Monthly Archives: June, 2020

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

1st Reading: 2 Kings 4: 8-11, 14-16a

The hospitality shown to the prophet guest by the Shunammite woman is rewarded with the birth of a much desired child.  In the complete story, Elisha assures her of a son, is later summoned by the woman when her son dies, and finally restores him to life.  The prophetic promise of a child is divinely affirmed recognition of a woman’s thoughtful hospitality  (R. Faley’s Footprints on the Mountain, p. 443-444).  When has your hospitality brought about fruits of the Spirit that surprised you?  

2nd Reading: Romans 6: 3-4, 8-11

We must remember that baptism in Paul’s time was different from what it commonly is today.  It was adult baptism; a person came to Christ as an individual in the early Church, often leaving family behind.  Baptism was also intimately connected with confession of faith.  The person to be baptized was often direct from paganism.  So it was a tearing away from the roots and a complete starting over.  Baptism happened through full immersion, so the symbolism was clear that there was a dying of self and a rising to new life.

But there is more than a mere ethical change in a person’s life when accepting Christ.  There is a real identification with Christ.  We are IN CHRIST.  We cannot live our physical life unless we are in the air and the air is in us; unless we are in Christ, and Christ is in us, we cannot live the life of God, (Barclay’s Daily Study Bible Series, p. 85-86).  This is powerful stuff!  Can you identify with this?

The Gospel: Matthew 10: 37-42

From Living Liturgy, Year A, 2002, 188-189:  Jesus’ words — “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (10:39) – are a succinct statement of the Paschal Mystery. The heart of this mystery is dying and rising. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection show us concretely the cost and fruits of self-sacrifice. Our own daily living can sometimes seem to have much more dying than rising  (especially in a pandemic!).  Even when we obviously do not choose suffering consciously, just the demands of our lives pull it out of us: feeding the infant in the middle of the night, ferrying kids to school and activities, helping with homework, dealing with our own health issues, visiting the sick, caring for our elderly, taking time to share our energy and our gifts with our family, friends, and the needy.  One thing to notice about this gospel is that many of the ‘offerings’ – a cup of water to little ones’ – are small and seemingly unimportant. But our generosity is far surpassed by God’s generosity. The crosses and difficulties that we face are more than equaled by God’s generous blessings. With God, our ‘dyings’ can lead to abundant life.  What do you think?

On families: Jesus did not set out to destroy families. However, as a person’s priorities, commitments, and decisions became ‘converted’ to Jesus it often did put a strain on family ties. This problem was very evident for Matthew’s community as they began to separate from their Jewish roots in order to remain faithful to the message of Jesus. When Christians were expelled from the synagogue, they found themselves a part of an illegal religion. They were then subject to persecution. Picking up their cross to follow Jesus was very real for them.  Isn’t it always hard to realize that the lion and the lamb do not come to the feast at the same table too quickly or too willingly? The decision to follow Jesus was often a sword of decision that brought division and suffering despite the peace and love of a new family of God.  (Mary Birmingham, Word and Worship Workbook, Year A, 435-438; John Pilch, The Cultural World of Jesus, Cycle A, 104)  Is this personal for you too?

This is Matthew’s first mention of the cross, and in a context of discipleship.  The cross was an infamous form of Roman torture; its application to the life of the disciple is figurative.  But Jesus’ literal cross-bearing and that of his followers are linked by the common spirit of dedication to God’s will.  To seek one’s own good (life) in escaping the cross leads to doom (life lost).  To set aside one’s interests (life) for the cause of Christ is gain (life found),  (R. Faley’s Footprints on the Mountain, p. 446).

Something for your own meditation…how do people receive Christ through you?  And what about now in this time of social distancing?  We are put off by the masks at times, but they are a sign of our love.  Our masks don’t protect ourselves but others.

Commentary on the 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A

1st Reading: Jeremiah 20: 10-13

The “Confession of Jeremiah” reflects the interior dialogue of a prophet who gave his life as an authentic witness to God.  Jeremiah suffered at the hands of his own colleagues.  He was in great turmoil because he believed God ill-equipped him for his mission.  He felt inadequate – that he was not up to the impossible task at hand.  He felt duped and angry.  Yet he knew that God had called him to the prophetic life.  He was confident that the Lord remains faithful to those who are faithful to him.  We are all invited into Jeremiah’s trusting hymn of grateful praise   (Birmingham, W&W for Yr A, p. 429).

Jeremiah turns to God in prayer when he is overwhelmed and full of emotion, as most prophets do.  Margaret Guenther in The Practice of Prayer says, “I enjoy listening to prophets when they say what I like to hear (that is, when their target is someone other than me), but I prefer to tune them out when they threaten my comfort.  Prophets can expect to be unpopular, to be opposed and even killed if they persist in their candor,”  (p. 36).  Consider the “Black Lives Matter” movement or Greta Thunberg and her environmental activism…modern day prophets?

Who are our persecutors?  Does God give us strength in times of struggle?  How do you feel the Lord with you?  What helps us persist in trusting the Lord?

2nd Reading: Romans 5: 12-15

When trying to understand Paul here, it is important to understand the Jewish notion of “corporate personality” – sort of like our modern idea of an ecosystem in which everything in that system is mutually interdependent. Paul is talking about the social effects of evil – death coming to all of us as we have sinned “in Adam.”  This does not mean that Adam introduced into human life a hereditary trait that is henceforth transmitted biologically. It is more that we have all sinned in Adam because we have all sinned like Adam. Adam is that insecure, false, needy self that we are all like without Christ.

Death is also not to be seen in some crude mechanical way as a punishment for sin. The awful death that Paul is talking about is separation from God; such separation is sin, a turning away from the very source of life.  Physical death is a biological inevitability in an imperfect world – but it is also the final revelation of our utter aloneness before the forces of life and death. Without Christ, we are hopeless.  But Paul is reassuring us that God’s grace is much greater than our sin, our separation. With faith in Christ, we can overcome the chasm . . .

From Celebration, June, 2002 and R. Fuller, “Scripture in Depth” http://liturgy.slu.edu.

Sin can come in through a very small door – a moment of vanity, a selfish choice, an avoidance of compassion. It doesn’t take much energy. Sin can seem so easy; the failure to love can be ‘second nature’ to us – but it is our ‘false nature.’ Our first nature is to love and be loved. We can become insensitive, insecure, walking around in a fog of self-centeredness. But Jesus offers us another way – another door – a door wide enough to bring in love and life. Sin may give us many excuses to say no, but love makes us yearn to say yes. (Exploring the Sunday Readings,  June, 1999)

The Gospel: Matthew 10: 26-33

In Matthew 10: 16, Jesus says, “I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves.” Jesus knew that the way of discipleship is and was a very countercultural way of life. Yet, in today’s passage he also assures us of God’s loving concern with every aspect of our being – even the hairs on our heads. The problem may be with us. We hold records of everything that can and does go wrong with our frail mortality. We cling to our insecurity and worry, instead of living fully a life of faith and hope. But when we begin to speak the truth of God’s love, its certainty grows in us. When we act on this truth, we are brought into Christ’s marvelous light.

(Exploring the Sunday Readings, June, 1999)

Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878-1969), a professor at the Union Theological Union in New York once wrote:  “Fear imprisons, faith liberates; fear paralyzes, faith empowers; fear disheartens, faith encourages; fear sickens, faith heals; fear makes useless, faith makes serviceable; and most of all, fear put hopelessness at the heart of life, while faith rejoices in its God.”           (Celebration, June, 2002)

Sparrows are what bird-watchers call ‘junk birds’ – birds so plentiful that them seem uninteresting, unworthy of much attention. But Jesus assures us that God cares for such things – and even cares for us unworthy humans. Jesus urges us to trust that God is highly invested in us. (Exploring the Sunday Readings, June, 2008)

Commentary on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, Cycle A

1st Reading: Deuteronomy 8: 2-3, 14-16

Consider your own journeying with God…how has God been present with you, especially in difficulty?  How have you been fed?  What do you think of the words “let you be afflicted”?  Do you sometimes forget where God works in your life?  

From https://www.ncronline.org/blogs/spiritual-reflections/whats-manna:

“According to the Bible, around 1200 B.C., God began enabling dependency. In one 40-year episode, God sent a substance called manna to a people wandering in the desert. Had God let them be self-sufficient, they might have found their own food, or eaten less, or just gone back home and gotten jobs. Well, maybe not back to Egypt exactly, but somewhere they could find employment. On the other hand, self-sufficiency may not have been what God was after.

Manna had a strange effect on the wandering people. It helped organize them. They had to figure out a way to collect and distribute and consume this daily edible event, and do so before the day’s end, for the manna would not last overnight. The next day the same process would begin all over again.

So manna fed the people not just physically but socially and economically, too. And, of course, the experience day after day of this good gift, beyond anything deserved, hoped for or imagined; this experience of being loved and cared for — it formed them, too. It meant they didn’t have to be self-sufficient any more.

Years later, Moses told his people, as they sat on the stony ground at the border of the Promised Land, to consider self-sufficiency. “Remember how for 40 years,” he said, “the Lord, our God, directed all your journeying in the desert.”

The form of the word translated in this passage as “your” is not individual but communal. It may have taken 40 years, but a community now existed, with all its riches and limits, its brokenness and grandeur, its need for rules and rituals. Where there used to be a gathering of individuals, there was now a community, a people with the capacity for the Promised Land.”

2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 10: 16-17

Living Liturgy, Year A, states: “It is a misunderstanding to conceive of Communion as a privatized moment between ‘Jesus and me.’ Communion with the Body and Blood of Christ compels communion with one another.” (2002, p. 161)  What do you see in this reading to confirm this statement?

Look around you (SOON!) at communion time and pray for all of those you are one with: the older one with a walker, the young dude in a leather jacket, the one whose nose is pierced, the elderly gentle grandfather, the young mother in need of sleep, the one with strangely colored hair, the carpenter with calloused hands and splintered nails. Communion means more than accepting the host in our hands. It means accepting our relationship with, even our responsibility toward, all those people. Each of us in the communion line will hear the words, “Body of Christ,” and each of us needs to confirm being a part of that Body with an “Amen” – “So be it.”   (“Exploring the Sunday Readings,” June, 1999, Cycle A)

Continuing with https://www.ncronline.org/blogs/spiritual-reflections/whats-manna:

“We are participants in Christ, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:16-17. We have merged; we ourselves have been transubstantiated. And part of the process is that eating from the one loaf makes us one body. We don’t have to be self-sufficient anymore. Unlike the people who see themselves, first and foremost, as self-sufficient individuals, we who share this bread see ourselves, first and foremost, as a community caring for one another. It is precisely that connectedness that allows the human self to be as sufficient as possible. Outside of that connectedness, the drive toward self-sufficiency is merely a form of brokenness. It denies community and in so doing destroys part of what makes us human.”

The Gospel — John 6: 51-58

The Lord’s supper is:

1) a memorial of Jesus’ death and resurrection, a covenant sacrifice

2) a continuation of Jesus’ earthly and post-resurrection meals in which the messianic banquet is anticipated

3) a ritual extension of Jesus’ Incarnation.

The bread and wine become the living body and blood of Christ in those who receive him into their lives. John’s gospel is emphasizing this idea. Through this Living Bread, Christ’s ongoing presence and life continue in the community – in the world.

“If Baptism gives us that life which the Father shares with the Son, then the Eucharist is food nourishing it.” Jesus promises to dwell within the hearts of believers – to abide within them. A mutual indwelling happens between Jesus and his disciples. This incredible act of intimacy (INTO-ME-SEE) with Jesus opens the door to life – eternal life. Flesh (sarx) is that which of itself leads to death. In Jesus this flesh, sarx, is transformed, redeemed, set free from natural destruction by the Spirit of Jesus. (Birmingham, W&W Wkbk Year A, p.607)

Life is the most precious thing we have. To share one’s life, then, is to share with another our deepest “I am.” This is how we remain in each other – through self-giving and, yes, participating in the common Meal. Jesus’ gift of life to us through our participation in his Body and Blood is not simply for our own sakes, but also for the sake of others. To receive this gift of life is to be compelled to give this gift to others. Giving of one’s life-force, one’s blood, is not so beyond our own human experience either. Every time a mother gives birth, she sheds her blood. Family members readily give blood for the transfusion of a loved one. Our public blood banks are testimony to the generous giving of blood by strangers to strangers. Heroes sometimes shed their blood trying to help or protect another. Living Liturgy, 2002, p. 161

From St. Irenaeus on the sacraments, written 220AD:

“For as the bread, which comes from the earth, receives the invocation of God, and then it is no longer common bread but Eucharist, consists of 2 things, an earthly and a heavenly; so our bodies, after partaking of the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, having the hope of the eternal resurrection.”

And Tertullian, another ancient theologian:

“The flesh feeds on the body and blood of Christ that the soul may be fattened on God.”

And St. Cyril of Jerusalem:

“And while the moisture is still on your lips, touch them with your hands, and sanctify your eyes and forehead and the rest of your organs of sense.  Then wait for the prayer, and give thanks to God who has counted you worthy of admission to those great mysteries.”

From The Eucharist in the New Testament and the Early Church, Eugene LaVerdiere:

“For John, the event is viewed primarily from the point of view of Christ’s personal presence, sustaining, challenging, nourishing, and uniting the Church on its journey to the Father…(p. 113)  It is as the Word made flesh that Jesus is glorified, that the Father is present in him and that he reveals the Father.  It is as the Word made flesh that Jesus dies, rose again, is exalted, and is now present to us in sacrament (p. 117).”

From Henri Nouwen in his book With Burning Hearts, p. 34-35; 80-97:

The word, “Eucharist” means literally “act of thanksgiving.” To celebrate Eucharist and to live a Eucharistic life has everything to do with gratitude. Living Eucharistically is living life as a gift . . . The great mystery we celebrate in the Eucharist is precisely that through mourning our losses we come to know life as a gift. The beauty and preciousness of life is intimately connected with its fragility and mortality.

In Eucharist we take the ‘bread and the wine’ of our lives and discover the ‘flesh and the blood’ of the Risen One: we take, bless, break and give; Jesus takes, blesses, breaks, and gives. Jesus is the fullness of the God who from the beginning of time has desired to enter into communion with us. Communion is what God wants and what we want, need. It is the deepest cry of God’s and our heart . . . and communion creates community. The God-in-us is now able to see the God-in-others. We begin to glimpse the ongoing incarnation of God – and we participate with gratitude and joy. 

Closing Prayer taken from the Sequence  (shorter form):

Lo! the angel’s food is given to the pilgrim who has striven; see the children’s bread from heaven, which on dogs may not be spent.

Truth the ancient types fulfilling, Isaac bound, a victim willing, Paschal lamb, its lifeblood spilling, manna to the fathers sent.

Very bread, good shepherd, tend us, Jesu, of your love befriend us, you refresh us, you defend us, your eternal goodness send us In the land of life to see.

You who all things can and know, who on earth such food bestow, grant us with your saints, though lowest, where the heav’nly feast you show, fellow heirs and guests to be. Amen. Alleluia.

Commentary on Trinity Sunday, Cycle A

1st Reading – Exodus 34: 4b-6, 8-9

This reading takes place after the infamous actions concerning the molten calf (Exodus 32). You will recall that when Moses went up to Sinai to commune with God of behalf of the people, the people, under Aaron’s leadership, fashioned a molten calf and declared, “This is your God, O Israel . . .” Then Aaron declared the day a feast of the Lord and the people offered holocausts and peace offerings . . . 

The calf was intended to be an image of the true God, not a false god, but, of course, they had been forbidden to represent God in any visible form (Exodus 20:4), This had been a part of their covenant agreement with God. However – although this ‘golden calf’ had broken the covenant – both Moses and the people were soon to learn that despite their sinfulness and lack of understanding, the God who willed to be their Creator, Liberator and Lover would not be other than “merciful and gracious:” This is the God we celebrate today!             (Celebration, May, 2002)

In his revealing of God’s self to humans, God’s intended goal is relationship. The Bible with all its stories tells us of God who meets human infidelity with divine fidelity, human sin with divine mercy and forgiveness, human greed and ingratitude with divine graciousness, and human rebelliousness with divine kindness and patience.  In Jesus, God ‘passed by’ becoming involved deeply and completely within a human life. Now finally and completely, we can ‘see’ what this God’s fidelity, mercy, and kindness really look like: a life lived in truth and love, dying on a cross, but raised up forever in a glory that will never die. (Celebration, May30, 1999)

Why do you think we have this reading on Trinity Sunday?  What do you make of the relationship Moses has with God?  How are we received as God’s own?  

2nd Reading: 2 Corinthians 13: 11-13

This is the ending of this letter of Paul’s, written about the year 55 AD. What do you find most meaningful here?

Here we see that when we come to know and believe in the Living God that Jesus shows us, we also come to find companions and friends in each other.   This ‘closing prayer and blessing’ does not focus on the relationships within God – but rather on how this living God gifts us with peace, love, grace, and fellowship. It is not so much a ‘mind theology’ as a living theology of the mystery we find as we come to know Jesus and the God he reveals. Mystery is not a puzzle to be solved; it is a glimpse of the deepest reality to be experienced – and yet, it is also beyond our experiences. Eternal life begins here as we come to love and trust that at the very center of the mystery of life is this ‘Wonder of God’ that we will go on experiencing and enjoying for all eternity. (Celebration, May, 2002; “Trinity”, Catholic Update, #0788)

Paul assures us that if we live in peace, the God of peace will live with us. To ‘live in peace’ means to harbor no jealousy, superiority or prejudice. In place of these, we are to foster respect, a tolerance of differences, and a willingness to listen more than a striving to be heard. Peace is never just about putting down our weapons. It’s about taking up our plowshares to help create a harvest of justice together.   (Exploring the Sunday Readings, June 2011)

Gospel: John 3: 16-18

As we read this lovely and loving passage, we need to remember that as Christians we are called to be children of this loving God. We are called to be a part of God’s family. Church is to be a network of grace-filled relationships in Jesus. This is a great and terrible gift. Christian love is not fun and games. It is, as was said of Dorothy Day, often “harsh and dreadful love.” It must go on as God goes on – in the face of rejection, hate, misunderstanding, and, perhaps, worst of all, mere ignoring. Sometimes feelings overflow, and the Spirit pours forth like a Niagara. But sometimes it seems that “the Spirit has not yet been given” and the Father is silent (even though present within our hearts) and Jesus has disappeared (though visible in many of his followers). Indeed there are times when the Spirit breathes within us, but it is a very quiet breathing. Whether our love is expressed with exuberance or a quiet, plodding fidelity, it is a sharing in the very life of our wonderful God. (Catholic Update, #0788, “The Trinity: the Mystery at the Heart of Life”)

Gregory of Nazianzus said that Trinity is like Light and Light and Light: turn on one light in a darkness and you will notice the one light. Turn on a second light and you may tell the two light sources. But turn on a third light and pretty soon you can’t separate one patch of brightness from another. Light and light and light! But remember it is not about understanding Trinity; it is about coming into the Light and experiencing its goodness, its brightness, its value. (Exploring the Sunday Readings, May, 2005; Celebration, May 2002)

Some thoughts from The Divine Dance, by Richard Rohr:

(p. 42)  “…the principle of one is lonely; the principle of two is oppositional and moves you toward preference; the principle of three is inherently moving, dynamic, and generative.”

(p. 100)”Those who demand certitude out of life will insist on it even if it doesn’t fit the facts.  Logic has nothing to do with it.  Truth has nothing to do with it:  ‘Don’t bother me with the truth – I’ve already come to my conclusion!’  If you need certitude, you will come to your conclusion.  You will surround yourself with your conclusion.  The very meaning of faith stands in stark contrast to this mind-set.  Do you know why I think Jesus (or any of the Three) is actually dangerous if taken outside of the Trinity?  It’s because we then ill-define faith as a very static concept instead of a dynamic and flowing one.”

(p. 166, quoting Meister Eckhart)”Do you want to know what goes on in the core of the Trinity?  I will tell you.  In the core of the Trinity the Father laughs and gives birth to the Son.  The Son laughs back at the Father and gives birth to the Spirit.  The whole Trinity laughs and gives birth to us.”