3.25.18 – Palm Sunday (Year B)

Welcome Back!

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

This week’s several themes come to mind:

  1. Obedience.
  2. Fulfillment of the scriptures.
  3. Jesus, the Suffering Servant.
  4. Walking with Christ to Calvary.

palm sunday

The Procession:

In this reading (read from the back of the church), Jesus enters Jerusalem. He comes to the city where he will be wrongly accused, put to death, and fulfill the mission for which He was sent. The colt Jesus demands is one without blemish and it has not been ridden. That means it was fit for sacred use. Zechariah prophesied: “Behold; your king is coming to you, a just savior is he, humble, and riding on a donkey,” (1 Kgs 1:33-44). The people knew what they saw when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey. With palms in hand, they were experiencing a prophetic fulfillment happening right before their eyes. Thus the words of praise they all exclaim. “Glory in the highest!”

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

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

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

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

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

  • In the Old Testament, God provided for and protected his Chosen Son, Israel.
  • In the New Testament, God calls His Chosen Son Jesus to take on the sins of all people – past, present and future.
  • A loving and protective Father hates when his son is picked on or bullied. He wants to shield him. He wants to toss all enemies aside. Think about this as you listen.
  • We are hearing the Old Testament prophecy of what the Messiah will face when Christ travels to Calvary. The servant in this servant song is Christ. He will take on the sins of Israel plus the Gentiles. Beaten and bloodied, He willingly takes upon himself the guilt of us all. That is a love that knows no bounds.

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

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

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

Paul wrote to the church in Philippi – a people who were retired Roman military. They had fought in battle after battle for an earthly commander. Paul writes to this audience using beautiful military imagery and calls them to be soldiers for their Heavenly Commander, God.

The takeaway for me in this reading has to do with the phrase:

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

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

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


MK 14:1—15:47


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

There’s so much here to unpack, so I offer a few thoughts.

  1. We hear at the beginning, the story of the woman with the alabastar jar who anoints Jesus’s head with oil. The very expensive, nearly priceless oil – she give her ALL to Jesus. In what ways do we give our all to Jesus, and in what ways do we hold back? Salvation and abundant blessing is Christ’s promise to us when we do give our all.
  2. Peter denied Christ three times. We all deny Christ in small ways, sometimes big ways. God’s mercy is endless and without limits. When we come to him with contrite hearts to touch his cloak, our sins are but a drop of water in his ocean of mercy. A drop of water! One of the precepts of the Church is to make a good confession once a year. Find out where you can attend confession before Easter in your city or town.
  3. 3. We’re called to walk the journey with Jesus when we stand and hear this gospel. Take time today and this week to travel with Christ. Don’t become overwhelmed by details and scriptural knowledge; just walk with Him. Ask Him to reach you with whatever part of His passion he wants to. Ask Him, “Lord, what shall I take from this reading today? What thought exercise do I need in my life? Lord grant me the ears to hear and the eyes to see. I want to fully experience this journey with you. Hold my hand and I’ll hold yours, show me the way to a deeper love with you this Holy Week. I want only to remain by your side.”

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


03.18.18 – 5th Sunday of Lent (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:
There are a total of 16 prophetic books in the Old Testament. 4 are “major”, meaning highly influential and also longer (in terms of chapters). They are Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel and Daniel.

Jeremiah 31:31-34
(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel.)

Jeremiah is one of the 4 Major Prophets. He tried desperately to tell the Israelites to return to the Lord and His ways, lest their city be destroyed and they be cast into exile by the Babylonians (which did happen). Today’s reading is really beautiful, and for a prophetic book, not too hard to take in or understand.

Jeremiah is God’s mouthpiece, as are all prophets. So through Jeremiah, God is telling his beloved people Israel that a day will come when he makes a NEW covenant with his people. Now that would be centuries away from the day Jeremiah spoke it, but that New Covenant did come – it came on the days of Christs’s passion, death  and resurrection. Listen in then, as we hear Jeremiah talk of what that New Covenant will be. Notice the theme of THE HEART. This is to be contrasted with STONE, a hardened, immovable material scripture tells us is like the hearts of the Israelites for most of the Old Testament:

The days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel
and the house of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers
the day I took them by the hand
to lead them forth from the land of Egypt;
for they broke my covenant,
and I had to show myself their master, says the LORD.
But this is the covenant that I will make
with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD.
I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts;
I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
No longer will they have need to teach their friends and relatives
how to know the LORD.
All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the LORD,
for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.

Psalm 51: Create a clean heart in me, O God.
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

Listen here for themes of cleansing, for language around a “clean heart.”

Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.

A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.

Hebrews 5:7-9
(The 2nd reading is usually from Paul’s letters.
 Speaks to how the early church was built after Christ’s death and resurrection).

A major theme in the letter to the Hebrews is the “Sonship” of Jesus Christ. That is, he was 100% human, yes. But he was also 100% Son of God, divine. This reality can bring hours and hours of contemplation and adoration if we choose!

In short, today’s reading leads our eyes to the cross that is coming for Jesus. It leads us to contemplate that “son though he was,” he remained obedient through suffering. How in our own lives can we remain a “son/daughter though we are” and learn obedience to The Father through suffering? Suffering is part of our Christian life, despite what the world tells us. It’s actually possible to embrace it and grow in the Lord, become who the Lord wants us to become (as Christ did).

In the days when Christ Jesus was in the flesh,
he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears
to the one who was able to save him from death,
and he was heard because of his reverence.
Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; 
and when he was made perfect,
he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

John 12: 20-33
(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.)

grain of wheat

Today is the “grain of wheat” gospel. You know the song you’ll probably sing at mass; “Unless a grain of wheat shall fall … upon the land and die… it remains but a single grain with no life…” That is from our reading today.

The gospel links back to the first reading from Jeremiah. Why? Because Jeremiah prophesied about a New Covenant. We’re nearing Good Friday – the 5th Sunday of Lent already – and our readings lead us there each Sunday. Today Jesus tells us – and those present in the reading – about the kind of death he will die. He compares it to something familiar to the people (I’ve said before he was a master rhetorician) – Wheat.

At the wedding at Cana, Jesus said his hour has not yet come. Now it has.

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat;
but if it dies, it produces much fruit.
Whoever loves his life loses it,
and whoever hates his life in this world
will preserve it for eternal life.

If we break it down, we know that:

Jesus = seed. The seed will fall, die. If it doesn’t fall, we are not redeemed.

Fruit = that’s us. The seed falls, a new tree of life – a new covenant – grows in that place in the ground. The tree of life that grows from this seed REPLACES the tree of life from the Garden of Eden. That became the tree of death – it brought forth original sin. From this new tree though, new fruit comes forth. The new fruit is Christians – those who follow Christ in the New Covenant.

And on Good Friday, we sing about the wood that Christ dies upon as a “tree” – the tree that is death for Christ? Is the tree of life for us.


03.11.18 – 4th Sunday of Lent (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:
If God were to ask someone to write a “book report” on salvation history, the product would be 1st and 2nd Chronicles. These 2 books are from the Old Testament – we rarely read them at mass. They are actually little diamonds in the rough; they tell salvation history starting with Adam and ending with the declaration to rebuild the temple (King Cyrus said that, he was a good king).

2 CHR 36:14-16, 19-23

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

Today we’re at the end of the “book report” – we’re skipping several verses, but we get the idea from reading this that there was infidelity, people practicing abominations of the nations and polluting the temple, and mockery – lots of mockery. God sent his messengers (his prophets) to his beloved Israel “early and often” – for “he had compassion for them and his dwelling place.”

God became very angry. The people with whom God made a covenant had forgotten him. Before long – just as Jeremiah prophesied – King Nebuchadnezzar sacked Jerusalem with the Babylonian army. The Israelites who weren’t killed as the temple came down, they were brought into exile in Babylon. Eventually they returned to their homeland. Soon Cyrus was king. He chose to rebuild the temple – and the people began to turn – to turn back to the covenant God had made with them. Cyrus proclaimed:

“All the kingdoms of the earth
the LORD, the God of heaven, has given to me,
and he has also charged me to build him a house
in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.
Whoever, therefore, among you belongs to any part of his people,
let him go up, and may his God be with him!”

Psalm 137:Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

Whatever you do – make sure you listen to these verses today! They fit perfectly with the first reading. I won’t put them all here, but listen to the cries of the Israelites while they’re in Baylonian captivity:

By the streams of Babylon
we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
On the aspens of that land
we hung up our harps.

How could we sing a song of the LORD
in a foreign land?
If I forget you, Jerusalem,
may my right hand be forgotten!

EPH 2:4-10

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

What we learn in Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus is that God is a river of mercy that never stops flowing to us. God reaches out to sinners with boundless mercy. Hear that? BOUNDLESS mercy. God brought us to life through his death. He brought us forgiveness when we are prone to sin.

This reading also highlights the abundant grace God showers upon us again and again. People who do good works and live a new life in Christ are a an example of God’s great – and boundless – mercy. Has it been a while since your last visit to the confessional? Be not afraid. God’s mercy is present there in a way that it is not present elsewhere. Our Father is always ready to welcome his prodigal sons and daughters home.

JN 3:14-21

(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.)

Who was Nicodemus? He was a Pharisee who came to Jesus at night. John is the only one to mention this figure, and spends most of chapter 3 talking about him, mentioning him again in chapter 7. Nicodemus helped remove Jesus from the cross. We may be hearing what Jesus taught him when Nicodemus came at night to learn more about Jesus’s teaching. Jesus is like a divine professor holding “office hours.”

First Jesus draws a similarity between his impending death (being lifted up on a cross) and the lifting up that Moses did with the serpent. The Israelites were to look at it, be healed (of snake bites) and live. We are to look up at the cross, be healed (of the devil’s “bites,” which lead us to sin) and live.

Jesus said to Nicodemus:
“Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

And then the famous verse of John 3:16 (and following). This kind of love is known as “Agape” love. Total. Life-giving. Complete. Perfect love. And he’s pretty clear, too. Believe in Him and you will not be condemned:

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

John uses simple, easy-to-understand examples of light and dark to explain his point. A smart rhetorical move, allowing people to “get it” quickly. And how prophetic it is, isnt’ it? The light is here, the Eucharist is here, the Church is here, and yet people don’t see it. They don’t get it. They don’t believe. They prefer darkness. I can’t help but think of the tragedy in Florida. How very, very dark.

We must be children of light! How can you be a light to someone in darkness this week? You are the light of Christ – you have it in you – share it! Be Christ’s light this week!

And this is the verdict,
that the light came into the world,
but people preferred darkness to light,
because their works were evil.
For everyone who does wicked things hates the light
and does not come toward the light,
so that his works might not be exposed.
But whoever lives the truth comes to the light,
so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.

03.04.18 – 3rd Sunday of Lent (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.

Exodus 20:1-17
(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel.)

We are in the book of Exodus today, the 2nd book of the bible, authored by Moses. Today we hear God gives Israel the 10 commandments. Think of this situation like a love triangle: It’s God, Israel, and “the other woman” (which is idolatry). Israel keeps hanging out with “the other woman” and doesn’t see God for who He is (Truth, Love). In the reading God is “wooing” Israel, telling them he loves and cherishes them and that He is making a covenant with them.

Most of the woo-ing happens before the start of this reading, but you hear God remind the people about what he did for them – how he saved them from slavery of the Egyptians. In the New Testament, this link is perfected because Christ saves us from slavery, only not from the Egyptians, but from the slavery of sin.

“I, the LORD, am your God,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery.
You shall not have other gods besides me.
You shall not carve idols for yourselves
in the shape of anything in the sky above
or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth;
you shall not bow down before them or worship them.
For I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God,
inflicting punishment for their fathers’ wickedness
on the children of those who hate me,
down to the third and fourth generation;
but bestowing mercy down to the thousandth generation
on the children of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Responsorial Psalm: 19 ~ Lord You Have the Words of Everlasting Life
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

The words of this psalm reflect the perfect relationship that is possible if the Israelites – and we too – choose to worship God and not idols.

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.

1 COR 1: 22-25
(The 2nd reading is usually from Paul’s letters.
 Speaks to how the early church was built after Christ’s death and resurrection).

Paul is talking to those in Corinth. They’re confused about what to believe and what to preach – they are fuzzy about what the truth is. It’s kind of like getting into a conversation with a group of people and after a minute or two you can tell it will be fruitless because minds are not open to alternative points of view.

So Paul’s task is hard. He reminds the Church leaders that Jews want signs (proof of the divine), Greeks want wisdom (esteemed philosophical arguments on which to stand), but as Christians? We proclaim Christ crucified. It’s a tough claim to get behind when you think about it. Some say we look foolish – to trust in suffering, to accept it freely, to consider it our way to Heaven – and yet this IS what we believe. How do you live this reality? I’m not the best at suffering with a smile, but I’m working on it!

Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom,
but we proclaim Christ crucified,
a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,
but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike,
Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom,
and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

John 2: 13-25
(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.)balage_jesus_and_the_money_changers-t1

The reading today takes place on a Passover. This foreshadows Jesus’ own Passover – his PASSing OVER from death into life.  Jesus has a conflict with the moneychangers today, foreshadowing his conflict with authority – with those who will arrest and crucify Him.   Jesus overturns the tables in the temple where the moneychangers are. Then, as was mentioned in the 2nd reading, the Jews ask for “A Sign:”
At this the Jews answered and said to him,
“What sign can you show us for doing this?”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”
The Jews though, completely mis-understand the meaning of this sentence. Jesus says the temple will be torn down and then RAISED up in 3 days “The temple” is Jesus, but the people think he means the brick temple building that has been under construction for 46 years. This links to R1 where the 1st covenant is established with Israel – the Old Covenant. Jesus dying on the cross is the 2nd and more perfect or NEW covenant. The doors to heaven are flung open for us when he dies on the cross. They don’t get it at all (and I can’t say I would have understood had I been standing there). This doesn’t really become misunderstood until much later – until after Jesus’s resurrection and the apostles can see the true meaning.
When was the last time you were confused by God’s message? Did it make sense later? Do you see now how and why it unfolded as it did? Ask God for the eyes to see. He will grant us supernatural vision if we ask Him, if we seek Him with trust and humility.

02.18.18 – First Sunday of Lent (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 1GN 9:8-15

Fun fact 1:
Noah is saved by water because he built a boat. There is a deeper message here; we are all saved by water and we all need a boat. More when you get to the 2nd reading below.

Fun fact 2:
1 Peter 3 (our 2nd reading) is about “The Christian in a Hostile World” It answers the question, “what is our role in the World?”

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

In R1, we’re at a very important part of the Old Testament; it’s God’s covenant with Noah. This is before God’s covenant with Abraham, and it is right after God wipes out all of his people with the flood. Remember that God was so fed up with his people and the sin they constantly lived in, that he decided to wreak havoc and wipe them all out – except for Noah, the only righteous man in his eyes. He sets a bow in the clouds – a rainbow – to show his love.
What sign have you seen lately that reminds you of his love for you? I have a short story: Last night I was driving home at night with a friend and our 3 boys. We’d just gone to a Mother-Son Valentines Dance. It was pitch black. Suddenly I noticed a large bird of prey flying right above the windshield. It was big, beautiful, and so white! So pure! I got the slightest glimpse of it and noticed the roundness of its head – it was an OWL! Owls are my most favorite creature. I have only seen 3 in my life in their natural habitat. I was beyond thrilled. I was ecstatic to have had that amazing encounter with God’s creation. And God knows me, he knows every hair on my head. Perhaps it was a sign of love from Him.
A barn owl flying at night

Open your eyes this week and see the signs God has in mind for you.

God said to Noah:
“See, I am now establishing my covenant with you
and your descendants after you
and with every living creature that was with you:
all the birds, and the various tame and wild animals
that were with you and came out of the ark.
I will establish my covenant with you,
that never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed
by the waters of a flood;
there shall not be another flood to devastate the earth.”
“This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come,
of the covenant between me and you
and every living creature with you:
I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign
of the covenant between me and the earth.
When I bring clouds over the earth,
and the bow appears in the clouds,
I will recall the covenant I have made
between me and you and all living beings,
so that the waters shall never again become a flood
to destroy all mortal beings.”

Responsorial PsalmPS 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9.
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)
“Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant.”

This Is All About Covenants. God’s Covenant With His People. We Are To Lean On Him And Learn From Him By Following His Ways.

Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior.

Remember that your compassion, O LORD,
and your love are from of old.
In your kindness remember me,
because of your goodness, O LORD.

 Reading 2 1 PT 3:18-22

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

The main theme here is “Encouragement to fidelity in spite of suffering.” Or, “Be faithful even though we suffer.” We are in Lent now, and are encouraged to see the role of suffering in our lives. To see that it has purpose.

Why is Noah here? Because this reading talks about being “Saved Through Water.” Well Noah was Saved Through the flood waters (fortunately he had a boat) – his life was spared while others died in their sin. We too are saved through the waters of baptism. The Church is our boat – it is our way out of the sinful world in which we live. Who else can we help God pull from the water and into the boat of salvation this lent? How can we be his instrument?

Christ suffered for sins once, 
the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, 
that he might lead you to God.
Put to death in the flesh, 
he was brought to life in the Spirit.
In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, 
who had once been disobedient 
while God patiently waited in the days of Noah 
during the building of the ark, 
in which a few persons, eight in all,
were saved through water.
This prefigured baptism, which saves you now.
It is not a removal of dirt from the body 
but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, 

through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
who has gone into heaven
and is at the right hand of God, 
with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.

GospelMK 1:12-15

(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 about Jesus going to the desert – removing himself from the crowds -retreating. This is what lent is supposed to be for us – a retreat away from worldly pleasures, conversations that don’t fill us or help us grow, a retreat away from the busy-ness of life. This is hard to do. It sure is hard for me. But even knowing it’s Lent, waking up to think of a way to celebrate Lent in some small way today, it is one step toward living that retreat.

Finally, we see the overarching theme of  Mark’s entire gospel in the final verse: The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and Believe in the Gospel. We are called throughout lent to repent! We are callout of sin and darkness and into forgiveness and light. May you feel the peace of retreat in a small or large way this week. May you notice a sign from God that is just for you. And may you find a piece of joy in a suffering you endure, knowing it is The Way to Him!

“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.

After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

02.14.18 – Ash Wednesday

Welcome Back to a Special Edition of Banquet of the Word! And let’s not forget today is Saint Valentine’s Feast Day, too!

To see Ash Wednesday Readings click here

Image result for ashes on forehead image

I strongly encourage you to check out this great article about “The 5 minute rule during Lent.” Excellent way to stay mindful about Lent every day.

Fun fact:
Purple is the liturgical color for Lent (and Advent too). It signifies royalty and suffering.  Purple was a rare and costly dye, so it was reserved for kings.

1st Reading: JOEL 2:12-18

images 3 pillars lent

We hear this reading every Ash Wednesday. Why? Because we see in this reading the three pillars of Lent: Fasting, Almsgiving, and Prayer. Back then though, Joel was not getting ready for the distribution of ashes when he wrote this … he was giving a “pep talk.” A few basics:

  • Leading up to this passage, Joel tells the people that destruction and death are coming if they do not repent. He positions “de-creation” (disorder) vs. the “creation” God ordered in Genesis.
  • He talks of swarms of locusts, severe loss of agriculture (food), etc. If they abandon sinful ways they could be spared. But they had to act. So Joel gives them a pep talk:

“Blow the trumpet in Zion! Call the assembly, proclaim a fast, assemble the elders! Perhaps He will again relent.” At the end of the reading, we see it is due to the people’s fasting that God reconsidered: “the Lord was stirred to concern for his land and took pity on his people.”

I once heard at a talk, “If you really want the Lord to know you’re serious about your prayer request, fast.” That does not mean God doesn’t hear prayers if we don’t fast or that He won’t answer them – God doesn’t work like that. Fasting is simply as a way to enter more deeply into prayer. The fasting is more for us than God. By going without, by suffering for another person in some small way, we act as someone else’s “Simon of Cyrene” – and that brings us closer to His Sacred Heart.

Responsorial Psalm: 51
“Be merciful O Lord for we have sinned.”

This psalm was written by a repentant King David after he had Uriah the Hittite killed. (David committed adultery with Uriah’s beautiful wife, Bathsheba, and then had him killed in battle.) He felt deep, deep sorrow for his actions.

Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.

Jesus left us a tangible way to receive this clean heart whenever we want – in the sacrament of Reconciliation. He can make a clean heart in us, and we can start anew.

St. Faustina: “Jesus said to me,
‘There is no misery that could be a match for my mercy.’”

2nd Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2

In Paul’s 2nd letter to the Church in Corinth, he is going through a pretty rough time. The people Paul left in charge in Corinth are doubting his very apostleship and authority. That is no easy spot. And yet what a master rhetorician he proves to be.

– Paul tells them (and us) they are “ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us.” He wants them to set a good example.
– Joel talked “de-creation,” here Paul talks “re-creation” – be reconciled to God.
– Paul purposely quotes Isaiah’s 4th Servant Song, which would be very familiar to his audience. He reminds them that God never abandons them. “In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you” (from Isaiah 49:8).

Though the world says the opposite, Jesus teaches thatsuffering does not mean we have been abandoned. It is part of being a disciple of Christ. Though it may be hard to see as we are in it, He is with us through every storm.

Gospel: Matthew 6-1-6; 16-18 
(The Sermon on the Mount)

Moses and Jesus have a lot in common.

  • They both led the people out of slavery (in Egypt/of sin)
  • They both dealt with stiff-necked people (Israelites/us)
  • They both delivered the law on Mt. Sinai (Moses in the form of the 1o commandments on a stony slab, Jesus in the form of His Word, and from His Sacred Heart of flesh, thus fulfilling or completing the law Moses gave).

The Sermon on the Mount has 3 parts: Jesus gives the Beatitudes (Part 1) expands on them (Part 2), and offers warnings/woes (Part 3). Today’s reading is from Part 2, concerning fasting as prayer.

Jesus tells the disciples how to live as an upright people. He tells them/us to value humility over pride, a quiet, interior relationship with Him over loudly sounding our trumpets, and an outward appearance of joy and stability when we are fasting. These are goals we can constantly work to achieve. We many never “get there,” but with a spirit of faith we must try, and we’ll surely grow in His love along the way.

We are called for the next 40 days, to be like Christ in His passion. To strip ourselves of worldly desires. To retreat to the wilderness and enter into a deeper kind of prayer. To make our lives more bland for a time. In doing these things, we position ourselves to see the triumphant joy of Easter with increased clarity – a day when Jesus stomps on death itself and throws open the doors of Heaven for us.

02.11.18 – 6th 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:

Contrary to popular belief, the book of Leviticus is not impossible to understand nor pointless. Yes, it’s a lot of laws (think L=Leviticus, Law=Leviticus). But let’s understand why this was necessary.

Israel’s history with pagan worship lasted over 400 years. There was an intense need to get the Israelites out of Egypt (which Moses did), AND to get Egypt out of the Israelites. That is, get the pagan worshipping out of the Israelites.  The response? The book of Leviticus, a tool designed to give the rules they clearly needed. (613 laws to be exact.)

LV 13:1-2, 44-46

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

We’re atlaw #452 of 613. Today it’s about leprosy. Here it is:

“If someone has on his skin a scab or pustule or blotch
which appears to be the sore of leprosy,
he shall be brought to Aaron, the priest,
or to one of the priests among his descendants.
If the man is leprous and unclean,
the priest shall declare him unclean
by reason of the sore on his head.

“The one who bears the sore of leprosy
shall keep his garments rent and his head bare,
and shall muffle his beard;
he shall cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean!’
As long as the sore is on him he shall declare himself unclean,
since he is in fact unclean.
He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp.”

Lepers were considered “unclean,” they were excluded from the Temple. That means they were prevented from carrying out their religious duties. Lepers were ostracized from society and treated as aliens.

We can contemplate today the reality of Jesus’s complete healing power. The leprosy – which CUT people OFF from the Temple, is synonymous with sin. When we sin? We cut ourselves off from God. We put up a wall; become separate.  This week’s readings show us a simple “before” and “after;” In the gospel, Jesus heals a leper and makes him whole. In confession, Jesus heals US and makes us whole.  We are no longer separated from Him, but united.

Psalm 32: “I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble,
and you fill me with the joy of salvation.”
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

Listen for the message of forgiveness in these verses:

Blessed is he whose fault is taken away,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed the man to whom the LORD imputes not guilt,
in whose spirit there is no guile.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
my guilt I covered not.
I said, “I confess my faults to the LORD,”
and you took away the guilt of my sin.

1 COR 10:31—11:1

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

The key line is the first line: Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.”  That means if we are called to suffer (e.g. leprosy), we ought to suffer for the glory of God. If we are blessed at this moment and have gifts to share (time, talent or money), we should do this also for the glory of God. The rest of the reading:

Avoid giving offense, whether to the Jews or Greeks or
the church of God,
just as I try to please everyone in every way,
not seeking my own benefit but that of the many,
that they may be saved.
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

MK 1:40-45

(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.)

This gospel is powerful in light of our first reading, and appropriate as we begin Lent in just 4 days. Jesus is approached by a leper (remember – totally alienated back then! Considered hideous, contagious). And yet that leper knew in his heart who Jesus was. He wasn’t afraid to ask for healing. Knowing His faith, Jesus healed him.

Jesus tells him not to tell anyone what happened (remember, Jesus tried to stay “under wraps” so the authorities wouldn’t seek him out – not until the time for the Cross had come). But the man cannot help it. I can’t say I blame Him. When Christ touches your heart, changes you from and on the inside, makes you clean and whole again – how can we NOT share that gospel message with the world?

A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said,
“If you wish, you can make me clean.”
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand,
touched him, and said to him,
“I do will it. Be made clean.”
The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.
Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once.

Do you have a story about how Jesus has changed your life, healed you? Who needs to hear that message this week? Pray for the words and timing to share it. And know that in doing this, you are being His hands and feet to the world.