Saturday, July 30, 2011

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 31, 2011

The Feeding of the 5,000 in Matthew, as in the other Gospels as well, is an anticipation, foreshadowing, and type of the Eucharist, the meal which along truly satisfies and "answers all our needs." It is the meal by which we enter the Davidic Covenant, receiving the gift of Divine Sonship and kingship over the earth. Thank you to The Sacred Page for this wonderful illumination on Sundays' readings.

The Bread of the Berith

Holy Mother Church serves up a rich fare for us in the Liturgy of the Word this week.
We begin with one of the most striking prophecies of the Book of Isaiah:
Thus says the LORD:
All you who are thirsty,
come to the water!
You who have no money,
come, receive grain and eat;
Come, without paying and without cost,
drink wine and milk!
Why spend your money for what is not bread;
your wages for what fails to satisfy?
Heed me, and you shall eat well,
you shall delight in rich fare.
Come to me heedfully,
listen, that you may have life.
I will renew with you the everlasting covenant,
the benefits assured to David.

Like many oracles in the Book of Isaiah, the prophetic author provides very little information about the time or place when this oracle will be fulfilled.  In antiquity, the second half of Isaiah (chs. 40-66) seem to have been understood as a long description of the Messianic or Final Age (the Latter Days).
This oracle is an invitation to the thirsty, hungry poor to come to the LORD, who will simultaneously: (1) provide them with a satisfying meal, (2) grant them life, and (3) renew with them the Davidic covenant. 
Hebrew poetry operates on the principle of parallelism, whereby paired poetic lines (a bicola) are mutually illuminating.
Thus, the final verse of this reading is describing one action, not two.  We should read as follows:
            I will renew with you the everlasting covenant (Heb. berith ‘olam),
            that is, the covenant love assured to David (Heb. hasdey dawid hane’emanim)
The “everlasting covenant” (berith ‘olam) is nothing other than the hesed or covenant love that was given to David (hasdey david).  In other words, the “everlasting covenant” is a restoration or transformation of the Davidic covenant.  The word hesed (appearing here in the masculine plural construct form hasdey) is a very important term in the Hebrew Bible.  It designates the love appropriate for covenant partners, and is frequently found in the near vicinity of the term berith and other words associated with a covenant relationship.  Hesed is arguably the most important concept in the Book of Psalms, the canonical message of which is summarized by the phrase, “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, and his hesed endures forever” (e.g. Pss 100; 106; 107; 136).
The main text of the Davidic covenant is widely understood to be 2 Samuel 7:4-17 (but see also Psalm 89:1-37).  According to this covenant, David and his sons enjoyed the privileged status of Divine sonship and were promised to rule over the entire earth.
Isaiah 55:1-3 foresees a coming age when the LORD will extend the privileges of the Davidic covenant to all the poor of the earth who come to him.  Arguably, this passage is an important but often forgotten background text for the Beatitudes which we read some weeks ago:
Matt. 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Aren’t the poor, the hungry, and the thirsty the invitees of Isaiah 55:1-3?  And isn’t the Kingdom of Heaven (2 Chron 13:8), the entire earth (Ps 89:25-27), and divine Sonship (2 Sam 7:14; Ps 89:26) the promises of the Davidic covenant? (more on Davidic Covenant here)

Nonetheless, Holy Mother Church pairs this OT text today in order for us to make the connection between the promised covenant-bestowing meal and the Feeding of the 5,000.
The Responsorial Psalm focuses our thoughts on gratitude for God’s provision of our needs and the needs of all creation.  In light of the Eucharist we are celebrating, we should understand God’s provision not only in a physical and material sense, but in a spiritual and sacramental sense.  The deepest hungers of the soul are satisfied by the living God: he answers all our needs, even the most profound.
Responsorial Psalm
R. (cf. 16) The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.
The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The LORD is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.
R. The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.
The eyes of all look hopefully to you,
and you give them their food in due season;
you open your hand
and satisfy the desire of every living thing.
R. The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.
The LORD is just in all his ways
and holy in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call upon him,
to all who call upon him in truth.
R. The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.
The Second Reading is part of the ongoing lectio continua of Romans in this period of the Church’s Lectionary.  Although it does not have explicitly Eucharistic themes, we do see in it a description of God’s hesed, his covenant love.
Reading II
Brothers and sisters:
What will separate us from the love of Christ?
Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine,
or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?
No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly
through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities,
nor present things, nor future things,
nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
nor any other creature will be able to separate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Hesed is a specific kind of love.  It is not infatuation,  nor merely affection, nor is it simply erotic  love, all it may include eros and indeed can and does describe the relationship between husband and wife (e.g. Jer 2:2; Hos 2:18,19).  But most of all, hesed is a love of fidelity, a love that does not fail.  St. Paul beautifully captures the hesed of Jesus Christ in this passage of Romans.
Finally, the Gospel:
When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist,
he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.
The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns.
When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.
When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said,
“This is a deserted place and it is already late;
dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages
and buy food for themselves.”
Jesus said to them, “There is no need for them to go away;
give them some food yourselves.”
But they said to him,
“Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.”
Then he said, “Bring them here to me, ”
and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass.
Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven,
he said the blessing, broke the loaves,
and gave them to the disciples,
who in turn gave them to the crowds.
They all ate and were satisfied,
and they picked up the fragments left over—
twelve wicker baskets full.
Those who ate were about five thousand men,
not counting women and children.
Although the text is not explicit, we are probably correct to assume these crowds were made up of the common and poor people of the land, rather than the wealthy elite.  We here the themes from Isaiah 55 -- Jesus is providing a free, satisfying meal to the hungry and thirsty poor.
But the language Matthew employs is intended to remind us of another incident in Jesus’ ministry, in which he also “takes loaves,” “blesses,” “breaks,” and “gives” them to the disciples.  Of course, this is language from the narrative of the Institution of the Eucharist (Matt 26:26), which is indeed the covenant meal promised by Isaiah 55.  Specifically, it is a meal which extends the covenant of the Son of David to those who participate in it.
The Feeding of the 5,000 in Matthew, as in the other Gospels as well, is an anticipation, foreshadowing, and type of the Eucharist, the meal which along truly satisfies and “answers all our needs.”  It is the meal by which we enter the Davidic Covenant, receiving the gift of Divine Sonship and kingship over the earth.  Out of his loving concern to provide this meal for us, Jesus endured “anguish,  distress, persecution, nakedness, peril, sword,” and ultimately, death.

Graphic credit: 
Psalm 145: Father Stephen Cuyos 


Saturday, July 23, 2011

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle A - July 24, 2011

Reading I: 1 Kings 3:5, 7-12
The LORD was pleased that Solomon made this request.
So God said to him, ". . . . . I give you a heart so wise and understanding
that there has never been anyone like you up to now,
and after you there will come no one to equal you.”
Responsorial Psalm: 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130

R. Lord, I love your commands.
Reading II: Romans 8:28-30

We know that all things work for good for those who love God
Gospel: Matthew 13:44-52 or 13:44-46

The Gospel today tells us the “what” and the “worth” of the Kingdom of God, and gives us a “warning” that reminds us, we have a choice to make. 

The Gospel today asks a most fundamental question: “What is it that you most value?….What is it that you most want?” Now be careful to answer this question honestly. We tend to answer questions like this as we “should” answer them, rather than honestly. But when we’re with the doctor, (and Jesus is our doctor), the best bet is to answer honestly, so we can begin a true healing process. And the fact is, we all need a heart transplant. That is, we need a new heart, one that desires God and the things waiting for us in heaven, more than any earthly thing.
So let’s take a look at this Gospel that sets forth, in three fundamental movements, the “what” and the “worth” of the Kingdom of God, along with a “warning” that reminds us, we have a choice to make.
I. What - The Gospel uses three images for the kingdom, two of which we will look at here, and the third of which we will look at later. The first two images are that of the buried treasure and the pearl. Both these images have some significance elsewhere in the scriptures and studying them will be helpful in fine tuning our understanding of the gift of the Kingdom Jesus is discussing.
A. Buried TreasureThe concept of treasure (here buried treasure) is mentioned elsewhere by Jesus:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt 6:19-21)
Hence this image of treasure that Jesus uses today, is an image for the heart and for our deepest desires, for our treasure is linked to our heart. One of the greatest gifts that God offers us is the gift of a new heart. One of the most fundamental prophetic texts of the Old Testament announces what Jesus has fulfilled:
Oh, my people, I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (Ezekiel 36:25-27)
Thus, the great treasure of the Kingdom of God gives us a new heart, for by choosing this treasure, our heart is changed. To have a new heart is to see and experience our desires change. We are less desirous and focused on passing worldly things, and more on the lasting treasure of the Kingdom of heaven. We begin to love what, and who, God loves. We begin to love holiness, justice, chastity, goodness, righteousness, and truth. We begin to love our spouses, family members, the poor, even our enemies more as God loves them. Our hearts become alive with joy and zeal for the Kingdom of God and an evangelical spirit impels us to speak what we believe and know to be true.
Yes, the buried and hidden treasure of the Kingdom of God, unlocks our heart and brings new life coursing through our veins and arteries, through our very soul. In choosing this treasure we get a new heart. For where our treasure is, there also will be our heart.
B. PearlThe second image of the pearl is from the wisdom tradition where holy Wisdom is likened to a pearl. And here too is described one of the most precious gifts of the Kingdom of God: the gift of a new mind through holy Wisdom. And what is the new mind? It is to begin to think more and more as God thinks, to share in his priorities and his vision. It is to see, increasingly as God sees and to have the mind of Christ (cf 1 Cor 2:16). With this new mind, we see through and reject worldly thinking, worldly priorities and worldly agendas. We come to rejoice in the truth of God and to grasp more deeply its beauty and sensibility. What a precious gift the new mind is, to think with God and to have the mind of Christ.
So here are two precious manifestations of the Kingdom of God: a new heart and a new mind, which is really another way of saying, “a whole new self.” This then leads to the next movement of the Gospel.
II. Worth – What are these offerings of the Kingdom worth and what do they ultimately cost? The answer is very clear in this gospel, they cost, and are worth, EVERYTHING. Regarding the hidden treasure and the pearl, the text says that both men went and sold all they had for these precious offerings. They were willing to forsake everything for them.
Now, be careful not to reduce this Gospel to a moralism. Notice that these men were eager to go and sell, forsake, everything else. They did this not because they had to, so much as they wanted to. And they wanted to pay the price and were willing to do so, even with eagerness, because they were so enamored of the glory they found. And here is the gift to seek from the Lord, a willing and eager heart for the Kingdom of God, so eager that we are willing to forsake any, and everything for it.
For ultimately the Kingdom of God does cost everything, and we will not fully inherit it until we are fully done with this world and its claims on our hearts.
But the gift to seek from the Lord is not that we, with sullen faces and depressed spirits, forsake the world as if we were paying taxes. No! The gift to seek is that we, like these men, be so taken by the glory of God and his kingdom that we are more than willing to set aside anything that gets in our way, that we should be so eager for the things of the Kingdom that the world’s intoxicating and addictive trinkets matter little to us and the loss of them means little.
Do you see? This is the gift. The reception of heart that appreciates the true worth of the Kingdom of God, such that no price is too high. Scriptures says elsewhere:
  1. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ (Phil 3:8)
  2. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Cor 4:17)
  3. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Rom 8:18)
  4. No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor 2:9)
  5. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Phil 3:13-14).
Yes, the Kingdom of God is more than worth any price we must pay, and ultimately we will pay all. Pray for an eager and willing spirit that comes from appreciating the surpassing worth of the Kingdom!
III. Warning – The final movement movement contains a warning about judgment. For, ultimately regarding the Kingdom of God, we either want it or we don’t want it. Hence the Lord speaks of a dragnet that captures everything (and this is the summons all have to come to the judgment). And those who want the Kingdom and have accepted its value and price will be gathered in. And those who do not want the Kingdom of God and do not accept its value will be escorted off.
For there are some who do not value the Kingdom. They may desire heaven, but it is a fake heaven of their own making, not the real heaven of the fullness of the Kingdom of God. The true heaven is the Kingdom of God in all its fullness and the Kingdom of God includes things like, forgiveness, mercy, justice, the dignity of life, love of the poor, chastity, God at the center (not me), the celebration of what is true, good and beautiful, and the love, even, of one’s enemy.
Now there are many who neither want nor value some or most of these things. When the net is drawn the decisions are final. And though we may wish a magic, fairy tale ending where suddenly the opponents of the Kingdom love it, God seems clearly to say that, at the judgment, one’s decision for or against the Kingdom is final and fixed forever.
An old song says, “Better choose the Lord today, for tomorrow, very well might be too late.” Thus we are warned, the judgment looms and we ought to be earnest in seeking a heart from the Lord that eagerly desires the Kingdom and appreciates its worth, above all others, and all things. In the end you get what you want. You will have either chosen the Kingdom or not.
So pray for a new heart, one which values the Kingdom of Heaven above all else. We ought to consider ourselves warned.
A Gospel today about what we truly value in three movements.

Friday, July 15, 2011

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) July 17, 2011

Reading I: Wisdom 12:13, 16-19  
 “ . . . those who are just must be kind”

The Wisdom author provides a unique insight into the Old Testament perception of God’s power and mercy.

Responsorial Psalm: 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16  
R.  Lord, you are good and forgiving.

Psalm 86 is a lament. The psalmist sings of a life afflicted and asks God to give his servant relief. The song indicates the faithfulness of the singer, even in times of distress. The theme of forgiveness and mercy are confidently expected for those who believe and trust in God.
Reading II: Romans 8:26-27  
 “The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness;
for we do not know how to pray as we ought.”
St. Paul’s dialogue has been explaining to the Romans that the glory Christ will be shared by those who believe in him and the sufferings of the present life are preparatory to future redemption. It is through the Holy Spirit that this interior will is communicated to God in prayer. Even imperfect intent is received because of the intercession of the Spirit and because of God’s love and mercy.
Gospel: Matthew 13:24-43 or 13:24-30 
The “kingdom of heaven” is continually being established by a God who is amazingly patient. This Sunday’s three gospel parables illustrate this well.
In the first, God exercises patience until the wheat grows enough so the weeds can be pulled without destroying the wheat. 

“While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.”
In the second, God waits patiently until the tiny seed grows into a large enough plant to welcome the birds of the sky. 

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed.”
In the third, God patiently allows time for the yeast to work its leavening effect on the dough.

“The kingdom of heaven is like yeast . . . ”

God has all the patience in the world, and so must we if we are truly to be God’s servants..

At the end of today's Gospel we read, 
Then, dismissing the crowds, he went into the house.  His disciples approached him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”
Jesus goes on to explain. We are all familiar with the passages that tells us:
“The Son of Man will send his angels,
and they will collect out of his kingdom
all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.
They will throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.
Then the righteous will shine like the sun
in the kingdom of their Father.”
We, in 2011, might be helped to understand more fully by making sure we understand a bit of historical and cultural context.
Experts describe Mediterranean society as agonistic, that is, hostile and conflict-oriented. Today’s opening parable is an illustration of this feature.

An enemy has sowed weeds among the wheat. The fact is mentioned without comment. Jesus’ audience understood this perfectly. Birth into a family means not only inheriting that family’s honor status and its friends but also inheriting its enemies.

There are many reasons why families become enemies in the ancient world, but the consequences are always the same. A state of feuding develops and persists over a long period of time. One never knows but must always suspect that a feuding enemy is seeking to shame one’s family.

In this story, the shame is planted soon after the wheat seeds are sown, but it does not become full-blown shame until the weeds have matured to the point where they are clearly distinguishable from the wheat. Now the entire village discovers the shame along with the landowner, and they begin to laugh.

The laughter grows even louder when the landowner instructs his servants to allow the weeds to grow alongside the wheat until harvest. The peasants expect retaliation and revenge. Instead, the landowner appears helpless and bested by his enemies. Before the invention of electricity and television, such feuds provided entertainment for the village.

But appearances are deceiving. The landowner is shrewd as well as being a savvy farmer. He knows that the wheat is strong enough to tolerate the weeds’ competition for nutrition and irrigation. After the harvest, the landowner will not only have grain for his barns, but extra, unanticipated fuel for his needs. Instead of shaming this landowner, the weed strategy has backfired and shamed the enemy. The landowner and his servants have the last laugh. The enemy bent on shaming others is shamed instead!

There is an interesting lesson here. Once again, Jesus’ peasant audience recognized that this was not a lesson in agriculture. It may have been a lesson about cultural values. The “something other” or “something more” of this parable may well be the landowner’s refusal to retaliate, to get even with the enemy. In a society dedicated to revenge, the landowner’s victory by seeming to do nothing is a powerful lesson.

The confidence of the landowner that his wheat will survive the effect of the weeds is worth pondering. A trust in goodness that is greater than the fear of wickedness could be a powerful weapon against rampant, senseless violence. It has worked before in history, and could work again if given a chance.


Lorraine Bezuidenhout - "The Mustard Tree"

"Mustard Seed"   by Martha Spong 
~~set to AMAZING GRACE~~

Oh, once there was a mustard seed
Almost too small to see.
I planted it and watched it grow
Into a spreading tree.

The tree became a home for birds;
The branches held their nests.
The birds they came from miles around
to find a place to rest.

But mustard seeds will never grow
Into such spreading trees
We tell the tale so we will know
God's kingdom yet to be.

How can we live our lives today
to be the mustard seed?
We'll share God's love with all we meet
and help the ones in need.
Oh, once there was a mustard seed
Almost too small to see.
I planted it and watched it grow
Into a spreading tree.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

July 10th, 2011 - 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s readings, like last week’s, ask us to meditate on Israel’s response to God’s Word—and our own. Why do some hear the word of the kingdom, yet fail to accept it as a call to conversion and faith in Jesus? That question underlies today’s Gospel, especially.

Again we see, as we did last week, that the kingdom’s mysteries are unfolded to those who open their hearts, making of them a rich soil in the which the Word can grow and bear fruit.

We have for our First Reading a poetic section from the final chapter of The Book of Consolation also known as Second Isaiah. This chapter opens with the famous verses about the invitation to “come to the water all you who are thirsty.” 

As we sing in today’s Psalm (Responsorial Psalm: 65:10, 11, 12-13, 14), in Jesus, God’s Word has visited our land, to water the stony earth of our hearts with the living waters of the Spirit

See also: John 7:38 --> Whoever believes in me, as scripture says: 'Rivers of living water 14 will flow from within him.'"

Revelation 22:1  -->Then the angel showed me the river of life-giving water, 1sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb
The response in our Responsorial Psalm is from Luke 8:8 --> The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.

The firstfruit of the Word is the Spirit of love and adoption poured into our hearts in baptism, making us children of God, as Paul reminds us in today’s Epistle

See Romans 5:5   -->  and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us.
Romans 8:15-16  -->For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, "Abba, 3 Father!"
The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God
In this, we are made a “new creation” (see 2 Corinthians 5:17), the firstfruits of a new heaven and a new earth (see 2 Peter 3:13).

2 Corinthians 5:17  --> So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.
2 Peter 3:13  -->   But according to his promise we await new heavens and a new earth 11 in which righteousness dwells.

Since the first humans rejected God’s Word, creation has been enslaved to futility (see Genesis 3:17-19; 5:29). But God’s Word does not go forth only to return to Him void, as we hear in today’s First Reading.

Genesis 3:17-19  -->  To the man he said: "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat, "Cursed be the ground because of you! In toil shall you eat its yield all the days of your life.
Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to you, as you eat of the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face shall you get bread to eat, Until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; For you are dirt, and to dirt you shall return."
Genesis 5:29  -->   3and named him Noah, saying, "Out of the very ground that the LORD has put under a curse, this one shall bring us relief from our work and the toil of our hands."
His Word awaits our response. We must show ourselves to be children of that Word. We must allow that Word to accomplish God’s will in our lives. As Jesus warns today, we must take care lest the devil steal it away or lest it be choked by worldly concerns.

In the Eucharist, the Word gives himself to us as bread to eat. He does so that we might be made fertile, yielding fruits of holiness.

And we await the crowning of the year, the great harvest of the Lord’s Day (see Mark 4:29; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 1:10)—when His Word will have achieved the end for which it was sent.

Mark 4:29  -->  And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.
2 Peter 3:10  -->  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, 8 and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out.

Revelation 1:10  -->I was caught up in spirit on the Lord's day 9 and heard behind me a voice as loud as a trumpet


Larry Gillick, S. J., of Creighton University’s Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality writes this:

In the next several weeks we will be hearing parables. These are easy-to-remember stories which can have several interpretations. They are meant to catch the attention of the listeners and are invitations to the listeners to find their places in the stories.

I taught poetry to second-year high school students, or at least it was attempted. Their usual response was, “Why doesn’t the guy just come right out and say it?” Why doesn’t Jesus come right out and say it? The “it” here is the mystery of the kingdom and there were those who listened for insights and head-knowing, but they were not letting “it” get close, inside and permanent.

Knowledge and insights do not save. Answers invite only more questions. Parables are for those who know beyond knowledge. They hear and see beyond senses. Tribulations, persecutions, worldly fears and the desires for riches are all parts of our human soil. The Word of God, Jesus, has come to identify the soil, improve it and assist its knowing and growing.

We are in the heart of Matthew’s semester-course on who Jesus is and who does his coming make us. We are in the school of intimacy. The closer he comes to our part of the soil the more fruitful we become and he will not leave us to ourselves. By ourselves we will whither and default to our beaten-pathness. By ourselves we will be choked by our own greed and self-centered demands.

Fruitful living is how people live under the influence of the person of Jesus. As we reflected upon in last week's liturgy, relationships change the persons in the relationship. Usually the intimacy of the relationship brings about changes which are not immediately perceived by the relaters. Others see changes and the changes are usually defined as being more alive, more spirited, more who they have always wanted to be. Ideas don’t change us much or very deeply. The influence of the significant people in our lives changes us far beyond the power of thought. God so loved the world that God did not send an idea or a book. God rained down the grace within the person of Jesus the Word who remains until the good earth remembers who it is. So God did come right out and say it!
What remains is our staying attentive not to Jesus as teacher or idea-giver, but to Jesus who desires lovingly to bring God’s goodness out of our good soil. 

1) Scott Hahn, Ph.D. 

3) Godspell clip

4) LivingWatersGraphic

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Sunday, July 3, 2011

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Christ the Redeemer”
by Andrea Del Sarto, c. 1650
Readings for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time[1][2]

Readings and Commentary:[3]

Reading 1: Zechariah 9:9-10

Thus says the LORD:
Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion,
shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king shall come to you;
a just savior is he,
meek, and riding on an ass,
on a colt, the foal of an ass.
He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim,
and the horse from Jerusalem;
the warrior’s bow shall be banished,
and he shall proclaim peace to the nations.
His dominion shall be from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
Commentary on Zec 9:9-10

The oracle of the Prophet Zechariah speaks of the restoration of Israel following the great exile.  In this section he speaks of the coming of the Messiah.  “The Messiah will come, not as a conquering warrior, but in lowliness and peace. Not like the last kings of Judah, who rode in chariots and on horses (Jeremiah 17:25; 22:4), but like the princes of old (Genesis 49:11; Judges 5:10; 10:4), the Messiah will ride on an ass. The Evangelists see a literal fulfillment of this prophecy in the Savior's triumphant entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:4-5; John 12:14-15).”[4]


R. (cf. 1) I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God.
R. Alleluia.

I will extol you, O my God and King,
and I will bless your name forever and ever.
Every day will I bless you,
and I will praise your name forever and ever.
R. I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God.
R. Alleluia.

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The Lord is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.
R. I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God.
R. Alleluia.

Let all your works give you thanks, O Lord,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might.
R. I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God.
R. Alleluia.

The Lord is faithful in all his words
and holy in all his works.
The Lord lifts up all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.
R. I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God.
R. Alleluia.

Psalm 145 is a hymn of praise.  The singer invites all to join in praising God for all he has done; for His creation, His kindness, and His mercy toward those who have fallen on hard times.

Reading II: Romans 8:9, 11-13

Brothers and sisters:
You are not in the flesh;
on the contrary, you are in the spirit,
if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.
Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you,
the one who raised Christ from the dead
will give life to your mortal bodies also,
through his Spirit that dwells in you.
Consequently, brothers and sisters,
we are not debtors to the flesh,
to live according to the flesh.
For if you live according to the flesh, you will die,
but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body,
you will live.
Commentary on Rom 8:9, 11-13

After his warning in Romans 7 against the wrong route to fulfillment of the objective of holiness expressed in Romans 6:22, Paul points his addressees to the correct way. Through the redemptive work of Christ, Christians have been liberated from the terrible forces of sin and death. Holiness was impossible so long as the flesh (or our "old self"). The same Spirit who enlivens Christians for holiness will also resurrect their bodies at the last day. Christian life is therefore the experience of a constant challenge to put to death the evil deeds of the body through life of the spirit (Romans 8:13).[5]


At that time Jesus exclaimed:
“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to little ones.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
Commentary on Mt 11:25-30

Jesus has just completed a fairly scathing criticism of the places he has been and performed miracles yet; the people have not accepted him as the Messiah.  He now concludes this section on a more joyous note as he reflects that, while the Scribes and Pharisees (“the wise and learned”) have not understood who he is, those with simple faith have accepted him freely.  He then issues an invitation to all who “labor and are burdened” quoting an invitation similar to one in Ben Sirach to learn wisdom and submit to her yoke (Sirach 51:23, 26).


Sacred Scripture offers us a clear vision of what Jesus offers us and what we in-turn are to offer in his name.  In the first reading from the Prophet Zechariah we see the prediction of the Messiah who (from his view) is to come.  We see, unlike the leaders of Jesus’ day, that the Savior will come humbly (“…and he shall proclaim peace to the nations.”)  While the prophet is clear that Christ’s dominion will be over the whole world, again, the leaders of his age saw only his mission to free Israel from the Romans.  This conflict of images between a “Royal Messiah” imagined to be like King David from whose line Jesus came is the basic reason so many of the leaders of the Jewish community could not accept him.

What also caused difficulty was the radical change in understanding of God’s desires for His people ushered in by the Lord.  St. Paul in his letter to the Romans speaks of this fundamental change as he calls the faithful claimed by and for Christ as “…not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit,”  In the grip of the Holy Spirit we need to be conformed to Christ accepting his “easy yoke”.

Finally in the Gospel Jesus makes his invitation and promise.  After he laments that the people who should have seen his mission most clearly, the “wise and the learned”, he issues an invitation to all who are doing daily labor, not focused exclusively on things of God.  He also states clearly that accepting his mission and wisdom should not be difficult but rather acceptance should bring us peace.

Given what we hear, those of us who strive to follow him are called to reach out as well.  It is the great paradox of our faith.  We are to remain separate and untouched by the secular world and its values but also reach out to other in that world offering them Christ’s peace, the “light burden”.

Our prayer today is that we present that humble image, so easy to accept and love, to those we meet.  In turn that loving peace will infuse us with His love and consolation.


[2] The picture used today is “Christ the Redeemer” by Andrea Del Sarto, c. 1650
[3] The readings are taken from the New American Bible with the exception of the Psalm and its response which were developed by the International Committee for English in Liturgy (ICEL). This re-publication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only.
[4] NAB footnote on Zechariah 9:9
[5] Taken in part from the NAB footnote on Romans 8:1-13