This Sunday's Gospel

Exegetical notes and homily themes to get you started this weekend:

6/9/19 – Pentecost
6/16/19 – The Holy Trinity
6/23/19 – The Body and Blood of Christ (ROMAN lectionary)
6/23/19 – Pentecost 2 (COMMON lectionary)
6/30/19 – Sunday 13 / Pentecost 3

7/7/19 – Sunday 14 / Pentecost 4
7/14/19 – Sunday 15 / Pentecost 5
7/21/19 – Sunday 16 / Pentecost 6
7/28/19 – Sunday 17 / Pentecost 7


June 9 – Pentecost [ABC]

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Acts 2: 1-11
Jesus breathed on them and said:  “Receive the Holy Spirit . . . ”
John 20: 19-23

THE WORD:

Pentecost was the Jewish festival of the harvest (also called the “Feast of Weeks”), celebrated 50 days after Passover, when the first fruits of the corn harvest were offered to the Lord.  A feast of pilgrimage (hence the presence in Jerusalem of so many “devout Jews of every nation”), Pentecost also commemorated Moses’ receiving the Law on Mount Sinai.  For the new Israel, Pentecost becomes the celebration of the Spirit of God's compassion, peace and forgiveness – the Spirit that transcends the Law and becomes the point of departure for the young Church's universal mission (the planting of a new harvest?).

In his Acts of the Apostles (Reading 1), Luke invokes the First Testament images of wind and fire in his account of the new Church’s Pentecost:  God frequently revealed his presence in fire (the pillar of fire in the Sinai) and in wind (the wind that sweeps over the earth to make the waters of the Great Flood subside).  The Hebrew word for spirit, ruah, and the Greek word pneuma also refer to the movement of air, not only as wind, but also of life-giving breath (as in God's creation of man in Genesis 2 and the revivification of the dry bones in Ezekiel 37).  Through his life-giving “breath,” the Lord begins the era of the new Israel on Pentecost.

Today’s Gospel of the first appearance of the Risen Jesus before his ten disciples (remember Thomas is not present) on Easter night is John’s version of the Pentecost event.  In “breathing” the Holy Spirit upon them, Jesus imitates God’s act of creation in Genesis.  Just as Adam’s life came from God, so the disciples’ new life of the Spirit comes from Jesus.  In the Resurrection, the Spirit replaces their sense of self-centered fear and confusion with the “peace” of understanding, enthusiasm and joy and shatters all barriers among them to make of them a community of hope and forgiveness.  By Christ’s sending them forth, the disciples become apostles – “those sent.”

HOMILY POINTS:

The feast of Pentecost celebrates the unseen, immeasurable presence of God in our lives and in our Church: the ruah that animates us to do the work of the Gospel of the Risen One, the ruah that makes God’s will our will, the ruah of God living in us and transforming us so that we might bring his life and love to our broken world.  God “breathes” his Spirit into our souls that we may live in his life and love; God ignites the “fire” of his Spirit within our hearts and minds that we may seek God in all things in order to realize the coming of his reign.

Today we celebrate the gift of God’s Spirit: the Spirit that enables us to love as selflessly and as totally as God loved us enough to become one of us, to die for us and to rise for us; the Spirit that takes us beyond empty legalisms and static measurements of “mine” and “yours” to create a community of compassion, reconciliation and justice centered in “us”; the Spirit that enables us to re-create our world in the peace and mercy of God.

In Jesus' “breathing” upon them the new life of the Spirit, the community of the Resurrection – the Church – takes flight.  That same Spirit continues to “blow” through today’s Church to give life and direction to our mission and ministry to preach the Gospel to every nation, to proclaim the forgiveness and reconciliation in God's name, to baptize all humanity into the life of Jesus' Resurrection.

The Spirit of God enables the Eleven – and us – to do things they could not do their own: to understand the “truth” of God’s great love for his people that is embodied in the Risen Christ, and then to boldly proclaim the Gospel of Christ.  The Spirit empowers us with the grace to do the difficult work of Gospel justice, forgiveness and compassion.

The miracle of Pentecost (Acts 2) is the Spirit’s overcoming the barriers of language and perception to open not only the minds of the Apostles’ hearers but their hearts as well to understanding and embracing the Word of God.

Return to top


June 16 – The Holy Trinity [C]
        
“The Spirit of truth will guide you to all truth.”
John 16: 12-15

THE WORD:

As Ordinary Time resumes, two “solemnities of the Lord” are celebrated on the next two Sundays.  Today’s celebration of the Trinity, originating in France in the eighth century and adopted by the universal Church in 1334, focuses on the essence of our faith: the revelation of God as Creator, the climax of his creation in Jesus the Redeemer, the fullness of the love of God poured out upon us in the Sustainer Spirit.

In his final words to his disciples at the Last Supper, Jesus promises to send the “Spirit of truth [to] guide you to all truth.”  The Son has revealed the Father to the Church; the Spirit of truth and wisdom keeps that revelation alive in the Church.

HOMILY POINTS:

Trinity Sunday is a celebration of the many dimensions in which we discover the how and why of God: God, the Creator and Sustainer of all that lives; God, the Christ who became one of us to show us the depth of God's love; the Spirit, the love of God living among us, the love that gives meaning and vision to us, God's beloved creation.

Truth is an ongoing process; God continues to reveal himself in all time.  He is not a silent God who ceased to reveal himself on the last page of Scripture.  Through the Spirit dwelling within us and within the Church, God is still leading us into a greater realization of what Jesus taught in the Gospels.

To be a person of authentic faith means to seek out and face the truth – regardless of the consequences, regardless of the cost to egos or wallets, regardless of our doubts and cynicism and fear.  To live our faith means to live the truth about love, justice and forgiveness with integrity and conviction, regardless of the cost. 

Faith begins with realizing the Spirit of God breathing life into all that exists; faith then compels us to continue the creative work of God, to embrace and be embraced by the love of God that envelopes every wonder of nature and every manifestation of compassion.

Return to top


June 23 – The Body and Blood of Christ [C]  

Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, Jesus said the blessing over them, broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.
Luke 9: 11-17

THE WORD:

Today’s celebration of the Body and Blood of the Lord originated in the Diocese of Liege in 1246 as the feast of Corpus Christi.  In the reforms of Vatican II, the feast was joined with that of the Precious Blood (July 1) to become the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord.  We celebrate today the Christ’s gift of the Eucharist, the source and summit of our life together as the Church.

Today’s Gospel is Luke’s account of Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand with five loaves of bread and two pieces of fish (the only one of Jesus’ miracles recounted in all four Gospels).  As he does throughout Luke’s Gospel, Jesus performs a miracle out of his deep sense of compassion for the suffering and needy – but, first, Jesus asks the Twelve to gather up whatever they can from the community; with these few, shared gifts Jesus creates a community of thanksgiving, a community of Eucharist.

HOMILY POINTS:

A sacrament, St. Augustine said, is the visible sign of God’s invisible grace.  The gifts we give to one another are sacramental when they manifest the love and mercy of God; they are Eucharistic when they transform us into a community bound by that love.

In our sharing of the body of Christ, we are called to become the body of Christ for one another: to make the limitless, complete love of Christ reality for all.

Christ calls us to be both guests and waiters at his table.  We come here with our struggles and doubts and pains and sorrows to be fed and nourished; at the same time, the Eucharist should impel us to become Eucharist for others – to make the limitless, complete love of Christ real for all in our own acts of charity and kindness.

Return to top


June 23 – Second Sunday after Pentecost [PROPER 7]     

As [Jesus] stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him.  For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs . . . Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?”  He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him.
Luke 8: 26-39

THE WORD:

Luke seems to understate the eeriness of this scene.  A madman – naked, given to violent seizures, left to stalking cemeteries, deprived of family, friends and identity – shouts at Jesus as he is going by.  When Jesus meets the man, the demons themselves speak.  Once Jesus had subjugated them, they beg to enter into a nearby herd of pigs, which then rush down the hillside into the lake where they drown. 

This story reflects a common theme of Luke’s Gospel:  Jesus’ compassion trumps religious practice and social convention.  The psychotic man, considered “unclean” and ritually impure to religious Jew, is condemned to live among the tombs.  In Luke’s account (unlike Matthew and Mark’s version of the story), Jesus commands the spirits to leave him before the man can ask Jesus for healing.

In demanding to know the name of the demons, Jesus demonstrates his authority over them.  In ancient thought, to know a name was to exercise control, and the demons freely surrender top Jesus’ authority, realizing that they must be obedient to him.  The name Legion is the technical term for a division of the Roman military, usually consisting of about five thousand troops; thus the name suggests a horde of demons possessing the man.  For Jesus’ Jewish hearers, pigs epitomized both paganism and their hated Roman occupiers.  Rather than return to the “abyss” (the realm of Satan), the demons ask that they be allowed to enter the pigs on the nearby hillside; Jesus agrees, but then plummets the herd into the lake, visible proof that the demons have left the man once and for all.

The man, now healed, is sent by Jesus to proclaim the goodness of God throughout the town, becoming one of the first Gentile missionaries.  But those who witness this exorcism are terrified at the power of this Jesus and ask him to leave.

HOMILY POINTS:

We all have our demons distracting us from the things of God; we are all “possessed” by fear, despair and cynicism.  Yet we hesitate to be rid of them – we have become secure and comfortable in our own little worlds, with our demons protecting them.  Christ comes to exercise our demons that we may be made new and whole in the limitless compassion of God.

Jesus and the Gospel he preaches terrifies us.  While we readily embrace the peace and comfort of Jesus’ words, we shy away from the demands of the Gospel: selflessness, humility, detachment from the material.  Authentic faith demands that we be willing to follow not only the good and gentle Jesus but the suffering and crucified Jesus, as well.

Jesus’ authority is not an “authority” constructed of legend and celebrity.  His authority over good and evil is centered in the selfless, limitless and unconditional love of God and the spirit of humility that seeks to put the power of one’s “authority” at the service of others.

Return to top


June 30 – 13th Sunday of the Year / Third Sunday after Pentecost [PROPER 8]

“No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Luke 9: 51-62

THE WORD:

The journey to Jerusalem is the focus of today’s Gospel.  Jesus proceeds to Jerusalem to take up the cross that awaits him there.

The most direct route to Jerusalem took Jesus and his company through a Samaritan town.  The Samaritans and Jews despised one another.  Their hatred dated back to the eighth century B.C., when Assyria conquered northern Israel (Samaria).  Those northerners who survived the disaster intermarried with foreigners resettled by the Assyrians.  The Jews of Jerusalem considered such accommodation with their hated enemy treason and, worse, a betrayal of the holy faith.  Jerusalem banned the Samaritans from the temple and synagogues, refused their religious contributions and denied their legal status in court proceedings.  The spurned Samaritans would do everything they could to hinder and even attack pilgrims to Jerusalem.  Although it was the most direct route from Galilee, most Jews avoided the territories of the Samaritans.  Jesus, however, proceeds through Samaria, regardless of their inhospitality and responds to their bitterness with tolerance and reconciliation.

Along the way, three would-be disciples ask to join Jesus.  To the first, Jesus asks if he clearly understands the cost of discipleship; Jesus urges the second not to find excuses or rationalizations for avoiding the call of God; Jesus reminds the third that discipleship demands a total dedication and commitment to seeking God in all things.

HOMILY POINTS:

To claim the title of disciple demands that we abandon our own safety and security for the sake of the reign of God.  The call to discipleship demands a total, conscious acceptance of the hard demands of the Gospel. 

Jesus calls those who would be his disciples not to look back with regret or fear to what we leave undone but to look forward to the possibilities we have to establish and build the reign of God in our own time and place.

The Gospel of forgiveness, reconciliation, justice and peace is not a collection of pious words we commit to memory; it is a spirit-centered attitude and perspective to which we commit our lives.

We cannot be disciples by being mere spectators of God’s presence; authentic discipleship calls us to become involved in the hard work of making the reign of God a reality.

Return to top


July 7 – 14th Sunday of the Year [C] / Fourth Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 9C]

“Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’”
Luke 10: 1-12, 17-20

THE WORD:

Jesus commissions 72 messengers to go before him to prepare for his arrival in the towns along his route to Jerusalem.  The number 72 symbolized for the Jews the number of the world’s Gentile nations.  In keeping with Luke’s use of symbolic numbers and his Gentile perspective, the 72 disciples represent the new Church’s mission to every nation and people under heaven.

Jesus instructs the seventy-two:

Jesus' vision of Satan's fall assures the disciples of every age that, despite the dangers of “serpent and scorpion” (First Testament symbols of evil); the good that they do out of faithfulness to their call will ultimately triumph.

HOMILY POINTS:

Jesus instructs his disciples to “travel light” – not to clutter up our lives with material things and material values, like the pursuit of wealth, status and power. 

The Gospel challenges us to make the hard choice and the unpopular decision, to endure the raised eyebrows and suspicious stares of those whose lifestyles and power bases are challenged by the demanding teachings of Jesus. 

Jesus sends the seventy-two forth with no magical powers; he invests them with no special authority.  They are to go about their work with humility and joy.  They are to offer peace to all.  They are to accept whatever hospitality is offered to them with gratitude. They are to be Jesus’ agents for healing and reconciliation.  And Jesus promises that they will make a difference in people’s lives — and their dedication to the work of the Gospel will make a difference in their own lives, as well. 

Jesus commissions the seventy-two disciples of the Gospel – and us – to proclaim peace – peace that is centered in embracing Christ’s attitude of servanthood and his spirit of compassion, peace that enables us to bring forth the good that exists within everyone, peace that is returned to us in extending the blessing of that peace to others.

Return to top


July 14 – 15th Sunday of the Year [C] / Fifth Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 10C]

The parable of the Good Samaritan:
“ . . . a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight.”
Luke 10: 25-37

THE WORD:

A lawyer’s question about who is – and, by implication, who is not – one’s neighbor sets the stage for one of Jesus’ most beloved parables, the story of the Good Samaritan (found only in Luke’s Gospel).  Jesus stuns his hearers by making a Samaritan the hero of the story – especially in light of the inhospitality of the Samaritans during their journey to Jerusalem (the Gospel for the 13th Sunday of Year).  Jesus’ hearers would expect a Samaritan to be the villain of the story, not the hero.  While the two clerics do not help the man for fear of violating the Torah by being defiled by the dead, the compassionate Samaritan – a man presumably with little concern for Jewish belief or morality – is so moved by the plight of the poor man that he thinks nothing of stopping to help regardless of the cost of time or money. 

The Jews of Jesus’ time defined “neighbor” exclusively as other Jews, but Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan expands such a limited concept.  One of the key principles of Christianity is the concept that all men and women are “neighbors”: children of the same heavenly Father, brothers and sisters in Christ.  The Samaritan and the traveler illustrate that Jesus’ concept of “neighbor” is not limited to one’s own clan or community.  Christ-like compassion must be manifested in deeds of kindness; morality, in the light of the Gospel, cannot be guided by laws inscribed in stone but ultimately by the spirit of the heart.

HOMILY POINTS:

The Good Samaritan is the Gospel prototype of Gospel charity, of service to our “neighbor.”  “Good Samaritans” are, quite simply, people who recognize every human being as their neighbor and then permit nothing – not prejudices, stereotypes, complications or costs – prevent them from hearing their cry for help and responding to their plight.

The parable of the Good Samaritan calls us to embrace a vision of faith that sees every man, woman and child – regardless of whatever labels society has assigned to them – as our “neighbors.”  Christ teaches us, his disciples, to look beyond what divides us from one another and focus on what unites us; to put aside our own needs and wants to embrace the needs and wants of others; to see our own wealth as a means to bring healing and hope into the lives who have little.

Every day, we encounter people who are in a ditch of discouragement, who have been beaten and bruised by the abuse and anger of others, who have been left near dead in frustrating hopelessness.  We don’t have to look very far to find such “victims” — and we can become Good Samaritans by extending to them compassion, understanding and a support. 

Return to top


July 21 – 16th Sunday of the Year [C] / Sixth Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 11C]

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.  There is need of only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”
Luke 10: 38-42

THE WORD:

The sisters Martha and Mary mirror the two expressions of the disciple’s call: loving service to others (Martha) and prayer and contemplation (Mary).  But as Martha comes to realize in today's Gospel, discipleship begins with hearing the Word of God, with opening our hearts and spirits to the presence of God.

HOMILY POINTS:

We are all like Martha in our own anxiety over making all the pieces fit; we obsess about the details and peripherals at the expense of the important and lasting.  “The better part” embraced by Mary transcends the pragmatic and practical concerns of the everyday and sees the hand of God in all things; the “better part” is to realize the gratitude all of creation owes its loving Creator for the gift of life.

With so many agendas demanding our time and attention, Jesus calls us to consciously choose and seek out “the better part”: to make a place in our lives for the joy and love of family and friends that is the presence of God.

It is a motto of Benedictine monasteries around the world:  “Let all be received here as would Christ” (The Rule of St. Benedict, chapter 53).  Like Abraham’s welcome of the three strangers (today’s first reading from Genesis 18) and the welcome Martha, Mary and Lazarus extend to Jesus in Bethany, hospitality is not only a holy responsibility but also a joyful opportunity to welcome and serve Jesus in the persons those who come to our tables.

Return to top


July 28 – 17th Sunday of the Year [C] / Seventh Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 12C]

“When you pray, say, Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come . . .”
“If you who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”
Luke 11: 1-13

THE WORD:

In today’s reading from Luke’s Gospel, the disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray.  What is important to grasp is not the words of the prayer (Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer is shorter and more concise than Matthew’s version), but the attitude of prayer Jesus teaches.  To pray is not to impose our will on God but to ask God to make us open to his will; in other words, we pray not to change God's mind but for God to change ours.

Authentic prayer, as taught by Jesus and contained in the Lord’s Prayer, has three elements:

HOMILY POINTS:

We often approach prayer as if we are trying to wring gifts from an unwilling God; in fact, we come before a God who knows our needs better than we do ourselves. 

Authentic prayer is not a formula or ritual but an awareness of God’s presence in our lives, of God’s hand as sustainer and nurturer of creation, of God’s love giving breath to every moment of our existence.

Prayer is to realize the connection between the compassion of God and the love we experience in our lives, between God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness we extend, between the holy creativity of God and the work we do for our daily bread.   

Return to top