Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tuesday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time



The First Martyrs of the See of Rome

Memorial Bench for the First Martyrs of the See of Rome

Readings for Tuesday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time[1]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Readings and Commentary:
[2]

Reading 1:
Genesis 19:15-29

As dawn was breaking, the angels urged Lot on, saying, "On your way!
Take with you your wife and your two daughters who are here,
or you will be swept away in the punishment of Sodom."
When he hesitated, the men, by the LORD's mercy,
seized his hand and the hands of his wife and his two daughters
and led them to safety outside the city.
As soon as they had been brought outside, he was told:
"Flee for your life!
Don't look back or stop anywhere on the Plain.
Get off to the hills at once, or you will be swept away."
"Oh, no, my lord!" Lot replied,
"You have already thought enough of your servant
to do me the great kindness of intervening to save my life.
But I cannot flee to the hills to keep the disaster from overtaking me,
and so I shall die.
Look, this town ahead is near enough to escape to.
It's only a small place.
Let me flee there-it's a small place, is it not?-
that my life may be saved."
"Well, then," he replied,
"I will also grant you the favor you now ask.
I will not overthrow the town you speak of.
Hurry, escape there!
I cannot do anything until you arrive there."
That is why the town is called Zoar.

The sun was just rising over the earth as Lot arrived in Zoar;
at the same time the LORD rained down sulphurous fire
upon Sodom and Gomorrah
from the LORD out of heaven.
He overthrew those cities and the whole Plain,
together with the inhabitants of the cities
and the produce of the soil.
But Lot's wife looked back, and she was turned into a pillar of salt.

Early the next morning Abraham went to the place
where he had stood in the LORD's presence.
As he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah
and the whole region of the Plain,
he saw dense smoke over the land rising like fumes from a furnace.

Thus it came to pass: when God destroyed the Cities of the Plain,
he was mindful of Abraham by sending Lot away from the upheaval
by which God overthrew the cities where Lot had been living.
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Commentary on
Gn 19:15-29

This passage describes the salvation of Lot and his wife and daughters from the destruction heaped upon Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot is given the boon of salvation because of his righteous actions in the previous section (
Genesis 19 1-14) and his genealogy (see below). Lot is instructed to flee and not look back at God’s destructive wrath. Lot’s wife violates this instruction (looking upon that which was forbidden by God) and is turned into a pillar of salt.

The language used to describe the destruction “He overthrew those cities and the whole Plain…” (Literally turned upside down) would be consistent with an earthquake followed by fire. The passage concludes indicating that a principle reason for Lot’s salvation was his relationship to Abraham (
Genesis 12:5).

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Responsorial Psalm:
Psalm 26:2-3, 9-10, 11-12

R. (3a) O Lord, your mercy is before my eyes.
Search me, O LORD, and try me;
test my soul and my heart.
For your mercy is before my eyes,
and I walk in your truth.
R. O Lord, your mercy is before my eyes.
Gather not my soul with those of sinners,
nor with men of blood my life.
On their hands are crimes,
and their right hands are full of bribes.
R. O Lord, your mercy is before my eyes.
But I walk in integrity;
redeem me, and have mercy on me.
My foot stands on level ground;
in the assemblies I will bless the LORD.
R. O Lord, your mercy is before my eyes.
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Commentary on
Ps 26:2-3, 9-10, 11-12

Psalm 26 is an individual lament. In these strophes the psalmist seeks the Lords protection as they approach Him (see also
Exodus 30:17-21), The signer prays for mercy and purity before God as fidelity and praise of the Lord are pledged.

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Gospel:
Matthew 8:23-27

As Jesus got into a boat, his disciples followed him.
Suddenly a violent storm came up on the sea,
so that the boat was being swamped by waves;
but he was asleep.
They came and woke him, saying,
"Lord, save us! We are perishing!"
He said to them, "Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?"
Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea,
and there was great calm.
The men were amazed and said, "What sort of man is this,
whom even the winds and the sea obey?"
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Commentary on Mt 8:23-27

Jesus calming the sea is the first of this set of miracles recorded in St. Matthew’s Gospel. There are notable differences between St. Matthew’s account and that of St. Mark (
Mark 4:35-41). First we note that Jesus leads the disciples into the boat rather than the disciples taking him there. We also see a more reverent attitude on the part of the twelve as the wake him contrasted with the accusatory tone in St. Mark (“…do you not care that we are perishing?") This account of the disciple’s experience, in both cases, points directly at Jesus as the Son of God and serves as a proof for the reader.

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Reflection:

While when it was written, the story of Jesus sleeping in the boat during the storm and his subsequent command over the elements may have been seen as a proof of his identity as the Messiah, we see another meaning in this story. If we view this story as a metaphor we see Jesus bringing calm to the storm.

In the fevered pace of our daily lives we frequently encounter storms, do we not? They may arise at school, at work, or with family and friends. The storms may take for form of situations beyond our control or they may be a result of mistakes we have made or events poorly handled. Whatever their source, we are at constant risk of being thrown to our deaths in sin.

It is difficult to see clearly when we are in the middle of these storms. Much like a physical storm, our vision is clouded by the turbulence of the storm. We cannot clearly chart our actions when our sight is so impaired. If we try to make important decisions while we are tossed by the storms of emotion, if we react to the situation out of desperation, we frequently cause more damage than good and end up worse off than when we started.

Where, we may ask is Jesus, when we are twisting in the wind of these storms? Is he asleep in the boat? We certainly hope so because if we are convinced of this, we can wake him up; calling upon the Holy Spirit to bring peace and quiet to the storm. Even if it continues to rage around us, we feel the interior calm of the Lord that allows us to see clearly, to act correctly. Our usual problem is we forget he is sleeping there and try to ride the storm out as best we can.

Today as we remember the Lord is with us always, we pray that when our life’s storms hurtle themselves in our direction we may remember quickly that Jesus sleeps with us in our souls and when we become afraid, angry or desperate we will reach out to him saying "Lord, save us!” In our faith he will rebuke the storm and bring us peace.

Pax

[1] The picture is “Sleep of Jesus During the Storm” (detail) by Alexandre Bida, c. 1875 (ALTRE)
[2] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles


Mass During the Day

Memorial Bench for the Vigil of the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul

Readings for the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Readings and Commentary:
[3]
(Today I borrow, in part, from the commentary from Fr. Tom Welbers at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Berkley, California)

Reading 1:
Acts 12:1-11

In those days, King Herod laid hands upon some members of the Church to harm them.
He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword,
and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews
he proceeded to arrest Peter also.
-It was the feast of Unleavened Bread.-
He had him taken into custody and put in prison
under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each.
He intended to bring him before the people after Passover.
Peter thus was being kept in prison,
but prayer by the Church was fervently being made
to God on his behalf.

On the very night before Herod was to bring him to trial,
Peter, secured by double chains,
was sleeping between two soldiers,
while outside the door guards kept watch on the prison.
Suddenly the angel of the Lord stood by him
and a light shone in the cell.
He tapped Peter on the side and awakened him, saying,
"Get up quickly."
The chains fell from his wrists.
The angel said to him, "Put on your belt and your sandals."
He did so.
Then he said to him, "Put on your cloak and follow me."
So he followed him out,
not realizing that what was happening through the angel was real;
he thought he was seeing a vision.
They passed the first guard, then the second,
and came to the iron gate leading out to the city,
which opened for them by itself.
They emerged and made their way down an alley,
and suddenly the angel left him.
Then Peter recovered his senses and said,
"Now I know for certain
that the Lord sent his angel
and rescued me from the hand of Herod
and from all that the Jewish people had been expecting."
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Commentary on
Acts 12:1-11

The Christian Jews in Jerusalem have fallen from favor, probably due to St. Stephen’s teaching and the subsequent back lash. The execution of St. James marks the beginning of the third persecution of the early Church in Jerusalem, this one from a more formal source.

The liberation of Peter from prison echoes many events of Jewish history (the deliverance of Joseph,
Genesis 39:21-41:57; the three young men, Daniel 3; and Daniel, Daniel 6) that consciously reflect the paschal liberation (Exodus 12:42). Peter now undergoes the same trial and deliverance as his Master and in his own person becomes a sign of God’s deliverance of his people.

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Responsorial Psalm:
Psalm 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. (5) The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.
R. The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.
Glorify the LORD with me,
let us together extol his name.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
R. The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.
Look to him that you may be radiant with joy,
and your faces may not blush with shame.
When the poor one called out, the LORD heard,
and from all his distress he saved him.
R. The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.
The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Taste and see how good the LORD is;
blessed the man who takes refuge in him.
R. The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.
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Commentary on
Psalm 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

Psalm 34 is a song of thanksgiving and a favorite for celebrating the heroic virtue of the saints. The psalmist, fresh from the experience of being rescued (Psalm 34:5, 7), can teach the "poor," those who are defenseless, to trust in God alone. This psalm, in the words of one being unjustly persecuted, echoes hope for deliverance and freedom.

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Reading II:
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18

I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation,
and the time of my departure is at hand.
I have competed well; I have finished the race;
I have kept the faith.
From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me,
which the Lord, the just judge,
will award to me on that day, and not only to me,
but to all who have longed for his appearance.

The Lord stood by me and gave me strength,
so that through me the proclamation might be completed
and all the Gentiles might hear it.
And I was rescued from the lion's mouth.
The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat
and will bring me safe to his heavenly Kingdom.
To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.
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Commentary on
2 Tm 4:6-8, 17-18

Paul is writing from prison at the end of his life. The only deliverance he can expect is death, and he confidently proclaims that it is the greatest deliverance of all. The death of the Christian who has lived and worked in union with the death of Christ through baptism is true release to freedom and glory. The Apostle views this deliverance as an act of worship. At the close of his life Paul could testify to the accomplishment of what Christ himself foretold concerning him at the time of his conversion, "I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name" (
Acts 9:16).

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Gospel:
Matthew 16:13-19

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
he asked his disciples,
"Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"
They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
Simon Peter said in reply,
"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
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Commentary on Mt 16:13-19

This passage is often used as a proof text for the primacy of the Pope. It may well be that, but to stop there is to set aside rich insight into our own participation in the mission of the Church. The "power of the keys" is rightly understood as referring to the authority of Peter and his successors in the ministry of leading and unifying the Church, but it also provides us with an image of the mission of the whole Church, ourselves included. The Church is the doorway to God’s kingdom. Each of us as a member of the Church has the power to unlock that doorway — to welcome all we meet, by our spirit of love and forgiveness, into association with us in the kingdom. But we can also close the door of the kingdom to others, excluding them by our attitudes of superiority, prejudice, selfishness, or negligence. As Christians, we have the power to open or to lock the door of God’s kingdom. By our own words and actions we cannot help but exercise this power — one way or the other.

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Reflection:

Where would we be without St. Peter and St. Paul? Peter was given the keys to the kingdom to pass down to us while Paul was sent to proclaim that kingdom to non-Jewish people. Without Peter, there would be no first Pontiff, without Paul Christianity might have been a scandalous off-shoot of Judaism.

While they were both critical to God’s plan, how differently they are painted by scripture. Peter was so very human. He could suddenly be open to the Holy Spirit and then just as suddenly fall pray to doubt. We saw it many times in the Gospel.

Remember the time in the boat on the Sea of Galilee, he saw Jesus and got out of the boat and actually began walking on the water? We are reminded of a child learning to ride a bike. The parent patiently takes the child out onto the sidewalk, tells the child to begin peddling as the parent walks next to them holding on to the back. At some point the parent lets go and the child rides on. Until, that is, they realize the parent is not there and then they generally loose faith (and concentration) and crash. Peter was like that, he started walking on water and as soon as he realized that it was impossible, he started to sink. The Lord rescued him, of course, like he always does for all of us. And he chastised Peter for his lack of faith.

Remember that awful night in the garden when Jesus was taken? How earlier in the evening when they were reclining at table Peter told Jesus how he would follow Jesus down any road. Remember how the Lord told him that before that night was out he would deny the Him 3 times? Again Peter was caught up in the spirit and said the noble thing only to fall pray to his own human weakness later. I love him for that weakness; it gives me hope for myself.

Then we have Paul who was a melodramatic firebrand. Paul, it seemed to me, threw himself into situations he knew would be spectacular. It was his style. Once there, with the predictable outcome (usually that meant he was either in jail or on the verge of being executed), he would lament his troubles (like today; I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation). He wanted us to see graphically that being Christian and following Christ in our lives would be difficult, should be difficult. He had a keen intellect and enjoyed matching wits with the best philosophical minds in Rome. Like so many of us in the Church today, Paul, as a convert, was the most fervent in his faith.

Two very different tools in the Lord’s tool box are celebrated today. We, his modern day followers will do well if we can emulate either of them in the love of God and their dedication to the faith. We celebrate the fact that both followed Christ in life and death and sit now in the heavenly kingdom with all the angels and saints and we ask for their intersession on our behalf.

Pax

[1] ALTRE
[2] The picture used is “Saints Peter and Paul” by El Greco 1605-08
[3] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time


Readings for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Readings and Commentary:
[3]

Reading 1:
Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24

God did not make death,
nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living.
For he fashioned all things that they might have being;
and the creatures of the world are wholesome,
and there is not a destructive drug among them
nor any domain of the netherworld on earth,
for justice is undying.
For God formed man to be imperishable;
the image of his own nature he made him.
But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world,
and they who belong to his company experience it.
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Commentary on
Wis 1:13-15; 2:23-24

The author of Wisdom speaks of “spiritual” death in this first part of the book (there is a general indifference to the physical life of the body throughout). The passage is part of a general statement of the work that through living a just life in accord with the wisdom of God, one achieves salvation. This notion of eternal life of the spirit is emphasized and the idea that nothing on the physical plane can cause spiritual death is strengthened (“…there is not a destructive drug among them nor any domain of the netherworld on earth, for justice is undying.”) Wisdom proposes, however, that spiritual death enters through the devil who may pervert the spirit and ultimately claim the victory of death.

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Responsorial Psalm:
Psalm 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11, 12, 13

R. (2a) I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.
I will extol you, O LORD, for you drew me clear
and did not let my enemies rejoice over me.
O LORD, you brought me up from the netherworld;
you preserved me from among those going down into the pit.
R. I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.
Sing praise to the LORD, you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger lasts but a moment;
a lifetime, his good will.
At nightfall, weeping enters in,
but with the dawn, rejoicing.
R. I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.
Hear, O LORD, and have pity on me;
O LORD, be my helper.
You changed my mourning into dancing;
O LORD, my God, forever will I give you thanks.
R. I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.
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Commentary on
Ps 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11, 12, 13

Psalm 30 is an individual hymn of praise In this selection we find the singer praising God for deliverance. In the second part others are asked to join in the hymn and then a return to thanks and praise in the final strophe.

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Reading II:
2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15

Brothers and sisters:
As you excel in every respect, in faith, discourse,
knowledge, all earnestness, and in the love we have for you,
may you excel in this gracious act also.

For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that though he was rich, for your sake he became poor,
so that by his poverty you might become rich.
Not that others should have relief while you are burdened,
but that as a matter of equality
your abundance at the present time should supply their needs,
so that their abundance may also supply your needs,
that there may be equality.
As it is written:
Whoever had much did not have more,
and whoever had little did not have less.
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Commentary on
2 Cor 8:7, 9, 13-15

St. Paul continues an appeal to the church at Corinth for funds to support the Church of Jerusalem. In this section of that appeal he uses the gracious act of Jesus who gave up his wealth (his pre-existence with the Heavenly Father) for poverty (his earthly life). He then proceeds to introduce the discussion of equality between the various parts of the Body of Christ (the Church). The Apostle encourages this fiscal equality to the extent possible but not to the extent were the donor becomes poorer than the recipient of the donation. He concludes with a quote from
Exodus 16: 18 using the example of the rules imposed about manna gathered in the desert.

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Gospel:
Mark 5:21-43

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat
to the other side,
a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea.
One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward.
Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying,
"My daughter is at the point of death.
Please, come lay your hands on her
that she may get well and live."
He went off with him,
and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him.

There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years.
She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors
and had spent all that she had.
Yet she was not helped but only grew worse.
She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd
and touched his cloak.
She said, "If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured."
Immediately her flow of blood dried up.
She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.
Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him,
turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who has touched my clothes?"
But his disciples said to Jesus,
"You see how the crowd is pressing upon you,
and yet you ask, 'Who touched me?'"
And he looked around to see who had done it.
The woman, realizing what had happened to her,
approached in fear and trembling.
She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth.
He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has saved you.
Go in peace and be cured of your affliction."

While he was still speaking,
people from the synagogue official's house arrived and said,
"Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?"
Disregarding the message that was reported,
Jesus said to the synagogue official,
"Do not be afraid; just have faith."
He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside
except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.
When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official,
he caught sight of a commotion,
people weeping and wailing loudly.
So he went in and said to them,
"Why this commotion and weeping?
The child is not dead but asleep."
And they ridiculed him.
Then he put them all out.
He took along the child's father and mother
and those who were with him
and entered the room where the child was.
He took the child by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum,"
which means, "Little girl, I say to you, arise!"
The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around.
At that they were utterly astounded.
He gave strict orders that no one should know this
and said that she should be given something to eat.
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Commentary on
Mk 5:21-43

This selection from Mark’s Gospel begins with Jesus continuing his journey of healing. The passage relates two interwoven examples of the power of faith in healing. First the Synagogue Official’s plea to Jesus to heal his daughter is presented. This is important from the standpoint that it is recognition of Jesus status by the local faith community. An official from the Synagogue would only consult with one widely recognized as an authority in spiritual matters.

On the way to the little girl, a woman with a hemorrhage that had been incurable by local physicians pressed in close and touched his cloak. She was cured and it was as if her faith reached out and touched Jesus unlike the others crowded around because he felt her touch among all the others. He turned and was able to specifically identify her. The Lord’s words to her were; “…your faith has saved you.

Arriving at the Synagogue Officials house Jairus’ faith was tested a second time as he was informed his daughter had died. Jesus ignored these reports and proceeded to reward Jairus’ faith by bringing his daughter back from death; a sign of his mission to all mankind.

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Or:
Mark 5:21-24, 35b-43

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat
to the other side,
a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea.
One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward.
Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying,
"My daughter is at the point of death.
Please, come lay your hands on her
that she may get well and live."
He went off with him,
and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him.

While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official's house arrived and said,
"Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?"
Disregarding the message that was reported,
Jesus said to the synagogue official,
"Do not be afraid; just have faith."
He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside
except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.
When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official,
he caught sight of a commotion,
people weeping and wailing loudly.
So he went in and said to them,
"Why this commotion and weeping?
The child is not dead but asleep."
And they ridiculed him.
Then he put them all out.
He took along the child's father and mother
and those who were with him
and entered the room where the child was.
He took the child by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum,"
which means, "Little girl, I say to you, arise!"
The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around.
At that they were utterly astounded.
He gave strict orders that no one should know this
and said that she should be given something to eat.
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Commentary on Mk 5:21-24, 35b-43

This shortened form of the Gospel omits the discourse about the healing of the woman with a hemorrhage. This omission sharpens the Gospel focus on Christ’s mission for the salvation of humanity through the new resurrection.

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Reflection:

We reflect today about the entire notion of life and death and how our Lord has triumphed over death. We begin with a consideration of the reading from the book of Wisdom. The author gives us words of hope when he says “God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living.” We immediately think of life and death in spiritual terms because, unlike the superstitious, we understand that the physical death of the body must come. It is a biological fact. Any one who has reached “old age” recognizes that continuing life indefinably in a body that will ultimately wear out is not a happy prospect.

Does that mean that what we do in this physical life does not matter? No, we offer as a crude analogy the early life of Danaus plexippus, the Monarch Butterfly. Like all butterflies and moths the early stages of the Monarchs life are spent in a larval stage, during this period of life, the caterpillar goes about eating and performing its life functions. If it is greedy or carless it may be caught by a predator or killed in some other ways. Individuals who die that way never become butterflies. They have died. However, those individuals who survive the larval stage become pupas or chrysalis. To an untrained eye, they appear dead, there is no movement; no animation to alert the observer that life exists there. At the appointed time, metamorphosis occurs and the butterfly emerges alive now but transformed.

The point of this analogy is not to try to demonstrate what happens at physical death of the human being. Rather it demonstrates the linkage between decisions made during physical life in the body to the prospects for eternal life in the spirit. If the spirit dies during our lives in the body, it is dead. It is the possession of the evil one and death has its victory. It is therefore imperative that we listen to God’s voice who is the author of life and who has authority over it.

This authority is what we see demonstrated in the Gospel. Jesus rewards the faith of Jairus by pushing aside the physical death of his child. He does so in response to the spiritual plea of the man alive in faith. Life responds to life.

The message we take away from our reflection on life and death is that our life, the life God was pleased to give us is precious and should be viewed as such – a gift to be cared for. But life of the spirit, that is the true gift, the gift that animates the flesh and is interwoven with it as we walk the world as Jesus did. God sets us his commandments that we might receive the Lord’s promise and have eternal life in the spirit. We rejoice in the path that leads to life, even though it is difficult and fraught with pitfalls. We ask for His help as we walk upon the way.

Pax

[1] ALTRE
[2] The picture is “Christ Resurrects the Daughter of Jairus” by Friedrich Overbeck, 1815
[3] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Saturday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time


Saint Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop, Doctor

Memorial Bench for St. Cyril of Alexandria

Readings for Saturday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Readings and Commentary:
[3]

Reading 1:
Genesis 18:1-15

The LORD appeared to Abraham by the Terebinth of Mamre,
as Abraham sat in the entrance of his tent,
while the day was growing hot.
Looking up, he saw three men standing nearby.
When he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them;
and bowing to the ground, he said:
"Sir, if I may ask you this favor,
please do not go on past your servant.
Let some water be brought, that you may bathe your feet,
and then rest yourselves under the tree.
Now that you have come this close to your servant,
let me bring you a little food, that you may refresh yourselves;
and afterward you may go on your way."
The men replied, "Very well, do as you have said."

Abraham hastened into the tent and told Sarah,
"Quick, three measures of fine flour!
Knead it and make rolls."
He ran to the herd, picked out a tender, choice steer,
and gave it to a servant, who quickly prepared it.
Then Abraham got some curds and milk,
as well as the steer that had been prepared,
and set these before them;
and he waited on them under the tree while they ate.

They asked him, "Where is your wife Sarah?"
He replied, "There in the tent."
One of them said, "I will surely return to you about this time next year,
and Sarah will then have a son."
Sarah was listening at the entrance of the tent, just behind him.
Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years,
and Sarah had stopped having her womanly periods.
So Sarah laughed to herself and said,
"Now that I am so withered and my husband is so old,
am I still to have sexual pleasure?"
But the LORD said to Abraham: "Why did Sarah laugh and say,
'Shall I really bear a child, old as I am?'
Is anything too marvelous for the LORD to do?
At the appointed time, about this time next year, I will return to you,
and Sarah will have a son."
Because she was afraid, Sarah dissembled, saying, "I didn't laugh."
But he replied, "Yes you did."
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
Gn 18:1-15

Abraham and Sarah encounter God and two messengers in this selection from Genesis. Abraham recognizes the Lord (we note his act of obeisance and form of address “’ădonāy”) and acts as is required by oriental hospitality providing rest, drink and food. It is clear that the Lord is the key figure in the story and the messengers are soon forgotten as Abraham hears God’s prediction that He would return and when he did Abraham and Sarah would have a son. When Sarah hears this she laughs, similar to Abraham’s reaction in
Genesis 17: 17.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Responsorial Psalm:
Luke 1:46-47, 48-49, 50 and 53, 54-55

R. (see 54b) The Lord has remembered his mercy.
"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior."
R. The Lord has remembered his mercy.
"For he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name."
R. The Lord has remembered his mercy.
"He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty."
R. The Lord has remembered his mercy.
"He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever."
R. The Lord has remembered his mercy.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
Lk 1:46-47, 48-49, 50 and 53, 54-55

The responsorial is the Magnificat, the beautiful Canticle of Mary. Her song of thanksgiving and humility captures the saintliness that has become synonymous with our image of Mary the Mother of God, the Queen of Heaven, and the Mother of the Church. In her dedication of the service she offers to God as vessel of the Messiah she sets the stage for the humble birth of Jesus.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Gospel:
Matthew 8:5-17

When Jesus entered Capernaum,
a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying,
"Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully."
He said to him, "I will come and cure him."
The centurion said in reply,
"Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof;
only say the word and my servant will be healed.
For I too am a man subject to authority,
with soldiers subject to me.
And I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes;
and to another, 'Come here,' and he comes;
and to my slave, 'Do this,' and he does it."
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him,
"Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.
I say to you, many will come from the east and the west,
and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven,
but the children of the Kingdom
will be driven out into the outer darkness,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth."
And Jesus said to the centurion,
"You may go; as you have believed, let it be done for you."
And at that very hour his servant was healed.

Jesus entered the house of Peter,
and saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever.
He touched her hand, the fever left her,
and she rose and waited on him.

When it was evening, they brought him many
who were possessed by demons,
and he drove out the spirits by a word and cured all the sick,
to fulfill what had been said by Isaiah the prophet:

He took away our infirmities
and bore our diseases.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on Mt 8:5-17

St. Matthew’s Gospel provides us with the second and third healing episodes (out of nine). Once again these encounters serve as proofs of the Lord’s identity as the Messiah. Clear evidence is given of this purpose with the use of the quote “He took away our infirmities and bore our disease.” taken from the suffering servant oracle in
Isaiah 53:4.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Reflection:

Sacred Scripture provides a nice contrast of attitudes today. In the first reading we hear the story of Abraham and Sarah’s encounter with God and two angels. In spite of the fact that Abraham had been told earlier that he and Sarah would have a son (and he laughed), when he is told a second time, we are told that Sarah laughs in disbelief (in some ways worse, she also denies that she laughed). In the case of Abraham and Sarah, God has established a covenant and in spite of the fact that they lack faith in this promise, the Lord will ultimately deliver upon his promise to them.

This encounter is contrasts violently with the account of Jesus’ encounter with the Centurion. In the second instance, the Centurion demonstrates immediately that he his faith in the identity of Christ and the ability of God to heal his servant. His faith is rewarded with Christ’s healing word; the faith of the Centurion is justified.

Also contrasting with Abraham and Sarah’s skepticism about God’s willingness to intervene in their lives is the Canticle of Mary that is used as the Psalm Response. Mary’s unconditional surrender to the will of God is the ultimate expression of faith as she offers her soul to God.

We are challenged by these tails of God’s interaction with his favorite creation. We ask God today to open our hearts to the miracles God offers us daily. We pray that like the Centurion, when we encounter the trials of this life we might offer our anxiety to the Lord, with faith that his will be done. We pray that like the Blessed Virgin, we might offer ourselves to God with complete confidence and accept his grace.

Pax

[1] ALTRE
[2] The picture used is “The Faith of the Centurion” by Caspar Luiken (1712)
[3] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time


Readings for Friday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Readings and Commentary:
[3]

Reading 1:
Genesis 17:1, 9-10, 15-22

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him
and said: "I am God the Almighty.
Walk in my presence and be blameless."

God also said to Abraham:
"On your part, you and your descendants after you
must keep my covenant throughout the ages.
This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you
that you must keep:
every male among you shall be circumcised."

God further said to Abraham:
"As for your wife Sarai, do not call her Sarai;
her name shall be Sarah.
I will bless her, and I will give you a son by her.
Him also will I bless; he shall give rise to nations,
and rulers of peoples shall issue from him."
Abraham prostrated himself and laughed as he said to himself,
"Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old?
Or can Sarah give birth at ninety?"
Then Abraham said to God,
"Let but Ishmael live on by your favor!"
God replied: "Nevertheless, your wife Sarah is to bear you a son,
and you shall call him Isaac.
I will maintain my covenant with him as an everlasting pact,
to be his God and the God of his descendants after him.
As for Ishmael, I am heeding you: I hereby bless him.
I will make him fertile and will multiply him exceedingly.
He shall become the father of twelve chieftains,
and I will make of him a great nation.
But my covenant I will maintain with Isaac,
whom Sarah shall bear to you by this time next year."
When he had finished speaking with him, God departed from Abraham.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
Gn 17:1, 9-10, 15-22

This selection follows the birth of Ishmael in Chapter 16. In the first 9 verses omitted (see readings and commentary
here) Abram’s name is changed to Abraham and God’s promise is made. In this passage the second half to the Covenant with Abraham is laid out, explaining what Abraham and his descendents are expected to do to honor God. It is here that circumcision becomes a make of faith.

The selection continues with God renaming Abraham’s wife Sarai to Sarah, a special mark of favor and dedication; used to indentify individuals who have a special mission from the Father. In Sarah’s case this mission is to bear a son, Isaac, an heir to Abraham. Isaac is to be the living sign of God’s covenant, blessed by him.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Responsorial Psalm:
Psalm 128:1-2, 3, 4-5

R. (4) See how the Lord blesses those who fear him.
Blessed are you who fear the LORD,
who walk in his ways!
For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;
blessed shall you be, and favored.
R. See how the Lord blesses those who fear him.
Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
in the recesses of your home;
Your children like olive plants
around your table.
R. See how the Lord blesses those who fear him.
Behold, thus is the man blessed
who fears the LORD.
The LORD bless you from Zion:
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life.
R. See how the Lord blesses those who fear him.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
Ps 128:1-2, 3, 4-5

Psalem 128 is an individual lament. In these strophes it reemphasizes the tenet of our faith regarding the need for faith in God in the marital union.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Gospel:
Matthew 8:1-4

When Jesus came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him.
And then a leper approached, did him homage, and said,
"Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean."
He stretched out his hand, touched him, and said,
"I will do it. Be made clean."
His leprosy was cleansed immediately.
Then Jesus said to him, "See that you tell no one,
but go show yourself to the priest,
and offer the gift that Moses prescribed;
that will be proof for them."

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on Mt 8:1-4

Following the first great discourse from St. Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus has attracted a large crowd. In the following chapters we see nine miracles. The cure of the Leper is the first of these. This action on the part of Jesus is proof of his identity as the Messiah; hence the usual formula “Your faith has cured you” is missing.

The final instruction by Jesus to the cured leper is in accordance with Mosaic Law (see
Lev 14:2-9) His instruction to tell no one about this was probably to insure the priest who had to examine him would not reject the cure and the man.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Reflection:

We contemplate our relationship with God in the establishment of his covenant with Abraham. Before the Savior came to give us the living example of the Father’s love, God selected individuals to demonstrate the Father’s hope and concern for his people. In Genesis he selects Abram, renaming him to Abraham, and his wife Sarai, renamed to Sarah, as his special instruments. He offers a perpetual relationship to them and, in this case he seals this covenant with a son to be born of Sarah. This was to happen even though she had been barren for her entire life and had been forced to use her servant Hagar as a surrogate.

God promises this special relationship with Abraham and his descendents and uses the gift of Isaac as a seal set upon the covenant. What he asks of Abraham in this covenant is circumcision an outward sing of faith and loyalty to God. One that will later be hotly debated by St. Paul as unnecessary because Christ came and established a new covenant and this Jewish mark of faith was no longer necessary in light of the Cross.

We note with curiosity a second request made in this exchange between God and Abraham. Even as he blesses Abraham and Sarah with Isaac, he sets aside Abrams son Ishmael whom God also protects. Ishmael of course prospers and is the root of Islam. It appears from the previous chapter that this split between half-brothers, Isaac and Ishmael, is doomed to be one of enmity and indeed we see this truth in the world today. Without the Christ to bring peace, we see how this constant struggle continues between Muslim and Jew. Hebrew Scriptures are apparently insufficient to bring reconciliation – it is the coming of the Messiah that may bring peace to that riff. We pray for that peace daily.

And what of us? How do we see our covenant with the Lord? We too were the children of Abraham. Our roots reach back to that union, blessed by God. But we were also given the great gift of Jesus, the Messiah and healer of wounds. It is his promise that all who come to him might be healed and have peace. Our prayer today is that all who feel the fear of strife between races and religions might understand that we are all called, through Christ to be God’s adopted children. We pray for peace in the world and peace in our own hearts.

Pax

[1] ALTRE
[2] The picture used is “Abraham, Sarah, and the Angel” by Jan Provost, 1520s
[3] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thursday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time


Readings for Thursday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Readings and Commentary:
[3]

Reading 1:
Genesis 16:1-12, 15-16

Abram's wife Sarai had borne him no children.
She had, however, an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar.
Sarai said to Abram:
"The LORD has kept me from bearing children.
Have intercourse, then, with my maid;
perhaps I shall have sons through her."
Abram heeded Sarai's request.
Thus, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan,
his wife Sarai took her maid, Hagar the Egyptian,
and gave her to her husband Abram to be his concubine.
He had intercourse with her, and she became pregnant.
When she became aware of her pregnancy,
she looked on her mistress with disdain.
So Sarai said to Abram:
"You are responsible for this outrage against me.
I myself gave my maid to your embrace;
but ever since she became aware of her pregnancy,
she has been looking on me with disdain.
May the LORD decide between you and me!"
Abram told Sarai: "Your maid is in your power.
Do to her whatever you please."
Sarai then abused her so much that Hagar ran away from her.

The LORD's messenger found her by a spring in the wilderness,
the spring on the road to Shur, and he asked,
"Hagar, maid of Sarai, where have you come from
and where are you going?"
She answered, "I am running away from my mistress, Sarai."
But the LORD's messenger told her:
"Go back to your mistress and submit to her abusive treatment.
I will make your descendants so numerous," added the LORD's messenger,
"that they will be too many to count.
Besides," the LORD's messenger said to her:

"You are now pregnant and shall bear a son;
you shall name him Ishmael,
For the LORD has heard you,
God has answered you.

This one shall be a wild ass of a man,
his hand against everyone,
and everyone's hand against him;
In opposition to all his kin
shall he encamp."

Hagar bore Abram a son,
and Abram named the son whom Hagar bore him Ishmael.
Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
Gn 16:1-12, 15-16

The story of Abram continues today and in it we find God’s promise of offspring for Abram kept but in a surprising way. Not through his wife did God give Abram his fist son, but through Hagar, Sarai’s maid servant. Here ironically is the beginning of Islam as well. Out of Ishmael comes the Prophet Mohamed and the prophetic statement by the Lord’s messenger “his hand against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him;” seems to be coming to pass in out generation.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Or:
Genesis 16:6b-12, 15-16

Abram told Sarai: "Your maid is in your power.
Do to her whatever you please."
Sarai then abused her so much that Hagar ran away from her.

The LORD's messenger found her by a spring in the wilderness,
the spring on the road to Shur, and he asked,
"Hagar, maid of Sarai, where have you come from
and where are you going?"
She answered, "I am running away from my mistress, Sarai."
But the LORD's messenger told her:
"Go back to your mistress and submit to her abusive treatment.
I will make your descendants so numerous," added the LORD's messenger,
"that they will be too many to count.
Besides," the LORD's messenger said to her:

"You are now pregnant and shall bear a son;
you shall name him Ishmael,
For the LORD has heard you,
God has answered you.

This one shall be a wild ass of a man,
his hand against everyone,
and everyone's hand against him;
In opposition to all his kin
shall he encamp."

Hagar bore Abram a son,
and Abram named the son whom Hagar bore him Ishmael.
Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
Gn 16:6b-12, 15-16

In the alternate short form of this reading the decision by Sarai, Abram’s wife to give her maid, Hagar, as concubine to her husband is omitted, as is the combative reaction of the two women toward each other once Hagar becomes pregnant. The reading instead focuses on God’s consolation of Hagar and the prediction of Ishmael’s birth as the first born of Abraham.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Responsorial Psalm:
Psalm 106:1b-2, 3-4a, 4b-5

R. (1b) Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
Who can tell the mighty deeds of the LORD,
or proclaim all his praises?
R. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Blessed are they who observe what is right,
who do always what is just.
Remember us, O LORD, as you favor your people.
R. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Visit me with your saving help,
that I may see the prosperity of your chosen ones,
rejoice in the joy of your people,
and glory with your inheritance.
R. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
or:
R. Alleluia.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
Ps 106:1b-2, 3-4a, 4b-5

Psalm 106 is a song of thanksgiving. In this selection the singer thanks God for his saving mercy and favor to his chosen people.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Gospel:
Matthew 7:21-29

Jesus said to his disciples:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,'
will enter the Kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
Many will say to me on that day,
'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name?
Did we not drive out demons in your name?
Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?'
Then I will declare to them solemnly,
'I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.'

"Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them
will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.

The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.
And everyone who listens to these words of mine
but does not act on them
will be like a fool who built his house on sand.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
And it collapsed and was completely ruined."

When Jesus finished these words,
the crowds were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority,
and not as their scribes.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on Mt 7:21-29

This is the final section of the first of five great discourses of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. In it he broadens his attack on false prophets to include those who perform acts in his name but lead lives of sin. He uses the analogy of the house built upon sand and the house built upon rock to indicate that those how have a deep faith and act out of that faith have a strong foundation and can stand against adversity; while those who give the faith lip service and for others to see but do not have that deep faith will fall. He will not even recognize them when they come before him in final judgment.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Homily:

How many times have we prayed “Lord, what is your will? What would you have me do?” We are reminded of a story that helps us as we contemplate these prayers:

There was once a master potter whose pottery was the marvel of all who saw his work. His art was highly praised, especially because of the religious themes portrayed on the pottery he made. As he grew older he took on an apprentice. An apt pupil, the youngster learned quickly and studied the master’s every technique. He practiced tirelessly under his master’s watchful eye and a great bond grew between them. The master also shared with his student his great love of God and knowledge of the sacred texts that allowed him to produce the wonderful images of God’s encounters with mankind.

After years of study and practice the master told his student that he had learned enough to go and start his own studio. But the pupil had such love for the old master that he could not bear the thought of leaving him. A few years later the old master became blind and could no longer practice his craft. His young student, however, told no one. Rather he continued to produce this wonderful pottery that was so much like his master’s work that no one could tell the difference.

Each night the student and master would eat together and the master would recount the great stories from the bible and his student’s heart would burn as he listened to the old man’s love for God. Each day, inspired by that love he would create wonderful pieces of art glorifying those words. Patrons remarked that the master’s work was improving and was even more spectacular than the work he had done earlier in his career. The student said nothing to correct them.

After a few more years, the old master died and the truth about his blindness came to light. Many patrons asked the student why he had not taken credit for the great pieces of art he had produced and established his own name as artisan. The student humbly laid all he had learned at his master’s feet saying he was merely the hands and eyes of his master.

This little story emphasizes the point being made in St. Matthew’s Gospel. The Lord calls upon us to hear the words of His Father, Our Father and act upon them. The only way we can do this is to truly understand what God wants of us. Like the student in the story above, we must get to know our Lord intimately through scripture, prayer, and the sacraments that give us grace in order to reproduce the love and compassion he calls us to have for others. Only when we work to understand the will of God and how others have followed His commands can we hope to act under his will. Only then can we see the path to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Pax

[1] ALTRE
[2] The picture used is “Hagar and Ishmael in the Wilderness” by Karel Dujardin, c.1662
[3] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist



Mass During the Day

Memorial Bench for the Vigil of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist

Readings for the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist [1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Readings and Commentary:
[3]

Reading 1:
Isaiah 49:1-6

Hear me, O coastlands,
listen, O distant peoples.
The LORD called me from birth,
from my mother's womb he gave me my name.
He made of me a sharp-edged sword
and concealed me in the shadow of his arm.
He made me a polished arrow,
in his quiver he hid me.
You are my servant, he said to me,
Israel, through whom I show my glory.

Though I thought I had toiled in vain,
and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength,
yet my reward is with the LORD,
my recompense is with my God.
For now the LORD has spoken
who formed me as his servant from the womb,
that Jacob may be brought back to him
and Israel gathered to him;
and I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD,
and my God is now my strength!
It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant,
to raise up the tribes of Jacob,
and restore the survivors of Israel;
I will make you a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
Is 49:1-6

In this passage, the beginning of the second of the four “Servant of the Lord” oracles, the Prophet Isaiah speaks of his own call to service to God. Because this selection is used on the Solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist, we see in Isaiah’s words the calling to which John was beckoned.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Responsorial Psalm:
Psalm 139:1b-3, 13-14ab, 14c-15

R. (14) I praise you, for I am wonderfully made.
O LORD, you have probed me, you know me:
you know when I sit and when I stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.
My journeys and my rest you scrutinize,
with all my ways you are familiar.
R. I praise you for I am wonderfully made.
Truly you have formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother's womb.
I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made;
wonderful are your works.
R. I praise you, for I am wonderfully made.
My soul also you knew full well;
nor was my frame unknown to you
When I was made in secret,
when I was fashioned in the depths of the earth.
R. I praise you, for I am wonderfully made.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
Ps 139:1b-3, 13-14ab, 14c-15

In support of the miracle of creation, Psalm 139 reminds us that like us St. John was formed and created in the womb as a gift from God to Elizabeth his mother. He came, known by God and God’s only Son.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Reading II:
Acts 13:22-26

In those days, Paul said:
"God raised up David as king;
of him God testified,
I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart;
he will carry out my every wish.
From this man's descendants God, according to his promise,
has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus.
John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance
to all the people of Israel;
and as John was completing his course, he would say,
'What do you suppose that I am? I am not he.
Behold, one is coming after me;
I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.'

"My brothers, sons of the family of Abraham,
and those others among you who are God-fearing,
to us this word of salvation has been sent."
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
Acts 13:22-26

St. Paul, speaking to Jews who were being called to deeper faith in Christ, reminds them that the prophecy that the Messiah would come from the lineage of King David had been fulfilled. He speaks of St. John the Baptist as the herald of that event by recounting his (St. John’s) prophetic speech on the occasion of Jesus’ baptism by John in the Jordan.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Gospel:
Luke 1:57-66, 80

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child
she gave birth to a son.
Her neighbors and relatives heard
that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her,
and they rejoiced with her.
When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child,
they were going to call him Zechariah after his father,
but his mother said in reply,
"No. He will be called John."
But they answered her,
"There is no one among your relatives who has this name."
So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.
He asked for a tablet and wrote, "John is his name,"
and all were amazed.
Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed,
and he spoke blessing God.
Then fear came upon all their neighbors,
and all these matters were discussed
throughout the hill country of Judea.
All who heard these things took them to heart, saying,
"What, then, will this child be?"
For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.
The child grew and became strong in spirit,
and he was in the desert until the day
of his manifestation to Israel.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on Luke 1:57-66, 80

We hear the angel’s announcement to Zachariah fulfilled in St. Luke’s account of the birth of St. John the Baptist. The naming of the child “John” broke tradition (according to the tradition of the day, the child should have been named after his father, Zachariah) and by acceding to the Archangel Gabriel’s announcement, we see the child set on a course directed by God and dedicated to him.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Reflection:

The people who asked “What, then, will this child be?” were answered by his father, Zachariah, in his great canticle. He sings to his infant son with a voice just recovered;

You, my child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins. In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

St. John was born to be the Voice, the herald of the Word that was to follow him. He was clearly beloved by Jesus, his earthly cousin, who came to him as he baptized by the Jordan to initiate his public ministry. His presence fulfilled scripture in a way that brought certainty to the identity of Jesus as the Messiah. Even before his birth he knew the Lord and leapt with joy at their meeting.

Today we celebrate the entry of the Voice into the world; the great herald of Jesus as both invitation to worship God and an example of what an evangelist can be. The invitation he issues is made clear during our Lenten journey where we hear much more about St. John’s life and ministry. On this solemn feast we reflect upon the wondrous design of God predicted by the Prophets. The birth of the Voice, selecting him like the great prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, before the left the womb, is another sign of God’s power and wisdom. Even then, before the coming of Rome or Herod to that part of the world, God saw that Jesus would need one to prepare his way.

We now take up that task. We thank God for sending the Voice and the Word that his great mercy and love might be known to us. We see in St. John the voice that we should be; by word and action preparing a way of the Lord so that the light might break upon the world.

Pax

[1] ALTRE
[2] The picture is “The Holy Family with St Elizabeth and the Infant St John the Baptist” by Bartolomeo Passerotti, c. 1572
[3] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tuesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time


Readings for Tuesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Readings and Commentary:
[3]

Reading 1:
Genesis 13:2, 5-18

Abram was very rich in livestock, silver, and gold.
Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents,
so that the land could not support them if they stayed together;
their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together.
There were quarrels between the herdsmen of Abram's livestock
and those of Lot's.
(At this time the Canaanites and the Perizzites
were occupying the land.)

So Abram said to Lot:
"Let there be no strife between you and me,
or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are kinsmen.
Is not the whole land at your disposal?
Please separate from me.
If you prefer the left, I will go to the right;
if you prefer the right, I will go to the left."
Lot looked about and saw how well watered
the whole Jordan Plain was as far as Zoar,
like the LORD's own garden, or like Egypt.
(This was before the LORD had destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.)
Lot, therefore, chose for himself the whole Jordan Plain
and set out eastward.
Thus they separated from each other;
Abram stayed in the land of Canaan,
while Lot settled among the cities of the Plain,
pitching his tents near Sodom.
Now the inhabitants of Sodom were very wicked
in the sins they committed against the LORD.

After Lot had left, the LORD said to Abram:
"Look about you, and from where you are,
gaze to the north and south, east and west;
all the land that you see I will give to you
and your descendants forever.
I will make your descendants like the dust of the earth;
if anyone could count the dust of the earth,
your descendants too might be counted.
Set forth and walk about in the land, through its length and breadth,
for to you I will give it."
Abram moved his tents and went on to settle
near the terebinth of Mamre, which is at Hebron.
There he built an altar to the LORD.
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Commentary on
Gn 13:2, 5-18

The blessings of the Lord follow Abram and Lot as they return to the north from the Negeb. With prosperity comes crowding of the herds so they agree to move apart with Lot moving toward the east (near Sodom) and Abram staying in Canaan. God again

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Responsorial Psalm:
Psalm 15:2-3a, 3bc-4ab, 5

R. (1b) He who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.
He who walks blamelessly and does justice;
who thinks the truth in his heart
and slanders not with his tongue.
R. He who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.
Who harms not his fellow man,
nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor;
By whom the reprobate is despised,
while he honors those who fear the LORD.
R. He who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.
Who lends not his money at usury
and accepts no bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things
shall never be disturbed.
R. He who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.
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Commentary on
Ps 15:2-3a, 3bc-4ab, 5

Psalm 15 is a didactic song instructing the faithful to follow God’s precepts and explaining that these actions lead to God’s support and grace.

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Gospel:
Matthew 7:6, 12-14

Jesus said to his disciples:
"Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine,
lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces.

"Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.
This is the Law and the Prophets.

"Enter through the narrow gate;
for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction,
and those who enter through it are many.
How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life.
And those who find it are few."
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Commentary on Mt 7:6, 12-14

This selection contains three popular saying of the Lord contained within the body of the Sermon on the Mount. The “pearls before swine” saying has been somewhat problematic for scholars. It probably refers to proclaiming the Gospel to those who reject it most strenuously – the scribes and Pharisees. This is followed by a shortened passage exposing the “Golden Rule”. The passage concludes with the analogy of the “narrow gate”. The narrow gate refers here to following the precepts of the Lord and keeping the discipline of the faith. These precepts form a boundary for actions – “How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life.”

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Reflection:

How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life.” When ever this passage is proclaimed we think of road construction at rush hour. In most major cities it seems that those in authority pick the most heavily traveled stretches of highway to repair just as traffic is at its heaviest. This always causes huge backups and tempers flair.

When people rush to get to the same destination there are always those who think their might be an easier way, a quicker way; one not requiring the patience needed to follow the constricted way. These individuals violate laws and place themselves (and others) in danger because of their failure to follow the laws.

The same thing is true of our journey toward the Heavenly Kingdom. The path is constricted by the commandments set down for us to follow. Those who find them too difficult, just as those confronted with a traffic backup, will try to find an easier way, a more comfortable route. Those who choose this path are the ones Jesus laments in the passage from St. Matthew’s Gospel.

There was an article recently published by an apologist that addressed this very point. When confronted by a young man who was a professed atheist he began to explore the reasons this once-Catholic individual had turned so adamantly away from the Church. After hearing the young man go through all of the usual popular objections about the failings of the Church and the people of faith, the apologist asked just one question – “You’re sleeping with your girl friend aren’t you?”

So often those we meet who reject the narrow path do not do so because they do not believe it is the right path, but rather because it is either to difficult or not as much “fun” as the alternative. The person who fails at some endeavor in life does not embrace that failure because it is the right thing to do, but rather because succeeding generally requires more work, discipline and effort.

For those who struggle along the narrow way, we pray that they continue to have the strength to persevere, ignoring the short-term struggle and seeing the eternal benefit. We pray also for those who have found the narrow way too difficult and have turned back. We pray and encourage them that they might know that it is never too late to make the attempt once more. For all of us, we pray that in spite of the times we fail, falling off that narrow way, that we have the strength of faith to dust our selves off and clime back on. Life is worth the effort.

Pax

[1] ALTRE
[2] The picture used is “Narrow and Wide Gates” by Johann Christoph Weigel, 1695
[3] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.