Commentaries on the Sunday Readings: Fr. David Reid SSCC

  • 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time       Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 15 70-C    SMF 16 Nehemiah 8:2-4, 5-6, 8-10,1Cor 12:12-31 Luke 1:1-4,4:14-21

    Response: Your words Lord are spirit and life.


    God’s Word is an unshakable foundation

    Amos was a prophet of judgment; hear his most troublesome one:  The time is surely coming, says the Lord God, when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. (8:11) Imagine how these words were remembered by the people in the Exile. You get a feeling for that when reading Nehemiah 8:10. And Nehemiah, the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, "This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep." For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. Nehemiah and Ezra were the architects of the restored community after the Exile, beginning 539 bce. We are indebted to the Chronicler for having passed on the memoirs of both these leaders in his own major contribution to the restoration after the Exile, thus paralleling the work of the Deuteronomist who edited Joshua through 2 Kings. In Vatican II, an action not unlike those of Nehemiah and Ezra, gave us the restored Lectionary which we are now using.
    This leads us to marvel at the gift to us that Luke the evangelist is. A very talented writer, probably from Antioch in Syria, surely one conversant with the Greek world of his day, writing between 70 and 100, hard to know if a Hellenistic Jewish or a Gentile Christian. His introduction shows that he understands the task before him. His goal is to give his literary agent, Theophilus, a Christian convert an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed (1:3-4). “Know the truth” falls short of the Greek here; the word used has to do with something that is unshakeable. So there is a recognition that the Scriptures come from the community into which Theophilus has been received. The written word confirms and strengths the traditions, both oral and written which undergird the community. Any community must be concerned with how to converse and grows its self- identity. That is a concern common to both Ezra and Luke.
    But the solidity can be challenged. And that happened in Corinth. Again, there was over-enthusiasm on the part of some for the gifts received to the exclusion of others. This is rooted in the un-grateful  practice of comparing and contrasting gifts. The alternative is to identify the gift as constructive of the community. The solidity is not rigidity and uniformity; the interplay between gifts and the Giver of the gifts makes for a vibrant, lively community. Paul develops this at length using image of the body, well known in the Hellenistic world and solidly founded on his own experience of our oneness in Christ which goes back to his Damascus experience:  But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.  (1 Cor 12:24-26) There is joy for the Christian community of Corinth made up of many who had come to work in the port but were lost, without a sense of belonging. Once found this grace of connectedness ey must now live in community in a way that is coherent with their new found faith. If such happened for the new immigrants in the community of Corinth, that community is itself finding a new sense of belonging and a new coherence in the community of God’s creation. Psalm 19 has but 14 verses but it takes the first six to set the context for living the new life of community, sanctioned by the Torah. The song begins with the widest coherence: The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork and ends with belonging:  Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. ©2022 David P. Reid ss.cc.



     

  • 1st Sunday of Advent 3-C SMF 30 Ps 25:4-5, 8-9, 10+14 Jeremiah 33:14-16 1 Thess 3:14-4:2
    Luke 21 25-28, 34-36


    RESPONSE: TO YOU O LORD I LIFT UP MY SOUL

    The Lord is our righteousness
    How goes it? Not an unusual question. Although we might ask it often, we are as often unprepared were
    a person to answer honestly. Psalm 25 does, however, and in so doing looks at many aspects of one’s
    life. This wisdom psalm which appears at least eight times in the Lectionary rests on the image of the
    way, and so the question “how goes it” is apropos. Externally the psalm is an alphabetic acrostic, which
    means that each verse begins with the next letter in the Hebrew alphabet. As a useful mnemonic device,
    it allows the author to amble thematically as much as in the Book of Proverbs, while at the same time
    tightly organizing the psalm. The mood is set by the readings for the First Sunday in Advent where a way
    is made for the individual to join the community and find himself or herself before the Lord whose name
    is “our justice/righteousness.” (Jeremiah 33:16) We are face to face again with our final destiny. Advent
    begins where the previous Liturgical year left off: where are you going and how goes it? A somber note.
    We joke about death a lot because we fear judgment just as we joke a lot about sex because intimacy
    and sexuality can bring insecurities as well as joy. There’s no going back and the future is God’s alone to
    give.
    Luke’s gospel eases us into the discussion, although he does not back off the language of the final
    scenario. Living towards the end of the first Christian century, Luke is reinterpreting the expectation that
    the Lord will return soon. So the challenge is how to settle in for the long haul of Gospel living but still
    hold onto the tension that ought to exist about meeting the Lord. Luke’s work is clearer when we
    contrast what he says with Mark 13:1-37 and Matthew 24:1-36. For one thing, Mark had prescribed the
    desecration of Jerusalem as the apocalyptic symbol par excellence. For Luke, that has come (70 AD) and
    gone, and nothing is the same for either Jew or Christian in its loss. Luke’s context for that discussion is
    instructive: “Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, he answered them,
    "The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, "Look, here it is!'
    or "There it is!' For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you." (17:20-21) Some see new ground being
    broken in Jesus’ statement “the kingdom of God is among you." They understand “among” as “within”
    and thus present the Kingdom of God as eliciting an existential decision on the part of each person.
    However, both an end time and an existential meaning of “among,” apply to the tone of today’s Liturgy.
    The certainty of my own passing needs to be faced as calmly and as assuredly as the ultimate disclosure
    in God’s glory of why God created the universe. The Psalmist’s promise (25:1) “to you Lord God I life up
    my soul,” explores Luke’s existential thrust within an eschatological horizon. Likewise, Paul’s prayer,
    concluding the first part of the first Christian writing, connects the heart of the believer and the coming
    of the Lord: “And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our
    God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” (1 Thess 3:13) The lone individual is
    now ushered through the community on earth into the community of God’s praise, in holiness, forever.
    The delicacy of that hope is revisited when we return to the text of Jeremiah which promises a new
    name for Jerusalem, “The Lord is our righteousness” (Jeremiah 33:16). This text came later than

    Jeremiah and stemmed from the disillusionment of those who returned after the Exile. One can’t go
    home again, even after a forced exile. This is another somber reminder that yes, God is faithful but on
    God’s terms and on God’s timing. Our right standing with God is solely a fruit of God’s absolute fidelity
    to being God. And therein lies our hope. Welcome to Advent ©2021 David P. Reid ss.cc.

  • 11-21-21

    34th Sunday  Christ the King 161-BSMF101. Ps 93:1a, 1b-2, 5 Daniel 7:13-14 Apoc 1:5-8 John 18:33-37

    Response: The Lord is king in Majesty Robed

    Whose handing over?

    The power, depth, serenity of Ps. 93 are reassuring, refocusing and agenda-setting. Psalm 29 had praised the voice of the Lord, God’ word as a storm blowing in from the Mediterranean, here the flood waters have lifted up their voices and the whole of creation is involved. Trying to decide on an original situation in life for this psalm is a challenge: annual feast of the Kingship of the Lord, the enthronement of a new king, an expression of hope for a new messiah? Whatever was the situation, the psalm finds itself perfectly at home on the Feast of Christ the King. In fact, the matter is the other way around. The feast of Christ the King finds itself perfectly at home within the contours of this very expansive albeit short psalm. Additionally, we are praying this psalm at the same moment as hearing Jesus before Pilate portraying his kingdom as one of truth. Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37) By this point in John’s story, Jesus  has established that truth is his revelation of the Father. Truth is the one desire of the Psalmist: “your decrees are very sure, holiness befits your house, O Lord forever.” (v.5) “Are worthy of trust indeed.” (NAB) The words “sure” and “trust” translate the Hebrew for “truth.” Kings rule by decree and God’s decrees are truthful.

    Will Pilate’s  decree be true, worthy of trust? Pilate reminds Jesus that he has the power to decree his release or his crucifixion. Pilate only has such power because it is given him from above. This response of Jesus can be heard first on the level of general principle about all authority and secondly and more pointedly in terms of the limited role that Pilate  is playing in a wider scenario of which he is ignorant. Jesus understands Pilate’s putting an innocent man to death as an abuse of power. Pilate sinned. The one who handed him over has however the greater sin. In the story, that one is Judas. But the story is complicated and the word “hand over” has been used often. Within the immediate context, 18:30, it is pluralized “we would not have handed him over.” V.35  “Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me.” In the scene of the Last supper, Satan is involved in handling Jesus over. (13: 21, see 2,27) Pilate’s sin of handing him over to be crucified is within a wider context of the sin of the world handing Jesus over to death. And Jesus’ own handing over his spirit (“Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”) to the Father is within the widest context of the Father’s plan to take away the sin of the world. “If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.” (V.36) “Here is the Lamb of God,” John the Baptist has testified, “who takes away the sin of the world!” (1:29)  Sent by the Father to take away the very sin of rejecting him, the sin of betraying him, Jesus undercuts all handing over that is betrayal and surrenders it to the one handing over that is salvific: Jesus’.

    Jesus considers that Pilate abused his power in not releasing him. Jesus knows that Pilate for all his vaulted understanding of his power, is but a pawn in the hands of the Romans and also much controlled by the leadership of his subjected people. Pilate has the Jewish leadership beholden to him  because although their law says that one who blasphemes must die, they cannot observe their own law because they do not have the right to put anyone to death.  They need Pilate’s cooperation to keep their own law. Pilate is presented by John as unconvinced of the charges made against Jesus but willing to manipulate the Jewish leadership. When Pilate threatens not to proceed with the capital punishment, the Jewish leadership accuse him of abetting one who declared himself king. “Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” (V.12) Pilate turns the table on the leadership by asking if they want him to crucify their king. They either accept the claims of Jesus or they defer to Caesar as their king, something which runs totally contrary to Psalm 93. The choice would be to reexamine the claims of Jesus made in the response to Pilate’s question: “So you are a king?”  In no way would their religious convictions or institutions allow them to go back over this argument and so they declare: “we have no king but Caesar.” (V.15) They have handed over, that is to say betrayed everything they prayed in the Psalms.  It is often said that in John’s gospel, Jesus is enthroned as king on the cross. His passion narrative stands then as an indictment of religion that, in order to fulfill its own law, sells itself out to other systems.  The alternative is resistance  even to the point of martyrdom, a path often chosen in Judaism. The claim to our allegiance that is the Feast of Christ the King shapes our response to every demand made on us and should help to enrich inter religious dialogue.  ©2021 David P. Reid ss.cc.


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    October 31, 2021

    31st  Sunday 152B 12SMF INS61. Psalm 18 (17) Deuteronomy 6:2-6, Hebrews 7:23-28 Mark 12:28-34

    Response: I love you Lord my strength

    Because God is One, we can get our act together!

    As we read scripture, there are often twists in narratives that stay in our minds. A good example is the assertion that  God is one and unique that is attached to the question of what is the greatest commandment (Mark 12:28-34, Matthew 22:34-40, Luke 20:39, 10:25-28). Prior to these texts, the “Shema” in Deuteronomy begins “the Lord your God is God alone” and then “You shall love….” (Deuteronomy 6:4). In Mark the same unifying image filters through the response of the scribe: “Then the scribe said to him, ‘you are right, Teacher, you have truly said that he is one and besides him there is no other’.” (Mark 12:32)

    But let’s return to the beginning of Mark’s chapter to solidly ground our reflection.  Leaders felt targeted by the Parable of the Vineyard that starts chapter 12. Mark presents a sampling of the duplicity Jesus experienced at the hands of the “Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to entrap him in his talk.”(12:13) After a round of spurious questions regarding lawful payment of taxes, the Sadducees pose hypocritical questions concerning the resurrection (v.18) Unalarmed by his deceitful interlocutors, Jesus aptly gets his message across. However, two countervailing images are striking. One is the use of the sevenfold “all” in the dialogue  (vs. 30-33) which correspondingly exerts force on the second: “one and there is no other.” What weightier significance lies behind “all”: one, alone, love, God, neighbor? The tide of deception turns in verse 32 as our scribe, who now is no longer trying to confuse Jesus, respectfully feeds back to Jesus the sequencing of his teaching. This level of integration is judged by Jesus as not being far from the kingdom (v.34).

    For one more moment, let us stay with the word “all.”  Does this mean that every time I love, I am also saying, “I believe in one God?” Is a person’s well-being, through which her capacity to love is expressed tied up with confessing faith in the one God who brought Israel out of the house of slavery? (Deut 6:12). Yes and If this isn’t enough there is something more. For the scribe throws in these words: “to love your neighbor as yourself is worth more than holocausts and sacrifices.”(Mark 12 v.33) Jesus endorses this statement. The word “holistic” as an echo of “all” is warranted here to describe an inner logic that clarifies the perspective of all Christian spirituality: the call to worship is the gift of the same God who asks us to unite adoration of God with love of the stranger, the widow, and the orphan. Remember love of neighbor, Leviticus 19:18 was part of Israel’s code of holiness (chapters 17-26).

    Now that’s conversion! Not only, to see formerly separate understandings brought into rhythm, harmony, beauty, perfection but to live the reality disclosed. People like to say “a lot of stuff is coming together for me,” such as Paul may have said of his Damascus experience.  When he encountered the Risen Lord, a light went on; he needed to shift his understanding about righteousness  derived from the Law of Moses. Now it is seen as coming from faith in Jesus Christ. Paul did so on the strength of but one insight, “God is one,” (Romans 3:30).  That made for an enormous re-integration of his life as a Jewish Christian. Paul now saw that only faith in Jesus Christ, saves; he would have to rethink Torah.  What Paul did for Torah, Apollos, the supposed author of Hebrews did for “holocaust and sacrifice” to quote Mark’s scribe (Mark 12:33). Once more the point is oneness. Because Jesus is raised no more to die, he is established by God as priest of an eternal covenant. Jesus is priest forever like no succession of priests, mortal and subject to death, could ever be (7:23). Even the meaning of priesthood newly surfaces. This is because God is giving access to God self, which is what the author means by perfection. Paul would never have said what he said about Torah had it not been for God’s unicity. Likewise, Apollos would never be saying what he says were he not now a believer in the oneness of God and the hapax character of the Risen Lord (Heb 7:27). And why is Jesus, the compassionate Risen Lord appointed the one and only priest? He is trust worthy in that he keeps the law of love (see Hebrews 2:17).©2021 David P. Reid ss.cc.

     

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    10-10-2021

    28th Sunday 143-B SMF97. Ps 90:12-13, 14-15, 16-17 Wisdom 7:7-11, Hebrews 4:12-13 Mark 10:17-30

    Response: You have been our refuge from generation to generation

    No regrets!

    What’s in this for me? On the surface this seems to be a self-centered, a self-promoting question. But from the training I got in community organization I see that unless you have skin in the game, it is hard to effect change. “Skin in the game” means that there is something of value here for me and I have come to believe there is something good here for others. A young woman was involved in getting better service from the local hospital, a better emergency room service. In one-on-one conversation, it became clear that her interest was built on the feeling of outrage that her dad died because of a lackadaisical character in the emergency room of the local hospital. Another man wanted better bus service to help city dwellers to get to the suburbs for work. He had not used his influence to effect this additional bus service until his own father, living in the suburbs, could no longer drive and needed bus service into the city. Conversations help people to network and effect change. Beneath the wisdom of knowing exactly what moves  you,  lie many connections with the needs of others. Everyone has skin in some game and we all need to know what’s up. Admit my need, listen to others and we may find a way forward that helps all.

    Did Jesus allow people to speak to their own interests? Did he frame his call to discipleship in a way that responded to self-interest? Did Jesus know what people needed before they knew it? As an organizer, Jesus knew how to enter into the inner argumentation that goes on inside of us. The man who approached him and asked about inheriting eternal life already had a lot of things worked out. And he also knew beforehand what Jesus would say. He needed to know that Jesus would enter his inner pain and struggle. Jesus intuited his situation (as the Latin translation says vs. 21, 27). The man anticipated that Jesus would correct his use of the word “good” in greeting Jesus.  Both Jesus and the man were working out the goodness of God in their respective lives. That was their common interest now intimately tied up with the next step in their lives. Jesus touched into their shared interest to hear each other out. Jesus loved him.  Sell,  give, come, follow!  There was a block, his possessions. It was the man who walked away. I like to think that the man was one of the first to put all his possessions in common in the early Christian community. Only in the light of the Risen One would he see that all he would ever want to hold onto,  would be there in abundance as Jesus informs Peter: "Truly I tell you, there is no one who …. will not receive….” (vs.29-30).  Solomon also saw that when he attained wisdom. He names all the things which were less preferable than Wisdom: scepter, throne, riches, gold, silver, health, beauty. His discovery  is that all these would be his were he to attain wisdom which was mother to all of them but beholden to none of them. “All good things came to me along with her, and in her hands uncounted wealth. I rejoiced in them all, because wisdom leads them; but I did not know that she was their mother.” (Wisdom 7:11-12 ).

    The logic of gift clashes with the logic of self-fulfillment. Wisdom is gift for Solomon and the Kingdom is gift for the disciple of Jesus. To negotiate what you are giving up to follow Jesus is to try and negotiate thralldom. Easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than to calculate beforehand what one is giving to the Lord. Better to pass through thread-bare, and be astounded with the sense of fulfillment. If I set out in life, in relationship, in marriage, in family, in friendship to self-fulfill it will never happen. Leap! Be surprised forever with the feeling of unimaginable suffusion. Fulfillment is hindsight that becomes foresight: “You have been our refuge from generation to generation.” According to Ps. 90 we were on God’s clock long before our own and that’s the only fulfillment that counts as again Peter would learn from Jesus: “Peter began to say to him, "Look, we have left everything and followed you." Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.”  (Mark 10:29-30). Substitute the word “fulfillment”  for the word “rest” in the letter to the Hebrews, a multi-faceted symbol for the author.  “ So then, a Sabbath rest still remains for the people of God; for those who enter God's rest also cease from their labors as God did from his. Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall through such disobedience as theirs.”(4:10-11)  Then check out how we get there: “Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.”  No regrets! ©2021David P. Reid ss.cc

     


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    9-19-2021

    25th Sunday Ps 54:3-4, 5, 6-8 134-B 65SMF Wisdom 2:12, 17-20 James 3:16-4:3 Mark 9:30-37
    Response: The Lord upholds my life

    Please respect the anointed, especially your own

    “A maskil of David, when the Ziphites went and said to Saul, ‘David is hiding among us’” (Ps.54:2 NAB).  The reference is to the people of Ziph who told Saul where David was hiding. The context is the pursuit of David by Saul (1 Samuel 23). One sentence clearly shows confusion: “So Saul stopped pursuing David, and went against the Philistines” (1 Samuel 23:28). But earlier, the story had this element: “So David and his men went to Keilah, fought with the Philistines, brought away their livestock, and dealt them a heavy defeat.” (23:5). The scene, to which the Psalm points, comes in between these statements (1 Samuel 23:19).  Why, you might ask are these two fighting each other if both are fighting the Philistines?  There is no short answer but I will try two.

    One is within the story: Samuel anointed Saul in 1 Sam 10:1 and then anointed David in 1 Sam 16:12. Saul was depressed. Remedy: some music. The harp. Who knows the harp? David. But that is only the beginning of the fall of Saul because of the rise of David. To be counted in here also is Samuel’s disapproval of Saul and the friendship of Jonathan, Saul’s own son with David whom he greatly admired.  The other answer is outside the text. James analyzes why we get into fights, why our desires are unrealistic and why our prayers to realize these desires are faulty: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.” (4:3). Saul was poor on discernment, which makes for faulty prayers.  He did not know when to let go of leadership. Allow me one more complication. Despite the snitching of the Ziphites against David, Saul ends up unwittingly in David’s grasp. To relieve himself, he went into a cave when David and his warriors were hiding out. (1 Sam 24:1-24). Instead of dispatching his enemy, David cut part of his mantle that he later showed Saul as a pledge of his respect for the one who is anointed. A repeat occurrence in Gibeah (1 Samuel 26) convinces David to withdraw to Gath and to stay away from Saul until his time would come (28:1-4; See also 2 Sam 1-2).

    Discernment of the limits of one’s leadership is part of servant leadership that Jesus exemplifies; however, the servant needs an ever-deepening respect for his or her own anointing which respect in fact enriches the discernment. Saul lacked such respect whereas David possessed it. When finally Saul decides to do something about discerning his plight, he seeks, against his own rules, the help of the witch of Endor. (28:8) This is less an error than an indication of how steeply he has fallen. David’s lament is keen: 2 Sam 1:27 “How the mighty have fallen, and the weapons of war perished!” David dispatched the man who falsely claimed both to have been a foreigner and to have dispatched Saul at the deceased’s own command. However, in his lie he had underestimated David’s respect for “the Lord’s anointed.” (v.14-16). David respects anointing.

    Without using the word, the scoffers in the Book of Wisdom test anointing rather than respect it. That testing is central to the second prediction of the Passion and Death of Jesus, which we hear from Mark as prelude to his teaching on servant leadership and came to realization with Jesus on the cross (Mark 15:29-32). Of particular scrutiny is the gentleness of the one who suffers and is ridiculed. “Let us test him with insult and torture, so that we may find out how gentle he is, and make trial of his forbearance” Wisdom (2:19).  In church this morning, the pastor baptized two children. May they always respect their anointing for service in Christ as priest, prophet and king and may that be evident in their gentle strength as Christians for the third millennium. ©2021David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    9-12-2021

    24th Sunday 131-B SMF133 Ps 116:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9 Isaiah 50:5-9a James 2:14-18 Mark 8, 27-35

    Response: I will walk in the presence of the Lord

    No longer disjointed

    Spit! A spit shine on my shoes. Oh how often a spit helped out to keep things up to scratch before inspection. Spit goes in many directions, some okay and some troublesome. Probably the most wrenching image in Job is when he feels so hemmed in by God that he cannot even swallow his own spit: “Will you not look away from me for a while, let me alone until I swallow my spittle?” (7:19) Dealing with one’s own spit is tough enough. How about dealing with the pit of others? “I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.” (Isaiah 50:6)

    What if the Messiah is to suffer, scorned, mocked, die by crucifixion? A public disgrace with no space to swallow his own spit? Nonetheless he stayed the course. An old spiritual suffused with wonder and praise sings: “he would not come down from that cross.” Jesus was as shocked with the image of a crucified, spat upon messiah as was Peter. Otherwise, Peter would not have been the temptation to Jesus that he was. Jesus struggled all his life with Satan, the one whose God-permitted mission is to test, try, press to the limit our connection of faith with works. James is trenchant in connecting  faith and works. “Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works.” (James 2:21-22). The story to which James refers begins by saying that the Lord put Abraham to the test (Genesis 22:1). The struggle between faith and works to which James refers was brought about by speaking inadequately  of faith as if it ever omitted works. There has been by now enough water over the dam to back up that assertion and so the time has come to simply say faith is always inclusive of living out that faith and, besides, works are never our human doing but always the graciousness of the God in whom we believe at work within us. Peter was under temptation to divide the two in the sense that he wanted a Messiah of his own making but not a Messiah whom God would call to bear our burdens to the cross.

    Jesus as Messiah was hands-on, not flinching in face of the demands made upon him at every step of the way. There is no Teflon messiah. Jesus, we might say, came to accept this but Peter “took him aside and began to rebuke him.”   Peter may have had the guts to be the leader but not the guts to take Jesus’ self-portrayal and to submit to its claims. Peter was still not putting faith and works together, the claim of the kingdom and the prediction of the cross.  Necessarily, the connection was made too late to save Jesus. He died. Only in retrospect would the claim and cross comes together. Read the psalm backwards from v. 19, first back to verse 9. “ I walk before the Lord in the land of the living.” Then after a prayerful pause read back to verse 1. To place salvation in a works-free faith would be to shame Jesus for his work of the cross, to let the spit dry on his face without shedding a tear. When finally faced with the fatuousness of his faith, the presumptive leader of the movement “… broke down and wept.” (Mark 14:72.)

    At every Eucharistic celebration,  the words of this psalm are prayed when the presider is purifying the chalice after the communion rite: “What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people” (vs. 12-14). Since the rite is moving to the closing prayer,  this seems counter intuitive. Has not the community just lifted up the cup of salvation? But then   the image of Jerusalem pervades our insides, our imagination and we remember that this one celebration is a participation in the eternal celebration in the courts of the house of the Lord and we are saved from our ephemerality and our too long holding apart things that were put together by God: cross and glory, faith and works, temptation and victory, time and eternity. ©2021David P. Reid ss.cc.

     

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    9-5-2021

    23rd Sunday 128-B  SMF 170 Ps 146:6c-7, 8-9a, 9b-10 Isaiah 35:4-7 James 2:1-5 Mark 7: 31-37

    Response: Praise the Lord my soul

    Beyond measure!

    The decision to align Ps. 146 with Mark’s healing story  is no major surprise.  The story of the healing this man, hearing and speech impaired, cries out to be put within the story of salvation. Think not badly of the disobedience of those told not to broadcast the news of this double healing, a superb example of Jesus’ doing “everything well” (v.37). No, think rather that it is the author telling the Christian reader to enter more deeply into the episode. The reader at this point knowing the whole story sees much more challenge in it than the participants. People bring their own faith in Jesus to the recounting; the story is alive and tells not only of a great healing but anticipates the Resurrection. Only when Jesus was raised, do these stories really resonate within us.  Where in this story is shown the Resurrection faith of the reading community?

    A rereading helps.  Take for instance “without measure,” what does it mean? The grammarians speak of the elative use of the compound adverb (hyperperissos), meaning that the word used was compounded with additions to its front end that add an emphasis leading to an extra layer of meaning. “Without measure” means Jesus did everything beautifully (kalos). The elative sense carries us out of ourselves. What’s called, on the other hand,  the “illative sense” carries us into a deeper co-identification with  what is happening around us. Blessed John Henry Newman gave prominence in his writings to this way of knowing which is intellectual but beyond reasoning, which is not built on any one path of evidence but on the convergence of many.  The illative sense is not a knowing that comes together on the outside which we then take in but something carried into us that reveals what we already know.  We discover it within us, like beauty. We discover the call of beauty within us arising from of an experience of a favorite piece of music or the sight of a person helping another or the resonance of a poem with our own lived experience. Jesus was a teacher and he appreciated both elative and illative.  He often reasoned with the disciples on the basis of common experiences, the wind that blows, not only to convince them from the outside (elative) but to free them to own their own experience from the inside (illative). Even in the time of Jesus, each one had to deal  not only with counter reasoning about wonderful deeds  but also trust their own inner unknown knowns; this was in distinction from persons who would discount reliance of their own experience as collateral for an emerging conviction.

    Conversation depends on allowing what we do not know that we know to find expression and celebration. The miracle story of a double healing is precisely the two layers of deeply spiritual work that we need to do to accept Jesus in faith. One is to accept the story of the healing of the afflicted man.  Secondly, we accept the Messiah on his terms, when and how he comes.  We go as humans from the known to the unknown. It is difficult to come from the unknown to illuminate the known. That’s illative. Isaiah speaks of the lame that shall leap like a deer and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy” (35:6). I did not know that I could jump so high!  We come to Jesus un-knowing that we know that no Messiah can come on our terms. His way is far more authentic and thus irresistibly more attractive than we ever imagine. We intuit that.  Without measure!  Up to this moment within the plot of Mark, the disciples have never spoken with each other about their expectations of Jesus. In how he acts, Jesus reveals their inner thoughts, their illative sense and then they are in turmoil. What if Jesus is what and even more than the Messiah is to be? Isaiah calls the people to trust beyond their fears (35:4). What makes one to act in face of fear? An elative eruption of the unknown knowns of our life, the known with which we are blessed but of which we are (still) unknowing. Newman’s way is known as heart speaks to heart. ©2021David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    8-29-21

    22nd Sunday Psalm 15 (14) 125B SMF5 Deuteronomy 4:1-2,6-8 James 1:17-18, 21-22,27   Mark 7:1-8,14-15, 21-23 

    Response: The pure of heart will live in the House of the Lord

    Prophetic Awareness

    Is Jesus being fair to the Pharisees?  In Jesus’ lifetime factions existed, similar to political partisanship of our day, and Jews identified as Pharisees, Sadducees, and the Essences. Judaism as a religious system was alive and well, and within it energy and devotion was plentiful. To fully understand Jesus we must accept that Jesus, like so many of his contemporaries, was a good, devout practicing Jew who found great purpose and his own personal  identity in his religious community. Like so many of his kindred he longed to go to Jerusalem (Ps.15). And he was blessed to be able to go there often for although all were required to go, not all could. King Josiah in his reform in the 700’s bce centered the worship in Jerusalem, and this eventuated in the so called Deuteronomic reform. However, in decreeing this his purpose was also political since he didn’t want the south to fall as did Samaria in 721.  This brief historical review illustrates that religion can be used many ways which the prophets, unless they too have lost their way, are called to redirect. So Jesus helps by criticizing the Pharisees. In responding to his prophetic impulses, he is less taking on individuals than he is asking his fellow Jews to look at the whole system. Jesus is one with the Pharisees, lay people actively trying to make Judaism work, attempting to adapt their religion without losing their true identity amidst the awkwardness of their geographical, historical, and psychological setting of the Roman occupation.

    The Sadducees conversely, tied in with the politicization of the priesthood, ingratiated themselves into the system. As a class, they  were well off and more inclined to kowtow than confront the venom against the Jews that showed its ugly head from time to time. In attacking the Pharisees, Jesus had few friends. Beyond adaptation to occupation, Jesus was working out a perspective that Judaism as a whole was systemically  unable to deliver on what it promised. Only in the light of the Resurrection would the perspective be worked out in full. Then both the law and the temple would be reinterpreted in light of the new condition inaugurated in his death. Briefly put, according to the former system he had blasphemed and according to the new system he was glorified by God.

    Often in balancing the tensions between the old and the new, the Gospel writers incorporate another level of meaning to Jesus’ words against the Pharisees. Then there is much of value in Jesus’ critique of the old religious system that can be validly reapplied to any new system. In fact, the gospels’ criticism can be interpreted as more directed against the leaders of the new system than it is directed against any of Jesus’ contemporaries. Unfortunately, religious systems simply have a way of substituting their own human traditions for the Word of God (Mark 7:13). Unless there is the prophetic critique, people are not served; rather, self-serving justifications are proffered as though they were the Word of God. Prophets too can be wrong, often they are wrong when they play up to the establishment. Isaiah knew the hazards well and never forgot the purification he asked for when he was first called.  Yet God is stuck with working through us, human humans. Like no other God the Lord, says Deuteronomy, is close to us using our reasoning and our communal sense of the common good.  No, Jesus was not anti-Pharisee; he was himself an enlightened layman on whose shoulders fell also the reform of Judaism which he experienced firsthand in the healing of the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman.  (Mark 7:24-30) ©2021 David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    8-22-21

    21st Sunday in Ordinary Time 123-B SMF 52 Ps 34:2-3, 16-17, 18-19, 20-21 Joshua 24:1-2 15-18 Ephesians 5:21-32 John 6:60-69

    Response: Taste and See that the Lord is good.

    Do you also wish to go away?

    We move now to the final of the five Sundays in the B cycle when instead of Mark we hear from John. For the third time we have the response:  Taste and See that the Lord is good. Each time we go to Psalm  34,  we take some more. Psalm 34 is called an alphabetic psalm because each verse begins with the following letter in the Hebrew alphabet. This may be a good way to remember the psalm but it makes for a certain scattering of the contents. Its wisdom tone condones that disarray since wisdom is often proverbial, pithy and non-expansive. This ordo’s addition of more verses of the psalm than in previous weeks is justified because the faith in Jesus, which Peter confesses touches the whole of life. However, Peter’s faith is not sustained by an alphabetic arrangement imposed from without but from the depth and passion of his confession from within. He is not saying yes to any one explanation of the Eucharist but the person of Jesus who is the only explanation of the Eucharist.

    The life of the Christian is within the life of the Son and the Father. “Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me.” (6:57) The mutuality of the new dwelling of the Christian in Jesus is found on Jesus’  relationship with the Father. This is the basis of the great atonement of the Christian with God. This is an at-one-ment asked for henceforth and forever in the form of Peter’s question that is confessional in nature but contemplative in its outreach: “Lord, to whom shall we go?” and the reasoning is immediate: “We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” (6:69). The question “to whom shall we go?” corresponds well with Jesus’ question in the Synoptic account of Peter’s confession at Caesaria Philippi (Matt 16:13-20 and parallels): “whom do you say that I am?”  In the response to Peter’s confession in Matthew’s gospel, the emphasis falls on the faith given by the Father, not flesh or blood (Matt 16:17). Peter’s response in John’s gospel  looks to the disciples’ growth in faith: “we have come to believe, and know...” but it is no less revelatory than Matthew’s Gospel of the source of his faith: he is drawn by the Father (6: 44). “We have come to know” indicates a daring intimacy with Jesus. Drawn irresistibly by the Father to Jesus, the search to know where Jesus dwells (1:39) has found its goal, an answer that is made possible by the words of Jesus walking on the sea “It’s me. Don’t be afraid.” (6:21) There is no antithesis between faith and knowledge; rather faith leads to a deeper knowledge. This is not just any knowledge but focused on the person of Jesus and absorbed in the relationship of Jesus to the Father.

    “Does this offend you?” (v.61) meaning does it shock you? Does it both shock and fascinate? The answer is patently yes. And then,  there’s a further step where one’s connection with earth gives way. “Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?” (v.62) We are returned to the ladder of ascent in the first encounter with disciples within the plot of the gospel (1:51) and to the original question: “where do you live?” (1:39). No one can ascend that ladder except by the gift of the Father “for this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father." ” (6:65) because “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known.” (1:18). Grace upon grace! Eucharist. ©2021 David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    8-15-2021

    20th Sunday in Ordinary Time Ps 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7 120-B SMF 50 Proverbs 9:1-6, Eph 5:15-20 John 6:51-58      

    Response: Taste and See that the Lord is Good   

    Eucharist is wisdom

    Why do we hear today from the Book of Proverbs? Short answer: it is wise to celebrate the Eucharist. Long answer: Jesus who is the wisdom of God is present with us, for us and in us through the gift of the Eucharist. That is only the beginning of a long story or better said, every part of an even longer story that is captured in the Eucharistic prayer by looking both to the past (for example Abel)  and to the future (for example: the inheritance of the saints). There will always be many ways to speak of the Eucharist. It is the central action of our Christian lives and takes on the hues and tones of every direction in which we as Christians turn. John saw the parallel between an invitation to food and an invitation to wisdom

    Central to Eucharist is tablefellowship. Jesus seized on this basic human activity and made it the vehicle of his disclosure to us as Lord and Savior. If we do not eat, we will not live. Embodied for life in this world, we live with hungers for a world to come. Because eating is so basic, it effects all of life; because Eucharist is participation in a meal, the invitation effects every relationship that we, as embodied spirit, are.  Eating with others is all-empowering; to interpret tablefellowship in memory of Jesus of Nazareth,  we meet the pervasive presence to us of the Risen Lord.

    Perspectives is important. John’s presentation of Jesus’ sermon in the synagogue at Capernaum is one of his many discourses of Jesus. The connections between the sermon and the other parts of the gospel are so many that the reader finds himself or herself constantly returning to it. When John wrote his chapter six, things were not as fine-tuned as they are in today’s Catechism of the Catholic Church.  That further refinement helps however in reading John. John would endorse the idea that the Eucharist is not one of the sacraments but the sacrament with which all others are related. The Eucharist is presented as the third of the sacraments of initiation, source of the other four, two in service, two in healing. Perhaps in not so refined a way, John’s audience knew the celebration of the Eucharist as a culmination of the many signs that Jesus performed.  This is to add a layer of meaning to the question already part of the story: “what sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you?” (John 6:30). His intended audience in Capernaum probably heard it as focused on Jesus, the wisdom of God for there is a match between the words of Jesus and the invitation of Lady Wisdom in the Book of Proverbs (9:1).  We who read the text accept Jesus’ sermon as Eucharistic. John’s intent is that our celebration will never be the same.

    So John’s written text presents Jesus as wisdom of God and, like the collector of  Proverbs,  he pushes the limits of language.  The community would hear John in terms of Eucharistic assembly and make the connection between Jesus as wisdom of God and the living of Eucharistic faith as the way to go in life, which is as good a definition of wisdom as one may find. That’s it: the writer knows reception. Write in one way and the reader hears in a related but deeper way. What we are saying about wisdom is also true of manna (lit: what is that?) which gives the whole discourse such depth and feeling. On another level, the discourse is on the works of Jesus and on a very fundamental level the will of the one who sent him.

    The only conclusion to come to is this: everything revolves on who is Jesus. None of these layers of meaning stands without a willingness to meet the will of the God who sent Jesus. No wonder that the epilogue to the discourse is the daring question of Jesus: "Do you also wish to go away?" (6:67) Free will and wisdom make for good companions. “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed,” says wisdom in Proverbs 9:5, who has prepared meat, mixed her wine and yes set the table (v.2). To find the fusion of freedom, the invitation to Eucharist and wisdom in John is no surprise having been first introduced to his gospel by the Prologue, an echo of Genesis,  itself a fusion of the Word and wisdom and flesh (3:14 the same Greek word used of the Eucharist in John 6:51).  The wisdom of sharing Eucharist is participation in the wisdom of God creating the world.  How wisely the Psalmist invites us to taste! ©2021 David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    8-15-2021

    On Sunday August 15, 2021, the Feast of Mary’s Assumption is celebrated in place of the 20th Sunday (so I have added a reflection for the Feast;  the texts for the Sunday can be used for Monday August 16;.

    The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary  Ps 45:10, 11,12-16 Revelation 11:19a,12:1-6a, 10ab 1 Cor 15:20-27 Luke 2: 39-56

    Response: The Queen stands at your right hand arrayed in gold.

    Where Jesus has gone, we, like Mary, hope to follow.

    There are two motivations why people become leaders: rewards and service. Everyone who is a leader comes to the job with some of both: desire for rewards and desire to service. Good leaders serve, leaders more focused on rewards than on service often fail to do well, tripped by a sense of entitlement. The motivation to serve is more evident in those who are good leaders. Sometimes we think of Mary’s Assumption into heaven as a reward. The Bible is not shy in speaking of reward. And so we are not wrong to think of the lifting up of Mary into heaven as a reward for her labors. But her labors in doing what? In a nutshell: continuing to serve Jesus.

    Mary was the mother of his body. She was therefore the mother of everything Jesus did with his body. She embraced his mission, she found her vocation in being his mother all his life. The Body to which she gave birth was the body in which he suffered and died. Looking back on her life and into the future, all she could say was: behold the servant of the Lord. In the glory that is heaven, she continues to participate in all that Jesus does in his body, his glorified body, his body of action, his body of giving to others and receiving their cooperation. In her Assumption, Mary continues her mission as mother of all Jesus does in his glorified body.

    Pause for a moment to think of the arrangement of the Glorious mysteries of the Rosary. We celebrate what happens to Jesus after his death in three ways: Resurrection, Ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit. Three ways of speaking of the one event: focused on Jesus in the Resurrection, on the Father in the Ascension and on the Spirit as the promised gift of the Risen Lord.  The Spirit mystery comes between Jesus and the disciples and makes happen for the disciples what happened for Jesus. Jesus was assumed into heaven, so was Jesus’s first disciple, Mary; as Jesus was seated at the right hand of the Father, so is the disciple seated in what we refer to as the crowning of Mary in heaven. No disciple of Jesus ever trusted the Spirit as did Mary.

    She asks that we do what Jesus asks, like the disciples at the wedding feast of Cana; she asks that we trust that God will be faithful to God’s word, the thing that Elizabeth liked most about Mary. And she asks that we do God’s will as Jesus said of his own mother: “she does the will of God.”  Jesus waited until the final hour to entrust, in an anticipation of the Assumption, his mother to the beloved disciple and the beloved disciple to his mother. The day we accept the title of beloved discipleand allow ourselves to feel truly loved by God in Jesus and Mary, we will understand the Assumption.

    Her Assumption is not escape, it is engagement, not reward but service. Her mother’s work is never done. Like Jesus, many holy people were said to have been assumed into heaven: Elijah, Moses, Abraham. So was Jesus and so was Mary. No, not as a reward but as a service. Roll up your sleeves! In the communion of saints, there is much to be done as we ourselves make evident when we invoke the intercession of the Saints. And when, as so often we do, promise to pray for each other. Without the Assumption such promises have no back-up.

    We are conscious of Mary as assumed into heaven each time we celebrate the Eucharist. We ask for the Holy Spirit to make us the Body of Christ. We ask Mary to continue as the mother of that body of Christ.  And we recognize in the moment of communion that our own body was made for the glory of the resurrection. We were made to be assumed. There is no greater reward than to serve each other in Mary’s body of Christ. Amen ©2021David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    8-8-2021

    19th Sunday in Ordinary Time 116-B SMF 51Ps 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9 Eph 4:30-5:2  John 6:41-51

    And I will raise you up!

    The song “I am the Bread of Life,” composed by Suzanne Toolan in 1966, has become a favorite of Christian assemblies. The song came at a great time when after Vatican II there was a retrieval of the centrality of the Resurrection to our Christian faith. The connection of Resurrection and Eucharist has become clearer and forms the perspective adopted here for reading John 6.

    An assumption is that Mark experienced the coherence of our faith in Jesus through multiple celebrations of the Lord’s Supper in the Christian community. As the first evangelist, Mark had given the basic Eucharistic design. By “Eucharistic design” I mean not only that the language of the feeding of the people is told in words that recalls the Eucharistic celebration (take bread, give thanks, distribute) but  also the scene of Jesus walking on the water (6:45-52), also  found in Matthew 14:22-33 and John 6:16-21. This scene seldom fails to elicit a comment that it is post resurrection. In John, this may be a foreshadowing in the ministry of Jesus of what is for John a post resurrection appearance (21:1-8). The design opens our minds to the reality of the Eucharist as an encounter with the Risen Lord in every way as filled with trepidation, fear and ecstasy as the revelation to Thomas or Mary of Magdala. This Eucharist/Risen Lord connection is verified in a closer reading of the text of John, verified and enriched to the point of overflow.

     

    It helps in reading John to make a copy of the text, enlarge it and with different colored markers trace the flow of thought. Something is mentioned in the negative and then the positive is developed and this in turn leads into another negative which then gets further expanded and returns to pick up the previous term used. The words “It was not Moses but my Father” (v.32) begin a chain about the bread from heaven. Those three elements will be developed further. The bread gives life.  The crowd ask for this bread always and now there are four elements in the discussion: bread, Father, life, always.  The “always” of v.34 is explained by the words of Jesus “never hungry,” “never thirsty.” This development is now put in terms of faith and this faith is seen in response to what the Father has given to Jesus. This leads into another “not my own will.” The positive is the will of the Father. This opens up the text to pick up and bring together the many references already made to life in the Risen Lord: bread from heaven, never hungry, come down from heaven, sent me, and in verse 39 it is the will of the one who sent me that I should raise it up on the last day. In v. 40 will, belief, eternal life, resurrection all flow together. Then a negative appears on the strength of the achievement of this passage so far: “Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven."” (v..41) The Jews know who this man’s mother and father are.

    In vs. 42 through 51, John explores the relationship of Jesus to the Father because to believe in Jesus is to be drawn into that relationship. This is the relationship that gives meaning to the Eucharist.  The Father sends Jesus, draws the believer and teaches. On the one hand, Jesus is the bread of life and on the other hand, the person who believes will have eternal life. In v.51 “I am the living bread come down from heaven.”  The question of Resurrection has been engulfed by that of life and therein we find its deepest meaning: connection with God in how God is in God’s own self, inner-connected as Trinity. That comment seems to anticipate Jesus’ words in the final phase of the Last Supper discourse: “so that they may be one as we are one” (John 17:12).  John as teacher would be delighted to see his student make these connections. He calls such connection “indwelling” which he introduced in the question: “where do you dwell?” (1:38) and which he will pursue it further, notably in the imagery of vine and branches (15:1-17).

     

    This is Eucharist as resurrection, encounter with the Risen Lord.  Would that we might fill our imaginations with scenes of that encounter as we know then from Scripture as we approach Eucharist! In the wording of the Last Supper, Jesus tantalizingly reached out to the Resurrection and beyond, in the words of John, used by the composer: “This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day” (6:40). ©2021 David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    8-1-2021

    18th Sunday in Ordinary Time 113-B SMF 82 Ps 78:3-4, 23-24, 25+54 Exodus 16:2-4,12-15 Ephesians 4:17,20-24 John 6:24-35

    Response: The Lord gave them bread from heaven

    When did you come here?

    Jesus, God’s gift as the Risen Priest, Prophet and King, feeds the many (6:14-15). The story of the feeding is heard from within the Eucharistic community for whom it was composed. Surely, John’s choice of liturgically sounding words in 6:11 is a stroke of beauty. Beauty emerges from harmonization. John is signaling such harmony-in-process which he begins with a misunderstanding, a disharmony. The feeding of Israel in the wilderness (v.32) justifies and gives an answer to an underlying question: “when did you come here?” (v.25). The seemingly confused stage directions in verses 22-24 would have set us up for the question: “how did you get here?” However, the question is “when” and it works in terms of anticipating the challenge about Moses, the example from the past.  “What work do you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert!” John (v.31) cites Ps. 78:24: “he rained down on them manna to eat, and gave them the grain of heaven.”  A closer look at this 72-verse historical psalm reveals that Israel’s history was troubled with an ever present shadow of un-salvation. The introduction (78:1-8) explains why the Psalm is prayed; there is a lesson to be learned which motif John picks up, citing the prophets: “It is written in the prophets, "And they shall all be taught by God,' (6:45a; Isaiah 54:13, Jeremiah 31:33).   While the story of Israel’s difficulty in the wilderness to obey is highlighted, it is also not without precedent for in Ps 78:40-52,  there is a flash back to the story of the Exodus from Egypt.  Challenges, such as the challenge to Jesus, are not new.  Jesus takes up this challenge and all challenges, by outrageously saying that it was not Moses who gave the bread to the ancestors but his Father (6:32). He adds further: “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.” (John 6:45b).  Later in John’s story line, he would have been stoned for such a shocking statement (8:59).

    The “when” question, prepared in Jesus’ walking on the sea, is now worked out in sapiential themes of hunger and thirst (vs.31-34, introductory; 35-59 center piece). Thus through negations, one is led to new and improbable harmonizations! Such an experience of harmonies is the experience of beauty. The theme returns to the underlying experience of the Risen Lord: not lose anything but raise it up on the last day because no one can come... unless drawn ... to live and not die.

    Something that is already beautiful (manna in the desert) yields to an even more beautiful reality.  Jesus the bread from heaven, sent by the Father. Not only is that One Father to Jesus but One whose will Jesus has come, or better, is sent, to fulfill. This leads one to a deeper penetration of the significance of Jesus and to his use of daring, boundary breaking and even offensive language, establishing the identity of Jesus of Nazareth with the Risen Lord. Signs of the risen Lord like walking on water (6:19) and coming through closed doors (20:19), yield now to munching (vs.54-58 NJB note) on the body and blood of the Risen Lord. This is the “work” that the Christian must do (v.28), be open to the experience of the Risen Lord. Eating the bread and sharing the cup is the “work” of believing in him, the one he has sent (6:29), food for eternal life (v.27: “Do not work for food that goes bad. But work for food that endures for eternal life.”) All the stories of encounter with the Risen Lord stress that only God reveals Jesus (see 6:65 “no one can come to me except through the gift of the Father”).  They emphasize the identity in transformation: “None of the disciples was bold enough to ask, ‘who are you?’; they knew quite well it was the Lord (21:12)  In the “work” of the Eucharist, the community is likewise gifted with faith in the Risen Lord whom  that same faith recognizes as Jesus. Each Eucharist is a resurrection story, a “work” of faith, a revelation, a profession “My Lord and my God,” (20:28) “I have seen the Lord.” (20:18). ©2021 David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    July 25, 2021

    17th Sunday Ordinary Time 110B 167 SMF Ps 145:10-11, 15-16, 17-18 2 Kings 4:42-44 Eph 4:1-6 John 6:1-15

    Response: The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs

    God gives.

    John and Mark would have enjoyed what the Lectionary does with their respective gospels. On five Sundays of the B cycle (17th through 21st  Sundays in Ordinary Time), Mark gives way to John as we hear from John’s famous rendition of Jesus’ sermon on the Eucharist delivered in the synagogue at Capernaum.  The sermon is long enough to be sectioned off over five Sundays; the Christian reader, however,  needs to read the sermon in its entirely at one seating. It is massively organized and interconnected and hardly a word gets used that doesn’t carry a second significance. The key to the interpretation of the whole discourse is the final scene about some who left Jesus. The hard saying that causes some to turn away was not a question about the Eucharist but the implicit question: what say you about Jesus?  This is clear from Peter’s response which addresses Jesus’ identity and it is stunning as a confession of faith: “we have come to believe that you are the Holy One of God.” There, it becomes clear that once one believes in Jesus, the Eucharist makes sense. Often, understanding the Eucharist was given as the way to know Jesus; well, it works both ways, once a person has come to faith in Jesus, then the Eucharist is a continuing source of joy, not doubts, of determination to do God’s will, not a test to know if God is to be believed, the one  ritual that must distinguish any religion by giving voice to its most central tenet, not a strange part of Christianity. In John’s gospel there is no mention of the Eucharist at the Last supper; the washing of the disciples’ feet takes its place.  However, the language of Jesus’ sermon (6:48-58) in the synagogue at Capernaum shows that John composed the sermon of Jesus with a Eucharistic community in mind. Just as he wrote the Apocalypse from the vantage point of the Sunday Assembly (Revelation to John 1:9-10) , he wrote John 6 from within the worshipping community.

    The setting for the sermon comes from the story of the feeding of the crowd. As the reading of the discourse progresses, the reader returns often to review the details of the banquet in the hill country. Take you seat with Jesus and the disciples (6:3, compare Revelation 3:21). There is a lot of staging that goes into this production and John gets the reference to the Passover right up front. Thus while he goes his own way in presenting a vision of the Eucharist of loaves and fish, he anchors all in a tradition of God’s giving. “Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near.” But the reference to Passover is not the only overt connection, so also are the references to prophet and king. The story begins (v.2) and ends (v.14) with a reference to signs and that prompts the people to say: “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world” (v.14). The following verse seems like an afterthought, “when Jesus realized that they were about to come and to take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself” (v.15, see mountain in v.3). The intended repeat reader of John’s gospel knows that the question of king will appear again (see 18:33-38). As already noted, this sermon is about the identity of Jesus but also about the identity of the Christian who does the work of God, that is who believes in Jesus, a brilliant synthesis of faith and work.  The Christian baptized and sealed with the anointing of the Spirit understands more poignantly that Eucharist is always a prophetic gesture, a royal act, a priestly access to God who alone is holy.

    A prophet and indeed more than a prophet! Whereas with Elisha there were a hundred fed, with Jesus five thousand. With Elisha there were some left from the twenty barley loaves, with Jesus twelve wicker baskets from five barley loaves. Conclusion: this is the prophet who is to come into the world. Who would ever have thought that the role of the prophet is to feed the world? This sounds far more the role of the king. Psalm 145 sustains such an understanding: “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season” (v.15, see also Ps.72:16). Both prophet and king interface the needs of humanity and the claims of God; the priest carries that interface into the presence of the all holy God. By the time that John wrote, the phrases “Flesh to eat” and “blood to drink” had become shorthand for participation in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Eucharist had become the source and summit of the Christian life (Vatican II Lumen Gentium Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy #11 CCC #1324) ©2021David P, Reid ss.cc.

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    July 18, 2021

    16th Sunday in Ordinary Time 107-B SMF 23Ps 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6 Jeremiah 23:1-6 Ephesians 2:13-18 Mark 6:30-34

    Response: The Lord is my shepherd there is nothing I shall want.

    No longer strangers to each other

    The Letter to the Ephesians supplies an interesting answer to Mark’s  problem: “and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd”  (6:34). The Psalmist has found what the people need. Jeremiah makes the promise concrete: “I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord.” (23:4) At first blush, it may not seem that Ephesians has an answer. After all, its place in the readings today is to expand our knowledge of the Bible, not to dovetail with the main readings (Gospel and first reading from Jeremiah). The image of remnant in Jeremiah is a point of departure because here it has a positive meaning, not look what’s left but look, what we’ve got here. Let’s begin again! Ephesians turns that remnant into a new humanity, the old flock newly led!

    Shifting from remnant as leftover to remnant as new beginning has to do with removing barriers and allowing a free flow of willing people.  The author of Ephesians presents us with an anti-xenophobic, counter cultural focus for today.  The greater possibility of communication in our time has revealed many blocks heretofore unseen and has created many new ones. Because we can be into each other’s business much faster than before and in detail, new restrictions apply. To anticipate our conclusion, the remnant is not a union of Jews and Gentiles but both, in response to Jesus, form a new humanity (See 2 Corinthians 5:17). The prescriptions that kept Gentiles and Jews apart have now lost their meaning for both have in common their need for the glory of God: “For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:22-23).

    Verses 13-18 of Ephesians 2 do not stand alone. An analysis of 2:1-22, following the subject of the verbs is fascinating as the text weaves between you and we. Vs. 1-2 You; 3-7 We; 8-9 You; 10 We, 11-13 You, 14-17 We, 18-22 You. From verse 5 on the “we” is the “we” of the new humanity, words found in v. 15.  First, there  is a backward glance at the circumcised and uncircumcised in v.11 with an expansion in v.12 of what uncircumcised/Gentiles lacked “being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” Then, in v.13 what has been given in detail is now captured in a phrase from Isaiah 57:19 about far and near with a repeat of the same wording in v.17. This kind of repetition sometimes means that what is contained between the repeated phrase is the nugget. Here it is: Christ Jesus and the cross! Between v 13 and v.18, eight verbs have Jesus as subject. This is intense.

    There is a typical Pauline approach at work here. In any discussion plant the cross in the center and work from there. This is Paul’s way of placing the Risen Lord at the center. Through his cross, through his blood, through his putting himself at the service of the Father’s plan, we are raised.  “God … in mercy raised us up .. and made us alive together in Christ” (vs.5-6).  Jesus is our peace (v.14).” Therefore, breaking down the dividing wall is a result of making peace through the cross, the dividing wall comes down as a result of the abolition of the prescriptions of the law. Access is given to all through faith in Jesus Christ. Did Paul say that Jesus abolished the Law? (See Matthew 5:17.) Or that he abolished the man-made rules built on the law excluding others (literally law in decrees v.15)?  The image is very concrete for archeologists have found what may have been the wall plaque forbidding entrance of Gentiles into the inner court in the temple.

    Are these decrees shown now through faith in Christ to have been wrongheaded? The exclusion defied the intention of God to bless all humankind through Abraham! Torah, the law  is good but no match for the xenophobic disregard f others which is the sin of the world, even depriving others of access to the divine. Peace leads to access in the one Spirit to the Father. (v. 18)  The impression is that once this climax  is achieved the flood gates are opened and a beautiful array of images of the church appears: no longer strangers and aliens, citizens with the saints, members of the household of God, the foundation of the apostles and prophets, cornerstone, holy temple, a dwelling place for God.  ©2021 David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    7-11-21

    15th Sunday in Ordinary Time 104-B 89SMF. Ps 85:9ab+10, 11-12, 13-14 Amos 7:12-15, Ephesians 1:3-14, Mark 6:7-13

    Response: Lord let us see your face and grant us salvation

    High trust, low maintenance

    I worked for some years in the preparation of candidates for ministry. Most were young and the zeal and enthusiasm of these men and women was invigorating and gave me and others a deeper sense of our own call and mission. That ministry helped me to understand the conditions which Jesus lays down for missionary work. One of the concerns was knowing the level of maintenance each person needed. On the spiritual, physical and psychological level, some are high maintenance, others are low. A deeper discernment: is the connection, that a person has with his or her stated level of needed maintenance real and authentic or unreal and pretense?  We all need maintenance and of course the more preventive the better. This leads into a deeper analysis of need and want. It is fascinating to think of Jesus choosing leaders for the future on this basis. In focusing on needs, for instance the need to rest and eat, Jesus set aside their wants for position, power, prestige.

    In how Mark describes the mission protocol, Jesus calls for  low maintenance knowing full well that over the course of life we can move from low to high maintenance on the physical level. On the spiritual level, the process may be in the opposite direction. We begin with high maintenance. Over time, albeit not without guidance and direction, we struggle towards a healthy jealousy of our own gifts and away from an unhealthy envy of others´ gifts. We are purified and simplified. We become low maintenance through humility and honesty. On the one hand, the disciples are not to linger among those who reject them. On the other hand, they are to anoint with oil those who are sick. Is the implication that the missionary disciple is not to engage in useless discussion with those who are not ready for it. When an openness to the Gospel is discerned, they stay but always within low maintenance. They eat what is put before them without angling for more comfortable settings. The discernment is that there is a grace-filled openness to the Gospel for both the minister and those to whom one is in ministry.  The personhood of the minister is the agent of the ministry but an instrument under constant construction through self-emptying in tandem with a growing analysis of who she or he is. Amos comes off as one who is low maintenance but one also who was not planning on being a prophet, the soul of honesty and humility.

    The less encumbered the disciples were, the more conscious they could be of the hostile atmosphere into which Jesus was sending them. Mark recounts the martyrdom of John the Baptist between their going out (6:6b-13)  and coming back (6:30-33).    All Christian formation, Mark is declaring, is preparation for persecution as is evident in today´s world where the persecution of Christians in the 2020’s,  is at an all-time high and increasingly believers other than Christian also suffer. Every story of another person being persecuted and even put to death is an invitation to the death to self that is honesty and humility. The response to Ps 85 is “Lord let us see your face and grant us salvation.” The over powering simplicity is the revelation of the face of God. Ask yourself if the difference you make is an oracle of salvation? Is this too much to ask? Not according to the one who wrote the Letter to the Ephesians which can be read to show how hi/low maintenance works. Over against the ever increasingly high maintenance of church life, reflected in Ephesians,  there emerges what makes for low maintenance of the ministers. Two words capture much: “in accord,” used six times in the course of six verses (vs.5,7,9,10, and twice in v.11).  To act  “in accord” one needs to trust: high trust, low maintenance!   A paradox! From the disciples  Jesus was eliciting a paradoxical trust  “in accord”  with the plan of God.  Hope urges us  to throw  our lot completely into the “in accord,” the harmonization  necessary so that God can achieve what God wants for the salvation of the universe and its many peoples. Relish the paradox that is the twined glory of trusting the divine and maintaining the human.  Read low maintenance. ©2021 David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    7-4-21

    14th Sunday in Ordinary Time 102-B SMF 148Ps 123:1-2a, 2bc, 3-4 Ezekiel 2:2-5 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 Mark 6:1-6

    Response: Our eyes are fixed on the Lord pleading for his mercy

    To be remembered as prophetic

    The Psalm is short in words but not in sentiments of the astounding closeness of God, intimate and strong. A song of ascent and so the eyes raised up carry one beyond the mount of Jerusalem to a throne in heaven. Never however out of sight of what is human and never out of mind of what makes for endurance. On what are the eyes fixed? On the hand of God! Michelangelo’s hand of God in the Sistine Chapel comes to me, the hand of a parent on a child, but how about the eyes on a servant on the hand of the master, the eyes of a maiden on the hand of a caring and loving mistress? This is a community lamentation song and only in the final verses is the reason for the lament made evident: the scorn and contempt of the proud and the arrogant. With no mention of external enemies but yet speaking of being scorned and thus  excluded, the psalm is no non-descriptive plea but a strong statement against the social inequalities among God’s covenanted people. Tougher to take was the homegrown injustice which defied what God wanted of God’s beloved people. There is a contrast between God’s graciousness  for which the psalmist asks three times and the  contemptuous  arrogance  of those  looking down on the others. This is not a discussion of the super-rich but of those who are doing a little better. As do many such folks, they despise and look down on those whom they see as still struggling.   The biggest social struggles come from those just a bit better and afraid of losing their edge over others. How negative the relationship can become with contempt mongers, too often the nouveau riche! In the ultimate analysis there are masters and mistresses who are good and others who are cruel.  Servants and maids have their eyes fixed on the hand of their respective masters or mistresses: good or cruel?  These are the temptations of the middle class.

    Jesus was doing ok for a while when he returned to his native place. The initial reaction to him was good. The people sized him up. They praised him, admired his wisdom and power. Then they paused. Eventually he ran into the stonewall of familiarity and so of disbelief. His choices were stark: would he too become one of the proud and arrogant of whom the psalmist laments? He would inform the disciples about to leave om mission, on how to handle rejection, blowing the dust off his feet. Move on, physically but what to do, spiritually? To whom could Jesus entrust his own feelings of being rejected? Jesus turned to Ezekiel for consolation and enlightenment. The people will be rebellious but stay the course, Ezekiel would advise. People will know that a prophet has been in the midst (2:5).

    If the psalmist goes on the offensive, not meeting contempt with contempt but overcoming arrogance with the prayer for graciousness, no fewer than three times, what resources does Ezekiel have? “Thus says the Lord God,” (v.4) is his strength.  This is his strength but it is not easy street. Ezekiel is given a scroll to eat, and written on it were words of lamentation and mourning and woe (2:9). The scroll was sweet.  Does honor taste sweet? Then Jesus said to them, "Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house." (Mark 6:4). Others would listen to his word but not Israel, (Ez 3:5-7), Jesus’ own.  The trust that the servants have watching the hand of their master or mistress matches the trust that Ezekiel  in God’s graciousness, scroll honey. Although the prophet will be rejected, she or  he is not without resources: serve away from oneself, keep your eye on the Master. A prophet looking for immediate satisfaction is a contradiction in terms. This thought alone would keep us from using the term prophetic too often. Let time and people’s memories decide whether we were prophetic or not. So serving away from oneself means also trusting that “whether they hear or refuse to hear” God has spoken. How other could Jesus have supported his rejection in his native place? Was serving away from himself, Paul’s thorn 2 Cor 12:7) ©2021 David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    June 27, 2021

    13th Sunday in Ordinary Time 99-B SMF 38Ps 30:2+4, 5-6, 11-12a+13b Wisdom 1:13-15, 2:23-24 2Corinthians 8: 7, 9, 13-15 Mark 5:21-43 

    Response: I will praise you Lord for you have rescued me

    Taboo

    “He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cum,’ which means, ‘Little girl, get up!’" (Mark 5:41) The words "Talitha cum," have come to evoke within me an array of emotions. many of which stem from a prayer service I attended in the Basilica of the Twelve Apostles in Rome, Italy, one evening early in  2015. We gathered to celebrate the rescue of a young girl from acts of heinous exploitation by human traffickers. The organization that facilitated this victorious and humane action takes its emblematic name from Jesus’ simple words to the little girl whom everyone had given up as gone forever. Talitha Cum is part of the Justice and Peace commission of international religious Superiors General of both Men and Woman communities. Its work counteracts the deplorable situation of children being sold to sex trade traffickers. Talitha Cum’s patron is St. Josephina Bakhita about whom Benedict XVI wrote in his encyclical, Spe Salvi Sumus.

    Mark was not quite talking about human trafficking when he wrote. So he may be perplexed by the use of his words to name an organization devoted to rescue work. But upon investigation he undoubtedly would soon relent. Why? Because Mark was addressing areas of life that were taboo as was the case for so long of any talk of organized sex trade. We discuss it openly today not because we are shameless, but because it is a social problem that must be addressed openly. People who rather look the other way show their lack of social conscience. Silence fosters the psychological mechanism of taboo or forms of societal veneer that insulate criminality and obstruct its exposure by tactical cover up.  With lack of detection, deceptive atmospheres and underground global economies grow, and such activities are pursued profitably with impunity.  Shock is often itself a cause for cover-up, the inability to frankly admit that people commit such horrible but highly lucrative activities.  With the tight texturing of Mark’s gospel, we rightly surmise that Jesus’ liberation of people from taboo reaches into many areas beyond sex and death. These sandwiched stories of the hemorrhaging woman and the dead twelve- year- old girl put into high relief the account of Jesus’ liberation of the Gerasene man who suffered mental illness, another taboo area.  What is taboo?

    A search on the web to answer this question is a tour de force. The question has multiple answers, and not all stuck in the past. Taboo covers a lot ranging between politically incorrect to “Taboo, also spelled tabu, Tongan tabu, Maori tapu, the prohibition of an action based on the belief that such behavior is either too sacred and consecrated or too dangerous and accursed for ordinary individuals to undertake” (Britannica.com). In Mark’s gospel, clean and unclean, pure and impure, in and out, all of these come together in terms of exclusion and inclusion in the Kingdom. Conversion may mean a change of taboo, a new statement of what is sacred and holy or too accursed or dangerous for ordinary individuals. This is the cosmic gravitational power of the claim of the Kingdom of God. Claim and taboo! The social fabric of a town was changed after Jesus visited. People were no longer ashamed to show themselves in public. A new line was drawn between clean and unclean. A hemorrhage was no longer a disqualifier; early mortality was on a decrease. Those who made money off others’ disaster were shown up as frauds. Magic was replaced by personal encounter. A dizzying new world was opened up.  And that greatest leveler of all, death, was defeated and ecstasy was democratized: “At this they were overcome with amazement” (5:42). What taboos have changed for you over the course of your life? Do you acclaim God for your release and proclaim the Gospel as you know it now?  2021David P.Reid ss.cc.

     

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    6-20-21

    12th Sunday in Ordinary Time 96-B SMF 129 Ps 107:23...31 Job 38:1,8-12 2 Corinthians 5:14-17  Mark 4:35-40

    Response: Give thanks to the Lord for his mercy is eternal

    Parablers

    Psalm 107 only makes it into the Lectionary twice, today and on a week: Friday, 20th week, even year. This is an awkward thanksgiving song because it is overfull, with the refrain four times (v.8,15,22, 31). Any one section makes a complete song of thanksgiving mentioning the deed of God for which praise and gratitude is fitting. But that the song would be overflowing was evident from the beginning especially in v. 3 where the redeemed “gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south,” are summoned to give thanks. The notes in our Bibles help to identify specific events for which thanks is rendered but the accumulation of events is what is most impressive. The experience of the psalmist’s community  speaks loudly to a storm at sea such as is told in Mark’s gospel, the section (4:35-5:43) which fills out the invitation to be with Jesus and to have power over demons. (cf. Mark 3:15). Put plain and simple: Jesus exorcises the storm (4:39, using the same formula as exorcising the unclean spirit, (1:25). Whatever about being called to be an exorcist, the Christian disciple is called to be a parabler.

    Turning to a thanksgiving psalm for a storm at sea may seem odd but it is what you get when “doing business on the mighty waters,” is your way of life (Ps. 107:23). There is a very big world out there and once Israel got settled on the land, they expanded and opened trade with other peoples. Solomon was praised far and wide for the great accomplishments of his time. If on the one hand foreign travel left Israel feeling proud about their God in contrast to others, it also ran many risks, not the least of which was shipwreck.  Was there any point in believing that God created the world if one could not trust God in a storm? God “made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.” (Ps 107: 29) Did the same psalmist help the disciples in the boat with Jesus?  The psalm  would have expressed their faith in God but they were not there yet in their faith in Jesus. On a second reading the Christian sees it all clearly and smiles at Mark’s use of the word “He woke up.” But the actors in the story are not there yet. When Jesus (telling the storm to be quiet) did what God was thanked for doing in the Psalm, then the big question kicked in: "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"(4:41) Mark’s gospel is marvelously balanced to meet the needs of disciples who need to grow in faith. Jesus is called teacher (v. 38). This is teaching with power, as in 1:28, eliciting obedience at first from unclean spirits and now the wind and the sea.

    The Psalm ends on a wisdom motif: “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever. …. Let those who are wise give heed to these things, and consider the steadfast love of the Lord.” Ps 107:42-43. There’s no surprise that the Old Testament reading for this ordo is the beginning of the whirlwind speech in Job (38:1,8-12), the flower of Israel’s wisdom.  The questions that intimidate by the sheer awesomeness of their subject ultimately overwhelm Job. As for the sea, the question is one that anyone who knows a storm at sea can recognize: "Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb?” (38:8) The experience of Job made of his life a parable, a metaphor, an interweaving of life and faith that has stood the test of time and continues to offer guidance to the perplexed and storm ridden. Jesus’ question to the disciples at the end of the storm is "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:40)  Jesus’ invitation is to  become parables; it is not enough to hear and ponder parables but to become parable-making teachers of the faith, leading others into the mystery of the kingdom: And he said to them, "To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables.” (4:11) The story that comes on the heels of Jesus’ discourse on parables had as its purpose to unite the two duties of a disciple: to teach and to cast out demons, all in function of their relationship with him in faith. Thus we are brought back to Jesus’ own invitation to make parables: “He also said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it?” ( 4:30) The invitation is to go wherever the parable leads. In this perspective how well the words about being ambassadors of reconciling love, written by Paul to the Corinthians, fit in: “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! …So we are ambassadors for Christ.” (2 Cor 5:17…20)  The thanksgiving of the psalmist: “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.” (Ps 107:1) has received yet another motif:  "Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word.”  (Mark 4:13-14) ©2021David P. Reid ss.cc.

     

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    6-13-21

    11th Sunday in Ordinary Time 93-B SMF 100 Ps 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16 Ezekiel 17:22-24. 2 Cor 5:6-10  Mark 4:26-34

    Response: It is good to give thanks to the Lord.

    From Scratch

    Put bluntly sacraments work on the basis of the sacraments performed. That’s as bluntly as one can say it but ultimately say it inadequately. The alternate position is that sacraments look to the dispositions of the persons involved.  Some will recognize this manner of writing as referring to Latin expressions used in the past. Old formulae naturally ossify but of course they were once meant to say something wonderful.  Today we rush in to say that each sacrament is an act of Christ within the community of his body  which is not a cadaver but the active missionary and liturgical presence to us of the Risen Lord, already in our midst and yet to come in glory. This is beautiful. By the word liturgical, we weigh in on the sacramentally symbolic character of each celebration.  In all of these thoughts, honed as they are through the turn to the personal in philosophy and theology, by a new appreciation of religious language and reformulated through ecumenical sensibility, where does Mark’s use of the word “automatic” fit in? (Mark 4:28) Automatically the earth bore fruit. NRSV translates “the earth produces of itself,” while the NAB speaks of the land producing as “of its own accord.”

    Mark is often thought to be bold and straight forward. This use of “automatically” is a case in point. Matthew and Luke have no parallel. Were a person coming into the discussion with a magical understanding of the sacraments  with no grasp of the relationship of liturgy with the Risen Lord or thinking of  the sacraments as separate from liturgy, this use of the word “automatic” might  confirm their misunderstanding. The more personal the understanding of the union of Christ and his body, the church, however the more wonderful is this image of God’s generativity, “of its own accord.” God gives. God gives life. God is a generous giver. If God doesn’t give, who then?  We can only  respond to what is given as gift on the basis of the generosity with which the gift is made. The self-made man is a contradiction, just as the ideal of the independent human being flies in the face of reality. Every human being is not only interdependent but the recipient of life as gift. To the one who has, more can be given. From the one who never “received” what he or she was given, there is attrition.  What he or she had or has will be taken away. It is only pride that causes a person to want to be their own maker. “See,” says Jesus, “what you hear,” (Mark 4:24) offering us a wisdom perspective. (Mark 4:28) God watches the growth, every stage. Mark had a companion in Ezekiel 17:24: “All the trees of the field shall know that I am the Lord. I bring low the high tree, I make high the low tree; I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish. I the Lord have spoken; I will accomplish it.” God gives and there is no divorcing the gift and the aftercare, neither for God nor for us. “What have you that you have not received?”(1 Cor 4:7).

    God giving and we receiving work on distinct but conjoined tracks. God gives for God’s own good purposes and in giving makes it possible for us to respond. God cannot be motivated by anything less than God. God is responding to God. Name God’s motivation how you will: God’s name, God’s glory,  God’s righteousness. Or as one sometimes hears God will be God. Our hearts are the echo chamber of God’s word which is ever fecund. The completeness of that relationship that God has with Godself has to be first appreciated before we can consider where we fit in. Our relationship with ourselves is within the relationship of God to God. Let it be emphasized: God is motivated by what God sees of God in us. Said another way, sensitive to the rhythms of liturgical action, God give access to Godself  just as God gives us the wherewithal to develop a response to the gift of God’s presence.  “Developing a response to the gift” is what is meant by merit. Only God gives access to Godself. We are prepared for that access. God is the subject of the verb to merit because God prepares us to receive what God has to give us. That is grace. Of ourselves, we merit nothing, we are unworthy but “say but the word and my soul shall be healed.” When the word “automatic” said of the earth is referenced in terms of relationship with God, not only do the words of Mark’s parable “he (the farmer) does not know how,” apply, but also the earth produces of itself, “merits” first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. The access is itself God’s gift. Leave it to the psalmist to have the final word:  “The righteous flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. In old age they still produce fruit; they are always green and full of sap, showing that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him. (Ps.92:12-15) ©2021 David P. Reid ss.cc.

     

     

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    6-6-21

    Body & Blood of Christ:  Sunday after Trinity Sun 136. SMF 168-B Ps 116:12-13, 15-16, 17-18 Exodus 24:3-8,  Hebrews 9: 11-15, Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

    Response: You take away our thirst with the cup of salvation

    Food to endure the journey to the end!

    My thirst for what? Eternal life! And so the Eucharist is for us food for a journey. Mark 14:25 says as much: “Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God." Jesus, Son of Man will participate in the new kingdom. He will die because he will be handed over. For him the journey is ended; the journey that begins for the disciples is sustained by bread-wine communion with him in all that he did and will do in his body, in all that he did and will do in his blood, his life principle. The wine he gives, the disciples will drink; the bread  he gives, the disciples will take. The words “of the covenant” are joined a little awkwardly to “my blood.” Mark is recalling Exodus 24:8 when the sprinkling of blood represented the life giving action of God’s covenant making with Israel.  One assumes that the disciples eat the bread, it is clearly said that they drink the wine over which Jesus has evoked the blessedness of the whole story of salvation. Mark’s last supper is sparse but unsparing.

    The details of a Passover meal are not Mark’s concern. What is his concern? To show that the meal is eaten in a troubled atmosphere.  One of the disciples will betray him and in fact the betrayer is one of the twelve. What the reader knows, those eating at the table do not. The betrayer could be any one of them. Would it not be in keeping with Mark’s plot to assume that neither does Jesus know his betrayer? Will the meal always be celebrated with the question of betrayal hanging over our heads?  Jesus laments that such is inevitable; he laments the birth of the one tied up in the betrayal. He was set on this course from birth, it is not what one son (or daughter) of humanity should do to another, the Son of Man.  Would that he had gone another course! The whole human enterprise is warped from the beginning. Jesus can only remember that God too regretted having made us. That was never God’s final judgment, however. And, so for the road ahead, there is food and sustenance provided, a participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

    Whatever may be said of the Judas of history, the Judas of the narrative carries a lot.  Would not all of us have been Judas? The scene of the supper is preceded by the story of Judas and followed by the denial of Peter. The misunderstanding of the disciples, which Mark has relentlessly pursued in his telling the story, takes on consequences which can only be divinely reversed. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs. "As for yourselves, beware; for they will hand you over to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them. …And the good news must first be proclaimed to all nations…. But the one who endures to the end will be saved,” (Mark 13: 9-10, 13).  Apollos had his own unique way of describing the same journey: “he entered once for all into the Holy Place… For if the blood of goats and bulls… sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!” (Hebrews 9:9…14)

    The Corpus Christi processions is food for the same journey into God’s holiness. The words of the psalmist shape our participation: “What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord,” (Ps.116:12-13). And our prayer at the offertory of the Mass recalls that proactive participation: “may my sacrifice and yours be acceptable to God the Almighty Father…may the Lord accept.” Only in  God’s acceptance of Jesus’ offering, is there a sacrifice, a holiness, a journey accomplished, a perfection given, “those called…receive the promised eternal inheritance...through the greater and perfect tent ...thus obtaining eternal redemption.” (Hebrews 9:11-15)  ©2021David P. Reid ss.cc.

     



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    May 30, 2021

    Trinity Sunday 165-B SMF 46 Ps 33:4-5, 6+9, 18-19, 20+22 Deuteronomy 4:32-34,39-40 Romans 8:14-17, Matthew 28:16-20

    Response: Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.

     

    It’s the Economy!

    Any talk about God as Trinity needs careful guidance. The human mind is expanded to the fullest and then, attracted by the sheer beauty of a self-revelatory God, hungers for more. The Lectionary choices for today’s feast do not disappoint. A great belief has grown up in the USA: the state of the economy determines the outcomes of national elections. Two words in that sentence are at home in today’s liturgy: economy and election. The readings conspire to speak about the economy of God which is built around election.  Yes, God’s housekeeping, for that is one way to take the word economy, is clearly at work in God’s choosing Israel, “the fewest of all peoples” (Deut 7:7).   God took a nation for himself from among other nations, a feat no other god ever tried. God created and God spoke, out of a fire and people lived.  And what was Israel to learn from all this? To acknowledge that the Lord is God and that there is none other besides this one and only God.  For good measure the post-exilic homilist repeats: So acknowledge today and take to heart that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. (Deut 4:39)  God’s economy begins with this truth: there is no other. That is the main reason the Lectionary chose this passage as foundational to worshipping God as trinity. But along with this truth comes the experience of God speaking and indeed from a fire, both foreshadows of the revelation of God as Word and Spirit.

    What was once adumbrated in the Deuteronomy reading is set forth in bolder and extended images in the Psalm 33. The Lectionary chooses to emphasize the word and spirit involved in creation “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth” (Ps 33:6). There is an economy  to the activity of God which the Psalmist assigns to the heart of God: “The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations” (v.11). And the Lectionary also weaves in mention of the beneficiaries of this creative God. These speak for themselves: “Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you” (v.22).

    Paul who liked in his ministry to be backed up from all sides, sees in the Spirit the testimony of God and the testimony of the beneficiaries of God’s covenant benevolence. The Spirit co-testifies to our spirit that we are the sons and daughters of God. If the one verse of the psalmist “Happy the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage” (v.12) does honor to the Deuteronomist’s input, the verse also anticipates Paul’s use of the word “heirs” to describe the new condition in Christ. To be an heir is to share the estate of one’s father; the Christian is not only adopted but made an heir and therefore one who shares in the mission of Jesus. While this development prepares us for the reading from Matthew’s gospel, there is an if-clause attached to what Paul writes: “if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him” (v.17) What kind of conditional clause is that? The translations say “if only.”  Assuming that we suffer with him, we will be glorified with him. So is suffering with Christ part of the inheritance? Here Colossians 1:23 comes to clarify the issue: “I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.” The Church becomes the beneficiary of the Christian’s participation with Christ. If the Church, then the world and all the dreams of Gaudium et Spes of Vatican II, reiterated in all the Petrine documents since the Council, come to mind and heart. Paul is lauded for his constant use of the preposition “with” in that final verse in the reading from Romans (8:17).  The Church of the future is a church “with,” as in the word synod, meaning “with each other on the road.”  As we turn to the gospel chosen for this feast, the reader is mesmerized with the promise of the Risen Lord: “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20), analeptic with Emmanuel (Matthew 2:23).

    Today, it took but four Biblical texts to get us utterly immersed in the economy of God. And so the question: Is it any wonder that the initiation rite, baptism is done in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? No, but the same passage avers the temptation to second guess the divine economy: “when they saw him they worshipped him; but some doubted,” (v.17) and so it will always be.  While we praise God as Trinity, we are still “of little faith” (oligopistoi: 6:30,8:26,14:31,16:8) ©2021 David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    May 23, 2021

    Pentecost Sunday 127 SMF 63-ABC Ps 104:1+24, 29-30, 31+34     Acts 2:1-11, 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7,12-13 John 14:15-16, 23b-26 

    Response: Lord send forth your Spirit and renew the face of the earth

    No longer adrift

    Atomization in the study of the Bible!  To get to know the various traditions, there was a tendency to divide and divide even to breaking up sentences into separate words as coming from varied sources. That happened in the scholarship when we were thinking only of written sources. The same happened when we began thinking of oral sources. Bits and pieces. Atomization. In biblical studies, the flow has been reversed for the past fifty. As we move from analysis to synthesis, we seek the unity of the Bible, not forgetting its kaleidoscopic character. The Bible witness is not totalitarian but symphonic, united but not uniform, not exclusive but inclusive. All the work of the Spirit. This too is the reality of the church and of the world. It is the dance of creation (for example Ps. 104) to unite the one and the many.  E pluribus unum!

    Atomization was Paul’s dilemma in Corinth. Coming to Corinth looking for work and community, Christians rejoiced in the gifts they discovered that they had. The Christian community functioned on the sharing of gifts, even flourished. But given human envy and jealousy, the community floundered on atomization (1 Cor 1:11). Leave it to Paul to formulate an early principle of inclusion: “Therefore I want you to understand that … no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit.” 1 Cor 12:3. Better to be hemmed in by the Spirit than by each other’s prejudices! These are boundaries with which we can live in Christian community. They are so far apart that there is ample room for diverse expression where one who is not against you, is for you (Mark 9:40).  The embrace of this divine tolerance, expressed in broad principles of inclusion, is where Christians seeking unity amidst diversity, need to go today.

    The divisions among Christians are intolerable when no concern is given for another community of Christians  who are being persecuted. Why? Because they are of another expression of the one faith. Is it not an anathema to so cling to one’s formulation of the faith that we treat other Christians as strangers? Can we be bonded anew in the Spirit? Here’s where the thundering, even theophanic imploding of Psalm 104 hits us: “may the Lord rejoice in his works—  who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke.” This is not a soft adaptation of  Genesis 1:2 in Ps.104:30: “When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.” No, not soft but compelling and urgent! At this point, the Psalmist ups the ante and wants a magnificent show of power and might to bring us into reality, something reminiscent of Sinai and of the new covenant in which we live as Christians.

    A missionary principle is that one should not disturb the faith of another who is committed. Many, however,  are adrift and they, like those in Corinth,  are therefore ripe for evangelization. Applying that principle to the world of Islam, who would not see the Christian world in the west adrift today and ripe for the Islamic harvest, a more value-centered life, an intimate relationship with God? A Christian ecumenical dialogue would show the shared riches of being Christian and an Islamic ecumenical dialogue would show the shared riches of being Muslim. An inter-religious dialogue would show the riches shared between Christians and Muslims. Neither is helped in being adrift, prey to violent manipulation, atomization and in danger of a proselytism which is subversive of the human freedom to choose.   The two dialogues reinforce each other and the wonder is that we have so much in common. The experience  in Acts is paradigmatic: early Christians were “amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "What does this mean?"” (Acts 2:12) That is a great question with which to begin any dialogue. There will be cynics who will ask if they had had too much sugar (Acts 2:13). And on the other hand, “Amazed and astonished, they asked, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?  And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?” (Acts 2:7-8)  ©2021David P. Reid ss.cc.



     

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    May 16, 2021

    7th Sunday of Easter 123 SMF 60-B   Ps 103:1-2, 11-12, 19-20 Acts 1:15-17,20-26 1John 4:11-16 John 17:11-19

    Response: The Lord has set his throne in heaven

    Hakeldama

    “In order that the Scriptures be fulfilled” is an expression which occurs often but remains difficult to understand. Would God have allowed Judas to betray Jesus in order that the Scriptures be fulfilled? Which comes first the betrayal or the words to be fulfilled? The fact: were Jesus not betrayed there would have been no need for him to come. Without Jesus coming, there was no way for us to get the message of God’s salvation; but, in coming, we would reject him.  At times you cannot save people from themselves, all you can do is prepare to pick up the pieces. If the story you tell is God’s plan to pick up the pieces, then God doesn’t plan to break us in pieces. However, God takes on the responsibility in love to pick the pieces up. Of course, God pains to see us mess up our lives, the lives of others and the whole of creation. God didn’t make robots. God fashioned  people who in our freedom image God. Unfortunately we have been shaped, even Jesus and Mary, by the story of the abuse of freedom before we got here. Each one of us has to find out the difference between freedom which is the capacity to choose the good and license or whatever we should call the capacity for evil. Judas was one who walked with Jesus, shared both his company and that of the other disciples and for what seems a pittance walked away from the whole of it. He was not alone in walking away from Jesus. Peter and all the disciples fled according to Mark 14:50.

    No doubt because of his plotting (Matt 26:14), Judas became the poster child of betrayal. Whatever of his own personal story, his stage name stuck. Even the gospels are wont to name him Judas Iscariot “who betrayed Jesus” (cf. Matt 10:4). If the Scriptures are sure that Judas embodies the reason Jesus came, they are less sure how he ended. There the character surpasses the man. He took his own life, the story says although, while Matthew is sure, (27:3-10) Luke is not (Acts 1:18). Can it be said that  the text of Matthew presents the death of Judas (Mt 27:3) as a confession (v.4)? The gospel shares his tears. Perhaps remembering Ahithophel, (2 Samuel 17:23)  the adviser who betrayed David in the latter’s horrendous episode with Absalom, Judas is presented as taking his own life as an acknowledgment of his betrayal of the Lord’s anointed (Mt 26:63). Judas is self-condemnatory, the fulfillment as it were of a self-cursing… “woe is me if.” (Cf. 1 Cor 9:16, Ps.137:vs.4-5) The betrayal was deep and Jesus at the Last supper in John (13:18,21-30) speaks to the personal character of the betrayal, citing Psalm 41:10 which in turn reminds one of Ps 55: 14-15.  In John’s gospel, even when the name Judas is not used, (17:12) there is self-destruction. Place it  under the protection of the Scripture to be fulfilled. God knew this betrayal was coming, downright personal intimate, spat. However,  God in Jesus embraces rejection. God will not be fazed from loving us even if we throw the whole thing in God’s face. The intimacy betrayed is also the intimacy that is looked for by Peter when it comes to replacing Judas among those who will represent the new Israel that will be launched at Pentecost. A candidate is one who has been with us beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us,” one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection formed by the experience of “the Lord Jesus who went in and out among us.” (Acts 1: 22, 21) One has to marvel at the gift of Luke to construct these scenes of prayer and election leading to the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost. We are given not only an understanding of the church as reconstituted Israel, a model of calling brothers and sisters to office but also a definition of who an apostle is, all the while noting the largeness of the community consulted and the presence of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Over against this scene of the new community taking over from the ministry of Jesus, Luke enigmatically says “Judas had to go to his own place.” (Acts 1:25, see Hakeldama, vs.18-19) Luke who was concerned about apostasy in the early community, (11:24-26) might well have used the story of Judas to tap into the pain of betrayal when there was sinning in the community. Some find the portrayals of community life in Acts to be too idealistic.  While it is true that Luke shies away from saying things that put the disciples in a bad light, he did not fail to profile Judas although he says that he fell headlong in the ditch (Acts 1:18) rather than follow Matthew in saying that he took his own life.

    We have to be grateful to the NT community for such a mixed picture of Judas. We are not in the business of rehabilitating old rogues, but the way in which the Scriptures present Judas,  there is much to learn about intimacy and betrayal. Judas says the pain is too much to bear but what he never learned was that God’s intimacy with us is stronger than any betrayal we might try. Judas, go pray Psalm 103 for God “as a father has compassion for his children.” It is never too late! ©2021David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    May 9, 2021

    6th Sunday of Easter 111 SMF Ps 98:1, 2-3a, 3b-4 56-B Acts of the Apostles  10:25-27,34-35, 44-48 1 John 4:7-10 John 15:9-11

    Response: The Lord has revealed his justice to the people

    Our Mutual Friend, Jesus

    In his inimitable way Pope Francis says that belonging to  God is part of our DNA.  St. Augustine had said as much a long time ago. And until each of us comes to grips with the drawing power of God in our lives, we will not be at peace. This leads two ways. One is God’s choosing and the other is joy. Both work well in today’s readings after an abrupt beginning. What I mean is this. Acts of the Apostles says that God has no favorites, John says that God chose us. Are they are at odds? The context in Acts is Peter’s speech having come to the house of Cornelius (10:34-43, here 34). We are now at the decisive moment in Acts. Luke presents this turning to the Gentiles as double visions, given to Paul and Ananias, Peter and Cornelius. While Paul’s story is told three times in Acts 9,22,26, Peter’s story is repeated in 11:1-18 and alluded to in 15:7-11. Arguably more dramatic, the vision given to Peter paralleling the one given to Cornelius explores the reason for the Jew-Gentile divide. This is what Peter had to work out once he found himself in doubt (10:17). He was being moved by the Spirit into a new context (v.19).  By the time the brothers from Joppa brought him to the house of Cornelius, he had resolved his doubt and come to a firm conclusion. “God has shown me that I should not call any person profane or unclean.” (v.28) All of this crystallizes into a clean statement with which Peter begins his message when invited to speak: “God shows no partiality.” (v.34) Literally this means “lift up the face,” and therefore show favor. Often, with a hand under the chin, a parent will lift up the face of a child thereby showing special care or affection. God’s hand is under everyone’s chin. God shows no favorites because God chooses everyone in their respective fullness. God chooses in a way that does not exclude. God does not choose Israel to the ultimate exclusion of other peoples. For some that was hard to accept, especially after the Exile as witnessed in the story of Jonah. For us limited human beings, election means exclusion. So it is quite a conversion to accept this turn to the Gentiles which is the enduring mark of the Gospel that is catholic. God can and does choose all. Jesus Christ is Lord of all (10:36). We are all children of God’s good will (Luke 2:14). Who doesn’t turn often to 1 Timothy 2:4: (our Savior God) “who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”   This gives new meaning to Jesus’ statement in John 15: 16:  “You did not choose me but I chose you.”

    At this point the psalm asks to be prayed to the joy of a God who is for all. Clearly joy is distinctive of Ps. 98. This is a choral response on the part of all creation to the fidelity with which God has remembered the covenant with God’s people. The Greek text translates the word “world” with oikoumene and there, in the final verses, joy unites the universe and all its peoples who find in God’s fidelity to Israel (v.3) the guarantee of their own salvation. The sound of the shepherd’s horn (shofer) is heard throughout. The exuberant joy is found in the discovery that God loves in an all-inclusive manner, God’s love excludes none. Subtly underlying this celebration of Yahweh the Lord as King,  is the fecundity of God’s blessing shared with all the peoples through the promise made to Abraham (Gen 12:1-3) Perhaps the Greek translators working on this old song were thinking this way too when they added “to Jacob” in v.3 paralleling the house of Israel.

    John the Evangelist confirms the insight that the joy is released because of God’s fidelity to Israel in sending Jesus. “I have said these things to you that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete,” v.11. What are “these things” that give rise to such joy? Jesus keeps the Father’s command and remains in his love. What command? To love! By keeping the command to love as Jesus kept his Father’s command to love, the summation of the Law and the Prophets, we remain on the vine. The “just as” argument of John is in full force: “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as…..” (v.10). Verse 11 holds the two parts of the “just as” together: “I have said these things to you that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” The bonding of Jesus with the Father through the keeping - by laying down his life, (v.13)- of the command to love is compelling and convincing. In revealing all he has heard from the Father, the Word, our self-revealing friend, has fully chosen us. Friendship/election reveals. With election comes mission. Bear fruit! With fruit comes joy. The Gospel as told in the story of John is “joy complete,” a complete joy!  John the Baptist’s joy was complete when Jesus came, (3:29). Our joy is complete when our prayer is answered. (16:24) Jesus’s joy is complete when he turns over the disciples to the Father (John 17:13). May my joy –in being faithful to the command of my Father to love- be in you and your joy be complete. May my joy be in you and your joy be fruitful.  A “complete joy” is how we praise Our Friend, today! ©2021 David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    May 2, 2021

    5th Sunday of Easter 53 B 19SMF Psalm  22 (21) 26-27,28, 30, 31-32 Acts 9:26-31 1 John 3:18-24 John 15:1-8

    Response: You are my praise O Lord in the great assembly

    Abide

    Paul came to know the death and resurrection of the Lord on the inside; transition to the great assembly to which the psalmist of Psalm 22 had been admitted, was not Paul’s immediate experience.  He had first to deal with a form of post[-conversion] traumatic syndrome. The zeal with which Paul  preached Jesus, Son of God was equal only to the zeal with which Paul persecuted the Christian Jews. This fact dismayed both his fellow Jews and then his fellow Christians.  Paul felt the rejection of his brother Jews, the Hellenists with whom he could so easily identify. Things had changed as witnessed in the first 19 verses of the famous third person account of Paul’s Damascus experience (Acts 9). That was in Damascus where his Jewish brothers rejected him. Then he went to Jerusalem and the Christian Jews rejected him, simply not trusting the stories they heard about this former zealot who would ask for papers of extradition to go get the new believers. So off to Tarsus for Paul for a while.  The Paul whom we meet in Acts 9 might well have prayed Psalm 55:12-14 (“It is not my enemies who taunt me-I could bear that- [… but those ] with whom I kept pleasant company, we walked in the house of God with the throng”). This sounds all the world like an application of Psalm 22.  The psalmist has the enemies of his own house. But Paul was strong, no basket case and his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket (Acts 9:21). People do not want us to change. “I liked the old self.” No wonder Jesus talked about his mission was not to bring peace but division (Luke 12:49-53).

    The community of John for all its emphasis on love was not without similar conflict. If there is division on the outside, there is also division on the inside. Some in John’s community were conflicted in conscience. Scruples?  Coping with those who feel that they have the inside track with God? Disputes about doctrine that defied the message of love for one another? Was the sheer fact of human life lived fleshly every day just too much for the highly spiritual? John’s community remains an enigma but the message that emerged was simple and integrated: believe in Jesus, Son of God and prove it in love of each other.  Belief in Jesus means taking our humanity seriously and trusting ourselves in matters of discernment and conscience. John seems less interested in dictates from on high than the rigorous practice of discerning the Spirit that moves us: of God or not of God? What’s the telltale? Love of the brethren. One might wish for more foreign mission in John’s community but the terrain to be first gained for Christ is the heart of the believer. And that is post conversion’s stuff. Don’t wait around for someone to tell you what to do but do abide! Ah! That’s the word abide. Post conversion is learning to abide in God’s love. All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us (1 John 3:24).  This brings us to the depth of John’s interiorizations of the Gospel message and to the question of pruning the vine.

    John loves loaded language and the word abide was under construction from the question of the first disciples: where do you abide? (John 1:38) Just count the number of times John uses the word abide or remain in the passage about the vine and the branches. The word abide is preferable to the word remain which has the idea often of staying behind. But there is nothing passive about John’s abiding in Christ. This abiding is inquisitive and bold, assertive and committed. Abide and Beloved Disciple belong together (John 21:20-23). And so also does the word pruning belong here. The intimacy suggested by abiding is only sustained by embracing the pruning that a life of loving entails. On-going conversion which honors the first conversion and extends it, is a constant form of pruning and addresses the challenge of a post conversion syndrome. For both John and Paul any genuine conversion is on-going. ©2021 David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    4-25-21

    4th Sunday of Easter 141 SMF 50-B  Ps 118:1+8-9, 21-23, 26+21+29 Acts 4:8-12 1 Jn  3:1-2 John 10:11-18

    Response: the stone rejected by the builders has become the corner stone

    A Broad Place

    “Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me in a broad place” (Ps.118:5). Set me in a broad place! The psalmist was set free and his release from distress gets expressed by imagery of a gate opening.  One can go in through a gate to get out to freedom! The metaphor is delightful, in freedom, the psalmist has moved on and seeks the gates of righteousness as entrance to the presence of God. (Ps.118:19) And John expands the broad place: Jesus goes further and presents  himself as the gate of the sheep fold (John 10:7). The sheep go in and out and find pasture. Assured that he is doing the will of the Father, Jesus gives his life, under no compulsion nor for that matter out of demon possession (10:20-21), but with authority (v.18).  This is a stance that not only contrasts with that of hirelings  but with freedom, situates the broad place within  his relationship with the Father into which Jesus leads the sheep. And it strengthens the appeal that Jesus makes on behalf of the other sheep who do not belong to the fold. All of this free movement  adapts to the contours of the Psalmist  who,  long before he gets to join the entrance liturgy,  recounts the long journey he has traversed, (vs.10-14, “They surrounded me like bees; they blazed like a fire of thorns”).  Coming off imagery like that who cannot identify with the words “the Lord is my strength and my salvation”? (Ps 118:14). The Psalmist is yielding to “glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous,” (v.15) The folding  of the individual into the story of his people is excellent in this psalm because his struggles are our struggles, her battles are our battles and his and her  victories bring tears to our eyes. Note the development of Judaism’s spirituality: people, king, fully actualized individual choosing to be community! It is all in Psalm 118.  In the Christian community’s use of this Psalm to appropriate the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection (Acts 4:11-12), marvel at the consolation of solidarity and inclusion!

    “Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me in a broad place.” I have seen the pride on the face of those arriving at the door of the church on Sunday morning knowing that the week that had passed was one of struggle. The effort to dress down one’s demons, believe blindly that one is blessed in God, and step into a “broad space,” a battle worthy of the debate within the minds of those who hear Jesus: “Many of them were saying, "He has a demon and is out of his mind. Why listen to him?" Others were saying, "These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?" (John 10:20-21).  Many of the parishioners I served were discriminated against  and stereotyped by society for being Black and female. Working back the details of any one week led to a confirmation: “His steadfast live endures forever,” the beginning and ending of Ps. 118.  The parishioners intuited the coherence of the psalmist’s experience as it is echoed in Peter’s “No other name!”  The flow of Peter’s thought is retrofitting Ps. 118 to the story of the healed man in response to the question: “‘By what power or by what name did you do this?’” (Acts 4:7).  Peter mentions the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, (v.10) and, then, he connects it with the story, citing Psalm 118. This is a masterful development because on the one hand he answers the question of the leaders, elders and scribes assembled in Jerusalem: “the stone that was rejected by you, the builders it has become the cornerstone,” (Acts 4:11)  On the other hand, Peter creates a space broader than any empire when he says: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved."(4:12)  The “broad space” allotted here is indeed wide for the whole of humanity is envisioned (Acts 4:12); nonetheless the pastoral care that Jesus offers is individual and personal.  He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. (John 10:5)  To go in through the gate is to find Jesus’ relationship with the Father, to go out through it is to find the crippled man, the world, seeding salvation. On both sides there is a broad space. Is the gate made of wood… wood of the cross of Jesus?   ©2021 David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    4-18-2021

    3rd Sunday of Easter 48-B SMF 2Ps 4:2, 4, 7-8, 9 Psalm 4 Third Sunday of Easter B Acts 3:13-15, 17-19 1 John 2:1-5, Luke 24:35-48  

    Response: Shine upon us O Lord the light of your face

    Joyfully                                                       

    Imagine how the early Christian read this psalm. Q: who will show us happiness? A: “let the light of your face shine on us, o Lord!"(v.6).  As with all ancient manuscripts, there have been difficulties in reading the exact words of the ancient text. But heard today in the Christian community, and especially in the situation of coming to recognize what we had failed to see, the community understands the verse as a prayer. The prayer finds answer in the Risen Lord, and the disciples were incredulous for joy. (Luke 24:41) Are we actually saying the event is unbelievable? No. Faith often comes from an experience of joy! Faith in a faithful and reliable God who keeps promises is our articulated response to the joy of salvation. Elizabeth’s blessing of Mary followed on her joy in feeling John move in her womb (Luke 1:44).

    This is first a matter of the heart, then of the head. One’s deepest hope is fulfilled, and blessed are those who believed that the word spoken to them would be fulfilled. (Luke 1:45). How do you  share this joy? For an answer look how well Jesus has prepared his disciples and how they are promised the Spirit. “And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."    (Luke 24:49) But there’s no mission without a process of faith speaking to joy and joy responding to faith. This has been called mystagogy, a practice associated now with the Rite of the Christian  Initiation of Adults (RCIA) in our parishes. The newly baptized are accompanied from Easter to Pentecost.  This is the art of absorbing the light, the glory of God on the face of Jesus in the power of the Spirit.

    The arrangement of the scriptural readings in the Lectionary wants to emphasize the revelatory movement, the mystagogy, from unknowing to knowing in the light of Easter, informed by joy. The psalmist asks the important question: how long will you harden your hearts? Ps.4: 3 How long will you search for illusion?  Know that God has done great things for his devotee. That’s the invitation to conversion. Peter is so clear in his sermon following the healing of the crippled man. “I know that you acted out of ignorance as did your leaders,” Acts 13:17.  In the light of the Risen Lord, we begin to re-do everything, re-adjust, reject some things and see what needs to be shared.

    John has moved on. “But if we walk in the light, we are in fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus, the son of God purifies us from all sin.”  (1 John 1:7). It is now later in the Christian movement. For John, if the confession of the faith is divorced from love of a brother or sister in the movement, the Christian does not know Jesus and still walks in darkness. On the other hand, “we know him if we fulfill the commands (to love)” v.3. This is knowledge tested at the bar of love, a presentation that has a lot in common with Paul’s presentation to the Corinthians.

    The incorporation of the Christian into a community of believers   is never ended. The welcome of  a Christian doesn’t end with the Sacraments of Initiation. There’s no better way to discover your own faith than by sharing it with another. Are we not all converts? Want to know if you are a convert? Is there joy in your life? Is Christ the light in your life? Is there an active Rite of the Christian Initiation of Adults in your faith community?  Join it. If not, start one. ©2021David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    4-11-21
    2nd Sunday of Easter SMF 142 45B  Ps 118  :2-4, 13-15, 22-24; Acts A 2:42-47 B 4:32-35 C 5:12-16  A 1 Pt 1:3-9 B 1 John 5:1-6 C Rev 1:9-11,12-13 17-19 John 20:19-31

    Response: Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love is everlasting.

    Loving Jesus, the Risen Lord

    For Feasts, Lectionary entries stand alone, each speaking in its own way to the theme of the feast. This means for the Second Sunday of Easter that, while the Gospel choice remains the same, the readings go in various directions, no doubt all in harmony around the theme of Easter faith but also needing some symphonizing. The Psalm response, the closing line of Ps.118, is broad enough to capture any one of the many themes in the readings. This all makes this Lectionary ordo a rich spread. The gospel is John’s account of the community’s experience of the Risen Lord.

    The “I” of the Psalm blends in well with an image of the community summoned to the gates of righteousness, no longer standing alone. The whole story is lived in each one, the fruit of Israel’s return to its roots as a covenanted community of equals. The scenes in Acts are manifestos of the Christian movement: everything in common, one heart and mind, teaching, community, welcoming new members. Stories of signs and healings vied for attention given the new found attractiveness of Peter even whose shadow was considered a source of healing. What a marvelous image of the glory of God breaking through his witness, Peter. Irresistible although Luke seems to contradict himself that there were none who joined and then notes that many did. The fear engendered by the rebuke of Anaias and Sapphira  (5:1-11) which made some to hesitate joining was overcome in that “Yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women,” (Acts 5:14). “Were added” being in the passive denotes divine action. The argument of Gamaliel is anticipated here: “…but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God!" (5:29) Neither Peter nor John is fighting God. There is a spectacular convergence between them about not seeing and believing.  John has Jesus say to Thomas but really to future generations of believers: "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."  (20:29) This beatitude has a beyond-cavil quality and thus elicits expansion such as it finds in Peter’s baptismal exhortation: “Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” ( 1 Pt 1:8-9)  To love the risen Lord!  Although it is Peter who uses the word  “love”  it is John who demonstrates love of the Risen Lord in the person of Mary of Magdala (20:11-18), the apostle of the apostles whose liturgical celebration is now a feast, thanks to Pope Francis. I take this change in rank to be a confirmation that Christians are meant to love Jesus, Risen in glory. Well, in the First Letter of John, that holds up but the love is first directed to the Father who claimed Jesus from death, a begetter  looking for his begotten, in John’s language: “and everyone who loves the parent loves the child.” (NRSV 5:1) John’s elliptical thinking soon  has us not only loving Jesus but each other by reason of the commandments, and this is all explained as the victory of faith. The connections between faith, love and victory are christologically developed before being applied morally.  If on the one hand, paschal faith is the basis of all morality for the Christian, on the other hand, our grasp of Jesus as Risen Lord cannot advance without a commitment to return love for love. Hear the Apocalypse ’s first doxology: Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”  (Rev.1:5-6)  ©2021 David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    4-4-21

    Easter

    124 SMF 42-ABC Ps 104:1-2, 5-6, 10+12, 13-14, 24+35 Easter Vigil (Genesis 1:1-2:2)

    Response: Lord send out your spirit and renew the face of the earth

    Psalm 104 is a great choice for this liturgy. Our response to the Psalm is v.30 “When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.” This is NRSV and a little stilted. But better than our lectionary response which omits “they are created.” The word of course “create” ties in with Genesis but so too thus the word “spirit” although in Genesis it means big wind and here, well, it is a lot more refined. And of course for the Christian, the word is sacrosanct referring to the Holy Spirit.

    But spirit is spirit and blows where it wills to blow and how it wills to blow. And at this moment we are in over our heads into a wonder-filled hymn of praise which reverberates far and wide, from sky to earth, reptiles and birds, hills and plain, land and sea, sun and moon.  With the winning strategy of dividing, not to conquer but to embellish, the invitation from the Genesis reading is to explore the separations that God made in the act of creation, principally light and dark.  Psalm 104 continues the reflection on day and night. The moon and the animals rule the night, (vs. 20-21),  the sun and humankind rule the day (vs. 22-23).  It is hard to think of a more joyous celebration of Isaiah’s view of a world to be lived in: “For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it a chaos, he formed it to be inhabited!): I am the Lord, and there is no other.” (Isaiah 45:18)  Just think of that, a world of people and animals to be lived in, co-inhabited but surely never to the detriment of either.  What the psalmist says  is enough to remind us of another passage in Isaiah (11:1-9, especially vs. 8-9.). I often like to tell people that I cannot remark on the architecture of a new church until I see it filled with people at worship. Then I will tell you if I think the space works. God’s dwelling  on earth for humans and animals was getting messed up and God did something about it. That’s what we celebrate this Paschal night. And the excitement is infectious. The whole of creation comes together to welcome the resurrection of Jesus the first born of the reclaimed creation. Every effort going forward is now one of reparation and new praise. If the Priestly post-exilic author of Genesis chapter 1 is focused on Israel coming home from exile, Psalm 104 is reclaiming the deepest significance of being human in a dwelt-in world. The message is of immediate impact in a cosmos of seven plus billion people who counter-intuitively find it hard not to vent our anger on God’s stupendous achievement. But the message of this night is that God releases into our hearts all that is needed to make of our cosmos, “our common home” in the words of Pope Francis,  a song of continuous praise of God and peace for humankind.

    If so, we must then return to mention of the spirit, the great spirit that hovered over the chaotic waters of creation, enabling humankind made in God’s image as co-creator of the world. In the Psalm 104:30  there is, as it were, a pause between mention of the sending of the Spirit and “they are created.” On the one hand, one needs to re-read the whole psalm, especially vs. 27-29,  to appreciate the antecedent subjects of the plural verb, “they are created,”  and this brings the one who prays the Psalm to view the whole of creation. On the other hand, the space between the verbs “you send forth your spirit” and “they are created” is one that we as humans occupy.  Then the Christian revelation, the  Spirit is the gift of the risen Lord (John 7:37) gives the Christian the power to manage the gap, the breach as Isaiah calls it: “our ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.”  (58:12) Not to speak for a moment of the abuse of the earth through commerce, were we to count the destruction of people’s living situations because of physical violence run amuck in war. This Psalm is a call to get busy, believing that we have the power to reclaim this cosmos for the glory of God and the habitation of human beings, the animals and even to have fun with Leviathan, the mythological sea monster personifying primeval chaos (v. 26 NAB note)  ©2021David P. Reid ss.cc.


    April 2, 2021
    Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion  41-ABC 40 SMF  Ps 31:2+6, 12-13, 15-16, 17+25 Isaiah 52:13-53:12 Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9 John 18:1-19:42  

    Response: Father into your hands I commend my spirit

    When the changed wording of the Mass went into effect in 2011, there was a prolific discussion of “spirit.” “The Lord be with you … and with your spirit.” A number of points made were convincing, others not.  “Your spirit” was said to be more than “with you.” It is certainly more expansive and unlike “with you,”  it doesn’t sound like a casual  “hi.” The point is not pedantic; the argument goes to the heart of the quality of the presence that we bring to liturgy.  Long before the offertory of the Mass, we have already put our body on the line, entrusting our spirit to the living God. “And with your spirit” is not a greeting as much as it is a heartfelt prayer that we surrender everything that our lives encompass as we live in the light of our faith. If we are to answer “and with your spirit,” then the greeting should be “the Spirit of the Lord be with your spirit.” In the background there is the extravagant statement of Paul that the Holy Spirit co-testifies to our spirit that we are the sons and daughters of God (Romans 8:16). In light of the sacrament of ordination by which the priest presider symbolizes the offer of the Holy Spirit to the community, Paul would have us go for it: “And I am with the spirit that is within you.” “I connect what is in my spirit with the Spirit that is within you.” So this simple ritual is actually a dramatization of Paul’s words to the Romans.

    Imagine the first nine verses of Ps 31 as foreground to the greeting! Scan the lines from verse 1, through to verse 5 and then onto verse 9. OK, now we have a fuller picture of the spirit which is committed into the hands of the Lord. The combined diction, “my soul and body also” appears in verse 9. “Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye wastes away from grief, my soul and body also.” But the word “body” in this case lacks the deeper sense the psalmist is trying to convey. At time layers of our psyches defy our brain to decipher them. The word we seek is “gut.” My gut is a mess. “For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my misery, and my bones waste away.” (v.10)  This is a wrenching prayer of distress and of being utterly disrespected, “dissed.” Was Jesus answering the priest at the beginning of Mass when he spoke out this psalm from the Cross? How sad that this depth is lost behind a too casual “Good Morning” which trivializes the liturgical greeting.

    Luke places this commendation on the lips of the dying Jesus and on the lips of the dying Stephen (Acts 7:59). Luke says that Jesus, having quoted Psalm 31, “breathed his last.” (23:46) John, as it were, picks up on Luke. John says “he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” New American Bible says better: “and bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.” (19:30) Some note that John has multiple meanings: he died (handed over the spirit); a contrast to Judas’ betrayal (18:2 “who handed him over”), and, in context, Jesus gave the Holy Spirit. To whom did Jesus hand over his spirit? To God? To us?  These questions are answered the length and breadth of John’s Gospel but nowhere more succinctly than in John 7:39. “Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”  Believers!

    All prayer is prayer for this same Holy Spirit, gift of the Risen Lord.  Once we pray through Christ, and there is no other way, then all prayer is for the Spirit. This anticipated gift is the guiding light in understanding the passion narratives, the account of the final week of Jesus on earth. The Johannine tradition develops the gift of the Spirit in terms of glory (Chapter 17) and Apollos in the Letter to the Hebrews in terms perfection, that is access to the Holy of Holies, access to the throne of grace.  “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (4:16) “And having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him,” (5:9). The message however is the same: grace, glory, Spirit! The silence of Good Friday ponders the surrender of Jesus. The fire of the Paschal Vigil and the reading of Genesis and Exodus lead us anew to entrust our spirit to the Spirit of our creator redeemer God, the same who carved out and fashioned the world, the potter, the craftsman, whose hands are open to receive our participation in the new creation. Because of your belief in the Risen Lord, will you let God co-handle your affairs? 2021David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    April 1, 2021
    Holy Thursday:Mass at the Lord's Supper
    39-ABC 135 SMF. Ps 116:12-13, 15-16, 17-18 Exodus 12:1-8,11-14 1 Cor 11:23-26 John 13:1-15

    Response: Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.

    We draw the responsorial from 1 Corinthians 10:16. The worship, the communion with the blood circulation of Jesus began with the touch, the act of washing. They are appropriate for the words of the psalm, the freedom to worship: “You have loosed my bonds.”(v.16.) Rejoice with persons who for the first time ever, loosed their feet and have them washed and kissed by a brother or sister in the community. Until that moment the story of the Exodus was so far off, the ritual for the Passover was so bookish, the story of Jesus, don’t like to admit it, was aloof. Now things got real! Then it all came crashing down on me. Jesus is love. For in the same passage that tells how Jesus washed the feet of the disciples the story says “he loved them:” “Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1). For Jesus too it was a cherished moment: “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” (Luke 22:15) He wrote his own script.

    To the end! Lining things up and allowing then to interpenetrate is what makes the Christians mysteries so attractive. “Loosened my bonds” leads to communion that comes from the Blood of the One who loved us to the end. The cup of salvation of which the psalmist speaks is the Eucharist cup of the Christian community.  A blessing cup, a cup of blessing, chimes in the cantor, who borrowed the words from Paul (1 Cor 10:16)! Such indeed is our faith.  “O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the child of your serving girl. You have loosed my bonds.” (Ps.116:16) The psalmist is loosed to participate in that cup;  so too as Christians are we freed.  Loosed and freed to worship and to serve.  Ah this is the goal of the loosening: service. Passing from the text of John to that of Paul, it is no wonder that Jesus sees the message of the Last Supper as service, washing each other’s feet. See Paul’s discussion in the form of a sandwich: the Last Supper, as the B element 11:23-26, within a chiastic ABA’ structure,   A 11:17-22 (the problem), B 11:23-26 (Gospel tradition) and A’ 27-34 (the solution),  his intent is to address the Gospel basis of all service of each other in the community, respect for those “who have nothing,” ( v.22. See 16:15-16 for contrast).  Perhaps, the Corinthians fail to serve each other because the upper class members of the community fail to wait for the servant class to arrive to have the meal together.  The lack is so intense that when they meet, it is not the Lord’s Supper that they have come to eat (1 Cor 11:20). A truly disturbing element has been introduced into the supper setting. The higher this prejudice goes there is the risk of the meal not being the Lord’s Supper. On the contrary, following the inspiration of the Psalm, Jesus rejoiced that he was sent to serve not to be served.  The notorious table-fellowship of Jesus with sinners and outcasts, singled out in the gospels, appears as Jesus’ trade mark, (see Mark 2:13-17 and parallels).  The preparation for the Last Supper in the upper room (Mark 14:15, Luke 22:12) is notable for its being different. The Lord’s Supper, now celebrated everywhere Christians come together, will be always downstairs in the servants’ quarters. The priesthood redefined by Jesus of Nazareth comes invested in his table-fellowship and is never without the spirituality of the one who comes to serve, not to be served and to give his life as ransom for the many (Mark 10:45). The ministerial priesthood takes it cue from this service motif in the Last Supper. The community that gathers is priest for the world for so our prayers lead us to believe.

    Heartfelt self-donation in a service of love to the end: this is the formula for how God, who alone names who is priest, (Hebrews 5:4) wants the entire community to serve the world, in sacrificial love of all. The touchstone is when Jesus took off his outer garment and put on an apron (John 13:4/ Phil 2:5-11). It may be imaginatively noted how well John smiled when he used a word that referred to something very common, an apron (lention) but ironically found nowhere else in either the New Testament nor in the Greek translation of the Old. Was it not a word worthy of the Word of God become flesh and taking up his tent, apron-size, among us (John 1:14)? Hapax! He alone and to the end. ©2021 David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    3-28-21
    Palm Sunday
    8 SMF 38 ABC Ps 22:8-9, 17-18,19-20, 23-24  Palm Sunday Isaiah 50:4-7 Phil 2:6-11 Mt 26:14-27:66

    RESPONSE: MY GOD, MY GOD WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?

    While presiding at Eucharist in a hospital chapel, Oscar Romero the archbishop of San Salvador was assassinated by death squads on March 24, 1980. After delays caused by dissent from those distrustful of liberation theology and opposition over the role peace and justice plays in living out heroic saintly faith, he was canonized in 2018 by Pope Francis.  By embracing the cause of the oppressed El Salvadorian people and preaching on their behalf, he died for the sake of the poor.  Earlier in these reflections, we talked about leaders such as King David who becoming the representative of his people took on a corporate personality.  Saint Oscar Romero has this characteristic too. Did God abandon Oscar? God abandoned Jesus. The paradox is that God did not save Jesus from death, Jesus was raised in glory. He died a lone individual on Calvary; he was raised into a community of God’s praise. So deep was this vision of God’s mysterious paradoxical care of the suffering just one, Romero entrusted his life to the cause of the Salvadorian people. He believed that were he to die he also would be raised in the life of the community. History proved him right. Today he lives more than ever. The psalmist sings: “I will tell of thy name to my brethren; in the midst of the congregation I will praise thee…” (Psalm 22:22). Did Jesus trust that God would see him through? No psalm plunges us more deeply into the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus than this psalm. Our immersion into the psalmist’ pathos is all the more compelling when we recall how to absorb their recent experience of the execution of Jesus, now their Risen Lord, the early Christian community had only the psalms to fall back on. To realize the challenge the early Christians faced, we must imagine the New Testament era when there were no written gospels, no letters of Paul.  The early preaching was based on rereading the community’s religious literature out of their new consciousness of who Jesus was and is. The communities were searching the Torah, Nevi'im, and  Ketuvim (TaNaK)  to find language which would represent and in this way speak of their memory of Jesus. This means that with their hope ratified by the story told by the apostles,  they needed their experience to be embedded in a wider and older story of the community.  Would not the community have begun with stories just like that told in Psalm 22 of death and deliverance of the innocent sufferer? The parallels between the details of suffering as rendered by the psalmist and the passion stories as rendered by the evangelists are clear. Straightaway our attention is drawn by the psalmist’s anguished address, “My God my God” but it doesn’t end there as images of agony spillover: pierced hands and feet, garments, bones.

    The community’s energy was fueled by actual events in which they saw themselves as participants. Their stories and shared memories are today’s Word of God, and we happily respond “thanks be to God.” That’s what makes the Bible such a living reality, gives its vibrancy and relevance. What was dynamic witness to the faith of the nascent community is now the heart beat within us as we are gathered in the Holy Spirit and celebrate the God who delivered Jesus and all of humanity and all of creation in his resurrection and ascent into glory. There is nothing that cannot be brought into the story; our biggest concern should be how, albeit in a sanitized way, we hold  onto the story. We have the text, let us preserve it but live the reality in a thousand different formulations. The word is inexhaustible; the story is not going away; we are the characters plunged into tears, running wild with joy, reaching out to help a brother come home, a sister feel included. Holy week and the readings of Palm Sunday leave a mark on our individual and communal lives. The most participative Stations of the Cross I ever knew was on the street in our neighborhood in Kolkata, India. A stone’s throw from the house of Mother Teresa, Veronica held up the towel for all the lost on the streets of that enormous city.  I can still feel the depth of her compassion for that young fellow as she wiped the face of the Jesus whom to this day  I still do not know whether he was  a Muslim, Hindu, or Christian.  That day Kolkata was my “city of joy.” Assisted by that memory, I continue to tear up on Ps. 22.  ©2021 David P. Reid ss.cc.

     

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    March 28, 2021

    Palm Sunday 35-B 61SMF Ps 51:3-4, 12-13, 14-15 Jeremiah 33:31-34 Hebrews 5:7-9  John 12:20-33

    Response: A pure heart, create for me O God.

    I will teach transgressors your ways

    The inscription to Psalm 51 is noteworthy. “For the leader. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the  prophet came  to him after his sin with Bathsheba.” (NAB vs.1-2). What happened when Nathan came to David? Turn to 2 Samuel chapter 12 where Nathan tells David a story about a poor man with one lamb and a rich man who had to entertain a guest. The rich guy simply took the poor man’s one lamb. David was angry that such a thing could happen and swore that such a man must die. Nathan said, referring to David’s sin, “you are the man.”  Psalm 51, a favorite penitential prayer ever since, takes over.

    Yes, it is strange to say that David was a healthy sinner, a bad one to be sure because he violated the marriage of a good couple but he also abused his power as king. He seduced Bathsheba and then he arranged the elimination of her husband.  He repented and moved on in his personal life although there was and remained to his final days the ill effects of his sinning. Forgiveness for David meant health to deal as best he could with the ripple effect of his obsession with Bathsheba. The take-away is that confession is not enough; we really need restitution and reparation. There is a new situation created through sin and it is going to need a lot of merciful handling to get people moving again in their lives. Dealing with the effects of abuse is a lifetime work. David set about that work although there were setbacks. The death of Absalom his son shook him greatly.

    One thing that is clear in Psalm 51 is that David moves on rapidly as also told in 2 Samuel 12:15-25 when the child dies who was born of his sin with Bathsheba. He teaches. This is sincere. “Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.” (Ps 51:13) I can learn from my sin and teach others. Often, people who break the law are sentenced to many hours of community service and it consists in teaching others what not to do.  In Jeremiah,  there is the renewal of the covenant and the Lord takes over the teaching because he had to show them who was master. On the surface, the text seems counterintuitive for our reflection but on deeper study, it is clear. When one learns from one’s mistakes that learning is itself gift of God. Any teaching must be based on the experience of God’s covenant, a God who is more willing to forgive than we are to receive God’s forgiveness. In other words, we have to learn from Jesus as the Letter to the Hebrews invites us.  Jesus learned to obey from what he suffered because of our sin. We have to learn obedience from what we suffer as a result of our own sin.  One example might be Jesus on the cross,  taunted to disobey:  come down and save himself. All the Synoptics have the tradition.  Luke develops it into the story of the thief who saw that Jesus was stronger than any taunt. (Luke 23:29-43). An old song says: “he did not come down from the cross to save himself.” Jesus did not come to save himself. Jesus came to glorify God, that is to make God known, the God who so loved us.  This is the only fidelity that rolls back the baneful effects of our sinning in the world. All of this is said beautifully in John. “He loved then to the end,” 13:2 but it was prepared for in Jesus’ own reflection: “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—"Father, save me from this hour'? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour, Father, glorify your name." (12:27) David turned the story of his sin into renewal for the community “rebuild the walls of Jerusalem” (Ps 51:18). ©2021 David P. Reid ss.cc

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    March 21, 2021

    5th Sunday 75-B 173. SMF Ps 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6 Job 7:1-4,6-7 1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23 Mark 1:29-39

    Response: Praise the Lord who heals the broken hearted

    A thing of beauty is a joy forever  

    With this response  to the Psalm,  I thought this Ordo might be for St. Valentine’s Day which occurs around the time of the fifth Sunday of the Year. The broken hearted! But true to the Psalmist’s concern, the response puts us in touch with the heart of Israel’s religion: “He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.” (Ps.147:3) That is always one pole: God savior. The other is the loftiness of the creator: “He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names.” (v.4) Imagine the smile on the Psalmist’s face to learn that China has invented the world’s greatest telescope. The divine response: “wonderful but you have not seen anything yet.” [An aside: Since this psalm can be taken in three parts/strophes, the final part is considered a separate psalm in the Greek (vs. 12-20 centered on Jerusalem). So just before the end of the Psalter, the discrepancy in the numbering of the Psalms is resolved. Greek/Latin therefore has two psalms 146:1-11, 147:1-11.] As noted, in Hebrew, there is one psalm  Ps. 147:1-6,7-11, 12-20, in three strophes.  Each section has the same savior/creator celebration with an accent on creator: Hebrew 147:4,8-9, 16-18. Each time one prays the psalm there is more to be seen in it. In the beautifully balanced v.15: “He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly.”   God’s word that comes through God’s messenger, the prophet or through God’s command, the Torah, is the same word that melts the ice: “He sends out his word, and melts them; he makes his wind blow, and the waters flow.” (v.18) So the warming of the earth is nothing new.   The concluding two verses return to confirm all that has been said and uphold again Israel’s special vocation: “He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and ordinances to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know his ordinances.” (vs.19-20)  Let the world know that there is no limit to God’s intelligence: “Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.” (v.5) With vocation comes responsibility and so God brings home Israel from exile where it found its vocation, anew.

    Over against the background of a saving creating God, the words of v.3 have a particular pathos: “He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.” Literally the text speaks of those broken in heart. It is one things to be physically wounded, it is quite another to be broken in spirit, to lose a sense of imagination, to forego our basic orientation to beauty for the major goal of the heart is to lead humankind in the pursuit of beauty. This is the goal of all the healings performed by Jesus, the recovery of the capacity for beauty which leads the one healed to give glory to God. The passion of the heart of Jesus is to lead us to render  praise and to give glory of the Father through beauty, the heartfelt reception of the gift of life. The Exile experience pushed Israel far down the road to recognizing the purposes of God in the choice of Israel to carry blessing to all the nations, clearly understood now as the framework of the mission of the Christian community to the world: the promotion of beauty. This is not to deny the ugly but to see the work of God as creator redeemer leading us through ugliness to beauty.

    Job is dealing with ugly. As the story has been set up from the foreword, Job is being tested in handling ugly. He will find that his ideal of beauty was skewed, articulated on a principle of retribution as if blessing is the result of our hard work. Now he is in a night of struggle and dismay. “…the night is long, and I am full of tossing until dawn… without hope…Remember that my life is a breath; my eye will never again see good.” (Job 7:4-7).  Mark has his own way of handling the night: “That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door…  In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.” (1:34…35). The same night that Jesus drove out demons, he prayed! Beautiful! The gift of Valentine is, I am like Paul obligated to tell you,  that we are, albeit broken hearted, part of Jesus’ prayer to the Father, creative savior of the world.  2021David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    3-14-21

    4th Sunday 72-B SMF 105 Ps 95:1-2, 6-7b, 7c-9 Deuteronomy 18:15-20 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 Mark 1:21-28

    Response: If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts

    Early sclerosis

    If today you hear his voice harden not your hearts (Ps.95:7-8) If ever a one liner did it for advertising, this verse sold Ps.95. The phrase carries a great message and sets up a deep discernment process. The “if” in “If you hear this voice,” makes it conditional. “If” can mean “if in fact” or “if ever.” Some translate it as more of a prayer: “Oh if today you would hear his voice!” The meaning is then “If so, then please do not harden your hearts less you listen to his voice.”  This exploration opens vistas as we get into Mark’s gospel. Oh that people would listen to the voice of Jesus. Hear him out! Within the short passage 1:21-28 we have an opening and closing reference to the authority with which Jesus taught (vs.22,27).  Teaching is thus mentioned twice and the second time it is characterized as “new.” Both times with the word “authority.”  (The word used exousia permits us to say that Jesus acts with power and teaches with authority.) Between the first and the second mention, Jesus rebuked an unclean spirit, ordered it out of the man and the unclean spirit obeyed him. If this was teaching it was with few words, not addressed to the people but to the spirit. “Be quiet, come out of him.” If we want to beef up the language, we might say that the spirits said to Jesus “mind your own business” and Jesus in speaking to the one spirit in the man, replied “shut up and come out.” This demonstration of power over the unclean spirit is called a “new teaching.”  The power is seen in the de-demonization of the man and the words that ironically reveal Jesus come from the unclean spirit: “I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” The interaction is complex. The spirit supplies the language, but Jesus authoritatively rejects the words. “Be silent.” Nonetheless, Jesus’ command is effective “come out of him.” The text makes no claim that the people understood the words. They are astounded by the power. The gap between the experience of power and the words “the Holy One of God,” albeit spoken correctly will grow wider and wider.

    The Lectionary reading from Deuteronomy (18:15-20) is concerned about God raising up a prophet like Moses. The context in Deuteronomy foresees difficulties: there will be a refusal to hear the prophet and there will be the abusive behavior of one who is not a prophet but pretends to be a prophet. The text indicates the source of the prophetic word.  God will place God’s word in the mouth of the prophet. “I will put my word in his mouth and he shall tell them all I command.” Jesus’ command to the unclean spirit came from God’s word in his mouth. As the people said “he taught with authority.” Off to the side but not inaudible is the prayer of Ps 95: “ Oh! would that you hear his voice!” However, already a question hangs over the text “have you already hardened your hearts?” (Mark 8:18) A major theme of the gospel has been launched: misunderstanding and failure to recognize Jesus will eventually engulf the disciples. They hear God’s word but harden their hearts.  In one of my Bibles there are many pictures of Jesus reproduced. While most are in pastels, and few are sweet as we use that word of popular religious iconography, none would come close to depicting Jesus as telling someone to “shut up.” Yet, Jesus does. Hard to be a true  prophet without telling someone to shut up. Over against the unclean spirit calling him the Holy One,  Jesus vehemently imposes silence. What the impure spirits fear- that he is the Holy One—will not be cheaply, apart from the Cross, revealed. © 2021 David P. Reid ss.cc.

     

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    3-7-21

    3rd Sunday 28SMF  INS #99 Ps 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9 69-B Jonah 3:1-5, 10 1 Cor 7:29-31 Mark 1:14—20 
    Response: Teach me your ways Lord

    On God’s time

    Jesus’ call to conversion is because the Kingdom of God is at hand (Mark 1:15). Always a question for the early Christians was: is the Kingdom coming or at hand? The question remains the same for us. For Paul, the time is short, literally wrapped up like a blanket (1 Cor 7:29, see Acts 5:6) The world as we know it is passing away (1 Cor 7:31). Since Paul thought that the end of time would be soon, are his ethics to be taken seriously any longer?  He seems to say that whatever you do, reconsider it in terms of the shortened length of time before us. One example: when you go to the market do not overbuy. That doesn’t make sense if you are going to live beyond the next time to eat. But then sometimes his insights cannot be worked on a framework of the world as we know it.

    Step for a moment over the limits of life as we know them.  Whether the end for all is today, tomorrow or definitively postponed, there is something new, different, challenging going on now.  There is someone being born and someone dying. If we get away from Chronos, time measured on the face of the clock, and feel Kairos, not just think but feel Kairos. That’s time measured in terms of encounter, connection, commitment, communication, community. If Chronos is time measured passionlessly, Kairos is Mary of Magdala meeting the Risen Lord and instantly missioned. That’s a good example because all conversion is both Kairos and meeting the Risen Lord. With Kairos mission and conversion feed off each other. As much for Jonah as for the people of Nineveh, mission spawned conversion. This   means for Jonah turning around to meet God’s ways of caring for all, even for withered trees which Jonah is more wont to curse because it doesn’t meet his immediate need.  Jonah surely had a long struggle with his personal self-centeredness. He is like Israel after the Exile who took a long time to reprocess their uniqueness. They had been helped by Cyrus of Persia (Isaiah 45:1) and thus had to undo their ethnocentricity.

    Read Psalm 25 as a call to know God’s ways. Due to the acrostic form of the song, the psalmist continues to find bits and pieces left in his spiritual treasury. Thus, the psalmist seems limited in finding the way. Who will help him integrate it all? Kairos is always short, in your face, to be done now, like there’s no to-morrow. Carpe diem. For Paul, mission gave rise to his conversion to interiority. Mission helped him to see many activities in a new context. His missionary journey, despite fatigue, now becomes a priestly procession reminiscent of the temple procession (Romans 15:14-21). While there was still time, Paul was rushing around the world to bring the Gentiles into obedience to the Gospel. Do a reality check on your life: is there conversion where there is mission?  When a child is born to a young couple does a sense of mission effect a conversion of values and orientations? When the child comes to make First Communion is there not for non-practicing Christians a moment of conversion when the inevitable question arises: why me Daddy and not you? Do you lose face for turning around? Never!

    Today’s conversion is to see ourselves in mission to the world, the universe, the many peoples, the dignity of each and every person (Laudato Si). Conversion is a process.  Christians after the Resurrection and even till today find it hard to accept who is different, the other, the Gentiles. Conversion and mission are still difficult but demand alacrity: “And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people."  And immediately they left their nets and followed him.” (Mark 1:17-18)  Mark acts like Paul thinks. The time is short, the world is changing and we got to get on with it.  Kairos is now, make the decision, evoke the future by reshaping the present. Jesus preaches this Gospel of God (Mark 1:14). © 2021 David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    2-28-21

    2nd Sunday of Lent  134 SMF 26-B. Ps 116:10+15, 16-17, 18-19 Gen 22:1-2,9a, 10-13,15-18 1 Peter 3:18-22 Mark 9:2-10

    Response: I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.

    Just one of us?

    “I walk before the Lord in the land of the living” (Ps.116:9). The psalmist has come to a firm conclusion about his future life. Based on his experience of God’s action in his life,  he chooses life with God forever. What was that experience? The psalmist’s answer: “For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.”  Peter, who would have prayed this psalm, would not concede. Although Jesus had already rejected his rejection of any aligning messiahship with suffering, Peter would make another bid for his vision of how Jesus should be messianic. “Let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." (Mark 9:5) On the one hand, this is an acknowledgment of the continuity of God’s plan of salvation. Just marvel at the ground covered with the mention of these names. On the other hand, Peter stumbles over the discontinuity: a suffering messiah. He was hearing the psalmist with one ear: “I walk before the Lord in the land of the living” but not hearing the psalmist with the other ear:  “For you have delivered my soul from death...”  And yet he was not without curiosity, in fact positively searching. Peter was a dogged seeker, albeit undisclosed.  Why? Jesus asked them to keep the matter to themselves until the Son of Man be raised from the dead. “So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean.”(v.10)

    But first a question for the psalmist: what does “for you have delivered my soul from death” mean? Are deliverance, rising from the dead and Son of Man somehow connected? Jesus’ answer to Peter’s expectations was stretching the messianic faith of the disciples to include the important title of Son of Man. Jesus’ viewpoint is within the same psalm: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones” (v.15). One day, in Peter’s  relatively near future,  that answer would be on  his own lips as he  himself would cite Ps.16: “For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the Pit”(v.10, see Acts 2:27). And also in the not-too-distant future of our early Christian community, the Eucharist would be ours to celebrate. Then we would come to see in the Son of Man, an image of ourselves with respect to importing the scene at Caesarea Philippi (suffering Messiah)  within the Transfiguration (glorified Lord).  The image is at once individual and corporate, truly human and yet commissioned. Backstory: So was Ezekiel (2:1) who calls himself Son of Man, just one of us; such was also the representative figure at the throne of God in the Book of Daniel (7:13). With what boldness and verve therefore Jesus of Nazareth preferred the title, the Son of Man over the title Messiah, the favorite title of those who responded to him. Jesus at once struck a pose of connectedness with all that is human, accepted a prophetic title that explained his suffering and yet offered a title to share a vision of the final times when he will come on the clouds of heaven. (Mark 14:62).

    Some say that to hope in an eternal life of union with God is too much to hold out for. So from where does our longing for eternal union with God come? Would we not have to be at war with ourselves to deny the longing and reject the promise? We Christians match the natural longing with  the God given answer when we celebrate Eucharist. We listen to the beloved Son. And when we step over the threshold of the Holy, Holy, Holy and blushingly take our place within the Eucharistic prayer, with the proclamation of God’s word still ringing in our ears, and with the substance of our lives, bread and wine, freshly held aloft, urged on by the narration of the Last Supper, are we to meet the Son of Man now that he is raised from the dead? Yes, and as he  appears to Stephen (Acts 7:56) in the glory of the Father in recital of the final doxology: to Christ, with Christ and in Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit all glory and honor is yours, Almighty Father forever and ever? The answer is Amen!  PS We are told by Eusebius who got it from Papias of Heriopolis ( 135 AD), that Mark John of Jerusalem (Acts 12:12) interpreted what he got from Peter. Wasn’t Peter relieved  to read that at the Transfiguration he “did not know what to say, for they were terrified.”  That’s what friends are for… a liberating re-interpretation! ©2021 David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    2-21-21

    1st  Sunday Lent 23 B 27SMF Insights #100 Psalm 25(24) Gen 9:8-15 1 Peter 3:18-22 Mark 1:12-15

    Response: All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant. 

    The original sin is matricide
     

    This psalm suits Noah perhaps more than anyone else in the Bible. The Psalm is about living a life of covenanted love with God and it is of Noah’s mission in Genesis that the word “covenant” is first used in the Bible. The psalm is a somewhat artificially constructed poem, a workhorse, each stanza following up with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet. This is a wisdom structure where depth is achieved by repetition.  Noah knew both structure and repetition. “Noah walked with God,” (Genesis 6:9). Noah receives more than honorable mention in recent ecological discussions because the history of environmental relationships is crucial to understanding the conflict between humankind and nature. Yet, at the same time, Noah points to  the salvation of humankind and the sustainability of all earthlings. His story is told between that of Adam and Eve at the beginning and Abraham’s blessing for all future time: “Now the Lord said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."” (Genesis 12:1-3). Genesis 1-11 is written as prologue to that blessing, a history before history that tells of the beauty and the tragedy of the human story. God created all very good, (Genesis 1:31) but violence (Genesis 6:5) disrupted God’s order and brought back chaos and introduced suffering. God begins again with Noah and makes a covenant with him, his generations, and all the earth. “I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”(Genesis 9:13) Over the course of the long story of the flood and the ark, Noah’s spirit of obedience to the mission given him by God emerges strongly. The  theme of Ps.25 is reparative. Noah’s covenant with God introduces forever into the spirituality of covenant a reparative note. God who regretted creating humankind (Genesis 6:6) now sets about repairing the brokenness that came in the return of chaos. What does it mean? Peter is swift to make the connections with our baptism: “And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him. (1 Peter 3:20-22).
    In that discussion, Peter refers to those in prison whom the Risen descended into hell to deliver. “He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey…”  Peter addresses the plight of those who failed the challenge of creation and abused the earth.  Each passing day, more people are beginning to recognize the seriousness of the scientific proof that shows  the level to which we have abused our earth. With this recognition comes a passionate admission that disrespect for the earth is disrespect for one’s own body and consequently everybody as a unified living system of being.  
    The temptations of Jesus would seem to be a subject that Mark would develop at length. He was however content to evoke a scene which both Noah and Peter would recognize: “And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.” (Mark 1:13). The mention of the wild beasts is Mark’s own. There is no better place than the wilderness to contemplate our abuse of the earth. Our baptism: overcome the temptation to matricide, Mother Nature.” ©2021 David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    1-10-21

    Sunday after Epiphany: Baptism of the Lord
    21-ABC SMF 34 Psalm 29: 1-2,3-4, 3b +9b-10  Isaiah 42 1-4,6-7; Acts 10:10 ;34-38 Matt 3  ;13-17 Mark 1:7-11  Luke 3 ;15-16,21-22

    Response: The Lord will bless his people with peace.

    Psalm 29 is well chosen to accompany the three-fold ordo for the Baptism of the Lord (Cycles ABC). Only the gospel texts change from ordo to ordo, but all the accounts of the Baptism of Jesus refer to the voice from heaven.  Psalm 29 is spectacular in its celebration of the voice of the Lord. That voice is the roar of a great wind that comes off the Mediterranean and blows up a storm over the land of Palestine. One traces the route of the storm, of thunder and lightning that makes landfall in the north and then, rendering havoc in Lebanon, proceeds to the south and goes as far as Kadesh. The text has many alternate readings, and scholars have found evidence of a song to the ancient Storm God, now turned into a song of praise and even awesome fear of the power of the voice of God. The reference to the Lord who sits above the flood evokes a creator God (V.10) who creates the world and founds Israel. This psalm therefore adds enormous impact to the baptism scene, especially  for Mark’s which might mistakenly seem rushed and matter-of-fact. Of course, Mark’s presentation is nothing of the like. Psalm 29 through the pure show of force of its poetic structure alerts us to the stupendous implications of the baptism of Jesus.  Can it help to answer the question which intrigued the early Christians: why was Jesus baptized? Going on the assumption that Mark was the first gospel written, can we find an answer with the help of Psalm 29within the text of Mark? Mark affirmed the baptism of Jesus by John directly and supplements the account with mention of a vision, Spirit in the form of a dove, and voice. The voice may reflect the voice in the Suffering Servant song (Isaiah 42:2 see 40:3). The voice in Mark echoes Psalm 29 where the psalmist  refers to the voice seven times.  So too with the storm, for Mark’s introduction of Jesus does represent a storm in his repetition of the adverb, a stitch word, “immediately,” 1:10, 12, 21,29.  Mark’s gospel is rapid fire, sudden, demanding, and no sooner is it begun than there is a plot against Jesus (3:6). The baptism of Jesus released a new power, and this is the authority with which Jesus taught. “They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’  At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee. ( Mark 1:27-28)  No, Psalm 29 is not background; Jesus takes the praise of the psalms into the foreground. It is happening! Jesus is the awaited storm.

    In Matthew the four elements are again present at the Baptism of Jesus: vision, Spirit- dove, and voice. Matthew places the events after Jesus is baptized (V.16), noting, however, the intention to baptize him (3:13-14).  In fact, Matthew places the queries of the early church on the lips of John:  "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" (V.14) Jesus by implication does not need a baptism of repentance for he is without sin. Not only a baptism of repentance but of end time, harvesting, and fire. (3: 1-12) But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness." Then Jesus consented. (V.15)  Righteousness? Only God can be genuinely self-righteous.  God’s self-righteousness is the major claim upon us, God will be God, brought to clear expression when Jesus was baptized. Jesus is baptized to draw us into God’s fidelity to forgive us. Jesus’ baptism —entering so deeply into the prayer for forgiveness— is God’s deed that reveals our need. If Jesus submits to God’s righteousness, why wouldn’t we?

    Luke develops his image of John in terms of the concerns of his gospel, the poor (3:10-14) and within an enormous framework of the Roman Empire and a genealogy that goes back to Adam (3:1-3 and 3:23-38). There is a solidarity with us that is intergenerational.  In Matthew, God is faithful to being God, and in Luke, God is faithful to humankind.  In the gospel of John, Jesus is not baptized, he is pointed to as the Lamb of God. There is a corrective in 4:2 as to whether Jesus baptized or his disciples. Much of the symbolism around the baptism in the Synoptics (Matthew Mark and Luke) is found in the passage about John baptizing (1:19-34, see also 1:6-7, 15, 2:22-30 and 4:1-2). Let the Baptist be  content to sum up all in declaring Jesus the Lamb of God, (1:29)  a startling, compound image that can be read to summarize the other gospels’ presentation: of God’s righteousness analogous to the Paschal Lamb, God’s solidarity with us analogous to Suffering Servant; and the Voice of the Storm God analogous to the Apocalyptic Lamb (Rev 6:16).    2020 David P. Reid ss.cc.


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    The Epiphany of the Lord 20-ABC SMF 80 Ps 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13 Isaiah 60:1-6  Ephesians 3:2-3.5-6 Matthew 2:1-11

    Response: Lord every nation on earth will adore you.

    No king, acting as a king, acts alone. The king is his people. Together they form a corporate person. The king’s every act is therefore plural, the royal we. The necessary self-promotion of the king is either constructive or destructive of the whole.  Epiphany is the constructive self-promotion of Jesus, King of the Jews. This self-promotion of the crucified Messiah is etched out by building a contrast with the self-destructive tendencies of Herod the Great (37-4 bce). Matthew set a whole process of reflection going with the question: “where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?” (Matt 2:2) Not only the interpretation of Matthew but the focus of the feast of Epiphany itself has been shaped over the centuries by the immensely rich alignment of Psalm 72 with the text of Matthew giving a deeper hue to the entire  messianic character of Matthew’s presentation of Jesus.

    Psalm 72 had already re-aligned the Psalter. Within the structure of the psalter’s five books, perhaps in imitation of the Pentateuch, Psalm 72 is a turning point. It is the conclusion of Book 2 and celebrates  who the king is meant to be for all the people. Book 3 is made up of Psalms 73-89. Psalm 89 is a sour and bitterly self-destructive lament of the fall of a king following a defeat in war. Books 4 (Ps.90 through 106) and Book 5 (107- 150) set the community on a course of correction and renewal.  This is particularly evident in the enthronement psalms especially Ps.93, 95-99 for which Psalm 72 functions as a foreshadowing in stating what the king should be in service of the kingship of the Lord.

    King Herod  with his  attempt to manipulate the Magi and kill off any opposition, shows how not to be a king. While Ps. 72 is always welcome as a corrective on the exercise of authority, its sounds a particular note of self-examination  on the Feast of the Epiphany.  The psalm can be heard to transform the magi into kings (Caspar, Balthasar and Melchior in the Western church) and thus express a prayer for the coming of the Messiah as it was seen to have done  in the Targum of Israel,  the Aramaic Jewish commentary on the Scriptures. A  note on self-examination. Matthew tells of the consternation which ran through Jerusalem when the magi from the East showed up. “When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him” (Matthew 2:3).  In ordering the massacre of two-year-old males and younger, Herod was in character. His had been a bloody reign from which he did not exempt his own kit and kin. The hypocrisy of his asking to consult the Scriptures to know of the birth of the Messiah is revealed by his stated desire to go worship the newborn. “Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage."” (v.8) The whole story as told by Matthew shows the outrageous use of the words “pay him homage.” They appear again in 14:33 and 28:17, both occurrences connected with the worship of the Risen Lord. The stated intention of Herod to destroy his own people contrasts sharply  with the exemplary and exhilarating behavior of the Magi, in their own astrological way, as the fruit of their professional science,  promotors and heralds of Jesus the Messiah whom they worship in anticipation of his resurrection. In our own times, the passion to stay in power has led many leaders to massacre their own people. Such overreach of power, demanding changes in constitutions whose ink is not yet dry,  thwarts  new nations in their initial growth. Some of these leaders are Christian but their governance defies any identification with the example of Jesus. Epiphany is always therefore a moment of conscientization of what leadership should be as serving away from oneself−that’s the Christian paradigm of self-promotion! The life any leader saves is his/her own (Flannery O’Connor) if for him or her there is no higher motivation than the common good  of the people with whom he/she is one flesh and one spirit. 2020 David P.Reid ss.cc.


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    1-3-21

    2nd Sunday after Christmas
    * 19-ABC SMF 174 Ps 147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20 Sirach 24:1-2,8-12 Eph 1:3-6, 15-18 John 1:1-18

    Response: The Word of God became flesh and lived among us.

    No sooner is Jesus born than we are invited to explore its meaning. Likewise with Luke’s account of the birth and Matthew’s rendition of the lot of the boy and his parents some time later.  John’s invitation to us to do the same shows the gains in the reflection during the time elapsed since the Resurrection of Jesus, close to seventy years. We might say how fruitful has been the Lectio Divina in the Johannine communities which,  having absorbed the stories of Matthew and Luke, go on to align the message with other forms of thinking about Jesus, e.g. wisdom,  both contemporary and earth-shattering. Jesus as God’s wisdom comes to dwell among us. For the final Mass on Christmas Day, we hear from the Prologue of John. This second inclusion of John’s prologue misses our attention as often as the Second Sunday after Christmas is already the Baptism of the Lord. This Ordo is worthy of deep prayer anytime. Our perspective is that of the Psalm which interestingly sports John 1:14 as its response. Ps. 147:12-20 is a separate Psalm in the Greek: whereas all twenty verses make one psalm in the Hebrew, finally fixing the out-of-step between Greek and Hebrew which persisted since Psalms 9 and 10.  And the infiltration of the response “lived among us” is just the right touch that Psalm 147 needed. “Lived among us” from John is a translation of what is literally “he tented among us.” The image of tent is well rooted in Israel’s historical experience going back to the desert journey, the tent of God’s  meeting with Moses. Notable in the recalls of the image of tent is God’s rebuke through the prophet Nathan of David’s pride in wanting to build God a house. (2 Sam 7:6) The answer was: I am a tent God. God would not be given a tent in Jerusalem. How could Solomon in all his glory show off his God as living in a tent? God, taking flesh among the people was long patient with their arrogance. Finally, in Jesus God gets a way to dwell in a tent. Jesus is God’s word tenting among us.  Is this what Sirach opined when he stated of wisdom “the Creator chose the place for my tent”? (24:8) As used in v.8, the word “tent” is a verb “make your dwelling in Jacob and in Israel receive your inheritance.” How well these words resonate with John is astounding. How marvelous is Sirach’s development of the image of God of tent: “in the holy tent I ministered before him” (v.10) “I liturgized and so I was established in Zion.”  So all the aspirations of the Psalmist  to give glory and praise in Zion are fulfilled: “Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion!” (Ps.147:12) To borrow from Ephesians these images are filled with hope and inheritance, the one expressing the community of glory to which we are called in holiness, the other, inheritance, celebrates God’s fidelity to Israel expressed in the image of Jerusalem. “Thus in the beloved city he gave me a resting place, and in Jerusalem was my domain. I took root in an honored people, in the portion of the Lord, his heritage.” (Sirach 24:11-12) These texts flow into each other and make for an immensely rich tapestry.

    Yet all this richness  doesn’t exhaust the selection of readings. There is another thread in today’s ordo that is startlingly intimate: the willfulness of God in all of this strategizing on behalf of humankind. This will is expressed in love. “He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:5- 6).  If the word “beloved” predicated of God’s relationship with  Jesus ever needed expansion, look to John 1:18, the climax of the prologue:  “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known.” (v.18) It would be awkward in English to leave that verb “has made known” without an object. In Greek, it is clearer that the gospel that follows is Jesus’ revelation of the Father’s heart. Better use a colon, thus has made known: …and the gospel follows. So, this verse of John is but the launching pad into a flow of consciousness fed by an imagination sustained by the finest wheat: “he fills you with the finest of wheat.” (Ps.147:14) I find myself many times marveling at the deep roots of our celebration of the Eucharist.  2020 David P. Reid ss.cc. *Not needed every year*

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    1-1-21

    Mary, Mother of God Jan. 1
    18-ABC SMF 73 Ps 67:2-3, 5, 6+8 Numbers 6:22-27 Galatians 4:4-7 Luke 2:16-21

    Response: O God be gracious and bless us

    Although the Liturgical calendar begins with Advent the church is not insensitive to the beginnings of the calendar year. In all the Christian churches, the birth of Jesus is always the birth of the Savior who gets busy very quickly. Therefore, within the so-called Advent cycle, which goes from the First Sunday of Advent to the Baptism of the Lord (although some think it goes to the Presentation on February 2), there are many comings and indeed goings.  This is  a time of deep reflection as evidenced in the picture of Mary contemplating the many events. There is the circumcision and naming of Jesus, the feast of Mary’s Maternity and world peace day for which the Pope normally writes a letter on a chosen aspect of peace. In the background here, vying for our attention is the baptism of Jesus, the visit of the Magi and the first of the signs of Jesus in John’s gospel, the wedding feast of Cana. Clearly, we need the reflective heart of Mary to get to the common element in this impressive convergence of so many claims that the story of Jesus’ makes upon us. “But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)

    This is one time one might wish the psalm were longer and more inclusive for eight verses  seem brief when so much is at stake.  This psalm is chosen because of the parallel between verse 1 of the Psalm and Numbers 6. “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us,” and the blessing of Aaron: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.” (6:22) The segue from v. 1 to verse 3 in the Psalm is the universalization of the blessing of God. The refrain of v.3 is repeated in v. 5 and there is a suggestion  that it should be said also at the conclusion of v.7. The plot of the Psalm  becomes clear in the reason for rejoicing in v.4: “for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth.” This equity is already in v.2 as “God’s way upon earth” which is paralleled with “among the nations your salvation.” Equity means balance, implies harmony and opens out to beauty… all that can be calendarised!

    Is not Mary pondering the same beauty, literally symbolizing the events (Luke 2:19). Making symbols is the task of the heart. She is pondering the words of the angels and the shepherds’ response. “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!"” It is this same divine  good will towards humankind –God’s way upon earth-that will lead us to  Mary’s own title Mother of God, Theotokos. To hear Luke and Elizabeth  tell it, her blessedness is  in her hearing, observing and trusting that God would be faithful to God’s own word/way (Luke 1:45, 11:27-28). This blessedness leads Mary to say yes to motherhood and the universal mission that it means.  Mary is mother of Jesus, Mary is the mother of the body of Jesus the Christ.  Mary is mother of the church, the new Eve, mother of Adam. She is Mother of God in whose image Adam and Eve were made. As an artist she mothered that image. This is the revelatory way through beauty. The solemnity of Mary the Mother of God is beyond balance, surpasses harmony, stretches out to beauty. Sublime and yet divine equity, as the Psalmist says, incarnational intimacy. And finds its resonance in the unwordable experience of a woman holding in her arms the fruit of her womb a Madonna and child, forever the challenge of artists from Botticelli to Henry Moore. Leave it to Mister Eckhart, the medieval Dominican mystic, to imagine each of us as a mother of God. ©2020 David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    12-27-20

    Sunday in Octave of Christmas: Holy Family
    17-ABC SMF 152 Ps 128:1-2, 3, 4-5 Sirach 3:2-6,12-14 Col 3:12-21  Mt 2:13-15,19-23 Luke 2:22-40, or 2:41-52

    Response: Happy are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways

    The Psalmist ends: Peace be upon Israel! Peace, shalom which has the sense of completeness, surely applies here. With work, wife and children all in place, the “thus” of v.4 is resounding: “Thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.” This is a wisdom psalm; it represents the order of creation, the fruit of fearing God which is mentioned twice, vs.1 and 4, and the source of all benediction. There is nothing here of the lamentation that comes when the order is broken and chaos invades, a situation of which the Psalmist is also quite aware. But let it stand as fictive in the order of creation, as we do in using the word “family” for the disciples gathered around Jesus! Not only do both fictive families,  the perfect natural family and the family around Jesus, have their place but they also uphold an ideal that is within our reach and for which we are empowered. The beauty of pastoral life is to play off this ideal over against the reality, often coarse, knowing that no family is perfect and every step towards normalcy is a minor resurrection, a beatitude in the making! Such might be the interpretive key we need to read what the letter to the Colossians says about life in the household. Begin by accepting his male-centered point of view, normal for his time, and then see how, in calling  for a level of reciprocity, the author, be it Paul or a protégé, also discounts that male point of view. The sheer giftedness of God’s love for each and all of us, relativizes the distinctions that we may draw on lesser grounds. (v.11)

    Paul takes as it were the peace of Jerusalem lauded by the Psalmist and kneads it into the mix of relationships that any community is. Perhaps his understanding is best in his own words: “but Christ is all and in all!” (v.11)  After a further explanation he writes: “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body.” That is a tight formula containing five elements: peace, rule, hearts, called, body. The word translated “rule” is also translated reign or control. There is a nuance of the executive in the word, that is, letting peace take over in your life. Let the mentality, the  conviction of the victory of Christ change your life, recalling the changing of clothing at baptism, giving you direction and the will to peace with other persons. Earlier, the writer had charged the community to take on a renewal according to the image (eikon)  of the one who created you. (v. 10) In building community take every advantage to build peace and the conviction of victory will even grow stronger and more effective in your reciprocity with others.  Paul would be the last one to discount the cost in such an enterprise. (Colossians 1:24)

    Let us go back for a moment to the word “fictive.” This is a word from the Latin “to form.” With a long history in many fields, even worked on by Pope Innocent IV (1243-59) in terms of empire and church, “fictive”means “make believe.” Give the word “believe” a religious, Christian meaning. The Feast of the Holy Family is to “make believe” our natural life into a family in Christ, bringing to bear on each of its relationships the Paschal victory of love, not earned love but love given gratuitously! No family is perfect but every family can be perfected in love. “Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Colossians 3:14) This “make believe” is no pretense. This “make believe” in Christ is the real gift of love.  Read these words in terms of membership in the community of God’s praise: “And with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.”(v.16) To church people who mourn the state of the family today, I say: invite brothers and sisters into the fictive family of God’s people where the strength of family is upheld and praised and where the pain, the hurt, the alienation, the confusion and chaos of modern family life can be healed. Said in the words of the Letter to the Colossians: “Fathers, do not provoke your children, or they may lose heart.”(v.21) The challenge which Joseph and Mary willingly took up for Jesus, is ours today: “When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.” (Luke 2:39-40) Jesus was “made believe.” © 2020 David P.Reid ss.cc
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    12-25-20

    Christmas: Mass during the Day 16-ABC SMF 113Ps. 98:1, 2-3a, 3b-4, 5-6 Isaiah 52:1-10 Hebrews 1:1-6 John 1:1-18

    Response: All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God.

    The end time is like the first time. What goes around, comes around. This could sound cyclic but since the world is ever moving, let’s think of a spiral. Let’s see if we can get this right. The Word that was with God, returns to the bosom of the Father but with the whole world in his hands. Or he has inherited a name that is above that of the angels but was his to begin with, (vs.2 and 4). Welcome to Christmas! ….and the very provocative ordo of readings which includes the prologues of two of the New Testament’s master pieces: the gospel according to John and the Letter to the Hebrews. Although magnificent in themselves, the text of Isaiah and the psalm scramble to keep up.  I laugh to think that, as some charged,  the Christian movement got underway among a bunch of ne’er-do-wells. Like any human grouping, there were folks of all skill-sets available. No one was unimportant and in fact that is the movement’s biggest message which the movement itself must exhibit. In God’s eyes everyone is important and that’s the purpose why the Father sent his only beloved Son, (John 3:16). These exquisite writings demonstrate the point.

    Introductions are written or at least rewritten after the work is complete. By then, it is almost impossible to write an introduction because there is so much to say in as compact a form as possible. It will take the entire work to unravel the introduction for whole episodes of the work are pressed into one word in the prologue, exordium or introduction, call it what you will. The exuberance spills over and each word becomes a lodestone. Hear the word “inheritance” in Hebrews 1:4,  and “become flesh” in John 1:14 or “bosom of the Father” in John 1:18. Some translate that “heart” but the point is that after praying one’s way through the gospel story, this phase has taken on so much significance it is no longer subject to exhaustive analysis but only met in a chorus of praise and thanksgiving. And although these are high powered texts and lend themselves easily to the ruminations of scholars for decades on end, their purpose was but to evoke praise and thanksgiving for such a profound gift as our salvation and that  salvation from the very one who created us and through the very same means: the proclamation of the Word.  This is captured in a single phrase in Hebrews: “and he sustains all things by his powerful word!” (v.3) In humankind, the whole universe has become an ear and if we follow St. Benedict, the ear of the heart. Life on this planet is a dialogue, a conversation with humankind fashioned to listen and to respond. Ah yes, God has spoken through many (“Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets” v.1 an alliterative two-in-one form not reproducible in English translation) but now in his Son, in a story that addresses every human desire and every human need, a story that cleanses and purifies (“When he had made purification for sins,”) a story that reveals darkness and sin, a story that forgives and re-purposes. Here we can go the length of Hebrews or John and read the entire gamut back into the beginning. John wants us to grow more in our faith (20:21) and Apollos in Hebrews wants us to stay the course and not fall away. To attain their pastoral purpose, both John and Apollos lead us over the edge into a vision of what is going on that staggers the imagination but fuels us for mission in this world (John 1:10) and this aeon (Hebrews 1:2).

    “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God.” Our response to the Psalm which is from Psalm 98 itself would be welcomed by all four who make this celebration of the Word so rich and splendid: the psalmist, the prophet (Isaiah), the preacher par excellence (Apollos) and the evangelist (John). But there is also a hesitation. Do not hog this message for yourselves but get it out to the whole world. The message of the Church in its Liturgy for Christmas (Homiletic Directory) is that Christmas is Easter in another key and Jesus is Savior of all. The Exaltation of which Hebrews explicitly speaks (“he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,”v.3) is the Son, the one tenting among us, (John 1:14)  coming into his inheritance, an exquisitely rich image that takes being made in God’s refulgence, the icon of the divine worth, not just a point of departure but always a point of return and in the theology of Apollos, the experience of perfection, (and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him,  5:9 ) within the veil of the beauty of his holiness and the holiness of the beauty of God forever. How, how? The Christian will ask. John will reply: simple follow the rule by which Jesus lived, love your neighbor and the injunction of Apollos: do not neglect the Eucharist assembly on Sunday (Hebrews 10:25)! ©2020 David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    12-24-20

    Christmas: Vigil Mass
      13-ABC 94  SMF Ps 89:4-5, 16-17, 27+29 Isaiah 62:1-5 Acts 13:16-17, 22-25 Matthew 1:1-25

    Response: Forever I will sing of the goodness of the Lord

    Who would have thought of a genealogy as an architectural plan for the future? While this sounds like antiquarianism, in fact genealogies are an in-thing. Whereas we pride ourselves on our new means of communication, they may in fact drive us apart into an uneasy  individualism and disconnect. But there is a counter force: people are searching to know their ancestry. And even chapters of our history spurned before are now embraced as for instance the incidence of Hansen´s disease among our forebears. So genealogy begins from today and looks to the future, intuiting a connection yet to be unfolded. There is nothing static about telling the story. The consultation of the Town Registry is but one element of the reconstruction. Forever, for instance, people will ask how the five women of Matthew’s genealogy (Ruth, Tamar, Rahab, Uriah’s wife, Mary) got into the picture and what are the implications for the future.

    Take Isaiah 62 as a commentary on the genealogy of Matthew. The oracle of salvation, addressed to Jerusalem, is adept in accenting the positive without covering up the negatives. “You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate.” (62:4) The word used for “forsaken” takes us back to the anguish of Egypt (Exodus 2:24); the word “desolate” describes Jerusalem abandoned in the Exile. “But you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married.” The poet reclaims what was positive about Israel’s courting the new land in the days of Hosea and Gomer, without endorsing the fertility rites. In the exquisite parallel poetry of verse 5, the prophet has brought genealogy and architecture together in the image of the Builder. “For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” We can say genealogy here because the poet has already evoked the story of the kings, Israel’s way of referring to its genus: “The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give.” (v.2)  Then the  following verse (v.3) anticipates the Builder of v. 5 “You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.”  Here some readers of the text hear a reference to the walls of the newly fortified city.  With what will the builder work? What will be the design?

    Matthew’s genealogy looks to that future. Cast in a series of seven sevens, the new and final seven is worked out in the extended footnote (vs.18-25) to the genealogy which is the story of Joseph and Mary. Generally we work on the idea that Matthew went to Isaiah 7 and the story of Ahaz  as confirmation for the imagery of the virgin betrothed to Joseph.  There is no direct indication that Matthew thought of Isaiah 62. His scene of the magi might seem inspired from the text of Isaiah (chapter 60),  Jerusalem is everywhere celebrated in so called Trito-Isaiah, chapters 56-66.  The idea of the spousal relationship of the Lord and Jerusalem is intriguing and opens a new appreciation of the genealogy.  With the “how” of the birth explained, (1:18-25) the story then moves to what had been in view already: Jerusalem which had become, a long time ago, a symbol of the whole history of the people. Oh Jerusalem, set buzzing with the advent of the magi, so shall your builder marry you! But the buzz did not last. In Paul’s resume of the story in the synagogue of Antioch of Pisidia, he is clear about what Luke would refer to as not knowing  the hour of the visitation (Luke 19:44): “Because the residents of Jerusalem and their leaders did not recognize him or understand the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath, they fulfilled those words by condemning him.” (Acts 13:27) This failure to recognize him is found also in Acts 3:17: "And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers.” Behold, Jerusalem, center of learning but hopefully of unlearning too!

    Matthew’s Infancy Narratives as also Luke’s, take faith in the Risen Lord−source of actively unknowing what we thought we knew−back to the beginning. Matthew’s community was involved in tense relations with the synagogue from whom the community has separated after the Fall of Jerusalem in 70 ce. This spousal/architectural re-write of the genealogy followed by his emphasis on Jerusalem as the locus of knowledge of the Messiah is both challenging and overflowing with hope. Re-write your genealogy of salvation  in the light of Christ and let God woo you anew.  Christmas is for lovers!

    ©2020 David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    12-20-20

    4th Sunday of Advent
    11-B 92SMF. Ps 89:2-3, 4-5, 27+29 2 Samuel 7:1-5,8-11,16 Romans 16:25-27, Luke 1:26-38

    Response: Forever I will Sing of the Goodness of the Lord

    Ps.89 is composed of 53 verses and is of immense importance in knowing Israel’s thoughts about the Messiah. That it would be cited for the fourth week of Advent is altogether appropriate and sad. Because no matter how wonderful are the expressions of praise of creation and appreciation for God’s great leadership of Israel, the Psalm ends in profound sadness if not outright bitterness and stomach churning lament.  God has not been unfaithful to the covenant made with the house of David  but his descendants failed to live up to the covenant. They were simply unable. We carry both sentiments into Christmas: praise for God’s fidelity to the covenant and a wrenching appeal for a Savior Messiah. To see the first but be blind to the second would leave the response limp and vacuous: “Forever I will sing of the goodness of the Lord.” Heard now in the final Advent Sunday ordo, we choose to accent God’s fidelity. No! we do not deny the breakdown but we will only measure the disgrace from the experience of grace. It is always God’s deed that reveals our need. If the turning point in the Ps, where things go sour,  is registered at v. 30: “If his children forsake my law and do not walk according to my ordinances…”,  the horizon slips out past Israel to embrace all humankind by the time we reach vs. 48-49: “Remember how short my time is— for what vanity you have created all mortals! Who can live and never see death? Who can escape the power of Sheol?”

    The word “mystery” (plan) is artfully employed in the final doxology of Romans 16:25-27.  The entire doxology is  spelt out in terms of mystery hidden for a long ages, made manifest through prophetic writings and made known to all the Gentiles to bring about obedience of faith. This plan is of course inseparable from the promise to the house of David  (2 Samuel 7/Ps 89) and thus the doxology functions well to connect Ps 89 with the promise made to Mary in Luke’s gospel text which is wholly cast in terms of the plan of salvation. “And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, … and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. ..." (Luke 1:31-33) Paul’s mention of the prophetic writings enriches the convergence further because not only are the prophets privy to God´s council (Ps 89: 6-7, see Isaiah 6)  but Mary is herself presented as prophetic. Her call story imitates that of the classical prophets. As part of God’s messianic plan, the Gentiles are called to the obedience of faith. There have been many astounding tie-ins between the readings to date;  this obedience that is in fact faith brings the whole presentation to the immediate present. Mary knew that kind of faith filled obedience as vouched for by Elizabeth in her beatitude directed to Mary “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord." (Luke 1:45).  Since the word for obedience literally means to hear from below, it characterizes well Mary’s faith as the humble handmaid of the Lord. “for God has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant,” (cf. Luke 1:48).

    In all these rich correspondences which make for the beauty of harmony and give the impression of  a God who plans well,  where is the lament of Psalm 89 that yearned for a messianic savior? As one for whom faith is obedience, Mary carries the pain of the world to which the Ps already alluded. The greeting that troubled her in the beginning -“But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered (dialogued) what sort of greeting this might be,” (Luke 1:29)…..  continues to trouble her at the presentation in the temple : “ this child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts (dialogues) of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too." (Luke 2:35) The stillness of the Pieta.  The story of our salvation is never a no-fault insurance even for one whom we believe was preserved by Christ’s own death and resurrection  from original sin. In fact, the innocent, as the Dialogue of the Carmelites of Compiègne shows,  carry the heavier load. Such is love and the call to holiness. © 2020 David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    12-13-20

    Third Sunday Advent
    8-B  SMF 178  Isaiah 61:1-2,10-11 1Thess 5:16-24 John 1:6-8. 19-28

    Response: My soul rejoices in the Lord

    The New Testament is known for its modesty. Even the birth of Jesus which is narrated only by the two evangelists Matthew and Luke receives modest coverage. With only a slight nod at the birth itself in 1:25, Matthew proceeds to narrate the happenings after Jesus was born.  Therefore, on Luke alone do we depend to tell us of the birth. That he does but not to indulge our curiosities, rather to situate the birth in both world and sacred history. Much that he shares comes from a source that is special to him and much of what he shares is preparation for hearing what follows. His presentation looks as much to the future as to the past and there is hardly a detail told that is not without significance for both the gospel and the Acts of the Apostles.

    Mary is presented through the lens of her own words: “let it be with me according to your word.”  (1:38) That same word will go all the way to Rome where Paul will share the word with those who visit him in his home prison. (Acts 28:25). Earlier, back in Jerusalem Peter too had shared words on Pentecost day. (2:14) Thus Mary, Peter and Paul are aligned in following Jesus as Word/Deed  of whom it was said when he visited Nazareth: “All of spoke of him well and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.” (4:22) Those words announced a jubilee year of mercy of which we are informed in the passage from  Isaiah the prophet which we hear to-day and which Jesus read in the synagogue on his home visit. Both logos (4:22)  and rhema (1:38) carry  through the concrete aspect of the Hebrew concept dabar which underlies Mary’s use of the word rhema. Thus,  using the Greek noun for word (logos), the phrase “words of grace” still means deeds of grace. This is a lot more than a meeting of minds, it is a meeting of hearts in undertaking deeds together. Hard hitting, real, actual effective, to be noticed and all the while  bearing a sense of verification, thus testimony. The event is itself its own witness. Elizabeth’s conception of a child in her sterile old age is evidence. Mary’s re-assuring visit with Elizabeth takes place between Mary’s acceptance of her mission and her magnificent canticle which interprets “for no thing (rhema) will be impossible with God.” (v.37)  In this Ordo the place of the psalm is taken by the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) which celebrates the “thingness” of God’s action. The canticle has not only the cadence of a psalm but in v.50, with a shift to a wider audience (“His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation”), it exhibits the thingness of salvation. Here the canticle reveals its roots in a psalm of praise for God’s strong action (in the war of the Maccabees?).  Now it seems applied to the assistance that God gives to the anawim, the poor of Israel such as Elizabeth and Zechariah, Mary and Joseph. The six verbs, set in a way that says that this is God’s normal way of acting,  resoundingly speak to the magnalia (the great things, v.49), recalling not only Mary’s virginal conception of Jesus but also Elizabeth’s conception of John.  “He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” (vs.51-53) God’s arm means the reversal of our human expectation, from pregnancy to death: “he has shown strength with his arm.”  (v.51) No one can doubt that it is on these things/ eventualities (rhemata) that Mary is reflecting in her heart (2:19,51).  God’s arm is strong, God’s name is holy. No wonder that Mary was beatified  for believing that “ there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord." (1:45)  Or, put in the words of Paul to the Thessalonians, Mary was blessed by the God of peace who also is the source of our joy! (1 Thess 5:16) Joy, a hallmark of the gospel of Luke is the fruit of believing in the great things that God modestly brings about. The gospel begins (1:47) and ends (24:53) in joy, both points in the on-going community of praise in Jerusalem: “…And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.” ©2020 David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    12-6-20

    2nd Sunday of Advent
    5-B 88SMF Ps 85:9ab+10, 11-12, 13-14 Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11, 2 Peter 3:8-14, Mark 1:1-8 

    Response: Lord, let us see your kindness and grant us your salvation.

    For some time now, Biblical  scholarship speak of the psalms as praise, lament,  new praise. Another way to put this:  order, chaos and new order. Psalm 85 incorporates all three movements.  The riveting six verbs of the opening three verses set the stage for the praise of God by recalling the habitual attitude of God towards Israel. ( A similar development is found in the Magnificat, Luke 1:51-53).  Immediately to follow then is the lament for what has happened.  If, at one time,  this psalm spoke to the restoration of nature at harvest time (v.12) now it is addressed to the problem of the exile to Babylon  in the sixth century bce: “Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation.” The shift from lament/chaos (God’s wrath) to new praise/order is facilitated by a salvation oracle spoken by a cultic official (vs.8-13). All the words typical of the covenant relationship that God has with Israel occur here; “Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.” (vs.10-11) Perhaps a little unexpected is the promise that his glory may dwell in our land (v.9) and “righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps,” (v.13), both evoking thoughts of the glory of God returning to Jerusalem as an end to the Exile. .

    Thus this psalm holds together all the aspirations of this Advent celebration.  The many horizons of the Psalm enrich  our hearing of the other readings. The church struggles with wanting to make Advent a penitential season as it was more clearly in the past. And if repentance cannot be elided, this ordo gives the bigger picture to which repentance belongs. Advent has to do with God’s purposes in restoring and reviving God’s people. This is not a call to return to the past but to learn from the past to move into a different future on God’s timing as Peter dramatically states. God does not delay the fulfillment of the promise but is patient with us and “in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.” 2 Peter 3:13.

    Isaiah and Mark concur. Mark says that the beginning of the Gospel is to be found in the oracles of salvation to be found in  Isaiah. So he begins his gospel presentation there.  He preaches a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  The prophet both uses the same word “glory” of the Psalm and expands its horizon: “Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken."(Isaiah 40:5) The mouth of the Lord had spoken an oracle of salvation. We are coming home from Exile and Advent is always such a big horizon for the new liturgical year that is opening. This is our opportunity to make a difference which always implies that we see the bigger picture and want to maximize our input.  Ask yourself if the difference you make is an oracle of salvation?

    ©2020 David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    11-29-20
    1st Sunday Advent
    2B 83SMF Psalm Ps 80:2-3,15-16, 18-19 Isaiah 63:16-17,19 64:2-7 1 Corinthians 1:3-9 Mark 13:33-37

    Response: O Lord, make us turn to you, let us see your face and we shall be saved

    Carl Jung is reputed to have revised his material up to the moment before publication. There was always so much more to be heard in each sentence. The language about the spirit is always tensive that is made up of similes and metaphors that never exhaust. The juxta positioning of Psalm 80 and the prayer of Isaiah 63:7-64:11 creates just such an inexhaustible mix. Both share the understanding that there is no going forward for Israel without understanding their past as a story of God’s compassionate love. Ps 80:8-11 puts the story of the past into the metaphor of the vine transplanted from Egypt and in Isaiah, the prophet calls upon the memory of Moses. “Where is the one who put within them his holy spirit, who caused his glorious arm to march at the right hand of Moses, who divided the waters before them to make for himself an everlasting name” (vs.11-12). From the same context in Isaiah we draw the words of the famed Advent song: “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down.” However, we cannot fail to enjoy the attached metaphor: “so that the mountains would quake at your presence as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil— to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence!” (NRSV 64:1, NAB 63:19) So what’s the purpose? Metanoia, return, conversion. Hear again the Lectionary response O Lord, make us turn to you, let us see your face and we shall be saved which in fact is the refrain in the Psalm vs.3,7, and 19, note variations.) Metanoia, ecstasy and salvation!

    We turn to the thanksgiving at the beginning of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, (1:4-9) a gifted community even if they did not always know how to appreciate their gifts. And there we find in different language the same Advent sentiments as in the Psalm and Isaiah: “He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (vs.8-9) Metanoia is conversion or in the word of Paul “blameless,” in the Latin we read “without crime.”  If so, it will be only by the arm of God, to cite again the image from Isaiah. The flip side of metanoia is ecstasy which we identify with seeing the face of God.  Paul captures the same experience in the image of call with which he begins his correspondence with the Corinthians and links it with gift. Love is the face-to-face gift (13:12) and to that ecstasy of divine love, the Corinthians are called, the community of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Connecting call with ecstasy is truly Pauline as he predicates calling  in Philippians 3:14: ”I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” The thanksgiving in 1 Corinthians is well constructed with a continuity between our Father, God in v. 3, my God in v.4 and then in conclusion in v 9: “God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” To luxuriate in this call of God to communion in Christ,  we can return to the prayer of Isaiah: “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down.” In Jesus, God went out of Godself.  God did so ecstatically for God is as ecstatic as we are called to be outside ourselves.

    The mantra of Ps.80, (Metanoia, ecstasy and salvation) invites us to see in Mark’s call for watchfulness not only a foreshadowing (13:35)  of the passion narrative, chapters 14-15 but a playing out of the enigmatic statement in 13:20: “And if the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he has cut short those days.” The divine impetuosity for our salvation argues to the foreshortening but also a reproach, using the very watchword of his end time speech: Could you not keep watch for one hour? (14:37NAB).   Go out (ectascy) of yourself this Advent!

    ©2020 David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    11-22-20

    34th Christ the King 160 SMF20 Psalm Ps 23:1-2a, 2b-3, 5, 6 Ezekiel 34 11-12, 15-17 1 Cor 15:20-26, 28 Matt 25:31-46

    RESPONSE: THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD

    More than a hundred years ago, a Chilean priest of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts started a social movement which today we might call the civilization of Love. He was Mateo Crawley Bovey, sscc (1880-1960), and he called his work the Social Reign of the Sacred Heart. Mateo’s international preaching ministry came alive in the wake of the social justice teaching  set forth by Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903). These teachings flow from the social values in the Gospel, and, expand in opposing oppression in its many forms. They provide  a  sturdy bridge to ecumenical and inter religious dialogue. Pope Francis follows in the same suit. It has taken me a lifetime to appreciate one of Mateo’s books, Remain in My Love in this regard.

    During the time that the church prayerfully repositioned its participation in modernity as a quest for social justice, the feast of Christ the King came into its own. With the renewed sense of the Liturgical year as a revelation of the story of our salvation in Jesus Christ, the feast became a marvelous way to celebrate our faith in what was once called the Last Things (death, judgment, heaven, hell: check EWTN on Web). The Feast probes  the existential question, “What’s it all about?” What do our lives finally mean?” To study the readings is to get absorbed in the active hope of God’s glory played out in the key of social justice. In fact, in Corinthians, Paul gives a “Last Things” orientation to the journey of Psalm 23. “Goodness and mercy” lead the psalmist in a precarious life, as he or she walks through “the valley of the shadow of death, ”(v.4) to “dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”(Psalm 23 v.6) Ezekiel and Matthew stand as points of departure and arrival of this journey. Enter Adam. “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Cor 15: 21-22).  For Paul the final procession into the realness of the post resurrection faith has commenced. “But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ,” (v.23). Mary in her Assumption is part of this procession whose banner is “where Jesus has gone we hope to follow!” (Preface for the Ascension).  Paul says about the final outcome that God in raising Jesus assured victory for all humanity: “The last enemy to be destroyed is death,” (v.26). People had religiously interpreted the biological necessity to die as the result of sin. If sin is forgiven,  death loses its sting.  "Death has been swallowed up in victory."  "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" (1 Cor 15:54-55).

    The promise of the Lord in Ezekiel  to watch over the sheep has been fulfilled: “For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock when some of his sheep have been scattered abroad, so will I seek out my sheep; and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.” (Ezekiel 34:11-12). But Ezekiel also understood that the sheep would be held accountable to respond to the action of the shepherd. "As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I judge between sheep and sheep, rams and he-goats. (v.17) To read further on in Ezekiel is to admire Matthew’s adaptation. The scene is set for the second of the “Last Things.” Enter the sheep and the goats. Matthew’s gospel is the handbook of the church, and, so, it is not unexpected that processes for the care of the community would be set forth. See already a process in view (18:1-35). The one who is recalcitrant is to be handed over to re-evangelization, treated like the pagan and the publican, the target of Jesus’ own preaching (18:17. See 1 Cor 5:5). Judgment means justice, and the question is: have we been just to each other?  What are the criteria? Paul writes “Owe no one anything, except to love one another.” (Romans 13:8) Do we owe love? To act on what we owe is to do justice. Do we do justice when we love? Do people have a right to our love? To conquer by love or be subjected to love? Was Jesus subjected to love? “When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all.” (1 Cor 15: 28)  Mateo’s best known book was entitled Jesus King of Love. There is our hope and the meaning of Christ the King: God is going to be Godself, God will be just to being God, God owes it to Godself to be God, and there’s no salvation until we act in a way that lets God be God. “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them!” (1 John 4:16)  That’s exactly the message of Matthew 25! It will be revealed to us that God abides in our loving compassion for each other. Fiat let it be!©2020 David P. Reid ss.cc

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    11-15-20

    33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time 157-A 153 SMF Ps 128:1-2, 3, 4-5 Proverbs 31:10-13,19-20, 30-31 1 Thess 5:1-6 Matt 25;15-30

    Response: Happy are those who fear the Lord

    Are there Pharisee temptations and Sadducee temptations? The Pharisee may be tempted to do too much and the Sadducee too little? There is a suggestion that Matthew’s this parable may be directed at under-achievers, the Sadducees who were so tied in with the establishment that they had a lot to lose were they to change. No risk takers, they might be tempted to put their possessions on hold. Nothing gained, nothing lost. There is however a natural attrition.  Life is a hill to climb. If one is not going up, one is falling behind. Pharisees were eager beavers, more likely to rush up the hill and fail to smell the flowers. In the parable the master was looking for a one hundred cent return. "Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.'”(Matt 25:21) The difference between the productive and non-productive is fear. “I was afraid, and I went and hid your talant in the ground.” (V.25) But the Psalm praises fear: “Happy is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways.”  And the blessing that comes from the fearsome gift is hymned in family imagery: “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table.  Thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.” (vs.2-3) An imaginative approach now would be to read the verses from Proverbs in honor of the wife “within your house” and to relate the parable of Matthew  to the challenge of children around the table. But please do not trivialize the metaphor by changing talant into talent, a gift (of money) given to trade with rather than an individual’s capacity. The range of the metaphor of talant may include, but is not limited to, personal talent.

    Children are a challenge, a mission, a constant source of change, a threat to a Sadducee way of life,  a down payment of life in the Resurrection, a talant!  Is there fear in being father or mother to other human beings? We do not have children, we are parent to another, a task for which no one is ever fully prepared, an adventure that is never fearless. Child as talant is child to be invested. How? In evangelization. Parents are the natural teachers of their children and so in faith terms, their first evangelizers. Not only their first but in the wording of the rite of baptism parents are their children’s best teacher of the faith. This talant cannot be outsourced, the experience of knowing your father and mother in their relationship with God, as in knowing them expressing care and love and respect for each other, is irreplaceable. To follow this line of thinking is to discover that my parents think of me as a gift from God …to be returned to God with thanksgiving and rejoicing. Resurrection is therefore prayed for because the love and life shared are not to be lost but to be transformed. One cannot be so restrained by what was handed on from the past as to forego the future. The Sadducees were stagnant because they could not envision the Resurrection or in fact they over imagined it to their own disbelief as resuscitation. Parents learn to have expectations but to be in a mode of constant, often transformative,  adaptation, recognizing the freedom of the agency which their loving dedication has developed in their children, even to foregoing the blessing of the Psalm to see their children’s children.  One needs faith in the more there is to life in order to die the many deaths involved in raising a family. A child with special challenges is so often received as a multi-talanted child. This is fear as awesomeness. The parable urges Christians not to wait out the Resurrection. As Christians we are children of the light and the day. So says Paul to the Thessalonians with whom he also addresses the problem of laziness. While he is rushing around the world to make known the Good News, he sees others waiting out the clock. The challenge today is not to wait out the world but to bring children into the world albeit a troubled environment. The challenge increases the sense of responsibility but also the trust that the one who gives the talant will not be absent in that talant’s development. God never abandons God’s gifts. Believing that in God there is no divorce between Giver and gift, humility in acknowledging the gift and courage in its investment are called for. This discussion opens up what is really inside the fear of the Lord, a willingness to work alongside of, inside of, the awesomeness of God. Even when we fear to be cooperators with God, God trusts us. The master was “a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed”(v.24). Key is to begin with what you got: “For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.” ( Matthew 13:12). This is God’s claim upon us. Behold the ecstasy of the invitation: “enter into the joy of your master,” (25:21) “May you see your children's children.” (Ps.128:6). ©2020 David P. Reid ss.cc

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    11-8-20

    31st Sunday in Ordinary Time 151-A 157. SMF Ps 131:1, 2, 3 Malachi 1:14-2:2,8-10  1 Thess 2:7-9,13 Matthew 23:1-12

    Response: In you Lord I have found my peace

    On an Ordinary Sunday the readings from Paul are not necessarily attuned to the interplay between gospel and the first reading, usually Old Testament. But this ordo has a passage where Paul refers to himself as a father and the Psalm sees Israel as a weaned child on his mother’s breast.  Paul writes: “As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children, urging and encouraging you and pleading that you lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.” (1 Thess 2:11-12) Paul opens our imagination and we find ourselves appreciating anew the God-as-mother image in the OT, here in a  psalm urging humility. Before we jump ahead to see one direction in which this imagery takes us, we are reminded that God’s word comes to us in our own language. He evokes the tension of a  seeming contrast to bring the two together: “ We … constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God's word, which is also at work in you believers.” (v.13)  The Ps specifies the reception of the word: “But I have calmed and quieted my soul like a weaned child with its mother” and a response seems to be the voice of the mother: “my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.” Are these words the sentiments of the mother, penciled in by a devoted scribe? This is an interaction of profound feeling.  Both mother and child are at peace.  What compromises our inner peace? The psalmist’s confession is clear: “ O Lord, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.· (v.1)  The ultimate injunction addressed to Israel gives the fruit of peace: “O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time on and forevermore.” (v.3)  Some  in Israel were called the anawim, not necessarily materially poor but meek and humble of heart, awaiting the day of redemption and among whom Christian tradition has placed Mary and Joseph.  This is their psalm.

    The image of the psalm “like a weaned child with its mother” prompted a search that discovered  the  web site: “Beautiful paintings of Mary nursing the baby Jesus.” There are thirty one paintings displayed. Some put focus on the child, others on the mother.  In the painting, Virgin and Child by Hans Baldung the child Jesus  has fallen asleep after feeding, his forehead resting gently on her breast.  Time to rest and trust and for the viewer, surrender all one’s cares. The mother looks like Mary going over many matters in her heart. Perhaps it is Madonna and Child by Bernardino Luini that might best catch the tranquility of the mother that resembles that of the child: “my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.” The psalmist looks to Israel feeling at home in family with God. May we interpret it too as speaking to Mary mother of the church? Perhaps anachronistically as the title Mary Mother of the Church only became widely known when re-introduced by Paul VI at the closing of the third Session of Vatican II. If titles are distancing, the image of feeding at the breast is intimate and Mary is sharing the word which she has pondered in her heart. Known already to Ambrose of Milan in the Fourth century, the title embraces Mary as model disciple, recalls John’s imagery and expresses the communal character of our salvation in Christ. Mary’s humility is a refutation of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees whom one is to see no longer as referring to Jesus’ fellow Jews but to the Christian church leaders of Matthew’s time, late first century. His condemnation reechoes that of Malachi, Israel’s last prophet whose final question, however is a wake–up call to the intimacy of God’s relationship with us: “Have we not all one father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our ancestors?” (2:10)

    That’s why we need imagery of our ourselves, bonded with each other because weaned on the breast of God. John Paul II’s words in Redemptoris Mater  “… in her new motherhood in the Spirit, Mary embraces each and every one in the Church, and embraces each and every one through the Church.” [ #47]  ©2020 David P. Reid ss.cc
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    In the year 2020, the Feast of All Saints readings displace those of the Sunday which may be used on Tuesday, Nov 3. So here an insight for  All Saints is offered along with an insight for the 31st Sunday.

    All Saints November 1 Ps. 24:1-2,3-4,5-6 Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14, 1 John 3:1-3 Matthew 5:1-12

    Response: Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.

    “In your face” does not mean the same as face-to-face. And yet there has to be a bit of “in-your-face” to add spunk and verve to the face-to-face that we like to have with people. The point may have been lost before the age of virtual communication but not now.  As  good as virtual can be, (Skype or Zoom) there is nothing like being with the person. Although virtual is better than leaving a message on someone’s phone, it is still a far cry for the real engagement between humans which is at best only analogous of our relationship with God.  “Lord, this is the people who longs to see you face.” The singular verb “longs,” means that what the collective, people have in common is a longing to see God’s face. Planted squarely in Psalm 24 which is an entrance psalm, the identification of the people is right on target. To see God’s face and not die is the stuff of being community. In fact, this is what life is all about. “We shall see God as God is.” (1 John 3) In the Eucharistic prayer we pray for those deceased: “Admit them to rejoice in the light of your face, and in the resurrection give them the fullness of life.” (Eucharistic Prayer V2) A further enrichment of this symbol of intimacy would be to plunge into the traditions of Moses and the face of God which lead us to the overwhelming reality of  beholding the face of God in the light of Christ. (2 Corinthians 3- 4). Imagine our joy in seeing a smile transform the face of one who meets us. Imagine the delight in the eyes of God in welcoming us home.  That’s today’s Feast!

    Hear an elder tell the story: “Then he said to me, "These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Rev 7:14) The text goes on to explain that God will wipe the tears from their eyes. (v.17) Oh what joy to see the face of God with eyes dried of the tears from mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. All of these images get us closer to imaging the community of saints which we commemorate today but  we only truly celebrate them by joining them. How now? There are two antiphons given us:

    "Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!" (v.10)

    "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen." (v.12)

    From within that choir it is possible to hear and enter into the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) They are no longer norms to be followed as much as they are criteria to discern where one is standing. Within that community of praise and thanksgiving, the reversals ascribed by Jesus to the reception of the Kingdom are not only clear but irresistibly compelling. “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.”  (Matt 5:12a) Not unlike the author of revelation, Matthew does not hesitate to speak of rewards. Also, like the later author, he too leaves their specification to God.  The theme of seeing returns. “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.” (v.8) The revised NAB translates “clean of heart,” and goes to Psalm 24:4 to explain: “ he whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean.” (NRSV Those who have clean hands and pure hearts.) Note the connection with seeing and worship and an invitation to explore our entrance into the communion of saints in the celebration of the Eucharist by singing Holy, Holy, Holy.  The saints are immediate and alive to us “on whose constant intercession in your (God’s) presence we reply for unfailing help.” (Eucharistic Prayer III). The Second Book of Psalms opens with one three-part psalm now comprising Ps.42-43, dubbed by NAB Desire for God and his Temple. Ps.42:3 “Athirst is my soul for God, the living God. When shall I go and behold the face of God?”  Please come thirsty to the assembly of the saints! That’s being in-your-face which is requisite for face-to-face. ©2020 David P. Reid ss.cc.

    11-1-20

    31st Sunday in Ordinary Time 151-A 157. SMF Ps 131:1, 2, 3 Malachi 1:14-2:2,8-10  1 Thess 2:7-9,13 Matthew 23:1-12

    Response: In you Lord I have found my peace

    On an Ordinary Sunday the readings from Paul are not necessarily attuned to the interplay between gospel and the first reading, usually Old Testament. But this ordo has a passage where Paul refers to himself as a father and the Psalm sees Israel as a weaned child on his mother’s breast.  Paul writes: “As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children, urging and encouraging you and pleading that you lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.” (1 Thess 2:11-12) Paul opens our imagination and we find ourselves appreciating anew the God-as-mother image in the OT, here in a  psalm urging humility. Before we jump ahead to see one direction in which this imagery takes us, we are reminded that God’s word comes to us in our own language. He evokes the tension of a  seeming contrast to bring the two together: “ We … constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God's word, which is also at work in you believers.” (v.13)  The Ps specifies the reception of the word: “But I have calmed and quieted my soul like a weaned child with its mother” and a response seems to be the voice of the mother: “my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.” Are these words the sentiments of the mother, penciled in by a devoted scribe? This is an interaction of profound feeling.  Both mother and child are at peace.  What compromises our inner peace? The psalmist’s confession is clear: “ O Lord, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.· (v.1)  The ultimate injunction addressed to Israel gives the fruit of peace: “O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time on and forevermore.” (v.3)  Some  in Israel were called the anawim, not necessarily materially poor but meek and humble of heart, awaiting the day of redemption and among whom Christian tradition has placed Mary and Joseph.  This is their psalm.

    The image of the psalm “like a weaned child with its mother” prompted a search that discovered  the  web site: “Beautiful paintings of Mary nursing the baby Jesus.” There are thirty one paintings displayed. Some put focus on the child, others on the mother.  In the painting, Virgin and Child by Hans Baldung the child Jesus  has fallen asleep after feeding, his forehead resting gently on her breast.  Time to rest and trust and for the viewer, surrender all one’s cares. The mother looks like Mary going over many matters in her heart. Perhaps it is Madonna and Child by Bernardino Luini that might best catch the tranquility of the mother that resembles that of the child: “my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.” The psalmist looks to Israel feeling at home in family with God. May we interpret it too as speaking to Mary mother of the church? Perhaps anachronistically as the title Mary Mother of the Church only became widely known when re-introduced by Paul VI at the closing of the third Session of Vatican II. If titles are distancing, the image of feeding at the breast is intimate and Mary is sharing the word which she has pondered in her heart. Known already to Ambrose of Milan in the Fourth century, the title embraces Mary as model disciple, recalls John’s imagery and expresses the communal character of our salvation in Christ. Mary’s humility is a refutation of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees whom one is to see no longer as referring to Jesus’ fellow Jews but to the Christian church leaders of Matthew’s time, late first century. His condemnation reechoes that of Malachi, Israel’s last prophet whose final question, however is a wake–up call to the intimacy of God’s relationship with us: “Have we not all one father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our ancestors?” (2:10)

    That’s why we need imagery of our ourselves, bonded with each other because weaned on the breast of God. John Paul II’s words in Redemptoris Mater  “… in her new motherhood in the Spirit, Mary embraces each and every one in the Church, and embraces each and every one through the Church.” [ #47]  ©2020 David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    10-25-20

    30th Sunday in Ordinary Time 148 SMF 60. Psalm 18 (17) Exodus 22:20-26 1 Thess 1:5-10 Matt 22:34-40

    Response: I love you Lord my strength

    The responsorial psalm is made up of the first few verses and the final verse of Psalm 18. This gives us a unique perspective on the readings, the first, Exodus 22 chosen because of the Gospel and the reading from Thessalonians adding depth to that dialog.  Jesus goes to Jerusalem and continues to teach there. In Matthew’s presentation Jesus is always teacher, now in his ministry, again in his Passion and then as Risen Lord. Every moment is a teachable moment. A great teacher finds  the right example and the right words.   All the better if the teacher can simply draw out what is going on in the student. Jesus has silenced the Sadducees on the question of the resurrection; now it is time for the Pharisees to silence Jesus on the question of the law’s most important commandment.  And Jesus who obviously liked to match wits, ups the ante. No, not which is the greatest but which is the greatest and first to which of course Jesus can add a second.

    Love yourself! This is Jesus’ doctrine? You must love your neighbor as yourself. If we listen to Paul speaking to the Thessalonians, loving your neighbor as yourself means being good news for your neighbor. How the people at Thessalonica, some of whom had a great difficulty to accept Paul in the first place, are now good news in how they receive the Good News of Jesus. This is a model of evangelization. This ad hoc letter is the movement’s first writing, about 49 AD. The greeting and opening thanksgiving is a living example of how to do the Gospel. In fact the outline of the early preaching (called kerygma) is found in verses 9b-10: and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming. They served a living and true God in the work of faith, the toil of love and the endurance of hope (verse 3). This is the content of their turning, conversion from idols, not done in word only but in power and the Holy Spirit and with full conviction (v.5).

    Did fear of the wrath to come play a part?  Short answer is yes because otherwise they had not turned to the living and true God. For anyone to be called true and living God and not be intolerant of sin is not worth the title. God owes it to God’s own self to be against sin for as Paul says in Romans 1:17 the Gospel is the revelation of God’s righteousness and of God’s wrath. The long answer brings us back to the Book of Exodus, that part which is the code of the covenant wherein is gathered all the follow up on the Ten Commandments, integral to God’s covenant with Israel. And there the motivation to love of neighbor is fear of the wrath of God. The concern is the stranger, the widow and the orphan, in other words all the vulnerable who will cry out if they are molested. The closing line (Exodus 22:26) is classic: if the one left bereft of his clothing cries to the Lord I will hear him for I am compassionate. On the one hand, it balances the mention of God’s anger as motivation and makes it real; on the other hand, the word “cry” brings the believer back to Exodus 2:23-24 where it is said that in the midst of their struggle with Pharaoh the Lord heard their cry and remembered the covenant that he had made with their ancestors. God’s anger is related to keeping a covenant relationship which God does not want violated.   This is the true and living God whom Christians have met in Jesus Christ. No wonder that Jesus equates love of God with love of neighbor and goes on to challenge us all to be honest covenant partners. The first and the second are now together the greatest commandment of the law. Luke (10:27) made the same point by placing them both under the same verb, to love. As Jesus goes to Jerusalem he is obeying no other law.©2020 David P. Reid ss.cc.
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    10-18-20

    29th Sunday in Ordinary Time 145-A 108 SMF  Ps 96:1+3, 4-5, 7-8, 9-10 Isaiah 45: 1,4-6, 1 Thess 1:1-5 Matt 22:15-21

    Response: To you O Lord, glory and power.

    This was a huge issue: paying taxes to Caesar. The ploy to get Jesus to say something that would undermine him  is an old trick in the public arena. But Jesus was not an either-or thinker. He was both-and. He was for both God and Caesar but in proper order. It is a matter of priorities: to God and to Caesar and the gradation is in terms of whose image is not  only on the coin but also in whose image have you been made?  The shift in the conversation from paying taxes to repaying is important. Some 40 million persons have been turned back after been invited to the table of life in the USA since 1973. Why? Because of a lack of priority as to whom to repay. Jesus asked to see the coin used. In using the coin, his interlocutors had already entered a relation with the one whose image appeared on the coin. So, Jesus argues that the question is not to whom to pay taxes but to whom to repay for the relationship already established.  This is no theoretical question and the confusion arises from the fact that his audience has under-evaluated what they were already doing.  Jesus will not say that they should not be in this relationship with Caesar. Better to deal with the devil you know than with the devil you do not know, namely anarchy. Jesus will say only  that this relationship is to be worked in the context of a greater relationship with God. The relationship with God is always implied and their imagining God is not to be equated with their imaging Caesar.  In equating the images in an either-or , they are hypocritical which mean to underestimate. They have not only underestimated the relationship they must now repay to God but also in their flattery of Jesus, they fall short of their own  words: “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality.” (22:16).  If they meant what they said, they would not be trying to catch Jesus in his speech.

    As human beings, citizens of the world, we live with ambiguity here “until thy kingdom come.” So either-or answers to complex questions just do not satisfy. Trying to indict a believer in Jesus the Christ  on the basis of  life’s perennial conundrums, is both an old game but also a self-destructive underestimation. Jesus was not lost for an answer because he had already worked out his priorities. Matthew would like the community to do the same.  Don’t let anyone trivialize your gift of faith on the basis of an old canard. Give to God what is God’s and that is glory and power. That’s the priority and the direction.  There may not be concrete, one-size-fits-all answers to life’s thorny questions. The discussion has to start with the glory and praise of God of all the peoples and nations. For this God is free and can as easily call Cyrus the Persian to his aid as any of his own people.  Today’s answer may be to-morrow’s heresy as was the case of Jeremiah and Hananiah (Jeremiah 28)! Things need to be constantly negotiated. Think of values and the language in which they are expressed. Perennial doctrine may have made an idol of the language in which we limited human beings express something of the glory and power of God reveled in the Gospel.

    Now to Thessalonica.   Paul, Timothy and Silvanus present themselves as “remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thess 1:3) How they live the virtues of faith hope and charity is writers’ to evaluate. The correspondence illustrates how they applied a both/and approach to questions of life now and life then on the Lord;s return. The discussion of the virtues is not straitjacketed but they are seen to flow together as work of faith, labor of love and steadfastness in hope. This confluence leads to receiving the word with joy in the Holy Spirit. (cf. vs.4-5). Their coherent and well integrated community made them good news to be heard. This description is of a community that has sorted out its priority and that is the call to holiness: “And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” (1 Thess 3:12-13)  © 2020 David P. Reid ss.cc.      

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    10-11-2020

    28th Sunday 142A  24SMF Psalm  23(22) Isaiah 25:6-10 Phil 4:12-14,19-20 Matt 22:1-14 

    Response: In the Lord’s house shall I dwell forever and ever.

    Epaphroditus! I am happy to be named David, always have been. But ever since studying the letter to the Philippians, the name Epaphroditus has taken on a pride of place in my thinking insofar as it reminds me of the rich mutuality that Paul experienced in his relationship with the community of that important Roman colony in Macedonia. Surely itinerant preachers have their favorite communities in which to find respite, and for Paul that was Philippi. Not that he didn’t have problems there. He did as we know from Acts Chapter 16:9-40. Paul was no stranger to meeting resistance, and for him being thrown out of a place was par for the course. A tent maker much occupied with business trips, there was no better person to cope with the vagaries of travel including incarceration.  The letter we have today, he wrote from prison (1:7, 1, 14, 17) but we cannot say which prison: Rome, Ephesus, or Caesarea.

    Wherever that was, he was blessed with the assistance of Epaphroditus about whom he writes at length in Chapter 2:25-30. The community of Philippi was supportive of Paul on many occasions, and E. was the one who carried gifts to Paul from Philippi. “You Philippians indeed know that in the early days of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you alone.”  (4:15). Here the word matter translates the Greek logos which can also mean strategy.  This language then strongly implies that within the Gospel there is a new way of thinking and acting. To live the Gospel is to live where everything is seen in terms of giving and receiving the gift who is God. Paul was deeply into what we would call today “gift analysis,” as we know from his work with the Corinthians. This gospel framework interconnects giving/receiving with an inner awareness of the spirit of God in our daily desires and actions. This consciousness helps communities two ways. First, it supplies a context of “all is gift” in which to measure merit or establish give and take or, if you will, pay back attitudes. Next, within this gospel context,  communities have a way to cultivate their charism, their gift and  prune and  work on their mission because  constitutive of every gift is a demand, a missionary demand to be Good News.

    Let’s try out Paul’s attitude on community to understand the man portrayed in the gospel story. Recall that it is  centered in the activity of God’s grace which is given and received. The man,  dragged into a wedding feast, is upbraided for failing to have a wedding garment. The element of reproach over the man’s inappropriate attire added on to the parable, destroys what was otherwise a lovely story of opening a party to the hoi polloi. Isn’t it a bit unreasonable therefore and downright shocking  to expect the man to come appropriately dressed when he was hauled into the party? There have been many attempts to soften the shock value, like saying there were garments available at the reception desk and the man didn’t bother to avail of them. But the last thing that Jesus’ parables need is such a rationalization. By the very nature of its symbolic significance the parable is meant to shock us into a new grasp of reality. In fact, Jesus shocked us into new attitudes of receiving a gift. When something is given as a gift, it should be received as a gift. Without such an attitude of gift and not of entitlement we will go unprepared to many a party and fail to answer the call of the Kingdom of God. “If you but knew the gift of God…” Jesus says to the Samaritan woman (John 4)  The shift is from having to being: Discern who you are in God’s eyes and act accordingly in faith because you, in being yourself, are  gift, a deep truth, for many a cross to accept. Prior to any giving and receiving, Epaphroditus  is gift. ©2020 David P. Reid ss.cc.
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    10/4/2020

    27th Sunday in Ordinary Time 139-A 85SMF Ps 80:9+12, 13-14, 15-16, 19-20 Isaiah 5:1-7 Philippians 4:6-9 Matthew 21:33-43

    Response: The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel

    “What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it? When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?” Isaiah 5:4. The so-called song of the vineyard is a bitter lament. A throw away culture says get over it, move on. Yes, there is truth in that but not before I have genuinely lamented and learned from the experience. If Isaiah’s text is disturbing, Matthew who uses Isaiah is even more disturbing. Into the parable, however,  Matthew has injected the words of Ps.118 which when all is read carefully, does not relate to any one image being presented in the parable. It is a splash of Corita Kent paint that resolves the tension of the text, by taking the whole discussion to a higher and liberating plane. However, the message of the original allegory is not lost but in fact heightened. Life can lay waste to an inheritance, make shreds of a promise.

    Backstory: Was the original a parable of Jesus or was the whole created as an allegory following the fall of Jerusalem and represents the Christian mission? The Gospel of Thomas (#65), a collection of the sayings of Jesus would suggest an early parable of Jesus later allegorized. These 114 sayings of Jesus, first discovered as fragments in Greek  at Oxyrhynchus in Egypt in 1898 may date from  as early as the first century ce. They were later confirmed by findings by Coptic manuscripts discovered in 1945 in Nag Hammadi near Cheonoboskion in Upper Egypt. All have greatly enriched the study of the gospels and particularly help in the appreciation of what they notably lack, the narrative framework of the gospels where the sayings of Jesus are heard within the contours of the story of his life, suffering and death. Thus we hear the parable, perhaps “an early parable of Jesus later allegorized”  in a more modest fashion and therefore allows us to see the Matthean additions.   

    Like many parables and indeed even Isaiah 5:4, cited above, the audience are asked to answer a question. The response of the people in Matthew is more harsh than Jesus would accept. “Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?" They said to him, "He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time." (Matt 21:40-41) The leasing the vineyard to other tenants evolves into giving the inheritance to others who will produce fruit. That fruit will include the eventual coming home  of the ones who first rejected the inheritance, to honor the free choice of the God whose call and gifts are irrevocable (Romans 11:29). Therein is the splash of hope and color and new energy. The One who was rejected had entrusted himself already to the owner of the vineyard.

    So why the lament? Loss is loss. By the mercy of God there is recovery but even God laments the loss of innocence.  Or should we say that lament is a necessary moment in the passage from praise to new praise? The Bible reads the human condition too well to be deluded that any one is untouched by loss. We all fall short of the glory of God. But there is a new innocence, that of the un-embittered. There are those who although they have suffered do not live forever in their wounds but rise above resentment and bitterness and move on. They understand the intrusion of Ps 118 into this parable of Jesus: Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the scriptures: "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is amazing in our eyes'? © David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    September 27, 2020

    26th Sunday 136A 29 SMF INSIGHTS # 104. Psalm 25(24) Ezekiel18:25-28 Phil 2:1-11 Matthew 21:28-32 RESPONSE: REMEMBER YOUR MERCY LORD

    The Gospel passage appears only in Matthew, suffered a bit of confusion in the textual handling of the text, nothing major (see footnotes in your Bible)  and is the first of three parables all having to do with response, inserted amid the controversies which arose when Jesus finally got to Jerusalem. The passage starts immediately upon the questioning by the chief priests and elders of Jesus’ authority to  practice his ministry and Jesus’ swift counter demand that they state by whose authority John the Baptist did what he did.

    Getting inside the logical flow of these arguments is the substance of Bible study. What’s going on? Were it not for Jesus’ own application of the parable of the two sons to the immediate situation of who is actually welcoming the message of Jesus, those being tax collectors and prostitutes, we might just see in this parable the moral implication of doing what you say you will do. (See notes in NAB) But applied on a bigger canvas by Jesus and then on a yet still bigger canvas of Jews and Gentiles, the necessity to be true to one’s word emerges as a major ingredient in doing the Gospel. But we were prepared for this kind of development because into the poetic character of the Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7) there is inserted a great possibility of re-reading texts expansively .

    Let’s glance therefore once more at the analogy Jesus uses as he concludes the Sermon on the Mount. "Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock;” 7:24). To act on the word is key, and this passage is an invitation to go back to re-hear the entire sermon. The imperative to take action is a major concern of Matthew. In fact, in 7:21-23, a deeper process of hearing is involved: interiorizing the word for a new day and then acting on it. Otherwise, even the confession of faith “Lord, Lord,” is a hollow pretention. The choices are stark: be a false prophet (7:15-19), an evildoer (V.23 anomie) or build your house on action.

    Action takes the doubt out of theory. Adventure, of course is the middle ground between theory and action.  “Getting in the act” was how Paul came to the Gospel. He performed what he considered his professional duty as an officer of extradition when he thought faith in Jesus was endangering the entitlement to the gifts of God that some in Israel claimed. But his action blew up in his face at Damascus. Whereas he had said no in a very loud way, he came to say yes in an equally loud way. What made him capable of changing his mind? What was his turning point?  What began taking effect in Paul’s consciousness? I would suggest that two factors accompanied with torrential emotion kicked in: personal responsibility (Ezekiel) and kenosis (Philippians). Ever since the Exile and the work of Ezekiel, one knew that the community is only as strong as the willingness of each member to be personally responsible. If guilt by association no longer worked neither would a sense of entitlement. When it comes to faith in Jesus, while to say yes is to join a community of God’s praise, the decision is still an exercise of individual personal responsibility. The community vibrates on the strength of each member’s kenosis, that is self-emptying such as Jesus who entitled to equality with God, chose to empty himself and become a servant. What goes on inside a person who throws himself or herself so decidedly into the passion and death of Jesus on a cross as Paul invites us to do? Look for examples every day in the heroic lives of the persons around you. Prostration and adventure belong together: prostration before the prayer of Jesus and adventure to translate into living the self-emptying of Jesus. Please plan on saying no. Then say yes. In between the two there is a change of mind, or metanoia, the New Testament way of saying conversion, worked out by the wonder of leaving yourself open to the praying of Jesus. ©2020 David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    September 20, 2020

    25th  Sunday 133-A  SMF-164 Ps 145:8-9, 10-11, 12-13 Isaiah 55:6-9 Phil 1:20-24,27 Matt 20:1-16

    Generosity over Luck Response: The Lord is near to all who call upon him

    Too good to be true. Advertisements for the lottery usually have a person jumping around shouting “too good to be true.” In the give and take of any human interaction luck is one thing, generosity is another. If someone is generous, very generous, my internal caution chip is activated, and I wonder “what does he need in return?” So the question from Matthew’s gospel sticks in my mind: “are you envious because I am generous?” (20:15)

    Allow that question to work on you, and you will find yourself pushed out from the shore of your personal comfort zone into deep water, very deep waters and sometimes troubled and turbulent waters. Out of one’s depth, the psalmist begins his acrostic by declaring upfront that there is no bottom. “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; his greatness is unsearchable.” (104:3) Hear unfathomable!  Without a measure how can one compare? My wages with yours, what I earn for so many hours and what you get for so few. In a world of limited goods, comparisons work; in a world that is without limits, comparisons fail, contrasts dim, identifications emerge. Who am I? Who is generous? Who is he or she who is generous beyond all comprehension? By whose rules are we playing? “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.” (Isaiah 55:8) What Isaiah says is, in fact, mild in contrast to what many have said on hearing this parable. It is an insult to the working man, or woman: Jesus knew nothing of labor law; he would be howled out of the union hall. Why wouldn’t people speak like this if we hear this story only on our terms?

    But stop. For a moment be present to  the experience of generosity –your own, or another’s–of a fathomless love, trustworthy of limitless giving. Surrender. Only then from within the experience of generosity is the insecurity of the other workers to be heard. Jesus has to shake us a lot to get us thinking and feeling how God thinks and feels about us. This parable is shock therapy. And we would prefer to kill the parabler than be open to the message. It staggers the imagination, it means that everything is up for grabs until one realizes that there is no need to grab: not only is there more where that generosity comes from, but the Lord is passionate about giving it away. How lovely when someone says to us: “You are no burden, honey, I love you.”  “So are my ways higher than your ways.” (Isaiah 55:9b)  Imagine coming home from Exile with that kind of talk in your ears!

    Shock therapy notwithstanding, however, my sympathy is with the workers who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching sun. (Mt 20:12) The manager may well ask, “did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?” (v.13) “Yes,” I would answer, but “I didn’t read the small print.” I get used to my way of seeing things and assumed that you’d fit in. But bringing home sinners from Exile and opening the gates of salvation to Gentiles is beyond my pay grade, my sane ways of envisioning the world. “God, you open your hand, satisfying the desire of every living thing.” (Isaiah 55:16)

    And now I know that I will never know Jesus until I jump in at the deep end.  This doesn’t happen incrementally. The shock may be taken in overtime as the earth absorbs an earthquake. I give in to being loved, redeemed so generously, but the initial leap in response to such a gift has to be taken blindfolded to block my own prejudices. At one moment, Paul had to let go of comparisons, neither looking to those who flatter nor those who squeak but identifying the urge within him: jump off. “What doesn’t matter? Just this that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice.” (Phil 1:18)  “…and this one thing I do; forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:14) To give full horizontal vent to his or her vertical sentiments of gratitude and praise, the psalmist turned to the coming generations. “They,” meaning the generations, “shall celebrate the fame of your abundant kindness.” (Ps.145:7) ©2020 David P. Reid ss.cc.

     


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    September 13, 2020

    24th Sunday in Ordinary Time  130-A 122SMF Ps 103:1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12 Sirach 27:30-28:7 Romans 14:7-9  Matt 18:21-35

    Response: the Lord is king and merciful slow to anger and rich in compassion

    The emotions are hard to figure out. Take anger. John Cassian who died in 432 around the time of Augustine and Patrick, brought to the West a lot of the wisdom from the East about the spiritual life.  Then once established in France, he was asked to write up what he had learned. While he emphasized the call of God to holiness of life, he also saw the rooting out of vices as crucially important. Anger was associated with avarice coming only after gluttony and fornication. While he delved into the muddy waters of depression and spiritual laziness (acedia), he focused finally on pride and vainglory.  I find the alignment of anger with depression and acedia to be insightful. He sounds like he read a lot of Sirach. He anticipated a lot of modern thinking about the baneful effects of unaddressed anger. Today we see anger written large across the world although there is also much mismanagement of anger in violence and even terrorism. Why even the resort to rape and sexual abuse as a war strategy to subjugate a people is also a form of repressed anger bursting out to the detriment of others. In any cinema complex there is at least one movie showing at any one time  which glorifies uncontrollable anger. Some say that that is vicarious therapy. I doubt it. If our modern world does not know how to deal with anger, its nescience reflects a struggle that humankind has had for a long time.

    The same gospel of Matthew that asks in the Sermon on the Mount for interiorly addressing the sources of our anger allows the master of the house in the story of forgiveness in chapter 18 to get angry. The servant himself once forgiven of a huge debt came down unmercifully on his fellow servant who owed him a pittance in contrast.  Thus he showed that he had no appreciation of the break which he had gotten from his master. Yes, it is enough to make you mad. And I assume that the penalty dealt him was not unjust and met standards with which  the other servants who reported the disconnect would have agreed. But did the master have to get angry? Immediately I hear you say oh he was justified in his anger. Since I see anger as a gift that shows us the boundaries of value and disvalue, I agree.  I am happy that my parents were angry with me when I did stupid things. But what about the Sermon on the Mount?

    Jesus addresses anger, not in a beatitude but in a hyperthesis 5:21-26 which means that Jesus is stretching beyond what you have heard was said to the ancients.  “But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister….” is how v.22 reads. Some ancients added what is one word in Greek and two in English “without cause” and compromised the trenchant character of the Sermon. Either they wanted to remove obvious contradictions with other parts of the Bible and even of the same gospel or they wanted to make the message more palatable. But as John Cassian implies these words are weasel, that is, the cause can grow and grow. St. Jerome who was remembered for his cantankerous ways agreed. The purity of intention which is solicited by this hyperthesis is extraordinary and cannot be backed off. Any resorting to anger, no matter how just the cause is always a falling short and leaving oneself open to temptation. In modern processes for peace building there is talk of no escalation. Police officers are trained not to escalate the anger when they are called to an incident, mostly domestic squabbles. If John Cassian was worried about increasing the causes, Jesus wants to engage the inner person and know from where this anger comes. For some it came with their mother’s milk. There are millions born today into an inherently angry situation of privation, refugee camps, irreversible poverty, abusive relationships. The sheer multiplicity of causes to be angry makes the uncompromising words of Jesus all the more reassuring and their echo in the monastic setting of reparative love all the more  challenging. What is this life all about?  Our Gospel dealing with anger seems such a pitiful thimbleful over against all the avalanche of sin and disgrace.  But in the eyes of God who alone knows how to handle anger it is a down payment on an inheritance of God’s righteousness. God will not be mocked. Yes, says the psalmist God  is at times slow to anger but is in fact rich in mercy.  God knows how to handle anger. Ask God to absorb our angers in a prayer of Lamentation. Talk with someone who has faced down their anger, their cosmic anger because it takes a long time to interiorize the saying of Paul: “If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's.” (Romans 14:8)  Was the master (Matthew 18) angry or did he absorb the anger of the servant and begin the process of conversion? If there were no accounting for the elder’s mishandling of his junior, would he have learned anything? Would we?  ©2020 David P. Reid ss.cc.
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    September 6, 2020

    23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time 127-A 103SMF.​Ps 95:1-2, 6-7b, 7c-9​​Ezekiel 33:7-9 Romans 13:8-10 Matt 18:15-20

    Response: Oh that today you would listen to his voice

    A 12 year old child noticed a disturbing phenomenon. And said something. A foreign woman who took out the garbage next door never smiled. Always sad. Eventually it was discovered that she was a domestic slave, one of 27 million slaves in the world today according to the UN counting. Something was done. Law broken, law repaired, love of neighbor wins out. What if the neighbor is Christian, one of your own community? How would the community confront the problem?  Is this a moment of re-evangelization, treating the sinner as a Gentile or tax collector (Matthew 18:7)  Who am I to condemn? But no one is asking for condemnation, for judgement yes, the willingness to ask questions as did the 12 year old.

    Many take Mt. 18:19-20 as a separate saying in the Matthean community and see a situation other than fraternal correction at stake. “Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them." And surely the Amen saying in v.18 does seem to be closure of the discussion which began in v.1. There is an assurance of heavenly assistance in the aforementioned method for dealing with a sinner in the community. “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” But verses 21 through 35 give an extended parable on forgiveness and so the thought that vs. 19-20 have also to do with reconciliation cannot be easily set aside. But it would seem that these verses apply here and also elsewhere. In other words, there cannot be forgiveness without prayer and all community prayer needs unity. The phrase used is “to be in symphony.” This is provocative. Not only ought we to be conscious of God’s presence but of each other’s presence. Vatican II’s document on the Liturgy cites the text as indicative of the presence of the Risen Lord when Christians gather to pray. This would mean that the concerns of the risen Lord become the concerns of the community.  The text of Matthew 18:19-20 anticipates the promise to the community of the presence of the Risen, ever commissioning Lord in 28:16-20  and sets the reclaiming of a fallen brother or sister within the context of the general commission of the whole movement. There is the immediacy of a brother to brother, sister to sister contact. Prayer is an indispensable part of the missionary strategy and needs to be accompanied by personal contact. Verse 15 addresses the plight of the individual person: "If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one.”

    Big, huge impersonal condemnations do not work. They sound good but are ineffectual. Nothing compares with face to face conversation, prepared for,  and if possible carried forward in  prayer. The discussion in The Catechism of the Catholic Church is truly helpful here. By way of commentary on the saying of the Our Father “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us,” one reads: “It is there, in fact, "in the depths of the heart," that everything is bound and loosed. It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession.” #2843 This seems to be a simple yield from a justifiably famous text of Matthew’s gospel. And yet the yield that all reconciliation is to be accomplished in prayer is beyond cavil.  The text of the Catechism brings us back to the reading from Ezekiel. The prophet reminds us of the responsibility to correct an erring brother or sister, the correlative to his new emphasis on personal responsibility. Ezekiel calls us sentinels, watchmen, “So you, mortal, I have made a sentinel for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.” (Ez 33:7) The prophet has added yet another dimension to the prophetic office beyond that of healing, there is the task of being a sentinel who monitors the fraternal correction of the community but only in and through prayer. There is nothing more watchful of God’s ways with humankind, than being in a Trinity of prayer with others and especially one with whom we need to reconcile.

    As an epilog we return to Psalm 95,  a favorite of the Church’s Liturgy of the Hours) but also of the author of the Letter to the Hebrews.  It is an entrance hymn to the worship community and a call to repentance  that needs to happen today. If those two aims are clear then also Paul’s injunction to the Romans: “Owe no one anything except  to love one another.”  (13:8). Without the presence to us of the Risen Lord,  that will not happen! ©2020 David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    August 30, 2020

    22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time 124-A 69SMF Ps 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9 Jeremiah 20:7-9  Romans 12:1-2 Matthew 16:21-27

    Response: For you my soul is thirsting O Lord my God

    All across the world everyday, hundreds of thousands of Christians pray the psalms: Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox. Add to that the ongoing psalmody of the Jewish synagogues. And there are others. The Lectionary  makes great use of the psalms but also the Liturgy of the Hours, the official prayer of the church. Every Sunday of the First week of the four week cycle and also on Feast days, Psalm 63 is prayed. “O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” Given the growing in-access to potable water around the globe the imagery of the psalm is even more appealing to-day than when first prayed.  

    We pray the psalm and the psalm prays itself into and out of us. Am I fooling myself? Do I really want union with God? The psalmist longs for the sanctuary and when not accessible because of the enemies (vs.9-10), the psalmist will seek the Lord at home: “when I think of you on my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night.” (v.6) Power, glory, covenant kindness: these are the experiences of God that he seeks. Put this psalm alongside the words of Jeremiah and ask what to do if God gives you more than you asked for. “O Lord, you have enticed me, and I was enticed;” v.7 this is a tamed translation; NAB is bolder: “You duped me O Lord and I let myself be duped.” There are other translations: “You seduced me O Lord and I let myself be seduced.” (Christian Community Bible) Whichever way the translation goes the follow up is decisive in seeing the depth of the captivation. “If I say, "I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name," then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” (v.9) I cannot not speak the word; that is seduction or as the text says: “you have overpowered me, and you have prevailed.” Jeremiah goes on to detail the painful things that he must say to the people as a prophet.  His spiritual journey is wrapped up with the rejection of God’s word.  We know from his confessions (12:1-6, 15:15-21, 17:14-18, 18:18-23, 20:7-18) that  his life became a passion narrative that anticipated the Passion Narrative of Jesus of Nazareth. When Jeremiah was first called, he tried to get out of it by claiming that he was too young. He is now older and more is asked of him. He may have once applied Psalm 63 to his personal situation but now his call is much bigger and more troublesome than himself. Were he to voice his desire to go to the sanctuary it would be to condemn what was going on there (See Jeremiah 7). Why? Life has become for him “terror all around.” “For I hear many whispering: "Terror is all around! Denounce him! Let us denounce him!"  In v. 10, all his close friends want to do to him what God did in the first place: "Perhaps he can be enticed, and we can prevail against him, and take our revenge on him."” They want their counter-seduction of Jeremiah to be stronger than God’s seduction of him. Why do they do this? “All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine.” (V.10 NAB) Will God’s seduction of him win out? Jeremiah is in a classical situation of claim and counter claim and the more effective he is as a prophet, the greater the counter claim. What if we fail to discern the claims and counter claims on our lives, not even knowing that a battle rages for our soul.  

    Let the adrenaline of Psalm 63 aid the Christian to “be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2) Paul addresses on-going conversion, the in-depth shift in how we view everything.  The key word is “discern,” as a key ingredient in forming a good conscience. Jesus also knew the counter claim, the counter seduction of Jeremiah. He said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."  (Matthew 16:23.) Jeremiah said the same of those who blocked me: “All my close friends are watching for me to stumble.” Are yours? ©2020 David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    August 23, 2020

    21st Sunday in Ordinary Time 122-A 161.SMF Ps 138:1-2a, 2b-3, 6+8 Isaiah 22:15,19-23 Romans 11:33-36 Matthew 16: 13-20 Response: Lord, your love is eternal do not forsake the work of your hands.

    There is a bold confidence expressed in our liturgical response to the psalm: “Lord, … do not forsake the work of your hands.” On that confidence, we find the foundation of the church: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”  (Matthew 16:18) The church is an answer to prayer, the prayer of Jesus for the gift of the Spirit. There is an expression “on the wings of a prayer,” and the whole big institution of the Church, rests on the timeliness of a whisper to God. Said another way, as acknowledged from the time of the early movement, the church rests on the confession of Peter which is gift of God: “For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.”  (v.17) The Father never forsakes the works of the Father’s hands. Better that the history of the church be the crumbling of institutions in order to show that all is gift, the gift of confessing faith: "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." (v.16) The adjective “living” never felt so good. So the rock is a metaphor of God’s commitment, not a photo of the Vatican where the words of Matthew are beautifully written around the cupola of St. Peter’s. Even there, high up and lofty, they are never exhausted. And the psalm hits home again: “For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly; but the haughty he perceives from far away.” (v.6) The metaphor is wonderful for human beings cannot survive without institutions but it is their necessary and continuous transformation-in-identity that defines living as in “living God.” That is what it means to live. All is gift from the living God and the communion of the church makes a metaphor of the communion that is God. The key to the metaphor is the livingness of God, the constant gifting of humankind with telling the story of the love that saves us.

    A metaphor is “ like a peg in a secure place,” (Isaiah 22:23) as long as the one who makes the metaphor has the power to deliver. God delivers. The church at every Eucharist  asks in the Liturgy for the deliverance of the Spirit that those who receive the Body  and Blood of the Lord will become the church, the missionary Body of Christ. Christ is the metaphor of God and the church is the metaphor of Christ. A sacrament is a metaphor that delivers and so said another way, the church is the sacrament of Christ as Christ is the sacrament of God. We can go further and say that the church is the metaphorizing metaphor in the power of the Spirit gift of the Father through the Risen Lord.

    All of this was said another way by Isaiah the prophet when Shebna was fired from his job as master of the household of the king. Imagine! He carved a tomb for himself on the rock.  Then Isaiah announces the alternative: “On that day I will call my servant Eliakim son of Hilkiah, and will clothe him with your robe and bind your sash on him. I will commit your authority to his hand, and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and no one shall shut; he shall shut, and no one shall open. I will fasten him like a peg in a secure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his ancestral house.”  (22:21-23)  Although the history of the sayings put together here is notoriously difficult to unravel, there are six verbs whose subject is “I.” The prophet carries the authority of God to effect this change and to set up a new order. If this opens the mind of the Christian reader to the phenomenon of apostolic succession whereby brothers in the faith are called to serve as bishops, the emphasis is on gift, prophetic discernment and the role of the Spirit. Other criteria are obviously not excluded but the emphasis is such that the prayer of the Psalmist is not sabotaged: “ Lord, your love is eternal, do not forsake the work of your hands.” ©2020 David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    August 16, 2020

    20th Sunday in Ordinary Time 118-A 75SMF Ps 67:2-3, 5, 6+8 Isaiah 56:1,6-7 Romans 11:13-5, 29-32 Matthew 15: 21-28

    Response: Let all the peoples praise you O Lord let all the people praise you.

    The Shoah  was a turning point in the history of Judaism.  The Holocaust continues to demand of the Christian movement a penetrating examination of conscience. A long known text in Paul has become newly familiar and often quoted. From Romans 11:29 we have “ for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” The gifts fit within the call and there is nothing to be taken back, there is no regret. God has nothing to regret in making a covenant with Abraham and it stands forever.  God did have regrets once. That was back in Genesis 6:6 when seeing all the evil in the world God regretted having made humankind. “And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.” For the same Greek word, the translations move between regret and sorrow. The same word “regret” is found in Romans but it is descriptive of the gifts and the call as “ir-regrettable,” normally translated irrevocable because the word “call’  evokes the image of the voice used to call.  Whence the shift? No sweeter five words (Hebrew) were ever written than the next sentence in Genesis 6:8: “But Noah found favor in the sight of the Lord.” The take-away is that the favor that Noah found in the eyes of God endures. The clause “for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable,”  is giving the reason for the balanced, almost poetic statement:  “As regards the gospel they are enemies of God for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved, for the sake of their ancestors.” The governing thought here recalls an old argument: was the Gospel preached to the Gentiles because the Jews rejected it or did the Jews reject the Gospel because it was preached to the Gentiles. The first position finds resonance in Luke’s Acts of the Apostles; but also within Luke, Jesus is rejected because he interpreted the Scriptures in favor of the outsider (Luke 4). The words “for your sake,” capture this discussion, whatever we might consider the reason for the turn to the Gentiles. “For your sake” gives the reason for humility on the part of the Gentiles in relationships to the Jews forever. The context is the conclusion of a powerful argument that has gone on for three chapters in Romans chapter 9 through 11, ending in a wonderful doxology praising God for God’s inscrutable wisdom of solidarity and inclusion. This was Paul’s challenge and is ours today. The sacred canopy over the whole discussion is God’s election: “they are beloved.” The word “beloved” comes from the wonderfully rich “agape,” and the word “election” has already drawn our attention in Romans 9:9 where how God chooses has been discussed apropos of Jacob and Esau. Why this choosing in ways that defy human planning, “the older shall serve the younger”? Verses 11-12 are astounding and ultimately reassuring: Even before they had been born or had done anything good or bad (so that God's purpose of election might continue,  not by works but by his call) she (Rebecca) was told, "The elder shall serve the younger." We, Jews and Gentiles, we are saved by the freedom of the one who calls; works of the Law of Moses are not the determinant in the matter of salvation; no, it is God’s freedom to call which is rooted in God’s mercy. So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy.” V.16  Paul knows that he has not answered all the questions but only after the Holocaust did Christians of our age awaken to how far he had gone. Paul had addressed a major pastoral concern: why should Gentiles trust God if it were true that God abandoned God’s covenant with the Jews? Answer: God never abandoned God’s covenant with the Jews and if you think that way,  you still do not know God. The ever purifying element in the Christian Gospel is both mission to the Gentiles and inclusion of the Jews. Some see in the final doxology a call to leave off to the final times the resolution of this seeming contradiction and a challenge to live in mystery and worship in the present of God’s beautiful strategy of love for all humankind. Paul’s teasing of his Gentile readers by speaking of a branch grafted onto  the natural root is a shadow of the outrageous images of Isaiah the prophet calling home the eunuchs from the Exile and foreigners to worship in Jerusalem, the section of Isaiah 56 that did not make it into the Lectionary. How much we don’t know may be our salvation! ©2020 David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    August 9, 2020

    19th Sunday in Ordinary Time 115-A 90SMF Ps 85:9ab+10, 11-12, 13-14 1 Kings 19:9,11-13 Romans 9:1-5 Matthew 14:22-33

    Response: Lord let me see your kindness and grant us your salvation.

    In the 111 years of its life (1905-2016) the Pontifical Biblical commission has produced 37 documents, some of the more recent being the more significant. In 2001, a document on the way in which Christians read the scriptures of Judaism as their own is an excellent resume of the development of thinking in regards not only to Biblical study but in how Bible study has been altered because of events in history, principally the Holocaust.  Naturally chapters 9-11 of Romans figure prominently in the discussion. Romans 9:1-5, Paul´s overture to his full discussion comes in for specific comment. Paul´s offer to be anathema to Christ for the sake of his people were that to help them to accept Jesus as the Christ of God is adjudged his greatest gift of self but least possible. It is like people who, to say something emphatically, declare “well I be damned, if such and such doesn´t happen…..” Paul´s similar self-imprecation is accompanied with an outpouring of a very genuine sorrow which ultimately yields to a glorious doxology at the completion of the discussion in Romans 11:33-36.  On reflection, however, today´s Lectionary response  says the same  positively and without any offer of anathema. “Let us see your kindness and we shall be saved.” What the psalmist does with “kindness” Paul does with his doxology. In fact, were one to look for an explanation of this well-known and very often used word, ḥesed, kindness, there is none better than Paul´s: “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! "For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?" "Or who has given a gift to him, to receive a gift in return?" For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.”

    “The Agony and the Ecstasy” is a neat way to describe Paul´s journey from tears to doxology. His was not the first time that journey was made, lying as it does in the sinews of salvation history. One example was Elijah´s journey to Horeb.   With how many tears did Elijah betake himself back to the Lord in face of mounting opposition and social disarray. He is alone and has become the victim of Jezebel´s anathema, (1Kings 19:2,10,14). But Elijah is not to find God in the expected phenomena of nature (wind, earthquake or fire)  as was Moses´ experience on Horeb (See footnote NAB). God spoke in a whisper. And the question is repeated: why are you here? Elijah has a chance to repeat and expand his answer. God´s answer is a furthering commission, not an unusual answer from God when one complains that the load is too heavy.  The message can be appreciated in the church today because the going is tougher than in times past  when it seemed that the social environment was more helpful to people of faith. Today the need for community is clearer.

    Witness Peter´s attempt to go it alone voiced in what could be heard as a threat: “Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." He said, "Come."” (Matthew 14:28-29) Peter sounds like a man who has not yet travelled the road from tears to ecstasy. No doubt he will and when he does he will do it well. This passage about the coming to Jesus on the water in Matthew is tucked into the section of his gospel which addresses the needs of the church (chapters 14-18). Long before Peter will emerge in the Caesarea Philippi scene as the spokesperson for the others (16:13-20), he needs not the proof of a sign worked for him but he needs to be formed within the community´s whisper of faith. His little faith needs the sustenance of the community who worships the Risen Lord ("Truly you are the Son of God." 14:33). His faith is the creed of the community to which each one comes in his or her own journey from tears to ecstasy. The genius of the Christian movement is the individual and the community, solidarity not smothering, personal conscience not group think, a communion of saints now and for the future, a quantum leap whereby the whole is lived out in each member and each finds glory beyond the threat of self-imprecation when one surrenders one´s all in freedom, love and personal commitment.  Alas, even then, all we ever touch is the hem of his garment. (14:36) Faith in the big picture comes in whispers and hems and an ultimate surrender to glory! ©2020 David P. Reid ss.cc.
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    August 2, 2020

    18th Sunday in Ordinary Time 113 A 166SMF Ps 145:10-11, 15-16, 17-18 Isaiah 55:1-3, Romans 8:35,37-39 Matt 14:13-21

    Response: The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our need

    I go back often to recall a retreat for soup-kitchen volunteers  that I attended. The one sentence I remembered: “at the end of the day the poor  may not remember what they ate but they will remember how they were served.” The psalmist and Matthew conspire to show us how God serves. God serves with a feeling heart. That God has a heart for us is clear in the cadence of Ps.145. God is one who serves. As much as we love to eat, God loves to provide. As much as we need to do to survive, God loves to be burdened with us, to marshal the assets of nature to meet our need. We are a burden to God, a burden generously carried. God is happy that God’s credibility is tied to God’s care of our needs. God is beyond mocking that he led Israel out of Egypt to die in the desert. God rejoices that God solicited our cooperation. Our talents fit in with God’s economy, the divine housekeeping of the universe. The marvel of divine provision is daily,  unbreakable and for want of another word, inexhaustible.  

    “Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever.” (Ps.145:2) This theme is found in the Our Father with a word, an adjective, that is un-translatable which can mean daily and existentially (Matthew 6:11 epiousion).  There is a delicate beginning to each day with the laying out of the breakfast table, be it a formal affair, business or a stop-over at a fast-food place. Between vs 2 and 16 of the psalm, the psalmist draws an ever larger circle until he comes to “the eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.” (v.15) This daily provision causes one to see other dimensions of God’s providence. For one, there is the endurance of God’s caring: “your dominion endures through all generations.” (v.13) This verse, beginning with the letter nun in the Hebrew alphabet and needed in the making of this acrostic psalm  is missing in the Hebrew. But it is present in Greek and Latin and now evidenced in findings from Qumran. While the verse anticipates verse 17, it supplies important  language to the argument of the psalm. The verse is translated (New Jerome Biblical Commentary 34:162) “Faithful is Yahweh in all his works, and loyal in all his words.” Not only does the phase sum up the psalm but grounds the thought in Paul’s use of the word “separate.” No power can ever undo God’s faithful and loyal love.  “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? … nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35,39 Italics added) The same word is found in Matthew 19:6 “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” where Jesus applies it to  marriage. Applying Paul further, even if a divorce in marriage in unavoidable, the love of God endures for both parties.

    God’s care is daily, and unbreakable. To what does it lead? “Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; his greatness is unsearchable.” (Ps. 145:3) “inexhaustibly examined” would is a good translation always leaving a (good) taste. This was the good taste of the feeding in the desert. The eating is followed by the experience of Jesus walking on the lake (Matt 14:25). Although frightened the disciples soon began to make important connections.   Peter helped with his confession  and he was joined therein by all in the boat. They worshipped Jesus: “Truly you are the Son of God.” (4:33)  they were worshipping the One who had a compassionate heart (14:14), one in whom God opened God’s hand and gave them food in due season. The experience of Jesus as Risen Lord walking on the lake confirmed the good feeling that they had of Jesus  when he served them at table. In fact, he himself asked to be so remembered. ©2020 David P. Reid ss.cc.
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    July 26, 2020

    17th Sunday in Ordinary Time 109A 144SMF Ps 119: 57+72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130 1 Kings 3:5,7-12 Romans 8:28-30 Matt 13:44-52 

    Response: How I love your law

    Purpose is the upfront position with which a person sets forth a task. God is not without God’s purpose, in fact the citation from Paul’s Letter to the Romans is built around the plan or purpose of God. “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose (prothesis).” Paul goes on to show how relentlessly God follows up on what God proposes to do, leading Paul to ask the boldest question of all: who can divorce us from the love of Christ? (v.35). The obvious answer is no one. Then Paul elaborates (vs. 35-39). The upshot of this Liturgy is that this relentlessness in pursuing God’s prothesis is our salvation.

    This is the inner core of what Torah as the story of God’s love is all about. Oh yes, steadfast love is the driving energy of Psalm 119. To know this love is the pearl of great price, exudes a wisdom, promotes a listening heart, remains a treasure that keeps giving. “Knowing love”  both opens out the meaning of loving the Torah in Psalm 119 and is at the same time the message of the psalm: to know the law is to love the law. Torah, as both story and law,  is its own verification because the Torah is the creating and saving pattern of God’s relationship with us. As the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, the Torah begins with the story of creation! Torah is a powerful antidote to the anarchy in which we live modern life. Terrorism in its wildest forms is only an outrigging of the inner terror and turmoil in which we live when we despise the law and see it only as an affront to our liberties. The script for the unspeakable physical violence we see levelled on innocent populations today was already written for the violent movies with which we are entertained. These movies often with savior motifs, are produced  in utter ignorance of the principle that one cannot do evil to attain a good, the end does not justify the means. The evil means, even to attain what is good, has within itself an intoxicating fascination which does war on the attractiveness of the good, the true and the beautiful. The psalmist prefers to invest energy in the purposefulness of God’s ways with us and therein find all the fascination that the human spirit can absorb. The more entrenched is the fascination with violence in the modern human psyche, all the more necessary it is to nurture the attractive beauty of the well phrased mysterium tremendens et fascinans, the all-awesome and fascinating mystery of God’s steadfast love: “Let your steadfast love become my comfort according to your promise to your servant.” (Ps.119:76.)  For the  Sixth Sunday A, ( SMF 143,) there was a discussion of the structure of this psalm. Now it is time to claim that behind the imposed structure there is a passionate involvement in the Torah of God’s loving kindness, steadfast love which has delivered the prophet so often from turmoil and countless accusations on the part of his enemies.  Sometimes people speak almost in formulae in order to retain some control over their feelings. So too does the psalmist for his indebtedness to God’s saving love knows no bounds to be prayerfully honored by the discriminating angels sent to do the final shucking. (Matthew 13:49-50)... in the eschaton as Matthew says with a rejoinder from Paul “ for the destruction of the flesh so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.” (1 Cor 5:5).

    Psalm 119 expresses well the spirituality of the Pharisees although in the telling of the story, some have received a bad rap from the evangelists. Jesus is often presented in contention with them. As the story develops, they are often made the fall guys. In reality, Jesus much appreciated the Pharisees and often his contention with them is between legitimate interpretations of the law.  After all, Judaism of today was saved from extinction thanks to their love of the Torah. For faith in Jesus the Christ is not engendered by misrepresenting the theology of the Pharisees. Rather out of an appreciation of Judaism and of the Pharisees’ attachment to the spirit of the law, some are led to the further revelation of God’s will in Jesus of Nazareth, all within the mysterious purposes, as we know from Paul,  the prosthesis of God which is found between love and hatred: “Truly I love your commandments more than gold, more than fine gold…I hate every false way.” Psalm 119:127-130 ©2020 David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    July 19, 2020

    16th Sunday in Ordinary Time 106-A 91SMF Ps 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16 Wisdom 12:13,16-19, Romans 8:26-27, Mt 13:24-43 

    Response: Lord you are good and forgiving

    This Psalm  is at once sweet and gentle and yet downright realistic. Vs. 1-7 is clearly petition, vs.8-11 is an expansive  song of praise. Vs. 12-13 are dedicated to giving thanks and one assumes that the psalmist has been the recipient of an oracle of salvation. The final verses vs. 14-17 repeat as it were the flow of the psalm and then only in vs 14 and 17 do we hear of the source of the psalmist´s problem. Insolent people and ruffians trouble him, people who do not set God before their eyes. The psalmist asks to be made a sign of God’s favor. As a result his enemies will be shamed out of their evil ways. Just how long does it take for one to be so shamed as to quit the way of evil and choose the good? However long it takes better to be patient than to rush into war. Wear down the opposition with endurance!  

    There is a way to do that and it is called simplicity which according to the reading from wisdom has deep roots in the oneness of God. But first a note on v. 11 of the Ps where the psalmist addresses simplicity: “give me an undivided heart to revere your name.” This is the lynch pin which ties together a psalm made up of bits and pieces from other psalms. The Greek, Latin and Syriac translated the Hebrew as saying “rejoice my heart” but the Hebrew is well read as saying “give me an undivided heart.” In v. 8 the psalmist gives the underpinning of this simplicity. “There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours.”  The unity of the individual believer is related to the unicity of God and on that theme hangs the whole of today’s ordo. No, the parables of Matthew do not call us to Quietism which is the unrecognized foil of Pelagianism. The first wants mystically to leave all to God, a heresy of the 17th century  and the second, a heresy as far back as Augustine’s time in the fifth century, that  assumes all for the believer, unaffected by original sin.  Precisely the oneness of God honors but puts into proper relationship the part of the believer.  Pope Francis’s rebuttal of neo-Pelagianism in Gaudete et Exultate (2018)is recommended reading!

    Thus the liturgy today leads to a full throated celebration of the oneness of God who in the belief of our ancestors was, is and will be forever a God who acts. If Israel’s faith was rooted in the only God who acted on their behalf, Israel’s faith matured to recognizing there is no other God. And this discovery of the uniqueness and then unicity of God finds wonderful and cogent argumentation in the Book of Wisdom, naturally. Take it as expected of the God who acts that today’s reading is from a long reflection on God’s favorite action, mercy (11:17-12:22).  This is but one of many digressions in this book which compulsively philosophizes on the faith of Israel in the context of the absorption of Judaism in the Hellenistic world. The philosophy of the day was practical knowledge of how to make a go of it in this world and for the Jewish person to relate God’s mercy and God’s unicity was a singular accomplishment. God doesn’t have to look over God’s shoulder in fear of being side swiped, out-paced, come off as a patsy. God has no rivals to contend with, no competition, nothing to lose in being kind and merciful. God owes no one an excuse for being lenient, clement, merciful, indulgent.  God’s power is alone the measure of God’s mercy and compassion. The deeper the biblical refection goes, the less the author holds back and there forms in the heart of the believer a simplicity reflecting God’s unicity which defies adequate expression. Begin with the verses chosen for today’s reading 12:13, 16-19 and work the text up and down, back and forth using at least two translations. The reasoning is convincing,  the emergence of a wonderful confidence in God’s mercy is disarming.  Our defenses fall, our surrender is complete. It is not that we work on our salvation but actively contemplate, which means put into practice, the sheer dynamism of a compassionate God who wants nothing less than the seduction of God’s own creatures. “But you are merciful to all, for you can do all things, and you overlook people's sins, so that they may repent. For you love all things that exist, and detest none of the things that you have made, for you would not have made anything if you had hated it.” (11:23-24). Don’t even try to counter that argument! Just  listen again to what Paul says of the Spirit of this uniquely one, communitarian, merciful God:  “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:27-28) © 2020 David P. Reid ss.cc.
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    July 12, 2020

    15th Sunday in Ordinary Time 103-A 70SMF Ps 65:10, 11, 12-13, 14 Isaiah 55:10-11 Romans 8:18-23 Matthew 13:1-23   

    Response: Some seed fell into rich soil and produced its crop

    The ordo of this lectionary selection celebrates the one, enduring and too often over looked message of the Parable of the Sower. Despite all the difficulties, God’s word is always fruitful. Never, ever forget it! Isaiah 55 is called upon to back up this indomitable fact. God’s word never returns to God a failure. God’s Word fulfills the goal for which God speaks. This is a wonderful message of hope and celebration. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (vs.10-11)

    Matthew presents the parable 13:1-9, then an explanation of why Jesus spoke in parables 10-16, explanation of the parable 18-23. Then other parables of the Kingdom follow, 24-53 with the ending typical in Matthew of the end of a distinct discourse. The lay out of the parable of the Sower resembles somewhat the flow of Psalm 65 for it first points to the difficulties (Matthew 13: 1-7) just as the Psalm points to the need of forgiveness and a return to the sanctuary (vs.1-5a).  The psalm is concerned first to get the community (“we”)  to the sanctuary.  The plurality has already been widened to “all flesh” as a sign of what is to come in later verses. The turning point is signaled in v.5 with the words of the covenant: deliverance and salvation. Thus the God of salvation is the God of creation. The earth is described, vs. 5b through v.8 where yet another turn is taken. “You make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy.” Do those who go out in the morning, return rejoicing in the evening?  With this turn, the focus is on the harvest in what some see as a harvest thanksgiving song, vs.9-13.  In the gospel, the parable stays with the difficulties right through to the final verse where the seed sown on good ground yields, a hundred fold or sixty or thirty. Imaginatively one may ask if the seed is the same seed with many attempts being made to get some growth. With the farmer, such a profligate loss may be par for the course but with God, no word will be lost. God’s harvest! 

    As often as we read this passage about the purpose of the parable (Mt 13:10-16) there is the awkwardness of explaining that Jesus spoke in parable less the people should understand and be saved. Stated later in the passage and in another way “so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn— and I would heal them.” (v.15) It seems that Jesus does not want the people converted. Since that is patently wrong we explore the meaning from another angle, recalling that the words do reflect what was said to Isaiah when he was called to be a prophet (Isaiah 6: 10). There are a few basic truths at stake. One is that there is no cheap grace here. Jesus will not water down the message to get folks on board. Second is the reality that Jesus will be rejected. Were he not rejected he would not have had to come. That is a simply written sentence but it contains an awesome lot. If we would not have said no to Jesus, there would have been no need for him to come. So let the rejection be evident, not covered up, not white washed. Let the rejection, the sin be obvious.  Third, Jesus must embrace the rejection. Fourth, the message demands a leap of faith in Jesus. Parable is a way to demand a decision, a leap of faith in Jesus. Fifth, only the Resurrection unravels the parable that Jesus himself is. Jesus speaks in parables not in order that the listeners will not understand but that they may not misunderstand, understand incorrectly. It is better not to understand than to misunderstand. This is a difficult way to go and it means Jesus taking account of the inbuilt misunderstanding of his mission, our inability to see and hear because of sin.  Sixth, for Jesus it is the way of the Cross, the road to the harvest, or as he said himself: .. I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor."  (John 4:38.) ©David P. Reid ss.cc.
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    July 5, 2020

    14th Sunday in Ordinary Time 100-A 162SMF. Ps 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13-14 Zec 9:9-10  Romans 8:9,11-13 Matthew 11:25-30 

    Response: I will praise your name for ever my King and my God

    I do not know from whom I learned the following saying: Jesus came not to overpower us but to empower us. This way of speaking came into prominence in the discussion of the development of peoples following Paul VI’s Populorum Progressio (1967) and its  commemoration in John Paul II’s Sollicitudo rei socialis (1987) which in turn commemorates the wonderful statement of Vatican II in Gaudium et Spes: “The joys and the hopes. the griefs and the anxieties of the people of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these too are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts.” (#1)  There is a line between overpowering and empowering and that line is meekness. The meek person is powerful and knows how to empower without overpowering the other. This is an art form and demands deep level of interiority, of appropriating deeply the gift of the other and serving that giftedness. Meekness is not easy abashment of one’s self, timidity or pretended humility. I never studied the manifesto of the Peace Corps in the USA but I met a number who were peace corps workers. I experienced firsthand meekness. They listened and appreciated what people had and who they were. With those to whom they were present, they worked together, not of patronage or superiority but of shared concern to establish and maintain a quality of life, an efficiency of work, the best use of available resources. If meekness works on the level of everyday intercourse, how much more when it comes to a relationship with God.

    Jesus came to reveal the Father inductively. Therefore, it is no accident that these verses on coming to Jesus who is meek and humble of heart follow immediately a statement that laconically states the most important aspect of all the Christian Gospel. At that time Jesus said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Matt 11: 26-27) Is it too much to assume that the one to whom the Son chooses to reveal the Father is the one who learns to be meek and humble of heart. Who accepts the invitation to wisdom? "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (vs. 28-30)  These verses are often said to be an alternative to the halaka of the Pharisees which were seen to be many and heavy.

    “A statement that laconically states…” Yes, the most important teaching of the Christian Gospel is so often stated in the terse concise language of the Creed and even in John’s gospel “and the word was made flesh” (1:14)  that we  can slide over the enormity of the belief: God became one of us. No language will ever adequately or exhaustively explore that simple statement. Better to go the way of kenosis, self-emptying to live in its shadow and slowly emerge into the light of this belief. How wonderfully dignified was and is humankind forever because God is one of us and thus all of us. Once accepted and it is a great leap of faith, everything falls into place. We have gone to John’s gospel and without surprise for many read this verse of Matthew as on loan from John. Matthew has it in common with Luke (10:21-22) and so we can think that it was developed early in the Christian community and may have sourced John in his spiritual writing. But hear again what Paul wrote to the Romans to entertain the understanding that this fundamental belief of the Christian community comes to us in the light of the Resurrection which itself reveals God as a Trinitarian community of being and action: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11) ©2020 David P. Reid ss.cc
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    June 28, 2020

    13th Sunday in Ordinary Time 97-A 93SMF Ps 89:2-3, 16-17, 18-19 2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16 Romans 6:6:3-4,8-11 Matthew 10:37-42 

    Response: Forever I will sing of the goodness of the Lord.

    This story of Elisha take 29 verses to tell. Who cares if the story is well told? It is indeed and the detail is exquisite. There are no many characters but each plays his and her part so well that the reader is involved not only with the prophet but with those who make the work of the prophet possible.  Gehazi, Elisha´s servant is the one who took my attention. He keeps the prophet informed, saddles his donkey, and fills in albeit unsuccessfully for the prophet. He is pinpointed in his requests for the Shunammite woman and it seems that he is the one to mention that she is childless (2K4:14). Elisha is anxious to offer a prophet´s reward for the hospitality which the woman and her husband had offered the prophet even setting aside and furnishing a room in their house of him (vs.9-10). However, the child born becomes ill and Gehazi seems a bit perturbed that the woman clasped the prophet’s feet in pleading a resuscitation of her child. A presentiment of the failure of Gehazi to restore the boy to life is found in the woman´s insistence on not leaving the prophet until he should come with her all the way from Mount Carmel to Shunem (v.30). Gehazi is foil for the prophet while the prophet himself learns that the giver of a gift  is not divorced from the gift given. Everyone  is becoming aware.  The Lord had hidden from the prophet that the child had died (v. 27); the woman, it is said in the simplest of language, “… came and fell at his feet, bowing to the ground; then she took her son and left.” (v.37).  Elisha’s reward for the hospitality once proffered by the Shunammite woman and her taciturn husband keeps giving.

    The language of reward is in place here in this story although it is the prophet who rewards; perhaps a deeper analysis would show that to reward is itself to be rewarded. The philosophers speak of goodness as being diffusive of itself, that is, goodness grows in and of itself. We already have learned from Matthew that it is ok to speak of rewards, just do not tell God how to reward you  for the Father who sees what is secret will repay you (5:4,6,18). Let it be suggested that the three examples spoken of in the context of rewards in Matthew’s gospel ((10:40-42) are progressive designations of the same group. Applied to our story, Elisha is the prophet, Gehazi is the righteous one and the Shunammite woman is the little one. Gehazi reminds me of Epaphroditus’ giving and receiving , Paul’s middle man in his dealings with the Philippians, (Philippians 4:15,19. See 2:25-30).  Gehazi and Epaphroditus would both be “righteous” in the Matthean sense of one who acts rightly.  The reward is a process of symbiosis, one becomes the other through the giving and receiving of a reward. We see this when a reward is taken back from a person who is shown later to have been unworthy of it, either before or after the bestowal.  God does not take back God´s gifts although God was tempted to do so (Genesis 6:6). God redeems the broken relationship as was promised of the covenant with  David in Ps. 89:37 “It shall be established forever like the moon, an enduring witness in the skies."  God will chastise but not go back for the giver is never divorced (Romans 8:39) from the gift (Romans 11:29) To forget God’s action beforehand is to think that we merited something ourselves. Any reward is God’s merit. What have we that we have not received? (1 Cor 4:7)

    This is a rich foreground in which to hear what Paul offers in Romans 6:3-4,8-11. His is a brilliant description of one who is right-wised in the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus through baptism.  Grace reigns through justification for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (5:21).  Is this the new condition of the righteous man and is this the righteous man´s reward? And is the righteous action of the newly baptized a participation in the righteous fidelity of God who never abandons the covenant partner? Was the woman right-wised through Gehazi and was Gehazi right-wised through the prophet and was the prophet…..a sharer in the righteousness of God?   And are we not led back to the Gospel as the revelation of God´s righteousness from faith to faith…Romans 1:16-17?

    Our Lectionary response is “Forever I will sing of the goodness of the Lord.” (Ps. 89:1 “I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever “ NSRV) The “forever” is God’s to which we are a Johnny-come-late! Late, yes but never too late. That is the reward of the divine loving kindness! ©2020 David P. Reid ss.cc
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    June 21, 2020

    12th Sunday in Ordinary Time 94-A 78SMF Ps 69:8-10, 14+17, 33-35 Jeremiah 20:10-13 Romans 5:12-15 Matthew 10:26-33 

    Response: Lord, in your great love answer me

    For as often as Jesus in Matthew’s gospel tells us not to be afraid, it is good that here we have an expose on what to do with our fear. “Do not be afraid” does not mean never be fearful but rather learn how to handle your fear. Some fears are indeed healthy. Fear the one who can do damage forever. This sounds like “prioritize your fears.” Not all fears are the same. We need to address some out of a set of bold images of God’s intimacy with us, counting my hairs while God tracks the sparrows. Other fears we need to develop into an ardent, reverential faith such that we can come to Jesus the Risen Lord across turbulent waters, (Matthew 14:27,31). Therefore, there is room for a spirituality of fear. And of course the Sage reminds us that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7).

    That means that like Jesus, we bring our fears before the Lord. The Confessions of Jeremiah no less influenced Jesus than they strengthens us when it comes to laying out our “cause” (10:11 “But the Lord is with me like a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble, and they will not prevail. . .”).   From the attestation of Matthew, the evangelist of the church, for whom the Teacher, Jesus is always in control, it is quiet something to read of Jesus praying Ps 42:6: "I am deeply grieved, even to death.” Then Jesus does what anyone in a state of fear would do: “He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. Then he said to them, "I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me."” (Matt 26:37-38). Jesus never faced a fear he could not handle. Compare this with Hebrews 5:5-10, especially v.7 where Jesus is heard not because of anguish but because of anguish transformed by respect. Why these passages (Matthew and Hebrew) speak to each other is because in Hebrews the author is developing the meaning of a priesthood, not of aloofness but of solidarity which gives rise to trustworthiness (Hebrews 2:17). (Albert Vanhoye,  A Different Priest Convivium Press 2011,p.166) Imagine what the disciples learned that night, invited as they were to enter the struggle (agony)  with Jesus. Discern and even prioritize your fears. Then entrust yourself to communal prayer and watchfulness. Allow a sense of submission and obedience to transform the fear into respect for the will of God, all  with the confidence of never being abandoned. This process engenders a spirit of endurance and watchfulness. Call it the Garden of Gethsemane experience if you will but it is precisely the struggle which we need to bring before the Lord, day in and day out, not only for ourselves but in solidarity with the struggles of others.

    To confront one’s fears is a source of immense strength and developing intimacy with the Risen Lord. For Paul this is the work of the kingdom for it established the counter reign of grace over against sin, which dominated until the grace of God revealed itself in Jesus. Oh! Yes, with Paul the rabbi we can say how much more is the grace! (Romans 5:15) However, this is an exclamation only relished after the struggle of the dark night of the soul, in the Pit. Hear again the response in context: “But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me. With your faithful help, rescue me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters. Do not let the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the Pit close its mouth over me. Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.” Ps.69:13-16.  Within the confidence of God’s steadfast love, we have the courage to face down our fears.©2020 David P. Reid ss.cc.

  • 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time      Ps 96:1-2a, 2b-3, 7-8, 9-10           67-C       SMF 106 Isaiah 62:1-5 1 Cor 12:4-11 John 2:1-12
    Response: Proclaim the wonder of the Lord among all the nations.

    A marriage of beauty and holiness

    As we launch out after the Feast of Jesus’ birth, feast days abound. Although there is no feast of the wedding of Cana in Western Christianity, this story of Jesus gets some attention, east and west, after Christmas. One feels also the absence of John from the celebration of the birth of Jesus because he has no such narrative. The prologue to his gospel is proclaimed at the Mass on Christmas Day, its message of Word made flesh begs the story of Cana. The Cana story has a family feeling to it. So it fits into the Christmas cycle but also the theme of glory gives the story a dimension of missionary manifestation, of Epiphany. “And he manifested his glory,” (John 2:11).
    From this manifestation of the glory of Jesus we go to Ps. 96. An enthronement psalm is beamed into a simple country wedding when embarrassment of embarrassments the wine ran out. If there is momentary disharmony in a feast with no wine, there is an ample supply of glory. Maybe we should say immediately what stands to be revealed: the beauty of holiness and the holiness of beauty. Beauty of holiness from the King James is a cherished way to translate 96:9. The phrase is biblical (Psalm 96: and Ps. 29:2, Ps.119:3, Ezra 7:27.) One often turns to 1 Chronicles 16:7-36. It is a medley of Ps. 96,97, 98 and 100. “Beauty of holiness” is literally “in attire of holiness,” and is well translated as beauty of holiness. The story in 1 Chronicles is surely about beautiful attire for the ministers of the sanctuary. In Ps.96 the appeal is wider, to all creation. The expressions “beauty of holiness” and the “holiness of beauty” sum up a whole depth of spirituality and one that is coming again to fascinate and empower the lives of many. Pope Francis speaks of the way of beauty to share the Gospel. There is nothing Pollyannaish in this way of speaking about glory. The earth is asked to prostrate in holy attire in v.9. this is backed up in v.10 with the phrase “the Lord is king.” Then all of creation is invited into praise and in v.13 the King who reigns, will judge the world and all creation in justice and fidelity. The attire of holiness is asked of the worshipper which comprises all the families of the world and the earth in its immensity. Enjoy the throngs who are making it into God’s sanctuary, v.6.
    If whimsy is a valid approach to enjoying literature and to reading the Bible in its totality, then whimsy leads me to think about wedding feasts and proper attire. How often have we lingered over the plight of the man who did not have the wedding garment (Mat 22:1-14, Luke 14:15-24)? In the “holy attire,” of Ps. 96, let this psalm be prayed  while contemplating the wedding feast of Cana . The proper clothing for that feast was less the clothing than the adequacy of the wine. In the symbolic world being put together by John the lack of wine leads to the best wine being kept to the end.  And that of course leads to the preparation of the courts  of the Lord to apply the wording of Ps. 96 to the cleansing of the temple in Jerusalem which John has twined with the wedding feast of Cana. All-clothing, wine, holy space- has to do with the beauty of holiness.  Jerusalem is beautiful and adorned like a bride, no longer forsaken and desolate (Isaiah 62:1-5) because God is holy, all holy, defines holiness. God’s holiness has a claim upon us and that claim comes to expression in and through the claim that is integral beauty. Some hear the word “call”  in the Greek work for “beautiful” kalos.  In the call of beauty, we are ushered into the holiness of God.  If beauty has a claim upon us as befits us as symbol-making persons, so too does God’s otherness, majesty, power, faithfulness, love. Psalm 96:13 concludes on no less a full note like that: “for he is coming, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with his truth.”
    So back to holy attire. The Bible likes marriage as a symbol of commitment, of mutual claim. I say marriage, not wedding which by definition is ephemeral, for one day. A marriage is forever when beauty and holiness come together for the desire to be unconditionally loved is transcendent and eternal. Would that every marriage were as well prepared for as David’s preparation of Jerusalem as told to us in Chronicles. One goes to a Christian marriage ceremony to pray for those married. That means reading the union as Jesus’ special embrace of his body, the church. The couple in their loving are now absorbed into a bigger story and has the absolute assurance of the Risen Lord in their midst. Ps. 96 has became their wedding song, a missionary manifesto that challenges the world to recognize in love’s beauty the claim of love’s holiness.  Jesus revealed his glory in “the holy attire” of water made wine. ©2022   David P. Reid ss.cc.

     

  •  4th Sunday of Advent 12-C SMF84 Ps 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19            Micah 5:1-4 Hebrews 10:5-10 Luke 1:39-45

    Response: Lord, Let us turn to you, let us see your face and we shall be saved


    Restoration

    Luke is a propagandist for the Christian movement and he is making examples along the way. The history of our salvation is told through stories of people.  His work is prosopographic which means that he puts a face on every advance in the revelation. My sensitivity to this display of sheer genius is heightened since I filled the role of postulator general for my religious community. This means that I ushered through causes of holy people for beatification and canonization. For all the power of creedal statement, even the famed Nicene Creed, nothing compares with the story of a life to get the message across. The process of the Causes of the Saints is a wakeup call to recognize the beauty of God’s ways in so many human lives.

    Take Elizabeth, Mary of Nazareth’s kinswoman. I know a religious sister who spent a week of her life meditating on this scene of Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth.  Even at that, she was not done with it; she continues to draw meaning and insight for her own life from this most natural event: two pregnant women talking stuff over. I can easily understand why Mary would have gone to see Elizabeth. She is the kind of person who sees everything as a blessing. Three times in this brief episode Elizabeth  declares persons blessed (Mary,vs.42,45, fruit of her womb v.42), in a way that Mary would have liked. She draws from Mary’s example and applies it across the board (“blessed is she” v.45), much to Mary’s and Luke’s satisfaction. Why? Because this story as so many others is legend, meaning a lesson to be learned for the ages.

    No one is uncalled and the call to holiness is the staying claim and power of the Gospel of salvation. Beyond however the many contrasts and comparisons in the lives of the many who have followed Jesus, the issue is identification. Each one in Christ is called to identity his and her life in God through faith in Jesus the Christ. Jesus is presented as identifying himself with the will of God. “I have come to do your will” (Hebrews 10:9). It is by the same will that Jesus came to fulfill that we are made holy: “And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10). That will of God was the life line for one who had been bogged down in mire: “he drew me from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock making my steps secure” (Ps 40:2).

    No one is holy without repair. And wholeness is accepting the repair that God gives us in Jesus, here dramatically present in the ancient sterile Elizabeth: “This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably upon me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people” (1:25).  In Psalm 80, Israel has its own disgrace to face, loss compounding loss over the course of her history. Elizabeth’s “my people” are surely among those crying out for deliverance: “Stir up your might, and come to save us” (Ps 80:3).  The refrain (vs. 3,7,19) keeps up the urgency of the plea: “Restore us O God of hosts, let your face shine that we may be saved.” Attending to Elizabeth, it is easy to find parallels between the canticle which her husband voiced when the child was born and this Psalm which is crying out for the restoration of the king and kingdom (Ps 80: 17-18).  What an emotional moment for the elderly couple when Zechariah addressed the child of her womb: “And you, child will be called prophet of the Most High.”  But he was not yet done and went on to  respond to the psalmist’s prayer: “let your face shine upon us” with words that speak of restoration centering all on the mercy of God: “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace" (Luke 1:78-79).  The psalmist asked for an epiphany, dawn broke and God “has looked favorably upon his people and redeemed them” (Luke 1:68).©2021 David P. Reid ss.cc.


     

  • 3rd Sunday of Advent 9C
    SMF 179 Isaiah 12:2-6
    Zephaniah 3:14-18
    Philippians 4:4-7
    Luke 3:10-18


    Response: Sing and shout for Joy for great in our midst is the Holy One of Israel

    In your midst

    Life is in the preparation, the expectancy as the readings note today. An event receives a good evaluation when the preparation is good. The motto of the boy and girl scouts stands: be prepared. Advent is standing prepared and this is the call to holiness.  “… for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 12:6) Although the festivities may end, there is no let down, perhaps an adjustment to follow. The call and the gifts of God remain irrevocable (see Romans 11:29).  This is not a long distance call. Twice Zephaniah (3:15,17), a seventh century BCE contemporary of Jeremiah, reminds us that God is in our midst. This is happening, this is now. Advent brings a new consciousness of God‘s presence with us: to us, with us and for us (see Exodus 3:14). Is God’s revelation to us then a revelation of an awareness? How compelling is the awareness that we are all called to holiness? It’s true to say that only in recent times has the Church has awakened to the realization that all are called to holiness, the message of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate, an appropriate document to recall on Gaudete Sunday! Does the Indian proverb apply here, the one that says: “when the student is ready, the guru will appear?”  Are we prepared to hear that we are all called to holiness? Great in our midst is the Holy One of Israel!

    The celebration that God is in our midst is inseparable from a recognition of our solidarity with each other, the point that Luke makes overtly in presenting an overview (3:10-11) and two specific situations: tax collectors and soldiers (Luke 3:12-14). The question of how soldiers are to relate to others speaks perhaps to the logic of occupation which is captured in the word “bullying” found in the NAB translation: “do not bully anyone” while the NRSV translates: “do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusations” (v.14).  There is a connection with extortion to be found in the additional words: “be satisfied with your wages.” 

    God is in our midst when we do not bully one another. In a world of limited goods which is how the vast majority of humankind experience life, there is in fact much extortion and intimidation by false accusation (both vouched for by Luke’s choice of Greek verbs). The non-bullying would be a call to heroic virtue. The injunction of Luke is addressed to the soldiers and therefore has to do with the abuse of power in order to make up for their low wages.  This radical sense of solidarity with others whereby one foregoes the temptation to self-aggrandizement and stays on course to serve the common good, receives laudable mention in Pope Francis’ On Fraternity and Social Friendship: “Good politics combines love with hope and with confidence in the reserves of goodness present in human hearts. Indeed, “authentic political life, built upon respect for law and frank dialogue between individuals, is constantly renewed whenever there is a realization that every woman and man, and every new generation, brings the promise of new relational, intellectual, cultural and spiritual energies” (#196). 

    On  the strength of the many studies, prepared meticulously for the Beatification of the Saints, and on the strength of  studies that could be written for countless others−one does not need to be canonized to be a saint−one could write the history of the Church in terms of the response to the call to holiness.

    Advent is the proper season to hear again in this pre-evangelization work of John the Baptist, the call to holiness of the Holy One in our midst.  On the one hand, the call to holiness is no longer esoteric and addressed to the few; on the other hand, the response to the call of holiness and the care of our neighbor are inseparable and within arm’s reach. ©2021 David P. Reid ss.cc.

  • 2nd Sunday of Advent 6-C  SMF 149 Ps 126:1-2a, 2b-3, 4-5, 6       Bar 5:1-9 Phil 1:4-6,8-11 Luke 3:1-6

     

    Response: The Lord has done great things for us we are glad indeed

    A joy that cannot be contained, homecoming.

    Thousands of persons across the world today, are exiled. There are many forms of exile. Even the old model of being turned out of your own land-the policy of the Assyrians and Babylonians-and away from one’s own people,  afflicts many people today. Psalm 126 speaks loudly. The central verse aligns “them” and “us.” The nations “them” and the restored Israelites “us” are joined in agreeing that the Lord has done great things in bringing the people home. The sense of order restored in even found in the wider alignment of vs. 1 with 4. Dreams find expression in the flowing watercourses of the Negeb. If v.5 is a proverb to conclude, v. 6 functions as a commentary. This is praise on the cusp of new beginnings.
    Paul’s prayer, in the letter to the Philippians, wherein he asks for the gift of discernment  in the community (v.9 “ knowledge and full insight”), ends with the imagery of harvest: “…so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.” (vs.10-11).  Paul is writing from prison, his exile. Can a time of exile be fruitful, yielding a harvest of fruit? Exile literature would say yes. The hope of the Psalmist confirms the insight: “Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.”  But there have to be conditions.
    What a challenge for the receiving community to accommodate and not vilify, to cooperate not to exploit, to make the time of exile fruitful.  The one who sows in tears takes some time to see the blessed opportunity that exile can be. Only some returned to Jerusalem, for others adapting to Babylon and creating a diaspora was yielding a harvest, one person’s forsakenness is another persons’ opportunity.
    Israel has to do a lot of re-adjusting before it could accept exile “for the glory and praise of God.” These words are from Paul but they echo well the words of Baruch. If you thought the Psalmist might be overboard in his positive assessment of the Exile,  listen to Baruch, the amanuensis of Jeremiah. Truth to tell, Baruch is rejoicing in the home coming, not necessarily in staying put where one is exiled. The formula for many has been make hay while the sun shines. So whether you come home or whether you stay,e divine call  give glory to God because God turns every event to God’s glory and honor and in that is our salvation. “For they went out from you on foot, led away by their enemies; but God will bring them back to you, carried in glory, as on a royal throne.” (Baruch 5:6) A Christian reading Baruch applies a Paschal imagination, trusting in the power of God to raise Jesus and, in any and all situations in life, all who believe in him as Lord and Savior.
    Baruch’s image of God’s beauty resonates: “Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem, and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God.” (Baruch 5:1). Paul wanted to know how helpful to sojourners he could be, whether in the flesh or with the Lord. This is a query for many elderly today to know if they would be more useful to their families already gone home to the Lord or abiding with them a while longer.  Call it the exile of old age which is exacerbated today by modern medicine’s temptation to prolong physical life at all costs. The dilemma whether to go or whether to stay is not new. Paul knew it also: “For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you.” (Phil 1:21-24). Exile is a part of the human condition. The more caring of the physically, emotionally, geographically, culturally, religiously exiled among us, the more we know “our exile.” ©2021David P. Reid ss.cc.

     

  • 11-14-2021

    33rd Sunday  Psalm 16 (15)  158B  9SMF.Daniel 12:1-3 Hebrews 10:11-14 Mark 13:24-32

    Response: Preserve me O Lord I take refuge in you

    Pleasures Forevermore

    This psalm is the prayer of the Levite, the one whose portion and heritage is to serve the Lord (NRSV Collins Harper). His religious sentiments are well developed and the intimacy with which he serves spawns a longing for life forever. The parallelism in Ps 16: 10 (Hebrew)  aligns Sheol with pit For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the Pit. So some readers refuse to see there a prayer for life beyond corruption. That seems correct for the Hebrew text; however, verse 11 asks for more than survival beyond corruption   You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

    Often one sings these very words as part of Christian celebration of the Resurrection. In fact already in the early community these verses were explored for their pre-celebration of Easter (Acts 13:35). The word that receives special attention is “faithful one.” In Hebrew the parallel is between my soul and your Hasid, your devoted one. In aligning this psalm with Psalm 2, Peter, having declared that David’s body saw corruption, begins to identify the holy one of the Psalm as the Risen Son. It would be crude to see the use of the psalm as any kind of proof but it is delightful to see the psalm as reflective of an intense and intimate spirituality that emerges from the presence of a faithful and caring God to God’s people. The setting is communal for the Levite knows that it is to serve the community that he is called As  for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight (v. 3).

    The passage from Daniel is the prophet’s conclusion. In Israel the individual is always defined in terms of the community, belonging, heritage, hope.  In Daniel, the Levite’s service has been given over to Michael the archangel. Michael’s purpose is the preservation of the community to the end.  Death  is separation from the community of God’s praise. So the prayer of Daniel concerns the community.  Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.   Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.   (12:2- 3)

    The intensity of the Levite’s psalm can be met only with the love of a Father. And this is the unique contribution of Mark at this point. He brings the relationship of Jesus with us to the point of his ignorance of the final day and hour. But Jesus shares with us his trust in the Father, a trust that is not just for protection but for perseverance. Jesus’  words shall not pass away (Mark 13:31). Is there a symbol of this perseverance? Yes, the Letter to the Hebrews, presents Christ taking his place at the right hand of God. He awaits his enemies as a footstool. Does that mean that he, as leader in the faith (Hebrews 12:2) begins again the Levitical process of leading people to worship God?  With delight would the author of Hebrews find his imagery of the right hand of God foreshadowed in the final petition of the Psalm: You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore. So we have a new name for sustainability: active service, done with devotion, that brims over into eternal life and the service is itself never ending. ©2021 David P. Reid ss.cc.


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    November 7, 2021

    32nd Sunday 155-B 172 SMF Ps 146:6c-7, 8-9a, 9b-10 in Ordinary Time 1 Kings 17:10-16 Heb 9:24-28 Mk 12:38-44

    Response: Praise the Lord, my soul

    Hapax: All she had to live on

    I do not know if there is an equivalent in English for the Greek word hapax. Translated “once for all,” it is the kind of word that you spit out rather than say. “I won’t tell you a second time” catches the feeling of finality. The word is used three times in as many verses in Hebrews. “But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:26-28). The argument about humans only dying once is pretty convincing. So, Jesus who only died once, entered heaven on our behalf, no more to die. Over against the multiplicity of times the High Priest had to enter on behalf of the sins of the people plus his own, the sinless One Jesus entered once for us and that was once and final.  Jesus, compassionate and trustworthy entered not an image of the presence of God but the presence itself. The Letter to the Hebrews succeeds in giving a reassuring picture of our salvation in the language of the temple. Who would have ever thought that this entrance, elaborated in so many biblical images in this Letter was what was going on the day Jesus sat down opposite the treasury and saw the widow do a hapax. 
    Jesus is presented in more than one gospel as concerned with widows. With children too and so one concludes that Jesus knew deeply the concern of the Torah for women, especially widows and children. But the concern is deeply rooted and exhibits a prophetic vocation as we see in the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath: “But she said, "As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die." (1 Kings 17:12)  Do or die moments do not seem to come often but when a person recounts such a moment they usually say “my whole life passed before me.” This widow’s basic survival mode sure helps a person to see his or her life as a whole but blessedly also prepares a person for the leap of faith that is a hapax. 
    What the widow in Mark did, she could only do once. This was in contrast to the hustle and bustle of the long robed scribes who made a fuss of what they offered as they entered the porticos, headed for their fine seats upfront (see Mark 12:38-40). She gave all that she had to live on. She acted without calculation. No show. She inspired Jesus to do the same. The verb in the last sentence of the reading from Hebrews qualifies what he does: “… having been offered once to bear the sins of many…” (9:28). He took away sin by bearing it which may be a reference to Isaiah 53:12: “Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” That’s what compassion does. The compassionate high priest (Hebrews 2:17) bears the effects of sin in his own body. Jesus, trusting that the love of God (who will raise him) is stronger than any force sin might have. allows sin as it were to have its full effect. The author of Hebrews is rearranging how things will be on the basis of what happened…in the Resurrection. He is savoring that reality in the key of temple, priesthood and sacrifice.  This was dedication that only that widow could understand who gave her whole livelihood. She was acting out of a well-founded presentiment of the freedom of God who would never allow his and her beloved, Jesus (incorporating her, herself) to undergo corruption. She was among those “eagerly awaiting for him,” like another widow, Anna (Luke 2:36-38) awaiting our salvation. ©2021 David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    10-17-2021

    29th Sunday Ps 33:4-5, 18-19, 20+22 146-B    48SMF Isaiah 53:10-11 Hebrews 4:14-16 Mark 10:35-45

    Response: May your love be upon us O Lord as we place all our trust in yo

    Solidarity in Service

    In how Mark constructed his gospel there is not much space between the third prediction of the Passion 10:32-34 and the story of Bartimaeus (10:46-52). We see the predictions (First 8:31-33, Second 9:30-32) as the template used by Mark between which he inserted instructions about the kingdom. Therefore, the reader might expect the final instruction to be particularly weighty. One is not disappointed but maybe overwhelmed. The sons of Zebedee have a request to make: “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory."(v.37) The request is laughably commonplace (Matthew 23:20 has their mother make it) for eager beavers although the other disciples were indignant (v.41) or just envious that they didn’t have the guts to ask.  This is staging for the sayings of Jesus on leadership and authority  which lead us to hearing Jesus’ own self-identification as the Suffering Servant of Yahweh for which we have heard Isaiah 53:10-11 in this Lectionary ordo. It is notably difficult to identify actual words which Jesus may have spoken, but the words about ransom  are some of the prime candidates for that honor.

    Jesus first responds that all he can offer is a solidarity in suffering (to drink the cup and be baptized vs. 38-39), then after he has regrouped the disciples, he goes on to distinguish his approach from that of the pagan rulers. Jesus picks  up on language he has already used,  (9:33-35 servant) or to  be used (13:34 slave). Jesus upturns the way of doing things: to be great, serve! To be first, be a slave! I have come not to be served but to serve. That is a well-balanced parallelism; note its significance for the disciples who were hungry for power. Now Jesus, once having used “slave” goes on to develop an image known to the world of slavery: manumission, the freeing of slaves. Then comes, not a well-balanced but somewhat asymmetrical, however logical, conclusion in a new context of self-emptying. Expected would be: not to be great but to be a slave. What Jesus, however, is saying is that he is come, not only as a slave but also to ransom the slaves. A slave and more than a slave, one who knowing the situation from the inside, releases the slaves. Or reacquires the slaves. There was always a price mentioned in the manumission of slaves. Since the third prediction of the Passion, the assumption is that the passion and death are involved. There is no mention of price here nor to whom a price would be paid. We know that our manumission was costly (1 Corinthians 6:20).

    The price was love, (Romans 3:24, John3:16). Jesus came to take on the Father’s necessity to love, what God had allotted to him to do. (Mark 10:40) His was not to give to his disciples to sit on his right and on his left. Jesus saves from below!  An exciting adventure in understanding the NT would be to explore how this seminal statement of Jesus fueled so many rich NT understandings. The word lythron translated ransom has a wide range of meaning. Its use is an example of how the experience of Jesus filled words with new meanings rather than words being restrictive of who Jesus is. We say as much when we note that a person defined the profession of medicine or law. Mother Teresa of Kolkata defined compassion. The language is never the same, on either side. Key to Jesus ransom is staying true to God’s purposes from within a solidarity of service.  How often we are comforted and strengthened when someone says to us “I’ll be there with you.” By being with us,  Jesus fused Messiah and Suffering Servant, the imagery which fires these texts of the NT with purpose and verve.  God is with God’s people.  The servant is the embodiment of the will of God to be with the people. “The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:11-12)  His innocent suffering on behalf of even those who mocked him is a revelation of love’s sticking power. Love is true to love’s own inner logic to the end. His pain was our self-inflicted wounds but his bearing that pain was his undying love for us. Love is its own price and its own reward, its own liberation, expiation, reconciliation, at-one-ment! Love is stronger than death. Love is its own ransom: May your love be upon us O Lord as we place all our trust in you!  2021David P. Reid ss.cc.

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    10-3-2021

    27th Sunday 140-B  SMF154 Ps 128:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6 in Ordinary Time Genesis 2:18-24 Hebrews 2:9-11 Mark 10:2-16 

    Response: May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives

    Back to Basics!

    Words make up sentences. Sometimes there are one word sentences but generally a few or more words have to interact to deliver meaning.  Nothing new about that. Words both carry their own meaning and can share with others and in the process allow themselves to take on more significance. So too with stories, parables, sayings in the composition of the gospels. A passage in itself delivers something vital but when placed within a plot development, wow, new levels of understandings are communicated.

    The teaching about divorce in Matthew and Mark is just such a piece. The passage itself is immensely rich because Mark goes often to the Scriptures to work out the presentation of Jesus. The cross references are to Genesis and Deuteronomy. The rule of remarriage after divorce, its loosening and its reinforcement, are all treated rapidly and succinctly. But the passage, like the words in a sentence, reaches out on all sides and links with the developing story. This was the genius of the evangelists, to bond the many units into a credible narrative portrait of Jesus. Thus, although the word “hardness”  is had in common with Matthew 19:8, also treating of divorce and remarriage, the reader of Mark pays special attention. Heart and hardness of heart are appearing many times.  This section of Mark after the confession of Peter and now framed around the three predictions of the passion and death of Jesus is addressing the reason why Peter’s confession fell flat. Jesus is Messiah he had said but then went on to remonstrate with Jesus who said that he would suffer and die. Peter would have no part in a crucified Messiah. Devotion to Jesus without listening to him, was leading Peter and the disciples into the position of those who opposed Jesus, tempted him and demonized Jesus.

    The question of divorce and remarriage exposed a hardness of heart that was not exclusive to this generation but was nonetheless leading to Jesus’ suffering and death. This hardness had resurfaced in the story of the man with the withered hand, Mark 3:1-6, grew to a climax in the disciples’ failure to understand Jesus’ table ministry in the desert, constrained Peter’s confession and now continued. If it had not been so,  Jesus would not have had to come. His style is to force the issue into the light and  the scrutiny of all. To embarrass Peter as if Peter was also going to divorce the daughter of his recently healed mother in law and marry another woman?   Nothing of the sort! Mark embarrasses us,  the readers of the text. We have to walk the same road as did the disciples, coming to accept the discipleship of the Kingdom , that is,  to allow the claim of God to engulf us. “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate." (Mark 10:9). When Jesus said this,  was he speaking only of marriage and not also of his own situation, the cross as the will of God for him?             

    As the disciples are finding out, it is not easy to understand what God has put together but one way to find out is to receive the kingdom as does a child.  Jesus includes the children as one example among others who are not to be hindered from receiving the kingdom.  In their limpness of heart children are open to the claims of the Kingdom. Their greatest fear is in not having  another person with them. They challenge us to personal relationship. Jesus is asking for that with us when he cites their example. Ask him to lead us to the limpness of the basic ABC’s. But are we disposed to receiving the gift of Jesus? A lot has accrued  to the human story as we have come along. Now a lot has to be jettisoned if we will hear the message of Jesus. Children are a remedy for our  sclerosis of heart which was long in building up but could be dismantled in seconds were we to speak with Jesus from the heart.  It was not this way from the beginning! ©2021David P.Reid ss.cc.

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    9-25-21

    26th Sunday Twenty Sixth 137B 17SMF. Numbers 11:25-29 James 5:1-6 Mark 9:38-43,45, 47-48

    Response: The precepts of the Lord gladden the heart

    Belonging to the Kingdom

    Mark was the first gospel. That’s a general consensus and enough to make us appreciate his work a lot more today than in the past. His plot is to lead up to the confession of Peter in 8:27. Between this confession and Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, we have a catechism which answers many questions about the demands of the Kingdom. But primarily the concern is to answer the question who belongs to the Kingdom. In imitation, Luke used Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem to answer similar questions (Luke 9:51-18:27). Mark splices his Kingdom teaching between three distinct predictions of the Passion, 8:3-33, 9:30-32 and 10:32-34. The section (8:27-10:52) is held together with the Transfiguration of Jesus (9:2-12) at the beginning and the story of blind Bartimaeus (10:46-52) at the end. Bartimaeus’ request looks to the past and to the future: My teacher, let me see again. (v.51). The closing note in that story says everything: Bartimaeus followed Jesus on the road. Despite the attempt to block him by some of the disciples, he belongs to the Kingdom.

    In fact, this blocking makes us ask: were there others blocked? Yes. The children were blocked.  But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, "Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs (10:14). This section on children is wedged between a teaching on marriage and a teaching on the difficulty that those with possessions have to enter the kingdom of God.  As we read back and forth, we see who is the constituency of the Kingdom, the difficulty and the attitudes called for. The passage about the exorcists fits in here. The same words are used:  Do not stop him. Then the reason is given. For no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. (9:39) To Jesus’ response there is added a saying about courtesies shown to those who teach in Jesus’ name. The tolerance of God is an eye opener. The gospel presentation at this point touches issues which are important for the life of the community  whose mission is universal but whose continuity in that mission is related to keeping a tight rein on who belongs and who doesn’t. In Paul’s correspondence with the Corinthians he had a problem with the laxity of the community who tolerated incest. He reminds the community that he told them not to associate with immoral people. Later he clarifies that he was speaking of the immoral in the community for had he been speaking of the immoral in general that would be impossible “not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since you would then need to go out of the world ” (1 Cor 5:10).

    To situations that have to do with others, Jesus and Paul both share principles of tolerance and realism. Moses was dealing with a  case like that of the exorcists. Eldad and Medad  are people who were not in the appointed place when the Spirit was given; they were in the camp but not in the tent. Joshua of all people says to Moses. Moses, My lord, stop them! from   assuming a prophetic role in service of the community. But Moses said to him, "Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!" (Numbers 11:29) While the early church had a difficult time being so tolerant of exorcists, Jesus’ tolerance has in this context to be associated with what Paul (Philippians 2:5-11)  would call kenosis, self-emptying. Jesus defines himself, just before the close out with Bartimaeus,   For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many 10:35-45. Now, there’s the attitude worthy of the Kingdom! ©2021 David P. Reid ss.cc.