Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 26, 2009 – Blessed Sacrament
Each summer we interrupt the successive reading of one of the Synoptic Gospels (St. Mark’s this year) and devote ourselves for five weeks to a reading of the whole of the sixth chapter of St. John’s Gospel, which is entirely concerned with the theme of bread. We begin this exercise today with the account of Jesus’ feeding the crowd with the loaves and fishes, a deed that at the beginning and at the end of our passage is presented as a “sign,” the sign whose significance Jesus will unfold in a long discourse on the bread of life in which what true bread is and what true life is will be explored. John’s Gospel has many similar signs: the turning of water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana; the cleansing of the temple; the woman at the well; the healing of the sick man by the pool of Bethsaida; the healing of the blind man; the raising of Lazarus from the grave. In almost every case, the Evangelist first presents the sign and then invites the reader to explore that to which it points either by means of a discourse of Jesus or in the course of a dialogue in which he responds to interpretations of the event that remain on the mere surface of the event.
St. Augustine was alert to this method of the Evangelist. (more…)
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 30, 2006 – Blessed Sacrament
The beautiful passage from the Epistle to the Ephesians that we heard as our second reading today continues the theme of unity that the author had earlier developed in the passage we heard last week, about the reconciliation in Christ of Gentile and Jew in a single redeemed humanity. Today’s reading builds on the vision of the Church as reconciled humanity and urges the unity that ought to be its most distinctive mark.
Christians are to live, first of all, “in a manner worthy of the call they have received.” They must all be aware that their status before God is not their own doing, but has been won for them at the price of Christ’s blood and is now enjoyed by them not on account of their merits but out of the free generosity of God. The only attitude worthy of this call is one of “humility and gentleness,” with patience, with forbearance, in short, with love. (The language here echoes the hymn in praise of love that we know from 1 Corinthians 13.) If this attitude prevails, and inspires behavior, then will be realized a unity of spirit and the bond of peace.
Then Paul enumerates the principles underlying that unity and peace: one body and one Spirit; one hope of their calling; one Lord Jesus Christ; one faith; one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (more…)
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 22, 2012 – St. John’s
The dominant theme in today’s biblical readings is provided by the final words in the passage we just heard from St. Mark’s Gospel: “When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he began to teach them many things.” This image of Christ as a shepherd come to protect his flock and to lead them to nourishment is prepared for by the first reading in which through the prophet Jeremiah God indicts the leaders of Israel, who, as often in the ancient world, even outside the Bible, are called shepherds, for having scattered his flock into exile; God then promises that he himself will shepherd his people and bring them back to their home meadows and will provide them with a true shepherd. And to this announcement, which Christians understand to refer to Jesus Christ, the response we offered was the singing of Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd.”
I have just started reading a well-reviewed book entitled The Psalms through Three Thousand Years, which begins with a chapter entitled “The Lord is My Shepherd, Then and Now.” In it, William L. Halladay points out that this is one of the best-known passages in all of Scripture; (more…)
Fiftenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 15, 2012 – St. John’s
With our second reading today, we begin a continuous reading of the Epistle to the Ephesians, and so a word or two about this letter is in order. But before that, I want to suggest to you again, and especially to those who may be in the habit of meditating on the Scriptural readings before or after Mass, that you read through the whole letter at one setting. Too often we know a book of the Bible only through the snippets that are read out at Mass and thus run the danger of missing a grasp of the whole, of failing to see how a particular passage contributes to the whole message and in turn is illumined by the larger context. It shouldn’t take you twenty minutes to read the whole Epistle to the Ephesians, and it’s more than worth the time and effort.
The great majority of scholars do not believe that this letter was written by St. Paul himself. (more…)
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 7, 2012 – St. John’s
St. Mark’s Gospel, which we are following this liturgical year, places a lot of emphasis on the questions that Jesus provokes as he undertakes his public ministry. On its very first day, people are astonished: “What is this?” they exclaim; “a new teaching, with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him!” Later, when he heals a paralytic and tells him that his sins are forgiven, the hostile question is asked: “Why does this man speak this way? … Who can forgive sins but God alone?” At another point, critics wonder why he allows his disciples to go against sabbath-laws. Two weeks ago we heard about his calming the storm and of the excited question: “Who is this whom even wind and sea obey?” Last week we heard of the amazement of those who witnessed him raise the daughter of Jairus. And today, when he teaches in the synagogue, his fellow townsmen are moved to ask: “Where did he get all this? What is the wisdom given to him? What mighty works are wrought by his hands! Isn’t he the carpenter, the son of Mary?”
In punctuating his narrative with such questions, St. Mark is placing his readers before the great question provoked by Jesus of Nazareth: Who is this? (more…)