11.11.18 – 32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

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:
Gift of Self
The Life of the Widow

Image result for widow coins image

Fun Fact: Who was Elijah?

The story of Elijah is found in the Old Testament books of I and II Kings. He proclaimed that Yahweh was the one true God, and called the people to repent of their worship of false gods, their abandonment of the covenant and their sinning against the commandments. When he died he was taken to Heaven in a fiery chariot and a whirlwind.

1 KGS 17:10-16

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

The first reading is directly connected to our gospel today. We hear the story of a mother and her son who have lost hope. They are essentially preparing for their death. All they have left is a bit of flour and oil. They plan to make what they can with that and wait for death.

Enter Elijah, one of the most profound prophets of the Old Testament. Elijah gives us a glimpse of what Jesus will do and be. Elijah approaches the widow and well, he tells her what to do. Instead of making a cake for herself and her son, he says no – make a cake for me. This is what Jesus will say to the widow in the gospel, and ultimately to us. He will ask us to give to Him first, and to trust the rest. And how much did the widow in this story give? She gave everything she had, the only things she had.

And she – and her son – were rewarded. A final thought I had at mass today was, what if this is a foreshadowing of Mary’s fiat, the “Yes, Lord” she gives when the Angel Gabriel asks her to be the Mother of God? This widow is with her only son. She is of humble beginnings and has no spouse. Elijah asks her to give everything over to him – the tangible and the intangible; her flour and oil and her trust and hope. He said to her, “Do Not Be Afraid,” the same words spoken to Mary by the angel Gabriel.

PS 146:7, 8-9, 9-10 – Praise the Lord, my Soul

(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

Psalm 146 is at the tail end of the book of psalms, and is thus one of full on praise. Listen to the themes here from our first reading about the hungry and the widow.

The LORD keeps faith forever,
secures justice for the oppressed,
gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets captives free.

The fatherless and the widow he sustains,
but the way of the wicked he thwarts.
The LORD shall reign forever;
your God, O Zion, through all generations.

HEB 9:24-28

(The 2nd reading is usually from Paul’s letters. Speaks to how the early church was built after Christ’s death and resurrection).

It’s important to know that we are at the end of our Church year – that helps us understand the 2nd readings of late. We have heard the theme of “Jesus as High Priest” for several weeks now, and there is a reason for that. We are approaching the feast called “The Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.” That feast celebrates Jesus as High Priest.

We’ve heard the difference in recent weeks’ readings of the levitical priests and Jesus as High Priest.

Levitical priests went to the temple on behalf of the people to ask God to forgive them their sins. That priest himself? He also had sins to bring to God.

Jesus as High Priest WAS the temple. He had NO sin. He FORGAVE our sin. That makes him High Priest. Once and for all he died for us. We do not re-kill Jesus at mass. No, we are transported to the Heavenly banquet during the consecration. We go to Calvary with Jesus – although we cannot see, hear or even feel that change – it is what we believe happens at mass.

And that is why we celebrate Jesus’s kingship. November 25th, this year’s the Feast of Christ the King, is our Church’s way to crown Christ as High Priest, King of Kings, Lord of Lords -the one who, like the widow, gave his life for us. His “entire livelihood.”

And then, beautifully, the following Sunday – we begin Advent. We enter the mystery of Jesus’ life on Earth from the very beginning – from the angel Gabriel’s call to Mary to become the Mother of God in astable.

MK 12:38-44

(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 linked to the 1st reading. It is the fulfillment of what Elijah did for that widow and her son. Now we have another widow in this story, and widows were in a unique – and low – position in society. They had no rights. They had no husband to take care of them. They had zero influence whatsoever. Their only hope was to have a married son who would take them in and care for them.

The widow in the gospel today gives her 2 coins to the treasury. Her ONLY 2 coins. The others who gave did give generously, but they gave of their surplus. This widow – like the one in the first reading – gave everything she had. She gave her proverbial ‘flour and oil’ to God – AND her complete and ultimate trust in His divine plan.

This is worthy of our time this week. To consider – what do we give to God? How much time do we give to God each day – 1 minute in the morning and 30 seconds in the evening? What if we gave our whole selves – our whole day to God? That is what this prayer allows us to do. This daily prayer helps us give our whole selves and our whole day to God. May we consider doing this daily as we head into the Thanksgiving holiday and Christmas season:

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day
for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart,
in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world,
for the salvation of souls, the reparation of sins, the reunion of all Christians,
and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father this month.
Amen.

 

 

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10.28.18 – 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

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 theme? Blind Spots.

the most common blind spot is believing others have them but you don't.png

Fun Fact 1:

Where in the liturgical year are we? We are in the 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time. There are only 33 total – so we’re nearing the “end of the year.” The Solemnity of Christ the King takes place on November 25th, and that is the final Sunday of our Church year. The next Sunday after that? The first week of Advent. We are in year B right now (Mark), and next year we’ll move to year C (Luke).

Fun Fact 2:
According to the Hebrew Bible, the Tribe of Ephraim was one of the Tribes of Israel. The Tribe of Manasseh together with Ephraim also formed the House of Joseph. It is one of the ten lost tribes.

JER 31:7-9

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

Today we’re in chapter 31 of one of the four Major Prophets – Jeremiah. (The other 3 Major Prophets are Isaiah, Daniel and Ezekiel). Today, Jeremiah tells us about the JOY of the return that the Israelites will eventually make. Remember that God’s people have turned their backs away from God for a long time, refusing to follow his ways and instead worshipping idols and rejecting His law. Now though, Jeremiah – a prophet through whom God speaks – assures us that despite their sinful rejection of God? They will return.

In life we too get lost. We lose track of who God is, what He wants, and how to follow Him. We can ask too, “how am I lost in some way right now?” How am I off the beaten path?” Hear Jeremiah’s good news here and with praise and thanksgiving, we can know that God desires our return, and that it is possible!

Shout with joy for Jacob,
exult at the head of the nations;
proclaim your praise and say:
The LORD has delivered his people,
the remnant of Israel.
Behold, I will bring them back
from the land of the north;
I will gather them from the ends of the world,
with the blind and the lame in their midst,
the mothers and those with child;
they shall return as an immense throng.
They departed in tears,
but I will console them and guide them;
I will lead them to brooks of water,
on a level road, so that none shall stumble.
For I am a father to Israel,
Ephraim is my first-born.

Psalm 126:The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

This is the voice of the Israelites after God has called them back – after their Return from Exile.

Restore our fortunes, O LORD,
like the torrents in the southern desert.
Those that sow in tears
shall reap rejoicing.

HEB 5:1-6

(The 2nd reading is usually from Paul’s letters. Speaks to how the early church was built after Christ’s death and resurrection).

The author of the letter to the Hebrews devotes an entire section of the letter to Jesus Christ as High Priest – as the one who is at the “head of the household.” He describes that even the high priest must offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. Not just his own sins, for he too is sinful, but also for the sins of his people.

It is important here to see that Christ is that high priest for US. However he offers himself as sacrifice for our sins, though He himself has none. And this phrase stuck with me today – “You are my son. You are my daughter. You are my child. God says this to each of us tenderly every day. Wake up tomorrow and hear Him say it to you.

Every high priest is taken from among men
and made their representative before God,
to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.
He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring,
for he himself is beset by weakness
and so, for this reason, must make sin offerings for himself
as well as for the people.
No one takes this honor upon himself
but only when called by God,
just as Aaron was. In the same way,
it was not Christ who glorified himself in becoming high priest,
but rather the one who said to him:
You are my son: this day I have begotten you.

MK 10:46-52

(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 beautiful. It’s about blind spots. Incidentally, I’m teaching my 15 year old daughter to check blind spots as she learns to drive. The road and its rules are unfamiliar to her. My husband and I have to teach and coach her, guide and encourage her.  She is reluctant about left hand turns. She isn’t comfortable parking in certain situations. She gets nervous on the highway. All these things are good as she navigates a totally new world – the road. What road are we on that is new, that we don’t know very well, that we aren’t comfortable with quite yet?  Who is our coach and guide? Let it be Jesus.

It is about Jesus meeting a blind man on the road and giving him sight. Oh the depth and breadth of this reading for all of us who are – in whatever ways today – blind. How we can take this message and run with it. We all have blind spots. How are we blind in our lives today – in situations, relationships, or to our own selves?

We are invited today to cry out to God –

“Son of David have pity on me!

Master, I want to SEE.”

May God bless your week, and may he remove one veil of blindness for all of us.

10.07.18 – 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

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.

Image result for image of wedding rings

GN 2:18-24

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

Relationship is core to scripture. In fact, the entire bible is the story of how God relates to His people, His chosen people. Within that enormous, long, centuries-spanning story, there are three key relationship themes that are woven throughout. Today’s 1st reading concerns #3, Man and Woman:

  1. God the Father speaks often of His beloved “Bride” – the people of Israel.
  2. Jesus Christ (male) and His “Bride” the Church.
  3. The Groom (male) and His Bride (female). Or “Man” and “Woman”

Women were created from the rib of man to be beside him, not from his head to top him, nor from his feet to be trampled by him, but from under his arm to be protected by him, near to his heart to be loved by him:

So the LORD God cast a deep sleep on the man,
and while he was asleep,
he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.
The LORD God then built up into a woman the rib
that he had taken from the man.
When he brought her to the man, the man said:
“This one, at last, is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
this one shall be called ‘woman, ‘
for out of ‘her man’ this one has been taken.”
That is why a man leaves his father and mother
and clings to his wife,
and the two of them become one flesh.

Today, honor your spouse. Pray for your spouse.
Thank God for the gift of your spouse.


Psalm 128: May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives.
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
in the recesses of your home;
your children like olive plants
around your table.

HEB 2:9-11

(The 2nd reading is usually from Paul’s letters. Speaks to how the early church was built after Christ’s death and resurrection).

The author of letter to the Hebrews is unknown. It is beautiful though, and stylistically it reads more like a homily, as it lacks the typical greeting and closing prayer consistently found in Paul’s letters. It’s theme? The Priesthood of Jesus Christ. (In this letter we hear and often sing, “You are a priest forever, in the line of Melchizadek.”)

The insight today is that although Christ is our High Priest – God Himself – He was made ‘lower than angels’ for a time. Whereas Adam chose to taste the forbidden fruit and thus subject us all to spiritual and physical death, Christ reverses that act. Though perfect and divine, he suffers and dies for our sakes, to forgive our sins, and to re-open the door to Heaven.

He “for a little while” was made “lower than the angels, ”
that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

For it was fitting that he,
for whom and through whom all things exist,
in bringing many children to glory,
should make the leader to their salvation perfect through suffering.
He who consecrates and those who are being consecrated
all have one origin.
Therefore, he is not ashamed to call them “brothers.”

MK 10:2-16 

(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 unmistakably ties to the first reading, where man and woman come together as one flesh (in marriage). The Pharisees try to trick Jesus; they try to throw him a curveball. What happens if man and woman want to divide – divorce?

But Jesus isn’t tricked. We do need to understand the Old Law though, in order to understand Jesus’s response. Moses did permit divorce under the Old Covenant. This was a temporary legal concession tailored to their weaknesses. It was Plan B. It was for their “hardness of heart.” Jesus – the great High Priest and Supreme Judge – now revokes that law by returning to God’s original intention for every married couple: lifelong monogamy.

Interestingly, other allowances were made in the Deuteronomic covenant that would make you gasp, such as genocidal warfare (Deut 20:16-17), the profane slaughtering of animals (Deut 12: 15-24), and yes, divorce (Deut 24: 1-4).

We also hear the well-known verse, “Let the children come to me.” Jesus definitely means children as in “youth,” but he also speaks a greater purpose here – that he wants us all to come to him with a childlike mindset. That is, we ought to always be a child to Jesus and see ourselves as one, whether we are 22 or 92. He is Our Father, we His children. We are to sit at His feet. Learn from Our Father. Obey and follow His Way, His Wisdom.

How are we like a child to Jesus right now? How can we humble ourselves before Him this week and be formed by Him, conform to His will for our lives? How can we carry out His desire for our marriages, if we are in one?

May God bless your week!

The Pharisees approached Jesus and asked,
“Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?”
They were testing him.
He said to them in reply, “What did Moses command you?”
They replied,
“Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce
and dismiss her.”
But Jesus told them,
“Because of the hardness of your hearts
he wrote you this commandment.
But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.

So they are no longer two but one flesh.
Therefore what God has joined together,
no human being must separate.”
In the house the disciples again questioned Jesus about this.
He said to them,
“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another
commits adultery against her;
and if she divorces her husband and marries another,
she commits adultery.”

And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them,
but the disciples rebuked them.
When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them,
“Let the children come to me;
do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to
such as these.
Amen, I say to you,
whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child
will not enter it.”
Then he embraced them and blessed them,
placing his hands on them.

09.23.18 – 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year B)

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.

Fun Fact: Why is Wisdom referred to as “She”?
First we must think, if there is a “She”, who is the “He?” The “He” is God (the Father), later Jesus Christ, who came as a man. This implies a male-female bond which is carried through scripture. This bond reflects God’s covenant relationship with His people. It is reflected in marriages today as well, and helps us understand why that marriage is between one male and one female:

  1. God the Father speaks often of His beloved “Bride” – the people of Israel.
  2. Jesus Christ (male) and His “Bride” the Church.
  3. The Groom (male) and His Bride (female).

Image result for wisdom personified

Many cultures personify Wisdom as a woman.

WIS 2:12, 17-20

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

The seven books of scripture that are categorized as “Wisdom Literature” include Wisdom of Solomon, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Sirach, Song of Songs, Job and Proverbs.

Wisdom was written 50 years before the coming of Christ.  This book tells us quite literally, of the wisdom of King Solomon. It’s as if someone sat down to write “the best of” when it came to Solomon’s wise sayings and perspectives. Wisdom – here personified as a female (“she”) – helps us try to grasp one of the greatest of the gifts of the Holy Spirit – Fear of the Lord. This is not “fear” as in to be afraid, but rather awe.

Today we have a description of what the wicked think; we get a glimpse at how they see the world. But it behooves us to keep reading after this reading selection ends, because that’s where we find more hope. Here’s part of the reading…

The wicked say:
Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us;
he sets himself against our doings,
reproaches us for transgressions of the law
and charges us with violations of our training.
Let us see whether his words be true;
let us find out what will happen to him.

and here are the verses that follow, the “they” are “the wicked” spoken about above:

These were their thoughts, but they erred;
for their wickedness blinded them,
And they did not know the hidden counsels of God;
neither did they count on a recompense for holiness
nor discern the innocent souls’ reward.
For God formed us to be imperishable;
the image of his own nature he made us.

Despite the wicked and their actions, despite evil and its presence, God will prevail.


Psalm 54: The Lord Upholds my Life
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

Today’s psalm reminds us that God is in charge, that He is all powerful and all knowing even in the face of the wicked and the evil the devil hurls at us.

O God, by your name save me,
and by your might defend my cause.
O God, hear my prayer;
hearken to the words of my mouth.

JAS 3:16—4:3

(The 2nd reading is usually from Paul’s letters. Speaks to how the early church was built after Christ’s death and resurrection).

We hear echoes of Wisdom in the letter from St. James. There’s encouragement here that God’s wisdom is “pure, peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits..” and so much more. God IS wisdom. We can trust that He knows what He is doing, even though we might suffer, and ask for the human wisdom to understand and follow Him come what may.

Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist,
there is disorder and every foul practice. 
But the wisdom from above is first of all pure,
then peaceable, gentle, compliant,
full of mercy and good fruits,
without inconstancy or insincerity. 
And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace
for those who cultivate peace.

MK 9:30-37

(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.)

Jesus predicts his passion, death and resurrection 3 times in Mark’s Gospel, and we are at the 2nd time today. At this point in the story the disciples had recently seen Jesus transfigured, they had seen him heal a boy possessed by a demon, and now they are traveling with Jesus to Capernaum.

On the road, the disciples were sort of chit-chatting: “Who is the greatest among us?” My kids do this, too. Times haven’t changed. Who deserves another bowl of cereal. Who deserves to sit in the front seat of the car. Who deserves extra dessert in their lunch. Bicker bicker. So what is Jesus saying to the disciples today? He’s setting them straight. Aiming to strip them of their egos. Reminding them where they are and bringing them face to face with their need – and indeed desire – for authentic humility.

He sums it up by telling them to be like a child. Be small, be like a child in the eyes of God. Serve others, be small. Do not seek greatness on Earth, but aim heavenward. Children were the symbol Jesus used for the poor in spirit, the lowly in the Christian community.

They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house,
he began to ask them,
“What were you arguing about on the way?” 
But they remained silent.
They had been discussing among themselves on the way
who was the greatest. 
Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them,
“If anyone wishes to be first,
he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” 
Taking a child, he placed it in their midst,
and putting his arms around it, he said to them,
“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me;
and whoever receives me,
receives not me but the One who sent me.”

09.09.18 – 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

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.

Fun Fact #1:
The book of Isaiah is often called “the Fifth Gospel.” It is so rich and prophesies about every aspect of Christ’s life – his birth, his life, his passion, his death, and his resurrection. It is truly remarkable and comprehensive. It’s also long – the longest book in the bible. Isaiah can be divided into 2 main parts.

  1. Chapters 1-39: The book of judgment. (Summary: God’s people aren’t listening. They’re worshipping idols.) We’re in this part today – the early verses of chapter 35.
  2. Chapters 40-66: The book of consolation. (Summary: God is ever-loving. He will never tire from trying to save his people. He will save those who turn back.)

Fun Fact #2
– Did you know that the audience for St. Paul’s letters are non-Jews, whereas the audience for St. James (our 2nd reading today) are Jews? They are from Jewish descent but are now followers of Christ.

IS 35:4-7A

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

Today we hear Isaiah prophesy about what will happen when Israel is delivered – when they repent. So it’s a very upbeat reading. In the previous chapter though? It’s judgment. Things like “The Lord is angry with all nations…the hosts of heaven shall rot…When my sword has drunk its fill in the heavens, it shall come down upon Edom for judgment.” But see the good news that awaits those who repent:

Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
with divine recompense
he comes to save you.
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
(today’s Gospel)
then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing.
Streams will burst forth in the desert,
and rivers in the steppe.
The burning sands will become pools,
and the thirsty ground, springs of water.

Remember that line – “Be strong, fear not! He comes to save you…”

Psalm 146: Praise the Lord, my Soul!”
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

The psalmist will likely sing this familiar tune, lifting his or her voice to the heavens and thus asking us to lift our hearts to God in all we do.

The LORD gives sight to the blind;
the LORD raises up those who were bowed down.
The LORD loves the just;
the LORD protects strangers.

JAS 2:1-5

(The 2nd reading is usually from Paul’s letters. Speaks to how the early church was built after Christ’s death and resurrection).

The letter of St. James is largely concerned with ethical conduct – that is, how should we act and behave on a daily basis? From usccb.org, “James represents a type of early Christianity that emphasized sound teaching and responsible moral behavior. Ethical norms are derived not primarily from christology, as in Paul, but from a concept of salvation that involves conversion, baptism, forgiveness of sin, and expectation of judgment.”

Today we are asked to avoid judgment of others and partial treatment.  That is, everyone you meet is a child of God. When it is hard to see God in someone else, ask yourself: “What does God see and love in this person? How can I focus on these qualities? Lord, help me to see this person as you do.” A priest told me that once and I never forgot it, I hope it has helped me be a bit more charitable when I see people who are not familiar to me or who don’t live similar lifestyles, such as homeless beggars on street corners. In short, God doesn’t have favorites.

My brothers and sisters, show no partiality
as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.
For if a man with gold rings and fine clothes
comes into your assembly,
and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in,
and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes
and say, “Sit here, please,”
while you say to the poor one, “Stand there, ” or “Sit at my feet,”
have you not made distinctions among yourselves
and become judges with evil designs?

Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters.
Did not God choose those who are poor in the world
to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom
that he promised to those who love him?

MK 7:31-37

(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 picture of jesus healing the deaf man

Today Jesus fulfills Isaiah 35, our first reading. After last’ weeks’ reading, Jesus goes on to heal 2 non-Jews, one of whom is deaf and mute – today’s Gospel. This is not a public miracle. Jesus pulls this man aside to heal him. Why? Scholars suggest that here we see how Jesus heals us each according to our ailments and our needs. Why? We don’t really know. Nor does it matter.

What we can consider is that Jesus doesn’t do miracles for miracles’ sake. He heals persons – hearts, minds and bodies. He heals so that we might believe still deeper, so that we might love more richly, so that we might spread news of his hand in our lives and lead others to belief, too.

How can Jesus heal you? Who may be in need of hearing a story of how God has worked in your life? This week we give thanks for the ongoing miracles of Jesus, and ask Him to reveal them to us more fully. May God bless your week!

And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment
and begged him to lay his hand on him.
He took him off by himself away from the crowd.
He put his finger into the man’s ears
and, spitting, touched his tongue;
then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him,
“Ephphatha!”— that is, “Be opened!” —
And immediately the man’s ears were opened,
his speech impediment was removed,
and he spoke plainly.
He ordered them not to tell anyone.
But the more he ordered them not to,
the more they proclaimed it.
They were exceedingly astonished and they said,
“He has done all things well.
He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

09.02.18 – 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

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 Theme: The Heart.

Image result for image jesus wants your heart

Fun Fact:
Deuteronomy is book 5 of the Pentateuch. It is the farewell letter of a dying prophet (Moses) to the nation he loved with all his heart, mind and soul (*there are 51 references to “heart” in the book). The book was written to the Israelites beyond the Jordan – when they were in the wilderness. Deuteronomy means “second law,” Moses “re-tells” the law because as you may recall, the Israelites broke it the first time (the Golden Calf incident is often referred to as “the Second Fall”).

Deuteronomy: 4: 1-2, 6-8
(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel.)

Today Moses is the author, and he puts forth a 2nd law to the people. Telling them again – follow God’s law! Do as you are commanded.  Do not veer from this law but take it into your homes and hearts.

What we have here is, in effect, “Part I” of God’s law – Part I lives in the Old Testament writings. What then is “Part II?”  Part II of course is the New Covenant that is ushered in by Jesus. That New Covenant is activated the moment Jesus dies on the cross, the moment he has given his life – his body – for us as expiation for our sins. So think of Reading 1 as a precursor. God (through Moses) establishes the law. Jesus does not abolish it, but fulfills it.

Moses said to the people:
“Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees
which I am teaching you to observe,
that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land
which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. 
In your observance of the commandments of the LORD, your God,
which I enjoin upon you,
you shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it. 
Observe them carefully,
for thus will you give evidence
of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations,
who will hear of all these statutes and say,
‘This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.’
For what great nation is there
that has gods so close to it as the LORD, our God, is to us
whenever we call upon him? 
Or what great nation has statutes and decrees
that are as just as this whole law
which I am setting before you today?” 


Psalm 15:The one who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

Note the mention of “heart” in the first verse. Aim this week to do justice for God in your daily life by aiming to be a follower of Him.

Whoever walks blamelessly and does justice;
who thinks the truth in his heart
and slanders not with his tongue.

JAS 1:17-18, 21B-22, 27

(The 2nd reading is usually from Paul’s letters. Speaks to how the early church was built after Christ’s death and resurrection).

We have a special treat today, hearing from St. James. He was concerned largely with ethical conduct, and today we hear his point of view on living out the Word we read. Understanding – or working hard to understand – that the Word is ALIVE. That Christ actually IS the word of God, the scriptures, but just in the flesh. That is why this blog exists. To crack open The Word, to open the scriptures, so that we better understand Jesus, for He IS the Word. Today, we must be Doers. We must act as we believe.

All good giving and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights,
with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change.
He willed to give us birth by the word of truth
that we may be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures.

Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you
and is able to save your souls.

Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this:
to care for orphans and widows in their affliction
and to keep oneself unstained by the world.


(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.)

It’s important to know as you hear the Gospel that the Pharisees were hyper. They were hyper-careful and hyper-vigilant about keeping the laws of their forefathers. Imagine you had something valuable you didn’t want anyone to to take. A diamond ring for example. You put it in the lock box of a bank to keep it safe. Then you put that lock box into another safety-deposit box to keep the ring even safer. The ring is surrounded by 2 circles of safety  – the lock box, and then the safety deposit box.

This is what the Pharisees did with God’s law that was handed down by Moses. They said, “We will not break God’s laws again! And to be sure of that, we will make even MORE laws (the outer-most ‘circle’ of safety) so that the mosaic laws (the inner-most ‘circle’ of safety). But that outer-most circle were laws the Pharisees concocted, not God. What eventually happened is that the Pharisees become so fixed on not breaking any laws that the lost what was at the heart of the matter – following God, and giving him quite literally, your heart.

We are called to generosity of heart. God wants our hearts entirely. Fully. Unabashedly. Today we are reminded not to get so caught up by all the rules that we forget the One who set them in place for us and the end goal of becoming His follower. We are called to follow Him throughout our lives and be led by His great hand to the promise land of Heaven.

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem
gathered around Jesus,
they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals
with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands.
—For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews,
do not eat without carefully washing their hands,
keeping the tradition of the elders.
And on coming from the marketplace
they do not eat without purifying themselves.
And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed,
the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds. —
So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him,
“Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders
but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”
He responded,
“Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written:
This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines human precepts.

You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”

He summoned the crowd again and said to them,
“Hear me, all of you, and understand.
Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person;
but the things that come out from within are what defile.

“From within people, from their hearts,
come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
All these evils come from within and they defile.”

08.12.18 – 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

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.

Reading #1 – 1 Kings 19:4-8
(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel.)

Today we hear about the prophet Elijah and his feelings of utter desolation. Elijah, perhaps the most key prophet in the Old Testament, has been fleeing the wrath of Jezebel. She was the wife of a bad king (Ahab) and encouraged the worship of idols and the killing of prophets.

Elijah’s very life is in danger. He was told to travel 40 days to the mountain of God (of note is that Moses also spent 40 days and nights atop this mountain with God).He has lost all hope and feels nothing good can come from anything he can do. He asks God to take his life. But God sent an angel to Elijah during the night. When he woke,

“Elijah looked and there at his head was a hearth cake
and a jug of water. 
After he ate and drank, he lay down again,
but the angel of the LORD came back a second time,
touched him, and ordered,
“Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!” 
He got up, ate, and drank;
then strengthened by that food,
he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.”

We need food for the journey. We need Eucharist for the journey – especially on bad days. On days we feel void of all ideas, positive feelings, and negativity is setting in. Let us always find the strength to get up, eat, and drink so that we might carry on our journey. God is always walking with us.

Image result for elijah bread water 1 Kings


Psalm 34: Taste and See the Goodness of the Lord
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

We can hear what Elijah might have been thinking or feeling in these verses, including a visit from the angel around the camp where he slept:

The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him and delivers them.
Taste and see how good the LORD is;
blessed the man who takes refuge in him.

Reading 2;EPH 4:30—5:2

(The 2nd reading is usually from Paul’s letters. Speaks to how the early church was built after Christ’s death and resurrection).

Saint Paul today reminds us to eschew negativity in our daily lives and embrace love. To ourselves, to one another, and to God. I’ve bolded the words or phrases that struck a chord with me. Which words or phrases strike you? Where are you on your journey, and what do you need to hear today?

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,
with which you were sealed for the day of redemption. 
All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling
must be removed from you, along with all malice. 
And be kind to one another, compassionate,
forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.

So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love,
as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us
as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.

John 6: 41-51
(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.)

The gospel today is a scene in which Jesus and the Jews are in a conversation – where there’s a lot of murmuring about Jesus – as they try to decipher Jesus’s claim that He is the Way to eternal life – that He is the bread that came down from Heaven. We are knee-deep in John 6 – the chapter that puzzles us all but is also at the root of our core beliefs as Catholics.

Jesus sounds like a bit of a broken record; every week, all month, we keep hearing the same thing. I am the bread of life. I am the bread from Heaven. To the Father through ME. Everlasting life is yours, but only through me. Come, follow me.

Next week the Jews will quarrel still more. The following week’s gospel, the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, everything will come to a head. We’ll hear the disciples say, “This is a hard saying, who can accept it?” But today? We’re still in confusion.

Murmuring is a key word for us to consider today. This morning’s homily focused on how murmuring (gossiping, idle talk, etc) often leads to negative thoughts and thus actions and beliefs. We must focus instead on the light – on the love of God as St. Paul reminds us in the 2nd reading. We must come to God not with a white flag of surrender as Elijah did, but with a hopeful and trusting heart. A heart that reflects the knowledge that God can do anything.

…”whoever believes has eternal life. 
I am the bread of life. 
Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;
this is the bread that comes down from heaven
so that one may eat it and not die. 
I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”