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Ἡ Καινὴ Διαθήκη

Josephus
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Who was Josephus?
Maps, Graphics
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Translation

THE JEWISH WAR
War, Volume 1
War, Volume 2
War, Volume 3
War, Volume 4
War, Volume 5
War, Volume 6
War, Volume 7

THE ANTIQUITIES
Ant. Jud., Bk 1
Ant. Jud., Bk 2
Ant. Jud., Bk 3
Ant. Jud., Bk 4
Ant. Jud., Bk 5
Ant. Jud., Bk 6
Ant. Jud., Bk 7
Ant. Jud., Bk 8
Ant. Jud., Bk 9
Ant. Jud., Bk 10
Ant. Jud., Bk 11
Ant. Jud., Bk 12
Ant. Jud., Bk 13
Ant. Jud., Bk 14
Ant. Jud., Bk 15
Ant. Jud., Bk 16
Ant. Jud., Bk 17
Ant. Jud., Bk 18
Ant. Jud., Bk 19
Ant. Jud., Bk 20

OTHER WRITINGS
Apion, Bk 1
Apion, Bk 2
Autobiog.


Apocrypha
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Introduction

Gospel of--
-- Nicodemus
-- Peter
-- Ps-Matthew
-- James (Protevangelium)
-- Thomas (Infancy)
-- Thomas (Gnostic)
-- Joseph of Arimathea
-- Joseph_Carpenter
Pilate's Letter
Pilate's End

Apocalypse of --
-- Ezra
-- Moses
-- Paul
-- Pseudo-John
-- Moses
-- Enoch

Various
Clementine Homilies
Clementine Letters
Clementine Recognitions
Dormition of Mary
Book of Jubilees
Life of Adam and Eve
Odes of Solomon
Pistis Sophia
Secrets of Enoch
Tests_12_Patriarchs
Veronica's Veil
Vision of Paul
Vision of Shadrach

Acts of
Andrew
Andrew & Matthias
Andrew & Peter
Barnabas
Bartholomew
John
Matthew
Paul & Perpetua
Paul & Thecla
Peter & Paul
Andrew and Peter
Barnabas
Philip
Pilate
Thaddaeus
Thomas in India

Daily Word 2019

SEASONS of:
Advent
Christmastide
Lent
Eastertide

SUNDAYS, Year A
Sundays, 1-34, A
SUNDAYS, Year B
Sundays, 1-34, B
SUNDAYS, Year C
Sundays, 1-34, C

WEEKDAYS
(Ordinary Time)
Weeks 1-11 (Year 1)
Weeks 1-11 (Year 2)

Wks 12-22 (Year 1)
Wks 12-22 (Year 2)

Wks 23-34 (Year 1)
Wks 23-34 (Year 2)

OTHER
Solemnities
Baptisms
Weddings
Funerals
Saints Days

Patristic
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Clement of Rome

Ignatius of Antioch

Polycarp of Smyrna

Barnabas,(Epistle of)

Papias of Hierapolis

Justin, Martyr

The Didachë

Irenaeus of Lyons

Hermas (Pastor of)

Tatian of Syria

Theophilus of Antioch

Diognetus (letter)

Athenagoras of Alex.

Clement of Alexandria

Tertullian of Carthage

Origen of Alexandria

Weekdays, Year 2

Weeks 1-11

Week 1

Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday

Week 2

Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday

Week 3

Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday

Week 4

Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday

Week 5

Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday

Week 6

Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday

Week 7

Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday

Week 8

Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday

Week 9

Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday

Week 10

Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday

Week 11

Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday

Biblical Readings for Mass, as listed in the Irish Liturgical Calendar. (Text: NRSV). Homilies from the ACP website (section: Liturgy)

Readings for the 1st Week of Ordinary Time (Cycle 2)

*

Monday of Week 1

1st Reading: 1 Samuel 1:1-8

Hannah's grief at being childless; her husband tries to comfort her

There was a man of Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham son of Elihu son of Tohu son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives; the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.

Now this man used to go up year by year from his town to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the Lord. On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters; but to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb. Her rival used to provoke her severely, to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it went on year by year; as often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. Her husband Elkanah said to her, "Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? Why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?"

Responsorial: Psalm 115:12-19

R./: To you, Lord, I will offer a sacrifice of praise

How can I repay the Lord
 for his goodness to me?
The cup of salvation I will raise,
 I will call on the Lord's name. (R./)

My vows to the Lord I will fulfil
 before all his people.
 O precious in the eyes of the Lord
 is the death of his faithful. (R./)

Your servant, Lord, your servant am I;
 you have loosened my bonds.
 A thanksgiving sacrifice I make;
 I will call on the Lord's name. (R./)

My vows to the Lord I will fulfil
 before all his people,
 in the courts of the house of the Lord,
 in your midst, O Jerusalem. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 1:14-20

Jesus begins his mission and calls his first disciples

After John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news."

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea -- for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people." And immediately they left their nets and followed him.

As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him. They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught.

BIBLE

Handing on faith

The Scriptures begin where all of us begin, within family life, where we first find our hopes and possibilities. The Bible shows a healthy respect for the family as the nurturing place for faith. Samuel's vocation to be a prophet began with his devout parents, as shown in today's reading. But there are also times when one is called to go beyond the known and familiar, and launch out on a new vocation. Remember Abraham's call, to "Leave your country and your father's house, and go the land that I will show you." So it was for those working fishermen, Simon and Andrew and thir partners, whom Jesus called to leave their previous occupation and travel the country with him, spreading his special kind of faith to as many people as possible.

If at times Jesus may seem only vaguely present to us, he is still near and calling us to follow him as generously as they did. In the providence of God, we will have the ability and opportunity to spread that message. Those four Galilean fishermen were never the same again. And if Jesus says to us, "Follow me," and we respond generously, our life's fulfilment will be safe in his guiding hands.


A lifegiving meeting

Any significant encounter between people can have lifegiving effect. The meeting of Peter, Andrew, James and John with Jesus was such a life-giving moment for those fishermen. The kind of encounter they had at the lakeshore is offered to each of us. Jesus is not just a figure of history, belonging to the past. He is the living Lord, still present in his church and in the world, constantly calling out to us and meeting with us in the course of our day to day lives, as he met with Simon, Andrew, James and John while they were going about their work as fishermen.

The Lord meets us and speaks to us in various ways, especially in the Eucharist, in the Scriptures, through listening to others, listening to nature and listening to our own hearts. If we experience the good news of God's unconditional love, we will also hear some kind of personal call to bring good news for others. In spirit, we are to bring Christ to the world, "I will make you fishers..." May we have the grace to respond to the Lord's presence as were Peter, Andrew, James and John.


*

Tuesday of Week 1

1st Reading: 1 Samuel 1:9-20

Eli promises that Hannah will give birth to a son

After they had eaten and drunk at Shiloh, Hannah rose and presented herself before the Lord. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord, and wept bitterly. She made this vow: "O Lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a Nazirite until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants, and no razor shall touch his head."

As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying silently; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard; therefore Eli thought she was drunk. So Eli said to her, "How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Put away your wine." But Hannah answered, "No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time." Then Eli answered, "Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him." And she said, "Let your servant find favour in your sight." Then the woman went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and her countenance was sad no longer.

They rose early in the morning and worshipped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. Elkanah knew his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. In due time, Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, "I have asked him of the Lord."

Responsorial: 1 Samuel 2:1, 4-8

R./: My heart rejoices in the Lord, my Saviour

My heart exults in the Lord.
 I find my strength in my God;
 my mouth laughs at my enemies
 as I rejoice in your saving help. (R./)

The bows of the mighty are broken,
 but the weak are clothed with strength.
Those with plenty must labour for bread,
 but the hungry need work no more.
The childless wife has children now
 but the fruitful wife bears no more. (R./)

It is the Lord who gives life and death,
 he brings men to the grave and back;
 it is the Lord who gives poverty and riches.
He brings men low and raises them on high. (R./)

He lifts up the lowly from the dust,
 from the dungheap he raises the poor
 to set him in the company of princes,
 to give him a glorious throne. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 1:21-28

Jesus teaches with authority and drives out unclean spirits. People are spellbound

They went to Capernaum; and when the Sabbath came, Jesus entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God."

But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!" And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, "What is this? A new teaching -- with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him." At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

BIBLE

A new Power in the Land

As the people were spellbound about Jesus, his "new teaching" and his special authority, we too are invited to give him our full attention. He brought new life to those who were sitting in darkness, in need of a clear vision to live by.

The prayerful wife, Hannah, shows great dignity in spite of her grief at being childless. She gives an honest answer to the high priest who accused her of being drunk. "I am an unhappy woman.... I am only pouring out my troubles to the Lord." What else could Eli reply to her anguished sincerity but "May the God of Israel grant your request."

After giving birth, the delighted Hannah decides to consecrate her newborn son as a Nazirite. He would belong to the Lord in a special way and show his consecration by never drinking wine and strong drink, never shaving the beard nor cutting the hair on his head.

Today's texts summon us to respond to the powerful, creative grace at the root of our existence; to wait patiently and prayerfully; to pour out our soul to God; to struggle against evil through moments of "nazirite" simplicity; to realize that Jesus has experienced all our trials in his own person so that in him we can reach our full destiny as children of God.


Healing and Praying

There are two quite different acts of Jesus in today's gospel. He shows life-giving power by healing Simon Peter's mother-in-law, taking her by the hand and lifting her up. He goes on to heal many sick people who were brought to him. These healings were greatly appreciated by everyone, who came crowding to see him. His second act is much more private. In the morning, long before dawn, Jesus goes off by himself to a lonely place to pray.

Whereas his healings were praised by all, his going off by himself to pray is not clearly understood. Even those closest to him didn't think much of it. Peter, the chief disciple, rebukes Jesus, "Everybody is looking for you," as though to say, "Why are you wasting time out here on your own?" He has yet to learn how vital for Jesus was hisinner relationship with God. Prayer was as important to him as his work of teaching and healing.

Prayer is as vital for us as it was for Jesus, indeed, even more important. We need the Lord if we are to live as he wants us to live and if we are to share in some way in the Lord's work. In prayer we express our dependence on God, and open ourselves up to grace, so as to be channels of that grace to others.


*

Wednesday of Week 1

1st Reading: 1 Samuel 3:1-10 etc

From the sanctuary God calls Samuel, and sends him as a prophet

Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.

At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called, "Samuel! Samuel!" and he said, "Here I am!" and ran to Eli, and said, "Here I am, for you called me." But he said, "I did not call; lie down again." So he went and lay down. The Lord called again, "Samuel!" Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, "Here I am, for you called me." But he said, "I did not call, my son; lie down again." Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, "Here I am, for you called me." Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, "Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, 'Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening."" So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, "Samuel! Samuel!" And Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening."

As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the Lord. The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord.

Responsorial: Psalm 39:2, 5, 7-10

R./: Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will

I waited, I waited for the Lord
 and he stooped down to me;
 he heard my cry.
Happy the man who has placed
 his trust in the Lord
 and has not gone over to the rebels
 who follow false gods. (R./)

You do not ask for sacrifice and offerings,
 but an open ear.
You do not ask for holocaust and victim.
 Instead, here am I.
 
 In the scroll of the book it stands written
 that I should do your will.
 My God, I delight in your law
 in the depth of my heart.
 
Your justice I have proclaimed
 in the great assembly.
 My lips I have not sealed;
 you know it, O Lord. (R./)

 

Gospel: Mark 1:29-39

Jesus cures Peter's mother-in-law, withdraws to pray, then preaches the good news

As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, "Everyone is searching for you." He answered, "Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do." And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

BIBLE

Committed to our calling

Young Samuel ran to the old priest and said anxiously, "Here I am. You called me!" This happened three times, and each time old Eli told him, "I did not call you. Go back to sleep." The Hebrew sounds quiet and mellow, a whispering play on words: Lo' kerati beni; shub shahab. Finally, old Eli advises that if God should call again, he should answer, "Speak, Lord, your servant is listening." And so Samuel became a prophet, a spokesman for God, who changed the course of Israel's history. His tranquil home life at the sanctuary at Shiloh was disrupted by the call to become God's prophet.

There are echoes of another prophetic vocation in today's gospel. After preaching in the synagogue, Jesus goes to Peter's home in Capernaum and finds Peter's mother-in-law in bed with a fever. How normal it was for him to notice when people were ill; and not to just stand there as a spectator. He took her by the hand and helped her up, "and the fever left her." Remarkably, the newly-recovered woman offers hospitality to Jesus and his friends. Then the crowds gather, the sick are laid at the doorstep, and mentally deranged people are freed of the demon within them.

The hubbub was too much even for Jesus. Early next morning, he went off to a lonely place to spend time in prayer. But word had gone out and he was tracked down by Simon with the reproach, "Everyone is looking for you." He responded by moving about among the neighbouring villages to preach... "for that is what I have come to do." Like Samuel, Jesus had a strong sense of mission, to do God's work. He wants us also to be faithful to our calling; to share his spirit with others, and take time out for prayer and reflection. In our own way, we take our part in Jesus' vocation in life.


*

Thursday of Week 1

1st Reading: 1 Samuel 4:1-11

Misusing the Ark of the Covenant, the people are defeated in battle

The word of Samuel came to all Israel. In those days the Philistines mustered for war against Israel, and Israel went out to battle against them; they encamped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines encamped at Aphek. The Philistines drew up in line against Israel, and when the battle was joined, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men on the field of battle. When the troops came to the camp, the elders of Israel said, "Why has the Lord put us to rout today before the Philistines? Let us bring the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord here from Shiloh, so that he may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies." So the people sent to Shiloh, and brought from there the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord of hosts, who is enthroned on the cherubim. The two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the Ark of the Covenant of God.

When the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded. When the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said, "What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?" When they learned that the ark of the Lord had come to the camp, the Philistines were afraid; for they said, "Gods have come into the camp." They also said, "Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. Woe to us! Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness. Take courage, and be men, O Philistines, in order not to become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been to you; be men and fight."

So the Philistines fought; Israel was defeated, and they fled, everyone to his home. There was a very great slaughter, for there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers. The ark of God was captured; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.

Responsorial: Psalm 43:10-11, 14-15, 24-25

R./: Save us, Lord, in your mercy

Yet now you have rejected us, disgraced us:
 you no longer go forth with our armies.
You make us retreat from the foe
 and our enemies plunder us at will. (R./)

You make us the taunt of our neighbours,
 the mockery and scorn of all who are near.
 Among the nations, you make us a byword,
 among the peoples a thing of derision. (R./)

Awake, O Lord, why do you sleep?
 Arise, do not reject us for ever!
Why do you hide your face
 and forget our oppression and misery. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 1:40-45

Jesus cures the leper, who then tells everyone about it

A leper came to Jesus begging him, and kneeling said to him, "If you choose, you can make me clean." Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, "I do choose. Be made clean!" Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, "See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them." But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.

BIBLE

The externals of religion

In his story about the healing of the leper, Mark stresses the supremacy of faith. Even today our heart must be open to new graces and most of all to God's personal presence. The externals of religion, even sacred dogmas and the holiest objects, are meant to facilitate our interior communion with the Lord. Our hearts, when silence prevails and distraction is kept at bay, are the true Ark of the Covenant and place where miracles happen. God sometimes allows the externals of religion on which we rely seemingly to collapse. The Ark will be captured by the enemy. Traditional religious practices suddenly seem inadequate to our needs and leaves us feeling helpless. We must traverse this desert to find Jesus.

Discerning true faith from false religiosity is not easy. The common folk are hardly to blame for rallying around traditional religious centres, the Ark of the Covenant and the miraculous power of God. Who then is to blame? It seems that religious leaders carry the burden of helping to keep religion pure. Earlier in First Samuel, in a section not mentioned in the liturgy, Eli's sons Hophni and Phinehas were guilty of serious wrongdoing. They were reserving the best part of the people's sacrifices for themselves and offering to God only the remnants; there were other scandalous actions. Religious leaders bear the brunt of blame if superstition and selfishness are rampant among the people, or if the people cannot distinguish true from false forms of religion.

We each have religious influence in one way or another: as parent or teacher, as priest or minister, as neighbour or friend. In all of these capacities we influence others and are responsible for the moral attitude and strength of faith in others. The Scriptures question us: Do I use my position of authority to dominate others or to acquire personal benefits or to further personal career? Do I seek not to be the centre of attention, so that my words and actions lead others to prayer and recollection in God's presence?


Touching a leper

Often in the gospels Jesus heals people by means of his word. In healing the leper, however, Jesus not only spoke to him, but he touched him. In touching the leper, Jesus did what no one else would have done. For obvious reasons, people kept lepers at a distance, and lepers were expected to keep their distance from others. Jesus, however, kept no one at a distance, not even lepers. No one was beyond his reach; no one was untouchable. He came to touch our lives in a very tangible way, all of our lives, regardless of our condition. The leper wasn't sure whether Jesus wanted to heal him, as is clear from his opening words to Jesus, "If you want to, you can cure me." Jesus showed he wanted to heal him, by touching him.

The Lord wants to touch our lives too, because he wants to bring life to us all. Nothing we do or fail to do, no circumstance in which we find ourselves, need place us beyond his reach. As st Paul says, "nothing can come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus." The Lord touches our lives, where we are, as we are. All we need is something of the leper's initiative in approaching Jesus.


*

Friday of Week 1

1st Reading: 1 Samuel 8:4-7, 10-22

When the people demand a king, Samuel warns of the dangers

Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, "You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations." But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to govern us." Samuel prayed to the Lord, and the Lord said to Samuel, "Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.

So Samuel reported all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, "These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plough his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers. He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take one-tenth of your locks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day."

But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; they said, "No! but we are determined to have a king over us, so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles." When Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord. The Lord said to Samuel, "Listen to their voice and set a king over them." Samuel then said to the people of Israel, "Each of you return home."

Responsorial: Psalm 88:16-19

R./: For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord

Happy the people who acclaim such a king,
 who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face,
 who find their joy every day in your name,
 who make your justice the source of their bliss. (R./)

For it is you, O Lord, who are the glory of their strength;
 it is by your favour that our might is exalted:
 for our ruler is in the keeping of the Lord;
 our king in the keeping of the Holy One of Israel. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 2:1-12

A crowd gathers at Jesus' home in Capernaum; he heals a paralytic and forgives his sins

When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven."

Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, "Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, "Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Stand up and take your mat and walk'? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" -- he said to the paralytic -- "I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home." And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this!"

BIBLE

Monarchy and authority

In Samuel's time, Israel's very existence was threatened by the Philistines. Since their traditional tribal structure was unable to meet the Philistine forces, they could not remain independent tribes, loosely united under prophet-priests at various religious sanctuaries. Ambiguously, Samuel names a king for Israel. God works through human means within imperfect situations. He had shaped Israel's past in the land of Egypt, then by the chastening years in the desert and while they wrestled control of the Promised Land from the Canaanites. No single form of government is perfect; so Samuel anoints their first king.

Any political system tends to abuses in the wielding of power and prestige, and has its own forms of oppression. Yet at the start, the monarchy offered hope and promise. It was an open invitation to win a phase of peace and security. An ideal monarch would give an example to guide our society, whether civil or religious.

The Gospel episode shows both the authority of Jesus and the creative helpfulness of some friends of the sick man. Without his friends the paralytic man was unable to get anywhere, let alone get close to Jesus. The Lord shows himself a healer of body and spirit: Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk again'? To come close to God there must be forgiveness -- not only from Jesus, but among ourselves too. Together we can support each other in changing times, rallying round to help, willing to serve with love.


Carrying a friend

The image of the four men carrying the paralytic to Jesus is a very graphic one. They were so determined to get him to Jesus that they opened a hole in the roof above Jesus when their way through the door was blocked because of the crowd. They wanted to get their friend to Jesus because they recognized Jesus as the source of health and life. They were taking their friend to a fuller life. The image of the four who carried their sick friend towards the source of life is a powerful lesson.

At times we can do little for ourselves and must depend on others for health, for life, for safety. At other times we might be like the friends of the paralysed man, able to help others to their feet, or bring them from despair to hope.

St Paul urges us to carry each other's burdens. When we try to do that we align ourselves with the one who said, "Come to me all you who labour and are burdened and I will give you rest." He wants us to help him to carry the burdens of others and help them in any way we can.


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Saturday of Week 1

1st Reading: 1 Samuel 9:1-4, 12-19; 10:1

Saul is anointed by Samuel as king of Israel, at God's inspiration

There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish, son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, a Benjaminite, a man of wealth. He had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he; he stood head and shoulders above everyone else. Now the donkeys of Kish, Saul's father, had strayed. So Kish said to his son Saul, "Take one of the boys with you; go and look for the donkeys." He passed through the hill country of Ephraim and passed through the land of Shalishah, but they did not find them. And they passed through the land of Shaalim, but they were not there. Then he passed through the land of Benjamin, but they did not find them.

When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord told him, "Here is the man of whom I spoke to you. He it is who shall rule over my people." Then Saul approached Samuel inside the gate, and said, "Tell me, please, where is the house of the seer?" Samuel answered Saul, "I am the seer; go up before me to the shrine, for today you shall eat with me, and in the morning I will let you go and will tell you all that is on your mind.

Samuel took a vial of oil and poured it on his head, and kissed him; he said, "The Lord has anointed you ruler over his people Israel. You shall reign over the people of the Lord and you will save them from the hand of their enemies all around. Now this shall be the sign to you that the Lord has anointed you ruler over his heritage."

Responsorial: Psalm 20:2-7

R./: Lord, your strength gives joy to the king

O Lord, your strength gives joy to the king;
 how your saving help makes him glad!
You have granted him his heart's desire;
 you have not refused the prayer of his lips. (R./)

You came to meet him with the blessings of success,
 you have set on his head a crown of pure gold.
He asked you for life and this you have given,
 days that will last from age to age. (R./)

Your saving help has given him glory.
You have laid upon him majesty and splendour,
 you have granted your blessings to him for ever.
You have made him rejoice with the joy of your presence. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 2:13-17

Jesus calls a tax collector to be a disciple, and dines with him

Jesus went out again beside the sea; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them. As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, "Follow me." And he got up and followed him.

And as he sat at dinner in Levi's house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples -- for there were many who followed him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?" When Jesus heard this, he said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners."

BIBLE

Tax collector and Gospel-writer

Saint Mark has described for us the call of Levi, the tax collector. In the later gospel of Matthew, the tax collector is called Matthew rather than Levi.

I remember a wonderful painting of the call of Matthew by Caravaggio. He must have seemed an unlikely candidate to join the other disciples. Tax collectors were judged to be very mercenary, and not good Jews. Yet when he was invited, Levi left his customs house and followed Jesus. He did a complete about-turn, and followed a very different way of life.

Something about the personality of Jesus caused a total change in Levi's life. That personality has the same life-changing power among us today. The most unlikely things can happen to us if we open ourselves to the Lord's presence and word. Our relationship with Jesus can be a truly transforming experience, moving us towards a more generous way of life.


Who should be our leader?

Each person is called to exercise leadership of one kind or another, by the grace of God. We are meant to inspire other people by our kindness and our love for truth and justice, the leadership qualities to which God calls us. Today's readings describing the vocations of king Saul and of the apostle Matthew, invite us to reflect on the types of people God calls and the different kinds of leadership they provide.

In king Saul we see the most likely person, and in Matthew the least likely person, called into positions of responsibility. Saul was a tall young man, we are told, standing head and shoulders above his people, royal in stature. By contrast Matthew, as a tax collector under the hated Roman occupiers, was an outcast, barred from synagogue and Temple. He was barred from all contact, even at table, with law-abiding fellow-Jews. It is not that Jesus chooses only the riff-raff for religious leadership, but rather that He whose word penetrates between soul and spirit, sees the value and potential in people whom others too quickly discard. Others may see in the tax-man Matthew only a half-pagan, friendly with the foreign oppressors, but Jesus recognizes him as a man of compassionate heart, optimistic and kind to others. He was also aware of Matthew's faults, and in explaining his choice to the grumbling Pharisees, said, "I have come to call sinners, not the self-righteous."

Of all leadership qualities, the most basic is a desire to serve by leading. Leaders must recognize and support the talents in others. After calling Matthew into his little circle, Jesus also dines in Matthew's home with his friends and colleagues. Matthew's training is already underway, friendship is being deepened, confidence being established. This suggests a good ideal of leadership training for all in the Church, especially for our bishops and our pope.

 



Readings for the 2nd Week, Ordinary Time (Cycle 2)

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Monday of Week 2

1st Reading: 1 Samuel 15:16-23

For disobeying the prophet Samuel, Saul is deposed as king

Then Samuel said to Saul, "Stop! I will tell you what the Lord said to me last night." He replied, "Speak." Samuel said, "Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. And the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, 'Go, utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.' Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do what was evil in the sight of the Lord?" Saul said to Samuel, "I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, I have gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me, I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But from the spoil the people took sheep and cattle, the best of the things devoted to destruction,to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal."

And Samuel said, "Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Surely, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is no less a sin than divination, and stubbornness is like iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king."

Responsorial: Psalm 49:8-9, 16-17, 21, 23

R./: To the upright I will show the saving power of God

I find no fault with your sacrifices,
 your offerings are always before me.
 I do not ask more bullocks from your farms,
 nor goats from among your herds. (R./)

But how can you recite my commandments
 and take my covenant on your lips,
 you who despise my law
 and throw my words to the winds. (R./)

You do this, and should I keep silence?
 Do you think that I am like you?
 a sacrifice of thanksgiving honours me
 and I will show God's salvation to the upright. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 2:18-22

The novelty of the Messianic age. New wine needs new wineskins!

At that time John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him, "Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?" Jesus said to them, "The wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day. "No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins."

BIBLE

Theology and common sense

Samuel's command to king Saul to destroy the Amalekites is baffling and scandalous. Saul was to totally exterminate this neighbouring tribe that was hostile towards Israel. And then it shocks us that Saul was deposed from his kingship for not completing his gruesome task, and sparing the king of the Amalekites. By contrast, shile the issue dealt with in the gospel is one of devotional practice, some were scandalised that Jesus' disciples seemed less ascetical than those of John the Baptist and the Pharisees.

Let's examine our Lord's answer to the question about fasting. He does not question the value of fasting but appeals to the atmosphere of a wedding celebration and asks: Why would one think of fasting during such a happy occasion? The wedding image refers to his own presence and message, as a honeymoon period for mankind.

This sense of a special time of grace is paralleled in pope Francis' attitude to resolving moral dilemmas today. His reluctance to condemn some new developments has a healthy, levelling effect, so that all may share in the discussion. This is welcome after a time when open dialogue about shifting social mores was repressed by Roman authority. The less bound we feel by traditional answers, the easier it is to find a workable, honest answer, in line with the overall teaching of Jesus.

The pope has suggested that unless theology reflects the shared wisdom of good, decent people, such a theology can be of little help to the church. Theology and common sense must join hands -- on the basis that God is one and that wisdom is harmonious. We do not worship a remote God, who calls for impossible things. Good theology bears in mind that God created the universe and saw "how good it was" (Gen 1:12). We must hope and pray that into the future the Church's teaching will be enriched and kept realistic by the honestly shared views of married couples.


New Wine-skins

Some may be puzzled by Jesus calling himself the bridegroom, in whose presence no fasting is required. He is echoing the prophets in the Old Testament who often spoke of God as the bridegroom and the people, Israel, as the bride. Spiritually, God had married this particular people, providing a joy that they must share with other nations. With the wedding imagery, Jesus implies that he has come to share God's joy not only with the people of Israel, but with people of every nation on earth.

St Paul also uses the metaphor of marriage to illustrate how the Christian community is united with God. The Lord is our faithful spouse, who keeps faith with us even when we are unfaithful to him. That is not meant complacently, as though we may sin without consequences, but to assure us of love and mercy whenever we fail and repent. He wants his people to be as faithful to Christ as Christ is to us. The new wine of his love always needs new wine-skins; we need to keep renewing our relationship with him, making room for new insights into what life now requires of us.

Drinking wine was normal at a wedding feast, as is clear from the marriage feast of Cana. Seeing himself as the bridegroom, Jesus then likens his presence to that of new wine. The new wine of the Lord's life-giving Gospel calls for new wine-skins. His love makes demands on us, calling on us to keep renewing our lives so that we can love as he did. New wine, fresh skins. We can never fully settle for doing things as we've always done them.


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Tuesday of Week 2

1st Reading: 1 Samuel 16:1-13

In Bethlehem Samuel anoints David (Jesse's youngest son) as king

The Lord said to Samuel, "How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons." Samuel said, "How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me." And the Lord said, "Take a heifer with you, and say, 'I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.' Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you." Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, "Do you come peaceably?" He said, "Peaceably! I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice." And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, "Surely the Lord's anointed is now before the Lord." But the Lord sid to Samuel, "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart." Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, "Neither has the Lord chosen this one." Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, "Neither has the Lord chosen this one." Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, "The Lord has not chosen any of these." Samuel said to Jesse, "Are all your sons here?" And he said, "There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep." And Samuel said to Jesse, "Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here." He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, "Rise and anoint him; for this is the one." Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.

Responsorial: Psalm 88:20-22, 27-28

R./: I have found David, my servant

Of old you spoke in a vision.
To your friends the prophets you said:
 'I have set the crown on a warrior,
 I have exalted one chosen from the people. (R./)

'I have found David my servant
 and with my holy oil anointed him.
 My hand shall always be with him
 and my arm shall make him strong. (R./)

'He will say to me: "You are my father,
 my God, the rock who saves me."
 And I will make him my first-born,
 the highest of the kings of the earth.' (R./)

Gospel: Mark 2:23-28

Jesus defends eating on the Sabbath, for Sabbath was made for our good

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, "Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?" And he said to them, "Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the Bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions." Then he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for human beings, and not humans for the Sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath."

BIBLE

Are we ministering life?

Scripture alerts us to the God of surprises. Contrary to Samuel's first estimate, it was not David's older, stronger brothers that God chose to become king in place of Saul. It was the youngest of the seven brothers, because of some special traits that would make him fit for kingship. He was courageous and responsible in caring for his father's flocks; those qualities would also make him a servant-leader for God's people. For "the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart."

The value of enhancing the lives of others is clearly echoed in the teaching of pope Francis. Do I put myself at the service of others, seeking to serve them in the ways that people need today, if they are to hear the Gospel? Do I appreciate the potential in other people, and my own, despite my limitations? Am I ministering life, appreciative of others rather than judgmental? How well do I live by the principle that "The Sabbath was made for man"? As Jesus promoted a Gospel of Joy, we need to ask ourselves, are we ministering life?


Purpose of the Sabbath

Jesus disputed with the Pharisees about what was the proper way to observe the Sabbath. The Jewish Sabbath was, and still is, the holiest day of the week. For the Pharisees, who sought detailes moral rules for all aspects of life, picking ears of corn and crushing them to eat them constituted work and was forbidden on the Sabbath. But Jesus held that it was perfectly alright to satisfy one's hunger on the Sabbath, especially for his disciples, who were never sure of their food from day to day.

Traditional views about the Sabbath were not not an absolute guide to right and wrong. Rather, Jesus calls himself the Lord of the Sabbath. Sunday is now the Christian Sabbath. Our Lord has taught that any work which serves the basic needs of others is perfectly in tune with the Sabbath. Sunday is not so much the day of total rest as the day we keep free to do God's work, responding to the needs of others and the call they make on us.


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Wednesday of Week 2

1st Reading: 1 Samuel 17:32-33, 40-51

David kills Goliath, and saves his people

David said to Saul, "Let no one's heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine." Saul said to David, "You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth." David said, "The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine." So Saul said to David, "Go, and may the Lord be with you!"

Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd's bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine. The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. The Philistine said to David, "Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?" And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, "Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field." But David said to the Philistine, "You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord's and he will give you into our hand."

When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, striking down the Philistine and killing him; there was no sword in David's hand. Then David ran and stood over the Philistine; he grasped his sword, drew it out of its sheath, and killed him; then he cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.

Responsorial: Psalm 143:1-2, 9-10

R./: Blessed be the Lord, my Rock

Blessed be the Lord, my rock
 who trains my arms for battle,
 who prepares my hands for war. (R./)

He is my love, my fortress;
 he is my stronghold, my saviour,
 my shield, my place of refuge.
He brings peoples under my rule. (R./)

To you, O God, will I sing a new song;
 I will play on the ten-stringed lute
 to you who give kings their victory,
 who set David your servant free. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 3:1-6

Good work is suitable on the Sabbath day; Jesus heals a withered hand

Jesus went into the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, "Come forward." Then he said to them, "Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill?" But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

BIBLE

David and Goliath

1 Samuel describes the fight to the death between David and Goliath, and the Gospel tells of a moral conflict between the Pharisees and Jesus, about Sabbath Day Rules. He was appaled by their insistence that not even a work of healing was allowed on the day of the Lord. Both readings invite us to think about the rights and wrongs of conflict in our lives and in our world. The more warlike a nation is, the more do its citizens need a mature view on the purpose of war and how to limit its destructive power.

David is serene about the outcome of his single-handed conflict against the Philistine giant, Goliath. "The Lord will keep me safe from the Philistine's hands!" On a broader scale, the question of whether warfare is legitimate is a thorny one, to which the Bible offers no definitive answer, since it expresses contrary viewpoints on that issue. What the Gospel says, unambiguously, is that we should live our lives responsibly, with justice and compassion. This can mean speaking out against evil and injustice, even at some cost to ourselves.

Jesus could have side-stepped the the Sabbath dispute, by healing the sick man in private, but he chose to confront the issue publicly, by curing the man in full view of all. In the ensuing debate he clearly states the real purpose of the Sabbath: it is above all a day for life-giving activities. He stresses the contrast between what is right (whatever enhances life), and what is wrong. God is Lord of life, not death; of peace, not violence; of justice, not oppression.

If the homily is about David and Goliath, we need to remember the warning that "those who take the sword shall perish by the sword" (Mt 26:52) and the teaching that rules out of violence, even in self-defence (Mt 5:39). These ideals make it impossible to justify militaristic adventures for the expansion of one's kingdom or one's ideology, since our Christian calling is not to be served, but to serve (Mark 10:45) and give one's life in this service.


Healing in the synagogue

Jesus does good on the Sabbath, by healing the withered hand of a man in the synagogue. Yet, because of this act of mercy, some of the Jewish leaders began to plot against him. This comes very early in Mark's gospel, but it points ahead to the end of the story. It was because Jesus breached their traditional rules that he was crucified.

This example shows that the good we try to do won't always bring a reward; sometimes it can bring the opposite. It is a strange paradox, that the goodness of some brings out malice in others. Yet Jesus was faithful to the work that God gave him to do, regardless of the offence it gave to some. He teaches that goodness is its own reward. We try to be faithful to the will of God in order to please God and not because of any material benefit. We must take our share in Jesus' work of serving others, even though it may, at times, bring us suffering.


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Thursday of Week 2

1st Reading: 1 Samuel 18:6-9, 19:1-7

Saul's jealousy threatens David, but Jonathan helps to reconcile them

As they were coming home, when David returned from killing the Philistine, the women came out of all the towns of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments. And the women sang to one another as they made merry, "Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands." Saul was very angry, for this saying displeased him. He said, "They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands; what more can he have but the kingdom?" So Saul eyed David from that day on.

Saul spoke with his son Jonathan and with all his servants about killing David. But Saul's son Jonathan took great delight in David. Jonathan told David, "My father Saul is trying to kill you; therefore be on guard tomorrow morning; stay in a secret place and hide yourself. I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where you are, and I will speak to my father about you; if I learn anything I will tell you." Jonathan spoke well of David to his father Saul, saying to him, "The king should not sin against his servant David, because he has not sinned against you, and because his deeds have been of good service to you; for he took his life in his hand when he attacked the Philistine, and the Lord brought about a great victory for all Israel. You saw it, and rejoiced; why then will you sin against an innocent person by killing David without cause?" Saul heeded the voice of Jonathan; Saul swore, "As the Lord lives, he shall not be put to death." So Jonathan called David and related all these things to him. Jonathan then brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence as before.

Responsorial: Psalm 55:2-3, 9-14

R./: In God I trust; I shall not fear

Have mercy on me, God, men crush me;
 they fight me all day long and oppress me.
 My foes crush me all the day long,
 for many fight proudly against me. (R./)

You have kept an account of my wanderings;
 you have kept a record of my tears;
 (are they not written in your book?)
Then my foes will be put to flight
 on the day I call to you. (R./)

This I know, that God is on my side.
 In God, whose word I praise,
 in the Lord, whose word I praise,
 in God I trust; I shall not fear;
 what can mortal man do to me? (R./)

I am bound by the vows I have made you.
 O God, I will offer you praise
 for you rescued my soul from death,
 you kept my feet from stumbling
 that I may walk in the presence of God
 in the light of the living. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 3:7-12

Throngs around Jesus. Unclean spirits cry out in his presence

Jesus departed with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed him; hearing all that he was doing, they came to him in great numbers from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and the region around Tyre and Sidon. He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him for he had cured many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him. Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and shouted, "You are the Son of God!" But he sternly ordered them not to make him known.

BIBLE

Be fervent, but in touch with reality

Despite the temporary reconciliation between Saul and David, and despite the enthusiasm of the crowd pressing on Jesus, peace is threatened on all sides. The brief pact between Saul and David fails to remove Saul's jealousy and irrational fear. The Pharisees' anger is fanned to hatred by the crowd's enthusiasm for Jesus. As men and women of faith, our life is a pilgrimage to ultimate union with God. Jesus has gone ahead of us, "beyond the veil," to a destination beyond our unaided human ability. We may want a close friendship with Jesus and yet feel burdened by his demands. Similarly we meet with tensions and turbulence in our social relationships. While feeling truly close to our relatives and friends, we sometimes have to resist some jealousy or resentment in their regard.

It is good to recognize the tensions between our faith and our practice. Trusting in God we can accept as true what we cannot prove or see; we rely on faith that the goal of life lies beyond our present existence. Tension and conflict can lead to a deeper understanding of ourselves, even to a serene level of wisdom. The Scriptures advise us to discern carefully. Some (like King Saul) who seem strong, well-established and effective may prove to be only an illusory passing shadow. What seems to be the shallow fervour of the crowd may be the sound instinct of faith. Only when we have gone to God behind the veil will we know the whole truth, even as we are known by him.


We all need help

People flocked to Jesus, not just from Judea and Galilee, but from much further afield, from Idumea, Transjordania, Tyre and Sidon. They all had one thing in common; they were burdened in some way. Mark says, "all who were afflicted in any way were crowding forward to touch him." A little earlier Jesus had described himself as a healer who came not for the healthy but for the sick.

We all need healing from time to time, some less often than others. We belong in that great throng that made their way to Jesus. We all need him, because what he offers cannot be received from any merely natural source. That is why we need to seek him, to knock on his door, or even to touch him. We reach out to him in our need because ultimately only he can satisfy our hunger. A special way of touching him is by sharing in the Eucharist, which is "broken bread for a broken people."


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Friday of Week 2

1st Reading: 1 Samuel 24:3-21

David refrains from killing Saul and gains the moral high ground

He came to the sheepfolds beside the road, where there was a cave; and Saul went in to relieve himself. Now David and his men were sitting in the innermost parts of the cave. The men of David said to him, "Here is the day of which the Lord said to you, 'I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it seems good to you."" Then David went and stealthily cut off a corner of Saul's cloak. Afterward David was stricken to the heart because he had cut off a corner of Saul's cloak. He said to his men, "The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord's anointed, to raise my hand against him; for he is the Lord's anointed." So David scolded his men severely and did not permit them to attack Saul. Then Saul got up and left the cave, and went on his way.

Afterwards David also rose up and went out of the cave and called after Saul, "My lord the king!" When Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the ground, and did obeisance. David said to Saul, "Why do you listen to the words of those who say, 'David seeks to do you harm'? This very day your eyes have seen how the Lord gave you into my hand in the cave; and some urged me to kill you, but I spared you. I said, 'I will not raise my hand against my lord; for he is the Lord's anointed.' See, my father, see the corner of your cloak in my hand; for by the fact that I cut off the corner of your cloak and did not kill you, you may know for certain that there is no wrong or treason in my hands. I have not sinned against you, though you are hunting me to take my life. May the Lord judge between me and you! May the Lord avenge me on you; but my hand shall not be against you. As the ancient proverb says, 'Out of the wicked comes forth wickedness'; but my hand shall not be against you. Against whom has the king of Israel come out? Whom do you pursue? A dead dog? A single flea? May the Lord therefore be judge, and give sentence between me and you. May he see to it, and plead my cause, and vindicate me against you."

When David had finished speaking these words to Saul, Saul said, "Is this your voice, my son David?" Saul lifted up his voice and wept. He said to David, "You are more righteous than I; for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil. Today you have explained how you have dealt well with me, in that you did not kill me when the Lord put me into your hands. For who has ever found an enemy, and sent the enemy safely away? So may the Lord reward you with good for what you have done to me this day. Now I know that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand."

Responsorial: Psalm 56:2-4, 6, 11

R./: Have mercy on me, God, have mercy

Have mercy on me, God, have mercy
 for in you my soul has taken refuge.
 In the shadow of your wings I take refuge
 till the storms of destruction pass by. (R./)

I call to God the Most High,
 to God who has always been my help.
 May he send from heaven and save me
 and shame those who assail me.
 May God send his truth and his love. (R./)

O God, arise above the heavens;
 may your glory shine on earth,
 for your love reaches to the heavens
 and your truth to the skies. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 3:13-19

On a mountain, Jesus commissions the twelve to preach the good news

Jesus went up the mountain and called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message, and to have authority to cast out demons. So he appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

BIBLE

Taking the higher view

By summoning his chosen colleagues up on a mountain, Jesus evokes memories of Moses who went up Mount Sinai to receive God's law (Ex 19). But the message they are to spread will go well beyond a set of laws. A divine impulse let David to spare king Saul's life. This act of clemency surprises Saul and makes him ashamed of his own murderous hunt for his younger rival, David. The future king David shows high regard for the monarchy when he shouts out, "I will not raise a hand against the Lord's anointed." In face of such magnanimity, Saul "wept aloud." There is a sense of "noblesse oblige " in this story, of doing the noble thing rather than taking vengeance.

Jesus goes up the mountain to summon his chosen apostles. The Bible treats mountains as privileged places for prayer and for temples and sanctuaries. Many mystics have also embraced the ideal of ascending the mountain of God, to experience God more closely. This must be why Jesus spent the night in prayer before calling the twelve. This mountain scene invites us to find our own special places, to be aware of God's providence in our lives. A prayerful spirit raises us to a new level, renewing our personal bond with Jesus.


Shared ministry

Jesus calls twelve of his disciples from among the larger group who followed him. Two elements stand out in this episode. First, these twelve were to be his regular companions, following all that he did and said.,Second, he sent them out to preach and to heal, actively sharing in his own mission. They needed to get to know him thoroughly before going out on his behalf.

This twofold pattern still applies to all Christians, to some degree. We are meant to actively share in the Lord's work, to somehow share his gospel with others. In order to be effective on his behalf, we need to get to know him well, being regularly with him through prayer. Prayer can attune us to the Lord's presence, and make us present to him as he is to us. Our reaching out in prayer creates space for God to work in us and through us. The choice of the twelve by Jesus is an iconic reminder of what he wants to do for us and through us, as his ambassadors.


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Saturday of Week 2

1st Reading: 2 Samuel 1:1-4 etc

David's grief at the death of Saul and Jonathan

After the death of Saul, when David had returned from defeating the Amalekites, he remained two days in Ziklag. On the third day, a man came from Saul's camp, with his clothes torn and dirt on his head. When he came to David, he fell to the ground and did obeisance. David said to him, "Where have you come from?" He replied, "I have escaped from the camp of Israel." David said to him, "How did things go? Tell me!" He answered, "The army fled from the battle, but also many of the army fell and died; and Saul and his son Jonathan also died."

Then David took hold of his clothes and tore them; and all the men who were with him did the same. They mourned and wept, and fasted until evening for Saul and for his son Jonathan, and for the army of the Lord and for the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.

David intoned this lamentation over Saul and his son Jonathan:

Your glory, O Israel, lies slain upon your high places!
How the mighty have fallen!
Tell it not in Gath, proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon;
 or the daughters of the Philistines will rejoice,
 the daughters of the uncircumcised will exult.

Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely!
 In life and in death they were not divided;
 they were swifter than eagles,
 they were stonger than lions.
 O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul,
 who clothed you with crimson, in luxury,
 who put ornaments of gold on your apparel.
How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle!

Jonathan lies slain upon your high places.
 I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;
 greatly beloved were you to me;
 your love to me was wonderful,
 passing the love of women.
How the mighty have fallen,
 and the weapons of war perished!

Responsorial: Psalm 79:2-3, 5-7

R./: Let us see your face, Lord, and we shall be saved

O shepherd of Israel, hear us,
 you who lead Joseph's flock,
 shine forth from your cherubim throne
 upon Ephraim, Benjamin, Manasseh. (R./)

 O Lord, rouse up your might,
 O Lord, come to our help.
Lord God of hosts, how long
 will you frown on your people's plea? (R./)

You have fed them with tears for their bread,
 an abundance of tears for their drink.
You have made us the taunt of our neighbours,
 our enemies laugh us to scorn. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 3:20-21

His relatives think that Jesus is out of his mind

Then Jesus went home; and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, "He has gone out of his mind."

BIBLE

Driven by compassion

Jesus was so caught up in the needs of his fellow human beings that he has no time even to eat. His relatives regarded him as no longer quite sane and planned to take him away. They actually think he has gone out of his mind. But there is a very positive message in this little episode, one of the shortest readings in the whole lectionary. Jesus was more concerned with the needs of others than with his own. The sight of human misery moved him very deeply. His heart was full of and overwhelming compassion.

Somehow, this concern of Jesus echoes the sadness and emotion of David's lament: "I grieve for you, my brother. Most dear have you been to me; more precious my love for you, than love for women." In fact, Jesus freely renounced the joy of marriage in order to dedicate himself fully to his broader, life-givng mission.


Not out of his mind

It's clear than many of his hearers were puzzled by Jesus. A question keeps being asked, "Who is this man?" Even his own relatives did not understand what he was about. When Jesus' workload grew so heavy as to leave him not time for food and drink, his relatives thought he was out of his mind. They would soon learn that he was not theirs to command. The only one to whom Jesus gave full obedience was his heavenly Father.

Jesus was sent to do a special work for the human race, to form them into a great family of disciples, of brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of God. His natural family, his relatives from Nazareth, had to come to terms with that. We are all part of that new family of faith, the fruit of Jesus' work. And even for u, the question, "Who is this man?" remains a fruitful one. We can always grow in our knowledge of the One whose brothers and sisters we have become.



Readings for the 3rd Week, Ordinary Time (Cycle 2)

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Monday of Week 3

1st Reading: 2 Samuel 5:1-7, 10

David is anointed and establishes Jerusalem as capital of both north and south, of Israel and Judah

All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron, and said, "Look, we are your bone and flesh. While Saul was king over us, it was you who led out Israel and brought it in. The Lord said to you: It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel." So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.

The king and his men marched to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who said to David, "You will not come in here, even the blind and the lame will turn you back" -- thinking, "David cannot come in here." Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion, which is now the city of avid. And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him.

Responsorial: Psalm 88:20-22, 25-26

R./: My faithfulness and love shall be with him

Of old you spoke in a vision.
To your friends the prophets you said:
 'I have set the crown on a warrior,
 I have exalted one chosen from the people. (R./)

'I have found David my servant
 and with my holy oil anointed him.
 My hand shall always be with him
 and my arm shall make him strong. (R./)

'My truth and my love shall be with him;
 by my name his might shall be exalted.
 I will stretch out his hand to the Sea
 and his right hand as far as the River.' (R./)

Gospel: Mark 3:22-30

Jesus does not cast out devils by the power of Satan. Only sins against the Spirit cannot be forgiven

The scribes who came down from Jerusalem said about Jesus, "He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons." And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, "How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

"Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin" -- for they had said, "He has an unclean spirit."

BIBLE

Pointing the way to unity

Unity is the theme of today's reading from Samuel, David unites the rival and jealous groups, the people of southern Judah and those of northern Israel, into a single kingdom. (And in the Gospel Jesus says that if a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.) King David came from the southern tribe of Judah, an area seldom prominent up to that point, since the Mosaic tradition was stronger in the northern region of Israel. To build a sense of unity required theological as well as political agreement. These are relevant values to reflect on during church unity week.

In the gospel Jesus emphasises reverence for the Holy Spirit and a total rejection of Satan. He solemnly warns of the one sin which "will never be forgiven," namely blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. We need to revere the Holy Spirit and let ourselves be guided by the Spirit. This helps us to see the goodness in other tradition. In this way we can hope, by God's grace, to join with them in a reunited Church of Christ.

The story of David's kingship has valuable lessons about retablishing peace. When the elders of the northern tribes sued for peace after the civil war that flared up after Saul's death, they appealed to the common bonds of humanity, "We are, your own flesh and bone." They set aside all kinds of arguments, justifications and grievancess, to seek to restore peace within the family of faith. In turn, David chose as capital of the united tribes a neutral city where each group would feel fairly represented. Building peace with others needs genuine mutuality, rather than any demand for unconditional surrender. Christian unity is sought not for the sake of dominance over other churches, but for the shared benefit of all.

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Tuesday of Week 3

1st Reading: 2 Samuel 6:12-15, 17-19

David dances before the ark being brought into Jerusalem. The celebration ends with a sacred banquet

King David was told, "The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God." So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing; and when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. David danced before the Lord with all his might; David was girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, an with the sound of the trumpet.

They brought in the ark of the Lord, and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt offerings and offerings of well-being before the Lord. When David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the offerings of well-being, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts, and distributed food among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, to each a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins. Then all the people went back to their homes.

Responsorial: Psalm 23:7-10

R./: Who is the king of glory? It is the Lord

O gates, lift high your heads;
 grow higher, ancient doors.
Let him enter, the king of glory! (R./)

Who is the king of glory?
The Lord, the mighty, the valiant,
 the Lord, the valiant in war. (R./)

O gates, lift high your heads;
 grow higher, ancient doors.
Let him enter, the king of glory! (R./)

Who is he, the king of glory?
He, the Lord of armies,
 he is the king of glory. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 3:31-35

Turning to the crowd, Jesus declares:"whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister"

The mother and brothers of Jesus came, and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, "Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you." And he replied, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" And looking at those who sat around him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother."

BIBLE

Two kinds of family

It is our fidelity to the will of God, says Jesus, that makes us family to him. His true disciples are distinguished, not by by rank or position, talents or financial resources, but by seeking to do God's will. Jesus wants us to regard ourselves as members of a worldwide family, where each of my neighbours is like a sister or brother, mother or father to me.

In this story Jesus supercedes traditional family ties in favour of this new worldwide family under God. When his mother and some of his relatives wanted him, why did he not immediately give them his full attention? Evidently, there are times to be spent with our blood relatives, and other times when we need to focus on a wider circle. Jesus gives example of both these moments. Here he is more conscious of his world-family. Later, in his dying moments upon the cross, he provides for his mother Mary (John 19:25-27). Even this final act of loving concern for Mary is linked to his relationship with his disciples. "And from that hour, the disciple took her into his own home." He sees his mother as representative of the whole church, the centre of a praying community (Acts 1:12-14).

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Wednesday of Week 3

1st Reading: 2 Samuel 7:4-17

Samuel hears God's promise to build up the house of David

That very night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, "Why have you not built me a house of cedar?" Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. When he commits iniquity, I will punish him with a rod such as mortals use, with blows inflicted by human beings. But I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever. In accordance with all these words and with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.

Responsorial: Psalm 88:4-5, 27-30

R./: For ever I will keep my love for him

With my chosen one I have made a covenant;
 I have sworn to David my servant:
 I will establish your dynasty for ever
 and set up your throne through all ages. (R./)

He will say to me: 'You are my father,
 my God, the rock who saves me.'
 And I will make him my first-born,
 the highest of the kings of the earth. (R./)

I will keep my love for him always;
 for him my covenant shall endure.
 I will establish his dynasty for ever,
 make his throne as lasting as the heavens. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 4:1-20

The parable of the sower and the seed

Again Jesus began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them:

"Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold." And he said, "Let anyone with ears to hear listen!"

When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, "To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; so that 'they may indeed look, but not perceive, and may indeed listen, but not understand; so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.'"

And he said to them, "Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. These are the ones on the path where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, they immediately receive it with joy. But they have no root, and endure only for a while; then, when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, an it yields nothing. And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold."

BIBLE

Both arable and mouldable

God's promises are present within our lives, being realised in ways beyond our understanding. The parable of the Sower likens the mysterious working of grace to the inner life-force of the seed (the Word of God) and also to the potential of the soil -- whether rocky, shallow or naturally arable. But human freedom comes into it also. Since God has breathed his own Spirit into us, we are no longer inanimate clods of earth, but malleable clay for the divine potter to form. Our free response to God's grace makes us both arable and mouldable!

In the interpretation of the Sower parable we heard the most difficult words of Holy Scripture, "They will look and not see, listen and not understand, lest perhaps they repent and be forgiven" (quoting Isaiah 6:9-10.) But the passage ends with hope, for the trunk of the oak remains alive even when its leaves have fallen. Jesus assures us that hope will blossom in its time; but he also lists differing levels of receptivity to the grace of God. These are suggested by the different kinds of soil, by the thistles and thorns, rocks and obstacles to growth. We are not to wait passively and do nothing, simply waiting for God to make us grow. While many things are outside our control and eventually we must leave all to God, we are still expected to seek to do his will. Salvation is the interplay of God's grace and our dedication. If we try to do our part, in the end we can say, like Paul, "I planted the seed and Apollos watered it, God made it grow" (1 Cor 3:6.)


A parable of growth

The parable of the sower was probably spoken by Jesus as an encouraging word to his disciples, that the grace of God is at work in the world, like seeds planted in a field. St Mark has probably elaborated the explanation of this parable, to explain the many difficulties and obstacles Jesus encountered, and the fact that only a small number have taken his message to heart, up to this point. The religious leaders have accused him of breaking the Sabbath and claimed that his healings were by the power of Satan. Jesus' own relatives have tried to block his ministry, thinking he had gone mad. In that context he reminds his disciples of the obstacles faced by any farmer sowing seed in a Galilean field.

Much of the soil is rocky and fairly arid, with the result that many seeds never takes root, or never properly ripen. Yet, in spite of all kinds of obstacles, there can be a good harvest. The underlying message remains: Look beyond the obstacles, the set-backs, the disappointments; God is at work in Jesus, and the harvest will be great in the end. Any of us can focus too much on what is not going well, by the failures, the diminshment of the church as we knew it. He encourages us to keep hopeful in the midst of loss and failure, because He is always at work in a life-giving way even when aridity seems to fill the landscape.


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Thursday of Week 3

1st Reading: 2 Samuel 7:18-19, 24-29

David gives thanks for God's everlasting faithfulness

King David went in and sat before the Lord, and said, "Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord God; you have spoken also of your servant's house for a great while to come. May this be instruction for the people, O Lord God! And you established your people Israel for yourself to be your people forever; and you, O Lord, became their God. And now, O Lord God, as for the word that you have spoken concerning your servant and concerning his house, confirm it forever; do as you have promised. Thus your name will be magnified forever in the saying, 'The Lord of hosts is God over Israel'; and the house of your servant David will be established before you. For you, O Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, have made this revelation to your servant, saying, 'I will build you a house'; therefore your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you. And now, O Lord God, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant; now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant, so that it may continue forever before you; for you, O Lord God, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed forever."

Responsorial: Psalm 131:1-5, 11-14

R./: God will give him the throne of David, his father

O Lord, remember David
 and all the hardships he endured,
 the oath he swore to the Lord,
 his vow to the Strong One of Jacob. (R./)

'I will not enter the house where I live
 nor go to the bed where I rest.
 I will give no sleep to my eyes
 to my eyelids will give no slumber
 till I find a place for the Lord,
 a dwelling for the Strong One of Jacob.' (R./)

The Lord swore an oath to David;
 he will not go back on his word:
 'A son, the fruit of your body,
 will I set upon your throne. (R./)

'If they keep my covenant in truth
 and my laws that I have taught them,
 their sons also shall rule on your throne
 from age to age.' (R./)

For the Lord has chosen Zion;
 he has desired it for his dwelling:
 'This is my resting-place for ever,
 here have I chosen to live.' (R./)

Gospel: Mark 4:21-25

To those who have more will be given; from the have-nots, the little they have will be taken away

Jesus said to them, "Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!"

And he said to them, "Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away."

BIBLE

The measure to hope for

As we hear David thanking God for giving the kingship to his family, little did he realize that the divine promises to him would be fulfilled when Jesus took his place as king, at the Father's right hand. In a way beyond David's understanding, these prophetic words were fulfilled: "the measure you give will be the measure you get."

We all need to be personally generous ("in full measure") if we are to taste the promised fullness of grace, "still more will be given you." By staying close to Jesus, our lamp will not stay hidden but will be set on a lampstand. Extending that metaphor a little, the light of our lamp can help others find their way to God.


Living our faith

We are told not to hide the light of our faith, under a bushel or bucket. Rather, we are to show our faith, our relationship with Christ and the way we live our lives. On the other hand, we don't make public displays of piety in order to win credit from others. Rather, we try to live by faith in order to give glory to God.

Today's gospel invites us to ask, "For whose benefit do I do what I do? Is it for myself or the ones I serve?" Ultimately, do I try to do what God wants of me? The opening petitions of the Lord's Prayer points us in the right direction, "Hallowed by your name, your kingdom come."


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Friday of Week 3

1st Reading: 2 Samuel 11:1-10, 13-17

David's adultery and his executive murder of Uriah

In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab with his officers and all Israel with him; they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.

It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about on the roof of the king's house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful. David sent someone to inquire about the woman. It was reported, "This is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite." So David sent messengers to get her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, "I am pregnant."

David sent word to Joab, "Send me Uriah the Hittite," and Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab and the people fared, and how the war was going. Then David said to Uriah, "Go down to your house, and wash your feet." Uriah went out of the king's house, and there followed him a present from the king. But Uriah slept at the entrance of the king's house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house.

When they told David, "Uriah did not go down to his house," David said to Uriah, "You have just come from a journey. Why did you not go down to your house?" David invited him to eat and drink in his presence and made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.

In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. In the letter he wrote, "Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die." As Joab was besieging the city, he assigned Uriah to the place where he knew there were valiant warriors. The men of the city came out and fought with Joab; and some of the servants of David among the people fell. Uriah the Hittite was killed as well.

Responsorial: Psalm 50:3-7, 10-11

R./: Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned

Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.
 In your compassion blot out my offence.
 O wash me more and more from my guilt
 and cleanse me from my sin. (R./)

My offences truly I know them;
 my sin is always before me.
 Against you, you alone, have I sinned;
 what is evil in your sight I have done. (R./)

That you may be justified when you give sentence
 and be without reproach when you judge,
 O see; in guilt I was born,
 a sinner was I conceived. (R./)

Make me hear rejoicing and gladness,
 that the bones you have crushed may thrill.
From my sins turn away your face
 and blot out all my guilt. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 4:26-34

The seed grows mysteriously and becomes the largest of shrubs

He also said, "The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come."

He also said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade."

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

BIBLE

Sowing the seed of the future

Today's reading from 2 Samuel tells a murky tale from David's past. Although he is a key figure in salvation history, leading up to the appearance of Jesus as Messiah, King and Saviour, one must admire the honesty with which David’s weaknesses are described. Is there any other Old Testament leader who is given such warts-and-all treatment? But perhaps that is what makes David such an attractive personality. It is very easy to identify with him, as a weak person who improves with time.

The dark, inert "earth" where the seed begins its new life is foreshadowed in the account of David's adultery with Bathsheba, where the king first tried to make his dedicated soldier, Uriah, go home and sleep with his wife, in order to conceal the real cause of her pregnancy; and then, when Uriah refuses the king's offer of some rest and rerceation, David treacherously has him killed in battle.

This act of l treachery is just the first of a long series of murders, sexual excesses and revolts within David's descendants. We are left wondering why God uses such a darkly complex and tangled family to fulfill of his promises about an everlasting dynasty. The very ones through whom the promises were passed on turn out to be Bathsheba and her future son Solomon.

It is equally strange how the seed which falls into the ground becomes stalks of wheat providing grain and bread. Yet just as wheat provides bread and the mustard seed grows to provide shade, so the story of David tells us that God does not give up on us or lose patience with us. We can be converted and renewed as David was, and God will fulfil his promises to us.


Little things that mean a lot

Sometimes our best efforts seem to bear very little fruit. We can get into a gloomy frame of mind and feel that we have precious little to show for our lives so far. However, we might be doing more good than we realize. Jesus taught that even a little can go a long way. The little efforts we make to do some good may be fruitful after all. That seems to be the message of the two parables in today's gospel.

The mustard seed is tiny and yet it grows into a very large shrub. What looks so insignificant takes on a life of its own, out of proportion to its small beginning. The pinch of yeast that a woman mixes into a batch of dough affects the whole batch. Again, the little good we do be worthwhile in ways that would surprise us. That is what the kingdom of God is like, Jesus says. What is small and seemingly insignificant can become beneficial for many.


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Saturday of Week 3

1st Reading: 2 Samuel 12:1-7, 10-17

Nathan warns David; his sin with Bathsheba will be punished within his own family

The Lord sent Nathan to David. He went to him, and said to him, "There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. He brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his meager fare, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man's lamb, and prepared that for the guest who had come to him." Then David's anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, "As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity."

Nathan said to David, "You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel I anointed you king over Israel, and I rescued you from the hand of Saul. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, for you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. Thus says the Lord: I will raise up trouble against you from within your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbour, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this very sun. For you did it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun." David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord." Nathan said to David, "Now the Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child that is born to you shall die." Then Nathan went to his house.

The Lord struck the child that Uriah's wife bore to David, and it became very ill. David therefore pleaded with God for the child; David fasted, and went in and lay all night on the ground. The elders of his house stood beside him, urging him to rise from the ground; but he would not, nor did he eat food with them.

Responsorial: Psalm 50:12-17

R./: Create a clean heart in me, O God

A pure heart create for me, O God,
 put a steadfast spirit within me.
 Do not cast me away from your presence,
 nor deprive me of your holy spirit. (R./)

Give me again the joy of your help;
 with a spirit of fervour sustain me,
 that I may teach transgressors your ways
 and sinners may return to you. (R./)

O rescue me, God, my helper,
 and my tongue shall ring out your goodness.
 O Lord, open my lips
 and my mouth shall declare your praise. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 4:35-41

Jesus quells the storm at sea, overcoming the forces of nature

When evening had come, Jesus said to them, "Let us go across to the other side." And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?" And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"

BIBLE

Human limitations and ideals

Even kings share the weaknesses of other mortals, as is graphically portrayed in David's story. His affair with Bathsheba was spurred by lust and arrogance, and was absolutely normal in the palaces of the ancient Near East! It took the brave prophet Nathan to speak God's judgment on David and brush aside all excuses. "You are the one who did wrong!" he growled, and added that violence would always cling to David's dynasty on account of that act of treachery

Ideals are more than statements in a book, even a book as sacred as the Bible; they must go beyond philosophical theorems, and lead to genuine service of God. In God's name Nathan tells David, "You despised me in taking the wife of Uriah to be your wife." In acting with justice and charity, we follow genuine ideals, but when we are unjust to others, we turn our back on God. This is clear in Jesus' words: "As often as you did it for one of my little ones, you did it for me" (Matthew 25:40).

He is with us always, even when we are scared by the raging wind and waves breaking against our "boat." Jesus says, "Why are you so afraid? Why so little faith?" The encouragement he brought to his disciples on the storm in Galilee, he still gives to us who trust in him.


Lord, Save Us!

In the middle of the storm, they cried out loud, 'Lord, save us.' Elsewhere they had begged him, 'Lord, increase our faith.' That is quite like the prayer of St Thomas, 'Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.' Even if we feel our faith is weak at times, even that little faith is a blessing, because God can do great things with it. They experienced his powerful presence they felt a new surge of faith and trust. Filled with wonder they asked each other, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"



Readings for the 4th Week, Ordinary Time (Cycle 2)

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Monday of Week 4

1st Reading: 2 Samuel 15:13-14, 30; 16:5-13

While fleeing Jerusalem during Absalom's revolt, David is cursed and accepts it as the will of God

A messenger came to David, saying, "The hearts of the Israelites have gone after Absalom." Then David said to all his officials who were with him at Jerusalem, "Get up! Let us flee, or there will be no escape for us from Absalom. Hurry, or he will soon overtake us, and bring disaster down upon us, and attack the city with the edge of the sword." But David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went, with his head covered and walking barefoot; and all the people who were with him covered their heads and went up, weeping as they went.

When King David came to Bahurim, a man of the family of the house of Saul came out whose name was Shimei son of Gera; he came out cursing. He threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David; now all the people and all the warriors were on his right and on his left. Shimei shouted while he cursed, "Out! Out! Murderer! Scoundrel! The Lord has avenged on all of you the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned; and the Lord has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. See, disaster has overtaken you; for you are a man of blood."

Then Abishai son of Zeruiah said to the king, "Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head." But the king said, "What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the Lord has said to him, 'Curse David,' who then shall say, 'Why have you done so?"" David said to Abishai and to all his servants, "My own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite! Let him alone, and let him curse; for the Lord has bidden him. It may be that the Lord will look on my distress, and the Lord will repay me with good for this cursing of me today." So David and his men went on the road, while Shimei went along on the hillside opposite him and cursed as he went, throwing stones and flinging dust at him. The king and all the people who were with him arrived weary at the Jordan; and there he refreshed himself.

Responsorial: Psalm 3:2-8

R./: Lord, rise up and save me

How many are my foes, O Lord!
How many are rising up against me!
How many are saying about me:
 'There is no help for him in God.' (R./)
 
But you, Lord, are a shield about me,
 my glory, who lift up my head.
 I cry aloud to the Lord.
He answers from his holy mountain. (R./)
 
 I lie down to rest and I sleep.
 I wake, for the Lord upholds me.
 I will not fear even thousands of people
 who are ranged on every side against me.
 Arise, Lord; save me, my God. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 5:1-20

Jesus cures a madman and then sends the man to proclaim the good news to the Ten-Cities region

Jesus and his disciples came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him any more, even with a chain; for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him; and he shouted at the top of his voice, "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me." For he had said to him, "Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!" Then Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" He replied, "My name is Legion; for we are many." He begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now there on the hillside a great herd of swine was feeding; and the unclean spirits begged him, "Send us into the swine; let us enter them." So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and were drowned in the sea.

The swineherds ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came to see what it was that had happened. They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion; and they were afraid. Those who had seen what had happened to the demoniac and to the swine reported it. Then they began to beg Jesus to leave their neighbourhood. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him. But Jesus refused, and said to him, "Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you." And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.


One is cursed and one is healed

Some of our sharpest griefs come from divisions within our own family. The hardest trials King David had to face were caused by members of his family. His family history is long and complicated, sordid and pathetic at times, brilliant and successful at others, and he confesses his adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah.

No matter how guilty David was, we can admire his humility when confronted by the facts, and his enduring love even for a son in revolt who wanted to kill his father. In today's episode, David decides not to punish a political enemy for cursing him. He declares wearily: Let him alone and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. By that time David seems to have patience from adversity.

The same mercy prompts Jesus' treatment of the madman. When this wild man approached him beside the Lake of Galilee Jesus showed patience and respect. When the wild spirits ask to be sent into the herd of swine, Jesus again agrees; and later when the local inhabitants begged him to leave their district, he did as they asked. When the man who had been cured wants to follow Jesus, he sends him as a missionary-disciple to proclaim to others what had been done for him.

Jesus did not worry about the consequences of being associated with a former demoniac. What he saw was a person of goodwill and enthusiasm, a man deserving of respect. Hence Jesus willingly receives the cured man into the larger group of those who believe in him.


 

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Tuesday of Week 4

1st Reading: 2 Samuel 18:9-10, 14, 24-25, 30-19:3

Absalom is executed by Joab. Instead of celebrating the victory, David mourns the death of his son

Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak. His head caught fast in the oak, and he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on. A man saw it, and told Joab, "I saw Absalom hanging in an oak." Joab said, "I will not waste time like this with you." He took three spears in his hand, and thrust them into the heart of Absalom, while he was still alive in the oak.

Now David was sitting between the two gates. The sentinel went up to the roof of the gate by the wall, and when he looked up, he saw a man running alone. he sentinel shouted and told the king. The king said, "If he is alone, there are tidings in his mouth." He kept coming, and drew near. The king said, "Turn aside, and stand here." So he turned aside, and stood still.

It was told Joab, "The king is weeping and mourning for Absalom." So the victory that day was turned into mourning for all the troops; for the troops heard that day, "The king is grieving for his son." The troops stole into the city that day as soldiers steal in who are ashamed when they flee in battle.

Responsorial: Psalm 85:1-6

R./: Listen Lord, and answer me

Turn your ear, O Lord, and give answer
 for I am poor and needy.
 Preserve my life, for I am faithful:
 save the servant who trusts in you. (R./)

You are my God, have mercy on me, Lord,
 for I cry to you all the day long.
Give joy to your servant, O Lord,
 for to you I lift up my soul. (R./)

O Lord, you are good and forgiving,
 full of love to all who call.
Give heed, O Lord, to my prayer
 and attend to the sound of my voice. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 5:21-43

Jesus cures a haemorrhage; then saves the daughter of Jairus

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, "My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live." So he went with him.

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, "If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well." Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, "Who touched my clothes?" And his disciples said to him, "You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, 'Who touched me?"" He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease."

While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader's house to say, "Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?" But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, "Do not fear, only believe." He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and waiing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, "Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping." And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha kum," which means, "Little girl, get up!" And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.


Grieving and Hope

The texts from 2 Samuel and from Mark remind us of the frailty of life, and of the unavoidable grief that is our lot from time to time. Perhaps no passage in Scripture is more poignant and more revelatory of the loving attachment between parent and child than David's mournful words over his dead son: "My son Absalom. Oh Absalom, my son. If only I had died instead of you, Absalom, my son, my son." The bonds and frailty of human life appear again in the gospel account of the woman, for twelve years seeking a cure, submitting to treatments of every sort and having "exhausted her savings in the process," and then of the twelve-year-old daughter of the synagogue official, Jairus, who in his anxety asks Jesus to come and simply lay a hand on his little daughter.

David does not want to see alive just any young man among the Israelites; he longs for his son. Jairus would not have simply adopted another twelve year old girl in place of his dead daughter. In the case of the woman, afflicted for twelve years with a debilitating illness, the details in Mark reflects a very human concern. Matthew and Luke edited them out of the text for their own special reasons, yet they remain in Mark which, like the rest of holy scripture, was "written for our instruction, that we might have hope." (Rom 15:4).

We are encouraged to consecrate our selves body and soul to love and trust. To such a person Jesus will say, "Talitha, koum," arise -- as he takes them by the hand. In heaven he may not say to the attendants, as he did to others in the household of Jairus, "Give her something to eat," but then again, who knows? We may be uncertain about food in heaven, but not that each of us will live eternally as a full human person, spirit and resurrected body inseparably one.


Healed by faith

At the centre of the two stories in this Gospel are two quite different personalities. One of them was Jairus, a synagogue official and probably well known to his neighbours. The other person was an unnamed woman who had an illness which excluded her from the synagogue and had probably impoverished her. They were two people of very different backgrounds, but both showed deep faith in Jesus as healer.

Jairus fell on his knees before Jesus quite openly, while the woman came up behind and secretly touched his cloak. Jairus makes his plea in public, while the woman didn't want to be noticed. Though they approach Jesus in such different ways their faith is equally strong. With a smile, Jesus called on the woman to make herself known. 'Who touched me?' He wants us to publicly witness to our trust in him. Our public witness is a support to the faith of others.

 

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Wednesday of Week 4

1st Reading: 2 Samuel 24:2, 9-17

Having sinned by counting the people, David wants to pay the price himself

The king said to Joab and the army commanders who were with him, "Go through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beer-sheba, and take a census of the people, so that I may know how many there are." Joab reported to the king the number of those who had been recorded: in Israel there were eight hundred thousand soldiers able to draw the sword, and those of Judah were five hundred thousand.

But afterward, David was stricken to the heart because he had numbered the people. David said to the Lord, "I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O Lord, I pray you, take away the guilt of your servant; for I have done very foolishly." When David rose in the morning, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Gad, David's seer, saying, "Go and say to David: Thus says the Lord: Three things I offer you; choose one of them, and I will do it to you." So Gad came to David and told him; he asked him, "Shall three years of famine come to you on your land? Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days' pestilence in your land? Now consider, and decide what answer I shall return to the one who sent me." Then David said to Gad, "I am in great distress; let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into human hands."

So the Lord sent a pestilence on Israel from that morning until the appointed time; and seventy thousand of the people died, from Dan to Beer-sheba. But when the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord relented concerning the evil, and said to the angel who was bringing destruction among the people, "It is enough; now stay your hand." The angel of the Lord was then by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. When David saw the angel who was destroying the people, he said to the Lord, "I alone have sinned, and I alone have doe wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done? Let your hand, I pray, be against me and against my father's house."

Responsorial: Psalm 31:1-2, 5-7

R./: Lord, forgive the wrong I have done

Happy the man whose offence is forgiven,
 whose sin is remitted.
 O happy the man to whom the Lord
 imputes no guilt,
 in whose spirit is no guile. (R./)

But now I have acknowledged my sins,
 my guilt I did not hide.
 I said: 'I will confess
 my offence to the Lord.'
 And you, Lord, have forgiven
 the guilt of my sin. (R./)

So let every good man pray to you
 in the time of need.
The floods of water may reach high
 but him they shall not reach. (R./)

You are my hiding place, O Lord;
 you save me from distress.
You surround me with cries of deliverance. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 6:1-6

The people of Nazareth reject Jesus so he could hardly help them

Jesus left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, "Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, "Prophets are not without honour, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house." And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.

BIBLE

Use and abuse of power

A nasty example of jealousy flares up in the gospel, when his own townspeople reject Jesus. How can he have more wisdom than the rest of them, they ask. And why is he able to work miracles while they can not? It was a classic case of a prophet being dishonoured among his own people. But through pride and jealousy they missed a great opportunity. There's a painful truth in the saying that "No prophet is honoured in his native place." But jealousy does more harm to those who let it direct their behaviour. It brought a great loss to the people of Nazareth. Envy is such an incurable disease so that "he could work no miracle there." Close to envy in its symptoms and effects is stubbornness, a refusal to consider that one may be wrong.

The story of David's census warns against excessive desire to control others. It is not condemning every kind of census; after all the Book of Numbers records another census, undertaken with God's blessing. It was the motive that spoiled this census since David's purpose was to impose taxation and dominance. A census can be used for greater control, heavier taxation and affluence at the top. The ensuing plague is halted by David's prayer, a prayer in which he accepts the blame and begs God to be merciful to those who have not done wrong. His spirit of responsibility brings healing to the disease.


Familiarity breeds contempt

People in Nazareth were slow to recognize the implications of the wisdom of Jesus and his power for good towards the sick and suffering. They should have known that God must be working through this man in a special way. Instead, they showed him little respect. He was too familiar to them; too ordinary. They knew his mother and his family. How could he be all that different to everyone else in Nazareth?

All too often, familiarity breeds contempt. We can be slow to recognize God's grace and presence in the ordinary and the familiar. We don't need to go on distant pilgrimages, or go into space, to encounter the presence of God. It is all around us in the familiar, the humdrum and in the ordinary. The gospel invites us to look on those around us with new eyes and with respect. The failure of the Nazarenes to see in this way inhibited what Jesus could do for them. Recognising him gives the Lord a proper welcome to bless our lives.


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Thursday of Week 4

1st Reading: 1 Kings 2:1-4, 10-12

The dying David urges Solomon to have courage and stay faithful to God in every way

When David's time to die drew near, he charged his son Solomon, saying: "I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, be courageous, and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his ordinances, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn. Then the Lord will establish his word that he spoke concerning me: 'If your heirs take heed to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail you a successor on the throne of Israel.'

Then David slept with his ancestors, and was buried in the city of David. The time that David reigned over Israel was forty years; he reigned seven years in Hebron, and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David; and his kingdom was firmly etablished.

Responsorial: 1 Chronicles 29:10-12

R./: Lord, you are exalted over all

Blessed are you, O Lord,
 the God of Israel, our father,
 for ever, for ages unending. (R./)

Yours, Lord, are greatness and power,
 and splendour, triumph and glory.
 All is yours, in heaven and on earth. (R./)

Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom,
 you are supreme over all.
Both honour and riches come from you. (R./)

You are the ruler of all,
 from your hand come strength and power,
 from your hand come greatness and might. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 6:7-13

He sends out the twelve two by two, to preach and to heal

Jesus called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them." So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

BIBLE

Leaving a legacy

Politicians and celebrities are not alone in their desire to leave behind a worthwhile legacy. This idea of leaving a legacy must be almost universal, once a person has come to terms with his or her mortality. Nobody wants to feel that their transient life is utterly insignificant, blown away like dust in the wind, with nothing to mark our few decades in this world. It's part of why people work so hard for success, to make a mark in society, and hope for some monument to their memory after they die. The most universal legacy is what parents leave behind to their children, by their example and the insights they try to share.

David's deathbed advice to Solomon summarises what a conscientious father might want to leave as a moral legacy to his son. The old king knows that he is about to die, and urges his successor to live a noble life, "walking in the ways of the Lord your God." The flavour of the book of Deuteronomy suffuses this account, with those stock phrases, "his statutes, his commandments, his ordinances, and his testimonies." He makes explicit reference to the law of Moses as the code of morality for Israel. Then he climaxes his advice with the recurrent motivation, "so that you may prosper in all that you do."

The legacy Jesus leaves behind has more to do with sharing the good news of God's love and mercy. He had taught them much about the kingdom of God, the state of harmony and renewal. The life God wants for mankind cannot be selfish and must be shared. Jesus sent his disciples two by two, to spread his vision. What he has share with them must be shared with others. The task is so urgent that they move out with no thought of profit for themselves, without luggage or money. While this level of frugality cannot be long sustained, it gives a clear flavour of the priorities that Jesus would like to see among his followers.


Sent out, two by two

Jesus sends them out to do what he was doing, to preach the gospel and to heal the sick. Jesus wanted and needed the help of others to do the work he was sent to do. He continues to need us today for this work. We are to be his eyes, his ears, his hands, his feet and his voice. St Paul understood very clearly that the church to be the body of Christ in the world. He was very clear that every member of Christ's body had a vital role to play.

The church cannot be fully alive unless everyone plays the role they are called and equipped to play through their baptism. There are to be no second class citizens in the church. Each of us is a vital member, with some task and mission in the world.


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Friday of Week 4

1st Reading: Sirach 47:2-11

David was defender of Israel, psalmist, penitent sinner, blessed by God

As the fat is set apart from the offering of well-being,
 so David was set apart from the Israelites.
He played with lions as though they were young goats,
 and with bears as though they were lambs of the flock.
 In his youth did he not kill a giant,
 and take away the people's disgrace,
 when he whirled the stone in the sling
 and struck down the boasting Goliath?
For he called on the Lord, the Most High,
 and he gave strength to his right arm
 to strike down a mighty warrior,
 and to exalt the power of his people.
So they glorified him for the tens of thousands he conquered,
 and praised him for the blessings bestowed by the Lord,
 when the glorious diadem was given to him.
For he wiped out his enemies on every side,
 and annihilated his adversaries the Philistines;
 he crushed their power to our own day.

In all that he did he gave thanks
 to the Holy One, the Most High, proclaiming his glory;
 he sang praise with all his heart,
 and he loved his Maker.
He placed singers before the altar,
 to make sweet melody with their voices.
He gave beauty to the festivals,
 and arranged their times throughout the year,
 while they praised God's holy name,
 and the sanctuary resounded from early morning.
The Lord took away his sins,
 and exalted his power forever;
 he gave him a covenant of kingship
 and a glorious throne in Israel.

Responsorial: Psalm 17:31, 47, 50-51

R./: Blessed be God my salvation

The ways of God are perfect;
 the word of the Lord, purest gold.
He indeed is the shield
 of all who make him their refuge. (R./)

Long life to the Lord, my rock!
 Praised be the God who saves me.
 I will praise you, Lord, among the nations:
 I will sing a psalm to your name. (R./)

He has given great victories to his king
 and shown his love for his anointed,
 for David and his sons for ever. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 6:14-29

Herod is curious about John the Baptist, but has him beheaded

King Herod heard of him, for Jesus' name had become known. Some were saying, "John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him." But others said, "It is Elijah." And others said, "It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old." But when Herod heard of it, he said, "John, whom I beheaded, has been raised."

For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, because Herod had married her. For John had told Herod: "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, "Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it." And he solemnly swore to her, "Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom." She went out and said to her mother, "What should I ask for?" She replied, "The head of John the baptizer." Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, "I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter." The king was deeply grieed; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John's head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

BIBLE

When God seems to let us down

The Word of God for today honours two great precursors of Jesus, John the Baptist (in the gospel,) and king David (in the text from Sirach.) Sirach's praise of David indicates the suportive presence of God through his long career, from when he battled the Philistine giant as a youth, and later as king widened the borders of Israel and overcame all opposition, and how after his sin he repented humbly and publicly. It recalls how David sang before the altar, with the sweet melody of his psalms. God was ever-present, as helper, giver of pardon, inspirer of ideals, enabling the fulfillment of the divine will in David's life.

That benign view of providence is in stark contrast to the execution of John the Baptist, when the daughter presented her mother with her enemy's head on a platter. No wonder the memory of John haunted the sleep of King Herod, so that he imagined Jesus as John raised from the dead. We believe that John was not extinguished in the sight of God, but alive in Jesus who "is the same yesterday, today and forever."

Jesus is present among the marginalised and suffering people of the world. He can be found in situations of need, narrow and seemingly hopeless, like the prison where the baptist was chained, and among the most needy in our midst. Even in our own personal lives, we may have entertained God's presence unaware.


A deadly banquet

This execution has inspired artists and playwrights throughout the centuries. The sumptuous banquet in Herod's palace for his birthday became a banquet of death. Mark follows this scene with the feeding by Jesus of the multitude in the wilderness. It is as if the evangelist wants us to contrast Herod's banquet of death with Jesus' banquet of life. John the Baptist was a good and holy man, who courageously spoke God's truth, for which he was made to suffer.

Jesus was crucified for the same reason, for speaking God's truth without fear.

Our own lives will call for sacrifice at times, the kind of courage shown by John and Jesus. One of the seven named gifts of the Holy Spirit is courage. Today, more than ever, we need the courage of the Holy Spirit to witness to live by the values of Jesus. A courageous faith is not arrogant, but it is firm and enduring. We pray for the kind of faithfulness that shaped John's life and death.


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Saturday of Week 4

1st Reading: 1 Kings 3:4-13

Solomon prays for understanding, to distinguish right from wrong

The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the principal high place; Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, "Ask what I should give you."

And Solomon said, "You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this, your great people?"

It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him, "Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honour all your life; no other king shall compare with you.

Responsorial: Psalm 119

R./: Lord, teach me your statutes

How shall the young remain sinless?
  By keeping to your words.
With all my heart I seek you;
  let me not stray from your commands. (R./)

Within my heart I treasure your promise,
  that I may not sin against you.
Blessed are you, O Lord;
  teach me your statutes. (R./)

With my lips I will declare
  all the decrees of your mouth.
 In the way of your commands I rejoice,
  as much as in all riches. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 6:30-34

Jesus gets the apostles to come and rest awhile; then pities the people, as sheep without a shepherd

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, "Come away to a deserted place by yourselves and rest a while." For so many were coming and going, that they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them.

As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

BIBLE

Prayer supports life

Today's reading from 1 Kings offers an example of choosing the right priorities. Solomon is praised for asking God for the right things, the things that matter. Like an Aladdin with his magic lamp who was invited to wish for whatever he liked, Solomon's request was not for a long life, or for riches or victory in battle, but for understanding. Interestingly, the promise to Solomon came in a dream at night. Dreams imply a time of retreat from the everyday rush, when God can access our subconscious mind, a time of perception, when we recover our better self, when we are not distracted by selfish wants and petty concerns.

Times of retreat and reflection are necessary, as Jesus told the disciples, "Come apart and rest a little." The peace we seek is not a human creation; it is God's special gift. The rabbis considered the Sabbath, along with the Torah, as God's supreme gifts to his chosen people. We need the some stretches of un-programmed silence, when God can speak to our inner selves.

On the other hand, when Jesus saw the crowd he pitied them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd and he began to teach them at length. He leaves his prayerful solitude behind to share the word of God with the crowd. We need an integrated harmony of prayer and activity, to follow his example.



Readings for the 5th Week, Ordinary Time (Cycle 2

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Monday of Week 5

1st Reading: 1 Kings 8:1-7, 9-13

A cloud of divine splendour fills the sanctuary of the new Temple

Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the ancestral houses of the Israelites, before King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord out of the city of David, which is Zion. All the people of Israel assembled to King Solomon at the festival in the month Ethanim, which is the seventh month. And all the elders of Israel came, and the priests carried the ark. So they brought up the ark of the Lord, the tent of meeting, and all the holy vessels that were in the tent; the priests and the Levites brought them up.

King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who had assembled before him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and oxen that they could not be counted or numbered. Then the priests brought the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the most holy place, underneath the wings of the cherubim. For the cherubim spread out their wings over the place of the ark, so that the cherubim made a covering above the ark and its poles.

There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets of stone that Moses had placed there at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the Israelites, when they came out of the land of Egypt. And when the priests came out of the holy place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.

Then Solomon said, "The Lord has said that he would dwell in thick darkness. I have built you an exalted house, a place for you to dwell in forever."

Responsorial: Psalm 132

R./: Go up Lord, to the place of your rest

At Ephrata we heard of the ark;
 we found it in the plains of Yearim.
 'Let us go to the place of his dwelling;
 let us go to kneel at his footstool.' (R./)

Go up, Lord, to the place of your rest,
 you and the ark of your strength.
Your priests shall be clothed with holiness;
 your faithful shall ring out their joy.
For the sake of David your servant
 do not reject your anointed. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 6:53-56

Wherever Jesus went, the sick were brought to him for healing

When they had crossed over the lake, Jesus and his disciples came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.

BIBLE

Special places of worship

Some people like to worship in churches or temples, whether in shared ceremonies or in private prayer. Others prefer to commune with God out in the natural world, in parks, riverbanks or hill-walking. Still others, of course, profess to have not sense of God at all, nor no need of one. One of the aspects of our faith is to try as best we may to share with others the joyful experience of worship.

The Jews regarded their temple in Jerusalem as God's special place on earth. It reminded them of the Lord's creative presence throughout the universe, the focal-place for contact between God and his chosen people. The Gospel reading has another view entirely. The real temple for a healing contact with God was no longer a splendid building in Jerusalem, but the living body of Jesus, who reached out to heal the aches and pains of humanity.

All worship ceremonial, whether in the Jerusalem temple or on the altars of our churches, would be empty if they don't serve as reminders of God's power healing our ailments, forgiving our weakness and inspiring hope. At their best, sanctuaries and churches help us to keep in mind the presence of God in our universe and in our daily living in this world.


Open to be healed

St Mark shows the great popularity of Jesus among the ordinary people of Galilee. In particular, how he attracted the sick and needy, through the healing that flowed through him. People begged to touch even the fringe of his cloak, like the woman who was healed of her bleeding. The excitement he generated was such that people were desperate to connect with him, "bringing the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was."

It is in our own times of need, also, that we seek God's help more urgently. Some illness or misfortune brings home to us our vulnerability, our weakness, our mortality. In those situations, we pray with greater urgency. It is the darker and more painful life experiences that open us to our need for God.

By all means let us praise God in our churches, as king Solomon did in his temple. But the conversations with God that matter most are those we make on our sick beds or with our friends who are in hospital; and above all, when able to walk out again into God's fresh air, the prayer of thanks that we make for the gift of living.


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Tuesday of Week 5

1st Reading: 1 Kings 8:22-23, 27-30

The temple dedication ends with a beautiful prayer

Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands to heaven. He said, "O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and steadfast love for your servants who walk before you with all their heart.

"But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built! Regard your servant's prayer and his plea, O Lord my God, heeding the cry and the prayer that your servant prays to you today; that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you said, 'My name shall be there,' that you may heed the prayer that your servant prays toward this place. Hear the plea of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place; O hear in heaven your dwelling place; heed and forgive.

Responsorial: Psalm 84

R./: How lovely is your dwelling-place, Lord, God of hosts

My soul is longing and yearning,
 is yearning for the courts of the Lord.
 My heart and my soul ring out their joy
 to God, the living God. (R./)

The sparrow herself finds a home
 and the swallow a nest for her brood;
 she lays her young by your altars,
 Lord of hosts, my king and my God. (R./)

They are happy, who dwell in your house,
 for ever singing your praise.
Turn your eyes, O God, our shield,
 look on the face of your anointed. (R./)

One day within your courts
 is better than a thousand elsewhere.
The threshold of the house of God
 I prefer to the dwellings of the wicked. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 7:1-13

Mere repetition of rituals can nullify our moral sense

Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, "Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?" He said to them, "Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,

'This people honours me with their lips,
 but their hearts are far from me;
 in vain do they worship me,
 teaching human precepts as doctrines.'

You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition." Then he said to them, "You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! For Moses said, 'honour your father and your mother'; and, 'Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.' But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, 'Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban' (that is, an offering to God) -- then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother, thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this."

BIBLE

Putting first things first

What a travesty if one sets aside clearly expressed of God in favour of merely human traditions. Many traditional rituals of Jesus' time had lost touch with the central moral virtues taught by Moses and the prophets.

Our Christian church needs to purify its own traditions so that they reflect the values of Jesus. Every generation needs to renew its vision, with the help of the Holy Spirit, so that our practices correspond with the true spirit of the gospel. Almost sixty years ago the second Vatican Council valiantly attempted to do just that; and various synods offer bishops and opportunity to discuss creative ways of renewing church practice. In our personal lives too we sometimes cling to traditional ways of doing things that are not really in the spirit of Jesus Christ. Norms of behaviour are always in need of reform in the light of the gospel. We need to listen afresh to the Lord's Word, and trust in the Spirit to show us the way.


The limitations of ritual

The core biblical truth is that whatever God has made is very good. This is a good lens through which to examine today's texts,about Solomon and Jesus. In his new-built temple Solomon ponders, "Can it be that God dwells among us on earth? If the highest heavens cannot contain you, how much less this temple which I have built?" Ten centuries later, Jesus excoriated the pettifogging legalists for setting aside God's commandment [i.e. that the world made by God, is very good] and insisting on the observance of minutiae.

Solomon realises that God's dwell is the total universe, and therefore that no mere human construction, however splendid, can really contain God. (For Catholics, by the way, those words of Solomon should totally demolish any sentimental notion of "the Prisoner in the Tabernacle.") In turn, Jesus declares that all the products of the world, its fruits and vegetables, are clean because they have been created and blessed by God.

Still, Solomon's temple served as a focal point for worship; and Jesus did sanction fasting and abstinence from food, if freely chosen for a good purpose. The Bible holds together these diverse views about eating and about fasting, about the world as God's temple and the value of a particular temple. This diversity serves not to cancel or neutralize but to balance, nuance and enrich.

We build churches for sharing worship for the same reason that we build homes for families. A home is needed , at least for the majority of humankind, to shelter from the elements, to sleep, and as the place where the family can live together. In church, we have a place for prayer and for being a community of faith. Its a place where we encounter the Scriptures, the sacraments and the memory of saints.

To wash ourselves and our food before eating is good hygiene, of course, where water if freely available. But if it leads to arguments and a holier-than-thou atmosphere, it violates our destiny to form one large human family under God. The Bible cuts through the barriers we raise. When we are thoroughly at home in sharing this world with our fellow men and women, then we are ready for heaven, "the highest heavens," home for all God's children. Therefore, Jesus calls out any rituals that unnecessarily divide people. Any who favour divisiveness are in need of conversion: "This people pays me lip service but their heart is far from me."


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Wednesday of Week 5

1st Reading: 1 Kings 10:1-10

The Queen of Sheba admires Solomon's splendour and his wisdom

When the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon, she came to test him with hard questions. She came to Jerusalem with a very great retinue, with camels bearing spices, and very much gold, and precious stones; and when she came to Solomon, she told him all that was on her mind. Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing hidden from the king that he could not explain to her. When the queen of Sheba had observed all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, their clothing, his valets, and his burnt offerings that he offered at the house of the Lord, there was no more spirit in her. So she said to the king, "The report was true that I heard in my own land of your accomplishments and of your wisdom, but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it. Not even half had been told me; your wisdom and prosperity far surpass the report that I had eard. Happy are your wives! Happy are these your servants, who continually attend you and hear your wisdom! Blessed be the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel! Because the Lord loved Israel forever, he has made you king to execute justice and righteousness." Then she gave the king one hundred twenty talents of gold, a great quantity of spices, and precious stones; never again did spices come in such quantity as that which the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.

Responsorial: Psalm 37

R./: The mouths of the just utter wisdom

Commit your life to the Lord,
 trust in him and he will act,
 so that your justice breaks forth like the light,
 your cause like the noon-day sun. (R./)

The just person's mouth utters wisdom
 and his lips speak what is right;
 the law of his God is in his heart,
 his steps shall be saved from stumbling. (R./)

The salvation of the just comes from the Lord,
 their stronghold in time of distress.
The Lord helps them and delivers them
 and saves them: for their refuge is in him. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 7:14-23

What degrades us is not food from outside but evil from within

Then he called the crowd again and said to them, "Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile."

When he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable. He said to them, "Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?" (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, "It is what comes out of a person that defiles. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person."

BIBLE

A life guided by wisdom

The Queen of Sheba's visit to King Solomon was a splendid affair, Solomon's wisdom is valued about all the glitter and wealth. A little earlier the young king had prayed for an understanding heart to judge the people. Because he valued wisdom over wealth or long life, God promised a fullness of riches and glory. Solomon's wisdom remained at the heart of his good fortune, integrating and balancing him, so he could judge the people wisely.

Jesus' words develope the theme of wisdom, stressing that all things are part of God's good creation and meant to enhance our life. What we eat or drink is clean and healthy, gifts from the God of life. Evil comes from within a corrupt heart, from which flow all kinds of offenses. Without wisdom, selfish impulses can take hold of our heart. Jesus names some of them, that are the very obverse of the Decalogue: theft, fornication, murder, greed, arrogance, an obtuse spirit. Our lives must be sincere, open always to the breath of God's Spirit. Central to every good life lies a love of wisdom, humbly following where God leads us.

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Thursday of Week 5

1st Reading: 1 Kings 11:4-13

Solomon's sins are traced to the influence of his pagan wives; as punishment his kingdom will be divided.

When Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David. For Solomon followed Astarte the goddess of the Sidonians, and Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not completely follow the Lord, as his father David had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who offered incense and sacrificed to their gods.

Then the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this matter, that he should not follow other gods; but he did not observe what the Lord commanded. Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, "Since this has been your mind and you have not kept my covenant and my laws that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and give it to your servant. Yet for the sake of your father David I will not do it in your lifetime; I will tear it from the hand of your son. I will not, however, tear away the entire kingdom; I will give your son one tribe, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen."

Responsorial: Psalm 106

R./: O Lord, remember us, for the love you have for your people.

They are happy who do what is right,
 who at all times do what is just.
 O Lord, remember me
 out of the love you have for your people. (R./)

But instead they mingled with the nations
 and learned to act like them.
They worshipped the idols of the nations
 and these became a snare to entrap them. (R./)

They even offered their own sons
 and their daughters in sacrifice to demons,
 till his anger blazed against his people:
 he was filled with horror at his chosen ones. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 7:24-30

By her persevering faith, a Syro-Phoenician woman induces Jesus to cure her daughter

Jesus he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house but wanted nobody to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, for a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, "Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs." But she answered him, "Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." The he said to her, "For saying that, you may go - the demon has left your daughter." So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

BIBLE

Understanding between the Sexes

Women are centre stage in today's readings. The pagan women married by Solomon led him into apostasy. By contrast, a pagan woman surprises Jesus with her faith and humble perseverance. These texts invite a reflection about the incluence between the sexes, in family as well as in the wider circle of friendship. Our identity as men or women helps us fulfil each other in various ways, and challenge each other to fulfil our potential. In the first chapter of Genesis the first woman and man complement one another because both are made in the image of God.

Many of the women praised in the Scriptures can inspire both men and women, just as holy men are an example for all. All the talents that are scattered and fragmented find their union in Jesus, for as Paul says: "among you it is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, for all are one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:28-29). Bonding with Jesus in a radical remedy for any discord based from gender.

In his response to the Syro-Phoenician woman Jesus at first pays no attention to her request. It's hard to explain his harsh reply to this pagan, except that he was avoiding the mistake of Solomon, who was led astray by foreign women. His first, gruff response is changed by the woman's perseverance and love for her child. What he said about not throwing the children's food to the dogs is countered by her mild reply: "but even the dogs under the table eat the family's leavings." This apt, humble answer overcomes all objections, so Jesus heals the woman's daughter - a splendid example of faith and perseverance rewarded.

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Friday of Week 5

1st Reading: 1 Kings 11:29-32; 12:19

The prophet Ahijah announces the breakup of David's kingdom

When Jeroboam was leaving Jerusalem, the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him on the road. Ahijah had clothed himself with a new garment. The two of them were alone in the open country when Ahijah laid hold of the new garment he was wearing and tore it into twelve pieces. He then said to Jeroboam: Take for yourself ten pieces; for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, "See, I am about to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon, and will give you ten tribes. One tribe will remain his, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city that I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel." So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.

Responsorial: Psalm 81

R./: I am the Lord your God; listen to my voice.

Let there be no foreign god among you,
 no worship of an alien god.
 I am the Lord your God,
 who brought you from the land of Egypt. (R./)
 
But my people did not heed my voice
 and Israel would not obey,
 so I left them in their stubbornness of heart (R./)
 to follow their own designs.
 
 O that my people would heed me,
 that Israel would walk in my ways!
 At once I would subdue their foes,
 turn my hand against their enemies. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 7:31-37

Jesus cures a man who was deaf and dumb, and the people are amazed as his power

Jesus returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, "Ephphatha," that is, "Be opened." And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, "He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak."

BIBLE

Paradise Lost and Found

If the Book of Kings tells of the land of Israel being rent apart, the healing power of Jesus shows how harmong may be restored. The healing of the deaf and dumb man is very physical, tangible. Jesus put his fingers in the man's ears and touched his tongue with saliva, and looked up to heaven with a groan.

In a sense, this poor man was being restored to all that he could be. That Mark intends this scene to indicate the start of the final age, of paradise restored, is hinted later in the text. The phrase, "he makes the deaf hear and the mute speak" is from Isaiah, who adds that "those whom the Lord has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy." The healings of Jesus give a foretaste of universal salvation, as already hinted in thes story of the Syro-Phoenician woman. Full of spontaneous joy, the cured man forgets the non-disclosure ban, and tells everyone what Jesus has done for him.

Before that we heard the tragic story of how the kingdom of David was torn apart, and ten of the twelve tribes transferred allegiance to Jeroboam rather than to David's grandson. The northern tribes rebelled against the excesses of Solomon and his son Roboam, but they would be instrumental in preserving important Mosaic traditions and for the development of prophecy. From the north would emerge the first two of the classical, writing prophets, Amos and Hosea, and the paradise references in Isaiah 35 are from a northern influence.

Even an unwelcome rupture can hide a future blessing. Those who at first seem outsiders can bring a rich insight into the ways of God which we would otherwise overlook.

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Saturday of Week 5

1st Reading: 1 Kings 12:26-32; 13:33-34

Jeroboam, the rebel king of the north, provides his own sanctuaries and priests

Jeroboam said to himself, "Now the kingdom may well revert to the house of David. If this people continues to go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, the heart of this people will turn again to their master, King Rehoboam of Judah; they will kill me and return to King Rehoboam of Judah." So the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold. He said to the people, "You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt." He set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. And this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one at Bethel and before the other as far as Dan. He also made houses on high places, and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not Levites.

Jeroboam appointed a festival on the fifteenth day of the eighth month like the festival that was in Judah, and he offered sacrifices on the altar; so he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he had made. And he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places that he had made.

Even after this event Jeroboam did not turn from his evil way, but made priests for the high places again from among all the people; any who wanted to be priests he consecrated for the high places. This matter became sin to the house of Jeroboam, so as to cut it off and to destroy it from the face of the earth.

Responsorial: Psalm 106

R./: Remember us, O Lord, for the love you have for your people

Our sin is the sin of our fathers;
 we have done wrong, our deeds have been evil.
 Our fathers when they were in Egypt
 paid no heed to your wonderful deeds. (R./)

They fashioned a calf at Horeb
 and worshipped an image of metal,
 exchanging the God who was their glory
 for the image of a bull that eats grass. (R./)

They forgot the God who was their saviour,
 who had done such great things in Egypt,
 such portents in the land of Ham,
 such marvels at the Red Sea. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 8:1-10

Jesus, out of compassion for hungry people, multiplies bread and fish

When there was again a great crowd without anything to eat, Jesus called his disciples and said to them, "I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way - and some of them have come from a great distance." His disciples replied, "How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?" He asked them, "How many loaves do you have?" They said, "Seven."

Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd. They had also a few small fish; and after blessing them, he ordered that these too should be distributed. They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. Now there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.

BIBLE

Negative and positive ambition

Ambition can present itself in either secular or in the religious form. In today's story from the Book of Kings, Jeroboam sins against God came through misuse of the instruments of religion, priesthood, sanctuaries and feastdays, to control the riches of the northern kingdom and to prevent any danger of ending the partition of his people. He contrived to keep the people of north and south at each other's throat, although they both believed in God's guidance through Moses.

The potential for friction is not just "out there" but within ourselves too, in how we respond to God and are willing (or not) to share with others as God wants us too, setting all ambition aside. Notice how quickly and simply this miracle ends. After the magnificent feat of feeding "about four thousand" from seven loaves and a few fishes, Jesus does not wait about to bask in the applause. He got into the boat with his disciples to went off to the neighbourhood of Dalmanutha. Moved by compassion, not seeking fame, Jesus did not perform miracles for show. Simply seeing others restored to life and strength was his constant motive. Promoting life was nourishment to him.



Readings for the 6th Week, Ordinary Time (Cycle 2)

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Monday of Week 6

1st Reading: James 1:1-11

The testing of your faith produces endurance

My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.

If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.

Let the believer who is lowly boast in being raised up, and the rich in being brought low, because the rich will disappear like a flower in the field. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the field; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. It is the same way with the rich; in the midst of a busy life, they will wither away.

Responsorial: Psalm 119

R./: Let your love come to me, and I shall live

Before I was afflicted I went astray
 but now I keep your word.
You are good and your deeds are good;
 teach me your statutes. (R./)

It was good for me to be afflicted,
 to learn your statutes.
The law from your mouth
 means more to me than silver and gold. (R./)

Lord, I know that your decrees are right,
 that you afflicted me justly.
Let your love be ready to console me
 by your promise to your servant. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 8:11-13

Jesus refuses to give signs to his critics

The Pharisees began to argue with Jesus, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, "Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation." And he left them, and getting into the boat again, he went across to the other side.

BIBLE

Faith and trust

If faith is central to biblical religion, we need to keep our faith authentic. Today's gospel says that authantic faith is not primarily based on miracles. When some critics want to test Jesus and ask him for some heavenly sign, he sighs and regrets the weakness of their faith.

St James, whose Epistle we began to read today, points out that true faith it put to the text. It is authentic, if it helps us through every sort of trial. Faith that is tested makes for endurance and it keeps a person steadfastly holding on to God. It is not an arrogant self-confidence but a trust based on God's fidelity. Such a level of faith helps us through dark times, with hope for new life.


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Tuesday of Week 6

1st Reading: James 1:12-18

God tempts no one, but is the giver of every good gift

Blessed is the one who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. No one, when tempted, should say, "I am being tempted by God;" for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. But one is tempted by one's own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death.

Do not be deceived, my beloved. Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

Responsorial: Psalm 94

R./: Happy are they whom you teach, O Lord

Happy are those whom you teach, O Lord,
 whom you train by means of your law:
 to them you give peace in evil days. (R./)

The Lord will not abandon his people
 nor forsake those who are his own;
 for judgement shall again be just
 and all true hearts shall uphold it. (R./)

When I think: I have lost my foothold,
 your mercy, Lord, holds me up.
When cares increase in my heart
 your consolation calms my soul. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 8:14-21

Jesus is amazed at the blindness of his disciples

The disciples had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And Jesus cautioned them, "Watch out; beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod." They said to one another, "It is because we have no bread."

Becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, "Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?" They said to him, "Twelve." "And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?" And they said to him, "Seven." Then he said to them, "Do you not yet understand?"

BIBLE

A Word Deeply Rooted

James muses about the power to endure temptation and looks to a bright future when we will be like the first fruits of God's new creation. In Mark, the disciples are worried that they have too little bread, as they embark on a hard pull across the Sea of Galilee.

Jesus' response to their anxiety turns into a volley of questions: "Do you still not see or comprehend? Are your minds completely blinded? Have you eyes but no sight, ears but no hearing? Do you not remember how I broke the five loaves...?" The gospel ends on the question: "Do you still not understand?"

Like Jesus, James urges us to attend to the spiritual side of life. How else can one persevere till the end unless by having a deeply rooted hope. This casts light on James' final phrase, that God wants to make us " a kind of first-fruit of his creatures." The Word within our heart, produces good fruit in our lives. If at times, we are full of doubts and questions, he wants us to keep wondering, seeking, and most of all just being in God's presence.


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Wednesday of Week 6

1st Reading: James 1:19-27

Be doers of the word, not merely listeners

You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God's righteousness. Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has power to save your souls.

But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act - they will be blessed in their doing.

If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Responsorial: Psalm 14:2-5

R./: The just shall live on your holy mountain, O Lord

Lord, who shall dwell on your holy mountain?
He who walks without fault;
 he who acts with justice and speaks the truth from his heart;
 he who does not slander with his tongue. (R./)

He who does no wrong to his brother,
 who casts no slur on his neighbour,
 who holds the godless in disdain.
 but honours those who fear the Lord. (R./)

He who keep his pledge, come what may;
 who takes no interest on a loan
 and accepts no bribes against the innocent.
Such a man will stand firm for ever. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 8:22-26

Jesus cures the blind man with spittle and the touch of his hands

They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, "Can you see anything?" And the man looked up and said, "I can see people, but they look like trees, walking." Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Then he sent him away to his home, saying, "Do not even go into the village."

BIBLE


Doers of the Word

The cure of the blind man suggests the gradual process by which we come to the light, that is, a proper understanding of our mission in life. Saint James offers a list of moral ideals, and we soon realise how much time is needed to comply all of them. Today's miracle story is told only by Mark. The fact that it was not adapted by Matthew and Luke, even though they rely so heavily on Mark for other stories, is probably because it's the only miracle that takes place in stages. At first, by touching the man's eyes with saliva, Jesus has only half cured the man's blindness, and only after a full laying on of hands was the man fully healed. There's probaly a lesson there for every kind of therapy. We are healed by stages. One senses the great compassion of Jesus in this story. The blind man could not see the sorrow in Jesus' eyes at the sight of this disability, but could feel the clasp of his hand and touch of his fingers. How fully Jesus adapts himself to the human condition of need.

The story also suggests the stages of our own growth to spiritual maturity. We may need his healing spittle on our eyelids, to give us a more compassionate view of life. He can then gently lay hands on us until we get full insight and see everything in a new light. We could find more ways for helping others, finding the time and the resources to serve where we are needed.

In light of this, the advice of St James can make more sense, to: "Strip away all that is filthy, and humbly welcome the word that has taken root in you, with power to save you." He stresses the need for action, for living the faith in daily life. He warns against a purely notional faith, when he says, "Act on this word. If all you do is listen to it, you are deceiving yourselves."

We cannot walk the path alone but must be like the blind man whom Jesus took by the hand. This hand we clasp is leading us to salvation, just as Jesus led the blind man into a new way of seeing the world.


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Thursday of Week 6

1st Reading: James 2:1-9

Show no favouritism, but love your neighbour as yourself

My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favouritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, "Have a seat here, please," while to the one who is poor you say, "Stand there," or, "Sit at my feet," have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?

Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonoured the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?

You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, "You shall love your neighbour as yourself." But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

Responsorial: Psalm 33:2-7

R./: The Lord hears the cry of the poor

I will bless the Lord at all times,
 his praise always on my lips;
 in the Lord my soul shall make its boast.
The humble shall hear and be glad. (R./)

Glorify the Lord with me.
Together let us praise his name.
 I sought the Lord and he answered me;
 from all my terrors he set me free. (R./)

Look towards him and be radiant;
 let your faces not be abashed.
This poor man called; the Lord heard him
 and rescued him from all his distress. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 8:27-33

Peter confesses Jesus as the Messiah; then he is reprimanded

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" And they answered him, John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets." He asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered him, "You are the Messiah." And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."

BIBLE


Everyone's the same in the good Lord's sight

No one can look at a cross without remembering the sacrificial death of Jesus. Yet the cross is prominent in our churches and is worn as the sign of our victory over sin and despair, as the pledge of our future life with God.

St James helps us examine if we have learned the universal meaning of the cross. Our faith must not allow any favouritism. We don't estimate people's worth by their wealth, power, prestige or social rank. Those are the corrupt standards of the world. Under the blessing of the cross each one is valued as a human being created by God in the divine likeness.

James is against all servile deference and class distinction. He will not have us bow to rich, fashionably dressed people, while despising those in shabby clothes, for in God's eyes we are all poor and naked, beautiful and equal. Like Jesus, James is a great egalitarian, urging us to treat others with goodness and respect, regardless of rank.

Within his critique of favouritism, James cites the maxim: "You shall love your neighbour as yourself," which was named by Jesus as the second commandment and repeated by Paul in Romans (13:9). Such ideals are hard to put into practice, just as is the call to carry the cross with Jesus. Little wonder that Peter argued with Jesus about the need for the cross, until he was sternly told, "Out of my sight, you satan!" Jesus' words on that occasion resonate with what James said today, "You are not judging by God's standards but by human standards."

With so much dissension and racism in our world, it's clear that not all are yet willing to believe that "Everyone's the same in the good Lord's sight." But as followers of Jesus, we are called not only to believe that maxim, but to act upon it.


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Friday of Week 6

1st Reading: James 2:14-24, 26

Faith without works is like a body without breath

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill," and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe - and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren? Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness," and he was called the friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.

Responsorial: Psalm 111:1-6

R./: Happy are those who do what the Lord commands

Happy the man who fears the Lord,
 who takes delight in his commands.
His sons will be powerful on earth;
 the children of the upright are blessed. (R./)

Riches and wealth are in his house;
 his justice stands firm for ever.
He is a light in the darkness for the upright:
 he is generous, merciful and just. (R./)

The good man takes pity and lends,
 he conducts his affairs with honour.
The just man will never waver:
 he will be remembered for ever. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 8:34-9:1

One must lose one's life in order to save it

Jesus called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."

And he said to them, "Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power."

BIBLE


Show me your faith apart from your works

The gospel contrasts two forms of motivation that often struggle for the upper hand: taking up one's cross or acting for personal aggrandizement. The action which threatens to destroy us is the one which gives permanence of our life; the action which seems to affirm and build us up turns on us and destroys us. "Whoever would save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for my sake and the gospel's will save it."

In talking about the value of good works for salvation, James cites two examples from the many available in the Hebrew Scriptures. First, he pictures Abraham, who was willing to kill his darling son Isaac, under the illusion that he was obliged to worship in the Canaanite fashion. Second (in the few verses omitted today), he lists the harlot Rahab, who though misguided in her lifestyle, welcomes the invading Israelites as the wave of the future.

God sees a brighter future and a truer holiness in people whose hearts are sincere and honest than in others who put on a splendid display, while failing to really do what is needed. The rich man (or politician?) can always express sympathy for his needy neighbours, while doing nothing to meet their actual needs. "What good is that?" James trenchantly asks.

If we set aside all pious camouflage, and reach out with help to the neighbour in need, we have taken up our cross. To stand by someone in need is to follow the way of Jesus the friend of sinners and outsiders. It's what he means by losing one's life; and in so doing we will get a glimpse of the true "kingdom of God."

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Saturday of Week 6

1st Reading: James 3:1-10

Guard the tongue and speak with decency

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle. If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits.

How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue - a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.

Responsorial: Psalm 11:2-5, 7-8

R./: You will protect us, Lord

Help, O Lord, for good men have vanished:
 truth has gone from the sons of men.
Falsehood they speak one to another,
 with lying lips, with a false heart. (R./)

May the Lord destroy all lying lips,
 the tongue speaking high-sounding words,
 those who say: 'Our tongue is our strength;
 our lips are our own, who is our master?' (R./)

The words of the Lord are words without alloy,
 silver from the furnace, seven times refined.
It is you, O Lord, who will take us in your care
 and protect us for ever from this generation. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 9:2-13

Jesus' transfiguration, between Moses and Elijah

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, "This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!" Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean. Then they asked him, "Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" He said to them, "Elijah is indeed coming first to restore all things. How then is it written about the Son of Man, that he is to go through many sufferings and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written about him."

BIBLE

Mysticism and practicality

Even visions or ecstacies do not remove the need for faith. After seeing Jesus' transfiguration, Peter, James and John, who were with him on the shining mountain, still had to wrestle with the daily challenges of life.

The transfiguration of Jesus, like his baptism and towards the end his prayer in Gethsemane, offered brief glimpses of the mystery of Jesus, his unique closeness to his Heavenly Father. We too may have some priveleged moments when we see more clearly how near God is to us on our journey. As people of faith, we can share his sense of being loved, unconditionally, "You are my beloved Son."

James offers a more down-to-earth spirituality by warning us to speak respectfully about others, not spreading gossip or half-truths. If we aspire to teach others, we will need patience and humility. Perhaps our instruction ought to give insights to ourselves too, showing the splendour God invests in our human lives - and even in our death.

Jesus felt the nearness of God the Father's presence along the whole of his life as he journeyed towards death. Death will be the supreme moment of God's presence to us as it was to Jesus. Only after passing with Jesus through death into new life, will we fully understand how blessed we've been every step of the way.


A foretaste of glory

At his transfiguration the disciples saw Jesus as they had never seen him before. It was a foretaste of the experience they would have of the risen Lord. It was an experience that was full of light and joy, so much so that Peter exclaimed, 'Rabbi, it is wonderful for us to be here.' Maybe each of us had had moments when we felt something similar, when we had a very strong sense of the Lord's nearness, and his care for us.

In Mark's account the disciples transfiguration experience came just after they had set out on the dangerous road to Jerusalem, the way to the cross. Jesus had call himself as the Son of Man who must suffer and die, words which they found so distressing. As they travelled this difficult road, they got this wonderful grace of seeing Jesus transfigured. In our own lives too when we are struggling, some needed grace is often given. When we seem weakest, he provides new strength. When darkness envelopes us, we need to look for the light of his presence.



Readings for the 7th Week, Ordinary Time (Cycle 2)

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Monday of Week 7

1st Reading: James 3:13-18

A wise spirit is not imbued by envy but by leniency and peace

Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

Responsorial: Psalm 19

R./: The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart

The law of the Lord is perfect,
  refreshing the soul;
The decree of the Lord is trustworthy,
  giving wisdom to the simple. (R./)

The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart. (R./)

The precepts of the Lord are right,
  rejoicing the heart;
The command of the Lord is clear,
  enlightening the eye. (R./)

The fear of the Lord is pure,
  enduring forever;
The ordinances of the Lord are true,
  all of them just. (R./)

Let the words of my mouth and the thought of my heart
  find favour before you,
  O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 9:14-29

The evil power convulsing the boy is driven out by Jesus' faith and prayer

When Jesus, with Peter, James and John, came down to the other disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. When the whole crowd saw him, they were immediately overcome with awe, and they ran forward to greet him. He asked them, "What are you arguing about with them?" Someone from the crowd answered him, "Teacher, I brought you my son; he has a spirit that makes him unable to speak; and whenever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they could not do so." He answered them, "You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me." And they brought the boy to him. When the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth.

Jesus asked the father, "How long has this been happening to him?" And he said, "From childhood. It has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; butif you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us." Jesus said to him, "If you are able! - All things can be done for the one who believes." Immediately the father of the child cried out, "I believe; help my unbelief!" When Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, "You spirit that keeps this boy from speaking and hearing, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again!" After crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, "He is dead." But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he was able to stand. When he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, "Why could we not cast it out?" He said to them, "This kind can come out only through prayer."

BIBLE

Prayer for healing

After their vision on the mountain-top, today's episode brings the chosen apostles back down to earth, to a world of illness and distress. A distraught father describes all the heartache he has gone through, seeking a cure for his troubled son. After healing the boy Jesus adds the statement, "This illness can be driven out only by prayer." Much later, in the garden of Gethsemane, he gives a similar teaching about prayer, "pray that you may not be put to the test" (Mk 14:38).

Saint James offers another reflection about spiritual health and welfare, that it comes along with wisdom. For him, the wisdom that brings integrity comes from above... is is innocent, peaceable, lenient, docile, rich in sympathy and the kindly deeds that are its fruits, impartial and sincere. Such a spirituality "reaps the harvest of justice that has been sown in peace."

When we review our own needs for healing and health, we can join with the prayer of the sick child's father, "I do believe. Help my unbelief." What we aspire to reach is already within our grasp. Through the grace of God we find who we are, as children of God.


Help our little faith

How readily we can identify with the man's anguished cry, 'I do have faith. Help the little faith I have.' The very fact of his coming to Jesus was itself a sign of faith, but he felt his faith was weak. There was nagging doubt mixed with his trust. That's just how many of us feel from time to time. Our faith is dented when some great trouble comes our way. It's hard to reconcile our faith with what's happening to us. Faith can be severely tested when we struggle with the darker side of life.

Jesus' own faith was tested by the prospect of his passion and as he hung dying on the cross. The gospel writers report his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane and his prayers from the cross. When our faith is put to the test, we need to pray all the more, to cope with the struggle and come through it. Even when all seems lost, we need to keep reaching out, like the man in today's gospel.


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Tuesday of Week 7

1st Reading: James 4:1-10

Recommendation to sincerity, shunning worldliness and selfishness

Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures. Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that the scripture says, "God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us"? But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Responsorial: Psalm 55

R./: Throw your cares on the Lord, and he will support you

And I say, Had I but wings like a dove,
  I would fly away and be at rest.
Far away I would flee;
  I would lodge in the wilderness. (R./)

I would wait for him who saves me
  from the violent storm and the tempest.
 Engulf them, O Lord; divide their counsels.
 In the city I see violence and strife,
  day and night they prowl about upon its walls. (R./)

Cast your care upon the Lord,
  and he will support you;
  never will he permit the just person to be disturbed. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 9:30-37

To welcome a child for Jesus' sake is welcoming Jesus himself

They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, "The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again." But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the way?" But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, "Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all." Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, "Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me."

BIBLE

Welcoming the Child

The call to welcome a child as one would welcome Jesus himself is to be taken seriously. It says that we can find him in surprising ways and among the simplest people. Just as children easily find other children and quickly begin enjoy them as playmates, so we should respect those who are least self-important. Childhood in this sense is not a matter of age only. A person who is lonely may also be waiting for the healing touch of kindness. To welcome Jesus as a child is to open one's arms to those who need us.

In the text from James we have moved on from the child's world. He talks about "conflicts and disputes," murder and envy. He holds that the high road to salvation is this : "God resists the proud but shows favour to the lowly." This is a quote from Proverbs, 3:34 (Greek version). James draws from Jewish wisdom circulating in his time, to fill out the message of Jesus.


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Wednesday of Week 7

1st Reading: James 4:13-17

We do not know what kind of life will be ours tomorrow

Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money." Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin.

Responsorial: Psalm 49

R./: Happy are the poor in spirit; the Kingdom of heaven is theirs

Hear this, all you peoples;
  hearken, all who dwell in the world,
 Of lowly birth or high degree,
  rich and poor alike. (R./)

Why should I fear in evil days
  when my wicked ensnarers ring me round?
They trust in their wealth;
  the abundance of their riches is their boast. (R./)

Yet in no way can a man redeem himself,
  or pay his own ransom to God;
Too high is the price to redeem one's life;
  he would never have enough
  to remain alive always and not see destruction. (R./)

For he can see that wise men die,
  and likewise the senseless and the stupid pass away,
  leaving to others their wealth. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 9:38-40

Jesus allows others to cast out devils in his name

John said to Jesus, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us." But Jesus said, "Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us."

BIBLE

Dearly bought wisdom

Wisdom is a quality that is dearly won, and is something to work on all our lives. We sometimes need to meet with setbacks to learn wisdom.

Jesus reprimanded his disciples for their envy and fear. Feeling slighted by some villager who went about using the name of Jesus to bless sick people, they complained indignantly, "We tried to stop him, because he is not of our company!" But his reply came from compassionate insight and solid, common sense . "No one can perform a miracle in my name and at the same time speak ill of me. Anyone who is not against us is with us."

The attitude, totally free of envy and fear, totally relaxed and unselfish, is not easily learned, but is the fruit of wise reflection. It shows a person at peace, secure in their own identity and therefore secure in letting others be themselves.

A link to this gospel from St James is his warning against arrogance, pretention and selfish hoarding of resources. Such a life focus can easily dissolve, for , "You have no idea what kind of life will be yours tomorrow." Truly wise persons don't depend to much on what they own, or rigidly defend their status. If we keep on seeking wisdom, we become relaxed, generous and trustful, and walk life's path with Jesus.


Learning a new vision

Mark often shows a clash of views between Jesus and his friends. Some of the disciples had a them-and-us view of other people. Only those of the inner circle could be trusted to do the Lord's work. Jesus had a more nuanced view than this. He could see that even people who had not formally joined him could be doing God's life-giving work. Indeed, he makes the generous statement, 'Anyone who is not against us is for us.' That's a most hopeful guideline for us, in the times in which we live.

Many of our friends and neighbours do not explicitly share our faith, or at least practise it in the traditional way; yet they are not against the Gospel either. We should work to build bridges with whoever in any way shows a desire to enhance the life of others, who bring some relief where it is needed. We can be partners in mission with those who are not even professed Christians. In these times we need the outlook of Jesus himself rather than the narrower vision of his disciples.


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Thursday of Week 7

1st Reading: James 5:1-6

Those who get rich by injustice will suffer at the judgment

Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you. Your riches have rotted, and your clothes are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you, and it will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. Listen! The wages of the labourers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who does not resist you.

Responsorial: Psalm 49

R./: Happy are the poor in spirit; the Kingdom of heaven is theirs

This is the way of those whose trust is folly,
  the end of those contented with their lot:
 Like sheep they are herded into the nether world;
  death is their shepherd and the upright rule over them. (R./)

Quickly their form is consumed;
  the nether world is their palace.
But God will redeem me
  from the power of the nether world by receiving me. (R./)

Fear not when a man grows rich,
  when the wealth of his house becomes great,
For when he dies, he shall take none of it;
  his wealth shall not follow him down. (R./)

Though in his lifetime he counted himself blessed,
  They will praise you for doing well for yourself,
He shall join the circle of his forebears
  who shall never more see light. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 9:41-50

A drink of water given to a follower of Christ will be rewarded

Jesus said to his disciples, "Truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward."

"If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell.

And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

"For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."

BIBLE

Sharing and the hereafter

Our Gospel today began with a lovely promise about how acts of kindess will be well rewarded... but then it descends into rather grim warnings against scandal. Its lurid statements can't be taken literally, for in no way does Jesus want us to disfigure ourselves, cut off a hand or gouge out an eye. He wants to emphasise the primacy of the eternal over the temporal, of heavenly over earthly life. It's like a re-statement of his principle that "Whoever would save their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake and the gospels' will save it" (Mk 8:35).

Perhaps he means something like this: If we use our hands, feet, eyes and our other faculties exclusively to serve ourselve and never for serving others, there is no reward for us in the end. But if we give ourselves generously now, our eternal future is assured. Life is for sharing what is ours and forming bonds with others. In such a lifestyle, even small acts of helpfulness have special meaning: "Anyone who gives you a drink of water because you belong to Christ will not go unrewarded."

The Epistle of James puts this differently, but even more sharply. An acquisitive, profit-centred life, uncaring of other people's needs, will turn against us: "Your wealth will rot, your fine wardrobe will grow moth-eaten, your gold and silver will corrode. All these will devour your flesh like a fire." James is robust and outspoken on social justice, convinced that God does not forget the helpless of whom others take advantage, and that the cries of the defenseless "reach the ears of the Lord."


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Friday of Week 7

1st Reading: James 5:9-12

Take the prophets as your models in speaking the truth

Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is sanding at the doors! As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Indeed we call blessed those who showed endurance. You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

Above all, my beloved, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your "Yes" be yes and your "No" be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

Responsorial: Psalm 103

R./: The Lord is kind and merciful

Bless the Lord, O my soul;
  and all my being, bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
  and forget not all his benefits. (R./)

He pardons all your iniquities,
  he heals all your ills.
He redeems your life from destruction,
  he crowns you with kindness and compassion. (R./)

Merciful and gracious is the Lord,
  slow to anger and abounding in kindness.
He will not always chide,
  nor does he keep his wrath forever. (R./)

For as the heavens are high above the earth,
  so surpassing is his kindness toward those who fear him.
 As far as the east is from the west,
  so far has he put our transgressions from us. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 10:1-12

Jesus' rejection of divorce and remarriage

Jesus left that place and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan. And crowds again gathered around him; and, as was his custom, he again taught them.

Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" He answered them, "What did Moses command you?" They said, "Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her." But Jesus said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female.' 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate."

Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. He said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."

BIBLE

Marriage and perseverance

Our dearest friend, the "treasure... beyond price," may eventually become one's spouse, since moving through friendship to marriage features in most people's life-plan. Hopefully the marriage will be happy, but all long-term relationships are sure to be tested, and when misunderstandings come our way, St. James advises us not to grumble at each other. Rather, we need to let biblical examples inspire us to bear hardships and practice patience. Patience and steadfastness are what enable friendship and marriage to survive the cloudy days and reach the sunshine on the other side.

Much can be lost by simply giving up, and abandoning a love that we have solemnly pledged. The Bible calls such a broken pledge by the blunt word, "adultery." Jesus taught that faithful union is what God intended, when he made them male and female. "For this reason a person shall leave father and mother and the two shall become as one... let no human agency separate what God has joined." Just as Sirach instructs us not to commit lightly or quickly to a friendship, so our Lord says not to disrupt what God has joined.


Lifelong commitment

As a statistical face, many marriages break down, as we know. Most of us will have some friends or even family members whose marriages have split up. Yet, we need to hold on to the ideal of marriage as still possible. Jesus saw marriage as a special love between a man and a woman, similar to God's bond with his people. The early church compared marriage to Christ's loving relationship with his church. The love of husband and wife is a vision to hold on to, even in our throwaway, start-again culture. It is a deep value, worthy of what is best and deepest in people.


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Saturday of Week 7

1st Reading: James 5:13-20

Anointing with oil and confession of sins, for a cure

Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest.

My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner's soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Responsorial: Psalm 141

R./: Let my prayer come like incense before you

O Lord, to you I call; hasten to me;
  hearken to my voice when I call upon you.
Let my prayer come like incense before you;
  the lifting up of my hands, like the evening sacrifice. (R./)

O Lord, set a watch before my mouth,
  a guard at the door of my lips.
For toward you, O God, my Lord, my eyes are turned;
  in you I take refuge; strip me not of life. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 10:13-16

Jesus embraces and blesses the children

People were bringing little children to Jesus so that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, "Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it." And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

BIBLE

Young and Old in the Community

We saw Jesus showing his love for children, while James shows our need of the advice, prayers and blessing of the elders; and then Jesus teaches how children can model for all of us the real spirit of the Kingdom of God.

James has advice for caring for the elderly and the ill members of the church. He urges the elders vist the sick person and console them by prayer and anointing with oil in the name of the Lord. The hope is for a gift of healing that is complete and integral, physical and spiritual. He also recommends, "Declare your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may find healing." This applies of course to the wider community, that we be concerned for each other's spiritual well-being.

And if someone should "wander from the truth" (in some vital and scandalous way), the others should show loving concern, since, "the person who brings a sinner back from the evil way will save their own soul from death and cancel a multitude of sins." Motivating this action is fraternal concern. At another place in Scripture we read, "Let your love for one another be constant, for love covers a multitude of sins" (1 Pet 4:8).

Mark today draws a lesson about children. Here Jesus states a basic principle: It is to people who trust like children that the kingdom of God belongs. The disciples considered Jesus' time too precious to waste on the children. But Jesus saw things differently. He embraced the children and blessed them, placing his hands on them. This touch of blessing unites the readings: Jesus embracing the children; the elders laying hands on the sick and anointing them. We need not fear to bless others, for that is the spirit of the Kingdom.



Readings for the 8th Week, Ordinary Time (Cycle 2)

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Monday of Week 8

1st Reading: 1 Peter 1:3-9

Peter praises the saving mercy of God, on the occasion of a baptism

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith (being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire) may be found to result in praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Responsorial: Psalm 111

R./: The Lord will remember his covenant for ever

I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart
  in the company and assembly of the just.
Great are the works of the Lord,
  exquisite in all their delights. (R./)

He has given food to those who fear him;
  he will forever be mindful of his covenant.
He has made known to his people the power of his works,
  giving them the inheritance of the nations. (R./)

He has sent deliverance to his people;
  he has ratified his covenant forever;
  holy and awesome is his name.
  His praise endures forever. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 10:17-27

Jesus invites the rich young man to give away his money and be a disciple

As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: "You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honour your father and mother.'" He said to him, "Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth." Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." They were greatly astounded and said to one another, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible."

BIBLE

Gaining by Losing

The paradox of voluntarily losing something in order to gain something greater appears both in Peter's epistle and in Mark. It is a hallmark of Markan (and of Petrine) theology, for Mark had served as Peter's disciple and helper in Rome. This paradox has practical applications outside the religious sphere. The gambler stands to lose the wagered amount--but risks it just the same, in hope of the prize to be won, whether on the card-table, the racetrack or the stock-market. The farmer knows what must first be spent on seed and fertilizer, in order to harvest a crop. And doctors urge patients to lose some weight, for a healthier life.

This paradox imbues today's austere message, about no pain, no gain. "It is easier for a camel to pass through a needle's eye than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God," said Jesus. The rich young man was ready for the challenges of discipleship: the learning, the travelling, the companionship--but not for this stark call to renunciation. Another haunting statement of Jesus comes to mind: "Whoever loses his life will save it" (Mark 8:35).

While First Peter is among the most life-affirming documents in the early church, it also includes the self-renouncing principle. It has tha form of a baptismal homily. Peter sees the glory of the Risen Jesus enlivening us, who are reborn by baptism into an imperishable inheritance. It was probably given in Rome at a time when joining the church carried the risk of martyrdom. This risking of their life and freedom being undertaken by the newly-baptised lends special quality to what Peter says about the grace of baptism. Through it we begin a new life, the glorious life of the children of God, a source of joy and strength now, a pledge of what is "to be revealed in the last days."

The young man's question

After we've asked a question, the answer may be hard to deal with. That happened to the rich man who asked Jesus, 'What must I do to inherit eternal life?' When asked to go beyond the conventional morality he had been observing and to sell all he owned and before following Jesus , he couldn't accept that condition, and so walked away sad.

Jesus did not ask everyone to sell everything and to journey with him, but he did ask this of the promising young man. It was this man's particular calling. Like him, we can find ourselves called to do something which seems beyond us. The temptation is to walk away from the call, even though to say 'yes' would be the better choice. We may at first feel unable for the call who knows? For 'everything is possible for God.' When Mary was called by God she hesitated, but then she heard, 'Nothing will be impossible with God.' It is the message to help us rise to the challenges of life.


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Tuesday of Week 8

1st Reading: 1 Peter 1:10-16

The Passion of Christ was revealed, and we must share in it

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours made careful search and inquiry, inquiring about the person or time that the Spirit of Christ within them indicated when it testified in advance to the sufferings destined for Christ and the subsequent glory. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in regard to the things that have now been announced to you through those who brought you good news by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look!

Therefore prepare for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy."

Responsorial: Psalm 98

R./: The Lord has made known his salvation

Sing to the Lord a new song,
  for he has done marvellous deeds;
His right hand has won victory for him,
  his holy arm. (R./)

The Lord has made his salvation known:
  in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness
  toward the house of Israel. (R./)

All the ends of the earth have seen
  the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the Lord, all you lands;
  break into song; sing praise. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 10:28-31

Repaid a hundred times over for anything we have given up for Jesus' sake

Peter began to say to Jesus, "Look, we have left everything and followed you." Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age - houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions - and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first."

BIBLE

Ready for action

The encouraging style of pope Francis echoes the pastoral style of Saint Peter. In a pep-talk to the newly-baptised adults who lived under the reign of mad, megalomaniacal Nero, Peter urged them "discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace of Jesus Christ." His epistle sets the bar very high for all the baptized. It affirms our sense of the universal vocation to holiness and to a personal bond with Christ. Peter's message is more inspirational than many later papal encyclicals, purporting to end discussion on controversial issues of current concern. It would help our Church today to return to those basic principles of Christian living, building on the Risen Christ. Let theologians and all thinking people freely explore how he can shed light on the hot topics of today.

In the Gospel, Jesus promises a rich reward to all who have sacrificed their comfort for his sake. Peter and the others followed the example of the One who identified with the poor, encouraged them and spoke up in their defence. The lifestyle of Gospel messengers will not be opulent but frugal. Like Jesus, they will take risks when reaching out, even -- literally or figuratively -- "touch the leper" and be be branded as unclean. But such compassion bonds us with Jesus who declared that "The last shall be first." The "hundredfold" now in this age will presumably have to be taken in the sense of spiritual joy in doing worthwhile work, rather than as a promise of material wealth in this present life, pace our Calvinist brethren, some of whom still link Christian virtue too closely with material prosperity.


What about us, Lord?

Today's gospel reports Peter's frank question, "What about us? We have left everything and followed you." Peter and the others had given up a great deal to stay with Jesus. They wondered if it was really worth it all. We too have responded to his call, though not so radically as those first disciples, who left their livelihood and family for a very uncertain future. On moments of doubt we may be tempted to ask: "Is it worth the effort, this struggle to live by the gospel day in and day out."

The clear answer is, "yes, it is worth the effort." He promises that when we really give of ourselves for his sake, we will gain far more than we give up. We will enjoy a new experience of family, far beyond the confines of our blood family. We will find ourselves journeying with others who are trying like ourselves to live the Christian way. We will experience the warmth of the church, the community of the Lord's followers. This includes not only those of us still on our pilgrim way, but all who have passed beyond this life, including the saints, that "great cloud of witnesses."


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Wednesday of Week 8

1st Reading: 1 Peter 1:18-25

We are ransomed with the precious blood of Christ

You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God.

Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God. For "All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord endures forever." That word is the good news that was announced to you.

Responsorial: Psalm 147

R./: Praise the Lord, Jerusalem

Glorify the Lord, O Jerusalem;
  praise your God, O Zion.
For he has strengthened the bars of your gates;
  he has blessed your children within you. (R./)

He has granted peace in your borders;
  with the best of wheat he fills you.
He sends forth his command to the earth;
  swiftly runs his word! (R./)

He has proclaimed his word to Jacob,
  his statutes and his ordinances to Israel.
He has not done thus for any other nation;
  his ordinances he has not made known to them. Alleluia. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 10:32-45

There will be no rank and privilege in God's kingdom

They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. They were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, "See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again." ServiceJames and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you." And he said to them, "What is it you want me to do for you?" And they said to him, "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory." But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" They replied, "We are able. Then Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared."

When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, "You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."

BIBLE

Beware of seeking rank and prestige

Although Jesus encountered opposition from the disciples, he did not back down or change tack, but continued on his way to Jerusalem, where, he knew, the Son of Man will be handed over, to be mocked and spat him, flogged and finally killed. Little wonder that his followers were amazed and afraid, despite the fact that he also promised, "after three days he will rise again."

By contrast with this exalted vision of hope and life, of martyrdom and self-giving for others, the action of Zebedee's sons, James and John, seems petty and contemptible. How could they intrigue for privileged places in the kingdom, seeking to outrank their colleagues, when Jesus has announced the giving of his life for everyone? How could they want to lord it over others (as prelates? ) ust as the Gentiles do? He had taught a spirit of loving service, but still they were scheming and dreaming of profit and of gaining the inside track. And yet, we must be grateful to the candid pair, for drawing from Jesus the clearest and most radical statement of his life's purpose, when he declared that "the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."


On different wavelengths

Today St Mark reports one of several clashes between Jesus and his disciples, as they proceeded toward Jerusalem. Jesus and his disciples are clearly on different wavelengths, as is clear from the different kinds of questions they ask each other.

What James and John ask for has to do with glory, honour and status. What Jesus asks them is whether they are ready to share in the rejection and suffering that lies ahead for him. "Can you drink the cup that I must drink, or be baptized with the baptism with which I must be baptized?" This was referring to the cup of suffering and the baptism of fire.

What James and John wanted was self-promotion. What Jesus asks for is self-giving. At the heart of discipleship is the giving of unselfish love, becoming the servant of others. In the end, it involves the way of the cross, as Jesus knew from experience.

James and John, and all of us, are called to join the one who did not come to be served but to serve, whose purpose in life was not self

 

promotion but to empty himself for others. It is only in following this way that we will receive that share in Jesus' glory that was the focus of James and John's request.


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Thursday of Week 8

1st Reading: 1 Peter 2:2-5; 9-12

Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house

Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation -- if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God's sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

For you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, so that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul. Conduct yourselves honourably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honourable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge.

Responsorial: Psalm 99:2-5

R./: Come with joy into the presence of the Lord

Cry out with joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Serve the Lord with gladness.
 Come before him, singing for joy. (R./)

Know that he, the Lord, is God.
He made us, we belong to him,
 we are his people, the sheep of his flock. (R./)

Go within his gates, giving thanks.
 Enter his courts with songs of praise.
Give thanks to him and bless his name. (R./)

Indeed, how good is the Lord,
 eternal his merciful love.
He is faithful from age to age. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 10:46-52

Jesus heals Bartimaeus of blindness because of his faith

They came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" Jesus stood still and said, "Call him here." And they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take heart; get up, he is calling you." So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man said to him, "My teacher, let me see again." Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has made you well." Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

BIBLE

Like living stones

Peter wrote to encourage people who were emotionally drained by recent  events. They were reeling from the loss of the Jerusalem temple, which they thought of as God’s dwelling place on earth, and they were being treated as outsiders by the social world around them. Peter invited them to trust in  Jesus and let him build them into a spiritual temple or household of God, with Christ as the foundation-stone. This was good news for people who felt like aliens in a hostile world and wondered where God was in all of this. The writer wants the readers to choose. They do not need to search for a new homeland or build a new shrine to God’s presence; they can choose to actually be the place of God’s presence as well as home and family for the homeless.

What an inspirational way to describe our shared Christian vocation: “Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” We are urged to see ourselves as “living stones” (lithoi zōntes) aligned with the “living stone” (lithon zōnta), and let ourselves be built into “a spiritual house” (2:5). It is the Petrine equivalent of St. Paul’s famous saying, “you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Cor 12:27)

Peter’s letter encourages us not to be passive or powerless victims, demeaned by other people’s opinions. Rather, it invites us to choose. We do not need to search for home; we are already home where God wants us to be. We can choose to be the place of God’s presence in the world here and now. In this way, we are the living people of God.


Blind but seeking

A lovely stained-glass window that I admire depicts the healing of the man born blind. Below it are the words of Jesus to the man, "What do you want me to do for you?" and his heartfelt prayer, "Lord, let me see again." At first, the blind man was too far from Jesus to really talk with him. When he shouted out, "Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me," the followers of Jesus scolded the man and told him to keep quiet.

By contrast, Jesus scolded those who prevented others from coming to believe in him. He blamed them for preventing children being brought for his blessing. He ignored those who tried to prevent blind Bartimaeus from getting near him. Rather than shutting doors in people's faces, he needs us to open up the kingdom of heaven to others. We are to lead each other to the Lord, reveal the Lord to each other, and, in so doing, to support each other on our journey towards God.

Well-meaning people were blocking this man's way to Jesus. Our vocation is to do the opposite, to help others meet him, and to support them in following the Lord along the road.


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Friday of Week 8

1st Reading: 1 Peter 4:7-13

The end of all things is near; be glad and shout for joy

The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ's sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed.

Responsorial: Psalm 95:10-13

R./: The Lord comes to judge the earth

Proclaim to the nations: 'God is king.'
The world he made firm in its place;
 he will judge the peoples in fairness. (R./)

Let the heavens rejoice and earth be glad.
Let the sea and all within it thunder praise,
 let the land and all it bears rejoice,
 all the trees of the wood shout for joy
 at the presence of the Lord for he comes,
 he comes to rule the earth. (R./)

With justice he will rule the world,
 he will judge the peoples with his truth. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 11:11-26

The barren fig-tree; the driving out of money-changers

Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard it.

Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He was teaching and saying, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer or all the nations'? But you have made it a den of robbers."

And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.

In the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. Then Peter remembered and said to him, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered." Jesus answered them, "Have faith in God. Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, 'Be taken up and thrown into the sea,' and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours."

"Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive you your trespasses."

BIBLE

An End and New Beginning

We have been reading from the Baptismal homily attributed to St. Peter with its splendid portrayal of our Christian vocation. Now he offers a startling motivation for staying close to Christ: the end of history is near, and this gives added seriousness to all our efforts to live a good life. "The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves..." He goes on to highlight the Christian ideal of sharing, as one large family: "Be hospitable to one another... Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received."

Mark's story about the cleansing of the temple puts it in some relation to the cursing of the fig tree and its withering away, since the story of the fig tree envelops the other incident. The sandwiching of one event between two halves of another, is a style often found in Mark.

Jesus was doing more than cleansing the temple, for his words, drawn from the Old Testament, announce a new type of temple: "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all people." In Jerusalem, non-Jews were forbidden under pain of death to advance beyond the outer court of the gentiles, and the Roman authorities ratified this prescription. But Jesus draws from an Old Testament passage (Isaiah, 56) an ideal which had not yet taken root in Israel but which points towards their future. God wants them to live more prayerfully and to allow outsiders a full share in the special Jewish awareness of God's presence.

Peter warns his readers not to be surprised if they have to face a trial by fire, which may refer to the persecution under Nero. If it should come to that, they still have hope. "Rejoice insofar as you share in Christ's sufferings." We can overcome our trials by joining them to the Passion of Christ. No matter what life may send our way, the mercy of Christ is there to help us.


 

The fig-tree and the temple

Mark often links two things together that for him have something in common. Here he links the purification of the Jerusalem temple with the story of Jesus cursing the fig tree. When he found no fruit on the fig tree, that tree had no future. Mark is implying that since the temple was not bearing its proper fruit it was doomed. Instead of being a house of prayer it had become a robber's den. Like the fig tree, it too had no future.

Jesus goes on to speak about prayer. The temple will be replaced by a new "house of prayer", a new kind of faith-community, the worldwide family of those who do the will of God as taught by Jesus, his living church. We are to be a prayerful community, marked by goodwill and forgiveness. A readiness to forgive as we have been forgiven is one of the main fruits God expects to find in a true house of prayer.


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Saturday of Week 8

1st Reading: Epistle of Jude, verses 17; 20-25

Persevere in God's love, and welcome the mercy of Our Lord Jesus Christ

My beloved, you must remember the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. But build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God; look forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on some who are wavering; save others by snatching them out of the fire; and have mercy on still others with fear, hating even the tunic defiled by their bodies.

Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Responsorial: Psalm 63

R./: My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God

O God, you are my God whom I seek;
  for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
  like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water. (R./)

Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary
  to see your power and your glory,
For your kindness is a greater good than life;
  my lips shall glorify you. (R./)

Thus will I bless you while I live;
  lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.
 As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied,
  and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 11:27-33

Jesus will explain his authority if others will state their judgment on John's ministry

Again they came to Jerusalem. As he was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to him and said, "By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?" Jesus said to them, "I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin? Answer me." They argued with one another, "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will say, 'Why then did you not believe him?' But shall we say, 'Of human origin'?" - they were afraid of the crowd, for all regarded John as truly a prophet. So they answered Jesus, "We do not know." And Jesus said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things."

BIBLE

Willing to be honest

God requires honesty in us, in order to properly relate to Him.Dishonesty sets up a more formidable barrier to God's presence with us than many of our more identifiable sins. These can be forgiven by God's great mercy, but only if we are honest enough to admit that we have sins to be forgiven. Jude deals with this kind of honesty, when he writes: "Correct those who are confused; the others you must rescue, snatching them from the fire."

Jesus makes a similar demand, when religious leaders feel that their monopoly of truth and holiness dispenses them from being honest and above board. To protect their status they permit themselves to lie or to be devious. In the early church, some people felt so spiritually sanctified that they could ignore normal discipline in their lives, particularly in acts such as eating or physical expressions of love. They were not honest enough to admit the integral unity between body and soul, physical and spiritual.


By what authority?

Jesus was required to offer some justification for his startling act of clearing the merchants out of the temple. It was a daring and dangerous thing to do, without permission from the temple authorities. He had no official right to regulate things in the temple, so their complaint is perfectly understandable, "What authority have you for acting like this?"

This episode happened towards the end of Jesus' ministry. At the start of his ministry, according to Mark, the general public were impressed by the moral authority with which Jesus spoke and acted. Far from contesting his claim to authority, as the leaders did, they accepted it as genuine. They kept asking one another, "What is this? A new teaching, with authority."

Christians believe that Jesus spoke and acted with the authority of God. For those with eyes to see and ears to hear, it was a true and liberating authority. We all need empowerment of some sort to live with nobility and purpose. The real issue is where to seek that empowerment. Faith assures us that Jesus has the authentic authority of God, enabling us to be fully human and fully alive.



Readings for the 9th Week, Ordinary Time (Cycle 2)

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Monday of Week 9

1st Reading: 2 Peter 1:2-7

God has given us all we need to live well, sharing in divine life

May grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature. For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love.

Responsorial: Psalm 91

R./: In you, my God, I place my trust

You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High,
  who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
Say to the Lord, My refuge and my fortress,
  my God, in whom I trust. (R./)

Because he clings to me, I will deliver him;
  I will set him on high because he acknowledges my name.
He shall call upon me, and I will answer him;
  I will be with him in distress. (R./)

I will deliver him and glorify him;
  with length of days I will gratify him
  and will show him my salvation. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 12:1-12

The wicked tenants kill the vineyard-owner's son, but justice is restored

Jesus began to speak to the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders in parables. "A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the wine press, and built a watchtower; then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce of the vineyard. But they seized him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. And again he sent another slave to them; this one they beat over the head and insulted. Then he sent another, and that one they killed. And so it was with many others; some they beat, and others they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' But those tenants said to one another, 'This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' So they seized him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyrd to others. Have you not read this scrpture: 'The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is amazing in our eyes'?"

When they realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowd. So they left him and went away.

BIBLE

Rejection and acceptance

The parable in today's gospel is a tragic one, about rejection, violence and murder. But like great theatrical tragedies, this can have cathartic effect.

A vineyard owner sent his servants to collect his share of the fruits of the vineyard; all of them were rejected out of hand. He then sent his son who was not only rejected but killed. At the end of the story, the stone rejected by the builders goes on to become the keystone, the most important stone that holds the roof together. The parable is a veiled reference to what had happened to the prophets in the past and what would soon happen to Jesus himself. His mission would lead to him being rejected and put to death, but God would raise him from the dead and make him the keystone of a wholly new situation for mankind.

Rejection is a painful human experience, experienced by many. Jesus invites us to join our times of sadness and rejection to his passion. He is the living sign that the rejected stone can become the keystone. God can work in a life-giving way in and through all any hardships we struggle with in life. What we might judge to be misfortunes can turn out to be moments of grace. He will support us to the end with all we need.


Living in changed times

2 Peter was one of the last books of the New Testament to be composed. The author takes up a question that Simon Peter never had to face: will the hoped-for second coming of Jesus be delayed indefinitely?

After the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70 the surviving Christians were scattered. When, some decades later, Jesus still had not returned as victorious Messiah, some of them felt lost in a quagmire of doubt. The apostle Peter had already been martyred in A.D. 65 or 66. The inspired author of this epistle contrived to set his writing as though it were written by Peter himself, and drew on traditions about the life of Jesus, now seven decades past, in order to link the past to the future, linking God's manifest presence then to God's hidden presence now.

The gospel anticipates this problem of how to cope with the interval. The owner of the vineyard seems to have vanished into thin air, so the tenant farmers are tempted to live recklessly, even killing the owner's son and seize his property. When Jesus first spoke this parable, he referred to the puzzling Psalm-verse that "The stone rejected by the builders became the keystone of the structure." This means that God will always be faithful and will turn his servant into the keystone of the new life. Christians later reinterpreted it to mean God's transfer of favour to the church as it spread into the gentile world after the fall of Jerusalem.


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Tuesday of Week 9

1st Reading: 2 Peter 3:12-15, 17-18

We are waiting for the coming of the day of God

We are waiting for the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home. Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him.

You therefore, beloved, since you are forewarned, beware that you are not carried away with the error of the lawless and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Responsorial: Psalm 123

R./: To you, O Lord, I lift up my eyes

To you I lift up my eyes
  who are enthroned in heaven.
Behold, as the eyes of servants
  are on the hands of their masters. (R./)

As the eyes of a maidservant
  are on the hands of her mistress,
So are our eyes on the Lord, our God,
  till he have pity on us. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 12:13-17

Render to Caesar what is Caesar's

Some Pharisees and Herodians were sent to Jesus to trap him in what he said. And they came and said to him, "Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?" But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, "Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it." And they brought one. Then he said to them, "Whose head is this, and whose title?" They answered, "The emperor's." Jesus said to them, "Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's." And they were utterly amazed at him.

BIBLE

Insincere questioning

The question that the messengers asked Jesus is not sincere; it is merely an effort to trap him into an answer that would lose him the respect of the public, or put him in danger with the law. If he answered, "Yes, pay your taxes to Caesar," he would lose the esteem of the Jewish public, who resented the Romans as invaders of their land. But if he says, "No, refuse to pay taxes to Caesar" he would be liable to arrest and trial by the Romans.

Jesus was asked many questions in the course of his public ministry and if the question came from an honest heart he took it seriously. On this occasion the questioners were clearly out to get him; but he answered their question, insincere though it was. His answer was enigmatic and could mean several things: "Render to Caesar..." People should give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give back to God what belongs to God.

The coin can be given to Caesar because it bears his image, but what should go to God is more fundamental. A little later, Jesus will spell it out: to love with all our heart, soul and mind. God is to be our first and greatest love, our primary commitment. That cannot apply to any human authority, political or otherwise. No Caesar, king or president, no political institution, no authority can ever take the place of God in our lives.


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Wednesday of Week 9

1st Reading: 2 Timothy 1:1-3, 6-12

Rekindle the flame of your vocation, and endure for the Gospel

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I am grateful to God ֠whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did ֠when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.

I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him.

Responsorial: Psalm 123

R./: To you, O Lord, I lift up my eyes

To you I lift up my eyes
  who are enthroned in heaven.
Behold, as the eyes of servants
  are on the hands of their masters. (R./)

As the eyes of a maidservant
  are on the hands of her mistress,
So are our eyes on the Lord, our God,
  till he have pity on us. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 12:18-27

In the resurrection, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage

Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, saying, "Teacher, Moses wrote for us that 'if a man's brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother.' There were seven brothers; the first married and, when he died, left no children; and the second married her and died, leaving no children; and the third likewise; none of the seven left children. Last of all the woman herself died. In the resurrection whose wife will she be? For the seven had married her."

Jesus said to them, "Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong."

BIBLE

Mysteries Ahead

The words of Jesus that "they neither marry nor are given in marriage" are not a prohibition of marriage but a promise that a heavenly future is open to us. In his mind, we have a future as children of God. In the life to come we will be radically different, and so will the entire earth be transformed. Yesterday, our reading promised "new heavens and a new earth" and the Book of Revelation speaks of "no more death or mourning, for the former world has passed away" (Rev 21:4).

Even marriage and family will be transformed, yes, but hardly obliterated. If what we do here and now will affect our life hereafter, marriage and family ties may still be recognisable, since love is at their heart.

Our final judgment will be decided on whether or not we fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, comforted the sick, visited prisoners etc(Mt 25:40). If love for strangers is so rewarded and remembered, then surely the love and self-sacrifice in marriage will have its reward too.


Is there an afterlife?

The Sadducees recognized the authority of only the first five books of the Bible, where they saw nothing to suggest any life beyond this earthly life. They approach Jesus knowing that he sees things differently. The scenario they put to him imagines the afterlife as simply an extension of our present, corporeal life. But Jesus speaks of total newness. "When they rise ... men and women do not marry; no, they are like the angels in heaven."

The afterlife is not just a continuation what we experience here and now; it will be qualitatively different, beyond our present power to understand. St Paul foresees life beyond death in terms of transformation. "We shall all be changed." In that context he states that love endures into eternity. Our love for God and for each other will be perfected in heaven, making us into what God always intended us to be.


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Thursday of Week 9

1st Reading: 2 Timothy 2:8-15

Remenber and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David - that is my gospel, for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, so that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.

The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful - for he cannot deny himself.

Remind them of this, and warn them before God that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.

Responsorial: Psalm 25

R./: Teach me your ways, O Lord

Your ways, O Lord, make known to me;
  teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
  for you are God my saviour. (R./)

Good and upright is the Lord;
  thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice,
  he teaches the humble his way. (R./)

All the paths of the Lord are kindness and constancy
  toward those who keep his covenant and his decrees.
The friendship of the Lord is with those who fear him,
  and his covenant, for their instruction. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 12:28-34

Love of God and love of neighbour excel all ritual sacrifice

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that Jesus answered them well, he asked him, "Which commandment is the first of all?" Jesus answered, "The first is, 'Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

Then the scribe said to him, "You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that 'he is one, and besides him there is no other;' and 'to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,' and 'to love one's neighbour as oneself,'--this is much more important that all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." After that no one dared to ask him any question.

BIBLE

A love that is noble

The gospel links love and commandment, or Torah. Normally we do not think of love as law but as a generous response of one person to another. The highest love is a total gift of self, "with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength." It reaches out to others and loves them as truly as we love ourselves. Such love is worth more than all burnt offering or sacrifice. Without love, things have little meaning, while with it we are "not far from the reign of God."

Writing to Timothy, Paul tells of what he has endured for the faith, even being thrown into chains, and of being willing to die with Christ, that we may live with him. He urges Timothy to value fidelity to Christ above mere doctrinal disputation. The main purpose of living is to do the holy will of God.

We need each other's help, for at one time this one suffers and later it is the other who is in need. We support one another, the able-bodied caring for the weak; for sooner or later the tables are turned and the strong will be the ones needing help. And in our weakness there is still hope, as Paul writes: "If we are unfaithful God still remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself."


A question of priority

A learned Jew comes to Jesus and asks, "Which is the first of all the commandments?" There were a lot of rules and regulations in their religion and he wanted to know which one came first.

The answer went beyond the question. Jesus gave both the first and the second, to love God and to love our neighbour as ourselves. These two principles are inseparable. We cannot love truly God without loving our neighbour, and in loving our neighbour we are, at the same time, loving God.

Still, the two are not on the same level, for one is first and one is second. The love of God is to be the primary love in our lives. We owe our lives to God and so we should "Seek first the kingdom of God." If we really love God, it will overflow into love of others, and our various links with other people will reflect something of God's love for them.


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Friday of Week 9

1st Reading: 2 Timothy 3:10-17

Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and suffering the things that happened to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured! Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

Wicked people and impostors, however, will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

Responsorial: Psalm 118:157, 160-161, 165-166, 168

R./: O Lord, great peace have they who love your law

Though my foes and oppressors are countless
 I have not swerved from your will.
Your word is founded on truth:
 your decrees are eternal. (R./)

Though princes oppress me without cause
 I stand in awe of your word.
The lovers of your law have great peace;
 they never stumble. (R./)

I await your saving help, O Lord,
 I fulfil your commands.
 I obey your precepts and your will;
 all that I do is before you. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 12:35-37

Jesus explains that David was not the Messiah

While Jesus was teaching in the temple, he said, "How can the scribes say that the Messiah is the son of David? David himself, by the Holy Spirit, declared, 'The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet." ' David himself calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?" And the large crowd was listening to him with delight.

BIBLE

Faith nurtured from childhood

Our formation comes first from home and then from our circle of teachers and friends, reinforced by our worship in church. Paul refers to this background when writing to Timothy, "From your infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures." Earlier he praises the sincere faith of Timothy'e grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. A good start in the family prepared Timothy for his later apostolic ministry.

By contrast today's gospel, the predominant sense is of regret. Religion has been turned into a business, and the temple into a place for controversy. How easily this can happen if church people are more concerned with unanswerable questions such as the timing of the end of the world rather than on the basic virtues of love, patience, forgiveness, generosity, and prayer.

 


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Saturday of Week 9

1st Reading: 2 Timothy 4:1-8

Paul's legacy: carry out your ministry fully

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favourable or unfavourable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn awy from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.

As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Responsorial: Psalm 70:8-9, 14-17, 22

R./: I will sing of your salvation

My lips are filled with your praise,
 with your glory all the day long.
 Do not reject me now that I am old;
 when my strength fails do not forsake me. (R./)

But as for me, I will always hope
 and praise you more and more.
 My lips will tell of your justice
 and day by day of your help
 though I can never tell it all. (R./)

I will declare the Lord's mighty deeds
 proclaiming your justice, yours alone.
 O God, you have taught me from my youth
 and I proclaim your wonders still. (R./)

So I will give thanks on the lyre
 for your faithful love, my God.
To you will I sing with the harp
 to you, the Holy One of Israel. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 12:38-44

Not external religion but sincere self-giving

Jesus said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets! They devour widows' houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation."

He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on."

BIBLE

Little Things Mean a Lot

Religion loses its essence if it degenerates into a concern for splendid vestments, guaranteed front seats in synagogues and churches, places of honour at banquets, long prayers.

To correct any such version of religion, Jesus praises the old woman who put two small copper coins, worth about a cent, into the collection box. She contributed more than all the others; for they gave from their surplus while she gave from her poverty. This is another way of arriving at the end of the journey and of finishing the race. The widow gave herself totally to the Lord.


The widow's mite

The phrase widow's mite has made its way into the English language. It often refers to something small which, nonetheless, displays a tremendous generosity of spirit. The widow gave a very small amount of money to the temple treasure, but in giving that very little, she was giving everything she had to live on. Jesus identifies her to his own disciples as an example of generosity of spirit. He often encouraged his disciples to learn from the goodness of ordinary people.

At this time Jesus was in the Jerusalem, soon to meet his end. This woman who gave everything was a figure of the sacrifice he was soon to make on the cross, giving everything away for us. This insignificant widow who had next to nothing to give was, in reality, a living image of generosity. The widow reminds us that there are saints in our midst that we may not notice. Generosity of spirit can be expressed in very ordinary ways. There can be times in our lives when we have very little, but if we are generous with the little we have, we are rich in the eyes of the Lord.



Readings for the 10th Week, Ordinary Time (Cycle 2)

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Monday of Week 10

1st Reading: 1 Kings 17:1-6

In the dry Wadi Cherith, Elijah is fed by divine providence

Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, "As the Lord the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word." The word of the Lord came to him, saying, "Go from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the Wadi Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. You shall drink from the wadi, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there." So he went and did according to the word of the Lord; he went and lived by the Wadi Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the wadi.

Responsorial: Psalm 120:1-8

R./: Our help is from the Lord who made heaven and earth

I lift up my eyes to the mountains:
 from where shall come my help?
 My help shall come from the Lord
 who made heaven and earth. (R./)

May he never allow you to stumble!
Let him sleep not, your guard.
 No, he sleeps not nor slumbers,
 Israel's guard. (R./)

The Lord is your guard and your shade;
 at your right side he stands.
 by day the sun shall not smite you
 nor the moon in the night. (R./)

The Lord will guard you from evil,
 he will guard your soul.
The Lord will guard your going and coming
 both now and for ever. (R./)

Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12

The Beatitudes, our basic principles for living

When he saw the crowds, Jesus went up the mountain; and after he sat down his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. "Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

BIBLE

Principles for living

Poor people are not necessarily holier or more spiritual. Poverty in itself is not an ideal, but sometimes it brings out the best in a disciple. Notably, the first of the beatitudes is spoken to the "poor in spirit"--a kind of humility based upon dependence on God rather than on fame and fortune. It is linked to the patience and compassion which mark people as true disciples of Jesus. Poverty and mildness of spirit can be the school of compassion as well as purity of heart. More people are attracted to the faith by the compassion of its religious leaders than by any other virtue; more are turned away from religion by arrogance and dominance than by all other faults of those in charge of others, whether parents, teachers, priests or ministers.

Today's texts are a call to merciful spirit of servant-leadership and point to the good results to be achieved. Such leadership from our bishops and priests fosters a strong, caring Catholic community, a persevering community and foreshadows the kingdome of God. In such a community, those who have shared the suffering of Christ will richly share in his consolation. When we are poor in spirit, we let God accomplish the beatitudes in us, and then through us for others.


How do we picture God?

Portrait painting is a very specialized skill. I have loved visiting the portrait gallery just off Trafalgar Square in London. It has wonderful portraits of all kinds of people from the present time back through the centuries. People like to have their portraits painted. In popular tourist spots like the Piazza Navona, Rome, or Montmartre, Paris, you always will find people sitting to have their portraits pained by local artists.

We might think of the beatitudes as a very special kind of portrait. When Jesus spoke those beatitudes he was painting a portrait of himself. He is poor in spirit, in that he depends on God for everything; he is gentle and humble of heart; he mourns because God's will is not being done on earth as in heaven; he hungers and thirst for what is right, for what God wants, and is prepared to suffer to bring that about; he is merciful to the broken and the sinner; he has a purity of intention, wanting only what God wants; he works to make peace between God and humanity and among human beings.

In painting this word-portrait of himself, Jesus was also showing what his followers should aim to be. It is our portrait, and we are called to try and fit that portrait. We cannot become the person of the beatitudes on our own; we need the help of the Holy Spirit who works within us to mould us into the image and likeness of Christ.


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Tuesday of Week 10

1st Reading: 1 Kings 17:7-16

The widow of Zarephath provides for Elijah, so her own food-supply lasts to the end of the famine

After a while the wadi dried up, because there was no rain in the land. Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, "Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you." So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, "Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink." As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, "Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand." But she said, "As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die." Elijah said to her, "Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth." She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days. The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil ail, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.

Responsorial: Psalm 4

R./: Lord, let your face shine upon us

When I call, answer me, O my just God,
  you who relieve me when I am in distress;
  Have pity on me, and hear my prayer!
 Men of rank, how long will you be dull of heart?
  Why do you love what is vain and seek after falsehood? (R./)

Know that the Lord does wonders for his faithful one;
  the Lord will hear me when I call upon him.
Tremble, and sin not;
  reflect, upon your beds, in silence. (R./)

O Lord, let the light of your countenance shine upon us!
You put gladness into my heart,
  more than when grain and wine abound. (R./)

Gospel: Matthew 5:13-16

You are the salt of the earth, the light of the world

Jesus said to them:
"You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under-foot.

"You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

BIBLE

Saying "Yes" to God

Just as salt sharpens the flavour of food and light lets us see what is there in a room, so the special salt and light provided by Christ's Spirit within us, enable us to say a generous "yes" to God's promptings, and see things as they are. The Holy Spirit of Pentecost puts into our mind this love for God and passion for truth so we can discover what God wants us to see. Sharpened in taste by the salt of this Gospel, and enlightened by the Spirit, we can respond to God with full hearts.

A special kind of "yes" was spoken by the widow of Zarephath when the prophet Elijah asked her for food and water. Her generous, spontaneous answer was prompted by trust in God and her belief in Elijah's miraculous powers. Her faith, and her willingness to share with this stranger her last reserves of food and drink, brings to a spectacular blessing, to which Jesus refers, centuries later, as a classic instance of the powers of a prophet.

What the disciple says and does should be like a candle set on a lampstand to give light to the house. "So your light must shine, so that they may see your goodness in action and give praise to your heavenly Father." As disciples and as ministers of his blessing we are all called to be light and salt, enabling others to see how much love God has invested in them. We can lead others, and ourselves, to know the hidden presence of the Holy Spirit. It is Jesus who has anointed and sealed us with the Spirit in our hearts. This Holy Spirit is our down payment, our first reception of the full glory and joy of heaven, the beginning of the final "yes" when God will receive us home.


Not abolishing the law

As an observant Jew Jesus showed great respect for his own Jewish tradition. "Don't imagine that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets," he said. But he also declares that he has come to complete the Law and the Prophets, to bring their true intention to fulfilment. Jesus valued the good in his religious tradition, but was also open to the ways that God was working to enrich that tradition.

We value the good in our own religious tradition, but need to critique the faults in our church and be open and receptive to what the Lord is asking of us today. Our task is to keep up with what God prompts us to do.


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Wednesday of Week 10

1st Reading: 1 Kings 18:20-39

Elijah's contest with the prophets of Ba'al

[At Elijah's prompting] Ahab sent to all the Israelites and assembled the prophets at Mount Carmel. Elijah then came near to all the people, and said, "How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Ba'al, then follow him." The people did not answer him a word.

Then Elijah said to the people, "I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord; but Ba'al's prophets number four hundred fifty. Let two bulls be given to us; let them choose one bull for themselves, cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it; I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. Then you call on the name of your god and I will call on the name of the Lord; the god who answers by fire is indeed God." All the people answered, "Well spoken!" Then Elijah said to the prophets of Ba'al, "Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many; then call on the name of your god, but put no fire to it." So they took the bull that was given them, prepared it, and called on the name of Ba'al from morning until noon, crying, "O Ba'al, answer us!" But there was no voice, and no answer. They limped about the altar that they had made.

At noon Elijah mocked them, saying, "Cry aloud! Surely he is a god; either he is meditating, or he has wandered away, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened." Then they cried aloud and, as was their custom, they cut themselves with swords and lances until the blood gushed out over them. As midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice, no answer, and no response.

Then Elijah said to all the people, "Come closer to me"; and all the people came closer to him. First he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down; Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, "Israel shall be your name"; with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord. Then he made a trench around the altar, large enough to contain two measures of seed. Next he put the wood in order, cut the bull in pieces, and laid it on the wood. He said, "Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood." Then he said, "Do it a second time"; and they did it a second time. Again he said, "Do it a third time"; and they did it a third time, so that the water ran all around the altar, and filled the trench also with water.

At the time of the offering of the oblation, the prophet Elijah came near and said, "O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your bidding. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back." Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and even licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, "The Lord indeed is God; the Lord indeed is God."

Responsorial: Psalm 16

R./: Save me, Lord, I take refuge in you

Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge;
  I say to the Lord, You are my God. (R./)

They multiply their sorrows
  who court other gods.
Blood libations to them I will not pour out,
  nor will I take their names upon my lips. (R./)

O Lord, my allotted portion and cup,
  you it is who hold fast my lot.
 I set the Lord ever before me;
  with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed. (R./)

You will show me the path to life,
  fullness of joys in your presence,
  the delights at your right hand forever. (R./)

Gospel: Matthew 5:17-19

Not one letter of the law will be abolished until all is accomplished

Jesus said to his disciples,
 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven."

BIBLE

Elijah's confrontation with the Canaanite pagan religion

The genuine prophets were often in conflict with the status quo. They set us before fundamental options, such as when Elijah says: "How long will you sit on the fence? If the Lord is God, follow him; if Ba'al, follow him."

At other times, we are called to reconcile apparent opposites. Early in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus supports the fulfillment of the Mosaic law, right down to the letter, while still announcing a new, more interior, set of values. As St Paul taught, we are not to follow the dead letter of a law that has lost its meaing but the new, living law of the Spirit.

In our polarised world, our challenge is to discern when to accept alternate viewpoints, and when to make a clean break. We are back again with Sirach's famous question of timing. We must study issues carefully to avoid bad decisions and impulsive reactions. Clearly, such a stand as that taken by Elijah must be preceded by a long road of other attempts to reconcile and change. That his stance on Mount Carmel was the last resort, becomes clear when he ordered the four hundred and fifty prophets of Ba'al seized, dragged down to brook Kishon, and killed (1 Kings 18:40). We leave such a final day of judgement to God himself, and until it comes, we are to call others to conversion and reconciliation.

 


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Thursday of Week 10

1st Reading: 1 Kings 18:41-46

A small dark cloud develops into a heavy rainstorm

Elijah said to Ahab, "Go up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of rushing rain." So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; there he bowed himself down upon the earth and put his face between his knees. He said to his servant, "Go up now, look toward the sea." He went up and looked, and said, "There is nothing." Then he said, "Go again seven times." At the seventh time he said, "Look, a little cloud no bigger than a person's hand is rising out of the sea." Then he said, "Go say to Ahab, 'Harness your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.'" In a little while the heavens grew black with clouds and wind; there was a heavy rain. Ahab rode off and went to Jezreel. But the hand of the Lord was on Elijah; he girded up his loins and ran in front of Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.

Responsorial: Psalm 65

R./: To you our praise is due in Zion, O God

You have visited the land and watered it;
  greatly have you enriched it.
God's watercourses are filled;
  you have prepared the grain. (R./)

Thus have you prepared the land:
  drenching its furrows, breaking up its clods,
Softening it with showers,
  blessing its yield. (R./)

You have crowned the year with your bounty,
  and your paths overflow with a rich harvest;
The untilled meadows overflow with it,
  and rejoicing clothes the hills. (R./)

Gospel: Matthew 5:20-26

More is required by the grace of the Gospel

Jesus said to them,
 "I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

"You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, 'You shall not murder'; and 'whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, 'You fool,' you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny."

BIBLE

A change of heart

The language Jesus uses has a sharp edge to it and is strange to our ears, 'If your right eye should cause you to sin, tear it out and throw it away' He is speaking inhyperbole to get our attention; clearly not to be taken literally. He goes deeper than what the Ten Commandments prohibit to the roots of those actions in the human heart. This is the deeper virtue proposed a few verses earlier. He calls for not just a change of behaviour but a change of heart, a purifying of desire and intention.

This transformation is understood elsewhere in the Scriptures to be the work of the Spirit. It is the Spirit who renews the human heart. We try to open ourselves to the Spirit of God in prayer. As Elijah went the mountain of God, and there experienced the presence of the Lord in 'the sound of a gentle breeze', we need to sometimes seek God in silence. It is there that we open ourselves to the Lord's Spirit, working within us to recreate our heart.

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Friday of Week 10

1st Reading: 1 Kings 19:9-16

Elijah's encounter with God, at the cave on Mount Horeb

Elijah came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" He answered, "I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away."

He said, "Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by." Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

Then there came a voice to him that said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" He answered, "I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away." Then the Lord said to him, "Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place.

Responsorial: Psalm 27

R./: It is your face, O Lord, that I seek

Hear, O Lord, the sound of my call;
  have pity on me, and answer me.
 Of you my heart speaks; you my glance seeks. (R./)

Your presence, O Lord, I seek.
Hide not your face from me;
  do not in anger repel your servant.
You are my helper: cast me not off. (R./)

I believe that I shall see the bounty of the Lord
  in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord with courage;
  be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord. (R./)

Gospel: Matthew 5:27-32

Jesus' words about chastity, scandal and divorce

Jesus said to his disciples,
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.

"It was also said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery."

BIBLE


Elijah's Prayer

Today's responsorial psalm is the prayer of one who sincerely seeks the true God. "It is your face, O Lord, that I seek." We can identify with that psalm, because we are all to some extent seekers. What we are ultimately searching for is none other than God, the origin of our being and the final destiny of our lives. As St Augustine famously put it, "You have made us for yourself, o Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you."

It is the seeker in all of us that makes us pilgrims, on a journey towards the fully disclosed presence of our God. Elijah the prophet was clearly such a seeker as he set out on his journey to the mountain of God, Mount Sinai, or Mount Horeb, as it was also called. In a cave in that mountain, he met the divine presence, but not in the way he would have expected, in fire or storm or earthquake. God's presence was revealed in a and quiet way -- in what the reading calls, "the sound of a gentle breeze." Another translation expresses it as a "sound of sheer silence."

Such silence is not easy to come by in our noisy times. Yet, it is where the Lord can be most clearly heard. And we often have to seek it in order to find it. To seek silence is, in a very real way, to seek the Lord, because it is where we become most attuned to the Lord's passing by.


Keeping pornography off our screens

The words of Jesus about the ideal of perfect chastity are counter-cultural in today's widespread ignoring of this virtue. Apart from the challenge to couples of remaining faithful to each other, today's Gospel has a stern warning against unchaste thoughts and desires. It seems that internet pornography is rampant and addictive to many today. There's a cybersex compulsion often fostered by pornography on the internet.

It's a big problem, and a big business. Online pornography is driven by three factors: 1. Anonymity (real or imagined); 2. availability (24/7); and 3. affordability (many sites are free or inexpensive). A number of factors may be drawing viewers to pornography, such as overwork, loneliness or immature spirit. For a workaholic, pornography may seem a risk-free stress-reliever; for a lonely or socially anxious person it offers the illusion of being connected with others; and for an immature character it can be the shadow side of a double life, often marked by a perfect observance of external rules and rigid, black-and-white thinking. People with other addictive behaviours are at risk of adopting internet pornography as a form of self-medication.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in par. 2339 calls chastity an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom . - We guard our dignity when, getting rid of slavery to the passions, we press on with freely choosing what is good. Later, in par. 2520 ("The Battle for Purity") it says: "The baptized must continue to struggle against concupiscence of the flesh and disordered desires."


 

Saturday of Week 10

1st Reading: 1 Kings 19:19-22

Elijah chooses Elisha as his attendant and successor

Elijah set out and found Elisha son of Shaphat, who was ploughing. There were twelve yoke of oxen ahead of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle over him. He left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, "Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you." Then Elijah said to him, "Go back again; for what have I done to you?" He returned from following him, took the yoke of oxen, and slaughtered them; using the equipment from the oxen, he boiled their flesh, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out and followed Elijah, and became his servant.

Responsorial: Psalm 16

R./: You are my inheritance, O Lord

Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge;
  I say to the Lord, My Lord are you.
 O Lord, my allotted portion and my cup,
  you it is who hold fast my lot. (R./)

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
  even at night my heart exhorts me.
 I set the Lord ever before me;
  with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed. (R./)

Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,
  my body, too, abides in confidence;
Because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world,
  nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption. (R./)

Gospel: Matthew 5:27-32

High ideals about chastity and marriage, proposed in the sermon on the mount

Jesus said to his disciples,
 "You have heard how it was said, You shall not commit adultery. But I say this to you, if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye should be your downfall, tear it out and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of yourself than to have your whole body thrown into hell. And if your right hand should be your downfall, cut it off and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of yourself than to have your whole body go to hell. 'It has also been said, Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a writ of dismissal. But I say this to you, everyone who divorces his wife, except for the case of an illicit marriage, makes her an adulteress; and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.


New Horizons

In so many of his talks, Pope Francis managed to beautifully enshrine both idealism and a gritty awareness of our flawed, human condition. Despite our personal imperfections, he says, we should reach out in hope, full of the joy of the Gospel.

Some sense of belonging to "a new creation" shows up in both readings. Elijah threw his cloak over the young man Elisha, showing that the older generation was passing from the scene and a new generation was taking its place. A similarly radical challenge is heard from Jesus in today's gospel: "Do not swear at all. Take no oaths, but say Yes when you mean Yes and No when you mean No."

The kingdom of God is a wonderful idea and glorious dream, but is the Sermon on the Mount literally possible in this world? Some Christians try to follow his words literally, keeping their speech simple and exact, neverexaggerating or "embroidering." Most people, however, and certainly Irish people, feel the need to say more than a crisp "Yes" or an absolute "No." We consider it fair that others need to check out our ID card and our driver's license, and we are willing in court to swear on the Bible that our words are true. We and our world are not yet fully there, in kingdom mode!


Not trying to control God

Jesus opposes the kind of oath taking that seeks to control God for one's own purposes, swearing by heaven, God's throne, or by earth, God's footstool, or by Jerusalem, the city of God. The temptation to control God for one's own purpose has been deeply rooted in the human spirit. Ancient magic was an attempt to control the spirit world for one's own purpose, and, indeed, the same could be said of certain forms of contemporary magic. Instead, the Lord's Prayer urges us to begin by surrendering ourselves to God's purpose, 'your name be held holy, your kingdom come, your will be done.'

God's purpose for each of us is life-giving. We trust in divine providence to help us live a life that is both responsible and free. This will mean freely giving ourselves over to God's will for us as individuals, and for his creation. In this we follow Jesus, who prayed, 'Father... not my will but yours be done', and the example of Mary, who said, 'Let it be to me according to your word.'



Readings for the 11th Week, Ordinary Time (Cycle 2)

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Monday of Week 11

1st Reading: 1 Kings 21:1-16

Ahab and Jezebel rob and kill Naboth the Jezreelite

Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard in Jezreel, beside the palace of King Ahab of Samaria. And Ahab said to Naboth, "Give me your vineyard, so that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near my house; I will give you a better vineyard for it; or, if it seems good to you, I will give you its value in money." But Naboth said to Ahab, "The Lord forbid that I should give you my ancestral inheritance." Ahab went home resentful and sullen because of what Naboth the Jezreelite had said to him; for he had said, "I will not give you my ancestral inheritance." He lay down on his bed, turned away his face, and would not eat.

His wife Jezebel came to him and said, "Why are you so sad that you will not eat?" He said to her, "Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and said to him, 'Give me your vineyard for money; or else, if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard for it'; but he answered, 'I will not give you my vineyard.'" His wife Jezebel said to him, "Do you now govern Israel? Get up, eat some food, and be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite."

So she wrote letters in Ahab's name and sealed them with his seal; she sent the letters to the elders and the nobles who lived with Naboth in his city. She wrote in the letters, "Proclaim a fast, and seat Naboth at the head of the assembly; seat two scoundrels opposite him, and have them bring a charge against him, saying, 'You have cursed God and the king.' Then take him out, and stone him to death." The men of his city, the elders and the nobles who lived in his city, did as Jezebel wanted. Just as it was written in the letters that she had sent to them, they proclaimed a fast and seated Naboth at the head of the assembly. The two scoundrels came in and sat opposite him; and the scoundrels brought a charge against Naboth, in the presence of the people, saying, "Naboth cursed God and the king." So they took him outside the city, and stoned him to death. Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, "Naboth has been stoned; he is dead."

As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned and was dead, she said to Ahab, "Go, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, which he refused to give you for money; for Naboth is not alive, but dead." As soon as Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, Ahab set out to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.

Responsorial: Psalm 5

R./: Give heed to my groaning, O Lord

To my words give ear, O Lord,
  attend to my groaning.
Heed my call for help,
  my king and my God! (R./)

At dawn I bring my plea expectantly before you.
For you, O God, delight not in wickedness;
  no evil man remains with you;
  the arrogant may not stand in your sight. (R./)

You hate all evildoers.
  You destroy all who speak falsehood;
The bloodthirsty and the deceitful
  the Lord abhors. (R./)

Gospel: Matthew 5:38-42

The challenge to offer the other cheek and go the extra mile

Jesus said to his disciples, "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you."

BIBLE

The two ways

In today's first reading, the judicial murder of the innocent Naboth is a glaring example of injustice. Queen Jezebel's total disregard for the human rights of ordinary people shows how far power can be abused. That her husband, King Ahab, condoned the violent seizure of Naboth's vineyard is another example of rank injustice that arouses indignation in our hearts. Their combined crime cried out to heaven for vengeance. It was a classic case of man's inhumanity to man.

Jesus invites us to live by a totally different guideline, not to impose our will on others and not repay evil with evil, but to show mercy and goodness instead. The worst instinct in nature is to mistreat those who have intended us nothing but good. The crucifixion of Jesus is the supreme example of that. It is a much nobler instinct to seek to resolve evil through goodness. This divine instinct of patience and goodwill was what prompted Jesus, who endured the evil that was done to him and responded with love. Basically, he lived and died to overcome evil with good.

It is incredibly hard to stay patient if others do us harm, or remain loving in the face of scorn, or faithful in the face of infidelity. Nobody could live by that ideal through human resources alone. We need God's grace and the promptings of God's Spirit, to follow such a pacifist and peace-making lifestyle.

 


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Tuesday of Week 11

1st Reading: 1 Kings 21:17-29

Under Elijah's warning, King Ahab repents and is forgiven

Then word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying: Go down to meet King Ahab of Israel, who rules in Samaria; he is now in the vineyard of Naboth, where he has gone to take possession. You shall say to him, "Thus says the Lord: Have you killed, and also taken possession?" You shall say to him, "Thus says the Lord: In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth, dogs will also lick up your blood."

Ahab said to Elijah, "Have you found me, O my enemy?" He answered, "I have found you. Because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the Lord, I will bring disaster on you; I will consume you, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel; and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha son of Ahijah, because you have provoked me to anger and have caused Israel to sin. Also concerning Jezebel the Lord said, 'The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the bounds of Jezreel.' Anyone belonging to Ahab who dies in the city the dogs shall eat; and anyone of his who dies in the open country the birds of the air shall eat."

(Indeed, there was no one like Ahab, who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord, urged on by his wife Jezebel. He acted most abominably in going after idols, as the Amorites had done, whom the Lord drove out before the Israelites.)

When Ahab heard those words, he tore his clothes and put sackcloth over his bare flesh; he fasted, lay in the sackcloth, and went about dejectedly. Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: "Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; but in his son's days I will bring the disaster on his house."

Responsorial: Psalm 51

R./: Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned

Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
  in your great compassion wipe out my offense.
Wash me thoroughly from my guilt
  and cleanse me of my sin. (R./)

For I acknowledge my offense,
  and my sin is always before me:
 Against you alone have I sinned,
  and done what is evil in your sight. (R./)

A clean heart create for me, O God,
  and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
 Cast me not out from your presence,
  and do not take your Holy Spirit from me. (R./)

Give me again the joy of your salvation,
  and preserve in me a willing spirit.
 O Lord, open my lips,
  and my mouth shall proclaim your praise. (R./)

Gospel: Matthew 5:43-48

Love your enemies and so be perfect--just like your heavenly Father

Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

BIBLE

The power to forgive

The Book of Kings reports the divine punishment that was predicted for Queen Jezebel, for contriving the murder of an innocent man. Elijah declared, "The Lord said, 'The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the bounds of Jezreel.'" On the other hand, King Ahab wins a reprieve of his sentence, for acknowledging his guilt in the matter, and humbly asking God for pardon.

In marked contrast to the abuse of power by Ahab and Jezebel, the Gospel calls on people to develope the spirit of forgiveness. We need to swallow our pride and refrain from any harshly judging others. If even King Ahab repented, it shows how hearts can change. Illustrating the gospel command to love our enemies and to pray for our persecutors, is Jesus' heroic example. St Luke quotes him praying for his executioners, as he was being nailed to the cross (Lk 22:34).No matter how justified our anger at a wrong that has been done, like Elijah we can pray to God to forgive the sinner. How well Shakespeare understood this blend of justice and mercy when, in the Merchant of Venice the young lawyer, Portia, says:

"The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes...
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice.."

This is a fine echo of the ideal proposed by our Lord at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, that we seek to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect.


Beyond our comfort zone

The natural, human tendency is to be generous to people with whom we personal feelings of warmth and affection. This is natural, but not exceptional. Jesus urges us to go beyond our comfort zone and show signs of good will to people outside the circle of those we personally like. This is one of his teachings that stretch our generosity to the limit.

Our Good Shepherd wants us to show, by our way of relating to others, some inkling of God, whose love makes the sun to shine for bad people as well as good, and the rain to fall on honest and dishonest alike. This lifestyle option taught by Jesus could only be possible with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives among us and within us.


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Wednesday of Week 11

1st Reading: 2 Kings 2:1, 6-14

Elijah is carried up to heaven in a chariot of fire

When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal.

Elijah said to Elisha, "Stay here; for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan." But he replied, "As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you." So the two of them went on. Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, "Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you." Elisha said, "Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit." Elijah replied, "You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not."

As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out, "Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!" But when he could no longer see him, he rasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

Elisha then picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. He took Elijah's mantle that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, "Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?" When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha crossed over.

Responsorial: Psalm 31

R./: Let your hearts take courage, all who hope in the Lord

How great is the goodness, O Lord,
  which you have in store for those who fear you,
 And which, toward those who take refuge in you,
  you show in the sight of the children of men. (R./)

You hide them in the shelter of your presence
  from the plottings of men;
You screen them within your abode
  from the strife of tongues. (R./)

Love the Lord, all you his faithful ones!
  The Lord keeps those who are constant,
  but more than requites those who act proudly. (R./)

Gospel: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Beware of practicing your piety in public

Jesus said, "Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.

"So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

"And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

"And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you."

BIBLE

Not trying to attract notice

Jesus taught us, "Be careful not to parade your good deeds before others to attract their notice." Yet, a little earlier in the same sermon, he seems to say the very opposite, "Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good deeds and give glory to your Father in heaven."

While there is surely a contrast between those two guidelines, there is a real value in each of them. We are not meant to hide the light of our faith, keeping it under a bushel by seeming to be agnostic and non-commital. Rather, we should somehow show our love for the Lord by the way we live and the choices we make.

On the other hand, we need some prudence and reserve in the way we speak about our beliefs. We don't publicly proclaim our religious views to draw attention to ourselves, or just to win approval from others. Rather, anything we say or do should be with due humility and for the glory of God.

The opening requests in the Lord's Prayer point us in the right direction, "Hallowed by your name, your kingdom come."


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Thursday of Week 11

1st Reading: Sirach 48:1-14

Elijah arose, a prophet like fire,
and his word burned like a torch.
He brought a famine upon them,
and by his zeal he made them few in number.
By the word of the Lord he shut up the heavens,
and also three times brought down fire.
How glorious you were, Elijah,
in your wondrous deeds!
Whose glory is equal to yours?

You raised a corpse from death
and from Hades, by the word of the Most High.
You sent kings down to destruction,
and famous men, from their sickbeds.
You heard rebuke at Sinai
and judgments of vengeance at Horeb.
You anointed kings to inflict retribution,
and prophets to succeed you.
You were taken up by a whirlwind of fire,
in a chariot with horses of fire.

 At the appointed time, it is written,
you are destined to calm the wrath of God
before it breaks out in fury,
to turn the hearts of parents to their children,
and to restore the tribes of Jacob.
Happy are those who saw you
and were adorned with your love!
For we also shall surely live.

When Elijah was enveloped in the whirlwind,
Elisha was filled with his spirit.
He performed twice as many signs,
and marvels with every utterance of his mouth.
Never in his lifetime did he tremble before any ruler,
nor could anyone intimidate him at all.
Nothing was too hard for him,
and when he was dead, his body prophesied.
In his life he did wonders,
and in death his deeds were marvellous.

Responsorial: Psalm 97

R./: Rejoice, you just, in the Lord

The Lord is king; let the earth rejoice;
let the many isles be glad.
Clouds and darkness are round about him,
justice and judgment are the foundation of his throne. (R./)

Fire goes before him
and consumes his foes round about.
His lightnings illumine the world;
the earth sees and trembles. (R./)

The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,
before the Lord of all the earth.
The heavens proclaim his justice,
and all peoples see his glory. (R./)

All who worship graven things are put to shame,
who glory in the things of nought;
all gods are prostrate before him. (R./)

Gospel: Matthew 6:7-15

Our prayer must not be too wordy and must include a spirit of forgiveness

Jesus said, "When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

"Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

BIBLE

Seeing others in a good light

When the wise teacher, Ben Sirach, wrote a series of glowing vignettes about great spiritual heroes of the past, to inspire his students to cling to their Jewish heritage. Naturally he highlighted the merits of those great characters and glossed over their foibles. He spares no hyperbole in his portrayal of Elijah, as a prophet like fire, radiant with God's light, who powerfully defended the faith and upheld the traditions of Israelite religion in an era of rampant paganism. What might an Elijah perform for the restoration of biblical faith in Ireland today, or all round the developed areas of our world?

Relatives and friends of those priests of Ba'al who were slain by the lightning-bolt at the behest of the indignant prophet, might have a different picture of Elijah, as a man of violent rage and passionate conviction, for whom tolerance and ecumenism would be of no account. The most kindly term that could be used of him in the modern media would be "extremist"!

While Elijah is several times mentioned in the Gospels, only once is it with reference to the bloody clash of values upon Mount Carmel when he drew down fire from heaven. Rather, he is remembered for his fidelity, and for his compassion towards the widow during the famine. Hopefully in his old age this fiery prophet, tempered by the experience of exile in the wilderness, had learned a milder spirit of tolerance, like that urged in our Gospel from the Sermon on the Mount.


How to pray

The Lord's Prayer is reported in two gospels, Matthew and Luke. In Matthew, Jesus prefacesit by advising us not to use many words, or babble formulae as the pagans did.

It was pagan practice to bombard the gods with formulae, to induce them to be favourable to humankind. But Christians are not to pray in that mechanical way. Our heavenly Father cannot be persuaded or manipulated by heaping up endless petitions. Rather, Jesus teaches us to surrender to whatever God wills.

What he wants us to want most is God's glory, the coming of God's kingdom, the doing of God's will. We don't spend all our energies just asking for what we want for pray for what God wants. We acknowledge our dependence on God, for our basic needs -- for food for the day, for forgiveness, for strength to go on living.

The Lord's Prayer is powerful in its simplicity. It is not simply one prayer among many; it is an iconicteaching on how to pray.


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Friday of Week 11

1st Reading: 2 Kings 11:1-4, 9-18, 20

The life of prince Joash is saved from Athaliah's fury

When Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah, saw that her son was dead, she set out to destroy all of the royal family. But Jehosheba, King Joram's daughter and Ahaziah's sister, took Ahaziah's son Joash, and stole him away from among the king's children who were about to be killed and put him and his nurse in a bedroom. Thus she hid him from Athaliah, so that he was not killed. He remained with her six years, hidden in the house of the Lord, while Athaliah reigned over the land.

But in the seventh year Jehoiada summoned the captains of the Carites and of the guards and had them come to him in the house of the Lord. He made a covenant with them and put them under oath in the house of the Lord; then he showed them the king's son.

The captains did as Jehoiada the priest commanded; each brought his men who were to go off duty on the sabbath, with those who were to come on duty on the sabbath, and came to Jehoiada the priest. The priest delivered to the captains the spears and shields that had been King David's, which were in the house of the Lord. The guards stood, every man with his weapons in his hand, from the south side of the house to the north side of the house, around the altar and the house, to guard the king on every side. Then he brought out the king's son, put the crown on him, and entrusted him with the covenant; they proclaimed him king, and anointed him; they clapped their hands and shouted, "Long live the king!"

When Athaliah heard the noise of the guard and of the people, she went into the house of the Lord to the people; when she looked, there was the king standing by the pillar, according to custom, with the captains and the trumpeters beside the king, and all the people of the land rejoicing and blowing trumpets. Athaliah tore her clothes and cried, "Treason! Treason!" Then the priest Jehoiada commanded the captains who were set over the army, "Bring her out between the ranks, and kill with the sword anyone who follows her." For the priest said, "Let her not be killed in the house of the Lord." So they laid hands on her; she went through the horses' entrance to the king's house, and there she was put to death.

Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord and the king and people, that they should be the Lord's people; also between the king and the people. Then all the people of the land went to the house of Ba'al, and tore it down; his altars and his images they broke in pieces, and they killed Mattan, the priest of Ba'al, before the altars. The priest posted guards over the house of the Lord. So all the people of the land rejoiced; and the city was quiet after Athaliah had been killed with the sword at the king's house.

Responsorial: Psalm 132

R./: The Lord has chosen Zion for his dwelling

The Lord swore to David
  a firm promise from which he will not withdraw:
Your own offspring
  I will set upon your throne. (R./)

If your sons keep my covenant
  and the decrees which I shall teach them,
Their sons, too, forever
  shall sit upon your throne. (R./)

For the Lord has chosen Zion;
  he prefers her for his dwelling.
 Zion is my resting place forever;
  in her will I dwell, for I prefer her. (R./)

The Lord has chosen Zion for his dwelling. (R./)

In her will I make a horn to sprout forth for David;
  I will place a lamp for my anointed.
His enemies I will clothe with shame,
  but upon him my crown shall shine. (R./)

Gospel: Matthew 6:19-23

Not laying up earthly treasure where moths and rust corrode

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

"The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

BIBLE

A dangerous woman

Athaliah was a dangerous, violent woman driven by ambition to murder her own step-children in order to become queen herself. She then attempts to secure her power by corrupting the morals of the people. If they follow her lead, they will welcome the new chance for wealth and luxury, the sensuous fertility rites and sacred prostitution in the temple she has built to Ba'al. Yet the innate goodness of the people holds firm, and seven years later the one royal son who escaped Athaliah's slaughter is crowned king. The high priest proclaims a covenant between king and people, based on fidelity and justice. Athaliah's reign of terror collapsed -- an example of how moths consume and rust corrodes any security based on false values.

Jesus offers other practical advice for our living. He advises us to have a "good eye," to be guided by light so as to see goodness in the hearts of others. Rather than carping at their faults, our "good eye" recognizes the good in our neighbours. It is so much better to encourage than to criticise, to shed light than to spread gloom.


What do we treasure?

Today's gospel is focussed on our deepest motivation. 'Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.' We need to discern what is truly worthwhile, worth working for and giving our heart to. In the course of life we sometimes are blessed with people whom we treasure, who mean a great deal to us. In fact, it is people who are our greatest treasure in this life.

As disciples, Jesus should be our true treasure, to whom we pledge our heart and mind and soul. When Christ is the one we serve, we store up treasure for ourselves in heaven. He is the pearl of great price, since he is Emmanuel, God-with-us.

Paul once declared, 'I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord' (Phil 3:8). Jesus was Paul's greatest treasure, the focus of his heart. Because he gave his heart to Jesus, Paul had a heart for others, for whom Jesus died and rose again. To give one's heart to Jesus does not withdraw our love from others. Rather our own hearts expand to embrace all people, just as Jesus embraces them.


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Saturday of Week 11

1st Reading: 2 Chronicles 24:17-25

King Joash murders the son of the priest who had saved his life

After Jehoiada's death the officials of Judah came and did obeisance to king Joash and the king listened to their advice. They abandoned the house of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and served the sacred poles and the idols. And wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this guilt of theirs. Yet he sent prophets among them to bring them back to the Lord; they testified against them, but they would not listen.

Then the spirit of God took possession of Zechariah son of the priest Jehoiada; he stood above the people and said to them, "Thus says God: Why do you transgress the commandments of the Lord, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the Lord, he has also forsaken you." But they conspired against him, and by command of the king they stoned him to death in the court of the house of the Lord. King Joash did not remember the kindness that Jehoiada, Zechariah's father, had shown him, but killed his son. As he was dying, he said, "May the Lord see and avenge!"

At the end of the year the army of Aram came up against Joash. They came to Judah and Jerusalem, and destroyed all the officials of the people from among them, and sent all the booty they took to the king of Damascus. Although the army of Aram had come with few men, the Lord delivered into their hand a very great army, because they had abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors. Thus they executed judgment on Joash.

When they had withdrawn, leaving Joash severely wounded, his servants conspired against him because of the blood of the son of the priest Jehoiada, and they killed him on his bed. So he died; and they buried him in the city of David, but they did not bury him in the tombs of the kings.

Responsorial: Psalm 89

R./: I will keep my love for my servant always

I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
  I have sworn to David my servant:
Forever will I confirm your posterity
  and establish your throne for all generations. (R./)

Forever I will maintain my kindness toward him,
  and my covenant with him stands firm.
 I will make his posterity endure forever
  and his throne as the days of heaven. (R./)

If his sons forsake my law
  and walk not according to my ordinances,
 If they violate my statutes
  and keep not my commands. (R./)

I will punish their crime with a rod
  and their guilt with stripes.
Yet my mercy I will not take from him,
  nor will I belie my faithfulness. (R./)

Gospel: Matthew 6:24-34

We cannot serve two masters. Do not be anxious for tomorrow

Jesus said to this disciples, "No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you נyou of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, "What will we eat?" or "What will we drink?" or "What will we wear?" For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. "So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today."

BIBLE

Power corrupts

Our first reading continues the series of outrages committed by the royals who should have followed the example of king David, the faithful shepherd of Israel. Today's reading continues the story of King Joash. Led astray by the gentry in Jerusalem, he forgot the heroic loyalty of friends who had saved his life as a child and later brought him to the throne. He forgot his origins, ("Scorning the base degrees by which he did ascend"), king Joash executed Zechariah, the high priest whose father Jehoiada had saved the life of Joash years before.

Jesus says, "Let tomorrow take care of itself. Today has troubles enough of its own." It is more vital to live today than to worry about tomorrow. Life itself is more basic than sumptuous food, the body more valuable than elegant clothing. It is not healthy, psychologically, much less Christian, to be too attached to fancy foods or stylish clothing.

We need to review our priorities, "Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap, yet your heavenly Father feeds them." Selfish or sensuous desires lead to all sorts of trouble, as is well illustrated in today's first reading, about the fall from grace of the once promising king, Joash of Jerusalem.


What to worry about

Worrying stems from our awareness of the vagaries of life and cannot be completely banished from our minds. Parents worry about their children. Relatives worry about each other. Young people worry about their future.

Jesus himself must sometimes have worried about his disciples, and the poor response of his contemporaries to his message. So he hardly means 'don't ever be concerned about anything.' He says, don't set your hearts on food, drink and clothing, or make them your main concern. Setting our hearts on such things would be pure paganism or hedonism.

It is really about getting our priorities right, in line with Christ's own priorities. He says, 'Set your hearts on God's kingdom first, and on his righteousness.' Don't be so anxious about food, drink and clothing that there is no room left for doing God's will. The beginning of the Lord's Prayer lists the real priorities, 'Hallowed by thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done.' These were Jesus' concerns and should be ours as well.