01.27.19 – 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Welcome back to Banquet of the Word!

Optional resources for today:
Please view this Sunday’s readings by clicking here.
The One-Page Bible Timeline  is available here.

Fun Fact:
Today’s psalm response (that we sing), is not from the book of Psalms, nor from any of the books of Wisdom. It’s from John 6:63.

Image result for we are many parts

First Reading: NEHEMIAH 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10
(Reading 1 is Old Testament; it always links in some way to the Gospel)

Nehemiah’s best friend was Ezra, who is also a prophet and has his own book in scripture. Together, these books center on the return of God’s people and their joy. So who were they, and where in the bible are we? Click on the bible timeline above and look at the title labeled “Return.” Remember how the Israelites turned from God and were then exiled out of their land? In previous weeks, we heard Isaiah tell the people that in time, their light would come, in time, they would be called by a new name (“Epoused,” “My Delight”). Well guess what? Now we’re at that time! The people have returned to their homeland – to which they are “espoused,” and this is cause for great rejoicing – “Delight!” Each figure has a job: Ezra, Nehemiah, and the People.

  • Ezra is the priest. His job is to rebuild the people’s spiritual health. He teaches them how to worship rightly.
  • Nehemiah is like the Site Manager on a major construction site. His job is to rebuild the actual city – to physically rebuild the temple walls.
  • The People are having  their biggest “a-ha” moment in all of Israel’s history. They’ve “seen the light” – they’ve come to terms with their past sinfulness. They vow to turn back toward God’s grace. They realize they are a people of worship. It can be considered a precursor to the New Testament story of the Prodigal Son.  The people are returning to their loving God and Father, crying tears of repentance. Their hearts are less hearts of stone, and more hearts of flesh.

In the reading, Ezra reads the scroll (the law) to the people. Just as the deacon or priest stand up higher in front of the assembly to read God’s word, Ezra “stood on a wooden platform that had been made … he opened the scroll so that all might see it, and as he opened it, all the people rose.” Then he read plainly from the book of the law of God, “interpreting it so that all could understand what was read” (the homily). “There was great joy that day in the assembly and the people were encouraged to ‘go, eat rich foods and sweet drinks!’” This is the basis of feast days – when we celebrate with a great feast!

Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly,
which consisted of men, women,
and those children old enough to understand.
Standing at one end of the open place that was before the Water Gate,
he read out of the book from daybreak till midday,
in the presence of the men, the women,
and those children old enough to understand;
and all the people listened attentively to the book of the law.
Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform
that had been made for the occasion.
He opened the scroll
so that all the people might see it
— for he was standing higher up than any of the people —;
and, as he opened it, all the people rose.
Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God,
and all the people, their hands raised high, answered,
“Amen, amen!”
Then they bowed down and prostrated themselves before the LORD,
their faces to the ground.
Ezra read plainly from the book of the law of God,
interpreting it so that all could understand what was read.
Then Nehemiah, that is, His Excellency, and Ezra the priest-scribe
and the Levites who were instructing the people
said to all the people:
“Today is holy to the LORD your God.
Do not be sad, and do not weep”—
for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law.
He said further: “Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks,
and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared;
for today is holy to our LORD.
Do not be saddened this day,
for rejoicing in the LORD must be your strength!”

Responsorial Psalm (19):
Response – “Your words, Lord, are spirit and life.” (John 6:63)

The verses of psalm 19 reflect beautifully what the people might have said or thought as they heard Ezra read God’s law for the first time in generations. At mass, we “answer” the psalm with words from John chapter 6, which echo the feeling of the people. If we were in the audience listening to Ezra, hearing God’s word after a time of  silence and despair, I think we would consider the words in the scroll to be spirit and life indeed!

Let us all grab hold of the last line in the psalmists’ prayer, underlined below. Let it guide us this week. Now, picture the people in Ezra’s audience saying:

“The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul. The decree of the LORD is trustworthy, giving wisdom  to the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart. The command of the LORD is clear, enlightening the eye. The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are true, all of them just. Let the words of my mouth and the thought of my heart find favor before you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.“

 2nd Reading: 1 COR 12:18-30
(The 2nd reading is usually from Paul’s letters. Speaks to how the early church was built after Christ’s death and resurrection).

This reading is similar to last week’s 2nd reading, so it will sound familiar (“we have many gifts but the same Spirit”). Paul stayed in Corinth longer than any other city. Corinth was the cosmopolitan center – the “Big Apple” of the Christian world – politically, economically and socially. The letter is thought to be written 5 years after he founded the Church in Corinth. The people struggled to stay united as they faced vices and heresies that threatened to fracture the foundation Paul built. He was deeply troubled by the condition of the Church and wrote this letter to provide instruction and spiritual direction until he could arrive in person.

We’re familiar with this reading (one body made of many parts). It is a metaphor for the Church yes, but how can we think more deeply about this reality?

Paul posits that small body parts are not insignificant – think eyes (sight) or ear (hear), heart valve (life) or ovary, (potential life). Each part, no matter its size, plays a vital role. The same is true for us as people, and also our actions.  None of us are too small to make an impact. No act is too small to help the Church grow or thrive. We all matter. God’s love for each of His children knows no bounds. And what amazes and bewilders me when I stop on this thought, is how God put us each here for a reason. A very specific one. Inside each of us lies a “brick” that will build the kingdom of Heaven in a way only God can design. Much like Nehemiah was the Site Manager to rebuild the city, Christ is our builder, our creator:

Brothers and sisters:
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.

Now the body is not a single part, but many.
If a foot should say,
“Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body, ”
it does not for this reason belong any less to the body.
Or if an ear should say,
“Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body… “

St. Therese of Lisieux lived this beautifully, believing, “If every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness.” To God, “littleness” does not mean “insignificance.” That idea is a human construct. The Lord needs our littleness to complete His glorious kingdom! May we never forget that every small act, every kind utterance, every tiny sacrifice known only to God, MATTERS.

GOSPEL: Luke 1: 1-4, 4:14-21
(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.)

As you may know, Luke was not an apostle – not an eye-witness to Jesus’ miracles or his passion and death. He was, however, the right-hand man of the apostle Paul, his scribe. In his gospel, we see Jesus through Paul’s eyes. Consequently, Luke has something to prove to his audience- that he knew his stuff. That is the reason for verses 1-4 where he sets the stage and strengthens his credibility.

Here we are with scrolls again! I love it when the connection is so clear. Remember when Nehemiah wrote about Ezra proclaiming the law? How he had found the scroll which had been lost for generations? Here Jesus takes out the scroll and draws the connection to Isaiah 58:6. Isaiah prophesied that God would eventually free them from the bondage of Babylonian slavery. In the gospel, Jesus promises, through his eventual death on the cross, though he does not refer to it directly here, to free the people from their current oppressors (the Romans). If you were in the audience and heard Jesus say these words, don’t you think you’d be able to hear a pin drop?

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.
Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down,
and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.
He said to them,
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Let us go forward this week thinking on the themes of “Scroll” and “We are all One Body.” Do we need to return to the scroll – to God’s law – more perfectly? Is there something or someone we’re wrestling with that God could help you understand? He’s ready to walk with us. What part of the Body are you? Forget about size…what is God calling you to be for His kingdom? You are a critical piece to His masterpiece. Consider carrying out one act that will build up the Body of Christ this week.

Until next time!


01.20.19 -2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

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: The Baptism of the Lord (last Sunday) is a “both/and” day. It is both the last day of the Christmas season and the first Sunday in Ordinary Time. As a result, here we are in the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time. Why does the Church use the term “Ordinary?” It doesn’t mean “ordinary” as in – “regular” or “without excitement.”  At its root is the term “Ordinal” or “Order” – as in, going about the year in an orderly fashion of first, second, third, all the way to thirty-third. Now the liturgical color is green, signifying a time of growth in the Church (vs. penance during Lent or Advent, and vs. celebration during Christmas, Easter, or other feast days).

Let’s jump in!

First Reading: Isaiah 62: 1-5
The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel.

Isaiah is broken into 2 major parts: 1) The Book of Judgement (ch 1-39: the people have turned their back on God and Judgement will come) and 2) The Book of Consolation (ch 40-66: God will restore them eventually, and never abandon them).  Despite the people’s stubborn nature, God consistently shows His parental nature, correcting His children repeatedly.  Yes, he allows hardship for them, but always for the sake of restoring them to Him. He never abandons them. He loves them unconditionally. In the same way, when we encounter hardship, we must Trust in His ways, recalling that He will never abandon us either.

We’re in chapter 62 this Sunday – a joyful part of Isaiah’s book of consolation. Isaiah is so filled with joy that he cannot be silent! Despite the darkness the people are in at Isaiah’s writing (we’re around 800-700 B.C. and the Assyrians are knocking on their door, about to conquer and exile them), God will eventually do some truly great things for His people and lead them back to their land, land which God promised them in the covenant with Abraham.

Think for a moment about your name. What is your birth name? Your maiden name? Your Confirmation name? Your married name? When do we receive new names? During life’s big changes when we experience personal re-birth, or re-dedication – either to the Lord (at baptism, confirmation, entering religious life) or to your spouse (women taking on a new last name).

Did you notice Isaiah had some issues with his ‘caps lock’ key? He capitalized words like “Forsaken”, “Desolate”, “My Delight” and “Espoused.” These are “before and after” names for God’s people Israel. What we see here is that God comes, He re-names His people.  God will re-name His people. He will bring them out of the old ways of slavery and sin (when they were “Forsaken” and “Desolate”) and into new life. For the people in Isaiah’s time this means they’ll eventually return to their land; for us it means that through Christ, we are reborn in baptism and referred to as “My Delight” and “Espoused.”

For Zion’s sake I will not be silent,
for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet,
until her vindication shines forth like the dawn
and her victory like a burning torch.

Nations shall behold your vindication,
and all the kings your glory;
you shall be called by a new name
pronounced by the mouth of the LORD.
You shall be a glorious crown in the hand of the LORD,
a royal diadem held by your God.
No more shall people call you “Forsaken, ”
or your land “Desolate, ”
but you shall be called “My Delight, ”
and your land “Espoused.”
For the LORD delights in you
and makes your land his spouse.
As a young man marries a virgin,
your Builder shall marry you;
and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride
so shall your God rejoice in you.

Responsorial: Psalm 96: “Proclaim his marvelous deeds to all the nations.”
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD; bless his name.

Response: The theme here is prophecy, as in the verb “to prophecy”, which is translated as “The act of interpreting divine will or purpose.” This is what the prophets of old did, and it is what we are called to do as well.

How do we interpret God’s will in our lives? Are we good listeners? Do we spend time in the classroom of silence to truly put our own will and desires aside to hear His will and desire? He speaks in the silence. He speaks through people and events. He’s always speaking; but how well do we listen? The psalm calls us to proclaim his marvelous deeds to the ends of the earth, to all the nations.

How exactly are we supposed to proclaim these marvelous deeds? Paul has some words of wisdom for us in the next reading, a guidebook if you will…

 Second Reading:  1 Corinthians 12: 4-11

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

Paul tells the Corinthians – and us – to prophecy by using our spiritual gifts.  This is how we proclaim His marvelous deeds.

What are your spiritual gifts? Are you a good friend?  Maybe you’re a great cook, or pianist, or artist. Do you bring joy wherever you go? How do you live your faith? In what ways do you set a good example to others? Sometimes the greatest witness can be to simply “know thyself.” That is, figure out what your gifts are and spend your life honing and using them for the glory of God. When you know a person and they’re doing what God calls them to do, isn’t that obvious? It’s refreshing. It encourages others to seek out the inherent joy these people experience every day.  God has so much planned for us. He’s given each of us special and intentional gifts. This Lent, enter into prayer to discover His plan for your gifts.  Think you’re using them pretty darn well? Not sure what to do now? Tell God you need a kick in the rear to reach higher for Him. He will show you the way.

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.
To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom;
to another, the expression of knowledge according to the
same Spirit;
to another, faith by the same Spirit;
to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit;
to another, mighty deeds;
to another, prophecy;
to another, discernment of spirits;
to another, varieties of tongues;
to another, interpretation of tongues.
But one and the same Spirit produces all of these,
distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.

Gospel: John 2: 1-11
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.

We’re in Year C, Luke’s gospel, but we hear from John this week. The Church chooses to start us off in ordinary time in a beautiful way – with Jesus’ first public miracle at the wedding at Cana. This story is only recorded in John’s gospel. Next week, we’re back to Luke.

This gospel is packed with meaning and connections. It can be dissected in myriad ways, from the fact that Jesus performed this miracle at a wedding feast (we refer to Mass as a wedding feast), to the numerology hidden in the six jars, to the meaning in the materials Jesus uses here, turning water into wine, both of which will pour from His side at the cross (Eucharistic blood is consecrated from wine). But today, let’s stick with the conversation between Mary and Jesus.

In those days, weddings were numerous days long and filled with much celebration. To run out of wine was no small issue, but an embarrassing concern for the couple and the family as a whole. Some scholars note that Mary’s concern for the situation may indicate that she is a relative of the wedding party. She goes to Jesus and says, “They have no wine.”

Image result for wedding at cana

Let’s pause here. I heard a beautiful commentary on this. Mary knows what her son can do. She knows He has not yet performed any public miracles, but like a good mother who knows her son in a unique and intimate way, she nudges him. Notice she doesn’t go on and on about why there is no wine. She doesn’t give reasons, place blame, or offer suggestions on how to fix the problem (don’t we sometimes approach prayer requests like this?). She simply states a fact: They have no wine.

In this small act, Mary is a model for us in our prayer. First, she has utter and complete faith in her Son, that He will deliver. Second, she serves as an intercessor for the wedding couple by taking their wishes to Jesus, just like she takes our prayers to Jesus, with full faith that He will deliver. So next time you have a need, consider asking with the kind of faith Mary displayed here, (and ask Mary to take your prayers to Him).

“Jesus, my child is very sick.”
“Jesus, I lost my job.”
“Jesus, I’ve shattered a relationship.”
“Jesus, I’ve lost faith in our world.”
“Jesus, I’m afraid to hear the test results.”

All our hopes, fears, and dreams are already contained in these few words. Can you and should you pour out more to Him? By all means. But never think you must be verbose. Especially during times when we are drained of all energy and maybe even the desire to pray, we can at least tell Him as Mary did: “Jesus, I have no wine.”

This conversation between Mary and Jesus is also the fulfillment of an Old Testament story. As noted in the Ignatian Study bible, “Genesis 3 is the reverse image of the story of the Wedding at Cana. As Eve prompted Adam to defy the Lord and drag the human family into sin and death, so Mary, the new Eve, prompts Jesus, the new Adam, to initiate His mission of salvation.”  I invite you to sit with this statement, to think and pray on this beautiful reality.

Lastly, in John 2:5, Mary tells the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” These are the final words of Mary in the New Testament. She commands the servants in the story – and we in the world – to follow Him, and do whatever He tells us. Those are some powerful “last words.”

So…what is Jesus telling you?

There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee,
and the mother of Jesus was there.
Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.
When the wine ran short,
the mother of Jesus said to him,
“They have no wine.”
And Jesus said to her,
“Woman, how does your concern affect me?
My hour has not yet come.”
His mother said to the servers,
“Do whatever he tells you.”
Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings,
each holding twenty to thirty gallons.
Jesus told the them,
“Fill the jars with water.”
So they filled them to the brim.
Then he told them,
“Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.”
So they took it.
And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine,
without knowing where it came from
— although the servers who had drawn the water knew —,
the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him,
“Everyone serves good wine first,
and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one;
but you have kept the good wine until now.”
Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee
and so revealed his glory,
and his disciples began to believe in him.

January 13, 2019 – Baptism of the Lord

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:
This week we celebrate the Baptism of Our Lord, the official end of the Christmas Season (According to the liturgical calendar, Ordinary Time doesn’t officially begin until the Monday after the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which falls on the Sunday after Epiphany.)

Let’s dive in!

Image result for photo baptism of jesus

1ST READING (IS 42: 1-4, 6-7)
(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel.)

Isaiah is a prophet with whom we’re all familiar, even if just by name. In terms of length, Isaiah takes the cake for the Old Testament prophets at a total of 66 chapters. It is often called “The Fifth Gospel” because it bears witness to Christ unparalleled by any book in the OT. He prophesied for close to 79 years, during what is arguably the worst time in Israel’s history. Put simply, the people have turned their back on God in a serious way, for a seriously long time (think idol worship, really bad-behaving kings, and exile). But God gave Isaiah a message to share: Despite the deep darkness in which Israel found themselves, a great light would come.

For Isaiah, the vision of God’s majesty was so overwhelming that military and political power faded in significance. He constantly called his people back to reliance on God’s promises and away from vain attempts to find security in human plans and intrigues.  Isaiah is known for his 4 “servant songs.” This verbiage resurfaces in the New Testament (and in today’s Gospel). Isaiah writes to a people who are familiar with kings being anointed in their land at huge ceremonies. They would have heard this kind of language at one of those ceremonies – for example, when David anointed Solomon. In speaking to them in this familiar style, his message is more likely to stick.

Listen to the theme here of justice – of Divine Kingship vs. earthly kingship. And hear how God tenderly speaks to his people, his audience – with the words “I” and “you.”

Thus says the LORD:
Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
upon whom I have put my spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations,
not crying out, not shouting,
not making his voice heard in the street.
a bruised reed he shall not break,
and a smoldering wick he shall not quench,
until he establishes justice on the earth;
the coastlands will wait for his teaching.

I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.

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

“The Lord will bless His people with peace.”

The psalm is always a response to the first reading. Today’s response assures us that though the people are in darkness, the Lord will bless His people with peace. Interestingly, He doesn’t promise to bless the times and seasons  with peace (look at all the unrest around us today and throughout history), but he will bless His people with peace – peace in their hearts despite what’s happening around them. Take comfort in Christ our Savior. True peace will be achieved at the Second Coming. Until then, be a people of peace, a light to the nations. More verbiage here of kingship in verse 3 (“enthroned).

The Lord will bless his people with peace.
Give to the LORD, you sons of God,
give to the LORD glory and praise,
Give to the LORD the glory due his name;
adore the LORD in holy attire.
The Lord will bless his people with peace.
The voice of the LORD is over the waters,
the LORD, over vast waters.
The voice of the LORD is mighty;
the voice of the LORD is majestic.
The Lord will bless his people with peace.
The God of glory thunders,
and in his temple all say, “Glory!”
The LORD is enthroned above the flood;
the LORD is enthroned as king forever.

2nd READING: ACTS 10: 34-38
(The 2nd reading is usually from Paul’s letters. Speaks to how the early church was built after Christ’s death and resurrection).

In this pivotal scene from Acts, Peter, the Rock on whom Christ built the Church, the first Pope, makes a striking announcement to the people – and to us. Salvation through Christ – which comes through baptism –  is not just available to Jews, but also to the Gentiles! This was a shocking discovery. Let’s pause and consider why this is.

Up until this point, the people who believed Christ was the Messiah were elated to know that all the prophecies of old were now fulfilled. The Messiah had come! But it’s a sticky moment in Church history to a degree. Everyone who was looking forward to the coming of the Messiah – including the Apostles and Jesus himself – were Jewish. So to them, their Messiah had come. The answer promised to them for generations was here. But they didn’t really understand that this was now a New Covenant – an advancement or fulfillment of the Old.  They didn’t know it would mean a “new faith” (Christianity) – new practices, new teachings. The concept of a “new faith” or “a new Church” was not yet established. Many of Paul’s letters are written to clarify these complex, generations-old traditions: “Do we still need to be circumcised? Can we eat ‘unclean’ foods? What are the new rules?”  If I were Peter or Paul, charged with that task, I can only imagine the reliance I would need to put on my prayer life and the work of the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes in our own lives we enter a new chapter. It’s not the same as the old! Going from high school to college. Going from internship to a paid position with benefits. Going from dating to marriage. From married couple to family. From working life to retirement. What are the new ways of doing things, and what are the old? How do we adapt?

Back to the reading: So who’s Cornelius? He’s a Roman Centurian – a Gentile. In the reading, Peter preaches the Gospel to Cornelius and other gentiles for the first time.   Here’s where it gets cool. After preaching the gospel (keep reading in Acts 10), Peter sees the gentiles experience the same things that had happened at Pentecost – like speaking in tongues – and he recognizes this as a “second Pentecost.” Peter proceeds to baptize this group of men. This is Peter’s “a-ha” moment: He knows with certainty that God wants ALL people to receive salvation through His Church, beginning with baptism. From this point forward, Peter takes this message out to the world begins to preach to all people.

Peter proceeded to speak to those gathered
in the house of Cornelius, saying:
“In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.
Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly
is acceptable to him.
You know the word that he sent to the Israelites
as he proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all,
what has happened all over Judea,
beginning in Galilee after the baptism
that John preached,
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth
with the Holy Spirit and power.
He went about doing good
and healing all those oppressed by the devil,
for God was with him.”

GOSPEL (LK 3:15-16, 21-22)
(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 prophets of old said “Before the Messiah comes, look for Elijah.” John the Baptist is acting like “the new Elijah” – who leads the way to Jesus.  John brought words of power to the people to whom he preached, and the people thought he might be the Christ. In the reading, the people are baptized, and Jesus goes last. Jesus puts His people before Him.

Why is Jesus baptized if He’s God? I like this explanation from Catholic Online:

“The Word Incarnate stands in the waters of the earth which was created through Him, and begins the re-creation of everything. Into these waters, through which the people of Israel were once delivered, the entire human race is now invited to follow Jesus. What was once the means of God’s judgment and purification at the time of Noah, now fills the Baptismal font where men and women are delivered from sin and made new.”

Wow. At this moment, for the first time, we see all three persons of God present simultaneously: Jesus is there, the Holy Spirit descends on Him like a Dove, and the voice of God the Father is heard from above quoting the servant song of Isaiah 42: “You are my beloved Son, with You I am well pleased.” Wow again.

Where in our lives do we need to be cleansed? Where do we need to be ‘re-created’ and begin anew? Although we’ve already been baptized, our sacramental life – through Eucharist and Reconciliation – are the tools Jesus left on Earth for us so that we would have access to His Sacramental, Heavenly Grace.

The people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
“I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

After all the people had been baptized
and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying,
heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him
in bodily form like a dove.
And a voice came from heaven,
“You are my beloved Son;
with you I am well pleased.”

May God bless your week!

01.06.19 – Epiphany (Year C)

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:
The book of Isaiah is often called “the Fifth Gospel.”  Isaiah can be divided into 2 main parts.

  1. Chapters 1-39: The book of judgment. (God’s people aren’t listening. They’re worshipping idols.)
  2. Chapters 40-66: The book of consolation. (God is ever-loving. He will never tire from trying to save his people. He will save those who turn back.) We’re in this part today – the first 6 verses of chapter 60.

Isaiah 60: 1-6
(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel.)

Today we hear a beautiful, poetic reading that truly “consoles.” Isaiah wrote this after Babylon was ruined. He “dreams” a bit here, and reminds the people that with the birth of Christ (which, of course, hadn’t happened yet when this was written), salvation would come, too. Dark as it was at the time, this is cause for celebration. In the reading, Christ is equated to images of light and shining radiance. We see the harmony that is to be once Christ comes and we all become one with Him (at the end of time):

This reading prophesies the gospel.  As you listen, picture the 3 kings traveling to Bethlehem:

“Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; but upon you (3 kings) the LORD shines, and over you (the star) appears his glory. Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance. Raise your eyes and look about; they all gather and come to you: your sons come from afar, and your daughters in the arms of their nurses. Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow…”

Psalm 72: Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

From Christianity.com: “This psalm belongs to Solomon in part, but to Christ more fully and clearly. Solomon was both the king and the king’s son, and his father wanted the wisdom of God to be in him. Although Solomon’s reign came to an end, Christ’s never will. You’ll hear “father/son” language in the first verse…

O God, with your judgment endow the king,
and with your justice, the king’s son;
He shall govern your people with justice
and your afflicted ones with judgment.

Justice shall flower in his days,
and profound peace, till the moon be no more.
May he rule from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.

EPH 3:2-3A, 5-6
(The 2nd Reading usually comes from Paul’s letters).

Paul makes 2 points in this letter: 1) The fullness of God’s mystery has not been fully revealed until now, (when God revealed it to Paul), and 2) The mystery says that Gentiles – not just Jews – share in the salvation God offers. The 2nd point about the Gentiles having access to salvation? This really gob-smacked the Church. For centuries, gentiles were outsiders – unclean and unfit to experience God’s promises. Paul still “lowers the bomb” with gentleness, knowing it might sting his audience a little.

“You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for your benefit, 
namely, that the mystery was made known to me by revelation. It was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: That the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and co-partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

Gospel: Matthew 2: 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.)

Remember how our psalm talked about Solomon’s kingship, and how it eventually ended? Jesus is seen here as “the new Solomon.” Only HIS kingship never ends.

Today, the magi come to Jerusalem to see the Christ Child – the three kings, or the three “wise men.” But when King Herod heard this, he became irate. “What? Someone else is being praised in MY kingdom? I’ll have none of that, for I am the only King!” The city of Jerusalem was right behind him on this, the reading tells us.

Herod gathered the chief priests and elders. “What say you?” he asked. The chief priests answered with an Old Testament verse in which a prophet foretold this would happen: “And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you (Bethlehem) shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.” King Herod hears this, does not like it, and calls the magi to him. “Go find the child, and send word of where I can find him. I want to pay him a visit too…” Now of course Herod doesn’t want to pay him homage, he wants to kill Jesus. He just needs Jesus’ location. (Sounds like a great CSI episode, doesn’t it?)

The kings travel to Bethlehem, guided by the great star. They arrive, pay homage, and then – because those fantastic, always-on-their-toes angels were doing their jobs well – the Holy Family left on another route. Why? They had been warned to do so in a dream, and they listened.

As we embark on a New Year, let us be like the 3 kings – let us be wise, let us walk by His light, let us pay close attention to our dreams – and however else the Lord speaks to us  – and let us pay him homage day after day after day.

Happy New Year!

12.16.18 – Third Sunday of Advent (Year C)

Welcome Back to Banquet of the Word!
Special Alert! In less than 4 weeks, at the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, this blog will have covered the full 3-year cycle of readings! Except for, of course, the weeks I have missed over the past few months as life got a bit crazy. However, I’m thrilled to have made it nearly all the way through years A, B and C. The exciting news is that you will see these posts sooner because I will be able to rely on posts that have already been written. I’ll adapt them a bit to be more timely, and voila. Away we’ll go! Truth? It has been a marathon and I never thought I’d get to the end. But alas, here we are, upon it…

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.

Greetings! Today is the 3rd week of Advent. That’s the pink candle, which stands for HOPE. It is also called Gaudate Sunday. We will hear messages of Hope.

1st Reading: ZEP 3:14-18A

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

Listen to this reading from the prophet Zephaniah, a “minor” prophet whose small book (just 3 chapters!) is almost entirely a warning of destruction and devastation. Until the very end. Check out the outline given at usccb.org (We’re in part 4 today):

  1. The Day of the Lord: Judgment on Judah (1:22:3)
  2. Judgment on the Nations (2:415)
  3. Jerusalem Reproached (3:17)
  4. The Nations Punished and Jerusalem Restored (3:820)

Zephaniah warned the people of Israel for 3 chapters, but at the end brings them hope. He calls them “daughter” and asks them to “sing joyfully.” He tells them to “fear not…be not discouraged!” The Lord is in their midst. And He is in ours today. He is in our midst through our trials, too. When all seems dark and gloomy, remember to think of that pink candle – light it in your heart and let it remind you to never lose hope, for the Lord is always in our midst!

Sing joyfully, O Israel!
Be glad and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
The LORD has removed the judgment against you
he has turned away your enemies;
the King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst,
you have no further misfortune to fear.
On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!
The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you in his love,
he will sing joyfully because of you,
as one sings at festivals.

Responsorial Psalm: IS 12:2-3, 4, 5-6
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

Hear the words of joy, strength and courage from the prophet Isaiah (we are not hearing from the actual book of Psalms today).

Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.
God indeed is my savior;
I am confident and unafraid.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
With joy you will draw water
at the fountain of salvation.

2nd Reading: PHIL 4:4-7
(The 2nd reading is usually from Paul’s letters. Speaks to how the early church was built after Christ’s death and resurrection).

Paul’s letter to the Philippians is often referred to “The Letter of JOY,” so it is no surprise that we find it here on the Sunday of JOY. Paul tells us to rejoice! The Lord is near. We’ve turned the corner, now halfway through Advent, and are headed toward the end of this watchful season. Nearing Christmas Day, let us rejoice in our hearts as Paul suggests.

Brothers and sisters:
Rejoice in the Lord always.
I shall say it again: rejoice!
Your kindness should be known to all.
The Lord is near.
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. 

LK 3:10-18

(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.)

It helps to know that right before this reading, John the Baptist – who prepares The Way for Jesus’s coming – says to the crowds (John is about to baptize them), “Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” He circles back to this point at the end of the gospel reading:

The crowds ask John… “What should we do?” Listen as he foretells that Jesus is coming. He is trying to prepare them for the coming of the Son of God. The people are asking, What should we do to prepare?

And what about us, what are we doing to prepare? I know I’m busy getting things assembled – gifts, tables, have we watched Charlie Brown yet, what about Christmas cards? It’s so hard for us to carve out that extra time to just be still. And yet I am always glad I do when I do. So that’s my job this week! What’s yours? How are you preparing?

“Whoever has two cloaks
should share with the person who has none.
And whoever has food should do likewise.”
Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him,
“Teacher, what should we do?”
He answered them,
“Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”
Soldiers also asked him,
“And what is it that we should do?”
He told them,
“Do not practice extortion,
do not falsely accuse anyone,
and be satisfied with your wages.”

Now the people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
“I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor
and to gather the wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Exhorting them in many other ways,
he preached good news to the people.

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.



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.