Tag Archives: 13 Sunday in Ordinary time

13 August 2017: Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
 1 Kgs 19:9a, 11-13a  Ps 85:9, 10, 11-12, 13-14  Rom 9:1-5  Mt 14:22-33

Getting in over our heads

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 focus on God’s power and our discipleship.

The first reading from the first Book of Kings recounts Elijah’s personal encounter with God. While living in self-imposed exile on Mt Horeb for killing Baal’s prophets, Elijah encounters God. Hebrew scripture often portrays God as a God of power and might. But Elijah encounters God not in power (wind, earthquake, fire), but rather “the thinnest stillness.” In a similar way, Jesus reveals himself to the disciples in today’s gospel not in power, but in a personal encounter.

The second reading continues the letter to the Romans. In Romans chapters 9 through 11, Paul explores the mystery of Israel. Through Christ, God offers salvation to Jews and to all people. Although Paul sees Israel rejecting Christ now, he believes that God may still bring the people of the promises and covenants to salvation.

Matthew’s gospel presents a miracle story in two parts: Jesus walks on water to meet his disciples, and Jesus rescues an over-excited Peter from drowning.

  • Walking on water. The disciples mistake Jesus for a ghost. The Greek word φάντασμα (FAHN-tahs-mah) means “ghost” or more likely “spirit.” People of the ancient world saw the world as full of good and bad spirits who could help or hurt humans. First-century Jews recognized God as the most powerful spirit with authority over all other spirits. Jesus demonstrated his power over natural events (Mt 8:23-27) and other spirits (Mt 8:16). The disciples, familiar with scripture telling of God’s control over the chaotic waters (Ps 65:8; 89:10; 93:3-4; 107:29), would see Jesus walking on water as proof of his divine power.
  • Saving Peter. When he impetuously jumps out of the boat, Peter sees the wind and becomes afraid that the wind spirit’s power might be stronger than Jesus’ power. Jesus stretches out his hand and takes hold of Peter, saving him. When Jesus and Peter climb into the boat, the wind ceases. Jesus does what God did: he treads on the waters of the sea, he stills storms and quiets waves, nut most importantly, he reaches out to save those in danger (Pss 18:17; 144:7). The disciples, familiar with Hebrew scripture, would recognize that Jesus acts as only God can act. Their realization that Jesus is God’s son naturally follows.

Today’s readings ask the believing community to consider God’s power. In Elijah’s story, God reveals power through stillness and silence. In Peter’s story, Jesus reveals power by saving Peter. Like Peter, sometimes we get in over our heads. God, in a personal encounter with us, takes hold of us in our failures and strengthens our faith. This is how we grow in Christian maturity and discipleship. What kind of power do we worship? What kind of power does God reveal to us? Can we recognize God’s extended hand when we’re sinking?

—Terence Sherlock

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2 July 2017: Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
2 Kgs 4:8-11, 14-16a Ps 89:2-3, 16-17, 18-19 Rom 6:3-4, 8-11 Mt 10:37-42

Discipleship: challenges and consolations

Green_banner_sm In 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 demands and promises.

In the first reading from the second book of Kings, the prophet Elisha accepts the Shunammite woman’s hospitality. Jewish hearers understand Elisha’s need to reciprocate the woman’s hospitality, and see his action as serving God’s people. In today’s gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that “one who receives a prophet earns a prophet’s reward.” Those who show hospitality to Jesus’ disciples will earn a greater reward.

In the second reading to the ekklesia at Rome, Paul reflects on the “already” and “not yet” meanings of baptism. In baptism disciples already participate in the death and new life given by God at Jesus’ resurrection. In baptism disciples have a promise–a “not yet” share–of eternal life: That is, Jesus’ work (his obedience in life and death; his glorification) is complete, but a disciple’s work continues. A disciple’s resurrection requires “living to God in Christ:” continuing obedience to God’s will and rejecting sin (hamartia).

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus concludes his instructions to his disciples about their mission. In today’s reading, Jesus tells his disciples how he will measure them, and how they will be rewarded.

Who is worthy? In Jesus’ time, family (and family loyalty) was the main impediment to discipleship. In a tribal culture, only family members could be trusted, and only the extended family could provide honor and status, as well as economic, religious, educational, and social connections needed to live. Jesus tells his first-century disciples they must place a relationship with him before their relationship with their families–a radical request.

In the twenty-first century, personal success at any cost is the main impediment to discipleship. In a culture that prizes individuals above community, an individual’s success defines worth and status. Jesus asks his twenty-first-century disciples to place their relationship with him before personal achievements–an equally radical request.

In all times, Jesus calls disciples to loyalty to his mission, to the cross’ death to self-interest, and to the daily work of losing one’s life by giving it away to others.

How are disciples rewarded? If the reward for hosting a prophet (see today’s first reading) or a righteous person is great, the reward for hospitality toward Jesus’ disciples is much greater. To receive a disciple is the same as receiving Jesus himself. In this life a disciple might expect hospitality (for example, a cold cup of water) as payment. The disciple’s full payment comes only in the eschatological feast in God’s kingdom. In the kingdom, disciples will receive Jesus’ own reward from the Father: eternal life.

As Jesus concludes his discipleship mission statement, he says clearly what he expects from those who would follow him: place Jesus and his message before everyone and everything else, put yourself and your concerns last, and spend your time and money on others first. This is what the believing community should look like. Do we measure up to Jesus’ requirements? Are we worthy to be called disciples?

—Terence Sherlock

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26 June 2016: Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
1 Kgs 19:16b, 19-21 Ps 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11 Gal 5:1, 13-18 Lk 9:51-62

 

Road trip: discipleship’s constant choice

Green_banner_sm During Ordinary time the Lectionary invites RCIA participants and the believing community to hear and to reflect on Jesus’ stories and teachings from his everyday ministry. This week’s readings ask us to reflect on the continuing choice of discipleship.

The first reading, from the book of Kings, is the story of the prophet Elijah’s call of Elisha. When Elijah throws his cloak over Elisha’s shoulders, Elijah signals that Elisha has become his servant. Elisha’s acceptance and response–sacrificing his oxen–signifies a radical change from his former life. The Lectionary editors chose this reading for its parallels to Jesus’ call of disciples in today’s gospel.

The second reading continues Paul’s letter to the ekklesiais (believing communities) in Galatia. Paul elaborates on what believers are called to do and to be: believers fulfill the law by love of neighbor (Gal 5:14-15), and by walking in the Spirit (Gal 5:16-26), as illustrated by the fruit of the Spirit in their lives. For Paul, faith–an individual’s recognition of Jesus’ saving act–results in a believer’s choice to love God and the neighbor.

Luke’s gospel opens with Jesus “setting his face resolutely to Jerusalem.” He ends his Galilean ministry and begins his “journey to Jerusalem,” the place where prophets die. Luke uses the word ὁδός (hoh-DOS), translated as “the journey,” “the road,” or “the way” as a metaphor or byword for discipleship. Jesus gives many teachings about discipleship while he is “on the way” to Jerusalem. In today’s reading, Jesus addresses discipleship’s severity and unconditional nature. Proclaiming the kingdom takes precedence over everything else, including family duties and obligations. Jesus invites many to journey with him, but they are full of excuses:

  • I will follow wherever you go: This would-be disciple casually commits to Jesus’ mission without understanding the personal cost (“wherever you go”). Jesus tells him discipleship means giving up the security of home and family (“nowhere to rest his head”).
  • Let me bury my father: This would-be disciple wants to delay joining Jesus’ mission (“after my parents are dead”). Jesus tells him that the kingdom is now, and that those called to the kingdom (“Follow me!”) cannot be distracted by others who are not part of the kingdom (“let the spiritually dead worry about worldly things”).
  • Let me say goodbye to my family: Like Elisha in the first reading, this world-be disciple wavers in his discipleship (“let me say goodbye”). Jesus tells him he must commit to the kingdom (“set his hand to the plow”). Elisha accepts Elijah’s invitation; Jesus’ would-be disciple chooses the familiar over the kingdom.

Each of us in the believing community has heard Jesus’ say: “Follow me!” Each of us must choose every day to follow Jesus. The journey is difficult but joyful. Do I really understand what Jesus asks? Have I become distracted? Am I looking back? Am I walking the road to Jerusalem today?

—Terence Sherlock

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28 June 2015: Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Wis: 1: 13-15; 2: 23-24 Ps 30: 2, 4, 5-6, 11, 12, 13 2 Cor 8: 7, 9, 13-15 Mk 5: 21-43

Power over sin, power over death

In Ordinary time, the Lectionary presents RCIA participants and all believing community members with stories and teachings from Jesus’ everyday ministry. The first reading and gospel reading carry the theme for the week; the second reading is a continuing reading from Paul’s letters. This week Jesus shows us through his “acts of power” that he has power over sin and death.

The first reading is from the book of Wisdom, written between 100-28 BC. The Wisdom author affirms that the Creator did not “make death.” Humans, who share in God’s image, are “imperishable.” A human’s physical body may end with physical death, but a human’s spirit continues after his or her physical existence ends. However, the “imperishable” part can suffer a spiritual death–not from God, but from forces opposed to God. The devil, envious of God’s goodness, brought envy and sin to humans. Sin (literally “harmartia” or “missing the mark”) separates humans from God. Separation from God is spiritual death.

Today’s gospel uses a Markian “sandwich” form. Mark starts the Jairus’ daughter story, interrupts it with the story of the hemorrhaging woman, then completes the first story.

  • The woman with a flow of blood. The hemorrhaging woman touches Jesus’ garments in hope of being healed. Under Jewish law, this woman was considered ritually unclean, would have been viewed as sinful, and would not be allowed to participate in the community or the Temple. In the crowd’s crush Jesus feels power (Greek: δύναμις [DYE-na-mis]) “go out from him.” “Who touched me?” he asks. Terrified, the woman prostrates herself before (literally “worships”) Jesus and “admits the truth.” Jesus recognizes her faith (“your faith has saved you.”) By healing her, Jesus removes her sin and restores her to community life. This healing ties back to spiritual death–sin or hamartia–described in today’s first reading.
  • Jairus’ daughter. Jairus, a synagogue leader, asks Jesus to “put a hand on” his sick daughter “that she may be healed (literally ‘saved’) and live.” In route to Jairus’ house, Jesus and Jairus hear his daughter has died. On arrival, Jesus takes the child’s hand Jesus says (in Aramaic), “Little girl, arise.” The girl rises up and begins “walking around.” The girl’s rising from the dead foreshadows Jesus’ own death and resurrection. Because this hasn’t happened yet, Jesus urges the parents and disciples to maintain his messianic secret. This healing shows that God’s power extends over physical death: “he does not rejoice in destruction of living things” in today’s first reading.

These two stories tell us that Jesus, as God, has power over not only spiritual death (sin) but physical death as well.

This week RCIA participants and the entire believing community rejoice in Jesus’ saving power over our two greatest fears: sin and death. God is the author of life, not death. Like the hemorrhaging woman, Jesus tells us our faith heals and saves us from sin. Like Jairus, in the face of physical death, Jesus tells us don’t be afraid–have faith. Easy to say, but hard to do. We live our faith one moment at a time; sometimes we miss the mark of keeping faith. Jesus, however, is constant: don’t be afraid. Can we hear him over the pressing crowd and wailing mourners?

—Terence Sherlock

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