Sunday Scripture

Sunday Scripture Readings


SECOND SUNDAY


IN ORDINARY TIME,


JANUARY 19


1 Samuel 3:3-10, 19; Psalm 40:2, 4, 7-10;


1 Corinthians 6:13-15, 17-20; John 1:35-42

OUR GOOD NEWS: Each of us as Christians is personally called to discipleship, which demands our ongoing response of commitment.

After the Christmas season, the Church year suitably begins with two call narratives, since our own Christian lives began with God's call, inviting us into the community of the saved. From numerous such stories in the Old Testament, Samuel's call has been chosen for its specific themes. Samuel appears here in early adolescence as the apprentice-servant of Eli, a priest in charge of Israel's central sanctuary at Shiloh. The boy's duties included attendance during the night near "the Ark of God," a most sacred cult object and place of unique divine presence among the people.

Threefold repetition of God's call, indicates genuine experience rather than hallucination. Repeated auditions plus vision ("the Lord revealed his presence"), and especially Eli's discerning guidance, authenticate Samuel's call. The elderly priest here showed himself as wise and practical, a model spiritual director.

After dismissing two interruptions, Eli changed his mind, careful not to come between God and the young man. Samuel is an illustrious figure ranking with Moses and David as a man of God. Implications of the wondrous story about his conception by a barren woman now began to unfold. He who faithfully served in the sanctuary came to "know" - be familiar with - God, enjoying a special relationship combining in himself Old Testament offices of priest, prophet and leader through his long and fruitful ministry. The lesson for us is that God often calls ordinary people, including the young, to serve within the community. We therefore need guidance in discerning and responding to his will.

The story of Jesus calling his first disciples (Gospel) differs significantly in John, Luke and Matthew-Mark, thus reminding us to search for meaning. There is, first, the role of John the Baptist. Other Gospels portray him as a rugged preacher of repentance, harshly confronting close-minded Pharisees and Sadducees. By contrast, John's Gospel presents a self-effacing figure whose role is preeminently one of witness held up for our imitation. Instead of building up his own following, John selflessly directed disciples to Jesus.

For each of us, belief in Jesus proceeds in stages which John described for the first followers. First, we respond to testimony given by others. Then, having "seen" where Jesus dwells - within the community of believers - we move to commitment based on our own experience of the risen Lord. Finally, conversion is not complete without becoming a witness for Jesus. In Andrew's case conversion is completed, demonstrating belief (Jesus acknowledged as the Messiah), and then bringing another to discipleship. Simon's new life in Christ is symbolized by his new name, "Peter," conferred by the Master.

We all find and grow in faith through the lifelong seeking of God's will, coming to God through Jesus, whom we find in the local Christian community, where we believe and commit ourselves as disciples.

Sunday Scripture Readings

SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER

APRIL 23

Acts 4:32-35; Psalm 118;

1 John 5:1-6; John 20:19-31

Our Gospel reading finds the frightened disciples gathered in a room that was locked, shuttered and dark.

Two things they already knew. Jesus’ tomb was empty and his body was missing. Then there was Mary Magdalene’s claim that she had actually seen and spoken to Jesus himself.

The disciples’ reaction to Mary’s news is hardly inspiring. They run and hide. They desperately seek to ride the night out without discovery.

Nevertheless, someone does find them, the risen Christ himself.Despite their locked doors, Jesus stands in their midst and shows them the signs of his passion. Only then do the disciples know that it is truly the Christ.

After the disciples acknowledge Jesus’ resurrection, he immediately confirms the authenticity of their faith with a second "Peace be with you." Then he assigns them a task. They are to go forth into the world.

Remaining locked up in a dingy dark room is not what Christianity is all about.For the message of salvation in Christ is meant to be shared with everyone.

Yet before the disciples leave, Jesus confers on them the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Blessed Trinity.

Through this act the Spirit becomes dynamically present among the disciples. He will guide them on their new mission.

With the bestowal of the Holy Spirit also comes the authority to forgive sins in Christ’s name.This must be done because a genuine conversion to Christ cannot come without confession of one’s offenses.

We can say that the disciples’ first attempt at preaching the "good news" did not go so well.One would have thought it would have been very easy; after all Thomas was already a disciple. What kind of convincing would he need?

Just the announcement that they had seen the Lord should be more than enough.But much to their surprise, Thomas did not react as they had expected. Even though he was a disciple, he was not yet a believer in the full message of Christ. Thomas had to see Jesus in order to trust in the good news.

Apparently this situation persisted for an entire week.No amount of discussion could persuade him. Thomas just couldn’t bring himself to believe in the salvation of Christ without confirming that Jesus had truly died and was now raised from the dead. In the end, however, Thomas did come to believe in Jesus.He even went one step further.He proclaimed Jesus not only as "my Lord," as the disciples had done, but more importantly as "my God."

This passage gives us insight into the experience of Christian discipleship. It is not easy. It is plagued on one side by our occasional doubt in Christ’s Gospel and then on the other side by the doubt of others. Being a Christian requires great strength and courage no matter the period in which we may live.

Events such as an untimely death or a family misfortune can occur in our lives and cause us to question our beliefs. Even other people who do not share our convictions — the agnostic at work or the pragmatist at school — may also lead us down the same path of doubt.

How should we respond to such situations? Should we just give up? Should we run into our homes, lock ourselves up and cower in corners waiting without hope?

Certainly the Gospel passage indicates that even if we were to do so, God will find us just as Jesus found his disciples. Even though we may feel abandoned, he will never abandon us because locked doors simply cannot keep him out.

This second week of Easter invites us to renew and reaffirm our faith in the salvation of Jesus Christ, who died for our sins so that we may have eternal life. Christ’s resurrection removes any doubts we may harbor concerning God’s eternal and abiding love. He let his son die for us. There is no greater sacrifice.
This week let us face all our doubts, whatever they may be, in light of this Christ event.If we are truly his disciples, we will see immediately the foolishness of any misgivings we may have over God’s faithfulness to us.

Once we have reaffirmed our convictions, then we should do as Christ directed his disciples in the Gospel:Go forth, share the good news.We might start our Easter mission at home. Have a family meeting and share those special Christ moments with those we trust most. Then move on and witness Christ through word and deed to that agnostic or pragmatist we may know.

At the same time, we must be prepared to meet many Thomases out there who were raised Catholic but just don’t believe anymore. How should we respond? Just as the Gospel tells us. Let us persist gently in sharing our belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior of all.

Kitz is an associate professor of Scripture at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary and a member of Cure of Ars Parish in Shrewsbury. Her e-mail address is kitz@kenrick.edu.

Sunday Scripture Readings

TWENTY-SEVENTH SUNDAY

IN ORDINARY TIME,

OCTOBER 3

Habakkuk 1:2-3, 2:24; Psalm 95;

2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14; Luke 17:5-10

OUR GOOD NEWS: Paul reminds us of our responsibility regarding younger generations.

"I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands" (second reading). Paul challenged a promising member of the younger Christian generation to courageous witness. Timothy had been groomed as Paul’s successor in the ministry. Timid by nature and unrealistically idealistic, Timothy had grown disillusioned at the Christian community’s lukewarmness and embarrassed by Paul’s current status as prisoner. (Can we or someone we know identify with this young man?) "Gift of God" refers to graces conferred at ordination by "the laying on of hands." Like other grace gifts these need constantly to be "stirred into flame." They are quite incompatible with faltering in the face of responsibilities and dangers.

"For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control." Graces of ordination include "power" to master every situation, self-sacrificing "love" expressed in affectionate service to the community and "self-control" (restraint, self-discipline) essential for Christian leadership. "Do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake." The more mature Paul took a positive view of his own disgraceful condition. Roman bureaucrats may think they have him in custody, but Christ had already "captured" him and (as with us) made him "prisoner" for his own purposes. Timothy must "let go and let God," joining Paul in accepting every hardship inherent in faithful service of the Gospel.

The final verses assume particular relevance for us who live in the post-Vatican II Church, often polarized into progressives and traditionalists. "Take as your norm the sound words that you heard from me." Paul held up his own teaching as a "norm" or model, a Greek word rich in overtones.

Thus, we must "guard (keep safe) the rich trust of faith." "Trust" translates a legal term, something entrusted to another’s keeping. Finding the proper mean between rote recitation and distortion is the ongoing work of the "Holy Spirit that dwells within us."

In sum, everyone, but especially the ordained, is called and empowered to bold Gospel witness, overcoming diffidence and fear of hardships involved. The deposit of faith entrusted to us must be handed on to the next generation. This divine gift includes a serious responsibility incumbent upon us all.

Sunday Scripture Readings


SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER,


APRIL 27


Acts 4:32-35; Psalm 118;


1 John 5:1:3-6; John 20:19-31

OUR GOOD NEWS: We express our wholehearted faith in God through mutual, caring love for fellow human beings.

In the first reading, Luke interrupted his narrative of the earliest Church to summarize, for our edification and example, life in the earliest stage of Church history. "The community of believers thought the same things and wanted the same things" - literally, "were of one heart" (center of intellectual activity) "and of one mind" (seat of will). This description should apply to the Church community in our own time no less than then.

Luke then described an attitude toward personal property rather than canonized any economic system (free-enterprise capitalism, socialism). "They all shared with one another everything they had": while continuing to possess personal belongings. "No one said, 'What I own belongs just to me.'"

This passage offers an ideal to be striven for rather than a fond memory of a once-model past. Moreover, it allows for living the command of practical love of neighbor within various economic and cultural systems. Recent popes have made it clear that the Church favors no one system over others, even-handedly criticizing social injustices in socialist and capitalist countries. American Christians assist the poor, sick, aged and unemployed through tax revenues as well as collections under Church and other private auspices for specific needs. Luke asks: What else must be done to measure up? How can we draw upon secular skills and unevenly distributed resources to care for the world's needy?

A second theme running through today's first reading concerned the proper role of authority within the Christian community. "With great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus." Divine grace worked within the apostles, enabling their preaching; and also within hearers, empowering a wholehearted response of selfless generosity. "Great respect paid" leaders thus flowed from God's grace, rather than merited by personal managerial skills. On the other hand, authority structures exclusively served the common good, in this case organizing the distribution of money intended for all in need.

In the second reading, a baptismal theme introduced in Lenten readings continues through succeeding Sundays. By this rite we Christians are literally reborn, becoming God's children while professing faith "that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah)."

This is the proper context for love of neighbor enjoined in today's first reading, something different from non-Christian humanistic social concern grounded upon the "dignity of humankind." Others are actually or potentially "God's children," with reverence for the dignity of God as found in all fellow human beings. "Like parent, like child." It also follows that obedience to divine commands never permits escape from responsibility for one another: "We love God's children whenever we love God and obey His commandments."

This selection takes issue with modern disinterest concerning credal orthodoxy - the notion that details of personal belief don't matter. A vibrant faith life is possible only within a community whose personal and corporate existence has been molded by solid doctrine grounded in authentic Christian tradition.

Sunday Scripture Readings


thirty-third sunday


in ordinary time,


november 18


Malachi 3:19-20; Psalm 98;


2 Thessalonians 3:7-12; Luke 21:5-19

OUR GOOD NEWS: Jesus offers practical advice in the face of our end-time anxieties.

"While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings..." The Jerusalem Temple begun by Herod the Great in 19 B.C. ranked among the world's legendary eight wonders. Its paved platform covered some 35 acres, the building complex made of huge white stones gleaming like snow on a mountain peak, roofed with gold and silver. Among the more awesome decorative offerings was a golden vine given by Herod with grape clusters as tall as a man. No expense had been spared to build a sanctuary that would last until the world's end.

". . . Jesus said, All that you see here - the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down." A few short years after its completion (A.D. 64), the temple and entire city of Jerusalem were systematically taken apart stone by stone - Roman vengeance for Jewish insurrection. The few enormous stones that remain, the so-called "Wailing Wall," were part of the substructure and not of the Temple itself. Jesus foresaw and predicted this terrible catastrophe: "It will all be torn down."

"Do not be deceived." Contrary to his audience's anxious excitement over alleged evidence for imminent judgment, Jesus refused to predict details or provide clues for the coming calamity. War, "earthquake, pestilence and famine" were traditionally personified as the apocalyptic Four Horsemen who will come to announce end-time judgment. In fact, these plagues are regular recurrences throughout the age of the Church. We ignore all who pretend to speak in his name, falsely interpreting contemporary secular or religious events as final stages toward end times. Such religious fanatics, and the national and international disturbances upon which they base their bogus claims, are inevitable, but utterly worthless.

After warning against being misled by all who would predict events announcing the close of the Age, Jesus cautioned against our despairing in the face of wide-ranging opposition and persecution. Arrests would be followed by trial and condemnation in religious (Jewish) and civil (Gentile) courts. Such fate will serve as clear witness on the Day of Judgment to loyal, persevering fidelity. He also advises that before human tribunals our best defense is honest simplicity rather than carefully prepared, sophisticated legal strategies and oratorical skills. Especially painful will be hatred and persecution within families and among friends.

Jesus concluded with optimistic reassurance that only apparently contradicts his grim picture of the Church's fate throughout history. Instead of destroying us, persecution and martyrdom will gain us eternal lives. God's saving purpose will certainly triumph, for contrary to appearances, he remains firmly in control. Finally, day-by-day endurance rather than isolated acts of heroic virtue is the way to glory. Here is a practical spirituality each of us can live, whatever our current situation.

Sunday Scripture Readings

SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY OF

ORDINARY TIME,

JULY 30

2 Kings 4:42-44; Psalm 145;

Ephesians 4:1-6; John 6:1-15

A well-dressed woman hurried into a supermarket, picked up a can of cat food and immediately approached the checkout counter with her single purchase.

Placing it on the counter, she turned to the woman who would have been next and said casually, "I hope you won’t mind my pushing in like this. It’s rather urgent."

"Not at all," answered the other. "You look hungry."

Hunger is the most basic of all human needs. Hunger for bodily food, hunger for truth, for love, for life and the meaning of life, hunger for God.

Today’s readings are all about hunger. The miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fish is important for many reasons, but mainly because it prepared for the institution of the Eucharist. The Church wants us to reflect on the Eucharist.

What purpose did Jesus have in mind when He instituted the Eucharist? Certainly it was to satisfy human hunger for God. But I think he had another intention as well — one that St. Thomas Aquinas understood when he wrote that the first result or effect of the Eucharist is the unity of the mystical body of Christ — the Church.

Do we not all receive the same Christ? Is Christ divided? The Second Eucharistic Prayer states: "May all of us who share in the Body and Blood of Christ be brought together in unity by the Holy Spirit."

This helps us to understand what St. Paul says in the second reading, asking us to make every effort to preserve the unity which has the Spirit as its origin and peace as its binding force. There is but "one body and one Spirit ... one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all and in all."

We need to be reminded often of the relationship between the Body and Blood of Christ that we receive in Holy Communion and the Body of Christ that is the Church. Father Emeric Lawrence, OSB, in his book, "The Holy Way," writes that Holy Communion is a deeply personal experience of Jesus, but that we may miss much of its deeper meaning if we fail to allow it to bring us to a greater understanding and awareness of the whole Church, and of the other members and all of those who are baptized.

We hunger for God, and Jesus satisfies that hunger in the Eucharist. But as Father Lawrence writes, there is an even deeper hunger — God’s hunger for us, for our love, for our total commitment to Jesus Christ.

God is looking for big hearts that are open to him so that they may be clear channels of the stream of his love flowing like a shiny wave over all our fellow humans so that through the Eucharist we may live a life worthy of the calling we have received, with perfect humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another lovingly, says the second reading.

It is only in sharing one body with Jesus and with one another that we can share his blessings with our brothers and sisters who do not know him and experience the lasting joy of his presence.

Father Smith is a priest of the La Crosse, Wis., Diocese.

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