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.

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