understand that God is knowable. At the same time, God remains unknowable–what human can understand why God acts or why God chooses to break into human time and history? We do know that the Son reveals the Father and continues to disclose the Father’s love for us though the Spirit’s abiding, mysterious sacramental presence.

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity reminds us that we can and do know God through revelation and through our own experiences. This feast also encourages us to explore the mystery of God through prayer, liturgy, and reflection to bring us into closer relationship with God’s grace, love, and unity.

—Terence Sherlock

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4 June 2017: Pentecost Sunday

Pentecost Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Vigil: Gn 11:1-9 or
Ex 19:3-8a, 16-20b or
Ez 37:1-14 or
Jl 3:1-5
Ps 104:1-2, 24 and 35, 27-28, 29-30 Rom 8:22-27 Jn 7:37-39
Extended Vigil: [1] Gn 11:1-9
[2] Ex 19:3-8a, 16-20b
[3] Ez 37:1-14
[4] Jl 3:1-5
[1] Ps 33:10-11, 12-13, 14-15
[2] Dan 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56 or
Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 11
[3] Ps 107:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
[4] Ps 104:1-2, 24 and 35, 27-28, 29-30
Rom 8:22-27 Jn 7:37-39
Sunday: Acts 2:1-1 Ps 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34 1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13 Jn 20:19-23
Lectionary note
The Lectionary presents three sets of readings for Pentecost: the Vigil of Pentecost, the Extended Vigil of Pentecost, and Pentecost Sunday.
This commentary uses the readings for Pentecost Sunday.

Pentecost: bringing Easter to everyone

Red_banner_smPentecost marks the end of the Easter season and the readings that examine the meaning of Jesus’ resurrection. Today’s final Easter readings give three different views on how the Spirit remains-in-relationship with the believing community and empowers us to continue Jesus’ work.

In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear Luke’s version of the Spirit’s coming to the believing community on the Jewish feast of Pentecost, fifty days after Passover. Luke reinterprets the Jewish Pentecost feast as God renewing the covenant with a new people. Using wind and fire images, Luke connects God’s presence at Sinai with the Spirit’s presence at Pentecost. Through the Spirit’s action, everyone is able to hear the disciples’ message “in his own language.” The Spirit reverses Babel’s confusion of language (Gen 11), enabling the disciples to invite everyone into God’s kingdom.

In the second reading, Paul describes the Spirit’s actions in the believing community as spiritual gifts, functions, or workings. Some Corinthians thought that a spiritual gift indicated the recipient’s importance. Paul tells them that a gift benefits the whole believing community. All share the same body and Spirit through baptism; baptism removes all cultural and social distinctions. All share in one Body of Christ and the kingdom.

The gospel gives John’s account of the Spirit’s coming, which he places on the evening of Jesus’ resurrection. John highlights Jesus’ three actions:

  • Blessing. Jesus’ blessing (“Peace be with you”) brings the disciples into communion with the Father and drives out the disciples’ fear.
  • Sending. Jesus commissions his disciples to continue his mission (“As the Father sent me, I send you”). Jesus incorporates the disciples into his own saving mission: to free humans from sin’s slavery (Jn 8:34-36).
  • Receiving the Spirit. Just as God breathes life into the first human (Gen 2:7), Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit into his disciples, giving them his power over sin. The Spirit unites the disciples to the risen Jesus, and the Spirit’s remaining-in-relationship with the disciples gives them a share in the Father’s kingdom. Through the Spirit, Jesus gives the disciples authority to take away sin. Through the Spirit’s power, the believing community administers God’s mercy, continuing Jesus’ mission to the world.

Jesus’ resurrection has many meanings and many implications. The Easter season has given us time to reflect on this cosmos-changing event. The Lectionary readings have presented stories, poems, songs, and visions to help us see Easter from many viewpoints-lived human experience, mystery, faith, sacraments, theology. This week we celebrate the ekklesia‘s birth through the Spirit’s coming. Baptism incorporates us into the ekklesia, and we promise to complete Jesus’ mission. Confirmation’s coming of the Spirit strengthens us and gives us needed gifts to bring Jesus’ saving message of forgiveness to the world. The Spirit’s coming completed Jesus’ mission. How are we meeting our baptismal promise to continue Jesus’ work? How are we using the Spirit’s gifts to announce Jesus’ Easter message of God’s mercy?

—Terence Sherlock

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