Category Archives: Reflection

Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord

First Reading
Acts of the Apostles 10:34a,37-43
Peter preaches about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 118:1-2,16-17,22-23
Rejoice in this day of the Lord.

Second Reading
Colossians 3:1-4 or 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8
Colossians: Having been raised by Christ, be concerned with what is above.
1 Corinthians: Let us celebrate this feast with new yeast.

Gospel Reading
John 20:1-9
Mary of Magdala finds that the stone has been removed from Jesus’ tomb.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today we begin the Easter Season, our 50-day meditation on the mystery of Christ’s Resurrection. Our Gospel today tells us about the disciples’ discovery of the empty tomb. It concludes by telling us that they did not yet understand that Jesus had risen from the dead. Thus, the details provided are not necessarily meant to offer proof of the Resurrection. The details invite us to reflect upon a most amazing gift, that is faith in Jesus and his Resurrection.

Each of the four Gospels tells us that Jesus’ empty tomb was first discovered by women. This is notable because in first-century Jewish society women could not serve as legal witnesses. In the case of John’s Gospel, the only woman attending the tomb is Mary of Magdala. Unlike the Synoptic accounts, John’s Gospel does not describe an appearance of angels at the tomb. Instead, Mary is simply said to have observed that the stone that had sealed the tomb had been moved, and she runs to alert Simon Peter and the beloved disciple. Her statement to them is telling. She assumes that Jesus’ body has been removed, perhaps stolen. She does not consider that Jesus has been raised from the dead.

Simon Peter and the beloved disciple race to the tomb, presumably to verify Mary’s report. The beloved disciple arrives first but does not enter the tomb until after Simon Peter. This detail paints a vivid picture, as does the detail provided about the burial cloths. Some scholars believe that the presence of the burial cloths in the tomb offers evidence to the listener that Jesus’ body had not been stolen (it is understood that grave robbers would have taken the burial cloths together with the body).

The Gospel passage concludes, however, that even having seen the empty tomb and the burial cloths, the disciples do not yet understand about the Resurrection. In the passage that follows, Mary of Magdala meets Jesus but mistakes him for the gardener. In the weeks ahead, the Gospel readings from our liturgy will show us how the disciples came to believe in Jesus’ Resurrection through his appearances to them. Our Easter faith is based on their witness to both the empty tomb and their continuing relationship with Jesus—in his appearances and in his gift of the Holy Spirit.-loyolapress.com

Fourth Sunday of Lent, Cycle C

First Reading
Joshua 5:9a,10-12
The Israelites celebrate the Passover in the promised land.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 34:2-7
A prayer of praise to God.

Second Reading
2 Corinthians 5:17-21
Paul preaches our reconciliation with Christ.

Gospel Reading
Luke 15:1-3,11-32
Jesus teaches about forgiveness in the parable of the Prodigal Son.

Background on the Gospel Reading

The parable Jesus tells in today’s Gospel is unique to the Gospel of Luke. Jesus has been teaching the crowds as he journeys to Jerusalem. As he teaches, the Pharisees and scribes complain and challenge Jesus because he is welcoming sinners at his table. Today we hear the third of three parables that Jesus tells in response to his critics. These three familiar parables—the lost sheep, the lost coin, and today’s parable of the prodigal son—invite us to consider the depth of God’s mercy and love.

The Pharisees taught a scrupulous observance of Jewish Law. In their interpretation and practice, observant Jews who shared table fellowship with sinners would be made unclean. Like Jesus, the Pharisees hoped to lead sinners back to God. The Pharisees, however, required that sinners first become ritually clean—observant of the Pharisees’ interpretation of Jewish Law—before sharing table fellowship. This appears to be one of the major differences between the Pharisees and Jesus. Jesus reaches out to sinners while they are still sinners, inviting them to conversion through fellowship with him. Jesus is God acting among us; by befriending us, he is inviting us to return to friendship with God. Through friendship with Jesus, our sins are forgiven and we, in turn, bear fruit for God. Recall last Sunday’s Gospel and the barren fig tree.

Our familiarity with today’s parable risks dulling us to its tremendously powerful message. We call this the parable of the lost son or the prodigal son. Any focus on the younger son, however, must also be balanced by an examination of the unusual behavior of the father.

First we must imagine our first response to the audacity of a son who asks for his inheritance before his father has died. Indignation would certainly be a justifiable response to such a request. Yet the father in this parable agrees to honor the son’s request and divides his property among his two sons. How might we describe such a father? Foolish comes to mind, but so does trusting. Without property of his own, the father must rely upon his sons to provide for his well-being.

The younger son takes his inheritance and leaves home. The older son remains, continuing to provide for the father and the household. Having been disgraced by the younger son, the father spends some time watching the road for the return of the lost son. When he eventually sees his wayward son returning, the father not only welcomes him but also runs out to greet him and then honors him with a party. We say that this father is loving and forgiving. Yet these adjectives only begin to describe the depth of love and mercy that characterize the father.

We find no surprise in the anger of the older son. Yet the father appears sad and even confused by the older son’s indignation. He says in reply that they should celebrate because the lost son had returned. The father is filled with gratitude and love for the older son’s faithfulness. This love is in no way diminished by the father’s rejoicing at the return of the younger son. Yet the older son’s jealousy reveals his limited understanding of the depth of his father’s love.

The Fourth Sunday of Lent is traditionally called Laetare Sunday. Laetare is a Latin word that means “rejoice.” Today’s Gospel describes the reason for our joy: God’s great love for us has been revealed in Jesus. Through his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, Christ has reconciled us with God and one another.- loyolapress.com

Third Sunday of Lent, Cycle C

First Reading
Exodus 3:1-8a,13-15
God speaks to Moses from the burning bush and sends him to the Israelites.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 103:1-4,6-7,8,11
A prayer in praise of God’s mercy

Second Reading
1 Corinthians 10:1-6,10-12
Paul teaches that the Scriptures were written to set an example for us.

Gospel Reading
Luke 13:1-9
Jesus preaches a lesson on repentance.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Now into the third week of the Season of Lent, our Sunday Gospel prepares us to hear Lent’s call to conversion and repentance. Today’s reading is found in the chapters of Luke’s Gospel that describe Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. During this journey, Jesus teaches and heals. He must also respond to those who question and challenge his authority and actions. There is no parallel in Mark’s or Matthew’s Gospels for today’s reading from Luke. While Mark and Matthew describe an incident in which Jesus curses the fig tree, today’s reading makes the barren fig tree the subject of a parable.

Luke tells us that some among the crowds report to Jesus a massacre of Galileans by Pilate. The intention of the crowd seems to be to ask Jesus to explain why these people suffered. It was commonplace to render people’s suffering as evidence of their sinfulness. Jesus challenges this interpretation. Those who were massacred were no more or less sinful than the ones who report the situation to Jesus. Jesus replies that even a fatal accident, a natural disaster, ought not to be interpreted as punishment for sin.

Jesus’ words at first appear to have a fire-and-brimstone quality. Jesus says in essence, “Repent or perish as these people did; all are sinful before God and deserving of God’s punishment.” The tone changes, however, in the parable that follows. The parable of the barren fig tree contrasts the patience and hopefulness of the gardener with the practicality of the property owner. When told to cut down the fig tree because it is not producing fruit, the gardener counsels patience. If properly tended, the barren fig tree may yet bear fruit.

Throughout his journey to Jerusalem, Jesus has been teaching about the Kingdom of God. In this parable, we find an image of God’s patience and hopefulness as he prepares his Kingdom. God calls us to repent, and it is within his power to punish us for our failure to turn from our sinfulness. And yet God is merciful. He delays punishment and tends to us so that we may yet bear the fruit he desires from us.

This, then, is our reason for hope: Not only does God refuse to abandon us, he chooses to attend to us even when we show no evidence of his efforts. Next week’s Gospel will give an even clearer picture of the kind of mercy that God shows to us.-loyolapress.com

Second Sunday of Lent, Cycle C

First Reading
Genesis 15:5-12,17-18
God makes a covenant with Abraham, promising him many descendants.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 27:1,7-8,8-9,13-14
A prayer to God who is our salvation

Second Reading
Philippians 3:17-4:1 (or shorter form, Philippians 3:20-4:1)
Paul encourages the Philippians to remain firm in their faith that Christ will subject all things to himself.

Gospel Reading
Luke 9:28b-36
Jesus is transfigured in the presence of Peter, John, and James.

Background on the Gospel Reading

On the second Sunday of Lent, we move from Jesus’ retreat to the desert and temptation by the devil to the glory shown in Jesus’ Transfiguration. On the first Sunday of Lent, our Gospel always tells the story of Jesus’ temptation in the desert. On the second Sunday, we always hear the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration.

The report of Jesus’ Transfiguration is found in each of the Synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The context for Luke’s Transfiguration story is similar to that found in both Matthew and Mark. The Transfiguration occurs after Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah and Jesus’ prediction about his Passion. After the prediction there is a discussion of the cost of discipleship in each of these Gospels. The placement of the Transfiguration story close to Peter’s confession and Jesus’ prediction encourages us to examine the Transfiguration in the larger context of the Paschal Mystery.

The Transfiguration occurs on a mountain in the presence of just three of Jesus’ disciples—Peter, James and John. These are among the first disciples that Jesus called in Luke’s Gospel. We recently heard this Gospel at Mass, on the fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time. Only Luke’s Gospel, which often describes Jesus at prayer, indicates that Jesus is praying as his appearance changes to bright white. Luke indicates that the three disciples were sleeping while Jesus prayed. They will be sleeping again as Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane before his Passion and death.

As they awake, Peter and the disciples see Jesus Transfigured and Elijah and Moses present with Jesus. Elijah and Moses, both significant figures in the history of Israel, represent Jesus’ continuity with the Law and the Prophets. In Matthew’s and Mark’s Gospels, there is reference to conversation among Jesus, Elijah, and Moses, but only Luke’s Gospel explains that this conversation is about Jesus’ later accomplishments in Jerusalem. Luke describes this as his exodus, connecting Jesus’ Passion, death, and Resurrection with the Israel’s Exodus from Egypt.

On witnessing Jesus’ Transfiguration and seeing Jesus with Elijah and Moses, Peter offers to construct three tents for them. Having just awoken, perhaps Peter’s offer was made in confusion. We also notice that Peter reverted from his earlier confession that Jesus is the Messiah, calling Jesus “master” instead. As if in reply to Peter’s confusion, a voice from heaven speaks, affirming Jesus as God’s Son and commanding that the disciples listen to him. This voice from heaven recalls the voice that was heard at Jesus’ baptism which, in Luke’s Gospel, spoke directly to Jesus as God’s Son.

In his Transfiguration, we see an anticipation of the glory of Jesus’ Resurrection. In each of the reports of the Transfiguration, the disciples keep secret what they have seen. Not until they also witness his Passion and death will the disciples understand Jesus’ Transfiguration. We hear this story of Jesus’ Transfiguration early in Lent, but we have the benefit of hindsight. In our hearing of it, we anticipate Jesus’ Resurrection even as we prepare to remember Jesus’ Passion and death. – loyolapress.com

First Sunday of Lent, Cycle C

First Reading
Deuteronomy 26:4-10
Moses describes the offering of praise for God’s deliverance of Israel.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 91:1-2,10-11,12-13,14-15
A prayer for God’s protection

Second Reading
Romans 10:8-13
Paul teaches that we are saved by faith.

Gospel Reading
Luke 4:1-13
In the desert, Jesus is tempted by the devil.

Background on the Gospel Reading

In each of the three Synoptic Gospels, after his baptism, Jesus is reported to have spent forty days in the desert, fasting and praying. In Luke and in Matthew, the devil presents three temptations to Jesus. The devil tempts Jesus to use his power to appease his hunger, he offers Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if Jesus will worship him, and he tempts Jesus to put God’s promise of protection to the test. In each case, Jesus resists, citing words from Scripture to rebuke the devil’s temptation.

Each temptation that Jesus faces offers insight into the spirituality we hope to develop as we keep the forty days of the Season of Lent. We can trust God to provide for our material needs. We worship God because God alone has dominion over us and our world. We can trust God to be faithful to his promises. Jesus’ rejection of the devil’s temptations shows that he will not put God to the test. Grounding himself on the Word and authority of Scripture, Jesus rebukes the devil by his confidence in God’s protection and faithfulness.

This Gospel highlights for us one of the central themes of the Season of Lent. We are dependent upon God for all that we have and all that we are. Anything that leads us to reject this dependency or to distrust its sufficiency, is a temptation from the devil.

Luke ends his report of Jesus’ temptation in the desert by noting that the devil departs for a time. The implication is that the devil will return. Jesus knows that he will be tempted again in the Garden of Gethsemane. The depth of Jesus’ trust in God is shown most fully when Jesus rejects the temptation to turn away from the task God has given to him. Jesus’ final rebuke of the devil is his sacrifice on the Cross.

Jesus’ responses to the temptations of the devil teach us how we can respond to temptation. As we start our journey through Lent, this Sunday’s Gospel calls us to adopt the same confidence that Jesus had in the face of temptation: God’s word alone will suffice, God’s promise of protection can be trusted, and God alone is God.- loyolapress.com

Ash Wednesday

First Reading
Joel 2:12-18
Return to the Lord for he is merciful.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 51:3-6b,12-14,17
Create a clean heart in us, O God, and be merciful.

Second Reading
2 Corinthians 5:20—6:2
Be reconciled to God; now is the day of salvation.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 6:1-6,16-18
Jesus teaches that almsgiving, prayer, and fasting should be done in secret.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today we celebrate Ash Wednesday, the first day of the liturgical season of Lent. In this season, we prepare ourselves to celebrate the high point of our Christian life, Easter. Each year, the readings for Ash Wednesday are the same. They call us to a change of heart and teach us about the traditional Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. These disciplines are to be part of the Christian life during every season, but during the season of Lent, we renew our commitment to them.

The meaning behind tracing a cross on our foreheads with ashes (the liturgical sign of Ash Wednesday) is a summary of our Christian life. On one level, the ashes remind us of our origin and our death. (In the words of the prayer said when we receive ashes: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”) The ashes are also the sign of our victory: the cross of Christ. In his death and resurrection, Christ conquered death. Our destiny as Christians is to receive the victory over death that Christ won for us. We acknowledge that victory when we “[t]urn away from sin and [are] faithful to the gospel,” words from the alternative prayer when we are signed with ashes.

Today’s reading is part of the Sermon on the Mount. In the sermon, Jesus warns his followers against acting for the sake of appearance. When Jesus’ disciples give alms, pray, and fast, they are to do so in such a way that only God, who sees the heart and knows what is hidden, will know. Although our Lectionary reading omits the Lord’s Prayer, we can recall that Matthew presents that prayer as a model for the disciples’ prayer (Matthew 6:9-15). – loyolapress.com

Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C

First Reading
Sirach 27:4–7
In his conversation is the test of the man.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 92: 2–3,13–16
The just shall flourish like a palm tree.

Second Reading
1 Corinthians 15: 54–58
Thanks be to God who has given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Gospel Reading
Luke 6:39–45
Each tree is known by its yield.

Background on the Gospel ReadingThe third and final section of Luke’s Sermon on the Plain begins: And he told them a parable. There are actually four parables, three of which we read today. They are all about how to be a good disciple.

The blind cannot lead the blind. And a disciple cannot be a good disciple unless he or she has learned from the teacher. Everyone who is fully trained is like the teacher who knows how to cure the blind. Before you can be a good disciple and teach others you must take care of yourself. Do not try to take a speck out of your brother’s eye until you have taken the board out of your own. Finally, only when you have purified yourself can you produce the good works that the teacher requires. Discipleship asks us to produce good deeds. But to produce them requires the integrity and purity of heart found in the teacher. When people see your good deeds they will know that this is because you have a good heart. 

The final parable, which we do not read today, is about building on the solid foundation of rock and not on sand. This is the only way to face the difficulties a disciple will encounter and survive.

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

First Reading
1 Samuel 26:2, 7-9,12-13,22-23
David does not kill Saul.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 103:1-4,8,10,12-13
A song in praise of God’s mercy

Second Reading
1 Corinthians 15:45-49
As we bear the image of Adam, so we will bear the image of the one from heaven.

Gospel Reading
Luke 6:27-38
Jesus teaches his disciples to be merciful as God is merciful.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today’s gospel reading is a continuation of the teaching that began in last Sunday’s gospel. We continue to hear Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain. Recall that in Luke’s Gospel, this teaching is addressed to Jesus’ disciples. This is in contrast to the parallel found in Matthew’s Gospel, the Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus’ words are addressed to both the disciples and to the crowds.

These words from Jesus’ teaching are familiar to us. They constitute the crux and the challenge of what it means to be a disciple: Love your enemies, turn the other cheek, give to those who ask, do unto others, lend without expecting repayment, judge not lest you be judged.

There are several similarities between Luke’s and Matthew’s report of Jesus’ great teaching. Both begin with the Beatitudes. Matthew includes nearly all the content that Luke does; the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel is longer than Luke’s Sermon on the Plain. There are, however, differences in language and nuance. For example, Matthew presents this portion of the teaching as a contrast between Jesus’ teaching and the teachings of the law and the prophets. This is in keeping with Matthew’s concern to address his predominantly Jewish audience. It is likely that Luke omits this contrast because it was unnecessary for the Gentile believers for whom Luke is writing.

Another point of contrast between Matthew and Luke’s presentation is the terminology. In Luke, Jesus contrasts the behavior of his followers with the behavior of “sinners.” In Matthew, Jesus contrasts the behavior desired with the behavior of tax collectors and Gentiles. Matthew concludes the teaching about love of enemies with the admonition to be perfect as God is perfect; Luke concludes by emphasizing God’s mercy.

In both Gospels, Jesus’ words challenge those who would follow him to be more like God. God loves us beyond our expectations, beyond anything we can possibly imagine. In response to God’s love, we are to love as God loves, beyond expectations and with a depth beyond imagining. – loyolapress.com

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

First Reading
Jeremiah 17:5-8
Put trust and hope in the Lord, not in human beings.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 1:1-4,6
Blessed are those who follow the law of the Lord.

Second Reading
1 Corinthians 15:12,16-20
Our hope for resurrection is sure because Christ has been raised from the dead.

Gospel Reading
Luke 6:17,20-26
Jesus teaches the crowd the way to happiness.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Last Sunday we heard Jesus call Peter to be his disciple. Jesus then travels with Peter and the other disciples. Luke reports acts of healing (a person with leprosy and a paralytic man) and the call of Levi, the tax collector. Jesus also replies to questions from the Pharisees regarding fasting and the observance of the Sabbath. In the verses immediately before today’s gospel reading, Jesus is reported to have chosen 12 men from among his disciples to be apostles. Apostle is a Greek word that means “one who is sent.”

Today’s gospel reading is the beginning of what is often called the Sermon on the Plain. We find a parallel to this passage in Matthew 5:1-7,11 that is often called the Sermon on the Mount. As these titles suggest, there are differences and similarities between these gospel readings.

When spoken from the mountaintop in Matthew’s Gospel, we can’t miss the impression that Jesus is speaking with the authority and voice of God. The mountaintop is a symbol of closeness to God. Those who ascend the mountain see God and speak for God; recall the story of Moses and the Ten Commandments. As Luke introduces the location of Jesus’ teaching, Jesus teaches on level ground, alongside the disciples and the crowd. Luke presents Jesus’ authority in a different light. He is God among us.

Another distinction found in Luke’s version is the audience. Luke’s Sermon on the Plain is addressed to Jesus’ disciples, although in the presence of the crowd; Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount is addressed to the crowd. In keeping with this style, the Beatitudes in Luke’s Gospel sound more personal than those in Matthew’s Gospel—Luke uses the article “you” whereas Matthew uses “they” or “those.” There is also a difference in number: Matthew describes eight beatitudes; Luke presents just four, each of which has a parallel warning.

The form of the Beatitudes found in Luke’s and Matthew’s Gospel is not unique to Jesus. Beatitudes are found in the Old Testament, such as in the Psalms and in Wisdom literature. They are a way to teach about who will find favor with God. The word blessed in this context might be translated as “happy,” “fortunate,” or “favored.”

As we listen to this Gospel, the Beatitudes jar our sensibilities. Those who are poor, hungry, weeping, or persecuted are called blessed. This is, indeed, a Gospel of reversals. Those often thought to have been forgotten by God are called blessed. In the list of “woes,” those whom we might ordinarily describe as blessed by God are warned about their peril. Riches, possessions, laughter, reputation . . . these are not things that we can depend upon as sources of eternal happiness. They not only fail to deliver on their promise; our misplaced trust in them will lead to our demise. The ultimate peril is in misidentifying the source of our eternal happiness.

The Beatitudes are often described as a framework for Christian living. Our vocation as Christians is not to be first in this world, but rather to be first in the eyes of God. We are challenged to examine our present situation in the context of our ultimate horizon, the Kingdom of God. – loyolapress.com

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

First Reading
Isaiah 6:1-2a,3-8
Isaiah describes his vision and call from the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 138:1-5,7-8
A song of thanks to God who saves us

Second Reading
1 Corinthians 15:1-11 (shorter form, 1 Corinthians 15:3-8,11)
Paul reminds the Corinthians of the gospel that he announced to them.

Gospel Reading
Luke 5:1-11
The fishermen (Simon, James, and John) leave their fishing boats and follow Jesus.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Last Sunday, we heard how Jesus was rejected in his hometown of Nazareth. In the verses that follow, Jesus travels to the town of Capernaum and begins his ministry of teaching and healing. While in Capernaum, Jesus cures a man possessed with a demon and heals Simon’s mother-in-law. After spending some time there, Jesus prepares to preach in other places. The fact that Jesus had previously been in Simon’s home and healed his mother-in-law suggests that this encounter is not the first between Jesus and Simon Peter. We can read today’s Gospel, therefore, as a description of the developing relationship between Jesus and Simon Peter.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches from Simon’s boat. Jesus turns to Simon and instructs him about where to lower the fishing nets. Simon and others have been fishing throughout the night and have not caught anything. Simon protests, claiming that such an effort would be futile. Simon ultimately obeys Jesus and lowers his nets into the deeper water as directed. Notice here that Peter calls Jesus by the title “master.” He already recognizes Jesus as a person of authority. They catch so many fish that the nets begin to tear; Jesus’ presence has created abundance out of scarcity, just as it did at the wedding feast at Cana, which we heard at Mass just a few weeks ago.

Simon Peter becomes a follower of Jesus immediately. He calls Jesus “Lord”—the title given to Jesus after his Resurrection—and protests his worthiness to be in Jesus’ presence. Today’s Gospel, therefore, marks a turning point in the relationship between Jesus and Peter.

Two of Simon’s partners are also named as witnesses to the event described in today’s Gospel: Zebedee’s sons, James and John. Yet Jesus’ words are addressed only to Simon. Jesus gives Simon a new job, telling him that he will become a different kind of fisherman. No longer will he catch fish; instead he will catch people. In these words, we hear the beginning of the leadership role that Peter will have within the community of disciples. Peter was chosen for this role. His task will be to bring others to Jesus. Already he is doing so; the Gospel tells us that all the fishermen with Peter also left their nets and followed Jesus.

We continue to speak of Peter’s leadership and influence in the Church today when we call the pope the “successor of Peter.” We participate in the mission of the Church when we bring people to Christ through the example and positive influence of our lives. – loyolapress.com

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