January 31 - Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time v- Year B

January 30th, 2021

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First Reading  Deuteronomy 18:15-20
Moses tells the people that God will raise up for them a new prophet.

 

Responsorial Psalm  Psalm 95:1-2,6-7,7-9
A song of praise to the Lord.

 

Second Reading 1 Corinthians 7:32-35
Paul expresses his concern that those who are married are more likely to face the distractions of earthly life than those who are celibate.

 

Gospel Reading
Mark 1:21-28
Jesus heals a man with an unclean spirit and his fame spreads throughout Galilee.

 

Background on the Gospel Reading
Today’s Gospel continues our reading from Mark and describes what some believe was likely to have been a typical day in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus and the disciples that chose to follow him in last week’s Gospel arrive at Capernaum, a small village on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus teaches in the synagogue on the Sabbath. Mark reports that the people respond to Jesus’ teaching with astonishment, noting Jesus’ authority and contrasting it with the scribes’. Early in Mark’s Gospel we already find evidence of the tension that will manifest itself fully in Jerusalem.

After Jesus’ preaching, an even more astonishing thing happens. A man possessed with an unclean spirit calls out to Jesus. As we see in this example and throughout Mark’s Gospel, the spirits and demons seem to know Jesus and are often fearful of him. In fact, they seem to understand Jesus’ identity better than his disciples. As we will read again and again in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus orders the spirit to be quiet and drives the unclean spirit out of the man. Jesus’ ability to heal those possessed by demons is an indication of his power over evil.

In the prescientific age of Jesus’ time, all illnesses were understood to be manifestations of evil and sinfulness. Our modern understanding of illness is very different. Possession by unclean spirits may have been a way to describe what we might call mental illness today. It may have even been a way of describing certain kinds of physical conditions. There is evidence that there were many kinds of exorcists and healers in first-century Palestine. Jesus appears to be like these healers, but he heals with unique authority and connects his healing activities with the words of his preaching.

We are missing the point that Mark is trying to make in this Gospel, however, if we try to explain away the healing work of Jesus. The crowds see in Jesus’ cure of the possessed man further affirmation of his authority. Jesus’ power to heal gives greater credence to his teaching. Jesus impresses the crowds through his words, which are manifested with power in his deeds. Mark’s Gospel tells us that because of the authority with which he healed, Jesus’ fame spread throughout all of Galilee.

January 24 - Third Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B

January 24th, 2021

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First Reading  Jonah 3:1-5,10
God spared the people of Nineveh because they heeded the message God sent through Jonah.

 

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 25:4-5,6-7,8-9
The Lord teaches us his ways.

 

Second Reading  1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Paul warns the Corinthians that they must act differently because the world in its present form is passing away.

 

Gospel Reading
Mark 1:14-20
Jesus calls the fishermen, Simon and Andrew, James and John, to be his disciples.

 

Today we begin a continuous reading of Mark’s Gospel that will carry us through this segment of the liturgical season of Ordinary Time. Remember that in Cycle B of the Lectionary, most of the Gospel readings are taken from the Gospel according to Mark.

The Gospel of Mark does not begin with a narrative about Jesus’ birth. Instead Mark begins by reporting on the preaching of John the Baptist. John is described as the voice in the wilderness sent to prepare the way of the Lord. Immediately after describing the work of John the Baptist, Mark reports on Jesus’ baptism and his temptation in the desert. Jesus’ public ministry begins after the arrest of John the Baptist. Mark wants his readers to understand the important connection between the end of the ministry of John the Baptist and the beginning of Jesus’ own ministry.

As we learn at the beginning of today’s Gospel reading, Jesus preaches the Kingdom of God in continuity with the preaching of John the Baptist. Like John the Baptist, Jesus’ pronouncement of the kingdom is a call to repentance. Yet Jesus’ preaching is greater than John’s. Jesus begins the time of fulfillment; the Kingdom of God is already here. This will be demonstrated again and again, both in Jesus’ words and in the actions that follow. Jesus’ healings and forgiveness of sins are signs of the Kingdom of God that he announces in his teaching.

In contrast to last week’s Gospel, in Mark’s Gospel Jesus takes the initiative in calling his first disciples. As mentioned last week, it was more typical of first-century rabbinical schools for students to seek out rabbis, asking to be their disciples. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus breaks with this tradition and invites his disciples to learn from him. Jesus is said to have first called four fishermen—Simon, Andrew, James, and John. Simon and Andrew are brothers. Jesus promises that he will make them “fishers of men.” James and John are also brothers. Mark does not report Jesus' words of invitation to them, but he does report that they left their fishing immediately; their father, Zebedee, was left behind in the boat.

Mark’s Gospel is told with a great sense of urgency and immediacy. Jesus is a person of action, and events occur in rapid succession. We see this in today’s Gospel. Time is of the essence; the fishermen immediately put aside their livelihood to become Jesus’ disciples. The Kingdom of God is here and now. The time of fulfillment is at hand. How might our lives be different if we more fully shared this sense of the immediacy of God’s kingdom?

January 17 - Second Sunday in ordinary time year B - This is the Lamb of God

January 14th, 2021

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irst Reading 1 Samuel 3:3b–10,19
The Lord calls Samuel.

 

Responsorial Psalm  Psalm 40:2, 4, 7–8, 8–9, 10
A prayer of commitment to follow the will of the Lord.

 

Second Reading  1 Corinthians 6:13c–15a,17–20
Paul reminds the Corinthians that their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.

 

Gospel Reading  John 1:35–42
John the Baptist recognizes Jesus as the Lamb of God, and Jesus receives his first followers.

 

Background on the Gospel Reading
Although the liturgical season of Ordinary Time begins this week, today’s reading continues with the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord, which concludes the Christmas season. Today’s reading from the Gospel according to John immediately follows John the Baptist's testimony about Jesus and his identification of Jesus as the Lamb of God. Having been baptized by John, Jesus begins to gather followers. The first followers sought out Jesus because of the testimony and witness of John the Baptist.

We are familiar with the title that John the Baptist uses for Jesus—the Lamb of God. We hear it weekly at the fraction rite during Mass. For those who heard John the Baptist, however, this title recalled key themes from the Old Testament. It alludes to the paschal lamb offered as a sacrifice when God freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, the event that is commemorated by the Jewish Passover celebration. The designation also recalls the prophet Isaiah’s description of the suffering servant of Israel. In using this name for Jesus, John the Baptist predicts Jesus’ passion and death and the new interpretation of Passover that will begin with Jesus’ Last Supper.

We learn in today’s reading how Jesus’ first followers were gathered. The first two, Andrew and another man, were followers of John the Baptist. After hearing John’s testimony, they became followers of Jesus. During their time with Jesus, the details of which are not specified, Andrew and the other follower came to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. Andrew then brings his brother, Simon, to Jesus. Immediately, Jesus gave Simon a new name, calling him Peter, which means “rock” in Greek. The renaming of Simon to Peter is reported in all four of the Gospels.

In the exchange between Andrew, the other disciple, and Jesus, we see an example of the usual pattern for first-century Jewish rabbinical schools. Jews sought out rabbis and established themselves as disciples of a particular rabbi. Jesus appears to have been unique in that he sought out individuals, inviting them to be his followers. In the passage that follows, John’s Gospel tells us how Jesus took the initiative in calling Philip and Nathanael.

Jesus asks Andrew and the other disciple, “What are you looking for?” This is a telling question, and one that we might often ask of ourselves. John the Baptist testified to Jesus’ identity, the Lamb of God, using the framework of the Old Testament. Andrew, Simon, and the other first disciples were looking for the Messiah, whom they also came to know as the Son of God. What do we look for and what do we find in Jesus?

January 10 - The feast of the Baptism of the Lord

January 14th, 2021

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January 3 - The Feast of Epiphany

January 2nd, 2021

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First Reading  Isaiah 60:1-6
Jerusalem shall be a light to all nations.

 

Responsorial Psalm  Psalm 72:1-2,7-8,10-11,12-13
Every nation on earth shall worship the Lord.

 

Second Reading  Ephesians 3:2-3a,5-6
Gentiles are coheirs in the promise of Christ.

 

Gospel Reading  Matthew 2:1-12
The Magi seek out Jesus and do him homage.

 

Background on the Gospel Reading

The visit of the Magi occurs directly before the story of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt. Matthew’s Gospel tells a version of Jesus’ birth that is different than the one in Luke. Of the actual birth of Jesus, Matthew tells us little more than, “When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod . . . ” The story of the census is found only in Luke’s Gospel, but we hear about the visit of the Magi only in Matthew’s Gospel.

We know little about the Magi. They come from the East and journey to Bethlehem, following an astrological sign, so we believe them to be astrologers. We assume that there were three Magi based upon the naming of their three gifts. The Gospel does not say how many Magi paid homage to Jesus. In Matthew’s Gospel, they represent the Gentiles’ search for a savior. Because the Magi represent the entire world, they also represent our search for Jesus.

We have come to consider the gifts they bring as a foreshadowing of Jesus’ role in salvation. We believe the meaning of the gifts to be Christological. Gold is presented as representative of Jesus’ kingship. Frankincense is a symbol of his divinity because priests burned the substance in the Temple. Myrrh, which was used to prepare the dead for burial, is offered in anticipation of Jesus’ death.

The word Epiphany means “manifestation” or “showing forth.” Historically several moments in Christ’s early life and ministry have been celebrated as “epiphanies,” including his birth in Bethlehem, the visit of the Magi, his baptism by John, and his first miracle at Cana.

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