Lectionary Reflection: Easter: The Resurrection of the Lord

Acts: 10:34a, 37-43; Psalm 118: 1-2, 16-17, 22-23; Col: 3:1-4;1 Cor: 5:6b-8; John: 20:1-9.

Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth

(1 Cor 5:6b-8).

Easter Sunday is the culmination of the Christian year. Although Jesus had been “put to death” by being “hung on a tree,” we celebrate the fact that God “raised him on the third day and made him manifest” (Acts 10:39-40) in a series of highly intimate acts. For here God has not only vindicated the poor and the oppressed by the resurrection of His beloved Son, He has brought them into His presence, even “eating and drinking with him after he rose from the dead” (Acts 10:39-41). Indeed, in the resurrection of Jesus Christ we see the embodiment of the praise found in the Psalm: “O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His steadfast love endures for ever!” (Ps 118:1). Continue reading

Lectionary Reflection: Holy Thursday

Exodus 12.1-4, (5-10), 11-14; Psalm 116 1-2, 12 – 19; I Corinthians 11.23 – 26; John 13.1-17, 31b – 35.

One way to think about these readings is to assume that we hear them at a Holy Thursday Eucharist, the first of the three central days of the church year, the first of the two central Eucharists of that year.   In this, as with all Eucharistic celebrations, we are gathered to listen to and proclaim God’s word as well as to thankfully call upon the Spirit to transform us and our gifts into Jesus Christ’s body and blood as unsurpassable nourishment for our journey toward God’s new heaven and earth.   In this light, how do the readings shape what we do here? Continue reading

Lectionary Reflection: Lent 5

The combination of Old and New Testament readings for this fifth Sunday in Lent at first seems an odd one.  You have Isa 43:16-21, the prophet’s divine oracle about God doing a new thing.  The “former thing” was the Exodus from Egypt (“Thus says the LORD, who opens a way in the sea and a path in the might waters. . .” )  But now God says “Remember not the former things and consider them not.   See, I am doing a new thing:  in the desert I make a way and in the wasteland, rivers.”  What is this new thing?.  When we turn to the New Testament passage, perhaps hoping that it will offer us a new answer (for the prophet, the new thing was the return from exile.)  But in John 8:1-11 we hear not of a new thing but of a rather old one.  First, there is a  woman caught in adultery.  Then, there are the male religious leaders who want to stone her.  These two passages seem at first to have nothing to do with one another.  And yet on closer inspection that is not quite true.  According to John’s gospel, in this desert of sin and condemnation a new thing does indeed spring forth:  “Woman. . .Has no one condemned you?” Jesus asks.  “Neither do I condemn you.  Go, and sin no more.” Continue reading

Lectionary Reflection: Epiphany 3 – Neh 8:1-10; Ps 19; Luke 4:14-21

In this week’s reading from Luke, Jesus has returned to his home region, Galilee, “filled with the power of the Spirit.” Luke tells us that his homecoming made quite the impression—“a report about his spread throughout…”

The excitement does not end, as Jesus then began to teach and preach in the synagogues as he traveled through Galilee. Eventually, he arrived in his hometown, Nazareth, and is received as a teacher on the Sabbath in the synagogue. As he read from Isaiah 61 (“The spirit of the Lord is upon me… to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”), and then sat down, “the eyes of all… were fixed on him.” Continue reading

Lectionary Reflection: Baptism of the Lord: Isaiah 43:1-7; Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

This Sunday is the feast of the baptism of Jesus.  The Lucan account, which comprises the gospel reading for the day offers us two perspectives on Jesus.   As John the Baptist sees things, Jesus, the mightier one who comes after him, primarily comes as a judge.   The role of Jesus is to baptize with fire, to purge Israel as part of her renewal before God.  John seems quite satisfied to be the herald for this coming judge, the one who will make John’s own penitential brand of water baptism seem gentle by comparison.  We should not think that John was filled with resentment, eager to see people punished.  Rather, John longed for this one who would baptize with fire because he longed for the renewal of Israel.  This renewal would require the apocalyptic unveiling of God’s righteous judgment.  Continue reading

Lectionary Reflection: Epiphany: Is 60:1-6; Ps 72:1-13; Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6; Mt 2:1-12

Botticelli, "Adoration of the Magi" (1475/6)

The word ‘Epiphany’ means ‘manifestation’ or ‘showing,’ and on this solemnity we celebrate the manifestation of Christ to all peoples, races, and nations, who are symbolized by the three magi who visit the Holy Family shortly after Christ’s nativity. In fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, the magi offer gold, frankincense, and myrrh. We have here a complete symbolic theology: the three kings give gold, which symbolizes the heart’s offering of love, in homage of Christ’s Incarnation; frankincense, which symbolizes the mind’s offering of adoration, in homage to Christ’s divinity; and myrrh, which symbolizes the body’s offering of penance, in homage to Christ’s humanity. In this respect, the magi bridge the Old and New Testaments. Although the three magi are not partakers of the covenant that God made with the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, they arrive to adore the Messiah. Indeed, the tribute of these gentile kings, which had been prophesied in Isaiah and the Psalms, takes on a special meaning in St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, where their gifts are symbols of a much deeper mystery, that the gentiles would be coheirs, members of the same body, and partners in the promise of Jesus Christ through the Gospel.

We have over the years accounted these ancient astrologers wise men. Continue reading

Lectionary Reflection: Advent 4: Micah 5:2-5a; Psalm 80:1-7; Heb 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-55

Lectionary Reflection: Micah 5:2-5a; Psalm 80:1-7, Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-45(46-55)

In this week’s gospel reading, Luke presents the joyful scene of Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth.  Empowered by the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth proclaims Mary blessed for believing “that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord” (1:45). Gabriel promised that she would not only bear a son, but that he would reign as king, restoring the Davidic throne and fulfilling the words of the prophets, as we read in this week’s selection from Micah: “But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel… And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the one of peace” (5:2,4).

That Elizabeth takes special interest in Mary’s faithfulness is fitting, as it was her husband, Zechariah, Continue reading

Lectionary Reflection: All Saints: Rev 7:2-4, 9-14; Ps 24:1bc-2, 3-4ab, 5-6; 1 Jn 3:1-3; Mt 5:1-12a

THE FEAST OF ALL SAINTS

Today we celebrate the great multitude of saints who have gone before us, who are now living, and who are to come. We celebrate the saints who live in Christ because they did not fear to die with Him. We celebrate those blessed men and women who conquered the world and conquered themselves. The saints of the first three centuries of the Church were principally martyrs, and the Feast of All Saints was originally the feast of the dedication of the Pantheon, the Roman temple of Agrippa that had been previously been dedicated to the pagan gods. In the first decade of the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV translated the relics of several martyrs from the catacombs to the Pantheon and on May 14, A.D. 610 dedicated it as a new basilica to St. Mary and the Martyrs. As several churches commemorated All Saints Day on other days of the year, Pope Gregory IV fixed the date of the feast to November 1 in A.D. 835.

We see in our readings this great multitude of saints but, what is more important, we see what makes them great in the sight of the Lord. We see with St. John the Revelator those marked with the Tau on their foreheads, of every nation and tribe, of every people and tongue, standing before the throne of God with the Lamb in their midst. Continue reading

Lectionary Reflection: Isaiah 50:5-9a; Psalm 114:1-2;3-4;5-6;8-9; James 2:14-18; Mark 8:27-35

The four readings for this Sunday present us with a pair of contrasts: voluntary versus involuntary suffering, and divine versus human help.  The first and last readings are about the first kind of suffering – that to which one gives assent; suffering that one is willing to risk and endure for the sake of a greater good, or a higher calling.  In the passage from Isaiah, the speaker (the voice of the prophet, of the community of Israel, or, proleptically, of the Christ) declares, “The Lord GOD opens my ear that I may hear;/and I have not rebelled/have not turned back.//I gave my back to those who beat me/my cheeks to those who plucked my beard.” The suffering described may not have been sought, but at least the sufferer has the confidence that enduring this suffering is an act of obedience to God. So also the one to whom Christ says, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Continue reading

Lectionary Reflection: Mark 7: 24-37

In this week’s gospel Jesus has ventured up into Syria and is hoping to remain in cognito. Of course, if you know much about Mark’s gospel, you will know that Jesus’ desires to work and travel under the radar never work out. There is more here, however. Our gospel reading takes place as far from Jerusalem as Jesus ever gets. He is outside of his home region of Galilee where the great majority of his work takes place. Although he comes to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, he is at this point very far beyond the boundaries of biblical Israel. He is a Jew in Gentile territory.

We who worship Jesus more than 2000 years after these events tend to either forget or downplay the fact that Jesus was Jewish. His mission on earth was to Jews; during his life he restricted his followers from going to non-Jews. Jesus ate with and ministered to sinners, but these would have all been Jews. Jesus has very few direct encounters with Gentiles and we have no reason to think Jesus ever ate with Gentiles. Continue reading