This Sunday's Gospel

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

6/3/18 – The Body and Blood of the Lord [B]
6/3/18 – Pentecost 2 [B]
6/10/18 – Sunday 10 / Pentecost 3 [B]
6/17/18 – Sunday 11 / Pentecost 4 [B]
6/24/18 – Nativity of John the Baptist (Roman lectionary)
6/24/18 – Pentecost 5 [B] (Common lectionary)

7/1/18 – Sunday 13 / Pentecost 6
7/8/18 – Sunday 14 / Pentecost 7
7/15/18 – Sunday 15
7/15/18 – Pentecost 8
7/22/18 – Sunday 16 / Pentecost 9
7/29/18 – Sunday 17 / Pentecost 10


June 3 – The Body and Blood of the Lord [B]

Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it to them and said, “Take it; this is my body.”
Mark 14: 12-16, 22-26

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 the feast of the Precious Blood (July 1) to become the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord.  Today we celebrate the Christ’s gift of the Eucharist, the source and summit of our life together as the Church.

Today’s Gospel is Mark’s account of the Last Supper.  At the Passover meal marking the First Covenant, Jesus, the Lamb of the New Covenant, institutes the New Passover of the Eucharist.

HOMILY POINTS:

“If you have received worthily,” St. Augustine preached, “you become what you have received.”  In sharing the body of Christ, we become the body of Christ.  If we partake of the one bread and cup, then we must be willing to become Eucharist for others – to make the love of Christ real for all.

At our own parish table, we come to the Eucharist to celebrate our identity as his disciples and to seek the sustaining grace to live the hard demands of such discipleship. 

We make our parish family's table the Lord’s own table, a place of reconciliation and compassion.

The sacrament of the Eucharist is more than just reliving the memory of Christ’s great sacrifice for our redemption – in sharing his “body” in the bread of the Eucharist we re-enter the inexplicable love of God who gives us eternal life in his Son, the Risen Christ; in drinking his “blood” in the wine of the Eucharist we take his life into the very core of our beings. 

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June 3 – Second Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 4]

“Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?”
Mark 2: 23 – 3: 6

THE WORD:

The observance of the Sabbath is the third of six controversies between Jesus and the Pharisees recorded in Mark’s Gospel.  The Pharisees are appalled that the disciples are pulling the grain off wheat stalks as they walk along a field on the Sabbath.  According the Pharisees’ strict observance of Jewish ritual law, this seemingly innocent and mindless activity is considered “work” and, therefore, profanes the Sabbath.  Jesus’ response to their criticism radically redefines the nature of the Sabbath: that even the Sabbath’s proscriptions against work and play are second to acts of charity and mercy.

And to make the point, Jesus performs a miracle.  Immediately after his confrontation with the Pharisees, Jesus goes to the synagogue where he encounters a man with a “shriveled hand.”  Strict rabbinical interpretations of the Law stipulated that “healings” could take place on the Sabbath only in matters of life or death.  The poor man here, while in great suffering, is hardly at death’s door.  But Jesus again emphasizes the sacredness of mercy and compassion by healing the man on the Sabbath.

In this encounter, it is Jesus who responds angrily to the Pharisees’ “hardness of heart.”  The Pharisees cannot grasp the profound meaning of what Jesus has done.  They are too centered in their own interests and position to realize the mercy and love of God in their midst.  As Mark’s narrative continues, the tension between Jesus and the ruling Jewish establishment will mount.

HOMILY POINTS:

In her book Einstein and the Rabbi: Searching for the Soul, Naomi Levy writes:  “Some think of the Sabbath as a day of prohibitions — you can’t do this and you can’t do that.  But the Sabbath is actually a day of permission.  A day when we give our souls permission to dream again.  How long can we keep racing around, spreading ourselves so thin, contorted by stress and worry?  There’s so much within our grasp that we keep missing.”  In today’s Gospel, Jesus invites us to embrace the spirit of the Sabbath as a time to re-connect with the love of God by putting aside the busyness of our lives in order to re-engage with those we love: family and friends who are the presence of God in our lives.  

The Sabbath calls us to stop in the busyness of our week to contemplate the goodness of God in our midst.  Such holy “time” can instill in us an awareness of God at work in every molecule of creation and a spirit of gratitude that sanctifies every day that God gives us.

Jesus exalts compassion and mercy as the heart of our praise to the Father whose compassion for his sons and daughters knows neither limit nor condition.  In healing the man with the shriveled hand on the Sabbath, Jesus calls us to remember and give thanks for the goodness of God in our lives by our seeking to mirror God’s justice, reconciliation and peace.

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June 10 – Tenth Sunday of the Year / Third Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 5]

When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”  The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “By the prince of demons he drives out demons . . . ”
“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.”
. . . looking at those who sat around him, [Jesus] said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!  Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
Mark 3: 20-35

THE WORD:

A central theme of Mark’s Gospel is how Jesus’ hearers (especially the Twelve) fail to comprehend the deeper meaning of his words and actions.  The wild charges made by the scribes and the apologies offered by his family in today’s Gospel indicate just how misunderstood Jesus was by those closest to him:

The Jesus who calls his disciples to be a united “house” and community is dismissed by his own “house” as “out of his mind.”  Apologizing for his exorbitant claims about himself and his challenging their most cherished traditions and revered institutions, his family attempts to bring Jesus home.

The Jesus who cast out demons and cured the sick is charged with being possessed himself.  The scribes cannot grasp the single-minded dedication of Jesus to the will of God without the “filters” of their interpretations and direction; hence, he must be an agent of Satan, the prince of demons.  (Remember that whatever the people of Gospel Palestine could not understand or explain was considered the work of “demons.”)

The Jesus who comes to be a vehicle of unity among God’s people calls on his hearers to be united in faith and spirit in him in seeking God’s will in all things.  The Gospel Jesus destroys the barriers created by race, culture, wealth and social status.  He speaks of a new, united human family: the family of God.  To fail or refuse to build God’s kingdom of grace is to “blaspheme” against the Spirit of God: to be so mired in cynicism and skepticism that we refuse to embrace the possibilities for realizing the hope of God’s grace.  For Jesus, the crushing pessimism that God’s grace is inaccessible to us condemns us to lives of sadness and isolation, not the lives of meaning and joy God envisions for us.  

HOMILY POINTS:

Jesus the “lunatic” comes to heal us of what is, in fact, our own “lunacy” – the lunacy of allowing pettiness, pride, anger, prejudice, and self-centeredness to alienate us from one another, the lunacy” of exalting “me” at the expense of others’ basic necessities, the lunacy of constantly grabbing as much as we can as fast as we can while many on this planet have nothing.

Sometimes we act out of a self-centeredness that is of “Satan” and not out of the compassionate spirit of the Gospel Jesus — and, without fail, the “house” we have built on a foundation of self-centeredness collapses in anger and hurt.  If a house that is a real home is to stand, it must be constructed out of forgiveness, humility, and generosity; to build it of “cheaper” materials, to compromise the integrity of the structure by placing one’s own interest over that of the family is to invite disaster.

Jesus’ life is testimony to the reality that the “power” of “Beelzebub” cannot heal or restore or re-create — only the Spirit of God can bring about such transformation.

Jesus comes as the means of unity among God’s people, to reconcile humanity to God and to one another, to instill a deeper understanding and appreciation of our sacred dignity as being made in God’s image.  We are called, as the Church of the new covenant, to seek in every person the humanity we all share that comes from God, the Father of all and the Giver of everything that is good.  

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June 17 – 11th Sunday of the Year / Fourth Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 6]

“The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground . . . It is like a mustard seed . . .”
Mark 4: 26-24

THE WORD:

Farming is a matter of hard work and patient faith:  All the farmer can do is plant the seed and nurture it along with water and care; God's unseen hand in creation transforms the tiny seed into a great harvest.  Today’s Gospel parables of the sower and the mustard seed, then, are calls to patience, hope and readiness.

The mustard seed – that tiny speck containing the chemical energy to create the great tree – is a natural parable for the greatness that God raises up from small beginnings.

Jesus may have been directing his words to the Zealots, a Jewish sect that sought the political restoration of Israel.  Many Zealots were terrorists, employing murder and insurrection to destabilize the Roman government.  The Zealots dreamed of a Messiah who would restore the Jewish nation.  Jesus, however, calls them to see their identity as God's people not in terms of political might but of interior faith and spiritual openness to the love of God.

HOMILY POINTS:                         

We are called to seek the wisdom of God with the patience and dedication of the sower; we are entrusted with the work of making the reign of God a reality in our own lives with the gentle but determined faith of the mustard seed.

Christ asks us to embrace the faith of the sower: to “plant” seeds of peace, reconciliation and justice wherever and whenever we can in the certain knowledge that, in God's good time, our plantings will result in the harvest of the kingdom of God.

With the patience and hope of mustard seed faith, our smallest acts of compassion and generosity, in our unnoticed and unheralded offerings of affirmation and support, we can transform the most barren of places into great gardens of hope.

Though we “know not how” God makes the grain grow and the sun rise and the rain fall, we do know why: the perfect and complete love that is and of God, love that compels God to set all of creation into motion and to breathe that love into our souls and set us this life of ours.  Realizing the “why” should inspire us to mirror God’s love in our care for creation and our work to provide its gifts for all our sisters and brothers.  

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June 24 – Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

“Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John . . . He will drink neither wine nor strong drink.  He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.”
VIGIL:  Luke 1: 5-17
Zechariah, unable to speak, asked for a tablet and wrote, “His name is John.”
DAY:  Luke 1: 57-66,80

THE WORD:

Today, sixth months before the celebration of the birth of Christ, the Church celebrates the birth John the Baptizer, the last great prophet and the immediate forerunner of the Messiah.

The Gospel readings for the vigil and day Masses are a near-continuous reading of Luke’s account of John’s birth: in Saturday evening’s Gospel, the elderly priest Zechariah cannot believe Gabriel’s news that he and his beloved Elizabeth will be blessed with a child and is struck silent until the birth of the child; when John is born, Zechariah’s faith and voice are restored when he writes down the name of the child, “John” (Sunday’s Gospel).

Luke’s Gospel begins and ends in the Temple at Jerusalem: from God’s holy place, with the news of John’s birth, God’s salvation will be brought to completion.

The two principal players in the story are Elizabeth and Zechariah.  The Gospel identifies Elizabeth as Mary’s elderly cousin and Zechariah, a temple priest, as Elizabeth’s husband.  For Luke, Zechariah and Elizabeth epitomize the remnant of Israel, the faithful of Judaism who await with expectation the dawning of the Messiah.

According to Luke’s account, Gabriel, before his visit to Mary with news of her motherhood, appears to Zechariah as he was performing his priestly duties in the sanctuary of the temple.  Gabriel tells Zechariah that God will give the elderly couple a son who will be the last great prophet of the coming of the Messiah.  In her greeting to her cousin Mary, Elizabeth greets the news with unbounded joy.  She possesses the depth of spirit to see God’s hand in all of this — and the courage and trust to welcome it. 

For Zechariah, however, none of this makes any sense. Ironically, he, the “professional religious” in the family, cannot see the hand of God in these events.  As a leader of the temple, Zechariah has seen it all.  While he is a man of faithfulness and goodness, he also possesses the cynicism that comes with age.  His understanding is limited by human considerations:  We’re too old for this to happen, he tells Gabriel.  Gabriel makes Zechariah speechless until “the days these things take place.”
 
When their son is born, Zechariah is asked for the name of their new son.  Zechariah writes on a tablet, “John is his name.”  Zechariah now understands what God has called the couple to do and accepts that role.  Zechariah’s speech returns and his first words are a beautiful canticle praising God’s goodness and prophesying the wonderful things that his son John would accomplish (the Benedictus hymn, which is omitted from Sunday’s reading). 

Throughout Luke’s gospel, the Holy Spirit is the agent of transformation and change – God is both the story and the storyteller.  Through the grace of the Spirit, John goes on to realize his role in the story: to prepare a “highway” for the Lord’s coming and to point out his presence in our midst.

HOMILY POINTS:

Today’s liturgy challenges us to recognize our call to be prophets of the Lord, to proclaim the presence of the Lamb of God in our midst.  Like John, we are called to the work of the prophet – “one who proclaims.”  By virtue of our baptisms, we are all called to be agents of integrity, illuminators of the light of truth in every arena, consciences of our homes, our schools, our workplaces. 

“Prophecy,” in the spirit of the Gospels and Scripture, is not about foretelling the future but realizing the Spirit of God moving in the events of our own time and place and pointing to that Spirit transforming our lives with the grace and peace of God.

Our own struggle with faith is reflected in the story of Elizabeth and Zechariah.  Whether we respond to God with the immediate joy of Elizabeth, or we struggle like Zechariah to make sense of it all, God continues with us and for us; God’s love remains in our midst until we are ready to embrace it.

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June 24 – Fifth Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 7]

Jesus woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet!  Be still!”
Mark 4:35-41

THE WORD:                                                       

The Sea of Galilee is really a land-locked lake 600 feet below sea level.  Ravines in the hills and mountains surrounding the Galilee act as natural wind tunnels.  In the evening, as the warm air of the day rises above the water, cool air rushes in through the ravines.  The effect is amazing: the tranquil lake is whipped into a fury of white-capped six-foot waves.  In the midst of this terrorizing experience, Jesus calms both the sea and his disciples' fear.

The evangelist is recounting this story to a terrified and persecuted community.  Today's Gospel is intended to reassure them of the Risen Christ's constant presence in the storms they struggle through for the sake of their faith in his reign to come.

HOMILY NOTES:

The wisdom and grace of the “awakened” Jesus is present to us throughout the journeys of our lives to “calm” the adversities and tragedies that can either help us grow in understanding life or consume us in despair and hopelessness. 

In our stormy whirlwind lives, we need to make time for peace, for stillness, for quiet in order to hear the voice of God within us.

The grace of the Risen Christ enables us to discern the presence of God amid the roar of anger and mistrust and to see the light of God in the darkness of selflessness and prejudice.

The voice of Jesus in our own “boats” speaks to us in the encouragement and support of others calling us beyond the fears, misgivings and doubts that stop us from embracing life to the full.   

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July 1 – 13th Sunday of the Year / Sixth Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 8]

Jairus fell at Jesus’ feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying, “My daughter is at the point of death.  Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live.”
There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years.  She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak.  She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.”
Mark 5: 21-43

THE WORD:

Mark holds up both Jairus and the unnamed woman in today’s Gospel as models of faith.  The message of the two healings is clear:  “Do not be afraid; have faith.”

The chronically ill woman is so convinced that Jesus not only can help her but will help her that she fights her way through the pushing and shoving crowds just to touch the cloak of Jesus.  She realizes not only the power of Jesus to heal her but the depth of his love and compassion to want to heal her.  Her faith is rewarded.

Jairus was a man of considerable authority and stature in the Jewish community.  Yet, for the sake of his daughter, he puts aside his pride and his instinctive distrust of an “anti-establishment” rabbi like Jesus and becomes a “beggar” for her before Jesus.  Despite the ridicule of the mourners and the depth of his despair, Jesus is Jairus’ hope.

HOMILY POINTS:

Like the wailing mourners at the little girl’s bedside, we sometimes resign ourselves to defeat as the regular order of things, to death as the logical conclusion.  In the healings of Jairus’ daughter and the hemorrhaging woman, Jesus shows us the life and hope we can bring into our world through the providence of God and the goodness everyone possesses.

For many moms and dads, their joys and dreams are inextricably linked to their children’s.  Jairus, in today’s Gospel, is just such a dad: to save his beloved daughter, Jairus does not hesitate to risk his standing in the community and career to approach the controversial rabbi reputed to work wonders.  A parent’s complete and unconditional love is the very reflection of the love of God in our midst. 

The “touch of Jesus’ cloak” can be experienced in a simple act of generosity or a kind word offering forgiveness. 

Jairus’ love for his daughter enables him to risk his considerable standing in the community to approach the controversial rabbi Jesus.  Through such complete and unconditional love – like the love of God our Father for us, his children – we can lift up the fallen, heal the sick and suffering and restore life to the dead.

The sick woman realizes not only the power Jesus possesses but also the depth of his compassion and love for her.  To possess her depth of faith compels us to seek God and realize God's presence – especially when God seems most absence.

The hemorrhaging woman counts for little in the social structure of her time; her problems and illness elicit neither concern nor care from those around her.  Her hemorrhages, in fact, mark her as unclean, someone to be avoided.  But the “power” of Jesus transcends the woman’s isolation.  Our embracing of that same compassion and peace enables us to seek out the needy, the lost and despairing in our midst.  
 
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July 8 – 14th Sunday of the Year / Seventh Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 9]

“Where did this man get all this?  What kind of wisdom has been given to him?  What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!  Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary . . . ?”
Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.”
Mark 6: 1-6

THE WORD:

Mark begins a new theme in his Gospel with today’s pericope: the blindness of people to the power and authority of Jesus.  The people of Jesus’ own hometown reject his message.  They consider Jesus too much “one of them” to be taken seriously.  They are too obsessed with superficialities – occupation, ancestry, origins – to realize God present in their midst and to be affected by that presence.

HOMILY POINTS:

The authority that Jesus’ hearers sense in him is an authority and wisdom that transcends office or title or economic power; it is an authority rooted in wisdom that comes from experience and a lived commitment to do what is right and just.

Jesus’ authority is not derived from his ability to manipulate the fears, suspicions, apathy or ignorance of those around him but from the spirit of mercy, justice and compassion he is able to call forth from them.  

Like the people of Jesus’ hometown, we often fail to realize the presence of God in our very midst.  God dwells in our midst in the simplest acts of kindness, in the humblest efforts of compassion for others, in the singular attempts to secure the justice and peace of God in hidden and forgotten places. 

In embracing discipleship, we take on the role of prophet – “one who proclaims.”  To be a prophet, to “proclaim” the Word we have heard, can result in our being ostracized, ridiculed, rejected and isolated.  But genuine faith never falters in the conviction that the justice of God will triumph over injustice, that his mercy will triumph over hatred, that his light will triumph over the darkness of sin and death.

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July 15 – 15th Sunday of the Year

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits.  He instructed them to take nothing for their journey but a walking stick –
no food, no sack, no money in their belts.
Mark 6: 7-13

THE WORD:

In today’s Gospel, the Twelve – each of whom has been called personally by Jesus – are given the title of apostle – “one who is sent.”  These unlikely candidates for such a task are carefully prepared and taught by Jesus for this moment.  They undertake their first preaching and healing tour depending only on God for their inspiration and on the charity of others for their needs – remember that hospitality was considered a sacred responsibility in the east: it was not up to the stranger to seek hospitality but up to the prospective host to offer it.

HOMILY POINTS:

Like the Twelve’s journey through the region of Galilee, our lives are journeys to the reign of God.  Each step of the journey can be a moment of grace, of encounter with the holy, of rebirth and transformation, of healing. 

God calls all of us to the vocation of prophet (“one who proclaims”) and disciple (“one who follows, one who comprehends”).  Like God’s call to the Amoses and Ezekiels, to the Peters and Andrews of Scripture, ours is a call to proclaim our faith in our places of work, study and play, to follow Christ in his vision of justice, peace and reconciliation.

Jesus instructs his missioners to “travel light”: to focus on the journey and the ministry with which they have been entrusted, not with accumulating wealth, status and power.

In our hospitality and welcome to those who come to our doors, we joyfully profess our faith in Christ, the Servant of God, and our hope to realize his vision of one human family under the loving providence of the Father.

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July 15 – Eighth Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 10]

The death of John the Baptizer:  Herod had sent men who arrested John, bound him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, because Herod had married her.  For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife.”
Mark 6: 14-29

THE WORD:

This is, outside the account of Jesus’ own death, the most horrific stories in the Gospels.

Between Jesus’ sending off the Twelve on their first missionary journey and their return, Mark inserts the story of John the Baptizer’s death.  At first, this narrative seems out of place, but the account of John’s death serves as an important benchmark for understanding the meaning of discipleship and the resurrection.

The works that Jesus and the Twelve are performing have reached the ears of King Herod himself.  Rumors have been circulating that the Baptizer has been raised from the dead.  Mark recounts the details of John’s martyrdom and burial in make clear that a new chapter of human history begins in Jesus, that God has set in motion a re-creation of humanity in his Son, that the long-awaited but little understood reign of God has begun.  John is the precursor of the Christ event, not the event himself.

In Mark’s Gospel, John’s death foreshadows the death of Jesus (just as John’s appearance at the beginning of the Gospel sets the stage for Jesus’ coming on the scene).  As John pays the ultimate price for “speaking truth to power,” Jesus will give his life for the Gospel he has preached.  A similar convergence of fear, cowardice, hatred and manipulation that leads to John's beheading will end in Jesus’ crucifixion.

Not lost in Mark’s narrative is the reality that discipleship/prophecy exacts a heavy price.  But God promises that he will raise up the life of his martyred prophet/disciple in the fullness of his reign.

HOMILY POINTS:

Ridicule, isolation, rejection, even death, can be required of everyone – even us – for taking seriously God's call to be his prophets and the work of discipleship.

We often react to the Baptizers in our midst as Herod does:  We know in our deepest being that they speak wisdom and justice and we desperately want to embrace it in our lives — but when their words become too demanding and too challenging, when they require of us a conversion that is well beyond our comfort zone, when their call subjects us to ridicule or isolation, then we find some way to justify doing away with them.  Authentic faith, belief that means anything, requires the would-be disciple of Jesus to live the Word we have heard and seen, regardless of the cost.

In our own time and place, there are prophets living among us who give their lives for their witness to God’s reconciliation, peace, and justice; they are prophets who speak not in powerful oratory buy in the quiet simplicity of their selfless generosity and service to others. 

Like Herodias, we hold grudges; we keep score; we remember who slights us and we wait for the right moment to get back at them.  The grudges we keep seldom have the tragic consequences of Herodias, who manipulates her own daughter’s charms and her husband’s braggadocio to destroy John the Baptist — but we’ve let our anger divide our families, we’ve refused to surrender our need for vengeance for the sake of reconciliation, we’ve held on to our resentments until we got our satisfaction.   But God’s grace enables us to put aside our disappointments and let go of our anger (however justified) in order to make reconciliation possible, to speak God’s Word of justice, to be the means of peace in our homes and communities.

God’s reign continues to be established in our own Jerusalems and Nazareths because of the prophetic proclamation of the Baptizers and Apostles and all who have taken on, with integrity and conviction, the role of prophet of the God of life and love in our own time and place.

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July 22 – 16th Sunday of the Year / Ninth Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 11]

“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”
Jesus’ heart was moved with pity for the vast crowd, for they were like sheep without a shepherd.
Mark 6: 30-34

THE WORD:

The apostles return from their first mission of preaching and healing and report to Jesus.  He gathers them in a “deserted” place, but the people find them and keep coming.  Even their attempt to escape by boat to the other side of the lake is foiled once word gets out.

This incident recorded by Mark in today’s Gospel (which precedes his account of the feeding of the multitude) offers two important insights into our Church’s ministry: that the mission of the Church does not spring from mass marketing techniques or publicity strategies but from the Gospel of compassion we seek to live and share, from the authority of our commitment to forgiveness and reconciliation; and that leadership, inspired by the wisdom of God, means not dictating and ruling over others but inspiring, providing for and selflessly caring for those whom we are called to lead.

HOMILY POINTS:

In our heeding those “shepherds” in our society and culture who promise us only the best, who affirm and rationalize our fears, who give us “enemies” to direct our fear and their promise to vanquish them for us, who reduce the complexities of live to simple rules and absolutes, we are the “shepherdless” for whom Jesus’ heart breaks.

In Christ, God has raised up for us a shepherd to guide us in God’s ways of compassion and reconciliation; a shepherd to lead us safely along life’s rough crags and dangerous drop-offs to God’s pasture of peace and fulfillment; a shepherd who helps us clear the obstacles and hurdles of fear and self-interest to live lives centered in what is right and just.

From the clamor of the marketplace and the demands of our calendars and “to do” lists, we need “deserted,” out-of-the-way places be alone with God, to listen to the quiet of our hearts to hear the voice of God.  

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July 29 – 17th Sunday of the Year / Tenth Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 12]

“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?”
John 6: 1-15

The WORD:

Today the lectionary interrupts the semi-continuous readings from Mark’s Gospel for a five-week reading of Chapter 6 from the Gospel of John – the “bread of life” discourse of Jesus.

The miracle of the feeding of the multitude with a few loaves and fish is the only miracle recorded in all four Gospels.  This story was cherished by the first Christians for whom the Eucharist was becoming the center of their life together.  Jesus’ actions are indeed “Eucharistic”: bread (and fish) is given, Jesus gives thanks (the word used in the Greek text of Mark's Gospel is eucharisteo), breaks the bread and the community feasts.

HOMILY POINTS:

The multiplication of the loaves and fish did not start with nothing; Jesus was able to feed the crowds because a little boy was willing to share all he had; from his gift, small though it was, Jesus worked a miracle – and a new community of faith was formed as a result. 

We are called by Christ to become the Eucharist we receive at this altar: giving thanks for what we have received by sharing those gifts – our talents, our riches, ourselves – to work our own miracles of creating communities of joyful faith.  

The scene on that grassy plain mirrors the gathering at this table today.  In the miracle of the loaves and fish, Jesus transforms a crowd of all ages, talents, abilities and backgrounds into a community of generosity.  That vision of being a Eucharistic community is re-created each time we gather here. 

Eucharist is possible only when self defers to community, only when serving others is exalted over being served, only when differences dissolve and the common and shared are honored above all else. 

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