7.22.18 – 16th Sunday in 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.

Image result for disciples in a boat with jesus

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

Today’s first reading from the  prophet Jeremiah, one of the four major prophets. He had a tough job during a tough part of Israel’s history. He had to tell Gods people that destruction was imminent if they did not turn around.
Today we can hear his words of warning; the message from God is that Israel has turned its back. The shepherds are leading the people in the wrong direction, toward idolatry and a thirst for power and riches. God says he will send better shepherds – and the Ultimate Good Shepherd Jesus – will come from the shoot of Jesse.


Woe to the shepherds
who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture,
says the LORD. 

Therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of Israel,
against the shepherds who shepherd my people:
You have scattered my sheep and driven them away.
You have not cared for them,
but I will take care to punish your evil deeds.
I myself will gather the remnant of my flock
from all the lands to which I have driven them
and bring them back to their meadow;
there they shall increase and multiply.
I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them
so that they need no longer fear and tremble;
and none shall be missing, says the LORD.

Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David;
as king he shall reign and govern wisely,
he shall do what is just and right in the land.

Psalm 23: The Lord is My Shepherd There is Nothing I Shall Want
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

The shepherd theme is continued from the 1st Reading to the psalm.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.

Ephesians 2: 13-18
(The 2nd reading is usually from Paul’s letters.
 Speaks to how the early church was built after Christ’s death and resurrection).

St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians has one overarching theme; Unity in the Church. We are in Chapter 2 today, and we are in this letter on Sundays all the way through the month of August! So remember, think “Unity” during Reading 2 until then. See if you can see themes of Unity from Paul, then see how you might be able to apply it to your life.

Today we can start by saying well, if unity is desired, then the people must be scattered at the time he wrote this. Scattered…like sheep. Divided. They must be “far off” as it says in the first verse. We also see the covenant of marriage here, the one Jesus made to his bride, The Church: “that he might create in himself (in His Church) one new person in place of two” (the two become one flesh).

In Christ Jesus you who once were far off
have become near by the blood of Christ.

For he is our peace, he who made both one
and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh,
abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims,
that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two,
thus establishing peace,
and might reconcile both with God,
in one body, through the cross,
putting that enmity to death by it.
He came and preached peace to you who were far off
and peace to those who were near,
for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Mark 6:30-34
(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.)

Sometimes we need to get away. Sometimes we need to disengage. We need to hear His voice. To pray. To contemplate. To discern. Jesus tells his disciples today to do this, and we know He has done it himself throughout the gospels.
And so they did; they went away on a boat. In the scriptures, water and the sea signify danger and the unknown or unknowable. Land signifies safety. Jesus The Safety Net took his people to the unknown. This invited them to Trust.
In our lives, where is the unknown? What scares us? Maybe Jesus wants to take us into a boat – just Him and us – to show us his immeasurable love, mercy and care. He is our shepherd, that is what He wants to be for us. The Good Shepherd. The Greatest One.
The apostles gathered together with Jesus
and reported all they had done and taught.
He said to them,
“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”
People were coming and going in great numbers,
and they had no opportunity even to eat.
So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.
People saw them leaving and many came to know about it.
They hastened there on foot from all the towns
and arrived at the place before them.When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them,
for they were like sheep without a shepherd;
and he began to teach them many things.


07.08.18 – 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

Welcome Back to Banquet of the Word!

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

This week’s theme: Weakness and Strength.

Ezekiel 2: 2-5
(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel.)

Image result for wheel in a wheel image ezekiel

Today we hear from one of the 4 major prophets, Ezekiel. (The other 3 are Isaiah, Daniel and Jeremiah). This is “The Call” from God to Ezekiel in chapter 2. Right before this, for those who may know, it’s Ezekiel’s “wheel inside a wheel” vision. In short, as you listen to the reading at mass, remember that Ezekiel is hearing this while being completely blown away by the glory and majesty of God that he can see and hear all around him.

We also see reference to the Holy Spirit (“the spirit”). In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit is present but mostly we see Him “upon” someone. Saul. David. Kings of Israel. It’s not that there was only 1 spirit and it hopped around from one to another, but there is scriptural evidence that the spirit “left” individuals sometimes (e.g. Saul). This idea is contrasted with the reality after Christ came that we are baptized with the Holy Spirit and He is with us always, until death. Now we have to make the choices whether or not we call upon Him, but there is a more permanent presence to the Holy Spirit after Christ came, after the Old Covenant was perfected by the New.

Also note the theme of rebellion below. Consider today, how is God calling you? Are you rebelling like the Israelites, or are you praying for the gifts of the Holy Spirit within you to be strengthened?

As the LORD spoke to me, the spirit entered into me
and set me on my feet,
and I heard the one who was speaking say to me:
Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites,
rebels who have rebelled against me;
they and their ancestors have revolted against me to this very day.
Hard of face and obstinate of heart
are they to whom I am sending you.
But you shall say to them: Thus says the LORD GOD!
And whether they heed or resist—for they are a rebellious house—
they shall know that a prophet has been among them.

Psalm 123:Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy.
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

We hear in the psalm the words of the Israelites when they are aware of the distance between them and God.  That we too might fix our eyes on God when we have rebelled and think we know better than He does!

Have pity on us, O LORD, have pity on us,
for we are more than sated with contempt;
our souls are more than sated
with the mockery of the arrogant,
with the contempt of the proud.

2 Corinthians 12: 7-10
(The 2nd reading is usually from Paul’s letters.
 Speaks to how the early church was built after Christ’s death and resurrection).

A priest in California writes a blog by the same name, and we’ve exchanged supportive emails these past 2 years. Sometimes I check what he’s written about the readings, and today is one of those days 🙂 Fr. Welbers says,

“Many people in Corinth took their spiritual gifts too seriously: ‘I have this or that charism or ability, therefore I’m better than you. Paul emphasized that these gifts were nothing without love. Here Paul tries to match their arrogant boasting by pointing to his own weakness as manifesting God’s power. Nobody really knows what the ‘thorn in the flesh’ really was, but that doesn’t stop our overeager imaginations from dreaming up all sorts of things…”

The point being, our weakness can be our strength; or rather they can allow us to make room for God to come in and make us strong. So when it comes to our weaknesses, let us see them as Paul does: A way for us to be smaller and God to be bigger.

That I, Paul, might not become too elated,
because of the abundance of the revelations,
a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan,
to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.
Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me,
but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness.”
I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,
in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.
Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and constraints,
for the sake of Christ;
for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Mark 6: 1-6
(The Gospel is the highest point of the Liturgy of the Word. That’s why we stand.

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

In the first reading we see Ezekiel’s call. He is basically ‘clothed’ in the Holy Spirit and sent out to do the will of God. He is ready. He has the armor he needs, though the task will be tough.

In the gospel, the Holy Spirit Himself – Jesus Christ – is out (e.g. ‘sent out’) amongst the people and attempts to call them to Him. He taught. They were astonished. They questioned, but they did not believe. Not all the way.  They had reservations. They asked questions: “Who is this and where did he come from?”  In the end, though Jesus wanted to perform miracles there He did not. He was not welcome there, not even in his home town.

Is Jesus waiting to do a miracle for us this week, this year? Are we open to believing that He can? Or do we question?

I question. Even though I shouldn’t, I still do. Why is that? Because suffering is hard. I’d really rather not. I bet you know the feeling. This week, I’m going to try harder to “big-T” Trust. To believe and allow His strength to overcome my weakness.

Join me?

Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples.
When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue,
and many who heard him were astonished.
They said, “Where did this man get all this?
What kind of wisdom has been given him?
What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!
Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary,
and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?
And are not his sisters here with us?”
And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them,
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and among his own kin and in his own house.”
So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there,
apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.
He was amazed at their lack of faith.

06.17.18 – 11th 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.


Ezekiel 17: 22-24
(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel.)

Today we hear from the prophet Ezekiel, one of the 4 major prophets (the others being Daniel, Jeremiah and Isaiah). We see him plant a prophetic seed (pun intended) about what the Kingdom of God will be like one day. He says he will tear off a tender “shoot” from the crest of the cedar and plant it on a high and lofty mountain. There it will bear tremendous fruit and become majestic.

Today we see early hints at the “stump of Jesse” story (which we hear around Christmastime). God takes the son of Jesse, King David, and from his line, Jesus comes. Jesus is in the line of King David. David is the “shoot” from which Christ comes. Christ establishes the majestic cedar, the Majestic Kingdom.

I, too, will take from the crest of the cedar,
from its topmost branches tear off a tender shoot,
and plant it on a high and lofty mountain;
on the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it.
It shall put forth branches and bear fruit,
and become a majestic cedar.

Psalm 92: Lord it is good to give thanks to you.
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

Listen to the tree language in verses 2 and 3:

The just one shall flourish like the palm tree,
like a cedar of Lebanon shall he grow.
They that are planted in the house of the LORD
shall flourish in the courts of our God.

They shall bear fruit even in old age;
vigorous and sturdy shall they be,
Declaring how just is the LORD,
my rock, in whom there is no wrong.

2 Corinthians 5: 6-10
(The 2nd reading is usually from Paul’s letters.
 Speaks to how the early church was built after Christ’s death and resurrection).

In today’s reading from St. Paul, we are encouraged to take courage. To live upright lives while on Earth (while we are away from the Lord), and prepare for the Kingdom we will inherit if we live as His follower. Today we are reminded how important it is to wake up each day and let Him guide us!

“We are always courageous,
although we know that while we are at home in the body
we are away from the Lord,
for we walk by faith, not by sight.”

Mark 4: 26-34
(The Gospel is the highest point of the Liturgy of the Word. That’s why we stand.
We are about to hear from and be instructed by Christ Himself.)

Image result for mustard seed images

Finally today, Jesus reveals something to the disciples he’s been hinting at for a while. He’s been hinting at what Heaven would be like. And can you imagine their surprise to find out it is like…a mustard seed? Jesus continues his mission as he conceals and reveals. He conceals the fullness of his reason for coming to live among them (that he would suffered, die and rise); yet he begins to reveal some of the mysteries of God’s plan (albeit in a confusing way).

Is God confusing you right now? Has He revealed some things and concealed others, leaving you in the dark about something? If He is, take heart. Although you cannot see the whole picture or the whole plan, He can and He knows it. We are called to trust Him, no matter how hard that call is for us to hear.

06.03.18 – Corpus Christi

Welcome Back to Banquet of the Word!

Join us every week for background on this Sunday’s readings.

Our mission is simple:
We want to help everyone in “pew-land” get more out of mass.

This weekend is a beautiful feast day – the Body and Blood of Christ. Today we celebrate the very source and summit of our faith lives, the Eucharist.

Image result for eucharist

Today’s theme: COVENANT

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

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

Reading 1EX 24:3-8
(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel.)

In this reading, Moses speaks to the Israelites. God has rescued them from the hands of the Egyptians. He tells them God will never leave them, and then he sprinkles them with the blood of young bulls. Animal sacrifice was a huge part of the Old Testmanent. But why did God ask this of his people? This is an important point. Largely, God wanted His people to show with ACTIONS that they loved God more than anything else, even food, even sustenance, their very lives.

“When Moses came to the people
and related all the words and ordinances of the LORD,
they all answered with one voice,
“We will do everything that the LORD has told us.”
Moses then wrote down all the words of the LORD and,
rising early the next day,
he erected at the foot of the mountain an altar
and twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel.
Then, having sent certain young men of the Israelites
to offer holocausts and sacrifice young bulls
as peace offerings to the LORD,
Moses took half of the blood and put it in large bowls;
the other half he splashed on the altar.
Taking the book of the covenant, he read it aloud to the people,
who answered, “All that the LORD has said, we will heed and do.”
Then he took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, saying,
“This is the blood of the covenant
that the LORD has made with you
in accordance with all these words of his.”

Responsorial PsalmPS 116:12-13, 15-16, 17-18
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)
I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord.

How shall I make a return to the LORD
for all the good he has done for me?
The cup of salvation I will take up,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.

Precious in the eyes of the LORD
is the death of his faithful ones.
I am your servant, the son of your handmaid;
you have loosed my bonds.

Reading 2
HEB 9:11-15

(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 reading, we see very clearly the transition from Old Testament to New Testament. Especially with this phrase: “not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood.” We are part of the New Covenant. Whenever we partake of the Eucharist? We experience this holy and unblemished sacrifice, the promise God made to us long ago. We are united with Him and we are cleansed.

“Brothers and sisters:
When Christ came as high priest
of the good things that have come to be,
passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle
not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation,
he entered once for all into the sanctuary,
not with the blood of goats and calves
but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.
For if the blood of goats and bulls
and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes
can sanctify those who are defiled
so that their flesh is cleansed,
how much more will the blood of Christ,
who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God,
cleanse our consciences from dead works
to worship the living God.

For this reason he is mediator of a new covenant:
since a death has taken place for deliverance
from transgressions under the first covenant,
those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.”


MK 14:12-16, 22-26

(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 right before Jesus goes to eat his final Passover with his disciples. We see the literal “Passing Over” from the Old Testament and its rules and rituals, to the New Testament, which fulfills the Old. We can remember today that Jesus gave us himself fully to us. Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.
We have never known a love like this, nor will we ever on Earth. And yet it can be so hard to feel at times, to understand. But this is what faith truly is. The belief in something – in someone greater – than what we have on Earth. We are called today to renewed belief and faith in the Eucharist. When the priest raises the body up and the bells ring three times? Try saying to yourself “I believe, I believe, I believe.” Or “I see you. I trust you. I love you.” Some mnemonic to help you mark that special moment at mass. It is good practice and can “wake” us up to be more present during the most important moment at mass.
And may we never waver in our belief in the Eucharist!
On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread,
when they sacrificed the Passover lamb,
Jesus’ disciples said to him,
“Where do you want us to go
and prepare for you to eat the Passover?”
He sent two of his disciples and said to them,
“Go into the city and a man will meet you,
carrying a jar of water.
Follow him.
Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house,
‘The Teacher says, “Where is my guest room
where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”‘
Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready.
Make the preparations for us there.”
The disciples then went off, entered the city,
and found it just as he had told them;
and they prepared the Passover.
While they were eating,
he took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, gave it to them, and said,
“Take it; this is my body.”
Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them,
and they all drank from it.
He said to them,
“This is my blood of the covenant,
which will be shed for many.
Amen, I say to you,
I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine
until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
Then, after singing a hymn,
they went out to the Mount of Olives.

05.20.18 – Pentecost Sunday (Year B)

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

Buckle up! Today is packed with meaning.

liturgical calendar

Where in the liturgical year are we?

Today we celebrate Pentecost, which marks the end of the Easter season. In the image above, we are at the black line between “Easter” and “Ordinary Time.” “Ordinary” does not mean plain, it means ordinal, as in, “in a numbered fashion.” After today,  we return to Old Testament readings for R1, and for Reading 2 we will hear from one of St. Paul’s letters. Because we are in year A, we will continue to hear from Matthew.

Pentecost originated in the Old Testament; it was called the Feast of Harvest. “Pente” + “Cost” translates loosely to “fiftieth (50th).” Here’s why that matters:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Responsorial Psalm 104:
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

“Lord send out your spirit and renew the face of the Earth.”

For the Lord has indeed sent his Spirit to abide with us on Earth for ever.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Two things happen in this reading: 1) The sacrament of penance is instituted, and 2) We see a “sending forth” of Jesus’s first priests. The apostles were asked to carry Christ’s message to the whole world, including His forgiveness. These priests and all priests today are ambassadors for Christ in a special way.

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

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

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

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

05.13.18 – The Ascension (Year B)

Welcome Back to Banquet of the Word!

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

Image result for image of ascension

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

1st Reading: Acts 1:1-11

The book of Acts, as we have mentioned before, is part II of Luke’s gospel. Both books are written to someone named Theophilus, though scholars are not exactly sure who this person was. Today we have the first 11 verses.

In the first verse, Luke tells us that in his gospel (Part I), he dealt with all things Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up (which is today).

  • In Luke’s gospel, Jesus lived, taught, suffered, died and rose from the dead. In Part II (Acts),
  • He is now sending his disciples out to the ends of the Earth to be his missionaries.

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

  1. Jesus tells about the Holy Spirit: First, Jesus tells them the Holy Spirit will come. He says, wait for the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak. For John baptized with water but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. The disciples are still caught up in logistics and asked him, “Lord are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” But Jesus basically ignores the question. He says, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my Witnesses a) in Jerusalem b) throughout Judea and Samaria and c) to the ends of the Earth.” The disciples will eventually come to understand Jesus’s plan, but right now they will have to trust Jesus is words.

2. The Ascension. At the end, we watch Jesus ascend to the Father. “He was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.” Remember that a cloud was present always during the time Moses wandered in the desert with the Israelites. A cloud signifies God’s presence. Next we see two men dressed in white garments standing beside them. These are angels. They have an important line in this scene. “Men of Galilee why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.” What they’re telling the apostles is, don’t just look toward the sky and daydream about the future and about what Jesus meant. He gave you a job to do. Take action and get going on your missionary ways.

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

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

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

2nd Reading: Ephesians 1:17-23

For the first time in the Easter season, we are not in the 1st letter of St. John for the second reading. Today we are in St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. The main theme is the mystery of Christ, which was once concealed but now revealed. This is a fitting reading for the Ascension. Jesus, who was once concealed to his followers and so many others, is now revealed as the son of the Father in a most definite and visible way.

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

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

This is a beautiful image indeed! Today we are called to act like Christ’s body and show others in our actions and words how Christ lived and loved.

Gospel: Mark 16:15-20

Today Mark answers the question, “what are the effects of Jesus’ Ascension?

These signs will accompany those who believe:
in my name they will drive out demons,
they will speak new languages.
They will pick up serpents with their hands,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” 

Jesus tells the disciples in the New Testament– on numerous occasions – that he will suffer die and be raised. Now it is time for him to return home. His earthly mission is complete. I suspect this would have been a rough day for the disciples, to see Jesus whom they have come to love and worship, leave them.

But they took the torch. By the end of the reading, we hear that they “went forth and preached everywhere.” The power they were clothed with is the power of the Holy Spirit. It gave them strength to go out and accomplish their mission with great joy.

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

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

Stay tuned for next week’s readings at Pentecost and a Happy Mother’s Day to all!

05.06.18 – 6th Sunday of Easter (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.

Background/Fun fact:

Before today’s first reading in Acts, there is a story of a vision Peter had. Important!! This is similar to the vision that the prophet Zechariah had, and may be the perfection or fulfillment of his vision (I’m still researching this). Zechariah saw an enormous scroll flying across the sky in his vision; in his time, it was a scroll to curse the people because of their disobedience. In Peter’s vision, he saw heaven opened and something resembling a large sheet coming down, lowered to the ground by its four corners. Perhaps this is the fulfillment of Zechariah’s vision and instead of a curse, it is a blessing!

In Peter’s vision were all the earth’s four-legged animals and reptiles and the birds of the sky. A voice said to him, “Get up, Peter. Slaughter and eat, but Peter said, “Certainly not, sir. For never have I eaten anything profane and unclean.”The voice spoke to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you are not to call profane.” Now the 1st reading makes more sense.

Verses from Acts 10:26-28
(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel.)

Notice in the reading how Peter refuses to be worshiped by Cornelius. People in the 1st century after Christ continue to be confused about how to respond to God’s holiness which is embodied  by His priests (for priests are still sinners, and this is still an issue today).

– Instead of a sheet coming down over the sea or over the people, we see The Holy Spirit come down and cover the people. Like a security blanket though, not a curse. Peter notes at the end of the meeting that no one should be prevented from coming in and seeking shelter from this “blanket”, the Holy Spirit, through baptism.

When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and, falling at his feet, paid him homage. Peter, however, raised him up, saying, “Get up. I myself am also a human being.”

Then Peter proceeded to speak and said,
“In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.
Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly
is acceptable to him.”

While Peter was still speaking these things,
the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the word.
The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter
were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit
should have been poured out on the Gentiles also,
for they could hear them speaking in tongues and glorifying God.
Then Peter responded,
“Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people,
who have received the Holy Spirit even as we have?”
He ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

Psalm 98 The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done wondrous deeds;
His right hand has won victory for him,
his holy arm.

The LORD has made his salvation known:
in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness
toward the house of Israel.

2nd Reading 1 JN 4:7-10

 This reading reminds me of the film I recently saw called Paul the Apostle of Christ. It tells the story of Paul at the end of his life during his final imprisonment in Rome. In one scene, Christians who are forced to live in a small corner of Rome lest they be burned as torches. They want to retaliate after hearing about all the violence happening outside their compound to their fellow brothers and sisters.  But Paul says NO. We must not retaliate and answer with violence. We must answer with LOVE.  This is what today’s 2nd reading is all about. St. John calls us to love one another IN all things, THROUGH all things, and DESPITE all things (like our weaknesses and sinfulness!).


Beloved, let us love one another,
because love is of God;
everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.
Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.
In this way the love of God was revealed to us:
God sent his only Son into the world
so that we might have life through him.
In this is love:
not that we have loved God, but that he loved us
and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.

 GospelJN 15:9-17

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

In keeping with the 2nd reading, Jesus tells the disciples to love. He is giving us a new commandment, and it fulfills and in some respects replaces, or “updates” the 10 commandments of the Old Testament. If we love really well and more perfectly, we can meet all 10 commandments. This of course, is very hard.

A word on stony hearts: God knew the Israelites had hearts of stone, so their capacity to love with hearts of flesh was less. In the Easter season, we know his plan – the passion, death and resurrection of His Son, has come to fruition. And our hearts are made more of FLESH because Jesus came to us in the FLESH to teach us what love is! We once had hearts of stone, but now that we know Jesus, we are called to something higher. LOVE: Simple to hear and understand. HARD to do sometimes, and requires a softening of our HARD hearts.

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you
and your joy might be complete.
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.
I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
This I command you: love one another.”