Monthly Archives: May, 2021

Commentary on the Most Holy Trinity readings for Cycle B

1st Reading: Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40

Deuteronomy, or “second law” in Greek, is a later book composed as a reflective speech of MOses which sums up the meaning of the exodus event and the desert journey, and reaffirms the importance of the covenant law as a guide for Israel’s life in the promised land.  It is Moses’ “farewell speech” and supposedly taken place just as the people are ready to invade the promised land, “(L. Boadt’s Reading the Old Testament, p. 89-90)  

How does this reading speak to you about our God?  Moses speaks ardently about the people’s relationship with God, which is really what covenant is all about.  What is it for them to fix their experience of God in their hearts?   What is it for us?

Through the act of amamnesis (the remembering of things from a previous existence) we remember the saving action of God.  We remember and make present the gratuitous action of God in the salvation of the world.  This gratuitous action was and is made freely.  Thus, in times when there is great temptation to forget God, to doubt that God will act, we are to call upon our corporate power of remembering that God can, does, is, and continues to act in the lives of human beings, (M. Birmingham’s W&W Yr. B, p. 752).  Why might amamnesis of how God has worked in our lives be helpful to us now?  How does this relate to Trinity?

2nd Reading: Romans 8: 14-17

From Celebration, June 11, 2006:  Paul here is using Roman law and customs to explain how God wishes to relate to us. According to Roman law, the father’s power over the family was absolute. A son never came of age; he was always under the control of his father. To adopt a son was a major undertaking. It followed a long and exact ritual. But once done, the adopted person belongs forever to the new father. Here are some of the consequences of these legal adoptions: 

  1. The adoptee gave up all rights in his former family and gained all rights and dignity of a legitimate child in his new family.
  2. The adoptee became the legal heir of his new father and even if others are born afterwards, his rights could not be affected.
  3. The old life of the adoptee was wiped out and all debts were cancelled.
  4. The adoptee was regarded as a new person and a true son/daughter. 

What do you find most important in this reading?  How does it feel to know you are a child of God (Family!) and able to ENTER INTO this trinity?

Fr. Richard Rohr recently reflected on this unity with God in his Daily Meditations (5/26/2021):  To be in unity with the Spirit is to be in unity with one’s fellow people.  We see what this means when we are involved in the experience of a broken relationship.  When I have lost harmony with another, my whole life is thrown out of tune.  The recognition of the Spirit of God as the unifying principle of all life becomes at once the most crucial experience of humanity.

The Gospel: Matthew 28: 16-20

Matthew’s gospel began with the story of Jesus’ birth saying “and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means God is with us.” (1:23). Now with this ending passage, Matthew has Jesus again assuring the disciples who are sent out to all the world (no longer to just fellow Jews) saying: “And behold, I am with you always . . .” 

What strikes you most about this gospel?  Isn’t it interesting that the moment the disciples doubted, that’s when Jesus sent them off with work to do?  None of us are completely prepared, but we are sent anyway.  Just as we are.

  • This took place at the Ascension…think of the difference between a vertical relationship with God to a now horizontal relationship.
  • The Trinitarian formula reminds us that God wants FULL relationship with us in every way.  The love within the Trinity is what God wants us all to enter into.

There are 2 ways to look at trinity:  economic trinity and immanent trinity.  The “immanent trinity” is God in relation to God’s self.  It is internal.  The “economic trinity” is God in relation to the world, (Introduction to the Trinity, L. Lorenzen, p. 45).  St. Augustine in De Trinitate came to this understanding of trinity:  The Father is the Lover, the Son the Beloved, and the Holy Spirit the mutual Love that passes between Father and Son…the human soul and its faculties is the best mirror of the Trinity that is available.  And so…this is the outward divine activity…that we move from the “economic” to the “immanent” tripersonal God.  (The Tripersonal God, G. O’Collins SJ, 135-142).  In other words, the more we have-our-being in God  (behave, relate, move through the world), the more we enter into God’s very self.  This is all very theological, but take time to consider what this might mean in your life.  What is it to live a Godlike life? 

Commentary on the Readings of Pentecost

The Hebrew word ruah, the Greek pneuma, and the Latin spiritus all basically mean “air in motion,” “breath,” or “wind.” The root word is power. Apart from human and animal power, wind was the main observable energy source in the ancient world. Wind was seen as the ‘breath of God – our own breath coming from that life-giving Breath. It is also interesting to note that in the ancient understanding of wind and water and fire – and thus spirit – we find them possessing what we consider to be properties of liquids. Thus we have the idea of the spirit being poured out. (The Cultural World of Jesus, Cycle A, John Pilch, p. 88-89)

1st Reading: Acts 2: 1-11

Pentecost (50 days since Passover; 7 weeks since planting time) originally was an agricultural feast of thanksgiving for the 1st grain harvest.  Later, it came to be also a celebration of the gift of the Law to Moses on Sinai.  Because it was the second of Judaism’s three major feasts (The others being Passover and Sukkoth, or Tabernacles.), Jews from all over Palestine and the Greek territories (the Diaspora) would have traveled to Jerusalem. Luke wants us to notice how this diverse group is the perfect place for the Spirit to be present in power.  (Celebration, May 2002)

Luke is also telling us this Pentecost story in such a way as to remind us of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  John the Baptist had promised that the Messiah would baptize “with the holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3: 16). Here we see that the fire comes in tongues giving courage and meaning and understanding to the gift of speech.  In many ways this story is the reversal of the Babel story in Genesis 11: 1-9. At Babel, sin (self-importance and false pride) had brought confusion and defeat. Now with the power of God’s Holy Spirit we see a new universal outreach characterized by mutual understanding and respect. Also where there was fear and inaction, there is now new energy and boldness that is rooted in faith in the God of Jesus. This Holy Spirit is still available today; we also need this ability to understand each other despite differences. Luke’s writing is to encourage us to be open to the ongoing process of transformation that is Spirit!  (Birmingham, W & W Wrkbk Yr A, p. 336; Celebration, May ‘02)

2nd Reading: Galatians 5: 16-25

Here are some thoughts on Paul’s Flesh and Spirit:  These terms, flesh and spirit, which are often used to translate the Greek sarx and pneuma, have caused tragic misunderstandings of Paul’s theology.  In Romans (8: 6-9), Paul says, “To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace . . . the flesh is hostile to God . . . but you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit.”  Because of such passages and such translations, Paul has often been blamed for seeing the body and sex as sinful, evil.  This is unfortunate for it is far from what Paul has in mind when he uses the word, sarx.  He does not mean the physical, sexual part of a human. Sarx refers to the WHOLE human as he/she is enslaved to weakness and corruption.  (Even when Paul lists sexual ‘sins’ with prominence, he is saying that sexual abuse and misuse are symptoms of the whole person’s disorientation away from God, the true source of life.)

      The pneuma, or spirit, on the other hand, is the full human who is open to being influenced by God’s Spirit and charis, saving power.  Our whole being “every cell of our body, every moment of our mind is BOTH flesh and spirit.”  We are enslaved by the power of sin.  Or, we are liberated to grow into the image of God that we are intended to be.  If we allow ourselves to trust in our weak and corruptible self or other weak, corruptible selves, we miss living a life in tune with the God revealed in Jesus.  As our reading says, we are called to belong to Christ and to live in his Spirit.  (P. Tillich, Shaking of the Foundations, 133 and The Eternal Now, 48).  

Consider these fruits of the Spirit and how they take root in you.  Consider also how you see these fruits in each other, and in our church community…

The Gospel: John 20: 19-23

Jesus’ words in this Gospel apply not only to priests or to all believers.  As Christians, we are to follow Jesus’ example of forgiveness.  How did He treat His friends after they deserted Him?  Jesus forgives and brings us into communion with God – Source of all life  – powerfully present in all life.  Jesus’ Way, Truth, and Life sets us free to BE Christ-in-the-world:  As disciples we are called to bear witness to His risen life by breaking the barriers of sin and division in our hearts and communities. True peace can only begin when we each begin to work with the Spirit to create situations around us of justice, dialogue, and truth – situations that lead to peace. The power of Spirit can enlarge and expand our hearts if we allow the Spirit of Jesus to grow within us – to breathe into us the power of forgiveness – the power to welcome others in his name – the power to transform the world one heart at a time – starting with our own. (Celebration, May 2002)

From John Kavaungh, “The Word Encountered,” http://liturgy.slu.edu :  If Pentecost was the start of the church, it was a birth out of frailty. The believers were huddled in fear behind closed doors. Yet Pentecost unleashed a courageous power. Driven by wind and fire, the followers of Jesus were set loose upon the world to make bold proclamation. The Spirit brought unity, not only in a shared sense of poverty and smallness, but in the common experience of one God in Jesus, one faith, and one baptism. It was a faith that also put believers in touch with their deepest humanity. They would now speak a universal tongue, in a way which could touch the hearts of people from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.  The unity of faith in Jesus is a subversive power; since Christ is our primary reality, his Spirit is a force that liberates us from any other bondage. 

“whose sins you retain are retained”  That night Jesus gave the Church the ministry of the forgiveness of sins through the Apostles (cf. CCC, no. 1461). By the Sacrament of Holy Orders, bishops and priests continue this ministry to forgive sins“in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” In this Sacrament, the priest acts in the person of Christ, the Head of the Church, to reconcile the sinner to both God and the Church. “When he celebrates the Sacrament of Penance, the priest is fulfilling the ministry of the Good Shepherd who seeks the lost sheep. . . . The priest is the sign and instrument of God’s merciful love for the sinner” (CCC, no. 1465).

Commentary on the 7th Sunday of Easter, Cycle B

1st Reading: Acts 1: 15-17, 20a, 20c-26

The line in Acts that comes just before this passage states: 

“All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” 

So what goes on in this upper room is not just a ‘male thing.’ It is a gathering of those who have known and loved Jesus in life and now through death and into the resurrection. It is a community that has grown out of this lived experience of Jesus. (Preaching Resources, 5/28/06)  How might our church be like them and “be a witness to his resurrection”?

It is also important to remember that the number twelve was symbolic of Israel, the twelve tribes of Israel, representing the fullness of the ‘people of God.’ So these Twelve had been appointed by Jesus to be a sign of this ‘eschatological community.’  That is why it was important to select another one to replace Judas who had died.  These twelve must also be witnesses to the original saving history of both the earthly Jesus and his resurrection. They become this bridge between the earthly Jesus and the mission of the Church as a whole. The circle of the Twelve and the circle of the apostles (those sent out) sort of overlap. For all disciples are apostles – called to be sent out by Jesus to bring the Good News to the needy – and sometimes hostile – world. (R. Fuller, “Scripture In Depth,” http://liturgy/slu.edu )  

It feels good to be picked out, chosen.  Imagine what Matthias may have experienced when he heard the lot fell to him.  But we aren’t always picked.  Poor Barsabbas.  What do you think became of him?  Can you think of times when you were like Matthias and Barsabbas?   How did it affect your life after? 

2nd Reading – 1 John 4: 11-16 and the Gospel – John 17: 11b-19

Let’s look at these readings together for they come out of the same community. 

God’s love for us and others compel us to also love one another. This is possible as God abides in those who love.  God’s Spirit empowers them — lives in them. This is one of the main themes of the Johannine tradition. It is constantly being repeated. But let not its repetition deaden our ears and hearts to its truth. This mutual indwelling of our God of love is the essence of the saving event we call the Good News of Jesus Christ.  (R. Fuller, “Scripture In Depth,” http://liturgy/slu.edu )  

We see Spirit at work through its fruits:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Take time to consider where you see these fruits in your life.  Take comfort in knowing Spirit is gifted to us so that God, and God’s love, remains with us.

We are consecrated with God’s truth.  What does that mean to you?  How does this relate to Mass?  It is not only the bread and wine that are consecrated at the table.  We are all made holy through the grace of God.  We stand in truth, open to that consecration, knowing that we are being strengthened and nourished…so we can be sent forth into the world.  

Karl Barth once referred to the period between the ascension and Pentecost as a “significant pause.”  It is a pause between the actions of God, a pause in which all the community can is wait and pray.  It may seem paradoxical, but although the Spirit came, in Johannine language, ‘to remain with us forever,’ the Church nevertheless has to pray constantly, Veni Sancte Spiritus.  The gift of the Spirit is never an assured possession but has to be constantly sought anew in prayer, (M. BIrmingham’s W& W Worksbook-B, p. 417).

Commentary on the 6th Sunday of Easter, Cycle B

Reading I:  Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48

Before this passage, we learn about a man named Cornelius who is a Roman centurion (so a Gentile) who believes in God.  He has a vision from an angel of God that he is to call on Peter.  Peter also has a vision where a voice tells him it is okay to eat unclean meat because it is still from God.  He was perplexed by this when Cornelius’ men arrive.   Once Peter meets Cornelius and they share their visions, it becomes clear that Jesus was not meant to be just for the Jewish people but for all people.  However, the big questions were:  Were Christians bound by the Jewish rules?  Should the Gentiles be received without first becoming Jews (i.e. being circumcised)?  This was never resolved in Jesus’ lifetime.  It makes one consider how many try to resolve issues today in the church using Jesus’ words and deeds.  If Jesus did not solve the most fundamental question of the Christian mission, we may well doubt that his recorded words solve most of our subsequent debated problems in the church  (Brown, R., A Once-and-Coming Spirit at Pentecost, pgs. 61-62).

God shows no partiality.  The root of all the readings this week (and always with the Word!) is love.  How often do we feel completely affirmed to the core of our being?  Do we ever get to a point where we have arrived in feeling absolutely loved and accepted for who we are?  Are we worthy?  We have a deep desire to be loved.  Carl Jung said, “What we’re about as humans is a constant and consistent movement toward wholeness.”  We are wired to be connected with something that is other and beyond.  As St. Augustine said, “My soul is restless until it rests in you, O God.”  This love that is God is offered to all, with no partiality.

Reading 2:  1 John 4:7-10

Love has a double relationship to God.  It is only by knowing God what we learn to love and it is only by loving that we learn to know God.  Love comes from God, and love leads to God.  So the effect of God is love.  It is when God comes into a person that s/he is clothed with the love of God and the love of people.  So we must live a life of love.  What better example for us than Jesus, (Wm. Barclay’s Daily Study Bible Series, p. 97).

From Creighton University Online Ministries:

I like to think, and I pray God’s fingerprints are on me and the prints I leave behind are just as noticeably God’s prints.  For me, leaving behind a trail of God’s fingerprints is not easy, but God’s prints are readily identifiable.  It is God who intrudes and rifles my heart.  It is God who sets things right.  God dwells among us.  God dwells in me.  God’s fingerprints are everywhere.  Just like fingerprints on a window can only be seen in the light, I also have to stand where the light can shine through me.  God’s love-ly fingerprints are smeared and permanently stuck to me.  How do you leave your love-ly fingerprints?

Gospel:  John 15:9-17

We do not earn God’s love, and we do not initiate love and goodness ourselves.  Everything comes from God…freely given; we can accept or reject. (At Home with the Word, p. 87)   Can you think of times when you have accepted or rejected God’s love in your life?  The love in the Trinity is the love that God wants to have with us.  It completes the circle.  Jesus came to be one with us…completely human.  To the point that he calls us His friends.  He chooses us.  How does that make you feel?  This love for one another brings life…IN ABUNDANCE!  But what Jesus is telling us isn’t just a warm, fuzzy feeling…it is a commandment:  love one another.  Can all of us do that, all the time?  “The relationality of the three bonded in the one Love spills over into a relationality with the world, thereby making it possible for human persons to enter into this communion in the one Love, “ (M. Downey, Altogether Gift, p. 60).  We are meant to be intertwined with God in God’ Trinity.  How do we do that?