Tag Archives: Ordinary time

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 ekklasia 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 ekklasia 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 ekklasia.

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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26 February 2017: Eighth Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Is 49:14-15 Ps 62:2-3, 6-7, 8-9 1 Cor 4:1-5 Mt 6:24-34

Discipleship: trust, worry, and dependence on God

Green_banner_sm During Ordinary time the Lectionary invites RCIA participants and the believing community to hear and to reflect on stories and teachings from Jesus’ everyday ministry. The gospel continues Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount discourse. This week’s readings ask us to consider God’s continuous care for us.

In the first reading Isaiah provides consolation for those returning from exile–God has not forgotten them or forsaken them. For today’s hearers this reading emphasizes God’s care for God’s people. The gospel echoes that God never forgets anyone.

The second reading continues Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. This week Paul tells the Corinthians how to evaluate their teachers. The apostolic leaders (Apollos, Paul, Kephas) are Christ’s assistants, not philosophers with hidden knowledge. Apostolic leaders are measured by their faithfulness to the gospel message, not by their speaking ability or authority.

Matthew’s gospel continues Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount discourse. Today’s reading picks up with the “Material possessions vs human relationships” section, and has two parts:

  • Parable of serving two masters. A slave can obey, honor, or be loyal to (“love”) only one master at a time; as a result he ignores (“hates”) his other masters. Jesus’ parable warns about priorities: a disciple’s loyalty and service is to God first, and everything else (mammon) second. Mammon represents anything that competes with God, including money, possessions, and even self. The Aramaic root of mammon means “trust” or “the person or thing in which one places trust.” This saying about mammon/trust leads logically to Jesus’ teaching about a disciple’s dependence on God.
  • Dependence on God. The Greek word μεριμνάω (meh-rim-NAH-oh), meaning “to worry about,” appears six times in ten verses (Mt 6:25-34). Jesus knows the reality of human needs (food and clothing), but he forbids disciples from making human needs an object of anxiousness–that is, when a disciple becomes a slave to such worries. Jesus contrasts the actions and attitudes of gentiles and disciples. Gentiles crave (and become slaves to) human needs because they trust only in mammon. Disciples seek God’s kingdom and its righteousness because they trust God already knows what they need and will provide “all these things.” Jesus is not saying that a disciple shouldn’t plan; Jesus is condemning worry and planning that ignores God’s providence, or that chases after security that makes faith unnecessary.

Today’s readings ask RCIA participants and the believing community to recognize that humans are wired to worry. Worrying becomes a problem when we put more trust in human solutions than in God’s care for us. We should take comfort in knowing that the Father cares for us and always provides what we need. Such trust in the Father brings us peace and joy, freeing us from worry and fear. What is the source of our worry? Who owns our exclusive trust?

—Terence Sherlock

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19 February 2017: Seventh Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Lv 19:1-2, 17-18 Ps 103:1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13 1 Cor 3:16-23 Mt 5:38-48

Called to be holy, called to be perfect

Green_banner_sm During Ordinary time the Lectionary invites RCIA participants and the believing community to hear and to reflect on stories and teachings from Jesus’ everyday ministry. The gospel continues Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount discourse. This week’s readings call disciples to holiness by being as perfect as the Father.

In the first reading from Leviticus, God calls Israel to be holy by obeying God’s laws. These laws include attitudes and actions towards one’s fellow Israelites–the neighbor. The Lectionary editors chose this reading because the instruction about holiness matches the second reading and the instruction to love is the basis for today’s gospel.

The second reading continues Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Last week, Paul told the Corinthians that they must hear what the Spirit teaches. This week, Paul addresses the Corinthian’s factions and wisdom-seeking. The Corinthian ekklasia (believing community) is a temple because God’s Spirit lives in the community, making them holy. By dividing the ekklasia into factions, the Corinthians have defiled the temple and endangered their holiness. To help the Corinthians restore their spiritual balance, Paul explains everyone’s place in serving God’s kingdom: the ekklasia leaders serve the ekklasia, who serve Christ, who serves God.

Matthew’s gospel continues Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount discourse. Today Jesus again challenges his disciples to go beyond the Law’s requirements and to become as perfect as their heavenly Father. The reading has three parts:

  • Release the need to retaliate. Hebrew scripture’s law “an eye for an eye” (Ex 21:24) was meant to limit revenge–punishment or restitution should not exceed the injury done. Although the Law granted a wronged person the right to retribution, Jesus’ new law forbids all retaliation. When insulted or dishonored, a disciple must break the cycle of retaliation and not demand what is legally his.
  • Love your enemies. Hebrew scripture contains no command requiring Jews to hate their enemies, but hating enemies is assumed to be just, especially when these foreigners are state or religious enemies. Jesus extends the “love the neighbor” commandment to even the enemy and the persecutor. Jesus teaches that God is Father to all humans, therefore all humans are family and deserve familial love.
  • Be as perfect as the Father. Hebrew scriptures calls Jews “to be holy, just as your God is holy” (first reading). First-century Jews understood holiness as separation–from sin, sinners, and gentiles. Jesus calls his disciples not simply to be holy, but to be perfect “as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Disciples imitate their Father’s perfect love through actions and attitudes: replace anger with love and forgiveness; replace selfish desire with love; replace honor/shame with forgiveness and love; replace deceit with plain-spoken truth, replace retaliation with generosity, replace hate with love.

Today’s readings ask RCIA participants and the believing community to recognize that simple observance of a law does not produce love. Rules don’t transform people, but encountering love does. Disciples must cultivate attitudes and actions that transform them and all who encounter them. Jesus calls us to go beyond conformity to the Law and to imitate the Father’s perfect love. Every day we have the opportunity to transform anger, selfishness, deceit, retaliation, and hate into perfect love. This is how we change the world and ourselves. Doesn’t the world need transforming? Don’t we?

—Terence Sherlock

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12 February 2017: Sixth Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Sir 15:15-20 Ps 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34 1 Cor 2:6-10 Mt 5:17-37

The law, the kingdom, and the challenge of discipleship

Green_banner_sm During Ordinary time the Lectionary invites RCIA participants and the believing community to hear and to reflect on stories and teachings from Jesus’ everyday ministry. The gospel continues Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount discourse. This week’s readings focus on the need of a disciple’s attitudes and actions to surpass the Law.

In the first reading, the wisdom writer Sirach links free will with human responsibility. God gives everyone a choice to choose good or evil; the wise person chooses to follow the Law (commandments), and therefore to choose life. Christian hearers also understand God has given us a model to follow (Jesus, God’s son). Jesus’ own choices provide a template for actions and attitudes that exceed the Law (see today’s gospel).

The second reading continues Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Last week, Paul urged the Corinthians to search for something wiser than human wisdom. This week, Paul tells the Corinthians that they can grasp God’s wisdom only if they become open to the Spirit and the language that the Spirit teaches.

Matthew’s gospel continues Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount discourse. Today Jesus challenges his disciples to go beyond the Law’s requirements and so to become more intimately aligned with God’s kingdom. The reading has three parts:

  • Jesus and the Law. Jesus makes it clear both to his disciples and to his opponents that the Law–which reveals God–stands forever. To describe his role, Jesus uses the Greek word πληρόω (play-ROH-oh), which means not only “to make complete” but “to fill or fulfill abundantly.” Jesus’ attitudes and actions complete or fulfill the picture of God already revealed in the Law.
  • Jesus’ challenge to disciples. Jesus criticizes the scribes and Pharisees not for their desire to follow the Law, but for their focus on the Law’s proscriptions rather than its intent. The scribes and Pharisees study and follow the Law to make themselves righteous before God. Jesus’ disciples must seek God first, then live the Law.
  • Jesus’ examples of greater righteousness. Jesus corrects and expands the Law to further reveal God. He introduces each teaching with the formula: “You have heard it said…, but I say to you;” he speaks with more authority than Moses and (as God’s son) with the legal force of God. He reveals the human attitudes behind murder (anger), adultery (selfish desire), divorce (defending one’s honor/avoiding shame), and oaths (deceit). He then challenges disciples to actions that are beyond the Law’s requirements: replace anger with love and forgiveness; replace selfish desire with love; replace honor/shame with forgiveness and love; replace deceit with plain-spoken truth. Only when disciples exceed the Law’s requirements can they enter God’s kingdom.

Today’s readings ask RCIA participants and the believing community to consider how we, as disciples, encounter God in the Law. Choosing the Law over evil is our first step. Observing the Law makes us better people. Seeking God revealed in the Law and living the beatitudes makes us disciples worthy of the kingdom. Do we see the Law as a limit to personal freedom? Do we find the Law a burden because there are too many rules? Do we encounter God in the Law by seeing our human weaknesses? Do we see the Father’s love and caring in those attitudes and actions that exceed the Law?

—Terence Sherlock

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5 February 2017: Fifth Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Is 58:7-10 Ps 112:4-5, 6-7, 8-9 1 Cor 2:1-5 Mt 5:13-16

Tasting and seeing discipleship

Green_banner_smDuring Ordinary time the Lectionary invites RCIA participants and the believing community to hear and to reflect on stories and teachings from Jesus’ everyday ministry. The gospel continues Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount discourse. This week’s readings focus on the results of discipleship.

In the first reading the prophet Isaiah warns that fasting alone does not change a person or create a just world. In Hebrew scripture, the prophets call the Jewish people to be “a light to the nations.” The Jewish people’s metanoia (change of mind/heart) and resulting social actions become a light that will draw the gentiles to God. Jesus makes a similar point about disciples in today’s gospel.

The second reading continues Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Last week, Paul targeted the Corinthian’s exclusivity: they think too highly of themselves. This week, Paul tells the Corinthians to search for something wiser than human wisdom. God’s mysterious wisdom is unavailable to worldly-wisdom seekers. God’s mystery is known only to God; it is God’s plan of salvation and involves Jesus and the cross. Paul doesn’t appeal to philosophy, but rather the truth of God’s Spirit and God’s power.

Matthew’s gospel continues Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount discourse. Today Jesus gives two parables about discipleship. When living the beatitudes (Jesus’ new law), disciples become salt and light.

  • Salt: The ancient world used salt to season and to preserve food. Just as salt changes the taste of food, a disciple’s life changes the world. That is, a disciple who is poor in spirit, mourns evil, practices humility, hungers after justice, shows mercy, single-mindedly seeks God, makes peace, and endures persecution becomes a living example of God’s kingdom.
  • Light: In Hebrew scripture, the prophets call the Jewish people to be “a light to the nations” (Is 60:1-3, Bar 4:2); in today’s first reading (Is 58:7-10), the Lord tells the returning exiles to care for others so “your light will break like the dawn” and “the light shall rise from you.” Jesus’ parable is in this prophetic tradition: now his disciples are a light to the nations. As a lamp reveals everything it shines on, so a disciple’s life becomes a beacon or example to everyone.

By adding the parables of salt and light at the end of the beatitudes, Matthew provides a “call to action” for disciples. Discipleship is not simply a relationship between Jesus and a disciple, but a relationship that extends from the disciple to the world. Through the disciple’s own actions and attitudes, the world experiences Jesus’ and the Father’s love.

Today’s readings ask RCIA participants and the believing community to consider how our lives reflect discipleship. Do our actions and attitudes align with the beatitudes? Do our daily interactions leave others seasoned or soured? Do our words and examples enlighten or darken others’ lives?

—Terence Sherlock

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29 January 2017: Fourth Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Zep 2:3; 3:12-13 Ps 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10 1 Cor 1:26-31 Mt 5:1-12a

Blessed are you?

Green_banner_sm During Ordinary time the Lectionary invites RCIA participants and the believing community to hear and to reflect on stories and teachings from Jesus’ everyday ministry. Beginning this week and for the next four weeks, the gospel follows Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount discourse. This week’s readings focus on the beatitudes.

In the first reading, the prophet Zephaniah calls the Judeans to conversion to avoid the coming judgement–“the day of the Lord.” He addresses the people as anawim (AHN-ah-vim)–a Hebrew word meaning “the poor”–who depend completely on God for their lives. The Lectionary editors pair Zephaniah’s message to the anawim with Jesus’ message to the poor in spirit to contrast the coming “day of the Lord” with the coming “kingdom of God.”

The second reading continues Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Last week, Paul admonished the Corinthians for their disunity and quarrels. This week, Paul addresses the root cause of their exclusivity: they think too highly of themselves. Paul reminds the Corinthians that, by human standards, other people would judge them as not too smart, powerful, or classy. God chooses (calls) slow, powerless, nobodies that everyone despises to shame the world’s wise, powerful, top-class people. Paul suggests they confine their boasting to “boasting in the Lord”–recognizing that all humans live only because of God’s grace and goodness.

Matthew’s gospel begins Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount discourse. Today Jesus teaches his disciples and the crowds his new law: the beatitudes.

  • What is a beatitude? Beatitudes are a common literary form in Egyptian, Hebrew, Greek, and other ancient writings. The Greek word μακάριος (mah-KAH-ree-ohs) means “blessed,” “happy,” or “fortunate,” and addresses someone who is to be praised or congratulated for being in a privileged position. In Jewish tradition, a beatitude commended someone who choose a particular path in life, or promised future consolation to someone currently experiencing affliction.
  • What do the beatitudes mean? Jesus addresses his beatitudes to his disciples. He calls disciples to serve and to model God’s kingdom in this world. Worldly kingdoms (social, business, political) are in conflict with one another and with God’s kingdom. Jesus tells his disciples to give up attachments to worldly kingdoms and to align themselves with God’s kingdom. They must take on actions and attitudes–being poor in spirit, mourning evil, practicing humility, hungering after justice, showing mercy, single-mindedly seeking God, making peace, enduring persecution–that Jesus himself lives.

Today’s readings ask RCIA participants and the believing community to consider how our lives reflect God’s kingdom. Like the Judeans, we need Zephaniah’s message of continuing conversion. Like the Corinthians, we need Paul’s reminder that God is in charge, not us. As disciples, we need to walk Jesus’ path to bring the kingdom. Can we let go of our addictions to earthly wisdom, power, and status? Can we put down some of the worldly things we think we need–pride, revenge, fear–to pick up some of Jesus’ own attitudes and actions?

—Terence Sherlock

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22 January 2017: Third Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Is 8:23-9:3 Ps 27:1, 4, 13-14 1 Cor 1:10-13, 17 Mt 4:12-23

Light comes to the shadowlands

Green_banner_sm During Ordinary time the Lectionary invites RCIA participants and the believing community to hear and to reflect on stories and teachings from Jesus’ everyday ministry. This week’s readings foretell and fulfill the promises to people living in darkness.

In the first reading, Isaiah foretells the former northern kingdom of Israel’s deliverance from the Assyrians. This restoration will not simply lift the darkness of foreign occupation, but will bring joy to the people. The Lectionary editors chose this reading because Jesus’ ministry, which begins in today’s gospel, fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy.

The second reading continues Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Paul admonishes the Corinthians for their disunity and quarrels. He hears that they are pledging loyalty to human leaders–Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas–rather than to Christ. Paul tells them that Christ didn’t send him to baptize in Paul’s name, but to preach Christ’s good news. Their disunity empties Christ’s cross of its meaning: salvation for all.

Matthew’s gospel announces the start of Jesus’ ministry, which begins after Jesus is baptized and is tempted in the desert. The place, the disciples, and acts of ministry are all significant:

  • Place. Jesus’ move from Nazareth to Capernaum, a town in the former Naphtali territory, fulfills Isaiah’s oracle about “the light rising upon Zebulun and Naphtali.” The Israelites in this region were the first Jews displaced from the Promised Land (by the Assyrians in 733 BC), and they experienced a time of darkness and death. Matthew places the start of Jesus’ ministry here to show the return of light and hope to these first-displaced Jews.
  • Disciples. The Greek word ἀκολουθέω (ah-koh-loo-THEH-oh), translated here as “follow,” means “to join (someone) on the road.” Jesus asks the fishermen not just to “come with him,” but also to “become disciples to his way.” In both the Greek and Jewish worlds, disciples chose their teachers. Jesus reverses the usual order by choosing his own disciples. Also somewhat surprising is that they “immediately” respond, leaving their livelihood and families. Their encounter with Jesus results in radical change.
  • Acts of ministry. Matthew defines Jesus’ ministry as “teaching,” “preaching,” and “healing.” Jesus teaches in the synagogues, where the community discussed God’s law (Torah) and God’s words (the prophets). Jesus preaches the same message as the Baptizer: metanoia, “change your mind/heart”–turn away from sin and turn toward God. Jesus heals the sick and weak, offering people hope and joy. Jesus’ prophetic actions announce the start of God’s messianic kingdom.

Today’s readings ask RCIA participants and the believing community to consider our roles in the kingdom Jesus announces. Isaiah tells us worldly kingdoms come and go; they are sometimes good, but sometimes gloomy and joyless. God’s kingdom, inaugurated by Jesus’ ministry, will be different: God’s Law and God’s Word will rule this kingdom, full of hope and joy. God’s kingdom is open to all; all are called to be disciples to God’s way. When we encounter God, radical change can happen. Can we answer immediately? Can we allow ourselves to be chosen, rather than to choose? Can we follow a path that is not our own? Will we change our hearts and minds?

—Terence Sherlock

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15 January 2017: Second Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Is 49:3, 5-6 Ps 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10 1 Cor 1:1-3 Jn 1:29-34

Seeing and not seeing

Green_banner_sm During Ordinary time the Lectionary invites RCIA participants and the believing community to hear and to reflect on stories and teachings from Jesus’ everyday ministry. This week’s readings tell us to look, to see, and to perceive who Jesus is.

The first reading from Isaiah presents the second (of four) Servant Songs. Jewish readers see the Servant as the prophet Isaiah, or a messianic figure descended from David, or the personification of Israel. Christian readers see the Servant as Christ who reconciles all humans to God. The Lectionary editors matched this Servant Song to the Baptizer’s insight that Jesus is the “Lamb of God.”

The second reading begins Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Paul writes to clear up misunderstandings in the Corinth ekklasia (believing community). The Corinthians are too focused on themselves, and are disconnected from the larger ekklasia. In today’s reading, Paul introduces the letter’s themes. He prays for “peace” because the Corinthians lack peace. He prays for “grace” because the Corinthians misunderstand the charisms (graces, gifts) they have. Paul will spend the rest of his letter correcting these errors.

In the gospel, John the evangelist plays with words and meanings. The Greek word εἴδω (EYE-doh) can mean “to see with eyes” or “to know” and “to perceive.” The Baptizer admits that he didn’t see/know Jesus. But at Jesus’ baptism, the Baptizer has an insight from God, and suddenly he sees, recognizes, and knows exactly who Jesus is and gives his testimony about Jesus’ identity and Jesus’ role in salvation:

  • The Lamb of God. The Baptizer calls Jesus the “lamb of God.” John may be thinking of the paschal lamb, whose blood saved Israel (Ex 12); or the Temple lambs, sacrificed to purge people’s sins; or the suffering servant, offered like a lamb as a sin-offering (Is 53:7, 10). In Aramaic (the language the Baptist and Jesus spoke), the word talya can mean “lamb,” “child/son,” and “slave/servant.” The Aramaic word ties Jesus’ title back to the first reading’s Servant Song. In this phrase, the Baptizer sees Jesus’ identity: suffering servant, lamb of sacrifice, Son of God.
  • The one who takes away the world’s sin. John recognizes Jesus as more than a paschal lamb or Temple sacrificial lamb. Jesus is the Lamb/Servant/Son of God who alone can completely reconcile God and humans. The Baptizer sees the Spirit descend on and remain with Jesus. Jesus pours out this same Spirit on everyone he encounters. In this phrase, the Baptizer sees Jesus’ role: to restore all humans everywhere to God.

Today’s readings challenge RCIA participants and the believing community to see who Jesus really is: God-made-flesh who remains with us reconciling us with God. Like the Corinthians, we sometimes “get in our own heads” and can’t see the larger picture. Or like the Baptizer, we see someone without really perceiving that person. Today’s readings remind us that we need regular spiritual eye exams. Do we really see and know Jesus? Do we see and know ourselves and our role in reconciliation?

—Terence Sherlock

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