October 31 - Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

October 28th, 2021

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First Reading    Deuteronomy 6:2-6
Moses teaches the people to love and worship God alone.

 

Responsorial Psalm    Psalm 18:2-3,3-4,47,51
A prayer of praise to God our strength

 

Second Reading    Hebrews 7:23-28
Jesus intercedes for us as our eternal high priest.  

 

Gospel Reading    Mark 12:28b-34
Jesus is questioned by a scribe about the greatest commandment.

 

Background on the Gospel Reading

As we continue to read from Mark’s Gospel, our Lectionary skips a chapter that helps set the context for today’s reading. If we were to read the sections skipped (chapter 11 and part of chapter 12), we would hear about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, his cleansing of the Temple, and the questioning of Jesus’ authority by the chief priests, scribes, and elders. The context, therefore, for this Gospel is Jesus’ growing exposure before the Jewish authorities. Jesus is being questioned and tested by the Jewish authorities, yet the scribe who addresses Jesus in today’s Gospel seems to be an admirer; he is not testing Jesus.

The question posed in today’s Gospel requires Jesus to interpret the Law of Moses. The Mosaic Law consists of the Ten Commandments and many additional commandments, numbering into the hundreds. For a devout Jew, adherence to the Mosaic Law is an expression of faithfulness to God’s covenant with Israel. The ranking of these commandments was regularly debated among the teachers of the Law.

Jesus was not the only Jewish religious teacher to connect these two commandments, love of God and love of neighbor. Both of these commandments were central elements of the religious tradition that Jesus learned from his Jewish community. Indeed, these commandments continue to be central aspects of contemporary Jewish religious understanding. Jesus’ response to his questioners proposed an integral connection between these two aspects of the Jewish Law. Love of God finds its expression in our love for our neighbor. Many believe, however, that this connection was heard in a new and fresh way when spoken by Jesus.

The scribe who questions Jesus in today’s Gospel engages in a positive dialogue with Jesus. He agrees with Jesus’ teaching that the commandments to love God and love neighbor stand above the commandment to offer worship and sacrifice in the Temple. With this dialogue, Jesus appears to close the debate with the Jewish authorities. Mark reports that no one dared to question Jesus further.

October 24 - Thirtieth Sunday in ordinary time Year B

October 22nd, 2021

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First Reading   Jeremiah 31:7-9
The Lord declares himself to be the Father of Israel.

 

Responsorial Psalm   Psalm 126:1-2,2-3,4-5,6
A song of praise to God who does great things

 

Second Reading   Hebrews 5:1-6
Christ was made high priest by God.

 

Gospel Reading
Mark 10:46-52
Jesus restores sight to the blind man, Bartimaeus

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today we continue to read from Mark’s Gospel. In this Gospel, we find evidence of Jesu’ fame in the sizable crowd that accompanies him as he journeys to Jerusalem. Jesus’ reputation as a healer has preceded him. When the blind man, Bartimaeus, hears that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by, he calls out to him, asking for his pity.

When Bartimaeus calls out to Jesus, the crowd around him tries to silence him. Yet Bartimaeus persists, calling out more loudly and with greater urgency. He will not be silenced or deterred from getting Jesus’ attention. We notice how quickly the crowd’s reaction changes when Jesus calls for Bartimaeus. Those who sought to quiet him now encourage him.

When Jesus restores Bartimaeus’s sight, no elaborate action is required. (In other healing stories in Mark’s Gospel, actions accompany Jesus’ words). In this instance, Jesus simply says that Bartimaeus’s faith has saved him. Throughout Mark’s Gospel, the success of Jesus’ healing power has often been correlated with the faith of the person requesting Jesus’ help. For example, it is because of her faith that the woman with the hemorrhage is healed. When faith is absent, Jesus is unable to heal; we see this after his rejection in Nazareth.

Once his sight has been restored, Bartimaeus follows Jesus on his way to Jerusalem. In Mark’s Gospel, Bartimaeus is the last disciple called by Jesus before he enters Jerusalem. Bartimaeus hears that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by, but he calls out to Jesus using words of faith—“Son of David.” Many in Jesus’ time believed that the anticipated Jewish Messiah would be a descendent of King David. Bartimaeus’s words prepare us for the final episodes of Mark’s Gospel, which begin with Jesus’ preparation for the Passover and his triumphant entry into Jerusalem. As Mark has shown us in our readings over the past few Sundays, however, Jesus will be the Messiah in a way that will be difficult for many to accept. Jesus will show himself to be the Messiah through his suffering and death.

October 17 - Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

October 15th, 2021

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First Reading    Isaiah 53:10-11
Through his suffering, the servant of Yahweh will justify many.

 

Responsorial Psalm     Psalm 33:4-5,18-19,20,22
A prayer of praise for God’s mercy

 

Second Reading     Hebrews 4:14-16
Jesus is the high priest who sympathizes with our weakness.

 

Gospel Reading    Mark 10:35-45 (shorter form Mark 10:42-45)
Jesus teaches that those who wish to be great must be the servant of all.   

 

Background on the Gospel Reading

In this Sunday’s Gospel, we continue to read from the section of Mark’s Gospel that reports Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. Last Sunday we heard Jesus lament the particular challenges those with many possessions face in order to enter the Kingdom of God. Jesus then predicts his passion to the Twelve, who are amazed and afraid. In this part of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus’ words to his closest disciples seem to be intended to prepare them for the events that will occur in Jerusalem.

In today’s Gospel, James and John ask to be given seats of honor when Jesus enters into his glory. Once again, the disciples seem to be selective in what they hear Jesus say. They want to share Jesus’ glory, but do not appear to understand that his glory will be preceded by his suffering. Jesus notes their lack of understanding and predicts the suffering they will endure for the sake of the Gospel. Jesus says that the honor they seek is not his to give. When the other ten hear what James and John have asked, Mark reports that they are indignant. Jesus takes the opportunity to teach them.

Jesus explains the importance of service and sacrifice in the life of a disciple. In particular, he seems to be preparing the Twelve for their leadership roles in the emerging Christian community. Echoing the Gospel we heard several weeks ago (on the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Mark 9:33-37), Jesus acknowledges that his teaching is countercultural. In today’s Gospel, Jesus contrasts the dynamics within the community of disciples with those shown by the rulers of the Gentiles.

Following Jesus’ example of sacrificial love continues to be countercultural in our day as well. We might take this opportunity to consider our models of authority and examine our own exercise of authority. On whose example do we model our leadership?

October 10 - Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

October 7th, 2021

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First Reading   Wisdom 7:7-11
Wisdom is preferred above gold and silver.

 

Responsorial Psalm    Psalm 90:12-13,14-15,16-17
The Lord fills us with love and joy.

 

Second Reading    Hebrews 4:12-13
The Word of God exposes the heart. 

 

Gospel Reading
Mark 10:17-30 (shorter form Mark 10:17-27) 
A man with many possessions asks Jesus what he must do to gain eternal life.

 

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today we continue reading the Gospel of Mark from where we left off last Sunday. Last Sunday our Gospel told how Jesus was tested by the Pharisees about the requirements for divorce. Recall that these chapters come from the second part of Mark’s Gospel, which chronicles the beginning of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem.

In today’s Gospel, an unnamed man approaches Jesus and inquires about what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus replies that one must follow the commandments of the Law of Moses. The man acknowledges that he has observed all of these since his childhood. Jesus then says that only one thing is lacking: he must give his possessions to the poor and follow Jesus. The man leaves in sadness, and Mark tells us that this is because he had many possessions.

The belief in resurrection and eternal life was a relatively recent development in Jewish thought at Jesus’ time, and it wasn’t shared by everyone. The Pharisees taught that there would be a resurrection from the dead; the Sadducees did not share this belief. Jesus taught that there would be a final judgment for everyone and eternal life (the Kingdom of God) for believers.

Jesus makes two requirements of the wealthy man who approaches him. First, he must give up his possessions. Throughout history, some Christians have taken this literally. Their example witnesses to us a radical commitment to the Gospel of Jesus. Some have read this as a particular requirement directed to this specific individual. Still others have sought to explain the meaning intended by the word possessions as those things that prevent one from following Jesus. Christians have generally understood that at the least, following Jesus requires that believers hold material possessions loosely and remain vigilant against seeking security in accumulating possessions.

The second requirement Jesus makes of this man is the invitation that Jesus extends to all would-be disciples: “follow me.” Jesus very much wants this man to be his disciple. We believe that the Christian faith is one in which each believer is in a personal relationship with Jesus. Just as this Gospel tells us that Jesus loves the man and is sad when he departs, so too, Jesus loves us and is saddened when we are unable to follow him.

We see in this Gospel reading another example of Mark’s pattern, which shows Jesus offering further elaboration about his message and meaning to his disciples. To his disciples, Jesus laments the challenges faced by those who are rich in following him and entering the Kingdom of God. In reply to the disciples’ astonishment at the strictness of the standard that Jesus speaks about today, Jesus reminds his disciples that nothing is impossible with God. Salvation is determined by our ability to rely completely upon God.

Peter replies to Jesus by boasting that the disciples have already given up everything. Jesus acknowledges that those who have given up everything for the sake of the Gospel will be rewarded. This reward begins now, in the new community that one will gain in this life, and will continue in the eternal age to come. Our personal relationship with Jesus is also an invitation to the community of faith, the Church.

October 3 - Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

October 1st, 2021

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First Reading   Genesis 2:18-24
God creates woman from Adam’s rib.

 

Responsorial Psalm    Psalm 128:1-2,3,4-5,6
A prayer for God’s blessing

 

Second Reading    Hebrews 2:9-11
Christ was made perfect through suffering so that we might all be consecrated.

 

Gospel Reading
Mark 10:2-16 (shorter form Mark 10:2-12)
Jesus teaches against divorce and welcomes the children.

 

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today we continue to read from the Gospel according to Mark. For the past three Sundays, we have been hearing Mark’s reports of conversations between Jesus and his disciples. Recall that in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus uses these private moments to teach his disciples in greater detail about the Kingdom of God. Beginning with today’s Gospel, Jesus returns to Judea, Jewish territory, and resumes his public ministry. The first verse of chapter 10 of Mark’s Gospel tells us that crowds gathered around Jesus, and he taught them, as was his custom. Immediately, the Pharisees approach Jesus to test him.

The Pharisees question Jesus about the lawfulness of divorce. Under specific conditions, divorce was an accepted practice among the Jewish people during the time of Jesus. It was regulated by the Law of Moses, as found in Deuteronomy 24:1-5. This law only permits that a husband may divorce his wife if he finds her to be indecent. This is the justification that the Pharisees reference when Jesus inquires about the commandment of Moses. In reply, Jesus quotes from the Book of Genesis and counters that God’s original intention was that men and women would become one flesh in marriage. Jesus describes the teaching of Moses as a concession made to God's original intention because of human stubbornness.

In private, Jesus’ disciples question him further about this teaching on divorce. It is to his disciples that Jesus lays out the implications of his teaching by explaining that remarriage after divorce is adultery. Jesus’ teaching was more restrictive than the teaching of the Pharisees, which permitted remarriage. Jesus further distinguished his teaching from the cultural norms of his time by applying his words equally to men and women. Jewish culture permitted only that a husband may divorce his wife. Wives were not permitted to divorce their husband for any reason, including adultery.

At first glance, the final part of today’s Gospel seems unconnected to the previous teaching about divorce. When read together, however, these passages present a strong picture of Jesus’ emphasis on the importance of family. God intended for women and men to be joined together in marriage. Among the purposes of marriage is the raising of children. By welcoming children and fostering their relationship with God, parents and families bear witness to the Kingdom of God.

At the end of today’s Gospel, the people were bringing their children to Jesus, and again Jesus’ disciples show that they just don’t get it. Recall that in the Gospel for each of the past two Sundays, Jesus has taught his disciples the value and importance of these “little ones” in the Kingdom of God. Yet in today’s Gospel, the disciples try to prevent people from bringing their children to Jesus. Jesus reprimands his disciples and welcomes these children. Again Jesus offers these children as an example of the kind of complete trust and dependence upon God that ought to be the attitude of all believers.

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