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.

May 17 - The Ascension of the Lord, Cycle B

May 13th, 2021

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First Reading  Acts of the Apostles 1:1-11
Jesus is taken up to heaven in the presence of the apostles.

 

Responsorial Psalm  Psalm 47:2-3,6-7,8-9
Sing praise to God as he mounts his throne.

 

Second Reading Ephesians 1:17-23 or Ephesians 4:1-13 (shorter form: Ephesians 4:1-7,11-13)

God raised Jesus from the dead and seated him at his right hand.

Gospel Reading
Mark 16:15-20
Jesus is taken to heaven, and the disciples go forth to preach as Jesus commanded.

 

Background on the Gospel Reading

(In places where the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord is not designated as a Holy Day of Obligation, the feast is moved to the following Sunday.)

Today is our liturgical celebration of the Ascension of the Lord, when Jesus was taken to heaven on the fortieth day after Easter. In Cycle B, our Gospel is taken from the conclusion of the Gospel of Mark. Scholars have long noted some irregularities about the ending of Mark’s Gospel. There is a natural break in the story line at verse 8, when Mark’s report of the discovery of the empty tomb comes to an abrupt conclusion. This verse reports that the women were so frightened by what they had seen at the tomb that they told no one. This may be the original ending of Mark’s Gospel, but it is also possible that the more complete ending has been lost.

 

Some manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel, written between the fourth and ninth centuries, include what scholars have termed the Shorter Ending. This is often printed in our Bibles for reference. This ending indicates that the women told their story to Peter’s companions. Scholars believe that this ending is not original to Mark. They theorize that this ending was added by copyists who sought to resolve the original abrupt ending at verse 8.

 

Other early manuscripts include a Longer Ending that scholars also believe was written by someone other than the Evangelist. Nonetheless, quotations from this Longer Ending are found in the writings of the early Church Fathers, and it was accepted at the Council of Trent as part of the canonical Gospel of Mark. Our Gospel for today’s celebration of the Feast of the Ascension is taken from this Longer Ending.

 

There are similarities in the reports of Jesus’ Ascension found in the Synoptic Gospels—Mark, Matthew, and Luke. In each case, Jesus assigns his disciples the task of proclaiming the gospel message to the entire world. There are also notable distinctions. In the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, the disciples are sent by Jesus to baptize and to preach. In Luke’s Gospel, however, the commission to baptize is absent. Instead, Jesus directs the disciples to return to Jerusalem to await the fulfillment of his promise to send them the Holy Spirit. Curiously, only the Gospels of Mark and Luke actually report Jesus’ ascension into heaven. Matthew’s Gospel concludes with Jesus’ promise to remain with his disciples forever. Only the Gospel of Mark notes that Jesus ascended to sit at the right hand of God. In noting this, Mark teaches that Jesus’ ascension affirms the glory Jesus received from God after his death and Resurrection.

 

Even if this ending to Mark’s Gospel was written by someone other than the Evangelist, in the commission that Jesus gives to his disciples, there are elements that are quite typical of Mark’s Gospel. The signs that will accompany belief in Jesus are as vivid as the action performed by Jesus during his ministry. Those who believe in Jesus will be empowered to do what Jesus himself has done. During his ministry, Jesus sent his disciples to preach, to heal, and to drive out unclean spirits. Now they are sent again to do these things and more. From his place with God in heaven, Jesus helped his disciples, and he continues to help us as we try to live as his followers.

May 10 - Sixth Sunday of Easter, Cycle B

May 6th, 2021

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First Reading  Acts of the Apostles 10:25-26,34-35,44-48
The gift of the Holy Spirit comes to Cornelius and his household, and they are baptized.

Responsorial Psalm  Psalm 98:1,2-3,3-4
A song of praise for God’s salvation

Second Reading   1 John 4:7-10
God is love.

Gospel Reading
John 15:9-17
Jesus commands his disciples to love one another.

 

Background on the Gospel Reading

 

Today’s Gospel follows immediately after the Gospel proclaimed last week, in which Jesus taught that he was the vine and that his disciples were the branches. In the example of the vine and the branches, we learned that our union with Jesus will lead to fruitful service. Today’s reading extends this teaching to describe the kind of service that Christians are called upon to offer to others.

When John wrote this Gospel, his community was influenced by a set of religious beliefs called Gnosticism. It appears that one of John’s intentions was to distinguish Christian belief from the beliefs held by the Gnostics. Evidence of this can be found in today’s Gospel.

One of the tenets of Gnostic teaching was the importance of knowledge, or gnosis, as the determining aspect of faith. We read today’s Gospel as a response to this teaching. In John’s Gospel, we hear Jesus affirm that he is known by the Father and that his disciples will know the Father by knowing Jesus. In this passage, however, Jesus reminds his disciples that this knowledge is to be expressed in love. Those who know Jesus well—and Jesus says that his disciples do know him—will love one another. Knowledge leads to love, which leads to action. John reminds his community that Jesus taught that love is the sign of a true disciple and, thus, a true Christian. Even more, a true disciple shows a particular kind of love, sacrificial love.

In the Greek, there are two words for love that are used in this passage. The first is agape. The second is philia. The first word is most often used to describe love for other persons and for God. It is understood as the highest and most perfect kind of love. The second word is used to describe the affection of friendship. In this context, John appears to use these words as synonyms. The root of the Greek word for friend comes from this second term for love, philia. By using this word, Jesus transforms the terms of his relationship with his disciples and redefines for them their relationship with God. In the Hebrew Scriptures, faith in God made one a servant of God.

Here Jesus teaches that his relationship to his disciples is based on friendship, not servitude.

Another aspect of Gnostic belief taught that a believer was an elect person, chosen and set apart from the world. John reminds his community that Jesus also taught that a disciple is one who had been chosen—one who had been chosen by Jesus. To be chosen by Jesus, however, is not to be set apart from the world. Instead, to be chosen by Jesus is to be sent to serve the world as he did. The disciples of Jesus were chosen and were sent into the world to bear fruit by serving others, by sacrificing for others, in love.

This reading, like last week’s, is part of Jesus’ Last Supper discourse. In the context of John’s Gospel, these words are spoken before Jesus’ Crucifixion. We read his instruction to the disciples in light of his death and Resurrection. We know that Jesus himself gives us the greatest example of the kind of love and service that he teaches to his disciples. He has, in fact, laid down his life for his friends, for his disciples, and for us. Through his death and Resurrection, we have received the grace to love others as Jesus has commanded.

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