Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time: Year A

Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time: Year A

Jn 6: 51 – 58

Corpus Christi

Prayer before praying Scripture

Lord I believe in you and your presence in sacred Scripture. I believe with all my heart that you are present to me here and now and that you are about to communicate with me through the words of this sacred text.

We are called to read this text with much openness and attention.

52The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?” 53 Jesus said to them, “Amen, Amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life in you. 54Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. 55For my flesh is true food and my blood true drink. 56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. 57Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.

53Jesus The Bread of heaven is first of all the Word of God, the message of the Father that Jesus has come to bring into the world. This Word is the true bread of life for us. All the other words, even if sweet and pleasing, lead us only to unhappiness and death.

But if this word is written only in a book, can it be the word of life? To be life it has to take
flesh in persons, it must become concrete, visible. Now the perfect embodiment of the Word is Jesus.

This being understood clearly, what does it mean to eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus? No one today will make the mistake of the Jews, who thought they had to eat him materially. Let us try, however, to understand things still more clearly.

******

Material bread is assimilated and becomes part of ourselves. It is transformed into our own flesh. Jesus says he is the bread. It is his person that must be eaten, must be assimilated. It is his very existence given up for men that must become our own existence.

Communion with the body of Christ means to accept, to identify ourselves with him. It means to offer up our own selves to him so that he can keep on living, suffering, giving himself and rising again in us. That is why St Paul says the Christian must “recollect himself” (1 Cor 11: 28) , and see if he is really ready to let the life of Jesus continue in him.

The transformation of our own person into Jesus does not happen magically. It is not enough to receive communion many times.

For the Eucharist to have effect it must be received in faith, that is, we must be ready to be
transformed into the person of Jesus.

We all know we cannot receive the Eucharist before first listening to the word of God. This is because in the reading we discover new aspects of the person of Jesus; then in eating his Body we intend that his “Flesh” may shine through our own more clearly and in a more luminous way. Communion is a sign that we accept to be transformed into the Body of Christ. After communion, whoever meets us , whoever looks at our deeds, at our ways of acting with others should be able to recognize in us Jesus who continues to love, act, speak, teach, smile…1

We will be drawn more and more into wanting to continue being transformed into Christ, as we hear we hear Christ in the “Word”:

Giving himself totally to us, placing every part of his being at our service. (“this is my
body given for you”).

Inviting us into deep union with himself so that his spirit courses through us and we
experience the passion of his love for everyone.2

The Second Vatican Council confirms this when it teaches:

“The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerated the body of the Lord, since from the table of both the Word of God and of the Body Christ she unceasingly receives and offers the faithful the bread of life, especially in the sacred liturgy.”3

1. Armellini, F, sci; Celebrating the Word. Year A Paulines Publications1992

2. Michel de Verteiul – Year A “Lectio Divina with the Sunday Gospels Columba Press 2004

3. Dogmatic Constitution of Divine Revelation – Dei Verbum. 1965 – (21)

 

Seventh Sunday of Easter

Mt 28: 16 – 20

Ascension

Prayer before praying Scripture

Lord I believe in you and your presence in sacred Scripture.  I believe with all my heart that you are present to me here and now and that you are about to communicate with me through the words of this sacred text.

* * * * * *

16The eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them.  17When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated.  18Jesus came up and spoke to them.  He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  19Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you.  And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.

What do you find strange about this reading?  Read it again carefully and you will find that there is no mention of the Ascension.  The Ascension only appears in Luke’s Gospel.  He has it take place on Easter Sunday and then writes about it in Acts of the Apostles where it takes place forty days after Easter.  “But Mark has it,” you may exclaim.  You are quite right, but remember that originally Mark’s Gospel ended in verse eight with the women saying nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. (Mk 16: 8)  What follows this was added and has obviously been copied from Luke.

So why did Matthew choose to conclude his Gospel with this story?  Certainly we have here the commissioning of the disciples.   Jesus began his mission in Galilee and he hands it on to others in Galilee.  Throughout this Gospel we see Jesus ministering to the Jewish community.  “He went around all Galilee.” (4: 23)  Here there seems to be a shift, “Go .. to all nations.”  Not so!  “And great crowds from Galilee; the Decapolis; Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan followed him.” The places in bold print were Pagan.  In other words Jesus went “beyond” Israel to the whole world.  He healed the Centurion’s servant (8: 13), the Canaanite woman’s daughter (15: 28) and told us to “give witness before the pagans.”  (10: 18)

All Jesus’ disciples are told to:  “Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them .. and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. This includes us.

In the closing words of the Gospel we receive the assurance, “I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.” (28: 20)  This re-affirms two earlier promises, “They shall name him, Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us,” (1: 23) and “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (18: 20)

It is interesting to note that Matthew is following the pattern found in the account of the missioning of Moses, Jeremiah and Isaiah. “Go now!  I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt,” says God to Moses.  Moses, like the disciples hesitates or doubts, “Who am I that I should go?”  God replied, “I will be with you  ..  you will worship God on this mountain.” (Ex3: 10 – 12)  Surely there is much food for thought for us, here.

If we read Mt 28: 16 -20 carefully we become aware that Matthew is giving us a brief summary of the main points in his Gospel.  He opens with, “ The eleven disciples.”  There are two groups mentioned here, the eleven and disciples.  For Matthew the large group of disciples was very important.  He speaks of them seventy three times.  Twice the women were told to “Go tell my brothers.”  And then there were the Eleven.  Here is Jesus founding community, and all are included.

Mountains are symbolically very important in Jesus’ life.  He is on a mountain when he rejects the temptation of money and power. (4: 10)  It is on a mountain that he instructs his followers. (5: 1)  He goes to the mountain to pray, (14: 23)  and there he heals and nourishes people. (15: 31 and 32)  His transfiguration takes place on a mountain. (17: 1–9)

Jesus leaves us in no doubt about the role he has in mind for us when he tells us;

“You are the light of the world.

A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.

Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. (5: 14 and 16)

Even after hearing all these beautiful thoughts, some, possibly all, the disciples hesitated or doubted. They were battling to believe that Jesus was truly risen and present in their lives.  Let us not be too critical of them.  Are there events in your life in which you can recognize the hand of God?  Am I aware of the Risen Christ active in my life today.

Year B: Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Year B Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 2: 1 – 12

Lord, your word has many shades of meaning, just as those who study it have many different points of view. You have coloured your words with many hues so that each person who studies it can see in it what he loves.

Lord, your Word is a tree of life that offers blessed fruit in abundance.
Like the rock gushing water in the desert it is for each of us a refreshing fountain.

“All ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink.” St Ephrem
So often when we read a familiar text we mutter to ourselves, “Oh, my goodness what am I going to get from this? I really have exhausted all this text has to say to me!” This is just the moment that God is waiting to surprise you with a new insight. Go to this text with an open mind, confident that your Father has some special insight for you. Do not be discouraged if nothing happens immediately. Hang in there, and God will speak in His good time.

Now pray the prayer above slowly and with special attentiveness.

JESUS REVOLUTION

Mark loves to present his teaching stories in threes. Our story is the first of a triad.
2: 1 – 12 Healing and forgiveness are linked – “A new understanding?”
2: 2 – 15 Jesus entertains sinners – “Can you believe it?”
2: 23 – 28 Sabbath observance – “Sabbath is for the benefit of humanity!”
Each one of these stories presents Jesus’ thinking, in stark contrast to the prevailing teaching and understanding of God. He paints a very different picture to that of which was taught by the “experts” of the time. Pray for the openness that will enable you to grow in understanding God as Jesus did.

NOTE:

Please approach this commentary as it is presented. Each of the FIVE parts should give you material for FIVE periods of prayer and reflection.

READ

Time now to read and re-read our text. I have marked in colour the words that reflect Jesus’ teaching.

1When Jesus returned to Capernaum some time later, word went round the he was at home; 2and so many people collected that there was no room left, even in front of the door. He was preaching the word to them 3when some people came bringing him a paralytic carried by four men, 4but as the crowd made it impossible to get the man to him, they stripped the roof over the place where Jesus was; and when they had made an opening, they lowered the stretcher on which the paralytic lay. 5Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, “My child, your sins are forgiven.” 6Now some scribes were sitting there, and they thought to themselves, 7″How can this man talk like this? He is blaspheming”. Who can forgive sins but God?
8Jesus, inwardly aware that this was what they were thinking, said to them, “Why do you have these thoughts in your hearts? 9Which of these is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or to say, ‘Get up, pick up your stretcher and walk’?”
10But to prove to you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins, – he said to the paralytic –
“I order you: get up, pick up your stretcher, and go off home.”
12And the man got up, picked up his stretcher at once and walked out in front of everyone, so that they were all astounded and praised God saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”

* * * * * * *

Before we start to reflect on this passage we need to be aware that each section in colour offers us the opportunity to:

READ and assimilate the text. We allow the text to speak to us just as Jesus preached the Word;
come to a deeper understanding (RECOGNISE) of what Mark and Jesus are saying to us;

RESPOND (Prayer) in the words of Scripture.

How wonderful, as each time our insight into the Word grows, we respond in prayer using the words of this scripture, “I am truly astounded! Lord I praise You! I have never seen anything like this!”

* * * * * * *

He was preaching the word
In 1: 39 the story is situated in the synagogue. Here it is in Jesus’ home. The Word, Scripture, our living out our spirituality and religious practice is also situated in our homes. The recent Synod on the Word, proposition 20 makes this very call. Listening to the Word is integral to our daily spirituality.
Time to READ – RECOGNISE – RESPOND

* * * * * * *
they stripped the roof over the place where Jesus was
they lowered the stretcher on which the paralytic lay.
In 1: 10 – 11 the heavens are opened and God’s voice is heard. We have an interesting link here, where, again, the barrier between Jesus and humanity (the paralytic and his helpers) is removed. Mark is telling us that Jesus continually opens things up. Here and in the rest of this chapter, Mark shows Jesus opening up a new understanding of sinfulness and forgiveness.1

Note that we have to come down to the level of Jesus present in the community. It is in the community that healing and forgiveness take place.
Time to READ – RECOGNISE – RESPOND
* * * * * * *

My child, your sins are forgiven.
I order you: get up, pick up your stretcher, and go off home.
Mark’s thinking is more accurately reflected by using, your sins are ‘released’ or ‘let go.’ He wants us to understand that evil binds us, but God sets us free. We find this same thought expressed when the Gospel tells us that Simon and Andrew ‘let go’ of their nets and the fever ‘lets go’ of Simon’s mother-in-law. Just think of all the things that can bind us, fear, insecurity, ignorance, laziness, envy, lust, pride.

Jesus equates forgiveness of sin with healing. Forgiveness is an act of healing. Jesus shows us that to forgive someone is to heal them. “Mark thus implies that all of Jesus’ acts of healing are theological symbols of God’s desire to forgive us and make us whole.” By linking healing and forgiveness Jesus is teaching us that it is God’s will to forgive rather than punish, to heal rather than to hurt.2

These very same words, “My child, your sins are forgiven”, are addressed to us and we in our turn are called upon to say them to others. Listen to Jesus saying these words to us, then say them to others and particularly to yourself.
Time to READ – RECOGNISE – RESPOND

* * * * * * *
“Who can forgive sins but God?” and the answer is, “the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”

Please call to mind the prayer of St Ephrem that we prayed earlier. ‘There are many understandings and shades of meaning for the Word of God.’ Here is food for thought. Frequently Jesus refers to himself in the gospels as ‘Son of Man’. This simply means ‘human being.’ What is man that you should be mindful of him,
or the son of man ( humanity / a human) that you should care for him. Ps 8: 5

Mark was not giving Jesus a special a title he is rather emphasizing his common humanity with us. Jesus is teaching that humans are called to forgive one another. In doing this they imitate God’s forgiveness. This is not the only time that Jesus will come with this ‘new’ teaching in Mark’s Gospel.
Time to READ – RECOGNISE – RESPOND

* * * * * * *

In the centre of this passage Mark places a riddle.
9Which of these is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or to say, ‘Get up, pick up your stretcher and walk’?

Now a riddle is there to make us stop and think. At first glance the answer is, it is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven”. Of course it is easier because there is no way of proving that they have not been forgiven. However, think about situations in your own life or in history where there is need for forgiveness and it has not been forth-coming. Hurts are remembered for years, hundreds of years and feelings of bitterness continue to cripple the lives of people.

Which of these is easier?

Lord, who can grasp all the wealth of just one of your words?
What we understand in the Bible is much less than what we leave behind,
like thirsty people who drink from a fountain.

Lord, you have hidden many treasures in your Word so that each of us is enriched as we meditate upon it. St Ephrem

Time to READ – RECOGNISE – RESPOND

1. New Collegeville Bible Commentary: Mark, p 25
2. New Collegeville Bible Commentary: Mark, p 26

Year B: Fifth Sunday in Ordinary time

Year B Fifth Sunday in Ordinary time

Mark 1: 29 – 39

Lord, you are divine energy and living irresistible might;
Since of the two of us it is you who are infinitely the stronger,
it is you who must set me ablaze and transmute me in fire that we may be welded together and made one.

To-day’s text has much to teach us about how we approach Scripture.

READ

Take time to read the text several times.  As you become more familiar with its content you will begin to recognise the overall theme.

RECOGNISE

The text as a whole is set within the context of prayer.  It is framed by ‘synagogue’, the place of community prayer.  In the middle Jesus goes off alone to ‘a lonely place and prayed there.’

29On leaving the synagogue,
35 … went off to a lonely place and prayed there.
39 … preaching in their synagogues

This is the second time we find Jesus alone with his God in personal prayer and reflection.  He alone, hears the voice from the heavens saying, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’ (v11)  We also find Jesus at prayer in 6: 46 RESPOND (Prayer)Having become aware of the importance of prayer (both personal and with others) in Jesus’ life let us take time to respond to this first learning from the Word of God.  An ideal way is to incorporate the words of Scripture into our own response to what God has given us. * * * *

* * * * * *

READ

Let us return to the text once more reading it slowly and attentively.
1.      After this reading we will be aware that it easily divides into parts.
2.      Each part has its own tone or theme and once we recognise this our understanding of the text will be enhanced.
3.      Often there is far too much in a text to be handled all at the same time.

Here is my response to (1.) and (2.) above.

The whole text could be titled, “Kingdom of God in Action”.

I have chosen to break up the text according to time.

TIME                                                                                        THEME
v29 – 31          Saturday morning                                              Urgency

v32 – 34          Saturday evening                                               Healing

v35 – 39          Sunday  morning                                               Prayer and service.

Lesson.  Read the text until you are drawn to one part to pray.
We will concentrate on the first part:   v29 – 31.

This is a story about healing.  Mark likes to arrange his stories in three, the middle incident being the most important.  This grouping consists of: the cure of the demoniac; the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law; cleansing of the leper.

READ this part once more.

29On leaving the synagogue, Jesus went with James and John straight to the house of Simon and Andrew.  30Now Simon’s mother-in-law had gone to bed with fever, and they told him about her straight-away.  31He went to her, took her by the hand and helped her up. (raised her up)  And the fever left her and she began to wait on (minister to) them.

RECOGNISE

We are immediately struck by the urgency and speed with which things happen.  How does this speak to you about your role in the spreading of the kingdom?

RESPOND (Pray)

Respond to God about what needs urgent attention in your part of his Kingdom.

* * * * * * *

In the original text the word translated as ‘helped her up’ is closer to ‘raised her up”.  This is the same word used for the raising of Jairus’ daughter (5: 41); the raising of the tormented boy (9:27); and Jesus’ resurrection (16: 6).  This nameless woman is the symbol of those who are raised to a new life.

Jesus takes the ‘dead’ woman by the hand and raises her up to physical health and a new spiritual status. She ‘ministers’ to them.  This means much more than doing the cooking; she is in fact the first person to act as Jesus acted – she takes up his mission as her own. Jesus will repeatedly say, “I came to serve, not to be served.”

“This woman is healed, and the fruit of the healing is that she places herself at God’s disposal to be a minister of love.

We all have love to offer.  We all have something to give to the service of others.  How often we, like Simon’s mother-in-law, can be so overwhelmed by our pain that we are tempted to give up and isolate ourselves from those who need our love. We, too, need Jesus’ healing touch, that we might share his ministry of service. (Fallon)

Reflect on and pray using the words of the following statement from St Paul:

These are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;
And there are varieties of service …
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (1 Cor 12: 4-7)

Year B: Fourth Sunday in Ordinary time

Year B Fourth Sunday in Ordinary time

Mark 1: 21 – 28

Father, we thank you for the gift of your Holy Word.

May it be a lamp to our feet, A light to our paths, Joy to our hearts and Strength to our lives.

Introduction:

In the light of the contrast made between the teaching authority of the scribes and that of Jesus, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Mark wants us to read this passage symbolically.1 Please keep this in mind as you read and re-read today’s passage. By doing this we will find much greater depth of meaning and the passage will impact far more on the relationship between God and Ourselves.

READ

21They went as far as Capernaum, and at once on the Sabbath he went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22And his teaching made a deep impression on them because, unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority.

23And at once in their synagogue there was a man with an unclean spirit, and he shouted, 24 “What do you want with us Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy One of God.”

25But Jesus with authority rebuked it saying, “Be quiet (be still)! Come out of him!” 26And the unclean spirit threw the man into convulsions and with a loud cry went out of him.

27The people were so astonished that they started asking one another what it all meant, saying, “Here is a teaching that is new, and with authority behind it: he gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey him.” 28And his reputation at once spread everywhere, through all the surrounding Galilean countryside.
Take time now to reflect on the words that have been highlighted.

* * * * * * * *

The scene is set in the synagogue and on the Sabbath. This clearly indicates that Jesus is confronting the teaching that does not further the Kingdom of God. He is determined to get rid of all that is damaging in the teaching of the religious establishment. Jesus has told us that his “Yoke is sweet and my burden light.” He has come to lighten the burden on humanity not to increase it. The “Holy One of God” is confronting anything that does not lead to the fullness of life of humankind. It is not surprising that the unclean spirit puts up resistance in the story. Just think about our reaction when we are confronted with our own shortcomings!

We are left in no doubt as to the outcome of this confrontation between Jesus and the unclean spirit. We will frequently find, as we continue our journey through the Mark’s Gospel, that we are assured that “Good / God will triumph”.

This must surely have been a new teaching for Mark’s community and Jesus audience. Their reaction is; it “made a deep impression on them” and, “The people were so astonished”. The meaning in the original Greek is much stronger. It means that they were in a state of shock or they had entered into a new way of thinking. Is God calling us to view the world and our lives in a new way? I think so! I am sure that we may find this deeply disturbing as we are called to make changes in our outlook and way of relating to God and others.

Take note of the words used by Jesus to secure the victory over the unclean spirit, “Be quiet (be still)! These are the same words that he will use when he calms the storm 4: 39.
Surely this should be how we feel as we reflect on how I am being called to a more meaningful relationship with my God? Let us pause now to allow this to impact on us.
Jesus’ teaching had a profound impact on his audience and on Mark’s community. This was because he spoke “with authority”. He spoke from personal conviction. He spoke from his own life experience. As we grow in our contact and understanding of the Word, and as we allow the Word to impact on our lives so too will our lives (the way we live) come to have an ever increasing impact on the world around us. Our lives will speak with “authority”.
Time to recognise all this in our lives.
Time to respond to all God is saying to us.

* * * * * * * *
St Paul assists us with an understanding of “holy spirits” and “unclean spirits”.

Gal 5: 19 – 21

19Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, 20idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, 21occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like.

Gal 5: 22 – 23

22In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
“Lord, prayer is a moment when we pass from experiencing the teaching of Jesus as something vague to knowing that it has authority behind it, it gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey it.”

Lord, we remember a time when we were held in bondage by an inner force:
· we could not forgive;
· we did not want to commit ourselves because we were afraid of failure;
· ambition was clouding our vision of the truth.

Then someone began to speak, challenging us to face the truth – one of our children, a friend, a bible passage. We got angry, denied it vehemently, wept, complained to another.
Like the man in the gospel, we went into convulsions and cried aloud. We realise now that that it was because we knew that the Holy One of God was with us, he had come to do away with our sins.2

Respond: Spend time with the Lord. Perhaps you may repeat, “Be quiet (be still)!”
1. Fallon, M: The Gospel according to Saint Mark; p63
2. De Verteuil, M: Lectio Divina with the Sunday Gospels – The Year of Mark,Year B; p 135

Year B: Third Sunday in Ordinary time

Year B Third Sunday in Ordinary time

Mark 1: 14 – 20

Be with us, Lord Jesus. Be our companion of our way.  In your mercy inflame our hearts and raise our hope, so that, in union with one another, we may recognise you in the Scriptures and in the breaking of Bread.

READ

•  Read today’s text a number of times.
•  Read it slowly, out loud and with expression.
•  As you do this try to identify a title for it.
•  Divide it into its parts.
•  Try to identify the words that express a sense of time.

Here are my findings.

Bad news, Good News, More Good News

14After John had been arrested,  Jesus went into Galilee. There he proclaimed the Good News from God.  15“The time has come,” he said, “and the kingdom of God is close at hand.  Repent, and believe the Good News.”

16As he was walking along by the Sea of Galilee he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net in the lake – for they were fishermen.

17And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”

18And at once they left their nets and followed him 19Going on a little further, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John; they too were in their boat, mending their nets. He called them at once and, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the men he employed, they went after him.

The reading opens with disastrous news.  John is arrested by Herod Antipas one of Herod the Great’s sons.  The tone changes with the announcement of Good News. But there is a sense of urgency.  The time has come, this is the moment of grace, act now. Everything is done in a hurry; all the reactions are at once.  We too must not hesitate. But what are we in such a hurry about?

“The kingdom of God is close at hand.”  It is right here.  There is no more waiting, we just have to accept it and it is ours.  The kingdom of God is here and now.
“It is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.  Here, then, I have today set before you life and prosperity, death and doom.  … Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live.”  Dt 30: 14; 15; 19b

* * * * * *

GOOD NEWS RECOGNISE
“The essence of the Good News is found in Jesus’ baptismal experience, and experience of intimacy which Jesus realised was not meant for him alone.  He realised that God is the Father-Mother of each man and each woman.  He realised that God wants to say to every man: “You are my son, the one I love.  In you I delight.”   God wants to say to every woman: “You are my daughter, the one I love.  In you I delight”.   (Fallon: Mark p58)
Good News is something to rejoice about and it makes us happy.We are so excited about it that we need to tell others about it.It lightens and eases the burdens of life.Fear and guilt are banished.

We are brought to accepting each other.
We respect the dignity of others.
We respect that we are all different.
From being inward looking, selfish, we become open, generous and other centred.
We make this world a little better for our being here.

Jesus was Good News.

If we follow his life we find that he lives out the Good News.  He practices what he preaches.  He shows us that it is possible to live the Good News.
“There he proclaimed the Good News from God.  15“The time has come,” he said, “and the kingdom of God is close at hand.  Repent, and believe the Good News.”
There are three things we are called on to do in establishing the Kingdom of God.Proclaim the Good News in our lives.

Repent. This means to turn around, and go in the opposite direction, change our way of thinking, change our values, change our mind, change our heart, change what we desire, change what we want from life, change our conduct.Believe the Good News. This Good News is too good to be true.  Not so!!  Believe it.  It will change your life.

RESPOND  –  PRAYER
There are five ways in which the Gospel becomes a reality in our lives.  Here are two:
1.   In the human situation; in the relationship between me and others.
2.   The gospel becomes a reality within the person themselves.
As we take today’s reading into prayer ask yourself how this can transform the way I relate to others (me and others) and how I will change if I allow this Word of God into my heart. (within the person)

Is my life Good News?

Am I Good News in the lives of others?
“Yes”?             Rejoice and give thanks.
“No” ?             Repent.

Year B: Baptism of Jesus

Year B: Baptism of Jesus

Mark 1: 7 – 11

Father, you gave St Jerome and St Paula delight in their study of Holy Scripture. May we find in your word the flood of salvation and the fountain of life that you have promised, through Christ Our Lord. Read the text a number of times. As you read try to forget the holy pictures you have seen of this event. Mark is not trying to give us a TV news account of what actually took place. Yes, he sets the scene; but more important, he uses symbolic language and links to the Old Testament to help us to understand what took place in Jesus’ life. The last prophet died three hundred years before. No prophet had appeared among the Jewish people for a very long time. When John started to preach and to offer his baptism to repentance an excitement swept through all Israel. This coming of a prophet brought a revival of interest in things religious. God’s long silence was over. He was once again speaking directly to his people. No wonder people came from far and wide to hear this prophet and answer his call to change their lives. No doubt the news that a prophet was among the people reached Jesus in Nazareth. Jesus must also have been caught up in the excitement and decided to visit John and even possibly become one of his disciples.

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Mark describes what happened to Jesus and the impact of this encounter with God had on his life.

9It was at this time that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised This baptism to repentance was surely not necessary for Jesus. Here he identifies himself with the ‘sinners’ of this world. He was to continue this practice right through his public life. Luke 15: 2 Jesus has not changed. He continues to befriend us even in our failures. We immediately feel our bond with Jesus growing. In the Jordan by John. I am sure there is much more to this phrase than that it was the only sizeable river around. Take a moment to read Jos 3: 7 – 17. Mary, Jesus’ mother, would have called him, Jeshua. Mark is introducing Jesus as the new Joshua and the new Moses.Jos 3: 7 ‘I will begin to make you a great man in the eyes of all Israel … and I am going to be with you as I was with Moses.’‘By this you shall know that a living God is with you.’ (v10) These words are also addressed to us.

15-16 ‘As soon as the bearers of the ark reached the Jordan and the feet of the priests who carried it touched the waters … the upper waters stood still and made one heap over a wide space.’ The link here with the crossing of the Red Sea is obvious. Once again we have a momentous moment in the history of the Jews. This time, it is clearly the transition from the slavery of sin to the freedom offered by Jesus.

10No sooner had he come out of the water than he saw the heavens torn open.
There was no gaping hole in the sky. Isaiah uses these same words. Read Is 63: 15 – 19.

16 You, Yahweh, yourself are our Father.17 Return for the sake of your servants,19 Oh, that you would tear the heavens open and come down.We can only presume that Jesus was troubled, undecided about his future when he set out to join John. At this moment he experienced God in a very special way. He came to a realisation that his future did not lie with John but rather he had to follow his own call.

PRAYER
16 You, Yahweh, yourself are our Father.17 Return for the sake of your servants,19 Oh, that you would tear the heavens open and come down. Make these words your prayer. Spend some time with this text gently repeating these words allowing their meaning to filter into your being, your life.

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and Spirit, like a dove descending on him. In Gen 1: 1 “.. God’s spirit hovered over the water.” This is the moment of a new creation. In Gen 8: 10-11 the dove heralds peace and reconciliation between humanity and God. Imagine the gentle landing of a dove and you will recognise how gently God encourages us to be the best we can.

PRAYER

Once again we find ourselves drawn into God’s presence – a time of peace, quiet, contentment with our gentle loving God. This is a time to savour, to just be with your God.

* * * * * * * * *

11“You are my Son, the Beloved; I have chosen you.”What an extraordinary realisation this must have been in the life of Jesus! Hear God saying to you, “You are my Son, the Beloved; I have chosen you.”What and extraordinary realisation for us!

PRAYER

Listen to these words again and again. Believe them.

* * * * * * * * * *
We have become aware of the depth of meaning in this text. However, for this really to impact on us it needs to become a reality at the level of our relationship with our God.
9It was at this time that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised (1) in the Jordan by John. 10No sooner had he come out of the water than he saw the heavens torn open (2) and Spirit, like a dove (3) descending on him. 11And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; I have chosen you. (4)

PRAYER
(1)    Do I accept that God will not allow my failures to prevent me from growing in a deep  and lasting relationship with him?
(2)   Give thanks and praise to our God for the new insight that that you have experienced.
(3)    Does my understanding of God reflect the gentleness of the dove?
(4)   Take time to repeat again and again, “You are my Son, the Beloved; I have chosen  you.”

Allow yourself to hear God addressing these words to you.

Year B: Feast of the Holy Family Luke 2: 22 – 40

Year B: Feast of the Holy Family Luke 2: 22 – 40

Your Word is near, O Lord our God.  Your grace is near.  Come to us then, with mildness and power.  Do not let us be deaf to you, but make us receptive and open to Jesus Christ your Son, who will come to look for us and save us today and every day forever and ever.

1. Take time to read today’s Gospel. Keep in mind that Luke is teaching, he is not writing a newspaper account.  As you read be aware of  where this takes place; the characters in the story and who should be there and is not.

2.  The venue chosen for this story is the temple.  However if we look a little further we will find that “Law of Moses” and “Law of the Lord” is repeated five times and the “Holy Spirit” is mentioned three times.  Luke is making us aware of God’s presence in Jesus’ life and in ours.  Everybody in the story is aware of God  present in the temple and in the events of our lives.

The characters are lay people;

Mary, Joseph and Jesus, Simeon, Anna
I wonder why Luke allows us to discover, to our surprise, that the priests are not present.  Note also that that there are two women and two men in the company of the baby, Jesus.  Clearly for Luke the complete equality between men and woman is the norm for the following of Jesus.

God’s ways!!

My way of thinking??
This is the title that I choose for our reading.  We, along with Luke’s community, have already been jolted into God’s Presence and given an insight into how God thinks.

“My ways are not your ways.”

There are no people of status present.  The Holy Family is classed among the poor.  They can only afford to make the offering of the poor; a pair of turtle doves. Anna comes from the tribe of Asher, the smallest and most insignificant of the tribes.
The poor seem to have a special place in the kingdom of our God.

PRAYER

How often have I been among those who failed to see Jesus alive, active and present in the afflicted?

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There are clear parallels between the scene where Simeon is centre stage and that when Anna is the focus of our attention.  This repetition must have had great significance for Luke’s audience.  Allow the parallels indicted below to touch you.  Take each one in turn allowing it to challenge you and ask yourself, “How does this relate to the way I live my life?”

Simeon

25Now in Jerusalem there was a man named Simeon. He was an upright and devout man; he looked forward to Israel’s comforting and the Holy Spirit rested on him.  26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death until he set eyes on the Christ of the Lord.  27Prompted by the Spirit he came to the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the Law required, 28he took him in his arms and blessed God; and he said: 29“Now Master, you can let your servant go in peace, just as you promised; 30because my eyes have seen the salvation 31which you have prepared for all the nations to see, 32a light to enlighten the pagans and the glory of your people Israel.”

Anna

36There was a prophetess also, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Ashev.  She was well on in years. Her days of girlhood over, she had been married for seven years 37before becoming a widow.  She was not eighty-four years old, and never left the temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayer.  38She came by just at that moment and began to praise God; and she spoke of the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.
Example:  Anna “began to praise God” while Simeon “blessed God”.
Finally we look at salvation and deliverance.

What does this mean?  Perhaps the answer lies a little further on in the gospel.

Luke 4: 18

18The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,

My spirituality

I encourage you to go through the text and mark for yourself every phrase that could refer to the way you would like to live your life.  I found eighteen indicators for myself.Keep one of these in your mind during the coming week.

PRAYER

Enter into prayer using the words and sentiments of Ann and Simeon.
Respond to God’s invitation in Luke 4: 18.  Tell him how you have done this in your life.  Bless God for the way he has lead you to live in this manner and ask his understanding and healing for the times you have not acted in this way.

Year B: Third Sunday of Advent

Year B Third Sunday of Advent

Is 61: 1-2; 10-11; 1 Thes 5: 16 – 24; Jn 1: 6 – 8, 19 – 28

NOTE: This commentary has been divided into four sections. Only use one section for a particular time of prayer.

Father, you wait for us until we are open to you. We wait for your Word to make us receptive. Attune us to your voice, to your silence, speak and bring your Son to us, Jesus, the Word of your peace.

(Collect these prayers for your personal use in the future.)

Read all the texts for this coming Sunday looking for the general tone.

I am sure that you have found, JOY, is obvious in the first and second readings.

Is 61: 10 ‘I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exalt in my God;’ (NRSV)
We hear these very words echoed in the responsorial psalm, ‘My soul (whole being) tells of the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my saviour.’ Lk 1: 46
1 Thes 5: 16 ‘Be happy at all times; pray constantly;’

It is not easy to identify JOY in the gospel. To find John the Baptist living out this JOY we need to look at Jn 3: 29.

‘The bridegroom’s friend, who stands by and listens to him, is overjoyed at hearing the bridegroom’s voice. This is my JOY and now it is complete.’ If we want to experience the joy of the Baptist, we must be able to recognise the voice of our Bridegroom, Jesus, as it comes to us in the Word and the events of our lives.
Come, let us tell God about the JOY we experience in his presence.

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Let us now return to the gospel. Read it several times, highlighting the repetitions. There may also be some phrases that have special significance for you.
These were my findings:

6A man came sent by God. His name was John. 7He came as a witness, as a witness to speak for the light, so that everyone might believe through him. 8He was not the light, only a witness to speak for the light.

19This is how John appeared as a witness. When the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ 20he not only declared, but he declared quite openly, ‘I am not the Christ.’ 21 ‘Well then’, they asked, ‘are you Elijah?’ ‘I am not’ he said. ‘Are you the Prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ 22So they said to him, ‘Who are you?’ We must take back an answer to those who sent us. What have you to say about yourself?’ 23 So John said, ‘I am, as Isaiah prophesied: a voice that cries in the wilderness: ‘Make a straight way for the Lord.’ 24Now these men had been sent by the Pharisees, 25and they put this further question to him, ‘Why are you baptising if you are not the Christ, and not Elijah, and not the prophet?’ 26John replied, ‘I baptise with water; but there stands among you – unknown to you – 27the one who is coming after me; and I am not fit to undo his sandal strap.’

28 This happened at Bethany, on the far side of the Jordan, where John was baptising.
The story is set ‘on the far side of the Jordan’, a long way from Jerusalem and the Temple which symbolised organised religious practice. This text is not about organised religion. It is all about our spirituality. These should be two sides of the same coin but the danger is that we place the emphasis on external practices to the detriment of growing in our relationship with God and humanity. (our spirituality)

John was ‘a witness’.
This immediately challenges us.
Am I a witness to the light?
What do people see when they look at my life?
Do they see a reflection of our God?
When people come in contact with me do they experience just a little bit of God?
Enter into conversation with Jesus about your answers to his questions.

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‘that everyone might believe through him’
‘a voice that cries in the wilderness’
Both of these phrases draw us to the first reading. Is 61: 1-2
1The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring good news to the poor,
to bind up hearts that are broken;
to proclaim liberty to captives,
freedom to those in prison;
2to proclaim a year of favour from Yahewh,
This is why Jesus came into the world. Recall the scene in the synagogue of Nazareth when Jesus was called on to do the reading. Lk 4: 18-19
In Luke 4: 21 Jesus says: “Today this text has come true”.
‘This is why I came on earth. This is my mission. This is what I want to spend my life doing.’
Let these words enter deeply into your being. Can you respond in these words?
“Today this text has come true.”
‘What text are you referring to?’
Let us now return to the gospel.
Is there some phrase that has special significance for you?
What text most resonates with you?
Perhaps you are still looking for it. Be patient, God will give you one in due course. Just be faithful to listening to the Word.
What is your favourite text from scripture?
* * * * * * * * * *
You have been given four translations so that you get a fuller understanding of this beautiful prayer. Chose the translation that suits you best.

Is 61: 10 – 11
JERUSALEM BIBLE
10I exalt for joy in the Lord, my soul rejoices in my God, for he has
(Liberty to captives)
(I am Good News)
clothed me in the garments of salvation,
he has wrapped me in the cloak of integrity,
like the bridegroom wearing his wreath, like a bride adorned in her jewels.
11For the earth makes fresh things grow, as a garden makes seeds spring up, so will the Lord make both integrity and praise spring up in the sight of the nations.

NEW REVISED STANDARD VERSION
10I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exalt in my God; for he has
(Liberty to captives)
(I am Good News)
clothed me with the garments of salvatio, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

11For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so
the Lord will cause

righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.
REVISED ENGLISH BIBLE
10Let me rejoice in the Lord with all my heart, let me exalt in my God; for he has
(Liberty to captives)
(I am Good News)
robed me in deliverance and arrayed me in victory,
like and bridegroom with
his garland or a bride bedecked in her jewels.
11As the earth puts forth her blossom or plants in the garden burst into flower, so will the Lord God make

his victory and renown blossom before all the nations.
NEW JERUSLEM BIBLE
10I exalt for joy in Yahweh, my soul rejoices in my God, for he has
(Liberty to captives)
(I am Good News)
clothed me in garments of salvation, he has wrapped me in a cloak of saving justice,
like a bridegroom wearing his garland, like a bride adorned in her jewels.
11For as the earth sends up its shoots and a garden makes seeds sprout, so

Lord Yahweh makes saving justice and praise spring up in the sight of all nations.

This is a wonderful song of praise to our God. Pray it fully and sincerely.

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The final section of this prayer gives us the assurance that GOD WILL TRIUMPH / that GOODNESS WILL TRIUMPH in our lives and in society. We find this same assurance in John.

Look at Jn 1: 4-5. This will give us a clear understanding of ‘the light’.
‘What has come into being was life, life that was the light of men; and light shines in darkness, and darkness could not overpower it.’

PRAYER
Let us now pray using the words of scripture.
Here is my prayer.
I rejoice in my God, my whole being delights in my God.
Goodness, praise, justice, blossom in me and all people. (Repeat this slowly, many times)
Gradually my prayer becomes simpler.
My whole being rejoices in my God, you make goodness blossom in my life.
Still simpler:

I rejoice in my God. Goodness blossoms in me!

Year B: First Sunday of Advent

Year B; First Sunday of Advent

Mark 13: 33 – 37
Chapter thirteen of Mark is enough to fill us with terror. It does not fit into my idea of Good News. vv24 – 31 seem to present one disaster after another. We will have to wait for the thirty third Sunday of the year to learn more about them. Today’s reading is actually a text of hope. Our God is a God of surprises. “.. stay awake, because you never know when the time (a moment of grace) will come.” Early on and cool clear morning I sat looking at a beautiful garden; God was tangibly present in this oasis of his creation. In an instant I had, at a time I least expected it, been touched by the hand of God. With this thought in mind take time to read our text several times. Continue reading →