08.05.18 – 18th 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.

(*Note, full readings are not pasted below as usual; I am on vacation and writing from vacation in bar harbor, Maine..on a phone vs laptop. Apologies for the messy formatting too!)

Reading 1 EX 16:2-4, 12-15

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

Today’s reading from Exodus is a precursor to more from St John in our gospel. Remember we are in chapter 6 – the bread of life discourse.  Listen in the reading to the first time God answered His peoples need for food and sustenance.

Oh how they complained at having less than, at the lack of food! Even after generations in horrific slavery they forgot the evils of their time in Egypt. They say they want to go back … for the food.(?) People often wonder why God chose to become bread and wine; I think it is answered in this reading. Food is at the core of our being and at the core of our need to live. Without it, we become irrational beings, even desiring things for ourselves that are bad (like slavery). So God was very purposeful when he chose to stay with us for eternity in the form of bread and wine. He wants to be at the core of our being, at the core of our need to live, too.  

“I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites.
Tell them: In the evening twilight you shall eat flesh,
and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread,
so that you may know that I, the LORD, am your God.”

Psalm 78: The Lord have them bread from Heaven.

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

Beautiful verses to compliment our first reading and the story of the wandering, grumbling Israelites who seek God.

2nd Reading -Ephesians 4:17, 20-24

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

We are in Ephesians again, as we have been for a few weeks and will be for a few more. Today Paul speaks to the small church that is growing in Ephesus and say to them, out with the Old, in with the New. Out with your old selfish, single-minded, closed to change You and in with the new, generous, open-minded Christ centered You. A good chance to reflect today – how are we doing with this transformation in our lives right now?

“I declare and testify in the Lord
that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds;
that is not how you learned Christ,
assuming that you have heard of him and were taught in him,
as truth is in Jesus,
that you should put away the old self of your former way of life,
corrupted through deceitful desires,
and be renewed in the spirit of your minds,
and put on the new self,
created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.”

John 6: 24-35

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

Today the disciples get to hear the real deal from Jesus about the bread of life. Next week they will question him and some will leave him, turning around and walking right out the door.

But today Jesus connects the dots. The conversation turns to food and signs. Jesus tells them to work for food that ensures, but they don’t understand that. They say “well, our ancestors ate food and were filled. It says so in the Torah. You say to believe in You, that God sent You. What sign can you give us that we should believe in You?”

Jesus says “well friends, you’re right. Your ancestors did get bread from heaven, but it wasn’t from Moses it was from my father. And it filled bellies but not souls, so it wasn’t eternal. Now is the time. He sent me and now I’m finally here. I AM the sign. I AM the bread of life. I AM eternal life. I AM The Way.”

The disciples want this bread! They want it always! But they don’t really get it. They have desire but not real, authentic faith. It is conditional faith. It’s a faith that says, “yes I believe! As long as I can believe in my own way.” How do we know that to be true? Because next week they bail. So many jump ship when they find out what it really means to follow Jesus Christ. He means we eat his flesh and drink his blood in the form of transformed bread and wine.

It is probably the biggest head-scratcher in history for our human, logic oriented minds. But alas, that is where the challenge of faith comes in. Do we really believe it? Can we do it? What would we have thought if in Jesus’s company? I can’t say if I would have stayed or gone. I’d like to say I’d have stayed and also said, “Lord, to whom should we go?” But I will never know.

 

All I know is what I can do now, which is to believe and to trust today.

Do not work for food that perishes
but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.
For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”
So they said to him,
“What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”
So they said to him,
“What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?
What can you do?
Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written:
He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”
So Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven;
my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world.”

So they said to him,
“Sir, give us this bread always.”
Jesus said to them,
“I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

 

 

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7.29.18 – 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

Welcome Back to Banquet of the Word!

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

Image result for loaves and fishes

Have you ever heard it said that God has a sense of humor? There’s some real irony in the scriptures when it comes to the 2 books of Kings. During one of my bible studies, someone asked, “Why are these books even in scripture? So much of the content is just about a bunch of bad behaving, selfish, idol-worshiping kings! How did these books make the cut and end up in the bible, the Word of God?”

Great. Question. The simple answer is that God sometimes shows us what not to do, in order to teach us what to do. This is the case in the books of Kings. We see kings who fight, worship idols, kill, scheme, cheat and lie. Scholars posit this is so we can 1) recognize that earthly kings were never God’s idea (the Israelites begged Samuel, “Give us a king to lead us!”) and 2) Earthly kings, whether they try to be good or don’t – are imperfect. Thus, God is the only true and perfect King.

2 KGS 4:42-44

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

Today we have a pre-cursor to the gospel, which is loaves and fishes. The great prophet Elisha performs the same miracle as Jesus, but on a smaller scale. He feeds them the nutrient-rich food they need to feed their bellies, but Jesus will later add to that by giving the people (and us) the spiritual food to feed our souls.

A man came from Baal-shalishah bringing to Elisha, the man of God,
twenty barley loaves made from the firstfruits,
and fresh grain in the ear.
Elisha said, “Give it to the people to eat.”
But his servant objected,
“How can I set this before a hundred people?”
Elisha insisted, “Give it to the people to eat.”
“For thus says the LORD,
‘They shall eat and there shall be some left over.'”
And when they had eaten, there was some left over,
as the LORD had said.


Psalm 145:The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

We hear themes of bread, loves, eating and being filled in today’s psalm.

The eyes of all look hopefully to you,
and you give them their food in due season;
you open your hand
and satisfy the desire of every living thing.

EPH 4:1-6

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

From his jail cell, St. Paul begs us to see the need for UNITY. Unity in our relationships. Unity in our families. Unity in our communities. Unity in our Church. We can ask ourselves today, how are we striving for unity in these areas of our lives right now? Note the repetition Paul uses, writing the word “one” seven times, the word “call” 3 times, and the word “all” five times.

I, a prisoner for the Lord,
urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,
with all humility and gentleness, with patience,
bearing with one another through love,
striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace:
one body and one Spirit,
as you were also called to the one hope of your call;
one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
one God and Father of all,
who is over all and through all and in all.

JN 6:1-15

(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.)

Today we are in John chapter 6, one of the longest chapters in the gospels and the core of our Catholic faith – the Bread of Life Discourse. We experience this during Year B (when we read Mark’s gospel) in part because Mark’s gospel is shorter than Matthew and Luke. The Church in Her wisdom, chooses to take a few weeks during Year B to remind us of our #1 reason for being – The Eucharist. The Source and Summit of our faith.

This reading is the familiar loaves and fishes story. There are some significant numerical facts to ponder: The numbers 2, 5, and 12.

2 – the number of fish God blessed.
5 – the number of loaves God blessed.
12 – the number of wicker baskets collected as leftovers.

2+5=7. 7 translates biblically to “completion.” (Think the 7 sacraments, the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit…) Scholars believe that here, the number 5 (loaves) represents the 5 books of the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) and the number 2 (fish) represents the prophets and the psalms. This in effect, makes up the Old Testament. The number 12 then, represents the 12 tribes of Israel which are being symbolically gathered on the hill with Jesus. It’s the remnant being brought back together and being fed both physical food for strength and spiritual food for faith.

The Eucharist is our spiritual food. As Catholics we read John 6 as a command to eat His body and drink His blood, for Christ himself commanded it in the Upper Room. We see this as unequivocally true, and in my opinion that is made easier by the repeated words of Christ throughout John 6; he says it over and over again, in many different words and phrases and despite the pushback from the disciples:

“My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him,
and I will raise him up on the last day.”

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

JEREMIAH 23:1-6
(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.”

 

Gospel
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.

Reflect:

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

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

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

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

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.