July 25 - Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

July 24th, 2021

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First Reading  2 Kings 4:42-44
Elisha the prophet feeds 100 people with 20 barley loaves.

Responsorial Psalm  Psalm 145:10-11,15-16,17-18
The Lord feeds his people and answers their needs.

Second Reading  Ephesians 4:1-6
The Ephesians are encouraged to live the unity of their Baptism.

Gospel Reading  
John 6:1-15
Jesus feeds the crowd of more than five thousand people with five barley loaves and two fish.

 

Background on the Gospel Reading

Through most of Lectionary Cycle B, our Sunday Gospel readings are taken from the Gospel of Mark. Over the past two Sundays, we heard how Jesus sent his disciples to share in his mission. If we were to continue reading Mark's Gospel, we would next hear his report of how Jesus feeds the crowds in the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. Our Lectionary, however, leaves Mark’s Gospel for the next several weeks and instead presents this event from the Gospel of John. In John’s Gospel, Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves and the fishes is presented as a sign of his authority and divinity. Jesus interprets the meaning and significance of this miracle as a sharing of his Body and Blood. This chapter is sometimes called the “Bread of Life Discourse.”

In many important ways, John’s Gospel uses the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes to teach about the Eucharist. Like the Last Supper, this miracle is said to have occurred near the time of the Jewish feast of Passover. (In John’s Gospel three Passovers are identified.) Jesus’ language is similar to the language he used at the Last Supper as reported in the Synoptic Gospels. John’s description of this event also anticipates the Messianic banquet of heaven, as the crowd reclines and all hungers are satisfied with abundance. This connection is further amplified by the response of the crowd, who wants to make Jesus a king. John is teaching us that each time we celebrate the Eucharist, we are anticipating the eternal banquet of heaven.

Recall that John’s Gospel tells the story of the Last Supper differently than the Synoptic Gospels. Instead of describing the meal and Jesus’ actions with the bread and cup, John describes how Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. We hear this Gospel when we remember the Last Supper on Holy Thursday. This recollection of Jesus’ action at the Last Supper complements the institution narrative of the Synoptic Gospels and Paul’s Letters that we hear repeated at each Mass.

In both stories about the Eucharist—the washing of the disciples’ feet and the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes—the Gospel of John teaches us that the Eucharist is an action. Our word Eucharist is taken from the Greek language and describes an action: “to give thanks.” In the Eucharist we are fed by Jesus himself, and we are sent to serve others.

John’s Gospel notes the detail that the bread blessed and shared with the crowd are barley loaves. This is the food of the poor. It reminds us that God feeds and nourishes us, fulfilling our physical needs as well as our spiritual ones. In the Eucharist, we are sent to serve the poorest among us.

The story of the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes recalls a particular aspect of the Mass. In this miracle, Jesus transforms a young boy’s offering of five barley loaves and two fish. In the offertory at Mass, we present the fruits of our labors, represented by bread and wine. These gifts, given to us first by God as grain and fruit, are returned to God in our offering of thanksgiving. God in turn transforms our gifts, making this bread and wine the very Body and Blood of Jesus. We also offer ourselves in this exchange, and we, too, are transformed by the Eucharist.

July 18 - Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

July 17th, 2021

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First Reading  Jeremiah 23:1-6
The Lord promises to shepherd his people Israel.

 

Responsorial Psalm   Psalm 23:1-3,3-4,5,6
The Lord is our shepherd.

 

Second Reading  Ephesians 2:13-18
Christ has reconciled us with God and united us in peace.

 

Gospel Reading
Mark 6:30-34
Jesus invites his disciples to rest after their ministry, and Jesus is moved with pity for the crowds who pursue them.

 

Background on the Gospel Reading

In this today’s Gospel, we read the report of the return of the Twelve, who were sent by Jesus to preach repentance, heal the sick, and drive out demons. When the Twelve return to Jesus, he invites them to come away from the crowds and rest. But the crowds will not give them peace. As the Twelve have shared in Jesus’ ministry, they now appear to share in his popularity. The crowds continue to approach them, and Mark reports that the disciples don’t even have time to eat. In an effort to get away, Jesus and his disciples board a boat in hopes of finding a deserted place. But the crowds notice this and arrive ahead of them. The crowds are so persistent that Jesus and his disciples cannot find a place to be alone. Mark’s Gospel tells us that Jesus is moved with pity and begins to teach the crowds.

Our Gospel for today stops here, but Mark’s report of the unyielding demands of the crowd continues in the verses that follow. If we were to continue reading from Mark’s Gospel, we would hear Jesus instruct his disciples to feed the crowd in the familiar miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. The work of Jesus and his disciples appears to be a round-the-clock job. In the next few weeks, we will hear the story of Jesus’ feeding of the multitude, but our Lectionary will turn to the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John to report and reflect on this story.

In today’s Gospel, we hear the Twelve referred to as “apostles.” The word apostle is a Greek word meaning “one who is sent.” Jesus chose twelve men from among his disciples whom he sent to share in his ministry of preaching and healing. The first report of this is found in the third chapter of Mark’s Gospel, where the Twelve are also called apostles and the names of this select group are listed.

We who are Jesus’ disciples today have also been sent to share the Gospel with others. Perhaps our commitment to following Jesus as his disciple leaves us feeling tired and overwhelmed. In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus affirm the importance of times of rest and renewal. Jesus wanted his disciples to come away and spend time alone with him. This is what we seek and find in our life of prayer and in our celebration of the Eucharist.

July 11 - Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

July 10th, 2021

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First Reading   Amos 7:12-15
The prophet Amos is sent from Bethel.

 

Responsorial Psalm  Psalm 85:9-10,11-12,13-14
A prayer for the Lord’s salvation

 

Second Reading   Ephesians 1:3-14 ( shorter form Ephesians 1:3-10)
Paul teaches that we were chosen for Christ before the creation of the world.

 

Gospel Reading
Mark 6:7-13
Jesus instructs his disciples and sends them to preach repentance.

 

Background on the Gospel Reading

This week’s Gospel and the one for next week describe how Jesus sent the disciples to minister in his name and the disciples’ return to Jesus afterward. These two passages, however, are not presented together in Mark’s Gospel. Inserted between the two is the report of Herod’s fears that Jesus is John the Baptist back from the dead. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus’ ministry is presented in connection with the teaching of John the Baptist. Jesus’ public ministry begins after John is arrested. John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus, who preached the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God.

While we do not read these details about John the Baptist in our Gospel this week or next week, our Lectionary sequence stays consistent with Mark’s theme. Recall that last week we heard how Jesus was rejected in his hometown of Nazareth. The insertion of the reminder about John the Baptist’s ministry and his death at the hands of Herod in Mark’s Gospel makes a similar point. Mark reminds his readers about this dangerous context for Jesus’ ministry and that of his disciples. Preaching repentance and the Kingdom of God is dangerous business for Jesus and for his disciples. Mark wants his readers to remember that we, too, may find resistance as we choose to be disciples of Jesus.

Mark’s Gospel tells us that Jesus sent out the Twelve. These twelve were selected from among Jesus’ disciples and named by Mark in chapter 3. Mark notes that these twelve are also called “apostles.” The word apostle means “one who is sent.” The number twelve is also a symbolic number, representing the twelve tribes of Israel. By naming twelve apostles, Jesus shows his mission to be in continuity with the mission of God’s people, Israel.

Jesus’ instructions to the apostles are very specific. He repeats the mission that they are sent to preach and to share his authority to heal and to drive out demons. Jesus sends them in pairs, establishing his mission as a communal endeavor. Jesus also instructs them to travel lightly, without the customary food, money, and extra set of clothes. These instructions mean that the Twelve will be dependent on the hospitality of others, just as Jesus depended on others to provide for his needs.

Jesus continues to send us into the world as his disciples. But like the first disciples, we are not sent alone. Jesus has given us the community of the Church, which strengthens our life of discipleship. The Christian message can only authentically be proclaimed in and through the community of faith that is the Church. In our work with others, we build this community of faith and can invite others to share in it

July 4 - Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time year B

July 2nd, 2021

 

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First Reading  Ezekiel 2:2-5
The Lord sends the prophet Ezekiel to the Israelites.

 

Responsorial Psalm  Psalm 123:1-2,3-4
A prayer to God for mercy

 

Second Reading  2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Paul bears insults and weakness for the sake of Christ.

 

Gospel Reading  Mark 6:1-6
Jesus is rejected in his hometown.

 

Background on the Gospel Reading

This Gospel immediately follows upon last week’s stories of the raising of Jairus’s daughter and the healing of the woman with a hemorrhage. It sets the context of our Gospel readings for the next two weeks in which Jesus will extend the work of his ministry to his disciples.

Today’s Gospel describes what many believe to have been the typical pattern of Jesus’ ministry: teaching in the synagogue followed by acts of healing. In his hometown of Nazareth, the people are amazed by what they hear, but they also cannot comprehend how someone they know so well might move them so powerfully.

In this Gospel, we learn some interesting details about Jesus and his early life. Jesus’ kinfolk know him to be a carpenter, an artisan who works in wood, stone, and metal. He probably learned this trade from his father. Family members of Jesus are also named. Mark describes Jesus as the son of Mary, which is an unusual designation. Adult males were more typically identified with the name of their fathers. It is unclear why Mark deviates from this custom.

Brothers and sisters of Jesus are also named. Scholars are divided on how to interpret this. As Catholics, we believe that Mary was and remained always a virgin, thus we do not believe that this Gospel refers to other children of Mary. Some have suggested that these family members might be Joseph’s children from a previous marriage, but there is little evidence to support this. Others explain this reference by noting that the words brother and sister were often used to refer to other types of relatives, including cousins, nieces, and nephews.

This Gospel tells us that Jesus is hampered from performing miracles in Nazareth because of the people’s lack of faith. Jesus is said to be surprised by this. He did not predict or foresee this rejection. In this detail we find a description of the very human side of Jesus.

This passage unfolds a continuing theme of Mark’s Gospel: Who is Jesus? His kinfolk in Nazareth might know the carpenter, the son of Mary, but they do not know Jesus, the Son of God. Mark is foreshadowing Jesus’ rejection by his own people, the people of Israel. He is also reflecting on and trying to explain the situation of the community for which he wrote. While many of the first Christians were Jewish, Christianity took hold and flourished in the Gentile community. Mark’s community was mostly a Gentile community, who may have been experiencing persecution. By showing that Jesus himself was rejected, Mark consoles and reassures his first readers. He also prepares us to accept this possible consequence of Christian discipleship.

June 27 - Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

June 26th, 2021

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First Reading   Wisdom 1:13-152:23-24
Death entered the world through the work of the devil.

 

Responsorial Psalm  Psalm 30:2,4,5-6,11,12,13
A prayer of thanksgiving to God for having rescued us

 

Second Reading  2 Corinthians 8:7,9,13-15
As Christ became poor for our sake, so must we share with those in need from our abundance.

 

Gospel Reading  Mark 5:21-43 ( shorter form, Mark 5:21-24,35b-43)
Jesus heals a woman afflicted with a hemorrhage and raises Jairus’s daughter from death.

 

Background on the Gospel Reading

 

For today’s Gospel, we continue to read from the Gospel of Mark. Last Sunday we heard about Jesus calming the storm, the first of four miracles that Jesus performs in the vicinity of the Sea of Galilee. Each of these four miracle stories offers us a glimpse at Jesus’ power. This week we hear about the third and fourth miracles, skipping the second miracle, the healing of a man from Gerasene who was possessed by a demon.

Today’s Gospel reports two stories of healing. One story tells us about a father’s great love for his dying daughter. The other story tells us about a desperate woman who risks much as she seeks healing from Jesus. In each story, the request for healing is itself a courageous act of faith, and yet very different circumstances are represented by the lives of each suffering person.

Jairus is described as a synagogue official, a man of considerable standing in the Jewish community. Distraught over his daughter’s poor health, he approaches Jesus and asks him to heal her. Although Mark doesn’t provide many details, we can imagine that his daughter has been ill for some time and that her condition is deteriorating.

As Jesus leaves with Jairus, Mark describes a second person who seeks healing from Jesus, a woman with a hemorrhage. This woman secretly touches Jesus from behind and is immediately cured. In response, Jesus turns and asks who touched him. Jesus’ disciples, always a little clueless in Mark’s Gospel, help us envision the scene. The crowds are pushing in on Jesus, and yet he, knowing that power has gone out of him, asks who touched him. The woman could have remained anonymous, yet at Jesus’ question she steps forward and acknowledges what she has done. Jesus responds by acknowledging her as a model of faith and sends her away in peace.

At this point, we can imagine Jairus’s impatience with Jesus; his daughter is dying and Jesus hasn’t helped him yet. As if to build a sense of urgency, messengers suddenly arrive and confirm Jairus’s worst fear: his daughter has died. Jesus curiously ignores their message and reassures Jairus. When they arrive at Jairus’s home, they find family and friends mourning the girl’s death. Jesus enters the room of the dead girl, takes her by the hand, and instructs her to arise. Jairus’s faith in Jesus has not been in vain; his daughter is restored to life.

The contrasts between Jairus and the woman with the hemorrhage are stark and revealing. One is a man, the other is a woman. One is a public official, an important person in the community. The other is a woman who has lost everything to find a cure to a condition that separated her from the community. One approaches Jesus publicly. The other approaches Jesus secretly. Yet in each case, faith leads them to seek out Jesus in their time of need.

The Gospel concludes with Jesus’ instructions to remain silent about this miracle. This is typical of Mark’s Gospel and is sometimes referred to as the messianic secret. Repeatedly, those who witness Jesus’ power and authority are instructed to not speak of what they have witnessed. These instructions appear impossible to obey, and it is difficult to understand the purpose of these instructions. But in each case, they seem to emphasize the fact that each individual, including the reader of Mark’s Gospel, must, in the end, make his or her own judgment about Jesus’ identity. Each individual must make his or her own act of faith in affirming Jesus as God’s Son.

June 20 - Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

June 17th, 2021

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First Reading  Job 38:1,8-11
The Lord answers Job's complaints.

 

Responsorial Psalm  Psalm 107:23-24,25-26,28-29,30-31
A song of praise to God for rescue

 

Second Reading  2 Corinthians 5:14-17
Those in Christ are a new creation.

 

Gospel Reading  Mark 4:35-41
Jesus calms the storm.

 

Background on the Gospel Reading

 

As we continue in Ordinary Time, our reading today is taken from the Gospel of Mark, the primary Gospel reading in Lectionary Cycle B. Mark's Gospel presents a vivid portrait of Jesus, whose words and deeds show that he is the Son of God. Today's Gospel describes the end of a day of teaching in Jesus' ministry. Jesus taught the crowd in parables and then offered explanations of these parables to his disciples. Jesus then led his disciples away from the crowds and into the boats that they will use to cross the Sea of Galilee. The sea and its surrounding area are the settings for Jesus' teachings and miracles in this part of Mark's Gospel. Today's reading describes how Jesus calmed a storm at sea. It is the first of four miracles that are presented in sequence at this point in Mark's Gospel.

As is typical in Mark's Gospel, Jesus' disciples are frightened by the sudden storm; they do little to inspire confidence in the reader. Mark notes the contrast between the disciples' terror and Jesus' peace. Jesus is sleeping, untroubled by what is going on around him.

The disciples' words to Jesus are telling. They are familiar enough with Jesus to dare to wake him. Their words to him are words of reproach, questioning his care for them. A careful reader might wonder what the disciples expected Jesus to do. Are they more troubled by the storm or by Jesus' inattentiveness to their needs? How many of us have chided a family member or friend for not agreeing with our assessment of the severity of a situation?

Today's Gospel offers evidence of Jesus' power and authority as he calms the storm. In his day, power over nature was believed to be a sign of divinity—only God calms storms. Jesus' rebuke of the storm also echoes the rebuke he uses when he talks to and expels demons. In each situation, Jesus' power and authority is a sign of his divinity. Indeed, the disciples are left wondering about Jesus' identity at the conclusion of today's Gospel. They see before them a human being who acts with the authority and power of God. The disciples' uncertainty about Jesus' identity is a recurring them in Mark's Gospel.

This Gospel is a metaphor for our lives. We are in the boat, the storms of life are raging around us, and like the disciples, we may believe that Jesus is unconcerned, or “sleeping.” We hope that we will be as familiar with Jesus as his disciples. If we feel that Jesus is sleeping, are we comfortable enough to wake Jesus and present him with our needs? Jesus does not chide his disciples for waking him. Instead he chides them for their lack of faith, for their lack of perspective. When we bring our worries to God in prayer, we might just begin to learn to see things from God's perspective.

June 13 - Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

June 12th, 2021

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First Reading  Ezekiel 17:22–24
I, the Lord, bring low the high tree and lift high the lowly tree.

 

Responsorial Psalm  Psalm 92:2–3,13–16
They that are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.

 

Second Reading  2 Corinthians 5:6–10
The lives of all are to be revealed before the tribunal of Christ.

 

Gospel Reading  Mark 4:26–34
The reign of God is like a mustard seed.

 

Background on the Gospel Reading

 

After Lent, the Easter season, and three Sundays of feast days—Pentecost, Most Holy Trinity, and Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ—the Church returns to Ordinary Time. This Sunday’s Gospel from Mark carries a significant message regarding faith and the Kingdom of God.

In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus appears reluctant to reveal his identity as the Son of God. After performing miracles of healing, he warns those cured to tell no one (see Mark 1:44, 3:12, 5:43, 7:36, and 8:26). Also, when preaching, Jesus chooses to speak to the crowds in parables, leaving them to discern his message. Only to his disciples does he explain the parable’s meaning, and he does this in private at a later time.

Today’s Gospel Reading consists of two parables about seeds. In the first, Jesus tells those gathered that this is “how it is with the kingdom of God.” A man scatters seed which over time sprouts and develops. Then when the grain is ripe, the man harvests his crop. The emphasis in the parable is on the seed, which seemingly has the power to grow on its own. In this it is like the Kingdom of God. While on earth, Jesus planted the seeds of the kingdom by his life, miracles, teaching, and suffering. However, the kingdom is not yet fully established. Although already present in Jesus and his group of twelve, it has yet to come to fruition; just as the seed in the parable needs time to grow, so does God’s kingdom.

The second parable focuses on the tiny mustard seed. Though not the smallest of all seeds, it is most likely the smallest that a first-century farmer in Jesus’ part of the world would have sown. Small as the mustard seed is, it develops into a tree. Though the mustard tree generally averages only nine to twelve feet in height, it has a wide expanse and provides a nesting place for birds. Just as the tree welcomes the birds, so is God’s kingdom welcoming and open to many.

These parables help us discern something about the kingdom of God and our own faith. In God we live and move and have our being, but God is a mystery and his kingdom, though present, has not yet come into its fullness. Today, the Kingdom of God is present in the Church. The mission of proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom given to the Apostles is now given to us. But just as seeds need time to come to fruition, so does the Kingdom of God. That is why in the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, “thy kingdom come.” We know that it will come in its fullness at the end of time. All we need is faith

June 6 - The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Cycle B

June 2nd, 2021

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First Reading  Exodus 24:3-8
The covenant is established between God and the people.

 

Responsorial Psalm  Psalm 116:12-13,15-16,17-18
God brings salvation.

 

Second Reading    Hebrews 9:11-15
Christ is the mediator of the new covenant.

 

Gospel Reading  Mark 14:12-16,22-26
Jesus shares his Last Supper with his disciples.

 

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today, the second Sunday after Pentecost, we celebrate a second solemnity, which marks our return to Ordinary Time in the liturgical calendar. Today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. At one time, this day was called Corpus Christi, the Latin words for “the Body of Christ.” In the most recent revision of our liturgical rites, the name for this day is expanded to be a more complete reflection of our Eucharistic theology.

In our reading for today, we read the account of the Last Supper found in the Gospel of Mark. It begins with the instructions that Jesus gave to his disciples to prepare their Passover celebration. It then goes on to give an account of the Last Supper. On this Sunday, however, our Lectionary reading omits the verses between these two passages; in those omitted verses we hear Jesus predict his betrayal by one of his disciples.

The Gospel of Mark describes Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples as a celebration of the Jewish feast of Passover. The Jewish celebration of Passover is a memorial to and a ritual participation in the defining moment of Israel’s history. It celebrates God’s deliverance of his people from slavery in Egypt. The Passover meal includes many ritually important elements, such as unleavened bread, lamb, and bitter herbs. Each food item recalls an aspect of the Exodus event. The instructions for the preparation of this meal are carefully prescribed in the Law of Moses. It is a central obligation of the Jewish faith tradition to celebrate this meal and to give thanks to God for his deliverance and protection.

In the description of the Passover meal found in today’s Gospel, however, Mark omits many elements of the Jewish Passover meal. Instead he describes only those elements he believes to be most essential to the Christian Eucharist: Jesus took bread, blessed the bread, broke the bread, and shared it with his disciples. Similar words and actions follow as Jesus shares the chalice with his disciples. This bread now shared is Jesus’ own body. Those who drink from the chalice are invited to share in a new covenant which will be sealed by Jesus’ own blood. Mark’s Eucharistic theology looks forward to the Kingdom of God that Jesus inaugurates.

The Gospel for today reminds us that the Eucharist is a memorial of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. We believe that Jesus is truly present to us in the elements of bread and wine. Each time we celebrate this sacrament, we prepare for the Kingdom of God. This celebration, as the Second Vatican Council taught us, is the source and summit of the Christian life.

May 30 - Feast of Holy Trinity

May 26th, 2021

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First Reading  Deuteronomy 4:32-34,39-40
Moses teaches the people that Yahweh is the only God.

 

Responsorial Psalm  Psalm 33:4-5,6,9,18-19,20,22
A prayer for the Lord’s mercy

 

Second Reading   Romans 8:14-17
Through the Spirit, we have been adopted as children of God.

 

Gospel Reading
Matthew 28:16-20
Jesus sends his disciples to make disciples of all nations.

 

Background on the Gospel Reading

This week we return to the liturgical season of Ordinary Time. This Sunday and next Sunday, however, are designated as solemnities, special days that call our attention to the central mysteries of our faith. Today, on the first Sunday after Pentecost, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. This feast invites us to consider what we believe about God, who has revealed himself to us in the Trinity, one God in three Persons.The Gospel for this Solemnity is taken from the Gospel of Matthew. In its conclusion, Matthew’s Gospel quickly moves from the disciples’ discovery of Jesus’ empty tomb and Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to the commission that Jesus gives to his disciples in today’s Gospel.

The final commission, as this part of Matthew’s Gospel is sometimes called, is given on the mountaintop. Throughout Scripture, many of the most important events happen on a mountaintop, and Matthew used this motif often. Peter, James, and John saw Jesus transfigured on the mountaintop, and Jesus taught the crowds from the mountaintop in the Sermon on the Mount. In today’s Gospel, the eleven disciples go the mountaintop in Galilee, as Jesus had instructed them through Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. They see Jesus, and they worship and doubt at the same time. Jesus approaches them and commissions them to baptize and teach. It is a task for which Jesus had previously prepared his disciples; recall that Jesus had already sent the twelve apostles to preach the Kingdom of God and to heal. Yet earlier, the Twelve were sent only to the House of Israel; in this final commission, the eleven are told to go to all nations. The mission of Jesus is now to be taken to all people, and the task is to baptize and to teach.

Jesus commissions his disciples to baptize in the name of the Trinity; this is one of the clearest attestations for Baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity found in Scripture. Other New Testament references to Baptism describe it as being celebrated in the name of Jesus. As we read this Gospel on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, we are reminded that this central mystery of faith is meant to be lived. As baptized Christians, we share in the life of the blessed Trinity and seek to invite others to share in God’s love

May 23 - Pentecost Sunday, Cycle B

May 20th, 2021

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First Reading  Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11
The Holy Spirit descends upon the apostles gathered in Jerusalem.

 

Responsorial Psalm  Psalm 104:1,24,29-31,34
God’s Spirit renews the earth.

 

Second Reading  1 Corinthians 12:3b-7,12-13
We are all one in Christ Jesus.

 

Gospel Reading
John 20:19-23
Jesus appears to his disciples and gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit.

 

Background on the Gospel Reading

 

The season of Easter concludes with today’s celebration, the feast of Pentecost. On Pentecost we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles gathered in the upper room in Jerusalem; this event marks the beginning of the Church. The story of Pentecost is found in the Acts of the Apostles, today’s first reading. The account in today’s Gospel, John 20:19-23, also recounts how Jesus gave the gift of the Holy Spirit to his disciples. Yet the event in John’s Gospel takes place on Easter Sunday. There is no need to try to reconcile these two accounts. It is to we know that after his death, Jesus fulfilled his promise to send to his disciples a helper, an Advocate, who would enable them to be his witnesses throughout the world.

 

In the context of the feast of Pentecost, John 20:19-23 reminds us about the integral connection between the gifts of peace and forgiveness and the action of the Holy Spirit. Jesus greets his disciples with the gift of peace. Jesus then commissions his disciples to continue the work that he has begun: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” He breathes the Holy Spirit upon the disciples and sends them to continue his work of reconciliation through the forgiveness of sins. Jesus’ act of breathing the Holy Spirit upon the apostles mirrors God’s act of breathing life into Adam. In fact, both the Greek and Hebrew words for “spirit” can also be translated as “breath.” This Gospel reminds us that the Church is called to be a reconciling presence in the world. The reconciling presence of Christ is celebrated in the Church’s sacramental life. In the Sacrament of Baptism, we are cleansed of sin and become a new creation in Christ. In the Sacrament of Penance, the Church celebrates the mercy of God through the forgiveness of sins. This reconciling presence is also to be a way of life for Christians. In situations of conflict, we are to be agents of peace and harmony among people.

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