Sunday Scripture

Sunday Scripture Readings

TWENTY-NINTH SUNDAY

IN ORDINARY TIME,

OCTOBER 17

Exodus 17:8-13; Psalm 121;

2 Timothy 3:14-42; Luke 18:1-8

OUR GOOD NEWS: We ought to pray diligently, with firm confidence in God.

Today’s first reading describes Israel’s early life-or-death struggle with neighboring Amalekites, brutally aggressive enemies of God’s people. The story centers on God, for He rather than Joshua or Moses defeated them. After Joshua gathered an army for self-defense, Moses took his stand on a nearby hill, a preferred place for a divine encounter, as God’s official representative ("the staff of God," his badge of office).
Moses’ gesture of "upraised hands" should not be interpreted merely as a prayer of intercession by a human mediator, or as psychological support urging the Israelite soldiers to victory. His hands raised throughout the battle pointed away from the human to the divine realm, publicly acknowledging the direct intervention of God, who personally fought to deliver His people.

Thus, contrary to appearances, it was not the soldiers’ bravery or Moses’ influence but God who delivered. "Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other." Moses’ inability even to maintain his posture unassisted further emphasized human frailty in comparison to divine power.

Luke’s colorful story (in the Gospel) generates misunderstanding, as though by incessantly pestering God our prayers will always be answered. Look again at the opening sentence: Jesus told his disciples "a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary." Jesus didn’t commit God to serve as our fairy godmother, but only insisted on perseverance in the face of seemingly hopeless situations.

The parable concludes with the judge’s favorable decision, nevertheless not yet acted upon, and so the widow remained unaware of his change of heart. The point of Jesus’ teaching is that, even when lacking encouraging signs, we must continue unflagging in our petitions. God will answer our prayers, but in His own way and time. This story teaches the eventual triumph of God’s kingdom, however impossible it may seem.

We ought not pray in expectation of immediate success but to reconcile ourselves to God’s loving but mysterious will.

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.

Sunday Scripture Readings

SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT

FEBRUARY 20

Genesis 12: 1-4; Psalm 33;

2 Timothy 1: 8-10; Matthew 17:1-9

A young couples’ Sunday School religion class was studying the story of Abraham and Sarah, who in their 90s, were blessed with a child. The teacher asked: "What lesson do we learn from this story?" A young mother who was having financial difficulties blurted out: "They waited until they could afford it."

In today’s first reading, God tells Abraham that he will be the father of a great nation and of many people. However, most all of them would not be his physical children but those with strong faith in God just as Abraham had.

In the Gospel, Jesus gives the Apostles just a glimpse of what those believers in God and in Him would eventually enjoy — eternal life with Christ in all His glory. It was an experience of ecstasy for Peter, James and John. They just wanted to stay there on top of the mountain forever with this glorious sight.

But, besides the seeing, the hearing is very important. For when the voice of God the Father identifies Jesus as "My beloved Son with whom I am well pleased," the awestruck apostles are told not to look at Him, but to "Listen to Him." As bedazzled as their eyes are by the brilliance of this scene, it is their ears that are commanded to prolong and make eternal this experience. But before this could happen, they had to go back down the mountain to the sufferings, pains and trials of this earthly journey to preach to others that this Jesus, who in all His glory is God, has come to save us.

Today, we are called to rejoice that we can hear the very same words that Jesus spoke to them on this occasion. The vision of Jesus has gone away, but His words have not passed away. What does Jesus say to us today?

In the very same words He spoke to the flabbergasted apostles almost 2,000 years ago, Jesus says to us: "Rise and do not be afraid." Don’t just let Lent and life pass by without making special efforts daily to become like Jesus. Don’t let anything — sins, failures, temptations, business or busyness or laziness keep you down or get you depressed. Lent is a time of spiritual energy that is meant to give us a push in our faith and love of God.

Do not be afraid to act like a Christian, think like a Christian, pray like a Christian, love like a Christian. Do not be afraid to change your lives whenever you are getting into a rut that makes life dull, boring, bitter or less faithful to Christ. Above all, do not be afraid to put your trust in God who loves you passionately and forever. Do not be afraid to ask Jesus to lead you, feed you, forgive you, heal you and bring you to your own share in His glory of eternal life.

In the second reading, St. Paul encourages his disciple, Timothy, to remain strong in his faith despite all hardships. As He did with Abraham, God has called us into a new life, the life of Christ as revealed to us in the Scriptures and the Church.

And don’t be afraid to encourage others. Someone who is down in the dumps, or discouraged or disappointed or depressed will cross your path. Those six simple words: "Rise and do not be afraid," are words that will help them break up the dark clouds of worry, anxiety or guilt and restore the bright cloud that God wants to overshadow us. God who transfigured Jesus is just waiting to transfigure us with the glory that comes from our being to God what Jesus is: "My beloved daughter, My beloved son on whom My favor rests." This is the goal of Lent and this is the goal of our lifetimes.

Prayer for the week: God our Father, help us to hear Your Son. Enlighten with your Word, that we may find the way to Your glory. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen. (From "Living God’s Word" by David Knight.)

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

Sunday Scripture Readings

TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY

IN ORDINARY TIME,

AUGUST 24

Joshua 24:1-2, 15-17, 18; Psalm 34;

Ephesians 5:21-32; John 6:60-69

OUR GOOD NEWS: Our God is the God of the ordinary!
"Wives should be submissive to their husbands ..." It is doubly a pity to be put off by allegedly sexist (male-dominant) language and bias in today’s second reading, for that is to misunderstand as well as to miss the real point. Like any other human organization, marriage and family life are governed in part by rules based on authority ("Ask your mother ..."; "Dad, may I ...?"; "Dear, what do you think ...?")

Further, male chauvinists take cold comfort in Paul’s teaching. Whatever advantage he gave to husbands he immediately rescinded: selfish, insensitive dominance cannot be reconciled with his command that the man "love" his wife. The general principle of mutuality stated at the beginning governs the entire unit: "Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ." In this passage, Paul said very little about wifely duty; rather, he focused on the husband’s love, which he dared to model on Christ’s totally selfless love for His Church.

More substantively, Paul dared to ground in heaven an institution regarded in many religions as a purely secular arrangement at best; at worst, degrading and to be avoided by "true believers." Through their marriage, Christian wife and husband actualize in their everyday world the invisible love binding Christ to his Church. Equally, the more a married couple learn, through prayer and sacramental life, to encounter the Lord within the gathered Christian community, the more they plumb the deepest meaning of their marriage relationship. Finally, through their marriage relationship couples reveal the awesome mystery of Christ’s selfless, tender love for his Church.

The responsorial verse and introductory stanza, repeated from the previous two Sundays, today take on new depth. This psalm speaks to Christians overwhelmed by feelings of futility and hopelessness. It encourages perseverance to the end, when we shall eventually "taste" (fully realize through personal experience) and "see" (everything, past, present and future, falling into place) "the goodness of the Lord!" This word of encouragement especially applies to married couples in the inevitable ups and downs of daily life.

"God," we are assured, "has eyes (special concern) for," and ready "ears" to answer the appeal of, the needy who live according to His will. Although evildoers may enjoy prosperity and fame, their memory will eventually be blotted out as a sign of ill omen. Present appearances deceive! However overwhelming our distress, we need only turn to God in humility and trust. God "watches over" each one’s "bones" — preserves the godly amid terrible afflictions. (To "break one’s bones" means to be afflicted with disease or oppression.) Evildoers are eventually destroyed by their own deeds, but God intervenes to deliver ("redeem") repentant sinners.

Supported by personal and community experience, we — especially married couples — affirm that, although God doesn’t make life easier for his faithful, He always remains close to us to hear and answer with sympathy, support and eventual final, full deliverance.

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