Sunday Scriptures — Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday) B, Mar. 25, 2018

First Reading — Isaiah 50:4-7

Second Reading — Philippians 2:6-11

Gospel — Mark 14:1-15:47

The liturgy of Palm Sunday can begin with a ceremony of blessing of palms during which the passage telling of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is read. It is taken from the current year’s gospel, except that in Year B there is an option to read the account from John. Thus, if the blessing takes place at a given Mass, we may hear Mark 11:1-10 or John12:12-16. The version from Mark includes Jesus’ sending disciples to borrow the colt for him. John’s version includes an Old Testament quote promising Zion that her king would arrive as Jesus did. Central in significance for both is the people’s acclamation, “Hosanna!” followed by words quoted at every Mass, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” The irony that a few days later a crowd, possibly including some of the same people, would be shouting for his crucifixion is a warning to us all to be v=clear about where we stand. Our human nature can be fickle. Even if we don’t explicitly oppose Jesus, we can ignore his teachings and calls in our life.

 

The first two readings and responsorial psalm of Palm Sunday are the same every year. The gospel is the Passion Narrative of the gospel being read on Sundays throughout the year. So this year we hear the Passion according to St. Mark.

 

The first reading — Isaiah 50:4-7 — is the third of four “Songs of the Suffering Servant” in the book of Isaiah. The servant of the Lord undergoes sufferings like those of Jesus, but he has confidence in God that he will ultimately be vindicated.

 

The responsorial psalm — verses of Psalm 22, with verse 2 as the refrain — is quoted by Jesus on the cross. Like the first reading, it tells of one who is being tormented, but concludes with an expression of confidence in being vindicated by God.

 

In the gospel — Mark 14:1—15:47 — we hear of Jesus fully aware of what is about to happen to him, saying that the woman who anointed him at the home of Simon the leper had done so in preparation for his burial. Although in the garden he wishes that it weren’t necessary, he accepts it as the will of his Father. At the Last Supper, he gives the Twelve his body and “[his] blood of the covenant.” “Blood of the covenant” is significant because it recalls the blood of the covenant in Exodus 24:8. To ratify God’s covenant with Israel, Moses offers a sacrifice and takes the blood of the animals sacrificed and splashes half of it on the altar and sprinkles the people with the other half, Now Jesus’ sacrifice establishes God’s covenant with his people and brings forgiveness of sins.

Jesus unflinchingly proclaims his Messiahship and accepts his crucifixion. Others actively seek his death (the Sanhedrin), yield to pressure (Pilate), betray him (Judas), deny him (and repent)(Peter), run away (disciples, young man who ran away naked — instead of leaving all to follow Jesus, he left all to stop following), mock him (Sanhedrin members, Roman soldiers, passers-by, chief priests, those crucified with him), follow loyally (women observing the crucifixion), or come to faith (centurion). If we sin, we are yielding, denying, or running away from him, and seeking our own comfort or pleasure. But he will forgive, as he forgave Peter and the other disciples after he rose.

I was at a lecture where someone asked where was Jesus’ mercy when he said of Judas, “better for that man if he had never been born.” The answer is that all of God’s threats are conditional: this is what will happen if you don’t repent and change your ways. When Jesus spoke to Judas, it was a warning and a plea: what you are about to do will turn out very badly for you; don’t go through with it. Judas could have repented and been restored to God’s grace. God’s mercy remained available to him, as it is to all of us.

We might note that the Sanhedrin trial was a kangaroo court. At 14:1, days beforehand, they decide to put Jesus to death. At the trial, failing to get testimony capable of justifying the death sentence, the high priest asserts that Jesus’ claim of Messiahship consistent with Daniel 7:13 is blasphemy. But of course, if true, it isn’t blasphemy. There is no proof that Jesus’ claim is false, just an assertion made in order to justify the predetermined outcome.

 

The second reading — Philippians 2:6-11 — also speaks of the sufferings of Jesus, putting them in the context of his divinity. As God he was unable to suffer and die, so he became human in order to die for us. His exaltation shows him as Lord, our Savior, deserving of our reverent and grateful praise.

 

I don’t think I’ll have a chance to write new posts for Holy Thursday and Good Friday, but the readings are the same every year, so you might want to check out those from 2016 in the archive.

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Sunday Scriptures — Lent B 04 & 05, Mar. 11 & 18, 2018

Fourth Sunday – March 11

First Reading — 2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23

Second Reading — Ephesians 2:4-10

Gospel — John 3:14-21

A unifying thread of these readings is God’s merciful care for his people. Chronicles concludes with the release of the Israelites from the Babylonian captivity. In Ephesians Paul speaks not of a political captivity but of the spiritual death of sin. The Israelites did not effect their own liberation. It was the Persian king, raised up by God to liberate them for the consequences of their violations of the covenant. In the same way, it is not our own works that save us from the death of sin; it is God’s freely given grace. Jesus died and rose, and God has “raised us up with him.”

Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus, quoted in part in this day’s gospel, includes the classic text, “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. The passage begins with a reference to the story in Numbers 21:4-9: the Israelites were being bitten by venomous serpents, and God told to make a bronze image of a serpent and mount it on a pole. Whoever looked at the bronze serpent was healed. Jesus, mounted — lifted up — on the cross heals those who look on him with faith. The grace of faith brings us to leave the darkness of our sins behind.

 

Fifth Sunday – March 18

First Reading — Jeremiah 31:31-34

Second Reading — Hebrews 5:7-9

Gospel — John 12:20-23

In the gospel some Greek believers in Judaism go to one of  the apostles with a Greek name and ask to see Jesus. He gets the other apostle with a Greek name, and they relay the request of those believing gentiles. Jesus’ response, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified,” seems enigmatic. I think it has to do with the fact that his message is reaching beyond his Jewish followers. His resurrection must take place before the gentile world is evangelized. The text does not say whether Jesus actually met with those Greeks. It is entirely possible that he did. What is important for us is that their request heralds Jesus’ death and resurrection. As in the fourth Sunday’s gospel, Jesus again speaks of being “lifted up” (like the bronze serpent) and drawing everyone, Jews and gentiles to himself.

Jesus is the epitome of self-abnegation for the sake of producing fruit. He willingly accepted crucifixion and death in order to be “the source of salvation for all who obey him,” and invites all to this obedience. But we are also called to share his attitude of “hat[ing] our life in this world.” We will not necessarily have to die directly as a result of following Jesus, but our lives must not be ones of self-seeking.

We believe that Jesus inaugurates the new covenant of which Jeremiah speaks. It is a covenant in which our sins are forgiven and God’s law is written in our hearts — the Holy Spirit guides our consciences.

Sunday Scriptures — Lent B 01 & 02, Feb. 18 & 25, 2018

First Sunday – February 18

First Reading — Genesis 9:8-15

Second Reading — 1 Peter 3:18-22

Gospel — Mark 1:12-15

Every year, the gospel for the first Sunday of Lent tells of Jesus’ forty days of fasting in the desert and  his temptations. The current year, Year B, features the Gospel of Mark, and Mark’s account gives none of the details of the temptations we hear of in Matthew and Luke. This gives a chance for us to hear a bit of the context going forward, namely, the beginning of his public ministry: proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom of God. The verses preceding this selection tell of Jesus’ baptism by John, and that provides a connection to the second reading, which in turn connects with the first.

The three “synoptic gospels” — Matthew, Mark, and Luke — record the same sequence of events: Jesus is baptized, anointed by the Holy Spirit, and proclaimed God’s son; Jesus undertakes a 40 day period of fasting and prayer in the desert, during which he undergoes temptation; Jesus begins his public ministry. (John gives us the baptism and inauguration of the ministry, but doesn’t mention the desert.) This has significance for our lives. Most obviously, we have entered on a period of forty days of prayer and fasting (and almsgiving). It is a time of preparation for Easter, which is the time for adults to be baptized and begin their ministry as members of the Body of Christ, proclaiming the Kingdom of God. For those already baptized, Easter is a time for renewing our baptismal commitment to proclaim God’s Kingdom by our lives, in our circumstances; and Lent is when we prepare to reinvigorate our lives of witness to the gospel, overcoming temptation and opening ourselves to the Holy Spirit through our Lenten practices of a more intense living of lives based on faith.

In the second reading, Peter sets baptism in the context of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the saving act which is the culmination of the ministry which began after his baptism. Baptism incorporates the believer into this saving act of Jesus, in effect making him or her a sharer in that act, a recipient of its benefits. The water of the flood destroyed the sinfulness of the world in the time of Noah, just as baptism takes away our sins and puts us in a covenant relationship with God.

 

Second Sunday – February 25

First Reading — Genesis 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18

Second Reading — Romans 8:31b-34

Gospel — Mark 9:2-10

The gospel for the second Sunday of Lent yearly presents an account of the transfiguration of Jesus — this year from Mark. First though, we hear the harrowing account of Abraham and the uncompleted sacrifice of Isaac. (For the people of ancient Israel, this was at least an implicit rejection of the practice of human sacrifice.) Some of the detail* is omitted from the reading, to concentrate on the essentials. We hear of Abraham’s obedience to God, and God’s promises in response to Abraham’s faithfulness. God spares Abraham’s son, but, as Paul points out, he does not spare his own son. That sacrifice acquits us of our sins.

* Isaac carries the wood for the sacrifice, making him a “type,” a prefiguring, of Jesus, who carried the wood of his cross to the hill of sacrifice. In response to Isaac’s question, “Where is the lamb for the sacrifice?” Abraham promises that God will provide, which he dies.

Paul tells us that Jesus not only died but was raised for us and is at the right hand of the Father. The transfiguration gives the apostles a vision of Jesus in the glory of his resurrection. The presence of Moses and Elijah — representing the Law and the Prophets — shows the continuity of the revelation of the Old and New Testaments. Jesus fulfills that revelation.

The voice from the cloud repeats the proclamation that was made at Jesus’ baptism: he is God’s son. This resonates with the baptismal facet of Lent. As a result of our baptism, we have the promise of a like glory when we are resurrected. The Jews of Jesus’ time knew that there would be a resurrection at the end of time, but they didn’t expect anybody to rise before that general resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection promises ours.

Our baptism makes us spiritual descendants of Abraham, so that in us, along with the Jews, “all the nations of the earth shall find blessing.”

Questions about Hart’s New Testament Eipgraph

A few days ago, I bought a copy of the new translation of the New Testament by David Bentley Hart. The dust jacket tells us, “David Bentley Hart undertook this new translation of the New Testament in the spirit of ‘etsi doctrina non daretur,‘ ‘as if doctrine is not given.’ Reproducing the texts’ often fragmentary formulations without augmentation or correction, he has produced a pitilessly literal translation, one that captures the texts’ impenetrability and unfinished quality while awakening readers to an uncanniness that often lies hidden beneath doctrinal layers.”

As I began to look at it I was fascinated by the epigraph, whose source it took me a while to locate. It’s in Greek, and can be translated, “The word says, ‘Take up the stone, and there you will find me; split the wood, and I am there.'” The first thing that’s interesting to me is that it’s not from the New Testament, not even from the Bible, but from the Gospel of Thomas. The second thing is that he alters the introduction. In the original, it reads, “Jesus says,” but Hart alters it to “The word says.” Finally I find it interesting that he chooses this text, even apart from its source and his alteration of it. These things suggest several questions.

1.) Why does he draw the epigraph from the Gospel of Thomas? Maybe he doesn’t want to take something from the New Testament for fear of making it seem that he thinks it’s the most important thing in the whole Newt Testament. But he could have taken something from the Old Testament (e.g., the passage from Isaiah comparing God’s word to the rain which does not return to him void — Isaiah 55:10-11). Is he insinuating that the Gospel of Thomas belongs in the canon of scripture, or does he just find this saying somehow apposite?

2.) Why does he attribute the saying to the word, rather than to Jesus? Is he using “word” in the sense in which it’s used in John, Chapter 1, as an epithet for Jesus, so that it means the same thing as saying Jesus, but maybe with the specific connotation that Jesus is the Word of God? Does he mean, instead, to present this as an invitation and promise from scripture itself?

3.) What does it mean to him? Does he see his work of translating as, metaphorically, a strenuous effort of lifting up stones and splitting wood to reveal Jesus or the true meaning of the scriptures? Are the readers being encouraged to do the heavy lifting in order to find the meaning of the word?

Ash Wednesday — 2018

Joel 2:12:18
2 Corinthians 5:20 – 6:2
Matthew 6:1- 16-18

The readings for Ash Wednesday are the same every year. Joel calls for fasting and penance accompanied by assemblies in which the priests would pray for mercy. He concludes with an assurance that God is moved by these things to have pity on his people. Paul starts with the same premise as Joel: the people have sinned. They need to be reconciled to God, and this is the time to do it. In today’s context, the Church views Lent as Paul’s “acceptable” time. In the gospel, Jesus refers to the elements of prayer and fasting called for by Joel, and adds almsgiving. He takes for granted that his followers will do all three, saying, “When you give alms, … When you pray, … When you fast, ….” His command is that we not do it for our own glory, but, as St. Paul told the Corinthians in last Sunday’s second reading (1 Corinthians 10:31 — 11:1), for the glory of God.

We don’t undertake our Lenten practices so we can congratulate ourselves on how much we’ve done, much less so others will be impressed. We do these things — extra prayer, extra fasting or self-denial, extra almsgiving — because as sinners we need to turn away from evil and do good, to develop habits of doing good, and to join our penance to Jesus’ supreme self-denial on the cross for our redemption and that of the world.

Sunday Scriptures — OT A 15, Jul. 16, 2017

I’m back to work after neglecting the blog for a while.

 

 

This past Sunday’s readings include the first of the “Parables of the Kingdom” in chapter 13 of the gospel of Matthew. This parable, like the next few, has an agricultural theme, and the first reading uses related imagery. These images are used to tell us of God’s word.

 

The first reading — Isaiah 55:10:11 — uses the metaphor of rain to illustrate the action of the word of God, which will accomplish God’s will. We can think of God’s word at creation: when God says, in Genesis, let something be or happen, it is created or happens. When the prophet announces God’s word, we can be sure that God will cause his will to be done. We also should think of the opening of the gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,. … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:1, 14) Jesus, the Word of God, accomplished the purpose for which the Father sent him into the world — the salvation of the world, the establishment of the Kingdom of God.

 

The responsorial psalm — verses of Psalm 65 with a refrain based on the gospel — has us reflect on the action of rain as described by Isaiah in the light of the bountiful harvest which good soil produces.

 

The second reading — Romans 8:18-23 — is part of a series of selections from Romans continuing over several Sundays. It tells us of fallen creation’s need for the redemption brought by Jesus. We share in that need. Of course, by the time Paul wrote, Jesus had done the work of redemption, but it was not, and still is not, brought to complete fruition in people or the other elements of creation. There will be a new heaven and a new earth, the Book of Revelation assures us, in which all creation will be raised from its fallen state along with human beings. This will happen when Jesus returns at the end of time.

 

The gospel — Matthew 13:1-23 — gives the parable of the sower and the seed. Then there is a discussion of the reason for Jesus’ use of parables, followed by an interpretation of the parable. The seed is the word of the Kingdom, the proclamation of the Kingdom of God. In Isaiah, we heard that God’s word accomplishes his purpose. Here we learn that God accomplishes his purpose through us, as seed needs soil. Some people can fail to further God’s purpose. We are not passive. We can refuse the grace which would enable us to further the kingdom, or we can accept the word and provide a “multiplier effect” for the word sown in us and thus be instruments for the accomplishment of God’s will.

If we haven’t rejected the word, it is important that we not lose sight of its centrality to our existence. We mustn’t let created things draw us away from doing God’s will for us, because it is in doing God’s will that we give the witness to our faith which can draw others toward God’s Kingdom and help to make them good soil.

The basic thought in the explanation of why Jesus speaks in parables is that some people refuse to listen to the word of God. It is their choice to be hard, unreceptive ground. For them, no presentation of God’s word will matter, but for those who are open to God’s word, the parables bring a better understanding than a dry, theological treatise.

 

When we believe the word of God and conform our lives to the teachings of scripture, we become fruitful in accomplishing God’s purpose of establishing his kingdom among us.

Sunday Scriptures — Sixth Sunday of Easter A, May 21, 2017

As Eastertide enters its last two weeks, the readings turn our attention toward the Holy Spirit.

The first reading — Acts 8:5-8, 14-17 — tells of the reception of the gospel in Samaria. Philip was one of the seven who were appointed to “wait on tables” to insure equity in the daily distribution, as we heard in last week’s first reading. In chapters 6 and 7 we hear of Stephen’s works, preaching, trial, and martyrdom. Now another deacon is preaching the gospel. Despite the reason behind their selection for ministry (with an installation which has marks of ordination), they cannot refrain from proclaiming the gospel.

Stephen’s activity was in Jerusalem, but Philip goes to Samaria. Up to this point, we have only heard of the Church in Jerusalem — the work and preaching of the Apostles there and the opposition from the Sanhedrin, culminating with the martyrdom of Stephen. Philip is the first to proclaim the gospel outside Jewish territory. The Church had to verify that this extension of the faith into foreign territory was authentic.

The apostles’ prayer brings the Holy Spirit manifestly upon the Samaritans. Although Baptism brings the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which Jesus promises, there was with Jesus and the early Church an empowering anointing by the Holy Spirit which believers received. We can see this as corresponding to Confirmation.

The responsorial psalm — verses of Psalm 66 — speaks generally of our joy in the goodness of the Lord. Our joy is based on the Resurrection of Jesus, with all it means. The response, extending the call for joy to all the earth, can remind us of the extension of the gospel beyond Judea.
In the second reading — 1 Peter 3:15-18 — there is a “stream of consciousness” which calls us to good conduct of various sorts and concludes with a reminder of Jesus’ saving work. This connects with the theme of the Holy Spirit in two ways. There is an explicit reference to the Spirit’s place in Jesus’ resurrected life. Beyond that, it is the Holy Spirit who empowers us to sanctify Christ, to give respectful explanations of our faith, and to keep our consciences clear by avoiding evil conduct and doing good.
The gospel — John 14:15-21— like last Sunday’s is an excerpt from Jesus’ discourse at the Last Supper. He is looking forward to the time after his ascension. He promises the sending of the Holy Spirit, here called Advocate and Spirit of truth. This promise was first fulfilled at Pentecost, again at Samaria and on other occasions recounted in Acts, and the Holy Spirit continues to be given to believers, to dwell in us.

Jesus then promises that his ascension will not leave us orphans: he will come to us. He will return at the end of time to gather those who love him to himself. It seems there is more to this promise than simply that. We will see him when the world no longer sees him. We see him in the sacrament of his Body and Blood. We see him in another way in the least of his brethren.

Next, Jesus tells us that he is in the Father and in us, and we are in him. Elsewhere he has told us the Father is also in him (John 14:10). Implicitly, then when we are in Jesus, we are also in the Father and the Father is in us — and as Jesus had just said, the Holy Spirit is in us. This reciprocal indwelling of the faithful and the Trinity is the form which our baptismal adoption takes. We participate in the life of God, which is eternal life.

An Italian Salesian daily missal I got many years ago draws this point out in a way that explains why Jesus’ command at 15:12 is not “Love your neighbor,” but “Love one another as I have loved you.” The love which exists among the followers of Jesus is of a higher order that that which can exist with non-believers, since it is a share in the internal love of the Persons of the Trinity. Nevertheless, we are also called to love all our fellow humans. It seems to me that this love is analogous to God’s love. The love of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was so great that it “had to” express itself in the creation of a loved universe, including humans with whom the love could be reciprocally shared. God loves all people and wants them to be saved, and the divine love in us must also overflow into to love for all and a desire for them to be saved. This love should motivate us as it motivated Philip’s preaching in Samaria. We should not neglect opportunities to explain the reason for our hope; and our lives — keeping Jesus’ commandments — should reflect God’s goodness.

Sunday Scriptures — Fifth Sunday of Easter A, May 14, 2017

The past three Sundays have given us readings from Acts and 1 Peter. Two of the gospels have been from John and one from Luke. The pattern continues, with some changes of scene.
In past weeks, we’ve been hearing from Peter’s speech to the crowd on Pentecost as recounted in Acts 2. This Sunday’s first reading — Acts 6:1-7 — takes us forward to the situation in which the first deacons were appointed to ensure fairness in “the daily distribution.” In the gospel we will hear Jesus tell us that he is the image of the Father. Here, the deacons become the image of Jesus, who came to serve, not to be served. This passage is an example for us. We too should be images of Jesus, and thus of the Father, by our service to others through performance of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. We should also note that it is a well ordered community that enables attracts others to the faith and experiences growth.
The responsorial psalm — verses of Psalm 33, with v. 22 as the refrain — calls us to trust in God, foreshadowing Jesus’ exhortation to the disciples to have faith in him.
In the second reading — 1 Peter 2:4-9 — we have a metaphor of stones. Christ is a living stone, and we too are to be living stones built into a “spiritual house,” the Church, with Jesus as the foundation. As parts of the Church, we are not inert. Being living stones, we are to be a priesthood, offering sacrifices to God. Of course the most important sacrifice is the one in which we join with the Church as the Church unites with Jesus in offering the sacrifice of Calvary. Beyond that, through Christ we can offer our personal sacrifices to the Father by enduring sufferings and obeying God’s will as we understand it.
The gospel — John 14:1-12 — presents a scene at the Last Supper. First, Jesus promises that he will prepare a place for the disciples (and us) in his Father’s house and he will take us there. He tells Thomas that he is the only way to the Father, the truth, and the (eternal) life. He assures Philip that his identification with the Father is so close that to see him is the same as seeing the Father.

Although Jesus is the sole way to the Father, we are told in Matthew 25:31-46 that explicit faith in him is not required. Works of mercy toward his least brothers are sufficient.

The Father is in Jesus and Jesus in the Father, so that he is the image of the Father. In the same way, the parable of the vine and the branches, John 15:1-10, tells that Jesus is in us and we are in Jesus, which makes us images of him and, by extension, of the Father, which is what imposes on us the duty of loving one another and letting our love overflow in service to our neighbors.

Sunday Scriptures — Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday) A, Apr. 9, 2017

The first two readings and responsorial psalm of Palm Sunday are the same every year. The gospel is the Passion Narrative of the gospel being read on Sundays throughout the year. So this year we hear the Passion according to St. Matthew.

 

The first reading — Isaiah 50:4-7 — is the third of four “Songs of the Suffering Servant” in the book of Isaiah. The servant of the Lord undergoes sufferings like those of Jesus, but he has confidence in God that he will ultimately be vindicated.

 

The responsorial psalm — verses of Psalm 22, with verse 2 as the refrain — is quoted by Jesus on the cross. Like the first reading, it tells of one who is being tormented, but concludes with an expression of confidence in being vindicated by God.

 

In the gospel — Matthew 26:14—27:66 — we hear of Jesus fully aware of what is about to happen to him. Although he wishes that it weren’t necessary, he accepts it as the will of his Father. At the Last Supper, he gives the Twelve his body and “[his] blood of the covenant.” “Blood of the covenant is significant because it recalls the blood of the covenant in Exodus 24:8. To ratify God’s covenant with Israel, Moses offers a sacrifice and takes the blood of the animals sacrificed and splashes half of it on the altar and sprinkles the people with the other half, Now Jesus’ sacrifice establishes God’s covenant with his people and brings forgiveness of sins. At Jesus’ trial before Pilate, the people say, “His blood be upon us and upon our children,” not realizing that his blood is the blood of the covenant. What they are really saying is, “We accept God’s covenant through the sacrificial offering of Jesus.”

Jesus unflinchingly proclaims his Messiahship and accepts his crucifixion. Others actively seek his death, yield to pressure, betray him (and despair), deny him (and repent), run away, mock him, follow loyally, or come to faith. If we sin, we are yielding, denying, or running away from him, and seeking our own comfort or pleasure. But he will forgive, as he forgave Peter and the other disciples after he rose.

I was at a lecture where someone asked where was Jesus’ mercy when he said of Judas, “better for that man if he had never been born.” The answer is that all of God’s threats are conditional: this is what will happen if you don’t repent and change your ways. When Jesus spoke to Judas, it was a warning and a plea: what you are about to do will turn out very badly for you; don’t go through with it. But even when Judas led the arresting force and gave the sign by kissing him, Jesus called him, “Friend.” He invited him to return to friendship with him. Judas could have repented and been restored to God’s grace, rather than despairing. God’s mercy remained available to him, as it is to all of us.

 

The second reading — Philippians 2:6-11 — also speaks of the sufferings of Jesus, putting them in the context of his divinity. As God he was unable to suffer and die, so he became human in order to die for us. His exaltation shows him as Lord, our Savior, deserving of our reverent and grateful praise.

 

I don’t think I’ll have a chance to write new posts for Holy Thursday and Good Friday, but the readings are the same every year, so you might want to check out those from last year in the archive.

Sunday Scriptures — Lent A 2, Mar. 12, 2017

In the first reading and the gospel we can discern a pattern of call and action which applies to us all, as shown by the second reading.

 
The gospel — Matthew 17:1-9 — gives us Matthew’s account of the Transfiguration. In years B and C we get Mark’s and Luke’s telling. Briefly, the change in Jesus’ appearance gives a preview of his glorification after his resurrection, which is alluded to in the final verse of the pericope. The presence of Moses and Elijah can be seen as illustrating that the law (Moses) and the prophets (Elijah) bear witness to, point to Jesus. The voice from the cloud repeats the words from heaven at Jesus’ baptism— he is God’s beloved Son — validating Jesus’ teaching and calling us to obedience. The apostles’ reaction of fear is natural enough.

We have all, no doubt experienced moments in which we have thought, “I wish this could last forever.” For Peter and the others, for whom he is speaking, this is such a moment: it’s good to be here; three tents can make it last. But after the voice comes from the cloud, Jesus is alone. The moment has passed. They must rise and be on their way with him. As at many other points, he tells them not to be afraid. This was one of Pope St. John Paul II’s favorite lines. Whether it’s after the miraculous catch of fish, at his appearance in the upper room after his resurrection, the angelic annunciation appearance of the angel to Mary and Joseph, the hearers have a mission to which they must confidently go. Here, the apostles can’t be content to know Jesus’ glory. They must accompany him to Good Friday and after Easter fulfill the Great Commission to go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel.

 
The first reading — Genesis 12: 1-4a — presents the call of Abram (whose name later becomes Abraham). He is content in his home, with his relatives nearby. But God calls him from the condition which he could have enjoyed for the rest of his life. He must leave it behind and go to an unforeseeable future in an unknown country. In doing so, he will become the ancestor of a great nation which God will bless and which will itself bring blessing to the whole world. Abram obeys and becomes the ancestor of the Jews and the father in faith of Christians.

The responsorial psalm — verses of Psalm 33 with a refrain from verse 22 — encourages us to rely on God’s promised care.

 
The second reading — 2 Timothy 1:8b-10 — opens with an expression of the call that comes to all of us: “Bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.” More generally, we have been saved and called to holiness through God’s eternal plan brought to completion by Jesus. We can read “the appearance of out savior Christ Jesus” in two ways. Jesus appeared in his Incarnation and through is life here on Earth. In his appearance at the transfiguration Jesus manifests the glory of our immortality as well as his own.

We are called to holiness of life: living as God calls us. We do not know just what that will entail. Young people choose to pursue a career of one sort or another. Often it doesn’t turn out as expected. Older people may be called simply to continue on the path they are already following. Occasionally, some find themselves called to take an entirely new direction in their lives. The future may seem clearer for some of us, but it’s never entirely certain. There are always surprises, great or small. What is important, though is that we seek to do what God calls us to at every stage and in every moment. This will involve hardship, great or small. None of us is promised a perfectly happy life. But we keep alive the knowledge of the glory which will be ours after our resurrection, and this faith sustains us, as it sustained Abram and the apostles.