SUNDAY 25 JULY 2021: THE SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME.

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The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes, Sustris 1515-1568, Private Collection.

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When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.”    John 6:14.

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Save for the ultimate miracle of the Resurrection, today’s gospel, the feeding of the 5000, is the only miracle found in all four gospels. From that simple fact it seems it made an enormous impact on everyone, never to be forgotten. For one thing, it must have reminded devout people of the parallel which is today’s first reading from Second Kings, where only 100 people were fed with 20 barley loaves, a miracle nonetheless. There is also the echo of the feeding of the Hebrew people with manna in the desert for 40 years. So the experience was clearly rooted in Scripture, with Jesus becoming, as it were, the new Elisha and even the new Moses. It underlined once more the power of the Lord to assist others, and never himself. I can easily imagine Jesus not eating any of this until the end, when he might have eaten some of the abundant left-overs, after making sure everyone was filled up. Just like a shepherd and his sheep, he was completely aware of, and willing to meet, the needs of his flock.

The image of bread seems to be a very strong element in Jesus’ ministry. It comes up at the very beginning of his ministry, with the temptation in the desert, when, tired and hungry, the devil reminded him of his divine power, even to change rocks into crusty, fragrant, delicious, fresh-baked bread. Jesus refused. Matthew 15:29-39 relates the other multiplication miracle, the feeding of the 4,000. Here again it is the compassion of the Lord for his flock. Then, ultimately, it is the Last Supper moment where Jesus declared bread, blessed by the Lord himself, to be his true body, thus elevating this basic, simple sustainer of human life to be that which sustains our link to the Godhead, our own spiritual life sustainer. Even on the wider level, to include the Old Testament, bread was an essential element in the release from slavery in Egypt at the Passover meal of unleavened bread (from which we get our unleavened communion hosts today). In fact, it appears that bread is mentioned over 490 times in the Bible! It is clearly seen as a fundamental of life, both physically and spiritually.

So is there a message for us in today’s readings? We are the children of God, those of us who have been baptized into the faith. That is our identity, to be remembered and maintained at every second. Our vocation, also received at baptism, is to be Christ to the world, as indicated by our God-given gifts, which guide us into whatever career they support. And it is in that career and vocation that we act as Jesus would act. In that world, whatever it might be, we must act as Jesus does in today’s gospel. We do all in our power to support those around us, and those far away, as well as ourself. That is to say, we love neighbor and self as integral and essential elements in loving God above all and within all. 

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The Great Command, N.T.I.M.

Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.

Please send this webpage to those you think would appreciate it. Thank you.

Roger

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SUNDAY 18 JULY 2021: THE SIXTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME.

Jesus preaching

Jesus Teaches the People by the Sea, Tissot c.1890, Brooklyn Museum, New York, USA.

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When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd….  Mark 6:34.

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Mark tells us, essentially, that Jesus and his disciples were exhausted, with no time even to eat! So Jesus himself suggested that they find a quiet spot to rest and recover, so they all climbed into a boat to find a “deserted place”. Alas, no. Word spread very quickly and they were greeted instead by a large crowd when they arrived, rather than birds quietly tweeting and leaves rustling. Now, if that were me arriving with the disciples, I really suspect my heart would also be moved, but not with pity, as was the Lord’s. It would be something very different: starving hungry, wiped out and longing for peace and quiet. No, it would not be pity. Jesus saw something else; he saw need, a greater hunger, people longing for something way beyond a picnic; he saw spiritual starvation. And Jesus came to serve, and so he did. He taught them “many things”. 

Today’s readings talk about division, enmity, evil deeds. One problem Scripture has is about the division between the Hebrew people and the Gentiles. Over the centuries, God had chosen the Hebrews as special. To them only was the nature of God slowly revealed. Through the prophets, and through various wonders, God had shown divine qualities which were to be embodied, ultimately, in the person of His Son, Jesus. These can all summed up in one word: Love. There was no longer to be any division between peoples, between families, between individuals. We are to look on everyone else as our brothers and sisters, even if that is difficult to take. When Jesus saw the crowd, instead of a deserted place now packed with people, he immediately saw need. They wanted to hear him, to take in the peace and reconciliation he offered, the establishment of a new world, one of acceptance and community, and they had come a long way to hear it. He saw the people as “sheep without a shepherd”. In that leaderless situation, sheep can get into untold hazards and difficulties. The are basically prey to any marauders. And we all know who the chief marauder is…

The image of the shepherd is dominant in the first reading. God fulminates, I think you could say, against those who claim to be shepherds, but who, in fact, scatter their sheep. Wolves are good at scattering sheep, isolating them, then picking them off one by one, then killing them. They offer death, not life. Our God is the God of life, and stands up against anyone who contradicts that reality. The reading continues with a promise that “the days are coming” when one will appear who is wise, strong, the “Lord our justice”.

All this comes to pass in the second reading. Here was the one who would gather all people together, Hebrews and Gentiles all. There would no more division, no more hundreds of involved and complicated rules (it is said that there were 613 rules everyone had to obey to be righteous in the eyes of God), so that it was the person of Jesus who embodied the union of the two peoples “thus establishing peace”. All this, perhaps, passed through Jesus’ mind when he saw the shepherdless people waiting for his words of peace and reconciliation. Clearly, he saw this as a crying need to be addressed at once, and so he did. There is no mention of his apostles’ reactions to all this; I suspect any memory of that was quietly suppressed, possibly as unprintable… But they too must have learned the lesson to distinguish between needs. The greater need must  always be the first addressed, and that is probably not one’s own needs, but others.

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Jesus: The Good Shepherd, Franciscan Media.

Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.

Please send this webpage to those you think would appreciate it. Thank you.

Roger

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SUNDAY 11 JULY 2021: THE FIFTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Sending

Christ Sending Of The Twelve, Bowyer Bible, Mortier, print #3635 Christ Sends Out the Twelve Apostles.

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[Jesus] instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick— no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic.  Mark 6:8-9.

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We Christians are to live as Jesus lived, speak as if Jesus is speaking, act as Jesus acted and generally, become Jesus to the best of our ability. And obey his orders….  Aye, as Hamlet would say, there’s the rub. Off we all go into the wild streets and lanes, dressed in a tunic and nothing else save sandals and a walking stick? Well, good luck. Yes, we are to be missionaries in the sense that we should act and behave with charity and concern, helping others as best we can, being as close to the Lord as we are able. So what to make of today’s gospel? It is a radical teaching, which is to say, it goes to the heart, the foundation, of what we believe as Christians. So let us go to the root, and I suggest that that is the moment we were born, with literally nothing. That would go beyond even today’s instructions wouldn’t it? But that was the beginning, and perhaps that would be a way to look at today’s teaching. Today, years after we were born, we have much more than Jesus is telling us to take. But look at what he tells to take, sandals and a walking stick. They assist us in being mobile, going from place to place, just as Jesus himself did. And in each such place he taught, by word and example. That was his radical, essential, life action. We have those essentials of course, we are able to go from place to place, even figuratively if we are disabled, and we know what we should be doing when we get there: act as Jesus would act, speak in the way he would speak, and so on. So, in a way, Jesus is calling us back to essentials here, telling us not to be weighed down by anything which might obstruct us from being what we should be at all times. In other words, Jesus wants each one of us to be our own genuine self, not judged or measured by wealth or beauty or intelligence, but by our real, unique self. We will be judged on that basis and no other. So, in fact, we are sent forth into the world every single day in exactly the same way as the first disciples were, employing our unique gifts as God gave them to us in the manner Jesus expects of us.

The other two readings today support this. Amos, in the first reading, states that he is an average fellow, shepherding his sheep, pruning special sycamore trees. I had to look that one up. The Holy Land has sycamores which are unlike those we might be familiar with. They produce figs – fico sycamorus – and therefore need special attention. But then, as he says, God called him to be a prophet, and he obeyed, despite the hard times he would have to endure. Remember that before the arrival of Jesus, God’s divine nature was slowly revealed to us through the prophets, preparing us for the arrival of Jesus himself. After Jesus’ mission was accomplished, we became Christ to the world at our baptism, and so we return to today’s gospel and its message. Look at the second reading. That tells us of the glory of what it means to be Christian:

[God has] blessed us in Christ
with every spiritual blessing in the heavens,
as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world,
to be holy and without blemish before him. 
In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ,
in accord with the favor of his will,
for the praise of the glory of God’s grace
that he granted us in the beloved.

We are deeply and surely blessed in our identity as children of God, truly Christ to the world, not alone, not without strength, but with every spiritual blessing in the heavens! So although today’s gospel might seem to be extreme and even threatening, when we understand the full message, as very helpfully seen in the other readings today, we are more like divine superheros, able to tackle every difficulty and threat, and so we must be willing to trust in God’s power (which ties in with last Sunday’s message) which works through us and for us, any time, anywhere.

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Blessings, In Due Time.

Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.

Please send this webpage to those you think would appreciate it. Thank you.

Roger

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4 JULY 2021: THE FOURTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME.

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Jesus Teaching in the Synagogue, St. Elizabeth Convent Catalog.

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When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished.  Mark 6:2.

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Today’s gospel includes this deadly observation: “Is he [Jesus] not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.” Jesus was so familiar to them that they could not believe that he, being so lowly born, could aspire to such a height as preaching in the holiest building in town. In other words, they stereotyped him; he was a common man, so he could not be a good preacher (despite the evidence of their own ears and eyes). Sound familiar? Stereotyping is, I believe, responsible for an enormous amount of suffering in the world, all of it unnecessary. Denying the humanity of a person because of incidentals (or accidentals as philosophers might call them), such as skin color, accent, type of work, education level and so on, is to deny that person’s God-given humanity. It is wrong, evil and sinful. Jesus was to be stereotyped later as the messiah as desired by the Jews, he who would rid them of the despised Roman occupiers and restore the kingdom of David. He wasn’t, and as he had failed to live up to that stereotype, he was put to death. Stereotyping is remorselessly evil.

Also, this passage, and the similar one in Matthew 13:55, is where Jesus is identified with a specific family in Nazareth, with mother, father and relatives enumerated. But the phrase “son of Mary” might also be an insult, as men were always called sons of their fathers, in this case it should have been Jesus son of Joseph, Y’shua bar-Yosef. But on this occasion he was called Y’shua bar-Miriam, almost certainly meant to be demeaning.

Then there is the very interesting statement about Jesus’ brothers and sisters, found in passages from Mark and Matthew. We have been brought up to believe that Jesus was an only child, born of a virgin who remained such forever, and was never married. The tradition that Jesus was an only child is extremely old and the Catholic Church has very old teaching surrounding that. However, the term “brother” can be very wide. For example, in Shakespeare’s play “Henry V”, before the battle of Agincourt, which was a spectacular English victory over the French, the king, rousing his reluctant troops, concludes by saying:

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

Henry V, Act IV, Scene iii.

So what has all this to say to us today? I think it is this. Too many times in my life I have been reluctant to speak of God’s presence within us and around us. I fear being condemned, just as Jesus was perhaps in today’s scene in the Synagogue, because I am just a regular fellow, nothing special, and afraid to hear words such as “Who does he think he is talking to us like that?” So I have remained many times silent. Jesus, on the other hand, did not remain silent, even though such words hurt him, resulting in He was not able to perform any mighty deed there, as it says in today’s gospel. Spiteful words can hurt deeply, and it takes courage to speak out about certain things, such as God’s mercy and love, when there is a danger of provoking a response like that. But, on reflection, and not wanting to be condemned as a holy Joe, carefully chosen words might be wholly salutary, deeply beneficent to those hearing them. Ezekiel was emboldened to speak by God’s strength in the first reading, and Paul actually states that when I am weak, then I am strong, able to speak with the power of Christ dwelling in him, not relying on his own power. That same power dwells in us. We too should be God’s mouthpiece when we are called to bear witness, for when we are weak, then we are strong, possessing the strength of God!

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Jesus Christ preaching on a boat on the sea of Galilee, megapixl.com.

 

Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.

Please send this webpage to those you think would appreciate it. Thank you.

Roger

© SundayMassReadings.com

Happy July 4th!

SUNDAY 27 JULY 2021: THE THIRTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME.

Jairus

The Healing of Jarus’ Daughter, Leuven, Flanders c.1520-1525, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, NY, USA.

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He took the [deceased] child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around.  Mark 5:41-42

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It could be that events such as this must have had the most profound impact on those around Jesus. Bringing back a young girl from the bondage of death was unprecedented. If ever there was a sign that the Messiah was in their midst at long last, this was it! Only God could restore the dead to life, and this is what had happened. It was for such as this that God’s Son came to us. It was necessary that he show truly that God was in our midst, able to do anything to make our lives better. He was, as it were, establishing his credentials. If he alone had the power to conquer death, then it was worth our time to listen to him. Note the affection with which Jesus approached the little girl. He says Talitha koum, translated here as Little girl, I say to you arise. It might be a little bit more complicated than that. Some scholars of Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic claim that what Jesus said was more like Little lamb, arise. That would certainly tie in with Jesus’ self-description as the Good Shepherd, and it is certainly much more affectionate than Little girl, or sometimes even “Girl”. The Aramaic language is that which Jesus spoke, and on several occasions it is reported literally in Matthew, Mark and John, as well as the letters of Paul. If you are interested in that topic, take a look here. The event was the culmination of today’s gospel. There are several points to be made.  First, it was singularly unusual for a leader of the synogogue, Jairus, to appeal to Jesus for help: his daughter was dying. You will recall it was the religious leaders of the people who eventually occasioned Jesus’ death. Secondly, the woman with the issue of blood, an afflication that had plagued her for years (and no doubt for which she had been declared unclean in the Jewish community), had such absolute faith in the Lord that she believed simply touching his robe would cure her. It did. And then there was the miracle conquering death itself:  טְלִיחָא קוּמִי  ταλιθὰ κούμ  talitha koum, little girl, stand up. And she did.

Concrete faith in Jesus seems to be the message here. Note than even after Jairus had been told his daughter had died, he still conducted Jesus to his home. That spells hope and faith. It was the faith that Jesus had to instill in his first followers for his message to be remembered after he had gone. Yes, we cannot call back those have died: even the little girl was eventually called from this life. But we can believe in the one who demonstrated he had the power to do so, and hence we should listen to his teachings, echo his behavior and above all, share his faith in God. It was events such as that in today’s gospel that pointed to Jesus as the keystone of our faith, without which nothing of his message would have survived. Throughout our lives, he walks with us, pointing the way, even when we would rather walk down another pathway. Yet he persists, never losing hope in us, always forgiving when we return to him, perhaps older and wiser. That is what a shepherd does, shepharding us back from the wrong path to the right for our own good. That is the way he says talitha koum today, to each of us, resurrecting our faith to restore eternal life within us. Deo gratias! Thanks be to God!

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Jesus the Good Shepherd, unknown provenance.

Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.

Please send this webpage to those you think would appreciate it. Thank you.

Roger

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SUNDAY 20 JUNE 2021: TWELFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME.

Be Still

Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee, Rembrandt 1633, Stolen from Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, Mass., USA.

You may read today’s Sunday Mass Readings by clicking here.

He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet!  Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm.  Mark 4:39.

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Today’s gospel narrates one of Jesus’ so-called nature miracles, where his power seems to be limitless. On this occasion it extended over a storm at sea, which ancients considered to be one of the most fearsome and uncontrollable forces of all nature; even today it still causes disasters. Note also that the creation of the world in Genesis 1 begins with such tempestuous chaos. Many scholars, however, have difficulty with such miracles; they are happy to suggest natural ways of explaining other miracles. For example, the miracle of the loaves and fishes can be easily seen as people sharing what they had brought, knowing it was going to be a long day out to listen to the Lord. But when it comes to calming storms, walking on the water, turning water into wine and so on, well, they represent a challenge. Is this Jesus using his powers as the Son of God to benefit others, or gospel writers taking leave of their senses? The choice is ultimately ours, whatever the experts may say. You choose. Today’s wondrous episode is reported in all three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). 

Of course, it could be that the storm did abate suddenly in a natural way, without any miraculous intervention. That is often the way thunderstorms are suddenly upon us as one example of nature acting quickly, so too the end of such storms, with a vivid rainbow as a present. So it could be natural. But there are the reports of other nature miracles. Could they all be the result of happy coincidence? Unlikely, statistically. And so, “For those who believe, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible” (Franz Werfel, Song of Bernadette (Das Lied von Bernadette), The Viking Press, New York, 1942). It is a simple question: Do you believe that Jesus was the Son of God? If so, he was invested with the powers of God. In all four gospels, his powers were always and everywhere, with no exception, used to benefit others, and never himself. Even under the severest temptation, nailed to the cross, hearing the jeers “If you are the Son of God, come down from that cross” (Matthew 27:40) Jesus would not. He came to us to serve us, not to be served by us (Matthew 20:28) hence that jeer was a temptation to betray his entire mission. He refused. And in that truth lies the truth of the miracles, all of them. They were and are demonstrations of the message he brought to us: we are all here to help each other and in that way we too are servants of God. 

Jesus-on-the-cross

Christ on the Cross, Vos, 17th Century, Private Collection.

Therefore, today’s Scripture is a reminder of the basic messsage Jesus brought us: love one another, serve one another, love God, neighbor and (then) yourself. He lived out this message in his own life here on earth to the ultimate limit so that there was no confusion or unclarity as to its meaning. 

Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.

Please send this webpage to those you think would appreciate it. Thank you.

Roger

© SundayMassReadings.com

SUNDAY 13 JUNE 2021: ELEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME.

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Bur Oak Tree, The Tree Center Plant Supply Company.

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Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.   Mark 4:26-27.

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“Great oaks from little acorns grow”. I suspect more of us will be more familiar with that truism than the details of mustard plants, the subject of Jesus’ parable today. But the sense of this expression is the same. From the smallest beginnings, great things can result; yes, even that magnificent tree pictured above began life as a little acorn.  Jesus might even be referring to his own ministry here. Here he was, one small voice amid thousands, with a message he knew not many people would want to hear (as he did not summon everyone to fight against the occupying Romans), so his word was the tiniest mustard seed, or the little acorn, yet it was to grow out of all proportion in the centuries following. How it manages to do this, Jesus says, is a mystery to the farmer who plants it, but it takes root and begins to grow nonetheless. Jesus is talking about God’s kingdom, and Jesus is the herald announcing it. The first reading talks of the majestic cedar tree, forever linked to the image of Lebanon (it even appears on the present unhappy country’s flag). God says it will be planted in Israel and become the center and focus of all around it, the abode of the One True God, strong and true. Then there is the second reading today. That tells us we walk, in a sense, in two ways. One, “in the body” as it says, hence not necessarily with God, then we walk “by faith” which should be with God. But either way we have to try and walk with God, doing God’s will, not ours, so that we can stand before God when our time comes, and “receive recompense” for our behavior. In other words, have we made of our lives the great oak or cedar, which can stand tall in judgment, or not? 

One little element in the mustard seed parable is the mention of the birds of the sky (who) can dwell in its shade. This might well be a veiled reference to the Kingdom of God being open to all people, not just the Chosen People. To be open about that would have been risky at that stage of Jesus’ mission. Remember that the most vulnerable time of a seedling’s life is that first emergence in the world, a few leaves and nothing more. Do you recall one of the final scenes in The Martian movie where our hero, safely home at last, seated on a park bench, looks down and sees a tiny plant pushing up through a crack in the paving, to be greeted by our hero. He knew from his experience just how wonderful, precious and, indeed, sacred that was.

young plant growing in garden with sunlight
The Seedling, iStock by Getty Images

Thus is our own seedling of God’s presence in our lives. Precious, sacred and utterly vulnerable to the wiles and destructive forces of the world around us, just as the wasteland of Mars in the movie was to growing anything at all. The potential of such a tiny beginning is, however, enormous, eternal even. Only with us taking care of our faith in God can it grow to become our solid support, shelter and strength through life. Then we too can take refuge in its branches, secure from the dangers of the world and full of hope for a glorious life to come. 

lebanon-flag-std

The Cedar Flag of Lebanon, The Flag Shop.

Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.

Please send this webpage to those you think would appreciate it. Thank you.

Roger

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SUNDAY 6 JUNE 2021: THE SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST.

Exodus-24

Exodus 24 The Covenant Confirmed, Believe Trust.

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Then [Jesus] took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them,
“This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.”

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Take a close look at the picture above, following today’s first reading to the letter. It is no work of art, but it does suggest what the event described in today’s first reading, from Exodus, may have looked like. The people had agreed to obey the Law as proposed by God, namely the Ten Commandments, the bedrock of western civilization, in return for which God agreed to be their God, and they would become God’s people, the Chosen People of God. That gave them their identity from then on. Then a solemn ceremony to confirm this event took place, seen in the picture above. A great stone altar was built. This represented God. 12 pillars of stone were built next to it, representing the 12 tribes of the people of Israel. Cattle were slaughtered and half their life blood collected into bowls. The other half was sprinkled over the large altar. The Law, the 10 Commandments, were read out to the people, and they agreed to obey it, saying “All that the LORD has said, we will heed and do.” Then the other half of the blood was sprinkled over the people. Moses then said “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words of his.” 

This was a heavily symbolic community action which forever changed the Hebrew people into God’s Chosen. The blood, to begin with, represented life, not death. We say today one’s life blood. That is as true today as it was those 3000 years ago. Sprinkling this symbol of life over the great altar and over the people, the 12 tribes, linked the life of the people to the God’s life directly. So important was this that the annual commemoration of the acceptance of God’s Law, the celebration of Shevuot, the Feast of Weeks, is still one of the three great Jewish festivals. It could easily have been called the Feast of Identity, because ever after this event, the Jewish people were identified as the Chosen of God. It was and remains the most important moment in Jewish history.

moses

Moses Before the Burning Bush, Feti 1614, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria.

Then there is the concept of relationship. Prior to that event, Moses had encountered God in Exodus 3, in the famous scene at the burning bush. God gave Moses his vocation, to lead the Hebrew people out of slavery in Egypt and ultimately for them to live in the Promised Land. More than that, God revealed to Moses the sacred name, YHWH, the first time that had been revealed. God was, up to then, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Joseph, or some combination of that. That is a title, not a name. God, at the burning bush, called Moses by his name. God revealed the sacred name once Moses wanted to know it. This established a personal relationship between them, the first between God and us. At Sinai, that relationship was expanded to the entire Jewish people. As far as I know, contemporary ancient peoples never had such relationships with their gods. Their relationships were more hierarchical, begging or pleading for help. The Jewish model represents a beginning of a different character of relationship, which was to come to fruition with Jesus. 

Today’s gospel is set at the Last Supper, when Jesus astonished his friends (note that Jesus had called them that, recorded in John 15:15) by taking simple elements of bread and wine and declaring them to be his body and blood. He even refers to the covenant ceremony described above: “This is my blood which seals the covenant…” (Matthew 26:28), “This is my blood which is poured out for many, my blood which seals God’s covenant” (Mark 14:24) and “This cup is God’s new covenant sealed with my blood…” (Luke 22:20). The Sinai covenant was the reference point Jesus took. That was sealed with the blood of sacrificed animals. Now, not only does Jesus state that the wine of the Passover is his blood, but that we must take and drink and hence take him into ourselves literally! At that point, the relationship between Jesus, Son of God, and each of us becomes intimate, personal and life affirming. No greater relationship could be possible. It is the utter fulfillment of Sinai, to an ineffable level unsurpassed in human history. We are intimately united with God, the fulfillment of the burning bush, Sinai and the life of God. We are not talking about the blood of sacrificed animals here, we are talking about the blood of Christ sacrificed for us! 

LastSupper

The Last Supper of Christ, miniature from the Gladzor Gospels, Armenia c.1300, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, USA.

So, in conclusion, it can be said that Christ walks with us, and we with him. It is the most intimate friendship that we have, as explained above, and is the most consequential, as this friendship lasts beyond the grave. True friends stand up for each other through bad times and good, through forgiveness and disappointment, through joy and happiness. Friendship demands loyalty and expects mutual support. All these we have in our relationship with the Lord. We may fail, but his devotion to us is steadfast and permanent. Through the strength of that, seen each time we accept his body and blood to commingle with ours, we can be sure of the path we tread, the direction we go and the goal we seek with a friend ever ready to pick us up, dress our wounds and redirect our life. We are the close friends of God as God is with us! This Friday is the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This is a fitting culmination of the relationship just described above, the ultimate symbol of God’s love for us, permanent and unbreakable. We are asked to return it fully, a complete and eternal relationship with our truest friend.

Friends

Friends, Marie Reed Photography.

Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.

Please send this webpage to those you think would appreciate it. Thank you.

Roger

© SundayMassReadings.com

 

SUNDAY 30 MAY 2021: THE SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY.

Jan_Cornelisz._Vermeyen_-_The_Holy_Trinity

The Holy Trinity, Vermeyen c.1530, Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain. 

Click here to read today’s Sunday Mass Readings.

Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…  Matthew 28:18-20.

Words and phrases highlighted in red are links to supporting materials.

These words conclude the gospel according to Matthew, and there is nothing like them in the other three gospels. There is no discussion in Matthew as to what they mean. But there has certainly been an enormous amount of discussion about their meaning in the centuries since. There is universality in Jesus’ commission: “Make disciples of all nations”, hence not just the Jewish people. These new disciples are to be baptized, clearly seen as the new rite of initiation (not Jewish circumcision), also indicating a universal acceptance. And of course, there is the Trinitarian revelation. There had been several moments in the life of Jesus which had pointed to three divine strengths, powers, persons, call them what you will, to support this final revelation from the Lord. But as to the meaning – nothing. How on earth do you equate three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit with a monotheistic vision, a belief in One God? It is the Christian mystery, inexplicable on just about any level save that of blind faith. One either accepts it in faith or rejects it.

And then there is the mystery of human life on certain levels which might be termed inexplicable. Take, for example, the apparent fusion of two minds of people who have been close to each other for a long time. There is, it seems, even objective evidence for this. That two independent people can be so close that their thinking becomes aligned is very mysterious, but does it echo the Mind of God? Perhaps so. Clearly such relationships must be harmonious, perhaps a description of love?  Can it be explained in rational, scientific terms? Perhaps, but probably not too satisfactorily, with lots of ifs, buts or maybes. Could it be a reflection of the profound truth of the nature of God reflected in God’s creatures, namely us? All children carry their parents’ DNA; is there a case to be made that as human beings, made in God’s image according to Genesis 1:27, we carry God’s DNA? That would account for the human communication mystery mentioned above, and also help explain, to quote from popular songs,  Love isn’t love ’till you give it away, and To love another person is see the Face of God. There is an essential element in all of these, that one isn’t enough; there has to be a community of at least two people. True love cannot exist in isolation. Hence the God of Love, 1 John 4:16, read last week, indicates community in some way, the mystery of the Trinity. Love cannot exist in isolation. So before time began, there was love. And we were loved into existence by that same loving God. 

earth

How God Loves the World, Glory Dy, Christianity.com

It seems, as a consequence, that Jesus, in giving us the supreme command to love one another (John 15:17), is calling us to be like God, to be God-like. Jesus is asking us to align ourselves as closely to God as it is possible to be. Love is the driving force of the Almighty, that which brought everything into existence and found it to be good. As God’s children, then, it is our task to live out our lives in ways that echo the life force which created us. To respect all life, to employ our talents in ways which build up and strengthen God’s creation and help and assist others to do the same.  That will fulfill Jesus’ command in today’s gospel, assuring us that we do not do it alone: he will be with us at all times as our strength and assurance. 

hands

We’ll Walk Hand in Hand, Sojourners.

Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.

Please send this webpage to those you think would appreciate it. Thank you.

Roger

© SundayMassReadings.com