Sunday Scripture

Sunday Scripture Readings


sixteenth sunday


in ordinary time,


july 22


Genesis 18:1-10; Psalm 15;


Colossians 1:24-28; Luke 10:38-42

OUR GOOD NEWS: Jesus liberates women from discrimination and exploitation.

The Lord came for dinner one day, invited by Martha (the "lady" or "mistress of the house" and hostess). The story takes its meaning from the posture assumed by Martha's sister Mary. She had assumed the attitude of a disciple, one who "sits at the feet of" the master and there "listens to his words." Martha, the principal character in today's Gospel story, posed a problem for the teacher to solve. She complained about three things: excessive demands of hospitality and table service, her sister's unwillingness to help and Jesus' insensitivity toward an unfair situation. Martha's being "pulled and dragged around" ("busy") refers to her state of mind - feeling overworked and taken advantage of - as well as to all the tasks necessary in preparing a good meal (Can you identify with Martha?) Jesus should solve the problem by acknowledging the unfairness and ordering Mary to help out. No fair!

The Lord rejected Martha's assessment of the situation and her seemingly obvious solution. She, not Mary, was the problem; only she, not Jesus, could correct it. By addressing Martha by name and repeating it for emphasis, Jesus drew attention to her wrong attitude and its implications. His words did not condemn loving service and the virtue of hospitality. They must be interpreted in the context of Jesus' own example of having "come to serve," as well as his accepting Martha's invitation to dinner. As hostess, she was expected to show hospitality. But Jesus faulted her attitude, a subtle form of legalism. Martha preferred hard work over the more demanding challenge of discipleship. Attentive learning at Jesus' feet takes priority over a tasty soup. It involves newness and growing, the painful changing of attitudes as well as values.

This brief narrative demonstrates the destructive effects of unhealthy, excessive preoccupation with tasks (however praiseworthy in themselves), and summons us to a painful reordering of our priorities. Work should express our commitment to Christ, not substitute for it.

Sunday Scripture readings

EASTER SUNDAY

Acts of the Apostles 10:34a, 37-43;

Psalm 118; Colossians 3:1-4 or

1 Corinthians 5:6b-8; John 20: 1-9

When we say no, God says yes.

That is the message of Easter. On Good Friday human beings said no. On Easter, God overruled this no with his triumphant yes.

That is the earliest Christian understanding of Easter. It explains the use in the earliest Christian preaching of the verse from today’s responsorial psalm: "The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone." When we say no, God says yes.

When we look at all the evil in the world and say there is no hope, God says there is hope. God himself is our hope. He is stronger than all the forces of evil.

When we look at all the suffering and injustice in the world and say that there is no meaning in life, that there is no point in sacrifice because self-sacrifice is always defeated, and that idealism has no future, God says yes, there is a future for us. God himself is our future.

On Good Friday the friends of Jesus thought evil had triumphed. They were wrong. "They put him to death," Peter says in today’s first reading, "by hanging him on a tree." But — and it is the most important "but" in history — "this man God raised on the third day."

Not Satan but Jesus Christ emerged victorious from the conflict on Calvary. The sign of that victory is the empty tomb of Easter morning. It is a sign only, not a proof. Of the two disciples in today’s Gospel reading who saw the empty tomb, only one understood the sign and believed. The other came to belief only later, when he saw the risen Lord.

When we are tempted to think that there is nothing beyond death, no goals beyond such happiness as we may be able to achieve in this life, God says yes, there is life beyond death. This life is a preparation for that life.

This message of our no and God’s yes is central in the letters of St. Paul, who encountered the risen Lord not at Easter but outside Damascus, where Paul was going to say his own no to Jesus Christ by arresting Jesus’ followers.

If God’s triumphant yes, first uttered on Easter morning, is to be heard in our world, it will be heard only through us. "This man God raised on the third day," Peter says in our first reading, "and granted that he be made visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead."

Each Eucharist is the continuation not only of the Last Supper but also of those meals Peter was talking about which Jesus shared with his friends after his Resurrection. Each time we obey Jesus’ command to "do this in my memory," the risen Lord renews his yes.

And he commissions us to be witnesses of that joyful and triumphant yes to a weary and discouraged world.

We bear our witness not so much by words, for people today are inundated by words. Rather, we bear witness to the risen Lord by living as people who know that because of Easter this world is not without hope, life does have meaning, death is not the end.

At each eucharistic meal with our risen Lord he empowers us to live as people who know that this world, with all its horrors and suffering and evil, is still God’s world. At every Mass the risen Lord renews the commission we received in Baptism and Confirmation, that we may be "children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation" (Philippians 2:15f).

That is our high calling as God’s daughters and sons, our thrilling destiny as brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. Can there be a calling more glorious than that?

To the extent that we fulfill this calling we, like Peter, are witnesses to the risen Lord and to his power. We are proclaiming, through lives which speak more eloquently than words, that Jesus Christ, risen triumphant from death today, is truly "the stone which the builders rejected, (who) has now become the cornerstone."

We are proclaiming that Jesus Christ "is not a blend of yes and no, but that with him it was and is yes. He is the yes pronounced upon God’s promises, every one of them."

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

Sunday Scripture Readings

TWENTY-SEVENTH SUNDAY

IN ORDINARY TIME,

OCTOBER 2

Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm 80; Philippians 4: 6-9;

Matthew 21:33-43

A GI, stationed in Germany during World War II, got a "Dear John" letter from his sweetheart telling him she was going to marry a sailor, and to please return the photo she had given him.

He collected photos from every GI and shipped an enormous crate of them back to the poor girl. When she opened the crate, the accompanying note read: "Please pick out your picture and return the rest to me — I don’t remember which one is yours."

There is no pain more intense or distressing than that of being rejected. Like a sword of sorrow, rejection pierces our heart and leaves us deeply wounded.
Rejection is something we all encounter on our journey through life, and Jesus was no exception.

The awe-filled truth is that the Son of God came to earth, showed His love in every possible way yet was rejected. God has done everything possible for us as a people by sending His Son to live among us, and yet many people have turned their backs and offered Him nothing but ingratitude, indifference and hate.

We must see ourselves in this parable. In a sense each of us is a tenant, cultivating a small portion of God’s vineyard, and when harvest time arrives we are expected to produce the fruits of right living by lives of faith, hope, charity, caring and sharing. By doing this we put into practice during the week what we profess and celebrate at Sunday Mass.

As Catholics we believe that Jesus is with us in the Eucharist, and in the persons of the unwanted, the despised and destitute members of society as well as the members of our families and our friends. Yet so many people reject Him, are ungrateful and hateful.

Jesus comes in the person of every child in the womb. He is trying to be born again in our world, but the abortion movement is rejecting Him by destroying Him in what should be the safest sanctuary on this earth, the womb.

He comes to us in the sick, the elderly and the needy, but the movement to approve assisted suicide and euthanasia is rejecting Him. He comes to us in the poor of Third World countries and our own country, but the movement to ban immigrants and
population-control people are rejecting Him.

And of course, as said above, He comes to us in the Church and sacraments and yet almost two-thirds of Catholics, according to one poll, do not believe in His Real Presence in the Eucharist and other sacraments. He comes to us in Scripture, but how many read the Bible outside of Mass time?

The first reading compares God’s people to His vineyard, but He asks why the vineyard yields only wild grapes. And God asks, "what more was there to do for My vineyard that I had not done?"

And, yes, Jesus comes to us in the prisoner and criminal. After all, Jesus, Himself was put to death on the cross as a criminal between two other criminals; but He forgave the repentant thief and excused those who crucified Him by saying, "They do not know what they are doing."

Jesus’ truth demands that we be different from others in that we accept suffering and self-denial, that we abandon selfishness and be generous in our love and service to God and to others.

In the second reading, St. Paul tells us what to do: "Keep on doing what you have learned, received and heard from Christ, His Church and the Scriptures dismiss any anxiety and present your needs to God in prayer, always being thankful to Him. Your thoughts and actions should be wholly directed to all that is true, all that deserves respect, all that is honest, pure, admirable, decent virtuous, or worthy of praise . then will the God of peace be with you." Jesus says to us: "I have chosen you from the world to go forth and bear fruit that will last," the fruit of seeing and accepting Him in the Church, sacraments, in our own hearts and in each other.

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

Sunday Scripture Readings

SEVENTH SUNDAY

IN ORDINARY TIME,

FEBRUARY 22

1 Samuel 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23; Psalm 103;

1 Corinthians 15:44-49;

Luke 6:27-38

OUR GOOD NEWS: The secret for building a realistically happy environment.

Consumed by envy for the popularity and success David enjoyed among the people, King Saul organized a thorough hunt to the death for this rival, now hiding in the desert south of Jerusalem. By a miracle, David and his assistant Abishai crept into Saul’s camp by night, finding everyone asleep, including the night guards. Abishai urged revenge upon Saul who sought David’s life. David however responded with pious respect for "the Lord’s anointed," refusing to touch Saul. Taking Saul’s spear thrust into the ground and the water jug next to his sleeping body, David stole away to the opposite slope and cried out to awaken Saul and his men. "Here is the king’s spear ... Though the Lord delivered you into my grasp, I would not harm the Lord’s anointed!"

David often behaved remarkably, nowhere more so than here. Refusing to return evil for evil, even in an act of self-defense, he responded with remarkable generosity. But as always, there are other possible reasons for this selfless act. Saul wasn’t an ordinary adversary but "the Lord’s anointed," solemnly designated before the people as God’s choice to rule His people. This sparing of Saul was therefore an act of reverence and obedience to the Lord. But because David had ambitions one day to replace Saul as Israel’s king, he refused to do to Saul what others might one day do to him. This prophetic act had lasting results. With the later splitting of the kingdom into two parts, the northern kingdom suffered regular assassinations of their rulers, whereas David’s successors in Judah were never slaughtered. A good deed resulted in a rich reward!

"The Lord is kind and merciful." Today’s psalm prayerfully celebrates the marvelous respect for life that motivated David in the first reading. The exclusive focus is on God, who like a compassionate father ignores the misdeeds of His children. "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He put our transgressions from us." God doesn’t give us what we deserve — thank God!

Today’s Gospel contains hard words indeed, which we tend to ignore. "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you and pray for those who maltreat you." This astounding Gospel was practiced by Jesus himself, who worked His miracles of healing without regard for the sufferer’s goodness. Likewise, Jesus lived His command to "give to all who beg from you," responding to entreaties regardless of the petitioner’s moral worth.

Perhaps the greatest challenge is His instruction to "love your enemy." Clearly, His use of "love" does not include "liking." We are not, and cannot, be commanded to like certain people who for any number of reasons we find unlikeable. To "love" means to be genuinely concerned for all others, have their good at heart, to think well of others whatever their faults and failings. And Jesus puts these commands into a personal, practical context. "For the measure you measure with will be measured back to you."

Sunday Scripture Readings


thirty-second sunday


in ordinary time,


november 10


Wisdom 6:12-16; Psalm 63;


1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13

OUR GOOD NEWS: Get ready now for the Lord's coming, before it's too late.

"The reign of God can be likened to 10 bridesmaids who took their torches and went out to welcome the groom." In Jesus' day, bridesmaids carried torches in a solemn procession to the house where a marriage feast was to take place. There, some performed round dances until their lights went out. The other young women waited with unlighted torches, sticks wrapped at one end with rags soaked in olive oil.

The excited announcement of the groom's arrival galvanized the dozing girls into soaking and lighting their torches. Now caught without fuel reserves, the foolish ones tried to borrow from the wise, who had enough only for themselves, then scurried off to buy from dealers. They returned too late. The celebration had already begun, a heavy door barred for protection and privacy, round dances in progress or completed. Negligent servants rather than invited guests, these young women tried to sneak in with the connivance of other servants, but got a well-deserved scolding (or worse) from the master who himself responded to their knock.

We smile at such pathetic attempts to get out of a situation they should have prepared for. We all have painful experiences of such procrastinators who try to scrounge from friends at the last minute. So, too, in the area of religion. What matters is not the occasional, last-minute burst of spiritual fervor but habitual attention to responsibilities before God. Jesus, however, didn't preach at such types or put them down. Instead he gently told a comic tale about young people whose immaturity could partly be excused.

Nevertheless, at a deeper level the story also disturbs the prudent among us. We fall into a comfortable rut living each day as though life continues without end, but the kingdom's coming will be sudden and sobering. Are we ready to "come out" from our accustomed living and "greet" the Lord? Now is the time for thoroughgoing preparation. At the final judgment there will be no depending upon others' resources, no begging or borrowing of what must be personal possession. From another perspective today's Gospel poses an obvious challenge. Instead of the tendency for some of us to put things off - and for all of us to drift without acute awareness of our final destiny - we should attend to duties of the present moment, preparing now rather than waiting until it's too late, when there's no immature depending upon others.

Today's practical first reading from the Book of Wisdom complements Jesus' parable. God willingly reveals himself, but mysteriously - in His own way, according to His own timetable. God can be found, but only by those who never give up the search, yet patiently await His initiative.

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