Sunday Scripture

Sunday Scripture readings

FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER, MAY 6

Acts 13:21-27; Psalm 145;

Revelation 21:1-5a; John 13:31-33a, 34-35

Walk down the aisle of any supermarket. Scan the ads on TV. One word recurs in ever fresh combination: "new."

If it isn’t a new look, it’s a new taste, a new feeling, a new formula. During political campaigns candidates promise us a new society, a new frontier, new ideas or at least a new approach.

How many of these promises are fulfilled? Is life a cheat? Is our longing for newness doomed to be forever frustrated? To these nagging questions our second reading returns a ringing and confident No. "The One who sat on the throne said to me, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’"

The Lord who makes all things new does this in many ways. Our second reading speaks about one when it says: "Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race.

He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God."

Deep in every heart there is a longing for a companion, a friend, a lover, who will accept and love us just as we are; who will support us in sorrow, share our joys, help us to rise above failure and injustice; who will be with us always.

When we were little children our parents probably did this for us. Few things are more devastating for a small child than to be suddenly separated from Mommy or Daddy. Across the span of 74 years I can still recall my feeling of panic when, on my first day at school, I found that my mother was gone. I realize now that she wanted to spare me a tearful farewell. At the time, however, I was crushed.

We have all had experiences like that. We carry those childhood hurts into adult life, still afraid that we shall be hurt again; that our efforts at friendship and love will be rebuffed; that we shall be let down, hurt, abandoned by someone we love and trust. When we are, the old wound is reopened and our fear of loneliness is reinforced.

To those oppressed by loneliness the Lord proclaims: "Behold, I make all things new." When no one else understands, there is One who does understand.

When everyone else seems to ignore us, to reject us, to condemn us, there is One who accepts us.

When I cannot find one other person to accept the love I long to give and receive, there is One who does accept, who loved me before I loved him, who loves me more than I can ever love him, who will go on loving me no matter what. His name is Jesus Christ.He is the One who makes all things new.

Jesus knew greater loneliness than we shall ever experience. Today’s Gospel reading opens with the departure of one of Jesus’ closest friends to betray him.

Immediately, however, Jesus speaks not of defeat but of victory: "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him."

What gave Jesus that breathtaking ability to view betrayal as victory? It was his faith in a God who does indeed make all things new. God fulfilled that promise for his Son, however, not by delivering Jesus from death, but by raising him on the third day to a new life beyond death.

In his resurrection, Jesus experienced the fulfillment of the great promises of our second reading. On Easter, God wiped away all his Son’s tears. In his resurrection, Jesus was raised to a life in which there is "no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away."

For us, as for Jesus on the night of his betrayal, the complete fulfillment of those promises belongs to the future. As St. Paul says in our first reading: "It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God." God’s promise to make all things new means not preservation from hardships, but support amid hardships.

The Lord’s promise to make all things new is a glorious reality — but one that is both present and future. We live at the intersection of the "already" and the "not yet." Already God is with us, supporting us in so many ways: through his holy Word, through the sacraments, through our sisters and brothers. God’s promise of newness begins here and now.

Complete fulfillment of that promise belongs, however, to the "not yet." Only in a future life will God wipe away all tears from our eyes. Only beyond death shall we experience what Jesus experienced in his resurrection: "no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away."

Life is not a cheat. There is One who does make all things new. His name is Jesus Christ. He can make your life new. He will never do this, however, without your consent.

His assurance, "Behold, I make all things new," is certain. One thing alone is uncertain. Do you really want the new life that God is offering you, even now, through his Son Jesus Christ?

Father Hughes is in residence at Christ the King Parish in University City.

Sunday Scripture Readings

THIRTY-THIRD SUNDAY

IN ORDINARY TIME,

NOVEMBER 13

Proverbs 31, 10-13, 19-20, 30-31; Psalm 128;

1 Thessalonians 5:1-6; Matthew 25: 14-30

Many Catholics used to wear an identification card which read: "I am a Catholic. In case of an accident, call a priest."

One self-styled super Catholic’s card read: "I am an important Catholic. In case of an accident, call a bishop," and another’s read; "I am a superior Catholic. In case of an accident, please call the pope."

Today’s readings urge us to be superior in a sense by serving God and being faithful to Him so as to be ready when He calls us in death into eternity. The answer to the old catechism question: "Why did God make me?" sums up rather well today’s message: "God made me to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him in this world so as to be happy with Him forever in the next."

In order to be a superior Catholic, one does not have to perform spectacular or heroic deeds or participate in world-shaking events. Just do the simple, ordinary things and duties of your state in life and in the circumstances in which you find yourself, but do them all for God’s honor and glory.

Don’t do anything that you wouldn’t want done for God. Little things done with a loving heart make superior Catholics as well as do heroic deeds. As the master in the Gospel told the two servants who wisely invested their master’s money, since they were dependable in a small matter, he put in charge of larger affairs.

These successful stewards were willing to take a chance to please their master. God gives us certain talents and gifts, and He expects us to use them, not selfishly, but for the good of others. The first reading tells us of a good wife who is a success because she is concerned with charity outside her home and family as well as for her family.

What does this first reading have to do with today’s Gospel? The Church is the faithful spouse of Christ.

The woman symbolizes the Church, which includes each of us. Like the worthy wife, the Church is to serve Christ in every possible way. Like the worthy wife, the Church is to be the unfailing prize of the Lord, the one who brings Him good and not evil all the days of her life. This means the Church must frequently and actively use all the talents and abilities of its members to spread the Gospel through the world. The Church must extend her hands to the poor and her arms to the needy. She must help clothe the naked and provide for those in need.

This picture of the Church goes beyond the idea which many of us grew up with. We learned to save our souls by staying in a state of grace, by not committing mortal sins. That is still true, but there is more. The Church must be concerned about justice among people and nations. The Church must actively serve the Lord, and we must work with our talents to change this world from it sinful and evil ways back to Christ.

Some people have many apparent talents, others have very few, but we all have one talent we are called to grow in and that is the talent or power of loving God and loving one another — loving like Jesus loves.

Growing in that love is never easy, and if we try to do it by ourselves, we will fail. That’s why it is important to be united to Jesus through offering daily prayer, attending Mass, receiving the sacraments and performing good deeds toward others. If we happen to fall back, we must never give up because the reward of eternal life is so very worthwhile.

As far as our talents are concerned, God does not want us comparing ourselves to others. We always lose when we do that because "the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence." But each of us is unique. We are called to do something for God that no one else is called to do. We may not know exactly what that is until we meet God face to face.

So in the second reading, St. Paul urges us to be ready for the coming of Christ and not live like the rest of the world, which is caught up in its own daily cares. The best way to be prepared is to do all every day in the best way we know how for the honor and glory of God.
Allowing God to love us and responding to God’s love may just be the greatest talent of all.

Then we will be thrilled to hear the words: "Come, share your Master’s joy."

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

Sunday Scripture Readings

SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER

(DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY),

APRIL 18

Acts 5:12-16; Psalm 118;

Revelation 1:9-13, 17-19; John 20:19-31

OUR GOOD NEWS: Through the risen Christ, God builds up us, His Church, and we imitate Jesus.

Details introduced into appearance stories are generally limited to making one of two essential points. Some stress discontinuity between Jesus’ risen body and his previously imperfect, earthly frame. Other details, emphasize essential continuity of the glorified Lord with the historical Jesus of Nazareth — here, gaping wounds which recall His Passion.

Jesus came not to upbraid us for faithlessness or to condemn but only to bestow "peace," full reconciliation with God that replaces fear of deserved judgment, with eschatological "joy." This is accomplished through an efficacious sign — "breathed upon them" — interpreted by words. The same divine life by which Jesus had been resurrected was not passed on to His disciples, through whom it is further mediated. These represent the Church, the divinely intended means through which Jesus offers forgiveness to all willing to accept it. Thus, the Church’s mission of bringing reconciliation to the world comes to concrete expression through word and sacraments.

Thomas represents all who would demand a personal appearance of the risen Lord in order to ground their own faith commitment. Jesus summoned Thomas — and through him, all succeeding generations — to a mature and well-grounded belief founded on the testimony of reliable eyewitnesses, rather than a personal encounter. Today’s reading makes two foundational statements about the Church. First, it is the official witness to the reality of Jesus’ Resurrection for every generation. Second, the Church alone is empowered to determine the requisite conditions for reconciliation, and even more, the only means to effectively bestow it upon an alienated humankind.

Sunday Scripture Readings


first sunday of advent,


december 1


Isaiah 63:16-17, 19; 64:2-7; Psalm 80;


1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:33-37

OUR GOOD NEWS:Vigilant service now prepares us for the coming of the world-rescuing Christ.

We move from disappointment at God's apparent failure to make us faithful and obedient children through His powerful grace (first reading), to thankfulness and hope for His beginning to do just that (second reading). Now, a needed, complementary theme focuses on what we must do to cooperate. Jesus reduced the complexities of Christian living to two imperatives: "Take heed!" (be on guard, watch out) and "Watch!" (Be alert, stay awake, don't grow careless).

These two terms are explained, first, by immediate context, a parable with several unusual details. The master of the house isn't down the street partying but on an extended journey abroad. He's obviously away for some time ... out of sight, out of mind. If his servants could not predict his return, they could at least relax at nighttime when travel was dangerous. But count on this master's arrival when quite unexpected, during one of four night watches (three-hour units dividing time from sunset to sunrise).

Especially significant is his delegation of responsibilities. "He puts his servants in charge" - literally, "gave his slaves authority, each with his own work." In Mark's Gospel, authority is a technical term, that which Jesus exercised in teaching and working wonders, and later bestowed upon the 12. In secular usage authority meant power to make others do one's own will. Within the Christian community however, all authority is for service, an enabling jurisdiction to function as willing slaves in service of others. Jesus concluded with application to all within the Church, not limited to the first apostles or their successors, and including ordained as well as lay. The revised Code of Canon Law rightly insists that all "Christ's faithful ... are called, each according to his or her particular condition, to exercise the mission which God entrusted to the Church to fulfill in the world" (Canon 204).

"Take heed!" and "Watch!" are also explained through the larger context of Mark's Gospel, particularly the Gethsemane story which follows in the next chapter. Sleeping disciples lacked alertness, a failure in watchfulness which resulted in denial of the Master (Peter) and cowardly flight during time of testing (all of them). Constantly in prayer and openness to the Spirit's help would have kept them alert and faithful.

But watchfulness doesn't mean wary eye on the door, fearful of being caught unawares by angry divine Judge. It's a lifestyle of productive service uninfluenced by a supervisor's presence or seeming absence. Doing our tasks when we feel like it and others expect and appreciate our service is easy enough. Jesus wisely focused on the "night hours" when discouragement and frustration undermine resolve (Who cares? Who knows? Why bother?). Jesus calls us not to momentary outbursts of heroic acts but to long-term obedience. Imitate His example of perseverance in face of indifference and hostility, of faithful witness exceeding the potential of weak human nature. To "watch" is not anxiety about signs of the Second Coming but attention to daily duties. Our vigil is against threats from without ("false prophets" who distract) and from within (lethargy and sloth). Finally, to "sleep" is to forget that our work has been assigned by the Lord Himself, thus delaying or frustrating its completion.

Sunday Scripture Readings

EIGHTH SUNDAY OF

ORDINARY TIME,

FEBRUARY 26

Hosea 2:16-17, 21-22;

Psalm 103;

2 Corinthians 3:1-6;

Mark 2: 18-22

One day out of the clear blue sky, little Billy asked his mother, "Mom, what do people say when they get married?"

Mother answered: "They promise to love and be kind to each other."

Billy thought for a moment then exclaimed: "You’re not always married, are you Mom?"

In today’s readings, The Lord uses the symbol of a marriage espousal to express God’s relationship to his people and their relationship to him.

The first reading gives a good description of such love.

God is speaking: "I will lead her (Israel, my beloved) into the desert and speak to her heart. She shall respond there as in the days of her youth.

Father Emetic Lawrence, OSB, in his book "The Holy Way," gives us some reflections on this. He says that love has to be expressed; love has to be responded to. God was speaking to Israel then. Today God speaks to us.

The desert into which God leads us so that he can speak to our hearts is Lent, which starts next Wednesday, March 1. God speaks to us always and in all circumstances, but Lent is a very special time when the Word of love is heard in our hearts and, we hope, our hearts will respond. What does God say? "Return to me. Come back. All is forgiven. We can start life all over again together."

Throughout the Bible, God’s relationship to his people is compared to a marriage. God is the groom, his people the bride. In the New Testament, Christ is the groom, his people, the Church, his bride. This relationship must be based on fidelity.

God never failed in fulfilling his part of the marriage. Israel, the bride, often strayed into strange beds of paganism. But the Lord always took her back, forgave her adulteries, never gave up on her. God never gives up on us either, and the desert of Lent is the proof.

Everything begins with God — our praying and praising, our worshiping, our penance and, above all, our morality and our very living is nothing else than our human response to all that God has done for us out of sheer, unmerited love. Father Lawrence says that God is the eternal suitor, forever wooing us, the beloved, never giving up, always taking us back. So maybe it is time for us to stop running off; time to give our consent to God’s deep love for us and to allow ourselves to be swept up into his divine heart.

However, the reality of life has to be faced. Infidelity and divorce abound in our day. Marriage, to be successful, requires a lifetime of hard work and sacrifice on the part of both partners. For many different reasons, husbands or wives stray.

Love is so hard to make, to create, so terribly easy to destroy. Too many partners concentrate on interests other than the beloved. A husband or wife must feel immense pain and grief if their spouse is unfaithful to them.

It would be so hard to forgive and recommit oneself to someone who has been unfaithful. Yet this is what our God does every time we confess our sins and receive his forgiveness. God forgives all our guilt and does not treat us according to our sins. As far as the east is from the west so far does God remove our sins.

Is it unrealistic to think of Lent as a kind of protracted marriage encounter with Jesus, our beloved? We can be frank with him and discuss happenings in our lives that we have difficulty understanding. Most of all we can be frank with ourselves and bring our infidelities, our sins, back into the forefront of our consciousness.

Jesus will speak to our hearts, and he will tell us that no matter how unfaithful we have been, no matter what we have done, he forgives us. He is always eager to take us back into his heart.

As the response psalm says: "The Lord is kind and merciful. He pardons all our iniquities, he heals all of your ills." Let us use this coming Lent to renew our love and fidelity to Christ and His Church. Happy Lent.

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

Sunday Scripture Readings

ASSUMPTION OF THE VIRGIN MARY,

AUGUST 15

Revelation 11:19; 12:1-6, 10; Psalm 45;

1 Corinthians 15:20-26; Luke 1:39-56

OUR GOOD NEWS: Mary, foremost among all of us who are called to fullness of eternal life.

The New Testament portrays Mary as a remarkable woman of dignity, poise and serenity, both in young womanhood (Annunciation) and in maturity (Calvary). Her quiet prayerfulness underlays a wholehearted faith, trust and single-minded commitment to doing the Lord’s will.

Today’s feast of the Assumption originated in the Eastern Church but soon outstripped in pomp and pageantry other Marian celebrations (purification, Annunciation and her birth). The doctrine professes that Mary, like her Son but unlike other faithful departed, already has achieved fullness of final-age, glorified life in God’s eternal Kingdom. It is our hope and prayer that this miracle of divine grace will one day take effect in us. Mary is the Church; her story is our story.

Today’s Gospel continues Luke’s portrait of Mary as an obedient handmaid of the Lord. Instead of focusing on her own greater privilege she "rose up with eager haste, journeying" selflessly to witness the blessing of pregnancy God had conferred upon the elderly Elizabeth. Visitation became occasion for mutual revelation and hymns of exaltation. First, the unborn John the Baptist, by leaping in the womb, and then Elizabeth acknowledged with joy Mary’s matchless privilege in salvation history as "Mother of my Lord."

Only a woman, and only this one, could be so graced. Mary mediates divine life to us, so that her present glory will one day also be ours.

Mary responded to greetings from the unborn John and Elizabeth by selflessly focusing on God’s greatness in her beautiful hymn, the "Magnificat" ("my whole being praises"). Three divine attributes which she celebrated invite our own prayerful reflection. First, the Mighty One has drawn upon infinite power to redeem us, his people. Second, although holy and exalted far beyond the human sphere, God has graciously chosen to dwell among us, the lowly. Finally, God shows mercy toward all of us willing to acknowledge His sovereignty. Mary’s Assumption thus represents the final flowering of God’s power, holiness and mercy regarding His chosen "servant." Now with her Son at the divine throne, Mary continues to sing her Magnificat through eternity.

Mary illustrated how genuine humility consists in acknowledging God’s blessings rather than denying them from false modesty. She selflessly rejoices in her crucial role in God’s universal plan of salvation. If Jesus constitutes the first fruits of resurrected life offered to us (second reading), Mary represents first fruits of all who are to be saved and glorified through her Son. She shows us that discipleship consists in praising God for what He accomplishes through us rather than our pride and boasting, and in selfless concern for others instead of oneself. Mary also witnesses that outstanding holiness can be lived in the ordinary, everyday life of housekeeping and parenting. A final message: like Mary, we serve God above all just by letting Him love us, letting His love work through ourselves to touch others.

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