Sunday Scripture

Sunday Scripture Readings

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time,
February 10
Isaiah 58:7-10; Psalm 112;
1 Corinthians 2:1-5; Matthew 5:13-16

OUR GOOD NEWS: What it means for us to be light and salt for the world.
We move from Jesus’ birth and Epiphany — the manifestation to our call as continuing theophany — the revelation of God’s love for humankind. Isaiah (first reading) lists traditional helps for those in distress common to both Testaments and familiar through TV and press coverage: “share your bread ... shelter the oppressed ... clothe the naked.” The starving and exploited whose homes, possessions and means of livelihood have been confiscated in payment for debts, pitiable ones shivering in tattered clothing — all such should be personally cared for — “Bring them into your house.” Look and see, don’t “turn your back on” all who share a common humanity, for thus do we truly obey and serve God. Only then, when these conditions have been met, can we enjoy divine blessings conferring prosperity (“light”) and solving our social, political and economic problems (“healing of wounds”).
This first reading concludes with specific examples of malicious behavior common nowadays no less than then: dishonest practices in business and politics, false testimony in court, slander destroying reputations. Only on condition of thoroughgoing reform in public morality, including genuine sharing with the needy (bestow your bread) can we hope for improvement in the world’s present hopeless situation. God rejects “Sunday Christians” who fail to care for the poor and disadvantaged throughout the week. We must get personally involved (volunteer service and financial support), demanding adequate local, state and federal programs to help our own and the world’s needy. Without practicing genuine social justice we cannot expect divine blessings on family and country.
In the Gospel, Jesus applied what is necessary to sustain life — salt and light — to all his followers, not by way of congratulations (we’re not gold or pearls) but as a summons to worldwide mission (be salt and light). Discipleship is a privilege but also a responsibility! As followers of Jesus, we Christians play a vital function in the world. His Church is no holiness sect shunning unbelievers or a largely secular reform movement. Although our Master’s ministry was restricted to Israel, we his disciples, however abused and persecuted, constitute the source of blessing for all humankind — “salt of the earth, light of the world.”
Becoming salt and light challenges us in our daily living. In itself, salt is “yucky,” but properly used it brings out the best in every food without drawing attention to itself. We Christians are called to “salt” everyone and everything with whom we come in contact. Similarly, light bulbs don’t call attention to themselves — until burnt out and useless.
Christian concern for social justice is a vital contemporary expression of our call to worldwide missionary activity. Through firm teaching and clear, personal as well as corporate witness we bring out the potential for good in others (salt), providing guidance and assistance (light) rather than taking charge.

Sunday Scripture Readings

FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER,
MAY 7

Acts 4:8-12; Psalm 118;

1 John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18

In speaking to a group of religion students, a pastor compared himself to a shepherd and his congregation to the sheep, and asked the children: "What does the shepherd do for the sheep?"

To the amusement of those present, a little fellow in the front row answered, "He shears them."

The fourth Sunday of Easter is always Good Shepherd Sunday. Jesus is the Good Shepherd and he knows us, his sheep, very well. In the Gospel he says he gives up his life to save the sheep.

In the first reading, pay attention to the likeness between the sign — the crippled man restored to health — "saved" in the original Greek and what is mentioned by Peter (all men "saved" in the name of Jesus). The same Greek word is used for "saved." The St. Joseph Sunday Missal says that the saved man is a sign of all of us saved in the name of Jesus. Israel has rejected him.

But there is not salvation in anyone else. As Jesus says; "No one comes to the Father except through me." The response psalm says the same: "It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man."

In the second reading, St. John tells us that we are privileged to call God "Father." If God can be called Father, then we are his children and should feel saved because we are taken care of. The key to such a living relationship with God, our Father, is to keep in touch with him by prayer and Bible reading.

The Gospel brings out the idea of salvation with another sign or image — namely that of the shepherd tending his flock. The Lord Jesus knows each of us and cares for each of us. He laid down his life for each of us individually as well as collectively.

In the Old Testament, Yahweh is the shepherd of his people Israel. In the Gospel, Jesus, by referring to himself as "Good Shepherd," equates himself with the Father and teaches that God loves everyone, not just Jews. Today the pope, bishops, priests, clergy and religious continue the work of Jesus the Good Shepherd.

Sunday, May 7, is World Day of Prayer for Religious Vocations. The shortage of priests today is due in part to the lack of prayer for vocations among Catholics. It is also caused when people are trying to decide what to do with their lives but do not ask God what he wants them to do. The materialism and clatter of the world drown out the call of God. What the Lord is looking for are big hearts that are open to him to be priests and religious.

What can we do to promote vocations? Parents can pray for and encourage their children to enter the priesthood or religious life. Offer your sufferings as prayers for an increase in religious vocations.

Ask God to inspire people to enter the priesthood and religious life. Jesus promised to be with his Church until the end of the world, but he expects us to help him carry on his work. Add this prayer for vocations to your daily personal prayers:

O God, who would have all men and women be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth, send forth, we beseech you, laborers into your harvest and grant them boldness to preach the Word, that your Gospel may everywhere be heard and glorified and that all nations may know you, the one true God, and him whom you have sent, Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord who lives and reigns with you, world without end. Amen.

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

Sunday Scripture Readings

THIRTY-SECOND SUNDAY

IN ORDINARY TIME,

NOVEMBER 7

2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14; Psalm 17;

2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5; Luke 20:27-38

OUR GOOD NEWS: Our loving, life-giving God offers us eternal life as a gift.

Sadducees constituted the party of wealth, power and privilege, based on their control of the temple priesthood (Gospel). They acknowledged only written Scripture, rejecting the oral tradition which Pharisees found necessary for applying God’s revealed word to everyday life.

In quizzing Jesus the Sadducees attempted to discredit publicly a "heretical," "modern" teaching about another life after the present one. They used a smart-aleck argument from ridicule, loaded with sexual innuendo and delivered probably with a knowing look and leering smirk. If seven brothers successively married the same woman and each died childless, whose wife would the widow be in an afterlife? They thus mockingly dismissed heaven, degrading it to a brothel.

Remarkably, Jesus did not turn away in disgust from their flippant question that deserved no serious answer. He bluntly refuted the Sadducees’ question with two arguments. First, He exposed the flaw in their simplistic reasoning by distinguishing resurrection from resuscitation (return to this worldly existence).

Contrary to unreflective popular opinion, life "in the age to come" will be radically different. Although marriage is essential for maintaining the human race, in heaven we become celibate "children of God," enjoying the divine life that neither can be lost nor needs to be passed on ("like angels"). These fortunate ones "neither marry nor are given in marriage."

Having effectively demolished the Sadducees’ argument, Jesus went on to provide positive biblical proof for the reality of resurrected existence. It’s worthy of an instant doctorate degree but rabbinic in methodology and largely lost on us. He alluded to Exodus 3:1-6, but nearly every page of the Bible makes the same point. God’s inmost nature is life rather than impersonal power, majesty or judgment. All His acts of salvation ultimately have one purpose — selflessly sharing with us the life that is His alone by right.

Abraham and we, his faithful descendants, must therefore live — awaiting and ultimately enjoying promised eternal life as God’s sons and daughters.

Sunday Scripture Readings


FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER,


MAY 11


Acts 4:8-12; Psalm 118;


1 John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18

OUR GOOD NEWS: Through the Spirit, our risen Lord continually works within the Church.

Today's first reading marks a new and decisive stage in the unfolding of Luke's story about the early Church: For the first time, there is confrontation with official Judaism. Special needs call for special endowments, so Peter was "filled with the Holy Spirit," empowered for testimony on behalf of Christ before the supreme Jewish leadership. Opening words established the incongruity of his arrest. "If we are being cross-examined" - accused of crime - for an "act of kindness?" What law forbids healing a cripple?

To understand Peter's speech we must ask ourselves three questions. First, what does "salvation" mean? Jesus' saving acts are not limited to forgiveness of sins and other "spiritual" gifts, nor do they take effect only at our death and entrance into the heavenly Kingdom. Luke used the same Greek verb for "saved" and "restored to health." The "saved" cripple shows that salvation bestows fullness of life and happiness originally intended by God. As a result of baptism, we look forward joyfully to the return of our ascended Jesus, bringing deliverance and healing to all creation. Being saved right now means receiving the gift of the Spirit who reveals God's mind; living in a faith community marked by mutual love and care; and being constantly engaged in prayer. We all share the miraculous power that enabled Peter to heal a beggar and courageously witness before hostile public authorities. In sum, salvation means detaching from the hopeless, meaningless lifestyle of unbelievers and having fellowship within the Church.

This leads to our second question. Why is this salvation exclusively found "in Christ?" Luke thought in concrete rather than abstract, mystical categories. Being "in Christ" means being "with it," where the real action is. Far more than dividing world history into B.C. and A.D., Jesus structures the finale of all creation. In Luke's schema we are only one stage from the end-time fulfillment of the kingdom's promises. Those destined for sharing its glory can be found in the community, living between Ascension and Parousia ("Return-Presence") under the Spirit's direction. There is no longer hope in a bright future or one found anywhere else. No longer is salvation mediated through Torah laws and Temple, or pagan worship. Now is the time to escape this perverse, doomed "generation."

A third question leads us to further insight: Why threefold emphasis on salvation in Christ's "name"? Today's story shows faith commitment is grounded in hard evidence. Real power - divine grace - is available to all accepting Jesus' "name," calling upon him for deliverance from a hopelessly doomed "generation."

In sum, this cure of a cripple implies more than a spectacular event evoking awe toward God and reverence for Peter and John. It serves as a Spirit-inspired proclamation to Israel, including her religious leadership, and to us that salvation - complete healing, restoration to fullness of life - is finally available, but only through the "key" man, the "cornerstone." Through Jesus and his Church, God's final, perfect gift can become everyone's possession.

Sunday Scripture Readings

Fifth Sunday of Lent, March 17 Ezekiel 37:12-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8:8-11; John 11:1-45

OUR GOOD NEWS: Jesus calls and empowers us to arise and live, now as well as on the Last Day.

"O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord." When Ezekiel first proclaimed this prophecy, God's Chosen People were "dead" - defeated in war, their territory under pagan control and partially settled by foreigners, leading citizens carried off to slavery in far-off Babylonia.

Among these exiles was Ezekiel, a prophet through whom God announced hope for return and restoration. A new and second exodus like the first from Egypt was imminent. Once again the Lord would lead his people out of slavery and through the desert to their land of promise. This astounding and unheard-of miracle of Israel "rising from its grave" would show the world what her God was really like. He, rather than Babylonian deities, ruled over nations; his nature was loving and caring ("O my people!"), powerful and faithful to promises already made: "You shall know; I have spoken and will act." God's "Spirit" gives life rather than takes it away through judgment and punishment for infidelity and disobedience. This text becomes for us Christians a prophecy and promise of "the new and second exodus" when we, a community of persons baptized into the Risen Christ, will one day certainly rise with him.

In today's psalm the psalmist "cries" loudly for God's attention, his sin having placed him at furthest remove from heavenly habitation. In biblical thought, alienation from God constitutes the worst possible fate. A cry for help reflects confidence that God will hear and take merciful action. But instead of specifying a request (second stanza), the psalmist - and we - humbly leave everything to the Lord. We acknowledge that no one could survive his rigorous accounting. We can only appeal to God's forgiving nature, which inspires creatures with a holy "fear" - a response manifested in awe and reverence, leading to obedience.

"I trust in the Lord ... More than sentinels wait for the dawn, let Israel wait for the Lord." With hope grounded only upon the Lord's compassion, the psalmist patiently awaits divine initiative, sharing the expectation of all God's people. These are compared to nighttime sentries, bone-chilled and weary, anxiously longing for the first glimmers of morning light. Meanwhile (final stanza), faithful gathered in worship experience reassurance that redemption will include forgiveness of sins as well as liberation from their effects, every affliction.

We can apply today's first reading and psalm to the season. The power of God's Spirit bringing life to the dead is vindicated in Jesus resurrected and in the miracle of his Church. God wants to forgive and heal us rather than punish us for our sins (Ezekiel). Alienation from God is the most painful of human experiences. Our hope in final redemption is expressed through a healthy impatience (psalm). "Lord, hear our voices!"

Sunday Scripture Readings

TWENTIETH SUNDAY

OF ORDINARY TIME,

AUGUST 20

Proverbs 9:1-6; Psalm 34:2-7;

Ephesians 5:15-20; John 6:51-58

This week’s first reading, from the Book of Proverbs, tells us all about Lady Wisdom.

She is creative.She is confident.She builds things.She constructs houses, sets out feasts and bids others to come and improve themselves.We learn that authentic wisdom is imbued with a knowledge that must be shared.

Therefore, wisdom’s prudence is not meant to be hidden away or kept for oneself for one’s own personal enjoyment.To do that would be selfish.To keep knowledge from others arises from a will to dominate and control.

And such a desire is base.It is divisive because it establishes two groups: those who are aware and those who are doomed to remain ignorant.Certainly, this is not what genuine wisdom is all about.For to be truly wise is to enjoy knowledge so thoroughly that one cannot help but become enthusiastic about its message.It is also from this enthusiasm that comes the overwhelming desire to share knowledge with others.

From St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (second reading) we learn that the goal of all Christians is to discern the will of God.This brings true wisdom.It leads to a balanced life; a way of living focused on mutual respect, spirituality, prayer and community.

Note how Paul tells us that we are to address "one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs."This means that Christians are to deal with each other through God.If we filter all our thoughts and acts through Jesus Christ, God’s Son, then we will become filled with the Holy Spirit; then we will become reliable beneficiaries of two of the Spirit’s greatest gifts: wisdom and knowledge.

The Gospel reading from St. John opens with a very telling statement: "Jesus said to the crowds ... "Instantly we know that what he is about to reveal is meant for everyone, not just a small, privileged few.

It is an inclusive message. Like Lady Wisdom, we know that Christ built a community during his earthly ministry.This was not just any community, it was a kingdom; the kingdom of his Father, whose reflection on earth is the Church.

Like Lady Wisdom, Christ also "goes public."In John’s Gospel, Jesus eagerly invites everyone in the multitude to join him in his Father’s kingdom. He sets out a great feast.But he does not just offer ordinary food.Instead, he offers himself as a sacrament — his own Body and Blood as food for all.

Unlike Lady Wisdom’s repast, which only sustains a mortal life, Christ’s feast nourishes an immortal life.At the same time however, since the Spirit is in him, Jesus also offers us his knowledge and wisdom on how to achieve this immortal life in the Church, for the Church is also sacrament.

We are to be wise in our enthusiasm about Christ. Each day we are to live in him for others, not only for our own families and our communities but also for all of those around us. Each day we are to set up our own feasts of Christ for both our friends and enemies.

Each day we are to prepare it well.For the knowledge of Christ is a feast of eternal life.And the wisdom of Christ is to live this mortal life as he meant it to be lived through the wisdom of his Church.

This week let us think about the little feasts of Christ we prepare for ourselves and others each day.What kind of table are we laying out?Is it comfortable and inviting?Is the room well lit or dark?Are the windows open or closed?What kinds of "food" will you put on your table?Will the "food" be Christ himself? Who will you invite today?What will be the conversation?

If we take care in laying out our feast of Christ every day, then we cannot help but become all that more familiar with living Christ’s message and doing God’s will.We, too, will become enthusiastic and, consequently, deepen our desire to share Christ with others.In doing this we will become truly wise in him. We will become Christ for others.

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.

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