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12th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Welcome Back to Banquet of the Word!

Join us every week for background on this Sunday readings.
Our mission is simple:
We want to help everyone in “pew-land” get more out of mass.

Going through something hard in your life right now? A tough decision? Illness? Challenging relationships? Financial hardships?

Today’s theme is “Be Not Afraid.”
This rendition was done by professional artists during Covid-19.

 

Hear the words from the prophet Jeremiah, St. Paul and Jesus. They all say the same thing: “Be Not Afraid for God is with me always.”

JER 20:10-13

(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel.)

We’re in Jeremiah today, one of the four major prophets (Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel). Jeremiah has a very tough job. God called him to warn the Israelites that they would go into exile and be attacked by the Babylonians if they didn’t turn back to God.

Today we hear Jeremiah’s self-talk. He’s in conversation with himself and God about the hardships he is enduring: (“I hear the whisperings of many: ‘Terror on every side! Denounce! let us denounce him!’). He talks himself down and then up again, recalling God is with him: (“But the LORD is with me, like a mighty champion”).

Hear his words today and remember than when you feel others are closing on you from all sides, God is with you, too, “like a mighty champion.”


Responsorial Psalm 69
Lord, in your great love, answer me.
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

This psalm is truly a “response” to Jeremiah in the first reading.  It’s almost as if you can hear him saying these things to God as he tries to convince the Israelites to turn back to God. He may as well have written the psalm himself!

For your sake I bear insult,
and shame covers my face.
I have become an outcast to my brothers,
a stranger to my children,
Because zeal for your house consumes me,
and the insults of those who blaspheme you fall upon me.

I pray to you, O LORD,
for the time of your favor, O God!
In your great kindness answer me
with your constant help.
Answer me, O LORD, for bounteous is your kindness;
in your great mercy turn toward me.

ROM 5:12-15

(The 2nd reading is usually one of Paul’s letters. The 2nd reading speaks to how the early church built The Church after the passion, death and resurrection).

The book of Romans is Paul’s longest letter. It’s packed. Today we’re in the first major section where Paul tells those in Rome that they are in desperate need of a savior. This is the same message from Jeremiah:

  • Jeremiah told the Israelites that due to their sins and rejections of God, they are in desperate need of God or they’d be cast into exile by the Babylonians.
  • Paul tells us that we are a sinful people and if we reject Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we’ll find ourselves in exile as well (e.g. not enjoying the Heavenly banquet God has prepared for us).

Another similarity is that Jeremiah started out with a negative message (they torment me) and moved to a positive one (God is at my side). Paul does the same saying that we are in sin because of Adam, but ends with hope:  “If by the transgression of the one the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many?”

MT 10:26-33
(The Gospel is the Highest Point of the Liturgy of the Word. We are about to be instructed by Christ Himself, and that is why we stand )

Today’s gospel is particularly beautiful in light of the above readings. It is almost as if Jesus is speaking not just to us today and his disciples, but also directly to Jeremiah who tries to defend God in Babylon and to those in Rome who ought to listen to St. Paul. Jesus tells all who defend him to Be Not Afraid:

“Fear no one.
Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed,
nor secret that will not be known.
What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light;
what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.
And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul;
rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy
both soul and body in Gehenna.
Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin?
Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.
Even all the hairs of your head are counted.
So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Everyone who acknowledges me before others
I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.
But whoever denies me before others,
I will deny before my heavenly Father.”

In closing? Defend the Lord your God at all times. Know that He is with you always. Remember that you need his saving grace. In time he will reveal what we see as concealed.

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The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ

Welcome Back to Banquet of the Word!

Join us every week for background on the Sunday readings.
Our mission is simple: We want to help everyone in “pew-land” get more out of mass. Because it’s fun to feel smart about scripture.

Today’s theme:
Today we celebrate the most sacred part of our faith: The Eucharist. The theme could also be viewed as OLD covenant, NEW covenant. The OLD covenant was finite and temporary. The NEW covenant is infinite and everlasting.

Image result for image of host and wine

DEUTERONOMY 8:2-3, 14B-16A
(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel.)

In this reading, Moses reminds the people of all the great works God did for his people, specifically the manna in the desert. He said that food was “A food unknown to your fathers.” He says that twice, in fact. Why is that repeated? What does it mean?

God made a covenant with the Old Testament people. A covenant is like a marriage vow. It is permanent and forever. Just as a husband woos his bride, God, in a sense, “wooed” his people – his “bride” Israel. He showed them his mighty arm as he saved them from Egypt, split the sea, and sent manna as food and water from the rock. The covenant – the wedding vow between God and his people – was the 10 commandments.

All these things, however, are incomplete and temporary. They gave the Israelites a glimpse of what was to come in the NEW covenant, the one Jesus established on the cross. The one we participate in when we approach the Banquet of the Eucharist at every mass.

Moses said to the people:
“Remember how for forty years now the LORD, your God,
has directed all your journeying in the desert,
so as to test you by affliction
and find out whether or not it was your intention
to keep his commandments.
He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger,
and then fed you with manna,
a food unknown to you and your fathers,
in order to show you that not by bread alone does one live,
but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD.

“Do not forget the LORD, your God,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt,
that place of slavery;
who guided you through the vast and terrible desert
with its saraph serpents and scorpions,
its parched and waterless ground;
who brought forth water for you from the flinty rock
and fed you in the desert with manna,
a food unknown to your fathers.”


Psalm 147: “Praise the Lord Jerusalem”
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

1 CORINTHIANS 10:16-17
(The 2nd reading is usually one of Paul’s letters.  It speaks to how the early church built The Church after the passion, death and resurrection).

This week the reading is short:

Brothers and sisters:
The cup of blessing that we bless,
is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?
The bread that we break,
is it not a participation in the body of Christ?
Because the loaf of bread is one,
we, though many, are one body,
for we all partake of the one loaf.

Ultimately, this summarizes for us what our Catholic faith is to us: It is the Eucharist, which is the SOURCE and SUMMIT of our faith.

Paul wrote to an audience in Corinth that did not have full 100% understanding of the Eucharist. Many faithful still practiced Old Testament practices. There was confusion.

Here Paul speaks clearly and re-iterates that when we partake of the Eucharist, we participate in the New Covenant Jesus left. The one he instituted at the Last Supper. The one that opens the gates of Heaven for us as we aim for eternal life. 

Gospel: John 6:51-58

(The Gospel is the highest point of the Liturgy of the Word. That’s why we stand.
We are about to hear from and be instructed by Christ Himself.)

Arguably one of the most contentious speeches in John’s gospel, we are in John 6. This is known as the Bread of Life Discourse. As Catholics, we take Jesus’s command to eat his body and drink his blood literally. This command is not symbolic. Why?

In the Old Testament, Jewish believers showed their faithfulness to God by doing as God commanded – by eating the flesh of an unblemished, sacrificed lamb. That was how the people showed that they were a covenant people.

This OLD Testament act was incomplete in a sense,
meaning more would come when Jesus entered the picture and walked the earth.

The NEW Covenant ushered in by Christ fulfills the OLD. That happened at the Last Supper.

Jesus commanded the disciples to eat his flesh and drink his blood instead of that of a lamb – because He IS that sacrificial lamb. He turned the page from the OLD covenant to the NEW. The old is gone, and the new is here until Jesus comes again.

We are called to participate with Jesus at the Last Supper when we attend mass. We do not, as some suppose “re-kill” Jesus at mass each week. Through Divine Intervention, we are all transported back to that same Last Supper. We are united with Christ in the upper room, with all who have gone before us, and with all the saints and angels

Today, let us give thanks and praise to God for the gift of the New Covenant, the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ! May it lead us to eternal life with Him in Heaven.

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Feast of the Most Holy Trinity (Year A)

Welcome Back to Banquet of the Word!

Join us every week for background on the Sunday readings.
Our mission is simple: We want to help everyone in “pew-land” get more out of mass. Because it’s fun to feel smart about scripture.

Fun Fact:
1. We’re back in Ordinary Time – the color is green in our churches now.
2. It’s summer break. My 4 kids are home with me all day, every day. I apologize the posts lately have been late! I’ll try to post earlier in the coming weeks. 🙂

Image result for moses with tablets

1st Reading – Exodus 34: 4B-6, 8-9
(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel.)

In today’s story, the Lord commands Moses to go BACK up the mountain to get 2 more stone tablets, 2 more tablets with the commandments on them. Why? Because we’re at the point in the story when God had already done that once with Moses, but the people were impatient. They didn’t know why it took so long for Moses to come back to them from atop the mountain.

What was he doing?
When would he come back?
What was wrong?

These may have been their thoughts. So the people, instead of being patient, built a golden calf to worship. This was such a grave sin that it is deemed “The Second Fall” (the first Fall being that of Adam and Eve).

In the reading though, we are after that “Second Fall.” God requests Moses’s presence again. God did not give up on His people, He gave the tablets AGAIN. He gave them a second chance.

Moses hears God say, “The LORD, the LORD, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.”

  1. Have you ever been impatient with God? When?
  2. What did you do to pass the time? Did you “build a golden calf” or were you patient and waiting on the Lord’s timing?
  3. Does someone in your life need a second chance to try again?

Early in the morning Moses went up Mount Sinai
as the LORD had commanded him,
taking along the two stone tablets.

Having come down in a cloud, the LORD stood with Moses there
and proclaimed his name, “LORD.”
Thus the LORD passed before him and cried out,
“The LORD, the LORD, a merciful and gracious God,
slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.”
Moses at once bowed down to the ground in worship.
Then he said, “If I find favor with you, O Lord,
do come along in our company.
This is indeed a stiff-necked people; yet pardon our wickedness and sins,
and receive us as your own.”

Psalm – Deuteronomy 3: Glory and Praise Forever!
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

The response today comes not from the book of psalms, but from the book of Deuteronomy. This is fitting because in the first reading God gave Moses the law (the tablets) for the second time. “Deuteronomy” literally means “second giving of the law.”

2nd Reading: 2 Corinthians 13: 11-13
(The 2nd reading is usually one of Paul’s letters.
  It speaks to how the early church built The Church after the, death and resurrection).

These verses come at the tail end of Paul’s second letter to those in Corinth. The people there, the church there, was divided.

Paul works to unite them again, and he drives the point home up until the very end of the letter with these words:

Brothers and sisters, rejoice.
Mend your ways, encourage one another,
agree with one another, live in peace,
and the God of love and peace will be with you.
Greet one another with a holy kiss.
All the holy ones greet you.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
and the love of God
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

  1. With whom do you need to mend ways? Whom can you encourage this week?
  2. Do you live in a peaceful home? How do you contribute to peace there? To strife?

Gospel – John 3: 16-18
(The Gospel is the highest point of the Liturgy of the Word. That’s why we stand.

We are about to hear from and be instructed by Christ Himself.)

Today we hear one of the most famous gospel verses – John 3:16. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

When God gave us Jesus, Jesus eventually left us with the Holy Spirit here on Earth. These three make up our trinitarian God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Three in One.

Though not prompted by anything in particular, but knowing its popularity among the masses (at football games, for example), I sat in adoration a ways back thinking of this verse.

The part that stood out was the words “the world.”

God so loved THE WORLD that He gave His only son.

He didn’t love some and not others, young but not old, good but not bad – He loves them ALL. He so loved the world – past, present, future – that He gave us Jesus.

That’s an immense love. I felt small thinking about that. I am a mere grain of sand in God’s world, and yet to Him I am more precious than gold.

So are you. So is every being He created. And He gave us Jesus so we might be led back to the Father through His son.

  1. When is the last time you pondered God’s love for you?
  2. How can you respond to that love? Are you working toward eternal life with God in Heaven?

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned,
because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

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Feast of Pentecost (Year A)

Welcome Back to Banquet of the Word!
Join us every week for background on the Sunday readings.
Our mission is simple:
We want to help everyone in “pew-land” get more out of mass.
Because feeling smart about scripture is fun.

 

Buckle up! Today is packed with meaning.

liturgical calendar

Where in the liturgical year are we?

Today we celebrate Pentecost, which marks the end of the Easter season. In the image above, we are at the black line between “Easter” and “Ordinary Time.”

“Ordinary” does not mean plain, it means ordinal, as in, “in a numbered fashion.” After today,  we return to Old Testament readings for R1, and for Reading 2 we will hear from one of St. Paul’s letters. Because we are in year A, we will continue to hear from Matthew.

Pentecost originated in the Old Testament; it was called the Feast of Harvest. “Pente” + “Cost” translates loosely to “fiftieth (50th).”

Here’s why that matters. Stay with me:

Fun fact:
For the Jews, Pentecost was celebrated 50 days after the Feast of Firstfruits. This feast marks the day the people gave an offering to the Lord from their first fruits (from the best, heartiest foods they’d grown).

For us today, Pentecost is celebrated 50 days after Jesus was crucified. This begs the question, how was Jesus’s death considered a first fruit? Well, if a first fruit is an offering, then Jesus’s death certainly was an offering of his life for our sins.

Reading 1: Acts 2:1-11
(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel. During the Easter season the 1st reading is Acts of the Apostles.)

Today we see the gift Jesus left for his people after He Ascends into Heaven – the Holy Spirit. It comes as boldly as ever – in the form of fire. You may recall that in the OT, God’s presence is represented by both Cloud & Fire.

Today it’s all about FIRE.

  • God appeared to Moses in the form of a burning bush.
  • When Moses led the Israelites through the desert he was guided by a fire at night.
  • God signed a contract with Abraham using fire.

Fire is not always destructive, but as in this case, fire is a sign of God’s intense love for his people.

The reading begins by stating “they were all in one place together.” This is similar to the Feast of Pentecost from the OT, which was a pilgrim feast. Then we hear that a noise like a strong driving wind, and “there appeared to them tongues as a fire which came to rest on each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues as the spirit enabled them.” People from all lands were able to speak their own native languages and yet … understand everyone around them.

This is the complete opposite of the Tower of Babel story from the OT. In that story, God’s people tried to build a tower that would reach the heavens so that they could be more like God. In response to this sinful act, God mixed up their languages so they couldn’t understand each other. Today’s reading is the resolution of that story. The Tower of Babel story is flipped on its head, and now as the Holy Spirit comes down upon the apostles. Everyone can understand one another and there is peace and harmony among the people, as well as great joy. A perfect example of how the OT is the “question” and the NT is the “answer.”

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled,
they were all in one place together.
And suddenly there came from the sky
a noise like a strong driving wind,
and it filled the entire house in which they were.
Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,
which parted and came to rest on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem.
At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd,
but they were confused
because each one heard them speaking in his own language.
They were astounded, and in amazement they asked,
“Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans?
Then how does each of us hear them in his native language?
We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites,
inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia,
Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,
Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene,
as well as travelers from Rome,
both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs,
yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues
of the mighty acts of God.”

Responsorial Psalm 104:
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)
“Lord send out your spirit and renew the face of the Earth.”

If you take away their breath, they perish
and return to their dust.
When you send forth your spirit, they are created,
and you renew the face of the earth.

2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13
(The 2nd reading is usually one of Paul’s letters.  During Easter we hear from St. Peter. The 2nd reading speaks to how the early church built The Church after the life death and resurrection).

Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is written to help the early church understand the need for Unity. Many of the Corinthians used to be pagans and idolaters.

The reading encourages them to remember that despite our differences we are one in God’s Holy Spirit. That Spirit has been poured out upon the apostles today – the Feast of Pentecost. Paul takes note of the differences we all have and says they all are good. Importantly, these differences do not negate our oneness because all of our ministries are inspired and guided by God.

Brothers and sisters:
No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;
there are different forms of service but the same Lord;
there are different workings but the same God
who produces all of them in everyone.
To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit
is given for some benefit.

As a body is one though it has many parts,
and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body,
so also Christ.
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,
whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons,
and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.

Reflect:
What are your specific gifts from God?
How are you using those to bring glory to God?

(At this point during the mass, many parishes will sing the Veni sancte spiritus which translates Come Holy Spirit. This is also frequently song during confirmation masses.)

Gospel: John 20: 19-23
(The Gospel is the highest point of the Liturgy of the Word. That’s why we stand.

We are about to hear from and be instructed by Christ Himself.)

 “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst. He said to them “Peace be with you.’ when he had said this he showed them his hands and his side. He said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me so I send you.’ When he said this he breathed on them and said receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Two things happen in this reading:
1) The sacrament of penance is instituted, and
2) We see a “sending forth” of Jesus’s first priests.

The apostles were asked to carry Christ’s message to the whole world, including His forgiveness. These priests and all priests today are ambassadors for Christ in a special way.

I’ve struggled with John 20:23 – the part about retaining sins. Maybe you have too, and maybe this will help. From Catholic.com:

  • “Q: Does a priest always have to forgive a person’s sins?
  • A: No, the priest does not always have to forgive your sins. For example, if you confessed the sin of adultery, and the priest asks, “Have you ended the affair?” If you reply, “No, I’ll continue seeing her,” then forgiveness would not be possible because there is no purpose of amendment. A contrite heart – true sorrow for having offended God – is the key.

The advantages of reconciliation are many. From Catholic.com:

Is the Catholic who confesses his sins to a priest any better off than the non-Catholic who confesses directly to God? Yes. First, he seeks forgiveness the way Christ intended. Second, by confessing to a priest, the Catholic learns a lesson in humility, which is avoided when one confesses only through private prayer. Third, the Catholic receives sacramental graces the non-Catholic doesn’t get; through the sacrament of penance sins are forgiven and graces are obtained. Fourth, the Catholic is assured that his sins are forgiven; he does not have to rely on a subjective “feeling.” Lastly, the Catholic can also obtain sound advice on avoiding sin in the future.

When is the last time you went to confession?

If it has been a long time, what exactly is holding you back? 

Pray for the courage to go. Our Lord, waits patiently for us!

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6th Sunday of Easter (Year A)

Welcome Back to Banquet of the Word!
Join us every week for background on this Sunday readings.
Our mission is simple: We want to help everyone in “pew-land” get more out of mass. Because it’s fun to feel smart about scripture.

Today’s theme is “Joy in the Lord.”

Image result for image of the word: Joy

Fun Fact:
The verse right before our first reading today has Saul (who becomes St. Paul in the next chapter) persecuting the Church. “But Saul laid waste the Church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.” He actually sounds like the angel of death God sent on the night of Passover, who also went “house to house” killing their first-born sons.

1st Reading: Acts 8:5-8, 14-17
(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel. During the Easter season the 1st reading is Acts of the Apostles.)

Here we see the apostles as they spread the faith, despite acts from people like Saul. Phillip proclaims the Christ in Samaria. He performed miracles that converted many souls. Notably, these miracles brought great joy to the city.  Once converted in Samaria, Peter and John were sent down to the church St. Philip had converted and brought the fullness of the Holy Spirit [read: confirmation].

The key to this reading in my mind is the joy in the city. The Word of God always brings inexplicable joy.

  1. How have you experienced inexplicable joy in your life?
  2. How have you been a “Philip” to others this past week? Or has someone brought the Word to you in a new way?

Responsorial Psalm 66: “Let all the Earth cry out to God with joy.”
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

Again, hear the joy in this psalm! The joy of living according to God never ends – we must but choose it!

Shout joyfully to God, all the earth,
sing praise to the glory of his name;
proclaim his glorious praise.
Say to God, “How tremendous are your deeds!”

“Let all on earth worship and sing praise to you,
sing praise to your name!”
Come and see the works of God,
his tremendous deeds among the children of Adam.

2nd reading: 1 PT 3:15-18
(The 2nd reading is usually one of Paul’s letters. During Easter we hear from St. Peter. The 2nd reading speaks to how the early church built The Church after the,  death and resurrection).

My first thought when seeing this reading and the line, “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope,” is this web site:  http://thereasonforourhope.org/category/homilies/

A few years ago, as my penance, a priest handed me a CD of a talk given by a Fr. Larry Richards of Erie, PA. I’ve been hooked on Fr. Larry ever since, and his non-profit called the “A Reason for Our Hope Foundation.” He brings this very verse to life in his ministry. He is now a frequent host on EWTN and I love his sharp, humorous style. I sometimes go to the above web site for his 10-minute homily (he records it every week) to hear the gospel from another perspective.

Always be ready to give a reason for YOUR hope. As St. Peter says, do it with gentleness and reverence. “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.”

Think about that – it is better to suffer for doing GOOD, than for doing evil.

  1. What does that verse mean to you? What is the Reason for Your Hope in God, in Catholicism?
  2. How have you suffered for doing good?

John 14: 15-21
(The Gospel is the highest point of the Liturgy of the Word. That’s why we stand.
We are about to hear from and be instructed by Christ Himself.)

A reminder that in John’s gospel, we hear a lot about Jesus and his relationship with God the Father. We read that they are one, and that our way to the Father is through Jesus.

Read and listen to this reading though. How many times do you see the words “I”, “you,” “the Father”, “through”, and “me”? A LOT. It is almost dizzying to hear it read. I think that’s telling in and of itself. The Father and Jesus are so much “one” that we cannot tell one from the other. They are the same, two sides of the same coin, two parts of the same trinity.

We also hear about The Advocate here, which is the third person of the trinity, the Holy Spirit. The Advocate acts for us on Earth NOW. He guides the Church. He was left for us by Jesus when he ascended into heaven (The Ascension is next weekend).

The point? If we love Jesus and obey his commandments, He will reveal himself to us. We will experience Jesus and He will show himself to us in new ways – ways that help us better understand why He created us, what our purpose is, and how we can best serve Him. Now that, is great JOY.

  1. How has Jesus revealed himself to us in our lives thus far?
  2. Which commandments do we struggle to obey that might separate us from our Triune God? As for the grace to follow God always.
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3rd Sunday of Easter (Year A)

Welcome Back to Banquet of the Word!
Our mission is simple:
We want to help everyone in “pew-land” get more out of mass.
Because it’s fun to feel smart about scripture.

Fun fact:
The section we hear in the first reading is from Acts chapter 2. Some scholars suggest it is the first time the gospel is publicly proclaimed after the resurrection. That’s pretty cool. We see Peter in a more mature state then during the Passion when he rejected Jesus.

1st Reading – ACTS 2:14, 22-33
(The 1st Reading always links to the Gospel.
During the Easter season it comes from Acts of the Apostles.)

Just a few verses prior to this reading, the apostles received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Now, a more mature and courageous Peter addresses the crowd before him. We start in verse 14 and skip to verse 22.

(In the missing verses, Peter recounts how God “will pour out his Spirit upon all of his sons and daughters” and that “they shall prophesy” on his behalf.  Peter reminds the crowd what happened during the crucifixion and that Jesus was “killed at the hands of lawless men.”)

Then Peter does something interesting.

He speaks of King David and quotes Psalm 16, which David penned. In this hymn, David rejoices and praise for preservation from death. Peter here tells the crowds that though David died, his prayer is fulfilled in the Messiah – the only one to have risen from the dead untouched by sin.

Essentially, Peter draws a clear comparison for his audience that Jesus the Christ has fulfilled the Old Testament promise of David. He is connecting the dots for them, whilst calling them to be sons and daughters and help spread the good news.

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven,
raised his voice, and proclaimed:
“You who are Jews, indeed all of you staying in Jerusalem.
Let this be known to you, and listen to my words.
You who are Israelites, hear these words.
Jesus the Nazarene was a man commended to you by God
with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs,
which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know.
This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God,
you killed, using lawless men to crucify him.
But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death,
because it was impossible for him to be held by it.
For David says of him:
I saw the Lord ever before me,
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
Therefore my heart has been glad and my tongue has exulted;
my flesh, too, will dwell in hope,
because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld,
nor will you suffer your holy one to see corruption.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.

“My brothers, one can confidently say to you
about the patriarch David that he died and was buried,
and his tomb is in our midst to this day.
But since he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn an oath to him
that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne,
he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ,
that neither was he abandoned to the netherworld
nor did his flesh see corruption.
God raised this Jesus;
of this we are all witnesses.
Exalted at the right hand of God,
he received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father
and poured him forth, as you see and hear.”

Reflect:
1. How are we like Peter? Where in our lives have we been spiritually immature and, perhaps by calling on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, how did we then mature?

2. Which gifts of the Holy Spirit will help us most in the week ahead?

Responsorial Psalm 16: “you will show me the path of life”
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

​This psalm is a slam dunk on two accounts.

First, it is the same psalm Peter quoted in the first reading from David. Secondly, the response verse speaks about “the path of life.”

This foreshadows the Gospel reading, the road to Emmaus,  which serves an the archetype of the path of our faith lives as we journey to the gates of Heaven.

Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge;
I say to the LORD, “My Lord are you.”
O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.I bless the LORD who counsels me;
even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.

Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,
my body, too, abides in confidence;
because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld,
nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.

You will show me the path to life,
abounding joy in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.

Reflect:
1. Read the psalm all the way through. Which resonates most with you?

2ND READING: 1 PT 1:17-21
(The 2nd reading is usually one of Paul’s letters. Today it’s from Peter. It speaks to how the early church spread the Word of Christ after his passion, death and resurrection).

Hearing again from Peter and his first letter, the audience – both then and now – is being called to holiness. Immediately before the first verse we here at mass, Peter said, “you shall be holy for I am holy.” He’s not referring to himself. This is a quote from the book of Leviticus which was repeated multiple times to the Israelites (due to their stubborn hearts of stone).

Here, Peter wants us to know that God also expects holiness from his people not just in the Old Covenant, but in the New Covenant, too.  We are reminded that we were ransomed by the precious blood of Christ died for our sins. We are to love one another earnestly with soft hearts of flesh (OT reference) not hard hearts of stone (NT reference).

 

Beloved:
If you invoke as Father him who judges impartially
according to each one’s works,
conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your sojourning,
realizing that you were ransomed from your futile conduct,
handed on by your ancestors,
not with perishable things like silver or gold
but with the precious blood of Christ
as of a spotless unblemished lamb.

He was known before the foundation of the world
but revealed in the final time for you,
who through him believe in God
who raised him from the dead and gave him glory,
so that your faith and hope are in God.

Reflect:
1. Where in our lives can we become more holy? What leads us into temptation, and how can we become more aware?
2. When in our lives have we exhibited hearts of stone like the Israelites, and what was the outcome? When in our lives have we exhibited compassionate hearts of flesh, and what was the outcome?


Gospel: LK 24:13-35
(The Gospel is the highest point of the Liturgy of the Word. That’s why we stand.
We are about to hear from and be instructed by Christ Himself.)Image result for images road to emmaus

The Road to Emmaus

​Today we have the road to Emmaus, one of my all-time favorite stories. There is so much meaning it is difficult to unpack it all here. I hope your homilist cracks it open for you. Key pieces:

  • It’s Easter morning. The two who walk with Jesus do not recognize Him.
  • The irony: They ask, “Are you the only one who doesn’t know what happened this weekend?” Reality: Jesus is the only one who DOES know what happened!
  • We see here The First Mass. How?
    • Jesus preached the Word “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” He did this for the 7 mile walk – talk about an in-depth bible study! This corresponds to the Liturgy of the Word. We hear from the Old Testament, often the prophets, and a priest interprets the gospel, which concerns Jesus’s teachings. 
    • Then the two said, “Stay with us!” Jesus did. He then took bread and blessed it, broke it and gave it to them. This corresponds to the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Jesus feeds us with his body and blood, in the form of bread and wine. 

The key here is that the eyes of the two travelers were only opened once they were fed Jesus’s body and blood at table. Before that, they did not fully recognize Him. What did they say after receiving Eucharist?

“Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road?”

This speaks so clearly to the Church’s position that it is the Eucharist that is the source and summit of our lives. It is what makes the Catholic faith the fullness of Christ’s Church. Without it, we cannot see nor recognize Him fully.

Reflect:

1. Do we truly believe the Eucharist is the source and summit of our lives? How can we increase our devotion to this sacrament?

2. How does this story change if we assume the two on the road with Jesus are husband and wife, bride and groom? Where else is there marital language in the scriptures?

3. Where am I on my “road to Emmaus?” Do I allow God to walk with me for miles and miles, speaking and preaching to me all that He is? How and when can I invite Him to walk with me more this week?

That very day, the first day of the week,
two of Jesus’ disciples were going
to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus,
and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.
And it happened that while they were conversing and debating,
Jesus himself drew near and walked with them,
but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
He asked them,
“What are you discussing as you walk along?”
They stopped, looking downcast.
One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply,
“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem
who does not know of the things
that have taken place there in these days?”
And he replied to them, “What sort of things?”
They said to him,
“The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene,
who was a prophet mighty in deed and word
before God and all the people,
how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over
to a sentence of death and crucified him.
But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel;
and besides all this,
it is now the third day since this took place.
Some women from our group, however, have astounded us:
they were at the tomb early in the morning
and did not find his body;
they came back and reported
that they had indeed seen a vision of angels
who announced that he was alive.
Then some of those with us went to the tomb
and found things just as the women had described,
but him they did not see.”
And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are!
How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!
Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things
and enter into his glory?”
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets,
he interpreted to them what referred to him
in all the Scriptures.
As they approached the village to which they were going,
he gave the impression that he was going on farther.
But they urged him, “Stay with us,
for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”
So he went in to stay with them.
And it happened that, while he was with them at table,
he took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, and gave it to them.
With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him,
but he vanished from their sight.
Then they said to each other,
“Were not our hearts burning within us
while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”
So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem
where they found gathered together
the eleven and those with them who were saying,
“The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!”
Then the two recounted
what had taken place on the way
and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread.

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14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Welcome Back to Banquet of the Word!

Join us every week for background on the Sunday readings.
Our mission is simple: We want to help everyone in “pew-land” get more out of mass. Because it’s fun to feel smart about scripture.

Today’s theme = The yoke. “My yoke is easy and my burden, light.”

Image result for yoke image
Above: A standard yoke.

Fun Fact about Reading 1:
Today we are in Zechariah, one of the minor prophets. For a refresher on the concept of The Divided Kingdom – a key event in understanding the bible – check out the beginning of these posts from January 2016 and March 2017.

Fun Fact about Reading 2:
Paul talks to the Romans about the concept of “flesh” and “spirit.” We can improve our understanding if we know what a gnostic is. Gnosticism was a heresy from the early church. They did not believe Christ was ever fully human. Instead they believed:

All matter (our bodies, things “of the flesh”) = EVIL
Relating to the spirit (of God) = GOOD

ZEC 9:9-10
(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel.)

Zechariah spoke to the Israelites after the kingdom divided and before the Exile. Today we have his most famous prophesy (in bold):

Thus says the LORD:
Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion,
shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king shall come to you;
a just savior is he,
meek, and riding on an ass,
on a colt, the foal of an ass.
He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim,
and the horse from Jerusalem;
the warrior’s bow shall be banished,
and he shall proclaim peace to the nations.
His dominion shall be from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.

This gets to be more fun now because we can link this verse to the New Testament words of Matthew 21: 4-5 which says of Jesus:

This happened so that what had been spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled:

“Say to daughter Zion, ‘Behold, your king comes to you, meek and riding on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”

We clearly see Zechariah’s prophecy fulfilled when Jesus – the Just Savior – enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday riding on an ass.

PS 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13-14
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

“I will praise your name forever, my King and my God.”

A fitting song that offers verse after verse of praise, thanksgiving, and reminders of God’s faithfulness to his people – both then and now.

I will extol you, O my God and King,
and I will bless your name forever and ever.
Every day will I bless you,
and I will praise your name forever and ever.

The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The LORD is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.

ROM 8:9, 11-13
(The 2nd reading is usually one of Paul’s letters. The 2nd reading speaks to how the early church built The Church after the, death and resurrection).

As you listen to Paul’s words, remember that we are to be predominantly Spirit, not Flesh:

Brothers and sisters:
You are not in the flesh;
on the contrary, you are in the spirit,
if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.
Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you,
the one who raised Christ from the dead
will give life to your mortal bodies also,
through his Spirit that dwells in you.
Consequently, brothers and sisters,
we are not debtors to the flesh,
to live according to the flesh.
For if you live according to the flesh, you will die,
but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body,
you will live.

He tells us if we live in the flesh we will die, whereas if we live in the Spirit (of Christ) we will live with Him forever.

  1. How do we live according to the flesh in our own lives? How does this keep us farther from God?
  2. How can we live in the Spirit a little more this week? What small step toward Christ can we take this week? Maybe it’s a prayer before getting out of bed. Time in adoration. A kindness toward another.

Let us live in the spirit this week!

MT 11:25-30
(The Gospel is the highest point of the Liturgy of the Word. That’s why we stand.
We are about to hear from and be instructed by Christ Himself.)

A little context helps here…Let’s back up a few verses.

Before Jesus says the words of today’s gospel, he warned the towns and speaks in a corrective tone: “He began to reproach the towns where most of his mighty deeds had been done, since they had not repented. Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon,* they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes.'”

He then speaks words of praise for God the Father and their oneness. Jesus speaks words of judgment for the sake of restoration.

This is a major and key theme of the entire bible:
From Judgment to Restoration.

Many prophets spoke words of judgment for the sake of restoration. God’s actions in the Old Testament were actions of judgment for the sake of restoration. Before the words of today’s gospel, Jesus spoke words of judgment. Now let’s listen to his words of restoration:

“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to little ones.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

The reference here to a yoke usually connotes slavery of persons or animals:

animal yoke

Jesus flips this image on its head. HIS yoke is a tool that unites us to Him.

We WANT to be tied to him and lead by Him. HIS yoke, unlike those attached to animals or slaves, is light…even easy. We are called to unite with Jesus and embrace his yoke willingly.

Reflect: Are we more often yoked to Christ, or are we yoked to sin? It’s probably a mixture of both. The key is that we desire to tip the balance so that we are more often yoked to Christ during our days, and less often yoked to sin.

May God bless your week!

Image result for image of yoke

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13th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Welcome Back to Banquet of the Word!

Join us every week for background on this Sunday readings.
Our mission is simple:
We want to help everyone in “pew-land” get more out of mass.

Today’s themes:
1. When we make a place for God in our lives, He will reward us both in life and in Heaven.
2. Opposites and juxtapositions can be both confusing and clear.

2 KGS 4:8-11, 14-16A
(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel.)

purchase a house

Ever heard it said that God has a sense of humor? There’s some real irony in the scriptures when it comes to the 2 books of Kings. During one of my bible studies, someone asked,

“Why are these books even in scripture? So much of the content is just about a bunch of bad behaving, selfish, idol-worshiping kings! How did these books make the cut and end up in the bible, the Word of God?”

Great question. The simple answer is that God sometimes shows us what not to do, in order to teach us what to do. This is the case in the books of Kings.

We see kings who fight, worship idols, kill, scheme, cheat and lie. Scholars think this is so we can:

1) recognize that earthly kings were never God’s idea (the Israelites begged Samuel, “Give us a king to lead us!”) and

2) Earthly kings, whether they try to be good or don’t – are imperfect. God is the only true and perfect King.

Today, Elisha the prophet (he took Elijah’s place) travels to a town and a woman invites him in to serve him food and give him rest. Elisha comes to town often, so the woman makes a semi-permanent place for him. He can come whenever he’s there (think Mother-in-law suite).

Seeing this act of love and disposition toward the good, Elisha rewards her with the gift of her first child.

  1. In our lives, how do we make space for God? Do we have an “in-law suite” for Jesus and invite Him in on a daily basis?
  2. What does it look like, and how do we participate in that space? Maybe we have a special prayer chair, a corner of the dresser with a crucifix or rosary, perhaps we set aside time to read scripture or other literature. How can your space be “dusted off” this week?

One day Elisha came to Shunem,
where there was a woman of influence, who urged him to dine with her.
Afterward, whenever he passed by, he used to stop there to dine.
So she said to her husband, “I know that Elisha is a holy man of God.
Since he visits us often, let us arrange a little room on the roof
and furnish it for him with a bed, table, chair, and lamp,
so that when he comes to us he can stay there.”
Sometime later Elisha arrived and stayed in the room overnight.

Later Elisha asked, “Can something be done for her?”
His servant Gehazi answered, “Yes!
She has no son, and her husband is getting on in years.”
Elisha said, “Call her.”
When the woman had been called and stood at the door,
Elisha promised, “This time next year
you will be fondling a baby son.”

Psalm 89: Forever I will Sing the Goodness of the Lord
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

Listen to the psalm’s words today. Picture the woman in the first reading singing it to the Lord after, despite her late age, Elisha granted her the blessing of a son.

The promises of the LORD I will sing forever,
through all generations my mouth shall proclaim your faithfulness.
For you have said, “My kindness is established forever;”
in heaven you have confirmed your faithfulness.

ROM 6:3-4, 8-11
(The 2nd reading is usually one of Paul’s letters.The 2nd reading speaks to how the early church built The Church after the, death and resurrection).

We’ll be in Paul’s letter to the Romans from now until mid-September!  In the first portion (today), Paul reminds the people they are in desperate need of a Savior.

He tell them this with juxtapositions and opposites. Jesus will do this in the gospel, too. In order for us to RISE with Christ, we must first DIE with Christ. In order to enjoy Heaven, we must endure suffering. He continues, as you’ll hear.

This is not Paul just ranting. These are words we must consider deeply. Maybe our sufferings are the loss of a loved one. Cancer or terminal illness. Miscarriage. Difficult children. Fallen away family members. Marital strife. Financial peril. Depression. Joblessness. The list goes on.

As baptized Christians, are we ready and willing to unite ourselves to Christ’s glory and His suffering? That’s a serious question. Paul says in order to have newness of life with Christ, we must “be dead to sin” as He was.

Brothers and sisters:
Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus
were baptized into his death?
We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death,
so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead
by the glory of the Father,
we too might live in newness of life.

If, then, we have died with Christ,
we believe that we shall also live with him.
We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more;
death no longer has power over him.
As to his death, he died to sin once and for all;
as to his life, he lives for God.
Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as dead to sin
and living for God in Christ Jesus.

MT 10:37-42

(The Gospel is the highest point of the Liturgy of the Word. That’s why we stand.
We are about to hear from and be instructed by Christ Himself.)

Today’s gospel is a beauty. It’s full of opposites; thought provoking juxtapositions.

In the first line, we have to clear the air though. Jesus says, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” This does not mean we shouldn’t love your mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter or friend!

Jesus is using hyperbole. He means that our love for these people should be a mere shadow compared to the love we have for Our God, Our Heavenly Father. That goes back to the question, do you have a mother-in-law suite for God?).

Here come the opposites:

  • Whoever finds his life will lose it,
    and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
  • Whoever receives you receives me,
    and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.
  • Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet
    will receive a prophet’s reward (think back to Elisha the prophet in reading 1)
  • Whoever receives a righteous man
    because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward.
  • Whoever gives only a cup of cold water
    to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple—

Amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”

What are we to do with these phrases? WE are supposed to be the “whoever” in these statements (except for the first one). Let’s go back and re-read those 5 bullets above. Now that “he” in the last line of the gospel? That’s “whoever.”

Some of us might not like being called “whoever,” but that’s who God calls us to be today. Whoever does those things in the bullets will “surely not lose his reward.”

Jesus said to his apostles:
“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,
and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
and whoever does not take up his cross
and follow after me is not worthy of me.
Whoever finds his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

“Whoever receives you receives me,
and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.
Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet
will receive a prophet’s reward,
and whoever receives a righteous man
because he is a righteous man
will receive a righteous man’s reward.
And whoever gives only a cup of cold water
to one of these little ones to drink
because the little one is a disciple—
amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”

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5th Sunday of Easter (Year A)

Welcome Back to Banquet of the Word!
Find this weekend’s readings here.

Our mission is simple: We want to help everyone in “pew-land” get more out of mass. Because it’s fun to feel smart about scripture.

Today’s theme? The Way.

heavenly house

Happy Mother’s Day! Today we see readings that reflect “homes” or “houses.” It’s pretty cool, especially since that’s where we are spending so much of our time these days!

  • In R1 we see The Church “house” grow. It adds another “room.” Now we have more than priests, we have deacons too.
  • In R2 Peter tells us to “let yourselves be built in to a spiritual house.” That house must be built on Christ, our cornerstone.
  • In the Gospel we are told that God has built a room for us in His Heavenly house. In order to find our way to that dwelling place, we must follow Jesus, who leads us to The Father.

R1: ACTS 6:1-7
(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel. During the Easter season the 1st reading is Acts of the Apostles.)

Today we are in Acts chapter 6 and we are introduced to St. Stephen. He was the first martyr after the resurrection. He is also one of the deacons that had been ordained due to the growth of the church at this point.

Similar to today, the priests were in the churches and cities for the purpose of performing the sacraments and presiding over mass. The deacons were ordained to be helpers, to serve the growing church.

Deacons devoted themselves to 1) prayer and 2) the ministry of the word. That doesn’t just mean learning scripture, it means ministering The Word (The Word = Jesus) to the community.

As the number of disciples continued to grow,
the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews
because their widows
were being neglected in the daily distribution.
So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said,
“It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table.
Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men,
filled with the Spirit and wisdom,
whom we shall appoint to this task,
whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer
and to the ministry of the word.”
The proposal was acceptable to the whole community,
so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit,
also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas,
and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism.
They presented these men to the apostles
who prayed and laid hands on them.
The word of God continued to spread,
and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly;
even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

We all have a role in the Church. How are we “ministers of “The Word” in our lives?

From whom do we learn how to do this? How is God calling us to minister to Him this week?

Psalm 33: Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

Listen to these verses as they respond to the first reading and its call to minister to The Word:

Upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.

Reading 2: 1 PT 2:4-9
(The 2nd reading is usually one of Paul’s letters.  During Easter we hear from St. Peter. The 2nd reading speaks to how the early church built The Church after the, death and resurrection).

Here, Peter addresses a group who is being challenged to keep the faith. The environment is hostile to their way of life and they need strength, which Peter provides.

It is the well-known reading, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” The stone of course is Christ – the hard and strong foundation of our faith lives. Though he has been rejected (killed and hung on a tree), he remains the cornerstone – the Alpha and the Omega.

The last few lines are a wonderful summary of the beautiful faith into which we have been baptized. Spoken to us too in our current lives, we ought to pay heed to these words:

Beloved:
Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings
but chosen and precious in the sight of God,
and, like living stones,
let yourselves be built into a spiritual house
to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices
acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
For it says in Scripture:
Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion,
a cornerstone, chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame.

Therefore, its value is for you who have faith, but for those without faith:
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,

and
A stone that will make people stumble,
and a rock that will make them fall.

They stumble by disobeying the word, as is their destiny.

You are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, a people of his own,
so that you may announce the praises” of him
who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Gospel: John 14:1-12
(The Gospel is the highest point of the Liturgy of the Word. That’s why we stand.

We are about to hear from and be instructed by Christ Himself.)

Why are we in John’s Gospel?
We are in John this week, and have been for a most of Eastertide. John is NOT one of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke).

Matthew, Mark and Luke pave our liturgical years and are heard over and over as Year A (Matthew), Year B (Mark) and Year C (Luke). We are currently in Year A, but in Eastertide we often hear from John. He is in a category all his own because of 2 key pieces:

  1. The Bread of Life discourse (Chapter 6)
  2. So much of John’s gospel talks about the relationship between Jesus and The Father.

Today’s Gospel:
Today’s reading is all about #2 above. We can just listen to the gospel and take to heart what we hear.  We can also note that at the time of Jesus, those who followed Him were called “The Way.” (Jesus often said, I am “The Way.”) This phrase is also part of the Road to Emmaus gospel from 2 weeks ago:

“…Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way
and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread.”

Back to the followers… they were called “The Way”, and it again gives added meaning to the phrase when we hear it in the Gospel. Today we hear that there is a dwelling place – a room in His house for us all – in Heaven. Isn’t that cool?

That place is there right now, prepared for us by God himself. He wants us there with Him when we depart this Earth. Jesus says the only way there is through Jesus to the Father.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled.
You have faith in God; have faith also in me.
In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.
If there were not,
would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come back again and take you to myself,
so that where I am you also may be.
Where I am going you know the way.”

Thomas said to him,
“Master, we do not know where you are going;
how can we know the way?”

Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.
If you know me, then you will also know my Father.
From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to him,
“Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time
and you still do not know me, Philip?
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?
The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own.
The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.
Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me,
or else, believe because of the works themselves.

Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes in me will do the works that I do,
and will do greater ones than these,
because I am going to the Father.”

1. Are we following the way – the path – to our Heavenly home? If so, how? If not, how are we veering away?

2. How are our earthly homes models of the heavenly home we aim to live in someday? How can we improve that house (our families, our homes, our communities)?

May God bless your week!

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4th Sunday of Easter (Year A)

Welcome Back to Banquet of the Word!

Join us every week for background on the Sunday readings.
Our mission is simple: We want to help everyone in “pew-land” get more out of mass. Because it’s fun to feel smart about scripture.

Today we have themes of listening to voices – listening to Peter in R1 and R2. And also images in the Psalm and the Gospel of us as sheep and Christ as The Great Shepherd.

Image result for sheep Jesus pasture image

R1: Acts of the Apostles 2:14a, 36-41
(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel. During the Easter season the 1st reading is Acts of the Apostles.)

Today we hear “Part 2” of Peter’s speech from last week.  Pentecost had already taken place. Some scholars suggest this is first time the gospel was publicly proclaimed after the resurrection. We see Peter in a more mature state then during the Passion when he rejected Jesus. He speaks, and the crowds today – they do listen. So much so that they are “cut to the heart.”

Peter says, “Let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

When they heard this, they were “cut to the heart.” This image is quite strong and dramatic. Recall that in the Old Testament, God speaks of the Israelites’ hearts of stone. Throughout Jesus’s ministry He speaks about a heart of flesh that is soft, malleable and open to His grace. It seems that here we see the words of Peter “cut” the hearts of the hearers. This suggests that The Truth Peter speaks is penetrating their hearts of stone and beginning to transition their hearts into hearts of flesh.

Reflect: 1) When has your heart been one of stone? One of flesh? 2) When you (or someone else) see your heart more stone-like, what actions do you take to soften it?


Responsorial Psalm: 23 “The Lord is My Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.”
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

A familiar and beautiful response, this psalm foreshadows the Gospel reading today about the sheepgate. Its words teach us to put our faith and trust in God 100%. When we are baptized in Christ and confirmed in the Holy Spirit as those at Pentecost were, we can say with confidence that “The Lord is my shepherd and that we want for nothing.”

R2: 1 Peter 2: 20b-25
(The 2nd reading is usually one of Paul’s letters.
  During Easter we hear from St. Peter. The 2nd reading speaks to how the early church built The Church after the, death and resurrection).

In this reading Peter urges his readers – and us – to imitate what Christ did for us on the cross: To embrace suffering. “If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you…”

It certainly is a strange feeling to know that God calls us to suffer. But the gift is unwrapped and opened for us if we are able to embrace it as Jesus did instead of eschewing it and wishing it away. This is the great mystery of life and contrary to all that society “teaches.” That suffering is not only something we should expect, but also that we ought to embrace us. Further, that we should know for certain that it will bring us closer to Jesus’s sacred heart.

The last verses tell us what to expect in the gospel: “For you had gone astray like sheep,
but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.”

Reflect:
1) When you have suffered in your life, how have you either rejected or embraced the suffering? Do you see it as a grace or a burden?
2) Who in your life has been a model of embracing suffering?


John: 10: 1-10
(The Gospel is the highest point of the Liturgy of the Word. That’s why we stand.

We are about to hear from and be instructed by Christ Himself.)

In the Old Testament God was often portrayed as a “shepherd” of his covenant people. This is a beautiful image relayed by Jesus. We see a familiar landscape of sheep – some wandering and some closer in, a shepherd and a sheepgate.

“Whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.
The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice,
as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
When he has driven out all his own,
he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him,
because they recognize his voice.”

The disciples don’t understand his analogy at first, so he becomes increasingly direct. He also uses His name – recall that Moses asked God what his name was and He replied that his name was “I AM.”

I am the gate for the sheep.
All who came before me are thieves and robbers,
but the sheep did not listen to them.
I am the gate.
Whoever enters through me will be saved.”

Reflect: 

  1. How good are we at recognizing God’s voice? He speaks to us each in different ways. What’s his strategy with you?
  2. In your life right now, in what ways do you seek to recognize and respond to His voice?

Let us always be able to recognize the voice of our shepherd! If we stay near, he will never let us go astray. May God bless your week!

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2nd Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday (Year A)

Welcome Back to Banquet of the Word!
Happy Divine Mercy Sunday!

divine mercy

Join us every week for background on the Sunday readings.
Our mission is simple: We want to help everyone in “pew-land” get more out of mass.

Click here for the readings.

Fun fact #1 – Lent vs. Easter

Easter is the most glorious season of the Church year. Although we spent 40 days “in the wilderness” for Lent, the Church communicates the joy of Easter by exceeding the time in the wilderness and celebrating the resurrection for 50 days in a row. So by all means, continue to wish one another a Happy Easter!

Fun fact #2 – Goodbye Old Testament…for a while
At the vigil mass on Holy Saturday, we heard from the Old Testament and St. Paul for the last time until Pentecost (June 3). During the Easter season (for year A), every reading is from the New Testament – another way the Church emphasizes the New Covenant into which we were baptized when Christ died on the cross.

  • The 1st reading until Pentecost is from the acts of the apostles.
  • The 2nd reading is from the first letter of Saint Peter, our first Pope.

So buckle up, we are going to unpack these two books from now until June 3.

1st Reading: Acts 2: 42-47
(The 1st Reading is usually Old Testament, but during Easter it’s from Acts of the Apostles. It always links to the Gospel.)

Acts was written by Saint Luke; it’s basically “Part II” of St. Luke’s gospel. It is filled with action and adventure as the apostles built God’s Church on Earth. One of the most important lines is Acts 1:8, because it gives an outline of the book: Jesus tells the apostles,

“You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria,
and to the ends of the earth.”

First we’ll see what the apostles do in Jerusalem.

Then they’ll move out to Judea and Samaria.

Lastly, they’ll make efforts to spread the gospel “to the ends of the earth.” Think of these parts as you would a target, with Jerusalem on the innermost circle.

The apostles move from inner to outer. As Catholics, we’re still working on that outer circle “to the ends of the earth.”

target
Today’s reading:

Today Jesus gives to the apostles to power to forgive sins in His name. What an incredible, amazing gift. When we receive the sacrament of reconciliation, the priests rely on the same power that Jesus gives these apostles in this reading. The power Jesus gave the apostles then, is the same power that has been passed down through generations of ordained Catholic priests.

Every time we go to confession, we receive the benefits that are described in this reading. A flood of grace from God is available to us whenever we want to go. He is the Divine Counselor, our Divine Healer. We are His children, his prodigal sons and daughters.

If it has been a while for you, consider receiving this sacrament this week.  Be Not Afraid!

Another theme to note is “communal living.” This is to contrast from the constant feeling of division and separation from God that was present in the Old Testament. When you read the reading, notice how much togetherness you see and hear:

  • They devoted themselves…to 1) the communal life, 2) to the breaking of bread, and 3) to the prayers.
  • Many wonders and signs were done among them.
  • All who believed were together and held all things in common.

They devoted themselves
to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life,
to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.
Awe came upon everyone,
and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.
All who believed were together and had all things in common;
they would sell their property and possessions
and divide them among all according to each one’s need.
Every day they devoted themselves
to meeting together in the temple area
and to breaking bread in their homes.
They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart,
praising God and enjoying favor with all the people.
And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.


Responsorial Psalm 118 – “Give Thanks to the Lord for He is Good, His Love is Everlasting.” (The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

Our only tie to the Old Testament for now, this psalm reflects the message of the first reading, and fittingly speaks to “Mercy” on this Divine Mercy Sunday:

Let the house of Israel say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
Let those who fear the LORD say,
“His mercy endures forever.”

1 Peter 1:3-9
(The 2nd reading is usually one of Paul’s letters.
 During Easter we hear from Peter. It speaks to how the early church spread the Word of Christ after his passion, death and resurrection).

This reading is all about baptism. It is a beautiful reading to reflect on as we celebrate the first Sunday after Easter – and for all who are baptized into the Church at the Vigil – it speaks a special message to them.

We are called to rejoice in our baptism even though we will most certainly suffer. We also see a glimpse of what the Gospel is about when Peter writes,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading,
kept in heaven for you
who by the power of God are safeguarded through faith,
to a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the final time.
In this you rejoice, although now for a little while
you may have to suffer through various trials,
so that the genuineness of your faith,
more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire,
may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor
at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Although you have not seen him you love him;
even though you do not see him now yet believe in him,
you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy,
as you attain the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

John 20: 19-31
(The Gospel is the highest point of the Liturgy of the Word. That’s why we stand.

We are about to hear from and be instructed by Christ Himself.)

Today Jesus greets the disciples for the first time since his resurrection. He is completely glorified and perfected given his divine nature. Interestingly, he retains the ones from the crucifixion. This is worth some thought.

jesus_thomas

Our bodies – when we go to heaven – will be resurrected and completely perfected at the end of time, at the second coming. However Jesus retains wounds. Why would that be?

Some scholars surmise that this is his way of showing love to all and after all, it is the reason he came to live among us. To die for us so that we might reach heaven in a perfect state and abide with him forever.

Other points of Focus:

  • Jesus coming in even though the doors were locked. (He came through the walls, defying all physical laws.)
  • Think about Thomas’s reaction. How do we resemble Thomas in our own lives? Do we need to see the wounds in order to believe, or can we believe with the eyes of faith?
  • How can we ask God this week to help us believe without needing to see?

On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,
was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
But he said to them,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples
that are not written in this book.
But these are written that you may come to believe
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

May God bless your week!

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Welcome Back to Banquet of the Word!

Join us every week for background on this Sunday readings.
Our mission is simple: We want to help everyone in “pew-land” get more out of mass. Because it’s fun to feel smart about scripture.

This Sunday the theme is … The Word. As in, Scripture;
as in The Banquet of the Word.

Banquet of the Word

Fun fact:
Throughout the four gospels, Jesus speaks in parables. This is for 2 reasons:

1) to conceal and
2) to reveal.

Sometimes Jesus needed to speak “in code” or “conceal” lest he be arrested and killed before his time. Remember that once Jesus began to reveal who he was (around age 30), this did not sit well with many, especially the authorities. He had to be careful. His hour had not yet come.

And he spoke to reveal. By speaking in stories, he was able to reveal his purpose simply and explain the meaning to his closest followers.

IS 55:10-11
(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel.)

Chapter 55 of Isaiah is almost the end of this (very, very long) book. Isaiah is often dubbed “the 5th gospel” because of the immense coverage He gives to Christ’s life, death and resurrection. The 2nd half of this book is “The Book of Consolation” (the 1st half is called “The Book of Judgement.”

Today Isaiah talks about seeds. Jesus will talk about seeds in the gospel – so there’s our link. He makes an easy connection for us. He encourages us to look at His Word (Scripture) as a seed that is planted in our hearts. We must cultivate that seed:

Thus says the LORD:
Just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
and do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
so shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
my word shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will,
achieving the end for which I sent it.

  1. How do you cultivate this seed in your life?
  2. How can you live this week’s word in your life?


Psalm 65: The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

Listen as the psalmist talks about seeds on the ground. Then think of that seed as His Word. What happens to the seed? How can we help the seed of God’s Word cover the whole earth?

You have visited the land and watered it;
greatly have you enriched it.
God’s watercourses are filled;
you have prepared the grain.

Thus have you prepared the land: drenching its furrows,
breaking up its clods,
Softening it with showers,
blessing its yield.

ROM 8:18-23
(The 2nd reading is usually one of Paul’s letters.  It speaks to how the early church built The Church after the passion, death and resurrection).

This reading is not long after last week’s about “the flesh vs. the spirit.” Here, Paul tells the Romans that suffering is part of our earthly life. The clue in this reading that relates to The Word is this: 

“For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God;”

The key is the underlined portion. God’s glory, God’s love, God’s mercy is revealed to us how? Through Jesus Christ. Who is Christ? Jesus is THE WORD … made flesh. Put simply, He is (and lives) scripture as a divine human being. Jesus embodies all of scripture, and through both scripture (The Word) and Jesus (The Word made flesh), God the Father reveals to us His love and His divine plan.

Brothers and sisters:
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing
compared with the glory to be revealed for us.
For creation awaits with eager expectation
the revelation of the children of God;
for creation was made subject to futility,
not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it,
in hope that creation itself
would be set free from slavery to corruption
and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.
We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now;
and not only that, but we ourselves,
who have the firstfruits of the Spirit,
we also groan within ourselves
as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

  1. Ponder this week the ways in which Jesus is The Living Word…The Word made flesh.

MT 13:1-23
(The Gospel is the highest point of the Liturgy of the Word. That’s why we stand.
We are about to hear from and be instructed by Christ Himself.)

Today we hear 23 verses from Matthew. There are 3 main pieces.

  1. Jesus speaks to his disciples from a boat. They are on the shore. In the first few verses, the key phrase is:

“But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

The seed of course, is His Word. And we are called to hear it and live it.

2. Next the disciples ask, “Why do you speak to them (the crowds) in parables?” Today Jesus says  “This is why I speak to them in parables, because they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand. But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear.” Some people hear and understand His Word, and some miss it entirely.

3. In the last part, Jesus identifies and clarifies the parable.  There are many ways to interpret each seed and the types of ground on which it falls. Some scholars see the last section as a way for Jesus to re-tell the entire Old Testament story.

Let’s take a closer look:

The seed on the path
The people of the patriarchs (they die by The Flood)

The seed sown on rocky ground
The Israelites (who die by the Assyrians)

The seed sown among thorns 
The Israelites (who later die by the Babylonians)

The seed sown on fertile ground
Here’s where Jesus plants the kingdom. This is us – NOW. This foreshadows the hope that Jesus’s word will be planted, will be heard, will grow and blanket the earth.

Looking at point 3 above, talk about a message that was concealed! I never knew any of the above until I went through scripture courses that cracked the Word open to me in ways I never knew existed. What a new perspective we gain when we dig into His Word.

On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.
Such large crowds gathered around him
that he got into a boat and sat down,
and the whole crowd stood along the shore.
And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying:
“A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and birds came and ate it up.
Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,
and when the sun rose it was scorched,
and it withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.
But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit,
a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

The disciples approached him and said,
“Why do you speak to them in parables?”
He said to them in reply,
“Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven
has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.
To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich;
from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
This is why I speak to them in parables, because
they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.
Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:
You shall indeed hear but not understand,
you shall indeed look but never see.
Gross is the heart of this people,
they will hardly hear with their ears,
they have closed their eyes,
lest they see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their hearts and be converted,
and I heal them.

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see,
and your ears, because they hear.
Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people
longed to see what you see but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

“Hear then the parable of the sower.
The seed sown on the path is the one
who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it,
and the evil one comes and steals away
what was sown in his heart.
The seed sown on rocky ground
is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.
But he has no root and lasts only for a time.
When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word,
he immediately falls away.
The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word,
but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word
and it bears no fruit.
But the seed sown on rich soil
is the one who hears the word and understands it,
who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”

So we must keep at it – keep studying His Word one week at a time. Right here at Banquet of the Word. Fee free to invite others to do the same. (And in between Sundays, we can look for ways to live His Word!)

The Ascension (Year A)

Welcome Back to Banquet of the Word!

Join us every week for background on this Sunday readings.
Our mission is simple:
We want to help everyone in “pew-land” get more out of mass.
Because it’s fun to feel smart about scripture

Image result for image of ascension

Fun Fact:
You may have noticed that the blog border for the Easter season has been yellow. This will change to red when we celebrate Pentecost next Sunday, the coming of the Holy Spirit.

1st Reading: Acts 1:1-11
(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel. During the Easter season the 1st reading is Acts of the Apostles.)

The book of Acts, as we have mentioned before, is part II of Luke’s gospel. Both books are written to someone named Theophilus, though scholars are not exactly sure who this person was. Today we have the first 11 verses, and they are rich with meaning. They are the “preview” – or “the agenda” for the book.

There are two main parts to this reading: 1) Jesus tells the disciples about the coming of the Holy Spirit and 2) we behold the Ascension itself.

Jesus tells about the Holy Spirit: First, Jesus tells them the Holy Spirit will come. He says, wait for the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak. For John baptized with water but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.

The disciples are still caught up in logistics and asked him, “Lord are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” But Jesus ignores the question. He says, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my Witnesses…
a) in Jerusalem
b) throughout Judea and Samaria and
c) to the ends of the Earth.”

This is how we are supposed to evangelize. Imagine what the water looks like when you throw a pebble into it. You see ripples, right? The first circle is closest in, the next is further out, and so on.

The Thrown Stone Plops Into Stock Footage Video (100% Royalty-free ...

Jesus wants us to start with our inner circles when we evangelize. Jesus tells his disciples the same – start in Jerusalem. Then move outward to Samaria and Judea. Then go to the ends of the Earth.

Same with us! We aren’t yet ready for the outer circles until we’ve done our work on the inner circles of family and loved ones we know. Start at home. Then with community. Then do mission work around the world.

2. The Ascension. At the end, we watch Jesus ascend to the Father. “He was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.” Remember that a cloud was present always during the time Moses wandered in the desert with the Israelites. A cloud signifies God’s presence.

Next we see two men dressed in white garments standing beside them. These are angels. They have an important line in this scene. “Men of Galilee why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”

What they’re telling the apostles is, don’t just look toward the sky and daydream about the future and about what Jesus meant. He gave you a job to do. Take action and get going on your missionary ways.

In the first book, Theophilus,
I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught
until the day he was taken up,
after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit
to the apostles whom he had chosen.
He presented himself alive to them
by many proofs after he had suffered,
appearing to them during forty days
and speaking about the kingdom of God.
While meeting with them,
he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem,
but to wait for “the promise of the Father
about which you have heard me speak;
for John baptized with water,
but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

When they had gathered together they asked him,
“Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons
that the Father has established by his own authority.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you,
and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,
throughout Judea and Samaria,
and to the ends of the earth.”
When he had said this, as they were looking on,
he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.
While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going,
suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.
They said, “Men of Galilee,
why are you standing there looking at the sky?
This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven
will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”

Psalm 47:
“God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.”

In this psalm we see the notion of hands clapping. In a website article, I found this: “The most natural and most enthusiastic tokens of exultation (clapping hands) are to be used in the view of the victories of the Lord. This joy is to extend to all nations. Israel will lead the way but the Gentiles are all to follow in the march of triumph for they have an equal share in the Kingdom.”

The psalm only increases in feelings of joy as we see more images of the Lord mounting his throne amid shouts of joy and trumpet blasts.

2nd Reading: Ephesians 1:17-23
(The 2nd reading is usually one of Paul’s letters. It speaks to how the early church built The Church after the passion, death and resurrection).

Today we are in St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. The theme is the mystery of Christ, which was once concealed but now revealed. This is a fitting reading for the Ascension. Jesus, who was once concealed to his followers and so many others, is now revealed as the son of the Father in a most definite and visible way.

Paul provides a prayerful reflection for his readers. “May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him. May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call.” May our hearts be lit up – be aflame with love for Christ. (More on the flame next week at Pentecost…)

Later we hear, “far above every principality, authority, power and dominion in this age and the one to come.” Everything is beneath his feet. Jesus is head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.

It states plainly in this reading that the Church is his body. Put simpler still, the Church is the fullness of Christ. This is a beautiful image indeed! Today we are called to act like Christ’s body and show others in our actions and words how Christ lived and loved.

Brothers and sisters:
May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,
give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation
resulting in knowledge of him.
May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened,
that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call,
what are the riches of glory
in his inheritance among the holy ones,
and what is the surpassing greatness of his power
for us who believe,
in accord with the exercise of his great might,
which he worked in Christ,
raising him from the dead
and seating him at his right hand in the heavens,
far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion,
and every name that is named
not only in this age but also in the one to come.
And he put all things beneath his feet
and gave him as head over all things to the church,
which is his body,
the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.

Gospel: Matthew 16:15-20
(The Gospel is the highest point of the Liturgy of the Word. That’s why we stand.
We are about to hear from and be instructed by Christ Himself.)

Today we hear the final verses of Matthew’s gospel. The last sentence is one of my favorites in all of scripture. We hear Jesus promise us his love and protection: “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

A few verses earlier, we also hear him give the disciples – and us – his final request. “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations…”

The eleven disciples went to Galilee,
to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.
When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.
Then Jesus approached and said to them,
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

It is time for Jesus to return home. His earthly mission is complete. I suspect this would have been a rough day for the disciples, to see Jesus whom they have come to love and worship, leave them.

But they took the torch. Jesus’s words gave them strength to go out and accomplish their mission with great joy.

The Feast of the Ascension is a day for celebration. One of the promises God made to us is being fulfilled. God sent us his only son to save us from our sins. Jesus did that through his death on the cross. He opened Heaven’s gates. God will continue to keep his promise by next week sending us the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

This week, perhaps we can simply contemplate where we need God in our lives right now. How can we call on the Holy Spirit to walk with us? We are never alone. Jesus never planned to leave us alone on Earth. He gave us the third person of the trinity, the Holy Spirit.

Stay tuned for next week’s readings at Pentecost!

Holy Thursday

The Mass of the Lord’s Supper: Holy Thursday

The Triduum begins tonight, a three day procession through Jesus passion (begins at Holy Thursday), death (Good Friday), and resurrection (Easter Sunday). A few notes from the hymnal are helpful in understanding the significance of this mass and how it differs from others. Two sacraments are instituted tonight: The Eucharist and Holy Orders (the Priesthood). Therefore, it is a special night for priests all over the world as they recall their ordinations and their vows.

Image result for empty tabernacle on holy thursday

The tabernacle will be open and empty at the end of mass; a sufficient amount of bread will be consecrated tonight for communion tonight and tomorrow. Tomorrow, Good Friday, is the only day of the year that priests do not consecrate bread and wine. However, we are still able to receive our Lord tomorrow, but it will be with the bread and wine that is consecrated tonight.  Interestingly, whereas God told Moses and the Israelites not to save up the manna for the next day in the Old Covenant, today is an example where, in the New Covenant, we are allowed to “save the manna” for tomorrow and celebrate the gift of our Lord every day. (This is because we are post-resurrection whereas Moses was pre-resurrection.)

The 1st reading is from Exodus, and it is the reading of the Passover. This is such a formative event in the Old Testament. It is the precursor to the Eucharist, which is why it is read tonight. Jesus is the Passover Lamb. The Israelites were saved – an angel of the Lord literally “passed over” families  – if the angel saw the sacrificial blood of the lamb on the home’s doorpost. Now, we too are saved by the sacrificial blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God.

This reading also explains why we consume Jesus in the flesh.  “That same night they shall eat its roasted flesh with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.” They were commanded to eat the flesh of the sacrificial lamb. This was the essence and climax of this feast. It was not a mere suggestion. We too are commanded to eat the flesh of the sacrificial Lamb, Jesus. This is the essence and climax of our feast, the Mass.

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt,
“This month shall stand at the head of your calendar;
you shall reckon it the first month of the year.
Tell the whole community of Israel:
On the tenth of this month every one of your families
must procure for itself a lamb, one apiece for each household.
If a family is too small for a whole lamb,
it shall join the nearest household in procuring one
and shall share in the lamb
in proportion to the number of persons who partake of it.
The lamb must be a year-old male and without blemish.
You may take it from either the sheep or the goats.
You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month,
and then, with the whole assembly of Israel present,
it shall be slaughtered during the evening twilight.
They shall take some of its blood
and apply it to the two doorposts and the lintel
of every house in which they partake of the lamb.
That same night they shall eat its roasted flesh
with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.
“This is how you are to eat it:

with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand,
you shall eat like those who are in flight.
It is the Passover of the LORD.
For on this same night I will go through Egypt,
striking down every firstborn of the land, both man and beast,
and executing judgment on all the gods of Egypt—I, the LORD!
But the blood will mark the houses where you are.
Seeing the blood, I will pass over you;
thus, when I strike the land of Egypt,
no destructive blow will come upon you.

“This day shall be a memorial feast for you,
which all your generations shall celebrate
with pilgrimage to the LORD, as a perpetual institution.”

Psalm 116: “Our blessing cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.”

How shall I make a return to the LORD
for all the good he has done for me?
The cup of salvation I will take up,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.
R. Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.
Precious in the eyes of the LORD
is the death of his faithful ones.
I am your servant, the son of your handmaid;
you have loosed my bonds.
R. Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.
To you will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.
My vows to the LORD I will pay
in the presence of all his people.

The 2nd reading is quite straight-forward. The Corinthians had a lot of questions for Paul, and he answers them in his 1st letter. In this chapter he re-emphasizes the critical nature of liturgical practices, specifically the Eucharist. He reminds them of its connection to the Last Supper, which is why we hear it tonight.

Brothers and sisters:
I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,
that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over,
took bread, and, after he had given thanks,
broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you.
Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood.
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,
you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.

Gospel: Tonight of course, is the Gospel of the washing of the feet. Jesus is the servant, not the served. Again he turns the situation upside down. He is an example to us. We must serve others. We must be His hands and feet. He couldn’t say it more clearly: “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” Most churches re-create the washing of the feet after the homily, although it is not required.

A beautiful part of tonight’s mass is the Transfer of the Most Blessed Sacrament, when the Eucharist is incensed (with “holy smoke”). The Eucharist – the very presence of God – is then carried around the church  and brought to a place of repose. The congregation is invited to pray with Jesus “in the Garden” as He awaits the first trial at night. Let us accept this invitation to stay awake with our Lord, to watch with Him, to love and glorify Him before the dawn comes.

Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come
to pass from this world to the Father.
He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.
The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over.
So, during supper,
fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power
and that he had come from God and was returning to God,
he rose from supper and took off his outer garments.
He took a towel and tied it around his waist.
Then he poured water into a basin
and began to wash the disciples’ feet
and dry them with the towel around his waist.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him,
“Master, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“What I am doing, you do not understand now,
but you will understand later.”
Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered him,
“Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.”
Simon Peter said to him,
“Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.”
Jesus said to him,
“Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed,
for he is clean all over;
so you are clean, but not all.”
For he knew who would betray him;
for this reason, he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

So when he had washed their feet
and put his garments back on and reclined at table again,
he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you?
You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’  and rightly so, for indeed I am.
If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet,
you ought to wash one another’s feet.
I have given you a model to follow,
so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

Palm Sunday (Year A)

Welcome Back to Banquet of the Word!
Our mission is simple:
We want to help everyone in “pew-land” get more out of mass.
Because it’s fun to feel smart about scripture.

For your convenience, all scripture readings are included below.

This week’s several themes come to mind: Obedience. Fulfillment of the scriptures. Suffering Servant. Intense pain. Walking with Christ to Calvary.

palm sunday

The Procession:

In this reading (usually read from the back of the church), Jesus enters Jerusalem. He comes to the city where he will be wrongly accused, put to death, and fulfill the mission for which He was sent.

The colt Jesus demands is one without blemish and it has not been ridden. That means it was fit for sacred use.

Zechariah prophesied: “Behold; your king is coming to you, a just savior is he, humble, and riding on a donkey,” (1 Kgs 1:33-44). The people knew what they saw when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey. With palms in hand, they were experiencing a prophetic fulfillment happening right before their eyes.

Thus the words of praise they all exclaim. “Glory in the highest!”

When Jesus and the disciples drew near Jerusalem
and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives,
Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them,
“Go into the village opposite you,
and immediately you will find an ass tethered,
and a colt with her.
Untie them and bring them here to me.
And if anyone should say anything to you, reply,
‘The master has need of them.’
Then he will send them at once.”
This happened so that what had been spoken through the prophet
might be fulfilled:
Say to daughter Zion,
“Behold, your king comes to you,
meek and riding on an ass,
and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had ordered them.
They brought the ass and the colt and laid their cloaks over them,
and he sat upon them.
The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road,
while others cut branches from the trees
and strewed them on the road.
The crowds preceding him and those following
kept crying out and saying:
“Hosanna to the Son of David;
blessed is the he who comes in the name of the Lord;
hosanna in the highest.”
And when he entered Jerusalem
the whole city was shaken and asked, “Who is this?”
And the crowds replied,
“This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee.”

 

1st Reading: Isaiah 50: 4-7
(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel.)

Fun Fact:
There are 4 “Servant Songs” in these chapters of Isaiah:
1) Isaiah 42
2) Isaiah 49
3) Isaiah 50 (we’re in this one today)
4) Isaiah 52

The 4 Servant Songs describe the service, suffering, and exaltation of a figure named, “the Servant of the Lord.”

  • Songs 1 and 2 name Israel as “the servant.” This servant failed in its mission.
  • Songs 3 and 4 talk about the Messiah to come; this “servant” faithfully completes all the work He is given to do.

This reading and the psalm are vivid and intense. They usher us into the deep pain we will read about in the gospel as Christ is crucified. We are invited to see the relationship between God the Father and Israel (his chosen son).

The Lord GOD has given me
a well-trained tongue,
that I might know how to speak to the weary
a word that will rouse them.
Morning after morning
he opens my ear that I may hear;
and I have not rebelled,
have not turned back.
I gave my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;
my face I did not shield
from buffets and spitting.

The Lord GOD is my help,
therefore I am not disgraced;
I have set my face like flint,
knowing that I shall not be put to shame.


Response Psalm 22: “My God, my God Why Have You Abandoned Me?”
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

The sadness in this psalm is palpable. How unbelievable that this Old Testament writing so perfectly matches what Jesus experiences on the cross. The psalm talks of “Israel” being saved; Jesus will save both Israel and the Gentiles. The Old Testament clearly predicts the New.

All who see me scoff at me;
they mock me with parted lips, they wag their heads:
“He relied on the LORD; let him deliver him,
let him rescue him, if he loves him.”
R. My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
Indeed, many dogs surround me,
a pack of evildoers closes in upon me;
They have pierced my hands and my feet;
I can count all my bones.
R. My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
They divide my garments among them,
and for my vesture they cast lots.
But you, O LORD, be not far from me;
O my help, hasten to aid me.
R. My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
I will proclaim your name to my brethren;
in the midst of the assembly I will praise you:
“You who fear the LORD, praise him;
all you descendants of Jacob, give glory to him;
revere him, all you descendants of Israel!”

2nd Reading: Philippians 2: 6-11
(The 2nd reading is usually one of Paul’s letters.
 It speaks to how the early church spread the Word of Christ after his passion, death and resurrection).

Paul wrote to the church in Philippi – a people who were retired Roman military. They had fought in battle after battle for an earthly commander.

Paul writes to this audience using beautiful military imagery and calls them to be soldiers for their Heavenly Commander, God. The takeaway for me in this reading has to do with the phrase:

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.

Jesus rights all of Adam’s wrongs from the garden. Everything Adam (and Eve) did wrong that got us into this whole mess – Jesus corrects.

  • Eve grasped for the fruit of the tree so that she could acquire equality with God. She disobeyed, and Adam her spouse, did nothing to stop her.
  • Jesus did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped. Jesus obeyed, and reversed the damage of original sin by sacrificing his life for us. He righted Adam and Eve’s wrong.

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

GOSPEL: MATTHEW 26:14—27:66

(The Gospel is the highest point of the Liturgy of the Word. That’s why we stand.We are about to hear from and be instructed by Christ Himself.)

There’s too much here to unpack, so I offer two thoughts.

1)I thought about Peter’s denial in this reading. He denied Christ three times. I thought about last week’s gospel when Christ raised Lazarus on the fourth day, not the third. We talked at length in last week’s post about “the fourth day” – how Jesus waited until then to raise Lazarus so that everyone would know he was really super duper dead. Why?

Because Jesus wanted everyone to know that when a situation is beyond lost – beyond the 3 days – he can still perform miracles. He’s still with us in “The Fourth Day.” Peter denied Jesus three times. He struck out, and headed back to the dugout. But God was with him still, and despite these three strikes, he called Peter to be the first Pope of his earthly church. What a beautiful way to show us that God remains on “the fourth day.”

God’s mercy is endless and without limits. When we come to him with contrite hearts to touch his cloak, our sins are but a drop of water in his ocean of mercy. One of the precepts of the Church is to make a good confession once a year. Find out where you can attend confession before Easter in your city or town.

2) We’re called to walk the entire journey with Jesus when we stand and hear this gospel. We only do this once a year (twice if you attend Good Friday service). Take time to travel with Christ. Don’t become overwhelmed by details and scriptural knowledge; just walk with Him.

Ask Him to reach you with whatever part of His passion he wants to.

Ask Him, “Lord, what shall I take from this reading today? What thought exercise do I need in my life? Lord grant me the ears to hear and the eyes to see. I want to fully experience this journey with you. Hold my hand and I’ll hold yours, show me the way to a deeper love with you this Holy Week. I want only to remain by your side.”

Then wait, and listen.  May God bless your Holy Week.

holding hands