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Shepherd

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16th Sunday B
Jeremiah 23:1-6

Prophet Jeremiah attributes the troubles faced by Israel (defeat and deportation) to a lack of leadership, corruption, and neglect by their kings (Ch 22). The kings, acting as shepherds in the name of God, have failed in tending to the flock. In biblical thought, the king was considered the supreme shepherd on earth, (cf s1S#28 Shepherd, 4/25/21, “ro’ēh” ( רֹ֥עֵה ): in OT, it refers, most of the times to rulers of the people, like the king, royal officers, elders, judges). When he fails, disaster follows. However, after condemning these past kings (v1ff), the prophet speaks of a time of restoration (v3ff) to be led by a messianic king, representing everything his predecessors failed to be: he will rule on David’s throne with complete covenant fidelity (v5), and as righteous, he will be a concrete manifestation of Yahweh’s justice (v6).

Mark 6:30-40
This account marks the end of the first mission of the twelve (6:7-13) and sets the stage for the story of the feeding of the five thousand (6:34-44). After the twelve reported their success (v30), Jesus called them to a desert place to rest. However, the people prevent any respite for the disciples (v31). They quickly reach the destination on foot ahead of the disciples by boat (v33). Despite the crowd thwarting his desire to rest, there is no sign of annoyance in Jesus’ attitude. He begins to teach at once, fulfilling the prophetic word of Jeremiah and others that Yahweh’s people would be shepherded (verse 34; Numbers 27:17, Ezekiel 34:5f), which includes feeding and providing. Jesus stands before them full of compassion.

Ephesians 2:13-18
The word “peace” appears four times in these verses, with Christ simply defined as “our peace” in one instance (v14). Harmony between God and humanity was disrupted by Adam’s sin, resulting in alienation among people themselves, as illustrated in the Cain-Abel narrative (Gen 4). Christ has restored the original relationship on the vertical (Rom 6:10) and horizontal (Gal 3:27f) planes. With the right order re-established, peace now exists between Jew and Gentile through the elimination of the barrier that separated them (v14), brought about by the death and resurrection of Christ (v13). This results in a new creation and a new order centered on the formation of a new person, the body of Christ, where all find their unity (vv15ff; Col 1:20ff).
Today’s readings emphasize the importance of shepherding. Jesus, the righteous shepherd, brought us reconciliation and peace. He continues to shepherd us by teaching his word during the Liturgy of the Word and by ‘spreading the table before us’ during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. He is the one who still has compassion for any vast crowd, which is like sheep without a shepherd, but he only has us to show this. Are we all up to this challenge of Jesus? May it be so. Amen!

Missioning

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15th Sunday B
Amos 7:12-15

Amos was a native of Judah, whose work had been that of a shepherd and caretaker of trees. He is not a prophet by trade but Yahweh had missioned him to Israel, the northern kingdom, (vv 14-15).

Because of his prophecy about the demise of the king and the conquest of Israel (v11), he was expelled from the sanctuary.

But he is a prophet not by his own choice, he could neither cease to be one by another’s decision. Being sent he is not free to opt in or out. His word will be the same wherever he is located.

Mark 6:7-13

Mark’s account of missioning the twelve, two by two according to custom, comes immediately after Jesus’ rejection at Nazareth. Their mission is to perform exorcisms and healing of the sick (vv7,13). The apostles’ preaching is a call to repentance in light of the kingdom’s arrival, as John the Baptist (1:4) and Jesus himself (1:15). The austerity in travel enabled them to move unhindered, underscoring the urgency of their task. The local host community was to provide for their needs (Mt 10:10; 1 Cor 9:6 – 14); this, coupled with their sense of trust, excluded the carrying of money (v8f). In not leaving the house of lodging, there was no temptation to seek better quarters (v10). The possibility of not being accepted (as was true of Amos) should be considered. The shaking of dust from the feet (v11) was a symbol of rejection and hopefully a thought-provoking gesture. In refusing hospitality to the twelve, the people were refusing the gospel.

Eph 1:3-14

While Amos and Mark give insight into the nature of the mission, Paul’s letter deals with its content, and what is proclaimed in the mission. Like the Hebrew blessing of God or “berakah”, this Christian hymn highlights the Trinitarian motif: it is the work of the Father (vv3 – 6, 11f) acting through his Son (vv7 – 10) to bind humanity and all of creation to himself in the Holy Spirit (vv13). This is God’s mystery of salvation, redounding to his glory through the visible effectiveness of the grace that comes through Christ (v6; Col 1:13), made possible by his death, forgiving and redeeming creation from the domain of sin. The hymn reminds us as well of our election as God’s adopted children and at the same time its cost, and our concomitant responsibility.

Today the Church has made it very clear that all of us are missioned. More than what we say or teach is the message of our lives. In the face of opposition and rejection, may we all remain steadfast in practicing our prophetic role. Amen.

Rejected Prophet

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s1S#198 Rejected Prophet
14th Sunday (B)
Ez 2:2-5

Just like the vocation stories of other prophets such as Isaiah and Jeremiah (cf, (Is 6:9f; Jer 1:17f), Ezekiel’s calling has common basic elements. The call is from God, and the prophet received the Spirit of God that empowers him to grasp and convey God’s message (8:3; 9:24). The prophet is essentially a mouthpiece of the Lord (2:1-4; 3:27). He will be met with acceptance or rejection, which is a sign of salvation or condemnation. Ezekiel is forewarned about a very difficult audience in Israel. The Lord’s support of the prophet is to be a sign that they have not been abandoned (v5). In addition to the call for conversion, the prophetic role also indicates God’s constancy and fidelity.

2 Cor 12:7-10

Paul was given a strong affliction, a ‘thorn in the flesh’ (v7), to avoid any sense of pride from the special revelation he received. It may refer to his personal weakness or any opposition, whether individual or collective, regarding his person and his ministry. His request for relief was met with the assurance of continued and sufficient support. It is in the ground of human weakness that the seed of God’s strength takes root (v9;6:4-7).

Mk 6:1-6

Jesus meets repeated rejection early in his ministry, coming from the Jewish leaders (3:6), his relatives (3:21), and now from his townspeople in Nazareth. The citizens marvel at his exceptional deeds and teaching at first but fail to see the hand of God (v2) and move toward discounting Jesus based on his simple origins (v3). Because of the hostility of the crowd and their incredulous attitude, Jesus is rendered powerless in Nazareth (v5f).

Ezekiel and Jesus were both sent to proclaim God’s words and were rejected by their people. However, God assures whom he calls of continued and sufficient support: “My grace is sufficient for you”. We are all called to be prophets by virtue of our baptism. Let us embrace and lean into our weaknesses and rely on God’s strength so that we can reveal his power more and more clearly.

Amen!

God of Life

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13th Sunday (B)
Wis 1:13-15; 2:23-24

The Book of Wisdom speaks of human imperishability. As the author of life, it is only with life that God is concerned (v13). Death here is understood as a total and final separation from God. Physical death does not figure prominently in the author’s thought. God is not responsible for nor does he desire the death of any person. All things came from the hand of God as good (Gen 1), with God endowing much of the world with life (v14). In referring to the creation account (v23; Gen 1:26), the author speaks of the sharing in God’s nature as conferring immortality. Again, this is not a natural immortality but creation in God’s justice. For immortality comes from a life of justice and the unjust will not experience it (v24). Uprightness of life constitutes the likeness of God in humanity (6:18f). Death which is the loss of justice makes its entry through the devil. Those who espouse evil are destined for death. For them, there is no immortality (v24; Gen 3:1-24; Rom 5:12f).

2 Cor 8:7, 9, 13-15

St Paul appeals to the Christians of Corinth to help the church in Jerusalem in distress (Chs. 8-9). A pastoral call for help rests on a solid and inspiring Christological principle: they have been especially enriched by the Christ who impoverished himself on their behalf (v9). Just as they have received, they should be willing to give, (v7; 1 Cor 1:5; 2 Cor 6:11ff). In surrendering his divinity to become human, even to the point of suffering, Christ brought to the poverty of the humans the riches of divinity in sharing the life in the Spirit (Phil 2:6 – 11).

Mk 5:21 – 43

Two miracle stories are woven together in this narrative. They are recorded in the same way, although in abbreviated form, in Matthew 9:18-26) and Luke (8:40-56), both of which depend on Mark. The story of Jairus’ daughter (vv21-24, 35-43) is interrupted by the healing of the sick woman (vv25-34). The account of both miracles constitutes an important catechetical piece from the early church’s life. The healing and the revivification are symbols of salvation and the work which Christ effects in the life of each believer. Jairus, a Jewish official, adopts the posture of a suppliant and asks that his daughter be “saved” (Gr: sōzō σωζω) and “live”(Gr: zao ζωῃ). In both stories, faith is underlined: Jesus assures the woman that her faith is the cause of her salvation while in Jairus’ story, the notice of his daughter’s death requires of him an added measure of faith (v36). And with the command of Jesus to the girl to “arise”, the same verb (Gr: egeire ἔγειρε) used of Jesus’ resurrection (14:28; 16:6), it becomes a catechesis on Jesus as the cause of resurrection and life, as he meets every Christian in healing and eternal life-giving.

Jesus still acts powerfully in our own time and place. Conversions, healings, answers to prayer-these continue to abound. So let us believe in Jesus’ power, as Jairus and the woman did. Step out in faith and ask for what we need, as we pray: “Jesus, I am reaching out to touch your cloak today. Heal me and pour your life into me!” Amen.

(Over)Troubled Waters

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12th Sunday (B)
Job 38: 1, 8 – 11
The book of Job is considered a “wisdom in revolt”, that is, questioning the conventional, even, biblical wisdom that man suffers/is punished because of his sins. He has protested innocence in the face of the intense suffering he has endured. He has even questioned Yahweh’s justice and rashly called for a response. In his answer, the Lord sidesteps the question of Job’s lot and simply stresses his wisdom and power in creation. In the end, Job humbly acknowledges the incomprehensibility of God’s wisdom and power.
2 Cor 5:14 – 17
Paul here speaks of a new way of thinking which flows from the Christian way of being. With Christ’s death, a new era has begun. Through their own baptism, Christians are assimilated to Christ in his act of dying. In being configured to Christ’s death, the Christian puts off the old person with its sinfulness and weakness and lives with that life which characterized Christ himself in his self-giving (v15; 4:10f). The result of this is a whole new mindset by which the Christian judges no longer by human “fleshy” criteria, seeing only the weak, the sinful, and the perishable. To live in this new order, then is to view human conduct in terms of the works of the Spirit (Gal 5:22f) not those of the flesh (Gal 5:19).
Mk 4: 35 – 41
This is the first of a series of four miracles in Mark (4:35-5:43). It reflects some of the mythological cosmogonies of the time but basically asserts the Job position, i.e. the control of God (here Jesus) over all the forces of nature, notably those considered to be most distant from the divine realm. The sleep of Jesus symbolizes his spirit of total trust in the Father (Ps 4:9), with the apostles, weak in faith, frightened, and rash in their request for help. Jesus “rebuked” the sea and told to “be muzzled” (“πεφίμωσο pephimoso” v39). This is again the notion of evil spirits dwelling in the sea, with Jesus using the same language as in exorcisms (1:25). He then rebukes his disciples for their lack of faith (v40). The identity question so important in Mark is raised again (v41), a question to be gradually answered as the gospel progresses (8:29f;15:39).
Going beyond the miracle story. The disciples’ cry becomes that of the early church beset by persecution (Mt 10:16ff), rejection (Mt 10:21f), and desertions (Mk 4:13-19). Amid the stormy sea, Christ’s presence is not to be doubted (Mt 28:20); confidence and trust will bring us all believers safely to shore, Jn 14:1;16:33), for he is in total control no matter at times his wisdom and power remain incomprehensible for us. Jesus, I trust in you. Amen!

ALWAYS CHANGE US

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Gospel Reading for June 20, 2024 – Matthew 6: 7-15

ALWAYS CHANGE US

Jesus said to his disciples: “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. “This is how you are to pray: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’ “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”

————

Prayer is our means of communicating with God. It cannot be just a blabbering of words we do not mean or do not understand. God is not just anybody. He is God, the source of all that is good for us, therefore, when we talk to him, it has to MAKE SENSE.

Prayer also encompasses our whole life. We cannot choose only parts we wish to include and exclude those we wish to exclude. This is why Jesus taught us the Our Father. It is complete.
Prayer is also not only for ourself. It is for the whole Church to which we belong. Take note that Jesus did not teach us to pray: My Father . . . Give me this day my daily bread, etc..
Lastly, prayer, if it is sincere, will ALWAYS CHANGE US for the better. If our prayer does not make us better persons, perhaps we are not really praying and just babbling.

Our Father, may thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven!

God In Control

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Ez 17:22-24

The reading is part of an allegory (beginning from vv3-21) through which Ezekiel describes the political situation of Israel in exile and its consequent restoration. It speaks of an eagle planting a shoot that becomes a verdant vine (Israel) and another eagle (King Nebuchadnezzar) transplanting the verdant vine to a foreign soil (Babylon). God will pluck a branch from the crest of that cedar and transplant it to the mountain height of Israel. There the branch will grow into a “majestic cedar” and “all kinds of winged birds will dwell in the shade of its branches” (vv. 22-23). Thus, everyone “will know that I am the Lord” (v. 24). All of this happens at Yahweh’s bidding and cannot be explained by diplomacy, treaties, or military conquest. This is repeatedly seen in his actions as the Lord of inverted values- the lowly rise and the mighty fall (v23; 1 Sam 2:7f; Lk 1:52f).

2 Cor 5:6-10

St. Paul speaks of God, preparing a dwelling in heaven not built by hand for his followers. He also speaks of man’s mortality being clothed with immortal life (vv. 1-5). Though in a human body and away from the Lord, they are courageous, “for we walk by faith, and not by sight…. We would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord” (vv. 6-8). “Therefore, we aspire to please the Lord… For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” and receive recompense for what one has done (v. 10).

Mk 4:26 – 34

The first of these two parables is found only in Mark. Both use plant life to image the work of God on the human scene, (cf first reading). The first presents the growth of the reign as determined and brought about by God, quite independent of human resources (4:26-29). While not intended to diminish man’s fervor and labor, it does point clearly to the Author of the church’s growth and development upon whom all ultimately depends. The second contrasts the inauspicious beginnings of the reign with its ultimate impressive success (4:30-34). Small beginnings produce great things. It teaches further that the kingdom of God is universal. It is for all. This is the point of the mustard seed parable (vv30-33).

The readings emphasize the impressive character of God’s reign and how he works as it grows and expands within the world. Just as God loved and transformed Israel, so does he love us now with immense overflowing love, despite our sinfulness and frailties. We are reminded that so much of the good that is accomplished in our lives and the world is due to the action of the Lord. Even as we suffer in our earthly dwelling, our Lord has prepared for us an eternal dwelling in his Kingdom. Let us continue to trust God that everything will turn out well for us all according to his scheme. Amen

Good vs Evil

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Gen 3-15

The snake represents the forces of evil while the man and the woman are individuals representative of all humanity. The antipathy between the serpent and humans is to be perpetual (v15). But the human’s superior physical position in striking the snake’s head is understood as humanity’s eventual triumph over evil in Christ (traditionally accepted as the Proto-Evangelium, the first announcement of the gospel).

2 Cor 4:13-5:1

St. Paul, despite experiencing trials and difficulties, is never discouraged because of his faith directing his attention to the end time. He is convinced that the same God who raised Jesus will also raise him and all followers of the Lord (v14).

Mk 3:20-35

The “unforgivable sin” (v29) is to call the work of God evil or to call an emissary of God an agent of Satan. To do so is to reject the reign of God. To belong to it one must become a member of the family of God, accepting and actualizing God’s will (v34f) as Christ did and renouncing all that is evil.

The story in Genesis relates the result of sin’s entrance into man’s life, bringing alienation and division. Yet the account ends with a glimmer of good’s eventual triumph. St. Paul announces as well the ultimate victory over evil being destined to live with God forever. Indeed, the forces of satan are still in our midst. We can fight it only with Christ our Lord by standing by his side, continually hearing God’s words, and doing his will. Amen!

Eucharist

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The word Eucharist is the direct translation of the noun ‘eucharistia’ ( εὐχαριστία ) and is primarily an expression of gratitude to God (especially in the letters of St. Paul, e.g. 2Cor 4:15, 9:11,12), and in particular as thanksgiving to God in worship, (cf 1Cor 14:16; Rev 4:9,7:2). But what could allude to the Eucharist as celebrated today is the verbal form of the word (‘eucharisteō’) found in the narrative of the institution of the Eucharist: 1 Cor 11:23-25; Mt 26: 26-29; Mk 14: 22-25; Lk 22:17-20, where Jesus “gave thanks”. John is silent about the institution but his discourse on the Bread of Life in Chapter 6, especially vv. 51-58 is clearly Eucharistic.

Jesus chose the precise time of the Passover, (the feast when the Jews remember the saving acts of God and thank him for his gratuitous covenant with them as his people), to institute the Holy Eucharist. At the Last Supper, he took bread and wine, declaring them his Body and Blood, and anticipated his death on the Cross, his passing over to the Father. It is the New Passover. Other vocabularies in the institution spoken by Jesus confirmed it- ‘broken’, ‘body given’, ‘blood poured out or shed for’, ‘the remission of sins’. Jesus is indeed the high priest and mediator of the new covenant who by his own blood performed the rite of purification and given us access to God, (cf. Heb 9:11-15; cf s1S#34 Thanks, 06/06/21).

By partaking in the Body and Blood of Christ, we share in the New Passover of Christ. We pass over from sin to grace, from death to life. As we celebrate this feast of the wonderful sacrament he left us as a memorial of his passion, let us continue to receive him worthily that we may experience the fruits of his redemption and be nourished by the bread that gives eternal life and be able to make his presence be felt through our own self-giving for others. And let us pray:

“Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me. Passion of Christ, strengthen me…Amen.”

Fragments

The Eucharistic tradition in the church is one of the oldest and most well-documented beliefs. By the year 50 AD it was fixed in the life of the church and the death of Jesus was being memorialized. Thus 1 Cor 11:23-25 is considered the earliest version of the Eucharistic formula in the New Testament, (cf Mt 26: 26-29; Mk 14: 22-25; Lk 22:17-20). Multiple NT witnesses, as diverse they may be, all coverage around this central belief.

The symbolism of the bread as food took a profound theological significance when Jesus claims to be the ‘bread of life’, in the gospel of John chapter 6. As God’s provision from heaven, it meets humankind’s deepest spiritual need for reconciliation with God and intimate fellowship with him, fulfilling the spiritual significance of the manna given by his Father to the Israelites (vv48-51). And in the breaking of the bread of the Passover meal with his disciples, prefigures his broken body that hung on the cross, signifying his agony and suffering that brought life and salvation to mankind and partaking of it symbolizes the unity of Christians in one bread and one body, (cf 1 Cor 10:16ff, 11:23ff).

In the Lucan narrative of the multiplication of the loaves (9:11-17), the Eucharistic motif is strongly imprinted. Although there is mention of both loaves and fish, it is the bread that is, predominant even in the collection of the “fragments”, klasmata, (κλασμάτα) v17. This term became the technical expression for the Eucharistic bread. Thus the “breaking of the bread” is used before it is referred to as the Eucharist, (cf Acts 2:46). The action of Jesus in ‘taking, blessing, breaking, and giving’ (v16), reproduces almost exactly the Last Supper formula (22:19), and the Emmaus meal (24:230). In the church Jesus continues to feed and nourish his followers through the ministry of the apostles (it was the apostles who distributed them, v16), and eventually their successors in the sacramental celebration of his saving death.

As we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ let us thank the Lord who gives himself in the Eucharist for our salvation and ask him that we may truly experience his real presence every moment of our lives and may we become ‘blessed fragments of bread’ to others as we offer our selves to them in service and love. Amen.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit

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The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity celebrates the mystery of mysteries, “the central mystery of our faith and life” (CCC, 234): God is one God in Three Divine Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.


“The belief in one God in three divine persons…is unique to the Christian faith but as so defined (re: nature and relations, etc) was reached only in the 4th and 5th centuries AD. It must be understood that the unity of nature does not appear as a problem in NT and indeed could only rise when a philosophical investigation of the term nature as applied to God was begun.
(For the development of the Trinitarian doctrine, cf s1S#33 “Trinity”, 5/30/21).


What we have from the Scriptures are citations like mentioning the three in the same context, e.g. in the baptismal formula of Mt 28:19, (cf also 1 Cor 12:4-6; Eph 4:4-6; 1 Pt 1:2); and the “apostolic blessing” and considered earliest formula known in 2 Cor 13:13, where Christ stands at the center as the immediate source of grace (Rom 16:20; 1 Cor 16:23), and the love of God that brought about the mission of Christ and is the ultimate source of all gifts, including the Spirit who binds the community in fellowship with one another and the community with the trinitarian community“ (cf s1S#89 Trinity, 6/12/22).


Today’s gospel (Mt 28:16-20) narrates that the apostles when they see Jesus worship him, though some doubt that Jesus has really risen from the dead. Then Jesus tells them, “All power in heaven and earth has been given to me” (v. 18). Jesus is declaring that he has universal power. “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, teaching them all that I have commanded you” (v. 20). With universal power, he sends the disciples on a universal mission, “to all the nations.” The mission of the disciples was once limited to Israel (see Mt. 10:5-6). In the commissioning, the baptismal formula contains the clearest expression of Trinitarian belief in the New Testament. “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (v. 20). Jesus is Emmanuel, God-with-us (see Mt. 1:23). His presence is assured wherever and whenever the mission is being conducted.
What the Trinity is all about we may not totally comprehend. But living the “Trinitarian life” we can try to emulate. Remember that from baptism we receive the indwelling of the three divine persons. They live in us, but do we live in them? How? With God the Father whose love brought about the mission of Christ for our salvation (John 3:16), ‘knowing what we need even before we ask Him’ (Lk 12:22, 39-31), we should live daily in complete trust in his fatherly providence. With Jesus whose coming and total self-giving brought us life (John 15:13), life to the full, we should follow his humble life of service and self-donation to others. With the Holy Spirit who was promised by the Son and sent by the Father in his name who will teach us everything (John 14:26), we should listen continually to the Spirit especially for its guidance and direction so that we can learn God’s will for us and be able to accomplish it making us truly the adopted children of God our loving Father! And as the economy of salvation has revealed to us the different roles of the three divine persons yet remain one God, may each one of us help build the one body of Christ which we constitute by sharing the unique gifts each one of us has received.

Amen.

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