3RD SUNDAY OF LENT – MARCH 18, 1990 – ST. PHILIP NERI
At first sight the readings we have heard today may appear not to have too much to do with one another. We have first the mysterious account of the water-producing rock in the desert, the beautiful and powerful description of basic Christian hope in St. Paul, and the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well in the Gospel. But, particularly during Lent, the Church follows a logic in its choice of these readings, and a closer look will reveal linkages between the readings that point towards aspects of our Christian existence which the Church wishes us especially to focus on during Lent.
Let us begin with the Gospel account. It is a narrative typical of the literary and theological genius of St. John. (more…)
SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT – FEBRUARY 24, 2002 – BLESSED SACRAMENT
The account of the transfiguration of Jesus stands out in Matthew’s Gospel; it is a unique epiphany between the revelations described in the account of Jesus’ birth and infancy and those that follow upon his resurrection. A host of biblical symbols are gathered. It takes place on a mountain, where God traditionally reveals himself; a bright cloud appears as in OT epiphanies; a voice is heard from heaven; the two greatest figures of the Old Testament are present, Moses and Elijah, representing the Law and the Prophets; Jesus is transfigured, transformed. There could be no doubt in the minds of a Jewish reader of Matthew’s Gospel that a major encounter with God, a major revelation by God, is occurring. (more…)
Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time – February 27, 2011 – St. John’s, Goshen
The passage we have just heard from the Sermon on the Mount is among the most familiar and the most beautiful in all the Bible. We can see the Lord Jesus pointing to the birds in the sky and to the lilies of the field in order to assure his disciples, that is, to assure us, that our heavenly Father surely has even greater care for us than for those fine and fragile creatures of this earth.
These lovely verses are bracketed by the challenge that Christ sets out today, a challenge in its own way as great as the ones we have heard the last two weeks in which he asked us to tear murderous and lustful and deceitful vices up by their roots in our hearts. (more…)
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – February 20, 2011 – St. John’s, Goshen
With today’s Gospel we hear the last two of the solemn statements in which Christ explains what the greater righteousness is that will be required if one is to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Once again, he goes beyond the minimum that a commandment might require and demands instead the maximum that love may desire. (more…)
Sixth Sunday of the Year – February 11, 1972 – CNR
“Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” This sentence is a sort of sub-title for the Sermon on the Mount. It indicates the central meaning of Jesus’ moral demand, and the final purpose of Christian moral effort.
“Righteousness” is not a word we use often. In the Bible, it refers especially to the right-standing of man, that is, one’s being what one should be before God and man. It is not so terribly distant from modern terms such as authenticity or integrity of character. But, how is this “right-standing” determined or measured? (more…)
Fifth Sunday of the Year – February 6, 1972 – CNR
In today’s Gospel we hear Jesus use two similes to describe the role of the disciples in the world. They are to be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world.” The latter image is the one stressed in the Liturgy by the use of the reading from Isaiah, where light is promised to Israel if she will turn to feeding the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and homeless, clothing the naked, assuring justice for the weak. The image of the salt is less often remarked. Originally, it was probably addressed by Jesus to the Jewish people as a warning: if they do not recognize the hour and the Messiah in their midst, they will be discarded as insipid salt. Matthew has placed it at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, as a warning to the disciples, who inherit Israel’s function in the world and therefore stand under similar judgement.
The images are good ones as an introduction to the Sermon in which Matthew has gathered the major portopm of Jesus’ moral teaching (and which we shall be hearing in the coming weeks). They suggest some reflections on our responsibilities as the Church in the world. (more…)
Feast of the Presentation – February 2, 2014 – St. John’s, Goshen
Today’s feast of the Presentation of the Lord is considered so important that it takes precedence over the usual sequence of Sundays. Traditionally it has been the occasion for the blessing of candles so that it is sometimes called Candlemas and is considered to bring the Christmas season to an end.
That seems to be the focus of the Gospel reading for which the reading from the prophet Malachi was chosen to prepare us, the prophecy that the Lord will come to the temple, “the Lord whom you seek, the messenger of the covenant whom you desire.”
The people so in wait, so seeking, are then personified in the figures of Simeon and Anna in the account of the manifestation of the Lord in Luke’s Gospel. (more…)
Third Sunday of the Year – January 23, 1972 – CNR
The passage from Matthew’s Gospel that we have heard today describes the opening of Jesus’ public ministry. Matthew has already described the infancy of Jesus, the preaching of the Baptist, Jesus’ own Baptism and temptation. Now, after the imprisonment of John, Jesus undertakes his own mission of preaching and curing, both of these activities being the essential content of his words, “Reform your lives; the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
You cannot be unaware that modern New Testament scholarship has transformed the way in which we read the accounts in the Gospels of the words and deeds of Jesus. The evangelists were neither stenographers nor chroniclers; they were believers writing for believers; they pretended to no “objectivity,” convinced as they were that faith in Jesus as Messiah and Lord was the only true objectivity in his regard. (more…)
Third Sunday of Advent – December 12, 1971 – CNR
The question of John the Baptist we have heard recorded in today’s reading plays an extremely important role in the development of Matthew’s Gospel. Earlier chapters presented both the preaching of Jesus (the Sermon on the Mount in chapters 5-7) and his miracles (chapters 8-9). And the whole unit of material leads to the question John asks, “Are you ‘He who is to come’ or are we to look for another?” It is the key question about Jesus of Nazareth; here it is asked of Jesus, but later it will be Jesus himself who asks the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” (Mt 16:15)
But John’s question, for Matthew, does not concern only the significance of Jesus. For just before his account of this incident, Matthew records Jesus’ commissioning of the disciples: “Go out and proclaim, ‘The Kingdom of heaven is upon you.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out devils.” (Mt 10:7-8) So it is also the ministry of the disciples, of the Church, that is questioned by John; the significance of the Church also hangs on Jesus’ reply.
The link between the two questions is obvious and immediate. (more…)
Second Sunday in Advent–December 8, 1974–CNR
St. Paul meant it of the writings we call the Old Testament, but his words may be extended to include his own writings and the rest of the books that constitute the Christian Bible: “Everything written before our time was written for our instruction, that we might derive hope from the lessons of patience and the words of encouragement in the Scriptures.” That sentence speaks well of the place of our Christian living–if we look back to things said and done and written in the past, it is to gain hope for the future.
Advent, we saw last week, is the great season of hope; and in today’s liturgy the focus of its celebration turns from the expectation of the final coming of God’s Kingdom to the anticipation of the Word’s becoming flesh which we will celebrate at Christmas. (more…)